IT is contended by some that baptism is not essential for reception to the local church, but that faith in Christ alone is. As proof of this we are told that “the eunuch was baptized, but we never read of his being in a local church. He may have been, but the silence of Scripture on this point is instructive.” What instruction this silence affords us, it is hard to see. To be candid, it teaches us nothing. We might as well conclude that the Ethiopian never again read the book of Isaiah, never afterwards prayed or witnessed for Christ, because Acts 8 does not expressly say that he did these things.
The Case of Apollos
An attempt to prove the same thing is also made from the fact that in Acts 18 Luke does not say that Apollos, who “knew only the baptism of John” (v. 25), was baptized with Christian baptism before being received by Aquila and Priscilla, in whose house the church met (1 Cor. 16:19). From this it is suggested that strangers, even though they hold questionable teaching, should be received to assembly fellowship and later instructed in the truth.
Is there ground, however, for concluding that Apollos was not baptized just because it is not mentioned that he was? "Are we to imagine,” asks Dr. Edwards, Australia, “that the Christians at Antioch in Syria were not baptized because the narrative of the formation and early growth of this assembly omits mention of it? Was not baptism universal among Christians then?” There is another possible explanation of this silence, however. It may be that Apollos had been baptized with John’s baptism, while it was still valid—before it was superseded by Christian baptism—in which case he probably did not require to be re-baptized. The apostles were disciples of John, and there is no record of their being baptized again.
Regarding the statement that the church met in the house of Aquila and Priscilla, this does not necessarily imply that the clause, “they took him unto them” (v. 26), means that they received him into assembly fellowship. Surely such receiving does not fall within the province of a sister, or of a man and his wife. Clearly what the verse means is that Aquila and Priscilla took Apollos to their home, showed him hospitality, as they were accustomed to do with strangers (see Acts 18:1-3; Rom. 16:3, 4), and “expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.” Can one imagine that their instruction did not include Christian Baptism, as one of the first steps of loving obedience to the Lord?
Was there a Church at Troas?
Again, since it is not anywhere recorded that there was a church at Troas, attempts are made to show that in Acts 20:5-12 the Apostle and his eight travelling companions broke bread upon their journey, where there was no permanent assembly testimony. The R.V. reading of verse 7, “when we were gathered together to break bread,” is relied upon as supporting this view. If, however, the “we” refers exclusively to the Apostle and his party, how are we to understand the next clause, “Paul preached unto them”? Why does it not read, "Paul preached unto us”? Surely the reference here, and in v. 11, R.V. (“talked with them a long while”), and also in v. 12 (“they brought the young man alive”) is to other saints who were also at the Lord’s Supper. It seems superfluous to have to point this out. Then is it not safe to conclude that there was an assembly at Troas, and that what is here described was the customary Remembrance Meeting upon the first day of the week? A reading of 2 Cor. 2:12, 13 leads one to the same conclusion. When at Troas upon his outward journey, Paul was disappointed not to meet his friend Titus there. “Taking his leave of them”, therefore, “he went from thence into Macedonia.” From whom does this language suggest that he was here parted? Was it not from the Lord’s people?—of course it was.
It is therefore futile to appeal to Acts 20 as an example of brethren breaking bread where there was no assembly. The passage, however, does teach by example how often the Supper should be celebrated. “The custom of the church at Troas”, wrote the late Mr. C. F. Hogg, “is recorded, surely for our learning. The believers at Troas did not gather because Paul and his party were visiting them. On the contrary, the narrative plainly indicates that though the visitors arrived on the morning of Monday, and though their journey was urgent (v. 16), yet they did not convene a special meeting for the purpose, but waited for the first day of the week.” Let it be observed that Mr. Hogg, who was a most painstaking student of Scripture, did not hesitate to speak of “the church at Troas.”
It is well to be warned that this principle of building an argument upon silence is one not infrequently used by Higher Critics in their attacks upon God’s Word. To expose the fallacy of such a principle, Prof. R. D. Wilson in his, “Is the Higher Criticism Scholarly?” makes an interesting reference to Scribner’s History of the United States of America. This work has 53 pages, double column, of Index, in which the word “Presbyterian” never occurs, “Church” only twice, and "Christian” only in the phrase, “Christian Commission.” Further, in 3,500 pages quarto there is no mention of "Thanksgiving Day,” and the Bible is referred to only in the relation of the Bible Society to slavery. Yet how foolish it would be to conclude from these silences that Christianity is practically unknown in the States, and that the last Thursday of November is not set apart for the giving of thanks in that land! Thus while admittedly there is often a significance in the silence of Scripture, it is, as Mr. A. Borland recently wrote, “a most dangerous procedure” to build an argument upon such a basis.
ROMANS 8, and particularly the latter part of it, is amongst the best known of Scriptures to all who love the Lord and His Word. It has been a sheet anchor, and at the same time a well of comfort, to many a tried soul. Of all the verses in it, v. 28 is perhaps the one with which we are most familiar: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”
As I have often before pointed out, however, there lies in that very fact a danger, for we think of such well-known Scriptures in a detached kind of way, giving little consideration to their context, but treating them as separate texts. The result is that while we do gain some help from them, we miss a great deal more which we ought to get, for all God’s gems are better in their own setting than in any other.
Indeed it is becoming far too prevalent amongst us, and it is no credit to our present Bible knowledge, to use verses and phrases of Scripture almost at random, not only detached from their context, but in a sense totally opposed to their context, and with meanings which we ourselves have invented. For example, it is to me almost amusing to hear, both in city and country assemblies, brethren quote in their prayers, when referring to the sufferings of Christ for us, that verse in Job 41: “Lay thine hand upon him, remember the battle, do no more.” It is not in any sense the work of Christ, or our relationship to it, that we are here asked to remember, but rather the might of the terrible creature called “leviathan.” Whatever else the leviathan may be a type of, he is certainly not a type of Christ. One could quote many another instance of such foolish application of detached texts.
So I wish you now to consider this 28th verse in its connection with the entire passage, and also to some extent in its connection with the subject of the Epistle. For the Epistle is a very orderly one and deals with its grand subject in a very orderly manner, having each point arranged in its proper place. Indeed, it might be compared to a great sermon. If you ask, “What is the text of the sermon?” I would say you have it in chap. 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
Like many other sermons of learned preachers, this one has only three heads, and one tail. Small preachers, you know, have less heads and more tails, and some have no heads and so many tails that you find it difficult to know when they are going to stop
speaking. Unlike many other great sermons, these heads are really in the text, and have not to be squeezed into it. You will notice that the text has in it three clauses: First—"I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ;” Second— “For it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth;” Third—“To the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Now, these three clauses agree remarkably well with the three great divisions of the Epistle, and the words the Apostle uses in the previous verse to introduce his text—“I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome”— will also serve as an introduction to what I have called the tail of the Epistle.
The second clause of the text being the most important, is dealt with under the first head. “It is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth,” is surely a fit top line for that part of the Epistle which reaches from here to the end of chap. 8, in which is set forth, more fully than anywhere else in Scripture, the Doctrine of the Gospel. It would be interesting to trace out how he does this, but we cannot do so now. Only this I will say, that here again he is like other great preachers, for he considers this first great head under three sub heads. For these sub heads you will find suitable titles in 1 Cor. 1, in the words ending verse 30 there—“Righteousness, Sanctification and Redemption.” Up to the end of chap. 5 the writer shows how God imputes Righteousness to everyone that believeth. In chaps. 6 and 7 and the opening verses of chap. 8, he deals with the believer’s Sanctification; and in the remainder of the chapter, with his Redemption.
The Apostle then under his second head, takes up in chaps. 9-11 the Dispensational aspect of the Gospel, and for this the third clause of what I have called his text, is a suitable headline—"To the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Here again you see three subdivisions. Chap. 9 takes us back to the past side of the matter; chap. 10 is occupied with the present aspect of it, as are some of the opening verses of chap. 11; while the rest of chap. 11 deals more with the future view of God’s dealings with Israel.
Next, from chap. 12:1 to the middle of chap. 15, we have what comes under the third head of this great address. Here we see the practical outcome of this Gospel of power, and with this the first clause of our text, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ,” is easily connected, for one who is not ashamed of the Gospel will assuredly act as we are commanded in these chapters. In fact amongst the very first detailed instructions is an exhortation to exercise whatever gift we have, and that is the very connection in which Paul used the words, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel,” in ch. 1. In this third great section we are not without the usual threefold division, for throughout chap. 12 we are given what should be our attitude to men in general; in chap. 13 we have our relationship to the powers that be; and in chap. 14 and the first part of chap. 15, our relationship to our weak brethren.
“Finally, brethren,” as the great preachers say, we get at the close of chap. 15 and in chap. 16, the Apostle’s concluding remarks on his visit to Rome, and his salutations for the saints, to all of which, as I have already said, the remark with which in chap. 1:15 he introduced his text—I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also,” would lead us.
Now, while this may seem to have been a wandering from my own text in chap. 8:28, it will, as I said before, help us much in the understanding of it, to see what its setting in the Epistle is. It is found in the closing paragraph of the first and most important division of the Epistle, a paragraph which shows how perfect is our salvation, how irresistible are God’s purposes for us, and how unassailable is our standing in Christ. It is, as it were, the climax of all that goes before, in which nothing of our guilty condition or inherent weakness is concealed. All our need has been fully met and provided for, with the result that we stand justified from our guilt through the blood of Christ, and given power over sin by the indwelling Spirit of God. Not only so, but the Apostle takes a last look around, as it were, to see if there be anything else in all the Universe to upset or harm us. He sees that the believer suffers in this present time, and that the whole creation around him is a groaning scene. Is there any danger of God’s purposes being nullified by any effect of this? No, for our bodies themselves are yet going to participate fully in the benefits of redemption, and the entire creation is eagerly awaiting that day which is to come, for then “creation itself shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” Moreover, that great “day of redemption” is the very aim and goal before that Holy Spirit whom God has placed in us.
This now is the point at which our verse 28 occurs. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” What, however, are these “all things”? Why of course they are as wide as the Universe itself. Everything throughout it MUST work for good, that is for the furthering and bringing on to completion of His purpose concerning us. That this is what is meant the next two verses plainly show: “For whom He foreknew, He also foreordained to be conformed to the image of His Son . . . and whom He foreordained, them He also called: and whom He called them He also justified- and whom He justified, them He also glorified” (R.V.). Here are the five great wheels of God’s purposes “working together for good,” the last, from the Divine point of view, moving as soon as the first, so that all, even to the “glorified,” are thrown into the past tense—FOREKNEW—FOREORDAINED—CALLED—JUSTIFIED—GLORIFIED. And when these big wheels are working together, of course all the lesser wheels are working together with them. Look at the wheels in a large machine and you will say, "Oh that one is working against the others. It is turning backwards.’ ‘Not at all,’ the engineer will say, ‘it is just because it is working with the others that it turns backward. That is as necessary to my machine as those you would speak of as turning forward.” When Jacob looked at some wheels in God’s purpose, he exclaimed, “All these things are against me” (Gen. 42:36). He had lost Joseph, he had lost Simeon, and now his sons wanted to take from him Benjamin also. Yet Jacob had not actually lost one of them, and very soon the revolving wheels of God’s purpose brought him face to face with his beloved Joseph and with Simeon, too.
When in affliction or trouble of any kind, we too are often tempted to say, “All these things are against me.” Perhaps, tried saint, you are saying this today. Well, what of our verse, “All things work together for good”? Does that not lift your head? God knows what He is doing and what He has in view. He makes no mistakes. On a greater, and might I say, less selfish scale, some who have the interest of God’s people and the Gospel at heart, as they look around, may say, ‘Yes, but in the world at the present time, all things ARE against us. Interest in the Gospel is dying. People will not come to our meetings. Small assemblies of saints are dying out. Larger ones are becoming so worldly-minded that there is hardly anything remaining.’ Well, Elijah thought like that one day and said, “They have thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left” (1 Ki. 19:14). But in reply, God assured him that there were wheels moving that he had not yet seen. “I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal” (1 Ki. 19:18). The Lord had a prophet ready to carry on Elijah’s work too, and He had a captain named Jehu who would wipe out Baalism to the very last worshipper. Personally, I often feel like Elijah, for I wonder what will happen to the testimony when a few more of the older brethren die. Yet, after all, why should I feel so, for as someone said long ago, ‘God buries His workmen, but carries on His work’?
IN our previous paper we sought to show how Solomon reached the throne of his father and became established as king of Israel; we shall now trace some of the features of the new sovereign’s administration and note the benefits that were enjoyed by his subjects as a result of his wise rule. None will doubt that the highest peak of Israel’s national glory was attained during the early years of his reign. So peaceful and prosperous was this period that it has ever been considered as typical of the Millennial kingdom of Christ. It is true that during the forty years of David’s rule, the downtrodden and subjected nation had risen to be the most influential people of that time, and that Solomon had inherited not only a crown from his father, but spiritual and material wealth as well; yet we must give the young king due credit, for he filled his high position with an ability, seldom, if ever, equalled by any of his successors.
It would seem that David, when giving his last injunction to Solomon, had before his mind the great charge given to Joshua when he took over the leadership of the tribes after the death of Moses. Possibly the aged king could perceive a close parallel between the responsibilities of his young son and those of the son of Nun. Both new rulers were told to be strong and courageous in their obedience to the Word of God, and both were promised prosperity on that basis. In this we are taught that only those who have learned to obey, can expect to be obeyed. Could too much stress be put upon this vital principle, especially in the case of overseers in assemblies? It looks unreasonable to have to press this elementary truth upon leading brethren, yet we are convinced that only those who strictly adhere to all God’s truth and closely conform to it in life and testimony, can experience His help and blessing, so indispensable in the ruling of His house.
Solomon was young and tender, his muscles undeveloped in the use of bow and sword, and his mind untrained in the strategy of war, yet because his heart treasured God’s Word and he had strength to obey it, no force on earth could dethrone him. The New Testament impresses upon our minds the same principle. Whether we think of Paul’s charge to the elders of Ephesus—"I commend you to God and the Word of His grace” (Acts 20:32), or his last epistle to his son in the faith, wherein the importance of the Scriptures is stressed in every chapter; or of Peter’s words in his second epistle—"We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that he take heed” (II Peter 1:19); or whether we think of the commendation of the Lord given to the church at Philadelphia—"Thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word” (Rev. 3:8), the same solemn lesson is taught, namely, that subjection to the Scriptures is the royal road to blessing. Had not David learned by painful experience that all his troubles arose from disobedience to God’s commandments, and will not the latter years of Solomon vindicate the same unchanging law? To preserve Israel’s kings in the path of obedience, the Lord commanded that each of them should write out a copy of the law for himself and that he should “read therein all the days of his life” (Deut. 17:9). Alas, most of them failed to obey this injunction.
It is well for us to remember that assemblies of today owe their existence to godly men who were exercised about their obedience to the Word of God. These brethren were convinced that the Lord would honour all who “tremble at His Word,” and the past century or more has justified beyond question their conviction. Let us also remember that these testimonies can continue for God’s glory, only if the same humble obedience characterizes those who bear responsibility in them.
One of the first and most onerous tasks assigned to Solomon, was to purge out of his kingdom those who, during the reign of his father, had committed crimes worthy of death. David, possibly due to his own fall, had apparently lost the power to deal with these evil-doers, but now that his son was in a position to execute the just punishment their deeds deserved, no further delay could be justified. The words of the dying king, especially those concerning Shimei, at first sight read like the language of personal revenge, but on closer observation they reveal that Divine justice demanded the execution of all such offenders and that David was simply echoing the mind of God. If Solomon’s reign was to be one of peace, it must first of all be one of righteousness. Men who in the past were guilty of high-treason were not to be trusted in his realm, for such might relapse into their former mischief and bring disaster upon the nation. Moreover, Joab was guilty, not only of treason, but of double murder. He must, therefore, be put to death if the land was to be cleared from blood. Although he had suffered for David, had fought for David, and was for many years commander-in-chief of his army, he was yet a stranger to David’s God. He is a picture of anyone who may push into position amongst the saints although not truly saved. When we consider a man like Judas who even followed the Lord for years, we are solemnly reminded that this is not impossible. Joab could not tolerate a rival. His jealous and cruel heart knew no limits of wickedness to which it would not stoop in planning the death of any whom he feared would displace him in his position. At length his sin found him out. He fled to the altar, clung to its horns with his blood-stained fingers and refused to leave until beheaded by the sword of Benaiah. Even though the aged warrior died beside the altar, no sacrifice could be put on it that would atone for his crimes.
Solomon, although charged to slay Shimei, did not execute the sentence without first giving him opportunity to prove his trustworthiness. He granted him leave to live in Jerusalem, where his movements could be carefully observed. His activities were circumscribed, for upon his oath he was forbidden to depart from the city. A brief period of probation was sufficient, however, to manifest his fickleness. Two of his slaves made off to Gath, and without regard either for his life or his oath, he pursued them. Solomon hearing of this sends for him, and after a brief trial, orders his execution. He had only himself to blame for his sad end. He was an opportunist. He illustrates those who, regardless of right or wrong, set their sails to catch the favourable winds— those whose only ambition is to be upon the winning side.
Adonijah was another who must be dealt with by Solomon, ere he could consider his kingdom secure. Though defeated and humiliated, he was bold enough to make a fresh bid to obtain the throne. To us, his asking for Abishag, his father’s wife, would appear to be serious only from a moral view-point, but to Solomon and those of his day, it was viewed as a step towards the crown, for a well known custom then prevailed that each new king invariably claimed the wives of the monarch he succeeded. Like Shimei, Adonijah valued lightly the grace shown him by his brother, and like him too, he lost his life through his own folly.
It will be noted that by judging these three prominent criminals—Joab, Shimei and Adonijah—Solomon had purged the army, the house of Saul and the house of David, respectively. There remained, however, another sphere no less influential in Israel and no less guiltless—the priestly house. Its head, Abiather, had associated with rebellious Adonijah and could not expect to escape the strong hand of the new king. Accordingly, he was summoned to court and dismissed from the office of high priest. Although worthy of death, he was spared because of his associations with David and the Ark. Is it not extremely sad to think of one, who had been so faithful in his early days, being stripped of his robes and crown, and having to end his life in obscurity and disgrace? His one wrong step cost him all that he held dear. Certainly, had he inquired of the Lord regarding his actions, the outcome would have been very different.
We have witnessed, in our own time, similar experiences in the lives of some who were once highly esteemed for their staunch testimony, but later became associated with some religious demagogue, partook of his evil deeds and could not escape the painful consequences. Paul’s warning to Timothy, “lay hands suddenly on no man,” is never out of date.
Those acquainted with the New Testament truth relative to the establishment of Christ’s earthly kingdom will see in the judgment of these men a clear picture of coming events. Solomon seated upon his throne illustrates Christ on “the throne of His glory” (Matt. 25:31); those slain by him, remind us of the “goats” who shall then go into everlasting punishment (v. 46), while those like Barzillai, who was called to eat at the king’s table, point to the “sheep” who will then be invited to share the kingdom (v. 34). Faithfulness in the day of rejection was fully rewarded by Solomon, and will not the same principle be true in the future, for is it not written, “If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him”? (II Tim. 2:12). Likewise, transgressors during the King’s absence cannot hope to escape when He returns. If Solomon found it needful to purge his kingdom, so also will Christ purge His. His peaceful reign will be preceded by scenes of slaughter, hitherto unknown in the world. Ere the great purpose of God will be fulfilled, in that a Man will be set over the works of His hands, the earth will have witnessed its greatest battle, for the only One whose shoulders can bear its government will not rest until He has subdued every foe and proved Himself to be the mighty to save His own. Then too, as in Solomon’s day, there will be a great change in the priesthood, for the Lord will not only be King, but High Priest as well, so He will at once be the antitype both of Solomon and Zadok.
“He made haste and came down and received Him joyfully”
THE conversion of Zacchaeus in Luke 19 is full of interest and God has blessed the story to many an anxious soul. He sought to see Jesus but there were hindrances in the way, so he climbed a sycamore tree where he might have a full view of the Saviour as He passed along. The Lord was as anxious to see him as Zacchaeus was to see Jesus, so, as has often been remarked, the seeking sinner and the seeking Saviour soon met. When Jesus came to the place He looked up and seeing him, said, “Zacchaeus make haste and come down, for today I must abide at thy house”; and we read, “he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully.”
Now whether it was just at this point or not that Zacchaeus received the Lord Jesus into his heart as his Saviour we do not exactly know, as the word “received” here signifies “to receive under one's roof,” and has reference to his receiving the Lord into his house as a guest. Indeed the very next verse tells us this, for it says, “and when they saw it, they all murmured, saying that He was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.”
Therefore the words, “received Him joyfully,” do not necessarily refer to the precise moment of Zacchaeus’ conversion, but rather to his receiving Jesus into his house, unless it could be that both events happened at the same time. Anyhow it is quite clear that the expression, “received Him joyfully,” has special reference to His being received as a guest in the home of Zacchaeus.
If those who preach the Gospel from this portion of Scripture, still desire to point out that Zacchaeus came down and received Jesus as his Saviour at the foot of the sycamore tree, we shall not find fault with them for using this incident as an illustration of how a sinner gets saved by receiving Christ, but as we have emphasised before, it is important to get the correct interpretation of a passage, and this will not in any way interfere with using the same scripture by way of application.
There are two scriptures and if they are compared it will be found that they give us the two sides of the truth we have been considering. In John 1:12 we read, “But as many as received Him to them gave He power to become the sons of God”, and in Luke 15:2, “This man receiveth sinners and eateth with them.” Here is conversion. It is reciprocal. I receive Him and He receives me, and thus “I am His and He is mine, for ever and for ever.”
A wedding scene illustrates this beautifully. The young man is asked if he will take the young woman to be his lawful wedded wife, and she is asked if she will take the young man to be her lawful wedded husband. Both answer in the affirmative, and they are then pronounced man and wife. They both receive each other.
“The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earihy. we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” 1 Cor. 15:47-49.
IT is the will of God concerning his Son that "in all things he might have the pre-eminence.” Thus in the past “all things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” Now, "God hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name.” In the ages to come he will "show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” When he sent his Son into the world he marked the occasion of his birth as an event distinct from other births; born of a virgin, announced by angels, proclaimed by the star, this one who came in the lowliest of circumstances was yet in this way given a place superior to all others. He was set above all others during his life: God opened the heavens to declare, "This is my beloved Son.” In his death, there was none like him: God would not “leave his soul in hell, neither suffer his holy one to see corruption.” As a man in heaven, he, whose body was untainted by sin, bears in his body the marks of our redemption: the redeemed in heaven will have left behind them all the evidence of the marks made by sin during their earthly sojourn, for their “body of humiliation” will be changed, and "fashioned like unto the body of his glory.”
This difference between Christ and fallen man is indicated by the Holy Spirit as a difference of origin: the first man, being of the earth, is earthy in character; the second is heavenly in character, for he came from thence. Being heavenly in origin, Christ always bore the stamp of heaven; we, who bear "the image of the earthy,” look forward to the day when "we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” As we have our origin in Adam, created a living soul, we are subject to the consequence of Adam’s sin—death. But in Christ we experience a new creation—He, the last Adam, is a "quickening spirit.” Having defeated the power of death, Christ in resurrection brings new life to fallen man.
The early pages of Scripture furnish us with seven remarkable examples of God’s choice of the Second Man. He uses these as types of his Son, and we may derive from a study of them sound instruction and much encouragement.
In approaching this study let us remember firstly that no type is perfect, and secondly that in viewing a character typically we must necessarily exclude those traits which, while in evidence in a full character study, are not pertinent to the matter under consideration.
1.—Cain and Abel
“Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual” (I Cor. 15:46). How true to type are Cain and Abel! These two brothers stand in contrast the one to the other in their occupations and in their offerings and in their objectives. Here is a valuable lesson for the saint of God; it is because they differ in their occupation that they differ in their offering: their offering is directly connected with their occupation. The fundamental principle governing worship is that in the measure in which we have been occupied with God and have come to know Him, in that measure shall we worship Him. The same principle applies to worship of strange gods—if we become occupied with things around to such an extent that they become paramount in our lives, we can find ourselves too easily becoming Cain-worshippers.
“They that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit” (Rom. 8:5). “Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground” (Gen. 4:2). Thus does Scripture indicate the distinction between the occupations of these two brothers. Cain’s interests lay in the ground: he directed his energies into the tilling thereof so that he might enjoy the fruits of his labours. Now God had cursed the ground for Adam’s sake because of sin. While it was perfectly legitimate to till the ground and eat of its fruit, since God had said so (Gen. 2:17, 18), the fact that God had cursed it should have taught Cain that he must not set his affection on things of earth, and that God could never accept the fruits of what he had already cursed. Cain brought to God the things with which he had been occupied, "and to Cain and to his offering God had not respect.” Cain had no knowledge of the God with whom he was dealing, or he would never have brought such an offering. No doubt he brought the best of the fruit, but in so doing he only proved the more conclusively that he worshipped self. They who seek salvation by works, do they not always offer their best deeds? Cain’s obsession with himself and earthly things is so great that he goes out from the presence of the Lord and builds a city. His interests are in the earth, his energies are dissipated in its cultivation and in its ornamentation: he is prepared to make a permanent dwelling place there. “The first man is of the earth, earthy.”
Abel’s interests lay in sheep. He kept them. How beautiful a picture of the Good Shepherd! Concerning His sheep He could say: “While I was in the world, I kept them in thy name” (John 17:12). “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Abel’s interests were spiritual: he minded the things of God. God had created them and given them life, God provided the food they ate; Abel simply led them into “green pastures” and by “still waters.” The Lord would have us be occupied likewise. Did he not say to Peter: “Lovest thou me? . . . Feed my sheep” (John 21:16).
If Abel is a type of Christ in his occupation with the things of God, he is also a type of Christ in his offering which he brought to God. He brought “of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof.” Abel brought to God that which speaks of His Son in His life poured forth and in the excellence of His character. A lamb, speaking of perfect submission, with its fat, speaking of a beauteous character in which He could delight, was offered up entirely to God upon the altar: herein could God find pleasure. “This is my beloved Son in which I am well pleased.”
Cain went out from God’s presence and built a city. Abel was among those of whom it is said “that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth,” and for whom God “hath prepared a city” (Hebrews 11). Cain’s occupation, offering and objective were earthy, Abel’s were heavenly. So it is recorded that “by faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts, and by it he being dead yet speaketh” (Hebrews 11:4). “He being dead yet speaketh”—Abel is a type of Christ in death and resurrection. Though dead, yet he lives and still "speaks” to us. Abel’s life and sacrifice are eloquent of the life and sacrifice of Christ, and present to the believer that which should be his true occupation—Christ, “to me to live is Christ”;—his true offering— Christ, “sanctified through the offering of the body of Christ”;— his true objective—Christ, “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”
2.—Ishmael and Isaac
“That which is bom of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). It is precisely in this respect that Ishmael and Isaac differ. Ishmael was not the child of promise; Abraham had become impatient concerning that promise, and went in to Hagar the Egyptian bondwoman, and Ishmael was the fruit of the fleshly energies of Abraham. Born of the flesh, of an Egyptian woman, he speaks to us of all that is enmity against the things of God. He mocked Isaac (Gen. 21:9) and thus betrayed the characteristic which God had said would mark him (Gen. 16:12): “He will be a wild man ...” He is typical, I say, of all that is enmity against the things of God. “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit” (Gal. 5:17).
If Ishmael came from an Egyptian bondwoman, and Egypt speaks of the enmity of the power of the world against God, it is not surprising that Ishmael, "the first man”, born of the flesh, opposes himself to Isaac. Nor is this enmity reserved to Ishmael; it is continued by his children. His sons built cities (Gen. 25:16), the significance of which we have seen already. Ishmaelites took
Joseph into Egypt—true type of Satanic energy against Christ. Ishmaelites gave their earrings to Gideon (Judges 8:24), and occasioned his downfall. These examples which we have cited are deeply suggestive as to the character of Ishmael.
“It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing” (John 6:63). When Abraham followed the lusts of the flesh, he only brought sorrow to his own soul and division in his household. He said, "O that Ishmael might live before thee” (Gen. 17:18), to which God had to give Abraham the firm reminder of his promise: “Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed.” As he is made to realize the truth of this, so Abraham is taught to consider not “his own body now dead, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb” (Rom. 4:19). At his birth Isaac is a type of Christ: “it is the Spirit that quickeneth.” So the angel said to Joseph, “that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost” (Matt. 1:20).
As the son, Isaac enjoys the privilege of relationship and walk with his father which Ishmael could never enjoy. God made his covenant with him (Gen. 17:19) and with his seed, thus constituting him the heir. Indeed, did not the servant in Gen. 24:36 say of him, "and unto him hath he given all that he hath”? How true a picture of Christ in His relationship with His Father, by whom He hath been “appointed heir of all things” (Heb. 1:2).
Not only did Isaac enjoy relationship with his father, he walked with him. Twice in Gen. 22 we read: "and they went
both of them together.” It is significant that this was on the way up mount Moriah. He walked with his father to the top of the mount. But he was alone on the altar, for his father bound him to it. Thus did He whom Isaac prefigures cry: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
Moreover, Isaac typifies Christ in resurrection, as did Abel, for we read in Heb. 11:19 concerning the offering of Isaac: "Accounting that God was able to raise him up even from the dead: from whence also he received him in a figure.” It is of no little moment that after he has passed in a figure through death and is received in resurrection power, he is given a wife (Gen. 24). Christ in resurrection power now waits at God’s right hand. Soon, He will come for His bride. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”
“Our life is like the dial of a clock. The hands are God's hands, passing over and over again. The short hand, the hand of discipline; the long hand, the hand of mercy. Slowly and surely the hand of discipline must pass, and God speaks at each stroke. But over and over passes the hand of mercy, showering down twelvefold blessings for each stroke of discipline and trial: and both hands are fastened to one secure pivot—the great, unchanging heart of a God of love.”