Have you ever wanted to quit? Or have you ever been advised to quit? It happens, doesn’t it? Why stay around and get hurt? We are not told the exact circumstances in which this Psalm was written, but it seems highly probable that David was at the court of Saul (see 1Samuel chapters 18,19). Whatever the circumstances, David was certainly right in the line of fire: "the wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow upon the string, that they may privily shoot at the upright in heart" v.2.
The Hebrew Christians must have been in a position like that. They were reminded of their conversion: "But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions … and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance". Relentless pressure was taking its toll, and it was now necessary to encourage continuing faith in God: "Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward … Now the just shall live by faith" Heb.10.32-39. While we may not encounter the strength of opposition experienced by these Christians, the fact remains that "all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" 2Tim.3.12. So what are we going to do? David sets out the alternatives in this Psalm: (i) "In the Lord put I my trust", and (ii) "Flee as a bird to your mountain" v.1.
This introduces the first of four paragraphs for the purpose of analysis:
The trust of the righteous, v.1
The target of the wicked, vv.2,3
The throne of God, vv.4,5
The triumph of the righteous, vv.6,7.
THE TRUST OF THE RIGHTEOUS, v.1
"In the Lord put I my trust: how say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain?" In explaining the parable of the sower, the Lord Jesus observed: "But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended" Matt.13.20,21. The reality of our profession isn’t proved by behaviour when all is calm and peaceful; it is proved by our behaviour under difficulty and pressure. We can all trust God quite happily in congenial circumstances, but do we trust Him in adversity? The Lord Jesus described His disciples as "they which have continued with Me in My temptations" Lk.22.28.
So let’s look again at the available alternatives. First of all, we can find refuge in God. That is, by trusting Him completely in the circumstances, without moving an inch: like Nehemiah in Neh.6.11. Of such people it can be said, "Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him" Ps.2.12. Secondly, we can find refuge by opting out. When a bird is in danger from a marauding cat, its natural reaction is to fly off. Mountains are the natural haven for fugitives. So it is quite natural to quit. Exactly! Natural, but not spiritual!
Do notice, in passing, that we are using this Psalm to stress the need for faith in God in difficult circumstances: we must not shake our heads and say, ‘It’s too much for me; I’m going to give up’. Many faithful believers, because of their firm faith in Christ, have been forced to flee from home and country. That’s rather different.
However, there’s another lesson here: at least, another application. How do we react when we encounter difficulties in the assembly, and in the Lord’s work? Sometimes, it’s a case of "years of dearth", when everything seems to be "poor and very ill favoured and leanfleshed". (Remember the dream?) When this happens, it’s not unknown for people to "flee as a bird". "Some people are very clever at retreat, and strong on resignation."1 Sadly, very sadly, rebellion against the Word of God can make conditions quite intolerable, but that’s another matter. Do remember, however, if you are ever in such circumstances, that discontinuance is the very last resort. So many believers leave at the very first hint of difficulty (or if they can’t get their own way), and others give up when the work becomes arduous and disappointing. Remember, reduction in numbers is no reason to leave. There’s every reason to remain and say, "In the Lord put I my trust"; but it’s not easy.
Notice where they practise their archery: "that they may in darkness [‘privily’, A.V.] shoot at the upright in heart" (J.N.D.). It’s the usual story, isn’t it? Nothing open or ‘above board’. It’s all very furtive, secretive and clandestine. This makes it all the more dangerous and damaging. We’ve been here before in our studies. See our remarks on Ps.10.8 etc.. A local fish and chip shop once displayed the following:
If you like our fish and chips, tell others.
If you don’t like our fish and chips, tell us.
Worth remembering, don’t you think?! However, it seems that the situation ‘got to’ David: "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?" The answer follows of course, as we shall see, but we all feel like David sometimes. There seems to be no justice: righteous principles are abandoned; no one acts in the fear of God, cf. Ps.82.5. So what can we do in the circumstances?
THE THRONE OF GOD, vv.4,5
Very simply: "the foundations" cannot be overthrown. Wicked men may seem to be successful. In the period immediately preceding the return of the Lord in glory, "the foundations" will appear to be completely overthrown. However, "the Lord is in His holy temple, the Lord’s throne is in heaven: His eyes behold, His eyelids try, the children of men". This verse is quoted in Hab.2.20, where lifeless idols are contrasted with the living God. W.Graham Scroggie (assuming that vv.1-3 are all the language of David’s friends) says: "David’s friends look to earth alone, but he to heaven: they judge by the appearance of the moment, but he by God’s righteous government of the world throughout all time."2
Notice two things: Where God is. "The Lord is in His holy temple" v.4. The word "temple" can be equally rendered ‘palace’. Either way, the emphasis is on the holiness of His dwelling place. In the days of Hezekiah, "their voice was heard, and their prayer came up to His holy dwelling place, even unto heaven" 2Chron.30.27. So David lifted his eyes from wicked men who "bend their bow" on earth, to God, who dwells in the holiness of heaven. That is the first fact: men may be corrupt, but God had not changed.
Now to the second fact: God continues to rule. He has not resigned His authority: "the LORD’S throne is in heaven". The fact that, apparently, "the foundations be destroyed", in no way implies that God has lost control. The throne is still there when we reach the end of the New Testament: "Behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne" Rev.4.2. God’s throne transcends all thrones, and is completely beyond the range of human influence and deterioration. But is that all?
What God does. "His eyes behold, His eyelids try the children of men" v.4. God does not sit in glorious isolation with no concern about human affairs. First of all, He is aware of all that happens, His "eyes behold", but more than that, He takes a deep interest. This is implicit in the word "behold", which means, ‘gazing intently’; but the expression, "His eyelids try" could suggest ‘the thought of screwing up one’s eyes to examine something closely’3. But is that all? Is God like a non-executive director? Not at all. He is watching the righteous and the wicked with deepest interest. Difficulty and adversity prove the reality of the righteous, with Divine commendation: "The LORD trieth the righteous" v.5. They emerge from the trial with flying colours, like Abraham, see Gen.22.1-18. That’s far better than opting out, isn’t it? There’ll be no commendation for heeding the advice, "flee as a bird to the mountain".
3.Kirkpatrick, A. F. "The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges: Psalms". Cambridge University Press, 1906.
The same circumstances prove something else: not now the reality of the righteous, but the reality of the wicked: "But the wicked and him that loveth violence His soul hateth" v.5. The New Testament says the same thing: "We ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure … Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you" 2Thess.1.4-6.
Again the question, "Is that all?" Does adversity serve only to prove the reality of righteousness, and the reality of wickedness? Is God powerless to actually reward the righteous and the wicked? Let’s see:
THE TRIUMPH OF THE RIGHTEOUS, vv.6,7
The first of these two verses is reminiscent of Sodom and Gomorrah: "Upon the wicked shall He rain snares [‘coals’, margin], fire and brimstone, and a horrible tempest [‘scorching wind’, J.N.D.]" v.6. (See also Ezek.38.22.) "This shall be the portion of their cup" v.6. Our cup is so different, isn’t it? Compare Ps.23.5 with Ps.75.8.
But what about the righteous? The final verse of the Psalm is delightful: "For the LORD is righteous; He loveth righteousness: The upright shall behold His face" (R.V./J.N.D. footnote). Notice three things:
the character of the LORD: "the LORD is righteous";
the approval of the LORD: "He loveth righteousness [righteous deeds]";
the reward of the LORD: "the upright shall behold His face".
In v.4, the LORD beholds us. In v.7, we behold Him, which brings to mind Ps.17.15 "As for me, I will behold Thy face in righteousness"; Jn.17.24 "Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory"; Rev.22.4, "And they shall see His face; and His name shall be in their foreheads."
No.12 - What should the Christian’s attitude to abortion be?
Abortion is a medical process that involves killing a baby in the womb. If the child is born alive and then killed, the killing is a crime in the same way as other unlawful killings. Killing in the womb is by contrast subject to a different regime in that the termination of the baby’s life is (usually) effected by hospitals run by the State and subject to statutory regulation. In general, abortion is unlawful. Abortion may be permitted however if carried out in circumstances provided by law.
The main restriction placed on abortion is that it should not occur once the foetus has developed to an advanced stage. What stage that is varies from country to country. In some countries the unborn child may not be aborted after three months gestation, whereas others permit abortion up to six months after conception. Another restriction involves consideration of the health of the baby or mother. Many countries permit abortion in the case of foetal abnormality or where childbirth may pose a threat to the life of the mother. As with all restrictions imposed by law, they may be interpreted loosely by medical practitioners with the result that the degree of protection afforded the foetus is reduced. What is thought of as a threat to the health of the mother is particularly vulnerable to liberal interpretation. In many Western European countries a birth that would cause the mother anxiety or distress may lead to abortion. Some studies even show that the sex of the baby is treated as a relevant factor in several countries. That is rather shocking. The most significant controversy with abortion concerns what are described as "social" abortions. These involve the abortion of otherwise healthy foetuses, where the mother does not wish to have the child for social or personal reasons. In this connection the life of the unborn child seems to count for little. Whatever justification is offered for abortion it is widely acknowledged that mothers, particularly teenaged mothers, oftentimes bitterly regret abortion in later years. Abortion not only ends the life of the baby but leaves the mother with an overwhelming sense of guilt due to the death of the child.
Abortion raises major ethical problems for Christians. The Bible teaches that God is the author of life, Ps.139.13. It teaches that the unborn child is known to God Who can foresee its growth and development, Gen.25.23; Ps.139.16. It also teaches that human beings have souls that live on after physical death, Matt.10.28. Adam was not born, but when God gave him life he was given a living soul, Gen.2.7. The body, soul and spirit of man are present from the outset of life. That the baby is not capable of independent life in the womb is unimportant. A live baby is dependent on its mother for many months before becoming capable of independent existence. This dependence does not mean that the child is unworthy of protection.
If a baby has been given life by God and has a soul then Christians should accept the baby is more than a bundle of molecules. The fact that it cannot speak for itself is irrelevant. The fact that it is incapable of thought or feelings (even if that were capable of being demonstrated) is beside the point. The man born blind in John chapter 9 was born with an abnormality which today might lead to his abortion. However, his blindness was used by the Lord Jesus as a means of glorifying God. Although disabled children may be a tremendous burden to carry, Christianity measures our worth by the burdens we carry, not the crowns we wear. While difficult questions arise in the case of the rape of young children or where the mother’s life is imperilled by pregnancy or birth, the Christian should not hesitate to affirm the personhood of the unborn child and oppose laws which throughout the world permit the death of millions of unborn children. Today, sadly, the world cares more about trees and birds than creatures who are made in the "image of God" Gen.1.27; 9.6.
It will be necessary to apply a structure to our study of each of the sons of Jacob; of their tribe; and the practical lessons for us today. Hence we will consider Reuben: the man; the tribe; and the lessons, the first being the subject of this paper.
REUBEN – THE MAN
When Reuben was born it was an occasion of joy. A male heir betokened God’s continuing faithfulness: first to Abraham; then Isaac; and now to Jacob. But if there was one thing that cast a shadow over the happy event it was that Leah was the mother and not Rachel. However, Leah was ecstatic and the boy was called Reuben, "see, a son".
Whether Jacob or Leah were aware of it, the heir being born to Leah was as a result of a sovereign determination: "when the LORD saw that Leah was hated ["disliked", Helen Spurrell], He opened her womb: but Rachel was barren" Gen.29.31. Leah certainly had an understanding of the Divine favour bestowed on her as evidenced by her words, "Surely the LORD hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me" Gen.29.32. However, her hopes for a greater regard from Jacob were not to be realised.
So Reuben was born into a home where there was a lack of mutual respect. Jacob had both witnessed and participated in family preferences and intrigues in the home of Isaac and Rebekah, which ultimately led to his exile and estrangement. Although Jacob reaped from the scheming Laban what he had sown by his, and his mother’s, deception of Isaac, those lessons had not been fully learned. Jacob therefore carries into his own unusual marital relationships preference for Rachel and prejudice against Leah. Such a noxious atmosphere was hardly conducive to the nurture and development of children.
In Gen.30.14-18 we see Reuben gathering the fruit of a narcotic plant with supposed aphrodisiac properties and becoming involved in the unsavoury vying between Leah and Rachel for the attentions of Jacob. Reuben’s gathering of mandrakes is unlikely to be unknowing. His later character, it seems, developed from a precocious interest in sensuous matters in a family where childbirth was central to interpersonal power-play. Were it not for Divine purpose and providence, God’s grace and government, nothing would have been achieved for His glory in Jacob’s family. However, it would be remiss not to make the practical and sensitive point that it is regrettable if children witness interpersonal tension in the family environment. Also, it is tragic should children be involved directly in any such emotional manipulation.
Years pass before we become reacquainted with Reuben. Jacob has left Laban to return to the land of promise and has had his life-changing experience with God at Penuel, Genesis chapter 32. While Jacob’s latter years were fruitful, they were not without sorrow. The violation of his daughter Dinah, and the cruel response of his sons Simeon and Levi, was devastating, Genesis chapter 34. Then there was Rachel’s death in childbirth, which must have broken his heart, Gen.35.16-20. It is against that background, when Jacob most needed sympathy and support, that we read, "And it came to pass, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine: and Israel heard it" Gen.35.22.
The specific circumstances leading to this incestuous relationship are not detailed. Bilhah was Rachel’s handmaid and the mother of Dan and Naphtali. Rachel’s death removed a certain degree of protection from Bilhah. Also Jacob may have been distracted by grief and consciously avoided one who would remind him of Rachel. No blame is attributed to Bilhah. The sordid initiative was therefore Reuben’s. Such wickedness was characteristic of the "doings of the land of Egypt" and the "doings of the land of Canaan" and later forbidden by the Levitical law, Lev.18.3,8. Under law it carried the death penalty for both parties, Lev.20.11; and incurred a Divine curse, Deut.27.20. It does not appear that any punitive action was taken against Reuben. Jacob’s earlier inaction following Simeon’s and Levi’s cruelty may have weakened his ability to act decisively. The effect upon the grieving patriarch can be imagined from the statement "and Israel heard it" Gen.35.22. Not a word was said about it. Maybe things were "hushed up" as a subject never to be discussed. But Jacob did not forget, nor did he forgive, the treachery of his eldest son! Reuben had thereby become a fornicator and his sin cast a long shadow with very considerable consequences.
We next encounter Reuben at Dothan, where Joseph’s brethren "conspired against him to slay him" Gen.37.18. Reuben, as the eldest brother, should have been expected to quash the most diabolical conspiracy since Cain’s murder of his brother Abel, but Reuben wavered. "And Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him" Gen.37.21. Fine words, but Reuben lacks conviction. Being morally compromised he has no influence in leadership; and so he vacillates: "And Reuben said unto them, Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and lay no hand upon him; that he might rid him out of their hands, to deliver him to his father again" Gen.37.22. When it came to doing something wrong, Reuben acted. But when it came to doing something right, Reuben could not act decisively. We read, "And Reuben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; and he rent his clothes. And he returned unto his brethren, and said, The child is not; and I, whither shall I go?" Gen.37.29,30. Fine words again, but he made no attempt to follow and seek to recover Joseph from the Midianite merchantmen. Furthermore he was party to the subsequent cruel conspiracy to deceive Jacob.
Years pass again, and the guilty brethren find themselves standing in the presence of the exalted, but unrecognised, Joseph. Here Reuben displays his lack of accountability and seeks to excuse his earlier involvement: "And Reuben answered them, saying, Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? therefore, behold, also his blood is required" Gen.42.22. Yet it is Reuben who subsequently seeks to persuade the distraught Jacob that he be allowed to take Benjamin to Egypt to secure the release of Simeon: "And Reuben spake unto his father, saying, Slay my two sons, if I bring him not to thee" Gen.42.37. Reuben had wronged his father; violated Bilhah; was complicit in the slavery of Joseph and the subsequent cover up; and, now, is prepared to let his two sons be slain, if required! Reuben talked big, but did he ever take full responsibility for his own actions? This time Jacob both hears and speaks, to accuse not only his sons in general but Reuben in particular, when he says, "My son shall not go down with you" Gen.42.38.
When Jacob and his entire family later relocate to Egypt, among the caravan to journey south were "Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn. And the sons of Reuben; Hanoch, and Phallu, and Hezron, and Carmi" Gen.46.8,9. Reuben’s wife was there as well, Gen.46.26, but she is not named. Poor woman, married to such a man!
REUBEN – JACOB’S PROPHECY
When all twelve sons of Jacob are gathered round their father’s deathbed, the departing patriarch states, "Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power: Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel; because thou wentest up to thy father’s bed; then defiledst thou it: he went up to my couch" Gen.49.3,4. There is no place here for Reuben to hide!
Jacob first outlined Reuben’s advantages. As firstborn he had primogeniture rights: (a) the birthright, a double portion of the inheritance; (b) primacy in leadership; and (c) priestly honour. He is called by Jacob "my might" and "the beginning of my strength" as the first fruits of manly strength. And he had double excellency, or pre-eminence, in "dignity" and "power". Reuben was intended to be a dignified, honourable and powerful man and fulfil his father’s expectations.
Jacob’s next statement must have come as a thunderbolt: "unstable as water, thou shalt not excel". The expectation of double excellency ended in miserable disappointment. Reuben’s lack of self control led to the unleashing of destructive forces in his life. It is not that he was indecisive and kept changing his mind. Rather he had a turbulent temperament, which, like water simmering untended, could suddenly boil over. There was a reckless bias in his impetuous actions: he was unrestrained when opportunity presented itself to do wrong; yet there was never the same energy to do what was right!
Now a shocking sin committed over forty years before is no longer secret. It is open before all his brothers. Moral evil has consequences and that propensity in Reuben’s life brought defilement and disgrace. It also brought forfeiture of his birthright to Joseph; of leadership to Judah; and of priesthood to Levi. Not since Adam’s fall had so much potential been lost, both personally and for his tribe. It is still true that we cannot sin and win! "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" Gal.6.7.
However, we must not relegate such a sin and its consequences to the early history of the sons of Jacob. Remember this was the sin that raised its head in the assembly at Corinth: "It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife" 1Cor.5.1.
During the Lord’s public ministry, He did question His disciples about doctrine. He asked the question: "Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?" Their answer revealed the diversity of views they had heard expressed, each one of which was far off the mark: "Some say … John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets" Matt.16.13,14. On occasions, others came to question Him, as, for example, when the Sadducees approached Him with their elaborate and wholly fictitious story about a family of seven brothers, each of whom in turn married the same woman, as the brothers died one after the other, Matt.22.23-28. The questioners wanted to know whose wife the woman would be "in the resurrection". The Lord highlighted their error, beginning with the sentence: "Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God" Matt.22.29-32. With the Pharisees, the Lord also raised questions about the Scriptures’ revelation of Himself, Israel’s Messiah: "Whose son is He?" Matt.22.41-46. Their answer was accurate, but not complete: Messiah was indeed "the son of David". The Lord then asked about Ps.110.1: "The LORD said unto my Lord: ‘Sit Thou on My right hand’". In His questioning of His adversaries’ doctrine, the Lord was emphasising the importance of the doctrine of the Messiah! Their inability to answer the Lord’s question about Psalm 110 revealed the fragmentary nature of their doctrine. Sadly, it also showed their blindness to the clear evidence that the Man of power and holiness was before them: He was the eternal Son of God and also the Son of David!
The Lord also questioned those who challenged His disciples or Himself about the observance of the sabbath. When His disciples were accused of working on the sabbath, because they rubbed a few grains of corn in their hands, the Lord asked: "Have ye not read … what David did, when himself was a hungred, and they which were with him; how he went into the house of God, and did … eat the shewbread, and gave also to them that were with him; which is not lawful to eat but for the priests alone?" He also drew attention at that time to the activities of the priests in the temple "profaning" the sabbath, Matt.12.1-8; Mk.2.23-28; Lk.6.1-5. He also reminded His hearers that they would rescue a sheep that had fallen into a pit on the sabbath day. Given that a man is "much … better than a sheep", they should have known that the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath, Mk.2.27. The Lord also revealed, no doubt to their horror, that "the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath" Mk.3.27,28.
Face to face with a man with a withered hand, the Lord asked: "Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil?" Lk.6.6-11. Later, He asked: "Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day?", as He and His onlookers saw the need of a man before them suffering from dropsy, a condition characterised by retention of fluid in the tissues of the body, Lk.14.2-6. The Lord was intent in helping the common man to understand Scripture, and to highlight the danger when the nation’s leaders went beyond, "Thus saith the Lord".
In all this, we see the Lord’s willingness to help His contemporaries to grasp the significance of the doctrine taught in the Old Testament and to open to their understanding the importance of passages they may not have considered or passages whose meaning had been lost because of overlays of traditions and other misleading influences. Sadly, there are to this day those that insist that it is not important what a person believes, but there is no suggestion in the Bible that doctrine is unimportant. How can a Christian be unaffected by the doctrines taught by the Lord and His apostles?
THE FOUNDATION LAID BY THE APOSTLES
When the Lord Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father, the Jewish disciples had access to the Old Testament Scriptures in Hebrew and in the Septuagint, a much-used Greek translation of the Old Testament. What the Lord Jesus had taught while He was with them would be treasured in their memories; to our knowledge, nothing of the Lord’s teaching had been committed to writing to provide a permanent record. We know that the Holy Spirit exercised Matthew, Mark and Luke to address that important task, and later the apostle John. Clearly, the God Who exercised men to pen the Gospels also ensured the preservation of these important Scriptures. Centuries after they were written, papyrus manuscripts and parchment manuscripts were discovered. A very important example of these are the Chester Beatty Biblical papyri, the discovery of which was announced by Sir Frederic Kenyon in The Times of November 19, 1931. One papyrus codex contained parts of the four Gospels and the Acts; another, parts of Paul’s Epistles and the Epistle to the Hebrews; and the third, parts of the book of Revelation. The careful preservation of those and other copies of the New Testament underscores the importance generations of Christians attached to the teaching of the apostles and other acknowledged teachers of the New Testament truth.
Before the New Testament, as we know it, was assembled, the apostles had laid a sure foundation on which Christian lives were to be built. They faced huge challenges, as they taught the doctrines not included in the Old Testament. In what we know as Matthew chapter 18, we learn that the Lord had spoken of offences that may arise in a world opposed to Christ, Matt.18.7-14; but also of a brother trespassing against another brother, Matt.18.15-35. The offended brother is to approach the offender, and guidance is given as to how the case would be handled, depending on the attitude of the offender, always with the objective of gaining the offending brother. However, if the offender remained unrepentant, it would ultimately lead to excommunication, if he refused to hear the church, Matt.18.16-19. In the Lord’s teaching ministry, He did encounter false doctrine. However, at Rom.16.17-20, divisions and offences may be "contrary to the doctrine" that Paul’s readers had learned. Those causing division were to be avoided, for they were those who did not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, Rom.16.18. Their motives are exposed: they are self-seeking, to feed their carnal appetites. Their methods are also exposed: they used "good words and fair speeches". The market they address comprises "the hearts of the simple"1.
1. Greek akakõs, literally "not evil", i.e. "innocent". A different Greek word, akeraios, also translated "simple", occurs at v.19, meaning "harmless".
Being the capital city of the great Roman Empire, Rome would attract all kinds of people. Among its inhabitants there would be those who were disorderly. But Rome was not alone in attracting the disorderly. Paul uses the adjective "unruly"2, which is a military metaphor, pointing up how easily a Thessalonian onlooker might note those who were out of step with the true soldiers of Christ, 1Thess.5.14; see also 2Thess.3.6-15. Each saint who understood the important role of the apostles in establishing assemblies and grounding the people of God in the truth would value the work of those called of God to be apostles. It is evident, from the mention of public rebuking at 1Tim.5.20 and Titus 1.13; 2.15, that the apostles did correct not just false doctrine, but also behaviour that was not God-honouring. We know from Heb.12.5 and Rev.3.19 that the Lord Himself rebukes, but the rebuke in the three verses listed in 1Timothy chapter 5 and Titus chapters 1 and 2 relates to a sharp rebuke in an assembly meeting, probably a meeting convened for that purpose. The Greek word translated "to rebuke" carries the sense of "providing convincing proof", note Liddell & Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon.3
2. Greek akakõs, Strong 813.
3. Greek elegchõ, Strong 1651.
In the first chapter of his epistle to Titus, Paul’s clear guidance to Titus in respect of the qualifications for those seeking to undertake the good work of shepherding the people of God sets out a job description that makes great demands on the aspiring "steward of God" vv.6-9. Paul recognises that "there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision" vv.9-14. So serious are their disruptive activities that their "mouths must be stopped." The juxtaposition of "houses" and "teaching" at v.11 draws attention to the need to rebuke the erroneous teachers, who went from house to house, seeking disciples to follow their erroneous doctrines. They needed to be rebuked "that they may be sound in the faith" v.13. The devastating effects of false doctrine are spelled out in a cluster of words including "defiled … unbelieving … mind and conscience defiled … abominable … disobedient … reprobate" vv.15,16. The context of the false doctrine that Titus has to address appears to be based on "Jewish fables, and commandments of men" v.14. The warning against being "given to filthy lucre" may not be unrelated to the motives of the "many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers" vv.7,10. Prompt action by the elders of an assembly is expected, to avoid discord, division and doctrinal confusion. The apostle bases his guidance on the high regard in which he held those "who have spoken unto you the word of God", whose faith is to be imitated. The believers should look back on their way of life, the results of which stand in sharp contrast to the way the false teachers were living.
The sharp rebuke of Titus 1.13, 1Tim.5.20, et al is lesser in severity than excommunication, which was required at 1Cor.5.11. In each of those cases, the assembly administers the discipline. It has been noted that in Heb.13.7,17,24 the repetition of the pronoun "you" in those three verses dealing with elders who "have the rule over you" spells out the link between the saints and the elders of the assembly. Among the roles elders fill are those related to assembly discipline.
In the previous paper we suggested there were seven features that ought to be seen in those who minister the Word of God and we considered three of them.
The Fourth Feature is found in v.19: "Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue." Not only am I to employ words "easy to be understood," but I’m to speak with understanding. In other words, I am to understand what I’m teaching. That might sound simple, but it’s necessary teaching. Those ministering to edification should understand what they’re saying. Ministering to God’s people is a far too serious matter, for one to just utter something that flashes into the mind. It is far too serious for that kind of thing! I must thoroughly understand what I’m teaching. My teaching should have passed through the crucible of the mind, having been turned over and over and over in the presence of God so that I perfectly understand what I’m teaching. Only then can I help God’s people. God’s people are far more discerning than we think and they invariably know when a man is teaching something he doesn’t understand. I have to understand what I’m teaching.
The Fifth Feature is in v.20: "Brethren, be not children in understanding … in understanding be men." My dear brethren, if I would minister to God’s people, I must not be childish, but mature. "Brethren, be not children in understanding ... in understanding be men." Pep talks are all right, but God’s people need more than pep talks. Puns, alliterations, and all that kind of thing can help, but they’ll leave nothing that lasts. You’ll never help the saints with light, frivolous, childish talk. Paul says those who minister God’s Word, are to be men in understanding.
I believe God’s people are craving for sane, serious, and sober exposition of Divine truth. That’s what edifies. Never resort to what is childish when ministering. Never abuse the opportunity. Never use the occasion of standing at the desk to make an assault on any brother or brethren! That’s childish! The man of God should be above that kind of thing. Also, never use the occasion to defend oneself against attack. Leave that to God. "In understanding be men."
The Sixth Feature is found in vv.24, 25: "But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: and thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest …". Notice the language here: "He is convinced … he is judged." What does this mean? It means that if I minister to God’s people I must minister with conviction, so that those listening will be convicted and judged in the presence of God.
Young men, cold, calculated lecturing never helps God’s people. It is good that you can dot your i’s and stroke your t’s and give the right emphasis at certain places, making the saints laugh and be sober as desired, but Paul says when ministering to God’s people, minister with conviction. My brother, if I have acquired knowledge through reading God’s Word and if in my ministry I employ words easy to be understood, and I myself understand what I’m saying, then I can minister with conviction. God’s people are never helped by the type of ministry that says: "It might be this" or "It might be that" – "It could be this" or "It could be that." That’s not ministering with conviction.
The Seventh and Final Feature is in v.29: "Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the others judge." By having prophets speak two or three, I believe the Lord has the capacity of His people in mind. Let the prophets speak two or three. Then secondly he says, "And let the other judge." I should never minister to God’s people if I’m not prepared to submit my ministry to their judgment. I should not resent a brother saying to me at the end of a meeting, "Mr. Leckie, what did you mean by that? I thought something different." This isn’t carnal, destructive criticism now, but an honest judgment with honest criticism. No brother should assay to minister to God’s people who is not prepared to submit his ministry to their judgment. Let the prophets speak two or three and let the others judge. After all, dear brethren, ministry is not tested by who gives it. Some think if a certain brother teaches something it must be right. Oh no. The test of all ministry is, "What saith the Scriptures?" "Let others judge."
DECENTLY AND IN ORDER
In closing, look at v.40: "Let all things be done decently and in order." This precept was so necessary at Corinth. In v.26 we read: "How is it then, brethren? When ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation." Sometimes this is thought of as the liberty of the Spirit of God in our gatherings, but I see a different interpretation. I think it indicates a jack-in-the-box mentality at meetings in Corinth. They couldn’t keep their seats. One had a psalm, another a doctrine, another a revelation, and another an interpretation. They couldn’t sit in their seats.
Why was that? V.37: "If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord." You see dear brethren, there’s a serious danger that I might think I am what I’m not. I might feel I possess a gift which in fact, I do not. And where that resides, you get jack-in-the-box meetings. It was such a problem at Corinth that three times the apostle had to exhort them to silence, vv.28,30,34.
The First Time is in v.28 where Paul wrote: "But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God." This has reference to the gift of tongues. A man in the church at Corinth speaks in tongues and the apostle says, "All right, if you want to speak in a tongue, do so, but first, make sure there is one who can interpret your tongue." If no one was present to interpret, the saints would not be helped. "In that case," says Paul, "let him keep silence."
The principle is simple. If what I’m going to say will not edify or help, I should keep silent, no matter how eloquent it might be. For I repeat, dear brethren, the possession of gift is by itself no justification for its use. The only justification for the exercise of gift is the profit of God’s people. Before any of us rise to minister we should ask ourselves, "Will God’s people be helped?" "Will they be edified?" "Will they profit?" If not, Paul says, "Let him keep silence."
The Second Time is in v.30: "If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace." This was in connection with the gift of prophecy. Says the apostle, "If, as a prophet, you’ve had a revelation from heaven, then by all means utter it through prophesying, but once you’ve uttered what God has given you, hold your peace." Someone might be sitting by with a revelation.
This is a simple but important principle also. If God gives me a knowledge of Divine truth and a message for His people, He doesn’t intend that I be a reservoir, but a channel, because God wants His people helped. Paul says, "Once you’ve given what God has given you to give to His people, then hold your peace." Many messages (and I speak to my own heart) that would have helped God’s people were destroyed by going beyond what God gave the speaker to give. By all means, give it, but learn when to hold your peace.
The Third Time silence is enjoined is in v.34: "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law." It seems that even the women in Corinth could not keep their seat. They too, wanted to speak. In many quarters today, this silence of women is being set aside. There is teaching that asks whether, "Let your women keep silence in the churches" doesn’t refer to hymn singing also; that they’re not to sing hymns with God’s people? How childish! It’s not silence in contrast to singing, but silence in contrast to speaking. "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak."
What is speaking here? Some say it’s "chattering," but, of course, that is not the case. It is the word Paul employed earlier when he said: "Let the prophets speak two or three …" and we can’t read chattering into that. The New English Version, of which I’m not at all fond and do not possess, translates this well: "It is not permitted unto them to address the congregation".
Let us observe this threefold exhortation to silence. If I can’t speak to profit or have finished giving what God has given me for His people, then I should be as silent as the woman.
(This article has been transcribed from a recording of our late brother’s ministry and submitted for publication. It also explains its somewhat colloquial style.)
"For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them" Matt.18.20.
"IT WAS NOT MY SCENE"
It is with serious concern that we watch the demise of some assemblies which, for many years, have been household names into the third and fourth generations. Other assemblies which once were vibrant testimonies have been reduced to a few, faithful, older brothers and sisters who are burdened about who will continue testimony until the Lord returns. In past gospel meetings some may have professed to be saved and these have been rightly taught the truth of believers’ baptism and gathering to the Lord’s name. In early years, young believers tend to follow family example, because their parents are in the assembly and grandpa is an overseer. All too often when academic, employment and marriage choices have to be made, assembly fellowship is not a priority. Some are not prepared to make material sacrifice to remain to help a small assembly. Some marry a believer who is not in assembly fellowship. Others fail to see the difference between a scripturally gathered New Testament assembly and a much larger denominational gathering. When asked why they left the assembly they will say, "It was not my scene". Originally, did they gather out of conviction or just for family convenience? What is meant by the words "gathered together in My name"? Matt.18.20.
The two words translated "in", divide this beautiful verse into a threefold theme:
THE PEERLESS NAME
THE PRE-EMINENT PERSON
THE PRECIOUS PROMISE.
THE PEERLESS NAME: "In My name".
The first "in" means, "unto" or "into", meaning attraction or ownership. To take the name indicates ownership, to whom we belong. A son takes his father’s family name because he belongs to the family. A business-man trades under his own name because he owns the business. A bride takes the surname of her husband; they belong to each other.
The second "in" is a different word expressing "in the midst", the focus being upon the Person, Presence, and Precedence of our Lord Jesus Christ. We cannot claim the second if we do not gather with conviction unto the first. The order teaches the uniqueness and distinction of an autonomous New Testament assembly gathered to the name "Lord Jesus Christ".
In our day objections are raised to this teaching:
Objection 1: The verse does not contain assembly truth.
Answer: In Matthew chapter 11, the King is rejected. Subsequent chapters deal with the period of His absence. Israel has been set aside. In this age, is God without testimony on earth? This verse gives the answer.
Objection 2: No assembly existed when these words were spoken,
Answer: V.17, "Tell it unto the church". This cannot be a building with ears. You cannot tell it to all the members of the "Church" which is His body, the most of whom are in heaven and the remainder scattered over the whole earth. The context is the local assembly.
Objection 3: The context is a case of discipline.
Answer: The verse teaches that an assembly exists which is marked by purity and Scriptural order. This is a local company graced with the dignity of His presence, consistent with His peerless name.
"My name" proclaims all that the Lord Jesus Christ is, in His Person and Work. The focus is upon His "name", not the people who meet. This announces the absence of all sectarian terms of fellowship. We gather in separation from all that would dishonour His name. We do not meet with a negative spirit toward other forms of gathering. We gather as being attracted to all that is conveyed to us by His name. We belong to our Lord Jesus Christ and gather as His people. Through that name we have salvation: "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. This stresses Authority and Assurance through His name.
In that name we draw near in prayer: "Whatsoever ye ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son" Jn.14.13. This gives focus on Access and Acceptance through His name. In the audience chamber of Divine Power we claim His merits before the Father.
In that blessed name we gather. "In My name" Matt.18.20. This emphasises Attraction and Acknowledgement of ownership. As saved, we are purchased through His blood. Being baptised in His name, we proclaim His ownership. As part of the fellowship of a Scripturally-gathered, called-out company, we obey His Word because we are attracted to His Person. Are we convinced that the local assembly, gathered alone to His name, is a contradiction and a complete denial of all who gather claiming any sectarian name?
If a business-man was required to make a visit abroad, he may leave his company in the charge of someone else until he returned. What would he think of the manager, if he heard that in his absence, his name had been removed from the premises and trade was now being conducted under another name? If Mr. Smith had to leave home for a period, what would be his reaction if, on returning, he found that Mrs Smith had become Mrs Jones? If a name is important in secular affairs we should not just take some name of convenience to distinguish the gathering unto our blessed Lord.
When the people built the tower of Babel, they said; "Let us make us a name [for ourselves]" Gen.11.4. The spirit of Babel is still seen today in the divided state of Christendom. Some gather to the name of a leader (Lutheran, Wesleyan). Some recognise church order (Presbyterian, Methodist). Others distinguish a practice (Baptist) or an event (Pentecostal). Some stress location (Church of Ireland or Rome). A most unscriptural party name is "Christian Brethren". To denominate means to give it a name, perhaps for convenience. Denominationalism is sin. It is useful to call the building a "gospel hall" enabling people to locate a building where they can come to hear the gospel.
THE PRE-EMINENT PERSON: "Where two or three are gathered together" Matt.18.20.
Even the smallest assembly can function in a way that is true of all assemblies, small or large, gathered unto His name and attracted to His Person. This does not indicate a place where two or three meet. It is not a text on the wall indicating where two or three gather by human will. This is not an occasional gathering. The tense of the verse means, "having been and are gathered together".
An older generation came out of denominational systems at great cost and conviction. They left the sacraments, prayer books, choirs and music. These things are not new, but relics of past times. Now we of the third and fourth generations find it easy and convenient. Many do not see the difference in the ecumenical attractions of bigger things in the locality. Who wants to be in a small fellowship; that which is dated, decreasing and suffering from dementia? They say that there are only a few in fellowship, they just have the Bible ... there is no activity for the young and it will soon die out.
THE PRECIOUS PROMISE: "There am I in the midst of them" Matt.18.20.
God in His grace will maintain testimony until the "coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together unto Him" 2Thess.2.1. In these closing days, may we be preserved to strengthen the local assembly amid the confusion of Christendom without sanctioning the sectarian discord around us. May we gather with conviction, attracted to His Person alone, in submission to His Word, according to His precious promise, awaiting His return.
In the four passages mentioned above the thought of endeavouring is brought before us. This is conveyed by the following words:
2Cor.5.9, "labour" (philotimeomai) meaning "to strive to bring something to pass"; hence, "to be ambitious, to make it one’s aim" (W.E. Vine);
Eph.4.3, "endeavouring" and 1Thess.2.17, "endeavoured", both translate the word
‘spoudazo’ meaning to make haste, be zealous;
Acts 16.10, "endeavoured" (zeteo) meaning to seek after in order to find.
In 2Kgs.10.16 Jehu said to Jehonadab, "Come with me and see my zeal for the Lord". Could we say that to each other with sincerity? Many of the Lord’s people have become complacent and lost their zeal and enthusiasm that they once had for the things of God. What do you talk about most animatedly? Is it your hobby, your garden, sport or is it the things of God?
These Scriptures may be considered as follows:
2Cor.5.9 - Endeavour towards God: the object is to be well-pleasing
Eph.4.3 - Endeavour towards the assembly: the object is unity
1Thess.2.17 - Endeavour towards the saints: the object is the enjoyment of fellowship
Acts 16.10 - Endeavour towards the lost: the object is to preach the gospel.
2COR.5.9 - ENDEAVOUR TOWARDS GOD – THE OBJECT IS TO BE WELL- PLEASING
In 2Corinthians chapter 4 Paul has been writing about the suffering endured in the service of God. He writes in vv.8,9, "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed." He ends the chapter by pointing out that such suffering is only temporal, "but for a moment", in comparison with "the far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory".
However, as he commences chapter 5 he acknowledges that there is the possibility that the present sufferings may even end in death, "For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved" (destroyed – thrown down – martyrdom – cp. "destroy this temple"). However, Paul does not worry about what might happen to this temporal body for he has "a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens" and in the light of that he desired to be "absent from the body and present with the Lord" v.8.
V.9 "Wherefore" – the thought of seeing his blessed Lord face to face and being made manifest before Him at the Judgment Seat of Christ, spurs Paul on to do everything that is well-pleasing unto Him. Here was Paul’s one aim and ambition in life: he was zealous to be well-pleasing to his Lord. "For to me to live is Christ" Phil.1.21. Is that our great desire in life?
The question we should be asking constantly is, "Will it please the Lord?" This should govern every decision we make, every place that we go, the way that we dress, the books that we read, how we spend our time and money. Ask yourself the question tonight, "What have I done in this past week that has brought pleasure to the heart of God?" How do the Scriptures show us how we can please the Lord? Three things:
Heb.11.5 "... Enoch had this testimony, that he pleased God". How did he please God? Gen 5 "Enoch walked with God" – a life of communion
Rom.12.1 "I beseech you ... present your bodies a living sacrifice ... acceptable unto God" - a life of consecration
Heb.13.16 "But to do good and communicate ... for with such sacrifices God is well pleased" – a life of communication.
EPH.4.3 - ENDEAVOUR TOWARDS THE ASSEMBLY: THE OBJECT IS UNITY
Our conduct in the assembly will be such that we will endeavour, be diligent, be zealous to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Maintaining unity in an assembly is not an automatic thing; it is something that requires effort on our part and we must endeavour to maintain it, be zealous and diligent about it. How can we maintain unity? Paul presents to us four things that will bring about conditions of harmony:
"with all lowliness" – a deep sense of our own littleness. Phil 2:3 "let each esteem others better than themselves"
"meekness" – gentle, tender of spirit. One who would rather take wrong than inflict it. Not riding roughshod over others. Not weakness but power under control
"longsuffering" – patience with people. Self-restraint even under severe provocation. Not seeking to get my own back, but like the Lord Jesus "who when He was reviled, reviled not again ..." 1Pet.2.23
"forbearing one another in love" – to bear with, to endure, to put up with. 1Pet.4.8 "have fervent love among yourselves: for love shall cover the multitude of sins." ‘Fervent’ means to be stretched out to the limit. There is not much elasticity about some of us, we don’t give very easily. ‘Cover’ means to cover over, to hide from view. Prov.10.12 "Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins". Ps.133.1 "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity".
May we seek with humility, meekness, longsuffering and forbearance to be diligent to maintain in the assembly to which we belong, the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
1THESS.2.17 - ENDEAVOUR TOWARDS THE SAINTS: THE OBJECT IS ENJOYMENT OF FELLOWSHIP
Paul says that he "endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire." Have I a longing towards the saints in my assembly? Do you long for the enjoyment of fellowship? David could write in Ps.122.1 "I was glad when they said unto me, ‘Let us go into the house of the LORD’". If you are in fellowship not only do you have a responsibility and an obligation to be there but there should be a longing in your soul to be with fellow saints. Just notice a little phrase which appeared in our reading, "but Satan hindered us". Dear reader, is Satan hindering you from the enjoyment of fellowship with the Lord’s people?
May the Holy Spirit place within each of our hearts a greater longing to enjoy the delight that comes from the warm fellowship of our dear fellow believers.
ACTS 16.10 - ENDEAVOUR TOWARDS THE LOST: THE OBJECT IS TO PREACH THE GOSPEL
Paul had a vision. May God burn into our souls the desperate need of souls without Christ; souls on their way to the eternal burnings of the lake of fire. Have we a burden for men and women around us who are dying without Christ? The hymn writer has penned these challenging words:
Men die in darkness at thy side,
Without a hope to cheer the tomb;
Take up the torch and wave it wide,
The torch that lights time’s thickest gloom.
The Lord Jesus said, "Go ye into all the world ...". When did you last get involved in the assembly tracting? Those who are retired and able-bodied, when did you as an individual last speak to an individual? Have you ever tracted the street where you live? As a result of the vision he had, Paul travelled two hundred miles across the Aegean Sea. Sadly, some of us have no exercise to cross the street and put a tract through a neighbour’s door.
May we each one determine before God to be more ready to speak about the Lord Jesus to those with whom we come into contact; to make it a regular habit to give out tracts in the street and neighbourhood in which we live, that we might be enthusiastic to see souls saved by the grace of God.
This question is of vital importance because your eternal destiny depends upon your answer to it. Do you know why Jesus died? If not, this article will tell you.
SIN BRINGS DEATH
In God’s Word, the Bible, we learn that death came into the world because of sin. "Wherefore … by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" Romans 5.12. "The wages of sin is death" Romans 6.23. You and I die because we are sinners: "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" Romans 3.23.
JESUS DIED FOR US
Did Jesus die because He had sinned? No. Listen to the inspired Word: "In Him is no sin" 1John 3.5; "Who did no sin" 1Peter 2.22; "Who knew no sin" 2Corinthians 5.21. Therefore, death had no claim upon Him, but, blessed be His Name, He "gave Himself for our sins" Galatians 1.4. It was love to you and me that caused the Lord Jesus Christ to come down from heaven and die on Calvary’s cross. It was love to us that held Him on that shameful cross until He had finished the work of atonement to the glory of God.
A holy, righteous, just God cannot let sin go unpunished. On the cross the Lord Jesus bore God’s judgment against sin in our stead, as our substitute; and now God is offering not only forgiveness, but also justification to the repentant sinner who believes in Jesus. He is "just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" Romans 3.26. God showed His approval of that mighty work by raising the Lord Jesus from among the dead and seating Him at His own right hand in heaven, Mark 16.19.
JESUS IS THE WAY
There is no other way a sinner can be saved but through the atoning death of the Lord Jesus, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me" John 14.6. "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.
Why did Jesus die? Have you ever realised that it was your sins that caused Him to die upon the cross, or ever felt your need of Him as your personal Saviour? As you read this little message, He looks down from heaven upon you, and He reads the thoughts and intents of your heart. He knows your attitude toward your sins, as well as your attitude toward the One Who wants to be your Saviour.
TURN TO HIM TODAY
Even if you are a stranger to me, God knows all about you. I urge you not to lay aside this magazine until you have settled this great question and have received the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour. Once you see the seriousness of your sinful condition before God, you will never get rest of conscience until you have trusted the Saviour of sinners. God made "peace through the blood of His cross" Colossians 1.20. We are "reconciled to God by the death of His Son" Romans 5.10.
If you do not trust Him as your Saviour, you will meet Him in eternity as your Judge. For God "hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead" Acts 17.31.
Won’t you flee to Him now for refuge while it is the day of salvation? "We pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God" 2Corinthians 5.20.