NOW follows a section much misunderstood by expositors, who think that there is now some kind of Christian altar, but not so, the writer is putting himself alongside those to whom he writes nationally and back into the past. Christians have no altar, this is therefore a reference to the sin offering once again and that on the great day of atonement where the blood of the sin offering was carried within the veil into the holiest (Lev. 16. 27). This is the only possible explanation, otherwise all is confusion and bringing in again just what the whole epistle has been putting away. The blood brought in, the body burned outside the camp and that is where the Lord Jesus was taken. (See again chapter 9). Again we quote from Mr. P. Parsons: “In this (i.e. the sin offering for the people) is the basis, the blood went in to the sanctuary, and the body (less what was burned on the altar to God) went out and the offering hence provided no food for the priests (i.e. those who served the tabernacle) A Jew therefore clinging to the old ritual for salvation and worship had no right to partake of what Christ’s death made available, for in that death Christ’s body went out ... i.e. ‘without the city wall’. The temple and the city became the ‘camp’ during their feasts, so Christ ... suffered ‘without the gate’ and ‘camp’ ... In the sin offering the blood went in, but in Christ’s case He who shed it went in. ... The call to the Christian then was to go to Him, a Person, outside the camp of ritual and organised religion. If we go to Him, we are bound to be found ‘outside’ ... For us to-day the lessons should be clear. Christendom has produced a mass of ecclesiastical systems some of which embody features of a Judaism rendered obsolete by Christ’s work, as well as some N.T. characteristics, but all involving some degree of departure ... in other words a camp has been formed. From this we are called to “go forth”. We then are called to follow Him, we follow Him inside the veil as worshippers, we follow Him outside the camp as pilgrims, bearing His reproach. Many will have nothing to do with His reproach but it is what Moses esteemed greater riches than the treasures in Egypt and forsook the latter, for Moses too took his tent outside the camp in the day of Israel’s sin, and like Abram we too have no continuing city but seek the coming one. (11. 9, 10, 16).
There are also continual sacrifices we may offer (v. 15), not on any set days or occasions; one is the fruit of our lips giving thanks or confessing His Name and (manward) doing good and giving.
The spiritual guides (not “have the rule”) referred to in verses 7 and 24 are to be obeyed for they are in charge of our spiritual welfare (as a mountain or forest guide whom we must follow to be safe), for they have to give an account of their stewardship and “watch” (pass sleepless nights?) for our souls’ welfare. (See the epistles of Paul, Peter and John for this constantly recurring theme). If they fail, that is unprofitable, not for them but for you, though they too will be losers of reward.
Was the writer in prison for the sake of the Name and testimony? (v. 3). Maybe. If so, he calls for prayer for restoration to them. He must therefore be one who was known to them.
Now the benediction, and again he must allude to the main theme, the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep. In death, in John 10, the good Shepherd (Ps. 23). Here, the great Shepherd, alive again from the dead, brought up as Israel had been brought up out of the Red Sea (such is the figure here). In Peter, the chief Shepherd, the coming One to give rewards. The God of peace has brought Him up and again that remarkable phrase, “through the blood of the everlasting covenant”.
“Make you perfect,” i.e. mature, full grown. (See ch. 6). He is willing to work in us, that His will may be worked by us. “Glory to the ages of the ages”, a term for eternity, is given to Christ once again.
“Few words” in respect of the vastness of the subject and what has had to be left out. (see 5. 11 and 9. 5).
The reference to Timothy’s release is obscure as it is difficult to find a reference to this elsewhere or any such imprisonment. As also the reference to Italy, but it is significant that the salutation is verily Paul’s own, adopted by him early on in his service and always used so by him. It is always “Grace”, that which we need most.
THE first temptation relates to the “lust of the flesh”: the second to “the lust of the eyes”; and the third to “the pride of life”. It is important to notice that the Lord when tempted brought God between Himself and the adversary and defeated him on each count. There was no sin in making bread from stone. Did not John Baptist say “God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham” (Luke 3. 8). There is nothing sinful in being the possessor of all the kingdoms of this world, and the glory of them, for when the seventh angel sounds his trumpet, voices in Heaven declare, “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever”. (Rev. 11- 15). God had predicted such a time as this in the prophecy of Daniel (Dan. 2. 44). There is nothing sinful in committing ones-self to a beneficient God!
The question might be asked “Wherein lay the temptation?” The temptation was presented by the devil in a subtle manner in an endeavour to get the Lord to do some things which, under certain conditions, were perfectly lawful, at a wrong time, and in a wrong way. In the first temptation the devil made a bid to induce the Lord to desert the pathway of dependence and obedience, and so to use His own initiative and exercise His own discretion. This is what we might designate “self-assertion,” or “self-expression.” It is worthy of note that the Father had just opened Heaven to testify to His profound delight in Jesus the Son of God. The Father had taken into His wide compass the secret life lived at Nazareth, and which was divinely approved by the Father, The Father gave witness to the fact that Jesus was the belaved Son of the Father. Satan grasped at this and in a challenging fashion said if thou be the Son of God then give us the evidence; assert Yourself and manifest Your power, You are hungry, meet Your personal need by converting stones into bread, This was a test along the line of “the lust of the flesh,” but the Lord overcame the devil by the Word of God making a citation from the fifth book of the Bible—Deuteronomy 8 verse 3.
The second temptation was a suggestion from the devil that Christ should ignore divine purpose when God shall give Him the nations for His inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession (Psalm 2. 8 ) then the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdom of our Lord, and His Christ, as has already been observed from the Prophecy of Daniel and from the Book of Revelation. This would appear to be a testing along the line of self-gratification. The kingdoms of this world and the glory of them was not given as a lesson in geography, but one of history, for kingdoms are not geographical but historical. A review in a moment of time of all the blaze of glory that had been diffused from the mighty potentates of time and their kingdoms had no appeal to One whose desire was ever to do the will of His Father. This temptation was presented with a specific appeal to the “lust of the eyes”-We know that through the medium of divine revelation the sorrows of Gethsemane and the tragedy of Golgotha lay in the pathway of obedience to the Christ of God, and the devil would seek to offer Him what would be legitimately His at a future date. In our study it is wise to remember that Luke records the fact that Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being forty days tempted of the devil (Luke 4. 1-2). How often do we expose ourselves to temptation being “drawn away of his own lust, and enticed” (James 1. 14). Here is that blessed One—the Lord Jesus Christ—full of the Holy Ghost, and led by the Spirit to endure temptation of a very severe character. One full of the Holy Spirit will meet temptation in whole hearted dependence upon God. How the wisdom of the Lord sparkles in the three citations which He made from the Book of Deuteronomy! He did not quote from Leviticus, for that is the book for the priests, and “if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all” (Heb. 8. 4. R.V.). He did not quote from Numbers, for that is the book for the Levites, and “it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah” (Heb. 7. 14). In quoting from Deuteronomy He revealed that He was conversant with the contents of the fifth book of the Bible, viz., Deuteronomy, which is the book for the common people. The second quotation Christ made was from Deuteronomy 6. 13, and He again defeated the devil.
The final temptation was most seductive, and characterized by marked severity. Already it has been noticed that Our Lord defeated the devil by quoting from the Holy Scriptures. In this third temptation the devil makes use of the Word of God to suit his final endeavour to overthrow the Christ of God. The third temptation was more public than the others, and has within its range the thought of self-exaltation. None need have observed Christ turn a stone into bread, none need have had a glimpse at the glory of the world kingdoms or known how Christ came to possess them: while the first two temptations are of a secretive character, this final one is more public. To see the Lord fall from the pinnacle of the temple and be delivered in a miraculous manner would have a tremendous effect upon the man in the street. The first temptation had a particular application to the body—a meal for One who had hungered over a lengthy period. The second had to do specifically with the soul, for it has to do with man’s higher power even to taking control of world empires. The third temptation had to do with the spirit. Man, as man, cannot force God to act contrary to His divine purpose. Israel complained about the provision provided during their sojourn in the wilderness, saying “our soul loatheth this light bread.” There was a marked disgust on the part of Israel against the divine provision which God designates “angels food” and “the corn of Heaven” (Psalm 78. 24-25). They presumed that through their complaints God would accommodate His people by giving them some other type of food: see Numbers 11. This final temptation presented by the devil was in respect of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. To this temptation Christ again answered from the pages of Holy Writ (Deut. 6. 16). The tempter in this final testing of the Son of God, brought God and Christ together. Can any creature force the God of the universe to act by a bold attack on God’s Son? Nay, verily!. Now that the devil has miserably failed in his threefold attack, he beats a hasty retreat crestfallen—“he departed from Him for a season.” Would he return? He did in the Garden of Gathsemane, on the cross of Calvary, and at the sepulchre. Christ has finally vanquished that inexorable foe: and only through death did the Mighty Deliverer destroy him that had the power of death.
The wilderness testing confirmed the word of our Lord —“The prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in Me” (John 14. 30), though these words quoted were spoken in view of His exodus from this scene and the final attack which the devil would make. We learn, in conclusion, that “angels came and ministered unto Him.” The night of the betrayal of our Lord provided an opportunity for Christ to affirm “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He shall presently give Me more than twelve legions of angels?” These heavenly messengers could have been despatched at the bidding of the Lord, but then how could ruined humanity have been retrieved from eternal doom? Forty days testing—then the angels! All this reveals the perfection of His manhood. In Gethsemane as the shadow of the cross lay across His pathway, and being in an agony He sweat as it were great drops of blood an angel strengthened Him.
We would answer the enquiry which forms the title of this article—“Was the temptation of Christ real?’’ The testing was that which Satan used against our first parents successfully—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Satan said to our first maternal parent “It is good for food”: It is pleasant to the eyes”: “to be desired to make one wise.” Our first parents succumbed to the Satanic attack Similar tactics as were used in Eden’s garden were used against the second Man, the last Adam in the wilderness, and we rejoice He triumphed gloriously. The testing was real in every way, and the Holy One was the mighty Victor. If the testing was only supposed, wherein lay the necessity of angels being despatched to minister to our Lord? Was the Christ of God sinless as He trod the pathway of God’s will here below? We reply—“absolutely sinless”! The Second Man, the Last Adam stands in contrast to the first man Adam. The Lord learned obedience by the things that He suffered, and this equipped Him for the activities in which He now engages on our behalf at the right hand of God as Great High Priest, and as Advocate with the Father. While the sinless Man sinned not: we aver that the temptation was real as we have sought to prove: and I conclude by restating an opening comment in this paper—“We sin because we cannot help it; He sinned not because He is holy. We sin because we can sin.” Our Lord could not be what He is if He could sin: nor could He accomplish the will of Him that sent Him had He been able to sin.
MIDWAY between a warning of Satanic enmity and a sad record of human failure the Lord Jesus interposes this comforting assurance: “Simon, Simon ... I have prayed for thee.” So much blessing—far more than Peter realised at the time—is wrapped up in that. The tempter will do his worst. The forces of evil may make common cause with the weakness of the flesh and the fear of man and thou, Peter, wilt fail and fall miserably when the testing time comes, but, remember: “I have prayed for thee.” (Luke 22. 31-34).
In this we have an example of the gracious ministry which the Lord Jesus has been exercising for His needy people. He does not pray for the world (John 17. 9) but every saved soul is the object of His solicitude and the burden of His intercession in heaven (Hebrews 7. 25). He still binds up the broken-hearted (Isaiah 61. 1), while out of the sympathy of His perfect humanity He pours the healing balm of His grace into the wounds and sores of His redeemed ones here below. No suffering saint ever heard sweeter music than those words of the Saviour: “I have prayed for thee.”
The road that leads us through this world is never an easy one and many a pilgrim, weary and footsore, stumbles and falls by the wayside, a casualty to the slings and arrows of adversity. Temptations abound. Difficulties seem to multiply as we near the end of our journey. Our experience may even reflect something of what the apostle Paul endured and described in 2 Corinthians 4. 8-9: ‘‘Troubled on every side, yet not distressed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted but not forsaken; cast down but not destroyed.” And amid all our trials there is the strong right arm of the Lord “Who upholdeth all that fall and raiseth up all those that be bowed down” (Psalm 145. 14). Moreover, His silent but effectual intercession in heaven speaks comfort to those in distress, brings fresh strength to their flagging faith and turns their feet once more joyfully in the direction of His will. To every one of His troubled servants there is this heartening message. “Friend, be of good cheer, I have prayed for thee.”
Peter’s impetuous nature had to be curbed and his self-confidence brought low, for discipline goes hand in hand with sanctification. That this erring disciple was truly humbled we know from the sequel (Matthew 26. 75). What amazing grace, therefore, that the Lord, while warning him of impending defeat, also foretold, with equal certainty, his subsequent restoration and to what that must lead. Out of Peter’s weakness his brethren were to be made strong—in the Lord. His own harrowing experience was to be made the basis of God-honouring ministry to others and this, no less, is what the Lord is expecting of us today. Hence His intercession, un-changing in efficacy and timeless: “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” To what extent do we respond to such loving concern?
MANY have been the sermons and many have been the preachers who have preached on Mephibosheth. The facts related about him have formed the basis of many a disquisition and have supplied a Biblical illustration for Gospel messages without number, and rightly so.
Was he not lame on both his feet? (2 Sam. 9. 13). This robbed him of the ability and strength to walk, as evidently his feet needed constant care. He was not able to go with David at the time of Absalom’s rebellion because his servant had deceived him and had not provided him with the ass that he had requested. And while David was out of Jerusalem he did not dress his feet, so they must have needed looking after by a competent chiropodist. Yes, he was lame, poor Mephibisheth, and it affected his walk!
Was not his lameness due to a fall? (2 Sam. 4. 4). It was that fall that lamed him for life, and it was a woman’s failure that caused that calamitous fall! And are we not all the victims of the fall, and as a result of that fall we have all walked according to the course of this age, according to the prince of the power of the air, the one who energises the children of disobedience. Yes the fall has permanently affected everyone’s conduct, and of this Mephibosheth is an illustration.
Does not his other name . . . Meribaal. . . suggest that at his birth he was dedicated to Baal, dedicated to be a worshipper of Baal? And was he not thereby constituted a child of wrath, subject to the judgment of the Lord God? Yes, surely.
Was he not of the family of David’s bitterest enemy —Saul? Yes Saul had persecuted David to the bitter end. For some years David was a fugitive hiding in caves, hunted as a partridge on the mountains. The wilderness of Engedi and the cave of Adullam were among his hide-outs, because Saul and his army had sought his life. In this way Mephibosheth is an illustration of the fact that we are not only without strength and sinners, but enemies. (Rom. 5. 6-10). Yes we were enemies by wicked works, and thereby alienated from God.
Was he not the recipient of the kindness of God? Did not David ask “Is there not yet any of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God unto him? Yes, in a marvellous way he illustrates the fact that we too have been the objects of the “kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man.” (Tit. 3. 4). David showed great magnanimity of heart, after God’s own heart, when he sought for any that might still remain of the family of his inveterate foe.
Was not Mephibosheth away in Lo-debar in the house of Machir when David made the enquiry and made the necessary arrangements to fetch him? Yes he was away in a far distant place, a place of poverty, a place of no pasture. And so were we “afar off.” (Ex. 19. 16; 20. 18; Eph. 2. 11). At Sinai the people removed and stood afar off. The law generated a spirit of bondage and fear. Even Moses said: “I exceedingly fear and quake.” (Heb. 12. 21). And doubtless poor Mephibosheth passed his days in Lo-debar in fear of the possibility of being cut off. The sword of Damocles, as it were, held by a mere thread hung perilously over his head. In Lo-debar he could have no peace of mind or heart. It is undoubtedly a Spirit drawn picture of our position and condition by nature, even though we were not conscious of it, and may have lived a careless life. Yes we were in the far country and in great danger.
Did not David’s fourfold message to him foreshadow the content of the gospel? Yes surely. Note the four and consider them separately. The first is “Fear not”. The very arrival of the messengers from David in itself must have begotten a fear in his heart and it may have even struck terror. Did their coming herald retribution? Possibly the words of the hymn of McCheyne would express his fears. “When legal fears shook me, I trembled to die.” But the words “Fear not” brought peace and tranquility to his troubled breast, even as the words of the Lord “Peace be still” calmed the tossed waves, and there was a great calm. And as we entered into the enjoyment of peace with God we were able to sing “It is well, It is well with my soul.” Perfect love, his love had cast out fear.
David’s second word must have filled Mephibosheth with wonder and amazement. “I will show thee kindness for Jonathan, thy father’s sake.” Not only was his fear cancelled but he was assured of favour, and that not because of any mere pity for his lameness but because of another. This would be the basis of his confidence, even as it is ours. It is because of another that the clouds of wrath have been scattered and we are basking today in the clear sunshine of His love.
“And I will restore thee all the land of Saul thy father.” This third word of David introduced him to wealth which he had never thought he would ever enjoy. The lost inheritance restored, and restored in full. What amazing grace. But it is beggarly compared with the riches of His grace, and the exceeding riches of His grace toward us in Christ Jesus. In this way grace reaches its high water-mark, it’s zenith.
“And thou shalt eat bread at my table continually.” This the fourth and last word of David to Mephibosheth, crowned it all. Little wonder that Mephibisheth bowed himself and said, “What is they servant, that thou shouldest look upon such a dead dog as I am? Such transcending grace that brings a rebel sinner nigh, even into the banqueting house, making us partakers of the Lord’s Table daily, privileged to enjoy the provision and fellowship of that table day by day. is that which is foreshadowed in the final or fourth word of David.
In the day of Absalom’s rebellion Mephibosheth was tested as to his fidelity by the subtlety and slander of Ziba. But during David’s absence he “neither dressed his feet, nor trimmed his beard, nor washed his clothes.” “While David was away he was a mourner. The absence of David deprived; him of every motive to adorn his person.” (C.H.M.). And when David returned Ziba’s slander was made very evident. Had Mephibosheth accepted the offer of dividing the inheritance with Ziba it would have incriminated him immediately. His preparedness to let it all go fully exonerated him from the false charge of Ziba. May he be an example to us, for we too must and will be tested by subtleties and slander. The apostle spoke of having been “slanderously reported.”
Then again was not Mephibosheth spared when requisition was made for blood at the hands of the Gideonites. (2 Sam. 21. 7). Yes he was spared when seven others of Saul’s family died under the curse, hanging on trees. He was spared because of the Lord’s oath! the oath that was between David and Jonathan. This brings us to the final word about Mephibosheth. He was an heir of the promise and the oath, the covenant between David and Jonathan. He was not an Ammonite or a Moabite. He was not a Gentile, and therefore does not prefigure those who are “strangers to the commonwealth of Israel,” and “the covenants of promise.” Rather he is an illustration of the words of Rom. 11. 5. “Even so at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” During the whole of the Gospel era there have been many Mephibosheths, many like Saul of Tarsus, who as “heirs of promise .... confirmed by an oath . . , have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before them.” And the way Mephibosheth was spared at the end illustrates the way the remnant will be spared in the dark and cloudy day, the time of Jacob’s trouble, the time of the “great tribulation.” A large company, 144,000 will be sealed and preserved through that day of wrath to meet their Messiah at His return in power and great glory.
Whereas the “middle wall of partition” has been broken down and thereby the Jew is on the same ground today as the Gentile, yet we are assured that “God hath not cast away his people whom he foreknew” or foreordained. The unfulfilled prophecies, and the unabrogated covenants make their restoration to favour inevitable. God’s promise and His oath are immutable, inviolable.
A word to all who serve the Lord by ROBERT McCLURKIN
ONE of the greatest privileges conferred upon us is to be called of God into specific service. To know God is to love Him and to love Him is to serve Him. But privileges bring their corresponding responsibilities. With that in view let us think of
THE SERVANT’S PREPARATION
Our Lord trained His servants in secret for what He wanted them to do in the open. The apostles companied with our Lord for three and a half years, imbibing His spirit and character and learning His ways in the work of God. They were first disciples, then evangelists and then teachers. This is God’s order. Moses thought to be a leader in Israel before he matured in the school of God in the backside of the desert. But God rejected him. Elisha must walk with and learn from Elijah before the mantle falls upon him. Paul is sent into Arabia to learn God. Then he spent some years in Tarsus, his home district, before going to Antioch from whence he was recommended to the grace of God. He himself testified, “after I was tested I was put in trust with the gospel” (1 Thess. 2. 4).
The assembly, with it’s privileges and activities, is the best training ground for God’s servants. Here young believers may sit under a variety of ministry by godly and gifted servants of Christ, both local and itinerant. Here also there is opportunity to engage in every branch of its work, such as open-air work, Sunday School, tract distribution, cottage meetings etc. There is also the benefit of wise counsel from godly elders and the opportunity of maturing in an atmosphere where “thus saith the Lord” is paramount. There can be no substitute for the assembly as God’s training ground. As one learns God in the secret of His own presence and, the ways of God in fellowship with His people in the assembly he may put it into practice in the circumstances of every day life, whether in the office, the factory, the high-school or the university. This leads to strength of character and to a stable personal testimony for Christ.
THE SERVANT’S COMMENDATION
The greatest commendation one can have is his own character and ministry. This should be apparent to all of
the Lord’s people. Anyone who is not acceptable to his own home assembly and to assemblies in his own immediate vicinity will never be acceptable nor useful anywhere else. Elder brethren should not irresponsibly commend such and put an intolerable burden on assemblies else-where, either at home or abroad.
The one who is called of God into full-time service will commend himself to the consciences of the Lord’s people, both in character and in gift. The assembly will seek to discern in him the three qualifications that Paul looked for when he was about to associate Timothy with him in the work of the Lord. In Timothy Paul found a man of good character, he was well reported of by the brethren (Acts 16. 1-2). a man who was gifted by the Holy Spirit (2 Tim. 1. 6-7) and a man who was intelligent in the Word of God (2 Tim. 2. 15; 3. 14-17). Elder brethren will be wise if they refuse to be satisfied with anything less.
The Word of God says “know them that labour among you.” The Lord’s people have the right to know what manner of men go out from them and move in and out among the assemblies of God’s people. What is their character? Are they Christian gentlemen, both in ministry and behaviour? Or are they exacting, inconsiderate and unmannerly? What is their ministry? Have they won souls to Christ and established the saints in the ways of God. What are their motives? are they in the work for the glory of God or for filthy lucre, the praise of men or for an easy aimless life of travel at the Lord’s people’s expense?
Moreover, commendation is to the gospel. Medical work, homes, orphanages and schools are good and commendable in their place but they are secondary and should not displace or assume greater emphasis than the gospel and the establishing of New Testament assemblies. The Word of God knows nothing but commendation to the gospel.
THE SERVANT’S COMMISSION WITH WHICH HE IS ENTRUSTED.
It has been observed in Matt. 28 that there are two commissions, a false one by the elders and priests of Israel to the soldiers and a true one by our Risen Lord to the disciples. The soldiers were commissioned to preach a lie and large money was promised them. The disciples were commissioned to preach a Living Christ, to tell the whole truth and not one word is mentioned about money. They were to go forth in dependance on Him, taking nothing from the Gentiles. They were taught to tell their needs to no one but Himself. What a contrast to present day methods. Often needs are advertized in circular letters. Money looms large in so much of what is professedly the Lord’s work. The path of faith that the servant was to walk is destroyed by a kind of professionalism.
The Scriptures designate those who serve the Lord as labourers. But the modern trend to day is otherwise. Are we degenerating to the level of the religious world which considers preaching to be a profession with a specific salary. Shame on any servant, whether at home or abroad, who leaves the path of faith to look to men. Let us remember that he who pays the piper will call the tune. To foe bought by money means to be governed by the buyer.
There are three things joined in the Lord’s commission that we dare not put asunder, they were to make disciples out of all nations, they were to mark disciples in the waters of baptism and they were to mould disciples by the teaching of the whole Word of God. This commission was carried out to the letter in the Acts of the Apostles: They made disciples (14. 21 marg.), they baptized the converts (2. 41; 8. 12, 38; 9. 18; 10. 47; 16. 15. 33; 18. 8; 19, 5), they established them in local assemblies. When they had taught the saints they appointed elders in every church. After which they put the responsibility to function and witness on the shoulders of the converts and then left them in order to allow the saints to work out their own salvation (Acts 14. 23; Phil. 2. 12). It is true that the apostles returned to minister to these assemblies, not to do their work for them but rather, by their ministry and counsel, to equip them to do their own work better (Eph. 4. 11, 16, N.T.).
Let us note the four “Alls” in this commission; Our Lord said, “all authority is given unto Me.” That means that He alone has the right to command, to control and to constrain us. This authority He will not share with another. In the realm of a Scripturally instructed conscience Christ must reign supreme. “All nations” would suggest that the world is the parish of the Church. The gift of tongues in the early church was given as a sign to the Jewish nation that it had neglected to share the knowledge of God with “men of other tongues.” The Church is now called to take it’s place as God’s witness to men, we are now responsible to give to the people of every language the gospel in their own tongue. This is our debt to the world. We thank God that there is one thing the Church has excelled in above all others. It is in the learning of languages. To-day the gospel goes out to all the world and the Word of God is translated into most languages.
“All things” suggests that the Word of God is the creed of the Church. It contains our marching orders. It alone has the guidelines as to how the work of God should be done. Paul said, “as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation” 1 Cor. 3. He was the superintendent of the blueprints. He saw the pattern of God’s assembly at Corinth in the laying of the first stone. Elder brethren should be sure that each one commended to full-time service should be acquainted with the pattern of the New Testament assembly. He should feel it his solemn responsibility, not only to preach the gospel but to baptize the converts and gather them into Scriptural assemblies. He should beware of the snare of clericalism, “which thing the Lord hates.” He should be sufficiently intelligent in the Word of God to teach the converts to assume responsibilities in priesthood, ministry and eldership, and then get out of their road and let the faith of the saints work. Distinguished, gift, we must emphasize again, is given, not to do the work of the saints for them but to equip them to do their own work. A knowledge of this Divine principle in the Lord’s work would save us from the spirit and methods of the religious world and lead to healthier, indigenous churches of the saints.
“All your days.” Vouchsafed to the Church is the presence of her Lord until the day of her testimony is ended. In this lovely promise we have the companionship of a Friend, the watchfulness of a Guard and the guidance of an eye that neither slumbers nor sleeps.
See also ‘‘Women's Place in the Assembly" by Andrew Borland.
The following question was put to these supposed leaders: “CHRISTIANS in other denominations have difficulty in ^ finding scriptural warrant for the following Brethren practices. The prominent place given to the Lord’s Supper and why women are often not permitted to pray audibly in church meetings. Can you comment please?”
C.J.P. answered very briefly and pointedly:
“For two reasons—they don’t want to, and they are not interested in the doings of the early Church. Brethren accept Paul’s injunction as having come from the Lord as his other injunctions did” and well he might, seeing that “The Witness” printed within it’s valuable pages articles by W. E. Vine, C. F. Hogg, W. R. Lewis, etc, making perfectly clear what we believe on that subject. They also produced them in booklet form for wide circulation. Of course C.J.P. is right. It is not that Christians have difficulty in finding scriptural warrant, what they have difficulty with is accepting what the word of God teaches and then humbly obeying it.
F.F.B. replies to this question in the following manner:
“The prominent place given to the Lord’s Supper is a common Christian heritage. The audible participation of women varies from one place to another; -some of us stand here on Galations 3. 28.” May I say, with due respect to my learned brother that I consider this answer to be ridiculous. It is a violation of the context to apply this to the gathering of a local church or even to the everyday relationships of the people of God “neither male or female”—Why then do we have instruction re husbands, wives, virgins, widows, as well as the conduct of men and women in assembly gatherings? Did not the writers know that they were writing in an age when there was neither male or female?
“Speaking as a former Anglican Minister, I never doubted the Scriptural warrant for Brethren practice but only the practicability. In most cases it is sheer ignorance of what happens in practice, in many a recognition of too high a standard. I should have thought that there was a growing recognition that the Brethren are correct in their stress on the Lord’s Supper. So far as the silence of women is concerned I consider it neither Scriptural nor practical. There is a growing recognition of this fact.”
We reject completely H.L.E’s comment on this subject: that which is written in the Scriptures cannot be un-scriptural! Are not those who reject what Paul teaches said to be unspiritual? (1 Cor. 14). As for saying that “Not permitting women to pray audibly in Church meetings is not practical” this is another ridiculous statement. One hundred years history of the so-called Brthren is the evidence that it is practical; and in over 90% of our gatherings to-day it is still the practice.
One should remember what this gentleman said at Swanwick at the Conference on “Christian Unity” held in June 1964:
“True fellowship, true unity demands as an inescapable concomitant, that we shall recognise God-given gift in those whom we are prepared to receive. It matters not at all whether he gathers with us regularly or only occasionally, or whether we have only let him know that there is a welcome, if he comes—if we recognize that he has been given a gift by the Lord of the Church for the Church, we are under obligation to invite him to use that gift in our midst. If we do not, our unity and fellowship are incomplete. I might add incidentally that my own presence in the assemblies is because this principle was applied to me.
“It is passing strange that while our fellow-Christians invite us to minister in their midst and implicity trust us that we shall not so stress assembly truth as to cause dissention, we do not feel that we can put similar trust in them.”
After reading these strange words it is refreshing to remember that a genuine leader of first century Christians said “I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.” and again “I kept back nothing that was profitable to you.” Thank God we have such men amongst us today—if we needed leaders these would surely be the men.
Relative to this question of Women’s audible participation in church meetings F.R.C. says “... I believe that their emphasis derives from a too narrow reliance upon the single proof texts, without stopping to think whether the total structural evidence might not indicate that those particular texts are of local and temporary application).
He seems to suggest that some parts of the scriptures were only local and temporary in application. I wonder where we have to go for guidance in these matters, seeing that the subject of the “silence and subjection of women” is taught in one of Paul’s latest epistles (1 Tim. 2). If such late epistles as these were only of local and temporary application, where are our instructions?—surely we are left without guidance “like a ship without chart or rudder”. What right have any of us to decide to reject part of the New Testament Church Teaching as being not applicable to our day or to our locality.
H.H.R. has not found a satisfactory explanation of 1 Corinthians 11. 5. Maybe not, but the fact of not understanding one passage is not sound reason for rejecting what is clear and plain in another. The Scripture does not contradict itself.
D.C.R. is correct in saying we go back to the Bible and use it as our authority. How then can he suggest that things dealt with clearly in the Bible (1 Cor. 14; 1 Tim. 2) be considered of minor importance?
THE programme of the Holy Spirit is one of great dimensions. He has been executing this in at least five distinct spheres, namely, Inspiration, The Incarnation, the World, the Believers and the Church. In that order we hope to pursue these studies.
As to the first, the production of the Holy Scriptures is certainly a work of the Holy Spirit. No purely human document can truly claim to be a revelation of the mind of God nor to be a reliable interpretation of the character and ways of God, yet this is exactly what the Bible supplies. An infallible revelation of this nature could only be possible by the agency of the Holy Spirit working through men of God, chosen, equipped and controlled by Him, so that their messages were free from mistakes common to other writers.
It should be clear to every reader of the sacred records that the claim they make for themselves puts them on an entirely different level from all other literature. Take for example an Old Testament writer whose prophesy begins thus; (1. 1-2) “The words of Jeremiah......to whom the Word of the Lord came ...” This idea permeates the series of visions he records and indicates Jeremiah’s conviction that his words were the words of God. Compare 10; 1, 11. 1, 36. 2, and scores of other passages. “Thus saith the Lord” is the authority of the prophet and the hall-mark of a direct communication from God. Note the threefold claim of “the sweet psalmist of Israel”, “The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and His Word was in my tongue. The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me ... ” (2. Sam. 23. 1-3). Could anything be more emphatic? Consider too, the quotation of Old Testament scripture by our Lord Jesus Christ having this striking preface “David himself said by the Holy Spirit”—followed by the opening words of Psalm 110. (See Mark 12. 36) The writer of the Hebrews follows a similar pattern in Ch. 3. 7, “Wherefore as the Holy Spirit saith, Today, if ye hear His voice harden not your hearts”. Compare Hebrews 9. 8 and Acts 1-16. Inclusive statements covering all the books of the Bible are just as definite that “holy men spake as they were borne along by the Spirit of God. (2nd Peter 1. 21; 3. 15-16, 2nd Timothy 3. 14-17). To these I have only space to add the Lord’s promise to the Apostles; “These things have I spoken unto you being yet with you, but the Paraclete which is the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my Name, He shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance whatsoever I have said unto you” The penmen of New Testament and Old alike were under the control of the Spirit of Truth. He indicated to each the use of words from his own vocabulary, whether full or limited, by which to express and record the mind of God. Thus we have in the original writings the discernible style of the writer embodied in the perfection of the verbally inspired Word of God.
The alternatives are clear: the acceptance of the original records as the pure Word of God or their rejection as being false, unreliable and without divine authority. No HONEST MIND however will discard them without having carefully considered the EVIDENCES of their DIVINE ORIGIN.
There is the evidence of unity in diversity. The writers were many and varied and wrote in different times and places. Most were unknown to each other. “There was no collusion yet there was no collision”. Despite diversity there has been perfect unanimity. They enunciated the same high spiritual principles and adhered to a SINGLE MESSAGE. Their prophetic and historical pronouncements converged upon a single, unique and glorious Personality. And Who is this that moves through all the corridors of Holy Writ, in promise and prophesy, in type and picture? It is “the seed of the woman” (Gen. 3. 15) the King of Israel, (Gen. 49. 10) the Redeemer of mankind (Ruth 4. 9-15) (Job 19. 25), the Governor of the nations, (Psalm 22. 28). What these men of diversified times and circumstances envisaged in the old economy becomes in the New Testament; the incarnate Son of God in the Gospels, the risen Saviour in the Acts, the Christ of experience in the epistles and the expected Lord and King in “the Revelation”.
It is crystal-clear that many of these writers did not fully understand the communications given to them: yet they recorded them. “Of which Salvation the prophets have sought out and searched out diligently who prophesied concerning the grace that should come unto you, searching what or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did point to when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories which should follow them”. (1 Peter 1. 10-12). They were imbued and inspired by the Spirit of Christ. They testified of Christ in relation to grace and salvation. But they were unable to reconcile sufferings in the Christ with related glories to follow. Their partial knowledge did not stumble them but having penned the prophecy they set themselves to discover it’s meaning. Their diligence was amply rewarded- Truly, “No prophecy ever came by the will of man but men spake from God moved by the Spirit of God”. (2nd Peter 1. 21).
The authenticity of the Scriptures is further demonstrated by fulfilment. A prophet’s recognition as the Holy Spirit’s mouthpiece depended upon the fulfilment of his predictions; a principle which obtains in and covers the veracity of the Book of God as a whole. The downfall of nations like the Amorites (Gen. 15. 14), Babylon, (Jeremiah 27 5-7) Medo-Persia and others have been foretold in detail and their doom has confirmed the prophecies. A look at the chequered story of Israel should convince the most incredulous of the accuracy of the Word of God. Their experiences in Egypt and afterwards (a period of some hundreds of years) are gathered up in embryonic form in God’s anticipative words to Abram (Gen. 15. 13-16). “thy seed shall be a stranger in a land which is not theirs and shall serve them ... but in the fourth generation they shall come out with great substance for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” In a similar way their present dispersion and sufferings (Luke 21. 20-24), alongside their future restoration and blessing, are in the prophetic Word. (Isaiah 11. 12-13. C 35).
In Messianic prediction and fulfilment, however, we see scriptural accuracy and veracity in their highest glory. The virgin birth of Christ is taught in Gen. 3. 15 and Isaiah 7. 14, In Micah 5. Bethlehem was shown to be the place of His birth while Gen. 49. 10 indicated the tribe to which He would belong. His arrival and death at Jerusalem were shown to Daniel (Dan. 9. 24-27). The scenes in the two judgment halls are graphically detailed. (Isaiah 50; 5-6; 52. 14; 53. 7-8). Then He was to be crucified, His clothes to be raffled while they mock Him with vinegar and gall. (Psalm 22. 16-18; Psalm 69- 21). The cry of the orphaned heart of the Sinbearer which forms the opening of Psalm 22 could have no perfect fulfilment in any mere mortal. Accident or co-incidence are ruled out. the only explanation is that the mind which indited these passages was that of the omniscient Spirit of God.
The moral tone and teaching of the Scripture of Truth is not to be found in any human production. There are standards of righteousness and holiness that stamp them as divine. Sin is unveiled in friend and foe and denounced for what it is; “that abominable thing which God hates ” God is seen in all His purity and integrity. Provision proclaimed for sinning man to escape the terrors of a sinner’s punishment and the wrath of a sin-hating God is on terms of vindicated and satisfied righteousness. God’s requirements from all who enjoy relationship with Him are very plain; “Be ye holy for I am holy”, (1 Peter 1. 16). As manmade books betray the mind and character of their authors so this holy and sanctifying Book pays tribute to it’s thrice holy Author. (Isaiah 6. 3).
Think briefly, too, of the power and permanence of this Spirit-breathed revelation. The human heart has always feared and resisted it. As a consequence there have been many attempts to discredit and destroy it. Despite human enmity, the knife, the fire, the higher critic (so called) and the Devil, God’s Word continues with us as operative and energetic as ever. It is “alive and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword”, (Hebrews 4.12) “The Word of the Lord endureth forever”, (1 Peter 1. 25). “The scriptures cannot be broken”. (John 10. 35) Truly, “God’s testimonies are wonderful”.
We assert most emphatically therefore, that we have in the Holy Scriptures a verbally inspired, completely reliable body of truth given us by the sovereign agency of the Holy Spirit. It is absolute and final and bears the imprimatur of infallibility; the seal of the acceptance and approval of our Lord Jesus Christ By this means the servant of God possesses everything that God wants him to know and is equipped for any order or sphere of service for God. “All scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for TEACHING, for CONVICTION, for CORRECTION, for INSTRUCTION (DISCIPLINING) in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly furnished for every good work. (2 Tim. 3 16-17).
God gathers souls around Jesus as Lord—that is, Jesus rejected and gone up to heaven. Therefore the Church is based on these two fundamental truths. She has got the cross and she is united to Christ in heavenly glory by the Holy Ghost sent down. And the cross and heavenly glory will not mingle with the world. This is the very thing that puts my heart to the test. If Christ is my object, I shall not want the world; I shall be looking up, it may be feebly, but still I shall be looking up to heaven; and there will be the one object that God uses to strengthen me, by giving me willingness to suffer in the consciousness of having Christ in the glory. Whenever the Church craves after something else, as the esteem and honour of the world, or even social improvement, she denies her proper glory.
THE AMALGAMATING OF RELIGIONS
I am not telling you what I see, but what God’s Word shows—the all but universal prevalence before the close, of a corrupt system, which plainly has its centre in Rome, though taking larger compass, so as to embrace every religious institution, however much they may seem to be opposed to Popery now.
The principle of Rev. 18. 4 fully applies to-day, for the essence of Babylon is the union of the world with the Name of Christ. “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you”.
The Lord will not hold any man guiltless who has a conscience of what is due to Christ and does not follow it. To such I will say, this is what you will prove: you will go on for a while and be troubled with the truth for it will condemn you; but ere long you will find that all taste for it is lost; you will tire of it and even turn against it. and then will become morally ripe for Babylon when it bids seriously for you. If I am guilty of the Spirit of Babylon, this is what God looks at as far as I am concerned. The person who travels in her path cannot but be a partaker of her sin. And who so oppose the truth as those who corrupt it ? Who so hate as those that are condemned of themselves.
There is a great work, not only of dissolving and breaking up what is old, but uniting and amalgamating for various purposes, going on now: and as this was found in Babylon at the very beginning (Genesis 11) so, in the long run, it will be found to serve the purpose of that great city before the Lord has forever judged her ... “Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years”. Popery is the most salient and hateful exhibition of this amalgam now; but greater abominations shall appear. Sacramentalism and rationalism, in these and other Protestant lands, are each provoking the other to excesses previously unexampled. When too was ever known such public indifference, which desires leisure for commerce abroad and social development at home ? The result will appear in the last stages of Babylon and the beast.
The Lord grant that, instead of merely looking without and occupying ourselves with condemning others, we may take good care that our own souls are preserved from the contaminations of Babylon . May our affections be kept true to Himself—the only real guard against the seductions of the enemy ! We are espoused as a chaste virgin to Christ. “Little children, keep yourselves from idols”.