THERE is a hidden wisdom in our Lord’s permission of 1 the continued presence of ‘the flesh’ in the child of God. It thwarts and humbles him. It creates searchings of heart that would be unknown if he was immediately relieved of that old nature. Thus there are struggles that ensue and lessons are learned in which spiritual character is developed. The discovery of this self-life is the necessary stepping-stone to the secret of the Christ-life and its formation; the fatherly agony of the Apostle for the Galatians. “My little children of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you” (Galatians 4. 19). As the grim reality of corruption within himself grips the Christian’s heart he learns to brand it as thoroughly bad and wholly incapable of improvement. Someone who had come to recognise the incorrigible nature he possessed and the working of its fleshly mind left the following on record. “It has been suggested that to become PERFECTLY MISERABLE you should; Think about yourself. Talk about yourself. Mirror yourself in the opinion of others. Listen greedily to what people say about you. Expect to be appreciated. Be suspicious, jealous, envious. Be sensitive to slight. Never forgive a criticism. Trust nobody but yourself. Insist on consideration and respect. Demand agreement with your views on everything. Sulk if people are not grateful for the favours you show them. Love yourself supremely.”
Is it not shattering to recognise one’s self in that lively picture of human nature? And yet this is truly beneficial for it creates the old-time longing, “who shall deliver me?” The way of escape is stated in a most appropriate setting: Galatians 5. 16-26. “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfil the lust (desire) of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye are led of the Spirit ye are not under the law.” Uniformly in this Galatian letter the Holy Spirit’s presence in the believer is shown to be the power to live, to think, to act on a higher level. The desires of the Spirit are diametrically opposed to those of the flesh, and His control of the indwelt one means on the one hand the subjugation of the vile propensities of sinful human nature and on the other the production of the lovely graces which are inherent in the very nature of the Spirit of God. The group of vices is placed in designed contrast with the group of virtues:—“The works of the flesh are MANIFEST which are these; fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strifes, jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, heresies, envyings, drunkenness, revellings and such like . . . But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, temperance (self-control): against such there is no law. And they that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lust thereof. If we live by the Spirit let us by the Spirit also walk” (vv. 19-25, R.V.). Since our new life is derived from the Spirit it is required that we walk by the Spirit and He will lead us in ways that are in keeping with His gracious and holy nature. This is the “fruit of the Spirit” here described as ninefold expression of Spirit-life. All the virtues of this lovely cluster of spiritual fruit can be traced in the Man Christ Jesus as He walked among men. In Him was seen the highest attainable in spirituality in its God-ward, manward and selfward relations. Love flowed in every movement of the Lord Jesus (John 15. 10; 13. 1; 14. 21). Joy abounded in His fulfilment of His Father’s will (Heb. 12. 2; Psalm 40. 8; Luke 10. 21). Peace encompassed Him amidst “the strife of tongues” and the discords of men (John 14. 27; 1 Peter 2. 23). Kindness, attributed to God and required of us was a constant attitude (cf. John 8. 11). The bounty of goodness was exhibited in His miracles of healing and provision (Luke 4. 18; Acts 10. 38). Fidelity shone as He honoured His Father, as He worked the works of Him that sent Him, and dealt with men as “the light of the world” (John 9. 4-5). The immense moral strength of this perfect character appears in His meekness. Meekness that bows His head to receive ‘The yoke”, that submits to “the contradiction of sinners” and finally to “the death of the Cross” (Matt. 11. 29; Heb. 12. 3; Phil. 2. 8). The attitudes of the Man Christ Jesus in circumstances of stress and difficulty whether occasioned by friend or foe showed Him to be in perfect self-control (Luke 22. 61; 1 Peter 2. 21-23). The complete portrait is that of an ideal and harmonious personality. How lovely! How perfect the ideal He presents! and there we are all too prone to leave it. But life in the Spirit and a walk in the Spirit are certain to rise towards this level and to the reproduction in our measure, of these very graces in us.
I am convinced that a brief survey of the letter of Paul to his friend Philemon will show that the fruit of the Spirit, the whole nine graces, can be a practical reality in the Christian’s life and Assembly relations. Paul is urging strong pleas for the runaway slave and seeking his reinstatement in the heart and home of the man he had wronged. LOVE is the basis of his Appeal (v. 8). For love’s sake, he beseeches rather than commands. This was common ground; the love of Christ in Paul’s heart was in Philemon’s heart as well. And such love would embrace and forgive the erring one. JOY filled the Apostle’s heart as he thought of the refreshment Philemon was ministering to the local church. PEACE breathes not only in the salutation of this letter but in the acceptance by its writer of enforced limitation as the will of God: he is “the prisoner” not as we would expect him to write “of Nero” but “of Jesus Christ”. It is this man of peace who can consistently enjoin upon Philemon the LONGSUFFERING, KINDNESS and GOODNESS implied in his reception again of the erstwhile thief. FIDELITY is plainly seen in his sending back to his master one who could have served him in his confinement. MEEKNESS, in harmony with SELF-CONTROL, set aside personal interests and refused the use of legitimate apostolic powers in the resolution of this delicate problem. A remarkable example, it all is, of a mortal man revealing a large measure of the mind of Christ. This was more than mere talk, it was a down-to-earth translation of truth into the facts of life and the needs of the Assembly.
It is a sad reflection that lesser problems among believers to-day not affecting fundamental truths or Assembly principles, but often cases of hurt pride, a refusal to bow or bend, an unforgiving spirit, or family feuds have wrought havoc with the testimony to Christ’s Name and put companies of saints at sixes and sevens! It is the failure to distinguish between self-will and what is true loyalty to the Lord Jesus that creates the damaging and divisive thing. So-called loyalty to Christ is often devoid of likeness to Christ. Let us not be blind to the fact that the ideal harmony of all the virtues in Christ shows how righteousness and indignation in Him the Son of God, constituting a holy and fiery zeal for His God were yet under perfect control (John 2. 13-17). The words of severest censure He accorded to the deep-dyed hypocrites conclude with some of the most tender and tearful words He ever spoke. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not.”
Here then, beloved fellow-believer, is the reason why there are nine distinct graces in “the fruit of the Spirit.” It is the need for a fully developed character, conformed in every possible way to that of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have heard a great deal about “Holiness Teaching” but where can we find anything to surpass this ideal of a believer constantly “putting on the Lord Jesus Christ” in disposition, attitude, thought, word and action?
One other consideration calls for a brief mention. It is that there is nothing mechanical or legal about this great concept; it is a spontaneous life-product as required by the description “fruit”. Some lives of professing Christians remind us of the Christmas tree which has its ornaments and good things tied on, but these bear no relation to the life of the tree. Such are “good” but cannot be called “spiritual” (Gal. 6. 1). Others are easily recognisable as having a likeness to the Lord Jesus Christ. Their life-union with Him, effected by the operation of the Holy Spirit is being fostered by a constant abiding in Him, (John 15), fed by constant communion with Him in His Word and filled out by a constant obedience to His will and ways.
The half-dozen or so, which we have thus far considered, of words and phrases that occur in these writings with more than usual frequency or prominence, by no means exhaust the list. But we cannot dwell at length upon them all; and it is the less necessary to do so, since many of them to a considerable extent overlap one another with regard to the connections in which they are found. We shall, however, mention with references a few more, most of which will have been already noticed by every careful reader of God’s Word.
Four things are described by Peter as incorruptible:—
The “blood” by which we are redeemed. 1 Peter 1. 18, 19.
The “seed” by which we are born again. 1 Peter 1. 23.
The “apparel” of a meek and quiet spirit. 1 Peter 3. 4.
The “inheritance” reserved in heaven for us. 1 Peter 1. 4.
Three things are contrasted by him with gold:—
The blood, 1 Peter 1. 18, 19.
The apparel, 1 Peter 3. 3, 4.
Our faith, 1 Peter 1. 7.
Four things he speaks of as “precious”:—
The blood, 1 Peter 1. 19.
The Living Stone, 1 Peter 2. 4, 6, 7.
Our faith, 1 Peter 1. 4.
The promises, 2 Peter 1. 4.
Four times he adds to his exhortations a clause introduced by the word “Knowing” (Gr, eidotes), in which he reminds them of matters already familiar to them:—
As to their redemption by the blood. 1 Peter 1. 18 (see R.V.).
As to their inheritance of blessing. 1 Peter 3. 9.
As to suffering being the lot of all saints. 1 Peter 5. 9.
As to progress in godly living. 2 Peter 1. 12.
Four times in his first epistle he urges his readers to “be in subjection,” using in every instance the same Greek verb:—
All the saints, to rulers, ch. 2. 13.
Servants, to masters, ch. 2. 18.
Wives, to husbands, ch. 3. 1, 5.
Younger ones, to the elder, ch. 5. 5.
See also ch. 3. 22, where angels are subjected to the risen Christ.
Three times in the first epistle he exhorts them to “Be sober”; employing in each case a word (nepho) that occurs only three more times in the N.T.; and connecting it with:—
A girded up mind, ch. 1. 13.
Prayer, ch. 4. 7.
Conflict with the devil, ch. 5. 8.
Other groups such as these, readers may discover for themselves; but there is one feature still in Peter’s letters which deserves more than casual mention—his repeated references in them to the Word of God. The only other epistle that can be compared with them in this respect is Paul’s second to Timothy, a fact which suggests that both apostles, as they neared the end of their course, were desirous of emphasising to the saints the importance of the Scriptures as their permanent guide in the days to come, when apostolic ministry would no longer be with them. Let us then place these references together, that we may see how much Peter thought of God’s Word, and how many uses he found for it.
The first one is at 1 Peter 1. 10-12, where he speaks of the
OLD TESTAMENT PROPHETS
as foretelling the very “salvation” that had been preached to his readers by those who brought them the gospel. By “the Spirit of Christ which was in them” did the prophets foretell it, and with the same “Holy Spirit sent down from heaven” did the preachers proclaim it. The central theme of both was “The sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow”; and it is worthy of notice that the prophets, far from being left to give the message in their own way, had actually “to inquire and search diligently,” just as any other Bible reader might, to what persons and to what times did the Spirit who spoke by them refer; and ultimately to have this “revealed” to them by the Spirit Himself.
A remarkable instance of such inquiry, and one which may have been in Peter's mind as he wrote, is mentioned in Daniel 9, where the prophet tells how he had been learning from the “BOOKS” something as to when “the desolations of Jerusalem” would be accomplished (v. 2); and how, in response, to his prayer, the Lord revealed to him that a period far longer than the “seventy years" of which he had been reading, and the end of which was now in sight, had been “DETERMINED ... to make reconciliation for iniquity and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and TO SEAL UP THE VISION AND PROPHECY" (v. 24).
Before passing to the other references to the Word in 1st Peter, let us set alongside this one the first mention of the earlier Scriptures in 2nd Peter, which occurs at ch. 1. 19-21. It will be noticed that the statements made in it are very similar to those we have been considering; so much so that one passage helps us to understand the other. We find the same emphasis upon
THEIR DIVINE ORIGIN.
“Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost"; and a similar effect of this Divine origin is mentioned—“that no prophecy of the Scriptures is of any private interpretation." But in addition to this, we get an interesting representation of them as “A light that shineth in a dark place," to which the saints would do well to take heed in their hearts, until the day dawn and the day-star arise. It is an illustration which should doubly appeal to us at the present time; on the one hand, because we have learned by experience, as never before, the value of a light however small shining on our pathway; and on the other, because we have been discovering that this present world is a darker place than some of us ever thought it to be, and are all the more longing for the appearance of the Day-star.
The other references in the first epistle are:—
Ch. 1:23-25, where it:’s said that we have been born again by the Word. Here its permanence is stressed, and the apostle’s statement as to this is fortified by a quotation from Isa. 40. 6-8, at the end of which he links it with his readers’ experience by saying, “And this is the word of good tidings (R.V.) which was preached unto you.”
Ch. 2:2, where, having been thus born again, he wishes them “as new-born babes” to grow by constant use of the “sincere milk.”
Ch. 2:8, according to which God has “appointed” that those who disobey His gospel shall stumble at the very word through which they might have been born again, and over the very Christ who would have saved them.
Ch. 3:1, where we find that there is still a gleam of hope that one who is disobedient to the gospel word, may be “won” by beholding the godly conduct of a Christian relative,
Ch. 4:11, in which one exercises the “gift’’ of speaking is to do so in the closest possible association with the “Oracles of God.”
In the second epistle, in addition to the passage already noted, we have:—
Expressions such as “Exceeding great and precious promises” though from a different point of view, suggests to us the Word of God. Ch. 3. 2 where “The words which were spoken before by the holy prophets” are joined with “The commandment of the Lord and Saviour through your apostles” (R.V.); thus linking the Old Testament with the New, as a fitting introduction to a warning against “scoffers” (v. 3) who would arise to deny the authority of both.
Ch. 3. 3, 5, 7, in which “the word of God” is represented as having held back in its allotted place the water by which in due time the “world that then was” perished; and “the same word” as now penning up the fire by which in time to come “the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”
Ch. 3. 15, 16, in which Paul's epistles are linked with “the other Scriptures,” as being of the same class, and suffering the same treatment at the hands of the “unlearned and unstable.” Also from this final reference we learn that Peter had been already studying Paul’s epistles, and that, like the prophets of old time mentioned in his first reference at 1 Peter 10-12, he found “things hard to be understood,” apart from the teaching of the Holy Spirit.
I should now like to say a little on the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, a statement which occurs only in Galatians 6. 14.
In the Cross of Jesus we have its Reality; in the Cross of Christ its Reproach; and in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ its Recompense: Paul finds that, so far as this life is concerned, the only ground for glorying is, in the Lord Jesus Christ. Unto Paul, his association with this aspect of the cross is a dignified one; others may be boasting that they carry in their body the brand marks of the Judaistic flock, but Paul’s boast is, that he carries the brand mark of the flock of Jesus. In his day he had counted all things to be but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus as Lord, and in the dignity of this he was still prepared to boast.
In the first flush of our Christian experience, these things might have had their place with us and, in the warmth of our first love, we would have sworn to undying affection for Him. As the pathway has been traversed for some considerable time, and the bitternesses which we so constantly meet have been occasioned, how does the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ appear to us now? This was the sense in which Paul viewed it when he penned the words and possibly he had this in mind as he records some of the experiences which were his when he wrote his second letter to the Corinthians . Troubled on every side, but not distressed; Perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; Cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the putting to death of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be manifest in his body. He was lifted above the temporal, by the glory of that eternal recompense, which he was so constantly occupied with and which he so eagerly waited for. He reckoned that the sufferings of this present time were not worthy to be compared with the Glory that was about to be revealed in him1. The reproach of the cross, foolish to some, offensive to others, Paul was prepared to bear; possibly like his great Master, who, because of the joy set before Him, endured; He endured not only patiently, but gladly. When Paul spake in Gal. 2. 20, it was not from an outburst of ecstasy alone, but was the expression of his constant experience: “I have been crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me, and gave Himself for me.”
The goal to which Paul moved was gilded with the glory and the dignity of his Lord Jesus Christ as seen in the cross. The excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus as his Lord was the impelling urge that kept him moving forward, onward and upward; forgetting the things that were behind and eagerly reaching forward, he pressed toward the prize of the upward calling of God. The glory of it was continually shining before him, and to arrive at that was his continued effort and endeavour.
I wonder, beloved, if these things have become commonplace to us, or does the Grandeur and the Glory with its Dignity and Dominion still find its place? (I know it should).
I trust that, in the recording of these things, something of the Freshness and Fragrance and Firstness of our love might be stirred up and, with renewed effort, we may continue in the pathway until the recompense is reached: when the day shall dawn and the morning which shall never know a night shall be ushered in.
In answering the question of fact or fiction shall we appeal to the theories of men, the books of seers, the creeds or confessions of Church Councils? Nay, not even to the writings of great and godly men.
The subject is mentioned 318 times in the 260 chapters of the New Testament, or once in every twenty-five verses, so there must be Scriptural evidence in abundance. In fact it is questionable if there is stronger evidence for any Christian doctrine or practice than for the truth of the Second Coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
“A threefold cord is not easily broken” (Eccles. 4. 12), so we supply the three strands of that great cord of truth concerning the Coming.
1. The Saviour’s Declaration
I believe the Lord is coming because He said so Himself in the first mention of the subject in the Testament. As He was about to leave His own He gave them this promise: “If I go away, I will come again and receive you unto Myself” (John 14. 3). One thousand years before
His birth He said: “Lo, I come ... to do Thy will, 0 God” (Psalm 40. 7). He kept that promise “in due time” (Rom. 5. 6). Is the promise of His Coming again less trustworthy? According to this promise only one thing must take place before He comes. “If I go.” He has gone, He is coming.
Oh! but, says someone, that means “He comes at death,” for is John 14 not the chapter read at funerals? Then He must have been busy since the “go,” for 100,000 persons die daily, and if it means death He must make many, many journeys daily. But it is the opposite. Death is the enemy, He who comes is the Friend; death severs, the Coming unites; death is the king of terrors, the One who comes is the Prince of peace.
Others say, “He comes at all great calamities.” We have heard it declared that, “He came at the Destruction of Jerusalem (70); He came at the signing of the Magna Charta (1215); He came at the great Lisbon Earthquake (1755); He came at the Battle of Waterloo (1815); He comes at every great national event.” There is nothing about “national” or “calamity” in the promise or the chapter. He says: “I will receive you unto Myself.”
It is the peerless Person of Christ who is coming, He is coming for persons—His own who love and serve Him— and He receives them unto Himself.
2. The Angelic Confirmation
I believe the Lord is coming because God sent “two men” direct from Heaven with the Message. “This same Jesus which is taken up from you into Heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into Heaven” (Acts 1. 11).
Who is Coming? “This same Jesus.” Not another Jesus, not a mystic Jesus. The same Man who sat tired on Sychar’s well, who lay asleep in the hinder part of the Galilean boat, who dried the widow’s tears outside the Gate of Nain, who wept over a doomed city, who bled and died on Calvary, who lay in Joseph’s tomb, is the One who is Coming to welcome His weary pilgrims to their eternal rest.
How is He Coming? “He was taken up and a cloud received Him out of their sight . . . This same Jesus shall so come in like manner, as ye have seen Him go.” An uprising by His own Divine power, a cloud, and He was gone. A downcoming by Divine power, saints caught up in the clouds, the meeting “together” in the air. As simply as He went from the feeble few of His true disciples, so sweetly shall He return and gather around Himself all true disciples, wherever they may be, on or under the earth’s surface.
What is the Manner of His Coming? “Shall so come, as ye have seen Him go.” The last sight seen by human eyes of the Christ of God was with outstretched, nail-marked hands of blessing (Luke 24. 51). The next sight which the saved shall see will be “this same Jesus” with outstretched hands of blessing. How often has the Lord’s Coming been used as a terror, a whip, or a threat, instead of as purposed. “Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4. 18). Not with “terror in His wings”, but with blessing in His hands is my Lord coming to welcome me Home.
3. The Apostolic Revelation
Unto the Chief Apostle was revealed the “great mystery” concerning “Christ and the Church” (Eph. 5. 32). One of the five mysteries revealed to him was that of the Coming as made known in 1 Thessalonians 4. 15-17: “For this we say unto you by the Word of the Lord, that we which are alive, and remain unto the Coming of the Lord, shall not prevent (hinder, or go before) them which are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
Here we have made clear and plain by direct Revelation that—
It is a Person who is coming. “That blessed Hope” (Titus 2. 13) is to see that Blessed Person who gave Himself for our sins. It is not centred on events, places, scenes, departures, but on “the Lord Himself.” And this is the crux and core of the Coming—“HIMSELF.” Missing that, I miss all!
The Lord will do three things: (1) Give a shout. That “Shout” (Kelosma, as of a boatman at the ferry, or huntsman in the chase) will raise every dead or sleeping saint, whether laid in lovely mausoleum1 or in a pauper's grave, whether buried in the briny deep or in terra firma. (2) Speak with Archangelic “Voice.” That Voice, His own voice, will change every living saint in a moment of time into His own image. (3) Then He will blow the third or last trump (1 Cor. 15. 52); and as with the Roman armies when the third trump sounded, the marching legions of Rome went forward as one man. So, when Christ blows the trump of God, ‘‘they that are Christ’s” (1 Cor. 15. 23), dead or alive, irrespective of class, creed, country, or condition, will be “caught up together” to meet the Lord in the air. It is of “Grace” alone from first to last.
Daniel is now an old man, and as our chapter opens we see him elevated to the position we might think he really deserved, and we might expect that now his troubles are over and he will end his days in honour and security.
But it was not to be, nor is it often so. In the pages of Holy Writ how many do we see to whom God has subjected a final and fiercer test! Nor do they all acquit themselves like Daniel—David will falter after fifty years’ warfare; Uzziah will intrude and sin after raising Israel’s hopes for forty years; but Abraham will, at a century, act in faith which is still breath-taking. In the New Testament also we warm to Paul who calls himself “the aged”, who has laboured and suffered “more than they all,” but who, like Daniel, will yet face the mouth of the lion. Darius was fortunate to have Daniel close at hand when he took the throne—and he knew it—and the subsequent events proved the wisdom of the choice that excited the jealousy of other advisors. “Honest in the sight of all men” is a New Testament command which Daniel could meet—and so should we.
Well did the poet exclaim—“Jealousy is as cruel as the grave.” How often jealousy and pride go together! It was so in the first sin when Satan suggested to Eve that there was that of which she was being robbed, and pride would have her take it. After Christ has ruled in righteousness and wonderful peace for a thousand years, that same deceiver will sow the same seeds in the foolish minds of men and stir them to one final rebellion.
Nor is it surprising to find in that which, above all, is pleasurable to God—-the local assembly—these twin sins seem always to threaten its harmony and well-working. There they are in 1 Cor. 12: “. . . The foot shall say, because I am not the hand, I am not of the body.” How often have we seen that kind of jealousy cripple the work of God. Then “the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of thee,” is a show of pride which has so often curtailed the usefulness of some.
But what an admission from Daniel’s foes—“no occasion nor fault!” Who among us, when scrutinized by our friends, could gain that approbation, leave alone what our foes might find?
A greater one than Daniel in the Word of God withstood the baleful glare of hostile eyes, and could say— “Which of you convinceth Me of sin?” Yet the heart of men is fully set in them to do evil, and innocence is a hindrance though certainly not a preventative to their sin. Thus it was in our Saviour’s impeccable path below. Thirty years in their midst, the Father’s full pleasure declared from an open heaven, yet we read—“Neither did His brethren believe on Him.”
Belshazzar’s impiety is without equal, at least in the Old Testament, but who could match the sheer vanity of Darius who would be flattered into raising himself above all gods for thirty days. It blinds him to every caution and why, oh why, did the only one who could have advised him aright have to be kept outside? Rehoboam erred this way, as did the godly Joash who at the last stained his record with the blood of Zechariah. Nor is it hard to imagine how Phygellus and Hermogenes persuaded those who had once wept on Paul’s neck, to turn away from him (2 Tim. 1. 15). No doubt they promised liberty, but brought into bondage, being ashamed of Paul’s chain.
So the trap is set. And what shall a Daniel do? He knows, and does not hesitate. Fear to offend, fear of the loss of popularity or position, fear of consequences have no room whatever in the mind of ,a man who waits continually upon his God. It has been well said that faith does not act in spite of reason but in scorn of consequences, and the faith that can reject the king’s bribes in chapter five can face a den of lions. A man who in 1 Tim. 6. 6 can assess the real value of material things can in 2 Tim 4. 17 expect God to deliver him out of the mouth of the lion.
These are days in which piety is equated with perversity even among those who name the Name of Christ. We need to beware of those who make covert suggestions about practical expressions of separation being “unhealthy” and “morbid.”
Someone has asked—Shall we ever know how much Israel owed to Daniel’s prayers, and will he cut off a channel of blessing by ceasing to pray for them? Not he, nor will Samuel (1 Sam. 12.23), nor Paul. One day we may discover just how much these prayers did for men; we may too find out how much might have been done had we not failed here.
So the trap is sprung! And can we find it in our hearts to be more sorry for the king than for Daniel. The one labours till the going down of the sun to reverse his folly, but the man to whom1 God has revealed His plan for the ages commits himself unto Him that judgeth righteously; no word of censure mars his lips and he rests with the lions as the king writhes on his bed!
This prompts a question about our faith. Is it not true that we understand, and accept without question, that the ages were framed by the Word of His power? We love to trace them through, beyond our own, to the brightness of His Coming and the slaying of His foes—the glory of His millennial kingdom and His filling all things—and that eternally—but how hard we often find it to trust Him for tomorrow, or even today, or even the next five minutes!
There is spiritual progress here. We have seen that a man who in chapter 5 can scorn the blandishment and advancement of an impious world can in sheer complacency face those dreadful beasts. And such a man is fit, like Paul or John, who had taken their stand by the rejected Man, to receive visions of God. “Then shall I know even as I am known,” says Paul, and with deference to those who follow hymnology here, it is to be understood that with the full revelation of God’s Word now in our hands—“that which is complete now come”— we may come to know the mind of God in the measure God sees us fit to know it.
Peter could sleep in prison, knowing full well that which was intended for the morrow; Paul could face a raging storm and certain shipwreck because, like Daniel—they “believed God.” Oh for the faith that cannot believe that God will fail. Whether food, fire or ferocious beasts are involved, our hairs are all numbered and heaven is promised, but it takes faith to accept either.
So a sorry king is made exceedingly glad, and when one day faith is vindicated, kings ana their peoples will enjoy ‘ life from the dead” (Rom. 11. 15). With gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought (Ps. 45. 15); they shall go out with joy and be led forth with peace, and the mountains and hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands (Isaiah 55. 12). All this on the earth when the remnant is brought into blessing and the dead bones live. And for us? “Rest with us,” says Paul to the young saints at Thessalonica, “when the Lord Jesus (note the title) shall be revealed.” Glorified in His saints, admired in ail them that believe, surely the heavenly hosts who shouted at His creation and rejoiced at His birth will gladly obey the command when He brings in again the First Begotten into the world—“Let all the angels of God worship Him.”
As then, so now, deliverance for Daniel means destruction for his foes; we look for the Saviour who shall change our vile body with the power with which He is able to subject all things to Himself.
The decree of Darius (v. 25) is reminiscent of the “everlasting Gospel” which in a day yet to be is to be sounded out from “mid-heaven” (Newberry) in Rev. 14. 6, when the angels who can shut the mouths of lions will open their own to sound out God’s last message to rebellious earth-dwellers—a significant phrase, for those who love not their lives unto death, like Daniel, can be distinguished from those who dwell where Satan’s seat is ana for fear or for favour worship the Beast, for this is the very point up to which the prophecies of Daniel are going to take us. He sees the world wondering after the Beast, but knows he will come to his end. He sees the passing of kingdoms of men, but the setting-up of one that “shall never be destroyed.”
Beloved, as we are united to, and shall be identified with that One, let us learn to trust in the little things, that when big tests come, we may stand and be glad in THAT day. As a brother has well said, “We know those who would die for Him live for Him.” We may never face death for Him, but if we live so that no finger of scorn can justifiably be pointed at us, we shall secure something for God and for ourselves which will remain eternally.
Many a deed would remain undone, and many a word unsaid; many a place would be unvisited if Christians had first asked—will this be pleasing to the Lord? In this, as in ail Christian living, Christ is the Christian’s pattern. ‘Christ pleased not Himself’ is the Holy Spirit’s comment. ‘I do always those things that please Him’ is Christ’s claim. ‘This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased' is the Father’s corroboration. Paul warns God’s people by the words—We ought not to please ourselves (Rom. 15. 1) but rather let everyone of us please his neighbour ‘for his good’ to edification: Note, for his good. One may please another to his hurt, both intentionally or unintentionally. To praise a brother to his face might please him, but puff him up and not build him up. Let us then make it our concern to please God by our Works, our Words, and our Walk.
In these connections, let us look at the steps of Samson as portrayed in Judges 14. First, “he went down”; stepping in the wrong direction, a path that cannot please the Lord: “and saw a woman”. At first his heart affected his feet, now his eye affected his heart. “She pleaseth me well.” Samson has set out upon the path of self-pleasing. No counsel is sought. His parents’ counsel is set aside and as for God, he does not cry to Him, ‘Keep thy servant from presumptuous sins’. Space would not permit us to proceed further into the story of Samson’s nameless and only wife. He caused her destruction and a woman that was not his wife caused his. He loved a woman named Delilah, Judges 16. 4. Alas what sordid reading this story makes. Delilah, that name means ‘languishing’—want of spirit—feeble. Oh how this woman wrought into Samson all that her name means. A trifler and a temptress have met—the self-pleaser’s peril. “Self-Pleaser”—what a description for a man set apart to God. The fight begins. It is for Samson’s power. No one can take it from him. Will he throw it away and will he yield to temptation? “Tell me wherein thy great strength lieth,” asks this unprincipled woman. Will he play the fool? Will he listen to that voice day by day. Flee youthful lusts. Does self and self pleasure hold him? Peril of perils, he remains in a place where temptation presses upon him continually, until wearied, unspirited, the mighty falls and Samson becomes like any other man.
Do I hear someone say, “What a fool Samson was”, but are there not many Christians guilty of the same folly? Are there not Delilahs in the lives of many of God’s dear people. Some loved and cherished principle of evil, the voice of which tempts them every day. Trifling with that that tempts us until we fall. How great then shall that iail be. The consequences of self-pleasing are not pleasant. Herod had two persons in his life—Herodias and the Baptist. Let us think of them as two opposite principles, truth and error. The Baptist said to Herod, ‘Get that woman out of your life, she does not belong to you’. Herodias said, ‘Get that man out of your life, for so long as he remains my place in your life is menaced’. Now, Herod had respect for John—Mark 6. 20. Many Christians respect Truth. Herod heard John gladly. Many Christians listen to Truth gladly. Herod did many things because of John. Christians do many things because of Truth, but it is that which is loved most that will predominate in one’s life. So John was beheaded, proving that Herod was as the many who cannot say with David, “I esteem all Thy precepts concerning all things to be right, and I hate every false way” (Psalm 119, 128). Tnis then would be the language of the man whose aim in life is to please God and not to please himself.
“Unto you therefore which believe He is precious” (1 Peter 2. 7).
As we contemplate the “preciousness” of our Lord Jesus Christ, our meditation of Him is sweet, and our hearts are bowed low in adoration.
All other things in the Scriptures are precious because He is the preciousness. “To whom coming as unto a (the) Living Stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious” (v. 4).
The Apostle Peter mentions “precious things” seven times in his two Epistles. Our blessed Lord was despised and rejected of men then, and alas He is disallowed by the world still. But chosen of God and precious.
The Father’s estimate of His well-beloved Son, His choice, the perfect Servant. (Matt. 12. 18). Again wherefore also it is contained in the Scripture. “Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious, and He that believeth on Him shall not be confounded” (1 Peter 2. 6); a quotation from the prophet Isaiah (28. 16). God has laid the foundation, and our Saviour and Lord is the solid Rock whereon we stand.
“He now the Head of the Corner—a Chief Corner Stone elect and precious”.
And we are reminded in 1 Peter 1. 18-21 the provision, and the cost of our redemption—redeemed . . . with the precious blood of Christ as a Lamb, without blemish and without spot.
The blood of Christ has precious been,
’Tis precious now to me;
Through it alone my soul has rest,
From fear and doubt set free.
Even the trial of your faith is much more precious than gold that perisheth. The manifold testings will in that day be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing (unveiling) of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1.7).
“Whom having not seen ye love; in whom though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (v. 8).
In the second Epistle we have firstly, the precious faith in the righteousness of our God and Saviour (1. 1).
A precious faith obtained and imparted to us, and that it may increase and be strengthened day by day. Secondly, whereby are given unto us exceeding great and “precious promises”; that by these ye might be partakers of the Divine nature. (1. 4).
Many promises our God has given to us to be tried and proved, and they are exceeding great and precious to every child of God, in every time of need.
The Psalmist reminds us that God’s thoughts towards us are precious. “How precious are Thy thoughts unto me, O God: how great is the sum of them” (Psalm 139. 17).
We also read that “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116. 15). And how precious is the redemption of the soul, for “None can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him. For the redemption of the soul is precious and it ceaseth for ever” (Psalm 49. 7, 8).
May the Lord Himself be increasingly precious to us in the coming days till we see His face.
SPIRITUAL death (Eph. 2. 1-5); and physical (Rom. 5. 14). The death of the righteous is spoken of as “sleep” (John 11. 11-13; 1 Thess. 4. 14). Death separates the soul and body for a time, but never touches the consciousness of the “I”, the responsible person (Luke 16. 23; Rev. 6. 9-11). The bodies of all—saved and unsaved— are mortal (subject to death), and corruptible (subject to decay). The bodies of believers are to be raised in glory, immortal, incorruptible, in power, and like Christ’s body of glory (1 Cor. 15; Phil. 3. 21).
THE word is found in the New Testament fully 70 times, and is applied to the life of God, to the life of Christ, to the life of the Holy Ghost,to the life of the righteous, to the existence of the wicked, and to the doom of Satan and his angels. Any limitation of the word in the New Testament is impossible. Eternal knows neither a past nor future; it is an ever present. The judgment of the wicked dead is in eternity, after measures of times are past (Rev. 20. 11-15). The sinners of Sodom, Gomorrah, and adjacent cities are today “suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 7).
IS a title of dignity, not necessarily denoting birth (Rom. 8. 29; Psalm 89. 27). Christ is pre-eminently the First-born in the respective spheres of creation (Col. 1. 18), resurrection (Rev. 1. 5), and glory (Rom. 8. 29).
Hell, hades the unseen, the separate state, denotes two conditions of existence; thus Lazarus and the rich man were both in hades, however widely separated (Luke 16), the former happy, the latter in torment. Hades as a condition and place exists from death till the resurrection; compare Luke 16 with Rev. 20. 14. Hades occurs in the following passages: Matt. 11 .23; 16. 18; Luke 10. 15; 16. 23; Acts 2. 27, 31; 1 Cor. 15. 55 (“grave”, hades); Rev. 1. 18; 6. 8; 20. 13, 14. Hades embraces the double thought of locality and state. Death claims the body. Hades claims the soul.
God in essential Being dwells in a light unapproachable, and in a glory too resplendent for mortal gaze. Within that Divine circle no created being can stand. But in that “glorious blaze of living light” Jehovah’s eternal Companion, the Son of God, dwelt and rejoiced (Proverbs 8). And, not from the bosom of the Father (that He never left), but from the scene of ineffable purity and delight He came forth, veiling His splendours, not to mount the throne, but to mount the scaffold, not to reign, but to die. He came to die in imperishable love to sinners. God is love, was the note struck in the very centre of Golgotha’s agonies. Christ died for our sins (1 Cor. 15. 3).
The essential glory of God abides undimmed, changeless, and measureless. But the Cross has a glory of its own. In that lonely Cross the God-forsaken, Holy Sufferer laid an everlasting basis of a glory in which we can delight, in which we participate, and of which we sing.
Now risen from the dead, crowned with glory and honour, He leads the worship of His people. He sings m the midst of the redeemed (Heb. 2. 12). He bears in His glorified body the scars of human hatred. All is done. On the Cross, Divine love met human malice and triumphed over it. Now the Holy Spirit in the Word can speak freely of God, of His moral perfections, of His varied glories. Christ has come out of the glory to bring us into it by His death and love.
There is therefore (1) a glory which cannot be witnessed by mortal eye; (2) a glory which we shall behold (what bliss ), but cannot share, or have part in (John 17. 5, 24); (3) a glory in which through grace we share with Christ (v. 22). What is glory to us? It is grace, and only grace, in rich, full, and wondrous display.
Had my Saviour been God only, I might perhaps have trusted Him, but I never could have come near to Him without fear. Had my Saviour been man only, I might have loved Him, but I never could have felt sure that He was able to take away my sins. But, blessed be the Lord, my Saviour is God as well as man, and man as well as God. God, and so able to deliver me; Man, and so able to feel with me. Almighty power and deepest sympathy are met together in one glorious person, Jesus Christ, my Lord.