54) “So Moses the servant of the Lord died” (Part 2)
Again read Chapter 34: 1-12
In the previous paper we noticed that Deuteronomy chapter 34 could be divided as follows:
The Sight of The Land,vv.1-4;
The Sepulchre of Moses, vv.5,6;
The Strength of Moses, v.7;
The Sorrow of Israel, v.8;
The Succession of Joshua, v.9;
The Singularity of Moses, vv.10-12.
We dealt with the first two of these sections, so we come now to the third.
THE STRENGTH OF MOSES, v.7
“And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated." Although Moses evidently felt the limitations of old age, Deut.31.2, he lived to prove that all he needed to complete the task was supplied, and that “as thy days, so shall thy strength be” Deut.33.25. Centuries later, Paul wrote to Timothy, “At my first answer no man stood with me … Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known” 2Tim.4.17. It has been rightly said, “whenever God calls a man or woman to His service, He provides all the necessary physical, material and spiritual resources for the tasks in hand” (Raymond Brown).
THE SORROW OF ISRAEL, v.8
“And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days: so the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended”. Having reigned for eight years, Jehoram “departed without being desired” 2Chr.21.20. Quite clearly, the children of Israel thought differently about Moses, who had led them for forty years. They were rather like the Ephesian elders who, on Paul’s departure from Miletus, “all wept sore … sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more” Acts 20.37,38.
The Word of God abounds with instances of human grief and mourning. Abraham for example, grieved for his beloved Sarah, Gen.23.2. Death was not something to pass over as quickly as possible, and then get back to normal, and try to forget it, which seems to be common practice today. Weeping should not be regarded as a form of weakness, something to be tolerated in the circumstances, but actually an infirmity which some are not of sufficiently strong character to suppress. Believers “sorrow not, even as others which have no hope” 1Thess.4.13, but Paul does not infer for one moment that believers do not sorrow at all. It has been said that when “the tie of natural affection is severed by death, it is a heart hardened by the enemy that can feel no pangs, and for the relief of those inner sorrows, God has made provision – tears” (W.H. Molland). In the words of Robert Candlish, “It is not that a believer is allowed to weep, but at the appropriate season it is his proper business, an exercise to which he is called”.
THE SUCCESSION OF JOSHUA, v.9
“And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had put his hands upon him: the children of Israel hearkened unto him, and did as the Lord commanded Moses”. We should notice:
The Wisdom He Acquired: “And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom”. That is, after forty years training in the school of God! Joshua evidently profited immensely from the various lessons he learnt during that period, many of them in the company of Moses. It all began when Amalek attacked the children of Israel, and his first lesson was how to overcome the enemy, Ex.17.8-16. Lessons continued, and it makes a very worthwhile study to piece together the Divine curriculum. When the time came for Joshua to assume command, God did not ‘throw him in at the deep end’. Joshua was well prepared. How well are we prepared for future responsibility? Is our progress evident? (1Tim.4.15, J.N.D.).
The Recognition He Received: “Moses had put his hands upon him”. This evidently refers to the Lord’s instructions to Moses: “Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay thine hand upon him … And thou shalt put (some) of thine honour upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient” Num.27.18-20. In putting his hands upon Joshua, Moses indicated his approval and support for his successor. Moses identified himself with Joshua in this way. Compare Gal.2.9. Moses was not to hold on to total power! He was to give every encouragement to the younger man. That's a lesson some older people need to learn! As Raymond Brown so rightly observes, “Deuteronomy brings its message to a close by reminding those who are older in years that, like Moses, they have a responsibility to prepare the next generation for the work of God”.
The Authority He Possessed: “the children of Israel hearkened unto him, and did as the Lord commanded Moses”. If Paul had been writing a commentary on this chapter, he might have said at this point: “And we beseech you, brethren, to know (recognise) them which labour among you, and are over you ('take the lead among you’, J.N.D.) in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake” 1Thess.5.12,13. Compare Heb.13.17.
THE SINGULARITY OF MOSES, vv.10-12
“And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses”. We should notice that the greatness of Moses was seen in his prayer,v.10 and in his power, vv.11,12.
In His Prayer: “whom the Lord knew face to face” v.10. Moses enjoyed an intimacy of fellowship with the Lord unknown to others. The result follows, and it is well worth remembering the old saying that "if we are nothing in the presence of God, then we are nothing". Not so Moses.
In His Power: “in all the signs and the wonders, which the Lord had sent him to do in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh, and to all his servants, and to all his land, and in all that mighty hand, and in all the great terror which Moses shewed in the sight of Israel” vv.11,12.
It has been said that "God buries His workmen, and carries on His work", and we need look no further than Josh.1.1 for confirmation. In the Hebrew text, we are told, the first word is “And” (“Now”, A.V., but see R.V./J.N.D.), which indicates continuity in the narrative: “Now after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord it came to pass, that the Lord spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' minister saying, Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give them, even to the children of Israel” Josh.1.1,2. When, shortly after, God’s people entered Canaan, they were thoroughly equipped with the guidance and instruction afforded by the book of Deuteronomy. How thankful we are, in our own day, that God’s “divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness” 2Pet.1.3.
“Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Here the apostle repeats the exhortation of v11. His own mind is deeply impressed with the frightful array of our foes. He reviews them, and describes their position and character in v.12. Thereupon he sounds a second alarm in v.13. “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God.” No part must be left unguarded. The enemy knows how to take advantage of the smallest opening.
The next thing to which the apostle calls attention is, the character of the period during which this conflict lasts. He calls it:
“THE EVIL DAY”
Some take this “day” to comprehend the whole period of the believer's life, or more especially his seasons of trial and suffering; but in this view we lose sight of Christ. There are others who think it refers to the entire period since Christ was crucified. The absence of Christ from the earth, the presence of Satan as the “prince of this world,” and the manifestations of his power, as permitted by God, constitute “the evil day.” Christ was the light of the world while He was in it, but He was rejected and crucified, and He returned to His Father. Since then, this world has been again in darkness and governed by demons. Though, of course, God is supreme, and overrules all for His own glory and His people's good; Satan is the god whom this world worships, and the prince whom it follows. How solemn! How awful the thought! What a dreadful place this world must be! Surely we should all care less for it than we do, were this terrible fact believed. See v.12.
God dwells in the light. How different! How blessed the thought! And His children are privileged to dwell in the light with Him; the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, having cleansed them from all sin, they have been made whiter than snow, and fitted to dwell in the light of heaven. But they have a mission on earth. They are God's lightbearers to the benighted people of this world. “Among whom,” says the apostle, “ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life,” Phil.2.15,16. Hence the struggle - the conflict between light and darkness - between the children of God, and the rebellious principalities and powers who rule over the darkness of this world. And hence, we may add, “the evil day.” The enemy hates the light as the thief the watchman's lamp. He will do his utmost to harass and annoy the children of light. He will seek to mislead them in their path, to darken the light that is in them, by insinuating wrong views and wrong applications of the truth; and he will seek by every means to make them falsify their position, both in the heavenlies and on the earth.
This is the enemy, and these are the kind of attacks which the Christian has to meet and contend with. He has to withstand them, to resist them at every point; and having done all to stand. Having done all that a soldier can do, and however complete the victory he may have gained, yet still he must stand, the war is not over. We must maintain our ground whether in peace or in war, and be found standing, after the last battle has been fought and the last victory won.
But in what way, may I ask, has the believer strength to oppose the forces of the enemy? There is but one answer to this question. It is by the power of the Holy Spirit, Who abides with the Lord's people during the entire period of the Lord's absence; and, consequently, during the entire period of “the evil day;” so that He Who is for us is greater far than all that be against us. Bless the Lord! What comfort, what encouragement, what strengthening of the hands to war, what certainty of victory, what security against defeat! This was Thy care and love for us, O most blessed Lord! True to Thy word of sweetest consolation to the disciples; And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; Whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not (not being incarnate), neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. “I will not leave you comfortless” — as orphans in the world — “I will come to you. Jn.14.16-18.
Knowest thou, my soul, what a good day that will be for this poor world when the Lord returns? Then it will be the presence of Christ as reigning over the whole earth, and Satan shut up in the bottomless pit. This will make all the difference. The absence of Christ now and the presence of Satan make “the evil day;” but the absence of Satan from the earth then and the presence of Christ will make “the good day” — the bright millennial day, when the whole earth will be filled with His glory. Observest thou that He says, “I will come unto you.” This may have had a certain fulfilment in the coming down of the Holy Ghost, but it can only have its complete fulfilment in the coming of the Lord Himself: as He says plainly in the same chapter. “I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” Nothing can be plainer — nothing sweeter than these words; and sweeter still the thought, He is not speaking here of glory, which will be universal, but of home, which will be special, and of the love which will characterise it for ever.
Oh, shorten then, in Thy mercy, most gracious Lord, “the evil day.” It is a day of abounding iniquity, of increasing infidelity, of wars and rumours of wars. And a day, Thou knowest, of difficulty, sorrow, and suffering to many of Thy people. The whole creation awaits Thy coming. “For the earnest expectation of the creation waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.” Oh, then, hasten that day of glory — that long-promised holiday of peace and plenty — of rest and rejoicing throughout the whole earth. Then the nations “shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more,” Isa.2.4.
In 1Peter chapter 4, Peter speaks much about time. He sees a believer’s life as divided in two, “the time past of our life” and “the rest of his time”, vv.2,3. His thought is that time is precious, too precious to spend in careless living; there was enough of that in unconverted days. In v.17, he tells us that “the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God” and the idea there is, that time is present. It is at this present time that God deals with those associated with the house of God, a judgment that is disciplinary and corrective rather than punitive and eternal; it is a chastening that is ongoing in the believer’s experience. The suggestion in v.7 is that time is passing, for “the end of all things is at hand.”
Peter had been speaking of the inevitable judgment that will come the way of those who are hostile to Christians, vv.4,5. He had also referred to the eternal spiritual blessing enjoyed by believers even though persecuted or martyred here, so his mind had turned to things future, including the day of judgment. As observed in a previous article, the day of judgment will climax Bible prophecies, but as with other writers of the inspired Scriptures, Peter taught the concept of imminence. He believed that the incident that will trigger it all could happen at any moment; the Rapture could be today! What impact should that have presently? The “therefore” of v.7 links with the teaching about the proximity of future events. Peter outlines what ought to be the logical outcome if we really believe that time is ebbing away. “Be ye therefore sober.”
The word “sober” is translated by some, “of sound mind”, which of course, does not rule out sobriety. It is a plea to have the right frame of mind in last day conditions and to avoid the careless happy-go-lucky outlook that the world applauds. That is not to say that Christians are dull people. It is not sinful to be able to recount an amusing story, or to be the master of one-liners, but life is serious, and the believer is likened to a soldier on active service, 2Tim.2.4, an athlete or a boxer in training, 1Cor.9.24-27, and a steward with accountability, Lk.16.2. Because “the end of all things is at hand”, spiritual responsibilities have to be taken seriously and service for God undertaken with commitment. What is your mind-set when it comes to the things of God? What kind of sense of responsibility do you have? Life is a battleground, not a playground; be sober.
This sense of sobriety will affect our prayer lives, for we will “watch unto prayer.” In his writings, Peter frequently recalled his experiences with the Lord Jesus, and it appears that in this verse he had recollections of Gethsemane. “Watch and pray” said the Master, Matt.26.41. It is true that sorrow occasioned their drowsiness, Lk.22.45, but one feels that if they had only realised that it was His last night on earth, a greater effort would have been made to stay alert. They failed the test. Who knows when it will be all over for us? His imminent return demands watchful Christians who appreciate the value of the life of prayer. It is a great privilege to be intercessors for others, and when we spread our own needs before God it is indicative of the sense of dependence that brings great delight to His heart, Heb.11.6. “Watch unto prayer”; you won’t have long to do it.
HAVE FERVENT CHARITY AMONG YOURSELVES
“Above all things”, that is, make this a top priority because “the end of all things is at hand.” The phrase is not dissimilar to that in Col.3.14, but there, love is seen as a belt that binds other Christian qualities around us. Here, love is the source of a benevolent attitude to offenders, and an hospitable spirit towards the saints. Some may not care for the old translation “charity”, but don’t reject it out of hand, for Bible love is charitable. “As cold as charity” is a truism, but Bible charity is different; it is warm and sacrificial, it is active and generous.
The love that is called for must be “fervent”, literally, “stretched out”. Peter had already appealed for this, speaking of it as a logical extension of the “unfeigned love of the brethren” which is an innate characteristic of those who have been born again, ch.1.22,23. Here, we learn how this fervent love can be expressed. It will “cover the multitude of sins.” It need hardly be said that sin cannot be condoned, and if serious enough, it does warrant exposure and even assembly discipline, 1Cor.5, but does failure always need to be publicised? Did Ham really have to tell his brothers about their father’s shame? Gen.9.22. As early in history as that, the “can’t wait to tell” mentality was manifesting itself in the human psyche. Fast-forward 4300 years, and technology has created a paradise for talebearers. Tattlers and busybodies don’t need to wander “from house to house” nowadays, 1Tim.5.13. The telephone, the text message, the e-mail, and the social networking sites have facilitated their activities. Peddling in gossip is evidence of a dearth of the fervent love that is so essential, in light of the fact that “the end of all things is at hand”.
That love will also be expressed in hospitality that is ungrudging, v.9. Once more, Peter seems to be remembering a scene from the Gospels. Simon was a mean discourteous Pharisee: no water, no kiss, no oil; every penny spent on Christ was grudged, Lk.7.36-50. The R.V. translates “grudging” as “murmuring”, Greek goggusmos, an onomatopoeic word that spoken softly is very expressive even to the foreign ear. Perhaps Peter was now visualising the harassed Martha with her grievance, “dost Thou not care?” Lk.10.38-42. Fervent love will be both unstinting and uncomplaining in its expressions of hospitality. Togetherness is all the more important as the shadows gather around us. Christian homes can become havens for isolated or lonely believers, especially those who experience the chill blast of a hostile world either in their own home or at their place of work.
MINISTER THE SAME ONE TO ANOTHER
At v.10, Peter introduces the theme of gift, and in a few words he gives a précis of the subject but with this overriding thrust; gift must be utilised to maximum advantage, for “the end of all things is at hand.” There is no time to be lost. The teaching here is for us all, for “every man hath received the [a R.V.] gift.” Paul taught the same fact; he speaks of the “Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will”, 1Cor.12.11. You have a gift. Have you ascertained what it is? Are you using it to full capacity in view of the brevity of time and opportunity?
Peter says of your gift, “minister the same.” There is great variety of gift, “the manifold grace of God”, but if we have to “minister the same”, it means that we do not intrude on someone else’s territory and commandeer their sphere of activity. Be content with what God has gifted you to do, and do it well. In New Testament assemblies we have rejected the unscriptural clerical system that endows one man with the sole responsibility of preaching. That has left us exposed to the notion that the pulpit is available to any brother, and sometimes sermons are preached that are neither lucid nor interesting, neither enlightening nor edifying. If God has not gifted you as a preacher, exhorter or teacher, leave it to those whom He has fitted, and whatever gift He has given you, “minister the same one to another.” “The end of all things is at hand.” Time is too limited for you to engage in the conflict in Saul’s armour.
Gift has to be ministered “one to another.” That is, your gift has been given to you for the benefit of your fellow-believers in the assembly. The assembly in its “body of Christ” character has been endowed with the whole range of necessary gifts, but one member failing to function deprives the whole company. You feel weak and inadequate, of course you do, but the “ability”, the “strength” (R.V.) for the task comes from God, v.11, so “stir up the gift of God, which is in thee” 2Tim.1.6. The natural body can function without certain members but in an impaired way. Similarly, if you neglect your gift and rob the believers of your services, it is unlikely that your failure to function will occasion the demise of the body, but it will seriously damage its effectiveness. Time is passing; “minister … one to another.”
It has been noted that you have been endowed with a gift, and it has to be exercised for the benefit of other believers. Another consequence of exercising that gift in His power is that He Himself will be glorified, v.11. It is sobering to think that if we fail to function, we not only deprive fellow-believers of blessing, but we deny God the honour that ought to be His.
Accountability is another concept that Peter introduces. The administration of our gift should be “as good stewards of the manifold grace of God”. In Bible times, a steward was someone with responsibility to superintend another person’s household affairs. Thus the gift you have received is God’s and is from God; it is “the gift of God, which is in thee” 2Tim.1.6. You are exercising it in His interests. One day there will be the demand, “give an account of thy stewardship” Lk.16.2. Are you like the servant who “laid up” his pound in a napkin? Lk.19.20. Are you like another who hid the talent in the earth? Mt.25.18. In the first story the nobleman “commanded these servants to be called … that he might know how much every man had gained by trading.” In the second, “the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.” Responsibility brings accountability. In Ezra’s time, those accompanying him were transporting holy vessels to Jerusalem. On setting out, that with which they were entrusted was weighed. On their arrival, the vessels were reweighed in the house of God, Ezra 8.24-34. In a similar way, you are answerable for the spiritual gift with which God has entrusted you. “Neglect not the gift that is in thee” 1Tim.4.14, for “the end of all things is at hand.”
Paper 2 considered some of the practical implications of the autonomy of the local assembly. The New Testament endorses inter-assembly activity in certain circumstances but the potential problems that may arise should always be carefully considered. This paper looks at the positive benefits and some practical problems.
THE POSITIVE VALUE OF AUTONOMY
Autonomy can be a safeguard. If one local assembly departs from Scripture it does not automatically affect other local assemblies, even in the same geographic area. This is illustrated in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 in that Pergamos held the false doctrine of the Nicolaitanes but this did not affect the other six assemblies within the same region.
In cases of departure no group of overseers can act to excommunicate another assembly from an informal circle of churches. While such things can happen among denominations this is not Scriptural. There is no set, established group of churches that can claim the Lord walking among them. As with individuals, so with churches, "The Lord knoweth them that are His". He alone can remove the lampstand, Rev.2.5.
Autonomy means that assemblies do not have the right to state that other assemblies are no longer "recognised" as assemblies. As stated there is no specific Scripture for cutting off another assembly. However, there may be occasions where an assembly withdraws fellowship with another company but this must be based upon Scriptural grounds only and not arising from personality clashes. Ideally fellowship between assemblies should be preserved.
It is tragic when something interferes with this. If an assembly has completely set aside the Word of God or, for example, has sin unjudged in its midst, or receives a person inappropriately (notwithstanding the production of a letter of commendation) everything Scripturally should be done to try to help remedy the situation, including earnest prayer. If all this proves abortive, then fellowship with such an assembly would only condone the conditions. In this regard it must be emphasised that before any assembly sits in judgment upon another or decides to withdraw fellowship, it must be absolutely sure it has clear authority from Scripture to do so and of course be fully conversant with the facts of the case. To not recognise another assembly for any other reason than what is taught in Scripture would be very wrong indeed.
As indicated, the use of letters of commendation indicates that there was fellowship between individual saints from different assemblies and between assemblies. Such letters are a Scriptural and courteous way of offering reassurance that a person is fit to be received.
Present day practice leaves a lot to be desired in that some letters are generated without thought and accepted without question. The use of pre-printed letters is contrary to the spirit of the activity. A letter does not automatically mean that the receiving assembly must accept the person(s) bearing the letter. Those who receive must still exercise their own judgment before the Lord as to whether they will receive, remembering the responsibility to honour the Lord above accommodating men. That a letter is not a guarantee of being received also means that a letter is not necessary where someone well-known to the company is on a visit. In all these circumstances the principle of autonomy enhances the integrity of the local company. It should be stated however that either a “letter” or a personal introduction was the norm in the New Testament.
THE PROBLEMS THAT ARISE FROM AUTONOMY
Autonomy could potentially mean that local assemblies ignore what is taking place in other local companies. The balance between independence, interference, indifference and abdication of responsibility must be carefully considered. No assembly should be indifferent to what goes on, or is believed, in other assemblies but the nature of any subsequent action will vary subject to local circumstances.
In the New Testament the apostolic writers repeatedly expose or challenge error in local assemblies where they were not in that fellowship but were either visiting or writing from a distance. Autonomy should not mean exemption from challenge and/or exposure of sin and false doctrine which is how it is perceived by some.
Difficulties and even division often arise in local assemblies. These are sometimes compounded by rumour, gossip, speculation and untruths. Autonomy may cause another meeting to receive or refuse a person from either party. Autonomy can give rise therefore to the inappropriate reception or exclusion of a person. Autonomy can promote a lack of consistency. So, for example, a person may be justly disciplined or refuse to bow to assembly discipline or leave an assembly under unsatisfactory circumstances and he or she might go to another assembly and be received. Recognising local autonomy, the decision of the receiving meeting would be its own responsibility and, while it may offend the first, it would not ultimately be their concern. The person could then travel without Scriptural authority and surreptitiously go round other gatherings (with a letter of commendation from the receiving assembly) and would not be affected by the disruption they had caused in the first meeting. This is clearly unsatisfactory.
It has already been stated that “unity is not uniformity”. However if Scripture is obeyed, there will be a measure of uniformity of practice. Autonomy has at times been used as the reason to move away from this. So, for example, in the area of discipline, sin in one place must be acknowledged as sin in every other place. Every Scriptural assembly must therefore recognise the judgment of another. Autonomy cannot be the ground for ignoring the matter. This assumes of course that when judgment has been carried out, it has been righteous and Scriptural. If this is not the case, ultimately, each assembly and each individual has the responsibility to weigh the matter before the Lord and come to their own conclusion. This may lead to the severance of fellowship. Experience generally suggests that those who pursue an unscriptural action initiate the cutting of themselves off from those who seek to exercise spiritual judgement.
The principle of independency may be deemed to be in opposition to the Scriptural principle that association with evil defiles.
Unity is to be maintained without a central overseeing body or unscriptural collective arrangements. Every believer has the same Head and is indwelt by the same Holy Spirit. We all have the same Word of God. We all must be walking according to the direction of the Head and in the power of the Spirit. Everyone must be guided by the Scriptures. Paul maintained that he had the same pattern for all the local churches, see 1Cor.4.17; 7.17; 11.16; 14.33; 16.1. Everything in the local assembly must be taken up in the light of that which is true of the whole.
The Scriptures clearly teach the truth of the autonomy of the local assembly. However, while many would claim to subscribe to this teaching, in practice it is potentially being seriously undermined. This is happening in a number of ways including:
Through the use of modern communication technology which transforms local issues into subjects for national discussion
Through the establishment of unnecessary inter-assembly committees. There may be occasions when joint working is helpful. However:
There appears to be an unscriptural tendency to set up committees and charitable Trusts, with sub-committees and substructures, following the model of the business world and not that of Scripture, without sufficient thought as to the serious implications for local assemblies.
Any committees or charitable Trusts must ensure that in functioning they do not compromise local autonomy, or become the unofficial arbiter of what is deemed to be acceptable or Scriptural and exert undue influence through the control of resources.
There are clear indications that the government in the UK will want to have an increasing say in the distribution and use of resources when money has been obtained centrally as a result of a “Charitable Status”. They will want more and more to dictate the make up of companies and the basis of membership which could ultimately lead to serious problems for assemblies.
All inter-assembly “groups” should regularly and critically review their “raison d’être” to ensure they are not assuming an unscriptural position; that they are the most appropriate way to further the Lord’s work; that they are a legal necessity and that they represent good stewardship. All such groups should ensure they do nothing to undermine local decisions in local assemblies.
Through individuals from one assembly or groups of individuals from a number of assemblies interfering in the local decisions of another assembly.
Through the insistence on uniformity and the withholding of fellowship where this does not prevail.
Scripture gives no sanction for inter-assembly committees. Where brethren from different local assemblies work together to support a work on a wider geographical basis, the need for such must be overwhelming and in practice they must not act to undermine important Scriptural principles including that of local autonomy.
In light of the above, the conclusion must be that neither a confederation of assemblies nor independence to the point of isolation is taught in the Scripture. The New Testament does not support either of these extremes. Caution must also be exercised to ensure that where assemblies work together this co-operation does not become the basis of a sectarian outlook. Conversely, autonomy should not be advocated simply as a pretext for the abandonment of the clear teaching of Scripture in relation to New Testament church practice.
In the last paper we examined 1.1,2 and we commence in this paper at v.3.
V.3, Paul and His Preaching: “But hath in due times manifested His Word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour”
Notice there is a pair of couplets - Manifestation and Method; Committal and Commandment.
Manifestation – this manifestation came at the time in Divine purpose when the promise and its realisation were to be revealed. God decided this, since the times (seasons) are fixed, defined and all belong to Him. He manifested (phaneroo) His Word, that is, He made visible what has been hidden. Word (logos), meaning that His concept in this matter of eternal life was now to be told out.
This was unknown in the Old Testament. Eternal life is only twice mentioned in the Old Testament, Ps.133.3, “... there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore” and Dan.12.2, “many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt”. In both these references life on earth is in view. Only in the New Testament do we have the privilege of the life of God in relation to heaven. This belongs to the church, which is unknown in the Old Testament. The truth pertaining to the church was hidden in God, not in the Old Testament Scriptures, Eph.3.9.
Method – The inspired volume states that the method used to disseminate Divine truth is “through preaching” (en kerugma). The word occurs 8 times in the New Testament and has the idea of a public crier. God’s method of spreading His message is through public preaching, not videos, films, entertainment, drama etc. but preaching. The verb is used by the Lord Jesus, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” Mk.16.15.
It underlines the substance of what is preached. Preaching is more than standing on a platform and saying words. True Scriptural preaching involves explanation and exposition of Divine truth and is comprised of Biblical matter and substance. It is not the telling of stories, neither sad ones that reach the emotions and make the audience cry, nor horrific ones that make the audience afraid. Nor is it the stringing together of clichés or quotations from hymns. This is not to condemn the use of a pertinent illustration or the quotation of a poem or hymn that may succinctly encapsulate Divine truth, but gospel preaching must give pre-eminence to, “the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” 2Tim.3.15. Paul’s exhortation is, “preach the Word” 2Tim.4.2. True gospel preaching as directed by the Lord, will reach the conscience and produce real repentance which leads to true and genuine conversion to God.
Committal – Paul states with emphasis and perhaps with a sense of wonder in his heart, that he had been given the privilege of declaring that which God had previously kept hidden. It had been committed (J.N.D. entrusted) to him. Such trust demands great faithfulness, diligence and fidelity.
Paul was thrilled with the thought that he was a steward of such a treasure and referred to it often.
1Cor.9.17, “a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me”;
Gal.2.7, “the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me”;
1Thess.2.4, “But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel”;
1Tim.1.11, “the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust”.
Commandment – “according (kata) to the commandment of God our Saviour”
Again the preposition has the meaning, ‘in keeping with’. He did not take this responsibility to himself, it was not his choice or some notion he had, it found its source in “His commandment”. The only other mention of this word in the epistle is in 2.15, “rebuke with all authority”. It is a mandate or an injunction that comes from “God our Saviour”. This title shows the power and authority of the One Who is our Saviour. It is not so much a statement of the Deity of the Lord Jesus, but God Himself in the character of our Saviour. So that at the time of writing, Paul would soon leave this world, the testimony is in very safe hands and so are we who know God our Saviour.
V.4, Titus and His Parentage: “To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour.”
The name “Titus” means ‘nurse’, perhaps implying the tenderness and devotedness of this man. Some give the meaning as “honourable” and this also would describe this dear servant of God. These two matters of tenderness and righteousness should characterise all who serve the Lord. Hardness and deviousness have no place in the life of a dignified servant who lives before the eye of God and whose life is thus scrutinised by Him Whose, “eyes were as a flame of fire” Rev.1.14.
The author, Paul, was the example of such attitudes as displayed in 1Thessalonians chapter 2, where in v.7 he is seen as a nursing mother, “we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children” and in v.11 he is a guiding father, “ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children…”.
Paul has no doubt as to the reality of Titus’ conversion and calls him “mine own son (child)”. Titus was a true, not a spurious, spiritual child of the apostle. Such a relationship was “after” (kata, ‘in keeping with’) the common faith. There is no article before ‘faith’, implying that this is not the body of truth but saving faith, which is common to all believers. Salvation is not in a special faith but in a commonly shared faith. It parallels Jude 3, where reference is made to “the common salvation”. Paul, a Jew, and Titus, a Gentile, had a common faith in Christ.
The introduction concludes with Paul’s desire that Titus would experience “grace and peace” – R.V. and J.N.D. omit “mercy”. Peace flows from grace and both are needed in abundance in His service. Grace is required to deal with the trials that come and peace is needed to deal with the turmoil that comes. The source cannot be better, “from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour” (Christ Jesus our Saviour – J.N.D.). Since these qualities come from a Divine source their display in life does not stem from natural gentlemanliness or culture, it requires Divine impartation.
One preposition governs both God and Christ Jesus which is a clear implication of the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. Also note that in v.3 it speaks of, “God our Saviour”, here of “Christ Jesus our Saviour” and so the Deity of Christ and the unity of Divine Persons are underlined.
Thus ends one of the longest introductory greetings in Paul’s writings.
Jn.1.1,2,14: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God … And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us; and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
In his Gospel, John is absorbed with the great Divine revelation of the Deity of Christ. In 20.31 he sums up the purpose of his Gospel: “But these things are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name.”
At least seven times in John’s Gospel the Lord Jesus Himself makes reference to the fact of His Deity, which is His eternal Godhood. Take just one example: “Before Abraham was, I AM” 8.46. “I AM” is that great Jehovic title which belongs to Deity alone, to the eternal triune God. The God Who is unity in trinity and trinity in unity. One in three and three in one: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Note the opening lines of John’s prologue. He transports our minds to the distant, dateless past; to the beginning of the beginningless beginning; to the regions of the eternal beyond! Those unreachable regions where the natural eye cannot see, where the natural mind cannot grasp nor comprehend, but where the eye of faith beholds with undimmed vision and the spiritual mind comprehends with unclouded comprehension. “In the beginning was the Word [Logos], and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.” Here is one of the many illustrious titles of the Lord Jesus Christ …THE WORD. He is the very expression of the mind and thoughts of God. He is the living Word revealed to us in the written Word of the Bible. He is the very Wisdom of God, 1Cor.1.24,30. In Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, Col.2.3. He is the embodiment and perfect expression of the Truth. He is the sum total of the mind and the collective thought of God! Now, says John, way back in the dateless, premundane past, in the unfathomable reaches of a bygone eternity, “was the Word” - that is, the Word is Co-essential with the Father and the Holy Spirit. “And the Word was with God” - Co-existent with the Father and the Holy Spirit. “And the Word was God” - Co-equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit. “The same was in the beginning with God” - Co-eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit !
Call to mind now the words of the wise man: “Then I was by Him, as one brought up with Him, and I was daily His delight” Prov.8.30. This is the language of Wisdom personified. Who else could use language like this but He Who is Himself God? He is the image [the exact expression] of the invisible God, Col.1.15. He is the brightness [effulgence] of God’s glory, the express image of God’s person [the expression of His substance], Heb.1.3.
In the world of religion where the doctrine of the absolute Deity of Christ is being increasingly attacked and assailed and discounted and denied, may we with adoring wonder continue to acknowledge, own and honour Him as God – the God of our salvation!
V.14: “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us; and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Here, by the Spirit of God, John gives us a further revelation of this great Personage Who is the Eternal Word. “And the Word was made flesh [became flesh, became a human being, became Man]…”. If in vv.1, 2 we have the great truth of Christ’s absolute Deity, here in v.14 we have the equally great truth of His perfect humanity. This is a great mystery, 1Tim.3.16. This is the miracle of the ages! This is the marvel of the entire universe! He, the Eternal One, stepped out of the boundlessness of eternity into the boundaries of time. He, the Creator, becoming like unto His creatures; the Divine becoming human; God becoming Man. Here by faith we bow in worshipful wonderment and exclaim with Charles Wesley:
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
Hail, the Incarnate Deity,
Pleased as Man with men to dwell,
Jesus, our Immanuel.
“And the Word was made (became) flesh.” Paul in his Philippian letter says, “He was made in the likeness of men” 2.7. The Hebrew writer says, “it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation [propitiation] for the sins of the people” Heb.2.17.
What condescending love that made the Christ of God, as it were, step over the parapets of the heaven of heavens and into the parameters of earth that He might become the Saviour and the Redeemer of sinful men! What infinite grace that made Him become what He was not before! Oh, the mystery, the miracle and the marvel of His incarnation. God coming down in the Person of His Son, “made [become] of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption [placing] of sons” Gal.4.4. What self-renouncing love that He should not think upon His own things [interests], but take thought for the things [interests] of others, even of us, poor, wretched creatures of the dust! What condescension that He “Who was in the form of God” should have “made Himself of no reputation”! He Who was in the form of God, took upon Himself the form of a bondslave and was made in the likeness of men! Phil.2.6–8.
“The Word became flesh.” What a tremendous stoop from the heavenly heights of pristine power and glory to the lowly level of our humanity, sin apart. He the eternal, infinite, ineffable One stepped out of the limitlessness of eternity into the limits of time. He Who is the Word (Logos), existing in the beginning as a conscious, personal existence; He Who was with God in eternal association with the Father and Holy Spirit; He Who is Himself God as a distinct personality and yet inseparable from that Divine Triunity; this selfsame timeless One deigned to lay aside the outward manifestation of His own personal glory - that glory which He had with the Father before the world was, Jn.17.5, and clothe Himself in the unattractive habit of the likeness of our humanity! Does this grip our hearts? Does this cause us to stand “lost in wonder, love and praise”? Of course it does and it must! To think that the God of Glory became the Babe of Bethlehem. To think that He who is “clothed with honour and majesty” and “coverest Himself with light as with a garment” Ps.104.1,2, clothed Himself with flesh and blood and stepped out of the splendour of that celestial abode into the stark stable in Bethlehem’s barn!
Here is mystery deep and strong, that He Who is God, became Man! When He became Man He did not cease to be God, for God cannot cease to be what He eternally is. It is surely unbelief and a denial of His Deity and eternality to conceive any such thought that when He became Man, He became less than God. Perish forever the thought that God should cease to be or become less than what He intrinsically, essentially and eternally is! “And the Word became flesh and dwelt [tabernacled, made His dwelling] among us”, and John adds, “and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father [God, the one and only, the unique One, the only One of His kind in all the universe], full of grace and truth”. Mark that word “full”. Grace and truth are the attributes of Deity and there was no emptying Himself of any of His Divine attributes. Infinite Wisdom designed it that He should veil the outward outshining of His Godhead glory - that blaze of Divine glory from which the faces of celestial seraphim must needs be covered and upon which the polluted eyes of sinful man could certainly never gaze! But we can with unveiled face behold and admire His moral glory as we see something of the loveliness and perfection of His Person; the sinlessness of His human nature and character; the spotlessness of His earthly life and service; the stainlessness of His earthly walk and sojourn. Indeed, He was the “Lamb without blemish and without spot”. Intrinsically and extrinsically impeccable and infallible! This is our Saviour, our Redeemer, our Lord, the One who “became flesh and dwelt among us”.
Psalm 118 is one of the Egyptian Hallel Psalms (Psalms 113-118), which were sung at the feasts of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. The Hallel Psalms deal with deliverance and bring to mind God’s deliverance of His people from Egypt. Psalm 118 was used in connection with worship in the temple. It deals with the suffering, and deliverance by God, of an individual or a nation and looks forward to the time, prior to the Millennium, when, at the battle of Armageddon, the Lord will deliver Israel from the enemies by which she will be surrounded.
Psalm 118 is the last of the Messianic Psalms and it is generally accepted that it was sung by the Lord Jesus Christ and His disciples after He had instituted the Lord’s Supper. We are told that “when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives” Matt.26.30. The Lord knew, as He sang the Psalm, the full depth of meaning of the words He was singing, for He was anticipating the awful suffering He was soon to go through. He also knew, however, the glory His sufferings would bring to His Father and the glory He Himself would experience when His sufferings were over and He had completed the work His Father had sent Him to do, Jn.3.17; 1Jn.4.9,10; Gal.4.4,5. Thus, with joy, He looked forward to the glory He would have after the suffering of Calvary, Heb.12.2; 1Pet.1.11. The Lord quoted vv.22,23,26 of the Psalm in Matt.21.42; 23.39. It was quoted by Peter, Acts 4.11; 1Pet.2.7, by Paul, Eph.2.20, and on a number of other occasions in the New Testament.
Give thanks unto the Lord, vv.1-4
The Psalm begins and ends with virtually the same words, “O give thanks unto the LORD; for He is good; because His mercy endureth for ever” vv.1,29. The Psalmist wants people to praise God for His eternal and unchanging goodness, kindness and mercy. He calls upon Israel, God’s chosen people; the priestly family of Aaron, and on all who fear the Lord, to give thanks and praise to God, vv.2-4. These same three groups of people are called upon to “trust in the LORD” in Psalm 115.9-11.
The Psalm expresses the praise, gratitude and thanksgiving which those who have been delivered from severe trials should give to the Lord. As believers, should we not be a praising and a thankful people when we consider, as far as we are able, what the mercy and grace of God have saved us from and have brought us into?
I called upon the Lord, vv.5-18
These verses speak of assurance, trust and faith in God in the midst of trial and suffering. The suffering could be that experienced by an individual. The sufferings of the people of Israel can also be seen in these verses. Their suffering in the Great Tribulation can be seen, as can their dramatic deliverance by the Lord and their ultimate conversion.
The Psalmist writes of calling on, that is praying to, God when he is in a difficult situation. God heard the prayer, delivered the sufferer and set him “in a large place” v.5. In the past, the nation of Israel has suffered a great deal of persecution and, in the future, will be surrounded by enemies who hate it, but the nation will be delivered by the Lord. When the omnipotent God is with one, to help and succour, there is no need to fear men, vv.6,7; Heb.13.6. Almighty God is unchanging, He is love, 1Jn.4.8, and He is infinitely wise, and the writer makes a statement which the experience of believers proves to be true, i.e. is that it is better to put trust in God than to put trust in any man, whoever he may be, vv.8,9.
The Psalmist speaks of being surrounded by enemies and compares them to angry bees swarming around and attacking one whom they perceive to be their enemy. Once again, this makes us think of Israel when, in the future, the nation will be surrounded by adversaries. The confidence of the Psalmist is shown, for when writing about being surrounded by enemies he writes, “in the name of the LORD I will destroy them”. The enemies would be wiped out like a short-lasting fire of thorns, vv.10-12. The enemy attacked fiercely but the Psalmist writes of the deliverance by the help of God, v.13.
God miraculously delivered His people from oppression, slavery, bondage and suffering in Egypt and He will yet deliver them, even when they are surrounded by enemies and the situation appears to be without hope and defeat inevitable. When writing of suffering, the Psalmist used those lovely words of rejoicing and confidence, “The LORD is my strength and song, and is become my salvation” v.14. Similar words are found in the song Moses sang after deliverance at the Red Sea, Ex.15.2. Again in Isa.12.2 we read words of trust, peace and confidence written in anticipation of the Millennium and resulting from faith in God, “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD Jehovah is my strength and my song; He also is become my salvation”.
There would be the sound of great rejoicing when many people were gathered together to obey God and celebrate the great feasts of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles, v.15. The Psalmist praised God for deliverance from trouble, attributing deliverance entirely to the power of God of which he would speak in the future. Looked at prophetically, we can see in the closing verses of this section a reference to the joy and rejoicing the nation of Israel will experience after deliverance from the Great Tribulation. The nation will suffer, but God will reveal His mighty power and the nation will not die but live and tell of God’s mighty power, attributing their blessings and deliverance to Him alone, the One Who has chastened them, vv.16-18.
Thou hast heard me, vv.19-29
This section can be seen as applying to the writer and to the nation of Israel. It begins with a request to “Open to me the gates of righteousness”. That is, the temple, so that the Psalmist might go in and praise God, vv.19,20. The writer has been delivered from trouble and wants to praise and thank God, v.21. God has brought about great changes in the life and experience of the Psalmist, changes which can be likened to a stone which has been rejected by builders later becoming the corner stone of the building, v.22. The writer appreciates, and wants others to appreciate, that God has done wonderful things, v.23. Full of gratitude, he calls upon the people to rejoice and be glad, v.24.
The Psalmist has experienced deliverance and great blessing and this stimulates him to pray for blessing and protection in the future, v.25. Then follows a benediction calling for blessing on those who have come to the temple to worship and give thanks, v.26. God is praised: He has blessed His people and provided sacrifices so that they may approach unto Him, v.27. The Psalm closes with the writer expressing his desire and intention to praise and exalt his God. He calls upon all people to give thanks to God for His continuing goodness and mercy, vv.28,29.
There are many aspects of this beautiful Psalm which are Messianic and speak clearly of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord was rejected by men, Isa.53.3; Lk.9.22; Jn.1.11. God’s plan of salvation necessitated the death and resurrection of the Lord. He came to glorify His Father and bring deliverance from the penalty and power of sin to those who would repent and accept Him as Lord and Saviour, Acts 16.30,31; Jn.14.6. The rejection and suffering of the Lord, the only One through Whom salvation is possible, were in the will of God, Acts2.22-24; 4.11,12.
Just a few days before the Lord was crucified, the fickle crowd, using the words of vv.25,26, greeted Him with the cry, “Hosanna [save now] to the Son of David: Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest”, Matt.21.9. The Lord, in fulfilment of the prophecy in Zech.9.9, had come to the temple riding on the colt of an ass, Matt.21.2-11. Not many days later He was rejected and He said to the people of Jerusalem, who were doomed because they had rejected Him, “Ye shall not see Me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the LORD”, Matt.23.39. The rejection of the Lord is brought out in the parable of the wicked husbandmen. The Lord told this parable shortly after His entry into Jerusalem, Matt.21.33-42. It was at the end of this parable, picturing the rejection, suffering and death of the Lord which would precede His ultimate triumph, exaltation and glory, that He quoted vv.22,23, “The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes” Matt.21.42. At the present moment, the Lord sits “on the right hand of the Majesty on high” Heb.1.3, and we read, “God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow” Phil.2.9,10.
Paul uses the thought of the Lord being the corner stone when he speaks of the church as a building built upon the foundation of the prophets and apostles, “Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone” Eph.2.20. Peter wrote of the Lord as “a living stone”, a “corner stone”, “the stone which the builders disallowed…made the head of the corner” and “a stone of stumbling” 1Pet.2.4-8. The church is being built up with believers who are likened by Peter, to living stones built on Christ. Those who reject the Stone which the builders disallowed, that is the Lord Jesus Christ, and are disobedient, stumble, 1Pet.2.8, and ultimately the Stone will crush them, Matt.21.42-44; Lk.20.17,18.
In v.27 we read of the binding of the sacrifice to the horns of the altar. This takes our thoughts to the Lord nailed by His hands and feet to the cross. However, unlike the animal sacrifices described in the Old Testament, the Lord was not reluctant to shed His precious blood, to be made a sacrifice and die. It was His Father’s will that this should be done and He had come to do His Father’s will, Ps.40.8; Lk.22.42. He obeyed His Father implicitly and always, Jn.8.29; 17.4. He had come to glorify God, to die as a substitute for sinners, making possible salvation for those who would put their faith in Him. The Lord Jesus Christ has never ceased to be what He is eternally and that is the Only Begotten, beloved Son of God, co-existent, co-eternal, and co-equal with God His Father. At any time, had He so desired, He could have called “more than twelve legions of angels” to His aid, Matt.26.53. He hung on the cross and was kept there not by the power of Satan, neither by the power of men nor by the nails, but by love for God His Father and for lost sinners. He hung on the cross with His enemies surrounding Him “like bees”. The Lord was obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross, Phil.2.8. Death is a result of sin, Rom.5.12. The Lord is eternally sinless, 1Jn.3.5, but He voluntarily tasted death for everyone, Heb.2.9. Having completed all the work His Father had given Him to do, the Lord chose His moment of death. He cried in triumph, “It is finished: and He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost” Jn.19.30. But death had no claim upon the sinless One and after three days He rose from the dead, never to die again.
The Lord, knowing all that was before Him and that soon, on the cross, He would utter that awful cry, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Matt.27.46; Ps.22.1, sang with His disciples “Thou art my God, and I will praise Thee. With joy we can say, using the words of v.29, “O give thanks unto the LORD; for He is good: for His mercy endureth for ever”.
Many countries in the world are facing severe social problems due to the influx of illegal immigrants. These are people who seek to enter a country without going through the due legal processes. Such statutory requirements are usually clearly defined by the host country but there are people who will not bow to authority and others who want to get in some way of their own devising.
It appears that these people, while in their own land, heard about a country where life was reported to be very much better than what they were accustomed to and they wanted to enjoy it. Even if they do not meet the entry qualifications they have a determination to gain entry no matter what and their decision often ends in disaster.
Many people who condemn such actions actually behave similarly themselves. They have heard of a place that is immensely superior to earth in every respect. This place is called heaven, which is the eternal abode of God and His people. There every problem, pain and sorrow of life are gone forever. The Bible, the Word of God, says about it, “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain” Revelation 21.4.
Just as earthly governments decide the criteria required for entry to their country, so God, to Whom heaven belongs, has decided the entry requirements to heaven and these are non-negotiable. God unambiguously states, “there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life” Revelation 21.27. Despite the clarity of this, some people want their own way and of this God has said, “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” Proverbs 16.25; see also Proverbs 14.12. Jesus Christ, God’s Son said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me” John 14.6.
The Bible teaches that we are all defiled by sin and so records twice, “all have sinned” Romans 3.23; 5.12. It is very clear that if we want to be in God’s holy heaven, this defilement must all be washed away. There is only one method of cleansing, “the blood of Jesus Christ His [God’s] Son cleanseth us from all sin” 1John 1.7. You may think you have a better way, but good works and religious observances will never take away sin. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” Ephesians 2.8,9. Again it is recorded, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us” Titus 3.5. A profound question is asked in Proverbs 20.9, “Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?” The Psalmist knew only God could do this cleansing and so he cried, “Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin” Psalm 51.2. This underlines the truth that God and God alone can save and the only righteous basis on which that can be accomplished is the sacrifice of Christ when crucified on Calvary. Hence the words of Revelation 1.5, “Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood…”.
If you really desire to be in heaven then you must accept God’s terms and not be as foolish as the illegal immigrants. A jailor asked the question, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” The answer was just as succinct, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” Acts 16.30,31.