The ultimate supremacy and surpassing splendour of Israel as a world power have been shown to be guaranteed by Divine promises. These promises form a major subject in the prophetic Scriptures. The ancient Romish theory was “that the Church of the New Testament is the legitimate heir of all the Covenant promises made to Israel in the Old Testament”, and it was revived by the late Philip Mauro. This, as mentioned in an earlier chapter, is one of the main arguments of A-Millennialists. It is, however, an utter fallacy. Those promises were sealed by Divine oath and covenant, and nothing can invalidate them. The honour of the Lord’s name is inseparably linked with them and He will not fail to fulfil His moral obligation to those to whom His promises were originally made. This has been said before in these pages, of course, but its importance merits repetition.
Yet even if one were inclined to favour the view of such a transference of promised blessings, a difficulty presents itself, which neither Mr. Mauro nor anyone else known to us, has ever been able to remove. What becomes of the punitive “curses” and “plagues” of divine vengeance threatened upon the nation for disobedience in Deut. 28 and 29, etc.? These included want, pestilence, oppression, destruction, world-wide dispersion, spiritual blindness, and abandonment by God. Have these also, or judgments answering to them, been transferred to the Church? Any young believer knows they have not. Members of the Body of Christ do, no doubt, experience individually the Lord’s chastening because of unjudged sin (1 Cor. 11. 32); a church can so act that its lampstand of testimony may by divine government have to be removed (Rev. 2. 5); and unrepentant Christless professors will be “spued out of His mouth” (Rev. 3. 16); but the conception of Christ’s beloved Church being cursed, plagued, forsaken, or in any sense made the subject of God’s wrath, is completely at variance with New Testament teaching. Upon what fair principle then can it be shown that the Church is heir to Israel’s national promises, but not to her penal judgments? Do these not stand or fall together? Or are all the blessings to be appropriated for the Church, and all the curses
to be left for Israel? An affirmative answer seems very simple and convenient, but it would be neither reasonable, just, nor consistent.
It may be argued, however, that the Church inherits the blessings minus the curses, upon the basis of the New Covenant, which is one of pure grace, whereas God’s dealings with the nation were in accordance with the Sinaitic Covenant, which was one of works. That there has been such a change of covenant we know—a fact which emphasises the importance of distinguishing between things which differ, especially between God’s methods with man in the various time-periods of history respectively. Failure to do this is largely responsible for A-Millennial errors. The spiritual blessings of our Gospel age, however, do not correspond with the predictions of Israel’s future restoration and exaltation. They cannot be shown to be the counterpart of the Israel promises. Tt is futile to attempt to illustrate that they are. We believe, therefore, that the fulfilment of those promises is temporarily held in abeyance, and that the New Covenant will be the very basis upon which they will yet be made good to the Jewish people. “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel . . . .” (Jer. 31. 31-34). Observe this covenant was made primarily “with the house of Israel”, and that it is very similar to the Abrahamic Covenant, of which indeed it is an amplification. That its unconditional terms, and at least part of its gracious provisions, apply to the Church, is proven by the five direct references to it in the New Testament. (Luke 22. 20; 1 Cor. 11. 25 ; 2 Cor. 3. 6; Heb. 8. 8; 9. 15). J. Dwight Pentecost, however, enumerates several considerations in proof that the provisions of the New Covenant are not exhausted by the Church, and must therefore be reserved for those to whom they were originally given—the Jewish nation (“Things To Come” p. 127). One weighty, and, as it seems to us, incontrovertible argument in support of this is the fact that this is the only covenant in Scripture in accordance with which God is said to remove sins, and therefore this must be the covenant of which the Spirit speaks in Romans 11. 26, 27, when He says, “And so all Israel shall be saved : as it is written, there shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and he shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob : For this is my covenant unto them, when I take away their sins”. “The house of Israel”, therefore—the physical descendants of Jacob (and “Jacob” never means the Church)—will yet inherit the blessings of the New Covenant in their unclouded glory and plenitude.
Allusions has here been made to the curses threatened upon Israel. The most fearful of these was that which came upon her in consequence of her rejection of Christ. Now, Mauro taught that that judgment was final and irrevocable. Thus, commenting upon Matt. 21. 43 (“The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof”), he stated that this “Divine act ... . was of course a finality” (“The Hope of Israel”, p. 89). To him it was “utterly impossible” (his italics in both sentences) that the Jewish nation should have a future (p. 140), the Jews “ceased from being a nation ... in A.D. 70” (p. 223). These rash, unqualified statements from the pen of a Christian lawyer are astounding. Such “mere arbitrary theorizing”, said the late Wm. Hoste, “must be firmly resisted as most dishonouring to God and His Word” (Preface to “Has Israel Rejected Her King?” by W. Robertson), and is, as another remarked, “grotesquely false”. No, “God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew” (Rom. 11. 2). To them “the promises” still “pertain” (Rom. 9. 4). Only for “a small moment” has God forsaken them (Isa. 54. 7). Their regathering is as certain as their scattering (Jer. 31. 10). The judgment of Matt. 21. 43 is not “a finality”. For some two thousand five hundred years now, kings, councils, governments, dictators, popes, prelates, and empires have tried to exterminate the Jews; but God had said, “Though I make a full end of all nations, whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee” (Jer. 30. 11), and “I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob” (Amos 9. 8); and the miracle of the nation’s continued existence is a testimony to the faithfulness of God’s Word. By that same Word, her sons will yet “rule over their oppressors” (Isa. 14. 2). “The abundance of the sea shall be converted to them, the wealth of the nations shall come unto them” (Isa. 60. 5). “Kings shall be their nursing fathers . . . they shall bow down to them with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of their feet” (Isa. 49. 23). “The nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish” (Isa. 60. 12), and God will make them “a name and a praise among all the people of the earth” (Zeph. 3. 20). For in that day Daniel’s “people”, as we saw in our last chapter will be the head of the nations. “The mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”
(Next issue, D.V., Revelation 20).
This series which is now drawing to a close, will, if it please God, shortly be available in booklet form.
From the notes of addresses given in the Ebenezer Hall, Woodbrook, Port of Spain,
— the 5th to the 8th of June 1960.
Reprinted from The Caribbean Courier by permission.
THE FEAST OF FIRSTFRUITS
The associate truths of redemption by blood and the sanctification of the redeemed, have been previously considered as the typical teaching of the feasts of the Passover and of Unleavened Bread. This further meditation reveals the resources available to faith, making possible a life of separation from evil in all its varied forms, and one that is well pleasing to God.
The key to this power is found in the risen Man at God’s right hand, and in the Holy Spirit, presently indwelling every believer. Such is the significance of the Feast of Firstfruits and the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost.
The following passages give clearly the interpretation regarding the Feast of Firstfruits :
“But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Cor. 15. 20).
“Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Cor. 15. 23).
In the resurrection of Christ the fulness of Divine power is demonstrated, it is also true that the same power is now “to us-ward who believe” (Eph. 1. 19). Therefore, the strength exhibited in the resurrection of Christ, is that which is now displayed in and through the believer. It is this that assures of victory in the midst of present conflict and while surrounded by the forces of evil.
From the intercessions of the Risen Man grace flows, thereby sustaining the Christian. Our indebtedness to the high priestly ministry of the Lord Jesus cannot be fully appreciated here. When at home in His Presence we shall understand how great its value and what blessing resulted.
Firstfruits proclaim His victory—the risen Man is triumphant over death. This truth rejoices our hearts as we enter by faith into the new day of such blessed association—“The morrow after the sabbath.” This phrase is very important, it occurs three times in the passage under consideration (Lev. 23. 11-16), and marks a dispensational distinction. Failure to observe this will lead into the error of Seventh Day Adventism, while a careful study of the significance of the first day will save us from it.
The sabbath occupies a unique place and is a constant reminder of the rest remaining to the people of God. The spiritual man enters into it now by faith and thus has foretaste of the eternal blessedness awaiting him. He finds rest unto his soul in the midst of work and warfare, a rest resulting from the finished work of Christ.
The emphasis is transferred from the seventh day to the first, but not the associations and ritual. The first day is not the sabbath, neither was it ever intended to be so. The period bounded by the Feast of Firstfruits and that of Trumpets, corresponds to the present age of grace wherein the day to be observed is “the morrow after the sabbath.” It was upon this day the first sheaf was waved before the Lord and the new meal offering was offered. These link us with the resurrection of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit, at whose coming we have the formation of the Body of Christ, the Church of which our Lord is the risen and living Head.
The records concerning the resurrection of Christ confirm this. It was, according to Matthew, “In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week” (Matt. 28. 1).
Mark is still more definite, using the phrase, “And when the sabbath was past” (Mark 16. 1). These expressions are more than suggestive, they carry with them much spiritual teaching.
Resurrection, manifestation, and remembrance, are together associated with the first day. Upon this day we have the first evidences of the triumph of our Lord and Saviour, the empty tomb and the witness of the shining ones, “He is not here, but is risen : remember how He spake unto you when He was yet in Galilee, saying, The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again” (Luke 24. 6-7). Subsequent upon this testimony our Lord reveals Himself and convinces disciples of His identity (see Luke 24. 36-43). The reference of Acts 1. 3 is to manifestation : “To whom also He shewed Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” It is important to note that these recorded manifestations took place upon the first day of the week, although they are not limited to this. The first day of the week is linked with the memorial feast instituted by the Lord Jesus on the night of His betrayal. It was upon this day “The disciples came together to break bread” (Acts 20. 7).
On such occasions the Lord still reveals Himself to His gathered ones, while believers rejoice in the hallowed associations of the first day, the day so aptly described as the Lord’s Day (Rev. 1. 10).
Omissions in the Scripture are always instructive; here it should be observed there is no sin offering connected with the waving of the first sheaf. The burnt offering and the meal offering both have their place, but not the sin offering. Such would be out of place here for the presentation is that of Christ in resurrection. To Him the witness is given that He is “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens” (Heb. 7. 26).
Mention is made again of the sin offering as connected with Pentecost, for in the wave loaves we see those in whom leaven was once active. The Lord and His people will ever be contrasted in this particular. We have been purged from our sins, He is what He has ever been, essentially and intrinsically holy.
Now let us look at some of the distinguishing features of God’s assembly, some of the marks that distinguish it from any other organisation, religious or profane. The Church which is His Body, of which all believers are members, and of which Christ is the head, cannot be seen. It has no human head. The Head is in heaven. Many millions of believers are also in heaven, and those who are on earth are scattered in the various countries of the world. It cannot therefore be appealed to as a voice of authority; it can never exercise discipline, for it can never all come together. It is here that the church of Rome makes a great mistake. She has appointed a human head with almost divine authority and she seeks to exercise a world-wide authority. This was never the divine intention for the Church. If then the Church cannot be seen, if it has no human head and cannot be appealed to, in what way can it be effective? How is God to express Himself if not through the Church? Well now, in 1 Corinthians 12, the apostle, speaking to the church of Corinth, is seeking to show the inter-dependency and relationship of the members one to another, and to do this he uses the illustration of a human body. In verse 27 he says—and remember he is speaking to the local company at Corinth—“Ye are the body of Christ.” Now the article is not in the original and should read, “Ye are body of Christ.” The reason the article appears in our English version is that the expression, “Ye are body of Christ,” is not compatible with our English idiom, and when the article is omitted in the Greek it makes the phrase what is known as anarthrous, and brings character into pre-eminence, and this is the very truth conveyed in this expression. The local church presents in character everything that is true of the Church which is His Body. Local churches are not part of the Body of Christ, but any local church is seen and presented in Scripture as a whole, as an entity, as a complete unit, as a body, and, therefore, each church is fully autonomous. Therefore, whilst the whole Church can never be seen at any one time, the local church can, and is therefore its visible, outward expression.
The local church as envisaged in the New Testament is the only corporate testimony God has on earth to-day. You may say this is a very bold statement to make in view of the fact that there are so many religious bodies in existence. It may seem a bold statement, but let me tell you on what authority I make it. As I read through the New Testament Scriptures— and I challenge you to do this—I see no other companies of believers mentioned or even envisaged, other than the local churches the like of which we are considering. Furthermore, all New Testament legislation concerning church life and doctrine can only apply to the kind of churches known and envisaged in Scripture, for all such legislation can only be made effectual in the churches for which it is designed. You seek to apply this legislation in any one of the denominations and you will find somewhere along the line, at some point the Scriptures will cut across some man-made rule they are observing, and one of them will have to go; this is inevitable. Therefore, the local church is and can be the only corporate testimony God can acknowledge. He cannot acknowledge anything else, for to do so would be to deny Himself and the revelation of Holy Scripture. Let me clear my feet on this, for I do not want you to misunderstand me. We are speaking now of the local church, the visible, corporate expression of the whole; we are not talking of service either of individuals or of groups. God can and does bless such in His sovereignty.
Now let us consider another distinguishing feature. The Church is presented in Scripture, as we have seen, as a Body. Now a body needs a head and that Head has been duly appointed by God Himself (Ephesians 1. 22). He “gave Him (Christ) to be Head over all things to the Church which is His body”, etc. In Colossians we read of holding fast the Head, from whom comes all nourishment by joints and bands which make for the increase of the Body. Now the Head is in Heaven and unseen by men, and the human mind cannot understand how the Church can get on, how it can be maintained without a human head. It is argued that a nation must have a ruler; a parliament, a premier; a business, a manager ; an army, a general; a ship, a captain, and so on. Is it not, therefore, equally essential that the Church should have some visible head? And so we have in the great world of Christendom to-day the various systems, each with its controlling head and established organisation. The church of Rome has its Pope and college of Cardinals; the church of England has its Archbishop and its bishops, and so one could go on. These things are all a denial of IToly Scripture and infringe upon the glory and authority of the Man at God’s right hand, the Man whom He has appointed to be Head over all things to the Church. Can the Church exist and be maintained without a human head? Well, if it cannot then men are wiser than God, but I am persuaded that God is wiser than men, and if He in the accomplishment of His will and purpose has established the Head of the Church in Heaven, then may we see to it that we do not acknowledge any human head or organisation, lest we be guilty of making ourselves wiser than God.
Now let us consider a further distinguishing feature. We have seen that each local church is viewed as a body, an entity, a whole not a part of a whole, and, therefore, each local church functioning according to New Testament Scriptures, holding and acknowledging the Head in Heaven, is fully autonomous. That is, local churches acknowledge only one Head—Christ. They are not governed by any other church or group of churches, but act independently one of another, and on this point too the human mind goes astray again. They say you must have organisation, you cannot have churches acting independently or a state of chaos would ensue, and on this point as on all others the wisdom of God makes foolish the wisdom of men, for if for a moment we allow that churches cannot act independently, and that some form of organisation or control is needed, what form of organisation or control shall we adopt ? One says, this organisation ; another says, that, and so it is man who has brought chaos into the things of God, and Christendom with all its mixture is the result. But see the divine mind in this, the very wisdom of God confounds us by its simplicity. For this is God’s will, this is the ideal, each local church holding the Head and functioning according to the divine pattern, whilst acting independently of any other local church, will act and function as every other local church does, whilst acting according to Scripture. They will act in unity and harmony the one with the other. The whole purpose of apostolic instruction regarding church doctrine and order was for this end that each church whilst functioning separately, will function in unity and harmony. This and this alone is the only answer to the religious chaos in the world to-day. But men have not yet learned this lesson, for there is a greater cry than ever to bring all the churches together—to bring them under one head or organisation—a great union, but it will be union without unity. How true is Scripture, “the foolishness of God is wiser than men.”
“He . . . hangeth the earth upon nothing” (Job 26. 7).
In looking to God for deliverance of any kind we are prone to try to discover what material He has on hand to work on in coming to our relief. If we are praying for financial help, we are apt to look over the community to see if we can think of any one whom the Lord might influence to lend us some money. If there are no apparent probabilities in that direction, we find it difficult to believe for hard cash.
If it is employment we need in order to insure the continuance of our bread and butter, we make diligent inquiries in the industrial centres, and if we find that the shops, stores, and factories are more than full handed, it is pretty hard work to be hopeful that we are going to get work.
If we are ill and our physician is at a loss to know what next to try in order to alleviate us it is not at all easy to convince ourselves that we are going speedily to recover.
It is so human to look and crave for something in sight that will help the Lord out. In time of need, if we can only find a little something for God to begin on, we seem so much better satisfied. To need a sum of money and not be able to think of a friend, a man, or a monied institution from which it might be obtained, gives a dark background to the scene.
To need work, and to find that throngs of others as needy as yourself are also idle, makes the human outlook very dark. To be in bed day after day, feeling no better, but rather worse, doctor’s bills increasing, business suffering and patience giving out, make a situation in which relief does not seem very probable. The trouble is, there does not seem a single prospect to begin on. The outlook is all liabilities, with no resources to help out.
Now, to God’s child, what is the real situation? Is there nothing but liabilities? Much every way. Are there no resources? Yea, thousands, millions, billions, trillions! Where are they? Above you, below you, around you. Earth and Air are full of wealth untold. Can’t you see it, eh? You don’t NEED TO SEE IT. KEEP YOUR EYE ON HlM.
Just think a moment. It is not at all necessary for you to see any help in sight, nor is it really necessary for God to have any relief on hand. He does not need anything to begin on. In the beginning God created the heaven and earth. What did He make them of? Nothing, absolutely nothing. When the earth was made, what did He hang it on? Nothing. PRETTY SATISFACTORY EARTH TO BE MADE OF NOTHING, EH? Remember, not a scrap of anything was used to make it. “He . . . hangeth the earth upon nothing” (Job 26. 7). It hangs all right, doesn’t it? Very well, then. A God who can make an earth, a sun, a moon, and stars out of nothing, and keep them all hanging on nothing, can supply all your needs, whether He has anything to begin to work with or not.
Trust Him and He will see you through, though He has to make your supplies out of nothing.
Here are some of the lessons learned in my service for Christ which 1 would humbly pass on to others :
God honours a parent’s prayers and godly influence.
Sunday School work, although often sacrificial service and unobserved by man, is not in vain.
God trains and fits His servants in the home, the daily occupation, and the local assembly, and in due time can open the way for them to launch out into full-time service, if He so wills.
He can sustain financially without salary or appeals to any, hut to the ear of God. On leaving the hank at which I had been employed since finishing school, the assistant manager in charge of the large head office staff, remarked, “You will be getting a large salary to go down to South America!” “No, Mr. G.,” I replied, “I am going forth without salary or the promise of a penny from any man, to seek to preach the Gospel. If I do God’s work, can He not look after me in regard to material needs?” “He ought to be able to,” was the reply of that unsaved man. After all these years we can say, “He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think!”
Systematic giving to the Lord is Scriptural, and an unmingled blessing to those who practise it. How rare for a young Christian nowadays, when wages were never better, to strengthen the hands of a servant of God at home or abroad, by a personal gift! (Ezra 1. 6; Mal. 3. 10).
Youth is the time to pioneer. If it is not done then, the likelihood is it never will be done when energy fails. For the encouragement of the young, I might say, I was still in my twenty-first year when I went forth with the Gospel.
I did not hurry about getting married, but proved God four years ere taking that important step (1 Cor. 7. 33-35).
Seek to walk as under the eye of God, serving the Lord, according to His Word, and then as an aged servant of Christ once tersely said, “You will not be a party man. You will please God, and the godly among His people, AND THE REST DON’T MATTER.” (1 Cor. 1:10; Phil. 2:1-3).
God the Holy Spirit uses the simple preaching of the Word of God to the awakening and saving of precious souls, and the planting of New Testament churches. It is a fallacy to say that the Spanish peoples, or others, cannot be taught the Scriptural ways of separation from the world, and assembly truths. Preach it, practise it, and leave results with God. “All power—all nations—all things—all the days” (Matt. 28.18-20, R.V.).
A TEACHER was telling her class of girls about the time when the Lord Jesus fed the multitude with five loaves and two fishes. Said she, “And of course you will understand, children, that it does not mean that Jesus actually fed all those thousands with a few loaves and fishes. That would have been impossible. It just means that He so fed the people with His teaching that they lost all sense of bodily hunger, and went home satisfied.” “But, Miss ... ,” asked a bright young scholar, “What was it filled the twelve baskets of fragments left over?”
Here is a statement by an atheist that should make every Christian man and woman stop and ponder. It is not new, but is worth repeating :
“Did I firmly believe, as millions say they do, that the knowledge and practice of Christianity in this life influences destiny in another, it would mean everything to me. I would cast away earthly enjoyments as dross, earthly cares as follies, and earthly thoughts and feelings as vanity. Religion would he my first waking thought, and my last image before sleep sank me into unconsciousness.
“I should labour in its cause alone. I would take thought for the morrow of eternity alone. I would esteem one soul gained for heaven worth a life of suffering. Earthly consequences should never stay my hand, nor seal my lips. Earth, its joys and its griefs, would occupy no moment of my thoughts. I would strive to look upon eternity alone, and on the souls around me, soon to he everlastingly happy or everlastingly miserable.
“I would go forth to the world and preach to it, in season and out of season, and my text would be : ‘What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul’ ?”
You may build a house, plant a garden, make a name in the world—it will all crumble, fade and perish; but if God uses you to the blessing of only one soul, it will stand for all eternity, to your everlasting joy and gladness.