ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle
THE TEACHING OF 1 THESSALONIANS
by J. C. Gibson
THE GOSPEL OF THE GLORY OF CHRIST
by C. F. Hogg
JESUS IN THE MIDST
by W. W. Fereday
THINK ON THESE THINGS
by D. S. Parrack
THE MISERY AND MYSTERY OF HABAKKUK'S MUSIC
by W. A. Boyd
MY CONVERSION TO GOD
by W. Bunting
21) “THIS SHALL BE THE PRIEST'S DUE FROM THE PEOPLE”
Read Chapter 18.1-14
As we have already noted, these verses conclude a section of Deuteronomy commencing in 16.18, which deals with the way in which godly order was to be maintained in the nation. This involved four categories of people:
- i) judges and officers, 16.18-17.13;
- ii) kings, 17.4-20;
- iii) priests, 18.1-8;
- iv) prophets, 18.9-22.
Their responsibilities are outlined in the section, together with the obligations of the people towards them. We have already considered the first two of these categories, and it might be helpful to attempt an overview of the current chapter before we look more particularly at the function of priests and prophets.
The chapter addresses the subject of communication. This explains the prohibition of pagan practices at the centre of the passage, v9-14. At first glance the reference to “the abominations of those nations,” v9, appears to be quite unrelated to the ministry of the priests, v1-8, and prophets, v15-22, but there are no “stray” or “random” passages in God's Word. Careful reading will show that v9-14 flow out of v1-8, and lead into v15-22, in the following way:
Firstly, Israel's priests presented “the offerings of the Lord made by fire,” v1, and stood “to minister in the name of the Lord,” v5. The nations of Canaan approached their gods by making their children “to pass through the fire,” v10, and listened, not to the instructions of men in touch with God, but to “observers of times, and unto diviners,” v14, not to mention others who were involved in occult practices, v10-11.
Secondly, Israel's prophets were men who communicated God's Word, v18. In view of the fact that “the Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet” and “unto him thou shalt hearken,” v15, they were not therefore to give heed to communications from an entirely different source: “for these nations … hearkened unto observers of times, and unto diviners, but as for thee, the Lord thy God hath not suffered thee so to do,” v14.
Bearing the above in mind, we can summarise Deut.18 in the following way:
- 1) the Provision for the Priests, v1-8;
- 2) the Prohibition of Paganism, v9-14;
- 3) the Promise of a Prophet, v15-22.
Whilst the last of these three paragraphs refer to the prophetic office in general, it is expressed in the singular because God would ultimately speak through a unique Prophet.
1) THE PROVISION FOR THE PRIESTS, v1-8
Whilst the section begins with reference to “The priests the Levites, and all the tribe of Levi,” it does appear that the following verses refer to the priests particularly rather than to the Levites in the wider sense of the word. We should consider four things in these verses:
a) The inheritance they enjoyed, v1-2
“The priests the Levites, and all the tribe of Levi, shall have no part nor inheritance with Israel: they shall eat the offerings of the Lord made by fire, and His inheritance. Therefore shall they have no inheritance among their brethren: the Lord is their inheritance, as He hath said unto them.” The remaining tribes of Israel were allocated land which they had to till in order to live and were therefore sustained by their inheritance. But the Levites, including the priests, were fully employed in the service of God, and the priests were particularly concerned with the ongoing spiritual needs of God's people. Since their duties in this way precluded normal work, the Lord Himself took the place of their inheritance, and provided for them. Hence we read, “they shall eat the offerings of the Lord made by fire.” What was offered to Him was given to them. This principle has not changed: “Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things (the Levites) live of the things of the temple? And they which wait at the altar (the priests) are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel,” 1Cor.9.13-14.
In view of the fact that believers today are described as “an holy priesthood” and “a royal priesthood,” 1Pet.2.5,9, we can rightly say that the Lord is our inheritance. He nourishes and enriches our spiritual life, but beyond that, we enjoy Him, enabling us to say “My meditation of Him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord,” Ps.104.34. Details of the way in which the Lord would provide for the priests follow:
b) The support they received, v3-4
“And this shall be the priest's due from the people, from them that offer a sacrifice, whether it be ox or sheep; and they shall give unto the priest the shoulder, and the two cheeks, and the maw. The firstfruit also of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the first of the fleece of thy sheep shalt thou give him.” So the priest was to be well-fed and well-clothed. We must bear in mind that the people did not offer to the priest: they offered to the Lord. See Num.18.12 in connection with the firstfruits. ‘The priests were to be given the best, not the unwanted left-overs’ (Raymond Brown). There are important lessons here in connection with our stewardship. Perhaps we would contribute rather more generously and thoughtfully if we always remembered that our giving should be “an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God,” Phil.4.18.
Once again, the passage has important lessons for us all as “priests unto God,” Rev.1.6. In the words of C. A. Coates, ‘A well nourished priesthood is essential if the service of God is to be carried on in suitability to Him … as priests we live on what is for God.’ While the Old Testament distinguishes between priest and people, with the former supported by the latter, believers should be spiritually well-fed and well-clothed. With this in mind, we should look at the provision made for the priests here.
i) Provision from the sacrifices. The priests were given “the shoulder, and the two cheeks, and the maw,” v3, all of which had been offered to God. Lev.21 describes the sacrifices as “bread”, emphasising that God fed upon them: “the offerings of the Lord made by fire, and the bread of their God, they (the priests) do offer,” v6,8, see also v17,21-22. This reminds us that the assembly, with its priestly character, should feed on the very same things that God enjoys, and that believers should contribute, for the pleasure of God and the enjoyment of others, out of their personal appreciation of the Lord Jesus. The “shoulder’ of the ox or sheep depicts ‘the strength of Christ's walk for the pleasure of God — the unswerving and unfaltering character of that blessed pathway on which He moved steadily and undeviatingly on in entire devotion to God,’ (C. A. Coates). The “two cheeks” (‘jawbones’, JND) remind us of His daily appropriation and enjoyment of the Word and will of God: He wakeneth morning by morning, He wakeneth my ear to hear as the learned. The Lord God hath opened Mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back,” Is.50.4-5. The maw, referring to the stomach with its processes of digestion and assimilation, recalls the inward perfection of the Lord Jesus. The Word and will of God were part of Him: “I delight to do Thy will, O my God: yea, Thy law is within My heart,” Ps.40.8.
ii) provision of “the firstfruit.” This too can be developed in relation to the Lord Jesus. The “corn … wine … oil,” all remind us of Him in different ways. For “corn” see the meal offering: Lev.2.14. “Wine” recalls the drink-offering: Ex.29.40. It is the emblem of joy, Ps.104.15, and reminds us of the joy of the Lord Jesus, Ps.40.8. Oil reminds us that the Lord Jesus was “anointed … with the Holy Ghost and with power,” Acts 10.38. The fact that the people were to bring “the firstfruit” reminds us that our contributions to the priestly worship of the assembly should be fresh and invigorating. How quickly we become stale! We must remember too that disobedience will mean that we have nothing to offer. This happened in the days of Joel: “the corn is wasted: the new wine is dried up, the oil languisheth” with the result that “the meat-offering and the drink-offering is withholden from the house of your God,” Joel 1.10,13.
iii) Provision of “the fleece of thy sheep.” Whilst ‘wool formed no part of the official priestly garments, the fleece would be warming and comforting to the priest personally’ (C. A. Coates). Let's simply say that there is nothing so heart-warming to the Lord's people than the ministry of Christ. There is something terribly wrong with believers who do not enjoy “the things concerning Himself,” Lk.24.27.
The priestly function of the assembly will be enriched beyond measure if we contribute like this. What a wonderful way in which to support each other!
c) the character of their ministry, v5
“For the Lord thy God hath chosen him out of all thy tribes, to stand to minister in the name of the Lord, him and his sons for ever.” It is worth remembering that the priests represented the people, and therefore they were to be supported by the people. The priests not only ministered to the Lord, Ex.28.1, they ministered “in the name of the Lord.” While the words “stand to minister” certainly emphasise the dignity and deportment of the priest (there was nothing slovenly about him), they also signify readiness to speak and act. Compare 1Kgs.17.1; Lk.1.19. The priest stood in the presence of God, not only to represent others, but to receive instruction and guidance for others. See Mal.2.7. As Raymond Brown observes, ‘Genuine prayer outside of more than persistent asking: it makes room for attentive listening.’
d) The opportunity to serve, v6-8
At the division of the land, the “children of Aaron, the priests” (who belonged to the family of Kohath) were allocated thirteen cities, Josh.21.9-19, as opposed to ten cities allocated to “the Levites which remained of the children of Kohath,” Josh.21.20-26. Hence the words, “And if a Levite come from any of thy gates out of all Israel, where he sojourned,” v6. Whilst this could refer to the Levites in general, the context strongly suggests that the passage refers particularly to the priests. It is important to notice that he was to come “with all the desire of his mind unto the place which the Lord shall choose.” He was to be just like David: “Lord, I have loved the habitation of Thy house, and the place where Thine honour dwelleth,” Ps.26.8. Do we regard assembly gatherings like that? The man who came to “the place which the Lord shall choose” in that way was to be given opportunity to serve, and was fully supported in his ministry: “he shall minister in the name of the Lord his God, as all his brethren the Levites do, which stand there before the Lord. They shall have like portions to eat …” v7-8. This reminds us that the assembly should be a place where every opportunity is given for the Lord's people to worship and serve, and where they are supported and encouraged in their ministry. The words, “beside that which cometh from the sale of his patrimony” have been explained as ‘beside the proceeds of the patrimony which he would have had in his own Levitical city’ (Ellicott's Commentary). Some translations have ‘inheritance’ for “patrimony”. This can hardly mean the sale of his inheritance, Lev.25-34, but it might refer to the sale of the produce of his inheritance in his home city.
— to be continued (D.V.)
By J. C. Gibson (Scotland)
Paper 10 : 1 Thessalonians chapter 5
In our previous study we looked at the first half of this chapter, v1-11, which is prophetical in nature, and we now come to the practical side of things in v12-28.
Our attitude to fellow believers, part 1 (especially elders), v12-15
This section teaches us how to regard elders in the local assembly. However, there is also instruction about the conduct and character of the elders themselves, which does not only apply to elders but should be found in measure in every child of God.
In v14 are found three different types of Christian who each require specific treatment. There is firstly the idle or ‘unruly’. These are to be warned or admonished. Then there are those who feel inferior or ‘feebleminded’ or literally, ‘smallsouled.’ These Christians are to be treated with ‘comfort’ or paramutheomai meaning to speak closely to for the purpose of encouraging. Thirdly, there are the impotent or ‘weak’, or ‘strengthless’. Believers like this are to be supported, antecho, meaning to hold oneself over against.
Having said all this, let us see what qualities should be found in elders. They are to be valued by the church, v12. The church is to know and acknowledge the worth of their elders, not slander and criticise them. They should be plural in number, v12, for the New Testament pattern is that there will be more than one man overseeing the local church. They are to be industrious in their character, marked by ‘labour’, v12, and ‘works’, v13. To be an elder is not a light task but requires hard work, labour and toil. The Lord Jesus taught the same principle in Mk.10.43,44. They are required to be present in the gatherings, v12. Their labour is to be ‘among’ the saints because in order to be effective the elders must get to know the believers so as to tell if they fit into one of the three categories above. A full time worker who is away from the assembly gatherings for weeks on end is therefore disqualified from being a competent, biblical elder in the assembly. They are to be leaders of the flock, v12, ‘over you.’ They carry the responsibility to lead, guide and direct the people of God. What authority elders have, since this leading is to be ‘in the Lord.’ This phrase, however, also limits the power of an overseer to spiritual concerns only. They should not pry unnecessarily into the secular affairs of the saints. While they can, and should advise, they cannot demand where the saints should work, what jobs they should do and who they should marry, as many cults do.
However, immorality in a believer’s life is an entirely different matter, in which case the elders must take action.
Elders are to be esteemed ‘for their work’s sake,’ v13. They are not to be esteemed because they are charismatic in their personalities or wealthy, but for their work in the assembly. In other words, what they are in their secular employment is insignificant. They are to be watchful and discerning in the gatherings. They must be observant and discerning so as to assess and address each believer’s needs. How courageous they must be. Elders must be willing to admonish and warn idle Christians and not be afraid to do so. This is essential for the well being of that individual saint and also for the company as a whole, since such an attitude can be contagious. Then they need to be tender hearted so as to be of help to those who are inferior and impotent. An elder is required not only to be present at the gatherings but also available for the saints, accessible for people to approach and spend time with as is necessary. This means drawing alongside the saints and spending time with each if required. Finally, how longsuffering elders need to be, v14, ‘patient toward all men.’ They need to be like this in their dealings with everyone.
This section ends with the prohibition against revenge, v15, and the exhortation always to pursue the good, v15.
Our attitude to circumstances, v16-18
These three commands are in the present tense: despite the difficulties, we are always to ‘rejoice’, ‘pray’ and ‘give thanks.’ An example of all this despite adverse circumstances in their most extreme is found in Acts 16.25.
Our attitude to revelation, v19-22
Five commandments are given, the first two are in the negative, and the next three positive. All are again in the present tense, since there is no rest or let up in the Christian life, and these things are constantly to characterise us. Firstly, ‘Quench not the Spirit,’ v19. The Holy Spirit is likened to a fire in Acts 2.3. Now of course no one has the power to ‘put out’ a divine Person, but sadly it is possible for a believer to extinguish His activity within his own heart through sin and the neglect of Christian duty. Sadly, an assembly also can quench the Spirit’s work in its midst. This may be as a result of tolerated sin in the gatherings, but one man ministry has this result also, since others gifted by the ascended Christ are forbidden to exercise their gifts. Let us beware of checking the movement of the Holy Spirit in our assemblies. Secondly, ‘Despise not prophesyings,’ v20. This was written prior to the completion of the canon of Scripture and hence the full revelation of God, for at that time God revealed needed truth through prophecy. The application today relates to our attitude to the teaching and instruction of God’s holy Word. As in those days prophecy was to be given due place, so today in the assembly we must not neglect the solid exercise of biblical exposition. Thirdly, ‘Prove all things,’ v21. Dokimazo means to test or to examine, and is a call for discernment, to examine everything. Although especially true of prophetic utterance, every form of ministry we hear, must be judged with a critical ear, Act.17.11; 1Jn.4.1. Fourthly, ‘Hold fast that which is good,’ v21. Fifthly, ‘Abstain from every form of evil.’ Apechomai means to hold oneself away from, to shun. What is required here is that the believer be completely separate from everything that is evil.
Our attitude to the world, v23-24
This can be summed up in one word, sanctification, total separation from wickedness. Paul prays for their sanctification by God and hence we learn that it is a divine work in the heart. It is also to be complete, ‘wholly’, comprehending ‘your whole spirit and soul and body’, our whole being, for there is to be no part of us that is not required to be separate from sin, darkness and evil. It is orderly, ‘spirit and soul and body,’ working from the inside out, not the outside in, as some people seem to believe. It is steadfast, continuing ‘unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Our sanctification will continue to the very end. It is also guaranteed, v24. How important that we pray for the sanctification of other believers.
Our attitude to missionaries, v25
From this verse we can learn simply that we should pray for them.
Our attitude to fellow believers, part 2, v26-27
There should be a pure greeting for all the brethren, v26, an evidence of genuine affection. A kiss upon the cheek was a common oriental greeting among friends and its omission in social circles was an occasion for comment, Lk.7.45. It should be noted that at the time of writing this letter the sexes were segregated in the assembly and the men kissed the men and the women the women so there was no hint of impropriety.
They were to share truth with all believers, v27.
The conclusion, v28
‘The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.’ What an appropriate way to end! The letter, like the Christian life begins and ends with grace.
(Address given by C. F. Hogg in U.S.A. in 1920's)
*Quotations throughout are from the Revised Version
First-born of All Creation
Now I will ask you to consider for a moment the text just mentioned, Col.1, from the end of v13: “The Son of His love,” (not “His beloved Son,” the thought is different, the Son here is the expression of the love of God, not the object of it), is “the First-born of all creation,” I do not understand that He Himself is included in, but rather that these words are intended to exclude Him from, the realm of creation, and for this reason. In Jn.1 it is recorded that John the Baptist said of Christ, “He was before me.” That expression is, literally, “He is first of me.” Plainly “first of me” means ‘to be before me’ — ‘external to me,’ ‘preceding me.’
Milton tells us that Adam was ‘the goodliest of men since born.’ But that excludes Adam from the category of men who were born of Adam. And Eve he calls, ‘the fairest of her daughters,’ but plainly Eve was not her own daughter; she is excluded from that category. Xenophen speaks of ‘the greatest of battles since fought,’ making that one battle the standard of comparison for all subsequent battles. With these analogous expressions before us it seems clear that the words “the First-born of all creation” are to be understood in the sense that the Lord is excluded from the category of created beings, not included in it.
Take, for example, one of our great buildings. If you were asked, ‘How did this building come into existence?’ You would answer, ‘The builders built it up, stone upon stone, beam upon beam.’ ‘But how did the builders know where to put the stones and the beams?’ You would reply again, ‘The architect provided the plan?’ ‘And where did the architect get the plan?’ Is not the answer to that question this: before a stone was put upon a stone, before a line was put upon the paper, that building already existed in the mind of the architect. It was there complete, in whole and in every part, in the architect’s mind.
The Lord Jesus Christ is Himself the Architect and Builder of the Universe. Now, every building is built for some purpose, or for some person. For whom, then, was this Universe brought into existence? For the Lord Jesus Christ, in order that in it, through it, and to it, His glory, which is the glory of the Godhead, might be displayed.
Again, every building requires to be maintained, or the fabric will perish. Who maintains the Universe? “In Him all things are held together.”
The Eternal Word
In these verses, then, is declared the relationship between the Lord Jesus and the old creation; those that follow tell of His relationship to the new creation, but with them we are not at present concerned. Let me remind you of the opening words of John’s Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word.” You know the difference between the active and the passive verbs. The former signify action, the doing of things, and necessarily refer to certain points, or periods, of time, but the passive verb “to be” is independent of time. “In the beginning” then, not something was done, but someone “was” — that is, existed. Think back through the centuries, the millenniums, the ages, until your brain reels with the attempt to grasp eternity, and when you have exhausted your power to think backward, you are still met by this word in its undiminished fulness: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The Lord Jesus Christ, then, the Word become flesh, is not God in any derived or secondary sense; He is God in all that pertains to Godhead, in all that is essential to Deity.
“The Days of His Flesh”
Passing now from eternity to time, consider the Lord Jesus Christ as He moved among men. When in the Four Gospels we meet One Who shows forbearance and gentleness to all men, let us never forget that this is He Who was pleased to veil His glory and to come forth from the Father into this world. Let us never for one instant forget the majesty and the glory of Godhood that are His by right inalienable, lest the very grace displayed in His Incarnation should betray us into unworthy thoughts of Him Who in the hour of His deepest humiliation was never less than God.
The Sermon on the Mount
Now let us consider that lengthy section of the Gospel according to Matthew which is called the Sermon on the Mount. What is its significance? Luke offers us the key to it in the opening words of the Book of Acts, where we read of “all that Jesus began both to do and to teach.” The doing precedes the teaching; what He taught, He first Himself practised. It was the peculiar glory of the Lord Jesus as a teacher that He was the living exemplification of the words He spoke. He left us an example that we should follow His steps. It is not uncommon for men, under the pressure of its difficulties, either to relegate the Sermon on the Mount to the past, or postpone it to the future. We should rather consider it as the portrait of the Lord Jesus drawn by His own Hand. This is surely just what the Lord Jesus was among men; this is the character He displayed through the silent years. The Sermon on the Mount is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by W. W. Fereday
The Lord’s first words to His disciples were, “Peace be unto you.” How precious after the work which He had accomplished! He had just returned from the battle, the enemy was overthrown, the work was done, divine justice was satisfied. Therefore He returns to those for whom He suffered, and announces the grand and blessed result. Not only so, but “when He had so said, He showed unto them His hands and His side.” As if to say, “See how peace was made.” He made it by the blood of His cross. Nought else would have availed.
When John saw the Lamb in glory, it was “a Lamb as it had been slain.” The marks of Calvary will never be effaced from His holy Person, though it is not true to say as Wesley, “Five bleeding wounds He bears.” Whenever we gaze upon Him there (and shall we ever take our eyes off Him?), our hearts will be reminded of what it cost Him to redeem us to God.
But we have more in Jn.20. “Then said Jesus to them again, “Peace be unto you; as My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you.” Is this needless repetition? Nay, there is no such thing in Scripture. The Lord is giving a commission in this verse, and in connection with it, says the second time, “Peace”. He would have His own serve Him with the enjoyment of “peace” in their souls. How can one serve Him truly otherwise? What inward holy calm it gives to have the settled assurance that peace has been made and that it is ours; and further to have His peace keeping the heart and mind! The circumstances of service and testimony are often discouraging, and there is at times a tendency to give up; but His word comes in, “Peace be unto you,” and the heart rests and is sustained.
The commission is blessed, yet solemn. As really as the Father sent the Son, the Son has sent His own unto the world. What a position for us! Taken out of the world, given to the Son, then sent into it to act for Him. The Son was here to make God known, and to bear witness to the truth; the same place is ours in measure. In reality it is a privilege to be allowed to spend a few years here before being taken to heaven. When first He called us to the knowledge of Himself, His purpose was to place us in the Father’s house; and He could have done it there and then had it suited Him. But He has chosen to leave us here for a season, but it is to act for Him. We cannot bear testimony in heaven. All such service must be rendered here, and the more difficult and trying it is — the more suffering and reproach it brings — the more will it draw forth His approval and reward in the day that is at hand.
“And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” This passage may present serious difficulty to some. It was not yet the gift of the Holy Ghost as a Divine Person to dwell within them — for that they must wait until Jesus was glorified. We read in Acts 1.5, “ye shall be baptised with the Holy Ghost not many days hence,” words uttered subsequently to those before us. To understand the Lord’s action aright, we must go back to a similar one in Gen.2. There we have the Lord God first forming the man’s body of the dust of the ground, then breathing into his nostrils the breath of life. In this, man is distinguished from the beast. Here the Lord, risen from the dead, after having accomplished redemption, breathes His own risen life by the Holy Ghost into His beloved disciples. They were unquestionably converted men before; the Lord gives them now to participate with Himself in life more abundantly. It is of the utmost moment to seize that the life which is ours in Christ, is a risen life. What has judgment to do with it? What has law to say to it? It is victorious, and beyond the reach of the enemy. The difference between the Spirit as life, and His personal indwelling may be seen in Rom.8. In v1-11 it is not so much His personal presence as that He is the Spirit of life, instilling Himself into all our thoughts and ways, and giving character to the life that we now live below; in v12-27 He is viewed rather as a distinct Person dwelling within, bearing witness with our spirit, sympathising with us in our groans and sorrows, and Himself making intercession for us according to God.
The Lord’s words which follow should be carefully weighed, “Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.” How grievously misunderstood and even perverted these few words have been! The claim has long been that they confer authority on a priestly class to absolve their fellows from the eternal consequences of their sins. But let it be distinctly understood that there is no such thing as a priestly class in Christianity. There was in Israel, but redemption was not then accomplished, and the people of God could not go into His presence within the sanctuary for themselves. But is this the state of things since the death and resurrection of Christ? Surely not; else, what has the blessed One accomplished? All who believe are constituted priests of God — a holy priesthood — all may draw near on the ground of the blood once shed. Moreover we have a great High Priest in the presence of God for us. Thus the assertion of a priestly class now is a denial of Christianity, and puts souls under bondage, in darkness, and at a distance from God. We cannot speak or write too strongly as to all this in the present day. Masses who profess Christ’s name are giving themselves up to this and worse: preferring bondage, darkness and distance, to the liberty wherewith Christ makes free and the blessed nearness to God in the light which is the true and inalienable portion of all who believe.
Had the Lord intended any sort of official privilege or authority we should at least read “when the apostles were assembled.” There might then have been a show of warrant for the assumption, but the Lord is wiser than men. He well knew of the boast of apostolic succession, and would leave no loophole for such a figment in the verse before us. Hence we read not “when the apostles,” but “when the disciples were assembled,” which latter term includes all who believe, whether apostles or otherwise. And it may be remarked, in passing, that the title “apostle” does not occur at all in John’s Gospel.
Doubtless there are many who are sure what the verse does not mean, who could not tell what it does mean if taxed about it. Let us weigh the matter carefully in the Lord’s presence. The assembled disciples with Jesus in the midst we have already seen to be a picture of the Christian assembly. Here, therefore, we have Him giving to them authority of an administrative character for the exercise of reception or discipline within their own limits. His words in this place have substantially the same meaning as those in Matt.16 and 18. In the former chapter He addresses Peter on the basis of his glorious confession of Himself as the Christ, the Son of the living God, on which rock His church should be built, and says, “I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven,” 16.19. This has no reference to eternal consequences. The Lord does not speak of the keys of heaven, as if Peter or any of his pretended successors were to have power to exclude souls from heavenly blessing at will; but He speaks of an earthly administration which we find the apostle duly exercising in the Acts. At Pentecost he opened the kingdom to the Jews, and three thousand entered; in the house of Cornelius he opened it to Gentiles, and many availed themselves through grace. This was also loosing, as, on the other hand, the cases of Ananias and Simon furnish solemn examples of binding.
But there is nothing said of successional power, unless the Lord’s word in Matt.18 be so viewed. There the Lord speaks of the assembly, a gathered company who can be told of a brother’s fault, and says, “Verily I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” This is immediately connected with His own presence in the midst of the two or three gathered together unto His Name, v18-20. Consequently, the only form in which the authority granted to Peter is handed down is that which the Lord has undoubtedly granted to His gathered saints, however few and feeble. Therefore when a person is received from the world, the assembly “remits” or “looses”. If one is put away from amongst the saints, the assembly “retains” or “binds”, and this on the authority of His Word, and His presence in the midst. The Epistles to the Corinthians furnish us with an illustration. In the first letter, the apostle calls upon the assembly to put away from among themselves the wicked person.
The man was put forth, his sin being bound upon him. The discipline succeeded, hence we find Paul writing later, ‘’Sufficient to such a man is this punishment which (was inflicted) of the many. So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive and comfort (him), lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow”, 1Cor.5; 2Cor.2.6,7. In receiving him back the assembly administratively remitted his sins. The assembly is responsible to guard the Lord’s honour. If evil intrudes itself, it is bound to deal with it when known, in the fear of the Lord, or it forfeits all claim to be regarded as God’s church. There are three things, however, which should be borne in mind on such solemn occasions:
- 1) the honour of the Lord:
- 2) the purity of the assembly:
- 3) the blessing of the offender.
If the first be lost sight of, all that is done, however right in itself, is on very low ground; if the second, the consciences of all lose the moral profit which should be reaped from the sorrowful circumstances, and if the third be not kept in view, our hearts are apt to become hard and careless with regard to those of the Lord’s own who are beguiled of the enemy.
Truly to be in the assembly of God is an inestimable privilege; but solemn responsibilities attach to the place. The Lord enable us all to understand them better.
by D. S. Parrack (England)
PAPER 2 — “WHATSOEVER THINGS ARE HONEST”
The word translated here as “honest” is more usually given as “grave”, see e.g. 1Tim.3.8 and 11 and Tit.2.2, and includes the meaning of honourable, i.e. deserving of honour.
Some people have the right of honour accorded to them, in virtue of their position or title, e.g. “Fear God, honour the king,” 1Pet.2.17, “Honour thy father and thy mother,” Eph.6.2. “Let as many servants (bondmen, JND) as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour,” 1Tim.6.1. But in the context of our consideration here, although honour at the highest possible ultimate level belongs to the Lord Jesus by divine right it has too, been fully and comprehensively earned. When writing to the Philippians, Paul covers both aspects in the course of one short section of his letter, speaking first of “Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God,” Phil.2.5-6. It was not robbery for Him to think like that, not the unsurping of a position that was not already His. He could say to His Father, “glorify Thou Me with Thine Own Self, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was,” Jn.17.5. That glory, that honour, was intrinsically His, but having shown the steps willingly taken downward from that glory to “even the death of the cross,” the apostle continues, “Wherefore”, because of that, “God also hath highly exalted Him and given Him a Name which is above every name,” see Phil.2.7-10. That was honour indeed, earned honour and God's own estimate is shared both by on-looking heavenly powers and by those deriving eternal benefits from what the Lord Jesus had accomplished. “I heard the voice of many angels — and the living creatures and the elders — saying with a loud voice. Worthy is the lamb that has been slain to receive power — riches — wisdom — strength — honour — glory — blessing,” see Rev.5.11-14, JND.
It is not always though that God's people have accorded Him the honour which is rightfully His. Having pointed out that in the natural realm of things “a son honoureth his father,” God has to ask Israel “if then I be a father, where is My honour?”, Mal.1.6. He is not looking for honour grudgingly given, because there appears to be no other option. That is what was happening in Isaiah's time. “This people — with their lips do honour Me, but have removed their heart far from Me,” Isa.29.1. Those referred to there, no doubt considered Moses worthy of great honour, but, as discussed much later, “He who hath builded the house, hath more honour than the house — Moses verily was faithful in all his (i.e. God's) house as a son over His own house, whose house are we,” Heb.3.3-6. Moses did deserve honour, but such honour, earned by a servant for faithfulness which in any case he owed his master, is not to be compared to that accruing to the One who has designed, built, occupies and runs His own house. We are encouraged to “render therefore to all their dues,” including “honour to whom honour,” Rom.13.7, but we need to be sure, particularly amongst ourselves as believers, that such honour is in accord with what is really due and given “without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality,” 1Tim.5.21.
As with the earlier discussed concept of truth, there is, as regards honour, another side to the same coin. God assured Eli that “Them that honour me will I honour” which, has to be seen in the context of that priest's evident failure, see 1Sam.2.29-30. But God's promises are in no way nullified by the failures of men. Individuals, through disobedience, intransigence, or outright unbelieving rejection, may forfeit the opportunities of benefiting, but the promises still stand for those prepared to accept them and their accompanying conditions. But surely, someone may say, God doesn't impose conditions does He? Yes, most certainly He does. What was said in response to that very basic question as regards God's dealings with men, “what must I do to be saved?” Were there any conditions involved? Yes, just one very simple one. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,” the condition, “and thou shalt be saved,” the promised outcome, see Acts 16.27-31.
Solomon, at the beginning of his reign at least, might be seen as just the opposite of Eli in his perception of what God both expected and merited, and so became the clear beneficiary of the promise to “them that honour me.” Having been invited by God to “ask what I shall give thee,” rather than asking for those things more usually associated with natural aspirations, he requested “wisdom and knowledge.” What for? For his own self-aggrandisement? No, it was “that I may go out and come in before this people, for who can judge this Thy people that is so great?” His prime concern was the wellbeing and welfare of God's people and that meant that he had God's interests at heart. He was assured that he would be given what he asked because it had been asked for the right reasons, but with something else besides. “Wisdom and knowledge is granted unto thee and I will give thee riches and wealth and honour,” see 2Chron.1.7-12. He had honoured God, and God, as promised, honoured him.
Such an outcome does not usually come to God's people in that precise form today. In the vast majority of cases such material blessings must be seen as picturing spiritual riches. The church at Smyrna is a good example of this. The Lord Jesus wrote to them that “I know thy works and tribulation and poverty,” the very opposite of material wealth. “But”, he continues, “thou art rich,” Rev.2.9. Rich with “the exceeding riches of His (God's) grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus,” Eph.2.7. There are often things which God has, in His grace, to refrain from giving us, so that we may come more fully into the enjoyed good of His blessings. As the Proverbs writer says, “before destruction the heart of man is haughty and before honour is humility,” Prov.18.12. Rubbish must first be cleared away and further rubbish stopped from accumulating before any worthwhile and progressive building can take place, see e.g. Neh.4.10.
So, follow the example set by Solomon rather than that of Eli, of whom God had to ask “Wherefore — honourest thou thy sons before Me?”, 1Sam.2.29. Use such resources and abilities as God has given you, to honour Him amongst His people. Supremacy of honour belongs to the Lord Jesus by divine right, by reason of who He is and the more that we “consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself,” Heb.12.3, the more will we appreciate that He has earned such honour too.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by James B. Currie (Japan)
The unique presentation of the Lord Jesus as seen in the Hebrew Epistle may be summarised in three short phrases that are an inherent part of the letter’s contents. The three expressions are as follows;
- ‘Thou art my Son,’ 1.5. These words sum up chapters one to four where ‘the Glory of His Godhood’ and ‘the Grace of His Manhood’ are set forth. Here the supremacy of His Person is clearly seen.
- ‘Thou art a priest,’ 5.6; 7.17. The central and main section of the letter, chapters five to ten, manifest the inimitable superiority of His Priestly position and work. The last four chapters of this part of the epistle will be dealt with in these studies since they are occupied most fully with this superb priesthood.
- ‘Thou art the Same,’ 1.12; 13.8. The Holy Spirit’s choice of words in these two instances is meant to give full assurance as to the security of His People. He who is their Priest partakes of all the attributes of Deity and thus is called ‘the Same’. He, by virtue of His ‘one sacrifice for sins’ as He suffered without the gate, has sanctified His people ‘once for all,’ 10.10-12; 13.12.
The One of whom God said ‘Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee’ is eminently qualified to be the High Priest of His people. He did not lay hold of angels by becoming one of them for their salvation but being born as ‘the Seed of Abraham’ in His perfect humanity He became ‘a merciful and faithful High Priest,’ ch.2. This was in faithfulness to the God of His appointment and as ‘Son over His own house,’ He possesses more glory than ever Moses did, ch.3. In spite of the blessings obtaining under Moses’ administration, Israel was marked by unbelief and disobedience. The result being that all they who came out of Egypt in maturity were unable to enter into the promised rest, ch.4. The readers to whom the Hebrew letter was written are reminded that their Priest is greater and their privileges more secure than those of the fathers of old therefore hardness of heart on their part will have even more severe consequences. The Word of God is sharper than any two edged sword and is the discerner of the very thoughts and intents of the heart. Nothing is hidden from the eye of Him with whom we have to do but all things are naked and opened unto Him. What a fearful situation that is except for this, there is a High Priest who is touched with the feelings and infirmities of His people and who understands their every need. It is by Him that we are invited to the throne of grace, not one of stern judgment, but one where we can obtain mercy and find grace to meet our needs.
Having shown how abundantly qualified our Lord Jesus is as the great High Priest the writer now undertakes to cover this happy subject in fine detail. This he does in chapters five to ten. To begin with in chapter five he writes of three things. Firstly, in v1-6 the Definition Of Christ’s Call is given as is the character of His priesthood. The call was Divine and the character illustrated by the royal personage of Melchisedec who was also ‘priest of the most high God.’ No other man in all of sacred history combined these offices in one person. He becomes, in the Scriptural record, a perfect illustration of that to which our Lord Jesus as the Son is appointed. How vastly superior to the Aaronic priesthood is that of the Lord Jesus. This is determined as the theme is developed later.
In the second place a Description Of Christ’s Agony is given in v7-9. It was in the days of His flesh that He offered up prayers and supplications and did so ‘with strong crying and tears.’ The writer here carries us in thought to Gethsemane where no suggestion of priestly intercession should be entertained but, such was the anguish filling the soul of our Lord Jesus in view of what Calvary entailed that he cried, if it were possible, He should be delivered away from the death of the cross. How blessed to know that His prayer was answered in resurrection power and that because of His godly piety.
Thirdly, in v10-14 of this chapter the Dullness Of Christ’s People is pursued as a possibility. Many things concerning this singular priesthood needed to be said but their apparent unwillingness to learn even the ‘elements of the beginnings of the oracles of God’ (JND) made the task very difficult. How sad it is when the people of God are so indifferent to the great truths relating to our Lord Jesus that even the very basics are not appreciated. It might have been that these people were not willing to commit themselves fully to what they had been taught because they feared a repetition of hardships previously endured, 10.33. Whatever the reason, they were losing out in different ways. Incapable of ingesting the strong meat of the Word, they were unskillful in its use simply because they were not allowing their faculties to be trained to distinguish good and evil. Sadly, that situation is not unknown among the saints even in our own day.
If at the end of the previous chapter dullness of hearing was lamented, v1-8 of ch.6 give a strongly worded warning about the danger of falling away. It is not to the profit of the readers to continue to dig around foundation truths. It was only too easy for those with a Jewish background to give assent to the fundamentals of Old Testament teachings but to see nothing more in what was being taught them concerning the peerless person of our Lord Jesus. They were encouraged to go on to maturity in their thinking concerning His person and work. To do this was to give evidence of reality. To stop short of this goal was to raise doubts as to the genuineness of their profession. Indeed it did more since, if their profession was false, then it also opened the door for a falling away. To ‘fall away’ in this sense is to ‘repudiate with finality.’ To do so was to take a stand with the nation in its rejection of the Lord Jesus and to personally make a shameful show of Him afresh. Such ‘falling away’ is, by its very nature, apostasy and as such finds no remedy. Both the words used and the illustration given show how possible it is to be so close to reality and yet to miss its blessings by rank and final unbelief. Just as the thirsty soil drinks in heaven’s bounty and produces herbs most useful to those who dress and till it, so the Word of righteousness brings forth a harvest in those whose senses are truly exercised by it. The outcome of such bona fide faith and its exercise is the ability to distinguish good and evil. How tragic that some, who had been enlightened, that is, they ‘had been given knowledge by teaching’ and thereby had, by the ‘good Word of God,’ tasted of what heaven has bestowed, in rejecting what was offered to them are rejected as worthless themselves since they bring forth, figuratively speaking, only that which is fit for burning, ‘thorns and briars.’
While these verses have a specific application to conditions of the first century when those of Jewish background had to make up their mind as to whether Jesus was the Messiah or, as the nation maintained, and does so to this day, that He was a malefactor deserving of crucifixion the principle is found in other portions of the Word with a much wider relevance. The apostle Paul reminds us in his various writings that light rejected brings a deeper and, at times, impenetrable darkness. To those who are constrained to preach the Gospel this thought should add a large measure of solemnity in presenting Christ and Him crucified.
That the author expected ‘better things’ of those to whom he wrote is seen in the second part of chapter six. Even though he felt compelled to speak the warning words as he did yet his readers had engaged in a ministry to other saints. This ‘work and labour of love’ was done in the name of the Lord and which he fully expected that, everyone of them, would continue showing the same diligence. This diligence, or lack of ‘sluggishness’ (JND), would be undergirded by the full assurance of hope which would carry them right to the end of their pilgrimage. Meanwhile, in their continuance, they had become imitators of Old Testament worthies who, by their faith and patience, had inherited the promises. Abraham is given as the outstanding example of such. Even though he had to endure with long patience before the promise was fulfilled in the birth of his son Isaac, God’s promise to him could not fail. God not only gave him the promise but strengthened that by an oath. Both the Divine oath and promise are unchangeable. The oath showed that God’s promise to Abraham could brook no contradiction. This gracious condescension on God’s part was not given merely to strengthen Abraham’s faith but was meant to give believers of every age the encouragement in the knowledge that it is impossible for God to lie. There is a hope set before us and upon which we are to lay hold. It is as an anchor both sure and steadfast since it enters into that which is within the veil. The promise and the oath given by God must surely be more than sufficient to enable anyone to rest serenely and without ambiguity on what the Lord has said but, in actual fact, we have been taken one more step into the confirmed counsels of God. The subject of the Melchisedec priesthood of the Lord Jesus is now broached. We are told that it is as a forerunner for us He has entered into that which is within the veil. In other words, God has graciously promised and confirmed this with an oath but has also revealed that there is a guarantor, as it were, in the person of His only Son who has become ‘a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.’ Such is the greatness of our great High Priest that the four succeeding chapters of this momentous epistle are given over to show how He precedes Aaron in time and is greater than Abraham in person and in status. Our refuge is secure; our rest is imperturbable and our future as settled as the Throne of God since our Lord Jesus as the enthroned priest abides as such continually.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by Walter A. Boyd (N. Ireland)
The Prophecy of Habakkuk is a veritable treasure chest of truth. It is partly hidden away towards the end of the Minor Prophets, and therefore may not be your favourite reading material. However, when it is discovered and we prise open the lid of this ancient, and sadly to many, dusty chest, we are thrilled with delight at the precious gems and treasures it yields.
As we approach the book, it starts with a rather doleful note: “the burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see,” 1.1. The vision, which God communicated to Habakkuk, created a deep burden in his soul. The emphasis seems to be placed on what the prophet received by revelation, rather than what he imparted to others in communication. Reading on into ch.1, we get an understanding of how the vision affected Habakkuk, who was obviously a man of deep personal piety and spiritual exercise. It is only to such a man that God revealed His modus operandi in a special way. Other prophets received detailed information as to how God would work and what He would do; but few, if any, got an insight as to why God would work. As God began to unfold His purpose to Habakkuk, it caused him deep distress and misery. In ch.1, he remonstrated with God; and his misery turned to mystery as he weighed up the revelation he had been given. In ch.2, he silenced himself and sat down before God to watch and listen. However, when God further revealed His ways to Habakkuk, 2.2-20, his misery turned to music as he composed the Psalm of chapter three.
Chapter One gives us the Vexation he Expressed. If verse one is doleful, verse two is distressing: “Oh Lord, how long shall I cry and thou wilt not hear! Even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save!” As Habakkuk surveyed the land, there was nothing which gave him pleasure: it was all vexation. He was deeply grieved at the iniquity that abounded, 1.3. He saw robbery, violence, strife, and contention that the Law of the land was unable to contain. The wicked were in the ascendancy, the righteous were besieged, and justice was perverted. For some time, Habakkuk had cried to God about it, but had received no answer. One could almost think that Habakkuk had written his prophecy today.
To make matters worse, in the midst of these terrible conditions, God informed Habakkuk that He was going to send the Chaldeans to punish Judah, 1.5-11. What a tragedy that, on top of the existing travesty of justice, the holy and all powerful God, 1.12-14, would allow this to happen to His own chosen people. Very bluntly, Habakkuk expressed his vexation to God: this vision would not fit in with God’s plan for and promises to, the nation. In fact, it was also out of keeping with His person! As Habakkuk reasoned with God, the whole thing formed one big question in his mind — ‘how can my God do this?’ Many a godly saint has been there: the oppressions and trials that press upon them have wrung similar cries from a broken heart in the sanctuary — ‘O Lord, how long?’ ‘Wilt thou not hear?’ ‘Wilt thou not save?’ ‘Why?’ Job also was deeply concerned with this problem: “Behold, I cry out of wrong, but I am not heard: I cry aloud, but there is no judgment,” Job 19.7. Both these men began and ended their books in the same way: they progressed from calamity to glory. They both appealed to God, and He appeared to both of them.
What was the answer to Habakkuk’s calamity? It certainly did not lie within himself, for as he thought about it the picture got worse. God described the Chaldeans sweeping across the land like a whirlwind, gathering up all before them. Habakkuk saw them as a voracious net, dragging the floor of the ocean and scooping up all before it. Having emptied their nets of the catch, the Chaldeans sit down and rejoice in their own evil. ‘Will this merciless pillaging go on for ever?’ Habakkuk asked, ‘Will there never be relief?’ Note carefully God’s answer to him. He did not respond to Habakkuk’s first question, “How long,” 1.2, God showed Habakkuk what He would do, and how He would do it, but did not tell him when. At this stage the main lesson for Habakkuk to learn was that his sovereign God is in complete control of events.
—to be concluded (D.V.)
by the late W. Bunting
(The conversion of our late former editor, W. Bunting, was submitted by his widow. He had left his story on record in tract form).
It was my inestimable blessing to have parents who knew and feared God and who sought to bring up their family “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” From my earliest recollection I heard from their lips the truths of Holy Scripture regarding my need as a guilty, unregenerate sinner and the sufficiency of Christ's atoning death to meet that need. In my unsaved days, however, I did not esteem this a blessing, and often longed to be free to do as other boys did. This was especially the case after I had left school and had begun my apprenticeship in a large drapery warehouse in Belfast. My home being in the country, I travelled to and from business by train, and there I met with companions who taught me evil habits and imparted to me a longing to have my fling in the world. Indeed. I sometimes wonder to what lengths I might have drifted, had it not been for the restraining influence and discipline which my parents exercised over my boyhood years.
FIRST SERIOUS THOUGHTS
The first time I remember having serious thoughts about my soul was when the Lord called Home my aged grandmother. Though I was but a small boy at the time, I can still remember gazing into the embers of the dying fire, on the night after her funeral, and pondering the question of where I would spend eternity.
GOD'S WILLINGNESS TO SAVE
At a later date God again spoke to me, this time through the preaching of two of his servants, Messrs. G. Gould and J. Poots, who were conducting tent meetings in our district. One evening as we were cycling home from the meeting, my father abruptly asked me would I like to be saved. My answer being in the affirmative, he replied, “God is more willing to save you than you are to be saved.” With this, so far as memory serves me, our conversation ended, but that one sentence about the Lord's readiness to save impressed me very deeply. I never before had thought of the matter in that way, but I often did in days that followed; for the words seemed to live in my heart, and in times of soul distress, when I felt utterly cast down, they would come up before me as a gleam of light in the spiritual darkness by which I was surrounded. Thank God, the moment came when by actual experience I proved that all the time He had been ardently longing to bless me, for “He will have all men to be saved,” 1Tim.2.4; and that it was my own blind unbelief, and not any reluctance on His part, which had for years hindered my salvation.
On another occasion an incident occurred that caused me great alarm, and gave me a foretaste of the anguish which unconverted children of Christians will experience after the Lord returns, 1Thess.4.16,17. The circumstances were these. All of our family, except my father, were spending a holiday with friends about seven or eight miles from where we resided. One evening while there I had to cycle home with a message to my father. He, not expecting me, had gone away on business and was nowhere to be seen when I arrived. At first his absence occasioned me no concern. It was a fine summer evening and I amused myself in some boyish pastime. But when, at the end of two hours, my father had not appeared, I began to feel very lonesome. I searched the house, room by room, knocked more than once at his office door, scanned the public road up and down, and called aloud, “Father, Father.” But it was all in vain, my father was not to be found. At length I sat down in the kitchen. Outside all was calm and still, as the shadows of nightfall stole over the countryside. Sitting there alone that late summer evening, the thought suddenly occurred to me that the Lord had come and caught away the loved ones who were saved. I cannot express the pang of agony which I then experienced. I felt as if an arrow had pierced my soul, and I wept with sorrow and fear, for do we not read that “one shall be taken and the other left?” At last, when it was nearly midnight, my father returned, and was surprised to find me there. I said nothing to him of what my thoughts had been, but they left an impression upon my mind which did not readily pass away, and many a night afterwards I slipped out of bed, tip-toed to my parents' bedroom door, and peeped in to see if they were still there.
“MY SPIRIT SHALL NOT ALWAYS STRIVE WITH MAN”
When my sixteenth birthday was approaching, it was announced that Dr. W. J. Matthews, a well-known evangelist, was to conduct a series of Gospel meetings in the town of Lisburn, which was seven miles from where we lived in the country. Notwithstanding the distance, and the inconvenience of having to come home from business, eat a hasty meal, and cycle to the meetings, I decided to attend as regularly as possible, if by any means I might find salvation; for I felt it would be a dreadful thing to be sixteen years of age and still on the road to hell. In the very first meeting God spoke to me about my need of the new birth, Jn.3.3, and night after night as I listened to the faithful preaching, the work of conviction deepened in my conscience. One text in particular took hold upon me — Gen.6.3, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man.” I knew that the Spirit had long striven with me, and that I had just as long been trifling with Him, and I shuddered lest God should leave me to my fate. How earnestly I prayed for salvation! How diligently I read the New Testament, a copy of which I now carried in my pocket! At times I almost despaired of ever being saved, but then I would recall my father's words concerning God's willingness to save me, and hope would be rekindled in my heart. At other times when pondering such verses as Is.53.5 and Jn.3.16, I thought I could see the Divine plan, but my difficulty was how to believe. I imagined more than once that I had believed, but then my further perplexity was that I had not experienced any change of feeling such as I had heard people speak of when relating their conversions.
Such was my unhappy state of alternating hope and fear, and in it I continued during the first two weeks of the meetings, until one Sunday evening I seemed to have come to an end of my resources. I had attended meetings. I had given up my companions. I had prayed. I had searched my Bible. I had tried my utmost to believe in Christ. But all this had been in vain, and what more could I possibly do? If past efforts had failed, future endeavours would be just as futile.
CHRIST DIED FOR ME
In this melancholy condition I sat down on the front seat of the Gospel Hall that November evening. The speaker's subject was Is.6, and in memory I can still see that honoured servant of God, as with power and pathos he proclaimed.
- “A full and free salvation,
- Through faith in Jesus' name.”
During his address I began to muse upon the Saviour's death. The question arose in my mind, “Why did Jesus die?” The answer was simple — He died for us. Well then, thought I, Jesus suffered for me, and if He suffered what I deserved, would not that save my soul? There and then I grasped the truth of His substitution for me, and I knew I was saved — saved not by anything I could do, but by what He had done on my account. Just then the preacher repeated Rom.10.9: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” How definite, I thought is this promise — “Thou shalt be saved”! I would not doubt it. It confirmed my faith and assured me of my salvation, for what higher authority could I have than God's own Word?
It was “a night much to be remembered” in my life. I went to that meeting a condemned soul on my way to hell, but I left it a soul justified through the blood of Christ, on my way to Heaven. The great transaction was done. I had passed “from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God.” In a word, my fortune was made for eternity. Sxmall wonder was it that the bells of my heart rang for very joy.
Ere I conclude, let me assure you that conversion to God is a real experience, and let me earnestly inquire if you have ever had it. Can you tell when, where and how you received God's salvation? It is not good enough to say you were always a Christian, that you always loved and trusted the Saviour. To reason thus is to deceive your soul, for you were born a sinner, Ps.51.5, as I was, with a nature at enmity with God,” Rom.8.7, and therefore you need to “be born again,” Jn.3.3. So rest not until this great saving change has been experienced, for “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven,” Matt.18.3.
- “Oh come, sinner, come,
- Accept the proffered grace,
- For death may soon be calling you
- Into his cold embrace.
- The summer will be ended,
- The harvest will be past,
- Your lamentation then will be —
- My soul is lost at last.”
THE HUBBLE TELESCOPE
Not since 1610 when Galileo turned his telescope towards the heavens, has any event so contributed to our understanding of the vastness of the universe as the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990.
Hubble orbits 600 kilometres above Earth, working around the clock and with its powerful optics and state-of-the-art instruments, provides stunning views of the Universe, unobtainable from ground-based telescopes or other satellites. Every day, Hubble archives three to five gigabytes of data and transmits between ten and fifteen gigabytes to astronomers around the world. To date it has travelled almost 1,500 billion miles and circles the earth about every 97 minutes.
Our minds are confounded when we begin to appreciate the extent of God’s creation and recall that all was created from nothing, in six days by His almighty power, for “in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Genesis 1.1. Like the Psalmist, we have often beheld the star-spangled heavens and wondered at the awesome greatness of their Creator, remembering that that massive task is dismissed in just five words in Genesis 1.16, “He made the stars also.”
- “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God” Hebrews 11.3.
- “All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made.” John 1.3.
- O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder,
- Consider all the works Thy hands have made.
- I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder,
- Thy power throughout the Universe displayed
But an even greater wonder is posed in Psalm 8.3,4 — “When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; What is man, that Thou art mindful of Him? And the son of man, that Thou visitest him?
That He who made all things by the word of His power, should so love the rebellious inhabitants of ‘the blue planet’ and send His Son to die in our stead and bear the punishment deserved by us for sins we had committed deliberately and defiantly against God, is a wonder beyond all explanation.
- And when I think that God His Son not sparing,
- Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
- That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
- He bled and died to take away my sin.
The immortal commentary on such amazing love is found in John 3.16, “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.”
“In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.” 1 John 4.9
Calvary is the irrefutable proof of God’s love for sinners, for there “the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53.6.
That the Creator should come to earth to die for the creature, that ‘we might go at last to Heaven, saved by His precious blood’ is wondrous but true. Millions, through faith in Christ alone, have, at the moment of death, gone immediately to Heaven and soon “we which are alive and remain shall be caught up … to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord,” 1 Thessalonians 4.17. Will you, my friend, join Christ one day, far beyond the starry skies?
The Only Begotten Son — “Monogenes” 5 times used. God has no other such Son, but that His Only Begotten Son is, in virtue of this Sonship, a partaker of that incommunicable and imperishable essence which is sundered from all created life by an impassable chasm.
A Proverb is a short sentence from a long pause.
TRUTHS ABOUT DIVINE WEALTH
- The riches of His goodness and forbearance and longsuffering, Rom.2.4;
- The … LORD over all is rich unto all that call upon Him, Rom.10.12;
- The riches of His glory, Rom.9.23, Eph.1.18, Eph.3.16, Phil.4.19;
- The riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God, Rom.11.33;
- Our LORD Jesus Christ … was rich … yet for our sakes He became poor, 2Cor.8.9;
- God … is rich in mercy, Eph.2.4;
- The riches of His grace, Eph.1.7, 2.7.
by H. A. Barnes (England)