Peter reminds us that God “hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness” 2Pet.1.3, so that we have no excuse for not living our lives for the glory of the Lord. These “all things” include His indwelling Holy Spirit, His own precious and infallible Word and the great blessings of Christian friendship and fellowship. We have great cause to thank God for the opportunity to read the Scriptures and be guided by the Divine Author to understand what we read. Yet one of the greatest blessings we have is to enjoy the company of the saints of God, who are described as “them that have obtained like precious faith with us” 2Pet.1.1. We have often been warned to take care when making friends since their influences on us can be so powerful.
There was a time when our choice of friendship brought us into the category of being enemies of God, “… whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” Jms.4.4. We shall be eternally grateful that there was One who surpassed the greatest love that man could show when He died for His enemies, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”; and “God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” Jn.15.13; Rom.5.8. For our beloved Lord this involved the dread loneliness of the cross when He could say prophetically, “Lover and friend hast Thou put far from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness” Ps.88.18.
When we repented of our sins and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour it caused great joy among our friends and His also: “And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost … And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost” Lk.15.6,9.
Throughout life we have had good friends who have sought to instruct us as to our service for the Lord and “how ye ought to walk and to please God” 1Thess.4.1. True friends warn us of unbecoming behaviour and reveal to us indications of our love for Christ growing cold. This will be done by speaking the truth in love and not with a hard and cutting attitude as they seek our spiritual benefit. Others may flatter us and deceive by their fair speeches but we recall the perceptive words of Solomon, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” Prov.27.6. Paul’s warnings to the Galatians were not well received by some and he asked of them, “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” Gal.4.16. Sometimes we learn that not all medicine is pleasant but it must be taken to bring about a remedy.
It is a heart rending experience when those whom we thought were friends betray us: “Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me” Ps.41.9. We praise God that in the Lord Jesus we have found “a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” Prov.18.24. We can truly testify that “… He is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend …” S of S.5.16.
The mark of being a true friend of His is obedience to His Word, “Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you” Jn.15.14,15. The apostle John appreciated this spiritual friendship that marked God’s family until he was a very aged man, “Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name” 3Jn.14.
This glorious Saviour has not forgotten us and will soon come again to the air to catch us away to be forever with Himself. Subsequently He will come to reign on the earth and be vindicated here where He was rejected and crucified. What a glory it will be then, when we are known as “the king’s friend” 1Kgs.4.5, and we can sincerely declare,
When He comes in bright array,
And leads the conquering line,
It will be glory then to say,
That He’s a friend of mine.
It is our pleasure to warmly greet all our readers at the commencement of 2010 and wish you God’s richest blessings during this year in His Will. We have, by the gracious help of God, completed another year of publishing Assembly Testimony and the associated books in the ‘Glory’ series which have been well received and in the opinion of many, have proved to be helpful, especially to young Christians for whom they were originally and primarily intended. It has been necessary to reprint the first three, such was the demand for these volumes. In addition, the series on ‘My Conversion and Call’ has been collated into book form and already has proved to be very popular. In spite of our many defects we are glad that the magazine still brings comfort and edification to the Lord’s people in many lands and letters of appreciation constantly received, are a source of great encouragement to us.
We, as usual, wish to express our sincere thanks to all who contribute in their own valued way to the success of the magazine – those who willingly distribute it, those who take the time and show the interest in reading the magazine, those who write helpful articles and by no means least, all who uphold us in prayer. It is only as the Lord enables that we can continue. A special word of thanks is due to our editor for his meticulous work and diligence in spite of his many commitments, our secretary and treasurer who has undertaken these onerous responsibilities cheerfully and professionally and, of course, our accountant for auditing the accounts and for his sound and helpful advice.
We leave a year that throughout was marked by uncertainty and consequent insecurity and the prospects for the year ahead, as far as the world is concerned, are anything but hopeful. Politicians are anxious, the people are fearful and as never before we need to heed the exhortation of 1Tim.2.1 that “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men”.
In the face of such uncertainty, how certain and sure are the prospects of God’s people! With what reassurance the Saviour said to His disconsolate disciples in Jn.14.3, “I will come again…”. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven…” and John stated, “… when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is” 1Jn.3.2.
May our souls be gladdened midst the gloom, as we consider such certainties.
As we have already noticed, the terms and conditions on which Israel could enjoy their inheritance in Canaan evidently conclude with the words, “These are the words of the covenant, which the Lord commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel” 29.1. According to Raymond Brown, this verse belongs to the end of chapter 28 in the Hebrew text, and the words, “Moses called unto all Israel” 29.2, mark the commencement of a passage, covering chapters 29-30, in which those terms and conditions are presented to the people as a covenant.
Having said that “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us, and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law” 29.29, chapter 30 commences with some of these “secret things”. In the words of C.H.Mackintosh, it “unfolds some of those most precious resources of grace treasured up in the heart of God, to be unfolded when Israel, having utterly failed to keep the law, should be scattered to the end of the earth." The law pronounced judgment on all who transgressed its commands. This was amongst “those things which are revealed”, but now we learn that God is prepared to bless His erring and scattered people, not on the basis of their righteousness, but on the basis of His own grace and mercy.
This chapter may be divided as follows:
The Assurance of God’s Blessing, vv.1-10;
The Availability of God’s Word, vv.11-14;
The Alternatives before God’s People, vv.15-20.
1) THE ASSURANCE OF GOD’S BLESSING, vv.1-10
Although God knew that His people would forsake the covenant, 29.25, and be consequently “rooted...out of their land in anger, and in wrath, and in great indignation, and cast into...another land” 29.28, He nevertheless made provision for their forgiveness and restoration. In the words of C.A.Coates, “He has in reserve thoughts of recovery, even when all blessing has been forfeited by disobedience and departure”. This is not a case of ‘wishful thinking’. The passage is punctuated by the words, “the Lord thy God will...” vv.3,5,6,7,9. See also v.4, “from thence will the Lord thy God gather thee”. The section may be summarised as follows:
a) Remembrance. v.1
“And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations whither the Lord thy God hath driven thee”. The recovery of God’s people begins with their remembrance and recognition of God’s Word. We do well to apply His Word to conditions in our own lives. The Psalmist said, “I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto Thy testimonies” Ps.119.59. The ‘prodigal son’ recalled “the blessing and the curse” in saying, “How many hired servants of my father have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger” Lk.15.17.
b) Repentance. v.2
The second pre-requisite for divine blessing after forsaking the covenant is repentance. “And shalt return unto the Lord thy God, and shalt obey His voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul”. Solomon was well aware of this passage. See 1 Kgs.8.46-48. According to Raymond Brown, “the Hebrew word for "return" indicates an act of genuine repentance”. He continues by saying, “Moreover, the sorrow for sin must not merely be on the level of the emotions. Their conduct must be different for, in addition to their repentance over the past, God expects their obedience in the present." Hence, “thou...shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul." This is the first of three references to “heart” and “soul” in this chapter, vv.2,6,10. Departure began in the heart, 29.18, and recovery begins there as well. In the inimitable language of C.H.Mackintosh, “Blessed be God, there is not a spot on the face of the earth, be it ever so remote, from which the heart cannot turn to God. The hands might not be able to present a victim for the altar, the feet might not be able to travel to the appointed place of worship, but the heart could travel to God." But it must be a “true heart” Heb.10.22.
God’s people are still required to repent, particularly when their love for Christ has diminished; “Remember therefore (see v.1) from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent” Rev.2.5. We must never forget that an assembly which has lost its love for Christ has lost its reason to exist.
c) Regathering, vv.3-4
“Then the Lord thy God will return thy captivity, and have compassion on thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath scattered thee." It has been pointed out that "He not only welcomes His people home like the waiting father in the famous parable: He travels to the far country Himself" (Raymond Brown). Very clearly, God took no delight in casting His people “into another land” 29.28. C.A.Coates rightly observes that God “has not given up one of His precious thoughts. The purpose of His love, and the calling of His people, are just the same as at the beginning." Moses was told, “let them make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them” Ex.25.8, and He has not abandoned His desire to dwell amongst His gathered people. Ezekiel’s description of the millennial age concludes with the words “and the name of the city from that day shall be, The Lord is there” Ezek.48.35. To this end, He will fulfil the promise in v.4 and “send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect (Jews) from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” Matt.24.31. We must not confuse this with present conditions in Israel.
It is equally God’s desire to dwell amongst His gathered people today. Sadly, so many believers have lost the joy of gathering “together...into one place” 1Cor.11.20. The Lord Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name (‘unto my name’, JND), there am I in the midst of them” Matt.18.20. God takes no delight in spiritual ‘nomads’.
d) Resettlement. v.5
“And the Lord thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and He will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers." In the language of Ezek.36.11, “I will settle you after your old estates (‘as in former times’, JND), and will do better unto you than at your beginnings: and ye shall know that I am the Lord." It is not only a case of the restoration of their former possessions, but the enjoyment of increased blessings. The people would be stronger than they were before. The Lord “will bring them into the land of Gilead and Lebanon, and place shall not be found for them” Zech. 10.10.
This is an encouragement for God’s people today. Peter was told, “behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you (plural) as wheat: but I have prayed for thee (singular) that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” Lk.22.31-32. Like Israel, he would be both restored himself, and stronger than previously. John Mark was at one time an obvious disappointment to Paul, Acts 15.36-38, but ultimately he was “profitable...for the ministry” 2Tim.4.11. How helpful to know that the Lord still says, “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely” Hos.14.4. Believers who stumble are not automatically excluded from restoration and future spiritual prosperity.
e) Regeneration. v.6
“And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live." When God restores His people, He will not only “act in power for them, He will do a work of mighty grace in them of far more value than any outward prosperity however desirable” (C.H.Mackintosh). God calls this “the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah." The details follow: “I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be My people ...” Jer.31.31-34. He calls this “a new heart” Ezek.36.26. No longer will Israel, particularly its leaders, be called “stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears” Acts 7.51. The nation will then be vibrant with Divine life. It will “live”. Compare Deut.30.20; 32.47.
According to Rom.4.11, circumcision was the outward sign of Abraham’s faith in Gen.15.6. The removal of the flesh by circumcision was an apt symbol that Abraham had no confidence in himself, but every confidence in God. Believers today enjoy the spiritual significance of circumcision: “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit (‘which worship by [the] Spirit of God’, JND), and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” Phil.3.3. It is called “the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ” Col.2.11. We must never forget the implications of our identification with Christ. It has been said that having passed through the Red Sea and seen all the Lord had done for them, Israel sang, Ex.15.1-21. But having passed through the Jordan and been identified with the ark in the midst of the river, they felt the knife of circumcision, Josh.5.1-10.
f) Recompense, v.7
“And the Lord thy God will put all these curses upon thine enemies, and on them that hate thee, which persecuted thee." This reminds us that when the Lord Jesus returns He will “recompence tribulation” to them that trouble His people, 2Thess.1.6.
g) Rejoicing, vv.8-10
Obedience will lead to fruitfulness. The principle applies today. Paul prayed that the believers at Colosse “might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God” Col.1.10. More than that, it will bring joy to the Lord Himself: “for the Lord will again rejoice over thee for good, as he rejoiced over thy fathers."
But we must notice the way in which this will be brought about. It will only be “If thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law, and if thou turn unto the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul” v.10. This restates “the first and great commandment” Matt.22.37: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” Deut.6.4-5. The Lord Jesus said, “If ye love Me, keep My commandments” Jn.14.15.
We will deal with the availability of God’s word, vv.11-14, and the alternatives before the people, vv.15-20, in our next paper, God willing.
“Be Prepared” has been one of the Scouting organisation's main slogan for many years and perhaps we who are in assembly fellowship should learn some basic lessons from this short two word sermon. There is a need very clearly outlined in Scripture for Christians to “Be prepared”! “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give and answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” 1Pet.3.15. Here we are challenged to be ready to witness. “Be ready to every good work” Tit.3.1. Here Paul gives an instruction to be ready to work. “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh” Matt.24.44. This is a text concerning the Lord’s return to earth that could be used to challenge us as we wait for Him to rapture us home to glory. These are just three verses that bring before us the need to be prepared in the Lord’s service. There are many others that can be found and illustrations given of those who were prepared for service when the call came. This paper recaps and expands some important details that have already been covered in previous papers.
Sadly all too often it may be observed that children’s meetings and Sunday Schools are being conducted by those who very obviously have not prepared their materials beforehand, resulting is a mishmash of disjointed choruses, texts, lessons and the such like that confuse the children and dishonour the Lord. It would be inconceivable to turn up to take a ministry meeting without having studied and prepared beforehand but because we think we know the Bible story we want to tell, we think that no preparation is required until we turn up to speak! To avoid this, much time and effort need to be put into the work prior to ever standing before the children or sitting with them in their Sunday school class. To hastily cobble some material together late on the evening before taking your Sunday school class or children’s meeting in the hope that it will “go okay” is a poor substitute for quality time spent before the Lord seeking His mind and will about what and how your lesson should be presented. We need to use our talents and prepare our tools long before we speak to the children. Below we detail some outlines of where we need to be prepared in our work with the children.
Be Prepared to Pray
In our first paper we sought to pay attention to the need for prayer in this vital work. Of course in saying that we realise that any work we seek to do for the Lord must be the subject of prayer for it to be effective in any way. However, the writer has seen in assemblies a tendency to neglect to pray for the work of God among children almost as if this work is a second-class work and not of the same value as other works that are undertaken by the assembly. It is sad to report that in nearly twenty years of working with children I can count on one hand the number of times that prayer meetings have been held prior to or following on from the children’s meeting when special efforts have been conducted! Surely this must have a detrimental effect on the work taking place. Paul instructs that “Men pray everywhere” and again to “Pray without ceasing”.
Be Prepared to Proceed
Often one will come across assemblies where for one reason or another at some time in the past the children’s work ceased but now there is a renewed desire among some to restart such a work. However, there seems to be a reluctance to get further in the work than just thinking about it due to worries about criminal records disclosures and how to obtain them, sceptical elders, apparent lack of gift and inadequacy of the current materials available. In this situation, think seriously about your materials, ensure that you are covered in the eyes of the law, make sure you will do the very best you can in the work and proceed forthwith! Eternity is drawing nigh all too rapidly for the unbeliever! We really do need to redouble our efforts in the gospel especially among the young.
Be Prepared to Produce
As has already been stated the children of the 21st century will not, in general, sit and listen to a Bible story or gospel message too readily without it being in some way illustrated. So in the work among children we may have to use our brains, hands and imaginations in order to produce good quality visuals, choruses and quizzes. Many of these can be made on computer by those who have the necessary skills, programs and time. Others can be made from, for instance, wood if someone has the time and inclination to put some effort into the production of this type of material. However one important Biblical doctrine must be allowed to rule in this area and that is that everything done must be the best that can be done as it is for the Lord and His work!
Be Prepared to Practice
This might sound odd but if you are just starting out in children’s work or just putting together a new story or other form of visual aid it is a good idea to practice before using anything in front of the children for the first time. There can be few things more embarrassing than making a complete mess of your gospel presentation because you have not practised using your illustrations or object lessons. If some sort of flash cards or heading cards etc are being used it is necessary to ensure that they are properly sorted and in the order in which they should be used. This sounds basic but it is amazing the number of times I have seen and heard of those who have had their presentation all mixed up ending in ridicule.
Be Prepared to be Perplexed
Yes, when working with children you need to be prepared to be perplexed at the totally unexpected. Sometimes children see beyond what we imagine when asking a question or making a point. In a secondary school once taking the R.E. lesson based on the ‘Two Ways Chart’, I was seeking to explain the millennial reign of Christ and how He will set up His throne in Jerusalem and will reign for a thousand years. One boy looked at me in a very puzzled way and stated in all seriousness, “How come there will not be huge floods if it’s going to rain in Jerusalem for a thousand years?” Needless to say he was most embarrassed as his classmates made fun of him. In another children’s meeting in answer to the question, “What keeps us out of heaven” the answer was given “Gravity!” These stories are funny to us but we need to be aware that sometimes children will see a totally new angle on our words and when they do we need to avoid embarrassing them unduly so be prepared to be perplexed!
Be Prepared to Pay
The writer firmly believes (as does his wife) that children’s work is a costly business! There are many sacrifices that will have to be made at home, in the family and in the assembly if it is to be done well! Materials are costly for making quizzes and other visuals. A computer, printer, software, visual aids, prizes etc can be costly. Regarding prizes I believe that it is nothing short of a disgrace to see children attending our meetings faithfully for a year only to be presented with a prize that costs £10 or less at the yearly prizegiving! Is that a suitable testimony to unbelieving children and their families in this day and age? Assemblies and individuals need to be aware of these expenses and suitably exercised so that the children’s work is not carried out on a shoestring budget.
Be Prepared to Plan
Just as no builder will commence his work without suitable plans so we too need to plan exactly how we intend to go about doing a work among the young in the best possible way. Moses was given plans for the Tabernacle and Solomon followed plans for the Temple, so if we intend to build any work for the Lord planning must be carried out prior to the work getting underway. Which choruses are we going to use that are sound and scriptural and which will be unsuitable? Which texts will we teach and how will we explain large or difficult words so that the children will understand? Which Bible stories will we tell and what message do I want to get out of it as a whole or each part as I proceed? What type of reward scheme should we use and who will administer it etc? We need to carefully consider and plan every aspect of the work prior to it commencing and review the work to see how it can be improved as it continues.
Be Prepared to Persevere
Perseverance is a necessary requirement for working with children! Many times the work will be hard and maybe even lonely but the rewards of perseverance can be enormous. I have many times recalled to much profit Robert McPheat’s ministry and recall him once speaking about the disciples in the midst of the storm and the Lord upon the land. He told us they were facing the wind and not making much progress but they kept going and the Lord took note for it is recorded that, “He saw them toiling in rowing”! Maybe your regular assembly children’s work is very small and you wonder about the wisdom of carrying on as you feel that it’s an uphill battle with little fruit or appreciation for your labours. Look to the Lord and although the wind be against you and Satan buffet you, keep persevering for the Lord sees and will reward in His time.
Be Prepared to Put away
The writer firmly believes that if progress is to be made in children’s evangelism then many things we have used and held onto perhaps for years or even decades need to be put away. The biggest weakness I see as mentioned in a previous paper is the poor quality of our choruses, many being all tune and no truth! I believe that every Sunday school superintendent and every children’s worker should look carefully at every line of every chorus they have or use and assess its suitability for the work. Choruses that have children singing believers truth as though they were saved should be removed. Children have enough sins to deal with without adding to them by being encouraged to sing lies in our children’s work! Others that have no real scriptural or gospel content should also be weeded out as should those that are nothing more than catchy tunes. Other aspects that need to be looked at are the age and quality of materials that we use. Choruses written onto old flip charts that are now brown and dog eared, flannel graphs with pieces missing or torn or damaged figures etc are just a few that spring to mind. Take a good look at everything you use in your children’s work and decide what must go.
Be Prepared to Punish
There is no doubt that the current generation of children for the most part are brought up with little or no respect for any sort of authority and nearly all government legislation will in one form or another support the child no matter how unruly or disruptive he or she may be. We must though not be afraid to exercise discipline in our children’s work when it is required. This may include taking children home or even expelling children from the children’s work for a period of time. In my experience it is far more productive to have a meeting with ten interested and well behaved children rather than one hundred ill disciplined and badly behaved children who have little or no real interest in Divine things. We live in a world where numbers count for much. King David got into serious problems when he became too interested in numbers! We should not be overly worried about reducing the numbers of children who attend our children’s work so as to maintain good discipline in our meetings.
In the last paper it was noted that Relationships in House of God, was the subject of 5.1-6.19 and this section could be divided into six different areas of behaviour as follows:
The older in years and younger, 5.1-2
The widows in the church, 5.3-16
The elders in the church, 5.17-25
Servants and Masters, 6.1-10
Timothy’s personal charge, 6.11-16
Timothy’s charge to the rich, 6.17-19.
The first two were the subject of paper 6 and we now come to consider the others.
c) The elders in the church, 5.17-25
In these verses Paul teaches that elders who lead well should be counted worthy by the church of “double honour” or double respect. This has in mind in particular an attitude towards them but can include financial reimbursement of any expenses incurred in the carrying out of assembly responsibilities. This injunction particularly applies to those engaged in preaching the gospel and in teaching the Word of God. He reinforces the instruction from the Scriptures in Deut.25.4 and Lk.17.7.
In vv.19-21 he deals with accusations against elders. No accusation against an elder has to be entertained unless it can be confirmed by “two or three witnesses.” Those who sin by bringing unfounded accusations against elders have to be rebuked publicly that others may fear and be saved from acting in the same way. Timothy is charged to observe these instructions without prejudice or partiality in relation to accusations against elders. This is of vital importance for it has to be done in the sight of “God, and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels".
It may be, in this context of elders, that Paul, in vv.22-25, instructs Timothy regarding their recognition. First of all he tells Timothy not to be hasty in recognising a man as an elder, the laying on of hands is an act of recognition. He has not to be a “partaker of other men’s sins.” This would be by negligence in hastily recognising unsuitable men. In so doing he will keep himself pure. V.23 is a little parenthesis referring back to qualifications for elders in 3.3. “Not given to wine”; here Paul is telling Timothy a “little wine” is permissible for remedial purposes. In not being hasty in recognition Paul now cites two circumstances in recognising men’s unfitness as elders; it is sometimes evident, in other cases it is only evident later. Thus the requirement laid down, not to be hasty in their recognition. In identifying men’s fitness to rule, their good works are sometimes evident but in others they are less obvious and become evident later. Thus the need not to act on first impressions but to take time, for time will show true character.
d) Servants and Masters, 6.1-10
In vv.1-2 the duty of servants is detailed. The servants in this instance were actually slaves. They have to treat their masters with all honour or respect in order that “the name of God and His doctrine be not blasphemed” or evil spoken of. Those with “believing masters” have not to despise or think slightingly of them because they are brethren, i.e. not to take advantage of their relationship, but to serve them faithfully. They should remember their masters are believers and beloved and as such, they are “partakers of the benefit.” The benefit here is probably the benefit of the good work of the slaves and their believing masters are repeating that benefit and not the ungodly. There is now a direct charge given to Timothy to “teach and exhort” concerning these things of masters and servants as well as the other relationships in chapter 5. He had not to seek to change the laws of the land but to teach and exhort the saints to live for Christ in the prevailing conditions.
In vv.3-5 he deals with those who would teach contrary to what he exhorts Timothy to teach. He shows that those teaching otherwise are not consenting to the healthy words of “our Lord Jesus Christ” which provided the doctrine of God given by the apostles which leads to godliness. These men are “proud, knowing nothing” and are obsessed with questions and disputes over words. Such a conduct leads to “envy, strife, railings,” suspicions, wranglings of men “of corrupt minds” and bereft of the truth. They suppose that godliness is a way of gain. We are commanded along with Timothy to withdraw ourselves from such teachers.
Paul corrects any contrary teaching in vv.6-10. He starts with making a true definition of godliness. “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” This refutes the false teachers who say that godliness is a way of gain. Satisfaction with personal circumstances, showing dependence on God and being independent of external circumstances is real gain. He shows the reasoning behind such a statement when he states, “we brought nothing into this world and it is certain that we can carry nothing out". This means that we cannot take gain with us to the next world. Therefore, says Paul, “having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” He follows with a warning about riches. He condemns those who will be rich, that is they desire to be rich, and that desire brings temptation and the falling into a trap or snare and introduces us to “many foolish and hurtful lusts which drown men” in ruin and eternal loss. This is what happens to men in general and is given as a warning to believers against such a covetous spirit. He proceeds to show how it affects believers in particular. “The love (desire) of money” is the root of all kinds of evil. It has led to some being seduced from the faith or led astray and in addition they have “pierced themselves through with many sorrows”, and so have robbed themselves of joy.
e) Timothy’s personal charge, 6.11-16
As a servant in the church Timothy is encouraged “to flee these things” or put them to flight. This is a mark of a “man of God". Positively he has to follow or pursue six characteristics listed, including godliness, which feature is mentioned eight times in the epistle. He is then enjoined to fight or engage in a conflict. It is a good fight of faith, a contending for the right, the whole canon of truth. This leads to laying hold on eternal life. Appropriating all the benefits, privileges and responsibilities attached to the possession of eternal life by being fully involved in all it means. Timothy is reminded he was called of God to this life and that God had helped him previously in events that were witnessed and this same God would help him further to carry out these injunctions.
Timothy is charged to keep the commandment given in vv.11-13. The importance of the charge is stressed in that it is given “in the sight of God” Who preserveth alive all things, thus assuring Timothy of God’s preservation in his witness. It is also given in the sight of “Christ Jesus” Who Himself “before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession”, thus giving encouragement and impetus to Timothy to witness faithfully. He has to keep the “commandment without spot”, free from contamination and “unrebukeable”, without reproach. This has to be done right up “until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ". In this instance it seems to refer to His coming at the Rapture for His church. That is when He will reward faithfulness at the Judgment Seat of Christ. He goes on to show the progression of Divine plans. “In His times”, according to His programme, “He shall show who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” This will be at His manifestation to earth in order to set up His Kingdom and ultimately to bring in a new heaven and a new earth. As such He “only hath immortality”, dwelling in unapproachable light where “no man can approach” or even see apart from the grace of God. This raises a doxology from Paul, “to whom be honour”, that which is His due from others “and power everlasting”, that which is His right as supreme. “Amen.”
f) Timothy’s charge to the rich, 6.17-19.
Paul shows that the rich have special dangers and wealth has to be held for God. He stresses that these riches are only for this world. They should not “be highminded”, acting in a lofty superior manner, trusting not in “uncertain riches” but never relinquishing their trust in God. What God gives is in abundance for our enjoyment. In their use of money they are exhorted to “do good” and to “be rich in good works” with their money. To be prepared “to distribute and willing to communicate” or to be generous in their support of the work of God. By doing this they are storing a good foundation for the future, which will be seen by the rewards given at the Judgment Seat of Christ. By these injunctions they can “lay hold of eternal life”, that is enjoy even now the blessing of eternal life.
3: 6.20-21 - The Final Charge
Paul closes by charging Timothy to keep or guard that which has been deposited with him as a trust, that is the whole counsel of God is to be kept intact. In doing so, there are certain things he will need to avoid or turn away from. Among these are “profane and vain babblings". These are unholy empty sounds, profitless discussions. He has also to avoid “oppositions of science falsely so called". These were the antagonisms of false teachers carried out in the name of superior knowledge. He is warned that some have already professed this knowledge and consequently, have missed the mark concerning the faith, the whole doctrine of God. He is finally commended to the grace of God; only Divine grace can keep us going on to the end.
Some saints are afflicted with doubts regarding the possession of salvation and this new series is designed to highlight the truth of assurance. These papers are taken from an old (undated) book called “Salvation and How to Possess it,” published by J. Ritchie
By Handley Bird
“If only I could be certain about it.” It is the haunting dread that is so hard to endure, lest after all we have been deceived, and find we have been trusting in a chimera — resting on a false hope.
I cannot trust a theory, however apparently faultless and cleverly presented it may be; for what if the premises upon which it is based are false. I do not trust the opinions of good and great men, for the most opposite statements and beliefs have the support of equally estimable characters. I certainly cannot rely upon my own judgement or my feelings, for I have proved the truth of the Scripture, “he that trusteth in his own heart is a fool.". Then where is certainty to be found? I am going into eternity; a conscious existence for ever; a judgment of life and character by a holy and just God; followed by an eternal state of holiness and happiness, or of misery and torments.
One thing is certain, I have sinned. Memories of my past transgressions terrify me. Yet “religion” is an altogether unsatisfactory refuge, for while it may mend or patch up my life, it will neither undo the past nor deliver from the fear of meeting God in the future. Merely making a new start will not avail me. Oh, how am I to know that I am right with God for eternity?
Yet this is just what the Scriptures present as the heritage of every believer in Heb.6.17-20. In order that we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us (which hope is Christ crucified, risen, and within the veil interceding on our behalf); God has confirmed His promise by an oath: that is, He has given us an unchangeable promise, and anchor of the soul, sure and stedfast. Here at least we have something certain. This is what kept Paul’s heart calm and confident in the midst of a despairing crew, Acts 27.25. “Sirs, I believe God that it shall be even as it was told me". What then are these peace terms, which put an end to the torments of fear and guilt, and the miserable sense of unfitness to meet God. Let the Lord Himself illustrate the case. “What king going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first and consulteth, whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage and desireth conditions of peace.” Now it is true that I am not “able”, I have not sufficent strength or righteousness or merit with which to face the judgment of a holy God. For is it not written of a good man of old that, though he was a devout man, who feared God and gave much alms to the people and prayed to God alway, he was to send for one Peter who would tell him words whereby he might be saved, Acts 10.2; 11.14. And we read that when Peter came, he simply pointed this religious man to Christ, saying “The word which God sent, preaching peace by Jesus Christ — Whom God anointed — Who went about doing good — Whom they slew and hanged on a tree — Whom God raised up — through His Name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins". Acts 10.36-43. Clearly these were God’s “conditions of peace". The seeker’s devotion, fear of God, good deeds, and prayers, could not save him; and he received God’s gift, by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ alone.
Surely this is where I also may find rest of soul and assurance of eternal life; but how hard it is to give up all confidence in one’s own efforts, to let all go, and as a sinner deserving only hell for ever, to accept God’s terms of peace. Yet it is plain that only thus will the Lord make peace. He preaches “peace by Jesus Christ". Shall this not be enough for me? If God be satisfied with my Saviour’s offering, shall I not also rest without fear upon His finished work and the merit of His blood? I was not “able” to meet God in my sins, but Christ has borne them in His own body on the tree, suffering, the just for the unjust, to bring me to God, 1Pet.2.24, 3.18.
Here then is my assurance of salvation. I rest for eternity upon a perfect Saviour, Who has finished the work of my redemption, and by Whose stripes I am healed, Isa.53.5. And having done so, I have “strong consolation” because of God’s promise and oath to me, “two immutable things in which it is impossible for God to lie". He says, “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.5.13. “He that believeth not God hath made Him a liar” 1Jn.5.10, and this I dare not do.
Then also the blessed Holy Spirit. “Himself beareth witness with my spirit” that I am a child of God, Rom.8.16. He it is that teaches me to cry Father, Father. He leads me into fellowship with God and His people. He makes me free from the bondage of sin. He enables me to mortify the flesh. He fills and thrills my soul with new life and holiness. He helps my infirmities. As soon as I believed, I was “sealed with this Holy Spirit of promise until the day of redemption” Eph.1.13; 4.30. As one has said, “While the Word of God tells a blind man what there is to be seen, it is the Holy Spirit who opens his eyes to see it.”
Thus I have a threefold cord not to be broken, which, like Rahab’s scarlet thread, bound to her window, makes me sure of salvation. It is the work of the Son of God for me, the Word of God the Father to me, and the witness of the Holy Ghost in me.
But this is not all. That there may be no excuse for uncertainty, my soul is pointed not only to Christ on the cross dying for me, but to Christ on the throne interceding for me. As it is written, “He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them” Heb.7.25. “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather that is risen again, Who is even at the right hand of God, Who also maketh intercession for us” Rom.8.34.
This was the reason that though Peter fell so grievously, he could not stay in his sin, but went out and wept bitterly — his Lord had assured him, “I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not". And so Peter is restored, as is every sinning saint, in answer to that unfailing advocacy; and, through it, I also shall be “kept by the power of God, through faith, unto salvation, ready to be revealed” 1Pet.1.5.
Let me, moreover, remember that it is by the grace of God I am saved, apart from any merit or fitness of my own. He saved me, knowing perfectly what I was and what I am; and no future revelation of my unworthiness and sinfulness can change His attitude towards me. It was grace to begin with and it will be grace to the end; so let me “set my hope perfectly upon the grace that is to be brought to me at the revelation of Jesus Christ” 1Pet.1.13. I may change a thousand times, but the grace of God will not and cannot. Did not the Father give me to His Son? Jn.17.2. How then could that love-gift ever be lost? My life is hid with Christ in God. This is certainty. In this my soul rests. I am saved, saved for eternity, never to face my guilty past at the bar of an angry God, never to know the torments of eternal fire. Blessed be God for such a salvation provided for a poor helpless unworthy sinner. “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.”
The two previous articles looked at the size and location of the Millennial Temple and some of its distinctive features. In this article some other exclusive features of this temple are examined.
THE EAST GATE
The tabernacle had a single entrance on the east, Ex.27.13. The Millennial Temple will have three external gates to the north, south and east. The East Gate in the Millennial Temple however is unusual in that it is reserved for the use of two persons, one Divine and one human. It is the gate through which the Lord returns to the Temple and the gate through which the Prince passes on Sabbath days and new moons. This is seen in the following passages, “Afterward he brought me to the gate, even the gate that looketh toward the east: And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and His voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with His glory ... And the glory of the LORD came into the house by the way of the gate whose prospect is toward the east” Ezek.43.1,2,4. “Thus saith the Lord GOD; The gate of the inner court that looketh toward the east shall be shut the six working days; but on the sabbath it shall be opened, and in the day of the new moon it shall be opened. And the prince shall enter by the way of the porch of that gate without, and shall stand by the post of the gate, and the priests shall prepare his burnt offering and his peace offerings, and he shall worship at the threshold of the gate: then he shall go forth; but the gate shall not be shut until the evening. Likewise the people of the land shall worship at the door of this gate before the LORD in the sabbaths and in the new moons” Ezek.46.1-3.
The Lord Who retreated from the Temple through the East Gate, 10.20; 11.23, now returns. Once He enters, the door is closed and is only opened on the Sabbath. This signifies the permanency of His return. The Lord has returned to His Temple and closed the door behind Him! On the Sabbath, although the Prince uses the gate he does not pass through the porch and into the court. Instead he stands on the threshold and offers his offerings. The “people of the land” by contrast enter and exit by the north and south gates. In order to ease congestion the great flow of human traffic moves in two lanes, 46.9, so that if someone enters by the north gate he must exit by the south and vice versa. ‘U-turns’ are forbidden in this Temple!
It is sometimes said that the East Gate in Jerusalem will be re-opened for the Messiah when as prophesied by Ezekiel He returns in glory. The East Gate through which the Lord will pass according to Ezekiel however is not the East Gate of Jerusalem but the East Gate of the temple. In the Millennial kingdom the temple and the city are separated from one another, 45.6,7. Today the Temple Mount lies within the walls of Jerusalem. In the vision seen by Ezekiel Jerusalem lies to the south of the mountain on which the temple stands, Ezek.40.1; 45.6; 48.15,19,30-35. Around the temple is a cordon sanitaire to separate it from the land associated with the Prince, the Levites and the city, 45.2. If therefore the East Gate in Jerusalem will one day be re-opened it will not be as a result of the fulfilment of this prophecy.
Who is the Prince? Ezekiel refers to David as a shepherd and “prince” over Israel, 34.23,24; 37.25, and some have suggested that the Prince referred to in the closing section of Ezekiel is David back in his old stronghold of Jerusalem as a resurrected man. Others think the Prince is the Lord Himself.
There are a few problems with these views. The Prince here has “sons”, 46.16, to whom he gives gifts. If it is the David of old then these “sons” must be either King David’s original sons or new sons born after his resurrection. But David’s sons included unregenerate men such as Absalom and it is hard to see him being among the sons to whom David gives offerings. Also these are “sons” which connotes young men. I would not expect David’s sons from O.T. times to be raised as young men. It is true that we do not know what state of apparent maturity resurrected bodies will have but if these are resurrected “sons” then they must appear younger than the Prince. All in all the suggestion is fraught with too many difficulties. As regards the possibility that these are sons born after David’s resurrection, Matt.22.30 teaches that after resurrection the dead do not marry “but are as the angels in heaven” which suggests that the resurrected saints are not capable of procreation. That being so, these “sons” could not be born to David after his resurrection.
Nor is the Prince the Lord Jesus since the Prince offers a sin offering for himself, 45.22, which would be inappropriate if this Prince was the Saviour. It would appear therefore that the Prince will be a leader raised up by God to rule Israel and possibly the world during its Golden Age whose precise identity is at present unknown.
The Tabernacle was built on a level area of ground. The Millennial Temple however will be built on three levels. The Temple is accessed by a flight of seven stairs, 40.6,22,26; the Inner Court is accessed by a flight of eight stairs, 40.31,34,37; a further flight gives access to the Sanctuary, 40.49. The R.S.V., N.L.T., and E.S.V., adopt the Septuagint text that states that there were “ten steps” leading up into the Sanctuary. However many steps there were on that last flight into the sanctuary, as the priest drew closer to the presence of God his footsteps carried him higher. The higher a priest climbed the closer he was to God. This again emphasises the spiritual elevation that marks God’s presence. Although there is a sense in which God’s presence may be experienced everywhere by virtue of His omnipresence, Scripture teaches that God’s presence can also be localised. Thus in the O.T. the pillar of cloud and the fire indicated that God was present among His people in a distinctive way. When the glory took up residence in the tabernacle God’s immediate presence was a reality.
So when the assembly gathers “in His name”, Matt.18.20, the Lord is among His saints in a way that is distinct from the way in which He is present at other times. Although we do not see the cloud of glory He is present in a way that He is not in the ordinary round of life. On these occasions we are like the priests in Ezekiel’s Temple. We have climbed the stairs and we stand on “higher ground”. We ought to be conscious of the enormous privilege of proximity to His presence. His presence in the assembly ought to have a profound effect on our hearts and spirits. Casualness and carelessness ought to be absent. Like the priests of Zadok’s line that will one day minister with awe before the “throne of His glory”, Ezek.43.6; Matt.19.28; 25.31, we ought to reverence the presence of Christ in the House of God.
The closing chapters of Ezekiel present many challenges to the student of Scripture. These articles have been devoted to an examination of the great temple that Ezekiel saw in his vision. Much has been left untouched. May those features that have been examined and the lessons they teach reinforce the conviction in our souls that “all Scripture”, no matter how unfamiliar or complex, “is given by inspiration of God and is profitable”.
The Lord spoke again of His reproach, shame, dishonour and His adversaries. He knew that God knew every detail of His sufferings, v.19. The reproaches He endured broke the Lord’s heart. He had been forsaken and was alone, full of misery and none came to help or comfort him, v.20. In v.21 we read of the Lord being given gall and vinegar. He was offered gall, the bitter tasting drug, to drink to alleviate His sufferings on the cross but He refused it. He was later offered vinegar, that is, sour wine, to assuage His thirst, Matt.27.34,48.
Pour out Thine indignation upon them, vv.22-28
The imprecations David called down on his enemies in vv.22-28 vividly contrast with the gracious, merciful prayer of the Lord when, on the cross, He prayed “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do’ Lk23.34. Mercy, grace, forgiveness and salvation are available for all who believe, repent and put faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The imprecations in vv.22-28 apply especially to the nation of Israel and the words of vv.22,23 were applied by Paul to unbelieving Jews, Rom.11.9,10, and v.25 was applied to the nation by the Lord, Matt.23.38. Terrible judgments await those who reject the Messiah. We read that “unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required" Lk12.48. Israel, God’s chosen, earthly people, received many blessings and privileges which would have worked for their welfare and well-being and which were referred to as “their table” v.22. Having rejected their Messiah, the nation will experience great trouble before being graciously blessed again in the future.
The nation of Israel rejected the One who was “the light of the world” Jn.8.12, and now the nation suffers judicial blindness, v.23; 2cor.3.14, and is suffering, and has suffered persecution among the nations which makes “their loins continually to shake” v.23. Shortly before the Lord was crucified, the people said “His blood be on us, and on our children” Matt.27.25, and the Jewish people have indeed suffered God’s indignation and anger, v.24. The Lord said to people, "Behold your house is left unto you desolate", Matt.23.38, and in AD70 Jerusalem was sacked by the Roman army and their habitation was desolate, v.25. V.25 was applied by Peter to Judas Iscariot in connection with his sad end and replacement, Acts.1.20.
When He hung on the cross the Lord was “smitten” Zech.13.7, and many people added to His afflictions and sufferings by the things they said and did, v.26. Those who are determined not to turn to the Lord and be saved keep on adding to their sins and thereby increase the punishment they will suffer eternally, v.27. A believer’s name can never be blotted out of the “Lamb’s book of life” Rev.21.27, but the names of the unsaved will not be found in that book, v.28, and they will be in the Lake of Fire eternally, Rev.20.11-15.
I will praise the Name of God, vv.29-36
The closing section of Psalm 69 can be compared with vv.22-31 of Psalm 22 where, after speaking of His sufferings on the cross and praying for deliverance, the Saviour expressed His assurance that His Father would deliver Him and that He would yet praise and lead others in praise to God. The Lord asked to be set “up on high”, v.29. His Father answered the prayer, raised Him from among the dead and He sits “on the right hand of the Majesty on High” Heb.1.3. The Lord looked forward with confident, glad anticipation to thanking and praising God with a song v.30; Ps.22.22. The praise and thanksgiving led by the risen, glorified Lord and Saviour will please God better than the best animal sacrifices, v.31. The humble, the poor, the oppressed and those that seek God will be encouraged and glad when they learn that God answered the prayers of His Son and delivered Him from suffering and reproach, vv.32,33.
The final verses of the Psalm consist of an outburst of praise to God. Israel has been set aside by God for a little while but a glorious time of blessing lies ahead for the nation. The time is coming when Israel will realize that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Messiah and will realize that He was the One their forefathers pierced and they will mourn for Him as one who mourns for an only Son, Zech.12.10; Jn.19.27. They will say, “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord” Lk.13.35. God “will save Zion” and, in the Millennium, God will be praised and the Children of Israel will dwell in and possess the land, vv.34-36.
In the last book of the Bible we read at least four descriptions of those who will be in heaven. My dear reader, are these true of you?
The first of several songs of praise to be found in this same book commences with the words, “Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood” Revelation 1.5. It is evident that those who will populate heaven, have been cleansed from the defilement of sin. The unsullied purity and holiness of that celestial abode can never be contaminated by the loathsome defilement of sin; “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie …” Revelation 21.27. If you compare yourself with others, you may never be persuaded about your unclean state but when you stand in the fullest, purest, clearest light of the holiness of God Who “is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” 1John 1.5, you will understand your unfitness to be where God dwells. God’s verdict is final and non-negotiable, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” Romans 3.23.
Have you been cleansed? If not, then why not avail yourself of the cleansing power of the precious blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, which cleanseth from all sin, 1John 1.7.
Another great song, described as “a new song” is heard in heaven in Revelation chapter 5. Among the words of praise ascribed to the Lamb are these, “For Thou wast slain, And hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood …” Revelation 5.9. Another characteristic of those who will be in heaven is that they have been redeemed from the bondage of sin. Redemption suggests deliverance because of a price that has been paid. One of the greatest causes of joy in the heart of a believer is the knowledge that we have been delivered from the power of sin presently and from its penalty forever. The Son of God willingly took our place upon the cross and sustained the full punishment that was due to our sins. “Because the sinless Saviour died, my sinful soul is counted free; For God the Just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me.” Dear Reader, have you that assurance that you will never be in hell because you have trusted Him Who “…bare our sins in His own body on the tree” 1Peter 2.24. If not, then hell is inescapable!
Revelation 21.24 further describes the inhabitants of heaven as “them which are saved”. They have been rescued from the very real consequences of their sins. They were not able to accomplish this by their own efforts; they could not purchase this salvation at any price; it could never be merited but it can be received. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” Romans 6.23. It is the product of the atoning sufferings and death of the Lord Jesus Christ and can only be obtained by faith in Him, Acts 4.12.
Finally, the closing words of Revelation chapter 21 emphasise that those who will be in heaven, “…are written in the Lamb’s book of life”. By wondrous grace their names are in God’s great register, inscribed there the moment they trusted Christ and never to be obliterated from those pages. Is your name there, my friend? That is all important for “whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” Revelation 20.15.
Do you fit the picture? God has graphically described those who will share His home forever. If these descriptions are not true of you, why not, just now, trust Christ, the only Saviour of sinners and start for heaven, assured that you will be there eternally.