March/April 2017

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Contents

ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle

TRAITS OF THE TRIBES
by I. McKee

DISCIPLINE IN THE HOUSE OF GOD
by T. Wilson

ASSEMBLY LIFE
by J.A. Davidson

COMFORT FOR CHRISTIANS IN A CHANGING WORLD
by R. Reynolds

NOTES ON THE PRISON EPISTLES
by A. Summers

GOOD TIDINGS FROM HEAVEN

QUOTES

Consider Him


Assembly Testimony Bible Class

by J. Riddle (England)

THE FIRST BOOK OF PSALMS

No.18: PSALM 14

David is longing for "the salvation of Israel". That much is clear from the last verse of Psalm 14. But there is no definite clue to the circumstances to which the Psalm refers. Israel was certainly in captivity, but to what extent – and to whom – we are not told. "Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! When the LORD bringeth back the captivity of His people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad" v.7. If you want to pursue the matter, you’ll have to review the life and times of David and find out when Israel was in captivity during that period. You may opt for the Philistine victory in 1 Samuel chapter 31: "Now the Philistines fought against Israel: and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines … they forsook the cities, and fled; and the Philistines came and dwelt in them" vv.1-7. Why not do some research? However, the absence of any definite clue must be quite intentional. After all, if God wanted us to know, then He would have told us! So the immediate circumstances are not important. God has some general lessons for us in this Psalm. In fact, it has a very wide application – including future events. This would be a very appropriate Psalm for the dark days of the coming Tribulation, when "the workers of iniquity … eat up My people as they eat bread" v.4.

When you have finished reading Psalm 14, turn to Psalm 53. The two Psalms have similarities and dissimilarities. You will notice different wording in the second half of Psalm 53 from that in Psalm 14. The differences in the wording of the two Psalms are evidently due to the different circumstances in which they were written.

To sum up: God’s people are evidently suffering at the hands of an enemy, and this prompts David to reflect on human nature generally, before turning to the way in which wicked men treat God’s people. There are three main sections to the Psalm:

  • The Corruption of Mankind, vv.1-3
  • The Oppression of the Righteous, vv.4-6
  • The Salvation of Israel, v.7.

THE CORRUPTION OF MANKIND – vv.1-3

First of all, David speaks particularly: "The fool hath said in his heart, ‘There is no God’" v.1. Then he speaks generally: "The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there were any that did understand, and seek God …" vv.2,3. But here, v.1, it is "the fool". Let us stress three things:

The Type of Person

"The fool". It’s hardly necessary to say that this does not mean a weak-minded person, or someone who has a temporary lapse ("you fool", some say), or an ignoramus. The word "fool" in Hebrew, is nabal. So the definition of a "fool" is simply a matter of looking at the man who bears that very name. Who better than his wife to tell us about him! (Abigail certainly didn’t seem very enamoured with her husband, did she?). "Let not my lord, I pray thee, regard this man of Belial, even Nabal: for as his name is, so is he; Nabal is his name, and folly is with him" 1Sam.25.25. First of all, he was marked by ingratitude. David and his men had befriended and helped Nabal’s shepherds (see vv.7,8), and they were only too willing to acknowledge this: "the men were very good unto us, and we were not hurt, neither missed we any thing ... They were a wall unto us both by night and day, all the while we were with them keeping the sheep" vv.15,16. But listen to Nabal: "Who is David? and who is the son of Jesse?" vv.10,11. The New Testament tells us that men "are without excuse: because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful ... Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools" Rom.1.20-22.

In 1Tim.4.10 we are reminded of "the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe". This simply means that at present, God "is not acting as Judge, but as Saviour. Sinners enjoy this relationship in a limited way, for this God does not cut them down in instant wrath, but acts patiently towards them. Believers enjoy this in an unlimited way: they possess life in its blessedness and in its entirety now, and will enjoy it forever" (J. Allen: What the Bible Teaches – 1Timothy). Nabal has many children: the world is full of them. They are people who are devoid of gratitude to God for His daily mercies, and for salvation.

But Nabal was more than ungrateful: he was aggressive and defiant. We have already heard him say, "Who is David? and who is the son of Jesse ... Shall I then take my bread, and my water, and my flesh that I have killed for my shearers, and give it unto men, whom I know not whence they be?" You can hardly read this statement without noticing something else – just look at the repetition of "my". So "the fool" is self-centred as well as ungrateful and defiant. Talking about self-centredness, isn’t there a man just like that in the New Testament? And did not God say, "Thou fool ..."?

The Attitude

Well, we’ve discussed it already – but here it is "No God". If you asked this man if he was an atheist, he would probably say "No". But he was certainly an atheist in practice. His atheism is not explicit, but implicit: it is an attitude of heart: "the fool hath said in his heart ..." Compare Ps.10.4: "The wicked saith ... He doth not search out; all his thoughts are, There is no God" (J.N.D.). He had no time for God, and certainly had no wish to acknowledge His authority. This attitude is fraught with the most dire consequences, as we shall now see:

The Result

"They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good." This statement can be analysed as follows:

  • Men are ruined in themselves. "They are corrupt". Literally, ‘they have corrupted themselves’.
  • Men are ruined in their deeds. "They have done abominable works".
  • Men are ruined in their entirety. "There is none that doeth good".

It is all summed up in Rom.1.28: "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind". The lesson is clear: say "No, God" (the comma is deliberate), and the consequences are fearful, and it applies to saved as well as unsaved people. Our great bulwark against evil is to give God first place in our lives.

Having spoken particularly in v.1, now, in vv.2,3, David speaks generally. In v.1, it was "the fool". Now, it is "the children of men". Here we have a broader enquiry: "The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand". Once again, notice three things in these two verses:

Divine Observation

"The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men". You can think of a wide range of verses in this connection – can’t you? The people who sat "in the lurking places of the villages" had got it quite wrong: "God hath forgotten: He hideth His face; He will never see it" Ps.10.8,11. Incorrect: "Thou hast seen it" Ps.10.14. Compare, "Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear Him, upon them that hope in His mercy" Ps.33.18; "The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and His ears are open unto their cry. The face of the LORD is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth" Ps.34.15,16.

Divine Investigation

"To see if there were any that did understand, and seek God". Notice the Lord’s omniscience and omnipresence here. The word "understand" has the sense of ‘act wisely’. So you can see the connection with v.1 (hopefully!). It looks like this: "The fool hath said", but are there actually "any that ... understand"? All pass under Divine scrutiny, and now comes:

Divine Conclusion

(Like v.1, cause and effect). "They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one". Not just "the fool": "they are all gone aside". In fact, it is a terribly comprehensive statement: "They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy (‘corrupt’, J.N.D.: ‘tainted’, with the idea of putrefaction); there is none that doeth good ..." God had looked "to see if there were any", and the answer was, "none". As you know (hopefully!), this passage is cited in the New Testament: "We have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, There is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, They are together become unprofitable; There is none that doeth good, no, not one’" Rom.3.9-12. By the way, this wasn’t the first time God had "looked down from heaven" and reached the same conclusion. See Gen.6. 5,11,12.

THE OPPRESSION OF THE RIGHTEOUS – vv.4-6

This section adds another dimension to the grim picture. Evil men are not content to wallow in their own wickedness: they make it their business to oppress God’s people. They "eat up My people as they eat bread". Bread is the emblem of life, and these people live by devouring God’s people. But having said that, here is a ray of light at last! In spite of all that we have seen in vv.1-3, God speaks about "My people" and "the generation of the righteous" and "the poor" for whom "the LORD is his refuge". How did they get there? Please answer. Develop the subject with reference to other passages. Let us take a look at these "workers of iniquity".

They Do Not Understand Past Lessons

"Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? Who eat up My people as they eat bread, and call not upon the LORD" v.4. The emphasis is on "My people". Later on in the Old Testament God was to say, "He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of His eye" Zech.2.8. History had proved this: just think about Israel in Egypt for example. But these people had "no knowledge". Lessons from history had not been learned.

They Do Not Understand Coming Judgment

"There were they in great fear: For God is in the generation of the righteous" v.5. As it stands in the A.V., R.V., and J.N.D. Bibles, the first part of this verse is rather difficult to understand. The R.S.V. translates, "There they shall be in great terror". The N.I.V. translates, "There they are, overwhelmed with dread". Bearing in mind the last verse of the Psalm, which clearly points to a future event, it does seem correct to understand future judgment here. To oppress God’s people is to attack God Himself (see Acts 9.4,5), with inevitable results. Whatever the exact wording should be, there is no mistaking the point: wicked men will be "in great fear" because they will see God’s presence and power in His people.

This verse (v.5) should be compared with Ps.53.5, "There were they in great fear, where no fear was: for God hath scattered the bones of him that encampeth against thee: Thou hast put them to shame, because God hath despised them." "This seems to imply that there had been, on the part of Israel’s enemies, a self-sufficient, smug complacency. There was no fear, either of Israel or of the God of Israel, until God intervened and scattered their bones. The picture is of utter defeat with the ignominy of scattered corpses, their bones lying bleached on the battlefield … This may have reference to some particular victory in a battle not identified here, or it may be metaphorical, depicting God’s continual defence of His people" (J. Flanigan: What the Bible Teaches – Psalms).

They Do Not Understand Present Help

"Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor, because the LORD is his refuge" v.6. This could be understood as it stands in the A.V.: the wicked had poured derision on people who turned to God for help. The R.S.V. translates: "You would confound the plans of the poor, but the LORD is his refuge". The N.I.V. is similar, and the R.V. reads, "Ye put to shame the counsel of the poor, because (margin alternative, ‘but’) the LORD is his refuge". This expression, "the LORD is his refuge" is ‘ripe for development’! We could start with the words, "What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? …" Rom.8.31.

THE SALVATION OF ISRAEL – v.7

The whole situation makes David yearn for ultimate deliverance. "Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! When the Lord bringeth back the captivity of His people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad." We know the feeling: "And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption …" Rom.8.23. Surely we all say, with absolute sincerity, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus".

To be continued (D.V.)

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Traits of the Tribes

by Ian McKee, N. Ireland

Paper No.6

SIMEON – THE TRIBE

We have considered "Simeon – the man". Let us now consider the history of the tribe.

SIMEON – IN THE WILDERNESS

The children of Simeon numbered 59,300 males over twenty years of age when they came out of Egypt, ranking their tribe third in numerical strength, Num.1.1-3,22,23. However, when the census was again taken on the borders of the promised land, less than forty years later, Simeon’s strength had declined by over 60% to only 22,200 males, ranking them as the smallest tribe, Num.26.12-14. This catastrophic decline merits investigation.

Israel’s wilderness experience, in education and chastisement, draws to a close and is replaced by new challenges, dangers and enemies as they seek to enter their inheritance. As Israel "set forward, and pitched in the plains of Moab on this [the eastern] side Jordan by [opposite] Jericho" Num.22.1, they came under the concerned surveillance of Balak and his Moabite and Midianite confederacy. Unable to halt the progress of God’s people, Balak employs Balaam, the hireling prophet, to curse them, Numbers chapters 22 - 24; 31.16; Rev.2.14.

Divine intervention frustrated the plan to curse Israel, so Balaam sought to create a context whereby God’s people could be encouraged to sin in a blatant way to incur the wrath of a holy God. The trap was set, baited by Moabite maidens, to lure many to the idolatrous and licentious festivals of Moab, Num.25.1-3. There can be no middle ground here: the pursuit of holiness, obedience to God’s Word, separation from all that is unholy, are the basic requirements of spiritual development. If grace is abused there is no knowing what the eventual sordid outcome will be. Who would have thought that such a people, with the visible manifestation of the presence of God in their midst, with the commandments given less than forty years before, and with abundant evidences of God’s character displayed in their lifetime, could sink so low?

Let us not be complacent here. Human nature has not improved in the three-and-a-half millennia since. The present permissive society, realigning moral norms to the lowest common denominator, has now been given additional impetus through technological advancement. Desktop, laptop and hand-held devices can become a portal for images reminiscent of pagan immorality. Some Christian parents, blithely unaware of the moral dangers, allow their children unsupervised access to the World Wide Web! In Numbers chapter 25 the Israelites had to leave the camp to witness and participate in such sin. However, neither we, nor our children, need leave our own home, room, or desk, etc. to view what might even cause Midianites to blush! Such sin had dire consequences for Simeon the tribe. We must take heed.

The idolatry and fornication promoted by Balaam’s doctrine resulted in God’s judgment. God cannot tolerate sin; particularly among people who profess His Name. The righteous anger of the Lord led to a solemn pronouncement, "And the Lord said unto Moses, ‘Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the Lord against the sun, that the fierce anger of the Lord may be turned away from Israel.’ And Moses said unto the judges of Israel, ‘Slay ye every one his men that were joined unto Baal-peor’" Num.25.4,5. In addition, a plague from the Lord began to spread in the camp of Israel, occasioned by the Lord’s displeasure.

The seriousness of the issue brought Moses and all true hearts in Israel to tears. Then "Zimri, the son of Salu, a prince of a chief house among the Simeonites" Num.25.14, "brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation" Num.25.6. "The name of the Midianitish woman … was Cozbi, the daughter of Zur; he [her father] was head over a people, and of a chief house in Midian" Num.25.15. Both Zimri and Cozbi had status and with it an attitude that because of who they were they could do as they liked, blatantly and shamelessly. That is still a prevalent attitude, but sin is still sin, no matter who commits it, and God is no respecter of persons. The plague was only staunched by the prompt intervention of "Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest" Num.25.7. He saw the provocative disdain of God’s law, understood the intention of their illicit liaison, and recognised the peril to the whole congregation. Hence he "took a javelin in his hand; and he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through [i.e. killing both with a single thrust], the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel" Num.25.7,8.

This prince of Simeon, Zimri, incurred a tribal legacy from his lust and licence because "those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand" Num.25.9. The warning of this is carried forward to our day, "Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand" 1Cor.10.8. (The phrase "in one day" is important: there is no discrepancy in these numbers but whether the additional one thousand died as a direct result of the plague on another day, or by execution by the judges, is not clarified.) However, Deut.4.3 makes it clear that every single participant in this sin was "destroyed … from among you".

Balaam’s hope that, as a result of this sin, God would disavow, disown or destroy His people was thwarted by the prompt action of Phinehas, although twenty-four thousand did perish. Given the greatly reduced number of Simeonite males in Num.26.12-14 it seems likely that, not only Zimri, but the tribe of Simeon, was heavily implicated. Moral sin (like wrong doctrine) has serious implications for the whole company, "Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?" 1Cor.5.6.

There are four men of Simeon named in association with the wilderness wanderings: Shehumiel, their principal man, Num.1.6; 2.12; 7.36; 10.19; Shaphat, their discouraging spy, Num.13.5; Zimri, who sinned blatantly, Num.25.14; and Shemuel, who was the Simeonite appointed to oversee the division of the land, Num.34.20. As noted in an earlier paper, the tribe of Simeon encamped on the south side of the tabernacle with the tribes of Reuben and Gad, Num.2.10-17.

SIMEON – MOSES’ PROPHETIC BLESSING

The blessings of Moses in Deuteronomy chapter 33 contain no censure; but provide encouragement to the tribes to possess the land and reach their potential in accordance with Divine grace and covenant relationship. However there is one striking omission: Simeon is not even mentioned! Given that Zimri had sinned shamelessly and, as a result, God’s judgment fell, there was nothing to be said in comfort and encouragement until the weight of Divine displeasure was felt and recognised. As Simeon the man was a grief to Jacob, Simeon the tribe was a grief to Moses.

Moses, however, had earlier foretold that the tribe of Simeon (with Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph and Benjamin) would stand on verdant Mount Gerizim to hear the blessings of the law, Deut.27.12. This would give encouragement that blessing for Simeon could yet be secured, but only by obedience to God’s law.

SIMEON – IN THE LAND

We noted in the previous paper that we should consider the outworking of Jacob’s prophecy: "I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel" Gen.49.7. The first evidence of this is in response to Moses’ challenge to the nation following the tragedy of the golden calf, "‘Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come unto me.’ And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him" Ex.32.26. This first division was as a result of a positive decision on the part of Levi, in contrast to all the other tribes, including Simeon. The second division resulted from Phinehas using his javelin, and was by Levi against Simeon.

Division of Simeon and Levi continues in the land. As a consequence of Simeon’s reduction in population by over 60%, their territory was much less than it might have been. Also, it was subsumed within that of another tribe: "And the second lot came forth to Simeon, even for the tribe of the children of Simeon according to their families: and their inheritance was within the inheritance of the children of Judah" Josh.19.1,8,9. Simeon may have been unable to maintain even what was given them as at least one of their towns, Beersheba, reverted to Judah, 1Kgs.19.3.

Although separated from Levi as a result of Divine government, Divine grace ensured that the relationship was not absolute as Levi was granted some cities within Simeon’s possession, Josh.21.4,9; 1Chr.6.65.

If God is concerned about the effects of detrimental associations (Simeon/Levi), He encourages beneficial associations: "And Judah said unto Simeon his brother, ‘Come up with me into my lot, that we may fight against the Canaanites; and I likewise will go with thee into thy lot’". So Simeon went with him ... And Judah went with Simeon his brother, and they slew the Canaanites that inhabited Zephath, and utterly destroyed it" Judg.1.3,17. We should all be careful of our friendships as they will either be detrimental or beneficial: that is true in relation to the companions of younger Christians, but not exclusively so! However, this military enterprise with Judah was an exception for Simeon. They did not feature in Deborah’s song or contribute any judges or national heroes for Israel.

When the men of Israel came to Hebron to acknowledge David as king there were: "Of the children of Simeon, mighty men of valour for the war, seven thousand and one hundred" 1Chr.12.25. Amazingly they are listed before those from Levi! The Simeonite prince, Shephatiah, 1Chr.27.16, is also listed before the prince from Levi! When He Whose right it is to reign is enthroned, all interpersonal and historical differences will be resolved and persons reconciled. It is a tragedy when such issues in our day are not settled righteously this side of heaven! Such an action would require mutual submission to the Lordship of Christ and the Holy Scriptures.

Simeonites participated in the recovery under Judah’s good King Asa: "And he gathered all Judah and Benjamin, and the strangers with them out of Ephraim and Manasseh, and out of Simeon: for they fell to him out of Israel in abundance, when they saw that the Lord his God was with him" 2Chr.15.9.

Later, "in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah ... some of them, even of the sons of Simeon, five hundred men, went to mount Seir, having for their captains Pelatiah, and Neariah, and Rephaiah, and Uzziel, the sons of Ishi, And they smote the rest of the Amalekites that were escaped, and dwelt there unto this day" 1Chr.4.41-43. Irrespective of tribal legacy (and 1Chr.4.24-38 shows that numerical recovery of Simeon was neither uniform nor proportionate) individuals can make their mark and experience recovery.

Simeon also participated in Josiah’s revival with its suppression of idolatry: "... he [Josiah] burnt the bones of the priests [of Baal] upon their altars, and cleansed Judah and Jerusalem. And so did he in the cities of Manasseh, and Ephraim, and Simeon, even unto Naphtali" 2Chr.34.5,6.

SIMEON – THE FUTURE

This tribe is assured of a portion in the future millennial kingdom, Ezek.48.24,25, with one of the three gates on the south side of Jerusalem bearing the name "Simeon", Ezek.48.33. And the tribe of Simeon will contribute twelve thousand to the one hundred and forty-four thousand servants of God in Rev.7.7. Again they are listed beside those of Levi!

SIMEON – THE NEW TESTAMENT APPLICATION

The New Testament application must await consideration of "Levi – the man" and "Levi – the tribe", given the close association of the tribal leaders and the subsequent tribal history.

Nevertheless let us learn one lesson now. By God’s grace, and by the Holy Spirit’s enablement, it is still possible to rise above hereditary personal disadvantages and natural tendencies to make our lives count for God.

To be continued (D.V.)

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Discipline in the House of God

by Tom Wilson (Scotland)

PAPER 5

DEALING WITH UNDISCIPLINED LIVES

Increasingly in societies where there is diminished respect for the accepted standards by which previous generations lived, lives may be lived with little sense of that inner discipline that should be characteristic of an ordered society. Sadly, an objective onlooker would readily conclude that there are many aspects of western society where there is evidence that society lacks the discipline that once was instilled in all its citizens from an early age. The younger generations may attract more criticism for indiscipline than older generations, but indiscipline is now endemic in all generations. Even mature adults flaunt their disregard for what they consider unnecessary intrusions into their lives. Not surprisingly, even in Christian circles there are some troubling signs of indiscipline. At the root of all indiscipline there often lies either an arrogance that claims for the individual the right to choose to obey or disobey apostolic doctrines; sometimes it is ignorance of the doctrine of the New Testament.

Both Old and New Testaments set out requirements that God seeks in those who are in relationship with Him. The Ten Commandments and many of the 603 additional laws demanded a pattern of living that should have distinguished every Israelite from the citizen of every one of the surrounding nations. Those standards were set before Israel centuries before the Lord Jesus stooped to be found on earth as a Man among men. Many attempts were made to trap the Lord Jesus into erring in His interpretation of the law of Moses, but they all failed, even when His enemies confronted Him with a woman taken in adultery, Jn.8.1-11. The fear of the Jewish hierarchy was that this Man, Who taught not as the scribes and Pharisees, Matt.7.29, would displace the teaching caste. So troubled was the Jewish hierarchy that the Pharisees began to say among themselves: "Behold, the world is gone after Him" Jn.12.19. The Lord could challenge His enemies: "Which of you convinceth Me of sin?" Jn.8.46. Well He might, for that sinless One glorified His God and Father over the thirty-three years He lived among men; His life was never undisciplined in any way. He rose up a great while before day to engage in prayer. Over a period of forty days, He fasted, Lk.4.1-13. During that prolonged fast, He overcame the tempter, the devil. These were not outward signs carefully honed to attract attention, but the evidence of the inner discipline that marked the Man of Galilee.

We need to recognise indiscipline as a direct result of the fall of Adam. Adam had been given one prohibition to observe and deliberately flaunted the revealed will of God by disobeying that one prohibition. In the first century A.D. world, as we have been noting in this short series of articles, there were major sins that might cause an assembly to discipline one of its members. This article identifies some aspects of conduct that rightly were viewed as serious infringements of New Testament teaching, such as idolatry and immorality. Others may have been considered less serious; these include poor attendance at the assembly meetings, the railing of the unruly tongue, sowing discord among brethren, and the neglect of supporting the Lord’s work.

In the New Testament assemblies to whom apostolic letters were sent in the first century, it is evident that some lives were being led in an undisciplined way. There were professing Christians whose faltering attendance at the assembly meetings was, in some cases, a precursor to apostasy, causing the anonymous writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews to express his displeasure that there were "some" who were "forsaking the assembling … together" Heb.10.25,39. The problem of indiscipline with regard to attending meetings has not disappeared. There are saints whose attendance could be better, not because their employers demand their duty at times when the assembly meets, nor because of ill-heath, nor because they were attending to the needs of those laid aside by some ailment. Often it is by deliberate choice that a favoured leisure pursuit is placed before the Breaking of Bread or the ministry of the Word or the preaching of the gospel.

More troubling for those who, in the first century A.D., reached out to the Gentiles with the gospel of the grace of God, were two closely associated sins: idolatry and immorality. Converted Jews would freely admit that those were two grave sins. The second and the seventh of the Ten Commandments condemned those activities as serious sins, Exod.20.4,5,14. Yet, as early as Exodus chapter 32, in the absence of Moses, Aaron made a golden calf and encouraged the people to dance naked before the idol. As a result, three thousand men were cut off in judgment. Toward the end of Israel’s journey from Egypt to Canaan, Balaam, the prophet hired by Balak, the king of Moab, taught him "to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication" Rev.2.14. As a result, twenty-four thousand Israelites fell over that period in the plains of Moab, Num.25.9; twenty-three thousand of them in one day, 1Cor.10.8. In a city like first century Corinth, the moral standards were universally acknowledged as evil. The two New Testament epistles to Corinth provide evidence that some of the undisciplined were still indulging in the ten appalling sins listed in 1Cor.6.9,10.

The unruly tongue is another trait of an undisciplined life. Paul includes railing in a list that includes fornication, adultery, covetousness, idolatry, extortion, drunkenness, envy, strife and evil surmisings 1Cor.5.11; 6.9-11; 1Tim.6.4. Peter places railing among similar fleshly traits in 1Pet.3.9; 2Pet.2.11. James identifies the tongue as an unruly evil, full of deadly poison, Jms.3.8. He also notes that the unruly tongue can be used to bless God the Father and to curse men, v.9. Even if the tongue is not used to curse men, it may be used to carry tales "up and down [the land] as a talebearer [would]" Lev.19.16. How dangerous a practice this is, and, in these days of convenient travel, how easy it is to reach any number of places where undisciplined listeners would be pleased to listen to the visiting undisciplined talebearer. However, often the undisciplined Christian simply reaches for a telephone, and then a minor incident in a local assembly may appear to be a major issue in the ears of those who know little of the particular assembly being maligned. Whether the report is wholly accurate or not, care must be taken not to sow "discord among brethren" Prov.6.19. Indeed, all should note that the sowing of discord is the seventh (and so perhaps the most serious) of the seven serious sins that the Lord hates, Prov.6.16-19. In Prov.6.14, Solomon identifies the likely motive of the sower of discord: "frowardness … in his heart." The A.V. translates the Hebrew noun as "frowardness"; others as "deceitfulness." Clearly, in such cases, both the heart and the tongue are undisciplined. How sad! How dangerous!

Is there the possibility of indiscipline in the use of the financial resources the Lord places in the hands of most Christians? The New Testament does not require of the Christian the proportion of his resources that Abraham paid to Melchisedec, Gen.14.20; Heb.7.4 - the tithe later demanded by the law of Moses. We know that by the time the Lord Jesus was among men there were religious leaders who were tithing "mint and anise and cummin", while ignoring "the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith" Matt.23.23. The rigour with which they tithed their garden herbs was intended to distract the onlooker from detecting the major deficiencies in the hypocrites, who were so prominent in Israel at that time. But, in the twenty-first century, particularly in societies where affluence is evident, there is, for many believers, little evidence of a disciplined approach to meeting the obligations the New Testament places upon them. Yet the New Testament does set out a disciplined approach, the format of which is markedly different from that of the Old Testament. In 1Cor.16.2, Paul specifies the first day of the week as the point in the weekly calendar on which decisions were to be taken as to what proportion of the household income would be set aside for the Lord’s work. Clearly the proportion was not always to be a tithe, but required each believer to be exercised, "as God hath prospered him". The third person singular "him" is presumably the head of the household. No doubt the imminent arrival of Paul would focus thinking, given the clamant needs among the Christians in Judaea at the time Paul wrote.

The attitude adopted by some Christians toward head covering in the meetings of the assembly reveals disregard for apostolic teaching, a very public and saddening pointer to their unwillingness to bow to the teaching of the apostles. We know that in the period from Moses to Christ both male and female covered their heads in worship. Converted Jews must have wondered why men with uncovered heads were praying to God. If the Christian man was asked why his head was uncovered, if he had been taught by an apostle like Paul, he would have known that man is "the image and glory of God" 1Cor.11.7. He would also know, as the same verse says, that "the woman is the glory of the man".

Perhaps the most telling pointer to a life lacking in discipline is the pattern of an individual’s prayer life. It is relatively easy for a saint to determine how many periods of prayer he may have, and how long they are, in contrast to other features in a cycle of seven days. That Spirit-led prayer is demanding is evidenced in the various books about prayer and Christendom’s use of prayer books containing prayers penned in beautiful prose with equally beautiful cadences. But even the repetition of such beautiful prayers penned by another, indeed even the repetition of the prayer the Lord taught His own, does not carry assurances that the individual is praying in the Holy Spirit, as he or she is building up him or herself in his or her most holy faith, Jude 20. A disciplined prayer life is an essential, if the individual saint is to:

  • keep himself in the love of God;
  • look for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life;
  • convict some,1 who are disputatious;
  • pull out of the fire those whose garments are stained by the flesh, Jude 21-23.

1. W. Kelly, reflecting differences in MSS.

The word "not slipping" [A.V. "falling"] is used of "a sure-footed horse" or "a good man … who does not fall into error" Jude 24, The word "faultless", [J.N.D. "blameless"], is used of a sacrificial animal without spot or blemish. Nothing that fails to meet the standards of the altar will be in God’s heaven. Every saint of God knows that the work of Christ has secured that standing for him or her. He or she can stand in the immediate presence of the Lord now; and he or she will be able to stand in the immediate presence of God in a coming day. The Greek verb translated "present" describes where the child of God will stand as "before … His glory" v.24; No wonder there will be joy, "exceeding joy"! J.N.D. Kelly says it has "special eschatological overtones (see on 1Pet.1.6), denoting the jubilation of God’s chosen people at His manifestation at the End."2 No-one will huddle in a corner, feeling unwanted or unwelcome or more undeserving, when compared with others. They will have an unchallengeable standing face to face with God Himself. Not one of God’s children will be asked: "How camest thou in hither?" Matt.22.12.

May God grant to every child of God the needed wisdom and the grace in order that their lives might be ordered lives, disciplined lives, and so God-honouring lives.

Concluded

2. Kelly, J.N.D. "A Commentary on the Epistles of Peter and of Jude", Black’s New Testament commentaries, London, 1969
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ASSEMBLY LIFE

by J. A. Davidson (N. Ireland)

Paper 5

TRUTH OR TOLERATION?

"But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" 1Tim.3.15.

TOLERATION

The mantle of toleration thrown over what God hates leads to carelessness, departure, lawlessness and God’s judgment. Often there are matters about which something should be done but is not done. Often discipline is not taken because of assembly politics, family relationships or social status. Matters swept under the carpet have a way of eventually coming to the light, with results that are devastating to the testimony. We are faced with a choice of either tolerating evident proven doctrinal or moral error for the sake of temporary peace or, in the fear of God, kindly, graciously but firmly obeying God’s Word.

Genesis chapter 3 commences with the enemy attack upon a perfect man and woman in communion with God. By introducing a question as to the truth of what God actually said to Adam and Eve, the devil introduced an attack upon the very character of God. The subtle suggestion that God was too restrictive led to outright disobedience to God’s word, with disastrous results.

In Revelation chapters 2 and 3 we learn that to compromise with the truth of God’s Word and to have an attitude of toleration developed into serious departure in the churches of Asia. At Ephesus they had grown cool in their affections and abandoned their "first love". This left the lampstand in danger of removal, Rev.2.4,5. At Pergamos departure from the truth gave rise to the mixture of Balaam and the hateful doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, Rev.2.14-16. At Thyatira: "These things saith the Son of God ... thou sufferest [tolerated, accommodated] that woman Jezebel" Rev.2.18-20. At Sardis: "Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead" Rev.3.1. At Laodicea a lukewarm condition of concession and compromise was nauseous to "the faithful and true witness" Rev.3.14-16.

TRUTH

Having raised a warning against toleration and with a desire to give a positive word of encouragement we ask, What is "The Truth"?

When the Lord Jesus was here on earth, He said, "I am the way, the truth and the life" Jn.14.6. When He was going back to the Father He said He would send the Comforter, Who is "the Spirit of truth" Jn.16.13. Speaking to His Father He said, "I have given them Thy word ... sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth" Jn.17.14-17. Therefore we have the Lord saying, "I am the truth"; He said that the Holy Spirit is "the Spirit of truth", and that the Word of God is the word of truth. In our headline text we learn that the house of God is, "the pillar and ground [support] of the truth" 1Tim.3.15. Thus the local assembly at Ephesus was to be a witness to the truth, to maintain the truth, to be a propagator and protector of truth. Each local assembly is not only to support Divine truth but to be a display of Divine truth in the world. This is what the Lord Himself was when He was here. Therefore a genuine believer seeking to obey the Word of God, will be in no doubt as to where he or she should meet in the locality.

The local assembly is not a code of rules or a catechism. It is not a company of brethren and what they hold and teach. Nor is it a doctrinal statement of what we believe. The "pillar" is the truth upheld, supported and stood for. The "ground" is the base, bulwark, stay, foundation; the mainstay of defence in the face of opposition. If in v.15 the house of God, the church of the living God is the support of the "truth", in v.16 we have the substance of the "truth", Christ Himself.

"Great is the mystery of godliness" 1Tim.3.16. The truth has been embodied historically in a Person. The supreme function of each local assembly is to bear witness to Him as God. The Lord Jesus is "God manifest in [the] flesh" - Manhood. Incarnate Deity was seen, His existence made visible, when our Lord was upon earth. Then we read that He was "justified in spirit" - Resurrection. He was declared righteous, vindicated in His Person and work, and was endorsed by God, in the unseen realm, reversing the verdict of earth. Next we learn that He was "seen of angels" - Ascended. He has appeared to angelic powers who observed His triumphant ascension. This glorified Man was "preached unto the Gentiles" - Preached. He was announced, heralded among every nation of earth. As a result He was "believed on in the world" - Salvation. The gospel message proclaimed through the Word of God declared that the One not now seen on earth was accepted by faith and the person who relied upon Him was saved. Finally, He was "received up into Glory" - Glory. He is declared righteous, vindicated, endorsed, proved, pronounced and seated. Not just ascended but made welcome in glory. There is a Man "in glory" (R.V.).

Monarch of the smitten cheek,
Scorn of Jew and scorn of Greek,
Priest and King, Divinely meek -
He shall bear the Glory.
 
His the grand eternal weight,
His the priestly – regal state;
Him the Father maketh great -
He shall bear the Glory.
     (William Blane)

This is the majestic summary of "the truth" embodied in the Lord Jesus Christ from incarnation to enthronement in glory. This truth is now to be maintained in assembly witness in face of the fierce storm of attack today. At Corinth there was an attack upon His Headship. In Galatia there was an attack upon His work. At Colosse there were those who attacked His Deity. Sectarianism and denominationalism of any form will in some way be found to attack the Person, the Name or the Word of our Lord Jesus Christ and the purity of the gospel. The maintenance of the doctrinal and moral purity in the house of God takes on a very serious significance when viewed from the "truth" revealed in our Lord Jesus Christ.

To be continued (D.V.)

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Comfort for Christians in a Changing World

by Roy Reynolds (N. Ireland)

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.  Hebrews 13.8

The date has changed; we live in a world where the winds of change continually blow and we are painfully aware of the many metamorphoses the passing years initiate in our lives. Our health changes, our circumstances change, our friends change and those whom we loved so dearly and many to whom we looked for guidance and counsel have left us, and we feel the weaker of their passing.

But He remains, loyal and true, unchanging and unchangeable; constantly reliable, always there and ever dependable.

In the midst of relentless change we recall the words of the unchanging One, "For I am the LORD, I change not …" Mal.3.6. On the Mount of Olives, just after His return to His eternal home, the angels referred to Him as "this same Jesus". He is the great, eternal "I AM", timeless and tenseless; dwelling in the eternal now of His forever existence.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou, Who changest not, abide with me!
     (Henry Francis Lyte)

O give thanks unto the LORD, for He is good: For His mercy endureth for ever. Psalm 107.1

Every passing day furnishes us with new reasons for praising Him. His blessings are innumerable and His lovingkindness beyond our telling. What bounty cascades upon our unworthy heads day after day!

Our Father is the great Giver, unstinting in His generosity and ever dispensing blessing on those who least deserve it. He is the source of all our blessings, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." Jms.1.17

How long can we expect to benefit from His magnanimous kindness? How long can we draw upon the inexhaustible resources of His love? "His mercy endureth for ever" Psalm 136.

May His goodness prompt greater thanksgiving on our part; may we feel more indebted to Him and do more for Him Who does so much for us!

Yesterday He blessed me,
Today He did the same;
How long will this continue?
Forever, praise His Name!
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NOTES ON THE PRISON EPISTLES

By Alan Summers (Scotland)

Paper 2 - INTRODUCTION TO PHILIPPIANS

 

WHEN WAS IT WRITTEN?

This letter was probably written towards the end of Paul’s imprisonment in Rome, in A.D.61. Acts chapter 28 ends with Paul under house arrest (custodia libera). However, in Philippians he seems to have moved his accommodation to the quarters of the Praetorian Guard, 1.13. If his appeal had commenced or a verdict was imminent, he may have been kept in close confinement in the Praetorian because:

  1. it was convenient to the palace, where the appeal was heard; or
  2. prisoners awaiting a verdict were kept in close confinement near the Court, to reduce the possibility of escape.

WHAT ARE ITS DISTINCTIVE FEATURES?

It is Pithy. Philippians is (probably) the most frequently quoted New Testament book. Scarcely a Breaking of Bread meeting goes by without 2.5-11 being mentioned. The book abounds with aphorisms (short, sharp statements of truth) that are used on greetings cards, sympathy cards, bookmarks, wherever there are Christians. Here are some examples:

  • "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" 1.21
  • "With Christ; which is far better" 1.23
  • "Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice" 4.4
  • "The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" 4.7
  • "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" 4.13
  • "My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" 4.19.

Although much quoted, Philippians does not itself quote Scripture1, a rare feature in a New Testament book. This may be because the Philippians were a Gentile community and not steeped in the Jewish Scriptures. It may also be due to the fact that, since he is not countering error in this epistle, there is no need to invoke the authority of Scripture to correct it.

1. There is an allusion to Job 13.16 (LXX) in Phil.1.19

It is Personal. Its two companion epistles, Ephesians and Colossians, are written in a formal style. They open with a statement of doctrinal truth and then they close with practical exhortations. In Philippians the practical and doctrinal are mixed together. We learn more about Paul’s background in chapter 3 than we do from any other part of the Bible.

It is Political. Philippi was a "colony" of Rome, Acts.16.12.2 This meant that it had its own legislature modelled on Roman lines. Its people spoke Latin and dressed as Romans dressed. It used Roman coinage and its citizens had the rights of Romans. This no doubt explains why he used words3 normally reserved for civil and political rights in connection with the believers’ heavenly "citizenship" 1.27; 3.20. Had Paul been writing to a Jewish audience he might have used references to the Old Testament or Jewish life to make his points. But in this epistle Paul speaks about the "politics" of the Christian.

2. Coloniae civium Romanorum - none of the other colonies mentioned in the N.T. is described as such, e.g. Corinth, Syracuse, Troas, Pisidian Antioch, Lystra and Ptolemais.

3 . politeuomai (1.27) - "conversation" (A.V.); politeuma (3.20) – "conversation" (A.V.). The word means ‘citizenship’.

It is Practical. Philippians does not introduce any new doctrine. Its most famous passage, 2.5-11, dwells on a familiar truth – the humility of the Saviour. It illustrates that truth from familiar facts, His birth and crucifixion. However, it expresses these truths in a way designed to help the Christian live. Its main themes, such as perseverance in suffering and joy in believing, are mainstream Christian truths expounded in other New Testament books.

WHAT ARE ITS MAIN THEMES?

It is possible to discern a number of themes. Some are mentioned below:

The Salvation in the Gospel

  • The fellowship of the gospel – 1.5
  • The defence and confirmation of the gospel – 1.7
  • The furtherance of the gospel – 1.12
  • The defence of the gospel – 1.17
  • The life that commends the gospel – 1.27
  • The faith of the gospel – 1.27
  • The service of the gospel – 2.22
  • The basis of the gospel – 3.9
  • The labours involved in the gospel – 4.3.

In Acts chapter 16 Paul and Silas reached Philippi and preached the gospel. Their labours resulted in the salvation of Lydia and the gaoler, Acts 16.14,15,25-34. Others were evidently saved and an assembly was planted.4 Both of these early converts were hospitable.5 Generosity seems to have characterised the church, 2Cor. 8.1-5, from that point on. Paul warns about those who may attack the gospel, 3.2,18, and speaks of the foundational truths of the gospel such as the death and resurrection of Christ, 3.10,11, and the righteousness procured through faith, 3.9.

4. Luke seems to have joined Paul and Barnabas shortly before they arrived in Philippi, Acts 16.10, and remained after Paul and Silas left, Acts 16.40. The use of "we" and "us" in Acts which denotes Luke’s presence does not resume until Acts 20.6.

5. Acts 16.15,34.

The Submissiveness of the Son

The section 2.5-11 has been called a "hymn". I am not sure whether it is possible to prove that it was sung, but it has a poetic quality. Whether Paul is quoting from another source or had written the section poetically is not stated. It seems to me to be part of the letter and to take its lyrical quality from Paul’s appreciation of the sacred nature of its subject.

The "hymn" teaches the Deity of Christ. He was "equal" with God. Prior to His conception and birth He had chosen to become man, thus teaching His pre-existence. It also teaches His humanity. The phrase "made in the likeness of men" does not refer to the fact that He was a male but to the fact that he was human.6 The main point is not to make a doctrinal statement about the Lord’s Divine nature and human nature but to teach that Christ was selfless and humble. He gave up His position of honour to become man. He then submitted to the death of the cross. Roman citizens were exempt from crucifixion. The citizens of Philippi could not have been crucified, but He gave Himself to the cross to set us free.

6. Vine’s New Testament Dictionary - anthropos is used generally, of "a human being, male or female", without reference to sex or nationality, e.g., Matt.4.4; 12.35; Jn.2.25.

Due to His willingness to be abased, God the Father has given Him a "name which is above every name". Although at first sight this name appears to be "Jesus" that cannot be so. He was given the name Jesus by Mary and Joseph before His exaltation. It may be that the "name" carries the thought of His reputation. If that is so then the idea is that His reputation exceeds all other reputations. It seems more likely however that "name" refers to a title of the Lord Jesus rather than a personal name or His reputation. In the Old Testament the "Name" was a circumlocution for Jehovah. The Jews so revered the holy name of Jehovah that they preferred to use the word "Name" rather than use the word Jehovah. In the New Testament when the writers rendered the Hebrew word Jehovah into Greek they usually chose the word "Lord". The expression "Lord Jesus" acknowledges that he is "Jehovah" and "Jesus" – demonstrating both His Divinity and His humanity. With that in mind the expression the "name of Jesus" should probably be translated "the Name belonging to Jesus"; see Isa.45.23. Only Jehovah could claim to have the name "which is above every name" 2.9, J.N.D. Thus while He was called Lord during His earthly ministry it was only on His ascension and glorification that He was acclaimed publicly as the Lord Jesus Christ.

The centrality of the Lord Jesus to Christian life is evident in Philippians. The phrase "in the Lord" occurs nine times, "in the Lord Jesus" once, "in Christ" seven times and "in Christ Jesus" five times.

The Solidarity of the Believers

The Philippian epistle stresses the need for unity. Although a lot of attention is paid to the difficulty between Euodias and Syntyche in 4.2 there is simply insufficient information to justify treating their difference as symptomatic of a broader problem. Paul does not mention any other difficulty in Philippi. The fact that he does not take sides or specify the nature of the problem suggests that it is a personal difficulty. That is not to say that Paul is unconcerned. His repeated use of the word "all" 1.1,4,7,8,25; 2.17,26, indicates his concern for the unity of the whole church, but, I think, it goes too far to suggest that the church required "salvation" i.e. deliverance from a divided condition, Phil.2.12.

The value of unity is conveyed in a variety of Greek words. The most famous of them all is koinonia. This is one of the great biblical words. It basically means a sharing together or partnership:

  • The fellowship in the gospel – 1.5
  • The fellowship7 in apostolic ministry – 1.7
  • The fellowship of the Spirit – 2.1
  • The fellowship of Christ’s sufferings – 3.10
  • The fellowship of saints’ suffering – 4.14
  • The fellowship of saints’ giving – 4.15.

7. sunkoinoneo – the prefix sun means "with" and joined to the word koinonia means "to share with".

He encourages the Philippians to "walk by the same rule" and "mind the same thing" 3.16. He refers to Timothy who "served with me in the gospel" 2.22, and Epaphroditus as "my brother, and fellow-workman, and fellow-soldier" 2.25, J.N.D. The two women who were at odds had formerly "laboured with me" 4.3. Paul wants them to "stand firm in one spirit" (J.N.D.) and to strive side by side in the gospel "with one mind" 1.27.

The Spirit of the Saints

The world longs for happiness. It tries to find it in alcohol, sex, drugs and money. The Christian on the other hand finds his joy in the knowledge his sins are forgiven, that his future is secure and that He has God as his Comforter and Friend. It was just about the beginning of the work in Philippi that Paul and Silas sang hymns at midnight in the "inner prison" after being beaten, Acts 16.23-25. What enabled them to rise above their circumstances? It was their hope in God. Paul refers to joy and rejoicing repeatedly in Philippians:

  • Paul prayed with joy - 1.4
  • Paul rejoiced when the gospel was preached, whatever the motive - 1.18
  • Paul believed that there was a "joy of faith" and a joy in renewing Christian fellowship - 1.25,26
  • He found joy in the unity of other believers - 2.2
  • He found joy in serving other believers - 2.17
  • There is mutual joy in sharing the same purpose - 2.18
  • There is rejoicing in the deliverance of valued friends - 2.28,298
  • We should "rejoice in the Lord" - 3.1
  • We should rejoice in one another - 4.1
  • "Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice" - 4.4
  • We can rejoice when other Christians show care for us - 4.10.

8. "Gladness" in A.V. is same word as "joy" charas.

The Suffering of the Church

Paul stresses the way that his sufferings serve to advance the gospel, 1.12,13. The Philippians must regard suffering, like believing, as a privilege, 1.29. They should endure opposition without fear in their fight for the gospel. This suffering mirrors what they have seen and heard about Paul’s experience, 1.30.

In addition to Paul, Epaphroditus also suffered for the cause of the gospel, 2.27. Likewise Christ suffered the excruciating death of the cross to establish the gospel, 2.8. Christ’s suffering is not only a model of how to suffer; it is an invitation to participate in Christ’s sufferings as part of the believer’s quest to know Him, 3.10,11. Paul can endure suffering, like hunger and poverty, 4.12, through the strength that Christ gives, 4.13.

To be continued (D.V.)

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Good Tidings from Heaven

ACCESS DENIED

A friend of mine recently bought a new computer. He, like me, was not very computer literate. Having set up the various programs and their passwords he sought to type his first message. Diligently following the on-screen instructions he was asked for the password, which he carefully typed in. Disaster! A message flashed across the screen "Access Denied". He tried again with the same result. He contacted me for advice. All I could do was ask him if he was sure that he used the correct password. He was adamant that he had. He had done nothing wrong, was sure that all was correct but something was wrong.

I went to see him and we sat looking at this message! What was wrong? Where was the mistake? We checked the passwords he had set up. He had chosen the passwords for the programs he anticipated that he would use most frequently, as being the birthdates of himself, his wife and children in descending order of age, commencing with his own, as being the oldest. However, after I left, when the initial set-up was complete, he confessed that he thought that it would be too easy for his computer to be hacked into if he used his birthdate and he changed it to that of his late mother. In the excitement of using the computer for the first time he forgot that he had made the change. He was convinced he was right but he was wrong and was unable to gain access.

How like many people who are convinced that they are going to heaven, but they will be shut outside. There are many who depend on religion, good works, the philosophies of men and many other things, but the unchanging, unerring Word of God, the Bible, tells us there is only one way. In John 14.6, Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me." The apostle Peter preached in Acts 4.12, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." What will happen if we neglect the salvation offered by God? Hebrews 2.3 states, "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?" There is no escape; access will be denied. The Lord Jesus Christ clearly taught this when He said, "Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and He shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are ..." Luke 13.23-25.

Is there no hope? Thank God there is a way of access; a way of escape and it has been provided by God. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved" John 3.16,17.

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)

By faith in the risen, exalted Christ every sin can be forgiven.

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QUOTES

Consider Him

"Behold the Lamb of God". John 1.29,36

These words were spoken by John on two successive days. On the first day he added the explanation "which taketh away the sin of the world", showing that he was using the word "Lamb" in a sacrificial sense; the Lord Jesus Christ was the One Who would be offered as the pure and spotless Lamb, not only for the nation of Israel, but for the whole world.

The next day, John said again, "Behold the Lamb of God", drawing the attention of his audience to the words he had enunciated the day before. He was, in effect, saying, "Remember the great truth I told you about Him yesterday, and act accordingly: follow Him." Two men got the message, "and they followed Jesus" v.37. What delight it must have given to John to see his words being heeded, and his disciples becoming followers of "the Lamb"!

Now, we have the privilege of directing men and women to that same blessed One. May we, by our words, and our testimony, be pointing people to Him, day by day, so that they will, by faith "Behold the Lamb", and follow Him.

His only righteousness I show
His saving truth proclaim,
‘Tis all my business here below,
To cry, "Behold the Lamb!"
    (Charles Wesley)
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