This chapter contains the second of the three messages delivered by God, through Amos, to Israel: "Hear this word" v1: compare 3.1 and 5.1. The passage may be divided into three sections:
the conduct of God’s people, vv.1-5
the response to God’s people, vv.6-11
the appeal to God’s people, vv.12,13.
THE CONDUCT OF GOD’S PEOPLE, vv.1-5
In the previous chapter, judgment was pronounced on three areas of national life in which they found their security and satisfaction:
Military security, 3.9-12
Religious security, 3.13,14
Material security, 3.15.
The last two of these are now amplified. Their material security is re-examined with reference to the wealthy Samaritan women, and their religious security is re-examined with reference to the well-attended shrines at Bethel and Gilgal.
The Wealthy Samaritan Women, vv.1-3
We note three matters:
i) Their Luxurious Living. The luxurious houses described in the first message, "the winter house … the summer house … the houses of ivory … the great houses" 3.15, were inhabited by luxury-loving women. "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" v.1. It has been said that "Amos was not trained as a prophet: he was a simple herdsman and a farmer. When he wanted to get the point across to the indulgent women of Israel, he called them fat cows". Bashan, in the north of the country (the modern Golan Heights), was renowned for its cattle. See Ps.22.12, "the strong bulls of Bashan"; Ezek.39.18, "fatlings of Bashan". The expression "kine of Bashan" may well refer "both to the luxury that the wealthy women enjoyed, and to a certain voluptuousness and sensuality which their extravagant life-style afforded them".
Amos notes the influence exercised by these women over their husbands: "which say to their masters (‘their lords’, J.N.D.), Bring, and let us drink". As J.A. Motyer observes, "How Amos must have enjoyed the irony of calling the husbands of these matriarchs ‘their lords’ … It is clear who lorded it in these marriages!" He adds that this points to "self-determination, whereby no-one can side-step the mandate of the mistress. And all is done so that there may be drink in the house: not done for necessity, but for luxury; not done for life, but for kicks".
These women evidently used the same word (adon) as Sarah who referred to Abraham as "my lord" Gen.18.12. See 1Pet.3.6. But Sarah was "one of the holy women … who trusted in God" 1 Pet.3.5, which could not be said of "the kine of Bashan". There is no resemblance here to the respective roles of husbands and wives described in Eph.5.22,33 and 1Pet.3.17. Divine order in marriage had been perverted amongst the upper classes in Israel, and the home served mammon rather than God. The home of Aquila and Priscilla was quite different, Rom.16.3,4. Lest we should think that Amos was biased against women, notice what he has to say later about high society in both Zion and Samaria, see 6.4-6. It is not without significance that having spoken of the husbands of these women as "lords" (J.N.D.), Amos immediately refers to "the Lord God" (Adonahy Jehovah). If they had recognised Him as their Lord, they would have been given to holiness rather than sinfulness, vv.1,2.
ii) Their Disregard for Others. It was material prosperity that was rotten at the core. They "oppress the poor … crush the needy" v.1. It has been suggested that while the women may not have directly oppressed God’s people and that it was the husbands who actually exploited the poor and needy, it was the wives who plotted the whole sorry business from behind the scenes. Their incessant demands for luxuries drove their pathetic husbands to these injustices.
We must remember that God’s people are to be characterised by the exact opposite: they should have "the same care one for another" 1Cor.12.25. Note the injunctions, "Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others" Phil.2.4; "Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ" Gal.6.2.
iii) Their Coming Humiliation. "The Lord God hath sworn by His holiness, that, lo, the days shall come upon you, that He will take you away with hooks, and your posterity with fishhooks. And ye shall go out at the breaches, every cow at that which is before her; and ye shall cast them into the palace, saith the Lord" vv.2,3, or ‘and ye shall go out by the breaches, every one straight before her, and ye shall be cast out to Harmon, saith Jehovah’ (J.N.D.). Note the italicised words in the A.V.
The words, "The Lord God hath sworn by His holiness", prompt J.A.Motyer to ask what it is that moves God, Who "in the totality of His nature is unutterably and perfectly moral", to utter such an oath, with the answer, "A society and a religion organised on the basis of human self-pleasing". Self-pleasing and self-indulgence are abhorrent to God.
Amos, the man from the country, now employs a new figure of speech. The cows of Bashan are now seen as fish. Israel is the fishpond and although not named here, Assyria is the angler. ‘When the Assyrians depopulated and exiled a conquered community, they led the captives away on journeys of hundreds of miles, with the captives naked and attached together with a system of rings and fishhooks pierced through their lower lip. God would make sure that they were led in this humiliating manner through the broken walls of their conquered cites’. The words, "the palace" (‘ye shall be cast out to Harmon’, J.N.D.) possibly refer to the enemy’s fortress or palace, but ‘the meaning is not ascertained’ (J.N.D. footnote).
The Well-attended Shrines, vv.4-5
"Come to Bethel, and transgress; at Gilgal multiply transgression; and bring your sacrifices every morning, and your tithes after three years: and offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, and proclaim and publish the free offerings: for this liketh you, O ye children of Israel, saith the Lord God." There was a proliferation of religious observances - "for this liketh you, O ye children of Israel, saith the Lord GOD" - but their religious practices were nothing more than self-indulgence. Israel’s religion was a combination of external correctness (note the references to the various Levitical offerings) and idolatry (practised at Bethel with its plurality of altars, 3.14). With this in mind, we should notice:
i) The Places. "Come to Bethel, and transgress; at Gilgal multiply transgression". These were places of former blessing. Bethel, meaning the house of God, was the place of God’s presence and of fellowship with Him. It was the place where God revealed Himself to Jacob. See Gen.28.10-22; 35.1-15. Gilgal was the first place of encampment on entering Canaan, see Josh.4.19. It was there that circumcision was re-introduced, that the Passover was kept, and where Israel ate the old corn of the land, Josh.5.2-12. Joshua’s headquarters was located at Gilgal, Josh.9.6; 10.6; 14.6.
But God does not bless ‘for old time’s sake’. Just listen to this: "But go ye now unto My place which was in Shiloh, where I set My name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of My people Israel. And now, because ye have done all these works … therefore will I do unto this house, which is called by My name, wherein ye trust, and unto the place which I gave to you and to your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh" Jer.7.12-14. We must not forget that current blessing demands current godliness.
ii) The Changed Status of Those Places. Following the secession of Jeroboam, Bethel became a centre of idolatry. See 1 Kgs.12.25-33. One of the two golden calves was sited there; it became a place of sacrifice, and the centre of a new priestly system. The Word of God which said, "thou mayest not sacrifice the passover within any of thy gates … but at the place which the LORD thy God shall choose to place His name in" Deut.16.5,6, was rejected for reasons of political expediency. Jeroboam did not want his subjects to go to Jerusalem. If they did that, they might defect!
iii) These Places Now Witnessed a Combination of Truth and Error. "Bring your sacrifices every morning (but no reference to the evening sacrifice: see Ex.29.39) … your tithes after three years (see Deut.14.28) … offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven" (see Lev.7.13), but it was only to "multiply transgression". They offered their sacrifices and brought their tithes with Jeroboam’s description of the golden calves ringing in their ears: "Behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt" 1Kgs.12.28. Any combination of truth and error, is error.
All this speaks with a loud voice to us. We can ‘go through the motions’, dotting our i’s and crossing our t’s, but it is all quite pointless if the Lord does not have the pre-eminence in our lives. More than ‘pointless’, it is positively obnoxious to Him.
iv) The Supposed Worship at These Places was an Empty Acknowledgement of God. There was no repentance: their worship was nothing more than self-gratification: "for this liketh you, O ye children of Israel, saith the Lord GOD". Compare 5.21-24, "I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. Though ye offer Me burnt-offerings and your meat-offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace-offerings of your fat beasts. Take thou away from Me the noise of thy songs: for I will not hear the melody of thy viols." It has been rightly said that ‘it is always wrong to measure worship by how much it pleases us’.
It was an attempt at ceremonial correctness, but without spiritual reality. There was religious strength, but nothing for God. Their worship was certainly not "in spirit and in truth" Jn.4.23. In it all, they were far from the Lord.
The sword is the symbol of aggressive warfare. The first three parts of the armour protect us as to our own state, the second two are defensive, the sixth is aggressive. We have but one weapon to use against the enemy - the Word of God. But if we know how to handle it, or, what is equally important, how to draw it, no enemy can resist it. Any one may draw the carnal sword, though any one may not be able to strike with it. But not so the sword of the Spirit. We can only draw it aright when guided by the Holy Spirit. It is the sword of the Spirit. That is, we must be walking in communion with God, and in the ungrieved power of the Holy Spirit, to use it either offensively or defensively. Thus the right passage will be suggested to the mind and applied with divine power. Mere human intelligence and human capacity are of no avail in this warfare. The Word of God is our only but all-sufficient weapon. It baffles the power of Satan, it detects his wiles, it disables every adversary, it silences the voice of self, it brings light into the scene of conflict, and discovers the dark deceptions of the foe.
But it may be well for thee, my soul, to turn aside for a little and meditate on the Lord's use of the word when in conversation with the Jews and when in conflict with Satan in the wilderness. The former He so answered from Scripture that no man durst ask Him any more questions; the latter He vanquished with all his hosts and spoiled him of his goods. Oh! for divine skill to use, after the manner of our Lord, the Word of God - the Spirit's sword! Lord, help us to quote the right passage and at the right time; and so to maintain our position according to the Word, that the enemy may gain no advantage over us!
But the sword of the Spirit is also used actively in our spiritual warfare. Christianity is essentially aggressive in its character. It judges all that is opposed to its pure and heavenly doctrines. It wages war with the mighty empire of unbelief in its ten thousand forms. The gospel is to be preached to every creature under the heaven and this side of hell. It openly attacks carelessness, worldliness, formality, infidelity, superstition, error, and vice of every kind. It assails no political body, state, or kingdom; but it storms the citadel of individual hearts and consciences, and seeks to win souls one by one to the Captain of our salvation, Christ Jesus the Lord.
When the empire of Satan is thus invaded and threatened, we may rest assured that he will leave no stratagem untried, no force unused, to hinder our progress, and to quench the light of our testimony. Hence the continual, the unending, the unmitigated warfare. But our weapons are spiritual, our victories are peace, the sharp sword of the Spirit piercing the conscience, subdues the heart, and brings the conquered soul in triumph to the feet of Jesus.
PRAYER IN THE SPIRIT
We have now had before us the several parts of the armour of God - the panoply of heaven — that which refers to our state both inwardly and outwardly - self judgment, governed affections, practical godliness, confidence in God, peaceful and peace-making walk, joy in salvation, the active energy of the Spirit, both in the sword and girdle, by the Word. But behind all these, there is a hidden spring of power, which gives connection and strength to the whole armour, and without which all would be of no avail. It is dependence on God: a dependence which expresses itself in prayer. "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints."
The strength and blessedness of this position cannot be over-estimated. In all thy meditations, O my soul, there is no point more worthy of thy closest, deepest study. It places the soul in connection with God, and in dependence on Him. Thus, remember, all thy battles are to be fought, and all thy battles will be victories. Observe for a moment the structure of this remarkable verse. It is, "Praying always" — on all occasions — habitual and complete dependence. And, "in the Spirit" - in the power of the Holy Spirit — in communion. "And watching thereunto with all perseverance," active, vigilant. "And supplication for all saints" - earnestness, interest in others, affection which turns everything into prayer. This is the soul's strong tower — every soul's strong tower. All have not gifts for public ministry - for fighting in the front lines, but all have the privilege of thus drawing near to God, and abiding there.
The spirit of prayer in the Christian warfare is like wisdom in the human mind - like gravitation in the material world. It combines, it keeps the different pieces of armour in their respective places, and maintains a mutual dependence, the one upon the other. And remember this, my soul, and remember it always, whether in peace or in war; nothing will keep thee more in the light than "praying always" - nothing will give thee a deeper sense of thine own weakness - nothing brings thee more into communion with the strength and favour of God, and nothing the enemy dreads more.
Be watchful and diligent then, O my soul, in the use of this weapon. See and avoid everything that would make thee unspiritual - that would lead thee away from God, or interrupt thy communion with Him. Thy strength lies in communion. May the spirit of entire dependence on God characterise thee as a child in the family, a member in the body, and a servant in the kingdom.
Previous papers have shown that chapter 2 has to do with behaviour and can be divided as follows.
v.1 - Standard of Behaviour: "sound doctrine";
vv.2-6 - Saints and Behaviour: v.2, aged men; v.3 aged women; vv.4,5 young women; v.6 young men;
vv.7,8 - Servant and Behaviour: "shewing thyself a pattern of good works";
vv.9,10 - Servants and Behaviour: v.9 "exhort servants";
vv.11-14 - Salvation and Behaviour: v.12 "teaching us that denying ...";
v.15 - Speaking and Behaviour: "let no man despise thee".
We have now to reflect on the final two sections.
VV.11-14 - SALVATION AND BEHAVIOUR
This is the second doctrinal section in the book and answers to 1 Thessalonians. The comprehensive nature can be seen in the following outline.
V.11 looks back to the past when "the grace of God … appeared" and this is an appearance in grace.
V.12 has in view the present since it refers to "this present world".
V.13 looks on to the future since we are "looking for that blessed hope" which is an appearance in glory.
V.11, What Grace Brought, "Salvation";
V.12, What Grace Taught, "Teaching us";
V.13, What Grace Sought, "Looking for";
V.14, What Grace Bought, "That He might redeem us";
V.14, What Grace Wrought, "Purify unto Himself".
V.11, What Grace Brought - "Salvation"
"For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men"
The Source of our blessings is traced to "the grace of God". This phrase occurs 21 times in the New Testament and includes the death of the Lord Jesus, Heb.2.9 "… He by the grace of God should taste death for every man": the wonder of the gospel, Acts 20.24, "to testify the gospel of the grace of God": the preservation of the servant, 1Cor.15.10, "by the grace of God I am what I am".
The Significance is seen that it "bringeth salvation". This is an adjective and so it means "the salvation-bringing grace of God". The grace of God is not a passive thing but it works actively and has brought salvation.
What it brought has been Shown since it "hath appeared" (epiphaino). The verb is in the aorist tense indicating there was a moment when this showing or bringing to light, happened. This must involve His incarnation and so this grace of God was seen in a Man down here and is fully manifested in His death.
The Scope is unlimited and is "to all men". This is in terms of availability and offer. There is a vast difference between the sufficiency of the gospel of the grace of God that meets the need of all mankind and has eternally satisfied the claims of God, and the efficiency of the gospel that benefits only those who believe the message. That is why this verse states "all men" and in the next verse it is "us".
V.12, What Grace Taught - "Teaching Us"
"Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;"
Another contrast between vv.11,12 is seen in the tenses employed. "Appearing" in v.11 is an aorist tense whereas "teaching" in v.12 is a present participle meaning that the appearing is a completed action but the teaching involves continual training as one would do with the children. This ongoing training is necessary due to our inherent weaknesses. The desired results of the teaching are introduced by the word "that" and they have both a negative and positive aspect.
Negatively there is a "denying" which implies that we are to completely and decisively forsake and renounce. J.N.D. renders it "having denied" which means that we ought to live in the good of what happened ideally at conversion. To deny self is not a popular pastime in these days of liberty and self-expression.
It is seen in a two-fold aspect. Firstly, it is Godward as taught in the word "ungodliness", meaning ‘a lack of reverence towards God’ or ‘impiety’. This can be detected in our general deportment and in our dress, speech and general attitude. Secondly, it is Selfward as stated in "worldly lusts". These are cravings and longings that belong to this world system and have the character of this age. It is instructive to trace the apostolic teaching about lusts in the pastoral epistles where we read of "foolish and hurtful lusts"1Tim.6.9; "youthful lusts" 2Tim.2.22; "divers lusts" 3.6 and Titus 3.3; and "own lusts" 2Tim.4.3. The worldly lusts here envisaged are seen in disrespect, selfishness, self expression, egotism, pride, power, prestige, etc.
Positively we should live "soberly" that is Selfward; "righteously" that is Manward and "godly" that is Godward. "Soberly" means that we should be self- controlled showing self-restraint. "Righteously" means that in all dealings we are upright, honest and straight. The triplet is concluded with "godly" which has the meaning of ‘piously’. These features are to be displayed "in this present world [age]" or as in J.N.D. "in the present course of things". This is in contrast with the next verse where we are looking for another age; that which is described in Heb.6.5, "the world [age] to come".
V.13, What Grace Sought – "Looking For"
"Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;"
The sentence begins with the imperative, "Looking for" showing that we are instructed forcibly by grace to look and await His coming and to do so with both a desire and a welcome. We are to look for "that blessed hope and the glorious appearing" or according to J.N.D "the blessed hope and appearing of the glory". In v.11 there is His first appearing and here His second. It seems the blessed hope is explained as "the glorious appearing". That is, we long to see the manifestation of Christ in glory and then He will be vindicated and glorified in the scene of His rejection.
The next expression has somewhat the same construction as the first in that there are not two persons in view but one. The "great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" is well translated by J.N.D as "our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ". This is a direct, positive and unambiguous statement of the Deity of our Saviour. No true Christian denies His Deity.
V.14, What Grace Bought – "That He Might Redeem Us" and What Grace Wrought – "Purify Unto Himself"
"Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."
In the verse there is the PERSON, "Himself". This is the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ". He paid a PRICE, "gave Himself". He gave Himself voluntarily on behalf of us and He could give no more. This infinite sacrifice has brought infinite satisfaction to God and allows Him to offer salvation to the "whosoever" on a perfectly righteous basis
There is His PURCHASE, "us". Here it is not so much for our sins, but for "us" and it is difficult to find any relationship between price and purchase. Paul’s repetition of the fact that He gave Himself, shows that he revels in this truth. Whether on behalf of all, 1Tim.2.6, "Who gave Himself a ransom for all…"; or for the church, Eph.5.25, "Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it"; or for the individual, Gal.2.20, "… the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me"; or even for sins,Gal.1.4 "Who gave Himself for our sins…", Paul did, and we should, glory in this sublime truth.
We are told the PURPOSE of this mighty sacrifice both negatively and positively. Negatively it was to "redeem us from all iniquity [lawlessness]" and positively it was to "purify unto Himself a peculiar people zealous of good works". We were released from all lawlessness by the payment of a ransom. We ought to be different from this lawless age. They value self-assertiveness and going over the boundary to close the deal. They say there is nothing wrong with being economical with the truth; telling white lies etc. We are different, and this difference is highlighted in the preposition "from, apo" which means ‘completely and entirely away from’. This is not only seen in constantly saying, "No", but in a helpful display of PURITY and in a PASSION.
The aorist tense of "purify" implies that the totality of life is to be characterised by purity. This is to be "unto Himself". True separation is unto and not merely from, a fact that is well illustrated from the Nazarite in Numbers chapter 6. We are "a peculiar [special] people" in that He made clean a people for Himself. An impure life and an involvement in lawlessness is a denial of our redemption.
The passion is seen in zealousness, a burning eagerness to be involved in good works. These are works that are beautiful, praiseworthy or noble. The distinction between this kind of life and the cut-throat world in which we live hardly needs exposition.
V.15 - SPEAKING AND BEHAVIOUR
"These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee."
Paul understands the difficulties involved in giving this kind of ministry and by using four imperatives he instructs Titus to continue in faithfulness.
The four imperatives are, "speak", "exhort", "rebuke" and "despise". Titus was to teach "these things", a reference to all the truth outlined. This is similar to Paul’s injunction to Timothy, "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. Too many turn away from these truths because of the reproach that has to be borne and perhaps the unpopularity that ensues. There is a great need for those who will teach the "whole counsel of God" without fear or favour.
Titus is told: "speak thou the things which become sound doctrine." This is an Expression Of The Truth. All that we speak, even in personal conversation, ought to be befitting to healthy teaching. He was to "exhort" and this is an Encouragement In The Truth. He was to draw alongside and call the saints to the ways that were for the pleasure of God. Then he was to "rebuke" which is an Exposure By The Truth. Exhortation tells us how to live and "rebuke" tells us how not to live.
This was to be done "with all authority" which means that he was to speak with conviction and show confidence in what he was teaching and was not to apologise for the truth. The fourth imperative is "Let no man despise thee" showing Earnestness In The Truth. There were enemies then, and surely more so now, who try to examine doctrine and then seek to outwit or out-think the teacher.
Chapters 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 begin with the conjunction "And," thus ensuring that the reader recognises that 1.1-3,17 are one section. As noted previously, 4.1 begins with: "And the Lord spake unto Moses", thus marking a new subsection. The three sweet savour offerings clearly comprise the first subsection. Amos 5.22 mentions in one sentence "burnt offerings and … meal offerings … [and] peace offerings," which would suggest that he saw the three sweet savour offerings as forming one section, and that, in his view, they should be considered in that order.
THE TERM OF PROSPERITY
It is clear from a number of Scriptures noted in this article that the peace offering was not making peace. The Hebrew word for "peace" (Strong 7999), here in the plural, is much more comprehensive than the English word "peace". Wilson summarises its width of meaning as "whole[ness], health, welfare, peace, concord, friendship". In his French translation, Darby translates "peace offering" as "un sacrifice de prospérité," "a prosperity sacrifice". The related verb means "to recompense" or "to make up for deficiency". The person, who brings the peace offering, has prospered in his soul; he has no obvious deficiency, but does owe his God a response. His desire was that a sweet savour should ascend to his God, vv.5,16; to him, the offering would also be "the food of the offering made by fire" vv.11,16. Three possible voluntary responses are listed at 7.12-38. God expected him to offer with joy, "in the day of [his] gladness" Num10.10. It was an occasion to "rejoice before the LORD" Deut 27.7.
The peace offering was not included in the nation’s morning and evening sacrifices, Ex.29.38-42; Num.28.3-8. Nonetheless it was important in Israel’s history, as the Old Testament’s 87 occurrences of the word "peace offering" would confirm. Strangely, Darby describes the peace offering as "an appendix" to the outline of the burnt and meat offerings.
The term "peace offering" does not occur in the N. T., though among the offerings related to the ritual in Acts 21.23-26 there would have been a peace offering. As noted in a previous article, Heb 10.5,6 presents four categories of offerings that were associated with Israel’s tabernacle worship: sacrifices, offerings, burnt offerings and offerings for sin. The word "sacrifices" is much used in connection with peace offerings. Its use in Hebrews chapter 10 would include the offerings outlined in Leviticus chapter 3.
THE TABLE OF PROCEDURES
Later national rituals would involve peace offerings being offered, 1 Sam.11.15; 2Sam.6.17-19; 1Kgs.8.63, but here God legislates for the individual with a full heart approaching his God. God graces the peace offering with a number of titles: "[an] oblation", "an offering made by fire", "a sweet savour unto the Lord", "the food of the offering" and the most common "a sacrifice of peace offering". The word "sacrifice" (Strong 2077) is from the same root as the word "altar", so the emphasis is on what the altar would receive of the peace offering.
The peace offering was closely related to the burnt offering in terms of ritual, but without the flaying, the cutting in pieces and the washing of the inwards and the legs. The phrase "upon the burnt sacrifice" v.5, may infer that it was often offered immediately after a burnt offering. Unlike the burnt offering, birds were not permitted, but all of the animals from the herd and the flock were. The voluntary offering of the willing giver who is prospering, does not include the lowest grade of offering. The other obvious distinction was that the whole animal was not consumed upon the altar, when a peace offering was offered; only the kidneys, the fat and the liver were burned. One further distinction from the burnt offering should be noted: both male and female animals were acceptable, vv.1,6, thus widening the portrayals of that one offering the Lord made at Calvary, Heb.10.14. As noted in an earlier article, the strength factor may be the differentiating factor between male and female: the male exhibiting considerable energy and strength, the female exhibiting submissiveness. In the Lord’s pathway here both virtues were displayed appropriately in every circumstance.
The chosen animals were to be "without blemish", vv.1,6, so fit for the altar. The law of the offerings will also require care to avoid the holy offering being contaminated by contact with something unclean, 7.19; and demand fitness in those who will partake of the animal. 7.20,21. The ritual should have reminded Israel that fellowship with God requires moral fitness. The sprinkling of blood upon and around the altar, vv.2,8,13 would also remind the nation that the ground of that communion is the death of sacrificial victims. Our privilege is greater far than theirs, for "our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ" 1Jn.1.3. Paul stresses that this fellowship is "the communion of the blood of Christ … the communion of the body of Christ" 1Cor.10.16. Only the death of Christ could secure for us such privilege.
The same animal parts were to be burned on the brazen altar as in the offering of a sin offering 4.10,19,26,31,35; see also Ex.29.13. Those parts were burned on top of the burnt offering, 3.5, again identifying the peace offering with the excellences of the burnt offering. Those parts are detailed for the guidance of priest and worshipper: "the fat that covereth the inwards and all the fat that is upon the inwards … the two kidneys and the fat that is on them … by the flanks and the caul … above the liver with the kidneys", and from the sheep was taken the fat-tail as well; probably the best part of the sheep, Keil & Delitzsch note that it weighed around 15 lbs (approx. 7kg). It would appear that the suet, the inward fat (Strong 2459), was burned from the peace offering, but not the outer fat (Strong 6309). The same word (Strong 2459) is translated "finest" in respect of wheat, Ps.80.16, and "the best" in respect of oil, Num.18.2. The inner excellences were for God Who alone could fully appreciate in the only One Who could pray without some unease: "Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try my reins and my heart" Ps.26.2. He never exercised a will independent of His Father’s will. "A consensus of opinion seems to indicate that the intriguing "caul above the liver" is a protective membrane, which covered the kidneys, the spleen and other internal organs" (Flanigan). We should also be aware of the need of protection in this dangerous world, where it is too easy to absorb dangerous ideas.
THE TABLE AND ITS PROVISION
The N.T. expression "the Lord’s table" 1Cor.10.21 is borrowed from the O.T., Ezek.41.22; 44.16; Mal.1.7,12. The peace offering was the offering that is described as "the food of the offering made by fire" vv.11,16. Leviticus chapter 21 five times uses the phrase "the bread of God". What began as the offerer’s offering became the bread of God. In respect of the peace offering it became "the food" on which God and His people fed.
THE TABLE AND ITS PARTAKERS
In an Assembly Testimony article in 1967, emphasis was laid on the fellowship related to those who partook of the altar. John Cowan identified the participants as "a satisfied God, a sustained priesthood and a sharing people. All the fat was for God, the wave breast and the heave shoulder and the share of the cakes were for His priestly ones, the rest of the offering and the cakes for the people of God."
The world abounds with symbols. The crown on the head of the monarch symbolises authority; the white wedding dress worn by the bride symbolises her purity; the circle on the road sign symbolises the roundabout and so on. What exactly is a symbol? It is difficult to come up with a comprehensive definition but essentially a symbol is an object or an act that conveys information or represents an idea without that information or idea being put into words. The Bible is a book of symbols. In these studies we will look at the symbols of the N.T. We will not look at symbolic language e.g. "I am the bread of life" or "I am the door" but at symbols in the form of objects (such as bread) or acts (such as baptism) to which the Bible gives a meaning and which form part of the religious life of Christians.
SYMBOLS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT AND OLD TESTAMENT
Despite the fact that Christendom is replete with religious symbols from church spires to crucifixes, there are only a few symbols that are commanded in the N.T. They are baptism for believers, the bread and wine at the Lord’s Supper and headcovering for sisters. This is in marked contrast to the profusion of symbols that were given to Israel after they left Egypt. The furniture of the tabernacle, the sacrifices, the breastplate for the high priest, the fabric mixtures for garments, religious festivals, clean and unclean food are all part of a lengthy list of symbols required by the Law.
It is interesting to note that prior to the Law there are only a handful of religious symbols e.g. circumcision, Gen.17.11, which was instituted with Abraham as a sign of their covenant and the rainbow, Gen.9.12,13, given to Noah as a symbol of God’s promise not to flood the earth again. Circumcision is an example of an act that had a symbolic meaning, whereas the rainbow is an example of an object or thing which has symbolic meaning.
The absence of symbols in the N.T. is in keeping with a more general truth taught in the N.T. which was that with the advent of Christ the need for symbols passed away, Jn.4.20–24. He was the reality towards which the symbols pointed. This did not change when He left the world. After His ascension the Holy Spirit took up residence within the believer. This meant that the reality of the Lord’s personal presence was maintained. Hence, in the N.T. epistles, Paul does not teach that Christians should have altars or incense, temples or robes, feasts or rituals, since all of these have been superseded by Christ. Nor did the Lord or the apostles introduce new Christian rites and ordinances to replace those provided by the Law. Hence there is no warrant in Scripture for Christian feasts or holy days. There is no Shrove Tuesday or Ash Wednesday. No crucifix or rosary. No candles or incense, Col.2.16,17.
While people were immersed in water at times in the O.T. (e.g. Naaman), baptism was not commanded by the Law or practised by Israel.1 It first appears on the page of Scripture during the ministry of John.2 For that reason he earned the sobriquet "John the Baptist" Matt.3.1; Mk.6.14; Lk.7.20. While his baptism is very similar to the baptism practised by the Church, there were differences. His baptism was to show repentance of sin, Lk.3.3, and anticipated the arrival of the Messiah, Matt.3.11. As we shall see, Christian baptism is principally to do with our identification with the Lord Jesus in His death and resurrection. It is noteworthy that of the four N.T. symbols, three symbolise different aspects of the central point of the Christian faith – the death of Christ. The bread and cup focus on His death. Baptism focuses on His burial and resurrection.
THE MANNER OF BAPTISM
The English word "baptise" is taken from the Greek word baptizo. 3 The meaning of the term is "immerse," and not "to pour" or "to sprinkle". In Greek literature the word is used, for example, to describe the sinking of a ship that is, therefore, "immersed" or totally enveloped in water. For this reason it is unscriptural to sprinkle or pour water on a candidate for baptism.
Some consider that a form of baptism had come to be practised in what is called the inter-testamental period.
The disciples of the Lord also baptised, Jn.3.22-27; 4.1,2.
"The processes of immersion, submersion and emergence (from bapto, "to dip")" Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words.
THE MEANING OF BAPTISM
Basically baptism is a public identification with Jesus Christ. While salvation is an inward and spiritual change, baptism is an outward and visible testimony. It is designed to be witnessed by onlookers. It signifies three great truths all of which are taught in Rom.6.4-8. First it pictures the death of Jesus for the sins of the world, His subsequent burial, and His triumphant resurrection, Rom.6.4. Second it is a depiction of the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old man, and a resurrection to walk in newness of life with Christ, Rom.6.6. Third it anticipates the future. Though we die and are interred in the ground, we shall rise again at the coming of the Lord, Rom.6.8. The doctrinal significance of baptism and its emphasis on burial makes it very clear that sprinkling or pouring water is not true baptism. The new believer is buried in a watery grave and raised up as a symbol of his trust in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Only immersion adequately pictures a burial and a resurrection.
THE MODE OF BAPTISM
The only appropriate candidate for the witness of baptism is someone who has something about which he can bear witness, Acts 2.38; 8.12,13, 36–38; Eph.4.5. There is no precedent for infant baptism in the N.T.; in addition, only one who has experienced regeneration can give genuine witness to that experience. Only one sufficiently mature to have recognised, confessed and repented of his sin, and made a conscious decision to trust the Lord should be baptised, Acts 2.41. Accordingly, although we read of Lydia being baptised "and her household" and the Philippian gaoler being baptised "he and all his" Acts 16.15,33, this does not mean that if the head of the house was baptised then everyone else including servants and children were baptised whether they were Christians or not. What it means is that the members of the household had been converted and were baptised.
THE MOMENT FOR BAPTISM
Some argue that baptism should be delayed so that candidates can prove themselves and/or be taught the Scriptures but the N.T. knows no such practice. Baptism is a public confession of faith undergone by a new believer desiring to be obedient to Christ, Acts 8.35–38. That general truth is amply borne out by the practice of the apostles in the Acts of the Apostles where baptism invariably followed shortly after conversion.
However, it may become obvious on enquiry that some candidates should not be baptised. If the candidate does not appear to be saved then baptism should be refused. If the candidate shows no inclination to relinquish behaviour (such as drug use) or a lifestyle (such as cohabitation) which is inconsistent with the demands of conversion and which would have ramifications for the testimony, baptism should not take place. Baptism is not a charade. It is meant to represent not only a change of standing, Rom.6.8 but a change of life, Rom.6.2. That said we should not be unduly sceptical and should remember that new believers require to grow "in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" 2Pet.3.18. Christians spend their whole life working out the truth of their baptism and we should be careful not to demand too much of a fledgling believer. In particular there is no need for any great understanding of the meaning of baptism. The converts who were baptised in the Acts of the Apostles had little time to acquaint themselves with the theology of baptism. It should be noted in this connection that where people are saved where no assembly has been formed, it is not necessary to wait for an assembly to be established before the converts are baptised. Baptism is not the preserve of any assembly. Often in the Acts of the Apostles believers were baptised before a local church was established in a city e.g. Lydia in Acts 16.15. The Ethiopian eunuch was baptised by Philip on a journey back to Ethiopia, Acts 8.36.
THE "MUST" OF BAPTISM
Baptism is a command from the Lord not an option. Without obedience to Him no real progress can be made in the Christian faith. Although many denominations do not regard baptism as a precondition of membership the assemblies generally regard it as essential, Acts 2.43. To be unbaptised is to be disobedient to one of the most elementary requirements of Scripture. There is no place in an assembly for someone who refuses to obey the Lord in essential matters.
On the other hand baptism is not necessary to salvation. Although the Lord said "He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" Mk.16.16, note He did not say "He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved: but He that believeth not and is not baptised (my words in italics) shall be damned".
Roman Catholics believe that baptism is necessary for salvation and that the act of baptism causes regeneration. They accordingly baptise infants in what are called christening ceremonies. Although they acknowledge that the baby can have no faith they argue that this is replaced by the faith of the church. Many Protestant churches also baptise infants and deploy a variety of arguments to support the practice. Infant baptism however is wrong doctrine of a fundamental nature. For this reason and many others, believers in fellowship in a N.T. assembly can have no fellowship with these denominations. Although Christians everywhere have a common bond in Christ and can enjoy personal fellowship together, to support denominations whose practices are fundamentally opposed to the Word of God is something a Christian in assembly fellowship should not do.
A poor fisherman named Peter, while toiling hard, was stripped to the waist, or possibly his undershirt. Suddenly it dawned upon Peter that it was the Saviour Who was talking to them from the shore of Galilee, Jn.21.7. Peter at this time was a restored man after his recent backsliding.
In Matt.26.75, after the cock’s crowing, Peter remembered the Lord’s Words and he wept with tears of painful grief. This was true repentance. Directly after the resurrection, the Lord Jesus singled Peter out by appointing an angel to advise those that sought Him at the sepulchre, "But go your way, tell His disciples and Peter that He goeth before you into Galilee" Mk.16.7. Lk.23.33,34 tell us that they found the eleven gathered together, saying, "The Lord is risen indeed and hath appeared to Simon." Peter, who openly denied his Saviour, is the only one on record that the Lord appeared to alone. Someone has said that what took place in that private interview was too sacred to disclose. One would think that an open denial of the Lord Jesus would warrant an open rebuke, but not so in this case. As far as we know the Lord was very gracious with Peter. Peter’s life was in danger after he had manifested such zeal in the use of the sword to defend the Lord Jesus.
In John chapter 21 Peter was very anxious to be by the side of his Saviour, but anxious as he was, he took time to put on his fisherman’s jacket before going into the presence of the One Who was God manifest in the flesh. A Christian once said to a brother on a warm Lord’s Day morning after remembering the Lord, "You acted just like Peter this morning." "What do you mean?" asked the brother. The reply was, "You put your coat on this morning before you sat down to commune with Him." "Ah," said the brother, "I do not take that literally. I look at that spiritually." To look at this in a spiritual way is excellent. We should never appear before Him scantily clad spiritually; our souls should always be exercised in His presence.
However, Peter was exercised about his soul first and this led to an exercise in regard to his dress in the Lord’s presence. One may say that this can become tradition or habit; granted, but with Peter this was not so. The natural and reasonable thing for one to do if he wishes to swim to shore in a hurry is to remove as much clothing as possible. By doing this life will be less endangered and progress will not be hindered. May we, like Peter, grow in the will and knowledge of the Lord. It will then be evident by godly deportment and reverence that we appreciate communion with Him.
We read in Ex.20.26 that Israel was not to go up to the altar by steps that their nakedness be not exposed. How much more careful we should be today as we are a people able to worship in spirit and truth. The Spirit of God brings a timely word before us in the state of the apostasy of the church in Laodicea, Rev.3.18, "I counsel thee to buy of Me gold (Divine righteousness) tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment (personal righteousness) that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear, and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve that thou mayest see." How often we are unable to worship and see the Lord because of our own nakedness and that of others.
Never was there such a day as this when brothers and sisters, sad to say, display nakedness by conforming to the styles and fashions of the world. When this was such an abomination - detestable and disgusting - to the God of Israel of old, Deut.22.5, what must it be to Him today when He looks upon His blood-bought ones in this day of grace. Form-fitting dresses with not enough skirt to cover the knees is a shame to say the least. This very thing is spoiling the worship meetings for many and robbing God of worship due to Him. How easy it is for us to conveniently close our eyes to these things if we wish to condone and go along with the fashions of the world. "Be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind" Rom.12.2. Read 1Tim.2.9,10; 1Pet.3.3,4. These Scriptures are easy to be understood, clear and plain, yet unheeded by so many. One can understand disobedience to the Word of God among those who have not been instructed, but when those gathered to His worthy Name close their eyes to such simple truths, there is a lack of the mark of sonship in them. Can those who adorn themselves in such a way say truthfully that they love the Lord and that He satisfies?
God’s Word says in 1Jn.2.3, "hereby (by this) we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments" (revealed word). 1Jn.5.3; "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments and His commandments are not grievous" (burdensome). The Lord Jesus said, "My yoke is easy and My burden is light." The Lord supplies strength for the doing of His will. Love and devotion to our Saviour makes what we consider a burden, light and He rewards us for any little thing we bear for Him, Ps.19.11. By closing our eyes to these simple Scriptures we shut ourselves away from His nearness and hinder the work of the Spirit of God by our display of nakedness. We are happy to say that there are a few "mothers in Israel" yet amongst us who set examples to the young sisters.
How often the spirit of God must be grieved when brethren, casually clothed, attend assembly meetings, whether it be the worship meeting, prayer meeting or Bible reading; the fact remains, we come together with Him in the midst. There is no difference as to His presence, what assembly meetings it may be, we still claim Matt.18.20. There are certainly no informal assembly gatherings in God’s sight. In Rom.13.7 we read, "Be subject unto the higher powers for there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God." Then in v.7 God’s Word encourages us to render "unto all their dues: … fear to whom fear, honour to whom honour." We understand the apostle Paul is speaking about the civil powers – then much more as we gather to Himself in assembly capacity. We should be very conscious of what we profess as to His presence and seek to honour God in all meetings. There are those today, either because of the lack of teaching, or not allowing the Word to guide them, who take liberties in their manner of dress, at the same time claiming the Lord in the midst.
An incident was reported of a clerk, who was sent home from a government office because he presented himself wearing shorts on an extremely hot day. "It was a request rather than a order," the spokesman said: but, "he returned wearing long trousers and a jacket." It was explained that he sometimes had to take papers to "Top" people. No, there are no informal assembly gatherings. The Lord is present as much in the prayer meeting and Bible reading as He is in the worship meeting on Lord’s Day; then why should we, as the Lord’s people, make such a difference in our attire?
The religious world dress in their Sunday best on what they call the Sabbath. Are we to copy them by manifesting a false reverence and holiness by restricting our appreciation of His presence to only Lord’s Day? It may be that one of the Lord’s very own will label a timely word on this subject as tradition or legality, and that God looks on the heart. This is very true, but the world looks on the external things; in other words our outward appearance and actions are our testimony to the world. As a rule what is in the heart cannot be hid. It can come out in our deportment - what occupies the heart comes out in the walk as believers. We do not suggest costly clothing by any means, but rather that our dress as brethren in the Lord may show godly reverence and respect. We would feel kindly toward a brother who, because of working overtime had insufficient time to go home and change, and so came into a meeting in his work clothes. 1Cor.8.12: "For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted, according to that a man hath and not according to that he hath not."
We must agree that the condition of the soul is what is important, but our outward appearance and actions are usually motivated by the condition of the soul, and they tell the affection to the person of Christ as well as the appreciation of what the Lord Jesus accomplished for us by His grace when He cried. "It is finished".
It may be that sometimes our casual attire and sporty clothing betrays us like Peter’s speech betrayed him. This is how the maid in Matt.26.73 singled Peter out; his speech exposed him and gave him away. Gen.41.14: "Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him hastily out of the dungeon and he shaved himself and changed his raiment, and came in unto Pharaoh." We have a meeting with One present Who will yet show Himself to be King of kings and Lord of lords. 2Sam.12.20: "David arose from the earth, and washed and anointed himself and changed his apparel and came into the house of the Lord and worshipped." Col.4.6: "Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt" - it is with grace and kindness to our dear brethren who may not have considered this, and realising how far short the writer comes from entering into the holiness of God and giving Him due respect and reverence. We would encourage our hearts to accept this word of exhortation, that the Lord Jesus Christ may be exalted and glorified by manifesting a knowledge of His presence in all assembly gatherings where He is in the midst.
This departure not only hiders our communion with Him, but hinders prayer: "Whatsoever we ask we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments" 1Jn.3.22. It was once said, "There are many good prayers held up in heaven waiting an obedient walk of the petitioner on earth." Jn.9.31 says, "Now we know God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God. And doeth His will, him He heareth." It would be in the wrong spirit if we tried to keep His word for outward appearance only; this would be putting ourselves under bondage. God’s word says in Eph.6.6: "Not with eyeservice as men-pleasers, but as the servants of Christ doing the will of God from the heart."
May the Lord use these few Scriptures to encourage our hearts in these difficult days, for the time will come when "they will not endure sound doctrine." The coming of the Lord draweth nigh, but let us not be ashamed at His coming by setting at nought His counsel in regard to these simple plain Scriptures.
To be disappointed is not a pleasant experience. This word has been on the lips of many over recent months. In the world of athletics we have heard this sentiment articulated repeatedly during the Olympic Games held in London. Some who expected to gain medals or break records were heard to express thoughts like "I am so disappointed ... years of training, dieting, hard work and all to no avail … I thought I had done enough to get the verdict … I am just gutted." We can in some measure sympathise with those who failed to reach their intended target.
Many students were also greatly disappointed when they received the results of their examinations. These disappointing results meant that they would not be able to have the future prospects they had envisaged.
It is heartbreaking to deal with such emotions but they are for time alone and sometimes can be rectified in later life. However, to be disappointed regarding eternal matters is something that is unbearable and, most solemnly, it is irrecoverable.
If you were asked how you can get to heaven, you may reply, by being a good person; by being religious; by doing my best; by joining and attending a church; and other such responses. If you were asked the basis for your answers, what would you say? Perhaps you depend on the philosophy of men; the advice of religious leaders; the thoughts of scientists etc. There is only one foundation for faith and that is the Bible, the book that was inspired by God. What does it say about these matters?
What does God think of our good works, called "our righteousnesses"? "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" Isaiah 64.6. Can works take us to heaven? "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" Ephesians 2.8,9.
How sad for any to think they are heading for heaven, but to discover when it is too late, that they were wrong and instead of the glory of heaven for eternity they will be in the gloom of the lake of fire, Revelation 20.15. It will be a disappointment of such a scale that to the never-ending ages of eternity, rectification will be impossible.
Is it possible to be sure that we are going to heaven? Note the assurance in the following Bible verses. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved. He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." John 3.16-18. Since it was impossible for us to put God in our debt and so make Him obligated to take us to heaven; in His love and grace God devised the plan of salvation. "For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly … But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" Romans 5.6,8.
"God in mercy sent His Son, to a world by sin undone,
Jesus Christ was crucified, ‘twas for sinners Jesus died."
Dear reader, make sure you will not have an eternal disappointment.