Nehemiah was a man who served King Artaxerxes in the land of Persia. He said of himself, "I was the king’s cupbearer" 1.11. This was more than being a waiter or a butler in the royal court. It denoted an office of high rank and allowed him to have access to the royal presence as well as being party to many confidential matters of state.
One would think that for a man in such a position, with every luxury of life, the condition of his captive nation away in the rased city of Jerusalem would be of little concern. However, when he heard the report, 1.3, "The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire" it caused great heaviness of heart. He had a real burden about the battered people; the broken wall and the burned gates.
Well may we bring this alongside our own lives and ask where our priorities lie? Many consider if their job or business is prospering, their family is well educated and material blessings abound, then the main object of life has been achieved. The people of God and their state; the walls and their separation; the gates and their security are all secondary. Yet for Nehemiah these matters were of prime and paramount importance.
We live in a day when many of the saints are in captivity to materialism and worldliness and their spirituality is swept away by the desire to have more things that are merely temporal. The walls of separation are broken down. Professing Christians know as much, and sometimes more, about sports events, the stock market, latest fashions and so on, as do the unsaved. Even in gospel activity, methods used are more in keeping with high-powered business and slick sales seminars than with the apostolic preaching as outlined in the Acts. In a former day, the gates of the assembly were controlled by spiritual men who examined all who entered. The increasing acceptance of the unscriptural practice of open table reception is proof that the gates are greatly damaged. Do these matters cause any concern? They will to the spiritual.
What did Nehemiah do? His reaction is given in v4, "And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven." He wept and mourned, which displayed his sorrow. He fasted which showed his sacrifice. He prayed which is his supplication. How comprehensive is this. He is affected outwardly, inwardly, upwardly; manward, selfward and Godward. This was reality. It was not a mere outward show that would have marked the hypocritical. Here is a man who means to do business with and for God. What changes would be effected in present day assemblies if we had men of this calibre!
Note how He approached God. It was reverent and in humbleness. There is no indication of casual language or a casual approach. We still remember that we approach the God of eternity and that ought to be done as becometh saints and as becometh His Name.
He appealed to the powerfulness of God, v5, "I beseech Thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God."
He knew He is a God of unfailing faithfulness, "that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love Him and observe His commandments."
He knew sin must be confessed and forgiveness experienced if God will hear because God is a God of holiness. Thus v6, 7, "… and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against Thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned." He took this low ground and confessed the sin of the nation, even though he personally was not part of it.
He prayed in such a way as to hold God to His promises. He recognised God as One of truthfulness. V8,9, "Remember, I beseech Thee, the word that Thou commandedst Thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations: But if ye turn unto Me, and keep My commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set My name there."
He pleaded on the basis of the preciousness of the redeemed of the Lord, v10, "Now these are Thy servants and Thy people, whom Thou hast redeemed by Thy great power, and by Thy strong hand."
Finally he sought to bring his own personal requests to the Lord, in their distinctiveness. V11, "O Lord, I beseech Thee, let now Thine ear be attentive to the prayer of Thy servant, and to the prayer of Thy servants, who desire to fear Thy name: and prosper, I pray Thee, Thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man."
Space forbids a consideration of all the prayers of Nehemiah but if our readers could understand that recovery is possible and that in a day of great departure, then this coming year, Lord willing, could be the best of our Christian experience. Nehemiah, as well as Elijah underscores the statement, "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." Jms.5.16.
Daily we are bombarded with news involving the Islamic world, the Jewish world and the resurgence of fighting in Afghanistan. This all combining to produce an increasing loss of life and consequently dreadful grief and sadness.
Did not the Lord Jesus speak of the conditions that would prevail before the coming of the Son of Man? A diligent reading of Mat.24 would confirm the Divine accuracy with which the Lord spoke. While in this day of grace, we do not look for signs we can certainly look at them. If we see those issues that point to the coming of the Son of Man to the earth, this must surely help us to fix our minds and hearts on the nearness of His coming to the air for His bride.
We do lament the lack of blessing in the gospel, the dwindling numbers in assembly fellowship and sadder still, the dwindling interest in spiritual matters generally. However, these issues again point us the end of this dispensation. We can truly say, "…knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed," Rom.13.11.
The Word of God is always essential, how much more in times like these? The flyleaf of the magazine indicates its clear purpose, "… for the propagation of the Word of God, and thus the encouragement and edification of the people of God."
The magazine continues to be dependent upon the faithfulness of God, and we are indebted to those who contribute to this work by their prayers, practical fellowship and written ministry.
The work put in by the Editor, the Secretary and the Accountant is invaluable and we express our gratitude to each of them. May the Lord continue to bless His people through the printed page.
Assembly Testimony Bible Class
by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)
25) "WHEN THOU GOEST OUT TO BATTLE"
Read Chapter 20.1-20
This chapter deals with the warfare of God's people, and may be divided in the following way:
the Presence of the Lord, v1-4;
the Provision for the fearful, v5-8;
the Proclamation of peace, v9-18;
the Preservation of resources, v19-20.
It should be noted that the warfare is against "the city that maketh war with thee," v21. The chapter evidently refers therefore, not to unprovoked military campaigns by Israel against other nations, but to action against people who attack Israel. The passage reminds us that "the inheritance cannot be held without conflict" (C. A. Coates).
1) THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD, v1-4
Notice that the priest speaks here: "the priest shall say unto them, Hear, O Israel…" v2. This is important. Rather than embarking immediately on military preparation, the people were to listen to the man who stood "before the Lord," Deut.17.12; 18.7. When a crisis looms we are all liable to make snap decisions and take emergency measures. It is absolutely essential that the assembly should be led by "priestly" men. In the Old Testament, the priests had a vital role in national leadership, and assembly elders will be bereft of discernment, and unable to give guidance and encouragement to the Lord's people, unless they are habitually in the presence of God.
The presence of the Lord made them superior to enemies with greater fire-power. It is not without significance that when God's people were confronted with "horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou," they were to remember that "the Lord thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt," v1. After all, He had dealt most effectively with Egypt's horses and chariots at the Red Sea!
We must not forget that "greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world," 1Jn.4.4. The priest was to say something similar: "let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them; for the Lord your God is He that goeth before you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you," v3-4. Paul was assured of divine help in this way at Corinth. Compare 1Cor.2.3 with Acts 18.9-20. With the Assyrians "at the door," Hezekiah gathered the people and "spake comfortably to them, saying, "Be strong and courageous … for there be more with us than with him: with him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God to fight our battles," 2Chr.32.6-8. Perhaps Hezekiah had been reading Josh.1.6-9 and Deut.20.1-4 that morning! His confidence was certainly based on God's promises. We must face the fact that there is no viable alternative to faith in God.
2) THE PROVISION FOR THE FEARFUL, v5-8
Notice that the officers speak here: quite obviously, God's people were not a disorganised rabble. This section emphasises the need for good morale. In order to achieve this, certain categories were exempted from warfare. Two groups are specified:
a) people with distractions, v5-7;
b) people who are fearful, v8.
It is only fair to say that this is not the only way in which these verses have been applied, and that it has been suggested that in each of the three cases that follow, exemption from warfare could be granted on the grounds of family life. This said, it remains that the army was to be single-minded and single-hearted, which reminds us that "No man that warreth (on active service) entangleth himself with the affairs of this life," 2Tim.2.4. It also reminds us, changing the metaphor from the battlefield to the farmer's field, that "no man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God," Lk.9.62.
a) People with distractions, v5-7
There was little point in committing an army to battle when a large proportion of the troops had their hearts elsewhere. Three kinds of distraction follow. A soldier:
i) Could be distracted by his property. "What man is there that hath built a new house, and hath not dedicated it? Let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man dedicate it," v5. The man here could hardly be expected to concentrate on the battle if he left his heart in his unoccupied new house. Whilst it is true that like the disciples, many servants of God have literally "forsaken houses" in serving the Lord, Matt.19-20, most of us have to decide where our priorities lie without vacating our properties. What has first claim on our time and attention? Property certainly proved a distraction to the newly-returned exiles at the end of the Old Testament. "Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this house lie waste," Hag.1.4. The governing principle in our lives should be, "seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you," Matt.6.33.
ii) Could be distracted by his pleasure. "And what man is he that hath planted a vineyard, and hath not yet eaten of it? Let him also go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man eat of it," v6. We are told that "wine … maketh glad the heart of man," Ps.104.15, and numerous passages connect the vine with joy. See, for example, Jud.9.2-13; Isa.24-22; Jer.48.33. This poses the question, Where do we find our joy and pleasure? Can we say of the Lord Jesus that although we "see Him not, yet believing" we "rejoice with joy unspeakable …?" 1Pet.1.8.
There was nothing morally suspect about the man's vineyard. In itself it was perfectly legitimate, and there is a vast range of hobbies, sports, and pastimes over which no moral question mark could possibly be raised. But do we allow these things to absorb us to the extent that we lose sight of the ongoing spiritual conflict? According to Lev.19.23-25 five years were to elapse before our viticulturist enjoyed the fruit of his labours. Five years is a long time in anybody's life, and five years leave from the Lord's army is unthinkable.
iii) Could be distracted by his emotions. "And what man is there that hath betrothed a wife? Let him go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man take her," v7. Once a man was married, he was exempt from military service for a year, during which time he was to be "free at home one year, and shall cheer up his wife which he hath taken," Deut.24.5. However, at this point our suitor has "betrothed a wife": he is not yet married. This does not mean that there is something suspect about emotional ties between courting couples. A loveless courtship and marriage is quite unthinkable. Rebecca became Isaac's wife "and he loved her," Gen.24.67. Let all prospective husbands and wives take note. The numerous "shipwrecks" around us, alas, carry their own warning. But, at the same time, even the most tender and proper relationships can, if allowed, displace the Lord's interests. Young couples must, of course, spend time with each other, but there is something very wrong if this means absence from assembly gatherings and a lessening interest in the Lord's work.
b) people who are fearful, v8
"And the officers shall speak further unto the people, and they shall say, What man is there that is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go and return unto his house, lest his brethren's heart faint as well as his heart." This is quite self-explanatory, but very telling! Raymond Brown (The Message of Deuteronomy) points out that there "were three dimensions … to the prospective soldier's fear … First, fear is debilitating — a soldier paralysed by fear could hardly do justice to himself in military conflict. Moreover, fear is contagious. A fearful soldier could seriously damage the morale of the troops, so that his brothers … became disheartened too. Then again, fear is symptomatic; it is due to lack of faith in God. The power of fear is nullified when a man has confidence in God." There can be little doubt that Gideon was instructed to act with reference to this verse. See Jud.7.3.
It was said, at Kadesh-barnea, "our brethren have discouraged our heart," Deut.1.28, but David "encouraged himself in the Lord his God," 1Sam.30.6, and if fear is contagious, so is encouragement! People like Tychicus are worth their weight in gold. Read about his encouraging ministry in Col.4.7-8. (The word "comfort" here means "encourage"). We must remember that "God hath not given us the spirit of fear (‘cowardice’, JND); but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind," 2Tim.1.7.
3) THE PROCLAMATION OF PEACE, v9-18
Note that captains are appointed. Assembly evangelism, whatever its form (tracting, open air preaching, etc.) really does need good organisation and we must not forget that "anybody's job soon becomes nobody's job!" There are two theatres of war:
a) foreign cities, v10-15;
b) Canaanite cities, v16-18.
a) Foreign cities, v10-15
These are described as "cities which are very far off" and Raymond Brown suggests that this refers to "cities that have threatened national security through frequent raids and persistent onslaught. These are wars of necessary defence, not of selfish expansion." The instructions governing military conquest here must be contrasted with the cruel and vicious practices, for example, of the Assyrian and Babylonian armies. Elisha wept when he contemplated the atrocities that Hazael, king of Syria, would inflict on Israel, 2Kgs.8.12. The Edomites were no better, Amos 1.13. Israel's soldiers were to give foreign cities every opportunity for peaceful surrender, v10-11, and if this was refused, the women and children were to be spared when the city finally fell, v12-14. Even in warfare, God expected His people to display a vastly higher code of conduct than other nations. This principle applies to every part of our lives as believers.
b) Canaanite cities, v16-18
But no mercy was to be shown to "the cities of these people, which the Lord thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth." This was certainly carried out by Joshua. See Josh.10.40. We must never forget that Joshua acted as judge rather than conqueror. If the conquest of Canaan was just another military campaign, then we would be hard pressed to explain why God should not only sanction the invasion, but actively participate in the bloodshed. After all, "the Lord fought for Israel," Josh.10.14. But the reason for such sweeping judgment on the Canaanite nations is clear: "that they teach you not to do after all their abominations, which they have done unto their gods; so should ye sin against the Lord your God," v18. Joshua wielded the sword of divine judgment on the Canaanites as predicted in Gen.15.16. Read Lev.18.24-25 and Deut.7.1-6 in this connection. In mercy, God waited until the sins of the Canaanites could go unpunished no longer. Compare 2Pet.3.9-10. God is still "longsuffering … not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night."
Failure on the part of Israel to eliminate the original nations in Cannan proved disastrous. The new generation of Israelites "forsook the Lord God of their fathers … and followed other gods, the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the Lord to anger," Jud.2.10-15. Their failure to deal thoroughly with the "old life" of Canaan is a warning to us. We too must deal ruthlessly with our "old life;" "Mortify (put to death) therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness …" Col.3.5.
4) THE PRESERVATION OF RESOURCES, v19-20
The verses give instructions for the use of timber in conducting a siege. Reference is made to:
a) fruit-bearing trees, v19, and
b) non fruit-bearing trees, v20.
a) Fruit-bearing trees, v19
"When thou shalt besiege a city a long time … thou shalt not destroy the trees thereof by forcing an axe against them; for thou mayest eat of them, and thou shalt not cut them down (for the tree of the field is man's life) to employ them in the siege" or "for is the tree of the field a man that it should be besieged?" (JND). Natural resources were not to be treated as men at war. God's people were not to implement a "scorched earth policy." There was to be no wanton destruction. The food supply was not to be extinguished. These instructions appear to refer to a foreign city under siege and, as Raymond Brown observes, "It is devastatingly cruel to make innocent children suffer by not making adequate provision for their future happiness and security."
b) Non fruit-bearing trees, v20
"Only the tree which thou knowest that they be trees not for meat, thou shalt destroy and cut them down; and thou shalt build bulwarks against the city that maketh war with thee, until it be subdued." Non fruit-bearing trees could be used in siege warfare, but it is worth noticing that they were only to be used in this way. Once again, there is no suggestion of the wholesale destruction practised by marauding armies of such nations as Egypt, Assyria and Babylon. One account of an Egyptian campaign in Asia clearly states: "I took away the very sources of life for I cut down down their grain and felled all their groves and all their pleasant trees … I destroyed it."
The overall lesson is clear: if Israel's soldiers were not to behave like the soldiers of other countries, then God's people today must be different in every way from their neighbours.
—to be continued (D.V.)
The Gospel of the Glory of Christ
(Address given by C. F. Hogg in U.S.A. in 1920's)
*Quotations throughout are from the Revised Version
Another Threefold Cord
To anticipate a little: the sinless life had its beginning in the Virgin Birth. That life closed at the Cross, but the Cross is not the last word, for God raised His Son from the dead. In Heb.7.26 we read that He was "holy, guileless, undefiled;" holy in His person, guileless in His relations with men, and undefiled by His contact with the world. The writer proceeds, "separated from sinners," not, as in the Authorised Version, "separate from sinners," as though the reference were to His character, but "separated from sinners," that is, by the act of God in raising Him from among the dead. Men numbered Him with transgressors, — "on either side one, and Jesus in the midst," Jn.19.18. God reversed the verdict of His judge, separated Him from sinners, and made Him "higher than the heavens."
The Manhood of the Son of God
We must return to speak for a moment of the Humanity of our Lord. I have already given you some Scripture authority for the doctrine of the true, full and essential Deity of the Lord Jesus. But remember that His humanity is no less real than His Deity, no less true, no less essential and complete. The Lord Jesus was not merely God in a human body. "The Word," Who was God, "became flesh," Jn.1.14, but by "flesh" here we are to understand the totality of manhood, all that is essential to manhood. For while He said, "This is my body which is given for you," Lk.22.19, He said also, "Now is My soul troubled," Jn.12.27, and we read that "He gave up His spirit," Jn.19.30. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews supplies the only necessary qualification of the humanity of the Lord in the two words, "sin apart," 5.14. Note here that sin is not essential to manhood. God did not create a sinner, He created a man; that man made himself a sinner. God sent His Son into the world in manhood so that in virtue of His manhood He might die for sinners. His manhood is His qualification to become the Saviour and the Judge of men, Heb.2.9,14; Jn.5.27.
The Humanity of Christ is such that the life presented in the four Gospels is a life of faith in God, indeed He is described as at once the "leader and the perfecter of faith," Heb.12.2. "The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father doing," He declared, and again "I spake not from Myself; but the Father hath given Me a commandment what I should say, and what I should speak. "The word which ye hear is not Mine, but the Father’s," Jn.5.19; 12.42; 14.24. This is not tautology. What one says is the message, and what one speaks is the language in which the message is couched. And all this is in harmony with the 22nd Psalm where the Prophet foreshowed that He would trust God from His birth, and expire with words of confidence in God upon His lips. And even so it came to pass.
This is a great mystery, but it is well to realise that there are limits set to our powers to comprehend. If by the good help of the Holy Spirit we may apprehend a little of the truth concerning the Son of God, surely we are greatly privileged, and, moreover, we are encouraged to expect to attain to a larger apprehension still, if we have learned to take our shoes from off our feet, realising that we tread on holy ground. The spirit of worship is essential to an understanding of Christ.
—to be continued (D.V.)
Think on These Things (Phil. 4.8-9)
by D. S. Parrack (England)
PAPER 6 — "WHATSOEVER THINGS ARE OF GOOD REPORT"
The idea behind the phrase "of good report," is of something or someone being reputable, i.e. of good reputation or being spoken of with well-deserved praise. If it were not for the fact that the word "famous" has been very much overdone and so become debased, that too might be included in the meaning. So, continuing along our chosen line of seeing these listed attributes as they applied to the Lord Jesus, where do we go to find testimony being given to His reputation, His reputability?
Well, first and foremost we must look at the one Person who the Lord Jesus assures us is the only One who knows, and can know, Him fully and intimately, i.e. "My Father," see Matt.11.27. On three separate recorded occasions God broke through the barrier between eternity and time to bear testimony to His Son, saying "Thou art My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased," Matt.17.5. The third occasion was in response to the prayer of His Son, who having first made clear why it was that He was in this world, continues "Father, glorify Thy name." The immediate reply was, "I have both glorified it and will glorify it again," see Jn.12.27-28.
There are many instances to which past manifestations of God’s glory might be linked, see e.g. Ex.40.34; Ps.19.1; Isa.6.1-3, but it is the promise "I will glorify it again" that is of most concern to us. Has that promise been fulfilled yet and if so how? Well, towards the end of His life down here, the Lord Jesus could say to his Father, "I have glorified Thee on the earth." That was the glory of God seen as being worked out in the life of His Son. And just to what particular aspect of that life was He referring? "I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do," Jn.17.4. To men and women in this world today then, a world which in general denies anything of the true glory of God, see e.g. Rom.1.20-23, how is that glory revealed. "God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness," that is, at creation, "hath shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ," 2Cor.4.6. That is how God glorified His name as promised and that is how He continues to glorify it now, to those willing and prepared to respond to such a manifestation of deity. That is the Father bearing witness to, demonstrating the reputability of, His Son the Lord Jesus.
We might feel, seeing to some degree at least the way that the Father values His Son, that no further "good report" is either necessary or can be really meaningful. As we turn to the Scriptures though, we do see individuals who, having been given a conscious revelation of just what sort of Person it was with whom they were having dealings, felt constrained to bear witness to Him. Even in the Old Testament we find such people as Isaiah, who, as John tells us "saw His glory and spoke of Him" and he is obviously there speaking of the Lord Jesus, Isa.6.1-10; Jn.12.37-41. Abraham too, not only believed God’s promises about Someone who was to come at sometime in the future but actually, in some way beyond our comprehension "rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad," Jn.8.56. Those two, amongst some privileged others, were enabled to go even further than those whom Peter refers to as "searching what or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow," 1Pet.1.11. This latter group was perhaps rather like Daniel, who seems unable to have been able to grasp the fullness of the truths concerning which he was the channel of revelation. (See e.g. "my cogitations much troubled me," Dan.9.28, "the visions of my head troubled me," 9.15, "I was astonished at the vision, but none understood it," 8.27. Isaiah and Abraham saw very clearly the glory and the gladness involved in the coming into this world of the Son of God (and see Lk.2.14) and, through the channel of Scripture, shared that "good report" with us.
When we come to the New Testament, instead of individuals speaking prophetically, we find the record of those who could speak of "(that) which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and our hands have handled of the Word of life," 1Jn.1. What kind of report did John give regarding such a personal and close relationship? "That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you — these things write we unto you that your joy may be full," 1Jn.1.3-4. Can a report that is given so that its recipients might be filled with joy be anything other than a "good report"? Towards the end of his letter John expands on the detail of what his report includes. "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God that ye may know that ye have eternal life," 1Jn.15.3. But his good news, his "good report" was not confined to those who were already believers. In his gospel he reports on a wide variety of things that the Lord Jesus said and did, the whole purpose of which was "that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God." He wanted all his readers to appreciate and respond to that, with the promised consequence, "that believing ye might have life through His name," Jn.20.31.
We might perhaps well understand how John could write at such a level. Although just a fisherman and the son of a fisherman, see Matt.4.21, he is believed by many to have been "that other disciple which was known unto the high priest" and who in consequence appeared able to move more easily in theological circles than could e.g. Peter, see Jn.18.15. He was also the one disciple whom the others thought it more likely to be best able to elicit information from the Lord Jesus, see Jn.13.23-34. So he was probably well versed in the Scriptures with a better perception of just how it was that the Lord Jesus was fulfilling them. What about then, someone seen almost as the opposite in character from John amongst the apostles, impetuous, demonstrative Peter? What did he report as to the life and work of the Lord Jesus? Well, there are many possible and fully sustainable answers to that question, after all we have two of his letters and an extensive record of what he said, both in the gospels and in Acts. But for the purpose of this consideration his speech at the first recorded conversion of Gentiles is seen as being particularly relevant, especially the testimony to "Jesus of Nazareth — who went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed of the devil," see Acts 10.34-48. Of course he included the crucifixion, v39, the resurrection, v40, the coming judgment, v42, and salvation through faith, v43. But his testimony was that the divine Person to whom he was pointing was a Man, see Phil.2.6-8. And, as a Man, had acted with impeccable and total grace, kindness and love. That was a necessary basis for all else that he said, for if the Lord Jesus had not become and remained a perfect Man He could never have become a perfect Saviour, see Heb.2.9; 14.15.
So Peter, just like his fellow apostle John, provided from personal experience "a good report," as of course in their own way and giving evidence from a range of different viewpoints, did all the other New Testament writers. When therefore, Paul refers to "whatsoever things are of good report," in relation to the Lord Jesus there is in Scripture, sufficient to occupy our minds and hearts fully, but the availability of that sufficiency will only become meaningfully effective for us, if we follow the advice, "think on these things."
—to be concluded (D.V.)
The Incomparable, Immutable and Impeccable Priesthood of Christ
by James B. Currie (Japan)
CHAPTER TEN: THE SUFFICIENT SACRIFICE
The first eighteen verses of this chapter continue the Doctrinal Portion of the letter. What is being expounded to the end of this section may be summed up in verse eighteen. "Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin;" that is to say, "no other sacrifice is needed." The latter part of the chapter, v19-39, commences the later division of Hebrews and is the Practical Portion. The words of v26 are an apt summary of the conclusion arrived at and the exhortation given. "If we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins." We are being told that there is "no other sacrifice available." The readers have already been told that, having received a knowledge of the truth by teaching, if they reject it determinedly they must reap dire consequences. Added to that is this warning. If the once for all sacrifice of Christ is willingly held in contempt then there is no other sacrifice to be found.
The sanctuary itself, together with its ministry very naturally touched upon the unique sacrifice of Christ in ch.9 but now v1-18, of this chapter, bring the subject of the Lord’s priesthood to completion by enlarging upon the sufficiency of His sacrifice. This is done in a three fold way;
A Declaration Made By The Author, v1-4:
An Affirmation Is Spoken By The Lord, v5-10:
A Confirmation Is Given By The Holy Spirit, v11-18.
V1-4: The Sacrifices Of The Law Could Not Take Away Sin:
Once again we are reminded that the law is but a shadow of the good things to come, see also 8.5. It is to the tabernacle and its priestly ministry of sacrifice the author refers. These things were pictures of that which is real but they were not actual replicas of the heavenly. Even though they were offered ‘"year by year continually," (once more the Day of Atonement is brought to the fore), sacrifices offered under these legalistic regulations could never bring to perfection those who sought to draw nigh to God. The fact that they must be offered over and over again makes that point clear. If the ability to approach God with no more conscience of sin had been obtainable by the ritual of the law then the sacrifices would have been no longer necessary.
Rather than ceasing because of their effectiveness the very opposite was true. In them a remembrance of sin was made year by year. The word remembrance here is an unusual one being used in only two other places in the whole New Testament. The other places are 1Cor.11.25 and Lk.22.19. While Israel, at the very peak of their religious exercises on the Day of Atonement, really did nothing more than "make a remembrance of sin" today, each assembly of God, in the simple gathering to break bread and declare the Lord’s death, week by week "do this in remembrance of Me until I come." The value of the local assembly, when thus compared with Israel’s solemn gathering on that great Day, is shown to great advantage. Under the old arrangements those animal sacrifices offered could not take away sin but a greater and perfect Priest has been found. Who in offering Himself has put away sin for ever and it is to Him the writer now turns.
V5-10: The Main Subject Of The Volume Written:
It is unlikely that the Lord Jesus, in coming into the world, actually used these words quoted from Ps.40 written by David. The words are, though, completely applicable to the purpose of the Lord’s taking upon Himself the cloak of humanity. In view of their uselessness in His ultimate purpose God neither desired these sacrifices of bulls and goats nor found any pleasure in the vast range of things offered. Here we are brought face to face with a fact that is of unfathomable meaning. In order that sin might be removed, once and for all, God prepared a body for His Son. It was only by taking to Himself perfect humanity in order to offer Himself in death that sin could be thus put away. The record of the Lord’s miraculous conception and His holy birth declare, unequivocally, that He was free from every taint of man’s sinfulness. Additionally, it was "to do Thy will, O God" that our Lord Jesus appeared in this body prepared for Him. This is all recorded in "the volume of the book" written concerning Him. The word "volume" has a cognate term in 8.1. There it is translated "the sum" but comes to mean "the main point." It is this that, in His humanity, the Lord Jesus affirms. "The main point (volume) of Old Testament Scriptures is written of (concerns) Me." A body prepared and a revelation given in order that the sacrifice of Christ might be seen as absolutely unrepeatable. The will of God is accomplished in Christ and the former order of things set aside so that the "second" or new order is eternally established. It is according to that Divine will which Christ came to fulfil though the sacrifice made in the offering of the body prepared that we are "sanctified" (set apart in holiness) for God’s good pleasure.
V11-18: The Witness Of The Holy Spirit In Confirmation:
A further contrast is brought forward. The actual ministration of the priests in the tabernacle or temple was one of "standing" offering oftentimes the same unavailing sacrifices. Since they "stood" with no opportunity to sit within the precincts of God’s house the implication was that their work was never completed. Given the character of their offerings it never could be. The only "sitting priest" found in the Old Testament is Eli. In the early chapters of 1 Samuel he is seen sitting on different occasions. The whole atmosphere surrounding him suggests unfaithfulness. "But this Man — sat down!" Speaking of the Lord Jesus, and on the occasion of His ascension to glory "He sat down" (for ever?). Where the comma is to be inserted in this verse gives rise to friendly discussion among spiritually gifted men. To say that "after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down —" or to take it to mean that "after He had offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever sat down" makes no difference doctrinally. Both statements are true. His redemptive work is finished permanently and His occupying the throne, whether His father’s or His own, will never change. His priesthood, as we have noted, is a royal one, Zech.6.13. Certainly in Hebrews we have a "seated priest," mentioned four times, in contrast to the many who always stood. It is at the "right hand of God" that He sits. His expectation is that, one day, He will be called upon to arise, Num.10.35, let His enemies be scattered and they will become the footstool of His feet.
To all of this the Holy Spirit bears witness and, as proof of that, Jer.31.33 is quoted one more time. A people whose hearts are completely at rest in their perfect obedience to the Lord. They need no prompting to be obedient in this manner since their hearts and minds are completely at one with the Lord. The Holy Spirit bears in upon them, now and for ever, the blessed promise as an outcome of High Priestly ministry and sacrifice, God’s unchanging promise "their sins and iniquities will I remember no more for ever." Here also there is a term which characterises the epistle, ‘no more.’ It is used by the author seven times. Now, in close proximity, it is used twice. "No more remembrance of sin" and, because sins and iniquities have been remitted (removed entirely) "there is no more offering for sin" required.
With such an "incomparable, immutable and impeccable priesthood" centred in the person of our Lord Jesus we are called upon to "enter with boldness into the holiest of all" since a new and living way has been initiated for us. We are to draw near to God in full assurance of faith while holding fast that profession of faith in the One Who is faithful in all His promises. We are also responsible to "consider one another in love and to spur one another on to good works." This last exhortation would remind us that there can be no slacking off in zeal for the Lord, much less a turning back to the former useless manner of life. While "the abandoning of the assembling of ourselves together," in context, refers to a much more serious pattern of behaviour than that of missing the occasional meeting yet, in view of the approaching day we are enjoined not to cast away our confidence. To the first readers of the epistle this may have meant a time of further tribulation for it surely reminds us that we will, for faithful service, receive the great recompense of reward. "Yet a very little while, and He that shall come will come and will not tarry." We are destined to be linked with our Lord Jesus as "a kingdom of priests." We have in heaven a better and an enduring substance, far better than anything this world would offer as enticements. With blessings, past, present and future accruing to us through the priestly ministry of the Lord Jesus may we always remember that "the just shall live by faith."
The High Priest's Garments of Glory and Beauty
by W. W. Fereday
The people’s names were not only on the shoulder pieces; they were on the breastplate also. Why this repetition? There are two reasons for it. First, God would show us that in Christ power and love combine for the blessing of His people. We read in Ex.28.29, "Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel in the breastplate of judgment upon his heart, when he goeth in unto the holy place, for a memorial before the Lord continually." Note the words "upon his heart," twice repeated in the verse following. The changeless love of Christ is our solace and joy. Jn.13.1 is as true for us as for the disciples of long ago: "Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end." Neither the doubting of Thomas, the denial of Peter, nor the defection of all together could alter the sentiments of His heart towards them. We dare not speak of our love to Him; it is too variable a quantity to be worthy of mention; but we delight to dwell upon His wonderful love to us. The breastplate was connected with the shoulder-pieces by gold chains, v25, showing the union of power and love in the Lord Jesus for the good of His people. Each individual saint is entitled to say:
"Out of myself for help I go,
Thy power alone resolved to know,
Thy love’s the plea I make."
The breastplate was also connected with the ephod itself by blue lace attachments, the reason being "that the breastplate be not loosened from the ephod," v26-28. There must be no possibility of the breastplate getting out of its place for a single moment. The eye of God must never rest upon the priest without being reminded of all His people.
The second reason why the names were inscribed upon the breastplate as well as upon the shoulder-pieces is that God would show us His tender interest in each individual believer. In the shoulder-pieces six names were engraved on each stone; in the breastplate each name had a stone to itself. What a vast family is the family of God, in its millions, spread over all the earth! Yet each individual saint, however poor and lowly, has his own place in the divine affections. The book of Job is very interesting in this connection. It is one of the largest books in the Bible, but it is altogether occupied with the story of God’s dealings with one man’s soul. So minute is the divine care that not a sparrow falls to the ground without our Father, and we have it from the Son of God Himself that — not only is the individual saint remembered as the individual sparrow, but the very hairs of our head are all numbered, Lk.12.6.
Turn now for a moment to Josh.4.7, where we read of twelve memorial stones of a very different character. When Israel passed through Jordan into the Promised Land, they took up by divine command twelve stones from the bed of the river, and set them upon the Canaan shore. "These stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever." The twelve precious stones in the priest’s breastplate were a memorial for God; the twelve rough stones on the bank of Jordan were a memorial for man. The human heart is so forgetful and fickle that there is need of some abiding memorial of God’s goodness. The Lord’s Supper has this character in Christianity.
What a lovely picture is suggested by the high-priest of Israel bearing the names of the people of God upon his shoulder and heart in the divine presence continually! Yet how soon everything failed in the hands of man! The garments of glory and beauty appear never to have been worn in the presence of God after the calamitous circumstances of the day of consecration, Lev.10. From that point the holiest was closed to the priesthood, save on the annual Day of Atonement, and on that day Aaron was to draw near in white linen garments, Lev.16.1-4. His beautiful robes were thus worn everywhere but in the immediate presence of God, where, according to the typical teaching, they were most needed. What immense comfort it is for our hearts to know that there can be no such failure in our Lord Jesus Christ!
THE URIM AND THUMMIM
In the breastplate, amongst the names of the children of Israel, was placed the Urim and the Thummim. The words mean "the lights and the perfections." What it was, none can now say with certainty. It is mentioned altogether seven times in the Scripture; in two of the passages the Urim only is named, and in one, Deut.33.8, the order is reversed, and given as "Thy Thummim and Thy Urim." It was probably a precious stone, which by means of its various scintillations gave the answer of Jehovah concerning matters that were referred to Him by the priest. That this was its use is undoubted. Thus Eleazar was to ask counsel for Joshua, "after the judgment of Urim before Jehovah;" Saul in his last extremity appealed to God by means of the Urim (though he obtained no response); and the governor of the returned remnant was obliged to defer the claims of some unregistered priests because the Urim and the Thummim was not available, Num.27.21; 1Sam.28.6; Ezra 2.63. It is because the breastplate contained this instrument by which divine decisions were given that is called "the breastplate of judgment."
It is thus God’s delight to make known Himself and His will to those who desire this blessed knowledge. The Urim and the Thummim in the breastplate of the high priest was the pledge that Israel never need be in darkness about any matter. And is the Christian less favoured today? With the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, the completed Word of God in our hands, and a glorified Christ interesting Himself in us, there need be no obscurity in our minds concerning the smallest detail of our pathway It is, alas! not an uncommon thing to find the children of God blundering along from day to day, making a multitude of mistakes, to the grief of their own souls, and the dishonour of the worthy Name by which they are called. To hear them speak one would imagine that God has given His people up to this kind of thing. In the midst of their blunders they ask in perfect bewilderment how others manage to ascertain the mind of the Lord, and so walk consciously in the light. Self-will is the true explanation of this disastrous condition of things. Where the eye is single, and the heart is true, the path becomes as clear as the noonday sun.
—to be continued (D.V.)
The Holy Spirit and the Believer
By J. E. Todd (England)
7. SEALED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT
In the New Testament times a wax seal was the signature of the writer on his letter. It was also the wax seal of ownership on the vessels in the storehouse. Whether on a document or a storage jar it was the seal of ownership and a means of security for the contents.
"In whom (Christ) ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise," Eph.1.13. Here the gift of the promised Holy Spirit is God’s seal upon the completion of the transaction of salvation. The gospel has been heard and accepted. The requirements of repentance and faith have been fulfilled. The seal of the Holy Spirit is God’s response to the believer. The believer is now the Lord’s property and therefore guaranteed all the blessings that this means. "Which is the earnest (guarantee, RSV) of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory," v14. All God’s promises to the believer are fulfilled in Christ. "For all the promises of God in Him (Christ) are yea, and in Him Amen … God; who hath also sealed us, and given us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts," 2Cor.1.20,22.
The Lord Jesus Christ said, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me, Jn.10.27. The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit is the recognition of this fact. "The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His," 2Tim.2.19. Those whom Christ knows as His sheep, are those people who hear His voice and follow Him. And so Paul adds, "And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity," v19. As we follow the Lord we shall be departing from iniquity.
The Holy Spirit’s seal upon us is permanent. "Whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption," Eph.4.30.
Jesus said, "I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever," Jn.14.16.
"Ye are sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest (guarantee) of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession," Eph.1.13-14.
"For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance," Rom.11.29. The original Greek word means literally ‘unrepentable’, that is God cannot change His mind, and in this case unseal the believer from the gift of the Holy Spirit. In the RSV version the word is translated ‘irrevocable’, which is defined in the Oxford dictionary as ‘unalterable’ or ‘gone beyond recall.’ "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee," Heb.13.5.
A seal is a mark of finality, it speaks of completion. It is the end of all discussion and speculation. The Holy Spirit is Himself the seal that the believer is the Lord’s and that for ever.
8. THE GUARANTEE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
The word ‘earnest’ in the Authorised Version of 1611 has as its modern equivalent the word ‘guarantee’ in the RSV. The seal of the Holy Spirit is the guarantee to the believer of three divine blessings.
First, ‘Sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it,’ Eph.1.13-14, RSV. This future heavenly inheritance is described by Peter. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again into a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice," 1Pet.1.3-6. The seal of the Holy Spirit is the present joyful guarantee of that future heavenly blessing.
Secondly, "For all the promises of God in Him (Christ) are yea, and in Him Amen. God, who hath also sealed us and given the earnest (guarantee) of the Spirit in our hearts," 2Cor.1.20,22. The gift of the Holy Spirit is for the believer the means by which God is able to fulfil in our experience all the promises made to us in Christ. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ," Eph.1.3.
Thirdly, in 2Cor.5.5, "the earnest of the Spirit" is connected with the completion of our salvation, when, in the future, our eternal soul lives in an immortal body. "For our conversation (i.e. citizenship) is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself," Phil.3.20-21. The Lord’s resurrection body is the prototype of our resurrection bodies as believers. Of this the indwelling Holy Spirit is the present guarantee of that future blessing.
So, the gift of the Holy Spirit is God’s guarantee to us, as believers, of three blessings.
Our heavenly inheritance.
To make real in our daily experience all our blessings in Christ.
The immortality of our resurrection bodies.
—to be continued (D.V.)
We are His workmanship — Philippians
by Ian W. Gibson (Winnipeg, Canada)
The previous paper noted from the Ephesian epistle that the Church in its largest aspect, the Church which is the Body of Christ, is God’s great masterpiece of new creation, Eph.2.10, "we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works." In the epistle to the Philippians, there are a number of verses which further convey the truth that believers in the Lord Jesus are a product of divine workmanship, but the context in Philippians is that of the individual believers of a local church.
In Phil.1.3-8, we have the thanksgivings of the apostle Paul with respect to the saints at Philippi. In v6, Paul expresses thanksgiving for the complete work of God in every believer; "Being confident of this very thing, that He (God) which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." The word "perform" is the idea of "complete" (Darby) or "perfect" (Newberry). So Paul’s confidence in regard to the Philippians was based on the fact that it was God who was working in them. One constant that characterises the working of God is that He always finishes His work; His purpose is never thwarted. Often when men work, there is failure and the work remains incomplete; but it is never so with God. God worked in the physical creation, and after those six days, God saw His work completed, it was all "very good." Gen.2.2 "And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made," and He then rested from His finished work. When the Lord came to this earth, He finished the work His Father gave Him to do, Jn.17.4, in perfectly manifesting the Father’s Name to men, and in glorifying the Father on earth. When He dealt with sin at Calvary, He could say "It is finished," and then He bowed His head in a place of rest and dismissed His Spirit. Divine Persons always complete the work They commence, and thus Paul has every confidence that this will likewise be so with respect to the divine workmanship in the Philippian saints.
God begins His "good work," Phil.1.6, in every believer by bringing us to His great salvation, for salvation is exclusively the work of God, i.e. DIVINE WORKMANSHIP COMMENCED. It is specifically the Holy Spirit of God Who is the divine Worker in separating out those who will be brought to the blessing of God’s salvation; the apostle Peter writes of believers in 1Pet.1.2, "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ." In relation to the believers at Philippi, Acts 16 vividly describes the active working of the Spirit of God in bringing the gospel to Philippi. Paul and Silas were visiting the churches of Asia, establishing them in the faith, and seeing their numbers increase daily. But then in v6, they "were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia," a remarkable divine prohibition. And then v7, "they assayed to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit suffered them not," more divine prohibition, as if doors of opportunity were being shut in their face. And they came down to Troas, and there Paul had a night vision, i.e. divine revelation, a man of Macedonia imploring, "Come over … and help us," v9. Immediately they left Troas, "assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them," v10. So there was divine prohibition, then divine revelation, and then a divine call, and within two days God’s servants were in Philippi, the chief city of Macedonia, a colony of Rome. This was clearly God working, redirecting His servants to a whole new continent of Europe, and these were servants who were sensitive to the leading and guiding and prohibitions of the Spirit of God. In the service of God, we dare not go anywhere without divine revelation, a divine call and very clear conviction that the Spirit of God is leading us.
Having brought the gospel to Philippi, there was then the work of God in saving individuals, exemplified in the first soul that was saved in Philippi, the woman named Lydia, "whose heart the Lord opened," Acts 16.14. It is a marvellous work of God, when the darkened heart of a sinner is illuminated by "the radiancy of the glad tidings of the glory of the Christ," 2Cor.4.4, (JND). The apostle Paul goes on in 2Cor.4 to liken this divine workmanship in the salvation of a soul to His work in creation, v6 "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." It was only God who could have caused the light to shine out of the darkness of the physical creation, and it is likewise only God who can enlighten the spiritually darkened heart. Every believer will readily acknowledge that their salvation was "according to the power of God, Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling … according to His own purpose and grace," 2Tim.1.8-9. Clearly, it is the divine prerogative to save, while it is the responsibility of God’s servants to "preach the Word," 2Tim.4.2.
But once God has saved a person, in His grace and power He goes on actively working in that believer, desiring that there be spiritual progress, and specifically to produce conformity to His only well-beloved Son. In Phil.2, Paul directs us to the supreme example of God’s Son, and the selfless mind of Christ Jesus, who so emptied Himself and humbled Himself, Phil.2.7-8. The exhortation of Phil.2.12-13 is "Wherefore, my beloved … work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure," i.e. DIVINE WORKMANSHIP CONTINUED. God is working out His own will in every believer’s life, and we must be sensitive to that ongoing work of God in our lives. God’s good pleasure was found exclusively in His Son when He moved as a Man in this world, for God opened the heavens to declare that to be so, Mk.1.11. The willing and doing of God’s good pleasure must therefore centre around Christ, the Son of His love. As God continues His work in every believer, He desires to produce increasing likeness to His own Son, as believers would display more and more of that selfless mind of Christ Jesus. CA Coates writes that "it is by the work of God in us that we come into the apprehension of Christ as the Object of His good pleasure."
In Phil.1.20-21, Paul speaks of his highest aspiration in life, that "Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ." In the context, Paul is probably thinking specifically of the outcome of his imprisonment, his soon appearance before a human judge, the outcome is in the balance, it could be life or death. But whatever the outcome, Paul’s great aspiration is that Christ be magnified in his body. This ought to be the highest aspiration for every believer, for this is in harmony with God’s ongoing work in us, to magnify Christ in our bodies, that what we do in our bodies will make much of Him. What a powerful testimony that will be to the unsaved around us, for as Christ is magnified in us, He will be brought closer to those who observe our lives. Paul was ever conscious of the purpose of God in saving him; Gal.1.15-16, "But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by His grace, To reveal His Son in me." Paul was certainly a special, chosen vessel, but not unique in this matter. It is surely the purpose and work of God to reveal His Son in every believer. Thus, as Paul continues in Phil.3, he speaks more of his own personal spiritual aim and ambition in life, namely to show increasing moral conformity to the risen Christ, v10 "That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death."
But as noted above, the work God has commenced in us, He "will perform (complete or perfect) it, until the day of Jesus Christ," Phil.1.6, i.e. DIVINE WORKMANSHIP COMPLETED. God will settle for nothing less than perfection in us, a completed work, when we will all be conformed to the image of His Son. As Paul expresses his striving towards a condition of moral conformity to the Lord Jesus in Phil.3, his desire is that when the Lord returns again, the only thing that will need to be effected will be his physical conformity to Christ, in order that he will be eternally fitted for the glory of heaven. Thus, "we await the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour, Who shall transform our body of humiliation into conformity to His body of glory," Phil.3.20-21 (JND). We are patiently waiting to receive the Sonship in all its fullness, even "the redemption of our body," Rom.8.23. This will be the culmination of God’s work in the saints, those whom "He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son," Rom.8.29.
Finally, we note again that there is no possibility that this work of God will be undone or will not be completed. Phil.3.21 concludes with the assurance that this great transformation of the bodies of the saints will take place "according to the working whereby He is able to subdue all things unto Himself." He is able to overcome any who would seek to oppose the future glorification of the saints; He will subdue and make such to be subservient to Himself. To emphasise the certainty of it, 1Cor.15.52 tells us how instantaneously the Lord will work the change, "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye." David said, "The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me," Ps.138.8. He will fulfil His purpose for every believer, He will not be thwarted by any human or satanic opposition, and we know that "He is able." God will complete "His workmanship" in the saints, and it will all be to His eternal glory.
By B. E. Avery (England)
The second word in the above title is in inverted commas because it refers to progress but in the wrong direction!
In Lk.22, after the last supper, the Lord addresses Simon in one of the seven divine double calls in Scripture. He uses his original name, too. Compare his opening words in his two epistles in reference to himself. The lesson we all need to learn is that the old nature is still with us regardless of age or experience. Notice that the "you" in v31 refers to the company, and the "ye" in v32 refers to Peter alone. This fact is lost in newer "translations" which dispense with the singular, "thee" and revert to the modern usage of "you" for either singular or plural.
The Lord singles him out and gives him a warning. Impetuous Peter gives a typical reply. In v33 he is determined yet, doubtless, sincere. In v45 Peter, with the others, is drowsy. This is despite the fact that they had been told to "watch", Mk.14.34.
In v50,51, "one of them," whom John identifies as Peter, dear hasty, extrovert Peter, went into action to defend his Lord. Doubtless he had intended to strike down the servant of the High Priest, but cut off his ear only and the Lord quickly healed him. Peter was now filled with disappointment.
In v54 Peter is still following, but now at a distance. We can so easily identify with him. How often in our lives unexpected and unwelcome events can interfere with our trust in and fellowship with, the Lord.
In v55, Peter is distracted in the High Priest’s house. There he is sitting among the Lord’s enemies, warming himself. He is in the wrong place, so subsequently denial is his sad and fearful reaction, when challenged. Three times Peter denies his Lord and then the cock crows. Peter’s mind had been deadened, but now, as the Lord turns and looks on him, he remembers the Lord’s words and goes out and weeps bitterly. How distressed he is now! But still the Lord had a place for Peter and great work planned for him to do. How do we appear before the Lord just at this time in our lives? These stages in Peter’s (or should we say Simon’s) backsliding are brought to our attention as a warning. May we, like Peter, know reawakening and restoration and be more able, in spite of adverse circumstances, to serve Him better day by day.
Good Tidings from Heaven
SAVED OR LOST
Have you ever been lost? The present writer has been lost many times. You take a walk around a strange city, and if you are not careful you get lost. Most of the time it does not matter too much. You ask a policeman or a passer-by and hope you are given correct instructions and that you can understand those instructions.
Sometimes you can be lost and not know that you are lost. You may believe that you are on the correct road to your destination but, ultimately, you realise you are on the wrong road.
All have gone astray
The Bible, which is the written Word of God, tells us that unless we are saved we are all lost, going the wrong way, in the sense of going from God along a road which will end in separation from God, being punished eternally for our sins. God is holy, He tells us that we have all sinned, Romans 3.33, that is, we have all broken God’s commandments: we have all gone astray like lost sheep, Isaiah 53.6.
Seeking the lost
God is love, 1John 4.8, and He loves you. He loves you so much that He sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, into the world to suffer and die for our sins. The Lord Jesus is holy: He could not sin, Luke 4.34, and came into the world to seek and to save lost sinners, Luke 19.10. He suffered, shed His precious blood, 1Peter 1.19, and died on a wooden cross, and when He was on that cross, God punished Him on behalf of the sins of the whole world, 1John 2.2. After He had endured this punishment, the Lord voluntarily died, John 19.30, but three days later He rose from the dead, Luke 24.6. After His resurrection He stayed on earth for forty days, was seen by many people, 1Corinthians 15.6, and then ascended back to heaven, where He now sits on the throne of God, Hebrews 12.2.
If you are not saved you are lost, but the good news is that "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life," John 3.16. To be saved, that is, for the substitutionary sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ to be effective for you, you must repent, Acts 20.21, that is, turn from your sins and to God. You must put your faith and trust in the Lord Jesus, believing that He died on the cross, suffering there, instead of you, the punishment your sins deserve from God.
The Lord is going to return to take to heaven those who have been saved, whether they have already died or are alive when He comes again, 1Thessalonians 4.16,17. We do not know when He will return; it could happen at any moment. There is only one way to be among those who are saved. You cannot get to heaven by doing good works or by being religious, Ephesians 2.8-9, you have to put your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Acts 16.31. He said "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me," John 14.6.
Some things ‘of the LORD’ in the Old Testament
The priesthood of the LORD is their inheritance, Josh.18.7
The word of the LORD is tried, 2Sam.22.31
The joy of the LORD is your strength, Neh.8.10
The curse of the LORD is in the house of the wicked, Prov.3.33
The way of the LORD is strength to the upright, Prov.10.29
The fear of the LORD is his treasure, Isa.33.6
The day of the LORD is great and very terrible, Joel 2.11