WE hear little of the history or exploits of David’s followers during the period of their humiliation, but when the Kingdom was at last given into his hands and he seated on the throne of Israel, it was one of his earliest acts to call forth those who had shared his rejection, and publicly declare their faithfulness. They received no recompense—save the companionship of their master during the time of his rejection, but he whom they had served took note of all their deeds, and rewarded them by giving them places of honour in his kingdom. And thus it will be at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Suffering with, and service for the Lord, will have its reward then, and well it is for those who can afford to wait for that hour of recompense. Let us see who these servants were, and what their deeds and rewards.
Three of the chief of David’s mighty men were with him in the cave of Adullam, in the time of harvest. They overheard him express the longing desire—“O that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem which is by the gate” (2 Sam. 23. 15), the well of which he had drunk when as a boy he kept his flock. There was no command or order to bring it, but the three who heard it rushed through the ranks of the Philistines and brought the longed-for cool refreshing draught. This was the highest proof of their love and devotedness to their master, and he rewarded it in the day of his glory. So will our Lord and Master do to those who fulfil the desire of His heart. He said before He went away, “This do in remembrance of Me,” and those who keep that feast to give Him joy, will not be forgotten.
Another defended a piece of ground full of lentiles from the assaults of the Philistines. This seems an insignificant act. A patch of ground with a crop of so little value, need not have been the object of so great a battle ! So men would say, but Shammah knew it was part of his master’s inheritance, and he would not allow it to fall into the enemy’s hand. And there are such patches of ground to defend still. There are truths such as Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which many consider of so little importance that they do not contend for them; they allow the enemy to ruthlessly wrest them from their grasp, and plant his counterfeits on their ruins, on the plea that
they are unessential. The ambition of this type of warrior seems to be, that they will hold as much of the truth of God as secures their own salvation. All the rest may go to the enemy—it is unessential. It matters not about “Church truths” if “Gospel truths” remain. But Christ’s true-hearted followers will esteem such truths as part of that holy faith once delivered to the saints for which they are to “earnestly contend” and will “stand in the midst of the ground” with drawn sword defending it against the devil’s assaults. Let them be called “bigots” or any other contemptuous name, they hold it fast for Christ: and, praise His name, He will know how to reward such service in that day. We look in vain in the list of worthies for the name of Jonathan; one might say, we grieve to find it lacking there. And why ? Dear and honoured lover of David as he was, he never severed his connection with Saul; he never cast in his lot with David in the cave. He spoke of being next him on the throne, but alas ! when David reached that throne, he had fallen by the side of Saul at Gilboa, and David’s broken heart lamented his loss in mournful strains.
May we learn from this, beloved saints, that the royal road to the throne and the rewards of the kingdom, lie along the path of rejection with our rejected Lord, “who, for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” And there too with songs of triumph on every lip, and crowns of unfading glory on every brow, shall His feeble, faltering followers be brought, who, amid shame and reproach, have, through grace, been enabled to cleave to the despised Nazarene with purposed hearts, and to hold fast His faithful Word, amid the perils and seductions of these last days.
MISUNDERSTOOD SCRIPTURES . It would appear well to consider some of the passages advanced in support of public ministry by Christian women, scriptures referred to by those who wish to introduce this mistaken practice into assemblies.
1. 1 Cor. 14. 34-35. The prohibition found here is alleged to refer to chattering in assembly gatherings. The Greek verb used occurs frequently in the N.T. but never in the sense of “to chatter.” In this very chapter it appears twenty-four times, twenty-two times clearly relating to ministry. Let the reader attempt to substitute the word “chatter” in any of these occurrences and he will immediately perceive the resulting absurdity. Take verse 29 for example ! Besides, would not the chattering of men be equally reprehensible ? Why place such a restriction upon the sisters only ?
2. Acts 21. 9-10. This passage mentions, not without significance, that the four daughters of Philip the evangelist possessed the prophetic gift. There are no true prophets now so that in any case no example is afforded for the present day. In modern times the only women claiming the prophetic gift have been connected mostly with error cults, like Mrs. Baker Eddy of “Christian Science”, Mrs. Ellen White of “Seventh Day Adventism” and not a few others. We are not told that Philip’s daughters exercised the prophetic gift in public. Moreover, we cannot fail to observe that when a prophetic message concerning Paul was to be delivered, the Lord sends His servant Agabus all the way from Judaea instead of using Philip’s daughters who were already on the spot. No support for the public ministry of women can be found here.
3. Phil. 4. 3 . Euodia and Syntyche laboured with Paul in the gospel, but it is an unwarrantable assumption to suggest that they preached in public or even preached at all. As we have seen, there are many ways in which Christian sisters can co-operate in the Lord’s work apart altogether from speaking.
4. John 4. 28-30, 42 . In considering this scripture three things are to be noted. First, the Samaritan woman’s audience was composed of “the men”, that is, those with whom she was acquainted and had had unholy relations. Next, hers was a simple testimony not a public address, v. 39. Thirdly, she issued an invitation, no doubt individually, saying, “Come, see ...” This work of inviting people is a suggestive form of service for Christian sisters.
5. Acts 1. 14 . It is not to be inferred that the women prayed audibly. The order of the words both in the Greek and in the English indicates simply that the women were present. Had the statement been, “These all, with the women, continued steadfastly in prayer” there wouid be a measure of ambiguity. As it is, the meaning is clear.
6. Judges 4. 4-9. Advocates of women’s public ministry must be hard put to it when they turn to such an O.T. passage. There is no inconsistency, however, even here, but rather a warning example. Rulers had ceased in Israel (5. 7), showing that all was in confusion in the nation instead of divine order. Deborah took over responsibilities for the civil rule for lack of a man able and willing to do it. Barak was a military leader but so weak and fearful that when an emergency arose he called upon Deborah to share the post of danger with him despite her warning (4. 9). The incident shows utter weakness and failure among God’s people at that time. There was certainly not “an accession of new power and spirituality”, which is advanced as a plea by some who would permit Christian women to have full liberty for the exercise of a “speaking” ministry. Such brethren expose in themselves Barak-like defects and augment sad failure so manifest in the churches today. Heb. 11. 32 mentions Barak’s name but omits Deborah’s, thus upholding the divine principle that where men and women are in association even in weakness, leadership properly belongs to the men.
THERE is therefore in this Epistle and running through it a double line, one of which is the soul’s salvation depending upon the blood of the sacrifice alone, and the other is the life of faith which should flow from it, the life of the believer’s sacrifice and witness, and while these two themes are related we must not confuse them. We are now arriving at a section of warning again, commencing with the fire accompanying God’s presence at Sinai (12. 18, taken from Exodus 19. 16-25) and the reference to God as a consuming fire in v. 29 (taken from Moses’ words to the second generation just before they were to enter the land some 40 years later (Deut. 4. 24), and also the voice of words (v. 19 and vv. 25-27) i.e. the shaking of Sinai at the giving of the law and the shaking of all things in the end time of judgment. Let us keep these separate in our thoughts. The voice from the mount and the voice from heaven. (Moses himself did not enter the land of inheritance through unbelief but he was in it on the mount of transfiguration in Matt. 17) “Let us,” therefore, “hold fast grace” (v. 28).
These fearful sights and sounds at the giving of the law were to impress the people with the intrinsic holiness and power of God, that they might fear Him (see Exodus 19. 12, 13, 16-25; and also 20 18, 19) but in spite of which the dreadful scenes of idolatry forty days after took place, bringing judgment upon them and almost wiping them out. The danger to these Hebrews was in now turning away from Him who was speaking to them from heaven, and speaking to them of the Great High Priest and the end of the old order and the permanence of the new.
In between we have a list of the majesty and glory of what God calls us to approach unto. They are in pairs, and must be divided correctly by the repeated “and”. The first pair are Mount Zion and the city, New Jerusalem; the second the innumerable company of angels the general assembly, and the church of the firstborn ones, written in heaven; the third God the judge of all and the spirits of just men, perfected; the fourth Jesus the mediator of the new covenant and the blood of sprinkling speaking better things than Abel. These spiritual realities which are permanent are no less majestic than Sinai and the giving of the law, but are secured to us by “the blood of Jesus”.
This paragraph brings us then to the final end of all things, the shaking through the same voice of judgment, of ALL THINGS that CAN be shaken, the temporal things, in contrast to the things that CANNOT, the eternal things, the kingdom which cannot be moved which we “receive” from the eternal God. There must therefore continue to be reverence and godly fear to enable us to serve Him acceptably, and again the word “serve” is worshipful service in the sanctuary.
PRACTICAL EXHORTATIONS (Chapter 13)
Love (v. 1) has already been inculcated (10. 24). It is to continue. Verse 2 refers to Genesis 18 where Abram receives the heavenly messengers, one of which turns out to be Jehovah Himself and Abram so recognises Him and delicately preserves the incognito. Note, the first prayer in the Bible, a model for us all, and Abram’s promise of a morsel of bread, becomes a calf tender and good, cakes, butter and milk, and himself standing by in attendance, what immeasurable reward followed that indeed ! A model of the way to entertain strangers. See also 3 John 5-8.
We are not only to pray for, but identify ourselves with, sufferers for we ourselves may need their ministry one day. The home life, where hospitality is given, must be one of holiness. In these days of laxity invading the home life, again and again the home of Abraham is brought before us in scripture.
Covetousness is invading every sphere, personal, home and business ; it is the one objective of the worldling. In this respect there seemed little difference between Jacob and Esau, indeed only God it seems could discern it. “Be content”. These are the teachings of the Lord Jesus and the manner of His life who when down here had nothing. Paul also had “learned in whatever state he was to be content”. Godliness with contentment is great gain.
The reason here given is emphasised with five negatives, could it be made plainer. For HE hath said (and this promise is scattered about the Bible), “I will not, not leave thee, neither will I not, not forsake thee”. The hymn writer has hit this off well. ‘Til never, no never, no never forsake”; one of the few times when a hymnwriter is entirely scriptural, we think. Because of this we may SAY and say boldly, “The Lord is my Helper, etc.”. This is taken from Psalm 56. 11 and 118. 6; one where David was in the hands of the Philistines his enemies, and the other when the Lord Jesus was about to be in the hands of His. Persecution was awaiting them, as it may have overtaken their guides who had passed on and are to be remembered and the whole course of their faith-life and especially the issue of it, was to be followed, and possibly the same “issue”. Between the faithfulness of those who had passed on and the unfaithful ones who were troubling them with strange doctrines and meats (Judaistic?) there was one stable never-changing Person, the Same yesterday (in the past) today (in the present) and for ever.
THERE are many insinuations made relative to the temptation of our glorious Lord, and two are outstanding. They are—
If Christ could not sin, then temptation meant nothing to Him.
If our Lord had any advantage over us in meeting temptation by reason of His Deity He would not have experienced temptation in such a way as to enable Him to succour us when we are tempted.
With reference to the first observation it seems unnecessary to affirm the impeccability of our Lord, for the Holy Scriptures are replete with such attestations—
“He knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5. 21).
“In Him is no sin” (1 John 3. 5).
“He did no sin” (1 Peter 1. 22).
In view of the advent of our Lord Jesus Christ in manhood, the heavenly messenger stated: “That holy thing that shall be bom of thee shall be called the Son of God.” Holiness characterised Him in birth, and throughout His pathway of obedience in this scene, and this is emphasised in Christ’s own challenging statements, vis., “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” (John 8. 44), and “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me” (John 14. 30). He was that holy sacrifice who “through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God” (Heb. 9. 14). This sacrifice alone could meet the requirements of a holy God, and satisfy the demands of that righteous throne which sin had insulted; thus enabling God in righteousness and true holiness to justify the sinner who believes in Jesus. God’s character must abide inviolate, for He never compromises it to accommodate anyone, and the sacrifice which He has accepted must be flawless. The years of public ministry of our Lord attest His holiness. In resurrection and exaltation He is our great High Priest, with emphasis on “holiness”, for we read, “For such an High Priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens” (Heb. 7. 26). Holiness and sin are the absolute antithesis of each other. The Holy Scriptures carefully safeguard the character of our Lord giving us overwhelming evidence of His holiness. Being satisfied that He is sinless, let us now proceed to examine the two observations at the introduction of this thesis.
The first statement is “If Christ could not sin. then temptation meant nothing to Him”. We, who are the children of a fallen parentage, do sin. Why do we sin? It is because we have inherited a sinful nature which is ever prone to do that which is contrary to the mind of God. We have already referred to Scriptures which declare His sinlessness. If He could sin, then He did sin, for sin is the product of an evil nature, and practising sin is its characteristic, but we have the Holy Spirit’s record that “He did no sin.” We sin because we cannot help sinning. Here is One who is holy in birth, in life, in death, in resurrection and ascension to Glory. There were no evil desires fostered in His bosom for He claimed, “I do always those things that please Him (the Father).” The Holy Scriptures establish the impeccability of our Lord; and, satisfied with what God has declared, we proceed to examine the first statement.
One further point may be emphasised before we consider the first insinuation “If Christ could not sin, then temptation meant nothing to Him.” The Word of God presents Christ in Hebrews 1 (10-12) as the Great Creator; and the verses alluded to are a citation from Psalm 102 (25-27). Note the three observations divinely made! “Thou remain-est”. “Thou art the same”. “Thy years shall not fail”. This One who is God blessed forever changeth not; and this quotation refers to Him in the past, and the present, and the future—the unchanging God. In Hebrews 13. 8 the writer, guided by the Holy Spirit, affirms that He is the unchanging Man—stating “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.” If this blessed One could sin in His pathway of subjection and obedience in this scene; then, since He changeth not He could sin now, and could persist in doing so forever, for He is ever “the same”. Perfection is stamped on all He said and did, and He is sinless!
DID TEMPTATION MEAN NOTHING TO OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST ?
Did the temptation mean nothing to our Lord? It is a known fact that the holier a person is the more tremendous temptation appears. To those who live lives which, alas are so indifferent to the claims of Christ, and by no means commend the Gospel, then temptation is something to which they readily succumb, for temptation really means nothing to them.
The Person of our Lord Jesus Christ is God and Man in perfect unison. In coming into manhood he brought God-hood and Manhood in one comingled essence, manifested without any Adamic or racial constituent whatsoever, so that when men saw Jesus, they saw the Father (John 14. 9). Had He remained in the realm of eternal and divine glory then He could not have been tried and tested at all: the testing came when He became Man; when He accepted the body prepared for Him (Heb. 10 5). While He is Man in absolute perfection there is no constituent in that vast polygonal ensemble of divine glory absent. So distant human nature could never provide a suitable body for that Eternal One, so God did what nature could not do. While bearing in mind that He is a Person with a dual nature—that which is Divine and that which is human— never seek to dissect by separating between His Godhood and His Manhood. Some have gone the length of insinuating, if not blatantly declaring, that Christ was not in the enjoyment of His Divine foreknowledge and power when here on earth, otherwise there would have been no reality about His temptation. Is such an assertion true ? Take the power—He is capable of turning stones into bread, as Satan suggested He should do if He were the Son of God. Turning stones into bread would have been as easy for the Son of God as the raining of bread from heaven to the host of the Israelites throughout their wilderness journey-ings. The turning stones into bread was a divine capability: it was peculiar to Himself, and could never be accomplished by any fallen son of Adam. Had the requisite power not been inherent in the Lord Jesus Christ where would the temptation have come in ? Satan is actively engaged to-day in an all out endeavour to get men to deny the Deity of our Lord—His Omnipotence, His Omniscience and His Omnipresence.
Our Lord was tempted in all things in like manner, sin apart (Heb. 4. 15, J.N.D’s translation). Let us place all the emphasis possible upon the last two words of this statement, while appreciating the statement as a whole. There is no occasion on record in which the Lord was tempted by sin. He could never be tempted by sin, as we are. If a person is sinless then sin does not have any appeal. When we succumb to temptation it is because we have failed to reckon ourselves dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ (Rom. 6. 11). Consequently we are informed that “sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Rom. 6. 14).
The synoptic writers each make mention of the temptation of our Lord, though Mark does not provide the details afforded by Luke and Matthew. There are two significant facts stated in Mark’s Gospel, and these are exclusive to Mark. First, “The Spirit driveth Him into the wilderness” (Mark 1. 12). The second is found in the following verse, “He was with the wild beasts”. The first man, Adam, was among the wild beasts when he was still in innocence. What a transformation sin wrought! “The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” (Rom. 8. 22). The Lord was with the wild beasts without fear: the Creator had around Him some of His creatures, and all were subordinate to His good pleasure. He had power over an unbroken colt (Luke 19. 30). The perfect Servant of Jehovah was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness; such a statement would prove the fact that He was willing to execute the desires of the One who sent Him into this scene. The wilderness is a place of ‘no supply’: it is a comfortless scene, yet to this place did the submissive Servant move in keeping with the mind of God, His Father. It was in such a scene as this that Satan commenced His attack on the Lord. If we take the temptation as recorded by Luke, we shall find that the threefold principle defined in 1 John 2. 16 is clearly envisaged. John states, by the Holy Spirit, “All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world”.
THE sixth day begins with the Lord in an upper room in Jerusalem, made ready for Him and His disciples. To keep the Passover with them was His desire. Of His desires for them He also spoke. Taking a loaf, giving thanks, and breaking it He spoke of how that represented His body given for them. He counted on their desire to call Him to mind in the observance of that simple feast during the time of His absence on high, “This do in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22. 19). Further, the old covenant was based on the shedding of blood, the new would be established in His own, as He took a cup saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood which is poured out for you” (Luke 22. 20). He communicates teaching to them in relation to His departure to His Father and of His continued care for them while they were left in the world without His visible presence. (John 13 to 17). He loved His own through and through.
Leaving the upper room, they make their way to a garden where the Lord withdraws from His disciples and, alone, prays to His Father. The coming trial He anticipates in the presence of His Father and, having measured it with God, He is found, all through, calm before men. Apprehended by those sent from the chief priests and elders of the people, the Lord is interrogated in the house of the high priest with the whole council present. It was a dark, cold night. To deal gently with the ignorant and erring was expected of the high priest (Heb. 5. 2). Not so did Caiaphas act. Indeed it was the high priest who erred but not in ignorance. The Lord owns to being the Christ and Son of God, howbeit His Messianic rights in abeyance, as He cites from Daniel 7. “Henceforth ye shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26. 64). “And they all condemned Him to be guilty of death” (Mark 14. 64).
Early in the morning of the sixth day, they led Him to Pilate, and accused Him before the representative of Gentile authority. Pilate sends Him to Herod, the Edomite, who, with his men of war, set at nought the One who had a Divine title to reign in Israel. Like the ark among the Philistines, the Saviour is again led to Pilate. The Roman governor fails to uphold righteousness. As with the high priest he errs but not in ignorance. Fearing a riot he succumbs to the crowd. He takes the course suggested by the Jews. “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend” (John 19 12). He declares Christ innocent and then scourges and delivers Him to be crucified. Like the first man he was not deceived but openly transgresses. Hearken to the voice of his wife: “Have thou nothing to do with that righteous man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of Him” (Matt. 26. 19).
The Roman soldiers gather around Jesus and add affliction to the afflicted, forsaking the fear of the Almighty. They have no respect for His person. The crown of thorns, the reed in His right hand, the mockery.
They led Him away to be crucified. “It was the third hour and they crucified Him” (Mark 15. 25). They would not rend His garment yet thought little of rending His body. The nation of Israel unite to deride His Messianic glory, as Son of God and King of Israel. The Roman soldiers, who did not appreciate the import of such words as “the Christ”, “the chosen of God”, mock Him saying, “If Thou be the Kng of the Jews, save Thyself” (Luke 23. 37). Three hours passed, full of pain under the increasing heat of the sun upon an uncovered body torn and bleeding. For the last three hours, darkness shrouded the scene. “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour” (Matt. 27. 45). “He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5. 21). He gave Himself. He died on the cross after six hours of suffering, bearing sin’s judgment and exhausting Divine wrath in His person.
The first man, Adam, fell into a deep sleep and, painlessly, God builded from his side a woman suited to him in every way and brought her to the man. At great cost— the blood of His own—has God brought the Church to Christ. “We are members of His body” (Eph. 5. 30). On the sixth day in Genesis 1 the first man is formed in a scene ready to receive him. He is placed as head in the creation of God. “And God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth” (Gen. 1. 26). Writes the apostle Paul, “So if any one be in Christ, there is a new creation” (2 Cor. 5. 17, J.N.D.). Rejected by man, the paradise of God receives Him. The entrance of sin had marred man as to his original estate, created in the likeness of God and, consequently, he had failed to represent God as made in His image. Christ perfectly expressed true manhood and, as the second man, is the head of a new race.
Only a few hours before the Passover sabbath began: “And now, when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath” (Mark 15. 42). His body is hastily, yet carefully, taken down from the cross by Joseph and, wrapped in fine linen, laid in his own new tomb. Only two men and a few women attended the burial of God’s beloved Son.
“Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while He was yet alive, after three days I will rise again” (Matt. 27. 62, 63). Even after His death and on the sabbath they are found relentlessly active against Christ. “So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch” (Matt. 27. 66). We say again that God invites us to rest, where He rests, in the finished work of Christ.
“And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made. And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it: because that in it He had rested from all His work which God created and made” (Gen. 1. 31—2. 3).
The sabbath ended, a new day dawned, and with it the announcement that the Lord was risen indeed. “He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay” (Matt. 28. 6). “He was received up in glory” (1 Tim. 3. 16). May we learn to glorify Him. He will be the centre of glory in the new heavens and the new earth which God will yet bring into being. (Rev. 21. 1).
THERE is such a real and vital connection between the sending of the Lord Jesus Christ into the world to redeem mankind and the sending of the Holy Spirit to implement and perpetuate that mission that to accept the importance of the one is to require the importance of the other. The correspondence between the two can easily be traced and it suggests the underlying reason, that in the two missions we have the activities on earth of two of the Persons of the Godhead.
Now, how do you think of the Holy Spirit of God? As an attribute of God? A holy and divine influence emanating from God? Or do you believe Him to be as really a person as the Eternal Father or the Eternal Son? To clarify our thinking we must consider the fact of Godhead as presented in the Holy Scriptures. In the Old Testament God reveals Himself in the unity of His being although not without reference to the plurality of persons in the Godhead. The unity of Jehovah as Israel’s God is set over against the multiplicity of false gods in the surrounding nations. If Deuteronomy 6. 4 is read in context this will be clear. “Hear 0 Israel. Jehovah our God (Elohim, plural of Eloah, the supreme) is ONE JEHOVAH.’’ Nevertheless we hear the same God say, “Let US make man in OUR image” (Gen. 1. 26), “Let US go down” (Gen. 11. 7), “Whom shall I send and who will go for us”, (Isaiah 6. 8), this latter containing a remarkable combination of the singular “I” and the plural “WE”.
These indirect references to the blessed Trinity take on clarity and meaning in the New Testament, when at the outset of Christ’s mission on earth all three Persons are brought together and are seen working in unison for the Salvation of men. The Son of God in humble guise accepts the Father’s programme and is immersed by John the Baptist before the multitudes at Jordan. The Holy Spirit descends in a bodily form like a dove, endues Him for the programme He had just publicly accepted while the Father speaks from Heaven His words of identification and satisfaction with the One who has been baptized and anointed. (Matthew 3. 13-17).
Our first deduction, therefore, concerning the Holy Spirit must be that He is a PERSON and just as truly a person as the Father and the Son, despite the fact that our acquaintance with human personality clothed in a tangible and physical frame tends to modify our true appreciation of the divine Spirit who can exist with or without any such concrete form.
The Holy Spirit through the sacred writings is credited with all the powers and activities of intelligent personality. For example the Lord Jesus in promising that the Comforter would be sent to His disciples, declared that He would instruct them, refresh their memories, unfold the secrets of God and show them things to come—none of which could be said of a mere influence, or attribute. It is noticeable in all these pronouncements our Lord refers to the Comforter as “He”, “Him”, “Himself”, and places Him on equality with Himself (John 14. 16-17; 15. 26; 16. 7-14). When He says “another Comforter” He intends another of the same sort; that is, One who would fill all those needful offices and perform all those gracious ministries that the personal Presence of the Lord Jesus had meant to the disciples. The Spirit of God is rightly said to be Christ’s only “Vicar” on earth for He alone can do those things which Christ would do if physically present and He alone can make the absent Lord real and precious to present faith.
It is to be regretted that the Authorized Version on several occasions have connected the name of the Holy Spirit with the pronoun “Itself”, “It”, as though He were inanimate. This of course, was a strict adherence to the laws of grammar but not to simple reasoning. The word “spirit” is a neuter noun and normally requires the neuter pronoun (It etc.): but since the name “Spirit” is applied to a living Person the neuter significance is nullified and a masculine pronoun (Himself) is required. The devout and intelligent reader of the Word will want to honour this blessed Person in both thought and speech.
The Word of God, moreover teaches that not only is the Holy Spirit an intelligent Person but He is a DIVINE PERSON having equality as well as union with the Father and the Son. His name is used on equal terms with that of the other members of the Godhead in the baptismal formula of Matthew 28. 19, “baptising in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. Similarly His Name appears in the Apostle’s benediction in 2 Cor. 13. 24, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all”. The outstanding characteristic of each Person is thus beautifully expressed. The grace of condescension and sacrifice in our Lord Jesus Christ that interpreted the love of God’s heart can only be shared by us in the communion or partnership of the Holy Spirit. The divine inter-relation and inter-dependence of the offices of all three must be apparent even to the youngest Christian. Whatever you may have thought of these passages the title given to the Spirit in 2 Cor. 3. 17 should be conclusive: “Now the Lord is that Spirit”, and in verse 18, “The Lord the Spirit” (New Translation). It is not surprising therefore, to find this Divine Person associated with the carrying out of God’s manifold purposes. As the Executive of the Godhead He must needs be eternal, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient, and all these attributes of Deity are traceable to Him in the Scriptures. He who acted in the vast work of Creation, brooded over earth’s primal desolation and garnished the deep spaces of the Heavens could He be other than God ? (Gen. 1. 2; Job 26. 13; Psalm 139. 7).
Project this thought into the realm of Salvation and you will be more firmly convinced of His Deity. Who can convey the life of God, eternal life to souls dead in sins ? Who can regenerate and place them in the family of God ? Who can give them the Spirit of Sonship and create filial longings for the Father ? Indeed in each distinct phase of His ministry which we hope to investigate we shall find the truth of Zech. 4. 6 increasingly manifest: “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts”. The re-establishment of divine order and testimony in those days as now excludes all fleshly expedients and necessitates the Person and power by which the impossible can be gloriously achieved.
It is high time for assemblies and believers of these decadent days to think reverently and practically about this holy, gracious and almighty Person to whom alone we are committed for success and blessing. This will mean that we shall cultivate His acquaintance in every personal spiritual exercise, in the teachings of the sanctifying Word and in the impulses and opportunities He provides in service for our Lord Jesus Christ.
See also “Women’s Place in the Assembly” by Andrew Borland.
THE Author of the article we are reviewing, “The Brethren” by John L. Fear (‘The Christian and Christianity Today’, August 23rd 1968) had apparently put a series of written questions to these supposed leaders. The first question was: “Do you feel that the present day Brethren movement remains true to the original vision of the early leaders ?” H.E.L. in the latter half of his answer says: “There are crypto exclusives among the open Brethren. In so far as they are not influenced by ‘exclusivism’, ‘open’ leaders are true to the original vision.” This needs no more comment.
H.H.R. says: “The ‘world-renunciation’ that was so marked a feature of the early days has few practitioners today. Yet the impetus to evangelism and foreign missionary work continues almost unabaited.” Is this right? Have we not folks among us today who are truly pilgrims and strangers; are there no folks among us who have abandoned the world, or who live frugally in order to support the Lord’s Work ? I have been moving in assembly circles for almost 40 years—I would have said that I had met many saintly folk of this type. Of course I may be wrong— but I am convincecd that I am not! To say anything different would not only be uncharitable, but an absolutely wrong assessment of the exercise of godly saints.
I note, too, and endorse what C.J.P. says re another question: “Each local assembly is autonomous—is this strict independency advantageous or otherwise ?” He answers: ‘Tt is relatively so, but not absolute. They must conform to the principles and practices of the whole or leave them and become a truly independent church”. The expression does occur “as in all the churches” (see 1 Cor. 14. 33; 7. 17; 11. 16) and denotes a similarity of belief and practice in the various autonomous churches. Surely this is the trouble today—“Brethren Assemblies” that are not “Brethren Assemblies”. We have all kinds of terms in our day, such as Plymouth Brethren, Christian Brethren, Open Brethren, Closed Brethren, Crypto Exclusive Brethren— but there are also “Non-Brethren Brethren”, who, though they are in fellowship in Brethren assemblies, do not really believe what members of the movement as a whole believe. Honesty would demand that they do as C.J.P. suggests.
Another question that was put to these brethren was: “Many Assemblies now have full-time Pastors, Family Services on Sunday Mornings and have changed the names of their Gospel Halls. Is there a danger that Brethren will become indistinguishable in their witness and worship from other Evangelical Free Churches ?” The question is of course incorrect. It is not right to say that many assemblies in Britain have full-time Pastors and Family Services on Sunday morning. (Two ideas imported from certain sections of America). The author’s knowledge seems to be confined to a very small area. It is also true of a few that they have changed the names of their Gospel Halls. All these are a grieving element. An attempt to make themselves more like the denominations around and remove the reproach of gathering only to the Name of the Lord Jesus and carrying out His Word. Perhaps they wish to “become indistinguishable from other Evangelical Free Churches”.
On this question the brethren who replied are not in agreement. D.C.R. says: “The Brethren movement has always had full-time Pastors or perhaps more accurately described Bible-teachers. In bygone days men of ability could support themselves in the economic conditions existing in their day. Many Assemblies are recognising that our economic way of life is changing and so therefore we must have men who are “set apart” to be teachers. The fact that full-time Pastorship has been going on for more than 100 years in Brethren missions would indicate that there is nothing really new in this”, whereas A.W.R.A. says: “I think this is untrue. I do not know of a single local church which would be generally regarded as Brethren which has a Pastor. It might be a good thing if there were, but I do not know of any. However, even if it gradually becomes the practice to adopt the features of church life mentioned in the questions, I would not regard this as a ‘danger’. The object of any body of the evangelical Christians should not be to create a distinctive sect, but to work out the will of God as nearly as possible in church life. If this leads us into becoming indistinguishable from other evangelical churches, it seems an admirable thing”. It is news to me that in Brethren missions a full-time pastorship has been going on for more than 100 years. I hardly think that our missionary brethren would appreciate this allegation. I thought they made disciples, baptised them, taught them, gathered them together in local assembly fellowship, and as soon as possible handed over assembly responsibility and guidance to native elders. It may take longer to do this where first of all new converts have to be taught to read, before they can learn for themselves, but nevertheless this is the object of our brethren to establish autonomous assemblies, not depending on the missionary at all.
The vast majority of Christians gathered amongst the “brethren” do not believe in full-time paid local pastors (some of the contributors apparently do). We consider that Pauline instruction was correct when he exhorted the Ephesian elders “to labour to support the weak”, and cited himself as an example, “these hands have ministered to my necessities and to them that were with me”. This is not the poor of the flock supporting a full-time pastor, but local pastors working to support the weak of the flock ! It is the Ephesian elders who are reminded in this connection to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20). Whatever interpretation one might put on 1 Timothy 5. 17 cannot possibly contradict what Paul says here.
YOU will observe the voice from heaven here: “Come out of her, My people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues” (Rev. 18. 4). The receiving of her plagues is not the divine motive for separation. Men would be anxious enough about that. But the great thing that God looks for from His people is this— that they should not be partakers of her sins. I would put it to every Christian, how far is he in sympathy with God’s mind touching Babylon and her sins? How far does he feel the evil of it and judge it?
Babylon does not seek heaven, but the earth—not the sufferings of Christ and the glories that should follow, but to sit as a queen and to see no sorrow. Babylon is content with worldly exaltation. If you steer clear of this, Babylon has no attraction for you; and the present danger of every soul from Babylon is the gradual caring for and allowance in Christians of what man values on the earth. Of late years there has been no little change in the thoughts of Christians as to the present enjoyment of prosperity and pleasure in the world. There is amazing danger in it. For what is the great thought of it all ? Man rising, progressing, exalting himself—man showing what he can do, and how improved, and this is sought to be connected with the Name and sanction of Christ! Alas! it is Babylon the Great (Rev. 18. 9, 19). In her we see the end of the heart's desire, to enjoy all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. I do not wonder at an unconverted man seeking to make the world pleasant. Cain did it, and there is such a thing now as going in the way of Cain. These are the people +hat handle all sorts of musical instruments, and the artificers in brass and iron. It is true that these things sprang up in the very early hour of the world, but still the Spirit of God does not tell us for nothing that they were in the family of Cain, NOT in the family of Seth.
Every child of man stands responsible to God, whether converted or not, to own his outcast state as a sinner: he has no right to drown his conscience in the pleasures and the glory of the world. But bad as this may be, the thing that God hates most, and that He will judge in an awful and public manner, even in this world, is the tacking on the Name of Christ to the indulgence of worldly lusts. Is it not the desire, even of many Christians, to have the grandeur and riches of the world at their back ? I do not doubt that they heartily wish to have people converted, but they would like them to bring their earthly influence along with them. This is the Spirit of Babylon. What the Lord looks for from us is doing the will of God, suffering for it, and taking it patiently. Any of these things which the heart covets will be found to involve the will of man. There is not a single position of distinction or of glory in the world but what requires a man to give up a good conscience towards God. In other words, you cannot be a member of the world and act faithfully as a member of Christ. If you value and wish to follow the world, you will make all sorts of excuses, and argue for a compromise; but this only shows how far the leaven of Babylon has affected your soul.
UPON entering another year in the history of our magazine we are constrained to express our thanks to the Lord for His faithfulness in giving strength to continue. He has exercised those gifted to use their pens for the profit of His people. He has blessed the paper to His own in many lands. He has grae-iousl provided for our continuing need, thus, we have proved His faithfulness and in our experiences we rejoice that our God not only hears prayer, but is able to answer for His own glory, and in turning to Him “we are blest”.
We greatly appreciate the help we have received from the Lord’s beloved people. We thank those who have contributed so freely in the variety of papers submitted. We thank the many saints who so kindly helped in distribution. We gratefully acknowledge the service of prayer that many have maintained on our behalf. Our sincere thanks are also extended to those whose practical fellowship has made it possible to continue. The freewill offerings of the Lord’s redeemed ones, individually, and through the assemblies moves our hearts in gratitude to our faithful God. So many write us whom we have never met, from so many lands we shall never see, yet there develops an intimacy over the years for which we thank God. With joy we anticipate the great gathering before us, when,
We look to meet our brethren
From every distant shore;
Not one will seem a stranger,
Though never seen before.
Then with and like our blessed Lord forever ! Forever !
“TO know God’s will and to do it”. Surely this is the highest ambition of a child of God. To know it, requires the enlightenment of the Spirit. To do it requires the enabling of the Spirit. To me, it did not come as a sudden, startling revelation, but due to constant and consistent exercise during my early Christian years.
My early life was lived much as every other boy’s was lived but I had the priceless privilege of having Christian parents. Being one of a family of six prevented me from being “spoiled” ! The salvation of the children was the highest desire of my parents. This they had the joy of seeing accomplished, and it was a special joy, when on one Lord’s Day morning, all six of us, together with our parents, sat down together to remember the Lord, in the Ormeau Gospel Hall, Belfast.
Early in my Christian experience I had the desire to serve the Lord as a missionary. I thought, that if I could become a doctor, it would be an additional help to see this accomplished. However the way did not open immediately for me to study medicine, and I entered business in clerical work. But still down deep in my heart remained the desire to serve the Lord.
Needing an operation, I entered hospital, and whilst here, again the desire increased in my heart to study medicine, and give myself to the service of the Lord oh the mission field. Coming out of hospital, and convalescing, one day I mentioned to mother my desire. She had known of this before but, putting spiritual things first, she had advised me to take a commercial course rather than a university course. (A friend of the family had just then finished university and his time there had resulted in spiritual disaster). After prayer, and her blessing, it was decided that I should attempt to enter university and study medicine. This meant 15 months of hard study to reach university matriculation standard. But again, humbly seeking to put God first, the promise was fulfilled, “Them that honour Me I will honour”. Throughout these studies, and my subsequent years in university, I resolved to attend the assembly meetings, as well as engage in the proclamation of the good news to young and old. Well do I remember as final medical examinations drew near! The Prayer Meeting and the Young People’s Meeting I had resolved to continue to attend right up to these final weeks. Some books still remained to be studied. I resolved, further, never to study on the Lords Day. I felt that this day should be wholly given to the Master. Had He not given precious years for me, and then yielded up a precious life for me ! Surely I could make some “sacrifice” for Him ! The week of the final examinations was a week of prayer. Again I renewed my vows before the Lord. “If the Lord enables me to obtain my degree in medicine, then it will be used in His service”. The temptation to study on the Lord’s Days just prior to the finals was great. But again help was sought of the Lord. A fellow student, a Christian, and a good friend mentioned to me the “folly of going to meetings and not doing some study on Lord’s Days”. He was one of the bright students of the year. I was not! But I told him of my resolve to put the Lord first. The finals were over! The results announced ! My name appeared on the pass list. My friend’s did not! God was teaching me the lesson that “time given to Him was never lost time”.
After graduating, I again re-dedicated my life to the Lord and awaited His guidance. There were the failures and frustrations—all mine. There were times when the flesh became restless. Soon after qualification, I felt the opportune time to go forth as a missionary had come. But the Lord had further lessons to teach me and a greater blessing in store for me. Some years passed before my desire was realised. Again and again my vow was renewed in the presence of the Lord. “Not my will, but Thine”. Often the temptation to “settle down” in a comfortable practice was strong, but waiting upon the Lord gave patience to await His time. During this time of waiting, God brought a real blessing into my life. I met my partner in life. Unknown to me at the time of our first meeting, she too had, in a missionary meeting, dedicated her life to the Lord for service in Central Africa, especially amongst lepers. (Mr. Tom Rea of Central Africa was the speaker at that meeting). My own exercise too had been leading towards Central Africa. How gently the Lord leads us on. Despite our strivings and failures ! As one looks back, one can see a loving heart planning, and a loving hand leading in each circumstance that came our way.
The Will of God demands sacrifice and obedience whatever the cost. For my wife this meant much. And the time of parting was not easy for her or her loved one. For myself, I little dreamed that my first term in Central Africa would mean the parting too, “until the day dawn”, from a dear young brother and a dear, dear mother, whose ambition in life was, that her family would live for God. Her prayers thrust us forth, and for two years sustained us through many trials. And yet, as one looks back on these partings, and “counts the cost”, one can still see a loving heart planning so tenderly in love, and a loving hand leading to more trust in our faithful God. During the years many, many faithful prayer partners have entered into their rest and reward. God has raised up others. Discouragements there have been; but encouragements have been greater. Failure in us has been so evident; but the faithfulness of our God has been over abounding. To see lives transformed, saints restored, bodies healed and then sent back again into villages to live for Christ—nothing can bring so great joy and recompense. And His mighty power, working in us , is the reason for it all. His is all the glory!
What the future holds we cannot know. But we know Who holds the future . Our prayer and desire is that “we may know His will and do it.”