March/April 2015

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Contents

ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle

FAMILY LIFE
by J. A. Davidson

DANIEL AND PETER
by J. Hay

PONDERING PHILEMON
by B. Currie

JESUS CHRIST IS GOD
by J. Griffiths

HALLMARKS OF REVIVAL
by D. McKinley

THE PARABLES OF THE KINGDOM
by S. Fellowes

GOOD TIDINGS FROM HEAVEN


Assembly Testimony Bible Class

by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)

AMOS

 

No. 20: "The Plowman Shall Overtake the Reaper"

Read Chapter 9.11-15

In previous papers we noted that Amos chapters 8 and 9 may be summarised as follows:

  • Retribution On the Land, 8.1-14

  • Removal From the Land, 9.1-10

  • Restoration To the Land, 9.11-15.

We have considered the first two of these and now come to the final, concluding section.

RESTORATION TO THE LAND - 9.11-15

The passage emphasises five aspects of Israel’s restoration. They are all guaranteed by the expressions "I will" vv.11,14,15, and "saith the Lord" vv.12,13,15. We should notice that everything is Divinely accomplished. "This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes" Ps.118.23.

Using a visiting preacher’s headings (Richard Catchpole), we should notice: glory, v.11; victory, v.12; productivity, v.13; liberty, v.14; security, v.15. We must emphasise the literal fulfilment of the passage. It is an absolute nonsense to even attempt to make these promises apply to the church.

Glory - v.11

"In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old." The extended passage, vv.11,12, is quoted by James in the New Testament to emphasise that God always intended the Gentiles to enjoy divine blessing, Acts 15.15-18.

The glory of the kingdom in the days of David and Solomon will not only be restored, it will be exceeded by the glory of Christ’s millennial kingdom. The ancient promise will be fulfilled: "Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this" Isa.9.7. The New Testament confirms the Old Testament promise: "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end" Lk.1.32,33. With the division of the kingdom into two parts after the death of Solomon, the "tabernacle [or ‘booth’] of David" (referring to the dynasty of David) which acted as a shelter over Israel, had suffered major damage. David "reigned over all Israel", and the restoration of David’s "tabernacle" will therefore involve a united kingdom.

We should be enjoying this ‘millennial blessing’ now. Are we subject to divine rule in our lives?

Victory - v.12

Restored Israel will exercise authority over all nations: they will "possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by My name ["upon whom My name is called", J.N.D.], saith the Lord that doeth this". Bearing in mind the utter destruction of Edom, Obad.16, the reference to the Edomites by Amos must relate to a small number of survivors. Edom had been the implacable enemy of God’s people. Israel’s world-wide authority is emphasised by Isaiah: "And it shall come to pass in the last days, that mountain of the Lord’s house shall be exalted in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow into it" Isa.2.2,3.

We should also be enjoying this ‘millennial blessing’ now. Are we in control of our implacable enemies, the world, the flesh and the devil?

Productivity - v.13

"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine [new wine], and all the hills shall melt." Compare Isa.35.1,2: "The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing"; Ps.72.16, "There shall be an handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon: and they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth", or "There shall be abundance of corn [handfuls] in the earth, upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon: and they of the city shall bloom like the herb of the earth" (J.N.D.). Barrenness will be abolished. Even the most inhospitable places will be fruitful. A.G. Clarke puts it like this: "The terraced cornfields stretch right to the hilltops, which are usually rocky and bare - a picture of extraordinary fertility." This awaits "the manifestation of the sons of God" Rom.8.19, and until this takes place "the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now".

But then, "the plowman shall overtake the reaper" Amos 9.13. This has been nicely explained by J.A. Motyer: "The terms of his vision are plain: the earth will yield a lavish and spontaneous abundance. It will be so lavish that the time available will not suffice to gather in either the corn crops or the vintage. In each case the sower of seed for the next crop will find the reaper of the last crop still at work. The abundance will be so lavish that it will seem as if the very mountains and hills are themselves oozing with sweet wine." All this will take place without liberal applications of fertiliser and pesticides! It is all part of the reconciliation of all things. The curse pronounced by God on the earth at the fall, Gen.3.17-19, will be reversed. See also Jer.31.12. it will then be said, "This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden" Ezek.36.35.

We should also be enjoying this ‘millennial blessing’ now. Are we enjoying "the fruit of the Spirit … love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance" Gal.5.22,23? Can the Lord say of us, "From Me is thy fruit found" Hos.14.8?

Liberty - v.14

"And I will bring again the captivity of My people Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them." No longer will it be said, "Ye have built houses of stone, but ye shall not dwell in them: ye have planted pleasant vineyards but ye shall not drink wine of them" Amos 5.11. See also Ezek.36.11, "I will settle you after your old estates, and I will do better unto you than at your beginnings".

We should also be enjoying this ‘millennial blessing’ now. Are we enjoying our rich inheritance, Eph.1.3-14, as people "delivered … from the power of darkness, and … translated into the kingdom of His dear Son" Col.1.13?

Security - v.15

"And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God." The promise made to Abraham will be fulfilled: "And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God" Gen.17.8. See also Isa.60.21, "They shalt inherit the land for ever, the branch of My planting, the work of My hands, that I may be glorified".

We should also be enjoying this ‘millennial blessing’ now. Are we enjoying our rich and "eternal inheritance" Heb.9.15? We will never be "pulled up" from our enjoyment of all that belongs to us, by Divine grace, in Christ, and it will never be taken from us.

On this glad note, Amos concludes his preaching. A disobedient, rebellious and empty people, having been disciplined by God, are brought into blessing. How glad we are to say with David, "He restoreth my soul".

(Series Concluded)

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FAMILY LIFE

by J.A. Davidson (N. Ireland)

Paper No.4

‘God maketh the solitary into families’ Ps.68.6 (J.N.D.)

Among the sweetest words in the English language are ‘Mother’, ‘Home’ and ‘Heaven’. Be it ever so humble, there is no place like home. The family unit has safe protection of tender ties. The sacrifice of a preacher is week after week, month after month, year after year to be away from home. Three or four girls in an apartment may be company for each other; several men in a bachelor flat may exist, but the family has mutual togetherness, which is precious.

THE FAMILY

In times of crisis throughout the Bible there has always been attack upon the preservation of family life, as can be seen from the following examples. Genesis chapter 6, when at the destruction of ‘the old world’, God preserved the family of Noah. Genesis chapter 18, when God would destroy Sodom He said, "Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do … For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him" vv.17,18. Abraham’s household is to be contrasted to Lot’s family. Exodus chapter 1 where it is recorded, "And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them." So Pharaoh commanded, "Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river" v.22. The Passover was a family feast, "Take you a lamb according to your families" Ex.12.21. The first book of rule is 1Samuel and it is marked by the breakdown of family life. Elkanah’s house was divided; Eli’s sons were scoundrels; even in Samuel’s family there was weakness, and David could control armies but not his own family. In the future when Jerusalem will be besieged the cry will go up, "every family apart" Zech.12.14. 2Timothy is written to instruct us how to live in the ‘perilous times’ of the last days but 1Timothy is written that there might be order in the house of God and in the house of the elder, 3.4, "one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity".

A core passage on family life is Exodus chapter 2. "And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi and the woman conceived, and bare a son" vv.1,2. In the bitterness, blackness and bondage of Egypt, God preserved a family that produced two sons, one of which became the High Priest, the other was known to God as, ‘Moses My Servant’ and a daughter, Miriam, the prophetess who led the woman in singing of how the Lord had triumphed gloriously.

CHILDREN

Exodus chapter 1 records the attack upon the line of faith. The decree to kill all the males was so as to produce no seed and cut the line to Christ. The wickedness of today is little changed as it is seen in abortion, divorce and remarriage, broken families and child abuse. We have great sympathy with young couples seeking to order a Christian home in these last times before the Lord’s return. Children move out into an environment where the unscientific stupidity of evolution is set as truth in the school curriculum; the stout principles of right and wrong are not taught; Biblical practices of discipline are deemed to be old fashioned, and parents are accused of not being good parents if the uncontrolled poison of television and internet is denied. It was in times of cruelty, savagery and brutality that "Moses was born" Acts 7.20.

"And God blessed them, and God said unto them, ‘Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth’" Gen.1.28. This was repeated to Noah, Gen.9.1. In normal biological circumstances it is expected that the unity of marriage would lead to the birth of children. "Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled" Heb.13.4. Such children are greatly blessed since they are brought up in the atmosphere of Christian love, dignity and respect.

JOY

Children give a husband and wife something in common. Baby fingers hold fathers and mothers together. The wife seeks not her own feelings but the children’s. The husband seeks not his own pleasure but the children’s. Before marriage, we ought to pray and plan for children. When engaged talk this over and expect the normal fruit of marriage in God’s time. In later life, you may have the burden of seeing teenage children growing up and not yet saved. It is good to be able to bring your burden to the Lord and tell Him that He gave you these children as a gift from Him in His time and you are leaving them at His footstool of mercy that He may save them. "Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord; and the fruit of the womb is His reward" Ps.127.3. Propagation is God’s blessing and God’s intention, "Be fruitful and multiply" Gen.1.28; 7.1. The first woman who ever cradled a baby in her arms was filled with joy, Gen.4.1. Sarah, in bearing a son at 90 years of age, was made to laugh, Gen.21.6,7. Rebekah left home to be the bride of Isaac with the wishes of her loved ones that she be the mother of thousands of millions, Gen.24.60. Rachel, Leah, Hannah and Elizabeth believed that children were the blessing of the Lord. Godly men and women in Scripture regarded sons and daughters as a heritage of the Lord.

Believers who enter into marriage and do not want a family for years are not considering the mind of God in these matters. We must have compassionate consideration for those couples that are physically unable to have a family. However, where there is such a strong desire for advancement in this world and a craving for the luxuries of this materialistic age, that these have priority over having a family, then the couple are not focused on the teaching of God’s Word. Temporary abstinence that they may give themselves to prayer and fasting is Scriptural, 1Cor.7.2-5, but that is not the permanent arrangement of the husband and wife.

The atheistic system in Russia advocated birth control, legalised abortion and encouraged easy divorce, which resulted in the grossest immorality. In recent years, even the Russian Federation, alarmed at the fall in population, has seen the need to restore the virtues of home life and merits of the family unit.

Life comes as a gift from God. Abortion is murder since it is the destruction of the unborn after conception has taken place and life has begun. The joy and delight that comes with the little one is proof that God has given a precious gift to godly parents. Men of God in former ages saw sons as the link with the continuance of God’s inheritance. What father would not desire to raise a son better than himself? A godly sister will desire a daughter to be raised up like herself, "a mother in Israel" Judg.5.7. Many assemblies are composed exclusively of aged saints. Have we an exercise to see the gospel prosper, to build up again the Sunday school and Children’s work in the district and among the families of the Lord’s people? To see children saved, young people respectfully sitting behind on the Lord’s Day, intelligently following the course of the meeting is a vital link with the continuance of the assembly heritage.

SEPARATION

In Ex.2.1 both the man and woman were connected to Levi. This was a godly couple entering into a Scriptural marriage to the preservation of the tribe. This was the sanctuary tribe. Begin home life in separation as ‘in the Lord’ but rear the family in the good of the sanctuary. It is important to have a family where the habit in the home is to go to the meetings. If the children were brought up in a drunkard’s home, they would have to endure the conditions of a drunkard’s home. If it were a worldly home they would be brought up in a worldly atmosphere. Do we have to compromise and apologise for bringing them to the meetings? The first man to enter the holiest on the day of atonement was born into a home of Levitical order. The tribe of Levi had no possession in the land. Are we bringing up the family in a home where priorities are spiritual and not material possessions?

To be continued, (D.V.)

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Daniel and Peter (4)

by Jack Hay (Scotland)

INTRODUCTION

In his early chapters, Peter draws lessons from Israel’s redemptive history, with constant references to the Pentateuch. In an impassioned plea for holy living he quotes from Leviticus, citing as a compelling reason for practical holiness: "He which hath called you is holy". That holy God demands that His people reflect His holiness; "It is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy", 1Pet.1.15,16; Lev.11.44. In Leviticus the command is embedded in a section of dietary laws, and it goes on to say, "neither shall ye defile yourselves". Significantly, Daniel’s fear was that he would defile himself! Babylon’s fare would defile him, so he "purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat", Dan.1.8. He is a splendid example of Peter’s teaching.

Peter stresses that thinking is basic to holy living: "Wherefore gird up the loins of your minds", v.13. For Daniel, the campaign to avoid defilement started with his thinking; he "purposed in his heart". Let us all learn to mind the mind. We must apply our mental powers to assimilate the fact that "our old man was crucified with Him" Rom.6.6, R.V., for it is crucial to our sanctification. It is only as we reckon ourselves "to be dead indeed unto sin" that sin will no longer dominate our mortal bodies, vv.11,12. "Reckoning" is a necessary prerequisite for holy living; it all starts in the mind.

PRELUDE

Jehoiakim (Eliakim) was a puppet king of Judah, installed by Pharaoh, but now at the mercy of Nebuchadnezzar, Dan.1.1. Previously, God had preserved Jerusalem from the massive forces of the Ethiopians and the Assyrians, but the protective hedge was removed and "the Lord gave Jehoiakim … into (Nebuchadnezzar’s) hand" v.2. God was using a heathen power to discipline His people. Multitudes were carried to Babylon including many of the royal family, v.3.

Nebuchadnezzar had plans to harness the skills and intelligence of the captives to create a team of advisors for his administration. Candidates for the three-year training course at the University of Babylon required a rare combination of beauty and brains, v.4. It was a huge culture shock for Daniel and his friends to be catapulted into this prestigious seat of learning, v.6. First-year Christian students arriving in halls of residence nowadays are in a comparable environment and face issues similar to Daniel’s. The temptations are immense, and to stand in the midst of people who defy God and His laws, and who glamorise drunkenness and debauchery requires the same kind of resolve that marked these four Hebrew youths.

PRESSURE

For these young men there was pressure for change that would destroy their distinctiveness for God.

Their Minds

First, there was a battle for their minds, for the intention was to school them in "the learning … of the Chaldeans" v.4. The word "learning" is literally ‘book’. Another book, "the book of the law" had been unearthed in the temple just before their time, 2Chr.34.14,15, and they had allowed that book to shape their thinking and behaviour. Now a new textbook was being employed in an attempt to reinvent their thinking; Babylonian philosophy was to displace their commitment to the moral and ethical demands of God’s book! Modern educational systems hold the same dangers. Young people are exposed to a deluge of literature that ridicules the Bible’s account of creation; liberals attack its insistence that the marriage bond is the only legitimate realm for a sexual relationship; its uncompromising stand on the one way of salvation in Christ is regarded as intolerable in a pluralistic society. The Christian student must stand firm.

Their Language

For success in Babylon, a new language had to be learned, "the tongue of the Chaldeans" v.4. After the captivity, one of the tragedies of the mixed marriages was the fact that "their children spake half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews’ language" Neh.13.24. Clearly God wanted even the dialect of His people to be distinct. Presently, there is a language that befits the child of God. "Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt" Col.4.6. "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying" Eph.4.29. For the ungodly, normal conversation involves corruption, deceit, poison, cursing, and bitterness, Rom.3.13,14, but believers should avoid that coarse, abusive, deceitful talk. In the work place, we should never stoop to the witty but vulgar riposte just to be popular, Eph.5.4. In being firm with a junior or an assistant we will "forebear threatening", Eph.6.9, R.V. We will never play the role of a spin-doctor; like our Lord, there will be no guile in our mouths, 1Pet.2.22. We should resist the pressure from the world to change our language to conform to accepted norms.

Their Diet

The Babylonian diet bore no relationship to what had been prescribed in Scripture, and very likely, what was on offer had been presented in sacrifice to idols. The intention was to impose these eating habits on the Hebrews. From a spiritual standpoint, "diet" is crucial to development; "nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine" 1Tim.4.6. You can never go wrong in reading the Word for yourself, but you must be discerning in what you read about the Scriptures, and in what you download as sermons. Spiritual "junk food" or spiritual "fast food" could impair your spiritual health! Never allow the religious world of Babylon to change your nutritional regime for the worse.

Their Names

Each of our four heroes received a new name, vv.6,7. Shakespeare’s Juliet doubted the significance of a name and hence her oft-quoted question, "What’s in a name"? But from a Biblical perspective, names are immensely significant. The name of God had been enshrined in the given names of these young men, but their new names reflected those of Babylonian deities; this was a blatant attempt to eradicate memories of home and of God, and to shift their allegiance from Him to the idols of heathendom. They resisted the pressure and although these names were given to them, their loyalty to Jehovah was unimpaired.

PURPOSE

"Daniel purposed in his heart … ", v.8. Daniel anticipated a new situation; he gave thought to this developing crisis, and made up his mind how to deal with it. Having determined the right course, he stuck to it. Sadly, we often allow good intentions to wither on the vine. Solomon "determined", "began", "built" and "finished" 2Chr.2.1; 3.1; 1Kgs.6.14. The church at Antioch, "determined to send relief … which also they did" Acts 11.29,30. Let such tenacity encourage us, lest we be blown off-course after settling a strategy for any given situation.

The problem was with the meat and drink. Possibly the meat had been offered to idols, and Daniel had no desire to be even on the fringes of idolatry. He opted for abstinence; to compromise would be to be "defiled"; and so he "purposed in his heart". Back home he had observed the scourge of idolatry, so his convictions were not second-hand family traditions. They had been arrived at personally, and so he stood his ground.

Perhaps the meat was eaten with the fat and blood; to partake would violate the Word of God, Lev.3.17. He determined to obey God rather than bow to pressure from the most powerful regime on earth. Obedience was costly. He was sacrificing daily personal pleasure in the interests of loyalty to God; pulse and water, v.12, could never be as pleasing to the palate as succulent dishes washed down by the best wines! Moses was another who made the right decision at great personal cost; he "[chose] rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season" Heb.11.25. May God help us all to avoid the soft options. It is so easy to side-step reproach and evade unpleasantness by going down the route of compromise.

The wine was another problem. Daniel knew that under its influence his behaviour could deteriorate and his convictions could be dented, so he judged abstinence to be his safeguard. The detrimental affects of alcohol are patent in the very first mention of wine in Scripture, when a man who had walked with God was disgraced in his later years, Gen.9.20-24. The salutary lesson from Noah is that wine destroys our inhibitions; Daniel had no desire to risk it!

PERSISTENCE

Daniel’s appeal for exemption was courteous, and his attitude was not overbearing; although he was denied at first, he remained persistent, vv.8-13. It is not always possible to go over someone’s head, but on this occasion his overtures were successful. By the time his second entreaty was made, his three friends were incorporated in the appeal, vv.11-15, a lesson in the power of influence. "Be thou an ensample to them that believe" 1Tim.4.12, R.V. Without perhaps articulating it, we should be able to reflect Gideon’s words, "Look on me, and do likewise" Judg.7.17, or even Paul’s, "Be ye imitators of me" 1Cor.11.1, R.V. Maybe our convictions and determination will carry weight with others. The ten days of testing vindicated Daniel, and that initial stand set the pattern for his three years at university, v.16. The moral is that in new surroundings it is vital from day one to be firm in doing what is right, and to establish precedents that will be maintained for the duration.

In this case, God compensated the four youths by giving them honour and wisdom outstripping that of their contemporaries, v.20. Be prepared for the fact that it does not always work out so happily; Naboth’s convictions were equally firm, and he was just as persistent in his commitment to the Word of God, but it cost him his life, 1Kings chapter 21. For some believers, resisting a romance with an unbeliever has given way to a happy marriage with a spiritual spouse; for others it has meant permanent singleness. In taking a stand for honesty, some saints have resigned their employment and have secured a more lucrative position the next week; others have experienced months of unemployment. Whatever, it is important to do what is right despite the cost. God promises to honour them who honour Him, 1Sam.2.30, but that honour may not necessarily be conferred in the here and now!

To be continued, (D.V.)

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Pondering Philemon

by Brian Currie (N. Ireland)

Paper 4

We have noted previously that the epistle could be divided as follows:

vv.1-3 - Paul’s Approach to Philemon and his Acquaintances;

vv.4-7 - Paul’s Appreciation of Philemon and his Ability;

vv.8-22 - Paul’s Appeal to Philemon for Acceptability;

vv.23,24 - Paul’s Associates in Prison and their Activity;

v.25 - Paul’s Ambition for Philemon and the Assembly.

We come now to the third section.

Vv.8-22, Paul’s Appeal to Philemon for Acceptability

Paul makes his appeal on three grounds, which are based on the idea of receiving Onesimus: v.12, "thou therefore receive him"; v.17, "receive him as myself".

Vv.8-12, Based on Love and Admiration for Paul: v.9, "Yet for love’s sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ."

Vv.13-17, Based on Loyalty and Association with Paul:

Loyalty, vv.13,14 "Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel: But without thy mind would I do nothing."

Association, v.17, "If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself".

Vv.18-22, Based on Life and Appreciation of Paul:

, v.20, "Yea, brother".

Appreciation, v.19, "thou owest unto me even thine own self besides."

Vv.8-12, Based on Love and Admiration for Paul

"Wherefore" – This appeal is based on the first part of the letter where the compassion and love of Philemon is lauded. Paul might have used his apostolic authority to command Philemon to receive Onesimus but he knew, and we should learn, that obedience and devotion to Christ cannot be commanded. Thus in Rom.12.1, Paul says, "I beseech …". The demeanor and attitude of the teacher will often determine whether or not their teaching is accepted. A scolding, dictatorial manner in the impartation of truth may produce a perverse response. This is no excuse for disobedience, but it should instruct those who teach to adopt a becoming attitude. There is also the expectation that Philemon would continue to grow and develop in Christianity and show Christian graces. In Christian experience there is no standing still; we either go back or go on.

"though I might be much bold in Christ" – "bold" means to be outspoken; to have freedom and frankness in speech. The word is used for example in Jn.11.14, "Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead"; Acts 4.31, "… they spake the word of God with boldness"; Eph.6.19, "that I may open my mouth boldly …"; Heb.10.19, "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest …".

Such boldness towards one another cannot be in the flesh, it is only "in Christ". Otherwise it may be interpreted as impertinence. This also gives authority for his request and the expectation of obedience. When in the sphere of being "in Christ" we have no logical alternative but to obey.

"to enjoin thee" – This is a strong word and means literally to appoint over, thus implying an order, a command or a charge. It occurs ten times in the New Testament, but only used here by Paul. For example it is used by Luke, 8.25, "He commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey Him"; 8.31, "they besought Him that He would not command them to go out into the deep"; 14.22, "Lord, it is done as Thou hast commanded, and yet there is room". While Paul appeals to Philemon, he also commands.

"that which is convenient" - befitting, comely. It implies a moral obligation to obey that which is suitable to Christianity. We cannot expect saints to obey what is not fitting and appropriate to our Christian profession. All teaching has in view the cultivation of that which is becoming to the testimony. This affects every aspect of life. We should have no compartments where Christ is not welcome. We should have a Spirit instilled sensitivity and thus seek to promote that which is morally befitting. This means we should scrupulously avoid unbecoming interactions with the opposite gender; doubtful and shady dealings in the business world; involvement in salacious and double-meaning jokes; telling lies and being deceptive; immodest dress and crude language; everything should be as becometh saints.

The only other occurrences of the word in the New Testament are in Eph.5.4, "Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient", and Col.3.18, "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord".

Paul now, very courteously and diplomatically, gives the basis of his appeal - Love and Admiration. In vv.9-12, Paul uses seven levers to reach Philemon’s heart:

  • Love; "for love’s sake"

  • Paul’s Age; "Paul the aged"

  • Paul’s Circumstances, "a prisoner"

  • Onesimus’ Salvation, "my son ... whom I have begotten"

  • Onesimus Has Changed, "but now profitable"

  • Paul Sent Him Back, "whom I have sent again"

  • Receiving Him Would Be Like Receiving Paul, "that is, mine own bowels".

v.9 "Yet for love’s sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ."

Love: "Yet for love’s sake" - this could be love for the Lord, for Paul or for Onesimus. Likely it has in view the broad principle of Christian love that pervades every aspect of Christian life. The guiding motive should be: he who is loved should love, and he who has been forgiven should forgive. Where a person refuses to love or forgive it is questionable if they have experienced love and forgiveness. Paul wants Philemon to live up to his name which means ‘loving one’ or ‘one who kisses’.

True Christian love does not weigh the pros and cons of a matter to discover what is in it for self: it acts beyond mere duty. W. G. Scroggie says so pointedly, "it is not duty that inspires love, but love that moves us to duty." We could say that duty brings a sense of obligation, but love acts in the sweetness of communion.

There can be a reluctant duty or a willing desire. The willingness of the Lord Jesus is seen from the language of Ps.40.8, (cf. Heb.10.9), "I delight to do Thy will"; as was also the Hebrew servant, "I love my master ... I will not go out free" Ex.21.5.

"I rather beseech thee" - Paul approaches Philemon in the correct spirit and here he continually begs, entreats or beseeches. This is the word of v.10 and Rom.12.1; 2Cor.2.8; 10.1; Phil.4.2. It could be translated, "I beg of you please".

Paul’s Age: "being such an one as Paul the aged"

This was very telling, ‘I am an old man and in prison’ - how could Philemon refuse?

"Paul the aged" – At this time Paul was around 60 years old but the toil and trials of his service for Christ had all left their mark. At the stoning of Stephen, he is called "a young man", Acts 7.58, and this change had taken place in about 30 years. How ashamed we feel as we think of his toil for the Lord and compare it with ours! Respect for the aged man was expected. One wonders if such an appeal would be heeded today!

Paul’s Circumstances: "and now also a prisoner"

By changing one Greek letter this could read, "Paul the ambassador" but the A.V. presents a more weighty and emotional argument and is thus preferred.

"of Jesus Christ" - as v.1 this was changed to "of Christ Jesus" so here. This is to show that Paul is in touch with the heavenly Man and is enabled to rise above all circumstances of earth. Again we quote Scroggie, "the plea is not only pathetic, it is majestic".

Again we note the principle that there is a right way of saying right things. In ministry, reaching the emotions and affections is essential. We recall that the Lord had a fire as well as food in John chapter 21. That is, He had both warmth and nourishment for His own. What a lovely balance.

Onesimus’ Salvation: v.10, "I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds"

J.N.D. reads, "I exhort thee for my child, whom I have begotten in my bonds, Onesimus," Note the order of the words keeps the name Onesimus to the end as a surprise, but more importantly, as an emphasis. Paul could have described Onesimus as "thy slave" or "the runaway" or "the thief" etc., but what tenderness is seen in the expression, "my son".

"whom I have begotten in my bonds" - undoubtedly Paul was "in his own hired house", meaning that he was under house arrest, yet he was still busy serving the Lord. Our circumstances are no excuse for sloth and indolence. As we remember that these letters came from prison, it illustrates what he would later write to Timothy, "be instant in season, out of season" 2Tim.4.2, and the reason is "the word of God is not bound" 2Tim.2.9.

Onesimus Has Changed: v.11, "Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me"

This is probably a play on Onesimus’ name, which means profitable. In the past he proved to be the opposite but this shows clearly that salvation makes a dramatic change in a person’s life. This change could not have been more startling, from unprofitability to profitability. The power of God in salvation is available in the gospel and there is no case too hard for the Lord. Christianity knows nothing of hopeless cases. By describing him as "unprofitable", Paul shows that he took Onesimus’ crime seriously and had no desire to pass it over glibly.

"in time past ... but now" – This language is very like Ephesians chapter 2, where the subjects of regeneration and reconciliation are found and we have the two great ‘buts’: "but God", v.4 and "but now", v.13.

Paul Sent Him Back: v.12, "Whom I have sent again"

This highlights what was taught earlier in these papers, the principle of restitution. Also the fact that he was prepared to go back and face his past reveals the reality of conversion. Slavery was an accepted fact of life at that time and Paul is not rebelling against contemporary society, nor is he intending to undertake the position of a social worker. We recall 1Cor.7.20,21, "Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called. Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather."

Receiving Him Would Be Like Receiving Paul: v.12, "thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels"

Now, at last, the apostle tells Philemon what he really wanted, "receive him". However, he was not to receive him reluctantly and grudgingly but he was to be received as if Paul himself had arrived! We have no acceptance before Him apart from being "in Him" and this means we are "accepted in the Beloved" Eph.1.6.

To be continued, (D.V.)

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Jesus Christ is God (1)

by J. Griffiths, Wales

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God" Jn.1.1,2. The son of thunder opens his gospel with a mighty peal, "the Word was God".

"In the beginning", is a ‘beginningless’ beginning. We have here the dateless, timeless periods of remote antiquity. Certainly what is taught here predates creation, v.3. We speak of it as eternity past because of our limited ability to grasp the endlessness of eternity. Eternity from God’s perspective is a never ending present. He is the great ‘I am’.

"Was the Word." Logos embraces thought and speech. A word is the vehicle we use to convey our thoughts. Without words our thoughts would only be known to ourselves and no one else. Similarly, Christ, the Word, is the vehicle God has used to express His thoughts to mankind. He has spoken in Son, Heb.1.2. "In the beginning was the Word", conveys the truth of the pre-existence of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Word.

"And the Word was with [toward] God", indicates that Christ has a distinct personality within the Godhead, but is not divided in essence. He is co-existent with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Elsewhere, we are taught the truth that there is only one totally unique God, but within the Godhead there co-exist three distinct Persons; the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

"And the word was God", not ‘a’ god or ‘the’ God but characteristically "God". He is without beginning of days or end of life. He is not merely godlike or Divine, He is God. It is Deity which is attributable to Jesus Christ. He is the eternally self-existent One, uncreated, yet the mighty Creator, Himself.

"The same was in the beginning with God." The word "with" has the sense of companionship, unlike v.1 which expresses the idea of ‘towards’ God. Just as the eagle uniquely can fly directly into the sun, so Christ is able to look on the emanating glory of God, that "light which no man can approach unto" 1Tim.6.16.

Zechariah records the words of the Lord of Hosts: ‘Awake, O sword, against My shepherd, and against the Man that is My fellow’ 13.7. "Fellow" means associate, companion or equal. The Lord Jesus Christ is declared by God to be His Companion and His Equal!

John has this in mind when he writes, "with God" v.2. The Word is co-equal with God, He enjoys equality of companionship with God.

Bishop Moule is reputed to have said, "A Saviour not quite God is like a bridge broken at the farther side". Thank God, Jesus is "the great God and our Saviour" Titus 2.13.

That Jesus Christ is God, is borne out in a variety of ways.

HIS APPELLATIONS – Divine Names, Titles and Descriptions

Isa.7.14, "Immanuel". Ahaz refuses a sign when God offers it. However, God persists and the sign will be given… a virgin shall conceive; not a young maiden as some have suggested. That would be no sign! The fruit is the One named, Immanuel. Matt.1.22 confirms what Isaiah has put on record. Mary, the virgin, gives birth to Jesus and "they shall call His name Emmanuel … God with us".

In Isa.9.6 a series of titles associated with Christ are mentioned, of which "the mighty God" is particularly relevant to this study.

Zech.13.7 reads, "Awake, O sword, against … the Man Who is My fellow." The Lord of Hosts speaks of the Shepherd as ‘My Fellow’ or ‘Equal’. God is claiming equality for His Son.

Jn.1.18 states, "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, Which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him." The R.S.V, N.I.V and Vincent note that ‘Son’ could be replaced by ‘God’, hence, calling ‘the only begotten … God’!

The R.V. of Jn.5.18 reads, "the Jews sought the more to kill Him" because He "said also that God was His [own] Father, making Himself equal with God." The Jews fully understood the claim of Christ even if they rejected it.

Jn.10.33 informs us that, "the Jews … stone Thee … for blasphemy; and because that Thou, being a man, makest Thyself God." The logic is inescapable even if the Jews theology is confused.

Jn.20.28, "My Lord and My God", were the words of doubting Thomas when confronted with the risen Lord in the upper room. The sceptic had become a worshipper!

Acts 20.28, "the church of God … which He hath purchased with His own blood"; ‘the blood of Him Who is God’, is the force of the text as it stands in the A.V.

Other quotations that are relevant and unambiguous are: Rom.9.5, "Christ, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen." Phil.2.6, "thought it not robbery to be equal with God." 1Tim.3.16, "God was manifest in the flesh." Titus 2.13 (R.V.), "The great God and (even) our Saviour Jesus Christ." Here the construction in the original text is speaking of one Person and not two, hence, our Saviour, Jesus Christ is the great God. Contrast this with 1Tim.2.3 where God Himself is called, "God our Saviour". Heb 1.8, "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever." The ‘Elohim’ of Ps.45.6 is the same One who is addressed in Hebrews. God is speaking to His Son and calling Him, God. 1Jn. 5.20, "in His Son, Jesus Christ. This is the true God."

It is instructive to compare and contrast the following Old and New Testament passages.

Ex.3.14/Jn.8.58: "I am" is the Jehovah title used of God in Exodus but of Christ in John’s Gospel. Ps.68.18/Eph.4.7,8: in relation to the ascension and subsequent gifts, "God" is used in the Old Testament but "Christ" in the New Testament. Isa.6.3, the seraphim cry, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts." Jn.12.41 tells us that the seraphim were addressing Christ. Isa.40.3/Matt.3.3: "Prepare ye the way of the Lord … a highway for our God." This is a prophecy of Christ. Ps.110.1/Matt.22.42-46: He is David’s Son and David’s Lord … explain that away, if you can! It silenced the questions of His critics in our Lord’s time. Isa.65.16/Rev.3.14: "The Amen", is used of God in the Old Testament and of Christ in the New Testament. Jn.5.22/Rev.20.12: "The Father … hath committed all [future] judgment unto the Son." "I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God", at the great white throne judgment. Hence, the Son is God. Rev.1.8; 21.6; 22.13, the "Alpha and Omega" title is used of God in 21.6 but of Christ in 1.8 and 22.13. Isa.41.4; 44.6; 48.12/Rev.1.17; 2.8; 22.13, a comparison of these verses reveals that the title "The First and the Last" is used both of God and of Christ. Ps.102.27/Heb.1.12, "the Same" is a title used of God by the Psalmist and of Christ in Hebrews. Deut.32.4,15,18,30, 31/1Cor.10.4, "The Rock"/"And that Rock was Christ". 1Tim.6.15/Rev.17.14; 19.16, "King of kings and Lord of lords", is used both of God and Christ. Zech.12.10/Rev.1.7, "And they shall look upon Me Whom they have pierced", refers to both Jehovah and Christ.

Additionally, we have Christ’s personal claim to be the Son of God, Jn.10.36. Also, a similar claim to equality with the Father, Jn.10.30; 14.9.

To be continued, (D.V.)

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Hallmarks of Revival As Seen In The Reign of Hezekiah

by David McKinley (Canada)

Paper 1

After the very evil reign of Ahaz we read of the commencement of Hezekiah’s reign with a sigh of relief and a spirit of thankfulness to God for granting revival to Judah after such a dark day. We shall consider some of the hallmarks of a true revival, while noting, with caution, the dangers that can ensue after a real movement of God’s grace, as seen in this king’s later years.

ESTEEM FOR GOD’S HOUSE - "He in the first year of his reign, in the first month, opened the doors of the house of the LORD, and repaired them" 2Chr.29.3.

The devil had triumphed in the reign of Ahaz in having the doors of God’s house closed up. The place where God’s honour dwelt was a cold, dark and silent monument to Israel’s sin of turning to other gods. The place of which God said: "For Mine house shall be called an house of prayer" Isa.56.7, now for years had no ascending incense, no offerings of a sweet smelling savour, no tithes brought into the storehouses of God’s sanctuary; not even sin offerings were brought, as an admission of failure and departure! Now Hezekiah comes into responsibility in the kingdom and his first concern is for God’s glory; for God’s house. No doubt he had many other pressing matters, but he displays the principle later set out by the Lord Jesus: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God" Matt.6.33.

In our day, placing a high value on the "house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" 1Tim.3.14, is a hallmark of a revival. This will preserve us from treating the assembly as if it were just one of a number of evangelical groups, but as it is indeed, a unique gathering founded by God and maintained by God for God’s glory, the spiritual development of the saved and for the blessing of the unsaved around.

EXERCISE IN PERSONAL SANCTIFICATION AND PURIFICATION OF GOD’S HOUSE - "Hear me, ye Levites, sanctify now yourselves, and sanctify the house of the LORD God of your fathers" 2Chr.29.5.

Before we can begin to sanctify God’s house, we must be prepared to search our own hearts and exercise self-judgement. Are we practically set apart for God? Do we order every day under His all-seeing eye? Do we allow ourselves to be defiled by the ‘entertainment’ of the day? Today’s media is permeated by licentiousness, making light of sin and blatantly flaunting things of which God has said: "Let it not once be named among you … Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting … For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret" Eph.5.3,4,12. The Levites must sanctify themselves, before being fitted to sanctify the house: so must we.

Only when we are self-judged can we then seek to sanctify God’s house. These noble Levites had the courage and strength to carry forth the filthiness out of God’s house. Have we allowed things into the assembly which have no sanction in God’s word? A hallmark of revival is for holy men and women to seek in God’s fear to purge out things that are unscriptural and worldly. Is there a cry to introduce games to amuse the younger generation? Let us keep them where they rightly belong – in the world! Would some wish to introduce a trained singer, a gospel group, instrumental music to cover up our poor efforts in singing our hymns of praise or gospel truth? Let us keep such outside of God’s house; these belong to a religious world that lusts for entertainment rather than spiritual edification. The praise that reaches God’s ear is from the heart, not in mere melodic sound!

God’s ideal was that his house should be "called of all nations the house of prayer" Mk.11.17. God intended that Israel should have a drawing power on the heathen who would seek God. What attraction had a closed up house on the seeking soul? None! So when the doors were opened and the house purged, those men would not want to leave anything that would not be in keeping with God Who dwelt therein! So today, the assembly should have a drawing power on those who genuinely seek after God. It should not be ordered to accommodate the worldly-minded children of indulgent and spiritually insensitive parents, but should display purity, obedience and godly order that will cause the unlearned (i.e. the saved visitor, who is not yet in assembly fellowship) to "worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth" 1Cor.14.25. If a genuinely exercised soul, seeking to know where he should gather, should come into an assembly today and see the casual dress of men who profess to be in the presence of "the high and lofty one that inhabiteth eternity whose name is holy" Isa.57.15, would they not be stumbled? The real presence of the Sovereign of the Universe Who is the living God, calls for becoming dress and deportment! If such a seeker after God should see the shorn hair and showy dress of many women in assembly fellowship today, would they not rightly wonder if the assembly is really God’s house? What shall we say about the wearing of jewellery and even Jezebel-like make-up seen in some quarters in light of clear Scriptural injunctions: "Not with ... gold, or pearls, or costly array" 1Tim.2.9? These are surely some of the things which exercised souls in a time of revival will see eliminated from God’s dwelling place!

EARNESTNESS IN CONFESSION OF SIN - "Our fathers have trespassed, and done ... evil ... and have forsaken Him, and have turned away their faces from the habitation of the LORD, and have turned their backs. Also they have shut up the doors of the porch and have put out the lamps, and have not burned incense." 2Chr.29.6,7.

Here is a twofold confession. Firstly, what they had done: "trespassed … done evil … forsaken Him … turned away their faces". This is the confession of acts of sin and wilful disobedience! How awful to be a party to putting out the lamps of testimony and shutting up the doors of the house of prayer. While Hezekiah was himself clear of all of these evils, he identifies himself with the failed testimony of the past and confesses it as if it were his own sin. This is a true mark of revival.

Secondly, what they had failed to do: "not burned incense not offered burnt offerings in the holy place unto the God of Israel" 2Chr.29.7. This aspect of failure in testimony is often not grasped by many of the Lord’s people. Most can readily detect positive contravention of Scriptural principles, but we must also see how serious it is to deprive our God of His portion. In a later day, Malachi cried: "Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed Me. But ye say ‘Wherein have we robbed Thee?’ In tithes and offerings" Mal.3.8.

Do we feel the burden of failure in corporate testimony or do we think that all is going well and there is no need for confession? Laodicea had a high opinion of their assembly condition: "Rich and increased with goods and had need of nothing" Rev.3.17. However, the risen Lord, whose assessment is unerring, said in the same place: "Thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked". How many Lord’s day mornings do we meet to remember Him and realise that there has been little real heartfelt praise rising from the company? Is there yawning, obvious lethargy and a general air of laxity about the breaking of bread? Does it weary us? Israel in Malachi’s day said "Behold, what a weariness is it!" Mal.1.13. Has it become a drudgery? Shame on us if it has! The breaking of bread should be the high point of the whole week; our thanksgiving should be fervent, our hymns sung with heart and feeling; our whole demeanour one of alertness and attention so that we are ready to move with the leading of the Lord and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Let us remember the Old Testament injunction: "None shall appear before Me empty" Ex.23.15.

To be continued, (D.V.)

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The Parables of the Kingdom in Matthew Chapter 13

by S. Fellowes (Republic of Ireland)

No.1 - INTRODUCTION

The thirteenth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel is one of the most important chapters in the canon of Holy Scripture. A proper understanding of it will help the believer to "rightly divide the word of truth" 2Tim2.15, keep him right dispensationally and doubtless affect him practically as he surveys the programme of God in relation to kingdom truth.

The Three Sevens

A former generation of brethren spoke of the importance of getting to grips with the following three sevens.

Leviticus chapter 23 - The Seven Feasts of Jehovah:

Matthew chapter 13 - The Seven Kingdom Parables:

Revelation chapters 2 and 3 - The Seven Churches of Asia.

One has well said that the seven feasts of Jehovah bring before us "prophetic history", the seven kingdom parables "prophetic mystery" and the seven churches "prophetic testimony". What a wealth of truth is contained within these four chapters of the Word of God embracing Israel; the subjects of the kingdom and all who profess Christianity. Truly we would do well to heed the advice given!

The Kingdom

If we are to grasp the meaning of Matthew chapter 13, it is imperative to understand what is meant by "the kingdom". The kingdom is presented in Scripture from three basic standpoints.

Manifestly

Firstly, there is the kingdom in manifestation on earth, anticipated prophetically in Isaiah chapter 32 "behold a king shall reign in righteousness". It is longed for by the true subjects of that kingdom, Matt.5.10, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven". Numerous Scriptures in both Old and New Testaments could be cited to show that indeed:

There’s a king Who is coming to reign,

Whose throne is on righteousness built,

    - (Hawthorne Baillie)

However, this day has not yet come, so what of the kingdom presently?

Mystically

The kingdom in mystery form is something previously hidden that is now revealed. This aspect of the kingdom was unknown in Old Testament days. Two main events are there outlined in relation to the coming Messiah: firstly His death, Dan.9.26; Isaiah chapter 53; Psalm 22 etc. and secondly His coming dominion, Isaiah chapters 9 and 32; Psalm 2 etc. However to see the period in between, we must turn to the chapter before us.

Morally

We must not miss the fact that God’s kingdom is entered by new birth, John chapter 3, and that the moral or practical result of that new birth is an acknowledgment of the rule of God in the life. See 1Cor.4.20, "for the kingdom of God is not in word but in power" and Rom.14.17, "for the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace and joy in the holy Ghost". Therefore, the kingdom is not just speech as with the Corinthians or scruples as with some of the Roman saints. Rather, it consists of the loftier matters of spiritual power and its fruit seen in the life.

THE CHAPTER

The Gospel of Matthew brings before us many great truths in relation to the kingdom. This helps to underline its character as the dispensational gospel.

Chapters 1-4 present the Person of the King, as the One Who meets all the demands to reign. Legally, morally and Scripturally, He alone has the right to the throne.

Chapters 5-7 outline the Principles of the King and of His kingdom, the features that should mark every true subject of the kingdom.

Chapter 13 reveals the Parables of the kingdom.

Chapter 17 paints a Picture of the kingdom, in its manifested glory. There on the mount of transfiguration, as Peter later tells us in his epistle, they where "eyewitnesses of His majesty" 2Pet.1.16.

Chapters 24,25 show the Programme of the kingdom. There the King/Prophet foretells coming events in relation to tribulation days and the establishment of His kingdom in power and great glory.

Matthew chapter thirteen takes its place alongside other great ‘chapter thirteens’ of Scripture. One cannot help but think of John chapter 13 and the feet-washing ministry of our Lord Jesus; 1Corinthians chapter 13 and the pre-eminence of love; and Hebrews chapter 13, and the glorious finale of that great epistle where we are linked with the rejected Lord outside of everything that God disowns. We shall consider Matthew chapter 13 as follows.

The Placing of the Chapter

Matthew chapter 12 is a crisis chapter in the development of this Gospel. The first part deals with Israel’s rejection of Christ, and the second part with Christ’s rejection of Israel. However, when we come to the end of the chapter we discover the Lord’s words "whosoever shall do the will of My father which is in heaven, the same is My brother and sister and mother". In other words, the natural relationship was really worthless, what mattered to Him was a spiritual relationship. This sets the tone for the mystery character of chapter thirteen.

The Period Covered

The chapter covers the period from the beginning of the Lord’s public ministry right through to the establishment of His kingdom in manifested glory. It is to be noted that whilst it includes the church period, it extends beyond it; just as the kingdom itself is a more embracive entity than that of the church, preceding and succeeding it, whilst including it. The church is ever unique in God’s reckoning.

The Persons Included

It will become clear as we pursue our studies that the chapter includes every true subject of the kingdom and every mere professor, that is, all who by new birth have truly entered and all who have a "form of godliness" 2Tim.3.5, but no reality.

The Purpose of Parables

Why does the Lord use parables? Why does He not just speak plainly? The fact is that the King had spoken plainly and they had rejected His ministry. Now He speaks parabolically in order that the genuineness and the earnestness of the listener would be put to the test. The sincere individual would be led to strive, and to seek out and find the "hidden" meaning of the Lord’s message.

To be continued, (D.V.)

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Good Tidings from Heaven

NOTHING LEFT BEHIND

On Monday 27 October 2014 the UK’s campaign in Afghanistan ended. The Union flag was lowered at Camp Bastion and the troops were ready to leave. During the war 453 troops, who served their country with devotion and courage, made the ultimate sacrifice and lost their lives. Memorials to these valiant people also had to be dismantled because it was feared they would have been desecrated. In one national newspaper the front page heading was "Not a Trace Left Behind."

This brought to mind other instances where nothing was left behind. In the Biblical book of Exodus we read the story of God’s people, the nation of Israel, leaving Egypt. Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, did not want to lose these people as they were His slaves. God sent various plagues upon the Egyptians to make Pharaoh change his mind. Pharaoh vacillated by sometimes agreeing to let the people go and then going back on his word. Then he suggested that the people could go but not the flocks and the herds. This brought the following response from Moses, "Our cattle also shall go with us; there shall not an hoof be left behind" Exodus.10.26. God brought the people out on the famous Passover evening when all who had applied the blood of the Pascal lamb were sheltered. This is an illustration of how all who are in the slavery of sin and Satan can be liberated from such bondage through the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, the true Lamb of God. "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold … But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" 1Peter 1.18,19. Only by application of His blood by faith can a sinner be released from bondage.

It may be asked why is this exclusively the realm of the blood of Christ? The answer is that when He hung on the cross at Calvary, He accomplished the work of redemption fully and left nothing behind, nothing undone. We read concerning the Lord Jesus Christ "Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed" 1Peter 2.24. Before He died He cried, "It is finished" John 19.30, and all that God required, in order to redeem us on a righteous basis, was fully done. This truth is clearly stated in Hebrews 10.12, "But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God".

This world is heading for another event that will mean no Christian believer will be left behind. The Lord Jesus promised that He would come again and take every redeemed soul to be forever with Him, John 14.1-6. This was repeated doctrinally by the apostle Paul in 1Thessalonians 4.16,17 "For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord."

Dear reader have you been redeemed by the blood of God’s Lamb and so will be raptured to the glory of heaven or will you be left behind for God’s dreadful and eternal judgment?

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