November/December 2016

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Contents

ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle

QUESTIONS YOUNG PEOPLE ASK
by A. Summers

EARLY GALILEAN MINISTRY OF THE LORD JESUS
by J. Gibson

ANGELS
by W. Banks

THOUGHTS ON PRIESTHOOD, WORSHIP AND BREAKING OF BREAD
by B. Balan

BEHAVIOUR IN THE HOUSE OF GOD
by A. Leckie

READING
by T. Bentley

THY SOUL PROSPERETH
by C. Jones

GOOD TIDINGS FROM HEAVEN

 


Assembly Testimony Bible Class

by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)

THE FIRST BOOK OF PSALMS

 

No.10: PSALM 8 (Part 1)

Psalm 7 ended with the words, "I will praise the LORD according to His righteousness; and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High". We noted that the title "the most high God" is first found in Genesis chapter 14 where it occurs four times, vv.18,19,20,22. The last of these four references is: "I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth".

Psalm 8 now shows us that He really is "the possessor of heaven and earth": "O LORD our Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth! Who hast set Thy glory above the heavens" v.1. Two different Hebrew words are rendered "Lord" here: "O LORD [Jehovah] our Lord [Adonahy]". Jehovah is "a combination in marvellous perfection of the three periods of existence in one word, the future, the present, and the past" (Thomas Newberry’s note re. Divine Titles). Again Newberry states that Adonahy is actually a plural word signifying "Sovereign Lord, or Master". So, to quote J.M. Flanigan,1 "Jehovah is the Proprietor, Ruler, Possessor and Governor of everything". Do note that while the word Jehovah is singular, reference is made to Him here in the plural. Try that on the "Jehovah’s Witnesses"!

1. Flanigan, J.M "What the Bible Teaches - Psalms". John Ritchie Ltd, Kilmarnock. 2001

Psalm 8 is cited on several occasions in the New Testament, particularly in Heb.2.6-9. This passage quotes Psalm 8 in making the statement, "for unto the angels hath He not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? … Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet … But now we see not yet all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour ...". The Psalm therefore looks forward to the peace and harmony of creation which will exist when the Lord Jesus, "the last Adam … the second man" 1Cor.15.45,47, establishes His kingdom on earth. He will then fulfil the role intended for man by God: "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth" Gen.1.26-28. This brings us to our first major point:

THE PURPOSE OF GOD FOR THE EARTH

The Psalm commences and concludes with the statement, "O LORD our Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth!" (The words, "the LORD our Lord", occur only once elsewhere: see Neh.10.29). We shall see that this excellence is achieved in two ways, but we must stay with the statement for a little while. God has not abandoned planet earth. It is certainly in a sorry mess, and comparatively few people are concerned about His glory, but God’s stated intentions for earth will be accomplished. None of His plans and promises can fail, and that includes His intentions for creation: "The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea" Hab.2.14. See also Isa.11.9.

At this juncture we must listen to the "four and twenty angels": "Thou art worthy, O LORD, to receive glory and honour, and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created" Rev.4.11, or, "Worthy art Thou, our Lord and our God, to receive the glory and the honour and the power: for Thou didst create all things, and because of Thy will they were, and were created" (R.V., supported by J.N.D.). God will receive "glory and honour and power" from creation; that is why it exists. The disciples’ prayer will be answered: "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven" Matt.6.10. Compare Col.1.16: "For by Him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth ... all things were created by Him, and for Him".

How will all this be achieved? The answer is very clear: God’s objectives for this earth will be achieved in precisely the way that He intended - through man. Yet man, surely, is an abysmal failure, and while this is sadly true, the fact remains that there is one Man Who never failed, and God will accomplish His intentions through that Man. More of this later. We must now think in a little more detail about:

THE POSITION OF MAN ON THE EARTH

Psalm 8 demonstrates that the excellency of God’s name on earth is promoted by man in two ways.

By The Way In Which Defeat Is Inflicted On God’s Enemies

"O LORD our Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth! Who hast set Thy glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast Thou ordained strength, because of Thine enemies, that Thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger". These words were quoted by the Lord Jesus in Matt.21.15,16: "And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, "Hosanna to the son of David;" they were sore displeased, and said unto Him, "Hearest thou what these say?" And Jesus saith unto them, "Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings Thou hast perfected praise?." The Lord Jesus was clearly referring to Ps.8.2. On another occasion He prayed, "I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in Thy sight" Matt.11.25,26.

Both quotations, the second particularly, illustrate the very wonderful teaching of Ps.8.1,2. Just look at these verses again. On the one hand we have the glory of God "above the heavens". Can you think of anything higher? Not just ‘in the heavens’, but "above the heavens". The heavens reveal the creatorial majesty of God. (By the way, there is actually no such word as ‘creatorial’ but, almost certainly, it will enter our dictionaries in due course!). On the other hand we have "babes and sucklings". Not just men, but the weakest class of men. So God, Who has set His "glory above the heavens", has deliberately by-passed proud, arrogant men, and revealed Himself to people with no claim to wisdom or preferment. That is just where we find ourselves: "For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty ... that no flesh should glory in His presence" 1Cor.1.26-29.

When we think of all that God has revealed to "babes and sucklings", and to us in all our weakness, we too have to say, "O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth". He could have chosen to consume wicked men with the glory displayed in the heavens, but He chose to confound men by taking up and using the most unlikely people; people like us.

Psalm 8 next demonstrates that the excellency of God’s name on earth is promoted by man in another way:

By The Way In Which Dominion Is Exercised Over Creation

The excellence of God’s name will be promoted by man when "the second man" 1Cor.15.47, rules over creation as God’s king. It is through man that the interests of the Creator will be achieved. This is the second thing in this Psalm which filled David with a deep sense of wonder. "When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; what is man, that Thou art mindful of him? and the son of man that Thou visitest him?" vv.3,4. Notice the similarity of structure to v.2. On the one hand, we have the glory of God in creation. On the other hand, we have frail man.

The first word translated "man" (enosh) means frail, mortal man. David is quite astounded. Here he is, on a hilltop somewhere near Bethlehem (not too conjectural?), during the night (watching over the sheep?), gazing up at the display of God’s handiwork. (It must have been at night, mustn’t it? He mentions the moon and the stars, but not the sun!). David found it incredible, not only that God should actually have a place in His purposes for frail mankind ("Thou art mindful of him"), but that He exhibited His interest and care for him ("Thou visitest him").

The second word translated "man" (adam) is evidently a little more complimentary. The scholars tell us that it refers to ‘man in his dignity’. It has been put very nicely like this: "although linking man with the clay and the ground" it "is, nevertheless, man in his dignity as God’s vice-regent in the creation". J.M. Flanigan2 continues: "But what is man in any case? Whether in his frailty or in his dignity, how insignificant is the creature, that Jehovah should condescend to visit him, as indeed He did in Eden so long ago, Gen.3.8. And what of that subsequent visitation of grace, when a Divine Person, the Son of God Himself, tabernacled among men for thirty-three wondrous years …"

2. ibid

However, the position of man on the earth, with the intention of bringing glory to God, must not make us lose sight of His glory as Creator. This brings us to:

THE POWER OF THE CREATOR OF THE EARTH

In this connection, we should notice that: He owns the universe; He originated the universe; He orders the universe.

We will consider this in our next study, God willing.

To be continued, (D.V.)

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Questions Young People Ask

by Alan Summers (Scotland)

No.8 - Should a Christian be involved in politics?

This is a subject that divides Christians. Some believe that a Christian should be involved in politics so that the Christian’s view of the world and Christianity’s moral values can be brought to bear on the legislative process. Others believe that Christians should not be involved in politics because the aims of Christianity are not political. They feel that since Christians will never command the support of the majority there is little point in trying to influence a process that can never conform to Christian values. Who is right?

In New Testament times authority was largely in the hands of kings whose authority was based on hereditary right or military power. Rome may have had its Senate and Israel its Sanhedrin but parliaments elected by the citizens of a country were completely unknown. Hence when we read passages that discuss the Christian’s relationship with "the powers that be" Rom.13.1, we will not find guidance that speaks directly to the political structures of the 21st century.

However, it is noticeable that the Lord Jesus did not attempt to confront the military or civil powers of His day. He confined Himself to a message of spiritual renewal. Likewise Paul did not seek to build institutions designed to confront secular authority. Instead he preached the gospel and sought to support the Christians in a spiritual and pastoral manner. It is true that their spiritual message brought them into conflict with authority and that they did not hesitate to defend themselves before kings and magistrates, but neither the Lord nor the apostles sought to form movements which were designed to oppose or engage with civil power.

The examples of the Lord Jesus and Paul powerfully argue that the Christian is not meant to be engaged in politics. He has other priorities.

There is also an argument based on pragmatism. The Christians that have formed Christian political parties in the 21st century have made no impact at the polls. In a world that hates Christ and despises Christian values, the chance of Christianity becoming electorally attractive is very remote. Why should we waste time and money on a futile cause? Many Christians who seek election to political office and engage in political activity believe what is called "Kingdom theology". They do not distinguish between the spiritual and the secular. They see the Church as the continuance of Israel and apply Old Testament texts that deal with civil issues to the present day. They believe that the gospel will triumph and that once the gospel has prevailed Christ will return. However, the Bible teaches that this world is doomed and that the antichrist will rise before Christ comes back to establish His kingdom. We cannot change the world. Its destiny is sealed. Our only message for the world is the gospel.

That is not to say that we should not stand up for what we believe. We have a responsibility to be "salt" Matt.5.13, and "light" Phil.2.15. Nevertheless, there is a line to be drawn between this and engaging in political activity. I do not think the Christian should become politically active or vote for parties whose policies are opposed to the Word of God.

To be continued, (D.V.)

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The Early Galilean Ministry of The Lord Jesus

by Jeremy C. Gibson, England

Paper 7: Invigorating infirmity

Read: John. 5:1-47.

The law of Moses ordered every Jewish male to attend Jerusalem three times annually. "in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles" Deut.16.16. While the people benefited from attending, these feasts were first and foremost for God’s honour. And, for this reason, they were originally called "the feasts of Jehovah" Lev.23.2. However, the Jews had become so self-centred and proud of their religion that John termed this unspecified feast, "a feast of the Jews" v.1; see Jn.6.4. Careful to keep all of the law’s requirements, despite His nation’s religious degeneration, "Jesus went up to Jerusalem", making His way to "the sheepgate" vv.1,2, J.N.D.; see Gal.4.4. This gate had been constructed by the high priest and his brethren and acted as a reference point for the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls after the Babylonian captivity, Neh.3.1,32. It was at this site, where there was a pool named Bethesda (the house of loving kindness), that our Lord showed tender mercy.

The great multitude of immobile, sick people lying closely together in the intense Mediterranean heat would have stunk. Together they pictured Israel, and humanity as a whole, in their impoverished spiritual condition. They "lay" without purpose or dignity. They were weak, see Rom.5.6, "impotent" translates the Greek word astheneō, from which we get the medical term Myasthenia Gravis, an illness characterised by muscle weakness and fatigability. Some were "blind", comp. 2Cor.4.3,4; others were "halt", suggesting immobility. "Withered" implies lack of function. En masse, they waited with the forlorn hope of an angel troubling the water, as "whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had" vv.3,4. As the man, whom Christ singled out, said, "I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool" v.7. In a sense, the scene reflected the weakness of the Mosaic Law, which offered life to all who kept it, but none could, Lev.18.5; Matt.19.17; Rom.8.3.

One man who lay by the pool had been ill for 38 years – the length of time Israel wandered in the wilderness after refusing to enter the Promised Land, Num.14.1-34; Deut.2.14. Knowing "that he had been now a long time in that case" v.6, in sovereign grace Christ chose to heal this man, leaving others untouched. The miracle was powerful and complete: "And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked" v.9. Never seeking honour from men, v.41, with modesty the Lord Jesus quickly "conveyed Himself away, a multitude being in that place" v.13. Later, He counselled the man, "sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee" v.14.

Even though this miracle added further proof to Christ’s messianic claims, see Isa.35.6; Matt.11.5, the vindictive and hateful Jews sought to kill Him because He had healed on the sabbath, v.16. With the utmost hypocrisy, their insistence on imposing man-made additions to God’s law actually violated the law itself, which stated "thou shalt not kill" Ex.20.13. On this occasion the Lord defended His sabbath day activities by claiming unequivocal equality with His Father. "My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working" v.17, N.A.S.V. This statement, which has awesome ramifications, was instantly acknowledged by the Jews as a Divine claim, v.18. Following the first sabbath rest and the fall of man, Gen.2.1-3; 2.25-3.24, God the Father and His beloved Son have been working tirelessly down through the centuries, including every sabbath day. The Son has been unceasingly "upholding all things by the word of His power" Heb.1.3, for "the great machine of the universe does not stand still on the sabbath day."16 Together Father and Son have been working out the unfolding plan of redemption, Acts 2.23. They work harmoniously to the same infinitely high standard for "the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do: for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise [in like manner]" v.19, (Newberry Margin). The Son is not inferior; rather, "He was so wholly and perfectly and altogether in the unity of the Godhead that it was impossible for Him to act apart from the Father."17 Also, "the Father loveth the Son, and [with complete confidence in Him] sheweth Him all things that Himself doeth" v.20, hiding nothing. In this astounding claim the omniscient Son declared that He has the capacity to understand fully the indefinable number of the Father’s activities.

16. Brown, J. "Discourses and Sayings of Our Lord", The Banner of Truth Trust, 1990, 1.73

17. Hole, F.B. "The Gospels and Acts", Central Bible Hammond Trust Ltd., p.232.

The Lord Jesus assured His hearers that the Father would "shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel" v.20, especially raising the dead, vv.21,25,28,29 and, linked to this, the execution of Divine judgment, vv.22,27. The hour is inexorably coming, when Christ, Who has life in Himself, v.26, will raise all the dead, the godly to eternal bliss and the ungodly to never-ending torment, vv.25,28,29. During His public ministry the Lord Jesus raised three dead people – the widow of Nain’s son; the young damsel; Lazarus, Lk.7.14,15; 8.54,55; Jn 11.43,44 – proving His power to do it on a much larger scale in the future. The dead "shall be compelled to hear Him as He utters the dread summons for them to appear before the great white throne."18 Having been "in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" Heb.4.15, Christ will judge with first-hand experience of the potential complexity of scenarios and interplaying, mitigating circumstances in relation to men’s sins. He will judge with perfect knowledge of men’s hearts, Jn.2.25; 5.42, and in full accord with the will of His Father, v.30. The Father selected the Son to be the Judge so that He might be jointly honoured with the Father, v.23, and He has confirmed this appointment by raising Him from the dead, Acts 17.31. Currently, this future Judge is able to give everlasting life to all who believe in Him, v.24.

18. Pink A.W. "GOSPEL of JOHN", 3 vots in 1, Zondervan, 1975, p.269.

Because He is the embodied truth, the words of the Lord Jesus are totally reliable, Jn.8.14; 14.6. Nevertheless, in response to the Old Testament requirement for two or more witnesses, Christ presented additional support, Deut.19.15; Jn.5.31; 8.17. The other who bore a true witness to Christ was probably the Father, Jn.5.32. He spoke well of His beloved Son at His baptism, Matt.3.17, at the transfiguration, Matt.17.5, and just before the cross, Jn.12.28. These Jews were ignorant concerning the Father Who had sent the Son, having "neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His shape" Jn.5.37; their rejection of Christ showed that they did not have "His word abiding in" them, v.38. The forerunner "bare witness unto the truth" v.33, and as "a burning and a shining light [luchnos, a portable lamp]" gave a clear, albeit short-lived, testimony concerning Christ, v.35. However, who needs a simple lamp (John) when "the sun of righteousness" (Christ) shines? Although it was possible for men to be saved through John’s message, the Saviour made clear that "His claim to Deity rested on surer ground than the testimony of a man" v.34.19 Christ’s works witnessed to the fact the Father had sent Him, v.36, as do the Scriptures, of which He is the main theme, Lk.24.27,44. The Jews, who placed great emphasis on public opinion, v.44, and falsely professed to believe the Scriptures, will find them to be the final arbiter, vv.39,45-47. These Jews did not possess the love of God, v.42; neither would they "come to," "receive," or "believe" in Christ, that they "might have life" vv.40,43,44. Instead, having rejected their Messiah, Who came in His Father’s name, v.43, they will ultimately embrace the antichrist, who will come in his own name, v.43, and even claim Divine honours, 2Thess.2.3,4 – the very thing for which they sought to kill the Lord Jesus, v.18.

19. ibid. p.276.

To be continued, (D.V.)

(Note that the numbering of footnotes continues from previous papers.)

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ANGELS

by William M. Banks (Scotland)

No.3a: THE CAREER OF SATAN – PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE

 

INTRODUCTION

Satan was the greatest being ever created. He is "the chief of the fallen angels."1 Along with other angels he has personality (emotion, will and intelligence). According to Chafer2 he has forty different names or titles with the best known being Satan (resister); serpent (guile); Lucifer (son of the morning); dragon (power); devil (slanderer) and Apollyon (destroyer).

1. Chafer, L. S. “Systematic Theology”. Dallas Seminary Press, 1948.

2. Ibid

3. Ibid

THE CREATION, ORIGINAL ESTATE, AND FALL OF SATAN3

Ezek.28.11-19 seem indubitably to refer to Satan and this is likely the reason it is referred to as a "lamentation" v.12. The opening verses, 1-10, describe the "prince of Tyrus" while vv.11-19 describe the "king of Tyrus". It seems clear that the king is more powerful than the prince, while not suggesting that the prince is without power! Indeed he claims Deity, "I am a God, I sit in the seat of God" v.2, prefiguring the "man of sin" in 2Thess.2.2-4, and just as the dragon is the power behind the man of sin so the "king" is the spiritual power behind the throne of the "prince"!

The language used in vv.11-19 could not be true of a mere man: "full of wisdom", "perfect in beauty" and "the anointed cherub", to name a few of the descriptors given. Yet in spite of these accolades, "… iniquity was found in thee". What happened to change the scene?

The Creation of Satan

That Satan was a created being is asserted twice in vv.13,15 "… the day that thou wast created". The timing of his creation is not given, (we simply do not know), but we do know that it took place before the creation of the universe. According to Job 38.4-7 he was there when God "… laid the foundations of the earth" and "… the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy".

The Original Estate of Satan, vv.12-15a

Glowing terms are used to describe this greatest of all the created beings; "thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty" v.12. The language is superlative indicating exquisite beauty. "You were the signet of perfection" (E.S.V.); "the finished pattern" (Bullinger). The word "sum" occurs twice only, translated "pattern" in Ezek.43.10.

The additional detail that "… thou hast been in Eden the garden of God" v.13a, seems to clinch the reference to Satan. Indeed the fact that he was bedecked in nine precious stones, v.13b, crafted and set in gold adds confirmation to this being a reference to Satan in the Eden context. The brilliant lustre was the basis of the approach to Eve as the fiery serpent (the shining one – as the "angel of light" 2Cor.11.13,14 – see earlier article). The precious stones can be compared and contrasted to those in the breastplate of the high priest, twelve in that case, Ex.28.15-21, and in the New Jerusalem, twelve again, Rev.21.19,20.

The balance of the verses down to v.15a indicates additional features; an inherent musical diadem of praise: "… thy tabrets … and thy pipes prepared in thee", for worship of the Creator, v.13c. As "… the anointed [special selection] cherub that covereth [guardeth]" v.14a, he was one of the protectors and guardians of God’s holiness, (cf. the cherubim covering the mercy seat, Ex.25.20). This high position was ordained by God, v.14b. Being "… upon the holy mountain of God" v.14c, he had access to the throne of God, since the mountain is essentially the seat of God’s authority, Ps.48.1; 2.6; Isa.2.2, to protect and defend it. Walking "… up and down in the midst of the stones of fire" v.14d, indicates nearness and holiness and glory, cf. Ex.24.10,17. Perfection "… in thy ways" is the concluding assessment in the opening of v.15.

Altogether these verses present a glowing picture of a superb being of absolute beauty and perfection, with immediate access to the throne of God, and willing to offer worship and praise of the highest quality. We are unprepared for the next statement: the perfection was not to last – "… till"!

The Fall of Satan, vv.15b-19

The first sin in the universe is about to be committed; "… iniquity was found in thee" 15b. Note it was "found"; nothing is hid from the omniscient God. The timing of the fall of Satan is nowhere asserted. What we do know is that it must have been between the creation of the universe in Gen.1.1 and the story of the fall of man in Genesis chapter 3. Indeed the time frame can be reduced a little further still. It must have been after the work of the sixth day of creation since after its completion "God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good" Gen.1.31. Clearly had Satan sinned at this time everything would not have been very good! The period seems rather short – between Gen.1.31 and 3.1 – but sufficient for the iniquity to be found!

While the time frame is not definable with accuracy, the reason for the fall is clearly stated in three particulars in Ezek.28.16-18, merchandise, pride and defilement. In each case there is a twofold Divine response with a repeated "I will", some of which is still to be implemented in the future.

The First Reason – merchandise (and violence) - v.16a

The word for merchandise is translated "traffick" in vv.5,18 and is also found in 26.12, making four times in all in the Old Testament, all of which are connected with Tyre!, the business capital of the region at that time. It perhaps indicates slander and underhand allegiance with others (angels) to rebel against the Creator.

The First Response

  • "I will cast thee … out of the mountain of God" v.16b, there was to be no further intimate association with the throne. The highest can be brought low, seemingly due to underhand business practice (merchandise).
  • "I will destroy thee … from the midst of the stones of fire" v.16c, there was to be neither nearness nor evident glory possible now. Having destroyed others with violence he was to be destroyed himself. The lesson for us is solemn; "If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are" 1Cor.3.17.

The Second Reason – pride and corruption - v.17

The reason is given unambiguously, "… thy heart was lifted up ... thou hast corrupted thy wisdom."

The Second Response

  • "I will cast thee to the ground" v.17b, there will be no more boasting then: "A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit" Prov.29.23; "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall" Prov.16.18.
  • "I will lay thee before kings" v.17c, no recognition now; "When pride cometh, then cometh shame" Prov. 11.2.

The Third Reason – defilement - v.18a

The statement is straightforward and again unambiguous; "… thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries … by iniquities."

The Third Response

  • "I will bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee" v.18b, the very source of the problem (his inner thinking) to be the spring from which the comprehensive judgment comes. Let us remember; "... if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another" Gal.5.15.
  • "I will bring thee to ashes" v.18c, nothing left; "Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent" Rev.2.5.

There is an overall reaction of the observer to the fall: "All who know you among the peoples are appalled at you; you have come to a dreadful end and shall be no more forever" v.19 (R.S.V.)! The details are given in Rev.20.10.

To be continued, (D.V.)

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Thoughts on Priesthood, Worship & Breaking of Bread

by Baiju V. Balan, India

Paper No. 2

Worship

In the writer’s opinion, the word worship is one of the most misunderstood terms not only in Christendom but also among the assemblies of God’s people today. We hear of ‘worship meetings’, a term nowhere to be found in the New Testament. However, we do find God’s people gathered together for 7 different activities and these give us the pattern for the meetings of a local assembly and it may surprise a believer that worship is not one of them! What is worship?

A Word Study

Five different Greek verbs are translated in our English bible as ‘worship’.

Firstly, proskuneo: Strong’s Greek Dictionary [4352] gives the meaning to kiss towards, like a dog licking his master’s hand. Literally or figuratively prostrating oneself in homage - worship. W.E. Vine indicates "The Greek word denotes an act of reverence whether paid to man or to God." This word is found around 54 times in the New Testament and is always translated worship or worshipped. Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon gives its meaning as ‘homage shown to men of superior rank’. The Lord Jesus Christ used this word in Jn.4.20-24.

Secondly, latreuo: Strong’s Greek Dictionary [3000] states that it is from latris (a hired menial); to minister (to God), i.e. render religious homage:- serve, do the service, worship(-per). The main meaning of this word is to serve. It is found 21 times in the New Testament and is translated 17 times as serve and only 4 times as worship, Heb.10.2; Phil.3.3; Acts 7.42; 24.14 and it is obvious that service is meant in these passages also. Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon gives its meaning as to serve, to render religious service, to perform sacred services etc.

Thirdly, sebomai: Strong’s Greek Dictionary [4576] reads, "middle voice of an apparently primary verb; to revere, to worship." W.E. Vine, "’to feel awe,’ whether before God or man, ‘to worship’; ‘to revere,’ stressing the feeling of awe or devotion’."

Fourthly, eusebeo: Strong’s Greek Dictionary [2151] declares, "to act piously or reverently". W.E. Vine’s comment is "’to reverence, to show piety" towards any to whom dutiful regard is due’."

Fifthly, sebazomai: Strong’s Greek Dictionary [4573] states, "to fear, be afraid" or "to honour religiously, to worship". W.E. Vine gives the definition, "to honour religiously".

A Definition of Worship

The first two words are mostly used in a Christian sense. So who is the worshipper the Father is seeking? What is the worship He is expecting? Based on the words used we understand the worshipper is the one who understands God’s greatness and power and acknowledges His authority over his life and renders to Him due reverence and honour and glory. Worship is all the devoted services that he does to God according as God has asked, whether alone personally, or in the family, or in the society or in the assembly. Christian believers are worshippers not only on Sunday morning but 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 31 days of a month and 365 days a year! In other words, every moment of his/her life he/she is a worshipper. Everything that a child of God does in obedience to the Word of God is an act of worship. Worship in not limited to a day or a meeting.

In his expository dictionary W.E. Vine wrote, "The worship of God is nowhere defined in Scripture. A consideration of the above verbs shows that it is not confined to praise; broadly it may be regarded as the direct acknowledgement to God, of His nature, attributes, ways and claims, whether by the outgoing of the heart in praise and thanksgiving or by deed done in such acknowledgment."

Breaking of Bread

Seven times in the New Testament, a local assembly is seen gathered together for different activities. These constitute together a pattern of meetings intended by God for His people for His own glory and for their edification. In fact, the expression ‘gathered together’ mentioned in relation to a local assembly gathering in the New Testament for the first time is one word sunago in Greek text, Matt.18.20. Scholarly brethren say that the literal translation of this word should be "where two or three are having been gathered and continuing to gather unto my Name there am I in the midst of them." They also say that this word is a perfect participle in the passive voice, which means "having done and doing" (see Newberry Bible). This means it is not that they have decided to gather but a third Person decided to gather them together in one particular place and being gathered together by Him they continue to gather in that place for various activities. Such a gathering is a local assembly. This word sunago is used seven times in the New Testament to denote a local assembly’s gatherings. They are:

  • Acts 4.31 - They came together for prayer;
  • Acts 11.24 - They came together for Bible Study;
  • Acts 14.27 - They came together to listen to missionary testimony;
  • Acts 15.6 - The elders came together to decide on a particular issue in which

the local assembly was involved;

  • Acts 15.30 - They came together for Bible Reading;
  • 1Cor.5.4 - They were to come together to take a disciplinary action;
  • Acts 20.7 - They came together to Break Bread.

Nowhere in the New Testament do we ever find an assembly coming together for any other activity. The saints are never divided in terms of gender or age. Never in the New Testament is an assembly meeting called "worship meeting" for the simple reason that worship is not limited to a meeting. What we have in the Bible is the Breaking of Bread meeting. Concerning this meeting there is no uncertainty as to the period or when it is to be observed; the place or where it is to be observed; the participants or who should observe it; the pattern or how it is to be observed; the purpose or why it is to be observed and the practices or what is to be done while observing it.

Period - When It Is To Be Observed

It is true that when the Lord Jesus Christ gave His disciples commandment concerning the breaking of bread or Lord’s Supper, 1Cor.11.20, (observe it is in imperative mood i.e. a commandment not a request) He did not mention any particular day in which it is to be observed. As a result, some think that they have the liberty to do it whenever they feel convenient. However, when we have a commandment to do something we search the Scriptures to find the apostolic pattern as to when they did it. In Act 20.7 we read that, "upon the first day of the week when the disciples came together to break bread" and that settles the issue. It seems that this day is very, very important in the sight of God, for He chose this day to do some of the most important works mentioned in the Scriptures. For example:

  • God began the creation of the world on the first day of the week, Gen.1.4,5
  • God raised the Lord Jesus Christ on the first day of the week, Lk.24.1
  • God sent the Holy Spirit to this earth on the first day of the week, Acts 2.1 cp. Lev.23.15,16, the Day of Pentecost or the 50th day was Sunday
  • God formed the Body of Christ (or the Church) on the first day of the week, Acts 2.1; 1Cor.12.13
  • God highlighted the apostolic pattern of Breaking Bread to be on the first day of the week, Acts 20.7.

Notice also different ways this day is indicated in Scripture. It is the:

  • Lord’s Day implying Consecration, Rev.1.10; this day belongs to the Lord
  • First Day implying Pre-Eminence, Acts 20.7; Lk.24.1
  • Third Day of Resurrection 1Cor.15.4
  • Eighth Day of New Beginning
  • Morrow After the Sabbath of Prophecy, Lev.23.11,15.

No wonder that God chose this first day of the week for the breaking of bread.

It is interesting to notice that the word translated "Lord’s" in Rev.1.10 is said to be kuriakose and it is found only in one more place in the New Testament and that is in 1Cor.11.20 where we read about "the Lord’s Supper". The Lord’s Day and the Lord’s Supper surely have an inseparable connection! The Lord’s supper is to be observed on the Lord’s day.

To be continued, (D.V.)

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Behaviour in the House of God

by Albert L. Leckie (Scotland)

Paper 2

The first paper was introductory to the subject and we now come to the behaviour expected in the house of God.

BEHAVIOUR EXPECTED

 

Correctness

Now go with me a moment through this practical epistle of 1 Timothy, and observe the behaviour that should characterise the House of God. In chapter 1, Paul desires that Timothy might correct the erroneous doctrine being propagated in his day: "As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightiest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do" vv.3,4. Judaising teachers had gone abroad, "understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm" v.7. These were not only teaching, but affirming that what they taught was the truth. Paul informs Timothy of his concern, for God’s people must not be subjected to erroneous teaching. He bids him wait at Ephesus in order to charge them not to teach any other doctrine.

I want to pause a moment. All who have a real concern for behaviour in God’s house, should see that God’s people are preserved from erroneous doctrine. Natural minds reason that error is just another man’s opinion and that every man is entitled to his opinion. However, those with a concern for God’s house and proper behaviour in it, will never take error to be just another man’s opinion. They will see as best they can, that God’s people are preserved from erroneous doctrine. "Charge some that they teach no other doctrine."

In 2Kgs.4.38, we read of an incident at Gilgal where Elijah said, "Set on the great pot", and it was set on. There was an exercise on the part of the sons of the prophets to make contribution towards the feeding of God’s people, but one of these sons of the prophets, unknown to the others, went out to the field and gathered wild gourds and shred them into the pot. Eventually the cry came: "Death in the pot". That was a very sad occasion. The tragedy, dear brethren, was that this young man was shredding poisonous wild gourds into the pot and they didn’t know it. There wasn’t the discernment that what this young man was shredding into the pot was poison and not food. Thus, there was the cry, "Death in the pot". Brethren, it is vital that God’s people be preserved in these difficult days from erroneous doctrine.

When Paul told the elders of Ephesus to feed the flock of God, I don’t believe he meant they were responsible to feed the flock exclusively in a personal way. He meant that as elders or overseers, they were in charge of the flock’s food. They were to see that the flock was fed with the right things and that they were preserved from those which were poisonous and harmful.

Prayerfulness

1 Timothy chapter 2 divides into two sections. In vv.1-8, the apostle addresses himself to men and concludes in v.8 by saying, "I will therefore that men pray every where …". In vv.9 -15, he addresses the women in God’s house. This section begins: "In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel…".

Notice the first section. What does it say regarding men? "I will therefore that men pray everywhere." It is not surprising that prayer is dealt with in an epistle touching on behaviour in the house of God. The Lord Jesus said, "Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves" Mk.11.17. God wants His house to be a house of prayer. Our present portion gives instruction on prayers that become God’s house. V.8: "I will therefore that men pray every where." The New Testament has two words for "man". One means "mankind" and we have that in v.4: "[God] will have all men to be saved." In distinction the word for "man" in v.8 is different and refers to a male person only. The males were to pray in every place. Now if this is not corrective, let it at least be preventive: in assembly prayer meetings public prayer belongs exclusively to the male brethren.

Also, those who pray in every place must lift up holy hands without wrath and doubting. "Holy", that is self-ward. They must be able to lift up holy hands self-ward, hands that are unstained by sin, hands unsoiled by crime. The hands that are lifted in God’s house must be holy because holiness becomes God’s house.

"Without wrath", that is man-ward. I trust that none of us will ever stoop to using the holy exercise of prayer to vent our wrath on our brethren. Sometimes this is done. Shame on any of us who would use the holy exercise of prayer to sling mud at our brethren! That’s a serious abuse of prayer. The Lord Jesus said, "And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses" Mk.11.25,26. Never use wrath man-ward when praying, especially in God’s house.

"Without doubting", that is God-ward. We must never doubt that God hears and is ready to answer our prayers. This kind of praying becomes God’s house.

That is not all he says about prayer. In the opening verses Paul keeps using the little word "all". "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men" v.1. In v.4: "Who will have all men to be saved." V.6: "Who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time."

What is the truth conveyed here? "Well," says the apostle, "Christ has given Himself a ransom on behalf of all men and because of that, He wills, He desires that all men should be saved". "Now," says Paul, "You have to pray for all men". In other words, God has not only given us a "whosoever" gospel, but He expects us to pray "whosoever" prayers. It is not a matter of praying for our beloved Queen and our beloved country, and the people who live in our vicinity. Brethren, our prayer meetings ought to be characterised by praying for all men; for kings and all that are in authority, not only in this land, but in every land. I believe the assemblies of God would have had greater power for God in recent wars if they had been less national and more international in their prayers. Christ gave Himself a ransom for all and God will have all men to be saved: thus, it is ours as God’s house to pray for all men without exception.

Quietness

We pray with this in view: "That we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty" v.2. That word "honesty" is the word "sobriety". These are interesting words. "A quiet life": the word "quietness" involves freedom from external disturbances as it was when Saul of Tarsus was converted, "Then had the churches rest …" Acts 9.31. We have to pray that as assemblies of the Lord’s people we might be preserved in quietness. Assemblies haven’t always enjoyed the quietness known today and we never know what might lie around the corner. Let us continue to pray that we’ll be preserved in quietness.

Peaceableness

If quietness relates to freedom from external disturbances, then peaceableness refers to internal uprisings; that we’ll be preserved collectively in peace. It is one thing to know Matt.18.20 as doctrine, but another to know it experientially. "For where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them." You would allow no one to deny that, but what is your experience of it? These were His words when taking His place in the midst, Lk.24.36; Jn.20.19: "Peace be unto you". This is what it is to experience His presence. May the Lord preserve the assemblies of His people in the enjoyment of peace! Peace begotten from a deep sense of the Lord’s presence in our midst.

Godliness

This New Testament word is equivalent to the recurring expression "the fear of the Lord" in the Old Testament. Godliness means, "God-fearingness," and may we as the collective assemblies of God’s people be preserved in a fear of God. This should be our prayer. Dear brethren, I’m convinced that God will never be found where there’s a noise.

Seriousness

As noted, we also have the word "honest," and it means "sobriety". It is very easy to be carried away by the spirit of the age, the spirit of insobriety. Remember, it was when Moses was upon the mount that the people said, "We wot not what is become of him" Ex.32.1. Thus, the people sat down to eat and to drink and rose up to play (to do sport), v.6. They thought, "We don’t know when Moses is coming back or if he even will come back; let’s have a little relaxation, a little bit of insobriety, by sitting down to eat and drink and rising up to play." We may not audibly say that the Lord delayeth His coming, but the insobriety of our lives often bespeaks that these are our thoughts in heart.

Correctness, Prayerfulness, Quietness, Peaceableness, God-fearingness and Seriousness should characterise the assemblies of God’s people.

(This article has been transcribed from a recording of our late brother’s ministry and submitted for publication. This explains its somewhat colloquial style.)

To be continued, (D.V.)

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Reading

by Thomas Bentley, late of Malaysia

Paper 1

"Give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine" 1Tim.4.13. Paul the apostle advised young Timothy to attend to, or give heed to the public reading of the Scriptures. W.E. Vine1 states, this pursuit "suggests devotion of thought and effort". The determination of the heart is certainly necessary and applicable for the private as well as the public reading of the Bible, the Word of God. The acquired habit will undoubtedly enhance spiritual enrichment and development. It is vital that a believer in Christ should get to know his or her God through the reading of His Word.

1. Vine, W.E. “Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words”. World Bible Publishers, Iowa, 1991.

Notice the number of imperatives used in vv.13 to 16; things that we must do: "Give attendance to; Neglect not; Meditate upon; Give thyself wholly; Take heed; Continue". If we are to follow Paul’s advice tenaciously, we will be preserved from much evil and sin that are prevalent in the world, and, we will be guided to order our lives according to His Word.

The only encounter that Philip the evangelist had with the Ethiopian eunuch was when he found him sitting in his chariot and reading the Scriptures. It prompted his notable question: "Understandest thou what thou readest?" Acts 8.30. This question of penetrating value, posed so long ago, has vital importance for us today. Do we find time to read the Word of God? And, do we understand what we are reading?

The Ethiopian Chancellor of the Exchequer was reading in the prophecy of Isaiah. Another question may be posed. A man of such high position of importance, and entrusted with tremendous responsibilities; when would he find time to read the Scriptures? The answer is twofold:

  • There is the decision for priority

  • There is the demand of the necessity for spiritual sustenance and development.

The Perfect Servant’s call to His disciples, who had been busily engaged in service, was to "Come ye yourselves apart" Mk.6.31. In so doing, one great purpose is to read the Bible and allow God to speak through His Word. This occupation is often neglected. The question is: "Readest thou"?

Throughout the ages, the Bible has been acknowledged as the world’s greatest Book. It is indeed the Book of books, towering above the many creations of the human mind. Many are interested in how we got the Bible, how it has been translated into our own language and how it has been preserved for us. We thank God for the preservation and the availability of the Scriptures, but, do we read it? A distinguished Biblical scholar who acknowledged the devoted and dangerous work of the translators, once said, "There is yet one thing to do with the Bible, simply to read it".

The Christians were once known as "the men and women of the Book". Is this still true of us today? Sadly, many believers are not reading their Bibles on a regular basis. At most, the acquaintance is casual, spasmodic; dictated by circumstantial needs for comfort, or solutions for many problems in life. The great impetus is to rekindle the enjoyment of the reading of the Word of God. This will bring much spiritual blessing from the Lord.

In order to counteract the neglect of the reading of the Bible, some considerations are helpful.

THE HABIT OF READING

Every born again person has a love for the Lord Jesus Who saved him or her. There is also an innate desire to know Him more intimately, and to obey Him. In order to accomplish these characteristics, there is also the longing to read His Word. The Bible is the source from which we learn of our Saviour and Lord. The more we read, the more we will learn of Him. As we learn more of our Saviour, we will love Him more. May we endeavour to cultivate the habit of reading the Bible. It is the Lord’s desire that we read His Word which He has given to us; the Bible that has been miraculously preserved for us through many centuries.

Let us examine the Scriptures under three concepts.

  • A Source of Food and Fellowship

  • A Source for Guidance

  • A Source of Strength

A Source of Food and Fellowship

The Lord Jesus raised three people during His sojourn on earth.

The raising of Jairus’ daughter, Lk.8.49-56. When the girl of twelve was raised from the dead, the Lord "commanded that something be given her to eat". Any form of life must be sustained with food. How true of the spiritual life of a believer. He must feed on the Bread of life, found alone in our Saviour in His Word.

The raising of the widow’s son at Nain, Lk.7.11-15. When the young man was restored to life, the Lord "delivered him to his mother". Spiritual life must be nurtured. There is no better way to nurture the life of a believer than to sustain him with the Word of God. He also has the care and fellowship of the people of God.

The raising of Lazarus, Jn.11.1-43. Lazarus was bound hand and foot by the fetters of death. When he was raised from the dead, the Lord commanded to "loose him and let him go". Thank God that we have been liberated from a life of sin and have been given the power to "stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free ... " Gal.5.1.

New life in Christ must be sustained by fellowship with God and with His people. It is obvious that Lazarus was restored to his sisters and many like-minded friends in Bethany. It is noted that the Lord often resorted to Bethany where He was loved and adored; and where He enjoyed warm fellowship with His own. Bethany is often likened to an assembly composed of God’s redeemed people.

Generally, an individual wisely spends considerable time in assiduously attending to the needs of the body, cherishing and nourishing it with food and exercise. He also attempts to keep his body strong as well as healthy. "For no one ever hated his own flesh ..." Eph.5.29 (Newberry). Is there a comparable interest and time given to the development and enrichment of our spiritual condition? Job gives a valued assessment for our spiritual welfare, "I have esteemed (treasured up) the words of His mouth more than my necessary food" Job 23.12 (Newberry). Solomon adds, "Feed me with food convenient for me" Prov.30.8. May the child of God have the same desire and longing for the Word of God.

To be continued, (D.V.)

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Thy Soul Prospereth

by C. Jones (Wales)

THE TRUTH THAT IS IN THEE

It is essential for those of us who are believers to spend time prayerfully studying and meditating on the Word of God, under the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit. As we feed on the Scriptures, we will rejoice in the truths and promises revealed to us and we will grow and prosper spiritually, 1Pet.2.2. Spending time in the Word Of God and obeying its precepts will help us to know God better. To know Him is to love Him and desire to serve Him in our daily lives and in the assembly where He has placed us.

Feeding on the Word of God will, by the grace of God, result in our being built up in our God-given faith and being more conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ, Rom.8.29, Who is "the image of the invisible God" Col.1.15. As a believer becomes more Christ-like he will become more like the One Who loved His Father, Jn.14.31; always pleased Him, Jn.8.29; glorified Him, and finished the work His Father had given Him to do, Jn.17..4. There is no other way to become more like the "altogether lovely" Lord Jesus Christ, S. of S.5.16, than to meditate on the truths and obey the teaching found in the Word of God. Then our souls will prosper and our minds, which determine all we do, will become more like that of the Lord, Phil.2.5.

We become like that which occupies our minds. We read that as a man "thinketh in his heart, so is he" Prov.23.7, and "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh" Matt.12.34. We are responsible to God for the way we use our God-given resources, which include our time and energy. The way we use our time and what we fill our minds with governs the way we think and thus our behaviour. Our behaviour controls our moral right to witness for God, which is of the utmost importance. A "good name is rather to be chosen than great riches" Prov.22.1. A good name and testimony, a good reputation, can be lost through one sinful action or word.

Three men are mentioned in the third epistle of John, and what is recorded concerning them provides food for thought, for "whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope", Rom.15.4.

WALK IN TRUTH

Gaius is spoken of in glowing terms: he is "wellbeloved", v.1; loved by John and by those who really knew him. He may not have been well physically. How striking and significant it is when we hear a brother pray concerning a believer who is ill, and he employs the words used of Gaius, "that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth" v.2. Gaius walked in the truth. He was consistent, steadfast and reliable in his life and witness. Gaius needed both spiritual and material blessings to carry out the work he did for the Lord. He might have been weak in body but he was strong in faith and his testimony exalted the Lord Jesus Christ. Such was the good name and reputation of Gaius that brethren spoke of his devotion to the truth which was shown in the life he led as he obeyed the Word of God, v.3. It gave John great joy to hear of one who, having been saved, was prospering spiritually, walking in the truth he had learned and serving the Lord, v.4.

Gaius was given to hospitality and his home was open both to those he knew and to strangers who served the Lord, v.5. He treated all believers, whether strangers or not, as being "all one in Christ Jesus" Gal.3.28. Gaius loved the believers, v.6, and the love that exists among believers is evidence that they are the Lord’s, Jn.13.35; 15.12,17; 1Pet.1.22. Gaius’ reputation for kindness was known among the believers, and what he did out of love to the Lord and to fellow believers will be rewarded at the Judgment Seat of Christ, Matt.10.41; Rom.14.10; 2Cor.5.10.

Gaius helped believers not only by providing them with hospitality, but by providing for their needs as they continued on their journeys. These travelling servants of the Lord had gone forth to serve the Lord Jesus Christ for "His name’s sake": they had faith in Him and looked to Him to meet their needs. They would not accept any help or support from unbelievers, v.7. Those of us who are believers should, as led by the Lord, do all we can to help those who serve the Lord, relying on Him alone to meet their needs. In helping them we will be "Fellowhelpers to the truth", v.8.

LOVETH THE PREEMINENCE

The Holy Spirit brings before us a very different personality when He describes the motivation and deeds of Diotrephes, vv.9-11. This man’s life was not Christ-centred like that of Gaius, but was self-centred. He was self-assertive and wanted pre-eminence. He was proud, had a strong personality and was domineering and critical of others, v.9.

Diotrephes wanted to rule and control everything in the assembly. He ignored the fact that an assembly is God’s assembly and did not live in the light of the reality that the Lord Jesus Christ is Head of the Church. Diotrephes would have nothing to do with the apostle John and he spread false rumours about him and those with him. John intended, when he came to the assembly, to speak of the things Diotrephes was doing and the malicious gossip he was spreading concerning the apostle. Diotrephes would not provide hospitality to the Lord’s servants and tried to prevent others doing so: he sought to put out of the assembly those who provided hospitality, v.10. The things Diotrephes said betrayed his true spiritual condition. He did not follow "that which is good", as the believers were exhorted to do, v.11. He did not pray that God would keep watch over what he said, Ps.141.3, or ensure that all He said would be edifying and glorify God, Eph.4.29; 1Cor.10.31.

GOOD REPORT OF ALL MEN

Demetrius was a complete contrast to Diotrephes, for he had a "good report of all men, and of the truth itself" v.12. What a wonderful thing to be able to say about a man. How Christ-like, consistent and praiseworthy his witness must have been, whether in the assembly, at work, with his neighbours or his family. He lived out the Scriptural truth he knew. Demetrius had a "good report"; he sought to do the will of God and please Him.

The Holy Spirit caused the apostle John to record details of the character, behaviour and reputation of each of the three men we have considered. All that is recorded is for our help, guidance, warning and encouragement. May we prayerfully consider what is written and seek to prosper spiritually and lead lives which are pleasing to God and glorify Him.

(Concluded)

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Good Tidings from Heaven

BREXIT

On the 24th June we in the UK woke to discover that a momentous decision had been made following the National Referendum on European Union (EU) membership conducted the previous day; that decision was to leave the EU. Even though two thirds of the people of Scotland, a significant majority in N Ireland and an overwhelming majority in Gibraltar had voted to remain, because of our links to the UK we all had to accept the consequences of Brexit, whether good or bad. The decision to leave will affect every one of us sooner or later, to some degree.

There was another decision made further back in history at the very dawn of time when the first man, created by God, decided to deliberately and defiantly disobey God. Adam had been placed in the most congenial of circumstances with one simple instruction, one sole prohibition: not to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The sad facts of that fateful day are recorded in the third chapter of the first book of the Bible, Genesis, and we have had to live with the disastrous consequences since. Romans 5.12 states, "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned."

We tend to segregate people according to their race, religion, colour, social status, etc. but the Bible places us all, without exception on one common platform and describes us unflatteringly as ‘sinners’. Due to our links with Adam, the progenitor of the human race, we have all been affected and infected by the deadly virus of sin; we have been defiled by its contagion and its ravages are apparent everywhere in our world. We have been affected physically, psychologically, morally and spiritually. We are at a distance from God, we are accounted as enemies of God, Romans 5.10, and we are in danger of eternal banishment from God if our sins are not forgiven. The stamp of mortality is on every brow and we began the cheerless tramp to the grave as soon we arrived in the world. Hospitals, hospices, prisons and cemeteries all bear testimony to the seriousness of that decision made in the Garden of Eden. J M Davies said, "Cemeteries, the cities of the dead are more populous than the cities of the living."

Is there a solution; is there a remedy? Surprisingly we do not advocate religion, church attendance or change of lifestyle. We encourage you to live respectably and lawfully but that in itself will not eradicate the problem of sin or fit you for heaven. The Bible does not provide us with a range of options but presents an exclusive Saviour, God’s Son. He is the only Saviour for all men everywhere and "He is able also to save them to the uttermost [completely and eternally] that come unto God by Him". Peter said, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" Acts 4.12. The Lord Jesus Himself said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by Me" John 14.6.

Only by trusting Him Who died on our behalf at Calvary can we be saved and fitted for heaven and escape hell.

He took the guilty sinner’s place and suffered in his stead;
For man (O, miracle of grace!); For man the Saviour bled.
    (Anne Steele)

Like Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who officiated at the trial and crucifixion of Jesus Christ, you have a decision to make: "What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?" Matthew 27.22. We urge you to trust Christ and receive a pardon for your sins and be sure of a place in heaven forever.

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