The seventh parable is the last of the series. The King-1 dom of the heavens has yet another mystery wrapped up in it, and which is disclosed in this concluding parable. The net cast into the sea points to a world-wide testimony to God’s grace now and to the Kingdom in the coming crisis. The field, i.e., the world, is the scene of operation in the second parable. The sea, i.e., the nations, is the sphere of activity here. In our parable, the agents to whom are entrusted the happy work of carrying the glad tidings to every creature under heaven, are hid. It is the work, not the persons that are specially in view. The fishermen are curtly referred to under the pronoun “they” (v. 48). Now the Gospel has gone out, and has been preached throughout the known world in Paul’s day (Col. 1. 23). But there are many millions of the heathen world not yet reached during this century of Christian missions. The conversion of the world by the preaching of the Gospel is nowhere taught in Scripture. “This Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations ; and then shall the end come” (Matt. 24. 14)—not the conversion of “all nations,” but the Gospel of the Kingdom to be a witness to all such.
After the removal of the Church, and of all saints who have died in faith (1 Thess. 4. 17), the Gospel of the Kingdom is sent out once again. The peoples of the Roman earth, and the distant heathen as well, shall hear the trumpet call of the heralds of the King announcing His near return. The general effect of the testimony of God in Christendom, and amongst the heathen, is to fill the net with fish of every kind—good and bad. The net is filling, but not yet filled. “When full, they drew to shore.” However much in principle you may apply this drawing in of the net, and sorting and separating the fish now, the direct application is to be found at the end of the age. The net is yet in the sea, not on the shore (verse 48).
The judicial part of the work is committed to angels. They do not bind the tares. Companies are formed before the angels take their part in the scene. They commit the tares to the fire (v. 42), as also the bad fish or wicked (v. 50). The fishers on the shore separate the good from the bad—there is discrimination on their part; the angels sever the wicked from the just. The servants of the testimony of God concern themselves only with the good. The ministers of judgment occupy themselves only with the bad. Angelic ministry is largely used in the closing stages of the age. The everlasting Gospel is to be preached to all under heaven during that most interesting crisis in the world’s history, lying between the Rapture (1 Thess. 4. 16-17) and the Return in Power (Rev. 19. 11). When the net is drawn in (it may be more than once) at the close of the age, the results are witnessed in Matt. 25. 31-46, and in Rev. 7. 9-17. There will be a millennial testimony under the personal guidance of the King; this is figured in John 21. 11, where it is significantly said, “Yet was not the net broken,” in contrast to the scene in Luke 5. 6, “And their net brake.” Every human testimony now breaks down because of the weakness of the human vessel.
But how are good fish to be known from bad ? By what mark or sign can we distinguish them ! Leviticus—that remarkable book which distinguishes between the holy and the unholy—answers our question. “These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters : whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat. Whatsoever hath no fins or scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you” (Lev. 11. 9-12). All having the ability to swim were good fish. Some swim low, others high, and others on the surface of the water. It is not all a question of attainment as title to the Lord’s table or to Church privileges. All fish not having “fins and scales” were to be utterly rejected. Let them move in their own proper sphere at the bottom of the waters ; the mud and filth of this world is no place for the child of God.
Amongst these words and phrases, to which attention has been drawn as characteristic of the writings of Peter, few perhaps are of more interest than two words that in the A.V. are usually translated “GRACE” and “CONVERSATION”. The former, of course, occurs frequently in other epistles also, but the manner and wideness of its use in 1st Peter are none the less remarkable. It is found there ten times, though in two cases, at ch. 2. 19 and 20, it is disguised under the renderings “thankworthy” and “acceptable”. Yet even in these instances the R.V. margin points out that it is the word “grace”.
In three occurrences which we get in chapter 1 it might be said that we have past, present and future
ASPECTS OF THE GRACE OF GOD.
In verse 10 the prophets are said to have prophesied of the grace that should come unto us ; in verse 2 the apostle desires present grace for those to whom he writes ; and in verse 13 we read of grace that is yet to be brought unto us at the revelation of Jesus Christ. The setting of verse 10 would suggest that the reference there is to the whole great work by which we have been saved, and which is spoken of in Titus 2. 11 as “The grace of God that bringeth salvation”. This is a big subject, and well worthy of being searched into, since it was thought so by the prophets who foretold it, and by angels who “desire to look into” it. The salutation “Grace unto you” of verse 2 would bring to mind many Scriptures in which present grace to meet our present need is promised or spoken of; especially Heb. 4. 16, “Grace to help in time of need,” and 2 Cor. 12. 9, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” But the mention in v. 13 of yet further grace, that is to be brought unto us when Christ comes again, involves a use of the word “grace” not found anywhere else. The nearest approach to it is in Eph. 2. 7, but the thought there is somewhat different.
A due appreciation of the fulness of God’s grace towards us, as set forth in these three references to it in chapter 1, will form the best possible preparation for the study of certain
RESPONSIBILITIES ON OUR OWN PART
that are associated with the use of the word in the chapters that follow. But one also needs to have some understanding of the various shades of meaning which the word itself may bear. Although “GRACE” in the New Testament is generally employed of the Lord’s unmerited favour towards us, or the blessings which this causes Him to bestow on us, it is also used in several ways, one of which is to denote the attitude of mind and conduct produced in those who have not received His grace in vain. This may be expressed in “thanks”, which is the rendering of the same Greek word in the several times repeated phrase, “Thanks be unto God”. Or it may be even better expressed in the gracious behaviour that seeks to act towards others as God has acted towards us. See, for example, how giving is called a “grace” in 2 Cor. 8. 6, 7, etc., and note particularly the phrase in 2 Cor. 9. 14, “The exceeding grace of God in you”.
Now it is doubtless this attitude of mind that Peter has in view, when he makes use of the word in ch. 2. 19, 20, and we might not be far from the true thought in’ the passage, if we introduced the usual rendering, as in the R.V. margin, in both verses, and said of patient endurance while suffering wrongfully, “THIS IS GRACE” ; or even enlarged upon it in the words of ch. 5. 12, R.V., “This is the true grace of God ; stand ye fast therein.” It would be in keeping with the fact that Christ is set before us in the next verse as the supreme “example” of it (just as He is at 2 Cor. 8. 9, in connection with the “grace” of giving) ; and that patience under wrong is never characteristic of the natural man.
These two occurrences of the word in ch. 2. 19, 20 are in what we might speak of as a business connection, since the passage deals with the relationship of servants and masters. The next, in ch. 3. 7, is in one dealing with the relationship of wives and husbands, that is, in a home connection. And then, at ch. 4. 10, we get it in connection with ministry, that is to say, with assembly life. In all these spheres, those who have themselves become recipients of the grace of God are expected to manifest it in their attitude towards others with whom they are brought into contact.
As in the first chapter, so in the last the word is found three times ; and these three form, each of them in its own way, a suitable ending to the subject of GRACE in this epistle. In verse 5 we are told what sort of people they are to whom God gives His grace. They are the humble ones ; for “God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.” In verse 10 we have the word employed as a title for God. He is “THE GOD OF ALL GRACE.” And finally it is used at verse 12 in the closing exhortation of our epistle, an exhortation which carries us back, not only to the previous allusions to grace in it, but to its exhortations as a whole, and not only to them, but to what these saints had been taught from their beginning by Paul and his fellow-labourers. “THIS,” says Peter, “which they have taught you and which I have written to you IS THE TRUE GRACE OF GOD: STAND YE FAST THEREIN” (R.V.).
As for the other word, “CONVERSATION,” it is more peculiarly Peter’s own; for out of thirteen times that the Greek word which is so rendered in his epistles occurs in the New Testament, no less than eight are in them ; and as we have seen to be the case with other favourite words of his, HE EMPLOYS IT IN VARIED CONNECTIONS. Before looking at these, it is well to remind ourselves of what most Bible readers already know, that the word “conversation” has never there its modern meaning of “talk” or “intercourse”, but signifies “behaviour” or “conduct.”
Putting together its eight occurrences we have:—
TWO AS TO UNSAVED LIFE,
“Filthy conversation,” 2 Peter. 2. 7. Suggests the worst side of it: and is spoken of those by whom a saint was surrounded.
“Vain conversation,” 1 Peter 1. 18. Suggests the better and religious side of it; and is spoken of the saint’s own past.
TWO AS TO OUR LIFE BEFORE GOD,
“Holy conversation,” 1 Peter 1. 15. In view of what God Himself is.
“Holy conversation,” 2 Peter 3. 11. In view of the prospect before us.
TWO AS TO OUR LIFE BEFORE THE WORLD,
“Honest conversation,” 1 Peter 2. 12. By means of which others may be won to God.
“Good conversation,” 1 Peter 3. 16. By which even persecutors may be put to shame.
TWO AS TO OUR LIFE IN THE HOME,
“Winning conversation,” 1 Peter 3. 1 ; and
“Chaste conversation,” 1 Peter 3. 2. Which may bring about the conversion of unsaved relatives.
Much might be said about each of these, and of the context in' which they occur, which in every case is helpful towards the understanding of them. But for the present we shall do no more than call attention to the remarkable form of expression in 2 Peter 3. 11 ; where we have not only the last mention in the scriptures of the words rendered “godliness” and “conversation,” but also the only instance in which either of these is used in the plural. To render the apostle’s question literally, “What manner of persons ought ye to be IN ALL HOLY CONVERSATIONS AND GODLINESSES,” would not give us good English, but by these plurals he suggests in a most impressive way the far-reaching effect which the truth dwelt on in this last message of his should have on every part and aspect of our conduct.
We have looked briefly at the Cross of Jesus in its historical setting in all its agonising actuality, and would now like to turn our attention to the Cross of Christ, as, in a threefold way, it is presented to us in 1 Cor. 1. 7, Gal. 6. 12 and Phil. 3. 18-19.
One has said that, before anything could become a doctrine, it must first of all have become a fact. Doctrine then can only be established upon facts and, while the Cross of Jesus furnishes us with the facts of the cross, the Cross of Christ gives us the doctrine established upon the facts accomplished. In the first epistle to the Thessalonians, chapter 4 and verses 13-20, Paul says, “If we believe that Jesus died and rose again” : Here he is not teaching doctrine but merely stating facts, facts that are relevant to his context. When he is teaching doctrine we must consider a different context which will be found in his first letter to the Corinthians.
In chapter 15 and verse 3, he tells us very definitely, as to the doctrine of His death, it was how that Christ died for our sins : and then again in connection with His resurrection, in verse 20 of the same chapter, he most triumphantly declares that “Christ has been raised from among the dead ones”. It was perfectly true that Jesus died and rose again, but this was not doctrine, it was facts accomplished, and upon the truths of these facts accomplished he establishes his doctrine. We have laboured this point a little, in order that we may be able to distinguish the things that differ : The Cross of Jesus was actual and factual and upon the basis of these acts and facts he establishes the doctrine of the Cross of Christ.
These aspects of things must never be confounded; there is a principle in the Word of God that, whatsoever God has joined together, no one must seek to separate ; conversely, what God has separated, must be kept in its separated character. In Luke chapter 24 and verse 45, we have the Lord Jesus opening the understanding of His own, in order that they might understand the scriptures. The two words “understanding” and “understand” are seemingly similar, and yet they are distinctly different : in the first case, he is disentangling their thinking. Their lines of thought have become entangled ana, consequently, they had to be straightened out, in order that each line of thought might be kept to its own particular channel.
I am afraid that our lines of thinking are liable oftentimes to become entangled and require to be straightened out, in order that, in the unfolding of Divine Purpose, each separate line might be kept in its own proper perspective, and His Purpose for us, as revealed in the Holy Scriptures, might become clear, and as we distinguish the things that differ, this should become possible for us.
The Cross of Christ, then, is not the fact of His Death, but the Doctrine established upon it, to which, for a little while we shall seek to apply our attention. The first time the Cross of Christ is mentioned is in 1 Cor. 1. 17 : Here, Paul is very jealous for the honour of Christ: He will not allow Oratory or Ordinance to take the place of Orthodoxy. The Cross of Christ was the sole ground of sufficiency for the blessing of men and women for eternity, and he would not allow anything else to be bracketed with it. He determined not to know anything among them save Jesus Christ having been crucified : he was a firm believer that, if the foundations were destroyed, what can the righteous do (Psalm 11. 3). Consequently, he held tenaciously to Foundation truth, founded upon Foundation facts. Jesus Christ was God’s Mighty Son Servant, instrumental in the outworking of all Divine Purpose : All that had been accomplished was through Jesus Christ. Here it might be profitable to draw attention to the fact that, where we have “Jesus Christ” mentioned, it is always through Jesus Christ. He is, as we have already stated, God’s Mighty Son Servant, the One through whom all things have been accomplished.
Mark begins his ministry by stating that he was dealing with the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God, the One who, in submission to the will of God, was the outworker of all that had been Divinely purposed, and in the expression of this work was manifested as the Mighty Son Servant. Mark’s ministry is the Servant ministry, and so it becomes him in this early stage of his presentation, to make clear the character of this Mighty Servant.
All things have been accomplished through Him, all things that have yet to be accomplished, will be accomplished through Him. Peter is his ministry talks about the Blood of Jesus Christ, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the Revelation of Jesus Christ, when all that has yet to be accomplished through Him, shall have its further and final fulfilment.
It might be as well to state at this point that, when the term Christ Jesus is used, it is always IN Christ Jesus : THROUGH Jesus Christ is a Mighty Service : IN Christ Jesus is a Moral Sphere. Through Jesus Christ we are provided with a Standing before God. In Christ Jesus provides us with a State. Thus Paul would defend the Cross of Christ and is fearful lest anything connected with him should Allay its Power. In Gal. 6. 12 it is connected with Avoiding its Persecutions and in Phil. 3. 18, 19 it is endeavouring to Arrest its Progress.
Now follows an exhortation based upon the above, indicated by the word “Therefore”, i.e., because of this great hope, ever the incentive for victorious living, they are to stand fast in the Lord. “Dearly beloved” twice repeated shows the strong appeal to their hearts and how dear they were to him, and the twice repeated “My” makes special appeal. Thus he prepares them before he touches upon the raw spot up to which the epistle has been leading and for which it has been preparing the readers, the whole church. How name two sisters in such a public way without this loving preparation? Why did he not write to them privately or give his friend Epaphroditus a private message for them ? But how would this benefit the church and bring about oneness?
They had once laboured with him in the Gospel, in what way we are not told, for it is the same two referred to in verses 2 and 3, “help these women” it may be read. But they were now “labouring” in the wrong way and in view of the Lord’s return he beseeches them to be of the same MIND in the Lord. Not merely to defer to one another, nor to make lame apologies as we sometimes do, nor to agree to differ, but “in the Lord” to have the mind, “the mind which was also in Christ Jesus”, and they were to be “helped” to this by one whose name is not revealed but one truly yoked to Paul in his labours. Doubtless when read in assembly this brother would recognise himself, or Epaphroditus could enlighten him. These women had striven with Paul, the same verb as at 1. 27, but were now striving in another way. The grammar suggests that Clement and others were to help in this work of reconciliation. No suggestion here therefore of any one person being in charge of this church, nor indeed in any other scripture. Such an idea is foreign to the New Testament. Several godly men were to undertake this essential work which would otherwise be like the root of bitterness of Heb. 12. 13-15 which would defile many.
We have seen references to the priestly work of Paul and the saints in this epistle, and here he is like the priest who goes into the sanctuary to the lampstand and gently but with precision uses the snuffers upon the wick of the lamp which is not burning so brightly as it might, but is smoking and filling the sanctuary with pungent odour instead of sweet savour. Oh to have such priestly men and women.
Two more commands to “Rejoice”. “Moderation” in verse 5 is “yieldedness”, and “The Lord is at hand” means “standing near” as He walks amidst the lamp-stands, His coming again is not here referred to. “Anxiety”, as taught by the Lord Jesus, is not to harass the heart, but prayer and supplication with thanksgiving would bring the peace of God. In Romans 5 we have “peace with God” through justification by faith, here the peace of God and in verse 9 the God of peace (a progression). We cannot tell how this works, it passes understanding, but it does work and keeps, as with a garrison, the heart and MIND through Christ Jesus. Paul knew well what it was to be kept by a garrison of soldiers (see Acts 23. 23). It may here be observed that the peace offering in Leviticus is the one which is specifically called the “sacrifice” of peace offerings. This epistle illustrates it, for in that sacrifice all had their share, God, the priest and the offerer.
Another “finally” describing the “things” we are exhorted to think upon and do. As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he. Some have asked what are the things referred to in Col. 3. 1, 2. Well here they are, seven in all, touching every department of the inner life, and in Paul and his service they had been evident to all.
“Rejoice” again (v. 10), this time it is Paul himself, and how carefully he words this most delicate of subjects; their care of him, or rather their thinking of him (not “care” as above). This had been revived, but now he must cover this in case it might suggest that he thought they had forgotten him, so he adds, “ye were thinking, but lacked opportunity.” But now he must counter any suggestion that he had been in some destitution himself, through this, so he assures them, “not that I speak of destitution,” for he had learned in whatever circumstances he was, to be content. But again, in case this might suggest that he really did not need their gifts, he assures them (v. 14) that they did well in thus communicating with him. How very tender and we may say gentlemanly his letter shows him to be, a lesson for us all surely, trying as he was, to counter any sort of misunderstanding or hurt and putting all on the highest plane.
Three pairs of opposites are brought before us: “abased” and “abound”, “full” and “hungry”, “abundance” and “deficiency”. Every experience had been his so that he could do all things through Christ the Strengthener, who empowered him.
But they did well in having fellowship with him in the tribulation which had come to him. What and when this was, we are not told. Verse 15 suggests “with the same delicacy of love, that their previous gifts would have sufficed without this gift, to witness and seal their hearts co-operation with him” (Moule). This first church in Macedonia and in Europe had early learned the value of this fellowship in the Gospel but “no blame of other churches is necessarily implied”, they had sent more than once to him in Thessalonica (indicating that he was with the Thessalonians longer than one would gather from the Acts record). In spite of his hard manual labour when at Thessalonica, he had been left quite poor. Again he delicately points out that it was not that he desired a gift but fruit abounding to their account. The gifts had not only filled up his wants, but were Godward, a sweet smelling savour and an acceptable sacrifice, the odour of which rises up to God, the language again of the burnt offering.
In so doing they were assured that their own needs would be supplied. This is a verse we almost always apply to the servant of the Lord, who goes forth in His Name, but here it is the reverse, the servant assuring the giver, of God’s abundant supply to them, according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. This expression is not, as we sometimes hear it expressed, “out of His riches”. A millionaire might give a pound to the poor “out of his riches”, but it would not be “according to his riches”, for he would not feel it, or miss it. God gives according to His riches in glory. When we change words of scripture we usually depreciate them. This word “riches” is a favourite with Paul, see Eph. 1. 7, 18 ; 2. 4, 7 ; 3. 8, 16 ; Col. 1. 27 and 2. 2.
Then follows the salutation and benediction. He really must finish, and it is worthy of note that Paul the prisoner, with his fellow-prisoners in Rome had made converts in the most unlikely places, “Caesar’s household”. The mighty, callous, cruel despot had begun to be defeated in his own domain and Christ had triumphed in heathen hearts, through the lowly persecuted prisoner, and they too would have their salutations sent to the saints in this Roman outpost whom doubtless they had never seen.
This salutation is not so much an afterthought coming as it does between the two benedictions of verses 20 and 23, but this is not uncommon with Paul as references to his other epistles will show. He closes with his usual blessing, which was the token in every epistle which he wrote. May we share in it as we seek in humility to carry it out in our lives, both individual and assembly.
The main objective of the Spirit’s presence in the Christian is the reproduction of the life and likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Perhaps the outstanding proof-text is found in 2 Corinthians 3. 17-18 : “Now the Lord is that Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. But we all with open (unveiled) face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord are changed into the same image from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (i.e. The Lord the Spirit, lit.). Broadly speaking what is here intended is that the removal of the veil under the law done away or annulled in Christ is replaced by the ministration of the Spirit in grace. The transient has given way to the permanent. The bondage of the law is superseded by the liberty of the Spirit. The ministration of condemnation has been set aside and that of righteousness in Christ has come in with superabounding glory. The Spirit of God has initiated a mighty work of light and liberty of which those under the old covenant knew nothing. He has banished the veil from believing hearts whereas even while Paul was writing devotees of the law had the darkening veil upon their nearts—“when Moses was read”—there was, of course, the simple remedy for them, “when they shall turn to the Lord, the veil is taken away.”
Among the contrasts enumerated between the covenant of law and that of grace is the significant fact that the glory revealed on Moses’ face (the great representative of the old system) had to be hidden, it could not be gazed upon, while in the new that is exactly what is required : the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ is to be closely contemplated. Thus we have been led up to the main purpose of “the rather glorious” ministration of the Spirit. The “open” (or unveiled) face tells eloquently of a once sin-darkened mind where Christ is now known and loved, (see 2 Cor. 4. 6). The “beholding as in a mirror” is the same enlightened one looking with stedfast gaze where Christ and His glory have been made known. (See 2 Cor. 4. 1-2 where it is clearly implied that the mirror is the Gospel). The change that is effected; the certain outcome ot occupation with the Lord Jesus Christ, is a progressive transformation into moral and spiritual likeness to Him. This transfiguration of Christian character is attributed to the Holy Spirit. It is intended to be carried on from stage to stage as one has beautifully paraphrased 3. 18 : “from one degree of radiant glory to another, even as derived from the Lord the Spirit.” The words “even as” require what is characteristic of me Spirit, and that must be the reproduction of the (Christ-life in each one of us ; what the Apostle described as his prayer—travail for the Galatian believers that “Christ may be formed in you” (Gal. 4. 19). How sad to see a base contentment with a low or mediocre experience of the Lord Jesus! How detrimental to the individual and ultimately to the Assembly of God ! What we ARE gives value to what we say or do and this in turn contributes to the weakness or strength of the local testimony. Better leaders are simply more Christ-like men, and better members are those who have been learning Christ and putting on Christ in a growing acquaintance with Him. Let us use the mirror of truth, let us be so preoccupied with Him that self’s claims will be ignored and all unconsciously the new man will be “renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created Him” (Col. 3. 10).
Very early in the pages of Holy Writ an abiding and inclusive principle of nature and character is enunciated. Ten times in Genesis chapter one we read of grass, herb, tree, fish of the sea, fowl of the air, cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, producing “AFTER THEIR KIND.” It was true on every level of life that God had introduced into the reconditioned earth and each one of them had His smile and benediction. “And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1). The products in the realms of the flesh and of the Spirit bear out this principle. The birth of the Spirit was necessitated by the fact that the flesh could only produce AFTER ITS KIND. Whether that flesh be religious or profane, moral or immoral, it is wholly incapable of begetting anything on the spiritual plane. It is corrupt, it is antagonistic to God and the one-time self-righteous Pharisee said, “I know that in me, that is IN MY FLESH there dwelleth NO GOOD THING (Romans 7. 18). The Apostle is here thinking of the sinful nature which as the tense indicates still was present with him, though he had become possessor of a new life, and Its nature in turn would produce after its kind. Let none of us whether young or old in the faith, ever imagine that we shall, while in the body, get rid of this evil nature with its constant tendency like a grinning ‘Jack-in-the-box’ to push up its ugly head. Be realistic about it. It has its lusts, its evil imaginations, its deceits, its pride ! It is the self-life of the “old man” : that is the multiplied evil propensities we brought with us in our natural birth. This SELF-LIFE can be highly sanctimonious, scripturally correct and well-pleased with its fancied spirituality. It can even be credited in Christian circles as the real thing. Dr. A. T. Pierson said very searchingly : “Much of our spiritual life has a great deal of the leaven of SELF corrupting in it. We seek self-advantage and selfglory on a higher level and of a more refined sort. Nothing is so hard to kill as pride and selfishness. Man is like an onion—layer after layer and each a layer of self in some form. Strip off self-righteousness and you will come to self-trust. Get beneath this and you will come to self-seeking and self-pleasing. Even when we think these are abandoned self-will betrays its presence. When this is stripped off we come to self-defence when this seems to be abandoned, the heart of the human onion discloses pride that BOASTS OF BEING HUMBLE !”
Contributing Editors : F. F. Bruce ; H. L. Ellison.
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Whether or not women keep silence in the churches has been a subject of contention in Christendom for a long while and there is a great tendency to abandon the teaching of the Scriptures in order to conform to the ideas of the world in which we live. Some of the contributors in the New Testament Commentary seem to be influenced in this way and they give interpretations of the relevant passages which are by no means the teachings of so-called “Brethren.”
Thus Alan G. Nute writes on page 509 :
“The word silence (hesychia, 13, 14) can hardly be intended in the absolute sense. In all probability the R.V. is the more accurate when it renders ‘quietness’ (cf. 2 Th. 3. 12, also v. 2 of this chapter where the adjective hesychios is appropriately translated ‘quiet’). There is no question here of a ban of silence being imposed upon women, either in public prayer or in the gathering for instruction, where active dialogue would feature prominently. The intention is rather to forbid a self-assertive attitude, and to require that women be marked by restraint and a readiness to display the qualities of ‘quietness’ and all submissiveness.
“When, however, it comes to the matter of teaching, Paul’s tone becomes more authoritative. In addition to repeating his exhortation regarding ‘quietness’, he declares categorically, I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men. This prohibition in no way contradicts Tit. 2. 2, 3 (see note). It relates to teaching in the church in the presence of men and to the fact that authority in matters concerning the church is not committed to women.”
and F. Roy Coad writes:
‘‘By the date of the first letter to Timothy, this aspect also of the churches’ life had found a stable form of relation. That female participation in public prayer was still contemplated may well be indicated. The contrary has been deduced from the use of the word ‘males’ in the Gk. of 1 Tim. 2. 8 : yet surely this is a contrast to the ‘women’ of v. 9. The passage, taken as a whole, implies that as men were to adorn their prayers with holy characters, so women should adorn theirs with modesty in dress and in conduct. Female participation in teaching or in authoritative rule was forbidden (1 Tim. 2. 11-15).
It appears that my brethren believe therefore that women mav participate in public prayer but may not teach or rule in the loca1 assembly. (One wonders if this were introduced just how long it would be only prayer in which women folk would participate). If prayer be correct, how about praise and worship, which would mean women taking audible part in both prayer meeting and the Breaking of Bread meeting and seeing that hymns are but worship and prayer in poetic form our sisters would “give out” hymns. And then are not the Psalms and other parts of the Scripture expressions of worship and praise and prayer—so they would read the scriptures in a public gathering. The next step would surely be to comment on the Scriptures read and who would draw the line as to what was to be regarded as teaching and when such a state of things existed it would not be long before women folk of a forceful character would take the place of ruling.
It would appear that relative to this passage my brethren are not content with the usual interpretation, i.e., that when the apostle says in verse 9 “in like manner” he is referring back to the expression “I will therefore” (v. 8). They seem rather (though they do not say so. It is amazing that they teach something that is contrary to what has been accepted in assemblies over the years without the slightest attempt to prove what they say) to presume “In like manner” should be taken in a wider sense so that the passage paraphrased could be read in one of two ways:
“I will therefore that the males pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands without wrath or doubting, and also that women pray everywhere adorning themselves in modest apparel, not with gold, or pearls, or costly array, but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” , OR
“I will therefore that the males pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands without wrath or doubting, and also that the females pray everywhere lifting up holy hands without wrath or doubting, adorning themselves with modest apparel, etc.”
If either of these are the correct way of viewing the passage we wonder why the Spirit of God has found it necessary to change the word from “men” (mankind) in verse 1 to male creature in verse 8. Could He not have said, “I will therefore that ye pray everywhere” etc.? Why introduce in this verse a distinction between male and female, if the instruction therein given refer to both? This surely would have followed better the instruction of verse 1. “I exhort therefore that ... prayer ... be made for all men” ... “I will therefore that ye pray everywhere . . . .”
If this passage is to be understood in the sense of (1) above are we to understand that while when “men pray they are to lift up holy hands, without wrath or doubting” womenfolk, in contra-distinction may lift up unholy hands, be possessed of smouldering anger and have distracted minds? Surely these requirements apply equally to both sexes. We judge, therefore, that the paraphrase (2) above is preferable to (1).
While we accept neither of these paraphrases of the passage and consider them to be foolish attempts to avoid teaching which they find to be unpalatable, though absolutely plain: we would now proceed to examine the second suggested paraphrase (2) above. If I may be allowed to be even more foolish than my brethren, could I ask if the instructions of verses 9 and 10 only apply to (a) women when they are praying publicly, or to (b) women who do pray publicly? Why associate these instructions with “prav everywhere”? I notice that the man is to have holy hands but when he prays he is to lift them up. Does it therefore follow (If I may be allowed to reason in this foolish fashion) that women are to have in their possession modest apparel and when they pray publicly they are to adorn themselves with it, to put it on? And would this mean that on any other occasion they could wear immodest apparel and ornament themselves with expensive metals, jewels and other array? Are they just meant to put on their modest clothes and discard their expensive jewellery when they pray? Should they before the world dress immodestly and ornament themselves extravagantly, make an ostentatious display and then on occasion change all this and dress decently, and assume a look of piety and sobriety just when they pray,?! Just when they pray ? Only when they pray ? Is this what we are expected to believe this passage teaches ? All will readily agree that this should not be the case—then why try to link these moral requirements written for the general conduct of women with the term “pray everywhere”? Is not the main idea that while the men are to pray everywhere, the females are to be careful how they dress everywhere?
I submit that the generally accepted interpretation is far more sensible and appeals to the spiritual mind.
Would it not appear that Paul has in mind the contrasting background of the male priests and the temple maids of the temple of Diana (Artemas). The temple priests whose uplifted hands as they performed their duties were anything but holy. The temple maids with their garish and indecent clothing, their bodies bedecked with jewellery, all calculated to produce an atmosphere of things immoral, for which the worship of Diana was renowned. By way of extreme contrast the assembly of God in Ephesus (where Timothy was at that time) was to have men ministering publicly who were holy men, lifting up holy hands and they were to be accompanied by women who were absolutely pure inwardly, who dressed "modestly and whose deportment and adornment of good works brought glory to God. Again we repeat that the instructions to the men are relative to praying everywhere, while to the women they have to do with living everywhere, for the instructions here given have to do with the way in which women professing Godliness (not women praying everywhere) should adorn themselves with good works. The praying of the man is therefore God-ward, but the dress, deportment and works of the women are manward, though undoubtedly well-pleasing to the Lord.
We submit that the passage clearly teaches
Men are to pray everywhere, not women.
Men are to teach, women are to learn in silence.
Man is to rule, women are not to usurp a place of authority, but are to be in subjection.
Three reasons are culled by Paul from the early chapters of the book of Genesis. (He does the same in 1 Corinthians 14 when he says, “as also saith the law”, an expression indicating either (1) the Pentateuch, (2) the Old Testament), The reasons are
Adam was first formed then Eve.
Eve was first to sin.
Adam was not deceived (one act of disobedience— Romans 5), but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
Hebrews 10. 19 expresses the fact that as priests we have the right or approach into the immediate presence of God. We have been sanctified and perfected (v. 14) ; our sins have been put away (v. 17). Now we are free to enter into the Holiest. This is the idea in ‘boldness’— not undue familiarity, but liberty, having the right of access to God which none can deny us.
The place to which we have the right of approach is described in this epistle as (1) The Throne of Grace (4. 16) ; (2) The Presence of God (9. 24-25) ; (3) The Holiest (10. 19).
The way into the Holiest is secured by the blood of Jesus ; it is the way of the One who had recently died and was alive again ; it is the way Jesus established for us by partaking of our humanity ! it is the way through which our High Priest has gone.
But some things are necessary to our entrance. We must have (a) a true heart—not hardened by unbelief, but continually resting in faith on the work of Christ m its efficacy to sprinkle the heart from an evil conscience (9. 13-14), and fit us to function as priests (Ex. 29. 21), (b) our bodies washed with pure water. The Aaronic priest needed to wash his hands and feet at the laver to remove chance defilement prior to entering the Holy Place. So to-day the believer-priest must approach God’s presence only after a preliminary cleansing by the Word —to remove the defilements of an evil world around.
Inside the Holy Place the priest of the Levitical economy performed three duties, (1) Order the Shewbread, (2) Maintain the Lampstand, (3) Offer Incense. Ordering the shewbread symbolises our acknowledgement of the acceptance we have in Christ, and of the material things we receive from God. The maintenance of the lampstand, shining over the table, speaks of us as priests setting
forth the glories of Christ through the Holy Spirit. Offering incense is a type of prayer. Thus the believer acting as a priest has a three-fold duty to perform when he approaches the Throne of God in the Holy Place, (1) Acknowledge his acceptance in Christ, (2) Present to God His appreciation of the Lord Jesus Christ, (3) Pray on behalf of others.
Great indeed is the believer’s privilege in being permitted this freedom of access to God’s presence. He should value it more highly ; he should take advantage of it more frequently; he should give more earnest heed to the duties of his priesthood.
THE INTIMATE PRIESTHOOD
(Revelation 1. 6 ; 5. 10)
In the Book of the Revelation we get another aspect of our priesthood. Twice we find the term ‘priests unto God’, teaching that our priesthood is exercised in direct relation to God. There is no need of another to act for us as priest. Each believer is a priest for himself, having direct contact with God.
This priesthood includes sisters as well as brethren. All are priests, for in Christ there is no distinction between male and female (Gal. 3. 28). That sisters can function as priests is evident when we remember the nature of the priestly sacrifices we are called upon to offer. They apply equally to sisters as to brethren.
In Rev. 1. 6 the location is on earth. John states that here we are ‘a kingdom, priests unto God’ (R.V.). The word ‘kingdom’ implies a race of kings, as ‘priesthood’ in 1 Peter 2. 9 suggested a body of priests. We are kings and priests—kings with authority and dominion oyer sin, self, Satan and the world. Let us learn to exercise this authority. We also function as priests on earth.
In Rev. 5. 10 the location is in heaven ; the Church is at home, complete, engaged in its heavenly, priestly activities. Every saint has (1) ‘a harp’, with which to offer praise to God, and to the Lamb, (2) ‘golden bowls full of incense’ (R.V.), a symbol of the prayers of the saints. In heaven as priests we shall carry out two functions, praising God, and offering prayers.
But the same description, ‘priests unto God’ is used of believers on earth (1. 6). It would seem as if priestly service here includes also praise and prayer (Eph. 1. 6, 14 ; 1 Timothy 2. 1-3).
May these two phases of priestly activity find a prominent place in our lives. God’s great desire is a due appreciation of Himself from His people. He is worthy to be praised for ‘His name alone is excellent; His glory is above the earth and heaven’ (Psalm 14. 13).
Intercession on behalf of others is a privilege that as priests we should not easily forego. Many need our prayers ; those in the forefront of the work of God— missionaries and evangelists, whose work makes them more the target of Satan and his emissaries ; those in high places; those who scarcely ever pray for themselves. These all make it mandatory for us continually to exercise our priestly function of intercession for them at the throne of grace.
Having thus considered the priesthood of the believer from these four standpoints we begin to realise its far-reaching implications. The priesthood is a full-time occupation. We are on duty all day long, seven days a week. It is not to be thought of merely as a Lord’s Day morning exercise, but one that touches every department of our lives.
Let us live worthily of it, and of Him who has called us to this service. Let us take our priesthood seriously, that when the day of testing comes we may be found approved of God. ‘Let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear’ (Hebrews 12. 28).
There are thousands, and tens of thousands, if not millions, who believe that at any moment the Christ of God, who died on the Cross, and now fills the Throne of Glory, may leave that throne, descend into the clouds, cry “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away” (Song of Sol. 2. 10), and in the twinkling of an eye every true child of God, alive or dead, will bid farewell to earth, and be for ever with the Lord.
Now is this heart-belief of these myriads pure fiction or genuine fact ? Is it the mere theory of fallible man, or is it the revealed truth of the Eternal God ?
I purpose answering the question from “the Scripture of Truth” under five heads :
What is meant by the Lord’s Second Coming ?
Why I believe in the personal and imminent Coming of the Lord.
When will the Lord come ? Are there signs ? Can we fix the date ?
Who will go when He comes ? Can we be certain ?
What will take place when He comes ?
1. WHAT IS MEANT BY THE LORD’S SECOND COMING ?
When we speak of “the Lord’s Coming,” “the Second Advent,” “the Coming Again of Christ,” we mean that the blessed Christ of God, who came into the world to save sinners, who died for us, who was raised for our justification, and who sitteth at the right hand of God. will leave that sphere, descend into the clouds above Jerusalem, London, Paris, New York, Melbourne, and every place. When He descends He will give a shout which will raise every dead saint, with archangelic voice He will change every living saint, then He will blow the trump of God, which will call All—the saved dead raised and the saved living changed—to rise to meet Him in the air, and with Him enter glory, and thus be for ever with the Lord.
Differences of judgment on minor details there may be, but this expresses the belief of numerous Bible-loving Christians, including many of the ablest students of Scripture.
It is well to remember that there is a two-fold aspect of the Coming. Just as when Christ came last time He came first to Simeon, Anna, Zacharias, and other waiters, privately, secretly, quietly as in Luke 2.25, 36, then to the People, the Nation, when they cried, “Blessed be the King that cometh in the Name of the Lord,” as in Luke 19.38 : so in the Second Coming He comes first privately, quietly, secretly for His own in the clouds; then later (some suggest an interval of seven, others up to forty years) He comes with His own to take His great power and reign, as King of kings and Lord of lords, unto the uttermost bounds of the earth, and of His Dominion there shall be no end.
Remember in neither case was it two Comings, but in each a dual aspect of the one Coming. This will help to make clear many portions of the Word of God. Old Testament writers mainly referring to the latter, and New Testament writers to the former aspect of the Second Coming of our Lord.
In the Epistle to Titus Paul focuses the dual aspect thus: (1) The Blessed Hope, and (2) the Appearing of the Glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ'’ (2. 13).
Practical Bearing of the Coming
That the Coming is not a mere visionary idea, but a very practical truth connected with the daily life and conduct of the Christian is shown in its relation to—
Purification. “Every man that hath this hope set on Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure” (1 John 3. 3).
Moderation. “Let your moderation (or yieldingness) be known unto all, the Lord is at hand” (Phil. 4. 5).
Sanctification. “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly : and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5. 23).
Patience. “The Husbandman hath long patience . . . be ye also patient; stablish your hearts : for the Coming of the Lord draweth nigh” (James 5. 7, 8).
Zeal. At the end of' the great chapter concerning the Coming the exhortation is: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15. 58).
Thus is witnessed the very blessed and very practical Hope of the personal and imminent return of our Lord.