ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle
THE TEACHING OF 1 THESSALONIANS
by J. C. Gibson
STATE AND STANDING
by D. S. Parrack
AN OMER FULL OF MANNA
by W. A. Boyd
PRINCIPLES OF HUMAN RESPONSIBILITY
by M. Rudge
THE GLORY OF THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST
by C. F. Hogg
MY CONVERSION AND CALL
by V. Doss
As Paul realises his work on earth is almost over, he writes to encourage Timothy and to give him the authority to teach the saints. As he comes to the conclusion of 1Tim., Paul makes a most unusual personal appeal. 1Tim.6.20, “O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called …” This interjection, “O” occurs seventeen times in the NT and this is the only time Paul uses it in a personal address to a person named. He comes close to such usage to Timothy in v11, “But thou, O man of God …” and he uses it to the Galatians, “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched …?”
What caused the apostle to make such an appeal? Throughout the book Timothy is alerted to various difficulties. For example,
- in ch.1 it was WRONG TEACHING, v7;
- in ch.2 WOMEN’S SUBJECTION, v12;
- in ch.3 WORTHY BEHAVIOUR, v15;
- in ch.4 WICKED SPIRITS, v1,2;
- in ch.5 WANTON WIDOWS, v11;
- in ch.6 WANTING WEALTH, v9,10.
All of these, and more, are with us in this present day. Assemblies are being attacked by these very errors and we need to be warned, as was Timothy. It seems that Paul’s writing is full of pathos as he addresses Timothy so personally, “O Timothy.” He feels for his young convert who has a retiring and shy character and who suffers from stomach problems. Yet this is the person God has fitted to carry on the work. It teaches us that to stand for God in a dark day does not require natural strength, but it does require a conviction begotten of God.
In our verse, Paul tells Timothy of something to DEFEND and some things to DISCARD. Note the language Paul uses, “keep that which is committed to thy trust …” The imperative “keep” means to guard or to observe. It is used for example, in Lk.2.8, of the shepherds who were, “abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” Again in Acts 12.4 regarding Peter who was delivered, “to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him …” The trust committed to Timothy was the great treasure of Christian doctrine and he was to guard it so that none of it would be lost. It was not the invention of man, nor was it the tradition of men, but it came from God. Thus Timothy never had the authority to change it, modernise it, adopt it to current thinking but he had to preserve it intact for his, and future generations. Those who would steal Christian truth seem to abound, thus making the need of spiritual guards vitally important. All too often the guards are not vigilant, the way of compromise is accepted and the truth may be lost or, at the least, greatly weakened.
Paul alerts Timothy to the need of separation if the testimony is to be maintained. Thus Timothy is to discard, “profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called …” Of the five references in the New Testament to the word “avoid”, four occur in Paul’s letters to Timothy. These are 1Tim.1.6 and 5.15 where it is translated, “turned aside;” 2Tim.4.4, “shall be turned.” The meaning is to turn or twist out of the way. We are not to entertain or compromise with error but turn away from it. There is no thought of joining with it in order to improve it.
What is it we are to separate from? “Profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called …”
“Profane” is again a word that is used in four of its five occurrences in the letters to Timothy. These are 1Tim.1.9,4.7; 2Tim.2.16 and it means that which could be trodden on or crossed as a threshold. Those who want to steal the deposit will cross the boundaries of acceptable behaviour and tread down the clarity of the word of God. Is this not seen in modern society generally and in Christendom in particular?
“Vain babblings” signifies, “empty discussion on useless subjects,” W. E. Vine. It is true that many opponents of the Scriptures seem to be able to talk endlessly yet say very little of consequence. This truth is echoed to Timothy in 2Tim.2.16, “But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.”
“Oppositions of science falsely so called …” These words have been adopted into our language as “antithesis” of “gnosis pseudonumos” (pseudonym — under a false name). This probably refers to the Judaisers who constantly tried to undermine Paul’s teaching. In a day when education is at a premium the unwary can be carried away with oratory and a semblance of knowledge. Let us be on our guard and see to it that everything we believe is based on the revelation of Holy Scripture. This cannot be changed to suit any pseudo-scholars or modernistic thinkers.
May the Lord help us to defend the true and discard the false until we see His face, which cannot be long delayed.
As the countdown towards the new millennium commenced, there appeared to be a sense of optimism in the minds of many that perhaps the new year would bring changes for the better and the feel-good factor would return. Alas, their merriment was short-lived and the ensuing years have proved that their hopes were misplaced. The ever present shadow of global terrorism, turmoil in the money markets, tsunamis and tornadoes have left the world feeling very fearful and uncertain.
How comforting then for us to know that in the face of inevitable change we have an immutable God, Heb.6.17,18. "For I am the Lord, I change not …" Mal.3.6. His love is unchanging, His faithfulness unfailing and His Word and promises unalterable. The winds of change that constantly blow with devastating impact here, can never cause a ripple on the sea of glass before heaven's throne.
We who are associated with the publication of Assembly Testimony, have known the unvarying faithfulness of our God another year as He has graciously undertaken and met every need in relation to the magazine and to Him we offer grateful thanks. We are likewise thankful to all who have contributed practically through their written ministry and gifts, and letters of encouragement received frequently from believers throughout the world are always most appreciated. We are indebted to many for their help in distributing the magazine and ensuring that costs are restricted to a minimum. Our editor is due a special word of thanks for discharging his heavy responsibility in such a gracious manner in spite of many other commitments. Our secretary and his wife continue to give themselves unsparingly to the work and their labour of love is appreciated more than can be expressed in a few words. Our accountant does the auditing freely and his professional advice is most helpful, and to him we render our sincere thanks.
Finally we are grateful to all who read the magazine with interest, maintaining a high circulation worldwide.
May we take this opportunity to solicit your continued remembrance of us in your prayers, that God may be glorified, His people blessed and edified and loved ones saved by His grace.
We wish you a happy and healthy New Year, in the anticipation that in 2006 we may arrive at that bright and blessèd Maranatha morning.
by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)
19) “JUDGES AND OFFICERS”
We have already noticed that these verses can be regarded as part of a larger section extending to the end of ch.18, in which Moses deals with the responsibility of ‘officials’ to maintain purity of worship, to promote the law, and to administer justice impartially. Reference is made to four classes of men:
- judges and officers, 16.18 — 17.13;
- kings, 17.14-20;
- priests and Levites, 18.1-8;
- prophets, 18.9-22.
There is nothing incongruous about the transition from the ‘annual religious festivals to the community's legal system … The Lord they worshipped was as concerned about what was decided in the law courts as about what was offered at the sanctuary’ (Raymond Brown, The Message of Deuteronomy). God did not expect His people to have double standards, and there should be no discrepancy between our conduct in the assembly and our behaviour in other spheres of life.
1) JUDGES AND OFFICERS, 16.18 — 17.13
These instructions are addressed to the people generally. They were to appoint the “judges and officers” in order to ensure that God's Word was properly implemented. Today this is the responsibility of elders and teachers in the local assembly. Hence Paul wrote to “all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops (overseers) and deacons (servants),” Phil.1.1. God expects everything to be done “decently and in order” amongst His people, 1Cor.14.40, and He evidently expected exactly the same in Israel. There is, however a distinction. Israel was to appoint its “judges and officers” whereas the Holy Spirit appoints overseers, Acts 20.28. But in both cases the men concerned were a recognisable body. Boaz knew exactly who to call on at Bethlehem, Ruth 4.2, and believers ought to know who to call on as well. The instructions regarding these men may be analysed as follows:
A) Their availability, 16.18
Whilst the Passover, the feast of weeks, and feast of tabernacles were to be kept in one place, “judges and officers” were to be appointed “in all thy gates, which the Lord thy God giveth thee throughout thy tribes.” There seems little doubt that these men were “the elders” mentioned in Deut.21.9, 25.7, etc. Perhaps this title will enable us to understand how the right people were to be appointed! Their presence “in all thy gates” ensured that the people could have easy access to them for help and guidance. They were not to be remote from the people, reminding us that assembly elders are to be visible and readily available. Notice the expression “among you” in 1Thess.5.12 and 1Pet.5.1-2. Elders who are always away taking meetings elsewhere are hardly worthy of the name!
It is worth noting the expression “in all thy gates, which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” Compare v20: “the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” God expects His people to recognise that all their blessings and benefits come from Him, and should therefore be treated with the utmost care and consideration. After all, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above,” Jms.1.17. We should be good stewards of all that He has bestowed upon us.
B) Their integrity, 16.18-20
We must notice that their judgment was to be righteous, v18, impartial, v19, and preservative, v20. In view of the fact that the Lord Himself “regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward,” Deut.10.17, those who implement His Word must also be men of absolute integrity: “they shall judge the people with just judgment,” v18. ‘Determined not to pervert justice, the people entrusted with these responsibilities must follow justice and justice alone’ (Raymond Brown). The assembly overseer must “hold fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and convince the gainsayers,” Titus 1.9.
Sound judgment could be perverted in two ways. See v19: “Thou shalt not wrest judgment” by giving precedence to family or friends (“thou shalt not respect persons,” literally, ‘do not recognise faces’) or financial considerations (“neither take a gift”). In the first case, it is not unknown in assembly life for one standard to be applied to family and friends, and quite another standard in the case of other believers. Without diminishing the importance of family life, it is most important to remember that all believers are in fellowship as individuals, not as family members. There must be no favouritism in the assembly, and no partiality when applying divine truth. Whilst money may not ‘change hands’ amongst believers, it is sadly possible to influence others by flattery and praise. In this way, “a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous.” Sound judgment would secure the future. “That which is altogether just shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live, and inherit the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee,” v20. The words, “shalt thou follow” emphasise the requirement for single-mindedness and diligence. There was to be nothing careless or haphazard about the “judges and officers.” Timothy was told to “give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine,” 1Tim.4.13. His personal godliness coupled with his teaching would be a preservative. See 1Tim.4.16.
C) Their responsibility, 16.21 — 17.7
These verses do not introduce a new subject. Having emphasised the integrity of the “judges and officers,” Moses now gives some examples of the problems which they were likely to face, 16.21-17.1, and the way in which they were to deal with them, 17.2-7. All elders should remember that Satan will endeavour to corrupt the assembly and that a vital part of their ministry is to uphold the Lordship of Christ amongst His people and to encourage whole-hearted devotion to Him.
i) Cases for action, 16.21 — 17.1
a) Detestable idolatry, 16.21-22. “Thou shalt not plant thee a grove of any trees (“an Asherah of any wood” JND) near unto the altar of the Lord thy God, which thou shalt make thee. Neither shalt thou set thee up any image, which the Lord thy God hateth.” God had said, “Thou shalt have none other gods before Me,” Deut.5.7. this obviously meant that Israel was not to displace Jehovah in favour of other gods, but it also meant that they were not to divide their worship between false gods and Jehovah. The “grove of any trees” or “any wooden Asherah pole” was part of the “Canaanite religion with its depraved sexual connotations” (Raymond Brown). Let us also beware of attempting to have a “foot in both camps” when it comes to our religious affiliations. Since “covetousness … is idolatry,” Col.3.5, we must also remember the teaching of the Lord Jesus: “Ye cannot serve God and mammon,” Matt.6.24.
b) Deficient sacrifices, 17.1. “Thou shalt not sacrifice unto the Lord thy God any bullock, or sheep, wherein is blemish, or any evil favouredness: for that is an abomination unto the Lord thy God.” This is most searching. We would loudly protest if we were accused of idolatry, but substandard sacrifices were just as reprehensible to God. Are we offering our second best to the Lord? Read Mal.1.7-8
Do notice that the words “the Lord thy God” occur in each of the three verses above. If He is in deed and in truth “the Lord our God,” there will be complete devotion to Him. He will reign without a rival in our hearts and lives.
ii) Course of action, 17.2-7
The procedure in cases of reported idolatry is clearly charted in these verses. The similarity with Deut.13.12-18 should be noted. In that case, a city was involved: in this case an individual is involved. But the principles on which the matter was to be addressed are the same. We will also use the same headings!
a) The report, v2-4. “If there be found among you … man or woman that hath wrought wickedly in the sight of the Lord thy God, in transgressing his covenant …” Do notice the words, “thy gates which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” What a way to repay God for His benefits and blessings! But idolatry was far more than ingratitude. It was an act of total disobedience: it is described as wickedness “in the sight of the Lord thy God, in transgressing his covenant.” Do remember that the Lord Jesus “died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again,” 2Cor.5.15.
b) The response, v4. “If … it be told thee, and thou hast heard of it, and inquired diligently, and, behold, it be true, and the thing certain.” As we said in connection with Deut.13.14, all too often we act on faulty information, and incur the censure in Prov.8.13, “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.” It is all too easy to pick up a piece of information, embroider it with our own opinions or suspicions, and then pass it on as authentic!
c) The retribution, v5-7. “Then shalt thou bring forth that man or that woman … and shalt stone them with stones, till they die.” The judgment was to rest on a righteous basis: “At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death.” It is noteworthy that “the hands of the witnesses shall be first upon him to put him to death.” According to Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, the “object of this special arrangement was partly to deter the witnesses from making a false accusation by the prominent part they had to act as executioners, and partly to give a public assurance that the crime had met its due punishment.” When Stephen was stoned to death, Acts 7.54-60, “the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul.” Stephen was stoned as an idolator!
D) Their perplexity, 17.8-13
These verses deal with the procedure in cases of matters too difficult for local settlement. All assembly elders have to face perplexing problems, and ‘ready-made’ answers are not always forthcoming. This is the envisaged situation here: “If there arise a matter too hard for thee in judgment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea (JND, ‘cause and cause’), and between stroke and stroke, being matters of controversy within thy gates.” The following should be noted:
i) The procedure to follow, v8-9
“Then shalt thou arise.” So the matter was not to be left ‘in limbo’! All too often problems are left unaddressed, with the result that they become progressively worse. Sometimes the Lord's people involved, and others, become totally disaffected, and go elsewhere. It will not do for elders to sit on their hands and do nothing. Quite obviously, unlike the “officers and judges” here, assembly elders cannot appeal to a central body of people, but it should be noted that the matter was to be resolved by men in the presence of God. The passage before us links “the sentence of the law which they shall teach thee,” v11, with “the priest standeth to minister there before the Lord thy God,” v12. So the men concerned are in touch with the Word of God, and in touch with God Himself.
The answer to the problems of the day lay in recourse to God. This reminds us that elders should be priestly men, and that difficult problems can only be met by waiting on God and considering His Word. This cannot be over-emphasised. All too often, decisions are made, sometimes hastily, without spending time in earnest prayer for divine guidance through the Word of God.
ii) The responsibility to obey, v9-11
These verses emphasise the responsibility of obeying God's Word. We cannot miss the communication of God's Word by the priest or judge: “And they shall shew thee the sentence of judgment,” v9; “they … shall shew thee,” v10; “according to all that they inform thee (JND, ‘instruct thee’)”, v10; “they shall teach thee,” v11; “they shall tell thee,” v11; “they shall shew thee,” v11.
Attached to this is the requirement to obey: “Thou shalt do,” v10; “thou shalt observe to do according to all that they inform thee,” v10; “according to the sentence of the law which they shall teach thee … thou shalt do: thou shalt not depart from the sentence which they shall shew thee, to the right hand, nor to the left,” v11. Compare Jms.1.22. Bible teaching is binding upon us.
iii) The warning to heed, v12-13
“The man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken … even that man shall die,” v12. The words which follow should be carefully noted: “and thou shalt put away the evil from Israel.” Disobedience is evil. If “to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams,” then “rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry, 1Sam.15.22-23. God's people are to be “obedient children,” 1Pet.1.14.
The remaining three categories of ‘officials’ will be dealt with in our next two studies. God willing. —to be continued (D.V.)
By J. C. Gibson (Scotland)
Paper 8 : 1 Thessalonians chapter 4
In our previous study we noted that this chapter divides into two main sections:
- EXHORTATION, v1-12
- ESCHATOLOGY, v13-18
We shall now consider the second section which is the classic passage describing the return of the Lord Jesus Christ for His church. This letter was written to a young and yet exemplary church, 1.7, however, the believers were undergoing persecution, 3.3, and evidently some of their number had died since the visit of the missionaries, 4.13. This filled them with consternation, and in this portion of the epistle Paul is writing in response to the sorrow of the saints. It is reasonable to assume that Paul learnt of their sorrow by Timothy’s report when he returned from Thessalonica, 3.6. The best of teachers in any sphere will respond to their students. How much more important is it for us to be sensitive to the needs of fellow believers and to seek to supply their needs. Their sorrow resulted from ignorance, as can be seen from v13, ‘I would not have you to be ignorant.’ A lack of understanding in the things of God will always result in sadness. This is in contrast to an understanding of worldly knowledge, which increases sorrow, Ecc.1.18. Therefore we should endeavour to know as much as we can about spiritual things through the study of the Word. Ignorance with regard to spiritual realities is always harmful for the believer. The aim of the missionaries is to cure their sorrow by removing their ignorance. Their sorrow was ‘concerning them which are asleep,’ v13. They were concerned that those who had died would somehow lose out at the return of the Lord Jesus, v15. Newberry translates ‘prevent’ as ‘go before,’ that is to say, to get an advantage over. This was their main fear. However, they who are living at the Lord’s return will have no advantage over those who have died. The sorrow of believers should be of an entirely different nature to that of unbelievers, the ‘others which have no hope,’ v13, who are excluded from the fellowship of Christians. In this chapter the lost are described as those ‘which know not God,’ v5, and subsequently as those ‘which have no hope,’ v13. These two go hand in hand and are inseparable. No hope is held out to those who have no knowledge of God, whereas there is a sure hope for the child of God. Conybeare and Howson refer to the inscription on a heathen sepulchre found at Thessalonica: ‘After death there is no revival, after the grave no meeting of those who have loved each other on earth.’ For the unbeliever there is no glimmering or hint of hope beyond the grave.
Then there is the description of death as ‘sleep.’ Death is no longer a penalty for the saint, but simply falling asleep. This language was used by the Lord Jesus Christ to describe death in Jn.11.11, suggesting the temporary nature of the death of the body. The soul of the believer does not, of course, sleep in the grave until resurrection as some falsely teach, but is fully conscious in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the morning a person awakes from sleep and gets up; so too the dead bodies of the saints will be resurrected at the time of the rapture. Included in this description of death is hope. It also implies rest, for we sleep because we are tired. When believers fall asleep in death, which has been the experience of all Christians since Pentecost, they rest from their labours, Rev.14.13. ‘Them which are asleep,’ v13 is a present participle, ton koimomenon, which may be interpreted as ‘those sleeping,’ that is, those who have fallen asleep and continue to sleep. An alternative rendering is ‘those falling asleep from time to time,’ as there will always be those dying in the assembly, till the Lord comes. It is through the Lord Jesus that death has been transformed into sleep, for the saints are described as ‘them also which sleep in Jesus,’ v14. He has made death but sleep for believers in two ways. Firstly His own experience of death in all its horror has brought about the death of death. The Saviour who died as our sin bearer has metamorphosed death into sleep with the glad confidence of a future awakening. Secondly, the words, ‘which sleep’ translate a passive participle, and should be rendered ‘them that were put to sleep.’ Dying is here compared to a mother putting a child to sleep for when believers die, it is the Lord Himself who has put them to death, or, rather, put them to sleep. This is in contrast to the voluntary character of the death of Christ, for ‘Jesus died and rose again,’ v14. Both of these verbs are in the active voice, depicting the Lord Jesus voluntarily laying down His life and then voluntarily taking it again, Jn.10.17,18.
V15 speaks of the sharing of the secret. The truth concerning the rapture came ‘by the Word of the Lord,’ that is as a direct revelation from the Lord. In 1Cor.15.51 the speedy transformation that takes place at the rapture is described as ‘a mystery.’ In Eph.3.3-5 a mystery is explained as that ‘which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed;’ that is to say, it is something that was hidden in the past, but has now been made known through divine revelation.
We ought to consider the details of the descent, v14,16,17. Firstly, Christ’s coming will be personal because ‘the Lord Himself,’ v16, will descend. Not a great angelic messenger, but the Heavenly Bridegroom Himself will return with eagerness to meet His bride. Secondly, this coming will be heavenly, since He ‘shall descend from heaven,’ v16. Thirdly, it will be swift with the speed of the descent being suggested by the expression ‘with a shout,’ v16. The speediness of the proceedings, and in particular the change of the saints, is also thus emphasised in the phrase ‘in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,’ 1Cor.15.52. Fourthly, the Lord’s return will be loud, ‘with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God,’ v16, not one believer will fail to hear the call. This clear signal from heaven will have great significance for the saints. Instantly they will hear and respond to the summons when it goes forth. The unsaved world will likely realise that something extraordinary and supernatural has taken place, but will not necessarily understand the significance of the sound or appreciate exactly what has happened.
The consequences of the coming, v16,17, will be numerous. Believers who have died will be raised; ‘the dead in Christ shall rise first,’ v16. Their bodies will be resurrected and raised that they might be reunited with their souls. They will be at no disadvantage; in fact believers who are alive will have to wait a moment as it were, though it will be a very short moment. Living believers will be raptured: ‘we which are alive and remain shall be caught up,’ v17. The word is harpagesometa, meaning a sudden and forcible seizure, an irresistible act of catching away, the result of divine activity. The Latin word for the Greek verb is rapturo, from which our English word rapture is derived. No matter what we might be doing that day, we shall be snatched away. There will be no warning; we will suddenly be just whisked away to be ‘together with them,’ v17 who have died. Why then should we mourn for those who are asleep, as we shall meet them again one day at the return of the Lord Jesus Christ in order to ‘ever be with the Lord,’ v17? What a wonderful prospect is ours that nothing will ever separate us from Him. This hope, should constantly thrill our hearts. Satan will be foiled, since this meeting is ‘in the air,’ v17, and he is described as ‘the prince of the power of the air,’ Eph.2.2. The saints’ meeting with the Saviour will therefore take place in Satan’s territory, showing His complete mastery over him.
There is of course the encouragement of the expectation, v15,17,18. The use of ‘we’ shows that Paul associated himself with those survivors who would be alive at the Lord’s return. He could not have said ‘they who are alive’ without denying the possibility of his seeing the return and thus robbing his own generation of that hope. Paul was appropriately giving an example of expectancy which is to mark the church of all ages. A whole generation of Christians alive at the Lord’s coming will never have to experience physical death. We are to use this living, daily, practical hope as a means of encouraging each other, v18.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by D. S. Parrack (England)
No. 4 — JUSTIFICATION
It might perhaps be felt, that justification would have been better considered earlier in the series. As we proceed though, it is hoped that the putting of it in fourth place is accepted as being vindicated. As already seen, Paul, in writing to Corinth, follows the sequence “— washed — sanctified — justified,” 1Cor.6.11. We do then have some Scriptural warrant for this order of discussion.
Justification, like redemption, covers a much wider range of thought than that with which it is often associated. A commonly used shorthand for its meaning is ‘just as if I'd never sinned.’ That is certainly how God sees those who have trusted His Son, but we cannot really say it is a full definition of justification.
Just as we saw that ‘being sanctified’ was applied to the Lord Jesus (see e.g. Jn.10.36), so we find ‘being justified’ applied to God. “All the people — and the publicans, justified God, being baptised with the baptism of John,” Lk.7.29. What those people were doing was acknowledging that God was righteous, specifically so in the context, of His perception of them as being totally sinful. In a reverse flow, justification is for believers, a public and recorded acknowledgement by God, that having been redeemed, and sanctified, as a result of the sacrificial work of the Lord Jesus, they are accepted as having a totally righteous standing in His sight. It is not doing something new or additional but the divine acknowledgement of what has already been done, already been accomplished.
That God has not deviated one iota from His perfect and unsullied holiness in seeing His people that way is made abundantly clear. The Scriptures point us to “Christ Jesus, God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood — to declare (show publicly) I say at this time His righteousness, that He may be just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus,” Rom.3.25,26. That ‘declaring’ of His righteousness is of supreme importance to believers. God has not just side-stepped the question of sin, it must be dealt with on a wholly righteous basis and that the Lord Jesus has done. Because of that, God can with full justice acknowledge all the requirements of His holiness as having been met, so whilst being the justifier He remains inherently the Just One.
That then is our standing before God. A righteousness conferred through, by and in the Lord Jesus and confirmed by God. “God hath made Him to be sin for us, (He) who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him,” 2Cor.5.20,21. Precisely because “it is God that justifieth,” and He who bears witness to our righteous standing, there is no sustainable challenge to it. “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? — who is he that condemneth? — who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (see Rom.8.33-35). The answer from God's Word is an emphatic, no-one. “For the Scripture saith, Whosoever believeth in Him shall not be ashamed,” Rom.10.11.
How then can we begin to measure up in practice to such a standing? Does justification really impinge on our daily living, or at least, ought it to?
One portion of Scripture which gives some light here, is James' epistle. Most of the references so far quoted are from Paul's letters and some people find difficulty in reconciling those two writers. That should not be a discouragement. Peter admits of Paul's letters that they contain “some things hard to be understood,” 2Pet.3.16. We cannot help finding some things difficult to understand but what we need to guard against is what Peter says “the unlearned and unstable” do in such circumstances, twist the Scriptures to align them with their own misconceptions. Nothing will more clarify difficult Scriptures than the application of those we find more easily understandable. Scripture will never contradict itself. It may not always say what we would like, but that is one of its blessings, it sheds light on and corrects our own mistaken ideas.
But what is it exactly that James says? His statement “that by works a man is justified and not by faith alone,” Jms.2.24, needs to be read in context. He is talking about the relationship between faith and works and demonstrating that without the latter the former has no real meaning. “A man may say, show me thy faith without thy works.” But the hypothetical conversation continues. “I will show thee my faith by my works,” 2.18. What is being taught is that real live faith will show itself to be such by what it produces. Faith claimed but not producing observable effects must be judged to be lifeless. “Wilt thou know O vain man that faith without works is dead,” v20. How does James introduce justification into the discussion? In common with all other N.T. writers he turns to the O.T. for suitable examples to illustrate his case and we can now look briefly at the two he chooses.
God made a whole range of promises to Abraham, all of them to be fulfilled through his son Isaac. “In Isaac shall thy seed be called,” Gen.21.13. Long before that assurance though we read of Abraham that “he believed in the Lord and He counted it to him for righteousness,” Gen.15.6. That was a God-imputed righteousness, based not on anything that Abraham had done but on the acknowledged fact that he had believed on, had trusted, God and His promises. Those promises were unconditional and it may be seen as fairly easy to accept promises which don't appear to require any return. Later though “it came to pass — that God did tempt (test) Abraham and said unto him — take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest — and offer him for a burnt offering,” Gen.22.1-2. What was Abraham's faith worth now? Could he continue to believe those promises if the very channel through which they were to be fulfilled was removed, if he indeed was to be instrumental in its removal?
We are not told that it was easy for Abraham. What we are told is that “against hope he believed in hope,” Rom.4.18, i.e. when things appeared hopeless he continued to believe. That really is faith because there was nothing else at all on which he could lean or rely. However much everything seemed to militate against God's promises, it was to those promises that Abraham looked rather than at the evidence stacked against them, “being fully persuaded that what God had promised He was able also to perform,” Rom.4.18-21 and see Heb.11.19. Now what James says of that incident is that by it Abraham was “justified by works,” Jms.2.21. God reckoned, or counted, his faith as righteousness and Abraham showed the genuineness of that faith by what he did, which was to go against nature in dependence on God. That closed the circle “and the Scripture was fulfilled which said, Abraham believed God and it was imputed (reckoned) unto him for righteousness.” But it went further, much further than being just a judicial transaction, “and he was called, the Friend of God,” Jms.2.23. As the Psalmist might say, “Selah,” think about that.
But surely if God knew how genuine Abraham's faith was, why was it necessary to go to such lengths to prove it? Paul has something to say about that. “Now it was not written for his (Abraham's) sake alone that righteousness was imputed to him. But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed if we believe on Him that raised up Jesus, our Lord from the dead,” Rom.4.23-24. If Paul's teaching on justification by faith is as applicable to us as it was to Abraham, and we have just seen that the Scripture says that it is, so is James teaching on justification by works. Timothy had the two thoughts brought together for him. “The foundation of God standeth sure,” a divinely established base, “The Lord knoweth them that are his,” a positive assertion, but with outward evidence looked for as well, “— and let everyone that nameth the name of the Lord depart from iniquity,” 2Tim.2.19. By living out the Scripture and moving against natural tendencies, you will be justified by works. Seen to be righteously claiming an unassailable, unchallengeable, standing in God's sight, based on your trust, your faith, in Him. James' second example is as different to Abraham as was the Samaritan woman to Nicodemus in Jn. chs. 3 and 4. Rahab was a known prostitute, her house would have been a natural attraction to men coming in from the desert, their arrival exciting little local surprise, though perhaps local disapproval. She had every reason to be terrified of the army camped on the far side of Jordan, she and all the populace of Jericho alike. “Your terror has fallen upon us,” she told the Israelite spies, “and — all the inhabitants of the land fear because of you,” Josh.2.9. What made her different from her compatriots was that she realised why this enemy army would be successful. Not because they were well trained soldiers, they weren't. Nor because they had a strong tribal god whose priests could maintain discipline, Canaan was full of such gods and priests. No, it was because she believed that “The Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and in earth beneath,” Josh.2.11, the omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent God.
Well she might believe that and believe it very sincerely, but she remained a citizen of Jericho and profession of belief would cut no ice when the invaders arrived; as arrive she knew they surely would. So she demonstrated her conviction by what she did. Whilst the Hebrews writer assures us that “by faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not when she received the spies with peace,” Heb.11.31. James asks “Was not Rahab the harlot justified by works when she had received the messengers?” Jms.2.25. Both were speaking of the same incident, presenting two complementary sides of the same coin. Not justification by either faith or works but justification by both. In the most uncongenial of circumstances Rahab showed what she truly believed by what she did in going against her natural ties. Perhaps it is the only way in which we can encourage ourselves that in spite of our background, feelings and inconsistencies, our faith works because it is centred on a Person who doesn't ask us to ‘do’, but does want us to demonstrate our reliance on what He has done, and done perfectly (see e.g. Jn.17.4 and 19.30).
God wants that, not to assure Himself of the genuine nature of your faith, he knows all about that already, but to vindicate Himself. For you to be a witness, a testimony, to what He has already done for you and the standing in which He now sees you, “complete in Him,” i.e. the Lord Jesus, Col.2.10. That will be accomplished by a life of faith that works, demonstrating the reality of your imputed righteousness by a life that is righteous in practice.
In Num.21 we read that “The people (of Israel) spoke against God and against Moses. Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in this wilderness? For there is no bread, neither is there any water and our soul loatheth this light bread (i.e. manna). And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people and much people of Israel died,” v5-6.
Num.25 starts ominously, “The people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab — Israel joined himself with Baalpeor and the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel,” v1-3.
How then would you describe the actual state of the Israelites at that time? Perhaps you consider that God's reactions are amply sufficient to make their condition plain. But how about the period covered by the intervening chs.22-24? How did God speak of the Israelites when that strange enigmatic figure Balaam was hired to curse them?
“God said unto Balaam — thou shalt not curse the people for they are blessed,” 22.12. Later God gave words to Balaam to speak, “God is not a man that He should lie, neither the son of man that He should repent — He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath He seen perverseness in Israel, the Lord his God is with him,” 23.19-21.
They may have been what God wanted them to be like, but they must actually have looked pretty ramshackle and disorganised.
At his third attempt to find a weak spot, Balaam “went not as at other times to seek for enchantments, but he set his face towards the wilderness,” 24.1. That would surely reveal their true state. Years in the desert, no established culture, constant bickerings with their leaders. But what did Balaam see, and note that he is spoken of as someone, “whose eyes are open — which hath heard the words of God — which saw the vision of the Almighty,” 24.3-4. “He saw Israel abiding in his tents according to his tribes,” v2. Ordered, structured and disciplined, and not only therefore a force to be reckoned with but “How goodly are thy tents O Jacob and thy tabernacles O Israel. As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the riverside, as the trees of lign aloes which the Lord hath planted,” 24.5-6. Beauty and attractiveness as well as order, even in that wilderness environment. God viewed Israel like that, not because of what they were in themselves but because they belonged to Him, He had purchased, redeemed them.
Oh yes, they were dealt with severely because their condition was as it was, see again chs. 21 and 25, and we must not think that because our eternal welfare is secure that our present state, either as individuals or as assemblies, doesn't matter, (see e.g. Rev.2.5 and 3.19). But any chastening which we deserve, and receive, has a stated aim in view. Though “no chastening for the present seemeth joyous but grievous, nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby,” Heb.12.11. That shows just how much God wants your present state to conform more nearly to your standing in his sight. Even His chastening, which we most certainly won't enjoy at the time, is directed to that end. We need then to respond to His Word and to His governmental dealings with us, so that His purpose for us will be worked out in practice in this world just as surely as they will be in the new world to come.
by Walter A. Boyd (N. Ireland)
PART 2 — Exodus 16.33
“And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a pot, and put an omer full of manna therein, and lay it up before the LORD, to be kept for your generations.”
In Heb.9.4, the golden pot of manna is shown to have been inside the Ark of the Covenant in the Tabernacle of Israel. When we remember that the Tabernacle presents Christ like no other type does, it is lovely to consider the golden pot with the manna as depicting Christ in ascended glory. In Ex.16.33 they were to “lay it up before the Lord.” The manna which beautifully speaks of Christ, had once lain on the dew upon the wilderness sand and is now in the immediate presence of God. In this it speaks eloquently of One Who had been here upon earth and now before God in heaven. Another thing to remember is that if a man of Israel had tried to keep the manna overnight it was rotten by the morning. But here was manna, taken by Moses and placed in a golden pot, and obviously by Divine power it never rotted. What a picture of the sinless, holy humanity of the Lord Jesus! When combined with deity, that which we would think of as otherwise subject to deterioration, was perfectly and divinely incorruptible. The Lord Who is now in heaven, is the same One Who lay in Joseph’s tomb. Of Him the Scriptures say, “But He, whom God raised again, saw no corruption,” Acts 13.37. We have a Man, a real Man, in the immediate presence of God. Incorruptible humanity and Infinite deity combined in one blessed Person. Isaiah tells us that “the mighty God, the everlasting Father” is also the “child born,” Isa.9.6. John tells us that “the Word was God” and “Became flesh and dwelt among us,” Jn.1.1,14. While it is true that Christ is essentially God and essentially man, He is indivisible. In the fact that He is fully God and fully Man, there is no loss of attributes. Deity and humanity are inextricably united in one glorious Person. At one and the same time He was omnipotent and tired! He could be divinely happy in fellowship with His Father and at the same time sad at the ravages of sin among His fellow men!
The pot of manna spoke to Israel every day about their gracious God. It told them of the faithfulness, fulness, freeness and freedom of His grace. Likewise, the ascended Lord daily reminds us of the same truths. The faithfulness of His grace is displayed as He meets our needs constantly; Lam.3.22, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.” The fullness of His grace is displayed in His rich provision for us according to His grace; Phil.4.19, “But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” The freeness of His grace is seen in the fact that it is grace which meets our needs liberally and sufficiently - we never deserved it; 2 Cor.12.9 “And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee...” The freedom of His grace is manifested in that He meets our needs practically in order to release us from daily cares and burdens; 1Pet.5.7, “Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you.”
Hallelujah! What a Saviour
by M. Rudge (Wales)
The subject of God’s sovereignty in election and human responsibility in the Old Testament, is given major treatment in the epistle to the Rom.9. One of the outstanding examples of this truth is the case of Pharaoh, which illustrates both Divine sovereignty and human responsibility. In His sovereignty, God allowed Pharaoh to come to prominence on the world-stage at a critical time in Divine purpose, “For the Scripture saith, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up (‘made thee stand’ Newberry margin), that I might show My power in thee, and that My name might be declared throughout all the earth”, Rom.9.17; Ex.9.16. The vital issue in the confrontation between Moses as God’s spokesman and the Egyptian monarch, was “that My name might be declared throughout all the earth.” Cp Jn.12.28; 17.26; Ex.14.4, “And I will be honoured upon Pharaoh and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord.”
It was not unreasonable to expect that Israel’s exodus from Egypt could be conducted in an orderly and civilised way but Pharaoh chose to show the most determined and provocative resistance to God’s purpose. His first response to Moses’ message from “the Lord God of Israel” to “Let My people go”, was a contemptuous dismissal. “And Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go”, Ex.5.1,2. God allowed the exercise of Pharaoh’s free-will but held him responsible for what he did. It is clear that Pharaoh was responsible for the hardness of heart which developed as a result of his refusal to obey God’s voice and that he fitted himself for his own destruction.
When Moses returned from his first disappointing interview with Pharaoh (Ex.5.22, 23), God reminded him of the issue that was at stake and that his mission could not fail. Everything was based upon the simple yet profound truth, “I am Jehovah (the Lord)”, the Name by which God was made known to Israel at this time, 6.2,3; 5.13-15. The opening verses of Ex.6, repeat the statement, “I am Jehovah” four times. The Lord’s reply to His servant Moses after his discouraging experience, concludes with the words, “I am Jehovah”, 6.8. The ten plagues which devastated Egypt, was the answer to Pharaoh’s proud dismissal of God’s command to let His people go.
It is instructive to notice the order in which the narrative of events develops and especially the occurrences of the two expressions, “I will harden his heart” and “Pharaoh hardened his heart”. It is significant that there are eight references to God’s sovereignty in hardening “whom He will”, even Pharaoh, 4.21; 7.3,13; 9.12; 10.1,20,27; 11.10, and eight references to Pharaoh’s responsibility, when his heart was hardened, 7.14,22; 8.15,19,32; 9.7,34,35. Before Moses was sent into the presence of Pharaoh, he was prepared for what would take place in spite of the “wonders” that he would perform before the monarch - “but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go”, 4.21. This is exactly what happened after the wonders had been performed, 7.3,13, “as the Lord had said”. It will be seen from what follows that Pharaoh was responsible for the judicial hardening which followed his refusal. It is only after the fifth of the ten plagues that it is recorded in a meaningful way that “the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had spoken unto Moses”, 9.12.
The time came when Pharaoh not only refused to let the people go but threatened Moses with death if he ever came into his presence again, 10.27,28. It is now that the judgment falls upon the firstborn of Egypt as God had foretold it, when He gave Moses His message to Pharaoh. “And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Israel is My son, even My firstborn; ... let My son go ... and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn”, 4.22,23. Pharaoh could not say that he had not been warned and given every opportunity to obey the Lord’s message. He is a classical example of God’s endurance “with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath (self) fitted to destruction.” His case history is a solemn warning to the unsaved.
In Rom.9, the truth of human responsibility is developed in the later part of the chapter and continues into ch.10. The Gentiles “attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith”, 9.30. Israel did not attain to it, “Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith ... For they stumbled at the stumbling stone ...”, v32,33. They were solely responsible for being set aside, as Gentiles were brought into the blessings they had rejected. 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, Eph.2.8.
In ch.10, the truth of human responsibility is emphasised in the references to individual faith, “the righteousness of faith”, i.e. the righteousness obtained by faith which cannot be obtained by works. Christ is the end of the law “to everyone that believeth,” v4; “that is the word of faith which we preach, that if thou shalt confess ... and believe in thine heart, ... thou shalt be saved ... For the Scripture saith, whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed. ... For whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved”, v8-13. The sinner is responsible to believe the message and is responsible for the consequences of unbelief.
- There is a time, we know what when,
A point we know not where,
That marks the destiny of men,
For glory or despair.
- There is a line, by us unseen,
That crosses every path;
The hidden boundary between
God’s patience and His wrath.
- The conscience may be still at ease,
The spirits light and gay;
That which is pleasing, still may please,
And care be thrust away.
- But on that forehead God has set,
Indelibly, a mark,
Unseen by men: for men as yet
Are blind and in the dark.
How far may we go on in sin?
How long will God forbear?
Where does hope end, and where begin
The confines of despair?
- An answer from the skies is sent —
‘Ye that from God depart,
While it is said today, repent,
And harden not your heart.
Dr J. A. Alexander
—to be continued (D.V.)
(Address given by C. F. Hogg in U.S.A. in 1920's)
*Quotations throughout are from the Revised Version
In devoting the time at our disposal to the consideration of the glories of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are responding to the exhortation of the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews to “Consider Him,” 3.1. The human heart can have no truer devotion, the human mind no worthier occupation, the human tongue no loftier task than to speak of the Person and the character of the Son of God. May His Holy Spirit not only enlighten our understanding, but may He move our hearts to a fresh purpose to be found, when He comes again, following the Lord in the way.
A unique biography
The biographies of men are usually introduced with some brief reference to parentage and descent; they often conclude with a brief chapter of regret at the too early close of a useful life, the biography itself lying between these points. When we come to consider the Lord Jesus Christ, however, we discover that His birth and His descent cannot be dismissed with a brief reference, and that His history has not been brought to a period by the hand of death. It is strangely divided — strangely, that is to say, when compared with the biographies of men — for upon thirty of His three and thirty years a veil of almost unbroken silence is allowed to drop.
In all we learn a little of His activities during selected days of His last three years, but the bulk of the Four Gospels is devoted to the last week of His life, and of that week, two days demand a larger space than do the other five. Here is something, then, that attracts our attention at the very beginning — that the life story of the Lord Jesus Christ should be recorded in a way so dissimilar from that of every other subject of biography.
Take, to begin with, a statement, made by the Apostle Paul, concerning our Lord Jesus Christ: “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that, though He was rich yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might become rich,” 2Cor.8.9.
Here we are at once challenged to ask a question. When did He, being rich, be come poor? During His public ministry He had “not where to lay His head,” Matt.8.20. Of those silent years this at least we know, that He was the eldest son of an artisan's widow. At His birth there was no room for His mother in the crowded inn, so He must be born in a stable-yard and cradled in a manger. Not at any time during His life here on the earth could it be said of Him, in any sense whatever, that “he was rich.” When, then, did He become poor? — for poor He was from the manger to the Cross.
An answer to this question must be sought elsewhere. When He stood before Pilate His testimony was: “To this end have I been born, and to this end am I come into the world,” Jn.18.37. Many men have lived under deep conviction that they were born for a purpose, but alone among men this Man could say, “came.” Others came whether they would or no, but here is One who declared that He “came” into this world of His own unconstrained will.
When Herod would learn where the Messiah should be born, the scribes referred him, and rightly, to Micah 5.2. There they found it written that out of Bethlehem Ephratah One should come forth Who was to be Ruler in Israel. There they paused; had they gone on they would have read, “Whose goings forth are of old, from everlasting.”
His own Testimony
Listen to Him again as He prays in the hearing of His disciples, the prayer recorded in Jn.17. He anticipates His death, resurrection and ascension. It is the intercessory prayer of the “great Priest over the House of God.” There are two expressions in it to which I draw your attention. Long ago through Isaiah God had said, “My glory will I not give to another,” Isa.42.8; 48.11. Now the glory of God belongs to Himself alone, and in the nature of the case is not communicable to any creature. Yet the Lord Jesus Christ addresses His Father, saying, “Glorify Thou Me with Thine own self with the glory that I had with Thee before the world was,” v5. Thus, you perceive He claims to share the incommunicable glory of God, once again making an implicit claim to Deity.
Toward the close of the same prayer He speaks thus, “Father … Thou loveds't Me before the foundation of the world,” v24. What do these words signify? That there is in the Godhead a distinction of Persons, and that He Who shared the incommunicable glory of God was at the same time the object of the love of the Father. Thus He is to be distinguished from the Father, but is not thereby in any sense, made less than, or subsidiary to, the Father in His Godhood.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by Victor Doss (Malaysia)
I was born in India, on the 5th March 1927, into a nominal Christian family in which the only saved soul was my mother. I was the eldest of seven living children. We had a good Christian influence in the home, since both parents knew the Bible well enough to tell us the stories from Old and New Testaments. My mother made clear gospel applications from the stories she related and by this means I heard the gospel from childhood. Father, too, would often refer to the vicarious death of the Lord Jesus but there was no evidence in his life of him ever having been saved. Nevertheless I thank the Lord for my parents to whom I owe much for a God-fearing upbringing. We were also made to memorise key verses from the Bible that would prove useful in later years.
As it was our family tradition, I attended the Anglican church services, went through all the rituals such as infant baptism, confirmation, holy communion, observed all the festivities and sang in the choir from the age of 8 years until I left for Malaysia in 1953 at the age of 26 years. It was my godly mother who arranged for me to go to Malaysia as her brother was there. He also was an unsaved Anglican, and I had the joy of pointing him to the Saviour many years later. The real reason for sending me away was to separate me from my untoward friends because my mother had lost all her hopes of recovering me from worldliness.
I continued in Malaysia with the C.O.E. faithfully believing that it was the place where all blessings for time and eternity could be obtained. Despite all this I always sensed, in the depth of my heart, an emptiness and restlessness because I could not maintain myself in separation from the things of which my conscience convicted me. Worldly friends, dancing and music robbed all my precious time leaving hardly any time for the things of God. In this I took after my father who also was given to alcohol, dancing and music. Praise God, the Lord later saved him in his 70th year and the conversion was evidenced by his complete severance from worldly pleasures.
Thus my life went on, on the one hand to be very religious and “churchy” and on the other hand in full swing with the world. I never gave up reading the Bible and praying daily in accordance with my upbringing. Whenever I engaged in prayer, I was often conscious of the convicting power of the Holy Spirit of God in respect of my waywardness. I would often try to calm my guilty feelings by praying and reading the Bible more but it did not make my situation any better. I found Rom.7.15,19 so very true in my case, “… for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I … For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.”
While I was in this situation, the Lord led me to Dr. Donald Nicholls, who was the chief medical superintendent in the government hospital. In mid 1953, I was in government service in a small town called Batu Gajah in Malaysia. A certain desperate drunkard, a colleague of mine and a fellow Anglican, told me that he was attending Gospel meetings at Dr. Nicholls’ residence on every second Sunday evening. I was completely disappointed with the C.O.E. and had actually prayed that I would find somebody or some place, were I could find help for my dreadful situation. Undoubtedly God led me to come into contact with Dr. Nicholls. His contract for service in Malaysia had reached expiry and he was to depart for Australia the next day. That evening in December 1954, through Jn.3.16, he led me to the Lord Jesus. The Spirit of God enabled me to see myself as a completely undone sinner, without hope, despite my so-called religious life. My eyes were opened to see that the only way to be saved was for me to acknowledge and confess:
- “My only plea, Christ died for me;
Oh, take me as I am.”
Dr. Nicholls introduced me to the assembly of God’s people meeting in Elim Gospel Hall, Ipoh. This was a city about 12 miles North of Batu Gajah. I was received into fellowship there in 1955 and grew in the Lord through the ministry and care of Mr. and Mrs. E. V. Brewerton who were missionaries from New Zealand.
At this time I had an unsaved, yet God fearing, Methodist girlfriend called Hannah Arthur, whose, now deceased, father was a Methodist pastor. I had the joy of pointing her to the Lord, (my first convert) and we were married in 1958. God blessed us with four lovely daughters, the youngest of whom, Fleurette, went to be with the Lord in 1986 at the age of 18 years as a result of a car accident.
The Lord used me in the assembly activities of Sunday School work, gospel preaching and ministry of the word until in 1959 I was meeting with the overseeing brethren in assembly responsibility. Then in 1969 I was commended to the Lord for full time service. The call was clear to me 10 years earlier but the fear was that I might be fancying myself to be a full time servant just because the Lord was using me to see souls saved. Besides, I was in government service enjoying early promotions with the prospect of good retirement benefits. All these, I realised later, were hindrances to my obedience to the Lord’s call.
It may be of interest to record that my mother’s first children were twins who died at birth; then I was born and at the age of 2 years I was stricken with pneumonia, was in bed for seven months and I was close to death. My godly mother told me that she pleaded with the Lord to spare my life, promising that she would give me for His service, like Hannah with Samuel. The Lord heard her prayers and spared my life but as I grew I was a total disappointment to her and she would often say through her tears, “The good Lord spared your life to serve Him, but you are serving the devil,” as she broke her heart over me.
Now, when the Lord called me to full time service I often wondered if I got the idea from my mother or was it a real call from Himself. However, when I revealed, to the then godly elders, my exercise of heart, they were glad and gave me every encouragement. After three months of prayers they unanimously and warmly commended me to the Lord and on their advice I resigned from my government post.
I would have travelled within a radius of 70 miles helping other assemblies in the work of the Lord. The Lord used me mostly among elderly and sick folk, especially in home and hospital visitation. Encouragements have been seen also in our gospel work among Tamil speaking people.
In 1988, after having served the Lord in Ipoh for nearly 32 years (in both part time and full time capacities) we moved to Klang, a town about 150 miles South. Many circumstances convinced us that it was the Lord’s plan for us, and after waiting upon the Lord for many years in prayer, we decided to move and the saints who meet in the Eng Ann Gospel Hall, Klang, gladly gave us the right hand of fellowship.
As for the Lord’s sustaining grace, He never deprived me of a single need, proving that, “faithful is He that calleth you …” 1Thess.5.24. We are glad to proclaim, “… Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” Rev.1.5,6.
We sat at the airport and watched her. She was immaculately dressed. All her accessories matched and were obviously expensive. She approached the check-in desk with all the confidence of an experienced traveller and with her documents in her hand.
We could not hear the conversation that took place between her and the check-in clerk, but we could read the body language. The clerk shook her head from side to side and shrugged her shoulders. The would-be traveller’s bubble of confidence burst and she began to weep. As she walked forlornly away she came in our direction. Her tears, mixed with her mascara, were running down her face. What a change! Now she was a pathetic sight.
“You seem to have a problem. Can we help in any way?” we asked. “No”, She wailed, “I have made an awful mistake. My passport is out of date and I cannot travel. I have a most important appointment at my destination and now I have missed it. I will never have another opportunity. I thought everything was in order. I have no time to get a passport now.”
No one could help her. Her future plans were demolished. She depended on something false for the future. What a disappointment! What a sad situation! Yet multitudes make the same mistake.
Dear reader, I wonder if you are depending on something false for your future? Not in a physical way at some airport, but in a spiritual way regarding your plans to get to heaven.
You may have spent a lot on the outward trappings. Your religious devotions may be in order; your charitable nature could not be questioned; your neighbourliness is beyond reproach, but do you have the correct passport to get to heaven? John H. Stockton wrote:
- “The cross of Christ is all my boast,
His blood my only plea;
My passport to the realms of bliss
Is, Jesus died for me.”
There is only one passport that will take a sinner to heaven and it never needs to be renewed. It is very expensive and yet is freely available. The tremendous cost was, “the precious blood of Christ” 1 Peter 1v19. This alone has the power to redeem and cleanse our sins. 1John 1v7, “… the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” We cannot do this by our works. Ephesians 2v8, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”
This ‘passport’ is available for all by believing the gospel and placing our personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. John 3v16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
When the Saviour comes it will be too late to get the passport. Don’t be left wailing, “I thought.” Matthew 24v44, “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.”
WHERE HE CAME FROM AND WHY HE CAME
Jesus … said … I know whence I came, and whither I go, Jn.8.14;
I came forth from the Father, Jn.16.28;
The Son of man came down from heaven, Jn.3.13;
I came down from heaven, Jn.6.38;
I am the bread which came down from heaven, Jn.6.41;
I am the living bread which came down from heaven, Jn.6.51;
The Son of man came … to give His life a ransom for many, Matt.20.28;
I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance, Mk.2.17;
For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost, Lk.19.10;
I came not to judge the world, but to save the world, Jn.12.47;
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief, 1Tim.1.15;
I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil, Matt.5.17;
For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, Jn.3.17;
God sent His only begotten Son into the world, 1Jn.4.9;
I am come a light into the world, Jn.12.46;
I am come that they might have life, Jn.10.10.
by H. A. Barnes (England)