The Headship of Christ in this great spiritual and heavenly unit is vital, organic, sustaining and controlling. He has no Vicar on earth other than that blessed Paraclete who is everything to the Body on earth that that loving Heart in Heaven would wish. Human nature, alas! craves for the tangible and visible and from the Pontiff of Rome down through every level of religious authority to the petty cleric, or the presiding Minister with or without his ecclesiastical uniform, of whatever section of Christendom, we can see how the UNSEEN HEAD is being displaced and the work of His true Vicar, the Holy Spirit being either disannulled or greatly modified. But in such an important area of truth be sure to let the Scriptures defend themselves. The Colossian Christians were in danger of religious “Robbers” who by their Christ-dishonouring activities would deprive them of their “prize”. They would have them substitute superstition for spirituality and forms for Christ—all of which showed their insubordination and self-will. “And not holding fast the Head from whom all the body being supplied and knit together through the joints and bands increaseth with the increase of God” (Colossians 2:18-19, R.V.). Thus their true source of supply, their secret of unity (knit together) and their steady and godly progress and expansion was in “holding the Head”. This conception of a properly functioning body is developed for us in the Ephesian letter chapter four.
The enrichment of the Body, by the ascended Lord and Head of the Church is viewed as a celebration of His victory over the domain of death. He bestows His love-gifts upon His own like a mighty conqueror sharing the spoils of conquest when the battle is won. To all the members of the church which is His Body “He gave some apostles and some prophets and some evangelists and some pastors and teachers.” How necessary and useful these specified gifts! The pioneers of evangelism and assembly planting were the Apostles and prophets. Yet even as they wrought they were leading up to their own displacement. (See Ephesians 2:20.) They did what can never be duplicated: they laid the foundation, “Christ, the chief cornerstone” (1 Peter 2:6-7). Although this great spiritual edifice has risen above that important level we have in the New Testament documents their teachings recorded for the benefit and guidance of their successors. The Evangelist will remain until every soul has been saved and the Body complete in all its parts. The Pastor-Teacher continues to care for the sheep and to instruct the disciple. But the important fact has been sadly overlooked that the primary aim of the presence of such gifts of the Risen Lord is to make the Body in all its members capable of “building up itself in love”. These and all other gifts are in exercise to cause spiritual functions on the part of those who benefit from them. Here K. S. Wuest translates as follows: “For the equipping of the saints for ministering work, with a view to the building up of the Body.”
This provision in operation will produce full-grown not infantile believers. It will result in steadfast not unstable disciples. It will beget Christians imparting truth to each other in a practical and loving fashion. The amplified N.T. beautifully renders v.15, “Rather let our lives lovingly express truth in all things—speaking truly, dealing truly, living truly. Enfolded in love let us grow up in every way and in all things unto Him, who is the Head (even) Christ the Messiah, the Anointed One.”
The promise of Joel 2:28-32 reminds us of other prophecies of the Old Testament which as yet have had only a partial fulfilment. A dual fulfilment is demanded in such passages as Isaiah 9:6-7, 42:1-3, Micah 5:1-3, Daniel 9:24-27, Psalm 22:16, 27, 28. So it was on the day of Pentecost Joel’s words quoted by Peter could not be said to be fully fulfilled. The promised Spirit came in fullness of power but because of a nation’s unbelief His blessings concentrate in and operate through the Church, the Body of Christ and not yet upon “all flesh”. This does not detract in the least from the values of Pentecost but rather enhances them. The Spirit of God has made the Church, the great growing Sanctuary of God, His special Headquarters on earth and every movement of God, every wave of revival, recovery and salvation right down through this age of grace are due to His sovereign and merciful operations. We praise God for this great Representative and Vindicator of our absent Lord whose sublime Person enshrines “the Church” and whose motions within and through her are bringing her “unto a full-grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).
It is a happy and inspiring thought that the day rapidly approaches when this completed Building (Ephesians 2:20-22), this perfected Body (Ephesians 4:16), this flawless Bride (Ephesians 5:27) will reign with our Lord Jesus Christ over this “terrestrial globe” when the Spirit of God will be “poured out” in unrestricted fulness upon the whole of the King’s domain. (Isaiah 32:15. Joel 2:28. Isaiah 11:1-3. Ezek. 36:27. Ezek. 37:1-14. Ezek. 39:29.)
Another illustration of how Peter, without formal acknowledgement, quotes from the Old Testament, may be seen at ch. 3:10-12; where he makes use of four or five verses of Psalm 34, weaving them into his message as though they were his own, and to such good purpose that no one unacquainted with the psalm would think of them otherwise than as his own.
The passage in which he does this is at the end of a series of exhortations as to conduct, which he addresses to saints in certain specified relationships, such as subjects, servants, wives, etc.; and it all adds to them some further injunctions, which are applicable to all. That is why the paragraph begins (v. 8) with the word “Finally”, which is a link with what has gone before; and not, as is at times the case with a worn similarly rendered in Paul’s epistles, a hint that the writer is about to draw his letter to a close.
CHARACTERISTICS OF SAINTS
No less than five things by which all saints should be characterised are brought before us in this 8th verse, each of them in the Greek composed into a single and unusual adjective. Of these, four are found nowhere else in the New Testament but here, while the remaining one is in but one other place. Translated as literally as possible (See R. V. and R. V. margin), Peter’s readers are exhorted to be (1) likeminded, (2) sympathetic, (3) loving-as-brethren, (4) tenderhearted, and (5) humble-minded; in other words, to be everything that would keep them right in relation to others, in any circumstances in which they might find themselves.
In the next verse two negative injunctions are added to the five positive ones; “NOT (6) rendering evil for evil, or (7) railing for railing;” and in these the writer also passes from the inward region of mind and thought, which is suggested in all the previous five, to that which is outward in action, and in speech. Moreover, all this he urges upon them on the ground that, having been called to inherit blessing themselves, they should, like Abraham “be a blessing” to all with whom they are brought into contact.
It is at this point that the apostle drops into the language of the psalm; and it may be noted that in the threefold exhortation quoted by him, the order which has been mentioned above is reversed. A reference to SPEECH comes first, in the clause, “Let him refrain his tongue from evil and his lips that they SPEAK no guile;” which may be compared with “Not:.. railing for railing” of the preceding verse. Next, DEEDS are mentioned, when it is said, “Let him eschew evil and DO good;” and this lines up with “Not rendering evil for evil”. Lastly, an attitude of MIND is suggested by the third clause, “Let him SEEK peace and ensue it;” an attitude which will be easy of attainment to those who are described by the five words of verse 8; and all the easier when they remember that “The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous and His ears are open unto their prayers” as the psalmist had learned by experience and here teaches others.
This passing on to others of what one has learned by personal experience, or even by personal failure, is a feature of not a few psalms; but perhaps in none is it more marked than in the 34th. Having given testimony in the opening verses to the Lord’s dealings with himself on the occasion of the incident mentioned in the heading of the psalm, David at verse 11 says, “Come, ye children, hearken unto me; I WILL TEACH YOU the fear of the Lord.” And he proceeds to do so in the words of the very passage which Peter repeats; its threefold exhortation being evidently viewed by the psalmist as pointing out the path in which “the fear of the Lord” will be realised and developed.
THE FEAR OF THE LORD
In Psalm 34, and also, as has already been noted, in our epistle, this subject of THE FEAR OF THE LORD is prominent; and in both it is set in contrast with the fear of man. The latter point is particularly noticeable in the section of 1st Peter to which we have been drawing attention as containing special injunctions to suit special circumstances (See ch. 2:17, 18 and ch. 3:2, 6). And just after the quotation from the psalm of David’s lesson to the “children”, the same contrast is once more emphasised in the words of verses 14, 15, “Be NOT AFRAID of their terror... but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts... with meekness and FEAR;” words which,by the way, are yet another example of how Peter employs an Old Testament message as his own; since they are taken by him from Isa. 8:12, 13.
As for the psalm, the fear of the Lord is named in it four times (vs. 7, 9, 9, 11); and these references to it are preceded by one to the fear of man, in connection with which it is worthy to note that David tells of deliverance from his “fears” (v. 4), before he speaks of being saved from his “troubles” (v. 6). This is as it should be, for David’s fears were at the very root of his troubles on the occasion which is the subject of the psalm. It was through fear of Saul that he went down to Gath (1 Sam. 21:10), to stay amongst the enemies of God’s people; and it was through fear of Achish, or Abimelech, the king of Gath, that he “changed his behaviour” and acted like a madman (1 Sam. 21:12, 13). Neither act was becoming in one who had God’s definite promise that he would be king after Saul, and whose life was therefore secure from all attempts on it until that promise was fulfilled. Both showed an absence of that trust in God concerning which he speaks so strongly in verses 8, 19, 20 of the psalm; while on the other hand his pretence of being insane was an example of the very “guile” against which he warns others in verse 13 of his “teaching”. From the psalm as a whole it is clear that it was not his guile which saved him, but the Lord’s intervention on his behalf. This point, as well as the greatness of the peril in which he had placed himself, is even more clearly brought out in Psalm 56. See the title and verses 5, 6 of that psalm.
We have gone somewhat fully into these matters pertaining to David’s experience, and to the psalm in which he writes of it; because Peter, who quotes from the latter, had himself an experience comparable with it. He, too, had gone into a place of danger by entering the high priest’s palace, and he, too, had become filled with fears when challenged by the servants. So, like David, he “changed his behaviour,” and pretended to be a cursing, swearing outsider who knew nothing of Jesus, thus stooping to the “guile” which he condemns here and elsewhere in his epistle. Moreover, it was given to him, as to David, out of his very failure to be the better able to help and teach others. Christ, when foretelling his fall in Luke 22:31-34, added the words, “And do thou, when once thou hast turned again, stablish thy brethren” (R.V.); and this is just what Peter is seeking to do in our epistle, and particularly in the part of it with which we are now occupied. Could he possibly have written ch. 3:14, 15, “Be not afraid of their terror... be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you... with meekness and fear,” without his mind going back as he did so to the time when he himself was “afraid,” and not “ready to give an answer,” with, the result that he denied his Lord? And if he thought of this, is it too much to suggest that he who knew the Scriptures so well, may have also thought of David’s fear which led him into guile? In any case, it is interesting to note how all these Scriptures, in the Old Testament and in the New, combine together to teach the same lesson; and how the failures of these great servants of the Lord may be of profit to us, if we learn that lesson.
Mow comes the first test, the famine, which is often a method ^ by which God tests the faith of His people. He had led him into the very place of testing and Abram goes DOWN into Egypt. Now God had said nothing about Egypt which was another place of sore Idolatry. Carnal Christians will say it was the only obvious and reasonable thing to do, but God does not call His people to do the “obvious and reasonable” thing, though many talk so. The pathway of faith is often neither obvious nor reasonable. Quite the reverse, and we shall see the results in due course.
This was the first famine spoken of in the scriptures and each of the patriarchs, Abram, Isaac and Jacob were tested by these, of which there are twelve in the Old Testament, and one in parable form in the New Testament (Luke 15). The first downgrade step followed by the first sin, that of subterfuge, the lie or rather half lie, which endangered Sarai, his wife. This step was clearly not the outcome of the divine command nor the outcome of prayer and it had disastrous results, for it brought Abram riches which were afterwards a grief to him. There are times when God prospers and another time when we may amass wealth by and for ourselves. It is a sad story and picture, and in Egypt he had no altar, no communion with his God, no revelation, at least so we judge, for this was tempting God, that is, making it necessary for Him to do a miracle for preservation, which is what such tempting really is. These riches were the cause of the strife of chapters 13:5-9 for Lot too had prospered. The Lord, however, will never forsake His people and soon Pharaoh was thrusting Abram out of his land, reproved and rebuked. This is a sad matter, when the worldling can reprove the believer, and send him away. What a testimony, and God has not concealed these things from us but told the whole story for our learning and profit.
Abram has to come back to the place of departure, “unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning”, “unto the place of the altar which he had made there at the first”. Such is the repetition to impress this upon our minds and there again “he called upon the name of Jehovah” Who is the Faithful One. These are lessons for faith.
SEPARATION FROM LOT — CHAPTER 13
But now we come to the first strife, the second separation and the second promise. Lot had also become rich as well as Abram and there was not room for both together. The strife is between the herdmen, not between Abram and Lot, but it has the same effect, but it is Abram who proposes separation and the older man suggests that the younger should have first choice and he, Abram, would take the remainder. Now there comes a succession of “steps” of Lot which shew only too plainly where his heart lay, but let us not forget that it was Abram who had taken him into Egypt. Abram was completely recovered, but Lot was brought thereby into danger. Lot lifted up his eyes, so frequently not to be trusted, he beheld (a more intense word) he chose, and then he journeyed towards, and then he dwelled, in Sodom, but the Divine comment is “BUT the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly” something which could not be seen from a distance. It had looked like “the garden of the Lord” (paradise?) like Egypt, which Lot had seen and perhaps still coveted after, and it was “before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah”. So we have an indication here of the judgement which was about to fall, but Lot knew nothing of this. He judged after the sight of his eyes. It was “after that Lot was separated from Abram” that the Lord says “Lift up now thine eyes...” and renews the promise that the whole land North, South, East and West as far as Abram could see, would be given to him and to his seed for ever. To Joshua many years after God had said that every place on which he would set his foot, that would he give to Israel. We would do both, lift up our eyes and see the extent of God’s promise and would also set our foot in appropriation upon it. Abram is to do this also, he is to walk through the land in the length and breadth of it in appropriating faith although he never so much possessed any of it, (except a tomb). Here comes again also the promise of the seed and the innumerable extent of it, keeping alive the expectation of the seed.
This causes him to remove his tent and pitch it and dwell in the plain of Mamre (from “seeing” or “the vision”) which is in Hebron (“fellowship”) and here again he builds his altar unto Jehovah. Abram the pilgrim is Abram the possessor.
THE FENCE: Bounding the tabernacle on all sides, broken only by the entrance in the East, was a fence of fine white linen 405 ft. long; 150 ft. North and South, 75 ft. on the West side and 15 ft. either side of the gate Eastwards. This was the first thing that met the Israelite’s eye as he approached to God’s dwelling place. An unbroken wall of white, 7 ft. 6 ins. high. It barred the way to God. The first lesson for us to learn is that God is holy and He demands righteousness from men; “all have sinned and come short of the Glory of god” Rom. 3, 23. That fine linen speaks of righteousness is indicated in such scriptures as Lev. 16, 4, where the High Priest is clad in fine linen on the Day of Atonement, see also Ezek. 9, 23; Dan. 10, 5. Rev. 19, 8.
Here is a dazzling white righteousness displayed to the world. It suggests of course, the character and conduct of Christ in His spotless life. He is described by John as “Jesus Christ the Righteous” by Peter as “the Holy and the Righteous ... ”, Acts 3:14. The life of Christ bars the way to God, His righteousness condemns the sinner. Our righteousness by contrast, are as “filthy rags” Isa. 64, 6. His righteousness as fine linen. Linen is a product from the flax that grows in the field. We read of the Lord Jesus as the One “who grew up before Him as a tender plant... ”, Isa. 53, 2. “He grew in wisdom and in stature”, Luke 2, 52, producing perfect righteousness in His life before the world. Observe too, it was fine linen. The weave was tight and smooth, suggesting the evenness of Christ’s character; righteousness woven into the fabric of His being, no courseness can be discerned; so fine that in the strongest light, no flaw was visible.
We are to walk as He walked. Hence it is the believer’s responsibility to-day to manifest the righteousness of Christ to a dark world. Doing and saying things that are right, displaying uprightness and transparent integrity. When believers in an assembly behave thus, there is an unbroken line of testimony to the righteousness of their God who dwells amongst them.
THE PILLARS (Read also ch. 38, 10).
It does not definitely indicate what the pillars were made of. This omission may support the idea that they can be taken as representing believers. We are all different. The thought of “pillar’’ in the Bible suggests witness. Gen. 28, 18; 1Tim. 3, 15. As pillars, believers are to hold up before the world the character of Christ in testimony. The pillars were joined together by fillets. Believers in assembly fellowship are likewise joined together. Only as we practically own this can each one stand and the assembly witness be united. There should be “care one for the other”, “praying one for another”, “striving together”, “co-operating”, “communicating”, “forebearing and forgiving”.
Each pillar stood upon a socket of brass or copper. The altar was also made of copper, a material that withstood the flame that consumed the sacrifice. It endured the judgement of God so to speak, (cf. the brazen serpent Num. 21). On what does the believer stand?' On redemption ground, on a righteous basis, by virtue of Christ having endured God’s wrath against sin. This gives us a firm footing before God, and provides hidden ballast in the believer’s soul to stand before the contrary winds of the world, cf. Rom. 5, 1. The copper sockets were sunk deep into the sandy soils of the wilderness. The top of the pillar was capped with silver. Silver speaks of redemption, it was the atonement money, Exod. 30,11-16. Peter bears out^the thought “we are redeemed not with silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ...” i Peter 1, 18. This crown of silver was visible, and pictures for usthe truththat the believer has been bought with a price... we are not our own. We are to faithfully testify to our redemption and show the world “whose we are and whom we serve.”
The pillars were supported by guys tied to copper pins which were securely driven into the earth. It is profitable to regard tfie pins (or nails) as the sure promises of God upon which the believer finds support by fixing his faith firmly to them. The promises of God cannot be shifted, they are like sure nails driven hard home, cf. Isa. 22, 23-25.
Page 547 of the Commentary states “Mark 13:32 implies that the Son in His incarnate role was not omniscient”, (see March/April issue). Old errors often wear a new dress! When I was in my ’teens the very things that this writer hints at were being taught in the London area. The late W. Hoste wrote the following article to meet the need in that day. It may help today!
The Spirit warns us of false men creeping in unawares (Jude 4) and introducing false doctrine unawares (2Pet. 2.17). It is a clandestine attack, within the citadel, under pretext sometimes of defending the Person of Christ, e.g., His Humanity.
In order, these teachers say, to sympathise with His people He must have had no advantage over them by reason of His Deity in meeting temptation. Did He then cease to be Divine? This way leads to Unitarianism. Had He no advantage, as the Holy One of God? This way leads to a peccable Christ. Is it not a dangerous presumption for the creature to lay down limits for his Creator, within which alone He can “sympathise”?
In becoming “like His brethren” it was not necessary for Him to cease to be Himself.
I propose to deal with this subject under the following headings:(I.) The Kenosis and why we should reject it; (II.) Did our Lord’s question betray “ignorance”? (111.) In what sense was our Lord tempted?
I. THE “KENOSIS” AND WHY WE SHOULD REJECT IT
The “kenosis” like such expressions as “the Real Presence,” “Evolution,” etc., is quite true if properly understood, but as used popularly is to be rejected for the following reasons:
It comes from a tainted source. A thing’s origin is of prime importance. No one would knowingly drinK water from a poisoned well. “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one” (Job xiv. 4). This theory comes from a tainted source, spiritually speaking, the “Higher Criticism.”
It was invented for an unworthy purpose. It was pointed out that our Lord fully endorsed the Did Testament Scriptures, which the critics attacked. Then either He was wrong or they. The latter was to them unthinkable; then He must be wrong, not deliberately it was conceded, but because He knew no better, for had He not emptied Himself and become as ignorant of all such matters as any Jewish peasant?
It rests on an insufficient foundation. The fact that the word “kenosis” is an untranslated Greek word vests it with a mystic halo to certain minds. It was coined from the verb kenoo, “to empty.” “He emptied Himself” (heauton ekenosen, Phil. ii. 7, R.V.). Many good authorities prefer A.V. “made Himself of no reputation,” though both translations really mean the same. It is interesting to note these men’s conversion to “verbal inspiration.” When it suits them, they cheerfully cut out whole passages; here they have recourse to “verbal inspiration” to disprove “verbal inspiration.”
Really, Christ did not become less personally in incarnation, God changes not, but positionally, in that He voluntarily exchanged the perfect equality, which had always existed between Him and God the Father and which was His right, seeing He was “in the form of God,” for the inequality of a new relation, that of the servant of the Father. “He emptied (or stripped) Himself of His glory by having taken on Him the form of a slave”*—the glory was the glory He had had with the Father before the world was (John xvii. 5).
* See in loco Ellicott New Testament Commentary (Dr. Barry).
Dr. Lightfoot translates: “He stripped Himself of the insignia of His majesty.” But to use an illustration, did Peter the Great, because he did not wear his imperial crown on the quays of Deptford, empty himself of his personal attributes and power? Was he not still Peter the Great? No more did our Lord lose what were inseparable from His Personality, His Divine Attributes. He was ever “the Word become flesh.”
It conflicts with the context. The “self-emptying” is explained by “His having taken on Him the form of a slave” and “having been made in the likeness of men.” But a great landowner might live in a humble style among his tenants, sharing their conditions and labours, confining his expenditure to theirs, without giving up his income or property, and certainly without foregoing the advantages of a good education or constitution.
It nullifies the true lesson to be learnt. The general bearing of Phil. ii. 5-8 is not doctrinal, but ethical. Let the mind of Christ be in His people, and it is this mind which is described here. Whatever He did, we should do in our measure. If He really renounced His Divine Attributes and became powerless and ignorant we should renounce our human attributes and become powerless and ignorant too. But no one understands the passage thus. The Modernists set much store by their learning, and are far from wishing to give it up. Is not the true lesson that if our Lord emptied Himself of His glory, we should “pour contempt on all our pride” and willingly forego any prestige of birth, wealth, learning, etc., we may think we possess?
It contradicts conditions of service. A servant does not empty herself of her qualifications in order to please her mistress, nor forget her skill and recipes, but, while no longer using them merely for herself, puts them at the disposal of the other. So the Lord used every attribute He possessed to carry out the Father’s will, in His time and way.
It lowers the Person of Christ. We must refuse entirely to divide our Lord’s Person or discuss His Humanity, as though His Deity were in abeyance. It is not as if Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Omnipresence were mere qualities, like human strength and wisdom, which may exist in degree and be considered apart from their possessor. God is the Omnipotent, the Omniscient, the Omnipresent One, and only He. Love and holiness are not distinctive of Deity. A Unitarian would no doubt willingly ascribe them to our Lord, while denying Him the possession of Divine attributes. Our Lord could far less renounce His Divine attributes without compromising His Deity, than a mere man could lose his human attributes without compromising his humanity.
It is the stepping-stone to the full apostasy. Many have given up the “Kenosis”. It was a temporary expedient. They have no further use for it. They have discovered that the Lord had really nothing to empty Himself of.
As Athanasius truly says: “We cannot comprehend to perfection the Person of Christ, but we can know what He is not and l think any truly spiritual person will shrink with horror from this caricature of Him, Who is, and always was, the “Power of God and the Wisdom of God/’ the ignorant and helpless “Jesus” of the critics.
II. DID OUR LORD’S QUESTIONS BETRAY “IGNORANCE”?
To indite such a query, even in order to repel its suggestion is painful, but it is forced upon us “for the truth” (u. Cor. xiii. 8). The R.V. of li. John 9 is significant—“Whosoever goeth onward (margin, taketh the lead) and abideth not in the teaching of Christ hath not God.” He “takes the lead,” but he outruns the truth, and beyond is a dark hinterland of error.
That our Lord asked many questions during His ministry is undeniable, but that He ever asked one which bespoke “ignorance,”* can only be firmly denied. I believe such an idea is based on a triple misconception.
* Some prefer “nescience” or “not knowing,” but it takes a clever man to define the difference.
As to (1) the person of Christ and what His Humanity implied; (2) as to what His “questions” entailed; (3) as to the testimony of Scripture to His Omniscience.
A favourite contention of the Modernist movement has been that the Deity of Christ had been unduly stressed, and that His Humanity needed enforcement. Without admitting the truth of this, it may be noted that the way to regain equilibrium in Divine Truth, if such has been lost, is not by going to the opposite extreme, but rather by seeking to hold fast the Divine Person—the Eternal Son of God, made flesh; then the whole truth groups itself naturally around Him; for that Person is as truly in relation to His perfect Humanity as to His true Deity. But what has resulted from the Modernist emphasis on the Humanity of Christ? In isolating the Humanity, they have eclipsed the Deity and degraded the Humanity. As has been remarked, “Is it not true that with the swing of the pendulum, the Deity of the Incarnate Son has begun to pale, and His Perfect Humanity been dragged down to the level of fallible men?”*
* “The Higher Criticism,” p. 65, by R. Sinker, D.D.
Some seem to have the vague general idea that all “questions” are to inform the questioner. Genesis iii. and iv. contain nine questions by God Himself. Did He then not know where Adam was, that he had fallen, that Eve had misled him, why Cain was wroth, that he had slain Abel? No one would impugn the Omniscience of Jehovah Elohim, and yet similar questions by our Lord Jesus are cited as proof of His “nescience.” Where is the justice of this? There are besides, questions and questions.
Questions Asked by Our Lord.
Some of our Lord’s questions were corrective. How else could a child, in a seemly way, correct an elder than by a little question, reminding him of something he had evidently forgotten? Such, I suggest, were the questions of the child Jesus in the temple. We do not find Him in a pulpit, like some precocious boy-preacher, lecturing his elders, but hearing them and then putting in some little questions, which took all the wind out of their old patched sails, and led them to ask Him some questions, this time purely to gain information. He was “about His Father’s business”; can any caviller find a proof of “ignorance” in all this? The elders did not, for “they marvelled at His understanding and answers.” We might include under this heading such questions as, “Why reason ye among yourselves?” of Matt. xvi. 8, or, “Which of them will love him most?” of Luke vii. 42.
Others were instructive, according to what is known as the Socratic method, much in vogue even to-day, e.g. “If David therefore called Him Lord, how is He then his Son?” (Matt. xxii. 45), where we may presume the Lord was not asking for information. “I will also ask you one thing, Is it lawful on the Sabbath,” etc.? (Luke vi. 9). The context favours the view that the Lord knew the answer to His own question. Again, in chapter x. 26, “What is written in the law?” Will any one suggest this question proved Him ignorant of the law?
Others were testing, e.g., to Philip, in John vi. 5: “Whence shall we buy bread that these may eat?” But the Spirit hastens to explain. “This He said to prove him, for He Himself knew what He would do.” Surely such a statement affords a legitimate explanation of other questions of our Lord, and supplies a Divine answer to the strange suggestion, that if our Lord seemed to ask for information, which He did not really need, He was acting a part. Was He acting a part when He told the Samaritan to call her husband? Fancy our Lord going straight to the grave of Lazarus! It would have savoured of magic or at least, as Chrysostom has said, of collusion. But could not He Who had just manifested His omniscience (v. 14), and was about to manifest His omnipotence (v. 44), have found His way unaided to the grave?
It has even been gravely suggested that our Lord ought to have shown His omniscience on the Cross, if He possessed it, by refusing the vinegar, before tasting it. Had He done so, the soldiers would have supposed He did not know what they were offering Him; and so with such episodes as the fruitless fig tree. The Lord did not use His powers for display or to deprive others of the ocular proofs they might reasonably expect.
Others were merely introductive. Used in a natural way to further conversation or action. “What seek ye?” “Whom say men that I am?” “Whom seek ye?” “Children, have ye any meat?” Our Lord was not out to prove His omniscience by what might have seemed magical ways. Was there not something Divinely perfect in our Lord’s questions to Mary, “Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou?” or to Peter, “Lovest thou me?” He knew, but He must hear from their own lips. The question to the householder, “Where is the guest-chamber?” did not betray “ignorance,” for He could already in His omniscience see the large upper room furnished and prepared, but it showed the moral greatness of the Lord; He could claim all, He took nothing.
Others were convicting. “What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way?” (Mark ix. 33). They would not say, but He knew only too well, as His subsequent action showed. I would suggest that all our Lord’s questions fall naturally under one or other of these headings or may be explained in some such simple way.
After unfolding the nature of the numerous spiritual blessings which are the inalienable right of all believers, and setting forth the consequent duties of those so blessed, in the world, in the church, in the home and in society, the Apostle reminds his readers that they are engaged in conflict with a relentless foe whose objective is to hinder the progress of the gospel. He writes, Finally my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (6:12).
The conflict in which the Christian is engaged is not against an array of physical power (although that may be utilised by the enemy) but against the unseen forces of an invisible realm ruled over by the devil, ‘the prince of the power of the air.’ That was a common theme with the Apostle, because he had experience of the sinister influences let loose upon him during his missionary journeys, and even as he wrote he was suffering imprisonment as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. He had written to his friends in Corinth that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds (2 Cor. 10:4).
The words he employs to describe the forces operating against Christians are most terrifying, overpowering.
Principalities— despotic spirits organised for the sole purpose of the destruction of the people of God, a mighty array of forces controlled by appointed leaders under the supreme command of Satan. The Book of Daniel gives ample evidence of the activity which goes on in the unseen world to prevent the fulfilment of the divine purpose (See chapter 10).
Powers— mighty spirits who wield authority over those whom they employ to exercise an influence upon the minds of men and women.
The rulers of the darkness of this world,— cosmic forces which control and govern the world of spiritual darkness in which fallen man lives. We who live in lands which have been for centuries influenced by the gospel have little conception of the forces of evil which exercise sway in the darkness of unevangelised countries. It is no mere superstition which drives men to fear of invisible spirits. Our Lord recognized them in his conflict with demon possession.
Spiritual wickedness in high places— ‘the malign influences in an order higher than ours.’
Such a combination of evil forces provides a most formidable opposition to Christian men and women everywhere. One almost shudders to think of the sinister influences those powers might exercise were it not for the provisions made to combat their evil onslaught. The upsurge of wickedness in modern civilised society, the up-controlled passions let loose, the disregard for the onetime respected sanctions of proper living, the boastful breach of fundamental moral laws, are evidence, surely, that there are at work forces of evil which manifest themselves through human instruments. The Christian conflict is not against flesh and blood.
A wise soldier never underestimates the power of his opponent. Neither should the Christian in spiritual warfare. The leader of the opposition is called the Devil, Diabolus, the enemy of God and His Christ, of the Church and all that is good. He is no mere figment of the imagination, but the real prince of the power of the air. He is called in v. 16 ‘the evil one’, malicious, wicked, perverted, clever, unscrupulous. He is said to employ ‘wiles’ (v. 11), a word which suggests cunning stratagems, deceptive methods meant to undermine the believer’s confidence in God. Sometimes he employs ‘fiery darts’ (v. 16), ‘It is a common experience of the people of God that at times horrible thoughts, unholy, blasphemous sceptical, malignant, crowd in upon the mind, which cannot be accounted for on any law of mental action, and which cannot be dislodged. There are others which kindle passion, inflame ambition excite cupidity, pride, discontent, of vanity; producing a flame which our deceitful heart is not so prompt to extinguish, and which is often allowed to burn until it produces great injury and even destruction’ (Hodge).
One of the happiest hours that any lover of the Lord can spend is to sit down quietly of an evening and muse on “what would happen if the Lord were to come tonight?” To enumerate all things would take pages; we name a few of the leading triumphs:
ALL SAINTS WILL BE UNITED- The Saviour prayed: “Father I will that they all may be one” (John 17:21). Had that prayer been answered, and the Church from the beginning gone forth as “one”—one name, one guide-book one Master, one in doctrine, one in heart, one in purpose— how different things might have been today.
But, alas! the purpose of Satan was that they should be peeled, scattered and divided, and so well has he succeeded that to-day there are some 300 denominations and sections, with numerous small parties, cults and companies, every one a violation of the Saviour’s wish, a hindrance to effective work and a taunt by the worldling.
Will the prayer ever be answered? Not by man with all his talk of Church Union, Federation, compromise and agreements. But by the mighty gathering Shout of the Christ of God, and every blood-bought saint bidding goodbye to sects, divisions and parties and uniting in the truest sense, as “all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). around Him in Glory.
If Heaven is Heaven without sects, divisions, denominations and parties, would it not be wise to drop it all now and have Heaven below?
Oh, happy day! when, having loved the Church, died for the Church, set apart the Church, cleansed the Church, He shall present the Church (not part of it) to Himself a glorious Church, “holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27)
’Mid all appearances in the opposite direction, to-day we may still sing the victory song—
“Crowns and thrones may perish,
Kingdoms rise and wane,
But the Church of Jesus
Constant must remain.”
GOD’S CHOSEN PEOPLE, who have been termed “The Miracle of history, and the History of miracle,” shall be restored to favour. “He came to His (people or land), and His own received Him not” (John 1:11), tells the sad treatment of the Jews concerning their Messiah in the days of His flesh.
The terrible cry, “His blood be on us and on our children” (Matt. 27:25), has made them the tribe of the wandering foot throughout the lands of the earth for nearly two millenniums-
Blindness in part has happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles come in. Yet Israel shall be saved; for “there shall come out of Zion, the Deliverer” (Rom. 11:25, 26). Then, as foretold in Zechariah, the Revelation of the Old Testament, “In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David...for sin and for uncleanness.” Visibly beholding the true Messiah, they shall say unto Him, “What are these wounds in Thine hands? Then shall He answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of My friends.” All who then, by faith, “shall look upon Him and mourn” (chap. 12:10) shall have the “Lo-ammi” veil lifted, and Jehovah promises —“they shall call upon My Name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is My People; and they shall say, The Lord is my God” (Zech. 12:10; 13:1, 5, 6).
The land re-peopled, the desert blossoming as the rose, the “dry bones” breathed upon by the Spirit, the valleys filled with living and rejoicing Jews, the King welcomed by the Chosen Race, Israel restored, and Jerusalem once more the glory of the whole earth. What a day for the King and the Kingdom!
In Psalm 104 the psalmist extols the creatorial wonders of * the Lord but in verse 34 he exalts the person of the Lord Himself and exclaims “My MEDITATION OF HIM shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord.” Surely we would sing:—
“Himself the subject of our song
What joy it is to sing”
“No subject as glorious as He,
no theme so affecting to us.”
With silent wonder we would meditate upon His pre-existence—the Father’s bosom His dwelling place. In Proverbs 8 His eternal sonship is revealed. Before the worlds were made He was there (verse 23): When the Lord prepared the heavens, He was there—when He appointed the foundations of the earth—there He was the Father’s constant joy, rejoicing always before Him—He was daily his delight, His delights were with the sons of men (Proverbs 8:30 and 31).
We meditate upon His incarnation. “The word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory, as of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1 14). Truly God yet become truly human—His perfect manhood—His eternal Godhead—His path of obedience and His delight to do the Father’s will. His moral glory shone out so brightly throughout His pathway to the Cross.
We would, with contrite hearts, meditate Our Adorable Lord was there—the willing victim—in your place and mine for we are reminded that His sacrifice was voluntary and vicarious. And can we ever enter into the truth? For “God hath made HIM to be made sin for us who knew no sin that we might become the righteousness of God IN HIM”(2 Corinthians 5:21).
His death was victorious and He cried “It is finished” with a loud voice (John 19:30). We look beyond the Cross and behold the empty tomb and how our hearts rejoice to hear the voice of the angel saying “HE IS NOT HERE FOR HE IS RISEN AS HE SAID—COME, SEE THE PLACE WHERE THE LORD LAY.” Again we ponder that scene in the upper room where the Lord of glory showed unto His disciples His hands and His side. Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord” (John 20:20). The Holy One who for a little while was made lower than the angels for the suffering of death, we see crowned with glory and honour (Hebrews 2:9).
“Our longing eyes would fain behold that bright and blessed brow
Once wrung with bitterest anguish, wear Its crown of glory now.”
His high priestly office is ever a source of joy to our hearts. The Lord Jesus has now entered into the holiest by the blood of the everlasting covenant now to appear in the presence of God for us (Hebrews 9:24). His present ministry as our great high priest is our constant need and the realisation of His perfect knowledge of us and His unchangeable priesthood before the throne of grace with boldness we may draw near by the precious blood once shed for the remission (or forgiveness) of our sins. Thus we can sing:—
“Unto HIM WHO hath loved us and washed us from our sin in His own blood” (Revelation 1:5).
As we look back to the Cross for salvation, so we look upward to the throne with adoration, so we look forward with glad anticipation to the glorious appearing of Our Lord and Saviour JESUS CHRIST when we shall rejoice and be glad when the marriage supper of the Lamb shall be a reality and His perfect bride complete (Revelation 19:7).
What a theme for our meditation is the beauty of the Lord (Psalm 27). We recall the beauty of His words and the psalmist again gives a lovely discourse of the Lord HIMSELF in Psalm 45, verses 1 and 2: “Thou art fairer than the children of men.” “Grace is poured into thy lips, therefore God hath blessed thee for ever.” The beauty of His words are described in The Song of Solomon as “From His lips like lilies dropping sweet smelling myrrh” (Song of Solomon 5:13).
Again we meditate upon the beauty of His character:—
“How rich the character He bears and all the forms of love He wears Exalted on the throne.”
When here in this scene below we see the beauty of His walk an unexcelled pathway of purest grace without spot or blemish, ever meek and lowly, God found in Him repose.
The beauty of HIMSELF is brought before us in Song of Solomon chapter 5 when the bride is challenged “What is thy beloved more than another beloved that thou doest so charge us and the bride declares in verse 10 “My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand” (Song of Solomon 5:9 and 10) and then we have those lovely enumerations of His glorious Person and concludes “Yea, He is altogether lovely. This is my beloved and this is my friend” (verse 16). There was a time when, with those of old, we “Saw no beauty in HIM that we should desire HIM” (Isaiah 53:2).
May we know the transforming power of His beauty as we meditate upon HIM and commune with HIM, so also we shall reflect something of His beauty, changed into the same image from glory to glory even as by the Lord, the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18). But “now we see through a glass darkly, then face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12). Then faith shall give place to sight and the fulfilment of that beautiful promise will be fully enjoyed. “Thine eyes shall see the king in His beauty (Isaiah 33:17).” May our meditation of Him be increasingly and continually sweet both to us and, still more important, to HIM. May these words be the language of our hearts and the experience of our lives. Then we can sing with joy:—
“All seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s” (Phil. 2:20, 21).
Paul did not weakly complain because he had no helpers. Good and earnest men are very apt to say much about the half-hearted way in which their brethren take up some cause in which they are eagerly interested.... May not such faint-hearts learn a lesson from him who had “no man like-minded”, and yet never dreamed of whimpering because of it, or of flinging down his tools because of the indolence of his fellow-workers?