Two important ideas have been before us, and they concern first of all, the development in the believer of the Christ-life and secondly the concomitant truth “the Fruit of the Spirit” which is the expression in character and conduct of that Christ-life. These two are ensured by a third idea, “the filling of the Spirit”. Since some religious haze has accumulated round the terms “the filling of the Spirit” and “the baptism of the Spirit” it would be well to clarify their usage in the New Testament. They are by no means interchangeable terms as some assert. The fulness of the Spirit will be seen to have to do with the individual Christian while the baptism of the Spirit unites him with the body of Christ. There is a distinct command to be filled by the Spirit but the baptism is declared to have taken place already, and so is shared by every Christian. It was the baptism which took place at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4) that made the fulness of this divine person available to the individual because by that baptism he was brought into vital union with Christ, the Head of the Church, and so to share all the blessings of the Holy Spirit with all the members of the Body of Christ. The young Christian should weigh carefully Acts 1:5, and 1 Corinthians 12:12-14 and note that the baptism by its very nature is unrepeatable while the fillings can be many.
There is no more direct route into modern Pharisaism which is hypocrisy, than to hold doctrines which make no real impact upon our lives and which do not influence our conduct. Writer and reader alike must feel the gravity of this. We can claim, and rightly claim to have a part in the blessing of Pentecost in common with all believers but can we honestly claim to have obeyed this command, “Be being filled by the Spirit?”
A look first of all at recorded instances of Spirit-filling is the natural approach to the theme and the sure way to get correct information about it. It’s first instance in “the Acts” shows that Spirit-filling was to prepare the disciples for witness to their absent Lord. Acts 2:4. It is surely an inspiring sight to see their spokesman Peter, now fully restored, fearlessly and forcefully explaining the phenomenon of the Spirit’s outpouring to the multitudes of Jews in the city of Jerusalem. His appeal to the prophecy of Joel allayed doubt and suspicion before he goes right to the heart of things; the exposure of the nations sin in its rejection and murder of its rightful King. Then the overruling by God of their great crime and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead are clearly, scripturally and emphatically enunciated.
That memorable open-air address reached its climax as these Jews from all over the Roman Empire heard Peter say, “This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted and having received of the Father the PROMISE OF THE SPIRIT HE HATH SHED FORTH THIS WHICH YE NOW SEE AND HEAR... Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified both Lord and Christ.” This “PROMISE” to which Peter refers is without question what the Risen Lord had said to them as in Acts 1:4-8. Its fulfilment meant the enduement with power of these very ordinary men and their embarking on the first stage of that expansive programme which was to carry the Gospel to “the uttermost parts of the earth.” This Spirit filled Galilean is the ideal witness for all time and every clime. Spirit-filled men are self-effacing, Christ-exalting witnesses whose message throbs with reality, life and certainty and finds a response in needy hearts everywhere.
Peter is again declared to be “filled with the Holy Spirit” when a testimony to the Lord Jesus is required before the speedily summoned Jewish Council in Acts 4:8. The religious hierarchy demand to know the authority and power Peter and John used in giving a lame man ability to use his feet and legs for the first time. There was, as their Master predicted, emergency power for the emergency situation. Peter voices to these whose hands were stained with blood that they were not finished with that Jesus whom they had crucified; He was alive and operating from Heaven through His Spirit-controlled agents and the obvious reasoning of it all was that for them as for all others, Salvation was obtainable only through His Name. Acts 4:10-12. Spirit-filled witnesses improve every opportunity for honouring the Lord Jesus Christ.
Yet another episode illustrative of Spirit-inspired testimony is in the Acts 4:31. Upon the release of the two Apostles after their astounding and silencing challenge to “the Rulers and Elders and Scribes”, “they went to their own company” and rehearsed the court proceedings there. There was an immediate unification of every believing heart in instant and earnest prayer; not for relief from the persecution but for increased boldness in speaking the Word and for fresh signs of the workings of the Risen Lord. The answer was as wonderful as it was immediate; a physical shaking of the place of assembly, a renewed infilling of the Holy Spirit for all present, an intensified courage in speaking the message and not least a lovely and affectionate community spirit pervading every heart and manifesting collectively and outwardly the grace of God. To some who read these lines, this will appear too idealistic and unreal for times such as those in which we live and yet we claim to follow the pattern. The changes that are so marked can never alter the fact that the Holy Spirit is still present in the Church and His power is as unchanged as Himself. Were He as really believed in and yielded to as is His right, similar fervency of witness and oneness of heart would exist in the Assemblies of Christ. What a tragedy that His “right-of-way” should be disputed in either heart or Assembly!
It is most instructive to see that the “filling of the Spirit” and the serving of tables should be linked together. Acts 6 Men of honesty, good report, wisdom, faith, and those characteristically “full of the Holy Spirit” were demanded for the caring for of monies designed by the Assemblies to meet the needs of widowed believers. This integrity, godly testimony, good sense and faith in God named as requirements for serving God by serving His needy and bereft ones are not only consistent with but essential to the filling of the Spirit. In every Christian community such circumstances are almost certain to exist or arise and more than “heads” and organization is required. Spirituality did not dispense with business ability but it took precedence over it in Jerusalem and in the men who handled what undoubtedly was a delicate situation. How healthy was the church that could find seven men of the calibre of Stephen and Philip and the others who could be trusted with the Lord’s money and the needs it was intended to meet! The lesson surely is that the “temporalities” of Assembly life are not to be regarded as unimportant nor delegated to any but spiritual brethren, in point of fact there is no part of Assembly life that can be regarded as secular and demanding “business” treatment only.
“Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness”. Judges 14:14.
The above quotation is one of the many typical foreshadowings of the triumphant redemptive work of our Lord Jesus Christ—even as the apostle Peter writes “testifying beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow” (1 Peter 1:11).
While all the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation foretold and testified to the “foreordained” death and sacrifice of Christ—yet in a very impressive way the Spirit of God used the beloved disciple John to recall this wondrous event of the death of Jesus in a fuller way than did the other Evangelists.
It has been well noted that the Gospel of John is generally considered to be the last of the Divine writings, inspired by the Spirit of Truth—the Holy Spirit of God. Written, says John, “that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life in His Name.” (John 20:21).
It would seem that the beloved Apostle’s special service, possibly his last service in writing, was to engage the heart attention of the saints with the outstanding evidence and extent of Divine love, expressed by the sacrificial death accomplished by the Son of God.
The personal testimony of the beloved apostle Paul seems to add support to John’s writing when he says “The Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20) and to the Corinthians saints he writes “ye do shew forth the LORD’S DEATH until He come” (1 Cor. 11:26).
John seems concerned and intent that the heart of the believer should be established in the knowledge and appreciation of the eternal value and efficacy of the death of God’s Beloved Son, for the reason that in no other way could the thoughts, purposes and counsels of Divine love and grace be made effective, the realisation of those who were to be the recipients of Divine blessing, “even life for evermore”.
Throughout John’s writing of the pathway of the Lord Jesus, the One who was “the Eternal life which was the Father.” (1 John 1:2) was led by the Holy Spirit to make constant reference to HIS DEATH. In addition, John also uniquely refers to His Glory and glorification and the consequent gift and reception by the believer of the Holy Spirit. Also uniquely, John makes constant reference to the Father who was REVEALED and His Name DECLARED by Jesus.
Each chapter but one exception (chapter 9) bears reference or an allusion to the impending death of Christ, either from the viewpoint of His own movements in devoted love to accomplish the Divine will and pleasure, or to the sad darkness and inveterate hatred (“without a cause”) of the human heart towards Himself and His Father. At least some 35 times the death of Jesus is mentioned.
What joy must have been the Evangelists’ in referring first and foremost to the Baptist’s testimony. “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.” That great work in suffering love which was to be the righteous basis for bringing in for God’s pleasure and praise that “world of bliss without alloy—the saints eternal home.” Where the former things will have passed away and all things become new—where no trace of sin is found, no sorrow or death, but, instead “a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwells righteousness”.
It is this Evangelist that is “standing by the cross of Jesus” and who bears witness to what he saw after the death of Jesus viz. the blood and water flowing from the spear-pierced side of the Saviour”.
Must it not be that John was one who, in retrospective contemplation, had found the gain of the Lord’s own teaching given to us in chapter 6 verses 47 to 65, teaching which, to the unbelieving, was “a hard saying, and who can bear it” (verse 60), but to such as John, was “spirit and life.” and gave occasion for Peter’s word—“to whom shall WE go, Thou hast the words of Eternal life” (verse 68).
The Lord Jesus clearly indicated by His recorded teaching that life for the believer was to be found and known only by the soul’s appropriation of the death of Christ—“eating His flesh and drinking His blood.”
How blessed it is to reflect that our Saviour and Lord came down from Heaven as “the living bread”, and its availability to us is possible because of His death, as He said “the bread which I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
We do not wonder that following this unique ministry by the disciple whom Jesus loved, that John should refer to the glory and glorification of the Lord Jesus—the Christ of God. That glory which with others he beheld (or contemplated) and the glory which ALL the redeemed of this dispensation will behold adoringly when we are with Him where He is (John 17:24). At least 15 times John refers to His glory.
We do not wonder that John should so much refer to the Holy Spirit indwelling the believer and witnessing to the truth of Christ’s death and His glorification. Some 35 times the Holy Spirit is referred to in the Gospel.
Nor do we wonder that the Father (whose name is referred to some 100 times or more by the Evangelist) is so frequently mentioned—for the Son has declared Him (John 1:18) and revealed Him (John 14:9 and 17:6). In his epistle, John refers to Christ as “the Son of the Father.” (2 John 3)—blessed Name!
What a blessed issue for the Godhead in the Word becoming flesh, in the triumph of His death and resurrection and His glorious ascension to the right hand of the Father and on His Father’s throne. (Rev. 3:21).
Does the Bible not speak about those who can “discern the signs of the Times?” (Matt. 16:3). Did our Lord Himself not refer to signs? Signs there certainly are. Not of the Coming of the Lord for His Church, the Church period being an interregnum or undefined period; but of His Coming to take His great power and reign.
Of the various signs which could be named in this connection, we give three which, in our judgment, are the most important today.
or the linking together of earth as never before. Just as when our Lord came the first time, God had planned that the earth should be a unison under the Roman Empire, so that news of His birth, life, miracles, etc. quickly spread to the utmost bounds of the then known earth, so to-day, by express trains and steamers, quick-flying aeroplanes, telegraphs, telephones, wireless messages, and other rapid means of transport and communication, the cry “Behold He Cometh.” shall soon reach earth’s remotest bounds. It was reported that before the tail of the winning horse of the Derby was past the post, the news, by wireless, was passed throughout Britain, and in 90 seconds the same news had crossed the 13,000 miles of space between Britain and Australia. The news of an earthquake, a tidal wave, a wreck, a collision, a fire, in almost any part of earth, is passed round the world in a few minutes. How rapid then may the cry, “Behold the Bridegroom Cometh!” (Matt. 25:6), be passed to the uttermost bounds of earth. “As the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west, so shall also the Coming of the Son of Man be”. (Matt. 24:27).
Truly the marks or signs given in the prophecy concerning the “last days” are visible before our eyes. Self-lovers, money-lovers, pleasure-lovers abound, traitors, truce-breakers, silly women, evil men, and vice and sin of all kinds increase more and more (2 Tim. 3:1-13). The sums spent annually in strong drink, gambling, tobacco, jewellery, games, theatres, cinemas, and other passion gratifying ways are appalling. Spiritism, Socialism, sensualism are spreading at an alarming rate. Whatever improvements may have been made in hygiene, sanitation, housing and other things, it is everywhere evident that “evil men and seducers are waxing worse and worse”, (v.11).
As God intervened at the Flood, with the inhabitants of Palestine, at the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, so, when earth’s super-abounding sin has “reached unto Heaven” (Rev. 18:5), God must and will intervene.
Sign 3—Jewry and Jerusalem.
Jesus said: “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the Times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Luke 21:24). Although the present Government is vastly different from the rule of the Turk, it is well to remember that Palestine is still under Gentile rule, even if the promise has been made that it shall become a National Home for the Jew. Yet there are signs that the Land so long desolate is beginning once more to “blossom as the rose” (Isa 35.1). Railways are traversing every part, ports are being constructed, Jewish steamers now sail regularly, irrigation schemes are being undertaken, Jewish colonies are springing up in many parts, millions upon millions of vine, fig, and other trees have been planted on the barren slopes, in a little while afforestation and cultivation will change the face of the countryside, Jews are gathering back as never before; “the latter rain” (Jas. 5.7) is falling slightly, without doubt the Land is getting ready for the King, and the King will once more come to His own, amid the mighty acclaim, “Blessed is He that Cometh in the Name of the Lord” (Matt. 21.9).
These and many other signs indicate a crisis ahead, the climax of the Ages, “the end of all things at hand” (1 Peter 4.7). Whilst they relate not to the Coming in the clouds, they certainly cry that, if the Coming with His saints to reign over the earth is near, as signs seem to indicate, then the saints can rejoice that, “now is our salvation nearer than when ye believed.”
The names and titles associated in Scripture with the person of Christ are many, and reveal to us what He is—essentially —historically—morally—officially—mystically and prophetically.
Not the least of these titles is that of “The Lamb of God,” a name made dear to us by John Baptist applying it to the person of Israel’s Messiah, and the world’s Redeemer, and incorporated into many hymns of the Christian Church. That it has specific association with the nation of Israel is clear from the Word of God, yet we must concede it is a title associated with a work going beyond national boundaries.
The Proclamation of the Baptist
John, the Baptist, belonging to the nation of Israel proclaims the universal character of the Lamb, who “taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:28.29). The title “Lamb” roots itself in the Sacred Scriptures, finding its clearest mention in the memorable word of Abraham to Isaac, “My son God will provide Himself a Lamb,” (Gen. 22.8). Perhaps the best known reference to “the Lamb” is found in Exod. 12, where the Sacrificial Nature of the Lamb is emphasised, the blood of which averted the judgment of God in the night when the “Destroyer” passed through the land of Egypt.
A reference is made by Peter in his first epistle, chapter 1, verses 18 and 19 the “Lamb” in the purpose of God, as being fore-ordained before the foundation of the world for our redemption. To this might be added the intense and graphic picture of Isaiah 53.7, where the “lamb led to the slaughter,” is personally, the “SERVANT” of Jehovah. In the many offerings that were laid on Jewish altars, the “lamb” was one of the specified animals acceptable to the Lord.
The identification of the Lord Jesus by John the Baptist as being “THE LAMB OF GOD”, sets our mind at rest that here is the fulfilment of all those O.T. figures and sacrifices. The O.T. Scriptures emphasise the suffering and sacrificial character of the “Lamb” while in the N.T. not only are these two factors revealed, but in addition the Sovereignty of the “LAMB” is made known.
The word for “lamb” in 1st Peter 1.18,19; John 1.29; Acts 8.32 is “AMNOS” while that used in the Book of Revelation is “ARNION” or “LITTLE LAMB”, the only other occasion of its use is by the Lord to Peter in John 21.16, where he is commanded to feed “My Lambs”.
So John the Baptist, Peter and Philip, who quotes from Isaiah 53 when speaking to the Ethiopian eunuch, are the only N.T. writers outside the Book of Revelation who refer to Christ as the “LAMB of GOD”, and that only from chapter 5 onwards. This is all the more remarkable when we consider that the writers of the Epistles were all of the Jewish nation. Why should such a title be omitted from their writings?
It is equally more so that amid the galaxy of titles, names, designations, and descriptions, with which our Lord makes Himself known to the Seven Churches of Asia, He makes
no reference to this title, it is only when we reach that portion of the Book of Revelation dealing with the prophetic events beyond the “Church Period”, that we have the application of the title “Lamb”, to the Lord Jesus Christ.
PAUL’S OMISSION OF THIS TITLE IS SIGNIFICANT
The omission of this title by Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, in ALL his writings is very significant. There is no shadow of a doubt that he was acquainted with the idea of a God provided “Lamb” in the O.T. Scriptures, and the very absence of any reference to Christ as such calls for some enquiry. True he does refer “to Christ our Passover being sacrificed for us,” in 1 Cor. 5.7 but this is more in association with the Feast of Unleavened Bread, where the purity of life is enjoyed as a result of the sacrifice made. The idea of the “Lamb” may be inferred, but is not stated.
Paul is more careful in his use of titles than we are. He recognises the Lord Jesus Christ, as “the Son of God”. “The First Born”, “The Lord”, “Head of the Body”, “The Mediator”, etc., etc., but he never makes use of this title in any of his writings, when speaking of the Son of God. Is it because he is the Apostle of the risen Christ, and not one of the “Apostles of the Lamb” who companied with Christ in the Days of His flesh? and to whom He gave the promise that having followed Him in His rejection, they would at the “Regeneration”, sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt. 19.28).
Is not the Apostle Paul, the messenger of the risen Son of God, who would carry the message of the Gospel, bearing His Name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel, (Acts 22.21). Believing Jews and Gentiles are not linked with a King on earth, but with a risen Head in heaven and form that living organism called the “Church which is His Body.” (Eph. 1:22, 23).
Let us be quite clear the redemptive work of the “Lamb” is absolutely necessary to the nation of Israel, as it is to the Gentiles in their blindness, but we must not confuse titles as being equally applicable to Israel, the Church, and the Gentile nations. There are titles that are applicable to all three, there are those that apply both to Israel and the Church, but there are others that are the exclusive right of each separately.
We would never speak of the “Lamb” in His role as King, in relation to the “Church” but as “Head”, “Lord”, and “Saviour” for it is in the role of King, as belonging to the “Lion of the tribe of Judah”, that He takes the Book, “The title deeds of earth” and breaks the seals. The Lord Jesus Christ, as the Lamb is mentioned twenty six times in the Book of Revelation and as such He is seen as the Sovereign, as well as the Controller of movements and men.
When we come to the city New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven, we do not find the name of the Apostle Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, to whom was given the unfolding of the mystery of the Church, but we do find the names of the twelve “Apostles of the Lamb”.
Does this intimate to us, that this city, has strong connections with the people of Israel, and is the one long promised to Abraham, the founder of the Hebrew nation, and is the residence of the spiritual seed of faith, “whose Builder and Maker is God.” That the Apostles of the Lamb, are to reign is the promise of Christ, (Matt. 19.28) and where better than from this “City” where the throne of God and the Lamb are present, being still a mediatorial condition. May we understand this association of the Apostles of the Lamb, with the city is connected with that future administration of the Mediatorial reign of God, and the Lamb, prior to the kingdom being returned to God, that HE might be all in all.
NOTE: Having regard to the exigencies of space these articles are on purpose comparatively short. They are meant to be provocative rather than exhaustive.
The expression “flesh and blood” in combination occurs in a number of most significant contexts in the New Testament. Those occurrences cover a wide area of thought, and consideration of them can not but be illuminative of a variety of experiences in the Christian life. The expression is the Biblical manner of referring to man as a human being without reference to spiritual enlightenment—man as he is in his natural state and limitations.
Attention is first directed to the occurrence in Matthew 16.17: Jesus said to Peter after he had made his momentous confession, “Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father, who is in heaven”. Such a confession was the result of divine illumination, and not of unaided human perception. It was such an illumination which placed Peter in the category of those who are blessed indeed, for they have been by divine grace permitted to appreciate the great mystery of the incarnation.
Detailed explanation of the circumstances of the recorded incident is unnecessary. The Apostolic band alone with their Master in the secluded district around Caesarea Philippi were confronted with the extremely apposite question about the general reaction to the impact our Lord had made upon the masses of the people; and the conclusion arrived at from the incident is that human speculation cannot properly assess the true nature of the person of Jesus Christ. The incident was critical.
It indicated the growing conviction of the disciples concerning the divine nature of their Master. They had had occasional insights in the grandeur of His Person. They had been awestruck more than once in the past. When they witnessed His power over the elements during the frightsome storm on the Lake, they recorded their surprise in the exclamation, “what manner of man is this?” After an impressive miracle on a demon-possessed man who was both blind and dumb, they had heard the astonished onlookers exclaim, “Is not this the Son of David?” (Matt. 12.23) They had heard Him declare in words which must have staggered all His audience, “All things are delivered unto me by my Father, and no man knoweth the Son but the Father, neither knoweth any man the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the son will reveal Him” (Matt. 11.27).
Little did they appreciate all that was involved in the claims He had been making, but there must have been growing on them gradually and imperceptibly the new conception of Messiahship that their Master, who was to them at first the seeming very embodiment of divine power, was not exercising that power to conquer and subdue the Roman overlord, but was expressing His authority to establish a kingdom of righteousness in the hearts of believing men. The popular conception of Messiahship died hard even with the Apostles, and that is evident from the fact that after the Resurrection, they actually enquired if the divine programme would be fulfilled by the restoration of the earthly kingdom to Israel (Acts 1.6). If it was difficult then for those who witnessed manifestations of divine power to form a truly spiritual assessment of the Person of Christ, it is certainly not any easier now, apart from the enlightenment given by the Holy Spirit. That is why the natural mind cannot appreciate or perceive.
The incident was a critical point in the ministry of our Lord. The inspired comment is significant, “From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how he must go into Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day” (Matt. 16.21). References to the impending crucifixion increase in detail and intensity from that confession onward.
The first question was couched in terms deliberately chosen, “Who do men say that I the Son of Man am?” The title, so far as Christ Himself was concerned, was both a claim and a self-revelation. He declared Himself to be The Son of Man. While He was fully conscious of what was involved in the title, the implication is that men viewing Him from the standpoint of their own understanding saw Him only in the aspect of His humanity. He was to them only a man, “in fashion as a man”, outwardly indistinguishable from His contemporaries. The reply which the disciples gave summarises the popular assessment of an outstanding person, albeit only one of themselves. The Carpenter from Nazareth was being placed in the same category as great national heroes to whom some of His characteristics indicated resemblance. Some considered Him a religious revolutionary, some an ascetic, and some a prophet unpopular with those in authority because of His unwillingness to align Himself with the traditional interpretation of the oral law favoured by the scribes.
So it is to-day. Men have been, and are still willing to admit, often with the most adulatory language, the preeminence of Jesus among the world’s great moral reformers as one who in a singular manner suffered for His convictions in the cause of righteousness. Men are confronted with the same questions to-day, but they do not recognize all that Jesus claimed for Himself in the title Son of Man. Intellectual prowess in the realms of secular learning is no passport into the sphere of knowledge which extends beyond the limits of human speculation. With men there is diversity of judgment, and no universal agreement.
The second question was couched in slightly different terms, “But who do ye say that I am?” The disciples were expected to know Him more intimately. They had been admitted into the society of His fellowship. They had companied with Him. They had heard His words, not only in public utterances as had others, but also in private conversations. They had observed Him in different relationships in life, and perhaps most revealingly in the secrets of His prayer times. Their Master expected them to know more about Himself than did the less privileged public.
Peter was their spokesman. He spoke for the entire Apostolic Band. It is impossible to think that they had not frequently discussed amongst themselves the questions posed by their Master. To them He was the Messiah, the King long promised. He was the Anointed Servant of Jehovah, although in all probability not in the exalted sense in which they came to recognize Him later. To them, too, He was the Son of the living God, uniquely divine, different from the greatest of the prophets. It is difficult for those who from infancy have been indoctrinated with the fact that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God to realize what such a confession meant to those men who had been chosen to form the nucleus of the Church which Christ was about to found.
The lesson for all subsequent generations is found in the words which followed the confession, “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona, for flesh and blood has not revealed it unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven”. The limitations of space forbid comment other than the following. Knowledge about the true nature of Christ is not acquired by intellectual pursuit. To us, as to Peter and his companions, it comes by a supernatural revelation. The mind is opened and illuminated by the Spirit of God, and the believer knows intuitively that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. While amongst men with their intellectual assessment there is diversity of judgment in orthodox statements, there is unanimity of confession that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God”. Blessed are those who make that confession in sincerity and truth.
In most of Paul’s writings the doctrinal and the practical portions are largely kept separate, and it is easy to mark the point at which the one ends and the other begins. This is especially the case in those of them with which we have shown 1st Peter to have close connections, Ephesians, Romans, and Galatians; yet it is a feature in which that epistle entirely differs from them, for in it doctrine and exhortation are mingled, sometimes in alternate paragraphs, and sometimes in the same paragraph, or even in the same sentence. This difference is due, not alone to a dissimilar style on the part of the writers, but to the fact that in the letters of Paul above-mentioned the teaching is the prominent thing, much of it being new to those to whom they were written; whereas in 1st Peter little that is new is introduced, and doctrines are mentioned chiefly as leading to the exhortations which accompany them.
One consequence of this is that Paul’s epistles are more readily separated into what we may call their main divisions, and another that the sequence and the development of thought in them are more easily traced, than in those of his fellow-apostle. In 1st Peter the difficulty is increased because of the writer reverting again and again in all parts of it to certain subjects which are much upon his mind, such as the Christian’s sufferings, and the Christian’s conduct. But, as has been said when considering some of these subjects in former papers, each time he brings them up again he looks at them from a different point of view; and by discovering what this in each case is, we shall be able to find order and connection in the epistle beyond what we may have expected.
THREE MAIN DIVISIONS
One well-known commentator suggests that 1st Peter may be divided into three main sections at the points (ch. 2:11 and ch. 4:12) where we get the twice occurring expression, “Beloved”; and that in the first (ch. 1:3 to ch. 2:10) the writer exhorts the saints as “BORN AGAIN” ones; in the second (ch. 2:11 to ch. 4:11) as “PILGRIMS AND STRANGERS”; and in the third (ch. 4:12 to ch. 5:11) as “PARTAKERS” of the coming glory. And it is at least so far true that in the first of these sections prominence is given to the Christian’s beginning (see, for example, ch. 1:3, 12,18, 21-23; and ch. 2:2, 4, 6, 9, 10); in the second to his present position in the world (see ch. 2:11, 12, 16, 24; ch. 3:10, 15-17; and ch. 4:2, 4); and in the third to his future prospect (see ch. 4:13; and ch. 5:1,4, 10).
It might also be added that in the first of the sections our relationship with the Lord is stressed (see ch. 1:3, 8, 15, 17, 21; and ch. 2:12-14 in the second our relationships with the unsaved about us (see ch. 2:12-14 17, 18; ch. 3:1, 15, 16; and ch. 4:4); and in the third, which on this view should perhaps rather begin at ch. 4:7, our relationships with other saints (see ch. 4:8-11, 17; and ch. 5:1-5).
OUR GREAT SALVATION
That Peter does turn back to consider the same subject from other points of view, is very simply illustrated in the first chapter by his reference to our great salvation. He describes it in three separate statements, each of which is followed by an exhortation based on it, with the result that the chapter may be divided into six portions, in which doctrine and exhortation alternate.
In his first statement at verses 2-5 salvation is set forth from GOD'S STANDPOINT, commencing with His “FOREKNOWLEDGE” and choice of His people, and tracing it right through to its full development and revelation when the Lord comes. Then in verses 6-9 he uses this ground for encouraging the saints to endure the fiery trial of persecution now about to burst upon them, since even that will prove to be in furtherance of God’s purpose, and will be found to their praise and honour and glory at Christ’s appearing.
In his second reference at verses 10-12 the salvation is set forth from the STANDPOINT OF THE OLD TESTAMENT, in which it was “TESTIFIED BEFOREHAND” in the words that the Holy Spirit caused the prophets to utter, and into the meaning of which not only they, but angels desired to look. This is followed in verses 13-17 by an exhortation to holiness of life in keeping with so great a salvation, and with the near relationship to God into which it had brought them.
The third statement about it comes at verses 18-21, where we may speak of it as viewed from OUR OWN STANDPOINT, since it starts from our unconverted life, and passes on to our redemption through the blood of the “FOREORDAINED” Lamb, and our new birth by means of the Word of God. On this he bases the third exhortation in verses 22, 23, which is to love with a pure heart our brethren who have had a similar introduction into God’s family.
It will be noticed from the words quoted and emphasised above, in connection with each statement, that Peter speaks of (1) God’s beforehand knowledge, (2) the prophets’ beforehand testimony, and (3) Christ’s beforehand ordination for the procuring of this salvation. This line of thought seems to have been a favourite one with our apostle, as may be seen by comparing his words in Acts 2:23 and 4-28 concerning “the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God,” as well as his references at Acts 2:31; 3:18, 24; etc., to what the prophets foretold.
On the other hand, he introduces into each of the three parts of the chapter a reference to our “HOPE”. It is a living hope, to which we have been begotten (v. 3); we are to hope to the end, or perfectly (v. 13); and this hope is in God Himself (v. 21)
Yet another thought, more important than any of the above, is that at verses 3-5 God the Father is shown as the Ordainer of our salvation, at verses 18-21 the Son of God as the Procurer of it. Thus it will be seen that the chapter enlarges upon and opens up the ascription in verse 2, “Elect, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ”. In this respect it resembles Ephesians, where a similar reference to the Father, Spirit, and Son, are responsible for our “spiritual blessings,” at ch. 1:3, is followed by an opening up of the activities of each severally in connection with them.
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REVIEW by the EDITOR (Continued)
We return again this month to the New Testament Commentary to continue to examine some of the statements contained therein. The following quotation is taken from an article entitled “The Apostolic Church”—page 108.
“It is the Apocalypse which introduces a novel element into any discussion of the worship of the early church. For, contrary to all that we would expect from the other records of the New Testament, the visions of the seer introduce an element of magnificence and imaginative form that startles and entrances (Rev. 4:7-5:14;7:9-12; 19:1-8). As the music of the calls to worship and of the thunderous responses dies away, we are left to wonder about the experiences and forms of worship which had shaped the prophet’s vision. What experiences of public worship had led him to illustrate the ultimate in human worship in forms such as these? To that question, the remainder of the New Testament affords us no answer.”
Notice the question “What experiences of public worship had led John to illustrate the ultimate in human worship in forms such as these?” Whatever does the writer mean? Does he suggest that the things that John describes, which he claims to have seen and heard, were merely his illustrations of the ultimate. If John heard and saw these things which he records he is merely acting as a witness—“that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you.” Any honest witness does not colour his evidence by his own thought or past experience. We judge that in these passages mentioned, John is writing what he heard and saw, not giving illustrations. John was instructed to write “the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter.” If the verses that are mentioned contain visions that were shaped by experiences and forms of worship in the early church— would it not be reasonable to also suggest that all the whole of the Book of the Revelation contained visions that were shaped by John’s personal experiences. How opposite to all this is the dignity of the opening verses of the Book.
“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, to shew unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass, and He sent and signified it by His angel unto his servant John: who bare record... of all things that he saw.”
But let us examine the quotation more closely—“A novel element” indeed! Are we right when we understand the writer to mean that the other records of the New Testament would lead us to believe that the experiences and forms of worship of the early church were simple and plain, without magnificence and splendour, but these passages in the Revelation introduced the possibility of something different. Is he suggesting that in place of the simplicity that characterised early church gatherings there may have developed a ritual in public worship that now shaped the prophets vision? If so, what does the prophet record in the vision? The quotation we are examining mentions:
The music of the calls to worship.
Does the writer suggest that in Church gatherings before the end of the first century, there were such “calls to worship” and “thunderous responses”? If this is what is suggested it must be admitted that development had been extremely rapid in the latter part of the first century, for no writer of the New Testament hints at such things.
The present reviewer was on one occasion looking round St. Paul’s Cathedral not knowing that a service was about to commence. He was surprised when a number of robed individuals made their way to various seats in the central part of the building. Certain of these men (I know not who they were) were evidently chanting calls to worship, the others were making rather weak responses. One could not help feeling how foreign all this was to the simplicity of gatherings portrayed in the word of God.
But the passages of Scripture our attention has been drawn to contain other things—A throne, beasts with diverse faces and wings and eyes within, elders who fall down and cast their crowns. A book held in the right hand of one who sat on the throne, and an angel proclaiming “who is able to open the book?” The Lamb coming and taking the book out of the hand of Him that sat on the Throne.—What does the contributor to the commentary intend to convey by saying that the Apocalypse introduces a novel element? Is he suggesting that these things that John says he saw were illustrations shaped by experiences and forms of worship in early church gatherings? Calls to Worship? Responses? A Throne? Winged beings with different faces? Elders with faces to the ground—casting crowns? Does he suggest that they might have had things like these in the early churches. There is absolutely no foundation anywhere in the New Testament for any such suggestion. We submit that the Apocalypse does not introduce a novel element into any discussion of the worship of the early church—Christendom in its various parts has these novel things in abundance—but this is not the simplicity that is in Christ Jesus.
We would all do well to read again and again the inspired records, both of the institution of the Lord’s supper and Paul’s teaching with regard to it in 1 Corinthians 11, that we might be impressed with the absolute simplicity that should characterise the occasion when we meet to remember the Lord Jesus and our hearts are bowed in holy worship in the presence of God. Hearts occupied not with “elements of magnificence and imaginative forms”, but with CHRIST ALONE!
Notice this comment relative to the liberal giving and praiseworthy fellowship of early Christians:
“The failure of the idealistic attempt was inevitable. Its chief result, after the first deceptive well-being of the participants (Ac. 4.34), may have been that chronic impoverishment of the Jerusalem church which haunts the later pages of the New Testament.”
The Scripture does not say it was a failure—the whole narrative from Acts 2.44 to 4.37 is written in such a way as to convey the idea that it was a unique expression of their new-found love and common fellowship and that it was wellpleasing to the Lord. The fact that there was a Satanic attempt to counterfeit it (chapter 5) and to cause complaints about its administration in chapter 6 would, T suggest, show that here was something “well-pleasing to the Lord”.
“And He said to all of them, if any one of you desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and be following Me.”
THE Cross of Jesus is Historical; the Cross of Christ is Doctrinal; the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is Moral; but the Disciples’ Cross is Experimental.
In the Cross of Jesus it is Death Experienced, its awfulness and actuality; in the Cross of Christ it is Doctrine Established, authentic and authoritative; in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ it is Dignity Expressed, absolute and appealing; but in the Disciples’ Cross it is Discipleship Explained, our association with it and acceptance of it. Notice to whom the Lord speaks. There were occasions when He spake to a selected few and that for a special purpose, to which they and they alone were included. Here He speaks to all of them and there are none excluded; this is an exercise that is inclusive of all and there can be no exclusions. Notice also, that there is no compulsion, except the compulsion of love, the outcome of a passionate desire to be near Him and to be with Him no matter what the cost. Notice also it is not “Me first” but “After Me”, “where I am there shall My servant be”. Here we have the Call, the Compulsion, the Condition and the Consequence. This then is where our loyalties are tested, not in, having a Cross placed upon us, but in having loyalty gladly and willingly taking up the Cross. Our Blessed Lord Jesus never puts the Cross upon an unwilling back; this Cross is not the trials and the difficulties which so often cross our path, which we cannot avoid and always have to bear; no beloved, this is the conscious load of true Discipleship, in which, having counted the cost, we are prepared to take it up to follow Him. Taking up His Cross ! What does it mean and what is entailed therein? Well, primarily, anyone who saw a man bearing a cross would quite reasonably conclude that, that man was finished with the world, so far as its activities and interests were concerned, the death sentence having been judicially pronounced upon him: “He has been crucified with Christ”. He or she has accepted the place the world has given to Him.
Have we then, beloved, taken our place with Him and in loving, devoted obedience to Him, taken up the Cross. We can avoid it if we care, but think of its awful consequence: not to lose our soul but to lose our life. Our little time down here will not be long. If it is to be used for Him, it will entail forfeiting the world’s pleasures; it will bring upon us the world’s frown, its giddy frivolities and its vanities will be lost, but what a gam. We shall have part with Him, not only part in Him, but during the whole course of the pathway of discipleship, we shall have the Certainty of His Presence, the Consciousness of His Presence, and the Continuity of His Presence right on to the journey’s end.
These then are the suggestive thoughts which have occupied our own heart in the contemplation of these things. We have not sought to expand them but merely to suggest, in the prayerful hope that as they are intelligently considered, they might produce in each of us that sense of yieldedness to Him which is our proper due.
Another year has been added to those now past, but all to be reviewed again. To many of us it will be remembered as a year when evil men were seen to “wax worse and worse” by discontentment, strikes, lawlessness and vandalism. The shadow of the awful coming anarchy could be easily traced in many happenings. Let us be wary that the spirit of the world should not invade our assemblies, for we are expected not to be ignorant of “Satan’s devices”.
How precious to know that we have One over and above all our circumstances. The Psalmist was content, in the midst of trials, to discover that in himself he was “poor and needy”, but happy to know “Yet the Lord thinketh upon me”.
Praise our God. He has ever had us in His thoughts for good, and “He daily loadeth us with benefits”. To his glory we praise Him for His faithfulness in the year past. The magazine has reached its highest circulation. It is being read in the five continents of earth, and we have been able to discharge every bill when presented. What a testimony to the kindness of our God and the fellowship of His saints.
Another link of much help to us, and for which we thank God, has been the knowledge that many have prayed for us, when, “Though sundered far, by faith we met, around one common Mercy-Seat”. For these dear saints who have so regularly borne us up in prayer we give thanks to God. Please continue to pray. We constantly need the Lord’s guidance and help, so that future issues, in His will, shall be such as He can bless to His dear people in many lands.
Our warm thanks are due to those who have contributed to our pages. For this service, requiring so much time in prayer and study, we offer our gratitude. We know the Lord shall yet reward all this labour of love.
The courage, wisdom and faithfulness of our editor throughout the year has been greatly appreciated by very many. We can only thank him in the Lord’s worthy Name for these honorary services, but we are glad to believe the day of a rich reward is coming.
Again we thank those who have so kindly helped by distributing the magazine, and to those saints who, through assembly gifts, or individually have shown practical fellowship with us. We can only express the joy this brings to us, in the words of the Psalmist, our “cup runneth over”.
May God in His grace preserve us for His glory, and enable us, in these darkening days, to “continue in the things which we have learned”.