In our first paper we confined ourselves to vv.1-6, under the heading "The Glory of God", leaving us to address the Word of God, vv.7-11, and the Servant of God, vv.12-14. We therefore come to:
THE WORD OF GOD – vv.7-11 (The Message of the Scriptures)
To quote Ellicott’s commentary: "The ear catches even in the English a change of rhythm, which is as marked as the change of subject. Instead of the free lyric movement of the preceding verse, we come suddenly upon the most finished specimen of didactic poetry in regular metre, exhibiting a perfect balance of expression as well as thought, so perfect in the original, that in verses 7-9 the number of words is the same in each case."
There is no need to attempt an analysis of these verses. It is supplied for us. The Word of God and its result for those who accept it are described in six ways. Vv.7-9 use a variety of words in describing the Scriptures, and emphasise differing aspects of them.
"The law of the LORD" – v.7
"The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul". The word "law" (Hebrew torah) means ‘instruction’. It has a far wider meaning than "the ten commandments". It refers to the general teaching of the Old Testament. The previous Psalm told us that "As for God, His way is perfect" Ps.18.30. Now we learn, not that it surprises us, that His Word is perfect too. We can read the Word of God with absolute confidence knowing that "all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works" 2Tim.3.16,17. It is perfect in its accuracy, in its expression, and in its ability to meet every contingency.
Now notice its effect: "the law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul". Whilst this statement is absolutely correct as it stands in English, the word "converting" is translated "restoreth" in Ps.23.3. Hence, "The law of Jehovah is perfect, restoring the soul" J.N.D. We should understand this in a wider sense than restoration for the backslider. We need the "law of the LORD" to keep us in good spiritual health and good spiritual vigour, and that means that we need it on a daily basis.
"The testimony of the LORD" – v.7
"The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple". Here is a different word now: not "law", but "testimony". It emphasises the reliability of the Scriptures. "Thy testimonies are very sure" Ps.93.5. They bear accurate witness to important facts. According to Ellicott’s commentary, the word comes from a root meaning ‘to repeat’ and therefore stresses the solemn earnestness of God’s Word. We can rest on, "Thus saith the LORD". The Word of God is the only reliable test when spiritual danger threatens: "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" Isa.8.20. The word "testimony" is used frequently in connection with the tabernacle. See such expressions as "the ark of the testimony", "the tabernacle of testimony" and "the vail of the testimony". These things were a visible witness to "heavenly things" Heb.8.5. The word "sure" means what it says! The "testimony of the LORD" is faithful and enduring. The Lord Jesus said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away" Matt.24.35. Peter writes, "The word of the Lord endureth for ever" 1Pet.1.25.
Now notice its effect: "The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple". What does "simple" mean here? In such passages as Prov.7.7, it certainly means, to quote Gesenius, ‘a silly person, one easily persuaded or enticed’. But the context of Psalm 19 demands a different interpretation. Here it means ‘inexperienced’ or, to quote Gesenius again, ‘unskilful’. We have to cope with the ways and wiles of an evil world, and the wisdom that we need lies only in Holy Scripture. It gives reliable counsel. "The testimony of the LORD is sure". "The meek will He guide in judgment: and the meek will He teach His way" Ps.25.9.
We are all thankful, surely, for "the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" 2Tim.3.15.
"The statutes of the LORD" – v.8
"The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart". The word "statutes" is usually translated "precepts" in the Old Testament. The plural word serves to emphasise that the Word of God is not only generally perfect and sure, but its individual parts are equally reliable. We can rest without question on each one of His ‘charges’ or ‘appointments’, as the word can be rendered. The statement, "The statutes of the LORD are right" carries the idea of something that is straight or direct. God’s Word does not contain catches and ambushes. There is no duplicity in Scripture.
Now notice its effect: "The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart". This is delightful. To quote, again, Ellicott’s commentary, "A fine moral insight suggested this touch. The road of duty, when plain and unmistakable, inspires a sense of gladness, even if it be difficult and dangerous". The Lord Jesus taught, "If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love; even as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love. These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full" Jn.15.10,11. Jeremiah said, "Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart" Jer.15.16. There is nothing repressive or restrictive about the Word of God. Anywhere else, "statutes" and "rejoicing" are unlikely companions, and so are "commandments" and "joy". But things are different in the spiritual realm. The Christian who finds the Scriptures onerous would get little sympathy from David!
"The commandment of the LORD" – v.8
"The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes". Now the emphasis is on the authority of the Word of God. The Bible is not a series of options or alternatives. We are not left to decide whether or not we are going to accept its teaching, and if we are left to decide, which particular parts take our fancy. Notice the singular word, "commandment". It is the Word of God in its entirety. Paul put it like this: "If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord" 1Cor.14.37. The purity of the "commandment of the LORD" is set against the "commandments of men": "But in vain do they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" Matt.15.9. There is nothing suspect about the Word of God. There are no hidden flaws, or hidden motives, in Scripture. See Ps.12.6.
Now notice its effect: "The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes". The expression "enlightening the eyes" occurs in Ezra 9.8: "And now for a little space grace hath been shewed from the LORD our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in His holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage". In the context of this passage, the expression "lighten our eyes", which is the same as "enlightening the eyes" in Psalm 19, has the idea of bringing lustre to eyes which were once lustreless. So, whilst it makes excellent sense to understand that the "commandment of the LORD" brings illumination to the soul, it does seem that another dimension is added here. Submission to "the commandment of the LORD" gives joyful purpose to life.
"The fear of the LORD" – v.9
"The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever". This almost seems to be the ‘odd man out’ in the passage. The other five statements clearly describe God’s Word. But the expression "the fear of the LORD" does seem to describe the attitude of the reader. The expression is perhaps best understood in this context with reference to the reverence demanded by the Word of God. There is a range of references to "the fear of the LORD", particularly in the book of Proverbs. Here is one of them: "The fear of the LORD is to hate evil" Prov.8.13. That can certainly be placed alongside Ps.19.9. The fear of the LORD has been defined as "akin to the attitude of a devoted son to his much loved and honoured father, lest anything should mar the perfect harmony that subsisted between them" (Montague Goodman)
Now notice its effect: "The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever". This presents a little problem for the expositor. Does it strictly mean what it says(!), or does it mean that "the fear of the LORD" produces abiding results? (Similar to "And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever" 1Jn.2.17.) This must be the explanation: the "fear of the LORD" must be our permanent attitude; it must endure "for ever".
"The judgments of the LORD" – v.9
"The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether". This refers to God’s judicial decisions: to those occasions when He passes judgment on particular circumstances. Divine commendation or Divine condemnation are just and equitable without exception. See, for example, His dealings with Korah in Numbers chapter 16 or, in the New Testament, the way in which the Lord Jesus assesses the seven churches, Revelation chapters 2 and 3. The words, "true and righteous altogether" ("the judgments of Jehovah are truth, they are righteous altogether" J.N.D.), emphasise that there are no exceptions. "They are all of one piece" (Matthew Henry).
Now notice their effect: they are "more to be desired … than gold … sweeter also than honey … Moreover by them is Thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward" vv.10,11. How do we regard the Word of God?
Is it Immensely Valuable to Us?
See v.10. Not just "more to be desired … than gold", but "more to be desired … than much fine gold". Notice the "much" and the "fine". See Ps.119.72,127: "The law of Thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver … I love Thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold". We sing heartily:
I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame;
I’d rather be true to His holy Name.
But would we? How quickly Bible reading and prayer get forgotten, or reduced to a bare minimum.
Is it Immensely Sweet to Us?
See v.10. Not just "sweeter also than honey", but sweeter than "the dropping of the honeycomb" J.N.D. It is said that the honey that drops from the comb is the finest and purest. See Prov.24.13,14. The Christian who reads the Bible like that will be able to say, "O how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day" Ps.119.97.
Is it Heeded by Us?
See v.11. "Moreover by them is Thy servant warned". How do we react when we encounter a passage that spotlights deficiencies in our lives?
Is it Practised by Us?
See v.11. "In keeping of them there is great reward". Isn’t this the lesson from the "wise man" and the "foolish man"? Read Matt.7.24-27 carefully. The Lord Jesus taught, "He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father" Jn.14.21. How about Jms.1.22-25? This brings us to the final section of the Psalm:
THE SERVANT OF GOD – vv.12-14
In view of his meditation on the Word of God, David became acutely conscious of his own shortcomings. We all know the feeling. David prays about this in two ways:
He Prays for Cleansing from Sin – v.12
In particular, for sins of which he was unaware. This is the force of v.12: "Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults". The literal rendering is "Errors who marks? From unconscious ones clear me, i.e. pronounce me innocent" (Ellicott). There was provision for this in "If a soul shall sin through ignorance against any of the commandments of the LORD ..." Lev.4.2.
He Prays for Avoidance of Sin – v.13
In particular, "transgressions". That is, deliberate sin. "Keep back Thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: than shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression". The Psalm closes with a third prayer. So
He Prays for Acceptance of the Psalm Itself – v.14
"Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Thy sight, O LORD, my strength and my redeemer". Mouth and heart go together: "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh" Matt.12.34; and we must not forget the censure of the Lord Jesus in Matt.15.8: "This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoureth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me". David did not just ‘go through the motions’: he thought carefully about his words. The word "acceptable" has strong links with Levitical matters. See Lev.22.20,21; 23.11. It is the same word, and has the idea of a worshipful sacrifice. See Heb.13.15.
Psalm 19 begins with God the Creator. It ends with God the Redeemer. Revelation chapters 4 and 5 end on the same notes respectively. "My rock, and my redeemer" J.N.D., indicate God’s strength and God’s salvation. Perhaps these titles reflect God’s glory in creation and in Scripture. "Redeemer" comes from the beautiful Hebrew word goel. It means ‘kinsman-redeemer’, a title beautifully assigned, in effect, to the Lord Jesus: see Heb.2.14,15.
Having considered Judah the man, we now come to a remarkable prophetic panorama of the future of this tribe.
JUDAH – JACOB’S PROPHECY
In his deathbed prophecy Jacob gives more detail in relation to Judah and Joseph than for the other sons. That in relation to Judah is contained in five verses, Gen.49.8-12, the content of which is surprising given those unsavoury aspects already considered in Judah’s character and behaviour. The key to unlock our understanding of this section is not so much in looking back to the tribe’s progenitor, but forward to the One entitled "the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David" Rev.5.5.
Jacob’s initial statement to this son is "Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: Thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; Thy father’s children shall bow down before thee." Gen.49.8. Unlike the patriarch’s words to Reuben, Simeon and Levi, where sins of long history are recalled, the former failures of Judah in relation to Joseph and Tamar are not mentioned. This suggests that Judah’s failures, while real and serious, had already been faced up to, confessed and forsaken. "Thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise", while prospective, also suggests that the basis for this was laid in the latter years of Judah’s life. His willingness to go surety for Benjamin, his advocacy on Benjamin’s behalf before Joseph and his going ahead into Egypt to prepare for the arrival of Jacob and his family are all responsible and praiseworthy. He is now living up to the name his mother Leah had given him at his birth, "‘Now will I praise the LORD:’ therefore she called his name Judah" Gen.29.35. Leah’s gratitude to God for Judah at his birth is now complemented by the appreciation of his father and brothers in the mature years of Judah’s life.
When considering Jacob’s prophecy concerning Reuben we noted that moral evil resulted in forfeiture of his double-portion birthright to Joseph; of priesthood to Levi; and of leadership to Judah. This is referred to in 1Chr.5.2: "For Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the chief ruler". Jacob stating, "Thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies" provides a foreview of victories to be won by this tribe, most particularly during the reign of King David. David himself could say, "Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies, That I might destroy them that hate me" 2Sam.22.41; compare. Ps.18.40. In other words not only will enemies be routed before Judah, but as they flee Judah shall overtake them and lay hands upon their necks to complete the victory.
Military victory and kingly power lead to homage, so we read, "Thy father’s children shall bow down before thee." While this prophecy found a partial fulfilment in subsequent tribal history, it is fulfilled completely in relation to our Lord Jesus Christ; for instance, references such as: "Praise waiteth for Thee, O God, in Sion" Ps.65.1, and "Thou art worthy, O LORD, to receive glory and honour, and power …" Rev.4.11. Indeed, many more verses could be added. David’s victories, no matter how great, were ultimately incomplete and temporary, with all the advantages attained subsequently being lost. The victory of our Lord Jesus Christ, announced by Calvary’s "It is finished" Jn.19.30, and consummated with "all things under His feet" Eph.1.22, is complete, certain and continuing.
Jacob then says, "Judah is a lion’s whelp: From the prey, my son, thou art gone up: He stooped down, he couched as a lion, And as an old lion; who shall rouse him up?" Gen.49.9. Here we have attributed to Judah that easily recognised symbol of royalty, power and courage: the lion, the ‘king of beasts’. Balaam in a later prophecy concerning the children of Israel approaching the land said, "He couched, he lay down as a lion, And as a great lion: who shall stir him up?" Num.24.9. Similar wording is used in the lament for the princes of Israel, Ezek.19.1-9. The imagery from the three references to "lion" in Gen.49.9 refers to strength ("Judah is a lion’s whelp"), success ("from the prey, my son, thou art gone up") and satisfaction ("he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up?"). Having taken his prey none will interfere with the lion. These regal features will be observed in the tribal history of Judah, but fully in our Lord Jesus Christ in His supreme and surpassing glory.
The theme of rule continues in Jacob’s prophecy: "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; And unto Him shall the gathering of the people be" Gen.49.10. The sceptre is the rod of office and authority. Although some six hundred years would pass before there would be a king in Jerusalem from the tribe of Judah, the Divine intention is hereby declared. Legitimate kingship is reserved to Judah. Furthermore the impartation of kingship to Judah will never ever be rescinded, it being secured in the hand of our Lord Jesus Christ: "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: The sceptre of Thy kingdom is a right sceptre. Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: Therefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows" Ps.45.6,7; compare Heb.1.8,9. "Until" in this context does not mean that the sceptre will depart from Judah once Shiloh comes; rather, it carries the certainty of ongoing fulfilment: Judah will retain kingship in full manifestation during the reign of our Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, that will be a kingdom like no other: "Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness" Isa.32.1.
"Nor a lawgiver from between his feet" could relate to the ruler’s staff, as the word for "lawgiver" could also be translated "staff". We recall the pledge Judah gave to Tamar, "Thy signet, and thy bracelets, and thy staff that is in thine hand" Gen.38.18. But failure is now behind; "Judah is my lawgiver" Ps.60.7; 108.8. However, the idea of the continuance of a legislator upholding the tenets of Divine law in the nation from among Judah’s descendants seems to be more in mind, particularly as the root of the word for "lawgiver" implies engraving, as per early forms of writing, or inscription. While not every king of Judah was a good king, those who were good always brought the nation back to the law; that which ‘stands written’.
"Shiloh" is a Messianic title speaking of One Whom Balaam foresaw, "I shall see Him, but not now: I shall behold Him, but not nigh: There shall come a Star out of Jacob, And a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel" Num.24.17. This has no reference whatever to Shiloh, the location of the "house of the LORD" in Josh.18.1 and 1Samuel chapters 1-3, as that town was within the territory of Ephraim. In any case, that Shiloh was forsaken before there was a Judean king! Shiloh means ‘peace’ or ‘peaceable’ or refers to ‘a man of peace’, a ‘peacemaker’, coming. This evidently relates to David’s and Solomon’s greater Son, our Lord Jesus Christ; "until He come whose right it is" Ezek.21.27. We read, "And this man shall be the peace" Mic.5.5, compare Isa.9.6. "For the LORD is our judge, The LORD is our lawgiver, The LORD is our king; He will save us" Isa.33.22. "For out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among the nations" Isa.2.3,4; compare Mic.4.1-3.
The next phrase in the verse, "And unto Him shall the gathering of the people be" reinforces the view that "Shiloh" refers to the coming king, Messiah. A partial fulfilment can be seen in the life of David: "And the men of Judah came, and there [Hebron] they anointed David king over the house of Judah" 2Sam.2.4. Later "all the elders of Israel came to the king to Hebron; and king David made a league with them in Hebron before the LORD: and they anointed David king over Israel" 2Sam.5.3. But it can only be fulfilled ultimately in the Lord Jesus Christ. We recall Gabriel’s announcement to Mary, "thou … shalt call His name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the LORD God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end" Lk.1.31-33. There will be a day of future regathering: "Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land" Ezek.37.21. Believing Gentiles will also gather to Messiah during His millennial reign.
Rule by God’s appointed king and obedience to Him is the way to prosperity: "Binding his foal unto the vine, And his ass’s colt unto the choice vine; He washed his garments in wine; And his clothes in the blood of grapes" Gen.49.11. Productivity will be such in that millennial reign that there will be no need to exclude animals from the vineyard. This is a scene of joy and fruitfulness, of young animals and abundant grapes, speaking of millennial blessing well beyond Judah’s lifetime. It should be self-evident that wine could never be used as a detergent! However, hyperbole is here used to indicate that wine will then be as freely available as water; with more wine in the vats than could ever be used. This fulness of Divine joy and abundant provision contrasts with conditions in John chapter 2 where, at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, the wine failed. There the Lord Jesus Christ gave a foretaste of millennial conditions.
"His eyes shall be red with wine, And his teeth white with milk" Gen.49.12, indicates that in that future millennial kingdom there will be health and beauty as well as prosperity. These are not bloodshot, but healthy, eyes and perfect teeth. No opticians, dentists or medics will be needed then!
We must wonder what Judah, and his brothers, thought when Jacob concluded his prophecy about his fourth son. No doubt they would have some understanding that great things were intended for Judah’s descendants and that notable persons would be in his lineage. But Judah could never be expected to know, as he stood with his brethren around his father’s couch, that into his tribe the Son of God would come! While this would all be hidden to Judah, we wonder if the expiring prophet, Jacob, had received some appreciation of it.
There are five letters in the New Testament that were written by Paul while in prison. This is evident from the terms of the letters. In Ephesians he refers to himself as the "prisoner of Jesus Christ" Eph.3.1; 4.1; in Colossians he speaks of a "fellow prisoner" called Aristarchus, Col.4.10; in Philippians he refers to his "bonds" Phil.1.7,13,14,16; and in Philemon he refers to himself as "a prisoner of Jesus Christ" Philemon v.9. In 2Timothy there is also reference to an imprisonment, 2Tim.1.8,16, but in view of the information about Paul’s movements in the letter it is commonly agreed that this is a later imprisonment, which culminated in his execution. The Prison Epistles are usually linked to the imprisonment which begins at Acts 21.33 in Jerusalem and ends with Paul under house arrest in Rome, Acts 28.16,30.
PHILEMON AND COLOSSIANS
In Colossians Paul refers to an Onesimus who was travelling to Colossae. Paul describes him as "one of you", that is, from Colossae, Col.4.9. In his letter to Philemon he refers to an Onesimus who was a runaway slave, Philemon vv.10-12, whom he was returning to Philemon. This link suggests that the two letters were written at the same time and that Philemon lived in Colossae and was part of the church there.
EPHESIANS AND COLOSSIANS
Both present Christ as a triumphant figure Who has subdued all adversaries, Col.2.15; Eph.1.20-22; 4.8. Both focus on salvation as a release from Satanic power, Col.1.13,21; Eph.2.2-4. Both focus on the union of Jew and Gentile in one body, the Church, Col.1.26,27; Eph.2.12-14; 3.6. Both contain a section with detailed instruction for the home dealing, in the same order, with:
husbands and wives – Eph.5.22-33; Col.3.18,19
children and parents – Eph.6.1-4; Col.3.20,21
masters and servants – Eph.6.5-9; Col.3.22-4.1.
In the closing greetings of the letters there are two passages, Eph.6.21,22 and Col.4.7-9, which are virtually identical.
The opening section of both letters comprises worship followed by prayer. The prayers are stimulated by the apostle having heard of their faith and love, Eph.1.15; Col.1.3,4, and his desire that they will have a fuller understanding of God coupled with greater power in their service for Him, Col.1.9; Eph.1.17; Col.1.11; Eph.1.19.
The letters are also written in a similar style. As Ephesians is characterised by lengthy sentences so is Colossians. Chapter 1 has only five sentences and one of these, vv.9-20, is made up of 218 words.1 The apostle not only uses long sentences but when he seeks to express a thought he also multiplies words for effect. Thus, for example, in chapter 1 he might have prayed that the Colossians would know God’s will. Instead he prays that they might be "filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding" Col.1.9, an approach that adds layers of truth rather than making one basic point. In chapter 2 he might have prayed that the Colossians would "know God". Instead he prays that they might have "the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God" Col.2.2; compare Eph.1.17,18.
1. For example, Col.1.3-8, 9-20; 2.8-15; 3.5–11.
Phrases and Ideas
In Col.1.13 he describes the Lord Jesus as "His dear Son". In Eph.1.6 he describes Him as the "Beloved". In Ephesians the Christian is presented as someone who has been already resurrected and taken to God’s presence in the "heavenlies". Although Colossians does not use the word "heavenlies" it presents the Christian as resurrected, Col.2.12, and ascended, Col.3.1. Both speak of salvation as similar to putting on new clothes; see the phrases "putting off" and "putting on" Col.3.8,10,12,14; Eph.4.22,24. In both there is reference to hymns. The apostle encourages them to sing with "grace in your hearts to the Lord" Col.3.16, and make "melody in your heart to the Lord" Eph.5.19. In both he describes a man who is covetous as an idolater, Eph.5.5; Col.3.5: quite an unusual turn of phrase. In both he uses the word "fulness" in a way which is unique to these epistles. Although the word "fulness" occurs elsewhere in Scripture to describe the full characteristics of Deity, in Ephesians the Church is "the fulness of Him that filleth all in all" Eph.1.22,23; Christians may be filled with the "fulness of God" Eph.3.19; and after the resurrection will acquire "the fulness of Christ" Eph.4.13. In Colossians "the fulness of God" dwells in Christ, Col.1.19; 2.9; and we have achieved completeness (literally ‘fulness’) in Christ, Col.2.10. Both speak of the unsaved as "alienated" Eph.2.12; 4.18 and Col.1.21; of the need to "redeem the time" Eph.5.16 and Col.4.5; and of believers as "rooted" Eph.3.17 and Col.2.7. The gospel is "the word of truth, the gospel" Eph.1.13 and Col.1.5. Both use similar wording to describe the believers’ links with Christ and one another, for example, "held together", "supply" Eph.4.16 and Col.2.19. Col.1.14 ("In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins") and Eph.1.7: ("In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace") are nearly identical.
Colossians is shorter than Ephesians
Colossians focuses on the Person of Christ, Col.1.15-19; 2.3,9, as well as His work, whereas Ephesians focuses on the work He has done
Colossians confronts and corrects erroneous doctrine, for example 2.8,16,20, where there are references to the problems caused by Jews who were seeking to promote the use of the ceremonial law and also introduce Greek philosophical ideas. Ephesians has no (explicitly) corrective element in it
Colossians has a long greetings section, Col.4.7-17, whereas Ephesians does not convey any greetings
Colossians only mentions the Holy Spirit once, 1.8, whereas Ephesians mentions the Spirit thirteen times
While Paul had been to Ephesus and had planted the church there, he had never been to Colossae, Col.2.1. He does not refer to individuals by name in Ephesians. Colossians by contrast has a long list of people to whom he sends greetings in chapter 4
In Colossians when Paul speaks of the church he refers to the local assembly whereas in Ephesians the Church is the whole body of believers.
THE CITY OF COLOSSAE
Colossae was a city located about one hundred miles east of Ephesus. Unlike Ephesus it had no particular claim to fame. It was destroyed by an earthquake shortly after the letter to the Colossians was written and never rebuilt. Today, the ancient site lies in ruins with a modern town, Chronas, located nearby. Colossae is not mentioned elsewhere in Scripture and it seems Paul had never met the people to whom he wrote, 2.1. The gospel may have been brought there by Timothy, 1.1, or Epaphras, 1.7.
"Thou art the God that doest wonders." Psalm 77.14
How confidently Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal on mount Carmel; he had discovered, albeit in a small way, the excelling, transcending greatness of his God. He knew that the Lord was possessed of power unlimited and might incomprehensible. Elijah’s God is the living God: He knows, He sees, He hears and He speaks. Nothing is hidden from His omniscience; He knows our downsitting and our uprising and He understands our thoughts afar off.
Everything about God begets awe and inspires wonder and worship: His glory, His love, His mercy and His grace.
Though mighty and majestic beyond all understanding, He notes the falling sparrow and He cares for one so small and insignificant as I. He is my God! O that I knew Him better and trusted Him more.
O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works Thy hands have made;
I see the stars; I hear the mighty thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee,
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!
"The Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me." Galatians 2.20
These precious words carry our thoughts upward to the dizzy heights of His Deity and fix my gaze upon the eternal Son of the eternal Father; "the Word was God" Jn.1.1. "Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power …" Heb.1.3.
My soul is transported to celestial scenes of splendour where His worth is recognised and His greatness constantly displayed; but then, like the cascading waters of a mighty waterfall, my thoughts drop downwards to the pettiness and puniness of "me".
Can it be that One so lofty should love someone so lowly as I and love me to such a degree? I am lost in wonder; what words can I employ to describe this amazing fact?
Now my eyes are fixed on a lonely Man, uplifted in shame at Calvary, bearing my "sins in His own body on the tree". His love is indescribable, undeniable for "He gave Himself for me."
CONVERSION EXPERIENCES IN ACTS RELATED TO THE GIFT OF TONGUES INCLUDING FACTORS INDICATING THE TRANSITIONAL NATURE OF ACTS
As noted in the previous papers in this series of articles on tongues, there are four main chapters in The Acts of the Apostles dealing with unique conversion experiences. In each there are differences in the sequence of the total experience. The four chapters are 2, 8, 10 and 19. In none of these chapters is the order the same. Care must therefore be taken in interpreting the details and applying them to assembly practice today. The fact that there is no uniformity means that they cannot be considered normative for the dispensation of grace. "We must not make the tragic mistake of teaching the experience of the apostles (in Acts), but rather we must experience the teaching of the apostles (in the Epistles)" (J. Dillow, quoted by J Hunter1). To understand the implications, each of the four chapters is considered in turn.
1. Hunter, J. in "What the Bible Teaches, 1Corinthians". John Ritchie Ltd., Kilmarnock, 1986.
The sequence in chapter 2 is clearly indicated in v.38. It is repentance, baptism, remission of sins and reception of the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is evidently not the order obtaining today. It should be noted too that there is no reference to speaking in tongues on the reception of the Holy Spirit. Tongues are of course mentioned in the earlier part of the chapter and served as a sign to unbelieving Jews and encouraged them to gather to listen to the preaching of Peter (see v.12), who of course addressed the audience in their mother tongue.
The baptism here evidently precedes the remission of sins, which was contingent upon it. The preposition used in relation to baptism appears to be unique in the New Testament. It was baptism "in [epi = ‘upon’] the name of Jesus Christ". Their baptism was upon the awareness of the significance of the name, that is, on the confession of that which the name implies. The nation had publicly crucified their Messiah: they had rejected His claims. There had to be a public confession of their sin in their crucifixion of Christ at Calvary, and an acknowledgement that the One Who died (Jesus) was indeed the Messiah (the Christ). On that basis and on that alone could there be remission of sins leading to the reception of the Holy Spirit. The order here therefore is altogether unique and could not be replicated today. It was during the transitional period when the Kingdom was still on offer to the nation. This would not be concluded till the final rejection of the testimony of Stephen, in chapter 7.
The nature of the baptism is also unique: it is neither John’s baptism nor that practised today but was undertaken in obedience to the commission given by Christ in Matthew chapter 28. "During the time … that God was dealing with the nation as such, baptism was regarded as a confession of the specific sin of the rejection and murder of Christ, and was requisite before there could be forgiveness of that wicked deed. The deed had been public: the confession of it must be public"2.
2. Rodgers, W. in "Bible Problems and Answers". John Ritchie Ltd., Kilmarnock, 1968.
The sequence in chapter 8 is indicated in vv.12-17: "But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women … as yet He [the Holy Spirit] was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in [eis = ‘into’] the name of the Lord Jesus. Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost." Thus the order is believing, baptism into the name of the Lord Jesus, laying on of the hands of Peter and John and reception of the Holy Spirit. There is no mention of speaking in tongues.
The baptism here follows believing and is evidently different in its signification to that in Acts chapter 2. Here "… the person baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus bears public witness that he has become the property of Jesus and that Jesus is his Lord and Owner."3 The question arises as to why there was a necessity for the laying on of apostolic hands before the reception of the Holy Spirit. The Samaritans were partly Jewish but had intermarried extensively with Assyrian incomers (see 2Kgs.17.23,24). In spite of an attempt by the king of Assyria to teach them to "fear the LORD", they had "made gods of their own, and put them in the houses of the high places which the Samaritans had made, every nation in their cities wherein they dwelt" 2Kgs.17.28,29. In other words, an alternative system of worship had been established in Samaria, leading to a serious rift with the Jews, Jn.4.9,20-26. It was necessary that the authority of the now-established church at Jerusalem be affirmed by apostolic delegation lest the spurious Samaritan worship be continued. The reception of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the apostolic hands accomplished the necessary link, assuring them that they had been "fully incorporated into the new community of the people of God … and welcomed by the leaders of the Jerusalem church."4
3. Bruce, F.F. "Commentary on the Book of the Acts". Marshall, Morgan and Scott, Edinburgh, 1965.
The fact that there is no mention of speaking in tongues is interesting, especially from the perspective that each of the three other references in Acts to speaking in tongues was an evidence of the genuineness of the work of the Holy Spirit. There may be at least two reasons for this. Professor Bruce might be correct when he avers that "The context leaves us in no doubt that their reception of the Spirit was attended by external manifestations such as had marked His descent on the earliest disciples at Pentecost."5 An alternative explanation may be that evidence is being adduced that speaking in tongues is not a necessary factor to prove the reception of the Holy Spirit except in exceptional cases such as those related in chapters 10 and 19. After all, there were about three thousand who received the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, as well as many others throughout the Acts, with no record at all of them speaking in tongues. As indicated in earlier articles the three occasions in Acts when it did occur had dispensational significance.
It is clear once again that the circumstances detailed here in Acts 8 are not normative for the dispensation of grace.
The order in chapter 10 is indicated not only in the chapter itself but in the record of the events given by Peter in chapter 11 to the "apostles and brethren" in Jerusalem. The order then is as follows: those in the household of Cornelius, having heard, 10.44, believed, 11.17, received the gift of the Holy Spirit, 10.44,45, spoke with tongues, 10.46, and were baptised in (en) the name of the Lord, 10.48. There is no mention of the laying on of apostolic hands before the reception of the Spirit.
The order indicated is becoming a little nearer what is normative for today. The exception is the speaking in tongues, which was essential as a sign to a reluctant Peter and "they of the circumcision" v.45, that were with him. Indeed they were "astonished" v.45, that Gentiles could be brought into the blessings of the new dispensation which had begun at Pentecost. Could centuries of serious conflict be at an end? Could there be blessings flowing to such "aliens … strangers from the covenants of promise … [those who] were far off" Eph.2.12,13? Indeed "the middle wall of partition" was broken down and the gospel was to be universally available. Pentecostal blessing had spread to the Gentiles, in spite of an incredulous Peter and his cohorts!
In this case we have a third preposition used in relation to baptism, this time the preposition "in": it is "in the name of the Lord" 10.48. The preposition is indicative of the sphere of the Lordship of Christ and the fact that the baptism is being undertaken by His authority. There was thus a public acknowledgement that those baptised were under new leadership and submitting to a new Master. It seems that this would not be a great sacrifice for a man like Cornelius, "a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway" 10.2; evidently he had his eye upon God because God had His eye upon him.
The sequence in this case is altogether different. It is as follows: believing, v.2, baptism (John’s) v.3, re-baptism in (eis = ‘into’) the name of the Lord Jesus, v.5, laying on of Paul’s hands, v.6, reception of the Holy Spirit, speaking with tongues, v.6. The first question Paul asks in v.2 seems to be captured more accurately by Darby: "Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye had believed?" The latter phrase, "when ye had believed", is "the coincident aorist participle which is doctrinally important"6. It is similar to Eph.1.13, which is more accurately translated according to Bruce as "having believed ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise". The evident point being made is the coincidence of the reception of the Holy Spirit with believing, which of course is normative for today. Thus with the twelve in Acts chapter 19 the apostle was seeking to establish the reality of their dispensational standing. Their answer indicated their anomalous condition.
Having only been baptised with John’s baptism there was a need for re-baptism (the only case in the New Testament) into the name of the Lord Jesus, which is similar to the formula in chapter 8 and therefore having the same significance. They were moving into recognition of the authority and supremacy of the Lord Jesus and moving into serving a new Master. In the laying on of the apostle’s hands there might be a link with the experience already seen in Acts chapter 8. There a new door was opening to the Samaritans; here it might be that a new door is opening at Ephesus and by implication Asia with the twelve becoming the bedrock of the assembly, together with those already busy in the work. Certainly the speaking in tongues was evidence to the apostle that they had received the Holy Spirit and that a dramatic change had taken place in their experience.
Speaking in tongues did not take place at one particular time in the experience of new converts: in chapter 2 it was the basis of them gathering to hear the word, which resulted in their conversion; in chapter 10 it was before their baptism; in chapter 19 it was after re-baptism.
In each case where tongues are mentioned there are Jews present; tongues being a sign to the Jews.
The diverse orders indicate that the experiences in Acts cannot be taken as normative for the current dispensation.
The different prepositions linked to baptism in chapters 2, 8 (=19) and 10 have important doctrinal significance as detailed above.
Similarly, the name of the Lord Jesus associated with baptism in these same chapters again carries doctrinal weight.
The details of Acts chapter 19 are altogether unique.
The order for today is believing, immediate reception of the Holy Spirit, Eph.1.13, and baptism, Matt.28.19. There is no speaking in tongues or any need for the laying on of hands. This latter was an apostolic prerogative.
These notes were written to accompany a series taught in the assembly Bible Class at Uxbridge, England. The series was shared by three brethren, which is reflected in the individual styles of writing of the notes.
PRAYING IN THE WILDERNESS – Luke 5.16
As we ponder the many references to the Lord Jesus Christ praying in the Gospels, we may observe instances when He prayed before the occurrence of an event, for example when choosing His disciples, Lk.6.12,13. However, there are other instances when He prayed after the occurrence of an event, such as the healing of the leper, in Lk.5.12-16.
Though the Scriptures are silent on the content of the Lord’s prayer in Lk.5.16, the positioning by Luke of the Lord’s prayer and the incident of the cleansed leper suggests that there is a close connection between them.
A GREAT WORK
The miracle of the healing of the leper is mentioned in all the Synoptic Gospels, that is, Matthew, Mark and Luke. Each Gospel records the leper coming to the Lord to request that he be cleansed of his leprosy. The Lord tenderly touches and thoughtfully talks to him before the leper is promptly cured of his disease. In their respective narratives, however, each Gospel writer presents a unique aspect of the Lord deserving of our attention:
Only in Matthew, the Gospel of the King, do we read that the leper came and "worshipped" the Saviour, Matt.8.2. The leper recognised that homage was to be accorded to the Sovereign One Who alone was in the best and blessed position to fulfil all pleas for help and healing.
Only in Mark, the Gospel of the Servant, do we read that Jesus was "moved with compassion" Mk.1.41. His service rendered to God and men was motivated by a heart overflowing with love and sympathy.
Only in Luke, the Gospel of the Son of man, do we read that the Lord "withdrew Himself into the wilderness and prayed" Lk.5.16. As a Man, the Saviour recognised He had to be dependent upon God to direct His path and deliver His provision to meet life’s vast and varied needs.
A GREAT NEED
Both Mark and Luke then proceed to describe what happened next after the miracle was performed:
Mark narrates that the leper publicised his healing so effectively that it drew widespread interest towards the Lord Jesus Christ. His fame grew so much that the Lord could no longer publicly enter the city but had to go around in desert places in order not to attract popular excitement.
Luke relates two distinct demands upon the Lord which arose as a direct consequence of this miracle. The crowds demanded "to hear" Him and "to be healed by Him" Lk.5.15. They were attracted both to His word and His work.
Would the Saviour now begin to address the great multitudes in teaching them more of the truth of God? Would He stretch out His Hand in performing more miracles in their midst? Surely the people would be satisfied and God would be glorified!
A GREAT EXERCISE
The Lord’s reaction comes as a surprise to us. We read that "He withdrew Himself into the wilderness, and prayed" Lk.5.16.
The Lord recognised that at times, it was important for Him to retire into temporary obscurity in order to observe set seasons in prayer. The wilderness offered Him a sanctuary of silence and solitude for the purposes of prayer.
The Saviour sought precious refuge alone with God. He desired peaceful reflection in quiet communion with the Father. He valued such priceless moments in solitary fellowship with His Father more than the clamorous adulation of men.
Our observation of the Lord’s habits teaches us at least two lessons. Firstly, let us appreciate that it is important to have set seasons in approaching the Father in prayer. Identify time from the bustling day to pray. Secondly, let us also appreciate that it is important to have a suitable setting for prayer. Identify a place where you can pray undisturbed by the demands of a busy world.
In society today, the word "pride" is often heard; far too often. In many parts of the world, notably in the big cities, thousands gather and march under its banner. In essence, this is nothing new: long ago the psalmist wrote, "The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God. God is not in all his thoughts" Ps.10.4, and Paul, describing the long, sordid history of the Gentile world, wrote of "haters of God … proud, boasters …" Rom.1.30. Nevertheless, in recent years there has been a big increase in the public demonstration of arrogant pride, and endorsement of it, by those in positions of authority and influence, in defiance towards God and His Word.
PRIDE AND SIN
In general, even among the ungodly, pride is not regarded as something to be admired. If, for example, people in lucrative jobs were to join together to organise self-styled ‘Pay Pride’ marches through the streets, boasting of their high salaries, they would (rightly) be regarded as a bunch of conceited ‘show-offs’. Yet, ironically, while glorying in high wages (which are not in themselves sinful) would be roundly condemned, it has become fashionable to support activities and organisations that promote that which is clearly called "sin" in the Word of God. Paul describes those "whose glory is in their shame" Phil.3.19: those who boast in shameful activities. He writes to the Christians in Rome of when they "were the servants of sin", and asks them, "What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed?" Rom.6.20,21. A heart that takes pride in sin is a heart far from God.
PRIDE AND SATAN
Pride is a very old sin indeed, originating in the devil himself. Paul warns against a "novice" being recognised as an assembly overseer, "lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil" 1Tim.3.6. This would take us to Isaiah chapter 14, where we read of "Lucifer … thou hast said in thine heart, ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God … I will be like the most High’" Isa.14.12-14. Those who exhibit pride are in the worst possible company, and subject to the same condemnation.
PRIDE AND SCRIPTURE
We sorrow at the pride of man evident in these days, yet it illustrates the inspiration of the Scriptures, for Paul writes that "in the last days … men shall be lovers of their own selves … boasters, proud … Without natural affection … despisers of those that are good … highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God" 2Tim.3.1-4. What an accurate description of the attitudes and activities of people today, written almost two thousand years ago! We are thus reminded that we can totally depend on the Word of God, given by the One Who knows everything, and to Whom nothing comes as a surprise.
PRIDE AND SHAME
In the Proverbs we read that "when pride cometh, then cometh shame" and "Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall" Prov.11.2; 16.18. "God resisteth the proud" Jms.4.6; 1Pet.5.5. King Nebuchadnezzar learned that lesson: "But when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him". He came to acknowledge concerning "the King of heaven" that "those that walk in pride He is able to abase" Dan.5.20; 4.37. There are many proud people today, but they will not always be so. "Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased" Lk.14.11; if not in this life, then thereafter, when they will be in "shame and everlasting contempt" Dan.12.2.
PRIDE AND SALVATION
Salvation is available to all, including those who take pride in their sin. Among the believers in Corinth were those who had been involved in the very activities in which people so wrongly take pride today. Paul writes to them: "neither fornicators … nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind … shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God" 1Cor.6.9-11. The God Who saved those people in Corinth still saves the vilest of sinners, if only they would come, like the tax collector who (in contrast to the proud Pharisee) knew he was a sinner, humbled himself, acknowledged his sin, turned from it, and called upon the Lord for mercy, and so was justified. "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted" Lk.18.9-14.
PRIDE AND SAINTS
We, believers, are not exempt from the snare of pride, not least in that we could be proud of the fact that we do not engage in the sinful activities that the Bible so unequivocally condemns. God hates pride, wherever it is found. None of us has anything in ourselves of which to boast, and we can say with Paul, "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world" Gal.6.14. "He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord" 1Cor.1.31; 2Cor.10.17. We are exhorted to "be clothed with humility", for the same God Who "resisteth the proud … giveth grace unto the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time" Jms.4.6; 1Pet.5.5,6.
So, for as long as we remain in this world, let us seek to follow the example of our Saviour, Who could say, "I am meek and lowly in heart" Matt.11.29. The standard for God’s people is timeless: "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" Mic.6.8.
No operation will help. Let nature take its course
That was the bleak assessment recorded by one doctor on the patient notes of 54-year-old Louis Washkansky, who had been admitted to a Cape Town hospital with progressive heart failure. However, Dr. Christiaan Barnard thought otherwise. He desired to save this man, and he had a plan, which he put into action, on 3 December 1967, when he performed the world’s first successful human-to-human heart transplant. Washkansky’s heart was replaced with the heart of Denise Darvall, a young woman who had been fatally injured by a drunk driver as she was shopping near the hospital.
The Bible tells us that we all have a ‘heart problem’: not a disease of the physical organ, but the corruptness of the inner self. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked" Jeremiah 17.9. The Lord Jesus said that evil thoughts and actions proceed "out of the heart" Matthew 15.19. From a human standpoint, to borrow the doctor’s phrase, "no operation will help", and if "nature" were allowed to "take its course", we all, who are "by nature the children of wrath" Ephesians 2.3, would perish eternally. However, God did not want us to go to the Lake of Fire, and He had a plan to save us: sending His own Son, Jesus Christ, into the world, to live a holy life, and to die for us upon the cross. "For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly" Romans 5.6.
When Denise Darvall’s father was approached, to seek his permission to use his daughter’s heart, his reply was, "If you can’t save my daughter, try and save this man." We salute his selfless action, to save the life of someone he did not know. This reminds us of the immense sacrifice that God made, in giving His Son for us, who had sinned against Him: "But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" Romans 5.8. How infinitely great was His love, in delivering Him up, to undergo all that He endured at Calvary, in shedding His blood, suffering the judgment that we deserved for our sins, and laying down His life, that we might be saved!
The transplant operation was full of risks, but Washkansky knew that it was his only hope, and he put his trust in the medical team. Christ, and His work on the cross, is the only hope for you, and to be saved you must put your trust in Him, but, in contrast to heart surgery, there is no uncertainty as to the outcome. He said, "He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life" John 5.24.
Sadly, Louis Washkansky’s ‘new lease of life’ was very brief: although the surgery itself was successful, he contracted pneumonia, and died only eighteen days later. How different it is for those who repent of their sins, and trust in Christ for salvation. His promise is: "I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish" John 10.28. Put your faith in Him today, and you will receive the great gift of everlasting life, and be sure of Heaven.
"Surely He scorneth the scorners: but He giveth grace unto the lowly." Proverbs 3.34
In parallel Old Testament references, and in the New Testament quotations of this passage, "scorners" is replaced by "proud": "Though the LORD be high, yet hath He respect unto the lowly: but the proud He knoweth afar off" Ps.138.6; "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble" Jms.4.6; 1Pet.5.5. The connection is clear: one who scoffs at God and one’s fellow-men is exhibiting his own pride. God’s response to such exemplifies the principle that "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" Gal.6.7, and has both a present and a future aspect: God disapproves of the proud scoffer now, and he will be "afar off" from Him eternally. On the other hand, the "grace" to the humble is also both present and future: a "lowly" one enjoys His favour now, and will do so forever. "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time" 1Pet.5.6.