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:
1) judges and officers, 16.18 — 17.13;
2) kings, 17.14-20;
3) priests and Levites, 18.1-8;
4) prophets, 18.9-22.
We have already considered the first of these categories, which brings us to:
2) KINGS, 17.14-20
“When thou art come into the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as the nations that are about me,” v14. This was fulfilled in the days of Samuel. See 1Sam.8.5. God knew the exact form of words His people would use when the time came! The king was to recognise three things:
A) that he was chosen by God, v15;
B) the danger of departing from God, v16-17;
C) the necessity for the Word of God, v 18-20.
There are lessons here for us all, but since the function of kings was to rule, it is appropriate that we should notice that in the New Testament the same features are required in “them that have the rule (‘your leaders,’ JND) over you,” Heb.3.7,17,24.
A) HE WAS CHOSEN BY GOD, v15
Whilst we are thinking particularly about Israel's kings here, it should be remembered that God chooses all rulers, good and bad. See, for example, Dan.4.25, “the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will.” In the case of Israel we read: “Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee whom the Lord thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother.” The entire nation was to recognise the men of God's choice, and the entire assembly should recognise its God-given overseers. See 1Thess.5.12-13. Overseers are chosen by God. See Acts 20.28: “over which (‘in the which,’ JND) the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers.” Like Israel's kings, they are certainly not to be ‘outsiders’ but “from among thy brethren.” See 1Pet.5.1-2, “The elders which are among you I exhort … Feed the flock of God which is among you.” Brethren from elsewhere should not be allowed to dominate the local assembly. The autonomy of each local assembly requires more than lip-service.
We should take the opportunity to remind ourselves that God appoints the service of every believer: “but all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will … but now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased Him,” 1Cor.12.11,18. Rightly understood, this should deepen our sense of responsibility and make us more diligent in the Lord's work.
B) THE DANGER OF DEPARTING FROM GOD, v16-17
The danger is emphasised by a threefold warning:
i) “he shall not multiply horses to himself,” v16;
ii) “neither shall he multiply wives to himself,” v17;
iii) “neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold,” v17.
i) “He shall not multiply horses to himself,” v16
When you have worked through your concordance (if you are old-fashioned) or checked with your ‘On-Line Bible’ (if you belong to the electronic age), you will probably conclude that horses stand for misplaced confidence. See, for example, Isa.30.16; Hos.14.3. Horses represented the summation of the king's power. But instead of building up military power, he was to trust in the Lord. Hence Ps.20.7, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.” Godly overseers will urge God's people to be “strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might,” Eph.6.10.
It is most significant that Egypt evidently traded in horses: “he shall not … cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses.” Not that Egypt's horses accomplished very much against God's power, Ex.15.1. Solomon seemed to forget this injunction, 2Chron.1.16-17. Since Egypt is a picture of the world (see Heb.11.13-16), the prohibition on multiplying horses and returning to Egypt was very clearly a warning against adopting the ways and expediency of the world. The command is clear: “Ye shall henceforth return no more that way.”
Under-shepherds are to emulate the “chief Shepherd,” 1Pet.5.4, who, speaking as “the good shepherd,” “calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out” in order that they may “find pasture,” Jn.10.3,9. Spiritual shepherds do not lead the sheep to the cinema, the theatre or the dance floor. There is no ‘pasture’ there for the flock. That is tantamount to leading them back to Egypt.
ii) “Neither shall he multiply wives to himself,” v17
The reason follows: “that his heart turn not away.” This emphasises the danger of misplaced affection. It got Solomon into serious trouble, 1Kgs.11.1-4, and his son, Rehoboam, followed suit, 2Chron.11.18—12.1. This reminds us that elders must be “the husband of one wife,” 1Tim.3.2, and the best interpretation of this follows the literal meaning of the words, “a one woman man.” As J. Allen (‘What the Bible Teaches - 1Tim.’) observes, “The simple interpretation is to see this statement as laying emphasis on the absolute fidelity of the overseer to one woman.”
We all need to be good stewards of our emotions. Don't indulge in ‘brinkmanship’. So many promising young lives have been shipwrecked on the reefs of unsanctified and unspiritual relationships. We have to say from personal observations, and with heavy hearts, that love for Christ inevitably diminishes when our affections permit the entry of someone who should never be there. Nothing must distract our love for God.
iii) “Neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold,” v17
The king was not to abuse his privileges by gratifying his covetousness. David certainly remembered this, and rather than using the gifts sent by Toi and the silver and gold paid as tribute by the conquered nations, 2Sam.8.10-12, to build opulent palaces in the same way as Saddam Hussein, he dedicated his vast income “unto the Lord,” v11. This reminds us that overseers must not be “greedy of filthy lucre,” 1Tim.3.3. It is all too easy for business interests to displace the Lord's interests.
The Lord Jesus taught that “no man can serve two masters … ye cannot serve God and mammon (riches),” Matt.6.24, and “take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth,” Lk.12.15. Do remember that at the judgment seat of Christ, it will not be our successful career or material acquisitions that will earn the divine “well done,” but our devotion to Him and faithfulness in His service. We must heed the warning in 1Tim.6.10.
C) THE NECESSITY FOR THE WORD OF GOD, v18-20
These verses emphasise:
i) the importance of reading the Scriptures, v18-19a;
ii) the results of reading the Scriptures, v19b-20.
i) The importance of reading the Scriptures, v18-19a
“And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: and it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life,” v18-19. The king was required to write out the Scriptures for himself to impress them on his memory. Not only was he to have his copy of the Scriptures (“it shall be with him”), but he was to read it (“he shall read therein all the days of his life”). If all the pages of our Bible are perpetually clean it is fairly obvious that personal reading is minimal or non-existent. A well-thumbed Bible speaks for itself!
An overseer must be “apt to teach,” 1Tim.3.2. To this end, Timothy was exhorted to “give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine,” 1Tim.4.13, and to “study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth,” 2Tim.2.15.
We should all read the Scriptures in four ways. Prayerfully: see Ps.119.18, “Open Thou mine eyes, that I might behold wondrous things out of Thy law.” Purposefully: this necessitates planned reading, and therefore planned time. Positively: there must be a determination to act on what we read. The Word of God should inform the mind, warm the heart, and direct the life. Primarily: don't let the commentaries take over! Refer to them by all means (we do so in these studies), but our business is to read and study the Word of God! We must let the Scriptures speak for themselves.
ii) The results of reading the Scriptures, v19b-20
It is important to notice that the possession of the law in itself did nothing to safeguard the moral integrity of the monarch. Obedience was required. “That he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them," v19. This will produce the following results:
a) “That he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them.” The reading of God's Word, rightly applied should lead to a deepening “fear of the Lord.” Bearing in mind that the word ‘fear’ in most cases means ‘reverence’, the “fear of the Lord” can be defined as an abhorrence of anything and everything that will bring Him grief and displeasure. It flows, not from dread of God (as in Isa.2.19), but from love for God. The idea is conveyed in Ps.119.38, “Stablish Thy Word unto Thy servant who is devoted to Thy fear.” The “fear of the Lord” will be displayed in obedience to His Word.
b) “That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren.” The reading of the Scriptures leaves no room for pride. The more we read them, the more we see to “walk humbly with thy God,” Mic.6.8. An overseer must not be “a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil,” 1Tim.3.16. It is incumbent on all believers to “let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves,” Phil.2.3.
c) “That he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand or to the left.” Obedience to God's Word means nil deviation. As Raymond Brown observes, “The biblical test of effective leadership is not doing what the people like, or what the leader wants, but what the Word demands.”
d) “To the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.” Without forgetting the literality of these words, we can make the application that whilst obedience to God's Word does not necessarily guarantee longevity, disobedience will certainly bring disaster.
These verses, which portray the character and conduct required of the king, are seen perfectly in “the King of kings” of whom it is said, “Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness,” Isa.32.1. Solomon failed to meet these requirements, but they were met, and exceeded, by the “greater than Solomon.”
He was chosen by God, v15. The Jews recognised that their Messiah would be chosen by God: see Lk.23.35. This was stated in their Scriptures: “Behold My servant, whom I uphold; Mine elect, in whom My soul delighteth,” Isa.42.1. Compare 1Pet.2.6, “Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious.” He was qualified by birth, fulfilling the requirement that “one of thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee,” v15. See Matt.2.2, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews.”
The Lord Jesus has the moral right to reign. He did not build up earthly power, v16. In fact, He had to borrow an animal in order to fulfil Zech.9.9, “behold, thy King cometh unto thee: He is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” His heart was not turned away,” v17. Nothing interrupted or diverted His love for God. He said, “I love the Father; and as the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do,” Jn.15.31. He completely fulfilled Deut.6.4, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” He did not multiply silver and gold, v17. The Lord Jesus was marked by poverty, 2Cor.8.9. He “had not where to lay his head,” Matt.8.20. he was thoroughly conversant with the Word of God, v18-19. See Isa.50.4, “The Lord God hath given Me the tongue of the learned … He wakeneth morning by morning, He wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.” The results in the life of the Lord Jesus were apparent at the age of twelve: “And all that heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers,” Lk.2.47. But this was far more than technical knowledge. He lived “in the fear of the Lord,” v19, witness His words, “I do always those things which please Him (the Father),” Jn.8.29. He kept the law in its entirety, v19: “think not that I am come to destroy the law … I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil,” Matt.5.17. He fulfilled Isa.42.1, “He will magnify the law, and make it honourable.” His heart was not “lifted up above his brethren,” v20. He took the place of a humble servant, Mk.10.45; Phil.2.7. He washed His disciples' feet! He was inerrant in His faithfulness to the Word of God, v20: He said “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His Work,” Jn.4.34. He will “prolong His days in His kingdom,” v20. Although He was “cut off out of the land of the living,” He “shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand,” Isa.53.8,10. His kingdom will “stand for ever,” Dan.2.44.
—to be continued (D.V.)
The Teaching of 1 Thessalonians
By J. C. Gibson (Scotland)
Paper 9 : 1 Thessalonians chapter 5
In ch.4 the teaching about future events referred to the church and the rapture, which should dominate our expectations. At that time the Lord Jesus will return to the air and snatch away His bride. The day of the Lord on the other hand, referred to in this chapter, relates more to Israel. It is the future period when God will intervene in a supernatural way once more in this world, both in judgment during the great tribulation, and in blessing during the millennial reign of Christ. Christians will have been removed at the rapture before God’s judgment begins to burst on this scene. However, we will return with Christ at His second glorious advent to rule with Him, and in this sense we will participate in the day of the Lord, enjoying the rich blessing and having been saved from the great wrath.
This chapter neatly divides into two main sections:
‘But’, v1, immediately introduces us to an entirely new subject. In ch.4 they were ‘ignorant’, v13 concerning the rapture, but here in ch.5 they had an accurate knowledge of ‘the times and the seasons,’ which involve God’s prophetic timetable for this planet as delineated in the Old Testament. Paul wrote, ‘ye have no need that I write unto you,’ because the missionaries had taught them while at Thessalonica. No Christian is ever too young to be introduced to prophecy. The word for ‘times’, chronos, signifies a space of time in relation to its quantity, whereas ‘seasons’ translates the Greek word kairos denoting the characteristics of time, in the sense of quality. These words are used to describe the dispensations, those time segments of differing duration and characteristics, into which God has divided up the history and future of this world. The Lord used these same two words in Acts 1.7. By putting these two verses together along with v2 in our passage we learn, firstly, the apostolic teaching about prophecy was entirely consistent with that of the Lord Jesus Christ, since they used the same words. The unexpected element portrayed in v2 as a thief in the night is also similar language to that used by the Lord in Matt.24.43,44.
Secondly, the ‘times and seasons’ relate primarily to what God will do with Israel, as the phrase is used in the context of the nation’s restoration, Acts 1.6. Thirdly, it is possible to have an accurate grasp of prophecy, since in v1 there was no need to write to them on the subject and in v2 they knew ‘perfectly’. The word ‘perfectly’ in the original text is akribos, meaning accurately or exactly. It is also used in Lk.1.3 of Luke’s researching into the history of the Lord Jesus; in Acts 18.25,26 of the teaching of the truth of God and in Eph.5.15 of a Christian’s walk. Therefore, in our study, teaching, and living out of the Scriptures there must be precision and a diligent attention to detail. Fourthly, it is impossible for us to know when the prophetic clock will again begin ticking. This is seen in the words of the Lord Jesus, ‘It is not for you to know,’ Acts 1.7, and also in the figure of ‘a thief’, v2 which assumes unexpectancy and the element of surprise. We cannot, yea we must not, set dates!
The day of the Lord, v2, is extensively taught in the Old Testament, and is that period of time when the Lord will visibly intervene in world history to destroy the ungodly and establish His universal kingdom. The day of the Lord can be divided into two main periods. There will be a first period of darkness (the judgment period or Great Tribulation, Zeph.1.15) and then a period of light (the glorious reign of the Lord Jesus Christ for 1,000 years, Zech.14.6,7) as spoken about in Amos 5.18.
Joel 3.14 describes a specific day, and although the setting in Joel 3 is during that darkness period yet at that point the day of the Lord is still only near. This is because there is a sense in which there is a day of the Lord within the day of the Lord, that is, a particular day during this period of time when the Messiah returns in glory.
When Paul wrote about the day of the Lord coming as a thief in the night, characterised by judgment and destruction, he was referring to the first part of the day of the Lord. We do not know when these events will begin, but once they begin we have an idea of the timing from Dan.9 etc. The Thessalonians knew perfectly well that nothing accurate as to the precise date of the day of the Lord could be known.
This first part of the day of the Lord involves the ‘destruction,’ v3, of the wicked, Isa.13.6,9. Three things about that future destruction are revealed. It will be ‘sudden’. The complacent attitude spoken of here may well take place during the reign of the Antichrist, when men will feel that they have finally achieved ‘peace’ (something men left to themselves can never reach) and ‘safety’, v3. Compare this to Rev.13.3,4, when the inhabitants of this world feel that “no-one is able to make war” with the beast, and so the illusion of international peace is believed. At this time when men are completely unprepared, this day of destruction will come suddenly upon them. Secondly, it will be painful, “as travail upon a woman with child.” Any woman who has delivered a child without an anaesthetic will be aware of the intense pain of labour, and as God’s vials are poured out pain will grip men. See Rev. 16. Thirdly, it will be inescapable, since “they shall not escape.”
Their relationship to the day, v4-8
There is to be no surprise for the saint, v4. ‘But ye’ contrasts the believers at Thessalonica from the ungodly in v3. Paul plays on words in these verses. Because they are not in spiritual darkness (representing sin, and ignorance) the coming day of the Lord (in particular, the first part, a period of judgment and darkness) will not catch them off their guard, or surprise them in any way, as it will the wicked of v3. The reason for this, of course, is that they will not be here, having already been snatched away at the rapture.
There is to be no sinning for the saint, v5. Described as “sons of light,” means that this was their chief characteristic.1 ‘Therefore’ begins v6, and so v5, describing their character as that of spiritual light rather than darkness, provides the reason why they should behave themselves in the described way; that is, because of what they are. The same argument is used in 2Cor.6.14 as to why believers should not be yoked together with unbelievers; not because of the potentially disastrous consequences, but because of their diametrically opposed intrinsic natures. Notice in this verse that there is no twilight zone; a person is either in light or darkness, and since the believer is light and not darkness there is no room for sin.
1 ‘The Hebrews described a person as the son of anything that completely dominated and controlled him. Thus the expression means that spiritual light is the pervading element of their character’ (Hiebert).
Also there is no slumber for the saint, v6,7. We are not to sleep (that is, be insensitive and indifferent to spiritual realities), as do others. This is in the present tense suggesting continuance. Of course we must sleep physically, but we are not to fall asleep spiritually. Instead, we are to watch (be spiritually alert and vigilant) and be sober (be self-controlled, self-possessed and in perfect control of all our senses). It is impossible to be drunken physically without losing spiritual soberness and self-control, thus Christians must beware of the dangers of alcohol, Eph.5.18.
People sleep in the night (unless they are shift workers) and get drunk in the night, Acts 2.15. Because these are night-time activities and we belong to the day, then we should not engage in them.
There is finally in this section, no serenity for the saint, v8. If in v6 we were called upon to be watchmen, here we are to be warriors. Since we are in a spiritual battle, there is no safe haven in this world outside of the local assembly, and we must always be on our guard with our spiritual armour on. The helmet is the hope (a certain hope) of salvation from the coming wrath, which leads us into our next section.
Their salvation from the day, v9-11
In Zeph.1.15 we read that the day of the Lord “is a day of wrath,” yet we have been saved from wrath, 1.10. This passage must be one of the strongest arguments against the belief that Christians must go through the Great Tribulation (the first part of the day of the Lord). Four things are brought to our attention regarding this salvation. It is by Divine appointment, v9, being part of the deliberate purpose of God that we receive this deliverance. It was obtained through costly sacrifice, “by our Lord Jesus Christ. Who died for us.” It is unto eternal bliss, for “whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.” What a bright prospect is ours, to live forever with the Lord Jesus Christ, Jn.14.3; 17.24. Finally, it promotes brotherly love, v11. No believer is self-sufficient, hence we need each other and we ought to encourage one another in the local assembly!
—to be continued (DV)
Principles of Human Responsibility
by M. Rudge (Wales)
God’s sovereignty in election and human responsibility are always presented in a balanced way in the Scriptures. This is immensely significant and should condition our attitude and approach to the subject. At the outset, it teaches us that both aspects of truth need to be maintained in equal measure. These are truths that are complementary and not contradictory. If either aspect of truth is emphasised in a way that fails to give recognition to the other, then it is contrary to the balanced way in which it is presented in Scripture. The occurrence of both aspects of the subject in the same passage and even in the same verse, should be carefully noted, for example, Jn.6.37,44,45; Acts 2.23; 13.48; 14.1; 16.14,30,31; Rom.9 and 10; 2Thess.2.13,14; 1Pet.1.2; 2Pet.1.1.
The importance of a right attitude towards individual responsibility and its bearing upon reward and responsibility in the future kingdom was emphasised by the Lord Jesus in two parables. They are known as the parable of the talents, Matt.25.14-30, and the parable of the pounds, Lk.19.11-27. The parable of the pounds is more especially concerned with individual responsibility because each of the ten servants received the same amount, so that each had the same responsibility to use the pound wisely and faithfully during the nobleman’s absence. Ten is the number of human responsibility, the number of the ten commandments. The emphasis is upon being faithful in what is comparatively little responsibility and the reward is commensurate with the faithful discharge of responsibility in small matters. The reward differs according to the measure of faithfulness and consists of greater responsibility in the far more glorious and greater sphere of the kingdom.
The parable of the talents commences with unequal amounts, “To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; …” The emphasis is upon “several (individual) ability,” Matt.25.15. The reward is for faithfulness and it is the same for both the servant with five talents and the servant with two talents. They both gained the same amount of talents as they had been given and the servant with lesser ability was considered to be as faithful in the exercise of his gift as the servant with greater ability. The reward for both is to hear their Lord say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”
In both parables, there is one servant who has failed to make use of his talent or to discharge his responsibility. If the servant with greater ability must be prepared to see a servant with lesser ability receive the same reward as himself, the servant with only a little ability must be prepared to recognise that he is in danger of failing to do the little that he is capable of doing and responsible to do. In both parables, the emphasis is upon occupying “until I come” and serving in view of the imminence of the master’s return and the setting up of the kingdom.
These parables have a practical application for the future when we “appear before the judgment-seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in the body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad,” 2Cor.5.10. Matters which will come under consideration and where we have a responsibility, include:
i) our relations with our brethren and the measure in which we have sought to “follow after the things which make for peace, and things whereby one may edify another,” Rom.14.1-15:7;
ii) the quality of material in our contribution to the building up of the assembly, the methods we have used and the motives which have inspired us;
iii) elders are “stewards of God” and “must give account” of their stewardship. It is required in stewards that a man be found faithful. They are the responsible element who are addressed in the letters to the seven churches. In Rev.2 and 3, the assemblies are responsible to the Lord for the maintenance of assembly testimony. They are responsible for matters of discipline and if it is required, to “put away from among yourselves that wicked person,” 1Cor.5.13. They are not responsible to a central church or headquarters or for other assemblies unless matters of discipline in other assemblies affect them through inter-assembly visits.
In the book of Acts, there are a number of instances where the truth of Divine sovereignty in election and human responsibility are both emphasised. Those which have already been given consideration are Acts 2.23,39,40; 4.27,28; 13.46-48; 14.1 and 18.8-11. There is one other passage in Acts 17.11,12, which is outstanding in the emphasis placed upon human responsibility. The faith of the noble Bereans is attributed to the fact that they received the Word of God in salvation as a result of their daily research of the Scriptures. “(But) These (unsaved Jews in Berea) were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few,” Acts 17.11,12. These are two remarkable verses, showing that the greater nobility of the Bereans in searching the Scriptures daily, led to their believing. This is the force of the word, “Therefore” — “ Therefore many of them believed …” We can compare this with the Jews who were exhorted to “Search the Scriptures” but who would not “come unto Me that ye might have life,” Jn.5.39,40.
One final aspect of the truth of human responsibility, where there are, sometimes, differences of view, is the matter of human will. We need to avoid the extreme which makes salvation solely dependent upon the work of God, apart from human will and the other extreme which makes it wholly dependent upon the exercise of man’s will. Salvation is a work of God from beginning to end but there is a point where a response to it is required, if it is to be effective. This involves a willing response. It is at this point that Divine sovereignty in election and human responsibility are brought together.
There are verses which teach clearly the truth of human responsibility and show that it calls for an exercise of will in response to God’s working. The Lord Jesus said, “ye will not come unto Me that ye might have life,” Jn.5.39,40. In Acts 17, Paul preached, “And the times of this ignorance God winked at (‘overlooked’); but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: because He hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom He hath ordained,” v30,31. God does not command men to do what they are unable to do but what they are responsible to do. If a man or a woman is unable to respond to God’s command to repent, it would either take away their responsibility or make them culpable for what they are not responsible. Repentance as a work of God to which the sinner responds, is found earlier in Acts 11.18,19, “Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” See also Acts 5.31; Matt.9.13; 2Tim.2.25; 2Pet.3.9.
Possibly one of the clearest examples of human responsibility and the need for a willing response to God’s invitation is found in Rev.22.17.
“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come.
And let him that heareth say, Come.
And let him that is athirst come.
And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely (‘gratuitously’).”
“He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly.
Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”
The Gospel of the Glory of Christ
(Address given by C. F. Hogg in U.S.A. in 1920's)
*Quotations throughout are from the Revised Version
In the First Epistle of John there is given a definition of God, in three very simple words: “God is love.” Not infrequently the Christian preacher is exhorted to lay theology aside and come back to “the simple Gospel;” “God is love.” Let us examine the proposition for a moment and consider how we are to preach that “God is love.” Notice, first of all, the peculiar place in which this alleged “simple” truth is found. Genesis is the book of simplicities, but it is not said there that “God is love.” We look to the Book of Psalms for the expression of the profoundest experiences of religious men, but not to them was it given to discover that “God is love.” We turn to Isaiah to follow his lofty flights, his majestic visions of glory, but not to him was it given to perceive that “God is love.” We come down to the Gospels, and listen to the words of grace that fell from the lips of the Lord Jesus Christ, but not even He declared that “God is love.” We turn to the writing of that great exponent of the Cross, the Apostle Paul, nor does he tell us that “God is love.” He touches the fringe of it, indeed, when he says that “God commendeth (that is, gives proof of) His own love toward us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” Rom.5.8. We turn to such Epistles as those to the Ephesians and Colossians and read there indeed of “the Son of His love,” but not even from them do we learn that “God is love.” It is only when the relevation of God has been completed, broad based in history, culminating in the Cross, that at last the character of God is finally expressed in words that are, so to speak, the capstone of the pyramid: “GOD IS LOVE.”
The Courage of the Cross
It requires some courage to go out into the world and declare to men that God is love. Do you doubt that? Have you tried it? Have you ever put your hand on the shoulder of some wretch who has marred himself, and said to him, “My friend, God loves you, God is love?” Or have you said it to some decrepit, maimed person, some person the victim of calamity brought upon him not by any fault of his own, to some mother whose heart is breaking over a child born into the world unfitted for the battle of life, — have you been able to say to such a person, “My friend, God loves you, God is love?” It takes courage to say that in a world constituted as ours is. There is only one justification, and that is more than a justification, it is a dynamic, it is the Cross of Christ.
It becomes a power in a man’s soul when he grasps the fact that since the Lord Jesus died on the Cross we have irrefragable proof that God is love. A heavy cloud hangs over human life, but the cloud has its silver lining; and that silver lining it takes on from the Cross of the Lord Jesus. So with Calvary in our hearts we may go to men and women without fear, and without hesitancy, and tell them that they may know that God loves them since Christ died for sinners, the evidence and proof that God both loves and cares.
I am sure you have long since been emancipated from the wrong notion that Christ died for us in order to constrain God to love us. The charter of our faith is that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have eternal life,” Jn.3.16. The love of the Father Who gave, the love of the Son Who came, the love of the Spirit Who led Him to the Cross, the love of the Triune God, is focused at Calvary in order that from Calvary it may illuminate the universe.
The Father and the Son
There used to be in London a Unitarian congregation of an aggressive character; their Sunday services were advertised in the weekly press, and always their advertisements were headed in this way: “Glory be to God the Father only, as it was in the beginning.” Plainly the purpose was to exclude the Lord Jesus Christ from the worship due to God, and to deny His claim “that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father,” Jn.5.23. But you cannot honour God as the Father unless you honour the Son and for this reason, that fatherhood and sonship are co-terminous. A man begins to be a father when he has a child, not before. So God is the Eternal Father, because there is an Eternal Son. If the Lord Jesus is deprived of His title to Eternal Sonship, coincidently God is deprived of His title to Eternal Fatherhood.
But love is not something that can be isolated and considered in itself. If God is love, and eternally has been love, then there must eternally have been an object, an adequate and appropriate object, of His love. This object of the Father’s love, then, is the Son, to Whom the heart of the Father goes out eternally. Thus we may think of God in the self-contained activities of His tri-personality: the Father, loving and loved, and the Son, loved and loving, the Spirit binding both together in the holy unity of the Godhead.
“Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: he that confesseth the Son hath the Father also,” 1Jn.2.23.
Thought fails us, and language imposes limitations even to the expression of such thoughts as we have, and we remember how even the Apostle Paul said, “I know in part, and I can tell you only a part of what I know,” but, thank God, the day is coming when these limitations will be broken down and swept away, and “we shall be known thoroughly even as we have been thoroughly known,” 1Cor.13.9-12. The Lord Jesus Himself said, “neither doth any know the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal Him,” Matt.11.27. But the statement that precedes this, “no one knoweth the Father, save the Son,” is absolute; for the full knowledge of “the Mystery of God even Christ,” Matt.11.27; Col.2.2, is the Father’s and the Father’s alone.
We have been called into the fellowship of His Son. Are we therefore disappointed because we know that the absolute knowledge of the Son is within the competence of the Father alone? Nay verily, but rather encouraged to think that there is before us the possibility of infinite progress in fellowship with God in His Son, and when that which men fear, the barrier we call death, is broken down, we shall be liberated from the bondage the body of our humiliation imposes upon the spirit, and brought into a larger and fuller knowledge of Him in Whom, by Whom, and for Whom, all things have their being.
—to be continued (D.V.)
Jesus in the Midst (John 20.19-23)
by W. W. Fereday
It is always deeply affecting to examine the closing chapters of the gospels, to ponder the sufferings, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. Nothing tends more to draw out our affection, and bow our hearts in adoration before Him. He loved us and gave Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour, putting away, in that supreme moment, all our sins righteously from before God. Jn.20 shows Him as risen. Death could not hold Him in its grasp. His work was done, death was annulled, God was glorified — the answer for Him being resurrection on the third day with a view to glory at the Father’s right hand.
After giving us the details of His rising, the Spirit presents us in John’s Gospel with four striking and instructive pictures; first we have Him shewing Himself again to the then believing Jewish remnant in the person of Mary, leading their hearts away from earthly hopes into relationship with Himself to the Father in the place to which He was going; secondly we see Him manifesting Himself to the assembled disciples, picturing the Christian assembly as gathered around Himself; thirdly, He makes Himself known to Thomas, removing all his doubts, in token of what He will yet do for Thomas’s nation in a day yet to come; and finally at the sea of Tiberias, in the remarkable draught of fishes, a millennial picture is furnished of the ingathering of the Gentile nations for blessing.
It is the second of these pictures that I desire to draw attention to at this time. “Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut, where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and said unto them — Peace be unto you,” v19. Here we have set forth in a remarkable manner the Christian assembly. But let not the reader misunderstand. However strikingly the assembled disciples, with the Lord in their midst, speak to us of the church, they were not the church of God at that time. The church had no existence as such, until Jesus was glorified and the Holy Ghost descended on the day of Pentecost. And even then the saved had no knowledge of it. Not until the apostle Paul was raised up, as one born out of due time, was the mystery of God unfolded. Therefore though these disciples in Jn.20 became the church of God, indeed its first members, they were not yet this in the day of which we speak. Still their position and privilege, especially the presence of the Lord in the midst, foreshadowed it in a very expressive way.
The Spirit is careful to tell us that it was the first day of the week when Jesus thus came and stood in the midst. The Lord thus puts His sanction, as it were, upon the assembly of His saints on that day. And what day more suitable? Of old it was the seventh day — the Sabbath — that was set apart for the worship of God. Let some suppose that the difference is but slight, but verbal, between the seventh day and the first. The difference is fundamentally important. The seventh day came in as the end of man’s week of work; it was made an integral part of the law of Sinai, with solemn consequences attached to the breach of it. But the first of the week does not speak to us of man’s work at all, but of a totally new order of things, brought in by God, founded upon the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. It speaks to us of flesh set aside as worthless, of redemption accomplished, of righteousness completed, of a new creation, where all things are of God. Hence Christians meet together on that day with triumph in their souls, to remember the Lord and to show forth His death, in the breaking of bread until He come.
It is quite the fashion to confound the two days, as if they were substantially the same, but the difference is immense. The one is Judaism and the other is Christianity. Alas! the return to Judaism with its worldly elements and feast days and Sabbaths came in very early. One has only to read the Epistles to the Romans and to the Galatians to see how earnestly the apostle resisted the working of this leaven. But as the heavenly calling faded more and more from the minds of men, bearing the Lord’s name, and the sense of divine grace too, Judaism made rapid strides, with the result that, to the mass, even in this day, the Christianity of the Scriptures sounds strange doctrine in their ears.
Well, the Lord thus came into the midst of His own, on the first day of the week, the very day of His resurrection. If the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles be studied, it will be seen that this became the formal meeting-day of the assembly of God, whatever other opportunities they may have had of meeting together for mutual edification and blessing. In Acts 20.7 we read, “Upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, etc.” This was the custom. They were not together to hear Paul, even though he was to leave them finally on the morrow, but to break bread. This Scripture is even more forcible when rightly read: “When we came together.” It was thus not a merely local custom at Troas, but the understood habit of the church of God in that day. It was on this day then that the Lord took His place in the midst of His own. What joy to them! Can we wonder that we read, “Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord?” Is not His blessed presence heaven to our souls? What would the glory itself be apart from Christ? Suppose it was possible for us to be introduced even there and find no Christ, would it satisfy our hearts? Nay, better a hovel with Christ, than the very glory itself without Him. The renewed heart finds delight in Christ alone; our souls thrive in His blessed presence.
The presence of Jesus in the midst of His saints is as real today, though He is glorified in heaven. We still have His Word, “Where two or three are gathered together in (unto) My name, there am I in the midst of them,” Matt.18.20. What a resource in a day of feebleness and failure! He has not changed towards His own. Though we look back, with humbled and bowed hearts, upon some two thousand years of deepest failure, He is as true as ever to those who in simplicity of faith look up to Him. What a comfort! Whatever else we have not, we have Christ. Is He enough? Is it gift, wealth or influence, that we seek, or is it really Christ? I often think that the Lord had in view such a day as this when He spoke of two or three. There were no twos or threes in the first days of the church; all that believed were together. Men speaking perverse things had not arisen, nor had grievous wolves come into the flock to scatter and devour. But how changed is the condition of things now! Yet His Word holds good to the very end. “Where two or three are gathered together unto My name, there am I in the midst of them.”
What all our souls need, is a deeper realisation of His presence, It would correct many things that we have to groan over before Him. Would saints arrive late on the first day of the week if there was a just sense that the Lord is there? To whom are we gathered? Whom do we go to meet? Dare I keep Him waiting Who deigns to come into the midst of His gathered saints? Further, when together, what holy calm would prevail if His presence were duly realised! Nothing like haste or eagerness, and certainly no display of flesh would grieve us if all hearts realised sufficiently the simple, yet vital, fact that the Lord is there. It would enter into everything, affecting our dress, our words, our whole behaviour. The Lord give us to exercise our hearts before Him.
Observe the place of separation of these disciples. They were shut in; the world — the murderous, Christ-rejecting world — was shut out. True there were special circumstances at that moment, but the principle abides. What has the church to do with the world? Where do we read of all the parish joining with the saints in “public worship?” Indeed, where is such an idea as “public worship” (or what is meant by the term) to be found in the Word of God? We are called to bear testimony to the world, we are to preach the gospel to it, and warn men to flee from the wrath to come; but worship with the world! Far be the thought. In Jn.13.1 we read of “His own which were in the world.” If we belong to the circle called “His own,” of necessity we do not belong to the other “the world.” The two are distinct and opposite in nature and character.
—to be concluded (DV)
Think on These Things (Phil. 4.8-9)
by D. S. Parrack (England)
PAPER 1 — “WHATSOEVER THINGS ARE TRUE”
Our thoughts may, on a day-to-day basis, be occupied with a whole range of matters, many quite legitimate, even commendable, but Paul is here moving us on to a higher plane. In v7 he has just spoken of the real possibility that “the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds.” Our minds are the engines of our thinking, but for our thoughts to be worthwhile a right attitude of heart is first required. Conscious though of how often our attitudes and aspirations come short of what even we would like them to be, on what basis can we actually enjoy this “peace of God?” Well, Paul did not just say that it could happen, but how it could happen too, and it would only be “through Christ Jesus” (still v7). Then to stimulate and facilitate that happening he continues “Finally brethren,” and goes on to detail a whole list of subjects on which he wants us to concentrate our thoughts. But these are not expected to be just academic or philosophical musings, he is still concerned with our enjoyment of “the peace of God,” and that will never be meaningfully experienced via natural thinking or human logic. All of the matters to which he advocates attention being given, are attributes of the Lord Jesus and are seen in their fulness only in Him, so it is the Lord Jesus Himself that we are being urged to “think on.” Not though just in a general unstructured sense, but by considering some of His particular characteristics and qualities. We will never be able to fully comprehend the full range of His Person but we will have the whole of eternity to work towards that end and the aspects brought before us by the apostle here provide a good starting point.
So v8 commences “whatsoever things are true.” We can talk about facts, situations, even objects, as being true and the Scriptures do use the word in these ways. e.g. John says “ye know that our witness is true,” 3Jn.12. Peter assures us that “this is the true grace of God wherein ye stand,” 1Pet.5.12. The Hebrews writer compares “the true tabernacle,” the real thing, with those things which even though given by God, were only “figures of the true,” Heb.8.2 and 9.24. We though, are looking beyond facts, situations and objects, we are looking to a Person, and what, in this context, does the Scripture say of Him? “I saw heaven opened and behold a white horse and He that sat on him was called Faithful and True,” Rev.19.11. This was one of a series of titles which He has, descriptions of His very character and being. But for titles to be meaningful they must evidence their reality, so when dictating a letter to the church at Thyatira, the Lord Jesus speaks of Himself as “the faithful and true witness,” Rev.3.14. As He wants us to comprehend more fully something of what that witness entails and why it was given, we are told, “We know that the Son of God is come and we are in Him that is true, even in His Son, Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life,” 1Jn.5.20. So, knowing the true God and having eternal life are indissolubly linked and this was confirmed by the Lord Jesus when He said. “This is eternal life that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent,” Jn.17.3.
So, “we — know Him that is true” and going further, much further than that, “we are in Him that is true.” This though has implications for our practical living, requiring the outward evidence of such a tremendous statement. For, “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature, old things have passed away, behold all things are become new,” 2Cor.5.17. Perceptions and appreciations of such a change may be viewed from two standpoints. Firstly, what about other people who are watching us, or even if not positively watching are nonetheless in a position to notice, what do they actually see? Paul encourages us to “put off concerning the former conversation (mode of life), the old man (your unregenerate nature) which is corrupt.” That though is only the half of it. God doesn't want from us just an empty, swept house, that is, by itself negative and can be dangerous (see e.g. Lk.11.24-25). So the apostle continues “Be renewed in the spirit of your mind — put on the new man which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness,” Eph.4.22-24. That “true holiness,” is more than a mere “form of godliness,” 2Tim.3.5. It is in essence the outward manifestation of “Christ in you, the hope of glory,” Col.1.27.
We must not think though that our spiritual life is limited to outward-going activity, good as that is in the right context. Other people can see, and perhaps applaud, such activity, which may make it over-attractive to us. There is as well, another environment which only God can see, and hopefully appreciate, which brings us to the second standpoint referred to above.
The Hebrews writer opens up to us the seemingly incredible possibility of us entering in spirit into the very presence of God and no-one will be watching us there except Him. We are shown how that entry has been effected, “by the blood of Jesus — by a new and living way,” but we still have to properly avail ourselves of such an undeserved and unearnable privilege, so “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith,” see Heb.10.19-22. David, contemplating the kind of scene with which we may feel very familiar today cries “Help Lord, for the godly man ceaseth, for the faithful fail from among the children of men.” One very clear characteristic of such a situation is that “They speak vanity — with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak,” Ps.12.1-2. “A double heart” is the very opposite of Hebrews “true heart” and God is not looking for, or influenced by, flattering words or eloquent gestures. These are things which men can see and hear but remember that “man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart,” 1Sam.16.7. What God is looking for is a true heart, which will result in true worship. That He really does want such worship was made plain by the Lord Jesus when speaking of a time “when the true worshippers shall worship the Father, in spirit and in truth, for” wonder of wonders, “the Father seeketh” not just would like but “seeketh such to worship Him,” Jn.4.23. Give then to God what He is seeking from you, true worship from a true heart, using as your model, your pattern, “Him that is true,” 1Jn.5.20.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by Walter A. Boyd (N. Ireland)
“And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them” Acts 16.10.
A clear feature of gospel work, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, is that the servants of God who were engaged in the work were guided by the Lord. The Holy Spirit who indwelt them was the same Divine Person that guided and controlled their movements. In Acts 16, Luke recounts his travels along with Paul, Silas, and Timothy, as they bring the gospel to the continent of Europe for the first time. In 16.3, Paul has enlisted the help of Timothy, and as they preach together God blesses their work. As a result, the assemblies are strengthened spiritually and increase numerically. We will find it instructive to pay attention to the details of the Context in which the Holy Spirit guides these preachers; the Controls by which He guides; and the Conditions through which He guides.
For the Context in which the Holy Spirit guides, three things are important.
The Freedom of the servant of God is of primary importance. In 15.36, Paul mentions his exercise to Barnabas. As a servant of the Lord with a shepherd’s heart, Paul wants to visit his converts to “see how they do.” The interest of a diligent shepherd combines with the initiative of a dedicated servant, to create an exercise for a particular service for God. Paul was not directed by the edict of men, nor did he look to a committee for ideas by which he might further his service for the Lord. His work began with an exercise begotten in his own heart by the Spirit of God. This freedom of exercise under the control of the Holy Spirit is an eloquent testimony to the Faithfulness of the Scriptures. In the upper room ministry the Lord Jesus told the disciples that, when He had gone home to heaven, they would enjoy the guidance of the Holy Spirit in their service, Jn.16.13-16. As Paul and his fellow-labourers preached in Asia they proved the truthfulness of the promises given earlier by the Saviour. After His resurrection the Lord Jesus said, concerning His servants who would obey His call to preach, that He would be “with them always, even unto the end of the age.” It is important to notice that the freedom of the servant who was proving the faithfulness of the Scriptures did not create a freelance preacher, with no links or ties to others. Paul worked closely with his fellow-labourers in discerning the Lord’s will for their travel plans. In Acts 16.6,7, the restrictions imposed by the Holy Spirit were felt by everyone in the band of gospel workers. “Now when THEY had gone throughout … and were forbidden to preach … after THEY were come to Mysia, THEY assayed to go … but the Spirit suffered THEM not.”
The Controls by which the Holy Spirit guided are seen in His Restraint and Constraint, Acts 16.6,7. As these enthusiastic men forged onwards with the gospel, it seems unusual to read such words as, “they were forbidden of the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia;” or, when they attempted to go into Bithynia, “the Spirit suffered them not.” We are not told exactly how they were prevented or forbidden to preach in Asia or Bithynia, but we learn two valuable lessons in these divinely placed barriers. Firstly, even when we have the fellowship of other saints and like-minded servants of the Lord, we must be sensitive to the fellowship of the Spirit of God in what we seek to do. When we hear brethren speaking about “the way opening up,” or that a “door was closed by the Lord,” they are sharing what Paul and his friends experienced in Acts 16. Secondly, any work that has Spiritual objectives must also have spiritual directives. Spiritual objectives are good and commendable, but their accomplishment needs to be according to the will of God. Are the time, place, and way you intend to carry out your service according to God’s will? In all our service we need to maintain our sensitivity to the guidance of the Spirit of God. It is not sufficient to do something because we have always done it like this, at this time and place. Nor is it satisfactory to devise a new form or place of service just because we have done things in the same way for generations and someone suggests it is time to make a change.
Since the guidance of the Holy Spirit is crucial to the success of any work for God, how can we ensure that we enjoy His sanction? The Conditions through which the Spirit guides are two-fold. When Paul and his friends arrived at Troas, the plan of God began to unfold as God spoke to Paul in a vision at night, Acts 16.9. The contents of the vision were straightforward — a man in Macedonia requested help. This would indicate that Paul was deeply exercised before God about their movements, and interpreting their circumstances as being guidance from the Lord, they responded by setting off immediately to go to Macedonia, “assuredly gathering that the Lord had called” them. Implicit in these words of Acts 16.10 are the responsiveness and yieldedness of Paul and his fellow-labourers. These are necessary conditions through which the Holy Spirit guides the Lord’s servants. There must be obedience to the Holy Spirit. Disobedience will certainly and immediately close off the supply of guidance from the Spirit. Added to this is dependence upon the Spirit. If we commence the pathway of service in obedience to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, and then over-ride the instruction He gives, we will soon grieve the Holy Spirit. Paul understood the command he had received, and obeyed it. As he obeyed the command, the Holy Spirit gave them confirmation in their hearts that He had called them to preach in Macedonia. They received these confirmations as they made their way towards Macedonia and this gave them a firm conviction that they were in the will of God.
The greatest requirement in any service for God is the consciousness of being guided by the Holy Spirit. If, during that service, we are going to do something that does not fit in with God’s plan, He will intervene and check that action; and we must take heed. Whenever we find ourselves in doubt, we must stop at once and wait upon God until He gives direction. As God by His Spirit gives direction, we will gather with conviction that we are in His will. Then, and only then, will our service be truly blessed.
MY CONVERSION AND CALL (99)
by Bryon Meyers (U.S.A.)
I was born in Melfort, Saskatchewan, and went to the Taylorside Assembly. I was saved at the age of 10, during a series of gospel meetings with Mr. Albert Joyce. It was the first time I remember being convicted of my sin and realising the consequences of dying without Christ as my Saviour. The Spirit of God was so working in those meetings that several would stay behind each night wanting to be saved. Parents would get down on their knees by their children after the meetings and pray for their salvation. A number were saved at that time. My uncle, Arthur Taylor, was speaking to Grant Seale and myself after a meeting and while he quoted the verse “Christ died for the ungodly,” I realised that I was ungodly and Jesus died for me. What a relief from the burden of sin! That was November 15, 1955. I was baptised and received into assembly fellowship a few years later. Grant was also saved that night. I had the joy of pointing my cousin, Betty, to the Lord the night after I was saved.
Joni, who is now my wife, was born into a home where her dad was a true believer but away from the Lord, and her mother was unsaved. However, her grandparents, from both sides, (Mr. and Mrs. John Kazen and Mr. and Mrs. John Klein, Sr.) were in the Arlington Assembly. She was born with a life threatening and inoperable (at that time) heart condition, which meant her loved ones had a real desire to see her saved. This happened in 1955 when Mr. Robert Booth and Mr. Frank Pearcy had meetings. One night at the end of a gospel meeting she was determined to get the matter settled that night. About midnight, after the preachers had read several verses, they quoted Jn.1.12, and she saw that the power came from on high, not from within, and she trusted Christ as her Saviour. I may add that a few years later her mother was saved, and her dad was restored to the Lord before his home call.
Joni and I met in Calgary in July 1967, got better acquainted at the Arlington conference in September, and were married August 2, 1968. I lived in Calgary three years before we were married and five years after. My mother was a great influence on me regarding spiritual things. When I moved to Calgary, Dave Spear influenced me to get involved with the work among the young. By the time Joni moved to Calgary, I was quite involved in the West Hillhurst Assembly Outreach. Joni always helped and supported me in my exercise. Joni and I started a Children’s Meeting in the Bowness area where we lived. It was usually just she and I and 50 or 60 children. In 1973 we felt the Lord calling us to move to Arlington, Washington. We were encouraged to go before this, but the Lord never opened the door for us. But in 1973 the door opened and we moved to Arlington. We worked with the young people and sought to be a help where needed. We also had a number of different outreaches over the years. We had a series of tent meetings with Ed Billingham and also Dave Richards, an outreach on an Indian reservation for some time, and a Youth Work in Mt. Vernon and Burlington. All this time I had a job in a lumber mill working 9 or 10 hours daily. Then in the late 80’s we started working with Gaius and Linda Goff in their Tent Outreaches during our summer vacations. It was always hard to go back to working in the sawmill after two or three weeks of tent work. Our two boys, Scott and Steve, were always with us at these outreaches. They now look back and realise that those years of training are an asset to them now in their exercise for the Lord.
In 1996, the Lord again started to show us that what I was doing in the mill plenty of people could do, but not many were going out “full time” in the gospel. One verse that the Lord used to speak to me was Jn.6.27, “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you.” We enjoyed working with the Goffs and enjoyed the challenge of new outreach work. So at the age of 55, I quit my job and went full time in the Lord’s work, being commended by the Arlington Assembly.
Right now, our work is in the Tri-Cities area (Pasco, Kennewick and Richland, Washington). We keep very busy during the day and then with meetings on Sunday, a young people’s meeting on Monday night, and a Bible study on Tuesday night. “Hospitality” is also an important part of the work, having the new contacts over in order to get better acquainted with and an opportunity to teach them one on one. We have seen some saved and some believers encouraged in spiritual things. We look to the Lord to see a new assembly established here in the near future.
We trust this will be an encouragement to many who are very much involved as we were in the assembly and other outreaches as well. We would encourage you to continue and if you feel the Lord tugging at you to go full time, trust Him, and move on out one step at a time.
Good Tidings from Heaven
Likely every parent will have heard the children say, “But I must have…” It may be the latest toy; the latest T-shirt, tracksuit, trainers, CD or whatever. The way in which the request is framed makes it appear that an absolute disaster will follow if the article is not purchased.
I am reminded of an old man who was taken on a tour of a large and very modern shopping mall. After looking in many stores and scrutinising the seemingly endless variety of goods, he was asked his opinion, “Well”, he said, “It was interesting and informative. I never knew there were so many things I didn’t need.”
Yet when we ponder eternal matters and think of our destiny when life is over, there is something we must have. The destinies in question are heaven and hell. The reality is sobering and the contrast stark. The Bible, God’s Holy and Inspired Book, teaches these two places and none other. The question we all must face is, “Will I be in heaven or hell for all eternity?” To be in heaven there is something you must have.
Multitudes alive on earth can answer with absolute assurance, “I will be in heaven for eternity.” Others may say that that is a preposterous declaration and is mere imagination and arrogant presumption. However if you have salvation through Jesus Christ, God’s Son then, without doubt you will be in heaven. But you ‘must have’.
This is what the apostle Peter preached in Acts 4v12, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” There is no doubt that he is telling us, “we must be saved.” Naturally we ask, “Why?” The answer is that we are lost sinners and deserve only the judgment of God in Hell and eventually the Lake of Fire. Note the following Scriptures. Isaiah 53v6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way…” and Revelation 20v15, “whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”
In the verse quoted above, Peter tells us that this salvation is to be found in a Person and “not in any other.” Who is this Person? He is Jesus Christ, God’s eternal Son who came from heaven to die upon the cross at Calvary, outside Jerusalem, in order to pay the price God required so that our sins could be forgiven on a righteous basis. Again let Peter speak. 1 Peter 2v24,25, “Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed, For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.” Again Peter wrote, 1 Peter 3v18, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God…” While Christ died He is not dead, because Peter again told us in Acts 4v10, “… Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead…” It is through this Person and by your personal faith in Him and by believing the gospel that you can be saved.
Some may say this is a decision that can be left to some future occasion. Please look at the verse again — “…under heaven given among men…” This salvation, which you must have, can only be obtained while you are “under heaven and among men.” Clearly that means while you are alive. It cannot be obtained after death. When will you die? The advice of the prophet Isaiah is, “Seek ye the LORD while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near…” Isaiah 55v6. Paul, the apostle, wrote, “behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation,” 2 Corinthians 6v2.
“For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ …”
From beyond the starry heavens,
He created by His breath,
Came forth the Father's Only Son,
To Calvary's shameful death.
One with the Father He,
Yet Man became, Jesus His Name,
To set the guilty free.
Lower than angels did He stoop,
In grace that none can tell,
For He alone could pay the price,
To save our souls from Hell
He was rich but for our sakes,
He very poor became,
Gave all He had, our souls to win,
Oh! Praise His precious Name.
The Servant Son in lowliness,
With gladness did God's Will,
E'en though it meant those suff'rings deep
Upon Golgotha's hill.
But now He sits on Heaven's throne;
To Him each knee must bend,
Each tongue confess that He is Lord,
His praise will never end.
R. Reynolds (N. Ireland)
Faith moves us to do the possible and leaves the impossible to God.
SOME THINGS ‘FOR YOU’
[Christ] was manifest in these last times for you, 1Pet.1.20;
He careth for you, 1Pet.5.7;
an inheritance … reserved in heaven for you, 1Pet.1.4;
the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, Col.1.5.