At this time of the year we often look back and review the past and look forward, anticipating the future. It is likely that every believer looks back to the greatest moment in life, namely the moment of conversion and salvation. We remember Paul’s words to the Corinthians, "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" 2Cor.4.6. The first phrase of this verse directs our attention to the first day of creation, "And God said, Let there be light: and there was light" Gen.1.3. However, creation never experienced the truth conveyed at the end of the verse, "to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ". This is truth that belongs exclusively to the saints of this present age of grace.
His face was set unflinchingly to accomplish the will of God: "He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem" Lk.9.51, and when He got there He eventually was found lying prostrate in Gethsemane’s garden where He "fell on His face, and prayed, saying, O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt" Matt.26.39. What devotion! What love!
His face was not always seen as reflecting the glory of God. We recall that time when He was maltreated by the ungodly: "Then did they spit in His face, and buffeted Him; and others smote Him with the palms of their hands" Matt.26.67; "when they had blindfolded Him, they struck Him on the face, and asked Him, saying, Prophesy, who is it that smote Thee?" Lk.22.64. Yet He was silent and never retaliated: "He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth" Isa.53.7; "Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously" 1Pet.2.23. What an example to us when we are scorned and provoked.
His face displayed incomparable majesty when He "was transfigured before them: and His face did shine as the sun" Matt.17.2, and, as she reviewed Him, the bride said, "His countenance is as Lebanon" S of S.5.15. What a difference when He was bruised and crushed as He "bare our sins in His own body on the tree" 1Pet.2.24. As a result, Isaiah wrote, "His visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men" Isa.52.14.
The time is fast approaching when, in that tribulation period, those who have rejected Him and turned their faces from Him will cry "to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb" Rev.6.16. At the end of the Millennial reign and as the eternal state is about to dawn, then "the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" will be so displayed that the old creation cannot stand, "from Whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them" Rev.20.11.
However, we encourage our readers with the truth that all who love Him now will be associated with Him then, and will have the most wonderful privilege: "they shall see His face" Rev.22.4. It is that fact that "illumes with beams most cheering the hours of night". We worship as we sing:
It seems but a few years ago since we welcomed the dawning of a new millennium with all the anticipated fears of chaos and confusion that were being circulated and which thankfully proved groundless. However, since then, we have been conscious of increasingly accelerating changes which are global and have impacted upon all our lives. They are momentous changes that have highlighted the frailty of men and exposed the weakness of earthly ‘powers’. A sense of hopelessness has gripped the minds of many and it appears that the world is careering out of control with no one apparently able to reverse the downward spiral.
We, who are God’s, lift our eyes to the eternal throne and to the sea of glass, without ripple or ruffle and reflect on the immutable God Who is our refuge and help. He is unaffected by the relentless changes on earth and our hearts are encouraged and our minds calmed as we remember the unalterable words "For I am the LORD, I change not …" Mal.3.6. In the midst of the darkness of a fast approaching night for this world, we recall the "blessed hope" of Titus 2.13 and with growing anticipation "wait for His Son from heaven" 1Thess.1.10.
Every remembrance of God’s goodness causes us to express afresh our gratitude to Him Who has enabled the publication of Assembly Testimony to continue for the encouragement and edification of God’s dear people. We are sincerely grateful to all who consistently pray for our blessing, to all who encourage by their letters of appreciation, to all who assist by their practical help and generous gifts and to all who facilitate the distribution of the magazine.
Thanks must also be expressed to the secretary for his diligent and time consuming labours in ensuring that correspondence is swiftly replied to; to our auditor for his expert services and wise counsel; to my fellow committee members for their friendly cooperation and interest and very specially to our editor for his faithful selection and screening of material for the benefit of the saints of God.
We wish all a happy New Year, possibly the year of the appearing of "the bright and morning star" and solicit your continued prayerful remembrance of us in the days ahead in His gracious will.
"You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities" Amos 3.2. This is the ‘key verse’ of the book. It stresses that privilege determines responsibility. As C. I. Scofield points out, "It is noteworthy that Jehovah’s controversy with the Gentile cities which hated Israel is brief: "I will send a fire." But Israel had been brought into the place of privilege and so of responsibility, and the Lord’s indictment is detailed and unsparing." This is a solemn lesson for us all: "unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required" Lk.12.48.
"The words of Amos, who was among the herdmen of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel, two years before the earthquake" 1.1. The names of Uzziah, king of Judah, and Jeroboam, king of Israel, enable us to place the date of this prophecy between 800BC and 750BC. Other contemporary prophets were Isaiah, Isa.1.1; Hosea, Hos.1.1; and probably Jonah, 2Kgs.14.23-27. The earthquake evidently took place during the reign of Uzziah: see Zech.14.5, "ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah". According to Josephus (Antiquities 9.10.4.), this earthquake took place when Uzziah was struck with leprosy for attempting to usurp the priest’s office, 2Chr.26.16-21, but the Scriptures do not confirm this.
Although Jeroboam’s long reign was marked by peace and prosperity, 2Kgs.14.23-29, the material prosperity had a disastrous effect on the people. The nation became wealthy, but only in the hands of the commercial barons. The rich became richer, and the poor became poorer. See Amos 2.6; 6.3-6; 8.4-6. Religion prospered, but there was no time for the Word of God. See, for example, Amos 5.21-27; 7.10-17. Amos certainly wasn’t welcome in Israel, 7.12,13.
Amos was from Tekoa, meaning ‘the pitching of tents’ (Gesenius). He therefore came from "away down south, from the wild country, see 2Chr.20.20, west of the Dead Sea, the wide stretch of open land known as the wilderness of Judaea" (J.Sidlow Baxter). Baxter continues (writing in 1952): "the sparse ruins of the little Judaean town, Tekoa, are identifiable even today, some six miles south of Bethlehem".
According to Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, "The region being sandy, was fitter for pastoral than for agricultural purposes. Amos therefore owned and tended flocks, and collected sycamore figs." Amos was a ‘cross-border’ prophet. Although he was a native of Judaea, he was called to prophesy in the northern kingdom (Israel), which never had one good king. Micah was a local preacher, but Amos was sent further afield for the simple reason that there were no faithful servants of God in Israel. The fact that the Lord used a man from the south was an indictment of the moral and spiritual bankruptcy of the northern kingdom.
Amos means ‘burden’. He describes himself and his ministry in 7.14,15: "I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer (cultivator) of sycomore fruit (the fig-like fruit of a tree resembling a mulberry in form and foliage): and the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel." We should notice his honesty and humility: he did not conceal his humble origins. "His exaltation to prophetic rank did not spoil him" (Robert Lee, ‘The Outlined Bible’)
Amos was a countryman. He was from "among the herdmen (noqed) of Tekoa" 1.1. The word "herdman" means ‘sheepmaster’ and occurs in that form in 2Kgs.3.4. A different word (boger) is used in 7.14. His rural background can be seen in his preaching. He refers, for example, to "a cart…full of sheaves" 2.13, a trap set for birds 3.5, and a shepherd taking "out of the mouth of the lion two legs, or a piece of an ear" 3.12. Amos did not "preach over the heads of the people, but employed terms quite familiar to all of them" (Robert Lee). This reminds us that God doesn’t put all his servants into the same mould. He uses people with different personalities and different backgrounds. As J. Sidlow Baxter observes, Amos "is a great encouragement to thousands of Christians today who have had no academic or theological training. God is sovereign in His choice of servants. He is not tied to any bishop’s hands. He is not bound to any set of officials. He is not restricted in His workings to any recognized ministerial order." The only authority that Amos possessed was His calling by God, but it was the highest authority in the universe.
Notice too that Amos did not ‘mince his words’. He was not afraid to address the upper-class ladies of Samaria as ‘cows’: "Hear this word, ye kine of Bashan, that are in the mountain of Samaria, which oppress the poor, which crush the needy, which say to their masters, Bring, and let us drink" 4.1. We get the impression from this that it was the women who ‘wore the trousers’. (Perhaps current fashions, alas, have made this expression a little outdated!). Listen to the way in which Amos replied to "Amaziah the priest of Bethel": "thus saith the Lord; thy wife shall be an harlot in the city, and thy sons and thy daughters shall fall by the sword, and thy land shall be divided by line; and thou shalt die in a polluted land: and Israel shall surely go into captivity forth of his land" 7.17. Do remember that Amos was in hostile territory when he said this: he "went to the main centre of Israel’s golden-calf worship, Bethel, and there, like a solitary Luther, he denounced the prelate and the priests and the state idolatry, under the very shadow of ‘the king’s chapel’ … Bethel was Israel’s Canterbury: the head priest of Bethel was Israel’s primate" (J. Sidlow Baxter). The analogy is too close for comfort. But Amos was a man of deep conviction who could not be swayed or over-awed by his circumstances. He refused to be turned from the work the Lord had given him.
Amos and Hosea both addressed the northern kingdom, but were quite different in approach. In Amos, sin is an outrage of Divine law, and God commands return. In Hosea, sin is an outrage of Divine love, and God pleads for return. It had been said "Hosea’s ministry was one of love, whilst Amos’ ministry was one of light. Amos is not known for his sympathy or warmth, but for his sense of justice and right. Not a sob is to be found in his book for the nation of wicked apostates, and there is only a sigh for the poor".
The prophecy of Amos may be divided into five distinct sections:
eight burdens, 1.1 - 2.16
three messages, 3.1 - 5.17
two woes, 5.18 - 6.14
five visions, 7.1 - 9.10
the restoration, 9.11-15.
The Burdens, 1.1 - 2.16
Although the word "burden" is not actually used (it certainly occurs elsewhere: see, for example, Isa.15.1; 17.1; 19.1), it does seem appropriate here since it usually signifies "a grievous or threatening oracle" (Gesenius) or a message "burdened with the news of coming retribution" (J. Sidlow Baxter), and this describes the passage exactly.
"It should be noted that Amos caught the attention of the people right away by speaking first against their enemies." (Robert Lee). In this connection we should notice the narrowing scope of the eight messages:
unrelated nations (Damascus, Gaza, Tyre);
related nations (Edom, Ammon, Moab);
a brother nation (Judah);
Each sentence is accompanied by a full explanation ("for three transgressions … and for four") and the whole section demonstrates that the Lord remains in perfect control of the international situation: no nation is permitted to exceed the allotted place in His purposes or to avoid payment for its wickedness.
The Messages, 3.1 - 5.17
Whilst this section commences with reference to the entire nation ("Hear this word that the Lord hath spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt … You only have I known of all the families of the earth" 3.1,2, it is addressed particularly to the northern kingdom, with its political capital Samaria (see 3.9; 4.1; 6.1; 8.14), and its religious capital Bethel (4. 4; 5.5,6; 7.10-13). However, Judah, is not exempt: "Woe to them that are at ease in Zion and that are secure in the mountain of Samaria" 6.1, J.N.D. As J. A. Motyer observes, "Had he left out Judah he would have lost all credibility with his Israelite audience, as a tendentious and biased person."
The section comprises three messages all of which commence in the same way: "Hear this word" 3.1; 4.1; 5.1. Each of the messages has the same structure. They begin with judgment deserved, 3.1-10; 4.1-11; 5.1-15, and continue with judgment decreed, and in each case this is introduced with the word "therefore", 3.11-15; 4.12,13; 5.16,17. Broadly speaking, the section looks like this:
a "word" of warning, 3.1-15: "shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid?" 3.6
a "word" of rebuke, 4.1-13: "I have … yet have ye not" 4.6-11
a "word" of counsel, 5.1-17; "seek" 5.4,6,8,14. Bethel is mentioned in each section, 3.14; 4.4; 5.5,6.
The Woes, 5.18 - 6.14
This section of the prophecy censures Israel’s self-confidence.
They were sure that the Lord would vindicate and deliver them, only to learn that He would intervene against them: "Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord! to what end is it for you? The day of the Lord is darkness, and not light" 5.18. The reason follows: "I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies" 5.21.
"Woe to them that are at ease in Zion, and trust in the mountain of Samaria, which are named chief of the nations, to whom the house of Israel came!" 6.1. They were sure that their position as "chief of the nations" guaranteed uninterrupted pleasure, only to hear the Lord say, "I abhor the excellency of Jacob, and hate his palaces" 6.8, and to discover that another "nation" would afflict them" 6.14. The passage emphasises the danger of self-sufficiency.
The Visions, 7.1 - 9.10
Of the five visions, the first four are introduced in the same way: "Thus hath the Lord God shewed unto me" 7.1; 7.4; 8.1 or "Thus he shewed me" 7.7. The final vision is introduced by the words, "I saw the Lord" 9.1. J. Sidlow Baxter suggests that there is a clear progression in their meaning: "Thus, in these five visions we have, successively, judgment averted (grasshoppers), restrained (fire), determined (plumbline), imminent (summer fruit), and executed (the Lord standing upon the altar). The altar in question is at Bethel, not Jerusalem. Jeroboam the son of Nebat established this altar and stood by it, 1Kgs.12.32; 13.1. Now the Lord stands on it in judgment. Note: "the king’s chapel" (meaning ‘sanctuary) at Bethel, 7.13, and "the temple" 8.3, and are one and the same.
The Restoration, 9.11-15
"It is inconsistent with any theology centring on the name Jehovah, and resting on the covenant, to blacken the whole sky with the clouds of wrath, and to forget mercy and hope" (J.A. Motyer).
The expression, "Behold, the days come saith the Lord", does not only occur in connection with Israel’s desolation and abject misery, 8.11,12, but also in connection with its restoration and glory. The "sinful nation" having been utterly destroyed, 9.8, and the true "grain", or godly remnant, preserved, 9.9, God "will … raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof" 9.11. The terms of the Davidic covenant will be fulfilled in Christ who will sit "upon the throne of David" Isa.9.7. In that day, Israel will expand its borders and "possess the remnant of Edom, and of the heathen that are called by My name, saith the Lord that doeth this" 9.12. The restoration of the people will be accompanied by unprecedented material prosperity. The people of whom God had to say, "ye have built houses of hewn stone, but ye shall not dwell in them; ye have planted pleasant vineyards, but ye shall not drink wine of them" 5.11, will "build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them" 9.14. Though their past is marked by rebellion and failure, their present condition by dispersion and difficulty, the future, which awaits Israel, is one of glorious blessing. Never again will they fail, and never again will they lose possession of their land: "And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God" 9.15.
In conclusion we should note that Amos is cited on two occasions in the New Testament: 5.25,26; by Stephen in Acts 7.42,43; 9.11 and by James in Acts 15.15-17. The first is cited in connection with the rebellion of Israel, and second with the restoration of Israel.
We will now examine the different pieces of the armour of God, that we may know their uses and how to apply them; and first of all we are to have:
THE LOINS GIRT ABOUT WITH TRUTH
What are we to understand by the loins, may I ask? These three things would naturally open a wide field for meditation, but as we have dwelt at some length on the nature of the conflict, we must be brief on the several pieces of the armour.
1. The loins represent the chief seat of strength when duly girded, Job 31.20; 50.16. Peter applies this figuratively to the inner man, when he says, "Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind"; thereby signifying, that the thoughts, desires, and affections, are the springs of action — the motive power of the soul; and therefore, must be kept from exposure to the enemy by indulging our own will. We are only strong when kept from wandering beyond the limits of the girdle. This is of first importance to the Christian warrior. The enemy has no hold on a heart thus encircled with the truth of God.
2. Girding is the application of truth to the soul — the intimate dealing of the Word with the will — the movements of the heart. This is arming for conflict in the most practical and effectual way; but it must be done in the presence of God before we meet the enemy. The soldier's girdle fastens his other pieces of armour more closely to him, whereby he is able to march and strong to fight. "Thou hast girded me with strength," says the psalmist, "unto the battle," Ps.18.39. There is also an allusion to the custom of the oriental nations, who gird their long, loose garments about their loins that they may not hinder them in their travelling or working. Elijah girded up his loins, and ran after Ahab, 1Kg.18.46. It is the bracing up of the affections — the whole inner man — for Christ and for the things of Christ. When the heart cleaves to the Lord, as the garments cleave to the loins under the tight belt of the girdle, the enemy cannot reach the gates of the soul.
3. The truth is a comprehensive term; but here the Spirit may refer to a line or character of truth which would be our best safe-guard against the attacks of the enemy — truth suited to the position we are called to occupy. "Having your loins girt about with truth." The soul is thus to be garrisoned with the truth. There must be no access to, or egress from the citadel of the soul, unless searched by the truth. It applies to everything — to both the inner and the outer man. But the chief province of truth, when used of the Spirit, is to act upon the conscience and bring it into the presence of God, where our most intimate thoughts, feelings, desires, motives, and affections, may be fairly and fully judged. "For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart," Heb.4.12.
Here, pause for a moment, my soul, and wonder; and well thou mayest. Mark and meditate on the depths, fulness, and penetrating power of the Word of God. What a volume of truth we have in these seven words, "Having your loins girt about with truth." All that is needed for the government and defence of our inward thoughts and outward ways, is folded up in these few words. By taking heed thereunto, thou wouldst be fortified in the first movements of thy soul against the wiles of the enemy. There would be nothing to answer to his suggestions. By this piece of armour, spiritually understood, the soul is maintained in communion with God, and the enemy kept at a safe distance. Thus it was with the blessed Lord — thus it may be with thee, my soul. He is the warrior's example. "It is written," was Thy strong tower, most gracious Lord. It was not in reasoning with the enemy that Thou didst vanquish him; but in the perfect application of the Word to Thyself, and to the circumstances around Thee.
As the Second Man, the Lord moved and acted according to the written word. "Preserve me, O God; for in Thee do I put my trust," was the ground He took and the ground He maintained as a servant, though He was a Son. He never acted on His own will. He was girt about with truth. He waited on God. If no word came, He waited still. He would do nothing without the Word of God. "It is written," must precede everything. This is safe ground for thee, my soul, and this only is safe ground - "It is written." Forget it not, I pray thee, it would keep thy heart in communion with God in the midst of all circumstances; but especially in conflict keep it before thee: engrave it on thy shield, inscribe it on thy banner, and let it be thy watchward to discern between friends and foes.
5. "Every Man That Hath This Hope In Him Purifieth Himself"
In chapter 2 of his epistle, John addressed believers at three different stages of spiritual development. Some were deemed "fathers" because of their maturity. Others had made considerable progress by their commitment to the Word of God. They were the "young men", regarded as being "strong"; believers who in their battles with the devil had emerged victorious, v.14. However, there was no room for complacency: hence the warning to strong young men against loving a bewitching world, a world exposed by John as vain and transient, vv.15-17. The third group comprised of immature believers, people who were recently saved. John called them "little children", "young children", vv.13,18 (Newberry), a different term from the "little children" word employed more frequently in the epistle. That word is an expression of endearment used by John to address the whole family of God irrespective of their level of maturity. His final exhortation to the young children was to "abide in Him", v.27, an exhortation he extended to the whole family at v.28. Abiding in Him is the secret of holiness; it is a bulwark against failure; it is a key element in pleasing God; without it, our lives will be fruitless, Jn.15.4. This is the "cleaving to the Lord" that Barnabas called for in Acts 11.23, and involved in it is a regular time of communion with our Lord, hearing His voice through the Word, and communicating with Him by prayer. It is basic to Christian living.
ASHAMED BEFORE HIM
Failure to "abide in Him" will so impair our Christian lives as to make us "ashamed before Him at His coming", 1Jn.2.28. The allusion is to the Judgment Seat of Christ, and it does seem that though we will occupy glorified bodies, at that point there will still be the capacity to sense regret. There seems to be truth in the words of the old hymn;
By and by when I look on His face,
Beautiful face, thorn-shadowed face;
By and by when I look on His face,
I’ll wish I had given Him more.
(Grace Reese Adkins)
Will I be ashamed of my carnality? Will I be ashamed of my lack of commitment? Will I be ashamed of my worldliness? Will I be ashamed of the disagreeable traits resulting from failure to abide in Him? Is it just possible that the day of review will expose me as a shallow, half-hearted, self-centred believer, and will a flush of shame colour my cheeks as I stand before Him Whose eyes are as a flame of fire?
It is interesting that John used the plural pronoun "we" in v.28, and the inference is, that not only would they be ashamed of any spiritual deficiencies occasioned by failure to "abide", but he, as their spiritual mentor, would be embarrassed too. There are those who "watch for your souls, as they that must give account", Heb.13.17. Do we cause our elders heartache? Do they feel humiliated to think that people for whom they are responsible have made so little progress, and display so little interest? How are they going to feel "when He shall appear"?
A major theme of John’s epistle is that of the family of God. The privilege of being "children of God" (R.V.) is a present reality, bestowed upon us by the Father’s love, 3.1,2. Generally, in a family there are distinctive characteristics, and thus it should be in the family of God. In the spiritual realm family likeness does not relate to facial features, build, stride, or tone of voice. Rather, it is the moral qualities of the Father that are displayed in His children. Throughout the epistle John uses the phrase, "born of God", or "born of Him", and insists that the children of God bear resemblance to their Father. In those who have been genuinely born again there will be conduct to prove the family connection. The first of these references is here at 2.29; "He is righteous, … every one that doeth righteousness is born of Him". The righteousness that is an inherent part of the Father’s character will find its practical expression in the lives of His children. Are you hungering and thirsting after righteousness? Matt.5.6. Do you love righteousness and hate wickedness, as did the Lord Jesus? Ps.45.7. Is it expressed in honesty, integrity, transparency and morality? The people who are privileged to be the children of God will demonstrate it by practising righteousness. These high standards of behaviour will never be applauded by a crooked world, for its distaste for Divine holiness extends to the people who display it in a school or college, in an office or factory, in a family or community. "Therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not ... Marvel not … if the world hate you" 3.1,13.
WE SHALL BE LIKE HIM
Our present status as children of God is the precursor to future blessing. According to 3.2, there are questions about our future state that remain unanswered, and so it is futile to enter the realm of speculation. There is no point in devoting valuable time to debating theories that have no Biblical foundation; it is more profitable to expound what has been revealed. However, while much about our future has not been "made manifest", R.V., one fact is incontrovertible; "we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is". The primary goal of God’s great eternal purpose is to produce replicas of His Son, people who are "conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren" Rom.8.29.
And is it so! We shall be like Thy Son,
Is this the grace which He for us has won?
Father of glory! (thought beyond all thought)
In glory to His own blest likeness brought.
(John Nelson Darby)
In the context of 1John chapter 3, our coming resemblance to the Lord Jesus is seen as moral. "He is pure", v.3. "In Him is no sin", v.5. In these respects, "we shall be like Him", v.2. In Phil.3.21 the resemblance is seen as physical. He "shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body". In this present realm we have resembled Adam; in the future we shall resemble Christ. "As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly", 1Cor.15.49. Thus both morally and physically there will be likeness to our beloved Lord.
EVERY MAN … PURIFIETH HIMSELF
"We have been saved in hope", Rom.8.24, J.N.D.; that is, salvation not only dealt with a guilty past and provided for a joyful present, but introduced us into a sphere of hope for the future. We have a tremendous range of prospects, and "with patience" we await the realisation of what is in store for us, v.25. Our hope centres in a Person, "Christ Jesus our hope" 1Tim.1.1, R.V. Most translations of 1Jn.3.3 convey that same idea. Rather than seeing the hope as being resident in our hearts, although undoubtedly it is, the phrase portrays the concept of our hope being "set on Him", so "every man that hath this hope set on Him purifieth himself".
Here, the hope is not so much that of the Lord’s coming, but rather the ramifications of His coming, the fact that "we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is". "As He is": transcendent, glorified, majestic, resplendent, in contrast to "as He was", Mk.4.36; Jn.4.6, J.N.D., fatigued and hungry. As we look back, we are
Rememb’ring Him as He
Never again shall be:
His journey to the tree
As we look forward, we anticipate gazing on One Whose splendour is unsurpassed, and the wonder is, "we shall be like Him".
The thrust of John’s argument is now something like this; if you are going to be like Him then, what about becoming more like Him now. "He is pure"; He ever was pure, but the days of His flesh did nothing to impinge on that purity. He remained uncontaminated by the foul influences of a corrupt world.
Morning by morning Thou didst wake
Amidst this poisoned air;
Yet no contagion touched Thy soul,
No sin disturbed Thy prayer.
His purity is intrinsic; He never had to purify Himself, but that is precisely what we are called upon to do. For us there was an initial purification at conversion; "ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth" 1Pet.1.22. "Ye are clean" Jn.13.10. But John is not taken up here with the cleansing that has been effected by "His own blood" Rev.1.5, but rather the need for daily, practical, holy living.
A major contributor to the believer’s purity is the water of the Word of God. "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to Thy word", Ps.119.9. Israel’s priests had an initial cleansing when they were installed into office, Ex.29.4, but a laver in the court of the tabernacle catered for the constant need for clean hands and feet, 30.19. Giving attention to the Word provides us with daily cleansing for hands and feet, that is, our actions and our walk, as we stand back from "the corruption that is in the world through lust" 2Pet.1.4. It enables the believer to "keep himself unspotted from the world" Jms.1.27. Heed these injunctions then; "keep thyself pure" 1Tim.5.22; "be thou an example … in purity" 1Tim.4.12. People, who anticipate being as pure as Christ in the future, should endeavour to maintain purity here and now.
There is constant need for vigilance as illustrated in a potential pitfall for the Nazarite. A sudden death at his side would render him ceremonially unclean and interrupt his term of consecration, Num.6.9. In the same way, an unanticipated satanic attack through eye or ear could intrude into the wholesome thinking of a Christ-centred mind and defile it. There is all the more need then to apply the mind positively; "whatsoever things are pure … think on these things", Phil.4.8.
We noted a three-fold division of chapter 1 as follows:
vv.1-4, Manifestation of Sovereign Purpose;
vv.5-9, Manifestation of Shepherds;
vv.10-16, Manifestation of Subverters.
vv.1-4, Introduction - The Eternal Promise - God’s Purpose:
vv.5-9, Instruction - The Elder’s Path - Paul’s Purpose, v.5 for this cause;
vv.10-16, Infection - The Evil Pursuit - Judaisers’ Purpose, v.11, subvert whole houses; v.14, turn from the truth;
We have considered vv.1-4 and we come now to the next section, vv.5-9.
vv.5-9, INSTRUCTION - THE ELDER’S PATH – PAUL’S PURPOSE,
In v.5, Titus is Allocated A Special Mission and in vv.6-9 he is to Appoint Special Men.
v.5, Allocated A Special Mission:"For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee."
The Place- "left thee in Crete", which means "fleshy". What a place for God to work - what a place to work for God! Much has been built on the word "left" and it could be either aorist or imperfect, but neither implies constant duration. Both come to an end and for this reason, (besides so many more which could be advanced) the postscript in the A.V. "It was written to Titus, ordained the first bishop of the church of the Cretians…" is obviously wrong and without the authority of Divine inspiration. Paul had apparently stopped in Crete on his return from Spain about AD. 65. They were represented on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2.11, and so some Cretians heard the gospel then. The results of that were far-reaching and required further investigation and strengthening. What Paul requires of Titus is true follow-up work.
The Purpose – "that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting"
Paul gave Titus a personal task, "that thou", which explains why he needed abundant quantities of grace and peace. To instruct assemblies and saints, especially those older is a very difficult task and it requires more than courses in man management and people skills; it necessitates Divine help. He was to "set in order the things that are wanting." This is the only mention of the word translated "set in order" and it means ‘to set thoroughly straight’. The clear implication is that things were diverging from the straight edge or the plumbline.
Amos is the prophet of the plumbline: "Thus He shewed me: and, behold, the Lord stood upon a wall made by a plumbline, with a plumbline in His hand. And the Lord said unto me, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A plumbline. Then said the Lord, Behold, I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel: I will not again pass by them any more…" Amos 7.7,8. The Lord expects His buildings and His people to be straight up and down with no departure from the vertical. With many saints individually and assemblies collectively, there are bulges and deviations to accommodate movements away from the Divine standard. We are to live lives that are righteous, straight up and down, without deviation. In Gal.2.14 Paul "saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel". Their lives were not according to the plumbline of the gospel and it caused him to face Peter, the leader, with his hypocrisy: "I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?" Hypocritical living and vacillating to please men will take us away from the "straight paths", Heb.12.13.
"The things that are wanting" are those matters that are left behind or are deficient. Likely due to the brevity of Paul’s visit and the time that would have been required to manifest spiritual maturity there were deficiencies in the work. These he now address, since, if the leadership can be set straight, then the saints who follow the leaders will also be corrected.
Titus was to "ordain elders in every city". The word "ordain" means to appoint or "establish", J.N.D. There is no thought of any clerical ordination, nor anything official or ritualistic as is taught by many of the organised religions of Christendom. Apart from the epistle to the Hebrews, the only other clear use of the word by the Apostle Paul is in Rom.5.19, "For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous."
We may well ask who are "elders"? These men are described by a number of different words in the New Testament. Here they are called "elders" (presbuteros) a word which implies spiritual maturity; see also Acts 11.30; 14.23; 15.2, 4, 6, 22, 23; 16.4; 20.17; 21.18; 1Tim.5.17, 19; Jms.5.14; 1Pet.5.1. Then they are called "bishops" in v.7 (episkopos) which word is translated "overseers" in Acts 20.28 and is a term which implies sympathy; see also Phil.1.1; 1Tim.3.2. Finally they are called "shepherds", which indicates their ability to feed and tend the flock of God. This is found in both Acts 20.28 and 1Pet.5.2 in the word, "feed" which means ‘to shepherd’. It is to be stressed that these men are always found in the plural number. Never is there the thought that one man was to have authority over a diocese. It has been said that the Divine order is many bishops in one church, not one bishop over many churches.
These men were required "in every city" where there were assemblies. This does not give any licence for what is known as a district oversight, where a body of men are in control of all that takes place in assemblies within a geographical area. In Revelation chapters 1-3 the churches are all on their own base and are autonomous. The link of fellowship between assemblies is very sweet and is based on commonly enjoyed truth but one assembly cannot interfere in the affairs of another, nor can one body of overseers influence or interfere in another assembly’s decisions.
Titus’ authority to carry out this task was apostolic, hence, "as I had appointed thee". This is the reason why Paul emphasised his apostleship in v.1. Titus would never have doubted Paul’s apostleship but it was necessary to underline it so that Titus could point to apostolic authority as he sought to carry our Paul’s injunctions.
vv.6-9, Appoint Special Men
How would Titus know whom to appoint to this work? Paul sets out the required qualifications and he gives these: v.6 Domestically; vv.7,8 Personally; v.9 Doctrinally.
The question is sometimes asked, "Why is this subject addressed twice, here and in 1Timothy chapter 3?" The list in 1Timothy is given so that a brother can assess himself personally as to his suitability for this work. Thus 1Tim.3.1, "This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work." That is, the emphasis is on the individual desiring this work. However, here in Titus chapter 1 it is to allow others to see if such an individual is qualified for the task and the qualifications are listed to allow Titus to gauge the suitability of the brothers in Crete.
Domestically: v.6, "If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly."
"If any be blameless": It does not say he is to be sinless, but it means that no substantiated charge can be brought against the brother. It is not that he is acquitted of a charge; but that no charge has been made. The only other mentions of this word are as follows: in v.7; 1Cor.1.8, "that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ"; Col.1.22, "to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight"; 1Tim.3.10, "let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless".
The second qualification is that this man is to be "the husband of one wife". This literally means a one-woman man and is a moral qualification. This man has eyes for no other woman but his wife. He is not a leering, ogling, lecherous kind of man. Sometimes women have an intuition, almost like a sixth sense, and can feel uncomfortable in the presence of some men. Women will feel perfectly at home in the presence of this man, even if they are alone. This is very important in our day with many women employed in the business sphere. Thus men are in contact with women every day at work and need to be of high moral fibre to stand apart from all temptation and salaciousness.
This qualification neither demands an overseer to be married nor does it preclude an overseer getting remarried if his first wife had died. If it was a demand to be married, Paul could have said, "the husband of a wife". The elder was to have one wife at a time. There is, of course, no thought here, or anywhere else in the New Testament, of divorce and remarriage. Unfortunately, in these days of great departure, it needs to be emphasised that it is impossible for a woman to fulfil this requirement. There is no place in a Scripturally ordered fellowship for women elders, bishops or the like. Public service belongs to the males only.
The expression "having faithful children" has given rise to much debate. This may mean, "having believing children" but if it means they are believers in the Lord Jesus and true Christians, it is difficult to understand why it is stated that they are "not accused of riot or unruly". If children were guilty of such conduct it would bring into question the reality of their conversion. It seems better to understand this as applying to those who are trustworthy and uphold the standard of their father’s house while they are residing at home and are under their father’s jurisdiction and headship. The word is rendered "faithful" in 53 of its 67 occurrences. As an example, note the use of the word in the Pastoral epistles, where it occurs some 17 times as an adjective: Tit.1.9, "Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught"; Tit.3.8, "This is a faithful saying…"; 1Tim.3.11, "…faithful in all things"; 2Tim.2.2, "the same commit thou to faithful men …".
These children are "not accused of riot". The word "riot" means an abandoned and dissolute life. The only other mentions of the word are: Eph.5.18, "… wherein is excess" and 1Pet.4.4, "… same excess of riot". The adjectival form is found regarding the ‘prodigal son’ in Lk.15.13, "… there wasted his substance with riotous living." Neither are they to be accused of being "unruly". The person so described will not be subject to control and is totally disobedient and insubordinate. It is used in v.10, "there are many unruly and vain talkers".
It can be appreciated why it has been suggested above that children who manifest such dreadful behaviour could not be true believers.
All Scripture is divinely inspired, 2Tim.3.16; 2Pet.1.21. Religious people and others have attacked the Word of God for centuries, but the Word stands and is eternally true, Ps.119.89,151,152; Lk.21.33. Nothing must be added to, or taken away from, that Word, Deut.4.2; 12.32; Rev.22.18,19. The Word of God is not the product of men’s imaginations. It is inerrant, infallible, complete and authoritative. It shows us our present spiritual condition, the way God would have us to live, Ps.119.105, and the way in which assemblies of God's people should function, continuing "stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers", Acts2.42. It is only through feeding on the written Word of God that a believer will grow spiritually, 1Pet.2.2, and become more and more like he Lord Jesus Christ. The blessed man of Psalm.1 meditated in the law of the Lord by day and by night, Ps.1.2, and Joshua was told, "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night", Josh.1.8.
It is vitally important for a believer to read, study, meditate on and obey the Word of God. As we study the Word we find many promises which, if we believe and rely upon them, will strengthen and encourage us. God has "given unto us exceeding great and precious promises" 2Pet.1.4. There are many promises and they are precious because they were made by our omnipotent, faithful God, 1.Cor.1.9; 10.3, Who is love, 1Jn.4.8. God cannot lie, Titus.1.2, and never changes, Mal.3.6. He "is faithful that promised" Heb.10.23, and being infinite in power is able to do all that He has promised to do. The promises are completely reliable and can be a source of great blessing and comfort, especially in the troubled times in which we live when we see turmoil, instability, chaos and uncertainty in so many areas of human activity. We read that, "all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen" 2Cor.1.20. The fulfilment of all the precious promises is certain in Christ, Who loved us and gave Himself for us, Eph.5.2; Gal.2.20. God has promised us everlasting life, Jn.6.47; freedom from the dominion of sin, Rom.6.14; forgiveness when we do sin, 1Jn.1.9; the return for us of the Lord Jesus Christ, 1Thess.4.16,17; Jn.14.3, and an incorruptible inheritance reserved in heaven, 1Pet.1.4.
We find in Deut.31.8 a promise which was made to Joshua when Moses was about to hand over to him the responsibility of leading the children to Israel. God, speaking through Moses, said to Joshua, "the LORD, He it is that doth go before thee; He will be with thee, He will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed." The promises made to Joshua by his unchanging God can be appropriated, relied upon and enjoyed by believers seeking to serve God today. Joshua was one of the twelve men sent by Moses to spy out the Promised Land, Num.13.1-20. The spies reported that the land was good and fruitful but, because of the strength of the inhabitants and the strongly fortified cities, ten of the spies discouraged the people from going in and possessing the land God had promised to give them, Num.13.21-33. Only two of the spies, Caleb and Joshua, were prepared, relying on the promise and power of God, to go in and possess the land; the others wanted to return to Egypt, Num.14.1-9.
Joshua had previously been appointed leader of the army, Ex.17.9, and some of Moses’ authority had already been bestowed upon him, Num.27.18-23. Joshua had proved himself to be reliable and faithful, and he who has proved faithful with lesser responsibility will prove himself faithful with greater, Lk.16.10.
Joshua knew the power and faithfulness of God and could have said, "Hitherto hath the Lord helped us" 1Sam.7.12. Now he was faced with the daunting task of leading the people, and he knew that they would not be relied upon to obey God at all times and might prove unfaithful to Him. Nevertheless, Joshua knew that the sovereign, all-sufficient God would be faithful and the promises made to him would be kept. God "abideth faithful: He cannot deny Himself’ 2Tim.2.13. Joshua was to put implicit trust in God, in His faithfulness and promises, for "It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man" Ps.118.8.
God is faithful, and the Lord Jesus Christ was faithful to His Father in all things, Heb.3.2. He glorified His Father, and finished the work His Father had given Him to do, Jn.17.4; 19.30. Believers are called upon to be faithful. God graciously uses believers in His service and bestows gifts upon them to be used in that service, Rom.12.4-8; Eph.4.8,11,12. Believers are responsible to God for the use and development of the gifts and stewards should be faithful, 1Cor.4.2.
I will be with thee
When He hung on the cross, suffering, bleeding; and died as a substitutionary sacrifice for the sin of the whole world, the Lord Jesus Christ was forsaken by God, Ps.22.1; Matt.27.46. The Lord was forsaken that we might have the promise that we shall never be forsaken, for "He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" Heb.13.5. He is always with us, watching over us, working all things together for our eternal good and His glory, Rom.8.28. When we look back over life, we can see the gracious, guiding, controlling hand of God, intervening, chastening and blessing as we passed through various experiences. He is always with us. He was with Daniel’s three friends in the furnace, and the flames but released them from the cords that bound them, Dan.3.16-25. He was with His frightened disciples in a boat in a great storm, and he said "Peace, be still… and there was a great calm" Mk.4.35-41.
We can feel inadequate for the tasks God asks us to carry out and the duties He calls upon us to fulfil but He will be with us. He will not forsake us nor fail us and we will learn the truth of the words "My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness" 2Cor.12.9. Let us always remember that our "help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth", Ps.121.2; that "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" Ps.46.1, and that He is "able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think" Eph.3.20.
The Lord will not fail us when we have decisions to make and have to choose between alternative courses of action. God is infinitely wise, 1Tim.1.17. If we commit our way to Him, and truly seek His will, He will direct us. We must remember the guidance He promises when He says, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths" Prov.3.5,6. He will not fail us, now or ever, and if we obediently follow where He leads, we shall enjoy the comfort of knowing, "the Lord, He it is that doth go before thee" Deut.31:8. He will always be with us.
Fear not, neither be dismayed
In the midst of all the dangers and uncertainties in the world, the Lord tells His saints not to be over anxious about anything, "but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God" and He gives the promise that "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" Phil.4.6,7.
What a blessing it is to hear God telling us not to fear nor be dismayed. He tells us to cast all our care on Him for He cares for us, 1Pet.5.7, and in Isa.41.10 we are told, "Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed, for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness".
Many years after, God, through Moses, had given Joshua promises of His abiding presence and help. Joshua came to the time when he was approaching the end of his service. He has gone through many trials and difficulties, and he said to the children of Israel, "not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof" Josh.23.14.
As believers, we are able to enjoy the many precious promises God has given us. Paul, writing to believers, said, "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" 2Cor.7.1. The precious promises were given, "that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" 2Pet.1.4. Meditation on the Word of God and on His promises will cause a believer to experience joy, gratitude, love and an increasing desire to worship, praise and serve Him in accordance with His will and for His glory.
How alarming have the pictures been of the recent serious rioting in London and other cities; the true face of democracy: uncontrolled anarchy. Scenes of wanton destruction were depicted on television screens and in all the newspapers. It was headline news that we would rather not have seen; shocking and embarrassing. Those who should have known better, and youngsters, not yet in their teens joined in frightening and frenzied rampages through the streets, burning, attacking and looting. Businesses that had thrived for decades, the livelihood of honest, hard-working people, were reduced to smouldering rubble in hours.
But as the mobs rampaged, the cameras rolled, recording the atrocities of those who have nothing to offer society. In the darkness and secrecy of night and in the vainly imagined security of numbers, they went about their destruction with no thought of the consequences and no fear of punishment. Little did many of them realise that their faces would appear on the pages of the press and on large screens in city centres, for all to see, in the days that followed. They were found out and already many have paid a high price for their crimes.
My friend, I want to assure you that every moment of every hour of every day and night you are in God’s sights. You may draw the curtains, close the blinds and put out the light but God sees you clearly. You may take every precaution to ensure that you are alone and that no one has witnessed your activities, but God has seen it all. Psalm 50.21 reminds us "These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes."
There are many examples recorded in the Scriptures of those who thought they were private, discovering that God had witnessed everything: Eve in the case of her sin in succumbing to the suggestions of the devil as recorded in Genesis 3; David in his sin with Bathsheba as found in 2Samuel 11; Achan who was singled out in Joshua 7, after taking items that were forbidden by God, from Jericho. You cannot hide from God, the daylight and night are alike to Him and king David, speaking from experience, reminds us in Psalm 139 that every attempt to flee and hide from God, is futile and doomed to failure.
My friend, do not try to cover your sins but confess them. Do not wait until that inevitable day when you must stand before the Judge of all the earth, the Lord Jesus and be faced with the incriminating evidence of your sin, with no place then to hide; to hear the dread sentence and be consigned to the lake of fire. Today, there is mercy and forgiveness – all this is possible because that same Judge Himself "bare our sins in His own body on the tree …" 1Peter 2.24. He bore the punishment our crimes deserved and, the penalty having been borne, God is righteously able to pardon the guilty, so that we will never have to face the eternal consequences of our serious sins. Own your sin and trust Christ as your personal Saviour that your sins may be blotted out.
I ask you – will you wait until you are found out or will you accept Christ as your Saviour and be forgiven? You alone can make the all-important choice.