No.2 - "For three transgressions... and for four" (Part 1)
Read chapter 1.1 – 2.3
"The words of Amos, who was among the herdmen of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, (cp. Isa.1.1) and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel, two years before the earthquake. And he said, The Lord will roar from Zion (David’s city, 1Kgs.8.1), and utter His voice from Jerusalem (Solomon’s city, 1Kgs.10.26,27); and the habitations of the shepherds shall mourn, and the top of Carmel shall wither" 1.1,2. The words, "which he saw" v.1, can be explained by Ps.89.19, "Then Thou spakest in a vision". See also Lam.2.9. The introduction to the prophecy touches on three things:
The Occupation of the Prophet
He was "among the herdmen of Tekoa" v.1. According to M.F.Unger (Unger’s Commentary on the Old Testament), the term used for shepherds here (A.V. ‘herdmen’: Hebrew noqed) is unusual, and "suggests that the sheep herded by Amos were not the common variety, but a dwarfed variety, prized for its wool". More personal details are given in 7.14,15. As noted in the first paper, a different word (boger) is translated "herdman" in 7.14.
The Occasion of the Prophecy
We have already noted that 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. The reference to the earthquake (see also Zech.14.5) must be significant, and probably indicated approaching Divine judgment in the same way that earthquakes, among other terrifying things, will precede consuming Divine judgment at the end-time. See Matt.24.7,8; Rev.6.12. It has been said that since earthquakes were common in the area, this particular earthquake must have been exceptionally severe.
The Outline of the Prophecy
The message of the book is introduced with the words, "The Lord will roar from Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem; and the habitations of the shepherds (Hebrew raah: the usual word for shepherds) shall mourn, and the top of Carmel shall wither" v.2. It is noteworthy that the Lord speaks from Jerusalem, just as He will at the end-time: "The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem" Joel 3.16. He does not speak from one of the northern shrines (Dan or Bethel, where the golden calves were situated), but from "the place where men were directed by the Lord to worship" (M.F.Unger). As in the book of Joel, it is the "roar" of Divine judgment, which would be seen in consuming drought: "the habitations (‘pastures’, J.N.D.) of the shepherds shall mourn, and the top of Carmel (meaning ‘park’ or ‘fruitful place’) shall wither". The references to roaring from Zion, and speaking ("utter His voice") from Jerusalem may represent Hebrew poetry, with its correspondence of ideas rather than words.
After the general introduction, the message of Amos is in two major parts that can be broadly described as: judgments on the nations, chapters 1 and 2; and judgments on Israel, chapters 3-9.
The opening two chapters of the prophecy proclaim eight judgments, which fall into two major divisions. The first six judgments are pronounced against Israel’s neighbours: Damascus, Gaza, Tyrus, Edom, Ammon, and Moab. The last two judgments are pronounced against God’s people themselves: Judah and Israel. In the previous paper we noted the progression of these judgments:
unrelated nations (Damascus, Gaza, Tyre);
related nations (Edom, Ammon, Moab);
a brother nation (Judah);
Since the preaching of Amos was directed against the northern kingdom in particular, this is significant.
In considering these chapters, we must notice firstly, some general principles of judgment, and secondly the specific causes of judgment. In this paper we will deal with the first of these:
GENERAL PRINCIPLES OF JUDGMENT
judgment must fall upon all men;
God is cognizant of the affairs of all nations;
there is a limit to human sin;
there is a law of sowing and reaping;
that privilege determines responsibility.
Judgment Must Fall On All Men
These judgments illustrate Rom.2.12, "For as many as have sinned without law (Damascus, Gaza, Tyrus, Edom, Ammon, and Moab) shall perish also without law: and as many as have sinned under law (Judah and Israel) shall be judged by law". It is important to notice that those nations without the Word of God and the prophets of God are not therefore absolved from moral responsibility. They may not have the testimony of God’s Word, but they do have the testimony of conscience. With this in mind, it is noticeable that judgment is pronounced against those nations "without law" on account of their conduct towards other men, particularly God’s own people, whereas judgment is pronounced against Judah and Israel on account of their conduct towards God. It should also be noted that five of the six Gentile nations are held responsible for their treatment of God’s people (cf.1.3,6,9,11,13), reminding us that God had said "I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee" Gen.12.3, and that "he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of His eye" Zech.2.8.
The certainty of judgment is emphasised by the fact that each oracle commences with the words, "Thus saith the Lord" 1.3,6,9,11,13; 2.1,4,6, and that in five cases they conclude with either, "saith the Lord" or "saith the Lord God".
God Is Cognizant of the Affairs of All Nations
He is not a tribal deity. He is "the Judge of all the earth" Gen.18.25. All men are accountable to Him. He will judge all nations. The eight cases surveyed in these two chapters are therefore of relevant interest: they allow us to see something of God’s dealings with the nations at all times. We are not to think that these are isolated cases, for He 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.
There is a Limit to Human Sin
The recurring phrase "for three transgressions … and for four" indicates that the nations had reached and exceeded a limit. The fourth and most heinous crime, which crowns the preceding iniquities, is cited. The phrase also emphasises the omniscience of God. We must remember that "Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do" Heb.4.13.
"Three" suggests a limit. "And He left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words" Matt.26.44: "For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me" 2Cor.12.8.
The Law of Sowing and Reaping
The section illustrates Gal.6.7: "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." Hence, "let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith" Gal.6.9,10.
In this connection, we should notice that God does not deal with the nations in a purely arbitrary fashion, but advances adequate reasons for the severity of His judgments upon them. He pronounces His sentences with a full explanation in each case.
We should also notice that in all cases (apart from the judgment pronounced on Israel) Divine retribution is described as "fire" 1.4,7,10,12,14; 2.2,5. This reminds us that the Lord Jesus will "be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire ..." 2Thess.1.7,8.
Privilege Determines Responsibility
This is illustrated in the extensive description of judgment against Israel and against "the whole family". Compare Isa.40.2, "Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins".
It has been pointed out that the five things detailed above occur in the same order in the epistle to the Romans. See respectively Rom.1.18; 1.21-32; 2.2; 2.5,6; 2.17-24.
The second piece of armour commended to the Christian soldier is the breastplate, and the metal it is to be made of is righteousness - practical righteousness, blameless conduct, a holy walk with God. This gives courage in the day of battle. It would matter little what else the Christian warrior possessed, if he was without his breastplate. The most vital part would be exposed to the enemy's fire. Besides, being a centre piece, it gives unity to the whole. If a man's conscience reproaches him, and if he knows that the world would reproach him if it knew all, how can he hold up his head and face the enemy boldly? He is thinking about himself, fearing detection and exposure. His breastplate is gone, he fears the blow may fall on the unprotected part. "The righteous Lord loveth righteousness; His countenance doth behold the upright. The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and His ears are open unto their cry; but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil," Ps.11.7; 34.15,16.
When the thoughts and affections are governed and kept in order by the truth, there will be a good conscience - a holy and a righteous walk with God and before men. This association of ideas seems beautifully united in Eph.4.24: "And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness;" or, the "righteousness and holiness of truth." The truth produces both. Hence the beauty of the Divine order. First, the heart; second, the conduct. Righteousness is the due attention to what we owe relatively to God and man. As says the apostle, "And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men," Acts 24.16. This is practical righteousness - a righteousness which gave the apostle amazing courage, holy boldness, when he stood up before his enemies. Holiness is rather that which repels evil - instinctively repelling that which is contrary to God. Thus the happy combination of the "righteousness and holiness of truth" form the sterling metal of the Christian's breastplate.
And now, see that thou well understandest this important truth, O my soul. To lose a good conscience is to be robbed of thy strength in the day of conflict. Only he who has a good conscience can be bold and fearless when called to go forth and face the enemy. But need I remind thee, before closing our meditations on the breastplate, that the righteousness we have been speaking about is quite distinct from the righteousness of God, in which we stand accepted in Christ Jesus? He is our righteousness, complete and unchangeable in the presence of God; but not in the character of a breastplate. All conflict is over there. But while here, we need practical righteousness for successful conflict with our adversary the devil. Nevertheless, the righteousness of God which we are made in Christ Jesus is the foundation of the other. Without the knowledge of this we should be feeble warriors, and an easy prey to Satan's wiles. He who made our peace and finished our righteousness is now in the presence of God for us. Blessed Lord, maintain us while down here in practical righteousness, that we may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. See 2Cor.5.21;Phil.3.9; Rom.3.21,22; 10.3,4.
It has often been noted that the epistles to the Thessalonians major on future events. Although Paul’s visit to the city had been comparatively brief, there had been an intensive program of instruction in every facet of Christian living and doctrine. Included in the curriculum was teaching about future events. "But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly …" 1Thess.5.1,2. From their spiritual infancy, the hope of the Lord’s coming was big in their thinking; they were "wait(ing) for His Son from heaven". 1Thess.1.10.
PATIENCE OF HOPE
This hope of the Lord’s return had a mighty impact on their service for God. Some take issue with the cliché, "saved to serve", but it was a reality as far as the Thessalonians were concerned. They had "turned to God from idols to serve [as slaves] the living and true God" 1Thess.1.9. Devoted, selfless service was in evidence from day one.
Paul thanked God for their service, describing it in three ways in v.3. First, it was a "work of faith", a phrase relating to their activity, rather than to the initial act of faith in Christ for salvation. As they worked, they did so with the confidence that God could, and would, bless their labours. The dismal spirit of pessimism that often permeates our thinking was no part of their outlook. We say that we are living in Laodicean times, and that there is no hope of improvement. We think in terms of survival rather than revival; it’s a case of hanging on, but they would have been appalled by that attitude. Many of us are like the old men at the end of Ezra chapter 3. When a new work for God was being initiated causing spontaneous praise on the part of many, they wept; they "had seen the first house"! A few years later, the same negative spirit prevailed; "is it not in your eyes as nothing?" Hag.2.3 (R.V.). It is time to abandon that gloomy mind-set and realise that God is the same God, and that the Holy Spirit is still active in the world, and that the gospel retains its ancient power. Let our service be a "work of faith".
"Labour of love" is Paul’s second description of their activity in v.3. Their belief in God’s ability to work among them did not produce idleness or cause them to sit back with their feet up. They laboured. Paul had set the pattern when he was with them: "ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail" 2.9. Those who had emerged as their leaders had followed that pattern; they laboured among them, 5.12, so it is little wonder that with such an example, the company as a whole became labourers. The assembly took character from its leaders.
The word "labour" implies toil that would drain strength and induce weariness. This was sacrificial; it was a tough grind at times; it required sweat and tears, and yet because of love, they were willing to reject soft options and press on with weary bodies and tired minds, "faint, yet pursuing" Judg.8.4.
Undoubtedly, the love that motivated them was love for their Lord, an element that was sadly lacking at a later date at Ephesus. "Thou hast left thy first love" Rev.2.4. And yet the Lord had noted that these Ephesians had laboured, v.2. Such wearying toil must have been sheer drudgery when the mainspring of love for Christ was missing.
Perhaps love for the lost also stirred the Thessalonians to earnest activity. A man had loved them when they were in their sins; he was "affectionately desirous" of them, a love that extended into their Christian experience, 2.8. Paul’s whole being had been poured into serving these Thessalonians. Initially he had brought them "the gospel of God", but then he functioned as a nursing mother in their spiritual childhood. The affection that they had experienced at his hands was now extended to others; theirs was a "labour of love". Let us marry labour and love in our own service, the willingness to serve to the limits of our energies, but ensuring that the vigorous activity stems from genuine affection for our Lord, and for those whom we serve.
Paul’s third cause for praise was their "patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ". Perhaps some readers have felt that the applications of previous paragraphs have been unrealistic in light of the situation that we face in assembly life today. In many places there is shrinkage, in some cases because there is no employment for younger people, and they have had to seek pastures new. In other areas, inner city clearances account for depleted numbers. Thus, even from the standpoint of manpower, it has become more difficult to maintain the level of activity that obtained formerly. Increasing secularism and the rise of militant atheism make it more difficult to interest people in the gospel. The trivialising and glamorising of sin and the insatiable desire for entertainment add to the problem; so the number of new converts being fed into the assembly has decreased. Unfortunately, generally speaking, that is to state it as it is. A deceased American politician said, "Some men see things as they are and say, ‘Why?’ I see things as they can be and say, ‘Why not?’" Possibly the attitude of that man of the world holds lessons for us.
Perhaps this is where the "patience of hope" comes into play. The word "patience" is rather "perseverance"; so the Thessalonians were characterised by perseverance that was motivated by "hope in our Lord Jesus Christ". The anticipation of His coming with its blessings and rewards stirred them to keep busy despite the obstacles, the disappointments and the discouragements that beset them. Let us apply that to assembly life today. Many of my dear fellow-believers are as busy as the Thessalonians. Like them they have confidence in the living God. They toil to the point of exhaustion with genuine devotion to Christ, and yet from a human standpoint there seems to be a paucity of results. If you are among those just described, let me encourage you to persevere. It would be easy to become like the builders in Neh.4.10, and to fear the opposition, look at the problems and feel the weakness, and say, "The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall". Time proved that it could be done. "We returned all of us to the wall, every one unto his work" v.15, and that persistence paid dividends, for "the wall was finished" 6.15. Let us be equally determined, for it will not be for long. Let the hope of His coming not only excite us but incite us; let it stir us to be diligent, devoted and determined in our service for God. "Occupy till I come" Lk.19.13
"A little while!" ‘Twill soon be past;
Why should we shun the shame and cross?
O let us in His footsteps haste,
Counting for Him all else but loss;
Oh, how will recompense His smile
The sufferings of this little while!
(James George Deck)
COMFORT ONE ANOTHER WITH THESE WORDS
This series of articles has focused on passages where there is a relationship between prophetic teaching and practical Christian living, practical in the sense of encouraging holiness and devoted service. A practical issue of a different kind emanates from 1Thess.4.13-18 for it provides comfort for the sorrowing; "comfort one another with these words" v.18.
The believers were perplexed. Despite their wide knowledge of God’s prophetic programme, there was a piece of the jigsaw missing. What had become of the saints who had died? How would they fit into the overall picture at the Lord’s coming? To cater for that gap in their knowledge, Paul penned this section which is really the core of the epistle.
First, there was the hope of resurrection, based on the fact that "Jesus died and rose again" v.14. Further, there was the assurance that those who had died had lost nothing by falling asleep prior to the rapture, or to put it another way, there is no particular advantage in being still alive at the point in time at which He will come, v.15. Then, the hope of reunion enters the frame, for living saints will be "caught up together" with resurrected believers, v.17. Add to all that the fact that we will all "meet the Lord", and "ever be with the Lord", and you have a blend of truth calculated to gladden any sorrowing heart. Little wonder the Apostle said, "Wherefore comfort one another with these words" v.18.
The next section of the epistle concludes in similar vein. "Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do" 5.11. In that setting the source of comfort is somewhat different although still related to future events. Paul had been predicting the awful calamities of the early stages of the Day of the Lord, the Tribulation period, but had given this assurance, "ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief" 5.4. "God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him" vv.9,10. He was saying that the horrors of the Tribulation will never be experienced by believers of this church age. We will be gone before the tempest of wrath breaks on an ungodly world.
The hope of the Lord’s coming would be destroyed if there was any sense of having to face the terrors of Tribulation days before it transpires, but comfort can be drawn from the assurance that God has not appointed us to wrath; Jesus "delivereth us from the wrath to come" 1.10 (R.V.). Let us lay hold on His promise and rejoice in it; "I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world" Rev.3.10. It is a great comfort to know that we shall never pass through the Tribulation. "Comfort one another".
Our last paper concluded at v.6 where we considered a bishop domestically. We now commence at v.7. and in the following verses see him personally and doctrinally.
Personally:vv.7,8, "For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate."
It is important to note that it is at this juncture we read what he must be. The qualifications relating to his wife and children are undoubtedly desirable but there are now things which are necessities.
The elder is now called a bishop. The difference has been defined previously but there is no difference in the personnel involved. Organised religious bodies make a big difference between an elder and a bishop, a difference that has no Scriptural authority. The reason why it was suggested that the term bishop drew attention to the man’s sympathy is found in the root meaning of the word used. The word is "episkopos" which is a combination of two words, epi, ‘over’ and skopeo, ‘to look or watch’. Thus it means ‘to watch over’. From the root of the word comes the idea of visitation. It is thus translated in Lk.19.44, "…because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation" and 1Pet.2.12, "… glorify God in the day of visitation". The connection with the present context is seen in the following usages. Acts 1.20, "… his bishoprick let another take" and 1Tim.3.1, "If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work."
The implication is clear - the man who takes this position must be one who visits the saints in their homes to watch over, or inspect them. Not to inspect to find fault, but to seek ways in which help could be administered.
The qualification of "blameless" was noted in v.6 and the repetition underlines its importance.
The phrase "as the steward of God" means that the bishop acts as the manager of a household. For example the word is translated as follows: Lk.12.42, "Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?" - he is to Apportion. Lk.16.1, "There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods" - he is to Administer. 1Cor.4.2, "Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful" - he is to be Accurate. These 3 things should be seen in all bishops because as stewards they must give Account.
Paul now lists 5 negatives while in v.8 there are 6 positives.
Not Assertive – "not selfwilled". This only occurs in one other place in the New Testament, in 2Pet.2.10, regarding apostates, "Presumptuous are they, selfwilled...". J.N.D. translates as "headstrong". The meaning is ‘self pleasing’ and ‘arrogantly self-assertive’. It is the opposite of gentle. In the belligerent atmosphere of present day society, self-assertive people are much sought after and admired. Businesses will send their staff on self-assertiveness courses. This is the opposite of Christianity. People who are headstrong and are always pushing their own way regardless of either their fellows or God are far removed from the spirit of the Master Who said, "I am meek and lowly of heart," Matt.11.29. Meekness is not weakness. It has been said that meekness is power under control.
Not Angry – "not soon angry". This is the only occurrence of the word and it is related to the word, "orgee" or "wrath". Thus J.N.D. translates it as "passionate". It has the thought of not being easily provoked. The elder or bishop will find himself in many situations that will test his patience and he should not give way to his temper or passion. That is just an outburst of the flesh.
Not Abusive – "not given to wine". The only other mention of the word is also regarding the overseer in 1Tim.3.3. J.N.D. reads, "not disorderly through wine". It implies the abusive brawling associated with drinking wine. Apart from the Lord’s Supper there is no reason in our day why Christians should partake of wine, even in a social context. Some of us have experienced the havoc caused by starting out on that most slippery of slopes. This statement is not negated by Paul’s words to Timothy in 1Tim.5.23, "Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities." It does not say "take" or "drink" but "use" and that for medicinal purposes only.
Not An Assailant – "no striker". Again the word is only elsewhere found in 1Tim.3.3 and it implies a contentious, quarrelsome person. The injunction may be seen in its reality when we remember that this was written in days when slaves could be beaten for the slightest misdemeanour. The bishop is not a man who will lift his hand to strike any person but he is rather a peacemaker. There are those who will quarrel over anything that does not suit them. Often they, "strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel", Matt.23.24. A spiritual person will reflect the teaching of Phil.4.5, "Let your moderation be known unto all men."
Not Avaricious – "not given to filthy lucre". Base gain is not the motivating force in an elder’s life. He will not want so much overtime that he neglects his assembly responsibilities. He will work to live and not live to work. He will know what it is to control a business rather than allow the business to control him! He will reflect the One of Whom it could be written, "though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich" 2Cor.8.9. There is no such a thing as a spiritual Christian who is mean. Meanness is associated with legality not spirituality. The desire for more and a materialistic attitude is one of the great snares to spirituality in this present age.
Now, in v.8 there are the 6 positive features – "But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate".
His Liberality – "But a lover of hospitality". This means to have a fondness towards strangers. This was very important in days when there were no hotels and the inns that were available were usually places of ill repute. We recall Heb.13.2, "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." The elder’s home is held for God and His people and is open to them to call at any time. When the sheep need the shepherd he will be available. There will be no house-proud spirit that demands that some notice is given before the saints can call. There will be a ready, welcoming and warm reception of the saints and he will not display a grudging attitude. Obviously this man’s wife will be one hundred percent behind him or he could not function in this fashion.
His Amity – "lover of good men". This word, unique to here, is translated by J.N.D. as, "a lover of goodness". The overseer will love all that is of good constitution or nature; that which is pleasant, excellent, distinguished or honourable. He will not have in his home anything that would hinder this love.
His Sanity – "sober". The word is translated in v.2 as "temperate"; and in v.5 as "discreet". It is used as an adverb in 2.12, "soberly"; and as a verb in 2.4, "teach the young women to be sober". The meaning is to be sober minded; have one’s passions controlled and judgment balanced; curb one's desires.
The next 3 features are: "just" [manward]; "holy" [godward]; "temperate" [selfward].
His Fidelity - "just". This man is upright and honest in all his dealings with others. He is not marked by duplicity or deceit and for him his word is his bond. Whether in the world of business or with the saints in the assembly, the actions and words of the overseer are absolutely sincere and true. He would not be involved in double-dealing or any kind of sharp practice.
His Piety – "holy". J.N.D. says "pious". It means to religiously observe all moral obligations. It is used of the Lord Jesus in Acts 2.27, "neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption", (see also Acts 13.35); and in Heb.7.26, "… who is Holy …". It is used of God in Rev.15.4, "for Thou only art Holy …" and 16.5, "Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be (J.N.D., "the Holy One"), because Thou hast judged thus." These references make it clear that this is a very solemn and sobering requirement. Yet it ought to be seen in all praying Christians as stated in 1Tim.2.8, "lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting." The elder carries a tender conscience about the demands that God makes upon him and will keep himself undefiled by sin and free from wickedness. Things defiling and worldly or salacious material will be absent from his home and far from his mind.
His Mastery – "temperate". This is the only occurrence of this word and it means the man has mastery over himself and will control and curb his passions. To reach this standard we need to avoid things that excite the passions. This excitement may be brought about by what we read, things we watch, places we go, company we keep, hobbies we have etc. These all need to be carefully vetted to ensure we do not imbibe anything that would leave us vulnerable to our passions.
Doctrinally: v.9, "Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers."
Two matters are noted in the verse. There is the Reliability of the word and the Ability of the bishop.
The expression "holding fast" is translated by J.N.D. as "clinging to". The present participle indicates this is something we do continually. The only other occurrences of the word are in Matt.6.24 and Lk.16.13, "… or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other"; and in 1Thess.5.14, "… support the weak". It is our great resource since it is "the faithful word" meaning it is trustworthy, it cannot be improved and as we lean upon it, it will never let us down.
The bishop will cling to "the faithful word" as his means of support and will lean upon nothing else. Our notions, schemes, plans, innovations are all of no consequence. The only bulwark we have is, "what saith the Lord?" It is obvious we can only cling to what we know so this is a man who knows and appreciates the Word of God. He values the Scriptures and is not interested in any modern theories or innovations; he clings to the Word, "as he hath been taught". This reminds us of Paul’s words to Timothy, in a letter written about the same time as this: "And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also" 2Tim.2.2. There is no allowance made for human reasoning or logic. Nor is there room for alteration, improvements, amendments – it is to be "the same".
His understanding of the "sound doctrine" of the Scriptures gives him the ability to give spiritual guidance when problems arise. While the elder may not be a conference preacher, he must have an ability to teach the saints. His teaching must be "sound" [healthy] and the result will be healthy Christians. He has an ability both positively and negatively. Positively he "exhorts" or encourages the saints and negatively he exposes the error and leaves the person who has been rebuked, ashamed. The word "to convince" is translated in 2.15 as "rebuke".
Some Christians speak of one elder as being the teaching elder in their company, implying there are others who are non-teaching elders. Such a group is unknown in the Scriptures. We read concerning these overseers, 1Tim.3.2 "apt to teach"; Heb.13.7 "... who have spoken unto you the Word of God …"; 1 Pet. 5.2 "Feed the flock of God ..."; Acts 20.28 "... feed the church of God ..."; and 1Thess.5.12 "… admonish you ..."
The ministry of rebuke is focused on "the gainsayers". These are people who talk back and oppose what is right. The elders must be on their guard and be alert to detect when such comes among the saints and be prepared to issue a Scriptural rebuke as necessary.
Unlike the other four books of the Pentateuch, there are no time markers given in the opening pages of Leviticus. Genesis directs the reader to the creation of the heaven and the earth, Exodus to the arrival of a king who knew not Joseph, Numbers to the first day of the second month of the second year from the Exodus from Egypt, and Deuteronomy to the first day of the eleventh month of the fortieth year of Israel’s journey towards Canaan. Leviticus begins without a time marker. The conjunction "And" that begins the book immediately identifies that Leviticus is continuing the Exodus narrative. The action of the book begins with a loud clear call from within the tabernacle on, or shortly after the first day of the first month of the second year of the Exodus, Ex.40.17. The datelessness of the first fifteen chapters may be underscoring the timelessness of the principles revealed by the speaker.
The offerings prescribed in Leviticus chapters 1-7 were not the first offerings brought to God by His creatures. Cain brought the fruit of the ground and his brother Abel the firstling of his flock "and of the fat thereof" Gen.4.3,4. We cannot say with certainty that these were the first animal sacrifices and cereal offerings offered. We do know that later the patriarchs Noah, Abraham and Jacob offered burnt offerings, and Jacob a drink offering, Gen.8.20; 22.2-13; 31.54; 35.14; 46.1; so too did Job and Moses’ father-in-law, Job 1.5; Ex.18.11. We cannot conclude from the silence of Scripture that Adam, Enoch, Isaac and other patriarchs did not offer offerings.
The offerings about which Moses was commanded to speak to Israel, were not the continuation of an ancient tradition within which offerings may have been made in the past. The commandments were delivered to the people by Moses in the context of the tabernacle system and the Levitical priesthood (so called because Aaron and his sons were of the tribe of Levi). The commandments had not been outlined to Moses during one of his audiences with Jehovah on Sinai, nor were they merely a repetition of guidance set out in the consecration of the priesthood, Exodus chapters 29 and 30. The voice that set out details of the offerings, spoke to Moses "out of the tabernacle of the congregation" or "tent of meeting" Lev.1.2. The nation of Israel was to understand the context of the offerings was the Tabernacle with its prescribed priesthood and degrees of access to God. But they were also to grasp that God was speaking to "any man" in Israel, 1.2. In one significant aspect these instructions highlight the distinctions that Moses was to require that patriarchs like Noah and Abraham did not observe. In 1.1-3,17, the roles of the worshipper who brought his offering and the officiating priests, the sons of Aaron were not interchangeable. The Divine instructions gave place to the Levitical priesthood that would continue to serve in tabernacle and temple for centuries to come.
The section before us should have been encouraging to exercised souls, who esteemed His grace and longed to respond to Him. That there were such people became clear when opportunities were given to willing hearts to give materials to build the tabernacle. So lavish was their giving that those whose hearts had been stirred had to be restrained from bringing more gifts, Ex.35.5-29; 36.6,7. Now hearts that God had stirred could bring an offering that was fit for the altar.
The Divine purpose in establishing the tabernacle system of offerings was at least twofold:
It was necessary if His people were to maintain relationship with their God that would allow them to commune with Him. His stated desire was to dwell among His people, Ex.25.8; see also Ex.15.17. That desire could never be realised in any measure without a system of offerings that dealt with acceptance, sins of ignorance and trespass. It also had to allow for thanksgiving and other worthy exercises. With these in place, God would meet with them and walk among them, Lev.26.12.
It was also ordained as "a parable for the time now present" Heb.9.9 (R.V.). In the Old Testament, God was setting out details of the tabernacle that made clear "that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest" Heb.9.8. The priesthood ordained, was not a continuing priesthood "by reason of death" Heb.7.23; death cut off one high priest and another had to take his place. The offerings too were inadequate: they could "not take away sins", nor could they deal with a worshipper’s "conscience of sins" Heb.10.2,4. The parable would not be understood until Christ would come to make one sacrifice for sins for ever. The system of "meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, [was] imposed on them until the time of reformation" Heb.9.10. It was never the Divine intention that the tabernacle and the Levitical priesthood would continue, and, as a result, that animal and material sacrifices should be perpetuated. In the light of Christ having appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, Heb.9.26, the futility and beggarliness of the tabernacle system should be evident to all with anointed eyes. Sadly, many ceremonies in the ecclesiastical systems are still based on a system that now has no glory "by reason of the glory that excelleth," 2Cor.3.10.
In that past dispensation, in which the Levitical offerings were ordained, godly men valued the offerings that maintained their communion with God, but the Spirit enabled some of them to see beyond the "gifts and sacrifices for sins" offered by every high priest of Aaron’s line, Heb.5.1. They marked the daily repetition that was the lot of every priest: daily they stood "offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins" Heb.10.11. David, Samuel, Isaiah, Hosea and Micah, and no doubt others, concluded that the pleasure of God was not secured in the Levitical rituals on which men staked so much. Indeed, any thoughtful Israelite should not have been surprised that material sacrifices were to be displaced after reading the Old Testament’s testimony to their inadequacy, those men offered under the Spirit’s guidance:
Ps. 40.6, "Sacrifice and offering Thou didst not desire"
Ps.141.2, "Let my prayer be set forth before Thee as incense, and the lifting up of mine hands as the evening sacrifice"
1Sam.15.22, "To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams"
Isa.1.11, "I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, ... I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats"
Hos.14.2, "We will render the calves of our lips"
Mic 6.6-8, "Wherewith shall I come before the lord... with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old?? What doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"
Clearly finality did not come at that moment when "a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle" Ex.40.34. Nor did it come when Solomon gave magnificent expression to the desire of David’s heart that the ark of God should no longer dwell "within curtains," but in a house built for Jehovah to dwell in, where the same priesthood would serve and the same offerings would be made. Finality did come, signified by that event the Hebrew writer records: "When He had by Himself purged our sins, [the Son] sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high" Heb.1.3.
A small group of disciples gathered in an upper room with the Lord Jesus, and joined in eating the last Passover meal. Afterwards, the sop was extended to Judas Iscariot, exposing his plan of betrayal and causing him to flee the room for a darkness deeper than that which engulfed the street below, Jn.13.30. Then, while He "was being betrayed" 1Cor.11.23, (imperfect tense), the Lord Jesus instituted what Paul refers to as "the Lord’s Supper" 1Cor.11.20. He took bread, gave thanks, and passed it to the others. In like manner, He took the cup, gave thanks, and passed it to the others as well. Since Pentecost, separated saints have maintained this Supper every first day of the week, Acts 20.7. For those that do, it is beneficial at times to contemplate some features regarding the appointed emblems. The purpose of this paper is to ponder seven such characteristics.
THE EMBLEMS ARE SIMPLE
"He took bread … also the cup" Lk.22.19,20. The Lord wants believers to attend the Supper with one simple aim: "This do in remembrance of Me." Paul warned the Corinthians of Satan’s goal to corrupt their minds from "the simplicity (‘single-mindedness’) that is in Christ" 2Cor.11.3, and to do this, he often employs ornate things – extravagant oratory or observances – to distract from Christ. Christendom abounds in these, all without Scriptural warrant. Contrariwise, the Saviour chose simple, common elements that rather than dazzle the eye, turn the hearts of God’s people to Christ.
Only bread and only wine,
Yet to faith the solemn sign
Of the heavenly and divine!
We give Thee thanks, O Lord.
THE EMBLEMS ARE SYMBOLIC
"This is My body … This is My blood" Matt.26.26,28. The bread and the cup are symbolic or representative of Christ and His death – nothing more. Roman Catholicism has embraced "transubstantiation," believing that once the bread and wine are blessed, they literally become the body and blood of the Lord Jesus. Others embrace "consubstantiation," (from Martin Luther) believing the bread and wine do not change, but coexist with the body and blood of the Saviour. Both concepts go beyond Scripture and are, in fact, blasphemous in suggesting an ongoing sacrifice, something Scripture clearly refutes: "But He, having offered ONE sacrifice for sins, sat down in perpetuity at the right hand of God …" Heb.10.12 (J.N.D.). "For by ONE offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified" Heb.10.14. Christ FINISHED the work, Jn.19.30; to imply something less is gross error. Neither must we think of the emblems as "types". Old Testament types of Christ (substantiated in the New Testament) pointed forward to an antitype, the Lord Jesus. He of course, has come, fulfilling all Old Testament types and eliminating the need for others. That’s why it’s foolish to scrutinise the bread and wine as though they were types, checking for example, to see if the bread is unleavened or the wine a particular quality. The required symbols are simply a loaf and cup of wine. How sad if in C.H. Spurgeon’s words, "We see the signs but see not Him."
THE EMBLEMS ARE SINGULAR
"Jesus took bread … and He took the cup" Mk.14.22,23. When Scripture mentions the emblems it always refers to them as the "bread" and "cup." The word "bread" is literally, "loaf" – a single loaf of bread. The Lord Jesus gave thanks for the "bread" (loaf), but not for the "wine." He gave thanks for the "cup," but not for the "plate." Had He said "wine" or "plate," the singularity of the emblems would have been lost, for wine might go into numerous cups and a plate be filled with multiple loaves. The common practice in Christendom of individual "wafers" or "cups" has no Scriptural foundation and only serves to distort the Supper's intended meaning. The pattern clearly dictates for ONE loaf and ONE cup – the "many" partaking of "one." Participants at the Supper remember One Saviour and One Sacrifice and do so with One Sentiment as they gather in Solidarity to partake from ONE loaf and ONE cup. "The cup of blessing which we bless (or, ‘speak well of’), is it not the communion (or, ‘fellowship’) of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread" 1Cor.10.16,17. Divine accuracy would expect those giving thanks for the emblems, to give thanks for the "bread" (loaf) and for the "cup."
THE EMBLEMS ARE SEQUENTIAL
"He took bread and gave thanks … likewise also the cup" Lk.22.19,20. The Supper has a sequence; the bread first and then the cup. Only once is this order reversed, 1Cor.10.16, and for good reason. There Paul emphasises Christian fellowship and so refers to the cup initially since fellowship is based on the blood of Christ. But the sequence for partaking always remains the same and we have no authority to change it. Why is the bread first and the cup last? Perhaps the sequence traces our Lord’s actions, Who first took a body and then gave "His life a ransom for many" Mk.10.45. "And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" Phil.2.8.
THE EMBLEMS ARE SEPARATE
"This bread … this cup" 1Cor.11.26. Though related, the emblems are not merged, but placed distinctly before us. This should elicit gratitude, for "without shedding of blood there is no remission" Heb.9.22. "We may perhaps see," writes Arthur Clarke, "the death of Christ already set forth in the separation of loaf and cup, representing His body and His blood respectively" (New Testament Church Principles). Had the Saviour’s blood not been shed, sin could never have been cleansed. Thus in the separated emblems we recall One Who "became flesh" Jn.1.14 (J.N.D.), and Who later was "wounded" and "bruised" for sin, Isa.53.5. We "were not redeemed with corruptible things … but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" 1Pet.1.18,19.
THE EMBLEMS SOUND FORTH
"Ye proclaim the Lord’s death" 1Cor.11.26 (Newberry). As we partake of the emblems, a voice sounds forth. The A.V. translation, "ye do show," is not accurate, for the Supper isn’t a presentation, but a proclamation. We "announce" the Lord’s death till He come. "I do not think," said C.A. Coates, "the point is quite to whom it is announced, but [that] it is announced" (Outlines of the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians, no.25). That being so, it seems logical our "announcement" would first be to the Father and then to angels looking on, 1Cor.11.10, or to others observing from the seat of the unlearned, 1Cor.14.16-24. The Supper’s focus, however, is Christ-ward. To characterise the Supper as a "gospel meeting" is wrong. "Unsaved people, who may be present though separated from the partakers, may perceive something of the gospel as Christ Himself and His death are made much of, but this surely, should not be directly before the hearts of the saints" (John Heading: First and Second Corinthians).
THE EMBLEMS WILL BE SUPERSEDED
"Till He come" 1Cor.11.26. The bread and cup are for this age only. That is acknowledged every time we partake, for we do it "till He come." At the rapture, faith will give way to sight and the emblems be superseded by One far superior. The anticipated Object of our worship will have come and our eyes at long last, find eternal rest in Him. But until then, the imperative stands: "This DO in remembrance of Me." This is not the Lord’s request, but His command and we are to "DO and continue to DO" until the Lord comes. Breaking bread is not optional, nor an "on again, off again" act; we "examine ourselves" and partake. Those seeking to obey their Lord, will, if possible, keep the Lord’s Supper paramount on the Lord’s Day, "until the day break and the shadows flee away" SoS 2.17.
Joash, the son of Ahaziah king of Judah was taken and hidden from Athaliah, who sought to destroy all the royal seed. He was hvidden in the house of God for 6 years by the wife of Jehoiada who was also the daughter of King Ahaziah, 2 Chron.22.10-12. In the seventh year Jehoiada revealed Joash to the people and he was made king. There are 7 features regarding Jehoiada that correspond with the epistles to Timothy.
1. He was Conscious of the Presence of God – His name means ‘Jehovah knows.’
Everything that he did was in the realisation that the Lord saw and knew. Paul writing to Timothy states "I charge you before God & the Lord Jesus Christ" 2 Tim.4.1. Peter speaking of the gospel going to the Gentiles says, "God knoweth the hearts" Acts.15.8. Jeremiah describing the heart asks the question "who can know it? The Lord answers "I the Lord search the heart" Jer.17.9,10. Elijah before Ahab could say "as The Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand" 1 Kgs.17.1. The Lord says of alms-giving, prayer & fasting "thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly" Matt.6.4,6,18. We should remember that God sees every action, hears every word and reads every thought at all times. This is both a comfort and a challenge. A comfort because in every circumstance He knows. He understands and He cares. A challenge as to how we live – our faithfulness, conduct and character.
2. He was Careful as to his need – "strengthened himself" v.1.
Paul exhorts Timothy to "Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus" 2 Tim.2.1. This being in the imperative mood and present tense indicates it is a command to be obeyed, be continually empowered. Here we have grace in relation to strength, in Eph.2.8 it is in relation to salvation, in 2 Cor.12.9 it is in relation to suffering and in 1 Cor.15.10 it is in relation to service. There is sufficiency in the Lord Jesus Christ to strengthen us continually as we tread the pilgrim pathway which lead home to glory. The power which is in Christ, and is ours through grace, is only experienced in the measure of our being in touch with Him. Therefore fellowship with Christ is essential to being strengthened. The apostle Paul was in the good of this and said "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" Phil.4.13. He could also say "I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me" 1Cor.15.10.
3. Companionship with those like-minded – "he took… Azariah… and Ishmael… and Azariah… and Maaseiah… and Elishaphat into covenant with him" v.1. There was full agreement to enthrone the king. They were in harmony to place the right one upon the throne. Fellowship means a joint participation and a common interest. In 2 Tim.2.3 Paul exhorts Timothy to "endure hardness" – take his share of suffering. He also encourages him to "flee youthful lusts and follow after righteousness, faith, love & peace with [along with] them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart" 2 Tim.2.22. "Youthful lusts" are not relative to age but to the character of them, i.e. energetic and vigorous lusts. We need to be on or guard against passions from within. Righteousness – the expression of Christian character; Faith – the enabling principle of Christian life; Love – the energising motive of Christian activity; Peace – the experience of Christian fellowship. Fellowship means a joint participation and a common interest.
4. Contemplation of the will of God – "Judah… Israel" v.2.
He recognised the oneness of the nation – He did not condone any division. It was never for His people to go back to Egypt. It was never God’s intention for His people to be in bondage and it was never God’s intention for His people to be divided. According to Acts chapter 2 "all that believed were together". God intended that all the believers in a locality should be gathered together to be a collective testimony to all the truth of God in that locality. One harmonious display of the will of God working out in their lives. The company is an assembly; (ekklesia) a separated company, called out by God and for God. Gathered to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ; outside the religious camp and organisations of men. A company acknowledging Divine rule "the house of God"; in the good of the Divine presence "the church of the living God" and displaying Divine truth "the pillar and ground of the truth" 1 Tim.3.15.
5. Controlled by the Word of God – "as the Lord hath said" v.3.
The Word of God is to control our lives. Paul writes "If any man teach otherwise and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ and to doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing" 1 Tim.6.3,4. "Wholesome" or healthy words refers to words that would produce a healthy spiritual state manifesting a life of holiness. 2 Tim.3.16 states "All scripture is given by inspiration and is profitable for doctrine…". Doctrine is the fertile ground in which Christian life flourishes – it is the foundation of true Christian character. We are not left to our own ideas, opinions or will; we are to be directed and controlled by the Word of God. It is important, inspired, instructive teaching that builds and beautifies Christian character. It is that vital, valuable teaching that guides and guards the child of God.
6. Concerned about the Character of God – "they are holy" v.6.
Godliness should characterise every believer. In 1Timothy we ought to live a quiet (free from outward interference) and peaceable (tranquil) life in all godliness (reverence for God) and honesty, v.2. Men are to pray, lifting up holy hands, v.8, and women themselves in modest apparel …as becometh women professing godliness, vv.9,10. The revelation of perfect godliness is seen in the Lord Christ, 1Tim.3.16, "Great is the mystery of godliness". Again, "Godliness with contentment is great gain" 1Tim.6.6.
7. Continuation in the Work of God – "dismissed not the courses" v.8
Paul calls on Timothy to continue in the pathway – "But continue thou" 2Tim.3.14, and charges him to "Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season taking every opportunity" 2Tim.4.2. Every believer should continue along the pilgrim pathway remembering the exhortation in Gal.6.9 "Let us not be weary in well doing for in due season we shall reap if we faint not." In 1Sam.6.13 the men of Bethshemesh were labouring in the valley when they saw the ark coming. Let us be faithful, living for the Lord, expecting His coming at any moment.
Quite often this phrase is used as a feeble excuse for treating others dismissively, who are vulnerable and less assertive than ourselves. When we want our own way and wish to achieve something, even though it may hurt and damage others, we justify our disgusting behaviour on "the survival of the fittest". We elbow our way to the front; we gain the high ground and in our doing so, we crush and insult the weak. We say that it happens in many strata of creation: some species have died out because more dominant forms of life forced them to extinction. In the conflicts of life’s arena, we vainly imagine that size, strength and supremacy are all that matter. The prize can be won by those who are prepared to do their utmost to get it.
Thankfully, in the matter of salvation, this principle has no place. Salvation is available to all; without money or price; without energy, effort or expense; it is not exclusively for the rich, the religious, the mighty, the noble, the famous, the deserving. In fact, the Lord Jesus said in Luke 19.10, "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." In Matthew 9.13, the Saviour said, "… I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
The great cardinal word of the gospel is "whosoever" and that brings salvation within the reach of all mankind and every human being, regardless of creed, colour or class. You may feel greatly disadvantaged; your sins may now rise before you making you feel unclean and totally unworthy; you may feel that hitherto you have avoided and ignored God; but thank God, you can receive mercy and obtain the greatest blessing imaginable, God’s full and eternal salvation.
The Bible makes it clear that salvation is "not of works, lest any man should boast" Ephesians 2.9. The previous verse says that salvation is "… not of yourselves: it is the gift of God". Romans 6.23 states that "the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord". Whoever you are; wherever you are; you can now receive the forgiveness of sins and be saved from eternal judgment by trusting the Lord Jesus Christ and accepting the free gift of salvation, without offering anything in exchange. Own your guilt; confess your sins and accept the gratuitous pardon God offers. That is all that is required of you: no achievements; no penance; no attempts to make yourself more acceptable to God; "the only fitness He requireth, is to know your need of Him".
But how can God do all this for the sinner, the unworthy, the hell-deserving without compelling you to pay an incalculable price or achieve some remarkable feat? The answer lies in the amazing fact that God’s own Son offered to pay the staggering price of our eternal salvation and volunteered to bear the punishment for our sins. That is why He came from heaven, lived among hostile men for over thirty years and died at last upon a cross of shame and suffering. The mystery of the crucifixion has been revealed: "Christ died for our sins" 1Corinthians 15.3; "Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree" 1Peter 2.24; "Christ died for the ungodly" Romans 5.6; "Christ died for us" Romans 5.8; "The Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me" Galatians 2.20.
O Jesus Lord, Thou stoodest in my stead, God’s holy wrath was poured upon Thy head;
For me Thou once wast numbered with the dead; For me, O Lord, for me.