ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle
THE PARABLES OF THE KINGDOM IN MATTHEW
by S. Fellowes
OBEDIENCE IN THE LIFE OF GIDEON
by C. Jones
by W. Gustafson
QUESTIONS YOUNG PEOPLE ASK
by A. Summers
THE CHRISTIAN AND THE POLLING BOOTH
by D. McKinley
EARLY GALILEAN MINISTRY OF THE LORD JESUS
by J. Gibson
SIX SHORT RULES FOR YOUNG CHRISTIANS
by B. North
by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)
THE FIRST BOOK OF PSALMS
No.4: PSALM 2, Part 2
In introducing Psalm 2 we noted that it falls into four equal parts, each comprising three verses, and suggested the following summary:
- The Attack on Divine Rule: or The Voice of Man, vv.1-3;
- The Assurance of Divine Reign: or The Voice of Jehovah, vv.4-6;
- The Assertion of Divine Rights: or The Voice of the Messiah, vv.7-9;
- The Advice to seek Divine Reconciliation: or The Voice of the Spirit, vv.10-12.
Having considered the first section, vv.1-3, we come now to ponder the remainder.
THE ASSURANCE OF DIVINE REIGN, vv.4-6
What is God’s reply to all this?: "He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: The Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall He speak to them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure. Yet have I set My king upon My holy hill of Zion". We shall look at this under three simple (hopefully!) headings.
Tranquillity in Heaven, v.4
God doesn’t even stand up - let alone come down! (The Lord did stand for Stephen - but he was one of His own! See Acts 7.56). He is in perfect and absolute control. "He … sitteth in the heavens." Compare the following: "behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne" Rev.4.2; "behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man" Rev.14.14. Heb.1.13 cites Ps.110.1 (another ‘Messianic Psalm’) in saying, "But to which of the angels said He at any time, Sit on My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool?". How wonderful to read in Ex.3.7,8, "I have surely seen … and have heard … and I am come down to deliver them". It is always worthwhile to notice the Divine titles involved. The word "Lord" here translated Adonahy (Newberry), the Sovereign Ruler, whereas in v.2 the word "LORD" translates Jehovah. This is not a case of ‘elegant variation’. Different titles are used in different contexts. Adonahy is a plural word. This should promote further investigation.
God not only sits, He laughs and you can see why: what an utter farce - here is puny man on earth trying to overthrow Almighty God in heaven. God looks on with ridicule. It is not a laugh of joy, but of scorn. Compare Ps.37.12,13, "The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth. The Lord shall laugh at him: for He seeth that his day is coming"; Ps.59.7,8, "Behold, they belch out with their mouth: swords are in their lips: for who, say they, doth hear? But Thou, O LORD, shalt laugh at them; Thou shalt have all the heathen in derision"; Prov.1.24-26, "Because I have called, and ye refused: I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would have none of my reproof: I will also laugh at your calamity: I will mock when your fear cometh". God laughs here also but it is a laugh of derision. Men derided the Lord Jesus at Calvary, now God mocks them.
Terror on Earth, v.5
That’s what the word "vex" means - to ‘trouble’ or ‘terrify’. Just read Rev.6.15-17 and you will have some idea of the terror on earth: "And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb." Once again, aren’t you glad that you are saved?!
Triumph of the King, v.6
We should notice the expressions, "My King" and "My holy hill of Zion". (Also "My Son" in v.7). "My King": you can almost catch the Divine pleasure in these two words. The Psalm opens with rebel kings – "the kings of the earth"; God now introduces His King. Where is He located? "Upon My holy hill of Zion." He is on earth. Read Isa.2.1-5 and notice the words, "for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem". Jerusalem is going to witness the most blatant idolatry the world has ever seen, and will be described as "the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified" Rev.11.8. Nevertheless it will become "My holy hill of Zion".
THE ASSERTION OF DIVINE RIGHTS, vv.7-9
These three verses emphasise that God’s King, not the "kings of the earth", will have control: "I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession". Let us look at this in three ways:
The Person Who Will Inherit, v.7
The "King" now speaks: "I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto Me, Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee". We are told that there are two words in the Old Testament for "son": ben, as in v.7, is generally used, and bar, as in v.12, rarely occurs. It is said that the first is Hebrew and the second is Aramaic. The verse is quoted three times in the New Testament: Acts 13.33; Heb.1.5; 5.15. While the reference in Acts chapter 13 occurs in a passage that deals overall with the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, it seems more likely that these words refer to His incarnation. Here is the passage: "And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled unto us their children, in that He hath raised up Jesus [omit ‘again’]; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee" Acts 13.32,33. The critical words are, "in that He hath raised up Jesus". They are evidently best understood with reference to vv.22,23: "He raised up unto them David to be their king … of this man’s seed hath God according to His promise raised unto Israel a Saviour Jesus." In both cases, the reference is not to the resurrection of either David or the Lord Jesus, but to their earthly advent. When the Lord Jesus was born at Bethlehem, God said, "Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee". The words that follow in Acts chapter 13, "and as concerning that He raised Him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption" v.34, mark the beginning of a new section in Peter’s preaching: he now turns from the incarnation, vv.32,33, to the resurrection, vv.34-37.
But why say here: "Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee"? The answer lies in the context of the Psalm. "The kings of the earth" are asserting their power and making their demands: but God’s King once humbled Himself, and was "found in fashion as a man". God takes no pleasure in human pride and self assertiveness: but He does take pleasure in the willingness of His Son to accept lowly birth and humble surroundings. With Divine pleasure, God says at His birth: "Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee". By this statement God confirmed the Sonship of the Lord Jesus: He did not confer it.
It should be said, that this interpretation of "Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee" is minority view, but one evidently espoused by W.E.Vine: "It is used of the act of God in the birth of Christ, Acts 13.33; Heb.1.5; 5.5, quoted from Psalm 2.7, none of which indicate that Christ became the Son of God at His birth" (An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words).
The Promise of Inheritance, v.8
"Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession." Proud, arrogant and rebellious men will one day claim the earth, and see every claim smashed. The Lord Jesus, Who came to this earth in humility, and made no claims for Himself, will be given total rights over all men. "Every knee shall bow". There was an occasion when Satan showed "Him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto Him, All these things will I give Thee, if Thou wilt fall down and worship me" Matt.4.8,9: but God says, "ask of Me, and I shall give Thee …"
The Possession of Inheritance, v.9
He will take possession with irresistible power. "Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel." This verse is cited three times in the New Testament, all in Revelation: see Rev.2.26,27; 12.5; 19.15. The coming reign of Christ will be irresistible. None will dare oppose Him. We should notice that in Psalm 1, the ungodly are described as "chaff" v.4, but in this Psalm they are described as fragmented pottery. Both suggest fragility.
THE ADVICE TO SEEK DIVINE RECONCILIATION, vv.10-12
Since it is utterly futile to defy God, the rebellious world rulers are urged to submit to Him. They are to show their submission to God by giving homage to His Son: "Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way". This is, literally, ‘lest ye perish in the way’, that is, in their concerted attempt to overthrow Him. Samuel kissed Saul after he anointed him to be king, 1Sam.10.1. By doing this, he showed immediate homage to the new king. The Lord Jesus was betrayed with a kiss. What a contrast between Ps.2.12 and Lk.22.48! Ultimately, "All kings shall fall down before Him: all nations shall serve Him" Ps.72.11.
Do notice the advice in v.11: "Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling". They are strange combinations, are they not? Or are they?! What do you make of them - and what lesson can we learn here? Just a little homework as we close!
Psalm 2 ends on the same note as Psalm 1. Psalm 1 ends with blessing for the "righteous" and judgment for the "ungodly". Psalm 2 ends with "wrath" on all who oppose God, but "blessed are all they that put their trust in Him". Psalm 1 deals with individuals; Psalm 2 deals with nations.
To be Continued, (D.V.)
by S. Fellowes (Republic of Ireland)
No.3 - THE PARABLE OF THE TARES
Matthew 13.24-30; 36-43
In our previous study we suggested that the first four kingdom parables have in common the activity of the evil one against the work of God. In the parable of the sower we see His intention - Mark tells us, "Satan cometh immediately" Mk.4.15. He wastes no time in "catch[ing] away that which was sown". The parable of the tares will highlight imitation; in the mustard seed parable grotesque increase will be presented; and in the parable of the leaven infiltration of evil into that which is good. It behoves us, like Paul, to be "not ignorant of his devices" 2Cor.2.11.
The period covered in this second parable extends from the beginning of the Lord’s earthly ministry until the coming of the kingdom in manifestation. This is clearly stated by the Lord in Matt.13.37-39. In contrast to the parable of the sower where we were considering four different types of ground, we now focus on one land-mass, or "the field" v.38, which represents the world as a whole.
With this in mind we shall ponder four matters:
There are two sowers and two groups of sons in the parable.
The first sower is the Son of Man. This title of the Lord is found predominately but not exclusively in the Gospels. It highlights the manhood of Christ, see Matt.8.20; His ministry on earth, Matt.9.6; 12.40; and His Messianic rights, Matt.24.27,30,37,39,44. The work of sowing commenced by the Lord continues through His servants during His absence, right unto "the completion of the age" J.N.D.
Alas, another sower is also at work, who is identified in v.25 as "his enemy", and in v.39 as "the Devil". Satan is the great opportunist, taking advantage of the slothfulness of others. He is not content merely to place the tares beside the wheat but to mix them "among the wheat" v.25, and to go on his way secretly.
The work of sowing inevitably produces two different types of harvests, represented by two groups of sons in the passage. While the word "children", teknon, speaks of the fact of birth, "son", huios, speaks of the features which characterise the offspring. Here we have:
The Sons of the Kingdom
These sons are all genuine. They are also known as "sons of God" Matt.5.7; "sons of your Father" Matt.5.45; "sons of light" Lk.16.8; and "sons of the day" 1Thess.5.5. Well may we ask ourselves the question, "Do I display in my life the dignity of a son who resembles his spiritual Father?" Am I growing more like Him as the days go by?
The Sons of the Wicked One
These sons are represented by the tares, v.38. Outwardly, they look like the wheat, but morally as "[sons] of the wicked one" they are very different. Tares can never produce anything worthwhile. We can apply here the principle stated by the Lord Jesus when He said "by their fruits ye shall know them" Matt.7.20. We must ensure that, rather than making excuses for serious lack of progress in one professing salvation, we look for true Biblical conversion, that is, a change from the old life and an interest in the new. This is not an optional extra, it is simply what God requires. Beware of the tares!
THE COMPLETION OF THE AGE
In v.39 we read "the harvest is the end of the world." This statement needs some explanation. The sense is clearer in Darby’s translation: "the harvest is [the] completion of [the] age". Five times in Matthew’s Gospel we find this important phrase, see 13.40,49; 24.3; 28.20.
There are two primary words in the New Testament for "end". One of them is telos which carries the idea of completion or termination. The other word is sunteleia which means "the completion or consummation of the various parts of a scheme" (W.E. Vine). This would refer to the coming to fruition of all events, when God’s appointed climax is reached, and is the word used in v.39.
The word for "age" comes from the Greek aion, in contrast to the word for "the world", kosmos, in v.38, which in this instance refers to the physical globe. Aion denotes rather, "a period of time marked by spiritual or moral characteristics" (W.E. Vine) and indicates the time when God will, to quote E.W. Rogers, "wind up the present state of things and bring in a new era". This new era will be His millennial kingdom.
THE COMING KINGDOM
As this kingdom is about to be inaugurated, vv.41-43 outline four things that will take place. There will be the sending forth of His angels as His ministers to gather out every offensive and lawless element, which could have no place in a kingdom of righteousness, Isa.32.1. These elements will solemnly be cast into the furnace of fire, sealing their eternal doom. When all evil is purged there will be the shining forth of the righteous; the sons of the kingdom will share the glory of their Father’s kingdom.
How true are the words of the poet:
- And when He comes in bright array,
- To lead the conquering line,
- It will be glory then to say,
- That He’s a friend of mine!
- (John Henry Sammis)
THE CARELESSNESS OF HIS OWN
The enemy took advantage of the slumber of men, v.25. This is not mentioned in the interpretation, but it more than adequately serves to warn us of the danger of spiritual slothfulness. If we are careless, the activity of the enemy is unabated. We think of Samson who fell asleep on the knees of Delilah, and thus lost his power with God, Judges chapter 16. Likewise, the bride in the Song of Solomon, slept, only to awake and find He had withdrawn Himself, S of S.5.2,6. In the parable of the virgins, the wise slept as well as the foolish, Matthew chapter 25. These all serve as a warning that it is so easy to become slothful, lazy, and careless, leading to insensitivity to Divine things. "Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober" 1Thess.5.5.
To be Continued, (D.V.)
by Cliff Jones (Wales)
In the first paper we considered "Obedience to the Word of God" and now we shall think of the real humility of Gideon.
HUMBLE AND FEELING INADEQUATE
Throughout the book of Judges, we see God’s love, grace, holiness, righteousness and power revealed in His dealings with the children of Israel. When they wandered away from His revealed will, God used their enemies to chastise and discipline them. One example of this is found in 6.1. The Israelites had enjoyed forty years of peace and rest, 5.31, but once again they fell into sinful ways and God used the Midianites to oppress them for seven years, 6.1. The Midianites were joined by the Amalekites and plundered their crops and their animals. The Midianites were descended from Midian, the son of Abraham’s concubine, Keturah, Gen.25.1,2; 1Chr.1.32, and had long been enemies of the Israelites. They were nomads and used camels, which made it easier to carry out marauding raids, moving quickly over long distances. They had a devastating effect on the people and on the land, 6.2-4, for "they came as grasshoppers for multitude; for both they and their camels were without number" 6.5. They descended on the land like a plague of locusts, destroying and consuming.
The word "Midian" means "strife or division", and it is strife among God’s people, caused by disobedience to the Word of God, which results in the development of jealousies and cliques which create stress, malice, bitterness and divisions among believers. Nothing should be done through strife or vainglory, but with humility of mind, Phil.2.3. The Israelites were "greatly impoverished" Judg.6.6, by the devastating activities of the Midianites, and believers will be greatly impoverished by the effects of strife and division in an assembly. In such an assembly, there will be little profitable feeding on the Word of God, and spiritual growth and fruitful service for God will be hindered.
The written Word of God tells us of the living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, Lk.24.27; Jn.5.39, and obedience to the Word of God will result in believers becoming more like their Lord and Saviour and, in consequence, loving and obeying God and loving each other. Love is the great motivating force which causes believers to seek to obey God, Jn.14.15,21,23. The Lord said that a man who heard His words and obeyed them was a wise man, but he who heard His words and disobeyed them was a foolish man, Matt.7.24-27.
When the Israelites were suffering for their foolish disobedience to God, then once again, in their extremity and trouble they cried to the Lord and He sent a prophet to them to remind them of what God had done for them in the past and how they had failed to honour and obey Him, Judg.6.7-10. They had to realise that they were being punished for their sin and disobedience. It was then that God graciously raised up a judge, Gideon, to deliver His sinning, suffering people. Gideon is brought before us when he was busy threshing wheat. He was doing this secretly in a winepress, not on a threshing floor where the Midianites might find him. It was as he was working to provide food for his family that the "angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour" 6.12. The "angel of the LORD" was a Christophany, a pre-incarnate appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is referred to as "LORD" in v.14, and Gideon feared that he would die because he had seen God, vv.22,23. It was the Lord Who appeared to Gideon and told him to go and save Israel from her oppressors. Gideon does not give the impression of being a "mighty man of valour", as he hid his wheat from the Midianites, but "man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart" 1Sam.16.7. Timid Gideon might have been, but he had this assurance, "The LORD is with thee". By the grace of God, we know that God is greater than Satan, 1Jn.4.4; all things are possible with Him, Matt.19.26, and there is no need to fear when He is with us, Isa.41.10. He chooses to use the weak things of the world so that none may boast or glory before Him, 1Cor.1.26-29. His "strength is made perfect in weakness, 2Cor.12.9, and He "is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think" Eph.3.20. Gideon had faith in God but could not understand why the omnipotent God had allowed all the sufferings the Midianites had inflicted upon His people, Judg.6.13. He did not seem to realise that the people were suffering because they had disobeyed God and turned from Him to worship idols.
Gideon felt inadequate and incapable of doing what the Lord wanted him to do, but the Lord had purposed to use Gideon to deliver the people from the Midianites. God would equip, strengthen, lead and direct Gideon, and all that would be achieved would glorify Him. The Lord said to Gideon, "Go in this thy might ... have not I sent thee?" v.14. Empowered by God, Gideon would deliver Israel, but he was still uncertain and afraid and stressed that his family was poor and he himself insignificant. Gideon was humble and did not seek prominence for himself. Such men God uses, and He graciously assured Gideon of His presence and the defeat of the Midianites, vv.15,16. The promise of God’s enabling, given to Gideon by God, applies to all who serve Him today, and all who are led by the Lord to serve Him, in whatever way that might be, must respond to God’s call, and in so doing will have the God-given assurance that the omnipotent, unchanging God will be with them and will lead and empower them, Matt.28.19,20; Heb.13.5.
The feeling of inadequacy felt by Gideon was also felt by Moses, Ex.4.10, and Jeremiah, Jer.1.6. In contrast, the Lord Jesus Christ knew no sense of inadequacy. He never ceased to be what He is eternally, and that is God, 1Tim.3.16; Matt.1.23. The Lord was ever in the bosom of His Father, Jn.1.18: He came to do the will of His Father, Heb.10.9, and always did those things that pleased Him, Jn.8.29. He loved His Father, glorified Him and finished the work His Father had given Him to do, Jn.14.31; 17.4. He was incapable of sinning and obeyed His Father absolutely and at all times. He was obedient unto death, death on a cross, Phil.2.8.
It seems that Gideon was not yet sure of the identity of the One telling him that he was to deliver Israel, and he asked for a sign, Judg.6.17. The Lord graciously waited while Gideon prepared an offering for Him. The Lord told him to place the offering on a rock, and when He touched the flesh and unleavened bread with His staff, fire came out of the rock and consumed them, showing that Gideon’s offering had been accepted by God, Lev.9.24. The Lord then disappeared, Judg.6.17-21. Gideon was afraid, but the Lord said to him, "Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die" v.23. It was then that Gideon believed that, in the power of God, he would lead the people to victory and peace. He built an altar and called it, "Jehovah-shalom" which means the "LORD is peace", or the "LORD sends peace" v.24.
Today, individuals, families and nations seek for peace. As in the days of Gideon, peace is to be found only in turning to God and obeying Him, for "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked" Isa.57.21. God bestows a peace that is beyond understanding and is independent of surrounding circumstances, Phil.4.7. God is the only source of true, eternal peace. He is the "God of peace" Rom.15.33; 1Thess.5.23. The Lord Jesus Christ, who is the "Prince of Peace" Isa.9.6, has provided eternal peace with God for believers through His substitutionary death and resurrection, Rom.5.1. The Lord is "the Lord of peace" 2Thess.3.16. Not only did He make "peace through the blood of His cross" Col.1.20, but He is our peace and could say, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" Jn.14.27.
Believers can know true peace by staying close to God and obeying His will as revealed by the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures, for "Great peace have they which love Thy law" Ps.119.165, and "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee" Isa.26.3. Faith in the omnipotent God, Who is love, 1Jn.4.8, produces peace, "For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace" Rom.8.6. Peace is part of the fruit the Holy Spirit wants to produce in us, Gal.5.22,23. Disunity and division in assemblies of God’s people can produce devastating consequences and we should be "Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" Eph.4.3. Our Father wants us to enjoy peace with Him and His peace within, and both come from Jehovah-shalom, the Lord Who is peace and sends peace.
To be Continued, (D.V.)
W Gustafson (USA)
In the previous paper we considered that in both the Lord leads His own and that in both the Lord is welcome.
BOTH ARE PLACES OF FRUIT
Bethany means "a house of dates". Bethphage, a neighbouring village means "a house of figs". Both of these towns or villages are on the eastern slopes of the Mount of Olives or Mount Olivet. All three of them get their names from fruit that is or was in abundance in that area. It was at least so before and during the life of Christ. A man who owned a house of dates would not want to waste valuable space on dead branches! He would want it only for dates. Similarly, a New Testament assembly should be composed only of those who can bear fruit to God. No unsaved person can bear any fruit to God at all, no matter how religious or moral. The very best that any unbeliever can do is only "filthy rags" to God, Isa.64.6. The Lord Jesus stated, "I am the vine; ye are the branches: he that abideth in Me, and I in him. The same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing" Jn.15.5. It is only born-again persons, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who can bring forth the nine-fold "fruit of the Spirit" Gal.5.22,23. No unsaved person can do a thing to please God, Rom.8.8. Every child of God in the Word of God is seen as bearing some fruit to God, although in varying degrees, some thirty-fold, some sixty-fold and some an hundred-fold.
We should consider three clauses in reference to local churches in the plural. We often read "churches of God". They belong to Him because He originated them and they are His dwelling places. In Rom.16.16 we read of "Churches of Christ". They belong to Him by purchase, at the cost of His own precious blood. Then in 1Cor.14.33 they are "churches of the saints". That does not mean that they belong to us. They are "churches of saints" by composition. Every assembly should be made up only of believers. It is a mistaken kindness to receive into the assembly someone who is not really born-again. Receiving them can hinder them getting truly saved. I have talked to some people who were once in assembly fellowship and found out that they were not saved. They are sure that they are saved now and they ought to know. I have been struck with the fact that most of them had great difficulty giving up their profession of being saved!
When a person has been interviewed for fellowship and the recommendation of the leadership to the assembly is to receive this person, an announcement concerning this ought to be made to the assembly to give time for all in fellowship to reveal any Scriptural objection that they may have.
IN BOTH THERE IS ROOM FOR WORSHIP, FELLOWSHIP AND SERVICE
At Bethany Mary worshipped, Lazarus enjoyed fellowship at the table, and Martha served, Jn.12.1-3. There is room for all three in a New Testament assembly. Martin Luther was a Roman Catholic priest when he got saved. He believed in the priesthood of all believers. Most evangelicals believe in the priesthood of all believers but the only place I know where it is allowed to function as God intended, is in a company of God’s people gathered to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We see the same three things in God’s threefold demand on Pharaoh in Exodus. God first told Moses to say to Pharaoh, "let us go, we beseech thee, three days journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God" 3.18. In Ex.5.1, God said, "… let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness." Again in Ex.8.1 God said, "Let My people go, that they may serve Me". Notice the order, worship, fellowship and service. This is the best order for sinners and also for saints. Some religious sinners would like to have service first and have salvation by works. Others would like to have the feast first and have salvation by feelings, but sacrifice must come first upon which all else is based!
After we are saved it is still the best order. For the child of God who knows what it is to worship and what it is to maintain fellowship with God, is the one who can render acceptable service for God.
BOTH ARE PLACES OF LEARNING
Arno C. Gaebelein in his Annotated Bible points out that Mary is three times at the feet of the Lord Jesus and acknowledges Him as prophet, priest, and king. In Lk.10.38-42 Mary is at His feet, she receives counsel from Him and acknowledges Him as prophet. In Jn.11.32-35 after her brother Lazarus had died, she is at His feet again. She sees His tears. She receives comfort from Him. In effect she acknowledges Him as priest. In Jn.12.3 she is at His feet anointing them with the very costly ointment and wiping them with her hair. In Matt.26.7 she pours the precious ointment on His head. There is no contradiction between Matthew’s account and John’s. She did both. Matthew records Mary as anointing His head, thus acknowledging Him as king. It is also in perfect harmony with John’s desire to present Him as the Son of God that she anoints His feet. Interestingly, a prophet, Gad, and a priest, Abiathar, shared the rejection of King David in the cave of Adullam, 1Sam.22.5,20-23.
The best place to learn God’s will is in a company of God’s people gathered to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ outside the camp, carrying out the Word of God by the grace of God. There were two outcasts in the Gospel of John who received a special revelation of Himself. The woman of Samaria received a special revelation of Him as the Christ in chapter 4. The man born blind was cast out in chapter 9. He received a special revelation of Him as the Son of God. Abraham was on friendly terms with God in Gen.18.17-22 when God told him of His plan to destroy all the cities of the plain. Even though Lot was living in Sodom, God never told him what He told separated Abraham, Ps.25.12,14.
BOTH ARE PLACES OF BLESSING TO SAVED AND UNSAVED PERSONS
In John chapter 11 the dead man Lazarus is a picture of an unsaved person, "dead in trespasses and sins" Eph.2.1, even as we once were. At the grave of Lazarus, the Lord Jesus wanted to use His disciples as much as He could. He could easily have rolled away the stone but instead He said, "Take ye away the stone" v.39. He still wants to use us in taking away stones that are hindering persons from getting saved. Some have done it by offering them a ride. Some sisters have removed a stone by offering to baby-sit small children so their mothers could hear the gospel. We can also remove stones of stumbling by correcting a wrong understanding of Bible passages, but we must never forget that only the Lord Jesus Christ can give Divine life to those who are dead to God.
I have tried to help saints understand that "salvation is of the LORD" Jonah 2.9, and only He can impart eternal life, but we are not completely free of that error. Many years ago an exercised sister told me of the experience of her unsaved sister during a gospel series in the locality. An evangelist asked her unsaved sister if she believed Jn.3.16 and she said she did. He replied, "then you are saved". She said, "No, I’m not saved". But after about 30 minutes she must have thought, "I didn’t think that I was saved, but he is an evangelist and he says that I am saved. Maybe I am saved". There were about 30 who professed salvation. I hope no one is surprised that a month later hardly any one of them was giving any evidence of being born-again!
I admire the courage of the late William MacDonald in writing a six-page leaflet entitled, "Evangelical Dilemma". He pointed out that most Christians want to see souls saved, but he wrote against going in for large numbers of empty professions without it being a work of the Spirit of God. In other words he writes against false professions.
Bethany is also a place of blessing to saved persons. The Lord wanted to use Lazarus after he got physical life, "Loose him and let him go". There are persons who have Divine life but they have grave clothes clinging to them. Grave clothes are things that they learned in their unsaved days that are hindering their spiritual progress.
BOTH ARE PLACES OF ANTICIPATION
Acts 1.9-11 took place at Bethany and has a message of anticipation given by the angel, albeit a probable reference to His manifestation. However, Jn.11.25,26 were also given at Bethany. We can interpret those verses in the clear light of 1Thess.4.16,17. The Lord Jesus tells us that He is two things and He does two things. He is the resurrection. He said, referring to the dead in Christ, "He that believeth on Me though he were dead, yet shall he live". He is the life in v.26 and His words, "He that liveth and believeth in Me shall never die" refers to those alive at the time of the rapture of the church.
It is very interesting that God used the same men (like J.N. Darby, William Kelly, and C.H. Mackintosh) who revived the truth of the rapture to revive the truth of meeting in New Testament simplicity, gathered simply to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
At the rapture every believer of the church age will be gathered unto Him, 2Thess.2.1, and every denominational name will be dropped. The Lord Jesus is worthy that it should be so in heaven and He is also worthy that in any given locality every believer should be gathered to His name and His name alone!
No.2 - How Can I Know the Will of God?
This is both an easy and a difficult question to answer. I will deal with the easy bit first. God’s general will is revealed in Scripture. For example, the Bible says that God wills that all men should be saved, 2Tim.2.4, hence if we are not saved we know that God wishes us to be saved. Another example is that He wishes us to be holy, 1Thess.4.3. Therefore we know that if we want to watch a film that is sexually explicit or have a physical relationship with a member of the opposite sex outside of marriage, this is not God’s will. The Bible also teaches that God’s will is that Christians should be baptised. Thus, if we are saved but not baptised we are not doing God’s will since the Bible is clear that we should be baptised, e.g. Acts 2.38,41 etc. These examples show that the Bible reveals God’s will for us. If we want to know what God’s will is we should consult the Bible. Once we know what God’s will is we should do it, Jn.2.5.
But while God’s will in general is clear it is not always easy to know God’s will about particular things. For example the Bible teaches that a Christian should not get himself into close relationships with unsaved people, 2Cor.6.14. An obvious example of this is marriage. Hence it can never be God’s will for a Christian to marry an unsaved person. The Bible teaches that a Christian should marry "in the Lord" 1Cor.7.39. But who should that person be? God does not put a mark on the forehead of the person we should marry! In this connection we must pray that God will lead us to make the right decision. God has promised to lead the child of God, Rom.8.14. He has placed the Spirit of God in us, Jn.14.17, and the Spirit is able to guide us, Jn.16.13. He can control our thoughts and feelings. He can control our circumstances as well as those of others. So if we earnestly pray to God for guidance and are willing to wait for God to make His will clear, He is able to bring people together in accordance with His will. Of course we sometimes find it hard to distinguish our will from His will. It is therefore important to wait on God and not rush into important decisions. To make a mistake about God’s will in marriage is a very serious thing, since the marriage bond is for life.
Is it God’s will that I should be happy and wealthy?
Paul, one of the greatest servants of God, was often distressed, Phil.3.18, and sad, 2Cor.2.4. He was poor, 2Cor.11.24-28, and had bad health, 2Cor.12.7. The Lord Jesus was the "Man of sorrows" and He was poor and suffered a dreadful death. This shows conclusively that the good and holy do not always have happy and prosperous lives. It is true of course that those that do the will of God are at peace with Him and have joy in their service for God. But this does not mean that they are immune from sorrow and deprivation. In the Old Testament God blessed Israel with good harvests and safety when they obeyed Him. If they disobeyed He allowed famine and invasion. It seems that in those days health and wealth were a sign that Israel was doing God’s will, although that was not invariable as the lives of His prophets makes clear. They were often persecuted even though they were doing God’s will. Whatever the position in the Old Testament, in the New Testament God’s approval is measured in spiritual, not material blessings.
How did God reveal His will in the Old Testament?
Often we wish that God would resolve our dilemmas in the same way that He resolved the children of Israel’s many years ago. When they came out of Egypt and didn’t know which way to go, He gave them a pillar of cloud. All they had to do was follow it. When it stood still, they stood still. When it moved they moved. It was a form of Old Testament ‘sat nav’. However, the pillar of cloud and of fire were exceptional forms of guidance and disappeared after Israel entered the Land. They only revealed God’s will about one matter. It is clear that in the Old Testament it was sometimes difficult to discern God’s will. They had limited means of guidance at their disposal (e.g. the Urim and Thumim) and the nation was plagued by false prophets.
In fact the Christian today is better off than the Israelite. We have a Bible to read. The Israelite of the Old Testament did not have a copy of the Bible. Printing had yet to be invented and in any event even if he had he would probably not have been able to read it. It was not until after the Reformation that Bibles became widely available. In addition they knew nothing about the Lord Jesus and New Testament truth was unknown.
Today God does not use pillars of cloud. He has supplied Christians with a written record of His will in the form of the Scriptures. He has given the Holy Spirit to dwell within the believer. He answers prayer for guidance. He encourages us to seek guidance from older and wiser Christians whom He has fitted to provide advice. Although the Old Testament (and the beginning of the church age) is full of special revelations of God’s will (angels and prophets with direct guidance from God), these forms of guidance are not used by God today.
To be Continued, (D.V.)
by David McKinley (Canada)
Truly separated Christians ought to have no part nor lot in the politics of this world. If we wish to please the Lord and be a clear testimony to Him in a perishing world, we steer clear of voting in the election of people to political office. Some Scriptural reasons for these statements are given below, that the godly may be fortified in their stand and that the less instructed or those recently saved may be given clear guidance as to why assemblies of Christians gathered to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, have consistently abstained from political involvement. Why then should we abstain?
BECAUSE OF OUR SUPERIOR PRIVILEGE
"I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty" 1Tim.2.1,2
By frequenting the prayer closet we exert a lot more influence than by entering the polling centre! We can understand the worldly person getting excited about voting since it is the only day available to him in four years perhaps, to try to influence the political scene to his own advantage. By contrast, the Christian can enter the immediate presence of the eternal God, on the grounds of the blood of Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit, many times a day, every day of the year and pray that God’s will, will be worked out in the governance of nations.
BECAUSE OF OUR LORD’S EXAMPLE
"My kingdom is not of this world; if My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is My kingdom not from hence" Jn.18.36
Our Lord was rejected by all sectors of society. He presented all the irrefutable credentials of His Deity and Messiah-ship, but the builders of human society in that day had no place in their structure for Him or the Kingdom He represented. He was indeed "the stone which the builders rejected" Matt.22.42. He mounted no resistance to the politics of either the religious or civil leaders of His day. "The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord" Matt.10.24,25. How blessed to know that it won’t be long till we leave behind this poor world of political strife, corruption, violence and sinful pleasures to join the holy throng of the redeemed above in singing, "We give Thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come: because Thou hast taken to Thee Thy great power, and hast reigned" Rev.11.17.
BECAUSE OF OUR CITIZENSHIP, OUR CHARACTER AND CALLING
Our Citizenship: Heavenly - "For our conversation [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ" Phil.3.20.
As citizens of a heavenly land we are occupied with the concerns of our homeland, not of this world that is soon going to come under the judgment of the One they reject and disown. Can we get involved in a world system that crucified our dearest Friend? Ah, no! Our hearts are occupied with the One Who has sat down with His Father on His throne and Who is destined to assume the reins of government in this world, where He once was crucified. According to His promise "Surely I come quickly" Rev.22.20, He will soon return. Should we then be found striving with the "potsherds of the earth" Isa.45.9, over issues that relate only to a world which presently "lieth in wickedness"? [or "in the Wicked one"].
Our Character: Strangers and Pilgrims - "Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts that war against the soul."1Pet.2.11
We are not at home here, nor was our Lord, Whose own brethren didn’t believe in Him, (until after His resurrection). "I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother’s children" Ps.69.8. We make our pilgrimage through this world, going where He has gone, to our heavenly home. Can we then turn aside from our pilgrim pathway to dabble in the affairs of a ‘foreign’ land? Abraham, that great pilgrim, said to the people among whom he moved, "I am a stranger and a sojourner with you" Gen.23.4, but they said "Thou art a mighty prince [a prince of God] among us" Gen.23.6. His separation enhanced his testimony, while by contrast his nephew Lot went to Sodom and became a judge in their society. Of him the men of Sodom said "This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse with thee, than with them" Gen.19.9. His compromise with Sodom’s affairs spoiled any testimony he had when he first arrived there. Our testimony to the poor perishing souls around us is clearest, when they see that we have a bright hope beyond this world and that we do not need to join in its politics or its other interests for our enjoyment or satisfaction.
Our Calling: Ambassadors - "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ," 2Cor.5.20
An ambassador represents his sovereign in a foreign land. His whole interest is to live among strangers with a single eye to the advancement of the interests of his homeland, in that alien society. He does not, indeed he cannot, vote in the land in which he lives, simply because his politics are in another land. Part of his duties may be to oversee the emigration of people from that land to his own land. He will ensure that they are suitable candidates to migrate and that they are prepared to live under the rule of his sovereign and abide by the laws of his homeland. So we represent our absent Lord here and seek to witness to others and see them own Christ as Lord. We long to see people interested in our homeland and fitted to be citizens of that "land of fadeless day" to which we will soon be called.
To be Concluded, (D.V.)
by Jeremy C. Gibson, England
Paper 1: Introduction
Read: Matt.4.12-25; 8.2-4,14-17; 9.2-17; 12.1-21; Mk.1.14-3.12; Lk.4.14-6.11; John chapters 4 and 5.
Much of our Lord’s public ministry took place in Galilee, interspersed with brief excursions to other regions, especially Jerusalem to attend the feasts, as was required of all Jewish men, Ex.23.14-17. Since other Galileans attended these feasts, and saw "all the things that He did at Jerusalem" Jn.2.23; 4.45, even His Judean ministry could be seen as an extension of His witness in Galilee.
This humble focus on the rural north, away from the limelight of Jerusalem, was a clear indictment of the religious leadership of the day, whose hearts were far removed from Jehovah, Isa.29.13. Being in the borders of gentile territory, it also indicated that, while He came primarily to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, there was room in His kingdom for repentant gentiles; see Isa.11.10; 14.1,2; 42.1; 49.5-7; 56.1-8; 66.18-24; Ezek.47.22,23. Also, His bright testimony in Galilee fulfilled, in measure, an Old Testament prophecy, Isa.9.1,2; Matt.4.15,16.
It was during the reign of king Ahaz, when Judah was harassed by a northern confederacy of Syria and Israel, and Jehovah threatened to bring down upon Judah the imperial might of Assyria, that Isaiah warned the nations that they could not overcome God’s people, "for God is with us" Isa.8.10,11. Those stressful conditions of Isaiah’s day anticipated a yet darker future, when the nation will be attacked by a greater army and by a far more ruthless ruler. And when it is felt that all is lost, "the people which sit in darkness will see great light" Matt.4.16; Isa.9.1,2, with the coming of Messiah – "the sun of righteousness … with healing in His wings" Mal.4.2. Israel will then be multiplied, exalted, joyful, Isa.9.3, liberated from their enemies, Isa.9.4,5, and ruled by a Divine Davidic King, Who has an unending fatherly concern for His people, Isa.9.6,7.
The Lord’s ministry as a whole and not just that in Galilee, looked forward to those future halcyon days for Israel. The Lord healed "all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people" Matt.4.23, just as illness will be eradicated during His millennial rule, Isa.35.5,6. His power over demons, Matt.4.24, proved in principle the possibility of Satan being bound in the bottomless pit for 1000 years, Rev.20.1-3. His rising popularity, with great multitudes following Him "from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan" Matt.4.25, prefigured His universal appeal when He finally sits on the Davidic throne, Isa.2.1-3. Both John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus preached repentance in view of a soon to be established messianic Kingdom, Matt.3.2; 4.17.
Matthew not only began his record of the early Galilean ministry with a quotation from Isa.9.1,2; he finished it with a further quotation from the prophet, Isa.42.1-4; Matt.12.17-21. And so, while Matthew tended to clump events together thematically rather than chronologically and his record of the early Galilean ministry is dotted with later events, he sandwiched it in between these two messianic prophecies of Isa.9.1,2 and 42.1-4.
An exact chronology of the early Galilean ministry is not straightforward, although Mark and Luke’s relatively strict chronological accounts make it easier. It may have gone something like this. Hearing of the imprisonment of John the Baptist, Matt.14.3-5; Mk.6.17-20; Lk.3.19,20, and fully aware that "the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptised more disciples than John", Christ moved northward from Judaea into Galilee with His disciples, Matt.4.12; Mk.1.14; Jn.4.1-3. He did this, knowing "that a prophet hath no honour in his own country" Jn.4.44. Having passed through Samaria, Jn.4.4-42, they arrived in Cana where the Lord Jesus healed the nobleman’s son at a distance, Jn.4.46-54. He then moved south to Nazareth, where they rejected Him and sought to kill Him, Lk.4.16-30. In response to their outburst, the Lord moved further north to Capernaum, a city which sat on the edge of the Sea of Galilee and which was to become immensely privileged spiritually, Matt.11.23. The Lord taught in the city’s synagogue, Mk.1.21; Lk.4.31, and seems to have used Capernaum as a base from which to preach throughout Galilee, Matt.4.23-25; Mk.1.38,39; Lk.4.42-44.
It would appear that the disciples had returned to fishing – probably to support themselves and their families – from which the Lord re-called them, Matt.4.18-20; Mk.1.16-20; Lk.5.1-11. Then, on one Sabbath in Capernaum, Christ exorcised a demoniac, cured Peter’s mother-in-law and healed many late into the night. The following day He began His first Galilean preaching circuit, Matt.4.23-25; Mk.1.38,39; Lk.4.42-44. In one of these Galilean cities He cleansed a leper, Matt.8.2-4; Mk.1.40-45; Lk.5.12-16; returning to Capernaum, He healed a paralytic, Matt.9.2-8; Mk.2.1-12; Lk.5.17-26. At a local tax office, He called Levi, Matt.9.9-17; Mk.2.13-22; Lk.5.27-39. After this the Lord seems to have gone to Jerusalem for a Jewish feast, perhaps Passover, John chapter 5. After further opposition at Jerusalem, He returned northward again. It was possibly during this northern journey that the disciples plucked the grains of corn, Matt.12.1-8; Mk.2.23-28; Lk.6.1-5. On another Sabbath He healed a man with a withered hand and then again withdrew because of Jewish opposition, Matt.12.9-21; Mk.3.1-12; Lk.6.6-11. This fifth withdrawal ended the early portion of the Lord’s Galilean ministry and it looks as if after this the Lord taught less in the formal setting of the synagogues (although this did still occur, e.g. Jn.6.59) and more in the open air.
As with every part of the Lord’s life, His early Galilean ministry affords practical lessons for our Christian service. Christ came in the power of the Spirit, Lk.4.14 and prayed regularly, Mk.1.35. He did not become proud when there "went out a fame of Him through all the region round about" Lk.4.14; neither was He discouraged when opposition broke out. We too should serve in the Spirit’s energy, "pray without ceasing" 1Thess.5.17, remain humble when popular and be steadfast when opposed, 1Cor.15.58.
Note the Saviour’s withdrawals during His early Galilean ministry:
- When the Pharisees heard that Christ made more disciples than John, He travelled north, Jn.4.1-3:
- After the murderous rage in the synagogue at Nazareth, He moved to Capernaum, Lk.4.30,31:
- In response to heightened publicity, He withdrew into the wilderness to pray, Lk.5.16:
- Following the opposition in John chapter 5, He returned to Galilee from Jerusalem:
- He withdrew again after the withered hand miracle, Matt.12.15; Mk.3.7.
Also of interest are Christ’s defences of Sabbath day activities during early Galilean ministry:
- Christ’s absolute equality with the Father, Jn.5.17:
- Human need overrides specific requirements of Mosaic Law, Matt.12.3,4:
- Sanctioned spiritual activities take precedence over the Sabbath, Matt.12.5:
- Humans are of more value than animals, Matt.12.12:
- The Sabbath was primarily for man’s benefit, to allow rest and recuperation, Mk.2.27:
To be Continued (D.V.)
by Brownlow North
Never neglect daily private prayer; and when you pray, remember that God is present, and that He hears your prayers, Heb.11.6.
Never neglect daily private Bible-reading; and when you read, remember that God is speaking to you, and that you are to believe and act upon what He says. I believe backsliding begins with the neglect of these two rules, Jn.5.39.
Never let a day pass without trying to do something for the Lord Jesus. Every night reflect on what He has done for you, and then ask yourself "What am I doing for Him?" Matt.5.13-16.
If ever you are in doubt as to a thing being right or wrong, go to your room, and kneel down and ask God’s blessing upon it, Col.3.17. If you cannot do this, it is wrong.
Never take your Christianity from Christians, or argue that because such and such people do so and so, that therefore you may, 2Cor.10.12. You are to ask yourself, "How would Christ act in my place?" and strive to follow Him, Jn.10.27.
Never believe what you feel, if it contradicts God’s Word. Ask yourself, "Can what I feel be true, if God’s Word is true?" and if both cannot be true, believe God, and make your own heart the liar, Rom.3.4; 1Jn.5.10,11.
In The Interests Of Security
We live in a highly security-conscious age with security guards, security fences, security lights, security cameras, security alarms, etc. etc. We are increasingly aware of more and more threats to our security and by all means we endeavour to minimise the risks and dangers and eliminate the threats.
However, there is one area where there is an alarming neglect and carelessness on our part; that is in relation to our eternal security. We secure our homes, our cars, our computers but we leave our undying soul exposed to all forms of danger. We are so obsessed with the physical, the temporal, the external that we have failed to protect our most precious asset, our soul. We can replace the car, we can have viruses removed, we can repair damage to our homes but we cannot undo the irreparable damage that will be sustained if we lose our soul.
- To lose your wealth is much,
- To lose your health is more;
- To lose your soul is such a loss,
- That nothing can restore.
I ask you then, my friend, have you ensured the eternal security of your immortal soul; are you saved? Have you, until now, fallen into the same trap as the ‘rich farmer’ of Luke chapter 12? Have your priorities been your career, your finances, your health, your family, etc. so much so that your precious soul has been neglected? Have you been so preoccupied with the years ahead; making provision for retirement and the other contingencies of life that the consideration of your invaluable soul has been buried under all the other encumbrances that have filled your life hitherto?
Thankfully God has made provision for our eternal security. The Lord Jesus said, "I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish" John 10.28. He also affirmed, "… those that Thou gavest Me I have kept, and none of them is lost …" John 17.12. The life that we receive when we trust Christ is "eternal life" John 3.15; "everlasting life" John 3.16. In Hebrews 7.25 we read, "He is able also to save them to the uttermost [evermore, completely] that come unto God by Him …" Paul wrote, "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" Romans 8.38,39. These rock-solid, iron-clad, inviolable guarantees ought to reassure us; we need not fear to trust Christ; we should not hesitate for one moment to rely on Him alone for our eternal security.
Dear reader, is all well for eternity? If you died today, are you sure that you would be in heaven? If your answer to these questions is ‘No’, please do not rest until you have guaranteed your eternal security by trusting the Lord Jesus Christ Who died for your sins and rose again, thereby providing an eternal salvation for us. When you trust Christ, He assumes full responsibility for your salvation and it is utterly impossible for a soul trusting Him to perish. You can have that unshakable peace, that unwavering confidence today if you "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ" Acts 16.31.
- O, what can equal joy divine or what can sweeter be,
- Than knowing that the soul is safe for all eternity?