The thought of fellowship runs through and is basic to the Corinthian Epistles. In the First (1.9) Paul writes 'God is faithful, by Whom ye were called unto (into) the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.' This fellowship, is not here local but universal in character, embracing every true believer in the Son of God. It has great and true dignity; that 'of the Son of God' which is to be in expression in the deportment of each one who is the recipient of such a calling of God in His sovereignty. It is thus clear that our membership of such a fellowship is not a matter of our choice but of divine calling. The faithfulness of God is expressed also in the previous verse of our chapter (v.8), 'Who shall also confirm you unto the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.' This faithfulness is intended to promote in us an answering quality that shall be in accord with our calling into such a fellowship.
Down the centuries since the inception of the Church at Pentecost, this fellowship has been preserved by divine faithfulness through the many changing years. In those early days we read of those who gladly received the word, 'continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers' (Acts 2.42). After the departure of the apostles, weakness and deterioration came in and there followed the darkening influence of the years of Rome. Then came the divine intervention early in the 16th century largely through Martin Luther who became a leader in Protestantism, as is, of course, well known. This, however, fell short in dealing with the evils of Rome and the papacy and there continued both in this profession (Roman Catholicism) and in the Anglican system the clerical and episcopalian administration.
Nearer to our own times, about the end of the first quarter of the 19th century, came another intervention by the Holy Spirit. This was, although less spectacular and initially less wide-spread in its impact, nevertheless of great significance. It began in a very small way (in Dublin only four brothers met together for bible readings) but similar small gatherings in Plymouth and elsewhere were taking place yet without contact or communication with each other. That the exercises were manifestly of the Holy Spirit was clear. In each of the gatherings, although those concerned had in the meantime continued in their normal denominations, the Scriptural truth of the priesthood of all believers (according to 1st Peter 2.5,9; Rev. 1.6; 5.10 20.6) became more and more clear. Christians separated from the denominations to which they had been in fellowship and assemblies were established free from the idea of clericy, having no religious connotation, meeting in simple dependence upon the Holy Spirit, in various places. Subsequently, J. N. Darby wrote a pamphlet 'The Notion of a Clergyman.' (still extant) which was later published. These details, necessarily historical, form a background to the understanding of the fellowship of the Son of God to which we are called by God who is so faithful. As already stated it is general and universal in character, but in the practical working out of its public testimony and its response in worship to God and Christ we turn to its local aspect.
Chapter 10 of this first Epistle continues the subject of fellowship (w.4-22). In this connection please note the difference between the two expressions, 'The Lord's Table' and 'The Lord's Supper,' this latter the subject of chapter 11; although the elements are mentioned in chapter 10, the loaf and the cup representative of the basis of the fellowship. The two expressions, however, are not synonymous, although often so spoken of and indeed so suggested in some hymns we sing. Two differing words are employed in the Greek for 'the Lord's,' that in connection with the Supper (signifying, Lordly or dominical) is only elsewhere used by John 'I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day' (Rev. 1.10). The Lord's table then has reference to the fellowship generally, of which all believers partake (even if physically unable to be present on the occasion of the celebration of the Lord's Supper). This latter thus has reference to a specifically convened occasion for the purpose. The table of the Lord is here presented in contrast to the table of demons (which the Corinthians would well understand when enjoined by the apostle to 'flee from idolatry'). There are fellowships in our day which are also incompatible with the Lord's table, (e.g. Freemasonry).
In this chapter, Paul emphazises the responsibility of this fellowship on the part of each participant, speaking first (in reverse order to that at the Supper in the following chapter) of the cup as the communion (fellowship) of the blood of Christ and of the bread as that of the body of Christ. These are serious considerations for all as to the holy character to which we commit ourselves, first of all to the Lord Himself and also in the local fellowship to those with whom we are associated. Our walk and ways are thus to be in accord with this fellowship (that of the Son of God). Paul says (v. 17) 'We being many are one bread (loaf), one body; for we are all partakers (meteko, as partners, Luke 5.7) of that one bread.'
The apostle is thus preparing the way for the introduction in chapter 11 of the Lord's Supper. Of course, the Lord Jesus Himself had inaugurated the feast as recounted in each of the synoptic Gospels. In its fulness, however, it awaited His death and resurrection, the day of Pentecost (being the sole ordinance of the Church) and its reception from the glory by Paul, then the added 'this do in remembrance of Me' and 'ye do show the Lord's death till He come.' (vv. 25, 26). What fulness there is in this precious occasion, 'My body-for you,' the personal love of Christ for His own coming home to the heart as at no other time. Then 'this cup is the new covenant in My blood,' a wider though not more intimate expression, bringing to our hearts the fulness of the love of God, the Spirit taking advantage at this time to impress upon impressionable hearts the blessedness of 'the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit given unto us.' (Rom. 5.5). We may well understand the exhortation of the apostle 'our heart is enlarged ... be ye also enlarged' (2 Cor. 6.11-13). There is probably on this occasion a deepening of the work of God in the heart and soul of the believer such as no amount of ministry, however spiritual and helpful, could afford.
FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
by J. B. HEWITT, Chesterfield
(15) The Teaching of Christ
The Lord Jesus proved that He was the Son of God sent to procure redemption by His death, by the Life He lived, the truth He taught and the works He wrought. Nicodemus said, "We know that thou art a teacher come from God."
His teaching and His miracles proved His authenticity. Forty-five times in the gospels Jesus is described as Teacher and His followers were called disciples. He called Himself, "Teacher and Lord" (John 13.13).
The manner and the matter of His teaching is worthy of reverent consideration. IT WAS UNIQUE like Himself, "Never Man spake like this Man," the officers of the chief priests reported (John 7.46). He is the peerless Teacher of the ages. No wonder the Pharisees were baffled, frustrated, intrigued, and at times angry with Christ. They were utterly bewildered by His claims and teaching (John 8.27). He had been sent by God (v. 26). His message is from God, with God's full authority (v.26,28). In the O.T. the prophets introduced their teaching with the words, "Thus saith the Lord." Never once did Jesus use this phrase. He spoke as One who had authority (Matt. 7.28). His teaching made a deep impression on His hearers (Luke 4.14-15,32).
There was simplicity and depth, charming directness and yet profundity. His words and His works arise directly out of the possible relationship to the Father, and they therefore reveal the truth of God (John 8.26).
He claimed Divine companionship (v.29). He came to bring God to men and to bring men to God; this was the object of His teaching (John 14.6).
IT WAS AUTHORITATIVE. In Christ revelation is complete—it is grace and truth. Unlike the prophets who claimed authority, He spake from personal knowledge, and His favourite formula was "Verily, verily I say unto you" (John 3.3; 5.24,25). There was no timidity, no hesitation as to what He felt to be the truth (John 7.46). When invited to preach at Nazareth Jesus took a most significant passage of Scripture (Isa. 61.1) and claimed that the things He was doing, were a direct fulfilment of it (Luke 4.21). He spake out fearlessly on every occasion and could say, "We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen" (John 3.11). Divine revelation was clear, "seen" and "speak." In Capernaum they were astonished at His authority (Luke 4.32) and amazed at His power (v.36). They were beginning to realize that God Himself was speaking directly to men through Christ. The power of His teaching was deeply felt. Our Lord was able to turn every occurence to a personal, spiritual purpose effectively, wkh6ut professional moralising (Matt. 16.6-12; John 6.24-27). The Jewish leaders could assess His authority but were not prepared to recognise His claim to Messiahship.
IT WAS POWERFUL YET GRACIOUS (Luke 24.22,32). They were astonished at the grace and love in His utterances. The spiritual force of His personality expressed in His utterances enthralled His hearers. When Christ spoke on any subject, there was nothing more to be said, such were His unique qualities as a Teacher.
His tenderness deeply impressed His hearers (Mk. 1.45— 2.1,2; Luke 15.1). Truth was the foundational principle behind all Christ's utterances (John 18.37). He said what He believed without regard to consequences. He never flattered, nor disguised, nor concealed.
He spoke words of appreciation (Matt. 10.42; 25.37-40; Mk. 12.43,44). To others words of cheer (Luke 5.13,20; 7.13,22,28), fulfilling Isa. 50.4. Yet Christ never let slip statements which He had afterwards to modify or retract. Read Peter's tribute in John 6.68,69 and the description given of Peter's words in Acts 11.14. His words carried conviction even in the face of opposition. In quality and revealing power He is unsurpassable and final. The authority of His teaching was infallible and although He was denied and rejected, yet He could not be gainsaid.
IT WAS VITAL. He spake to the conscience to arrest (Mk. 10.18; John 4.16); to the heart to comfort (Luke 7.12; John 20.15,16), and to the mind to instruct (Jn. 3.5-14 chapters 14-16). He ever went to the heart of things. "He came preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God" (Mk. 1. 14). He made clear the plan of redemption and the need of repentance. His sole concern was for truth and the delivery of His Father's message (John 6.29,44,54-58). Study the wide variety of spiritual truths clearly expressed in John 3.1-15.
John the Baptist appreciated His words (John 3.29). His sheep hear His voice (John 10.16,27). How true "Behold . . . who teacheth like Him" (Job 36.22).
IT WAS COMPLETE. Both its substance and characteristics are noteworthy. Its reality, power and attractiveness is universal in its appeal. It touches life at every point, its moral ideals are challenging. His parables were vividly and lucidly expressed and called for repentance in relation to sin; trust in relation to God; love in relation to God and man.
In spite of all the progress of thought, not a single new ethical idea or ideal has been given to the world to match or reach the standards set by the life or teaching of Christ.
IT WAS PRACTICAL AND ETHICAL. The heart of God's word to man is the "Word of life" (1 John 1.1). The revelation of eternal life is a fact of history, a reality which has been "heard," "seen," and "touched." "Seen with our eyes" expresses the calm, intent, continuous contemplation of Christ. The teaching of Christ was meant to be transmuted into holy living (Acts 4.13). The Sermon on the Mount raised an ethical code never equalled before or since. Admired by men of character and ideals but alas not fully accepted or applied. The description of the kingdom's ideal citizen is that of the King. He lived out His teaching (Acts 1.1).
His word possesses a dynamic, a special power for making itself a force in the hearts of men (John 7.17). It introduces into morality an entirely new spirit, the filial spirit, the joyous response of a child to a Father. No hearer was left in doubt as to the person to whom the message applied. Their response was faith or rage. Great moral truths were enforced by impressive homely illustration as He taught by parables. His teaching about the kingdom of God is most instructive. Man ruled over by God, and thereby finding the full realisation of life; this is the essence of the idea of the Kingdom of God. Study Matthew ch. 11 for the way the great Teacher asks and answers questions. How He honoured John the Baptist for his outstanding loyalty, humility, unselfishness and faithfulness.
Thus it is impossible to accept Christ's teaching without accepting Himself and acknowledging His claim. The sermon on the Mount (Matt. ch. 5) sets out some basic principles. He endorses the supreme authority of the O.T. while at the same time penetrating the heart of its meaning. The illustrations He used from human life in the physical realm, the domestic realm, the agricultural realm, the social and religious realm are most profitable as well as practical.
Study His parabolic ministry (Matt. 13); pastoral ministry in John 14-16; His practical ministry in Luke 10.30-37 and His prophetic ministry (Matt. 24,25).
He forever remains the Peerless Preacher and the world's greatest Teacher.
May we daily "remember the words of the Lord Jesus" and listen attentively and respond to them wholeheartedly.
The Doctrine of Christ
By William Hoste
3. ITS SIGNIFICANCE AND RESULTS.
The Ascension forms an important landmark in the ways of God of far reaching effect.
(a) He "entered into His glory." The prayer of John 17.5 was granted; He had glorified the Father on the earth, now He was glorified as Son of Man with the glory He had with the Father before the world was. "We see Jesus . . . crowned with glory and honour" (Heb. 2.9); God "raised Him from the dead, and gave Him glory, that our faith and hope might be in God" (1 Pet. 1.21). This was God's answer to man's treatment of His Son: Christ humbled Himself, "wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him and hath given Him a name which is above every name" (Phil. 2.8,9).
(b) He was "justified in Spirit." God reversed man's verdict. The condemned One of earth was justified in heaven. He who was "numbered with the transgressors" by man "sat down at the right hand of God." The Spirit now convinces man of the righteousness of Christ, because He is gone to the Father (John 16.10).
(c) He is recognized as Lord in Heaven. This follows from His glorification. "He is on the right hand of God : angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him" (1 Pet. 3.22).
The promised submission of all things to Him as LORD was at once perfected in heaven. Then too, I judge, were the words of Heb. 1.6 fulfilled, "Let all the angels of God worship Him." No doubt His presence on the Throne made itself felt to the utmost extent of the boundless Universe, for one object of the Ascension was "that He might fill all things" (Eph. 4.10).
(d) He was anointed with the Spirit. Born the Christ, and then sealed with the Spirit at His baptism, the bestowal of that Spirit on His people awaited the Ascension, as we read in John 7.39, "the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified." But at Pentecost, "having received of the Father the promise of the Spirit, He hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear." This was the baptism in the Spirit which the Baptist foretold, and which initiated the formation of the mystical Body of Christ. Included in this anointing was the bestowal of Spiritual gifts, "He gave gifts unto men" (Eph. 4.8). Doubtless too we should connect with it that personal experience—the "anointing with the oil of gladness above His fellows" (Heb. 1.9). When Christ returned to heaven bearing the marks of Calvary, there was a choice of only two things— unmitigated judgment or unmingled mercy. God in His infinite grace chose the latter, and the Spirit descended to inaugurate a Gospel mission to every creature.
(e) "He led captivity captive." But the Ascension not only affected heaven and earth, but also the underworld. When the Lord emerged from Paradise and rose on the first day of the week, He came not forth alone, "He led captivity captive," that is, He liberated and led forth from their confined and cabined condition a vast company of Old Testament saints, who had till then dwelt in that part of Sheol or the underworld, called Paradise, divided off by an impassable gulf from the abode of the wicked dead (see Luke 16.22,26; 23.43), and transferred them to a brighter scene, the Paradise above, where He now is (2 Cor. 12.4), thus "delivering them, who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Heb. 2.15). Not that the O.T. saints are yet risen and in that sense ascended to heaven, for "David is not ascended into the heavens" (Acts 2.34), but in spirit they are with Christ. Already they share in measure the victory of the Great Overcomer of Death and Hades, "Jesus the Son of God."
(f) He entered into rest. That is, He rests from His atoning work, because it is finished. In contrast with the O.T. priests of Tabernacle and Temple, who never sat down, for whom indeed no seats were provided, because their work was never finished. "This Man after He had offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever sat down at the right hand of God" (Heb. 10.12). The word "forever" qualifies His sitting attitude : not being the word for everlastingly, but a distinct word "eis to dienekes," signifying continuously or uninterruptedly. The Lord never has had to rise to put a finishing touch to His atoning work, much less renew it, as the sacerdotalists profanely teach.
(g) He entered on His High-priestly Functions. This is His unfinished work—leading the praise of His people; offering their worship and gifts; interceding for them in the circumstances and trial of the way, and exercising His advocacy for them when they fail and fall. And it is just because He ever liveth to make intercession, that "He is able to save them to the uttermost, who come unto God by Him" (Heb. 7.25). As this aspect of truth may occupy us later, this brief reference will suffice here.
2nd Epistle to the THESSALONIANS
by J. HEADING, Aberystwyth
(3) THE LORD REVEALED FROM HEAVEN, 1.5-8.
VERSE 5. The "persecutions and tribulations" endured by the Thessalonians at the hands of man was "a manifest token" that men would have to sustain the "righteous judgment of God." Not that believers rejoice in this judgment to come, but their present circumstances prove that it will take place. Thus Lazarus did not rejoice that the rich man was in Hades ; Peter did not rejoice that Herod was judged by God; the Lord regarded it as tragic that Judas was the son of perdition, and He wept over Jerusalem as He knew that the days of its judgment were coming.
The "manifest token" implies a proof that judgment will come. Moreover, all of God's judgments are "righteous," although the mere religious man would assess things differently. Elsewhere Paul wrote of "the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God" (Rom. 2.5), while an angel said "true and righteous are thy judgments" (Rev. 16.7; 19.2).
In 2 Thessalonians 1.5,7, the position of the saints is described, while in verses 6, 8, 9, that of the unbelievers is outlined. "To be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer" is not a condition for entrance into the kingdom, for the new birth effects this, (John 3.5). Rather, Paul was writing of kingdom privileges attained because of sufferings. This is amplified elsewhere; their sufferings led to their being Paul's hope, joy and crown of rejoicing (1 Thess. 2.14-20); the trial of faith would lead to praise, honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1.7); to suffer leads to reigning with Him (2 Tim. 2.12; Rev. 20.4).
VERSE 6. There is, in fact, a complete reversal of roles in that day; the tribulation of believers now leads to tribulation on evil men. This does not seem to apply to the "great tribulation" (Matt. 24.21), but to the actual time of the end when the Lord comes in glory, as in the following verse. The difference between the preceding period and the actual event of the Lord's return in glory must be carefully grasped. This difference clearly is brought out in Matthew 24, where two different Greek words are both translated "end." (i) The first word is sunteleia, not a termination, but referring to several events coinciding together to usher in the actual end. The disciples used this when they asked the Lord about "the end of the world" (Matt. 24.3). Verses 4-28 describe this period, answering to Revelation 4-18 and Daniel 9. 24-27. (ii) During this period, the Lord used the second word for end, telos, denoting the actual termination of these events; (see verses 6, 13, 14): "the end is not yet," "unto the end," "then shall the end come." This word "end" denotes the climax, and answers to verses 29-41; Revelation 19; Daniel 7.9-14.
Thus in our verse 6, the "tribulation" refers to the second of these words "end," when the Lord comes in glory as in verse 7. The fact that this judgment is a "righteous thing"
is again stressed, and we should note that for Christians also, at the judgment seat of Christ, He is called "the righteous judge," (2 Tim. 4.8). On earth during their lives, men think that they have the upper hand; when the Lord comes in judgment, He will show that He has the upper hand, and He will wield this authority righteously.
VERSE 7. How blessed are the saints!, for the opposite will be their portion. Those troubled now will have rest then with the Lord. Now, the Lord gives rest to our souls (Matt. 11.29), even though our outward circumstances are far from being described as "rest." But our position will be rest in its fulness when, at the rapture, we are taken out of trouble. Paul added that this rest will be "with us." Although Paul suffered more than any other (2 Cor. 11.23-33), yet there would be no special position for him—he would be with the rest of the saints, and they with him. Yet our rest on high will be enhanced as we realize that we have been saved from the wrath manifested when the Lord is "revealed from heaven with his mighty angels." This will surely be the greatest moment in earth's history after the Lord's death, resurrection and ascension. How many times the Scriptures speak of this event! To show the widespread nature of these references, we shall provide for the reader a long list of quotations, so that he can see for himself the importance of the subject throughout Scripture.
The 70 weeks described in Daniel 9. 24-27 lead up to this event, when God will "bring in everlasting righteousness," (v. 24). 7 weeks (49 years) would lead to the building of the temple; 62 weeks (434 years) would lead to the cutting off of Messiah; then after the church age, another week (7 years) will lead to the climax. "The Redeemer shall come to Zion," (Isa. 59.20); "Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down," (64.1); "the glory of the Lord came into the house by the way of the gate whose prospect is toward the east," (Ezek. 43 4); "a stone was cut out without hands," (Dan. 2.34); "one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven," (7.13-14); "his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives," (Zech. 14.1-4); "the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple," (Mai. 3.1); "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power . . . The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath," (Psa. 110.1-5); "There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom" (leading to the transfiguration), Matt. 16.28; "Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord" (23.39); "they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory," (24.30; Luke 21.27); "When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory," (Matt. 25. 31; "Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven," (26.64); "this same Jesus . . . shall so come in like manner," (Acts 1.11); "the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night," (2 Pet. 3.10); "Behold, he cometh with the clouds," (Rev. 1.7); "thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned," (11.15-18); "upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man ... he ... thrust in his sickle on the earth," (14. 14-20); "I saw heaven opened . . . King of kings, and Lord of lords," (19. 11-21). Could there be any clearer testimony concerning this great day of divine intervention when the Lord is vindicated in the scene of His rejection?
Additionally, Paul stated that this coming will be "with his mighty angels." The Lord introduced the parable of the sheep and the goats with "all the holy angels with him," (Matt. 25.31). We believe that the "cloud," so often occur-ing in the description of this event, will not only be literal, but will consist of angels and saints. The great "cloud of witnesses," (Heb. 12.1), will be with the Lord; so will "the armies which were in heaven," (Rev. 19.14). Elsewhere, Paul wrote of "the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints," (1 Thess. 3.13), while Jude records "the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints," (Jude 14). It will not be His people who will carry out the judgments on wicked men at that time; this will be the work of the Lord, using the sharp sword out of His mouth with which to smite the nations, (Rev. 19.15). The angels will also engage in this work, (Rev. 14.19), in keeping with the Lord's words, "the reapers are the angels," (Matt. 13.39,49). Additionally, they will gather the Lord's elect at that time, (24.31).
VERSE 8. This judgment in flaming fire will be "on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ." Men effectively will be divided into three classes, (i) Those engaged in the battle of Armageddon, (Rev. 16.13-16). The great political beast and world dictator with his armies will fight against the rulers of the rest of the world, fighting against Israel at the same time, (Zech. 14.2, and then against the Lamb when He appears in glory at that time, (Rev. 17.14). (ii) The nations—the sheep and the goats—not engaged in this great battle, (Matt. 25.32). (iii) Individuals called "the wicked," (13.49). It appears that Revelation 19. 11-21 answers to (i); 11. 17-18 to (ii); 14. 14-20 to (iii).
"In flaming fire" is a terrible general description of this event when the Lord comes in judgment. Physically, it has happened before, when fire had come out from the Lord and devoured Nadab and Abihu, (Lev. 10.2). The fire on Sinai implied judgment if the law were not kept. The throne in Daniel 7.9 was like "the fiery flame," and "a fiery stream issued and came forth from before him," (7.10). The Lord Himself will have discerning eyes "as a flame of fire," (Rev. 19.12). These verses describe the Lord and His judgment, but other verses describe the ultimate end of the men thus judged: the body of the fourth beast was "destroyed, and given to the burning flame," (Dan. 7.11); "These both were cast alive into a lake of fire," (Rev. 19.20).
Paul described this as "taking vengeance," a thought not liked by non-evangelical theologians; however, in various forms the root of this word appears some 17 times in the N.T., so cannot be denied or explained away. "Vengeance is mine; I will repay," the Lord had said, (Rom. 12.19); this is repeated in Hebrews 10.30, "Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord ... It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." This will be the portion of men who are described in two different ways, (i) "Them that know not God." Men should know God, for He has shown many things creatorially to them, "even his eternal power and Godhead." Men are without excuse, and God's wrath is revealed from heaven against them, for knowing God, they glorified Him not as God, (Rom. 1. 18-21). Even the heathen are not therefore left in ignorance, (ii) Those "that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ," namely those that hear the gospel message and stedfastly set their hearts against it. The gospel does imply obedience, as Paul wrote, "they have not all obeyed the gospel," (Rom. 10.16), while Peter asked, "what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?" (1 Pet. 4.17). Believers, on the other hand, are those that obey the gospel (Rom. 6.17; Heb. 5.9; 1 Pet. 1.22).
(To be continued)
Notes on Revelation
JIM FLANIGAN, NORTHERN IRELAND
"THE TRIBULATION SAINTS"
The Rapture of the Church is not expounded or developed in the Revelation; nevertheless, somewhere in the course of the book we must position this great event, and there are many sound reasons for placing it at the beginning of chapter 4. It may be helpful, at this point in our studies, to elaborate upon this, and to give reasons for believing that the Church must indeed be taken home before the storm breaks and the great tribulation begins. "Come up hither," is the call in ch. 4.1, when the days of testimony are over at the end of ch. 3. There are at least seven good reasons for seeing the translation of the Church at this point in the Revelation.
(i) The Church is Unique. The Church is a mystery creation of God in a mystery period unknown to the Old Testament prophets. It has a unique beginning at Pentecost; it has a unique story of testimony distinct from Israel; and there is no doubt that the word "mystery" attached to the Rapture in 1. Cor. 15.51 indicates a unique ending to the earthly story. To keep the mystery Church on earth during the long-predicted days of the seventieth week of Daniel ch. 9, is to confuse and confound things which must be distinguished. The unique mystery creation must be removed before God's stated programme of prophecy can be resumed.
(ii) The Differences in our Lord's two parting Discourses. Towards the close of His life and ministry, our Lord gave two great discourses. One we refer to as the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24-25). The other is His Upper Room Ministry (John 14-16). In both of these there is an emphasis on our Lord's return, but he would be a most naive reader who would not sense that the atmosphere, the content, and the tone and language of the two messages are very different. The answer, to some of us, seems very simple and reasonable. On the Mount of Olives, in public, our Lord is addressing Hrs disciples as the remnant of the Nation, which undoubtedly they were. In the Upper Room, in private, our Lord is addressing the same men as the nucleus of the new Church, which, again, they undoubtedly were. On Olivet therefore, His ministry looks on to His return in glory. It has to do with Israel. In the Upper Room His ministry anticipates a prior personal coming for His own, to take them to Himself. It would be interesting to pursue a parallel of contrasts between these two ministries, but sufficient now to note that there is indeed a significant array of differences.
(iii) The Tribulation is "Jacob's Trouble." So it is called in Jeremiah 30.7. By no stretch of the imagination can the mystery Church be linked with Jacob's Trouble! Note that it is not even "Israel's" trouble, but "Jacob's." The old name of the unbelieving man and nation is purposely used. God is dealing with an unbelieving earthly nation after the translation of the saints of the mystery period.
(iv) The Church is not on earth in Revelation after ch. 3. We have before mentioned that in chs. 1-3 we read constantly of "the Churches;" "the Churches;" "the Churches." Is it not therefore remarkable, that when chapter 3 is ended there is now no more mention of Church or Churches until we see the Bride come out with the King in chapter 19, when the tribulation is over? Is it not equally remarkable, that if, as some believe, the Churches will still be here on earth during the tribulation, there is no instruction, no direction, no word of comfort, no exhortation, in fact, not even a mention ! In all that great middle section of the Revelation which deals with the days of vengeance, the Church is absent. She is at home with the Lord.
(v) The saved of the Tribulation Period are seen with Jewish and Gentile Distinctions. This brings us to chapter 7, at which, shortly, we shall look in more detail; but sufficient to say now, that to-day, in the days of the mystery, the Body of Christ, there are no national distinctions in that Body. The old middle wall of partition has been removed; there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free (Eph. 2.14; Col. 3.11). But in the days of Revelation 7 the old distinctions are seen again. This we must consider later, but the fact is important, and the reason is, that the Church, the Body, has gone.
(vi) The Church is now the Temple. Yet during the tribulation there will be a material, literal Temple, which Paul calls, "the Temple of God" in 2 Thess. 2.4. Is it not incongruous that God should have two temples on earth at the same time? Such would indeed be the case if the Church were here during the days of the great tribulation. The answer to the incongruity is to see the Church raptured away first, to make room, and place, and reason for, a material Temple as in days of old. To-day, a Moslem Mosque stands on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, but one day, some day, Israel will have her Temple again.
(vii) The Difference in the Promises ending the two Testaments. At the end of the Old Testament the promise to Israel is that Christ will come—like the Rising of the Sun (Mai. 4.2). At the end of the New Testament the promise to the Church is that Christ will come—like the Morning Star (Rev. 22.16). Surely the accuracy of the symbolism is beautiful. As the night of Church testimony draws to a close, we look for the Morning Star. As the Day of millennial splendour approaches Israel will watch for the rising of the Sun. Between the appearing of the Morning Star and the rising of the Sun lie the dark dreary hours of tribulation.
We conclude, that although the Rapture of the Church is not the burden of the Revelation, nevertheless we must place it somewhere in the book, and the most obvious and satisfactory place is at the beginning of chapter 4.
But all this now raises the question,—"Who then, are the saved of chapter 7?" Two companies are introduced in this chapter. There is a numbered company saved from out of Israel, and there is an innumerable company saved from out of the Gentile nations. Who are they? To what message have they responded? Who preaches the message? These are interesting and necessary questions which must be asked and answered.
First we must be assured that these are souls who have not heard the gospel during this age. Those who hear the gospel in this age of grace and wilfully reject it are damned. There is no second chance for such after the Rapture, 2 Thess 2. 10-12 makes it abundantly clear that to refuse the truth is to prefer the lie, and God will send strong delusion for those who have refused His offer of grace in the gospel. To reject Christ now, is to bow to the Beast when the Church has gone. There is no alternative. These saved ones of Revelation 7 are not those who have been left behind for some change of mind or late repentance.
But there is no problem. It is reckoned that at any given time there are about two-thirds of the world's population who have never heard the gospel. That is a staggering figure of some thousands of millions. This must include many sincere Jews, and it is easy to anticipate that with the trauma of the Rapture, and the consequent world-wide upheaval, and the search for explanation as to what has happened, that many earnest Jewish seekers will turn to the New Testament writings, to discover, in fact, that Messiah has already come, and has been rejected, and has built His mystery Church, and has taken it home. Many such Jews will receive Him, and will become, like Simeon and Anna, the testifying remnant to speak of Him, and to spread among Israel and the Nations the truth of His gospel.
Until such are sealed for God, no hurt can come. Four angels hold back the winds, and the servants of God are sealed. Millions of others will eventually be branded with the Beast's mark, but God has His servants, sealed in their foreheads.
It is important to note, that the basis of salvation is the same in every age—"the Blood of the Lamb." Salvation is ascribed to the Lamb (Rev. 7. 10 and 14). Calvary alone is the ground of redemption, whatever the age, and whoever the persons. Chapter 7 is, of course, a great parenthesis. It is to let us see, at the beginning of the tribulation, that God is preparing and preserving His witness for those days. When we arrive at ch. 14 we shall see that that company has indeed been preserved right through, and stands then with the Lamb for whom these saints have suffered in testimony. They are destined for everlasting joy and glory. One day, sinning and suffering, weariness and loneliness, weeping and wandering, will be things of the past. Then they will neither hunger nor thirst, nor want for anything, for the Lamb shall shepherd them; (for such is the word in v. 17). Living fountains of waters will be their portion for the millennium and for ever, and God shall wipe away every tear from eyes that must have wept so much during the sorrowful days of their testimony. With white robes, and victor's palms, and songs of joy, their ultimate triumph is sure; and of course, their salvation is honour and glory for the Lamb.
(To be continued)
SOME ASSEMBLY FEATURES AND FUNCTIONS
by B. CURRIE, Belfast
GODLINESS IN THE ASSEMBLY
Paul wrote his first epistle to Timothy "in order that thou mayest know how one ought to conduct oneself in God's house, which is the assembly of the living God the pillar and base of the truth" (1 Tim. 3.15 JND). Thus the express purpose of the letter is to tell us how to behave ourselves in the assembly.
With this in mind it is instructive to note the recurrence throughout the epistle of the word "godliness." In fact out of the twenty three occurrences of the word in the N.T. thirteen of them are in the pastoral epistles with nine of these in 1 Timothy—viz. 2.2, 3.16, 4.7,8, 5.4 (Piety), 6.3,5, 6,11. The word translated "godliness" in these verses literally means "well reverenced" and denotes piety or devout-ness, obviously towards God, while the word in 2.10 which is slightly different but closely related emphasises that God is the One who is reverenced. In 1 Timothy therefore we can see that godliness is expected from those who meet in assembly capacity. We shall briefly trace the references in the epistle.
(i) Godliness and its Acceptability (2.2-3).
In chapter two the apostle deals "first of all" with an exhortation that "supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks be made for all men," especially with respect to those who rule over nations. This is the only point of contact a Christian ought to have with politics and yet this contact will have more effect than any other. The purpose of this prayer is not in order that our preferred brand of politics may prosper, nor is it to pray judgement upon our political opponents, but the reason given is, "that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty." That is, through our prayers God would grant a system of government which would permit us to live a tranquil and quiet life in all piety and gravity. This godly manner of living is acceptable before the face of God our Saviour, which means that He accepts such gladly, with a welcome. We must not think that God grants such conditions so that we can lie back and take our ease. The reason for having tranquil conditions is given in verses 4-7, — that the gospel may prosper and not be hindered (cp 2 Thess. 3.1-2).
(ii) Godliness and its Modesty (2.9-10).
In v.8 the apostle states his desire for "the men"—note the definite article, i.e. the men are to pray publicly and they are given the three-fold instruction: "Holy hands"— Godward, "without wrath"—manward, "without doubting"— self ward.
The phrase "in like manner" (v.9) cannot refer to public prayer since both in this chapter at v.ll and in 1 Cor. 14.34 the woman is enjoined to be silent in the public gatherings. Rather the phrase refers to his words "I desire therefore" i.e. v.8 in his desire for the men, v.9 for the women.
The teaching of v.9-10 has a special relevance to the day in which we live when Christian women can become ensnared with the 'woman's lib' spirit which prevails on every hand. With unisex hair styles and fashions it is imperative that our sisters realise the ornamentation that "in the sight of God is of great price (1 Pet. 3.3,4).
Their apparel, principally their arrangement of dress although their whole deportment is included, is to be modest, well arranged or becoming. This could not be the description oi: many of the fashions of the day. The wearing of trousers, whether track suits, those supposedly made for women or otherwise will not be countenanced by a spiritual sister. Nor will her wardrobe contain anything revealing or immodest, whether such is to be worn at a meeting, at home or even on the beach. The world with its moral corruption does not set the fashion for the saint who seeks to please the Lord.
"With shamefacedness"—the only other occurrence of this word is in Heb. 12.28 where it is translated "reverence." It blends the ideas of modesty and humility having regard to the feelings of others. "Would always restrain a good man from an unworthy act" (Trench) "A moral repugnance of what is base and unseemly" (Vine).
"Sobriety"—soundness of mind or sound judgement and shows that the apostle expected the sister not to be light or frivolous but to exercise self control over her passions and desires, here especially in relation to her deportment.
Many there are who object to what they term negative ministry, usually because it comes too close to them, but here Paul uses a familiar ploy to emphasise the point by giving first a negative instruction and then a positive.
The negative is first "not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls or costly array." It is obvious that the sister was expected to have hair long enough to be broided (cp 1 Cor. 11.15) but the apostle is showing that all ostentation is unbecoming a Christian. It appears strange that these words and those in 1 Pet. 3.3-4 which are so clear and need little explanation are so flagrantly disobeyed. The same apostle gives the test of spirituality in 1 Cor. 14.37 as obedience. Thus a spiritual sister will not be found wearing powder or paint on her face, or gold chains, pearls, earrings, etc., these are all designed to attract attention, and are not the marks of a "meek and quiet spirit." (1 Peter 3.4).
Next we are given the opposite to this "but (which be-cometh women professing godliness) with good works." This is the adornment of the godly sister such as Dorcas (Acts 9.36). "Her price is far above rubies" (Proverbs 31.10). Such women are the backbone of many assembly testimonies.
(To be continued)
"MALACHI—THE MESSENGER OF GOD FOR TODAY"
by E. R. BOWER of Malvern
MALACHI is the prophecy which not only completes the O.T. Scripture, but introduces that period of prophetic history generally known as the Four Hundred Silent Years.
The prophecy is of particular importance in another sense for it is the 'bridge' between the prophetic word of Zechariah, where it is believed, the clock of prophecy stopped, and the N.T. record of the coming of John the Baptist. The pendulum is about to recommence its swing at any moment now, and with its restart we shall see the events of God's final Revelation unfold. This is why this 'bridge' is of great moment to this generation—not only because it is a sure word of prophecy, but because of the lessons to be read, and marked, and inwardly digested, as well as worked out by those who belong to a waiting Church.
Perhaps a century had passed since the return of some 50,000 people of God from their captivity. The ministry of Haggai and Zechariah; the influence of Ezra and of Nehemiah; the exhortations of Zerubbabel and Joshua the high priest were all but forgotten, but there were still those faithful few who "feared the Lord."
At least one good thing had come out of the captivity. Israel, as now represented in the main by Judah and Benjamin, was now monotheistic. Overcoming opposition from within and without, the Temple and its worship had been restored—but not with its former grandeur—so that everything seemed set for complete restoration of God's people with their God. Alas, at the time of the appearance of Malachi—"His Messenger"—such was far from being the true state of the people of God. A "form of godliness," but its pow^r denied. (Deut. 6.4) came into its own at the captivity. Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one LORD:"
Unfortunately, however, much of what was happening in the outside world was 'rubbing off' upon them. In the Grecian world the Golden Age of Pericles was giving place to the teachings of Plato and Aristotle. The philosophies of the day were finding their way into Israeli culture, and do we not see a parallel of this in the history of the Church?
Upon the axiom that 'history repeats itself—which after all is not a new theory, for Solomon wrote, "The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun." (Eccles. 1.9)—it is believed that the attitude of the nation in the days of Malachi—the time when O.T. prophecy ceased—does find a parallel today, when, so far as the Church is concerned, the clock is about to restart.
As then, so now, we see that the restraining influences of a godly and recently past generation are all but forgotten by the present generation who themselves have failed in their responsibilities to the rising generation—a generation which, if the signs of the times are rightly interpreted, will see the return of the Lord of the Church. The position has, perhaps, been aggravated by the militancy of this new generation which appears to pay scant respect for the 'traditional' teaching of the past, and has little regard for the elders who, according to the Scripture, should bear the rule—and the responsibility. The age of respect for discipline, whether inside the Church or outside, is just a memory. There is a sense in which we are back in the days of the judges of Israel when every man thinks and does what is right in his own eyes. "What I think is that which governs what I do." There is no open vision, and a reflection of our attitude to the things of God is seen in that which we grace by the name of 'worship,' with all that that 'worship' means. Something which has been reduced to a Sunday morning formality—one brief and often meaningless hour, and when, so very often, words are negatived by deeds.
On this premise, the book of Malachi has much to say to us, especially if it is kept in mind that for Israel the golden promise of a coming Messiah was ever before the faithful, and before the faithful Church is the soon to be fulfilled promise of our Lord, "I will come again, and receive you unto Myself."
In this book of Malachi we see ELECTION (1.1-5) and REJECTION (1.6, — 4.6): We also see LOVE and REPROOF; QUESTION and ANSWER; BLESSING and CURSING.
It is a book of self-examination (even if some of the questioning is insincere) and a book of Praise.
Deeds as well as words are reproved (1.6, — 2.16; 3.7-12; and 2.17,-3.13; 4.4).
Priests—the elders of the nation, and the people share in the reproof.
Backsliding, dishonesty and pride were the order of the day, and here, too, we see, at the end of the prophecy, a curse upon the earth—balancing the opening words of Scripture, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." Four thousand years of history ending with a curse! And two thousand years on from Malachi the position is unchanged.
It has been said that Malachi administered "the most scathing rebuke by means of PREFERRING AN ACCUSATION (in which he shews the deepest insight into the innermost thoughts of the nation), then SUPPOSING AN OBJECTION ON THEIR PART (which exhibits in the most telling manner the moral degradation of the people, and their indifference to their spiritual condition), and lastly, by CONFUTING THEIR OBJECTION in trenchant terms."
Another has said, "Prophecy did not cease because its power was exhausted, but because its mission was now fulfilled until the time of its fulfilment should draw near.
Yet another writer, "Malachi is like a late evening which closes a long day, but he is, at the same time, the morning twilight which bears in the womb a glorious day."
(To be continued)
WHAT MUST I DO TO BE SAVED?
(by an Ulster Youth)
A sinner I was born in 'sixty-one, Ps.51v.5
Without God in the world, unclean, undone: Eph.2v.l2;Isa.6v.5
Right from my very birth I went astray, Ps.58v.3
Unable to please God in any way, Rom.8v.8;Heb.llv.6
Nevertheless, my conscience when in use, Rom.2v.15
Bore witness, leaving me without excuse.
My faithful parents kept me well apart Heb.11v.23;Ex.2vv.l-3
From things that would attract my sinful heart.
With many a reed they hedged my ark about,
Lest by the current I be carried out
Toward the mighty mainstream of the world
Whereinto countless children have been hurled.
That I could never enter Heaven without
Being born again—I knew beyond all doubt. Jn.3v.3
And so I wanted to be saved for years;
Was anxious, troubled; even shed some tears :
I made great efforts trying to believe,
Hoping at length salvation to receive.
John 3:16 had shown me clear and plain
That on believing I would life obtain,
And I could see from other verses too, Jn.3v.36;Jn.5v.24;
Believing was the vital thing to do. Jn.11v.48 etc.
No matter how I tried, I couldn't just
Work up sufficient faith, belief or trust.
Then, In despair I'd try my very best
To come to Him Who could give sinners rest. Matt.11v.28
To my dismay, the whole scheme seemed to fail,
For all my efforts were of no avail.
When Gospel Meetings came, I'd always go
Hoping that this time I would get to know
Christ as my Saviour and have peace at last
And pardon for my miserable past.
The meetings came. Each night I would attend,
Right through the series to the very end.
The meetings stopped: my hopes had been in vain
and disappointed, I would try again
To see the heinousness of sin; repent,
And turn from every sin without dissent
So God might see I'd taken my True Place
And thus deserved my share of saving grace.
Of all the plans, this seemed the likeliest:
With all my heart and soul I tried my best:
Unable for this great accomplishment,
I soon gave up in disillusionment.
At Conferences I always liked to be,
Although I knew they weren't arranged for me:
Believers Meetings too, I was aware,
Were not for sinners, yet I would be there.
That men of God would speak—I recognised,
Whose very countenances advertised
The Joy of God's Salvation in their heart Ps.51v.12
Which knowledge of forgiveness will impart.
These men I was convinced were Heavenward bound, lCor.14v.25
For they had something I had not yet found
And as I sat and listened to them teach,
(Though what they said was far beyond my reach) lCor.2v.14
I longed to be like them—have peace divine, Phil.4v.7
Which nothing can remove or undermine.
I saw my life was worthless and in vain, Eccl.6v.12
No matter what distinction I attain. Mark8.v 36
Regardless of how Christian I behaved, Rom.l0v.3;Isa.64v.6
I knew fine well I needed to be saved. Acts4v.l2
These things upon my mind were so impressed
That on returning 1 could hardly rest,
For in my heart there was an aching void,
I longed to fill with what the saints enjoyed.
In 'seventy-eight, by the Omnipotent,
Two Preachers, "A" and "B" were sent
To pitch their tent beside a motorway
And publish there God's glad communique. Luke 5v.l
So I was thither by my parents brought,
For by this stage, they were well nigh distraught.
Although at first I wasn't all that keen,
(To me attending meetings was routine)
I soon got interested for I could see,
That after all there might be hope for me.
So oft I tried the Gospel to embrace
That by this time, I felt a chronic case.
Each night the preachers tried to represent 2Cor.5v.20
The Righteous God of Love and how He sent Eph.2v.4;Jn.3v.l6
His only Son to die upon the tree Gal.3v.13; lPet.3v.18
And bear God's wrath for sinners just like me.
They told us God was after sinful men, Lukel9v.l0
Whose sins in righteousness He must condemn, Ps.ll9v.l37;Haib.lv.l3;
Not in unswerving justice to mete out Jn.3v.l7;Jnl2vv.47-48
His righteous vengeance upon those who flout Ezek.33v.ll
The holy Law of God and disobey, Ps.119v.53
Turning instead each one to his own way. Isa.53v.6
Had this been true, I could have understood,
or have expected such an attitude.
But God, I learned was after men indeed,
Eager in Love to meet their dreadful need. Jn3v.l6
Christ came this mighty Love to demonstrate,
And thus at Calvary He bore the weight Lu23v.33
Of all God's holy wrath when He became Rom.8v.32;2Cor.5v.21
The Sacrifice for sin and bore its shame Eph.5v.2;Heb l0v.l2
and judgment in His body on the tree, lPet.2v.24
Thus by His death to make Salvation free Rev.22v.l7;Rom.3v.24
To every single soul without reserve, lTim.2v.4;Tit.2v.ll
For Grace is something no one can deserve. Rom.11v.6
Night after night they preached this wondrous theme,
And one could see their very faces beam
As though it gave them joy to spread abroad
the glorious Gospel of the Blessed God. lTim.lv.11
It was I thought a monumental feat
That constantly the preachers could repeat
Each night the message how that God above
Was seeking sinners in His matchless love.
How they could keep it up and yet not be
Exasperated was a mystery,
While I refused God's gift so bounteous Jn4v.l0;Rom.6v.23;Eph2v.8
And to His love remained impervious. Rom.lv.21
It were a light thing that I weary men, Isa.7vl3
But should I also weary God, what then?
And as I pondered God's longsuffering 1Pet.3v20;Rom.2v4;2Pet3v9
And all His Goodness that was meant to bring Actsl4vl7
Me to repentance : I had to confess
That God would act in perfect righteousness Rom.9v22
In leaving me alone for evermore Gen.6v3
Since I had disobeyed Him heretofore.
Now Preacher "A" from Mark 10 read one night
About the beggar who received his sight:
Blind Bartimeaus sitting by the way
Determined to receive his sight that day,
And would not be dissuaded by the crowd
Which thought that he was shouting far too loud.
When Jesus called, at once he cast aside
The cloak on which he had so long relied.
Thus he discarded all that he possessed,
And rose and came to Jesus and was blessed.
Not that he thought his cloak was any harm,
For in the cold it often kept him warm;
But lest it should to him a hindrance prove
In getting to the Saviour, he'd remove
His cloak, or any other thing that would
impede his way to where the Saviour stood.
And then the preacher went on to observe
That many things so easily could serve
The role of cloak, and hamper many a soul
From coming now to Christ to be made whole.
This message was for me, for well I knew,
That it was learning I loved to pursue,
And erudition was my little cloak,
Till in that meeting to my heart God spoke.
And from that time I could appreciate
That learning, though itself legitimate,
In no way helps a person to get saved,
But rather polishes a mind depraved. Isa.47vl0
What matter though I win a Nobel Prize,
Or be renowned among the worldly wise? lCorlv27
How unimportant this, when on my own,
I'd have to stand before the Great White Throne, Rev.20vv.ll-15
Knowing full well in Life I failed to heed,
The Love of Him Who died to meet my need.
That there was hope for sinners, they'd insist
And many different Scriptures they'd enlist
To prove that there was no need to despair, Isa.l2v2;Isa.55v.7;
And that it was a terrible affair
For any sinner to be so obtuse, Lukel3v.34
That they would seek to find the least excuse Lukel4vl8
For not receiving Christ without delay Jn.lvl2;Isa.1v18
and stumbling down the broad and crowded way, Matt.7v13
For since to save, God's gone to such expense, Jn.3vl6;Acts20v28;
It really is the height of insolence— Acts13v4J ;Prov.lv30
The greatest outrage one can perpetrate Rev.20vl5
Which nothing ever can eradicate,
To fail at last God's mighty gift to take; Ro.6v.23
To turn away and all His love forsake. Mark10.2l-22
Thus having trodden underfoot God's Son, Heb.10v.29
And to the Holy Spirit despite done,
What punishment shall he be worthy of,
Who has condemned the living God above?
And as these solemn thoughts coursed through my mind
There wasn't one excuse that I could find Rom.lv20
For staying longer in my present state
Which God, I felt, could hardly tolerate. Ps.103.8-9
From stories of conversion that I heard,
To me it seemed most people had inferred
That it's essential first to undergo
A dismal period of awful woe,
Wherein the soul, of hope's last gleam bereft,
Discovers nothing but despair is left:
And at that point and not before, he sees
The Work of Christ, and then with seeming ease,
He finds he has worked up enough Belief,
And feels his burden go with great relief.
Though I with zeal attempted this technique
And in a morbid frenzy I would seek lKing.18v.28
To banish any trace of hope from mind,
And feel despair and guilt of every kind—
Expecting any moment to receive
Some special power to help me to believe;
It would not work, for still they would declare
that it is only folly to despair,
Since on the cross the Work was fully done, Jn.19v30
Accomplished perfectly by God's own Son.
I always thought the first view orthodox,
But now, I saw it was a paradox:
In order to resolve it I began
to search the Scriptures and with care to scan Acts17v11
The whole New Testament to try and see
If what they preached was truth and verity.
And in my Testament I underlined
With red ink, all the verses I could find
That would to me the Way of Life declare
And to the Saviour testimony bear. Jn5v39
I found, at length, that what they preached was true,
And absolutely nothing could I do
That would improve myself in Heaven's sight, Lukel5v21
Or in the slightest mitigate my plight. .
(To be continued)
HYMNS AND THEIR WRITERS (8)
by JACK STRAHAN, Enniskillen
"THE LORD'S MY SHEPHERD"
David — the son of Jesse
'The Lord's my shepherd, I'll not want;
He makes me down to lie
In pastures green; He leadeth me
The quiet waters by.
My soul He doth restore again;
And me to walk doth make
Within the paths of righteousness,
E'en for His own name's sake.
Yea, though I walk in death's dark vale,
Yet will I fear none ill;
For Thou art with me; and Thy rod
And staff me comfort still.
My table Thou hast furnished
In presence of my foes ;
My head Thou dost with oil anoint,
And my cup overflows.
Goodness and mercy all my life
Shall surely follow me;
And in God's house for evermore
My dwelling place shall be.!
This is probably the best known of the metrical versions of Psalm 23. It is commonly called the Scottish version and was given to us by Francis Rous (1579—1659), Provost of Eton. "The King of Love my Shepherd is" is a later rendering of the psalm by Sir Henry Williams Baker and is very popular with many congregations.
Our bible, like the Palace Beautiful of Bunyan's 'Pilgrim's Progress' has many rooms. It has its Archives stored with annals of history—the historical books of our bible. It has its Study and herein we have the masterpieces of Paul, of Peter and of the other apostles. It has its Observatory where we join the prophets and seers as they focus on the events of the future. But it also has its little private Chapel for quiet meditation—an undisturbed sanctuary, and this sacred retreat is the Book of Psalms.
Approximately one half of the psalms in the Psalter were given to us by David—David, the shepherd-king—David, 'a man after God's own heart' and yet, at the same time, 'a man of like passions as we.' What a place these very heart breathings of David have occupied within the hearts of God's people throughout succeeding generations—to be sung in Solomon's Temple by the temple choirs—to be carried into captivity and sung by the rivers of Babylon—to be sung in synagogues, sabbath after sabbath—to be on the lips of Jesus of Nazareth from childhood days till He expired on the cross—to be crooned by the shepherds, the vinedressers, the ploughmen and the reapers of Palestine as they accomplished their daily task—to be revered by Jews scattered on every continent of this world—by every sick bed and lonely couch, on every wedding day, through valleys and over rugged paths, they are still sweet to the people of God!
Psalm 23 is probably the best known and sweetest of all the psalms of David. We don't know for certain the time nor the circumstances of its writing, but it is probable that David wrote it in the closing years of life, for the words bespeak a quiet confidence mellowed by the experience of years and of trial. And even though David has long since left us, he still speaks in this lovely shepherd psalm
"The harp strings lie bruised and broken,
The kingdom has gone to decay,
The shepherd-king sleeps in Mount Zion
Not far from the ancient gateway.
But the sweet tender song of the shepherd
Sings on through the wearisome years;
The shepherd may sleep, but his message
Still lives to dispel human feat?.'
Psalm 23 is immortal. Placed as it is in the Psalter between Psalm 22 (The Cross of Suffering) and Psalm 24 (The Hill of Glory), this lovely "song of rest" is the psalm of present wilderness experience. These three psalms, taken together, cover the "yesterday, today and for ever" of Christian experience— the "yesterday" of the cross which is past, the "for ever" of the glory which is future and the "today" of present pilgrimage.
David had started out on the pilgrimage of life as a shepherd. Those were the delightful days of youth, but then the pathway took some unexpected turnings. Life held many dark days for David—public life had had its disappointments—family life had brought its heart-breaks, and private life its own bitterness. Yet through it all, there was something remaining, untouched by the changing circumstances of time, and it is of this 'something' that David now confidently sings—of the Shepherd and His abiding presence. What sweet repose this is for the heart—wants are negated by the provision of the Shepherd; weariness is dispelled in the green pastures and by the waters of quietness; wanderings are corrected and the soul is restored, fears are cancelled though the valley be ever so dark; there is royal bounty even in the enemies' presence, and the pathway, though maybe winding and steep, leads on to the house of the Lord, for the Shepherd knows the way!
This unfailing Companion through life of whom David sings is Jehovah and what infinite resources obtain with Him—all the know how for the pathway and all the supply as well! He is at the same time both Shepherd and Host—as Shepherd, David is one of His sheep—as Host, David is one of His guests, at His table in the wilderness now and then in the house of the Lord forever. A precious intimacy pervades the psalm—the intimacy of the Shepherd and His sheep. No stranger intrudes here. David feels his has been the privilege in life to have had Jehovah as his Shepherd and he now bears testimony to the greatness of His care. At the beginning of the psalm he speaks of the Shepherd as "He" (third person), but further on he addresses Him directly as "Thou" (second person). How sweet is this increasing intimacy! In the green pastures and by the still waters and in the paths of righteousness it is enough for David to speak of the Shepherd,
as "He," but as the road winds on through the dark valley and the enemies' land, it seems as if David moves closer to his Shepherd-guide-and whispers to Him, "Thou." How precious for the child of God to speak intimately to the Shepherd when the sky darkens and the enemy is near! In the psalm, David testifies that changing outward circumstances can never separate him from his Shepherd-companion and guide. But right at the outset, David lets us into the secret of all his blessings; it is this—"the Lord is my Shepherd." Everything else stems from this personal relationship. David here speaks of the Shepherd as, "my Shepherd." In John 10, the Shepherd speaks of the sheep as "my sheep." Such are the intimate relationships between the Lord and His own—beautifully expressed in the words of the Song of Solomon, "I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine!"
This psalm is a priceless heritage. By it steps are guided, tears are dried, the gloom is illuminated, fears are dissipated and dearest hopes revived. Dr. John Julian says of it, "the first religious verse learned at a mother's knee, and often the last repeated before entering the valley of the shadow of death."
GLORY IN THE CROSS
Nought have I wherein to glory
But the shameful cross,
Bring the sacred scenes before me,
Let me count as loss,
All the pomp and pride and pleasure
Of a world undone,
That would such a portion measure
To Thy Blessed Son!
What a sight outside the city
On Golgotha's brow,
None to comfort, None to pity,
All is darkness now!
O to gaze with fond reflection
On His cross of shame,
Gladly share in His rejection,
Gathered to His Name.
All in vain the world is calling,
Brighter is His love,
Sweeter joys my heart enthralling,
Fixing it above.
Greatly have I been forgiven,
1 should love the most,
He Who brings my feet to Heaven,
Now is all my boast.
Unto Him Who died to save me
Henceforth would I live,
His own self He freely gave me,
I would freely give All I am through sovereign favour,
All my fleeting days, All and only and forever
To His matchless praise.
Tune: Through the darkness, storm and sorrow. 220.127.116.11.18.104.22.168.