Stephen, one of “the seven” found time for public witness as well as “serving” tables and most clearly his gift made room for him in a remarkable way. The fillings of the Spirit which he experienced would seem to have not only emboldened his witness but to have affected his very appearance, when arraigned before the Jewish Sanhedrin. Acts 6:15, 7:55. He is manifestly in a transport of holy joy and divine uplift as he faces the barrage of slander and condemnation. His shining countenance contrasts with the storm of anger of his auditors which soon broke upon him in gnashing teeth and pelting rocks. Read again the actual record. Acts 7:54-60. “When they heard these things they were cut to the heart and gnashed on him with their teeth, but he being full of the Holy Spirit looked up steadfastly into Heaven and saw the Glory of God and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, behold I see the heavens opened and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” “And they stoned Stephen calling upon God and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down and cried with a loud voice, Lord lay not this sin to their charge.” How deeply he had drunk into the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ!
What we may call “emergency fillings” and characteristic fulness of the Spirit seem to be distinguished in the New Testament. In Barnabas we have a case where it is said “He was a good man and full of the Holy Spirit.” The church at Jerusalem could safely entrust him with the work of investigation called for when Gentiles in Antioch were reported to be hearing and receiving the Gospel. Maturity, insight and experience of the things of God were required and his fellow-believers knew him to be characteristically “full of the Holy Spirit.” This term covers that Christian character which has constant and evident marks of faith, grace, and Christ-likeness. Within the radius of your own mind, my reader, you can think of believers of that order. To sum up this aspect of the theme we can see that simple minded-people, possessing all the weaknesses of human nature can be taken over by the indwelling Spirit of God to be transformed in character and utilized to the utmost in the witness for our Lord Jesus Christ. The N.T. translation of 2 Timothy 1:6-7 shows in clearer light how the lovely balance of courage, compassion and discretion can be preserved in any one of us. “Stir up the gift of God... for God hath not given us a spirit of cowardice but of power and of love and of wise discretion.” This surely is the operation of the Holy Spirit within the redeemed spirit influencing the exercise of the special gift that God has given to the servant of God, so that besides and above the emergency fillings of the gracious and mighty spirit of God there can be a cultivation of the Spirit’s presence and the ready response to His breathings within us that will promote the highest order of Christian service and usefulness. This will mean faithfulness without harshness, love without weakness and both love and fidelity guided by good discretion.
To be filled with the Holy Spirit can therefore mean nothing less than being mastered by Him so that the will is governed by Him and all the members of the redeemed personality yield to His control. Strange sources will yield us illustrations if we tap them. The demonaic of Gedara (Mark 5) had all his powers taken over by the UNCLEAN SPIRIT. Sad, defiling and destructive were the effects of such a FILLING. Peter in Acts 5: declared that Satan had filled Ananias and had actuated his evil plan and deed. The greed, lying, hypocrisy and double dealing were the expression of that diabolical fulness. In the context of Ephesians 5:18 we can see that yieldedness to the Spirit’s control will have fitting results in every spiritual, marital and natural sphere. The filling of the Spirit will make us Assembly members of the most worshipful kind, marital partners of the most Christ-like kind, family members of the most God-honouring kind, servants of the most conscientious kind and employers of the most considerate and God-fearing kind. Ephesians 5:18-6:9.
In conclusion let us think of the holy exhilaration, the opposite of “the song of the Drunkard” which will mark the Spirit’s mastery in Assembly gatherings. There will be five unmistakable evidences of this gracious outflow from the hearts where He presides; “speaking” “singing” “making melody”, “giving thanks”, “submitting”. These producing mutual profit among the saints of God, lead to public worship of our God consistent with personal adoration and grateful acknowledgment, all harmonised by a lovely subjection of one to another. The blessedness of such occasions is beyond words to describe but should be an incentive to every one of us who accept the truth of His presidency to be “being tilled by the Spirit.” It will be obvious to all who submit to this simple pattern that the pretentious claim to the fulness of the Spirit or religious showmanship that would masquerade as “the power of the Spirit” are jarringly out of harmony with this scriptural record. Spirit filling is completely Christ-centric.
The intimate connection between the closing verses of the chapter which we have been considering (1 Peter 1) and the beginning of chapter 2 is obvious. In the former the apostle speaks of his readers as having been born again, and of the Word of God as the means by which this new birth has been brought about. In the latter they have become new-born babes, and as such are exhorted to desire the sincere milk of the Word that they may grow thereby. The R.V., it is true, replaces the phrase “of the Word” in v. 2 by the adjective “spiritual”; but it is clear in any case from the context that the Word of God is the spiritual milk that the writer has in mind. As an additional link between the two passages, we may notice that the reference to being born again in ch. 1, 23 occurs by the
way of giving emphasis to the exhortation in v. 22 to love their brethren—that is, the other members of the same heavenly family; and that ch. 2 begins with a companion exhortation to lay aside malice, guile, hypocrisy, envy, and evil speaking, things that would mar and destroy this brotherly love, and at the same time things as remote as possible from what would be expected in “babes”.
We saw last month that in ch. 1 there are successive and differing descriptions of our great salvation. In v. 2 it might be said that we have in it
VARIED AND PROGRESSIVE PICTURES
of those who have received this salvation. In v. 2, as we have seen, they are “new-born babes” in God’s family; in v. 5 they are “lively stones” in a great spiritual building; in vv. 5, 9 they are a “priesthood” and engaged in priestly work; while in v. 11 they are “strangers and pilgrims” in the world. Lessons that are much needed by God’s people today are suggested by each of these figures; but the one with which Peter himself deals most fully is that of the priest; and as has been often remarked, he considers this from two complementary points of view. In v. 5 the saints are “a holy priesthood”, whose occupation is to offer up spiritual sacrifices to God; but in v. 9 they are “a royal priesthood” to show forth His praises (R.V., excellencies) amongst their fellow-men.
It is well that we should be exercised about both these aspects of our priesthood; for some who talk much about priestly worship, and draw fine distinctions as to what is and what is not worship, have little or nothing to say about priestly testimony. Yet from the beginning there were always two sides to the work of the priest, on the lines clearly set forth in the blessing on Levi at Deut. 33, 10. On the one hand it is said, “They shall teach Jacob Thy judgements and Israel Thy Law”; and on the other, “They shall put incense before Thee and whole burnt sacrifice upon Thine altar”. Moreover, the order in which these duties are mentioned is as here given, and is perhaps the opposite of what might have been expected, since the teaching is placed first.
At the other end of the Old Testament, Malachi stresses this
THIS SIDE OF PRIESTLY WORK
when he says, “The priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the Law at his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of Hosts” (Mai. 2, 7). Also in his twofold denun-ciation of the wrongdoing of the priests, while the first part in ch. 1, 6-14, dwells upon failures in their worship; the second in ch. 2, 1-9, deals with failures in their testimony; his words in each case being in sharp and perhaps purposed contrast with Deut. 33, 10. Instead of “They shall put... whole burnt sacrifice upon Thine altar”, we have “Ye offer polluted bread upon Mine altar”; and instead of “They shall teach... Israel Thy Law”, we get “Ye have caused many to stumble at the Law”.
But in addition to these two aspects of priesthood in 1st Peter and elsewhere to which attention has been drawn, there are two other ideas associated with it in our epistle, which are not necessarily nor usually involved in it; the idea of sonship, and
THE IDEA OF ROYALTY
With the exception of Melchizedek, and of the One foretold in Zech. 6, 13, who is Melchizedek’s great Antitype, the priests of the Old Testament were not royal priests. Uzziah, the only royal person in Israel who aspired to combine priesthood with his kingly rights, paid the penalty by being smitten with leprosy. Nor had the Old Testament priests sonship in any sense other than that in which all Israelites possessed it as seen in Exod. 4, 22, 23 and Deut. 14:1. Yet in the case of the Lord we have His Sonship and His Priesthood closely bound together in Heb. 6:6; while here in 1st Peter our own priesthood appears to be based on our birth into God’s family which had been mentioned in the preceding paragraph. We are not only priests but son-priests.
Now, as I have pointed out in the little volume “Back from Babylon”, there is in the Old Testament an interesting illustration, of what it is to be Royal-Son-Priests. In a list given at 2 Sam. 8:15-18, of the officials of David’s court, who had been appointed, as v. 15 suggests, because of his desire to “execute judgment and justice unto all his people”, mention is made of the Levitical priests, Zadok and Ahimelech.
But in addition to this, we find at the end of the list the words (see R.V.), “And David’s sons were priests”. The Hebrew term employed is the same as had been used of those others in v. 17, and is the usual word for priests throughout the O.T.; yet the fact that Zadok and Ahimelech had already been named separately, proves that no intrusion upon their duties as priests of the Lord is implied. What then does the statement mean?
The question has some light thrown on it by another list in 2 Sam. 20:23-26, which contains the names of those in office during the latter part of David’s reign, after the Absalom rebellion had been put down. As might be expected, several changes had taken place, perhaps the most interesting of them being that the king’s sons are omitted, and in their stead there is one called Ira the Jarite, a stranger from the district in which he had sojourned during the rebellion, of whom it is said (R.V.), “Ira the Jarite was priest unto David”. This form of expression may assist us to understand what the office really was. As Aaron’s descendants were priests unto the Lord, acting before Him on the people’s behalf, and acting amongst the people on His behalf; so these “priests unto David” were doubtless intermediaries between him and his subjects; and their work being of a similar though secular nature, the same word serves to designate them. Who could have such access to the king in a subject’s cause as his own sons, and who could so fittingly represent the king amongst his own people as they could?
Yet, that they failed to fulfil their duties is evident from the fact of their supercession by Ira, and is still more evident from the record we have of that son who was doubtless the most prominent of them all. Absalom, while in exile for three years at Geshur as the result of his evil-doing, certainly could not act as “priest unto David”; nor was he any better able to do so during the period that followed this, of which it is said that he “dwelt two full years in Jerusalem and saw not the king’s face” (2 Sam. 14:28). This privilege having been restored to him through Joab’s intervention (vv. 32, 33), we are, immediately after in ch. 15:1-6, given a sample of his priestly service (?) to his father. He puts himself in the way of a man who desires to bring his cause before the king for judgment; and instead of facilitating the suppliant, he tells him that there is no one deputed by David to do this the
very work for which he and his brothers had been given official standing. Not only so, but he seeks to turn the hearts of the people from his father and to himself, with what result the story of his rebellion lets us know.
The lessons on failure in both sides of priestly activities which may be learnt from this remarkable record we leave our readers to glean for themselves. They are many and important.
One of the most interesting though puzzling incidents in the life of the apostle Paul is his visit to Arabia mentioned in an autobiographical passage in the Epistle to the Galatians. That passage reads, “When it pleased God who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by His grace to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood, neither went I up to Jerusalem to them that were apostles before me, but I went into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus” (Gal. 1:15-17). The important feature in the passage is the fact that Paul did not consult “flesh and blood” as to his future activities, but he went immediately into Arabia, evidently to “confer” with God in the desert solitudes.
It is rather surprising that in Luke’s narrative in Acts 9 no mention is made of this incident in Paul’s life, and yet seemingly Paul had a most vivid recollection of his experience at the commencement of his witness for Christ. In Gal. 1:18 the apostle informs us that three years after his conversion and public witness in Damascus, he went up to Jerusalem, and the almost natural conclusion one would arrive at is that Paul had not left Damascus during that period. The simplest solution to the problem seems to be this: the retiral to Arabia took place immediately after a short initial witness in the synagogues of Damascus, and that his absence was of very short duration and is to be included in the overall stay in Damascus of three years.
We have no right to doubt Paul’s autobiographical statement to his Galatian friends, and yet we wonder why Luke makes no reference to it in his narrative. It would be wrong to suppose that the historian did not know, for he must have learnt from his missionary companion the intimate details of those first and formative experiences. As a meticulously careful writer whose love for detail reveals itself in many a passage in the Acts, he would not have omitted it, if he had thought it of importance sufficient for inclusion in his narrative. Perhaps as already noticed the omission from Luke’s story is an indication that Paul’s absence was of a very short duration, and took place at the very commencement of the three years in Damascus and was terminated by his return to Jerusalem.
The exact location of the “Arabia” to which Paul refers is so very indeterminate that it has been a subject of considerable dispute. It is quite possible and not at all improbable that the wilderness to which he retired was in the immediate neighbourhood of Damascus, for it is understood that the boundary of Arabia at that time extended as far as that. If that is so, then that may be the reason for Luke’s omission, as he would then consider the Arabian incident as part of the Damascus experience.
On the other hand, it is exceedingly attractive to think that the great preacher of the New Testament betook himself to the solitudes of that part of Arabia where both Moses and Elijah found inspiration for their work for God. Under the shadow of Horeb Moses saw the bush that burned but was not consumed and heard the voice which said “I AM has sent you”. It was there, too, that Elijah stood at the entrance to a cave and heard the still small voice which drove off his fear and nerved him for the future.
While it is a matter of conjecture, it is not at all unlikely that Paul who was conversant with Old Testament history was actuated by the desire to follow the example of his illustrious ancestors. Moses had spent forty days on Mount Sinai; Elijah went for forty days in the strength of his wilderness experience, and it may be that, like his Lord, Paul was driven by the Holy Spirit to find guidance and encouragement in the meditative contemplation of the implications of his new faith. It would not be easy for a man like Paul with boundless physical energy and vigorous mental capabilities, to seclude himself and give himself over to what now would be called the monastic aspect of life.
The important features of the incident are two.
After his conversion near Damascus and his recovery of sight when Ananias had visited him, Paul did not return immediately to Jerusalem to consult the apostles and to learn more about the faith he had espoused. However, it may be inferred that Paul was fairly well conversant with the main features of that faith. The historical facts he must have known. A man who had been fanatically opposed to the new community in Jerusalem could not be ignorant. The facts about Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, had been publicly proclaimed on the streets after Pentecost: the apostles had borne consistent witness on numerous occasions before the Sanhedrin, and Paul knew what they had said. He had been present when Stephen made his famous speech in the Council of which Paul had been a member. The salient features of the new faith he knew so well that he began forthwith to witness to his belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
He did not confer with “flesh and blood” in Damascus, that is, he did not seek the advice of the believers in the city as to the mission he was destined to undertake. He might have inquired of Judas with whom he lodged after his conversion. He could have consulted Ananias who had been sent to encourage him and by whom in all probability he was baptised. Perhaps after a short initial period of witnessing in Damascus, he left for the solitude of Arabia and there wrestled with the problems which confronted him. He had learnt that God could impart to him knowledge and guidance which “flesh and blood” could not give.
It is tempting to think that, if his sojourn in Arabia whether of short or long duration, was in the neighbourhood of Sinai, he wrestled with the basic differences between the Old Covenant given to Moses and the New Covenant established on the work of the Son of God. Was it then that he thought out the solution as expressed in Galatians 4 where he refers to the first covenant in these terms, “For this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia” (v. 25)? Did he then get the material for the elaborate explanation of the differences between the two covenants which he gives in 2 Corinthians, chapter 3? It is most interesting to think that he may have.
Perhaps it was then, too, that he had confirmed to him the truths about which he wrote in Galatians 1:15-17, “When it pleased God who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, immediately 1 conferred not with flesh and blood... but I went into Arabia”. The experience in Arabia was the prelude to a life of fruitful service. It was when Moses turned aside to see the bush that burned that God revealed Himself. And it is so today. Those who seek Him without conferring with flesh and blood find that He is still the same God of guidance.
One of the greatest questions that could possibly be asked is Who will go? Who will be left? Suppose we try a few answers such as many might give. Say—All who are in what claims to be the “True Church” —Rome? All who believe in the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England? All who accept the Presbyterian form of Church Government? All who believe in adult or believers’ Baptism? All who agree with John Wesley’s Notes? All who wear the red jersey of the Salvation Army? All who are “Friends?” “Disciples?’ All who meet in the Mission Hall, the Gospel Hall, or similar buildings? All belonging to any specific creed, confession, congregation, company, party or cult?
Respectfully and yet emphatically, we assert that some from each of the above will go, and some will be left behind!
The Apostle makes it clear in the Magna Charta of the Second Coming—1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Verse 14 says “If we believe that Jesus died and rose again.” Not faith in any theory, association with any company, but personal faith in a Person, that Person Jesus the Son of God, “who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). This corresponds with, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Rom. 10:9); also with what Paul declared to be “the Gospel... that Christ died for our sins... and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15:1-4).
In the same chapter, in speaking of the Coming, the apostle makes plain who will go: “They that are CHRIST’S at his coming” (v.23).
Without for one moment forgetting the Scriptures, which tell us that “We must all appear before the Judgement Seat of Christ,” that “Some shall be beaten with few stripes and some with many” (Luke 12:47, 48); that, “one star differeth from another star in Glory” (1 Cor. 15:41); that the reward is “to every man according as his work shall be” (Rev. 22:12). Yet we unhesitatingly affirm that the Scriptures teach that every true child of God, without exception, solely on the ground of sovereign grace, will rise to meet the Lord in the air; and every one “not Christ’s,” whatever their profession, condition or connection will be left behind, and hear Him say, “I know you not” (Matt. 25:12). How intensely solemn for each of us to rest not till, on the ground of the Blood which secures, and the Word which assures, we can confidently say, “I am His, and He is mine” for ever and for ever (Song of Sol. 2:16).
Obtainable from Messrs Pickering and Inglis Ltd. Price 50/-.
REVIEW by the EDITOR (Continued)
'THERE are two items in the New Testament Commentary from which we instinctively recoil. The first is on page 44, and the author of the article with which it is associated, says:
“Here the representation of the Crucifixion is a blasphemy. Christ is depicted with an ass’s head, suspended on a cross. Alongside it, there reads in illiterate scrawl with contemptuous scorn: ‘Alexamenos worships God’.”
Of this illustration the editor of The Harvester says “the first illustration used is a quite unnecessary blemish on the book.” In a work that is, generally speaking, unillustrated, why was it deemed necessary to include a blasphemous drawing? (This particular author, writing on a different subject [on the same page] says: “Christian life, however, centred round a novelty, the celebration of the Lord’s supper, as described in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26”. The Lord’s supper was instituted by the Lord Jesus in the very night in which He was being betrayed. His great desire was that He might be remembered by His own. Paul had a special revelation with regard to it—“I have received of the Lord”. How sad that in the twentieth century, in this commentary, it is only a “novelty”. Thank God that all the saints do not view it in this irreverent way.
The other item that grieves us sorely is found on page 547, and we submit that if the drawing of page 44 is a “blemish”, this passage is a dark blot. We quote it with trepidation:
“the temptations of Jesus were not mock temptations— they were genuine: in every respect like ours. How can this be, if at the same time He were the Son of God? Would not His divine nature protect Him from the possibility of sinning? This question of the possibility of Christ’s sinning has been debated for centuries and is not yet resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. Nevertheless, assuming that it was impossible for Him to sin, because of the nature of His person, yet it is also possible to assume that He did not know this was the case. Mark 13:32 implies that the Son, in His incarnate role, was not omniscient—there is at least one thing recorded there which He did not know. If, then, there was one thing He did not know, ignorance of other things was also possible, even this concerning whether or not He could sin. In any case, though Hebrews says He lived His life without sinning (15, Gk. choris hamartias, lit. ‘apart from sin’, not meaning ‘without the ability to sin’ but ‘without having in fact sinned’), it also makes clear that Jesus experienced temptations in just the same manner as we do and that this sinlessness was the result of ‘conscious decision’ on His part in the midst of intense struggle (cf. 5:7-9). One must never suppose that His victory over temptation was ‘the mere formal consequences of His divine nature’. Any interpretation of the person of Christ which in any way diminishes the force and genuineness of His temptations cannot be correct”.
We note the last expression “Any interpretation of the person of Christ which in any way diminishes the force and genuineness of His temptations cannot be correct”. Very good, but the writer does not seem to realise that any interpretation of the person of Christ that suggests that He laid aside the essential attributes of Diety is blasphemous.
Notice what this associate Professor of Greek at Wheaton College, Illinois, U.S.A., assumes or infers:
“It is possible to assume that He did not know that it was impossible for Him to sin (it should be noted, too, that this writer only assumes “that it was impossible for Him to sin”).
“Mark 13:32 implies that the Son, in His incarnate role, was not omniscient”.
“If there is one thing He did not know, ignorance of other things was also possible”—This is awful, the word “ignorance” used with regard to Him who is “Christ the wisdom of God”.
All this is introduced because the writer is really out of his depth. He is not convinced that our Lord could not sin, but he wants to believe it, so he assumes it. Having assumed that, he now wants to believe “that Jesus experienced temptations in exactly the same way as we do and that this sinlessness was the result of ‘conscious decision’ on His part in the midst of intense struggle (Hebrews 5:7:9)”. He cannot reconcile the two ideas so resorts to this, to say the very least, foolish reasoning.
I believe it will be readily acknowledged that Scripture is not in any place self-contradictory. Though there were many writers, one never contradicts another, for they were but penmen moved along by the Spirit of God. One must, therefore, never put a construction on a single verse that would plainly contradict other plain statements of the Word of God.
Let us therefore examine what the New Testament has to say on a subject like this—Did our Lord know? Was He omniscient? Let the Scriptures answer!
“He knew all and needed not that any should testify of man: for He knew what was in man” (John 2:24-25). He knew that “many believed in His name because they saw the miracles which He did”. He could read their hearts and know the depth of their profession. “I the Lord search the hearts” (Jeremiah 17:10). Could He not read His own heart?
It would be well to turn to page 260 of the Commentary and read: “Jesus’ knowledge of men was absolute and sympathetic by virtue of the Incarnation. He knew men, indeed, with the knowledge of God”—David Ellis.
And Peter said unto Him, “Lord Thou knowest all things”. He knew the reality of the depth of Peter’s affection for Himself. Had he not said prior to Peter’s fall, “The spirit truly is willing but the flesh is weak”? Had He not known and foretold with perfect accuracy the events surrounding that fall, viz. “before the cock twice, thou shalt deny Me thrice” (Mark 14:20). Are we to believe that He knew all this about Peter, but did not know Himself?
“Now we are sure that Thou knowest all things ... by this we believe that Thou earnest forth from God” (16:30). Were the disciples mistaken? Or is it this twentieth century writer who has made a blunder?
What may we ask convinced the woman of John chapter 4 that the Lord Jesus was indeed the Messiah? “I know that when Messiah cometh... He will tell us all things” (v. 25).
“Come see a man which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” (v. 29).
Surely the Lord has said sufficient to this woman to convince her that He knew everything about her—even her life of sin! And yet we are asked to believe that He did not know that He could not sin!
John’s Gospel is full of the fact of the absolute knowledge possessed by Christ. In ch. 1 He knew a man’s name, his father’s name and what He would make him, and there is no evidence that He had met him before (v. 42). Again in vv. 47-48 He knew a man’s character and had watched him under the fig tree. (On page 258 the writer there says, “There is no allegorical significance here”—What arrogance!—Spiritual giants have found it there!)
In ch. 3, Jesus knew that Nicodemus was a genuine seeker and knew that he was a “master in Israel”. In ch. 4 He knew a woman’s life-story, while in ch. 5, He knew a man’s medical history and apparently the sin that caused his illness, and so we could go on—but these are evidence indeed of the omniscience of our Lord.
Not only did He know all about the men and women around Him, but He knew about Himself! And this comes nearer to the subject under consideration:
He Himself knew what He would do (6:6).
He knew from the beginning... who should betray Him (6:65).
I know whence 1 came and whither I go (8:14).
He knew that His hour was come that He should depart out of this world (13:1).
Jesus knowing all things that should come upon Him (18:4).
Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished (19:28).
These and many others in John’s Gospel show the absolute knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, who said “I came forth from the Father... I go to the Father”.
But notice again in Matthew’s Gospel: “Neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and He to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him” (11:27).
The Lord Jesus was the only One who knew the Father, and we have already shown that He knew all about Himself, He knew all men, and He knew all things and yet this writer has the audacity to assert that He was not omniscient!
In studying the Gospels, we observe the significant way in which the four writers present the person of the Lord Jesus in His excellency and glory. Firstly Matthew views Him as king in fulfilment of the Old Testament writings which told of the coming Messiah, leading us to understand this as the prophetical Gospel. The second writer, Mark, presents the Lord Jesus in His humility as the servant and for this reason we term this the practical Gospel. Luke being the moral Gospel sets Him forth as man, while John, the beloved, sees Christ in His holy character as the Son of God, thus presenting to us the spiritual Gospel.
Let us consider the truth of “Christ as King” and the development of the theme in Matthew.
The presentation of the King
The proclamation of the King
(“this is my beloved Son”)
The preparation of the King
The precepts of the King
(The sermon on the mount)
The power of the King
It is interesting to note that chapters eight and nine of Matthew’s Gospel relate a greater number of the Lord’s miracles than any other two consecutive chapters of the Gospels. In focusing attention on the first three miracles of chapter eight we find a dispensational picture of the way in which God deals with His people together with the Gentile nations.
The healing of the Leper, (vers. 1-4)
Amongst the Jews, leprosy was, on occasion, a sign of the judgment of God upon the person affected and therefore the curing of the same was recognised as a Divine act. For this reason it is interesting to observe that the first act of power recorded by Matthew is the curing of a leper, incidentally, the first time that such an act of healing had occurred in the history of Israel (in the case of Naaman, he was a Gentile).
Every sick person in Israel bore testimony to the lamentable condition of the nation, at a place of distance and condemnation. In this case the healing of the leper shows us the mercy of Jehovah toward His people in spite of their unfaithfulness and disobedience. He loved them and longed to receive them again to Himself. The following key words give us to understand the dispensational aspect of the chapter, “priest”, “offering”, “Moses”.
The servant of the centurion, (vers. 5-13)
In the second miracle we observe various contrasts to the first, namely that in the second the supplicant is a Gentile and not a Jew, also the way in which the Lord performs the miracles is distinct in each case.
The lesson to learn from this divine act is that although Israel has rejected their Messiah yet there is mercy extended to the Gentiles who like the centurion can draw near to God, recognising their unworthiness and distance, outside of the house of Israel.
As the faith of the centurion caused the Saviour to marvel, so we find that the only way by which man to-day can experience the blessings of God is through the exercise of faith in the work of the Lord Jesus.
The “children of the kingdom” of verse 12 are those who have been privileged in relation to religious standing, being of the chosen race, yet whose faith is merely superficial. They will be left outside while the Gentiles by faith will be received. How fitting is the spiritual application to present day conditions; the Jew remains in unbelief while the Gentile by faith finds reconciliation with God.
The healing of Peter’s mother-in-law (vers. 14-15)
Having observed the dispensational order in the first miracle, the healing of the leper, closely related to the coming of the Lord Jesus in flesh to save His people Israel. In the healing of the centurion’s servant we are reminded of the actual triumph of Christ on the Cross in favour of the Gentiles. The consideration of the third in the series, that of the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law carries us forward to the time when Christ shall return to reign on the earth, to be recognised by His people Israel, when He will restore them unto Himself.
Peter was the apostle of the circumcision, in other words the apostle sent to the Jews, and for that reason this third miracle presents to us in a figurative form the future history and experiences of the Jew. Although as a consequence of their sin and disobedience God delivered them into the hands of the Romans (Ezekiel 16:36, 37, 39 and 43 ) nevertheless the time will come when they will be received by God (Ezekiel 36:28) in their own land, Palestine.
There are many lessons that God would teach us from the biography of the Old Testament saints. There are some lives that stand out as an example, such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. But there are some lives that stand out as a beacon, warning us of the tremendous dangers that we must face from earth to heaven, such as Lot, Solomon, and Absalom. It is true that Absalom is a type of the anti-Christ, who by stealth and flattery always seeks to gain the affections of the people, to stir up rebellion against the Lord God and his Christ. But the purpose of this article is to draw a few practical lessons from the life and times of Absalom.
The story begins with David’s sin with Bathsheba. It was done secretly, but God brings it out in a public way. From this sin David never fully recovered, for God said the sword would not depart from his house forever. If David had not done what he did and caused the death of a good and a great man, this story of Absalom might never have been written. For everyone of his sons did exactly what he himself did and David could not deal righteously with Ammon concerning his sin with his daughter Tamar. Thus Absalom her brother must deal with it. And this he did. For three years he was away and found shelter in the home of his grandmother and grandfather, the King and Queen of Geshur. On his return, David kissed him, but it was grace at the expense of truth. But Absalom’s will remained unbroken, and the voice of justice was silenced.
In chapter 15:6, Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel. He coveted a place for which he was unfitted, and he did it by flattery and evil speaking. Let us always be careful of the man who pleads his own cause by speaking evil of his brethren. There are some men who cannot rise on their own merits—they can only rise as they speak—disrespectfully of the merits of others.
Thus he seeks to covet a place—the throne. “Oh, that I were made judge...” (2 Sam. 15:4). If I were the head of affairs... And so we see today men never qualified, seeking positions of prominence, doing it by flattery and evil speaking, as if there were no judgment Seat, seeking to gain the affections of the hearts of God’s people and sometimes leaving a happy company cold, suspicious of each other, and instead of drinking the sincere milk of the word of God, they are only listening to the voice of flattery and evil speaking.
Nothing succeeds like success. Flattery had done its work. Absalom reigned in Hebron. He had gained the highest pinnacle of his ambition. Absalom’s success in reaching the throne was no proof the throne was his. It is true, as we look around today, that many a man is reckoned great because he is great in his ambition, possessed of a good address, a retentive memory, a fluent tongue, and he soon carries away the hearts of the people from their loyalty to Christ. There is something strange about it all. Their words dazzle, but they do not melt; they display mind, but lack soul; full of intellect but lack of heart.
“And with Absalom went two hundred men out of Jerusalem, that were called; and they went in their simplicity, and they knew not anything.” 2 Samuel 15:11. So they supported a new movement before they had tested its claims. They rejected David and they chose an adventurer.
But there were those who went into the wilderness with David. He was despised, crownless, rejected, his followers few, but David could rely on them. They had refused the charms of the flatterer. Some have wondered why David fled and left Absalom in Jerusalem. Was it because God was testing him? Thus he goes forth in the wilderness—he had been there before, but he goes forth outside the camp. Is it not true:
Our Lord is now rejected and by the world disowned,
By the many still neglected, and by the few enthroned?
But soon He’ll come in glory, the hour is drawing nigh,
For the crowning day is coming, bye and bye.
David was never bitter. Absalom could rebel, Shimei could curse, but he never had a hard or bitter feeling. The iron never entered his soul. Yesterday—a king, today—a wanderer. Do we not see in all this David’s Lord? Did they not cry “Hosannah in the highest”—and the next day crucify Him?
How many, like David, have been rejected. They have washed the saints feet, they have borne the heat and burden of assembly life, then some worthless Absalom has dethroned them in the affections of the people. And many may oppose us today who were once friends we trusted. When the godly man speaks the truth, immediately he is described as a dangerous man. But David went on. The grace of his God was sufficient.
Is not Absalom's spirit seen today in some of the assemblies of God’s people, men seeking a position for which they were never called? In 3rd John we have Diotrophes, a man who loved to have the pre-eminence liked dictatorial powers. But let us rest content, the true David will return and again He will have His place in the affections of all His people.
Each New Testament assembly, is as suggested by 1 Cor.1.9, a united company of Christians in fellowship with each other in subjection to and witness for God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. It was an entity in itself, and not part of any larger body. This appears, for example, in 1 Cor. 10.17, which in our Authorised Version reads, “For we being many are one bread and one body, for we are all partakers of that one bread”. To be a literal translation of the Greek “one bread” would have to be changed to “one loaf”. K. S. Wuest’s Expanded Translation, which the learned author meant not to supersede but to accompany other versions, omits the second mention of “one loaf”. Inserting this and using “out of” as more expressive than “from”, we have as an expanded translation, “Seeing that there is one loaf of bread, we, the many, are one loaf, one body of people, because we all share with one another jn~eating out of the aforesaid loaf of bread”.
The wording, “out of the one loaf” may remind us of other passages exemplifying the use of “out of”. For example, John 16:14,15 tells of the indwelling Holy Spirit taking out of the exercised believer’s store-house of godly instruction that which is useful in its own time. The Lord is mentioning here the two essentials of the leading of the Spirit, namely the indwelling Holy Spirit Himself, and the indwelling godly instruction stored up in the mind of the faithful believer— faithful, that is, to the will of Christ as Lord, and the word of Christ as Teacher. Or it may take the mind to Genesis 28:11 to 18, to watch Jacob choosing out of the many stones of Bethel that which he was to use first as a pillow and afterwards as a pillar. So it is that literally out of the one loaf that the assembly being gathered together for the purpose, each, partaker of the Lord’s Supper takes a small piece of bread, not for bodily nourishment but as a vivid reminder of the symbolism which is inseparable from the simple ordinance.
Paul was writing to, and addressing the Corinthians. But, as the pronoun “we” implies, he is identifying himself with them. Such identification is not uncommon. In the Epistle it is shown in the first sentence, “Paul... unto the church of God which is at Corinth... with all that in every place... both their’s and ours”. The Apostle is here putting himself into the same class as the Corinthians to whom he is writing and at the same time he is differentiating this class from the other believers to whom he is not writing but referring. In this way he comes to use the phrase, “their’s and our’s”, “their’s” the third personal pronoun referring to believers not spoken to but spoken about and in this respect differing from Paul and the Corinthians who are indicated by the first personal pronoun “our’s”. And there are other examples of such identification in this same Epistle.
“We the many are one loaf” is the figure of speech in which words are used out of their usual literal meaning for the purpose of emphasising some quality or attribute the writer wishes to bring vividly before the reader. If the statement had been, “We are like one loaf” it would have been a simile. Omission of “like” makes it a metaphor. Metaphors are common in literature. For example, in the Old Testament Jehovah is called a high tower, a rock, a fortress, a shield. Each metaphor emphasises some attribute about which the reader’s attention is meant to be aroused. So “we the many are one loaf” draws attention to an attribute possessed by the “we” and the “one loaf”. What is this attribute? The answer is clear; the attribute here is unity and not anything else. In their combination the many particles of bread form one loaf. So these assembly Christians who share alike out of the one loaf are declared by Paul to be metaphorically one loaf and hence, dropping the figure of speech and speaking literally form a body of people. This metaphor of 1 Cor. 10.17 is unique. It is arresting and serves its purpose of emphasising unity very impressively—to the aroused and sympathetic conscience. Not to appreciate it is to miss teaching which is expressly provided to grip the attention of the believer, to enlighten his spirit, to delight his soul. Our thoughts about it should be clear and sound. In this connection it is worth noting that the body and blood of 1 Cor. 10:16, 17 are the same literal body and blood which are mentioned in 1 Cor. 11:24, 25. In these two passages there is no reference to the Church which is the body of Christ. The “one body” of 1 Cor. 10:17 is the local church or assembly, which is not part of the one body mentioned in Ephesians 4.4. This latter is described in Eph. 1:22, 23 in language which distinguishes it from all other companies of people. For it is not only that Church which is the body of Christ, it is also that Church which is the fulness of Him Who filleth all in all, and it consists not of companies of people, but of individuals. Let us not fail to distinguish it from the “one loaf, one body” of 1Cor. 10.17. This should help us to give each its own proper due.
It is well to remember that this does not consist in paying visits to the houses of the saints, who are regular in their attendance at meetings and otherwise pleasant to commune with. The work of the pastor is chiefly in seeking the young, healing the broken, and feeding those who are standing still (see Zech. 11:16) It is often an arduous and unrequited service demanding great patience, perseverance and devotion. Love to Christ alone will sustain one in it. It needs constant communion with the heart of the Good Shepherd, who gave his life for the sheep. If you have a heart for such work begin quietly and do it. You need neither a “diploma” nor a “recognition.”