November / December 2006
ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle
THE GOSPEL OF THE GLORY OF CHRIST
by C. F. Hogg
THINK ON THESE THINGS
by D. S. Parrack
THE HIGH PRIESTS GARMENTS OF GLORY AND BEAUTY
by W. W. Fereday
THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE BELIEVER
by J. E. Todd
THE ASCENSION OF JESUS CHRIST
by W. A. Boyd
WE ARE HIS WORKMANSHIP
by I. W. Gibson
MY CONVERSION AND CALL
by D. O'Hare
by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)
24) "AT THE MOUTH OF TWO WITNESSES, OR … THREE WITNESSES"
Read Chapter 19.14-21
In our previous study, we suggested this chapter, which deals particularly with relationships amongst God's people, may be divided into three sections:
- 1) fleeing for refuge, v1-13;
- 2) removing a landmark, v14;
- 3) testifying against others, v15-21.
1) FLEEING FOR REFUGE, v1-13
Attention has already been drawn to the words "flee" and "fleeing" in v3,4,5,11, reminding us that "we … have a strong consolation (encouragement), who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us," Heb.6.18. Although we did not mention the six cities of refuge by name, it was suggested that this would make a profitable study. With this in mind, here is a brief outline. It is "ripe for a development."
i) Kedesh, meaning ‘holy’ or ‘sanctuary.’ The Lord Jesus is God's "Holy One," Acts 2.27. Even the demons recognised Him in this way. See Mk.1.24. He is "made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption," 1Cor.1.30. Through the Lord Jesus, we are fitted for the presence of God.
ii) Shechem, meaning ‘shoulder.’ The Lord Jesus is our strength. See Isa.9.6, "The government shall be upon His shoulder;" Lk.15.5, "And when he hath found it (the lost sheep), he layeth it upon his shoulders." We should notice that there is one shoulder for the government of the world, and two shoulders for the lost sheep! The high priest bore "their names before the Lord upon his two shoulders for a memorial." See Ex.28.9-12. Paul was deeply conscious of divine strength when he stood before the court at Rome: "the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me," 2Tim.4.17.
iii) Hebron, meaning ‘fellowship.' We enjoy the highest order of fellowship in the universe. "That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ," 1Jn.1.3. Fellowship involves mutual care. We ought to be a refuge for one another.
iv) Bezer, meaning ‘fortress.’ This reminds us of the security that we enjoy in the Lord Jesus. He said, "I give unto them (My sheep) eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand. My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father's hand," Jn.10.28-29. "Bezer" reminds us of Nah.1.7, "The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble," and Ps.91.2, "I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust."
v) Ramoth, meaning ‘height’ or ‘exaltation.’ It reminds us that "He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory," 1Sam.2.8. See also Eph.2.6, "And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus."
vi) Golan, meaning ‘exultation’ or ‘joy,’ reminds us that "we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ," Rom.5.11. Peter reminds us that although we have not yet seen the Lord Jesus, we "rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory," 1Pet.1.8.
2) REMOVING A LANDMARK, v14
Compare Deut.27.17; Job 24.2; Prov.22.28, 23.10. According to Robert Jamieson (1802-1880) ‘the state of Palestine in regard to enclosures is very much the same now as it has always been … the boundaries of arable fields are marked by nothing but by a little trench, a small cairn, or a single erect stone, placed at certain intervals … a dishonest person could easily fill the gutter with earth, or remove these stones a few feet without much risk of detection, and enlarge his own field by a stealthy encroachment on his neighbour's land’ (Jamieson, Fausset & Brown's Commentary).
Whilst, of course, the prohibition is quite literal, it has a spiritual application and this is clearly seen in Hos.5.10: "the princes of Judah were like them that move the bound (‘that remove the landmark,’ JND): therefore I will pour out my wrath upon them like water." Bearing in mind that Hosea refers here to idolatry and its associated evils, the reign of Ahaz provides an example of one of "the princes of Judah" who moved "the bound" by encroaching on the Lord's rights. Amongst other things, he placed an idolatrous altar in the temple, and moved and dismantled the laver. See 2Kgs.16.10-18. We must make sure that we do not become guilty of removing the Lord's landmarks in this way in our lives. We are warned against idolatry in Col.3.5 and 1Jn.5.21. It has to be said, sadly, that many of the Lord's landmarks have either been moved or removed in other ways as well. Apostolic teaching can be rightly regarded as a spiritual landmark. Paul describes his teaching as "the commandments of the Lord," 1Cor.14.37. Like the ancient landmarks, these commandments must not be set aside.
The recognition of a "neighbour's landmark" has other implications. For example, it has a moral significance. See 1Thess.4.6, "That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter" or "not overstepping the rights of and wronging his brother in the matter" (JND). This is a warning against taking from a man what belongs to him, and to him alone. Paul's teaching is clear. He is warning us against overstepping the limits that divide right from wrong, and in particular, the boundary between purity and immorality. It is a specific warning against adultery, against the sin of coveting another man's wife.
It also has implications in connection with our service. Whilst Paul certainly valued the labours of others (see, for example, Col.1.7), he carefully strove "to preach the gospel" elsewhere, Rom.15.20. He made no attempt to encroach on the sphere in which others served. To the contrary, he was very conscious of his own God-given sphere of labour. "But we will not boast of things without (‘beyond’, RV) our measure, but according to us, a measure to reach even unto you. For we stretch not ourselves beyond our measure, as though we reached not unto you: for we are come as far as to you also in preaching the gospel of Christ:" 2Cor.10.13-14. In visiting Corinth with "the gospel of Christ," Paul had not overstepped the bounds of the sphere allotted to him. He had laid the foundation at Corinth (see 1Cor.3.10): he was their spiritual father, 1Cor.4.15.
This principle should mark our assembly service. See Rom.12.6-8. It is important to gladly recognise and acknowledge the service of fellow-believers whilst, at the same time, recognising our own responsibilities. A good example of this principle occurs in Gal.2.9. The assembly should be a place where believers exercise their divinely-imparted gifts ("as the Lord has given to each," 1Cor.3.5, JND) in happy fellowship with each other. This makes for good harmonious relationships in the assembly, just as recognition of "thy neighbour's landmark" must have made for good relationships in Israel. Everybody suffers in the assembly when, for example, brethren with little or no ability to teach steal the time of those who are gifted in this way.
3) TESTIFYING AGAINST OTHERS, v15-21
It is worth repeating that the subject matter in Deuteronomy is presented in an orderly way. This chapter must not be regarded as containing ‘miscellaneous’ instructions! As Raymond Brown observes, ‘At some time or other, cases of both manslaughter, v1-13, and theft, v14, were bound to come up before Israel's judges for legal settlement. On such occasions, witnesses were naturally of supreme importance.’ These verses therefore emphasise:
a) The evidence of several witnesses, v15
An offender could not be convicted on the testimony of a single witness. "At the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses shall every word be established." This emphasises the necessity to establish the accuracy of a charge, and to act righteously. The commandment is cited, for example, in 2Cor.13.1, "This is the third time I am coming to you: in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established;" in Matt.18.16, "And if thy brother sin against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established;" in 1Tim.5.19, "Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses." C. A. Coates is so right in saying, "Nothing is more serious, or more fatal to the enjoyment of the inheritance together, than to believe evil reports as to brethren without adequate testimony. There are often instances of strong personal feeling being aroused by reports or suspicions for which there is really no foundation. The testimony of one unrighteous or mistaken witness has been listened to, and the matter regarded as proved when it has not been substantiated at all." If proper attention is paid to the instruction in this verse, we will be highly unlikely to dabble in rumour and hearsay ourselves, and less inclined to believe what is often whispered to us ‘in confidence.’
b) The evil of false witness, v16-21
The procedure in these verses was certainly not followed at the religious trial of the Lord Jesus when "many bare false witness against Him," Mk.14.56. Mark continues, "But their witness agreed not together. And there arose certain, and bare false witness against Him … But neither so did their witness agree together," v57-59. Had the law here been implemented, these so-called witnesses would have been condemned to death since that is precisely what they had in mind for the Lord Jesus: "If the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother; then ye shall do unto him as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you," v18-19. But the "priests and the judges" (Mark calls them "the chief priests and all the council") were equally culpable since they failed to "make diligent inquisition," v18.
This passage, v15-21, is cited twice in the New Testament in connection with charges brought against elders. "Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear," 1Tim.5.19-20. The work of an elder will make him a particular target for criticism, slander and gossip. Prominence in the Lord's work, in any capacity, inevitably attracts malign attention. Any charge must therefore be carefully investigated, and Paul first refers to this passage in using the Biblical rule of evidence described above: "at the mouth of two witnesses, or … three witnesses, shall the matter be established," v15.
The apostle's instruction, "Then that sin rebuke before all, that others (‘the rest,’ JND) also may fear" also looks back to this passage: "And those which remain shall hear, and fear, and shall henceforth commit no more any such evil (that is, the ‘evil’ of bearing false witness) among you," v20. Whilst 1Tim.5.20 is often understood to mean ‘the elders that sin rebuke before the entire congregation, that the other elders may fear,’ or ‘the elders that sin rebuke before the other elders, that the other elders may fear,’ the reference to Deut.19.16-21 suggests another interpretation. As we have noted, the passage deals with procedure in the case of a false witness and, bearing this in mind, the words "them that sin," 1Tim.5.20, evidently refer, not to the elder himself, but to those who, having either ignored or forgotten the necessity for "two or three witnesses," level the false accusation against him. This explanation is worthy of careful consideration. We should all remember that false accusation is nothing less than sin.
The closing words, v21, "And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot" (compare Ex.21.23-24, Lev.24.19-20) are cited in Matt.5.38-39, "Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also." It has been pointed out that the principle of "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth" was ‘not an open invitation to engage in forms of vindictive punishment’ but ‘a strict limitation on the type of physical penalty that could be imposed’ (Raymond Brown). In any case, these are instructions to civil judges. The Lord Jesus, however set a different standard of conduct for His people. Rather than seeking vengeance for personal wrongs they are to do good to their enemies. He is the perfect example of His own teaching. See Lk.23.34; 1Pet.2.21-23.
—to be continued (D.V.)
(Address given by C. F. Hogg in U.S.A. in 1920's)
*Quotations throughout are from the Revised Version
The Triple Testimony
You must often have said to yourselves, how glad you would be to know something of what happened during the unrecorded years of the Lord's life. The Baptist's words suggest the general impression He made unto His contemporaries, the people with whom He had summered and wintered through thirty years; that is to say, the words of John sum up the testimony of men to the conduct and character of the Lord Jesus Christ. But men are often mistaken in their judgments; may not John have been mistaken in this case?
Then the Lord Jesus spoke. The best man that you have ever met would under such circumstances say something like this: "John, if you knew my heart as well as you know your own you would know that I need to confess my sins also;" for Christian character is built upon repentance and reformation. In the Christian life men rise on "stepping-stones of their dead selves;" they grow in righteousness, and in holiness. But the Lord Jesus Christ, instead of doing as the normal "good" man might be expected to do — that is, take his place among sinners — separated Himself from them: "Suffer it to be so now, for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness." "Righteousness," among its many uses in the New Testament, means on occasions, (Matt.6.1, for example) the outward expression of the religious life. In submitting to his baptism the Lord set His seal to the ministry of John the Baptist, acknowledging him as a servant and messenger of God; but at the same time He as distinctly dissociated Himself from those who were baptised on confession of their sins. These words, as I understand them, are the Lord's own claim to sinlessness. He had no consciousness of sin. On the contrary, the words He spoke later, "I do always the things that are pleasing to Him," that is, to His Father, were as true of the silent years as of the years of public ministry, Jn.8.29; Lk.2.49,52.
Yet even this is not enough. Something is still lacking that the foundation of the faith may be well and truly laid. A self-satisfied man naturally assumes that God will be satisfied with him too. Some have claimed to be sinless who were merely self-complacent, Lk.18.9-14. What is lacking is promptly supplied. A voice is borne out of Heaven: "This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased." Jehovah, Who searches the hearts and tries the reins of men, bears His testimony to the moral perfection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Immediately the Spirit of God descended upon Him in the form of a dove, the emblem of purity. Thus on the banks of the Jordan the sinlessness of the Lord Jesus is established. The testimony is threefold: the observation of His character and conduct by men, the testimony of His own conscience, and the Voice of God borne out of Heaven. A threefold cord is not readily broken.
Not Jordan But Calvary
There is an implication of what I have been saying, of some practical importance, it is this:—
On the banks of the Jordan the Lord did not take upon Himself the burden of man’s guilt, nor did He in any sense become a sin-bearer there. That was reserved for the Cross. The difference between the life of our Lord Jesus and His death is this: in His life He lived in uninterrupted communion with God, but in His death that communion was interrupted. At Calvary judgment and darkness took the place of the sunshine of His Father's face.
Here then is a man unique in His character. He stands apart from all other men in this, that heredity has communicated no taint to Him. He is descended from Adam, indeed, but not "by ordinary generation." This brings me to the assertion of the Virgin Birth of the Lord Jesus. I will not dwell upon it more than to point out to you that Matt.1 and Lk.1 come to us on exactly the same authority as the rest of these two Gospels. The witnesses are independent each of the other; the stories are complementary; they do not cover the same ground, but each is necessary to the rounding out and completion of the other.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by D. S. Parrack (England)
PAPER 5 — "WHATSOEVER THINGS ARE LOVELY"
In considering this word "lovely" we must not confuse it in our minds with another one which may seem to us to be very close in meaning, the word "beautiful". The idea behind the word used by Paul here, and it is not used elsewhere in the N.T., is more concerned with the character of the person to whom it is applied. J.N.D. translates it as "amiable", but as that particular word has lost most of its potency in today's language the alternative "loveable" is much more meaningful for contemporary readers. So we are being encouraged to concentrate our thoughts on things, or more especially for us in the context of these notes on a Person, who is so prominently and attractively loveable, someone so desirable, that we are constrained to say, "draw me, we will run after Thee," S of S.1.4.
There are of course degrees of lovability in those able to attract us like that and sometimes our feelings may be affected by particular circumstances. Most of us for instance would probably find it difficult to understand how it was that David, in the intensity of losing his close friend Jonathan could say that "Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives," 2Sam.1.23. Jonathan might seem to us to have had such loveable characteristics, but that could not easily be said to have been the case with Saul. We can all though feel totally in accord with the reply of the one who was asked "What is thy beloved more than another beloved?" What makes him so special? Following a long and detailed catalogue of his attributes, she sums them all up by saying, "Yea he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved and this is my friend," (see S of S.5.16). Although it was quite possible that one or more of the earlier things mentioned might be true of other individuals, of no-one else could it be said that "he is altogether lovely," i.e. with no blemish, no shortcomings, no failure in reaching the pinnacle of personal attractiveness and lovability.
There should be of course, and we are encouraged as believers to develop it, a natural affection within families (see e.g. Eph.5.25), the Scriptures showing which ways such love ought to be evidenced even in external family circles (see e.g. Eph.6.1-2; 4-8 and 1Tim.5.4). In such situations though we are not so much to be concerned with the lovability of others, as with our love for and responsibility to them. There, to divert a little from the main thrust of this consideration, is where the Lord Jesus is so totally different from us. Paul, in discussing the failures of even moralising mankind, includes them being "without natural affections," Rom.1.31, so there was no acceptance of such responsibility even in ordinary human relationships. When considering the Lord Jesus however, to our individual and personal benefit, it was "when we were yet without strength — while we were yet sinners," i.e. when we were utterly unlovable and had no claim on Him, that "Christ died for the ungodly — Christ died for us (see Rom.5.6-8). That certainly was, as the hymn-writer puts it:
- ‘Love to the loveless shown
- ‘That they might lovely be’
To revert to our original line of thought though, what of the Lord Jesus as the one Person capable, by His very character and because of His outreaching love, of drawing our affection to Himself? We must not confuse the heart response that such an attractive love should elicit from us, with just some feeling of sentimentality. If you think that that could just not be possible, see what Ezekiel has to say about those who were, nominally at least, "My (i.e. God's) people, (see Ezek.33.31). They recognised that what the prophet was saying was "The word that cometh forth from the Lord," v30, and indeed encouraged one another to go and hear what was being said, but "they hear thy words but they will not do them," v31. As far as a genuine response was concerned it was simply not there. Even though "thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument — they hear thy words but they do them not," v32. Whatever loveliness they were conscious of in Ezekiel's words from God, reached only to their ears, not to their hearts. As a result "with their mouths they show much love," v31, but that was as far as it went.
Well, you may say, that might have been true of the Israelites but surely it couldn't happen to believers in the gospel era. What about the church at Ephesus then? They had "borne — (had) patience — laboured — not fainted. Nevertheless," they had to be told, "thou hast left thy first love," Rev.2.3-4. The lovable drawing power of the Lord Jesus was no longer a factor in their lives as once it had been. What too about the church at Laodicea. What was it that they lacked? Not money, "I am rich," nor possessions, "(I am) increased with goods." Those were the things that now occupied their attention, so much so that "I have need of nothing." But what, apparently without realising it, did they really need? "Gold tried in the fire — white raiment." Was that really it? Yes, but not just any refined gold, any fine raiment, they already had plenty of those things. It must only be what was given when responding to the appeal "I counsel thee to buy of me." In other words it was the source that mattered which is why the third ingredient "eyesalve, that thou mightest see" (see Rev.3.17-18), was essential if they were to realise the real truth of things.
If we could only see the inherent total attractiveness, the lovability, of the Lord Jesus, if we could only be totally conscious of the full drawing power of His very character and personality, we would be weaned away from all other sources from which we thought we might be able to obtain complete and enduring fulfilment and satisfaction. So when Paul refers to "whatsoever things are lovely" remember that they can only be found in fullness in relation to the Lord Jesus, the one so total and complete in Himself that we can be assured by the Scriptures that "in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily," Col.2.9. A contemplation of just what is involved in that statement will exercise and occupy your mind and increasingly draw out your affection through all eternity.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by James B. Currie (Japan)
CHAPTER NINE: THE SPIRITUAL SANCTUARY
The fact that the words ‘sanctuary’ or ‘tabernacle’ appear a total of seven times in this chapter of Hebrews gives ample reason for the use of the designation above. Further, some detailed explanations are given in regard to tabernacle furniture and service. There is absolutely nothing demeaning in the comments made about the tabernacle even though, contrasted to the true and heavenly, it must be deemed "a sanctuary of this world," 9.1. While the tabernacle and its furnishings are "a continual parable of eternal realities" they were pictures of limited access, restricted persons and inadequate sacrifices. "The greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands," 9.11, is presented in complete distinction to all of that. This ‘heavenly sanctuary’ also reflects the glory of the High Priest who ministers there.
Carefully considered the chapter, in contrasting the ‘earthly’ and the ‘heavenly’ holy places, appears to deal with five related subjects;
- 1. The Regulations Are Described, v1-5:
- 2. The Limitations Are Acknowledged, v6-10:
- 3. The Superlatives Are Emphasized, v11-14:
- 4. The Imperatives Are Explained, v15-22:
- 5. The Purpose Is Accomplished, v23-28.
V1 - 5: Heavenly parables attending earthly ritual:
To speak of a ‘worldly (earthly) sanctuary’ is to remind the readers that all the materials of that wonderful tabernacle were, after all, simply of the earth. It may speak of heavenly things but its composition was that of this earth. Additionally, it was linked to ‘the first covenant’ which has been declared by God obsolete. Nevertheless, it is to be recognized as an analogy of that which is heavenly and permanent. These verses have to do with the tabernacle itself which had the two compartments, ‘the holy place’ and ‘the holiest of all.’ In the first of these there were ‘the candlestick (lamp stand) and the table on which was "bread set forth in rows".’ In that which was beyond ‘the second veil,’ in the holiest of all, there were "the golden censer, the ark of the covenant which had within the golden pot of manna, Aaron’s rod that budded and the tables of the covenant." Over the ark of the covenant, as part of the ‘lid of atonement’ or ‘spreading over the mercy seat’ were ‘the cherubim of glory.’ Of these individual articles nothing is said other than that they were ‘a figure (illustration) for the time then present,’ v9. The author does mention the fact that much more could be said, especially, of the ‘cherubim of glory’ but rather than go into the details of these figures he, by the Spirit, chooses to speak more of the sacrifice made on the Day of Atonement at which time the high priest of Israel was able to enter into the holiest of all. Four in number the cherubim seem to be one of the highest ranks of angelical beings. Called ‘the living creatures’ they are linked with the chariot throne of God and are part of that representation of the shekinah glory (See Ezek. ch.1 and 10). To the uncomprehending minds of men the cherubim are set forth ‘in the likeness’ of various things. "The likeness of a man;" The likeness of their faces that of ‘a man,’ ‘a lion,’ ‘an ox’ and ‘an eagle.’ Their likeness was "like burning coals of fire" and as they ran their appearance was as ‘a flash of lightning.’ Is it any wonder that with these, and many other ‘likenesses’ given, we are told "of which we cannot now speak in detail!" In their essential beings, though, these ‘living creatures’ are a majestic portrayal of the Lord Jesus in His priestly link with the throne of Glory. Because of His gracious ministry the ineffable character of this throne spoken of here has become ‘the mercy seat’ and as such ‘the throne of grace.’
V6-10: Priestly ministry marked by inferiority:
The emphasis in these verses is that of the Day of Atonement when the high priestly ministry reached its most solemn, and yet its most glorious point. The tabernacle having been erected, according to "the pattern shown Moses in the mount" and all of the necessary pieces of furniture in place, the priests went about their daily ministration in and out of the Holy Place. Only on one occasion each year was this routine interrupted. On this special day the high priest offered a bullock for himself and kinsmen and a goat for "the errors of the people." The meaning here is "for the sins of the people committed in ignorance through human frailty." What a day of tenseness and expectation that must have been. It signified that a way into the presence of God was not available for the people individually and, since the ritual was repeated yearly thereby showing its ineffectiveness, it gave no real quietness to the conscience. These rites were linked to various other regulations governing eating, drinking and, probably, ceremonial washings for the priests. They were but ceremonies or rituals having to do with the physical. Their purpose was, in the time to come, to set the people of God on the right path. The innate limitations of these ordinances are only too clear.
Often a problem surfaces with regards to v4. Of the ‘holiest of all’ it is said "which had the golden censer." Some translators prefer ‘golden altar’ here but it is unmistakable from Exod.30.6 that the golden altar was not set within the second veil. It seems preferable to leave the words as they are in the KJV. This is supported by JND’s New Translation and others. If we keep in mind that the emphasis in Hebrews is centred on the Day of Atonement then the supposed inconsistency fades away. On that special day, and only on that day, the high priest entered the holiest of all with incense taken from off the golden altar and carried in a censer. Further the words ‘which had’ have the meaning of ‘which pertained to.’ Certainly the offerings of incense from before the second veil were intrinsically connected to the holiest of all particularly on that one high and holy day.
V11-14: The once-for-all offering displaying perfection:
At the commencement of their civil year the nation of Israel celebrated two very important feasts. The first of these, on the tenth day of the first month, was the Day of Atonement which is still the subject of these verses. On the fifteenth day of the month the Feast of Tabernacles was observed. The first of these was a day of solemn soul searching and fasting. The second festival was one of song and joy. Regardless of the importance of these activities they were linked with that tabernacle now done away with and which was of the present earth. Our Lord Jesus has become "a high priest of good things to come" and they are linked to the "greater and more perfect tabernacle" which is not of this creation. Because of variant manuscript readings there is an interesting change made in the words of this verse. The change, sometimes found in the margins of our Bibles, reads, "Christ being come a high priest of good things already come." This is interesting and attractive since it tells us that the results of the work of Christ, linked as they are to the heavenly sanctuary, are already obtained. The contrast being made in v12 is that of the high priest’s offerings, both for himself and for the people, with that of our High Priest. Under the old order what was offered was "the blood of goats and calves" but our Lord Jesus entered into the greater sanctuary by virtue of the intrinsic value of "His own blood." His life, which was of infinite worth was offered up through death. In the epistle the blood of Christ is mentioned seven times but here, in a significant manner, we are reminded of what it cost for redemption’s work to be procured. The ‘for us’ of the KJV is better omitted since the fruits of this redemption are far greater than all the many blessings we do and will yet enjoy.
It is not only the sacrifices of the Day of Atonement that suffered by way of comparison with the once-for-all offering of the Lord Jesus. The inclusion of the words "the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean" point to the ordinance of "the red heifer" in Num.19. This suggests that the whole range of animal sacrifices are also being brought to mind. Whatever these were able to accomplish by way of "sanctifying to the purifying of the flesh," and this was ceremonial at best, the blood of Christ accomplishes much more. For the worshipper’s conscience to be purged from those works that belong to the realm of death the blood of Christ is superlatively effective which the former sacrifices certainly were not. Note how the Godhead is involved in this transcendent work of redemption. Christ offered Himself without spot to God and did so by the eternal Spirit. It has been well said that the Lord Jesus accomplished every phase of His ministry by the power of the Holy Spirit. No less than by the eternal Spirit was His death achieved.
V15-22: Legal demands establishing necessity:
This section forms a sort of parenthesis calculated to show how necessary the death of the one covenanting really is. As mentioned at an earlier point the word testament does not lend itself to clear exposition. In actual fact ‘testament’ here is exactly the same word as ‘covenant’ as found in ch.8. The law of God has been broken and only death can bring about redemption. By means of His death the Lord Jesus has become the covenanting One of the new covenant. This He did in order that those who are called would receive the promises of the inheritance something that could never have been brought about under the terms of the first one. The principle is clearly stated. The death of the covenanting one is necessary if the covenant is to be effectuated. It is of no value while the ‘mediator’ is alive. The meaning of the words "blood of sprinkling," 12.24, is hinted at here. First of all, Moses’ action and words, at the time of the establishment of the former covenant, show that death was absolutely imperative. All pertaining to the tabernacle, including the people, was sprinkled with blood. Indeed, there was but one special exception to the ‘purging with blood’ under the law. For those who could afford nothing more, there was a ‘dry’ sin offering consisting of a tenth part of an ephah of fine flour. According to Lev.5 this was accepted. Otherwise there was no remission of sins, that is, no cancelling out of sin’s guilt.
V23-28: Divine appearances perfecting salvation:
The tabernacle and its furnishings, being a ‘pattern’ (or an example) of heavenly things had to be purified with the prescribed sacrifices but the heavenly themselves called for ‘better sacrifices.’ Not that the things in the heavens needed to be purified but a holy way of access had to be based on an offering far superior to those of the earlier day. The sanctuary into which the Lord Jesus has entered is the true holy place and there He now appears in the presence of God for us. He does not so enter on a yearly basis. If that had been needed it would have shown that His sacrifice also was ineffectual demanding a ‘continual sacrifice’ as, to this day in stupendous error, the Romanists teach. While it is true that the Lord Jesus appeared "when the fullness of the times was come" it is even of deeper import to realize that it was His coming into the world and His death that brought the ages to their fulfilment. Once in the end of the ages He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. That is to say, all the ages have been gathered up for fulfilment in the counsels of God by the redemptive work of Christ.
After functioning in the holiest of all on the Day of Atonement the high priest appeared and so the expectations of the nation, for that year at least, were brought to completion. What a collective sigh of relief must have been uttered by the people and what joy as well. This was not a certain result on every such occasion since there were stringent conditions to be met by their representative. But Christ, having borne away the sins of the many, will, without any measure of doubt whatsoever, appear a second time. He will do so, unto those who look or wait for Him, apart from sin unto salvation. He appeared the first time to bear our sins away. He now appears as our advocate before the Father in the heavenlies. Soon He will appear a second time and it will be without any relationship to sin whatsoever. We "who love His appearing" may not be truly united in everything but we are completely at one when the longing cry arises "even so, come, Lord Jesus."
—to be concluded (D.V.)
by W. W. Fereday
THE GIRDLE OF THE EPHOD
Ex.28 contains the divine instructions concerning the High Priest’s robes; Ex.39 shows how the instructions were carried out. In comparing these portions one is impressed with this thought — the carefulness of the people to carry out the will of God to the very letter. "As Jehovah commanded Moses," occurs seven times in connection with the robes alone, and many more times in connection with the Tabernacle in general. The principle of human choice and opinion in divine things had no place in the minds of Israel’s workers; God had spoken, and it was their desire to be obedient to His word in every particular. Let us note this fact well as an example for ourselves today.
Following the ephod, we read of the curious girdle of the ephod, which was made of the same materials as the ephod itself, v8. The girdle is the emblem of service, compare Lk.12.37; 17.8. When we consider what the gold, purple, etc., mean as typifying the Deity, royalty etc., of our Lord Jesus, the thought is overwhelming that such an One could possibly constitute Himself the servant of His people. But it is true, nevertheless, so wonderful is His grace. The form of a bond-servant, taken by Him in incarnation, will never be laid aside. He was not only the unwearied servant of all in the days of His humiliation but, like the Hebrew servant of Ex.21, He had purposed to be servant for ever. Accordingly He ministers on our behalf in the heavenly sanctuary during our earthly pilgrimage; and Lk.12.37 lets us know that when He gets His waiting ones home it will be His joy to gird Himself, and make them sit down to meat and come forth and serve them. Do we appreciate as we should the matchless grace of our Lord Jesus Christ?
We have next the shoulder-pieces, v9-13. On these were two onyx-stones, with the names of Israel’s tribes engraved upon them, six on each stone. The shoulder is the place of power. Hence the good Shepherd lays His once-lost sheep on His shoulder, and brings it home rejoicing, Lk.15.5. In Ps.28.9 we read, "Save Thy people, and bless Thine inheritance: feed them also, and bear them up for ever." R.V. Every saint is thus remembered by the Great High Priest, and is sustained by His power, victorious as it is over all the might of Satan and of death. Merit has nothing to do with this; it is all of grace alone. The names of Israel’s tribes were engraved "according to their birth." Ex.28.10. Thus Reuben stood first, and Joseph and Benjamin came last. Reuben’s appalling failure was not suffered to affect God’s thoughts of grace, though it necessarily brought him under His holy hand in discipline, Gen.49.3,4. If Christ only interested Himself in those who are worthy of His interest, where would even the best of us stand?
The names were cut into the stones "with the work of an engraver in stone, like the engraving of a signet." The names must neither be written nor painted, but cut deeply and indelibly. The stones were then "set in ouches of gold." The names upon the stones were thus ineffaceable, and the stones themselves could never fall out of their place. The realization of this type is exceedingly blessed. Paul in all his weakness and need in the Roman prison was so consciously upheld by the power of Christ that he was enabled to pen those marvellous words, "I can do all things in Him that strengtheneth me." R.V. The fact that he had a living Saviour in the glory of God gave the word "impossible" no place in his vocabulary. Hear him again in 2Cor.12.9,10, smarting under the infliction of the thorn in the flesh, he thrice besought the Lord that it might depart from him. This could not be, but he was given this sweet assurance, "My grace is sufficient for thee; for My strength is made perfect in weakness." The thought of this was so delightful to his heart that he immediately responded, "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then am I strong."
—to be continued (D.V.)
By J. E. Todd (England)
5. ADOPTED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT
"God sent forth His Son … To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father," Gal.4.4-6.
Adoption is the means whereby a person who by natural birth is not a member of a particular family is received into that family. Adoption is the name of that transaction. By our natural birth we are sinners outside the family of God. We, repentant and believing sinners, have become members of God’s family by our new birth. "But as many as received Him (the Lord Jesus Christ), to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name," Jn.1.12.
We are not by nature children of God, we must become children of God. "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus," Gal.3.26. The idea that everyone is a child of God is perhaps the most widespread of all the false ideas in the religious world. This is the result of infant baptism, with its false teaching of baptismal regeneration. When Jesus addressed the unbelieving crowds, He said, "Ye are of your father the devil," Jn.8.44.
In the case of the believer, being adopted into the family of God is more than a figure of speech. Because the believer is actually born into the family of God, and thus we read that we are, "partakers of the divine nature," 2Pet.1.4. It is a second birth, it is to be born again. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." Jn.3.6. There is this big difference between natural adoption and spiritual adoption" — in spiritual adoption we become recipients of the nature of our Father. Therefore the believer, and the believer alone, can truly address the Almighty Creator as Father! "Ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God," Rom.8.15-16.
We have become children of God by adoption by the Holy Spirit.
6. BAPTISED IN THE HOLY SPIRIT
John the Baptist was the first to speak of baptism in the Holy Spirit. "I indeed baptise you with water … He shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost and with fire," Lk.3.16. John’s baptism was for repentance, by immersing the people in the river Jordan. It was an outward sign that the candidates had repented of their sins and desired to have them washed away. But, John said, One greater than himself, even the Messiah, would perform the true work of regeneration by the Holy Spirit. "Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, the same is He which baptiseth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God," Jn.1.33-34. Thus John portrays a parallel between an outward symbolic sign of repentance by means of water and the inward true reality of regeneration by means of the Holy Spirit. By which the regenerated individuals are gathered into the divine ‘garner’ of the church, and so are separate from the ‘chaff’ of the unregenerate. "The chaff He will burn with fire unquenchable," Lk.3.17. And so Paul said, "John verily baptised with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on Him which should come after Him, that is, on Christ Jesus," Acts 19.4.
At conversion, the Holy Spirit is received and we are in the good of the event which took place in Acts 2. Peter said, "These (Gentiles) … which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we (Jews)," Acts 10.47. In recounting this incident before the church at Jerusalem, Peter said, "And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the Word of the Lord, how that He said, John indeed baptised with water; but ye shall be baptised with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as He did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?" Acts 11.15-17.
This is confirmed in 1Cor.12.13, "For by one Spirit are we all baptised into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and we have been all made to drink into one Spirit." Baptism in the Holy Spirit is again linked with receiving the Holy Spirit. But furthermore we have in this Scripture one of the purposes of the work of the Holy Spirit in the experience of the believer. The Holy Spirit dwells within each believer to join all to their Head, the Lord Jesus Christ. The believers themselves also become a spiritual unity, all indwelt by the same Spirit. "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ," v12.
The baptism in the Holy Spirit unifies the church of Christ, His body.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by Walter A. Boyd (N. Ireland)
Having seen that Christ is now "higher than the heavens" and "far above all," we should be more diligently concerned with things that are heavenly in character. None of us would deny that our occupation with heavenly things and with our great High Priest, is not always what it ought to be. How blessed it is to be assured that the Lord Jesus is especially concerned with the needs of His people on earth, even though we are marked by failure — indeed, because we are marked by failure! He is presently appearing before God on our behalf. Thus we can approach Him and bring to Him all our problems. Since His priesthood is based upon His deity as well as His humanity, He is never overwhelmed by the complexity, multiplicity, and variety of our needs; He is able to deal with each one.
He is a "merciful and faithful High Priest," Heb.2.17: "merciful" to us in our weakness, and "faithful" to God in His righteousness. The sympathy that He now extends to His weary people is based upon His own experience while here upon earth, "For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted," Heb.2.18. We shall never find ourselves in a situation that is beyond His capability. If sorrow fills your heart and the tears of grief flow freely, what a solace it is to know that there were times on earth when His heart was convulsed with grief and His eyes were wet with tears. He never experienced sorrow regarding weakness on His own part; but He saw weakness and failure in suffering humanity all around Him. He is not only our High Priest, but also our constant Guide, Protector and Companion. In a word, He is sufficient for every problem that arises along the journey of life.
Not only is our great High Priest concerned with our problems, He is also associated with our praises. His priesthood is based upon the offering of Himself as a sufficient sacrifice at Calvary — a once-for-all offering that needs no repetition or supplementation. The sacrifice with which He is now concerned is the sacrifice of praise being offered by His people — the fruit of our lips, Heb.13.15. All our worship constitutes a sacrifice to God. It comes from the heart, but it must be expressed audibly with the lips. Our praise is offered by Him, who is our High Priest. If it is committed into His hands, in spite of all the imperfections that characterise our worship it will be acceptable to God. By virtue of what He is in Himself, our worship will be made suitable to be received by a holy God, and will become a sacrifice which pleases Him well.
Our great High Priest is also concerned with His promise to return. He Himself said "I will come again and receive you unto Myself," Jn.14.3. His coming to receive us unto Himself will be undertaken personally. He will not send an angel. He ascended personally, and He will return personally — "The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven …", 1Thess.4.16. He will return in the same humanity as He ascended: His coming will not be spiritual, but physical and personal. Only His own saw Him ascend; the world saw nothing of Him after His resurrection. His coming will be private also. The promise was given to His followers; and at the rapture He will return specifically for His followers. In the purpose of God, the present ministry of our great High Priest is working toward that goal. When He ascended on high, God said "Sit thou at my right hand until …", Ps.110.2. That "until" will end at the moment on the Divine calendar when the enthroned Lord rises to bring the church home to heaven. After that the hand of God will begin to move against the enemies of the risen Christ, bringing terrible days of tribulation to the earth.
Take courage, dear child of God — "He that shall come, will come, and will not tarry," Heb.10.27. He will not delay! In the meantime, take all your problems promptly to Him, and look forward with confidence to the fulfilment of His promised return for you.
by Ian W. Gibson (Winnipeg, Canada)
In Eph.2.10, we read that as believers in the Lord Jesus, and thus members of the Church, which is the Body of Christ, "we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works," this being a pre-ordained walk that God has in view for every member of the Body. It is helpful to briefly put this verse into the context of the chapter and the epistle.
In the opening verses of ch.2, Paul writes about what the Ephesians were before salvation. These believers who are now so wonderfully "blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places in Christ," 1.3, and who are walking this divinely pre-ordained pathway of good works, were those who were spiritually "dead in trespasses and sins," v1. And Paul really equates unbelieving Gentiles, v2, and unbelieving Jews, v3, as being no less than a product of satanic workmanship. In v2, "ye (Gentiles) walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit (an evil satanic spirit) that now worketh in the children of disobedience." In v3, "Among whom also we (unbelieving Jews) …", equally a product of that same satanic workmanship.
But in v4, there has been divine intervention, "But God …"; God is now working, here is the divine workmanship of v10. It required the working of the mighty power of God to effect any blessing from such apparent hopelessness. Paul has been praying in ch1 that we might know of this, v19 "what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power." This divine power was operating in Christ to raise Him out from the dead, and to exalt Him to the highest place in heaven, "far above all," 1.21. It is only through the effectual operation of the same mighty power of God, in all its exceeding greatness toward us, that those who were morally and spiritually dead, and controlled by an evil satanic spirit, could be blessed at all. He has intervened not only in His mighty power, but also in accordance with the riches of His mercy, and the greatness of His love, to bless those who were dead in sins. Jew and Gentile have been made alive spiritually together with Christ, raised up together, and now seated together in heavenly places in Christ, v5-6. What wonderful blessings these are for every believer in Christ to enjoy presently; God has worked to take us from wretched hopelessness to such spiritual blessedness. And there is even greater future blessing ahead, as God will continue working towards an eternal display of His goodness, v7, "That in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus."
In v8-9, Paul would have us further appreciate that this immensity of spiritual blessing linked with salvation is not the product of human workmanship, for it is all of God, and not of ourselves at all. "For by grace are ye saved through faith," that is it is all God’s unmerited favour toward us, by His grace, for all we deserved was to be left in the place of spiritual death. It is God’s gift to us, we take no personal credit, for it is "not of yourselves: it is the gift of God." To further emphasise our own morally degenerate condition and worthlessness as sinners before a holy God, we read in v9, "Not of works, lest any man should boast." There is no spiritual blessing that is the product of such human workmanship, for "To him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt," Rom.4.4. The Gentile prided himself in works of the flesh, the Jew prided himself in the works of the law (law-keeping). But neither Jew nor Gentile has any ground for boasting or pride, all such boasting and human workmanship are excluded.
But v10 confirms that the Christian’s spiritual blessing is exclusively the product of divine workmanship, and according to His sovereign purpose. "For we (believing Jews and Gentiles who comprise the Church, the Body of Christ) are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus." This is God’s great masterpiece of new creation. This is the sovereign working of God in new creation, and when God works it is always a complete and perfect work. In the new creation, it is not a process of our reformation, but of our regeneration; "if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God," 2Cor.5.17-18; it is exclusively a divine work. We all readily appreciate the wonder of divine workmanship in the creation of old, how that it all declares the glory and majesty of God; God could view it all and say it was "very good." Let us, as the saints of God, also appreciate this further expression of divine workmanship, the wonder and glory of God’s new creation, and the dignity of what we have been brought into through God’s great salvation. We are those upon whom God has set His purpose, He has taken us from the gutter of sin, and He has made us something for His pleasure and glory. We are forming part of that which is His masterpiece, His masterly design; we are created anew according to a beautiful design; we are a new creation in Christ Jesus. What tremendous truth and blessing this is.
And let us also appreciate just what the Church, the Body of Christ, means specifically to Christ, the exalted Head. For as part of this divine purpose and workmanship, God has set before the members of the Body a pathway to walk in, a pre-ordained walk characterised by "good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." Here is a spiritual pathway that we are to walk, a pathway that is consistent with the fact that we are God’s workmanship, a pathway of "good works" that gives expression to the beautiful design that God has purposed for us. Good works are not the means of salvation, v9, but these "good works" in v10 are to be a necessary expression and evidence of our salvation. This is what God has purposed, and this is what motivated Christ to give Himself for us, "Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works," Tit.2.14.
When we think of ‘good works,’ we think instinctively of showing kindness, caring for others, being generous, helping people less fortunate, sacrificing much for others etc. All of which is most laudable, and worthy behaviour of any who profess the Name of Christ. But we have to accept that such good works wrought upon mankind are also performed by many who are unregenerate, those who have not the Spirit of Christ within them, who are not part of the new creation in Christ. Human workmanship is capable of tremendous acts of philanthropy, and it does undoubtedly have an appeal to the human flesh. We would never criticise any for such works wrought upon mankind; but in context, Eph.2.10 has in view spiritual good works wrought by the Church which is His Body, good works that are wrought upon Christ the Head.
Those who have been so blessed by God’s salvation, who are part of this new creation in Christ, taken out of spiritual death, quickened and raised and seated with Christ in heavenly places, members of the Church, the Body of Christ, are those who will have desires to minister to Christ the Head. God’s salvation is to bring us to where the woman of Mk.14 was brought; "she hath wrought a good work upon Me," Mk.14.6. This woman displayed her love and appreciation for Christ, as she anointed Him with the very precious spikenard. Others in the house were unimpressed, considering it a great waste, but it was greatly appreciated by Christ, it was a spiritual good work wrought upon Him. The Lord says that "Wheresover this gospel shall be preached, throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her," Mk.14.9. May this woman’s example guide our walk and our steps in this world; let us endeavour to diligently walk this pre-ordained path of good works that God has purposed for believers who are created in Christ Jesus, a walk that befits those who are His workmanship.
Furthermore, the Church which is the Body of Christ is expressed in local companies of believers. Thus we read of the local company in Corinth, "Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular," 1Cor.12.27. Literally, "… ye are body of Christ …"; the definite article being omitted indicating the local assembly is characteristic of the Body of Christ. So then, we must see the local assembly as the place, here on earth, of Christ’s rejection, where there will be abundant evidence of such spiritual good works. It is the local assembly where there ought to be bright testimony for Christ, and appropriate appreciation of Him who is the exalted and glorified Head of the Church. When every first day of the week dawns, believers in local assembly fellowship are motivated to remember the Lord in His own appointed way. We are motivated, not by ritual or tradition, but by a desire to show appreciation for Christ, to give something to Him, even the sacrifice of our praise, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His Name. These are the spiritual good works of new creation, prompted not by the standards of men, but only by the indwelling Spirit of God, and reflecting this great truth that "we are His workmanship."
by Dennis O'Hare (France)
The Royal Navy of the 1950’s would seem to be the most unlikely place to hear the Gospel. Yet it was in the goodness of God that I heard the message of salvation a few months after joining the Navy in 1958.
I grew up in a Roman Catholic home in the south of England, as a child I was taught the importance of being loyal to the Church but I had other thoughts when I left home, soon to be fascinated by the world of radio communications and life in the Navy. In January 1959 I was injured in a car crash, with blood streaming from what turned out to be superficial head injuries, the question came to me: Where would I be if I had died in that crash?
Shortly after this my father died, at the cemetery the priest conducted the funeral and on returning to the house I asked one of my brothers; Where’s Dad now? The answer was abrupt and embarrassed: In the graveyard with his friends!
By now I was deeply concerned and thought that I would find the answer in the Bible — a book I knew nothing about so I decided to go and see the Anglican chaplain, for we had always been taught that the Bible was a Protestant book. He was of no help and I wondered if anyone could be certain of going to heaven and have peace with God. A few months previously I had attended a mass for the rest of the soul of Pope Pious XII who had just died, even though I thought that if the Pope needed to be prayed for, then there was little hope for me.
One of the instructors in the Signal School had recently been saved himself and when I spoke to him he offered to take me to Portsmouth to hear something that would interest me. As I listened to the preaching of the Gospel in the Copnor Road Gospel Hall, Portsmouth, I wondered if the preacher had not been informed of my questions but this was impossible and I realised that only God could have known some of my unvoiced thoughts.
The following weeks were times of discovery and one evening in April 1959, alone in a room at the Signal School and thinking about the Gospel, I simply rested on the finished work of Christ and trusted the promises of God, that "he that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life."
This was followed by baptism and as faithful brethren taught the young Christians the meaning of being gathered to the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ outside the camp, it was a privilege and a joy to be received into fellowship in the summer of 1959.
The harsh life on warships were times of testing and encouragement, it was a rich field of service. Twice brethren spoke to me about the suitability for a believer to be in the Armed Forces. On one occasion the ship was in Scotland and I was spending the weekend with a young sailor at the assembly where Robert McPheat was in fellowship. When he raised the issue of conscientious objection, I pointed out that the young seaman with me had heard the Gospel and got saved onboard a frigate in the Persian Gulf and would never have set foot in a Gospel Hall. However after nearly eight years in the Navy, God showed me that my place was not there and in 1966 I requested and obtained a discharge on the grounds of conscientious objection.
Both my wife and I had an exercise about the Moslems. North Africa came to mind and it was my intention to obtain a teaching diploma and in a self supporting way labour in one of those lands. But it was not to be. One morning I was reading in Heb.10 and two verses impressed themselves on me, "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith," v22; then in v38, "Now the just shall live by faith, but if any man draw back, My soul shall have no pleasure in him." I had a project, all was calculated and there was no room for faith. I spoke to the brethren in the assembly about my exercise and in September 1967 we were commended to the Lord for the work. We moved to France as I was advised that it was essential that I mastered French before going any further. However it was increasingly evident that we would not be able to go any further and God kept us in France to serve Him in the Gospel in this land. We live down near the Spanish border and I am able to make regular visits to North Africa seeking to help Arab believers and also do a little in the Gospel in that area. France is a needy and difficult field, both in the Gospel and also in the assembly testimony and it is sad that many fail to see the importance of separation in relation to the various unscriptural evangelical denominations.
But God is faithful and we esteem it a privilege to serve Him in this corner of the harvest field as we wait for His coming.
Most people live for the present and for passing pleasure. The places of amusement and entertainment are full to capacity as young and old alike seek a good night’s pleasure and what they call ‘fun’. It cannot be denied that there is an amount of pleasure in sin. In fact, the Bible states this clearly. Hebrews 11.25 speaks of, "the pleasures of sin for a season." Note the governing phrase, "for a season."
This verse is contained in a summary of the life of the mighty man Moses, the great leader of the nation of Israel. He came to a point when he had to make a choice and the whole quotation reads, "Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season." This seems a very strange choice. He could have had all the glory of Egypt. He was the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter and thus reared as an Egyptian prince. The choice was stark. Take sides with the slave nation of Israel and all their severe persecution or have the ‘high life’ of the royal palace. Many would say there is no decision to be made and that the path is very clear. Whoever would choose slavery over the opulence of the palace?
What was it that made Moses make the seemingly illogical choice? Please underline again the words, "for a season." Moses had his eyes firmly focused upon that which was lasting and eternal. When we introduce the thought of eternity into our thinking all becomes so different. Do we want passing, fleeting and transient pleasure or pleasure that is eternal?
Some may say I would love the latter, but where is it to be found? This is answered by the Psalmist in Psalm 16.11, "Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore." Another has translated the final phrase as "an eternity of enjoyments." What a prospect — in God’s presence, with God’s pleasures!
Now ask the question again, "Why did Moses make this choice?" and the answer is very clear and logical. How could any sane person choose time and passing pleasure over eternity and everlasting pleasure?
The question that needs to be addressed is, "How can I be sure that I will have this endless, eternal pleasure?" We cannot have it if our sins remain unforgiven since sin and God cannot dwell together. Thus it is recorded in Psalm 5.4, "For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee." God gets no pleasure in judging a sinner and condemning such to eternal fire. Thus we read in Ezekiel 33.11, "… As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die …?"
The answer is found in another Man who brought infinite pleasure to God in His life because He was sinless and similar pleasure in His death because He died so that others could be righteously saved. This Man was God’s own beloved Son. God opened heaven and declared, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Matthew 3.17. However, it was in His death on the cross at Calvary that God’s justice was satisfied and when the Lord Jesus Christ cried, "It is finished," the way to eternal pleasure was opened to all who will receive Him as their own Saviour. "Christ died for our sins," 1Corinthians 15.3. "He was wounded for our transgressions," Isaiah 53.5.
If you want the eternal rather than the temporal then heed the words of Acts 16.31, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." The alternative choice is brought into focus in the words of God’s Son in Mark 8.36, "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"
What do you think Moses would say if you could ask him now if his decision was correct?
"This is my belovèd and this is my friend," SofS.5.16
by Roy Reynolds, N Ireland
(Tune: How great Thou art)
- Eternal Word, whose being ne’er began,
- The Son of God, He and the Father One,
- Greatness unsearchable, too vast to scan
- To Him pertains, who is the Father’s Son.
- Unfailing source of all the Father’s pleasure,
- In grace He stooped, my Saviour to become
- O gift divine, whose worth we cannot measure,
- Forth from the Father, He to earth did come.
- God spared Him not, though ‘only begotten’ He
- The sin of the world must on the Lamb be laid.
- He took my place and I’m forever free,
- "It is finished" at last He loudly said.
- O can I e’er forget that thorn-wreathed head
- That marrèd face, His piercèd hands and feet.
- To save my soul, His blood He freely shed.
- O love divine — no story is more sweet.
- His Glory I shall soon with wonder see
- And gaze upon His beauty ne’er to fade;
- My grateful heart shall praise eternally
- Him, who for my salvation, sin was made.
- He gave Himself for me — what can I give?
- My all, before such love, so poor appears.
- O let me for His glory daily live
- For Him be spent my swiftly-passing years.
He has truly learned who hath learned to forsake his own will and to delight in the will of God. — Donald Ross
If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.
The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
Show me Thy ways, O Lord; teach me Thy paths.
I will put my trust in Him.
- We often say our prayers,
- But do we really pray?
- Or do the wishes of our heart
- Go with the words we say?
- For words without the heart
- The Lord will never hear,
- Nor will He to the one impart
- Whose prayers are not sincere
- I cannot always understand
- The way God leadeth me;
- The why and when and wherefore
- Are oft a mystery;
- But in His wisdom I can trust,
- I know His way is best;
- His heart knows no unkindness,
- And on His love I rest.