CHRIST IN THE APOCALYPSE
by John B. D. Page
THE POWER OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
by John A. Brett
JACOB, OR THE TRIUMPH OF FAITH
by E. R. Bower
HOW RICH ARE WE?
by J. E. Todd
THE GREAT TRIBULATION
by Ernest Barker
FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
by J. B. Hewitt
ISAIAH'S PORTRAITS OF CHRIST
by J. Flanigan
TALKS TO YOUNG BELIEVERS
by John Ritchie
by S. Nicholls
THOUGHTS OF CHRIST
by Eric G. Parmenter
HYMNS AND THEIR WRITERS
by Jack Strahan
by JOHN B. D. PAGE
THE INCOMPARABLE CHRIST (i)
Reading : Revelation 22.6-13.
The prophetic part of Revelation ends with a vision of the Lamb's wife, likened to a great city, the holy Jerusalem, and then the book is brought to a close with an epilogue (22.6-21) which consists of titles ascribed to the glorified Christ, setting forth further facets of His majestic splendour.
The angel, who communicated the contents of the book from Christ to John (1.1), assures the seer that all the words of the book are "faithful and true". This phrase not only echoes the Lord's autograph, "the Faithful and True Witness", in the letter addressed to the church of the Laodiceans (3.14), but also the Warrior-King, Who descends from the open heaven, is called "Faithful and True" (19.11).
After a short statement first by the Lord Himself and then by John (22.7ff), the angel addresses the seer briefly (22. 9-11), after which the Lord speaks for the second time in the epilogue (22.12ff). declaring, "Behold, I come quickly". If there is a doctrine above all others which should thrill the heart of the believer, it is the imminent return of our blessed Lord. The Coming One now makes Himself known with a bunch of titles — "I am Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last" (22.13). All these Christological descriptions have already occurred in the book but, as they are found in the epilogue, it may be opportune to look briefly at the setting of them, except the first, "I am", which occurs later for the last time.
ALPHA AND OMEGA
By turning to chapter 1, we find the first use of this title with others in verse 8, and there are two ways of understanding this verse. If this eighth verse is taken as a continuation of verse 7 which describes Christ as coming again to the earth "with the clouds (of glorified saints),... and all the tribes of the land shall wail because of Him. Yea, amen", (J. N. Darby's New Translation), then the returning Messiah declares "I am Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the Ending, saith the Lord ..." (v. 8). Such self-ascribed titles by the Lord Jesus would be understood by a repentant and regenerate remnant of Israel as an unqualified claim to His Deity, His omniscience and His eternal Being. To His designation "Lord" (1.8), the divine Speaker adds, "Which is, and Which was, and Which is to come", which is a title given earlier to God the Father in the salutation (1.4), and so He identifies Himself with the Father. As the statement, or rather title, is an amplified form of the ineffable name "I am that I am" (Exod. 3.14), which is virtually the equivalent of the Old Testament name Jehovah, He associates Himself inseparably with that name. Remarkably, when the godly remnant of Jews behold Him in that day of His coming again they will say"... this is Jehovah; we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation" (Isa. 25.9). In this eighth verse, He finally claims to be "the Almighty", which is the divine name revealed initially to the patriarchs (Gen. 17.1; 28.3; 35.11; etc.) and, according to its usage in the Old Testament, it was primarily for the patriarchal period as God said to Moses, "I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, ..." (Exod. 6.3), and so "Almighty" (i.e., Shaddai, Heb.) was the name under which God entered into covenant with the three patriarchs. The significance of this divine name is the All-bountiful God who is able to supply all the needs of His people. Looking into the future, the Messiah, as "the Almighty", will deal bountifully, in both spiritual and material spheres, with His earthly people, Israel, during the millennium.
Turning again to verse 7 of chapter 1, the last words, "Even so, Amen", may be viewed as a conclusion, and so separate the eighth verse from it. Furthermore, the Revised Version of verse 8 reads differently, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, saith the Lord God,.. .". Who is the Lord God? we may ask. He is Jehovah Elohim of the Old Testament, the God of Israel, and He speaks here from heaven. This means that the verse is an interpolation which refers not to Christ but only to God, and so this is another way of considering this eighth verse, which is adopted by some commentators.
For the second occurrence of this unusual title, John was in the Spirit on the Lord's day and he hears a great voice saying "I am Alpha and Omega, ..."(1.11), which has been considered in Article No. 3 (i). With this appellation, signifying His omniscience, Jesus Christ introduces Himself concerning things relating to seven churches in Asia and presents Himself in a vision, wearing high-priestly garments.
The paragraph (21. 1-8), describing the new heavens and the new earth, is drawn to a close by the divine Occupant of the throne in heaven, who is God, saying, "It is done", and then He designates Himself as "Alpha and Omega, ..." (v.6) which is the third occurrence of this title. The work of renewing the universe when time yields to eternity is seen by God as having been finished and the divine purposes fulfilled. As all knowledge, all wisdom and all power are found in Him, God claims justifiably to be "Alpha and Omega".
Returning now to the epilogue, we have the fourth and last occurrence of this remarkable title, "Alpha and Omega" (22.13). If its first mention is taken Christologically as some writers do, then both its first and last uses are connected with the second coming of Christ, but there is a difference between them. In chapter 1.7ff, His coming again is described impersonally in the third person singular, "Behold, He cometh, and every eye shall see Him . . .", which implies a remote relationship with His people, Israel, and, of course, Messiah's coming with the saints for setting up His kingdom on earth is here in view. As the "Alpha and Omega", He possesses all the wisdom and knowledge that His millennial reign will demand of Him. In chapter 22.12ff, the Lord Jesus speaks personally, using the first person singular, "Behold, I come quickly, . . ." indicating a close relationship with His bride, the Church. This, of course, refers to the first phase of His coming which will be to the air for the saints. Continuing His message, the divine Speaker says, "and My reward is with Me, to give every man according as His work shall be", which is a reference to the review of the deeds of all believers throughout this church age and the giving of rewards at His judgement seat Only He, who is the "Alpha and Omega" with infinite insight and unlimited knowledge, has the ability to undertake this enormous task.
THE BEGINNING AND THE END
This title is first found in chapter 1.8 (if taken Christologically), it is once applied to God (21.6), and again it is used of Christ in the verse before us (21.13).
The seer, more than other New Testament writers, uses the word "beginning". One example will suffice, because it relates to Christ. Quoting the opening words of Genesis 1.1, John opens his gospel with the phrase, "In the beginning ...". According to Genesis 1.1,
it was then, "In the beginning", the first moment of Time, "God created the heaven and the earth", and so an act was done. To the opening words of his gospel (1.1), "In the beginning", John adds,". .. was the Word", signifying that a Being was in existence before the beginning of Time, even in eternity. Hence, unlike the universe, the pre-incarnate Christ had no beginning because He is eternal, and so He ante-dates both Time and Creation (cp. John 17.5,24).
For this Apocalyptic designation of the glorified incarnate Christ, the seer's mind may have reflected upon an Old Testament scripture such as Isaiah 46.1,9ff, where Bel and Nebo, the gods of Babylon, are challenged by the God of Israel who demonstrates their inferiority and impotence by saying, "I am God, and there is none like Me", by which He declares Himself to be incomparable, and then He claims that He alone, being omniscient, is able to make known "the end from the beginning", that is, to look at the end of time and unfold everything in reverse to the beginning. In contrast to such feeble and powerless deities of Babylon, John sets forth the matchlessness of Christ by personifying Him as "the Beginning", even as Paul does (Col. 1.18), for He is the Origin and the Active Cause of all things throughout the span of Time, and as "the End", for all things are complete in Him. As "the Beginning", He is before all things; as "the End", nothing can reach beyond Him.
THE FIRST AND THE LAST
Returning in thought to John's vision of the Son of Man standing in the midst of seven golden lampstands, this title is found twice there—first, before seeing the vision when he hears a voice behind him saying, "I am... the First and the Last" (l.l0ff), and then after beholding the vision, having fallen in a death-like swoon at His feet, the Lord says reassuringly to him, "Fear not; I am the First and the Last,..." (1.17).
For His autograph of the letter addressed to the church in Smyrna, the divine Writer incorporates this title, "The First and the Last,..." (2.8).
In the epilogue of the book, the soon-coming Lord declares for the fourth and last time, "I am the First and the Last" (22.13).
Supplementing comments on this title in an earlier article, we may look at its three occurrences in Isaiah, the source of its Apocalyptic use. In Isaiah 41.2-4, Jehovah turns to history and asks,
"Who raised up the righteous man from the east...?" For identifying this person, we should note that Cyrus was raised up from the north (v. 25) and he was not righteous, but Abraham, who was righteous before God, came from the east, and he pursued and triumphed over kings (v. 3, cp. Gen.14). To His own question, "Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning?" He answers, "I, Jehovah, the First, and with the Last: I am He". The preposition, which we have italicized, should be noted. One commentator says, "He, who called Abraham, the first, will be with the last (i.e. Messiah), who is the subject of this prophecy".
Next, we turn to Isaiah 44.6-20, where God remonstrates against His people, Israel, for turning to idols which, being made of gold, silver, or wood, were unable to see their worshippers or to know their needs (v.9-20). The divine Speaker, introducing Himself as "Jehovah, the King of Israel", who is their "Redeemer, Jehovah of Hosts", declares, "I am the first, and I am the last; and beside Me there is no God" (v.6). By declaring Himself to be "the First and . .. the Last", Jehovah demonstrates His superiority over these false gods because, as "the First", He has no predecessor and, as "the Last", He has no successor, which, of course, is equally true of the glorified Christ whom John delights to exalt. The seer may have had this paragraph particularly in mind, knowing the prevalence of idol-worship in the Roman world of his day. Paul, also aware of idolatry at Corinth, says, "there be gods many, and lords many", and then he adds, "but to us there is but one God, the Father..., and one Lord, Jesus Christ,.. ." (1 Cor. 8.6). This "one Lord", as designated by Paul, is, says John, "the First and the Last", who is superior to all heathen deities.
This title occurs for the third and last time in Isaish 48.12-15 where the Lord through the prophet calls upon His people, Israel, to hearken to him for several reasons, one of which says the Lord is, "I am He; I am the First and I also am the Last". This is an unequivocal claim to absolute Deity, and consequently He is the Creator of the earth and the heavens (v. 13), and the Controller of world events (v. 14ff). Such a title is rightly appropriated by Christ because, being unquestionably God, all things in the universe were made by Him, and by Him all things in creation hold together (John 1.1,3; Col. 1.17).
He is undeniably the Incomparable Christ!
(To be continued).
by JOHN A. BRETT
In these days when so many are occupying their time trying to show that our Lord Jesus was just a good man, it does us well to consider what the scriptures have to say about His power.
Let us consider the DECLARATION of His power. Luke 4.32 leaves us in no doubt of the fact, that when the Lord Jesus spoke, power was evident. In the city of Nazareth, where He had declared in Luke 4.24 "No prophet is accepted in His own country," His teachings were met with anger and a desire to destroy Him. But when He speaks in Capernaum His words were met with astonishment, "for His word was with power."
In Matthew 8.8 we again see how His power was declared. The centurion comes to Jesus with a heavy heart and a deep longing. His servant is lying "at home, sick of the palsy, grievously tormented" and yet with all this on his mind he still recognizes his own unworthiness. He is faithful enough to believe that if the Lord Jesus "but speaks the word" his servant will be healed. In a day when so much is being made of the so called sign-gifts we must remember that it is our responsibility to speak the word.
One final thought on the DECLARATION of His power is connected with our speaking the word. Romans 1.4 says of our Lord Jesus that he was "declared to be the Son of God with power." As the One who is "the same yesterday, and today, and forever," we must make known this wonderful declaration. "The Son of God," with His omniscience (John 18.4), omnipotence (Mark 4.39) and omnipresence (John 1.47), is our Saviour and NEVER ceased to possess these attributes of Godhead. So we must declare Him with the power He promised in Acts 1.8, and be witnesses unto Him.
Our second consideration centres around the DEMONSTRATION of the power of our Lord Jesus Christ. The gospels are filled with illustrations of the power of the Lord Jesus being demonstrated.
Lazarus, Jairus' daughter and the widow of Nains' son were raised to life as a demonstration of the Lord's power over Death.
Palsy and leprosy each met the same dismissive fate as His power was demonstrated over Disease.
Mary Magdalene and the two men of the Gergesenes were the beneficiaries as the Lord demonstrated His power over demons.
The walking on the water, the calming of the storm, the feeding of the multitude, all are examples of the demonstration of the power of our Lord Jesus.
What of today? The power of the Lord Jesus is seen in the tremendous changes that have occurred in the lives of men and women, boys and girls who have acknowledged Him as Lord. As we enjoy His presence and His power in our lives, let us never forget that His power was demonstrated to us on the first occasion, "that ye may know that the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins." (Matthew 9.6). Tremendous power indeed.
Now let us consider the DISTRIBUTION of His power. We read of this in Matthew 10.1. Notice it was not a general distribution to all of His followers but just to the twelve disciples. As we later learn from 1 Corinthians 1.22, it is "the Jews" that "require a sign" and so the Lord Jesus specifies that the distributed power was only to be for "the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
In our day there is a teaching abroad that if a person does not have miraculous power in either "healing" or "tongues" they are not saved. This is a lie from the one who the Lord Jesus in John 8.44 described as "a liar and the father of it"
The power that we have received is not that we might be miracle workers but mighty witnesses. We have this power! Where then is our witness?
Our final consideration concerns the DEDICATION of His power. The amazement of the doctors and the questioning of Mary fade into insignificance as "wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business" is uttered by "the child Jesus" (Luke chapter 2). Then early in His public ministry He states "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me and to finish His work," (John 4.34). But surely the greatest example of the dedication of His power is seen in John 10.18 where speaking of His life the Lord Jesus says, "I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again." Our hearts can only be thrilled as we allow the fulness of this statement to saturate our being. He was so dedicated to doing His Father's will, that He exercised His power to lay down His life.
No man has ever possessed the power that He possessed. It was His alone. He never changes and our hearts overflow as we realize that our Saviour, was able to declare before He returned to His father, "All power is given unto me, in heaven and in earth." (Matthew 28,18).
by E. R. BOWER
Genesis 25.27. "... and Jacob was a plain man dwelling in tents."
Jacob, the name of opprobrium; Jacob the deceiver, trickster, grabber, contender, supplanter, over-reacher — and much more, but — and we ask in all sincerity — was this Jacob's true character? What was it that God saw in Jacob that, through the prophet Malachi (1.2) He could say, "Was not Esau Jacob's brother? Yet I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau . . ."? Of the twins in Rebekah's womb, God's preference or choice was Jacob. Jacob was God's elect. The apostle Paul speaking of the birth of the twins says of them, "not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand not of works, but of Him that calleth... Jacob have I loved..." (Rom. 9.10-14).
Our Lord said to His disciples, "Have not I chosen you Twelve, and one of you is a devil?" and, "Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you." (John 6.70; 15.16). And we ourselves are assured, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ; according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world ..." (Eph. 1.3-6). So we ask again, what was there in Jacob that God could so express Himself, "Jacob have I loved?" There are several 'key' verses which, it is believed, will help us to understand the true character of Jacob.
(1) Our text (Gen. 25.27) tells us that Jacob was a "plain man dwelling in tents". In the English of the A.V. the word "plain" means, among other things, "honest, sincere, hearty, blameless, innocent, quiet" and in Job 1.1. the same Heb. word reads of Job that he was a "perfect and upright" man. Cf. also Ps. 37.37.
(2) Faith's gallery (Heb. 11) tells us that, "By faith he (Abraham) sojourned in the land of promise with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God." (v.9). Who can doubt that Jacob, as a joint heir of the promise, shared and was well schooled in, the faith of Abraham and of Isaac. Not forgetting the part played by Rebekah. Jacob lived within the ambience of the promise for some 70 years, that is until he fled to Padanaram. Jacob had availed himself of the despised birthright many years before, but by Rebekah's instigation he coveted the blessing which went with the birthright, and sought to pre-empt the purpose of God. One mistake brought fear instead of faith. Years passed and Jacob is on his way home and
(3) at Mahanaim (Gen. 32.1) "the angels of God met him" as they had done at Bethel years before (Gen. 28.12,13). Despite his knowledge that "The Angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivereth them" (Ps. 34.7) and of 2 Sam. 17.24-27; 19.32) Jacob's fears remained. Almost immediately there came the "mysterious" wrestling of Jacob with "a Man" (an Angel — Jehovah of hosts. See Hos. 12.5). The result of the wrestling conveyed by the A.V. of v. 28 and other versions, is that Jacob was the victor, but others see Jacob as "holding on" exercising a princely power (Heb. 'sarah' — only here and Hos. 12.2-5); thus it may read "strong against God and prevailing against men". The words of Hosea appear to confirm the second view. "Thy name shall no more be called Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince thou hast power (contended) with God, and with men, and hast prevailed." Israel — God commands (of some 40 Heb. names compounded with "El" or "Jah", God is always the doer of what the verb means).
(4) Hosea (12.2-5) refers to the wrestling. "Yea, he contended with the Angel, and prevailed (although this may refer to the Angel prevailing); he wept, and made supplication unto Him". The form of the verb "made supplication" expresses humble petition for favour by a suppliant who has no claim, nor any power beyond his helplessness to commend his request It is the gracious favour of the superior to the inferior, all undeserved. (N. H. Snaith. Distinctive Ideas of the O.T.). A commentator (One Volume Commentary. Dummelow) remarks, "In the narrative is portrayed a spiritual experience through which Jacob passed at a critical moment in his life, and in which he received the final lesson that humbled and broke down his self-will, and convinced him that he could not snatch at the blessing from God's hand, but must accept it as a gift of grace".
(5) When Jacob was upon his death bed, he blessed his two adopted sons (Ephraim and Manasseh, the sons of Joseph) and spoke of "The Angel, which redeemed me from all evil" (Gen 48.16) — "The Angel which ransomed me". Here, as before, we see the Angel as the second person of the Godhead —- our Lord Himself. This is the first mention of redemption in the Scripture.
(6) Jacob now blessed his own sons (Gen. 49), and mid-way through his blessing he suddenly exclaims, without any apparent reason, "I have waited for Thy salvation, O Jehovah". — a phrase repeated by every pious Jew every morning, afternoon and evening in the prayer known as the Amida (because it is said standing) or the Shmone Esrai. Here is another first mention. Salvation (Heb. 'yeshua', from whence Joshua and Jesus). Some see this as a foreshadowing or "profession of faith, naturally called for by this chain of events, in the advent in due time of the promised Deliverer, and of which the accomplishment here became united in thought with the Name of Jehovah". (Bible Commentary).
(7) Finally, "By faith Jacob when he was a-dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph, and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff. (Heb. 11.21). By faith, the blessings that he had received, and the promises, were passed on — Jacob blessed as he had been blessed. By faith, he worshipped — faith was triumphant.
If ever there was a man who experienced the trial of his faith, it was Jacob — read Gen. 31.36-42 for instance — but he won through. He contended with men and prevailed, but he had to learn that he could not contend and prevail against God.
Peter sums up the trial and triumph of faith in 1 Pet. 1.3-9. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy, hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory; receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls".
by J. E. TODD
'For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich' (2 Cor. 8.9).
But how rich are we?
'And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee : then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich towards God' (Luke 12 : 19-21). Obviously there are two kinds of riches. 'For a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the -things which he possesseth' (v. 15), these are material riches. 'Rich towards God' (v. 21), these are spiritual riches. Equally obvious, the Son of God forsook the riches of heavenly glory and embraced the poverty of this world, even to the extent of the cross, in order to make his people rich in the latter sense, that is spiritually rich, 'rich towards God.'
But what does it mean to be rich towards God?
How rich are we in spiritual activity? If a man's life does not consist of the amount of his material possessions (v. 15), and it does not, then of what does it consist? From Genesis to the Revelation the scriptures teach the doctrine that life is fellowship with God and death is separation from God. Of life Genesis says, 'Man became a living soul . . . they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden' (2.7, 3.8), man in fellowship with God. Of death Genesis says, 'For in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die ... So he drove out the man' (2.17, 3.24), man out of fellowship with God. Of life the Revelation says, 'A pure river of water of life ... the tree of life . . . they shall see his face' (22.1-4), man in fellowship with God. Of death the Revelation says, 'The lake of fire. This is the second death' (20.14), man eternally separated from God. The Lord Jesus Christ said, 'I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly' (John 10.10). This He achieved by bringing us into fellowship with God through His own atoning death. 'For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God' (1 Pet. 3.18). "This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God' (John 17.3). How rich are we in the spiritual activity of living in fellowship with God? Are we consciously walking with God, listening to His voice in Holy Scripture, living out His teaching, knowing that we are pleasing Him in the small and great activities of life? These are the purposes for which we were both created and redeemed. Only this is ultimately satisfying to a man. The Lord said, 'My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me' (John 4.34). How rich are we in spiritual activity?
How rich are we in spiritual ambition? 'For all these things do the nations of the world seek after,' that is material things; 'But rather seek ye the kingdom of God' (Luke 12.30-31). Our advanced western civilisation places before Christians endless tempting ambitions in the form of education and careers leading to high salaries and the amassing of material possessions. But the command of God to the man and woman of God is, 'For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness' (1 Tim. 6.10-11). We need an amount of education, money and material possessions to maintain life. But these are not to be the ambitions of life. The Christian's ambition in life must pertain to the kingdom of God. To put sin out of our lives and to be righteous in thought, word and deed. To develop godliness, 'God-likeness,' to show to others something of the character of our Father. To live trusting in God, not in ourselves or money. To be loving and gentle, not just to be bad people made good but also to be good people made nice. To be loyal and consistent to the Lord and His people. Are these the overriding ambitions of our lives? How rich are we in spiritual ambition?
How rich are we in spiritual affection? 'For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also' (Luke 12.34). How can we lay up treasure in heaven (Matt. 6.19-21)?
In the parable of the feast (Luke 14.12-14) our Lord explains. When in obedience to the Lord's teaching we spend time, energy, thought and wealth for which we receive no return for ourselves, then He will reward us at his second advent. 'For thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just' (Luke 14.14). When the Lord comes again, the dead in Christ will be raised (1 Thess. 4.16) and rewarded at His judgement seat (2 Cor. 5.10). If our treasures are material possessions then our affections will be bound to earthly things, but if our treasures await us in heaven then our affections will be bound to heavenly things. How rich are we in spiritual affection?
How rich are we in spiritual alertness? 'Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not' (Luke 12.40). The Lord goes on to tell Peter that His disciples are a special kind of servant, that is stewards (v. 42). A steward differs from a slave in that he is responsible to his master for certain duties without supervision. We are responsible to live our lives in a way that is profitable to our Master the Lord Jesus Christ. One day we shall render an account to Him. 'Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward' (1 Cor. 3.13-14). Shall we hear the words, 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant' (Matt. 25.21), or will it be a case of, 'If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss : but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire' (1 Cor. 3.15)? Are we ready to render to the Lord an account of our time, energies and wealth, the talents which our Lord has entrusted to us as his stewards? How rich are we in spiritual alertness?
The distinction between material and spiritual riches is vividly illustrated in the letters to the seven churches. Of the church at Laodicea it was said, 'Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods and have need of nothing' (Rev. 3.17). They were materially rich. But immediately the Head of the church replies, 'Knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor.' They were spiritually poverty-stricken.
But the distinction is reversed in the letter to the church at Sardis. 'I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty' (Rev. 2.9). Materially speaking they were poor. But then follows the statement, 'But thou art rich.' They were spiritually rich. ' will give thee a crown of life' (v. 10).
How rich are you?
Will the Church Pass Through It?
by ERNEST BARKER
Disengaging our thoughts from the appalling judgments in which the world will be involved, let us now concentrate our mind for a short time upon the glories which await us, and which will be the joyful possession of all true believers at the return of the Lord Jesus.
Salvation in all its Fullness.
The unmentioned writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews informs us that as surely as Christ appeared once to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, so surely will He appear the second time, apart from sin, unto salvation. The great sin question was settled once and for all at the cross. Calvary will never be re-enacted. When Christ comes again that great event will be "unto salvation." Then shall we understand fully that salvation which was designed by God in the past eternal ages, purchased by Christ at the cross, and made good unto us by the Holy Spirit. The oldest and most experienced saint on earth to-day has barely touched ? the fringe of this "great salvation," but God has arranged-His programme for us in such a wonderful way that when: we see the Lord Jesus face to face, we shall then realise as never before its height, and depth and length, and breadth. We shall appreciate its divine magnitude, and exult in its unsearchable fullness. ?
It is by no means an insignificant fact that on more than one occasion in the New Testament reference is made to eternal life as a promise, the reason being that, although we possess that life here and now, by far the grandest part of it is future, and will be realised when we are "for ever with the Lord."
The apostle John reminds us of the greatness and grandeur of that love which the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God. This is our spiritual birthright. Esau foolishly sold his birthright for a mere morsel of pottage, but, happily, it is impossible for us as believers to sell our birthright, for the simple yet profound reason that our life is "hid with Christ in God." So great a divine value has been placed upon that life which has been imparted to us, that God has graciously hidden it, and His hiding-place is Christ. It is therefore beyond the reach of all our enemies.
But the Apostle continues his fascinating theme by saying, "And it doth not yet appear what we shall be." If it were to appear—what would happen? If for a brief interval of ten seconds God were to unveil to us our future we simply would be unable to bear that exceeding and eternal weight of glory. It is therefore necessary for us to exercise that "patience of hope" for which Paul commended the Thessalonian Christians.
Although, however, the complete vista of heaven's wonders has not yet been disclosed, this much has been placed on record :— "We shall be like Him." Compared with this, every other prospect fades away into insignificance. The fulfilment of these five Words will see the culmination, combination, and consummation of all God's eternal purposes towards us. To see the face of our beloved Lord will be heaven indeed : but to be like Him—who can tell what that will mean?
When the Apostle Paul reminded the Philippian believers that their citizenship was in heaven, he took the opportunity of informing them at the same time that a magnificent transformation would take place at the return of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will change this body of our humiliation (which is subject to failure, disease and death), and will refashion it like unto His own glorious body, according to the working of His almighty power. This will constitute the greatest change in our spiritual history. It is said that our physical bodies are constantly changing—in point of fact they change completely two or three times in a normal lifetime — but however frequently, and however thoroughly these natural bodies may change, a far more wonderful change is yet to take place. The earthly image was sadly marred as a result of the fall, but as certainly as we have borne the image of the earthly, so certainly shall we bear the image of the heavenly. The first item in the divine plan of redemption was God's foreknowledge, and He who knew the end from the beginning predestined that we should be con-' formed to the image of His Son. This formed the transcendent purpose He had in view when He saved us by His grace.
Preserving Our Identity.
But let us bear in mind that in heaven we shall preserve our identity. Not only does the sun possess a glory of its own, but the moon also possesses a glory which is her own. And not only so, but the stars have their own glory also, and even they themselves differ from one another in glory. That is to say that although these celestial bodies manifest a combined glory, they also display an individual glory. Thus it will be with us when the "perfect day" dawns. We shall all be like Christ, and at the time each believer will preserve his identity.
This subject of personal identity leads to a question which is so frequently asked:—Shall we know one another in heaven? Undoubtedly we shall. There are many Scriptural evidences of this. To quote one out of many, when the Apostle indicated to the saints at Thessalonica that they were his hope, and joy and crown of rejoicing at the return of the Lord Jesus he clearly implied that he would identify them though they would be so few among the myriads of the redeemed.
The closing promise in the Bible is, "Surely, I come quickly." Of all the future events recorded in the Scriptures, this lies nearest to the heart of our blessed Lord. For the; literal fulfilment of this promise He endured the cross, andj despised the shame. He is now anticipating the moment when He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied. Moreover, that satisfaction will be mutual, inasmuch as we too shall be satisfied when we awake with His likeness.
Well might we gladly respond, "Amen, even so, come Lord Jesus." What a future! No more tears; no more pain; no more sorrow; no more disappointments; no more anxiety; no more hunger; no more thirst; no more sin; no more curse; no more death. But, after all, these are only negatives. What must be the positives? What shall take the place of all these things which now so frequently tend to depress us? Joy unspeakable, and glory in all its fullness.
It will be joy upon joy; song upon song; glory upon glory; satisfaction upon satisfaction ever abounding as the endless ages of a dateless eternity roll by. We shall be in a glorified place, clothed in glorified bodies, in company with a glorified people, and in the presence of a glorified Saviour.
A Wonderful Presentation
Then will be seen the most wonderful presentation, ever witnessed. The Church — that pearl of great price, to procure which the Lord Jesus "sold all that He had" when He offered Himself without spot to God—will be presented to Himself, a glorious church complete in every respect. No member will be missing; no division will mar its grandeur; no spot, or wrinkle, or blemish will spoil its beauty; no discordant note will be heard; no cloud will intervene; nothing will be wanting to complete the super-magnificence of that wondrous spectacle when we shall be presented faultless before His presence with exultation.
There is a strange theory current among certain of God's children though happily one does not hear it mentioned so frequently now as formerly. It is the idea that when Christ comes for His own, only a limited number will be taken, and the remainder will be caught away at a later period. These privileged saints will be (so we are informed) the faithful ones—those who have lived consistent lives, who have rendered faithful service, and who are eagerly awaiting His return. This is indeed a theory hard to be understood, and for the following reason:—It is possible, on the one hand, for a believer to be faithful and true to the Lord, and yet never to have been clearly taught the truth of the second coming of Christ, whilst, on the other hand, it is possible for a believer to have been thoroughly initiated into this grand truth, and yet to have lived an inconsistent life.
The words which occur in Hebrews 9, verse 28, "And unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time," had a special significance for those Christians to whom the epistle was addressed, who were perfectly familiar with the services of the tabernacle. When the high priest entered into the holy place to make an atonement for sin,
the people stood without, anxiously awaiting his reappearance (see Leviticus 16.17 and Luke 1.10 and 21). There might have been those who grew somewhat careless as the time passed, but that in no wise altered the fact that the high priest went in, and came out, for the blessing of all the congregation of Israel. Similarly, Christ was once offered to bear the sins of His people, and ere long He will reappear on behalf of them all for that final act of blessing when He will say, "Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away."
Who Will Be Caught Away?
If it be true that only the faithful ones will be caught away when the Lord returns, one wonders how many will go! Who after all has reached that standard of loyalty which would constitute him worthy to be among the first to ascend? At the best we are all unprofitable servants. Compared with what it should be, our love is cold, our service is poor, our influence is limited.
Does it not amount to this—If it be a question of merit, not a single saint will go. If it be a matter of grace (and surely it is), then all will go.
Finally, let us ever remember that just as our hope is centred in Christ, so His hope is centred in us. Many times we read in the fourth gospel that He came down from heaven, not to do His own will, but the Father's who sent Him. The great mission of the Lord Jesus to this planet might be summed up in these words, "Lo! I come to do Thy will O God." This was particularly manifested in Gethsemane's garden, when, under the shadow of the cross, He said, "Not My will, but Thine be done."
But there was one occasion when He definitely expressed the desire for the fulfilment of His own will, and the record is in John 17, verse 24, "Father, I will that they also whom Thou hast given Me be with Me, where I am, that they may behold My glory."
How grand it is to realise that this intense longing on the part of our blessed Lord is so intimately connected with His redeemed ones! Every other thought; every other purpose; every other anticipation was subservient to this tremendous yearning of His heart.
Let us, therefore, take courage, because, "Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed."
by J. B. HEWITT, Chesterfield
Justification is a most important subject as it has to do with a right relationship with God. It is one of the great cardinal truths of the Gospel. It was the age old question of Job 25.4, "How then can man be justified with God?" There appeared to be no answer to this problem for God declared Himself to be "One that will by no means dear the guilty" (Ex. 34.7).
Taking a broad view of the subject the following facts may be noted. We are justified judicially by God (Rom. 3.26; 8.33); meritoriously by blood (Rom. 5.9); freely by His grace (Rom. 3.24); effectually by the Spirit (1 Cor. 6.11); assuredly by His resurrection (Rom. 4.25); instrumentally by faith (Rom. 5.1), and evidentially by works (Jas. 2.14-16).
THE SCRIPTURAL MEANING OF IT. The act of God declaring men free from guilt and acceptable to Him and counting them righteous (Rom. 3.25,26; 5.18). A change in a man's relation to God, or standing before God. Some have described it, "just as if I have never sinned". It sould good but has no Scriptural basis, it is bad theology. The noun form "OIKAIOSIS" means to pronounce righteous or acquitted. On believing one is acquitted of his sin and accounted righteous. This is the PREROGATIVE of God. He has done this for us in Christ (Rom. 5.16,17). We are just in His sight eternally.
ITS TWO-FOLD NATURE (1) It is a removal — the negative side. Saved from the anger of a holy God (Rom. 5.16). The accusations of conscience are silenced (Heb. 9.14; 10.2). From the consequences of sin (Rom. 6.23; Heb. 9.27). (2) It is a restoration — the positive side. We are cleared from all guilt (Rom. 5.16; 8.33), and constituted righteous (Rom. 3.22; 4.3-9; Gal. 3.6). As in the burnt offering the death of the victim procured acceptance before God. (Lev. 1.4; Eph. 5.2).
THE SINNER NEEDS JUSTIFICATION. All men are unrighteous (Rom. 3.10), unruly (Rom. 3.16,17), unclean (Isa. 64.6), unprofitable (Rom. 3.12), ungodly (Rom. 5.6) and unable to please God (Rom. 8.8; Heb. 11.6).
SOME MISTAKES ABOUT JUSTIFICATION. People think that by good living, charity, law-keeping, and religion they can obtain favour with God. This is not so. (Job 9.1,2,20; Psa. 130.3; 143.2). It is not possible by keeping the law (Gal. 3.10,11). Some taught that circumcision must be added to faith (Gal. 3.2,3; Rom. 4.1,2). The law gives the knowledge of sin, it cannot justify (Rom. 3.20). It guides us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith (Gal. 3.24).
THE MARVEL OF JUSTIFICATION. We are justified by God (Isa. 50.8; Rom. 8.29). He is righteous in all His ways and judgements in accordance with His character. (Rom. 3.4,30). Verse 21 is important "Now" shows the unique character of this day of grace. "Sins that are past" (v. 25), remind us of God's forbearance in passing over sins prior to Calvary. The death of Christ declares God righteous in thus acting. He is a Just God. We are justified by the grace of God, the spring of it (Rom. 3.24). In grace God bestows the blessing, "Freely" means "without a cause" or "for nought" (John 15.25; 2 Thess. 3.8). Justification is the gift of God. (Rom. 5,16,18). All is bestowed freely because of the blood shed sacrificially at Calvary (Rom. 5.9), and the Saviour's obedience on Calvary (Rom. 5.9,19).
THE MEANS OF JUSTIFICATION. "By His blood" Rom. 5.9. This is the only basis. It is procured by and in Christ (Gal. 2.17). The sinner on believing in Jesus possesses justification "NOW" (Rom. 5.9a). By the resurrection of Christ (Rom. 4.25; 8.34). His death is the ground of justification. His resurrection is the guarantee, that it is judicially, and legally acceptable. This is illustrated in Abraham before the law (Rom. 4.1-4, 9-25), and David under the law (Rom. 4.5-9). Justification is received on the principle of faith (Rom. 5.1; 3.28). It is faith in the Person and work of Christ (Rom. 4.3; Gal. 3.6). The faith of the sinner is reckoned for righteousness, as in the case of Abraham and David (Rom. 4.5-9). It is entirely of faith (Gal. 2.20).
THE MESSAGE OF JUSTIFICATION. Clearly declared by Paul (Acts 13.38,39). The condition of blessing "all that believe", the extent of the blessing — "from all things. Illustrated in the prayer of the Publican (Luke 18.13,14). He was acquitted and accepted. Both Peter and Paul proclaimed Christ as the only means of salvation (Acts 4.12; 13.38,39).
THE MEASURE OF JUSTIFICATION. No charge can be laid against us (Rom. 8.33). We are cleared from all things (Acts 13.39). We are changed eternally (1 Cor. 6.11). Our conscience has peace with God (Rom. 5.1). Communion with God is ours daily (Rom. 5.2). We are confirmed as heirs (TiL 3.7), and certain to be glorified (Rom. 8.30). There is no disagreement between Paul and James regarding this great truth. The quotation in Rom. 4.2,3 is from Gen. 15.6 and refers to Abraham's justification by faith. James 2.21 is from Gen. 22, dealing with his consecration. This took place some thirty years afterwards and was conclusive proof of the genuineness of his faith. Rahab is mentioned because her act (Jam. 2.25) was a work of faith. Both confirmed that faith is always seen by its actions. God saw their faith by what they did in a crisis. Two features of Christianity are expressed in these two characters — a higher affinity in relationship and a nobler association in fellowship. To Abraham was given the seal of circumcision for assurance, to Rahab was given the scarlet cord of acceptance. James reminds us that a faith that never moves a limb is a corpse, movement is the test of life (Jas. 2.20). Others take a different view, Paul's teaching is positional the principle of faith; James' teaching is practical, the practice in the life. Only God could assess the reality of these two great characters and blessed them accordingly. A good illustration of justification is found in the "Cities of Refuge" in Jordan ch. 20. Meditate on this and see how it works.
by J. FLANIGAN (Belfast)
5—"THE PERFECT SERVANT"
Jehovah has had a multitude of servants. They are a noble and illustrious roll of honour. But when Jehovah exhorts us to "Behold My Servant", none of us thinks of asking, "Lord, which servant?". There is but one servant worthy of the adoring contemplation of all the saints. His Name is Jesus. It is upon this blessed One that we now meditate.
The early verses of Isaiah 42, with passages from chapters 49, 50, 52 and 53, are often referred to as the "Servant Songs". They sing of the lovely character and ministry of Messiah. They tell of His Incarnation, of His Crucifixion, and of His eventual Glory. In Chapter 42 there are seven delightful features of Jehovah's perfect Servant
SUBMISSIVENESS. This is an essential prerequisite for every servant. That He Who is the Son from eternity should be willing to be called "Servant", draws out our admiration of One Who was perfectly submissive. "My Son", says Jehovah, in the second Psalm. "My Servant", He says, in Isaiah 42.1. Our Lord has added a new dimension to Sonship. That a Son should be a Servant was a thing unknown in Jewish households. Servants and sons were different. Even the prodigal knew this (Luke 15.19). The holy submissiveness of the Servant-Son has added dignity to service. "He took upon Him the form of a servant", and we bow in worship.
FAITHFULNESS. The unswerving consistent faithfulness of the Lord Jesus brought delight to the heart of God. "My Son"; "My Servant"; My Delight"! The Father's expression of delight at the Jordan is the intimation of what those hidden years really meant to Him. For thirty years in Nazareth there lived, in utter faithfulness to God, One who could say, at any time, "I must be about my Father's business". In the things of His Father He was ever occupied. His work in a carpenter's shop, or His attendance at the Nazareth synagogue; His subjection in the home, or His holy demeanour in the town; all, alike, were for the pleasure and glory of His Father. Those were thirty years of faithfulness to God, and the years of public ministry that followed were just the same.
FRUITFULNESS. "My Spirit upon Him". There are three references by Isaiah to the Holy Spirit and the Messiah; chapter 11.2, chapter 61.1, and here in chapter 42.1. There would appear to be links with His incarnation, with His baptism, and with His public ministry. The gentle Dove abode upon Him. It is reminiscent of the oil in the Meal Offering. There was unbroken communion between the incarnate Son and the Spirit in the holiness of His perfect Manhood, and this is evidenced in an unique life, in which was ever present all the fruit of that Spirit. Every beautiful feature was there, in perfect blend and balance. There was love, joy, and peace, in His relations with God. There was longsuffering, gentleness, and goodness, towards man. There was, in His blessed Self, faith, meekness, and temperance. His was, indeed, a fruitful life and ministry.
QUIETNESS. "He shall not cry, nor lift up... His voice". We know of course, that, literally and actually, our Lord did cry; and He did lift up His voice to be heard in the street. He preached to multitudes, and no doubt preached that all might hear. What this lovely phrase means is this, that He would never, ever, engage in noisy, cheap, loud advertising of Himself. The street vendor shouts his wares. He attracts attention to himself and to his goods by shouting in the street. It is the cheapest form of publicity. Our Lord would never be associated with such. Nor should His servants be. He has exemplified for us that quiet dignity which should ever characterise the service of God. There is no room for, and no need for, noisy gimmickry, in the ministry of the glad tidings.
GENTLENESS. With the "Bruised reed" and the "Smoking flax" the perfect Servant deals gently. The reed was the most primitive of wind instruments. The flax was the wick of the simple oil lamp. When the reed was bruised the melody was spoiled. When the wick smouldered the flame was dimmed. Neither the reed nor the wick were of any intrinsic value. They could easily be discarded and replaced. But this was not the way of the Lord Jesus. With gentle grace and tenderness He would mend the reed or trim the flax. A Thomas may doubt; a Peter may deny; the others may forsake Him and flee; but He will restore them. He will have the reed playing sweetly again. He will have the smoking flax burning brightly once more. May we, His servants, imitate His gentleness, and deal kindly with those who err and get out of the way. Our Lord never tolerated sin; nor should we; but He did exercise forbearance towards His erring people.
STEADFASTNESS. "He shall not fail". Sometimes we excuse our failures. If only we had lived in a different age; if we had lived in a different place; or if we had been given a different task; it might have been easier, we imagine. But the perfect Servant ministered when things were as dark as ever they had been in Israel. And He moved in a variety of circumstances, engaging in a variety of tasks. Wherever you find Him; whatever He is doing; at whatever time; He did not fail. Preaching, teaching, healing, praying, comforting, rebuking, He did not fail. Whether individuals like the woman of Samaria or the Rabbi Nicodemus; whether little groups in a fisherman's cottage or multitudes by the Sea of Galilee, He did not fail. His was a steadfast ministry, with a fixed purpose — the glory of His Father.
RIGHTEOUSNESS. "Judgement unto truth ... judgement in the earth". Just judgement was His motivating desire. Jehovah would be glorified in this. Impartial, righteous dealing with all the people. He would never be swayed. Voices may call, but He was deaf to them. There would be sights that would distract others, but to those sights the perfect Servant was blind. He had a single eye and a pure motive in His ministry. He lived and served for the pleasure of God, and left us an example.
- "So we remember Him, in all His ways,
- The Man of Thy good pleasure, through those days
- Of earthly sojourn, suffering and shame,
- And give Thee thanks for Him in His blest Name".
by JOHN RITCHIE
A WARM COMPANION
"When I left for America", writes a young believer, "I was in a cold and back-slidden state of soul. In fact, the only desire I had, was to get on in the world and make money. When I arrived, a stranger among strangers, I would very soon have drifted along with the world. In my new situation, my fellow-worker, a young lad of fifteen, was a warm Christian, and before I was in his company an hour, I felt the power of his godly, honest life. He asked me if I was converted, and when he found out that I was, he soon let it be known throughout the warehouse. So that I found myself a marked man the first day. When the evening came, he took me with him to his lodgings, and after spending an hour or two happily, we knelt down together. He prayed for me so earnestly, and asked God to 'help me to take a decided stand for the Lord'. My soul has been restored to the Lord, and I am very happy. I thank God for my warm companion." Dear young saints, has your warm and bright testimony been the means of bringing some backslider back to the Lord, or does your worldly walk and talk drag others down?
by S. NICHOLLS (Cumbran)
This is the second of the "Alphabetical" Psalms. Others are Psalms 25, 37, 111, 112, 119, 145, each verse or verses beginning with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The title of this Psalm links it with Psalm 56 which is its prelude (There are fourteen Psalms whose titles indicate links with historical episodes in David's life).
For this historical setting we need to read 1 Samuel 21.10-15, where we have the record of David's flight from Achish. It is not without significance that chaper 22 opens with the words "David departed or escaped to the cave Adullom". We like to think of that cave echoing and re-echoing to the sound of praise as expressed in our Psalm. "O magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt His Name together" (v.3). Those in distress and in debt and discontented are described as "humble" v.2, "poor" v.6, and "afflicted" v.19.
But there is now no more distress for the "Lord delivereth from fear" v.4, from "dangers" v.7, from "troubles" v.17, and from "afflictious" v.19. There is no more left for "there is no want to them that fear Him" v.9; "they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing" v.10. There is no more discontentment as they heeded the counsel of their father figure David. "Come ye children hearken unto me. I will teach you the fear of the Lord. What man is he that desireth life or loveth many days that he may see good" vs. 11,12.
This Psalm must have been a portion of Scripture enjoyed by Peter. He experienced angelic deliverance (v.7), in Acts 5.19 and 12.10. He wrote about "tasting that the Lord is gracious (v.8) in 1 Peter 2.3. He also freely quotes from verses 11-14 in 1 Peter 3.10-12m "He that will love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil and his lips that they speak no guile".
A suggested analysis of the Psalm is as follows —
- vs. 1-10 David's Praise for Deliverance.
- vs. 11-14 David's Prescription for Discontentment,
- vs. 15-22 The Saint's Privileges Described.
(for the busy Housewife) No. 5
by Eric G. Parmenter, Basingstoke
Old Testament scripture reminds us of the possibility of one of the common people, a ruler or anointed priest becoming guilty of sin, "through ignorance against any of the commandments of the Lord concerning things which ought not to be done". Because of this God in the unsearchable riches of His grace appointed the sin offering whereby the sins of ignorance might be dealt with according to His holiness.
How delightful for our hearts to contemplate our blessed Lord as the full anti-type of the sin offering: Even whilst He was being stricken, and made sin for us, there was found in Him all the perfection of divine excellency, God still beholding Him as "His beloved Son in whom He was well pleased" whose devotion and obedience in life and in death remained unchanged, as told out in those parts of the offering which were placed upon the Altar of Burnt Offering and ascended as a sweet savour to God: Yet how solemn to remember that the whole bullock, excepting what was placed on the altar, was carried "without the camp unto a clean place and burned up".
There by faith we see what was involved for the Lord Jesus to make satisfactory provision that the sins of believers may be ended forever: To stand outside the gate and behold Calvary — the flame fiercely raging in the full intensity of its devouring power learning something of the fire of Holy wrath concerning sin, will help us to apprehend the heinousness even of sins of ignorance which so often we think of as synonymous with guiltlessness.
by Jack Strahan, Enniskillen
"JESUS, THY BLOOD AND RIGHTEOUSNESS"
COUNT NICOLAUS LUDWIG VON ZINZENDORF (1700—1760)
The church of Christ owes much to godly mothers and godly grandmothers. It is known that soon after the birth of Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf on May 26th, 1700 at Dresdon, Saxony, Germany that his godly mother in recording the event in her bible made this prayerful entry, "May the Father of mercies rule the heart of this child, so that he may walk honesty and uprightly. May sin never rule over him, and may his feet be steadfast in the word; then he will be happy for time and eternity". The boy's father, Count Zinzendorf, descended from one of the most ancient, noble and wealthy families in Saxony and who held high office under the Elector of Saxony, died six weeks after the birth of his son. His mother remarried and Nicolaus was brought up by his maternal grandmother, Henrietta Catherine von Gersdorf on her estate at Hennersdorf. She too was a woman of deep piety and talented, a writer of hymns and religious works.
Nicolaus, when he was ten years of age, was sent to the Pietist school of Pastor Francke in Halle and there he spent six years. It would appear that a work of grace in his salvation was effected in those early years for, in looking back on those days from adult life, he recounted "it is more than thirty years since I received a deep impression of Divine grace through the preaching of the cross. The desire to bring souls to Christ took possession of me, and my heart became fixed on the Lamb".
At the age of sixteen, strong pressure was brought to bear upon Nicolaus to embark upon a diplomatic career in State service and he was sent by his guardian-uncle to study law at the University of Wittenberg. He qualified there three years later and was appointed Counsellor of the State at the Court of Saxony. It was just about this time that, in a pressing desire to see the world, he came one evening to the public gallery in Dusseldorf and there, while gazing upon Stenburg's telling picture of the cruxifixion was confronted with life's great crisis. The Christ of Calvary seemed to gaze into his very soul and the words of the inscription underneath to burn into his heart.
- "All this I did for thee;
- What hast thou done for Me?"
Overcome by the love of Christ, he straightway resolved in his heart to serve only Him; thereafter, his life's motto was to be, "I have but one passion and that is HE and only HE". He had seen the Christ, but more, he had also seen the world, not in its luxury but in its need and he resolved to do something about it.
In the early 18th century many Moravian and Bohemian believers, suffering under an oppressive Austrian government, fled their country and sought freedom under Zinzendorf on his estate at Berthelsdorf. These followers of John Huss (the "old goose of Bohemia") were welcomed and one of their leaders, Christian David, founded there the famous colony of Herrnhut (meaning "the protection of the Lord"). This model village was soon renowned far and wide, and Zinzendorf was famed for his willingness to receive all oppressed believers. Zinzendorf loved them as brethren in Christ and ministered fervently and untiringly in their midst. His biographer tells of his last days at Herrnhut, how that he endeavoured to seek the personal acquaintance of every member therein, whereby he might ascertain their spiritual state before God and that there was scarcely one soul there that he did not converse with privately.
Zinzendorf's dedication and vision inspired the Moravians to become pioneers in foreign missions. In the year 1732, when the Herrnhut colony numbered about six hundred, two of its number were sent forth as missionaries to the island of St. Thomas in the West Indies. When they departed, each with six dollars in his pocket, they determined to sell themselves as slaves if that was the only way of bringing the gospel to the negroes. In this spirit, the Moravian missions grew and grew, reaching to all five continents of the world. Thus, years before William Carey sailed for India or John Wesley itinerated around his native England, the Moravians had 165 missions scattered widely throughout the world.
Zinzendorf also became a prolific hymn writer and is reckoned to have been one of the greatest in Germany. His first hymn was written as a boy at Halle in 1712, his last just a few days before he died at Herrnhut in 1760, and between these dates he wroted more than two thousand hymns in all. His critics maintain that he wrote too much and did not give enough care to revision and correction. Nevertheless, some of his hymns are of excellent worth, fired by a deep personal devotion to his Saviour and marked by simplicity and sweeetness.
Zinzendorf died at Herrnhut on May 9th, 1760. His closing testimony was assuring and triumphant, "I am going to the Saviour, I am ready. If He is no longer willing to make use of me here, I am ready to go to Him, for I have nothing else to keep me here". Thus he passed away into the presence of his Lord. It is recorded that there were scarcely sufficient funds to pay for his grave and yet many travelled from long distances to pay last respects to a great leader. Over two thousand attended his funeral and several of his own hymns were sung on that occasion.
The hymns of Count Zinzendorf were sung at the first by the Moravians at Herrnhut colony and later by Moravians worldwide. It was the singing of these hymns that captured the hearts and influenced so deeply the lives of John and Charles Wesley. When they first heard them on a visit to Herrnhut and later on board ship to Georgia in America, their hearts were stirred, not only by the spiritual richness and depth of the words, but by the fervour and abandon with which they were sung.
Zinzendorf's hymns today are to be found mostly in Moravian collections but two of his compositions have found much wider acceptance and acclaim. "Jesus, still lead on", known in its original by almost every Sunday School child in Germany has been translated into the English by Miss Jane Borthwick. "Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness", written by Zinzendorf in 1739 while returning from a visit to his missionary friends in the West Indies and rendered the following year into English by John Wesley, is the hymn by which he is best remembered. In its original there were 33 verses and some of these will ever have an enduring place in the hearts of the people of God.
- "Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness,
- My beauty are, my glorious dress;
- Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
- With joy shall I lift up my head.
- This spotless robe the same appears,
- When ruined nature sinks in years;
- No age can change its glorious hue,
- The robe of Christ is ever new.
- When from the dust of death I rise
- To claim my mansion in the skies,
- E'en then shall this be all my plea —
- Jesus hath lived, hath died for me!
- Lord, I believe, were sinners more
- Than sands upon the ocean shore,
- Thou hast for all a ransom paid,
- For all a full atonement made.
- Ah! give to all Thy servants, Lord,
- With power to speak Thy gracious word,
- That all who to Thy wounds will flee,
- May find eternal life in Thee."
Man, through the fall, divested of his white and honourable robe of perfect innocence appears cringing before his God in his spiritual nakedness. Our bible, however, declares that his God is none other than Jehovah Tsidkenu (Jer. 23.6) and that he hath provided for His creative "a robe of righteousness" (Isa. 61.10). Like the inner vestment of the Saviour this robe of righteousness is without seam, woven throughout. Many eyes, human, angelic, satanic and even Divine have scrutinized it; it is without flaw and without spot. Such is the sufficiency of Calvary's work that the believer's spiritual attire is complete and he now appears unashamed and resplendent before his God, clothed in God's righteousness (2 Cor. 5.21),... nor will this robe of righteousness ever fade or wear out with the passing of time or throughout a long eternity.
- "My beauty this, my glorious dress
- Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness!"
Tis Past the Dark and Gloomy Night.
- Thy sorrows, LORD, those toils and tears,
- Thy griefs and pains are past,
- The crowning glory of those years
- We shall behold at last.
- Upon the hidden manna then
- With wonder we shall feed,
- The tale of sovereign grace again
- And yet again shall read.
- Those words and deeds of love Divine,
- The path Thy feet have trod
- With radiant glory ever shine
- Before the Throne of God.
- And to our waiting vision then
- That path Thou wilt reveal,
- The secrets of Thy love explain
- Which love would here conceal.
- O hasten that eternal spring
- When we shall see Thy face,
- And through unending ages sing,
- 'Tis all of sovereign grace.
J. M. Jones (Toowoomba).