Which of those two statements would aptly describe the spiritual condition of my neighbour across the street, the interest or lack of it shown by the friend with whom I work, or the attitude of that non-Christian in the home?
It is not true that the greater part of the population of these islands has never heard the Gospel presented in its simplicity. They can be placed in the category of “Gospel ignorant” rather than “Gospel hardened.” While many to-day attend their church and call themselves “Christian,” nevertheless the fact remains that the majority know little or nothing of God’s salvation.
Who then is to blame for this state of Gospel ignorance around us to-day? They, for not coming to us to hear, or we, for not going to them to speak? Let us remember fellow-Christian, that our responsibility is not ended when we open the door of the Gospel Hall on the Lord’s Day evening. The commission of the Master is without contradiction—“Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel” (Mark 16:15), and again “A sower went forth to sow” (Matthew 13:3). In light of such Biblical teaching, surely the challenge to every believer is that of going to the unsaved rather than expecting the unbeliever to come to us to receive the message.
Throughout the world sincere Christians are realising the need of careful consideration in relation to the reaching of men and women with the Gospel. While organised Gospel meetings may attract the Christians, are they successful in reaching the mass of people with the message of life?
While a number of believers are meeting to pray prior to the Gospel Meeting, could it not be suggested that others “go out” and bring in the lost and perishing?
Paul, that great prince of preachers, has recorded for our instruction the methods and success of New Testament evangelism. We would do well to adopt the methods he used and the lessons he taught his pupils.
WHERE DID PAUL PREACH?
When speaking to the Ephesian elders he said “I taught you publicly (in the market place as in Acts 17:14) and from house to house,” (Acts 20:20). Is it not time we returned to the Apostolic pattern of meeting to proclaim the Gospel from house to house? Christians whose life and testimony reflect Christ in the area, will surely find it a joy to open their houses for such a noble service. While meeting in such an atmosphere friends and neighbours will feel relaxed as they give attention to the spoken Word.
The effectiveness of such a practice has been proved in areas where the unsaved were reluctant to come to a public meeting place to hear the Gospel. Recently, one such gathering ended with a number of listeners requesting help in spiritual matters.
Could not the invitation to such a gathering be made by word of mouth or by means of a card inviting the friend or neighbour to hear a speaker present the Gospel in the home? Surely this is the return to the “cottage meeting” idea of Gospel outreach and without doubt has the support of the Scriptures.
One recalls, how in a remote village of South America we were encouraged to get the homes of the Christians filled with many unsaved souls who were unwilling to enter a public meeting place. If such a method will result in the bringing of dear souls from a state of spiritual ignorance it will have been worth the effort.
During his stay at Athens (Acts 17:17), Paul also made known the Gospel in the market place. In other words he went to the people, meeting with them at their points of rendezvous, let it be the market place or Mars hill. What a lesson for us to learn in these days when it appears so difficult to contact the people of these islands with the Gospel.
Again, the question echoes, “is their state of ignorance due to the fact that they are not coming to us to hear or we, are not going to them to speak?” The resurrected Christ still says “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel.” The ministry of personal evangelism must have its place in the activity of the local church, otherwise it fails in its responsibility to evangelize the world.
HOW DID PAUL PREACH?
During Paul’s lifetime he made two most interesting contacts, one Aquila and the other Priscilla, both of whom were forced to leave Rome in 52 A.D. by edict of Claudius. Being tent makers (as was Paul) he joined himself to them and through personal evangelism won them for Christ.
Some time later, leaving Corinth, they accompanied Paul as far as Ephesus where he left them and continued n route to Jerusalem. Writing his letter to the Corinthians the apostle says “Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord with the church that is in their house” (Acts 16:19). The edict of Claudius is lifted and Aquila and Priscilla leave Ephesus and return to Rome. Paul in writing his epistle to the Romans states “greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers and greet the church that is in their home” (Acts 16:3-5).
These passages make it abundantly clear that wherever they went they followed Paul’s instruction. Their deep exercise and concern being the reaching out to their fellow men and women with the Gospel of grace. And what means did they adopt in that apostolic age? Simply contacting their friends and neighbours by inviting them into their homes to hear the Gospel.
The procedure in the Gospel of one preacher standing before an audience, the majority of whom are Christians, has resulted in hundreds of people remaining still ignorant as to the claims of the Cross.
In concluding this article, let us consider briefly the content of Paul’s message. It consisted of repentance toward God and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ. Such a Christ-exalting Gospel led many to saving faith in Christ. How careful we must be to explain to our audience the terms of the Gospel in language that they can readily understand. Well-used cliches and favourite expressions may be understood by the Christians who listen, but what of the ungodly who are present? Can they grasp the meaning of such language or are they left in ignorance as to the implication of the message? Let this question challenge the hearts of those who speak and those of us who listen.
So, while we continue to use the Sunday evening meeting as a means of preaching Christ, let us not limit our programme of evangelisation to this once-a-week effort.
The early apostles believed and practised personal evangelism which in turn led to souls being saved and Christians gathering to His Name.
My neighbour, then is he Gospel hardened or is he Gospel ignorant? If Gospel ignorant, then I am responsible to bring him within reach of this soul-liberating message of life.
V. 9. For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, ‘Also’ indicates that another outcome of Paul’s hearing of their progress in faith, love and hope was his prayer for them. His prayer was without ceasing, an expression so commonly used by Paul to indicate the earnestness of his intercession (Rom. 1:9, Eph. 1:16, 1 Thess. 1:3, 2:13, 2 Tim. 1:3).
and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of His will, Here we have (a) the nature of his prayer—an earnest petition (RV, to make request), and (b) the object of his prayer—-that they might become mature in the knowledge of God’s will. ‘Knowledge’ here is lit., the thorough knowledge, in contrast with the simpler word used by the Gnostics. Note the same contrast between the two words for knowledge in 1 Cor. 13:12—‘Now I know in part; but then shall I fully know’ (RVm).
in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; The full knowledge that Paul desired for them was that of the will of God, which is here defined as spiritual wisdom and understanding (RV). The word ‘spiritual’ is in the position of emphasis, and indicates that both wisdom and understanding are the work of the Spirit of God—what is contrasted with the fleshly mind of the Gnostics (2:18). ‘Wisdom’ is the innate ability to sense the true and the good. ‘Understanding’ is lit., a putting together, in the mind—the result of experience, knowing how to deal with a situation from a previous occasion. Wisdom is primary and general; understanding is secondary and particular.
V. 10. That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, This is the outcome of the Spirit’s guidance. It refers to the whole round of the believer’s life. He should live worthily (RV) of the Lord who has called him—that is, suitably to his high calling. It is a mind set upon pleasing the Lord in all things.
being fruitful in every good work, This is the first of four ways of walking worthily, each expressed by a present participle. Fruitbearing is manifested in the good works that should characterise believers, as in Phil. 1:11, where the fruit is described as righteous deeds. Compare also Rom. 6:13.
and increasing in the knowledge of God; The second manifestation of the worthy walk. The word for knowledge is lit., full knowledge, the same as in v. 9, not the simpler word. Paul would desire for them the thorough knowledge of God that would dispel the faulty knowledge that the Gnostics sought to teach them. The full knowledge of God is the true means of spiritual growth.
V. 11. Strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power,unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; The third indication of the worthy walk. It is lit., being made strong in every kind of strength—whatever strength was needed. It was supplied out of the might that expresses the majesty of God. The word here rendered ‘might’ is used in the New Testament of God alone. This strengthening produces patience, or endurance—not only submitting to trials, but lit., remaining, being steadfast, under them; it also produces longsuffering, in one who suffers a long time before being provoked by those who would injure him; it also enables the believer to rejoice in his trial, a joy that will prove his faith, develop his patience, and produce his perfection (Jas. 1:2-3).
V. 12. Giving thanks unto the Father, The fourth characteristic of the believer who walks worthily (2:6-7). It is the response to God for all He had done for, and in, the Colossians, enabling them so to walk. Paul then proceeds to give three reasons why the Colossians should give thanks to the Father :
(1) which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: This is the work of the Father, who has made us His children, by adoption; and ‘if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ’ (Rom. 8:17). We were once in the darkness of this world, but God who, at creation, called light out of darkness, has shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). This light is here looked on as an eternal inheritance.
V. 13. (2) Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, The prince of the darkness of this world (Eph. 6:12) had us in his power (Eph. 2:2), but God delivered us from his tyranny, from the darkness of spiritual blindness in which we were held.
and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son: God’s translation was for us a change of position—from the sphere of darkness into the beneficent rule of the kingdom of Christ. The word ‘translated’ is used of the wholesale removal of a nation from one place to another. Here it is a transposition into the kingdom, and authority, of the Son of His love. This is a much greater advancement than that envisaged by the gnostic teachers, who would have us placed under the jurisdiction of inferior angels (2:18). The believer is even now in the kingdom of Christ, which has already begun. Christ is the Son of God’s love, even as the Father had testified of Him on earth (Matt. 3:17). He was the Son who manifested the Father’s love to man. The believer is presently in the enjoyment of this love.
V. 14. (3) In Whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins: The evidence of the love of Christ is here shown in that He has redeemed us, as slaves from the bondage of Satan, having paid the ransom price in His blood, His sacrifice on Calvary. The ‘redemption’ was the price paid for our release; the ‘forgiveness’ of our sins is the personal realisation of this work in our hearts— our sins are gone; no longer do they come between God and us. ‘My chains are snapt, the bonds of sin are broken, and I am free.’
It has been said that the history of this world is that of two men, Adam and Christ and, so far as the Christian is concerned, this is quite true. It is summed up, as so often in Scripture, in a single verse ‘As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive’ (1 Cor. 15:22). This remarkable word covers not only the world as we know it but extends also into the eternal day, the key to the verse lying in the typically beautiful Pauline expression ‘IN CHRIST.’ This is the position of every true believer; it should be also his exercise that he is marked by a corresponding state.
The understanding of divine principles is a necessity for every student of the Scriptures (and by extension for every Christian) if he is to have an intelligent grasp of the truth, an outline of sound words, ‘rightly dividing the word of truth’ (2 Tim. 2:15). This second Epistle envisages the last days, in which we find ourselves, when there is around us in Christendom general departure and in many instances apostasy. In these circumstances these principles, fixed and admitting of no variation (even by God Himself), acquire if possible even greater importance. For instance we read in the Song of Moses ‘He (God) killeth and He maketh alive’ (Deut. 32:39); a principle which is again quoted in the remarkable prayer of Hannah (1 Sam. 2:6). When Naaman, the leper, is sent by the king of Syria to the king of Israel the latter asks the question ‘Am I God, to kill and to make alive?’ It is clearly the way in which God operates and underlines in Christianity the need for the new birth, one of several ‘musts’ which John employs in his Gospel.
Evidently in these matters the sovereignty of God, a most important principle, is involved. On our side, the acceptance of it is a question not only of obedience but of something which lies even deeper, the principle of subjection. It is the surrender of our own will in order to be subject to the will of Another, of God. Needless to say, the principle is found in perfection in Christ, as indeed in every other instance. At the moment of the most extreme pressure prior to the cross ‘Nevertheless not as I will but as Thou wilt’ (Matt. 26:39). Our own weakness is at times exposed in a time of adversity by the question ‘Why should this happen to me?’ On the other hand the acceptance of divine sovereignty will on each occasion of testing be a source of strengthening of the work of God in the soul.
In the Epistle to the Hebrews (ch. 10:9) there comes to light a principle which is instanced on many occasions throughout Scripture, ‘He taketh away the first that He (God) may establish the second’ This takes us back, of course, to our earlier reference to Adam and Christ and its application is at once apparent. The first order of man has to go in order to make way for a Man of another order altogether, Christ. As a matter of doctrine, this was effected for us in the death of Christ: the practical working out of the truth is doubtless a life-long exercise as we ask ourselves to what extent is it really true that we have ‘changed our man?’ The direct application of the principle in this 10th chapter of Hebrews is in the context to the substitution of the ineffectual offerings under the law by the perfection of the sacrifice of Christ Who could say in this verse (10:9) ‘Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God.’ The hymn writer puts it:
Holy vessel of God's pleasure,
Was that body held by Thee,
Nothing but His will Thy measure.
From the manger to the tree.
It is interesting and profitable to consider some instances in the Scriptures of the taking away of the first and the establishment of the second :
Cain and Abel. The disallowance of Cain’s offering manifests the displeasure of God in the presentation to Him of the fruit of our own labours. Abel’s on the other hand, speaks entirely of the Lamb of God.
Ishmael and Isaac. The history of these two men demonstrates the sovereignty of God, representing as they do the two great systems of bondage under law and freedom under Christ. The teaching of Galatians 4:22-26, makes clear that there is no compatibility between flesh and spirit (Gal. 5:17, 18).
Esau and Jacob. God’s sovereignty of choice (which incidentally, is always justified) is seen again in these histories: ‘Jacob have I loved but Esau have I hated’ (Rom. 9:13). Note the principle of blessing, not in the elder son but in the younger, the second. ‘That which was spiritual was not first, but that which is natural’ (1 Cor. 15:46).
Manasseh and Ephraim. The same principle—Isaac in blessing his (or rather Joseph’s) two sons guides his hands intelligently, placing first his hand on the head of Ephraim, the younger (Gen. 48:14); even Joseph, so full of wisdom, is misled into thinking he does so mistakenly.
Saul and David. Saul, who was first king is rejected (1 Sam. 15:23-28). He is the man after the flesh and again, even Samuel is deceived. How subtle is the flesh with all its outward attractiveness, sometimes religious, highly educated and refined, but still the flesh, incorrigible. David, the man after God’s own heart, the youngest of the sons of Jesse, after the elder six sons had been rejected, is anointed king in the stead of the rejected Saul.
‘He taketh away the first that He may establish the second.’ May we learn to judge and to reject in ourselves all that is of the first order of man that there may be brought into evidence increasingly the features of the last Adam, ‘the second Man, the Lord from heaven’ (1 Cor. 15:47).
In this passage we come to the heart of the whole matter, the finished work of Christ. Our Lord Jesus is God’s final Word to man. There are some who reason that Christ came to do the Will of God by being completely subservient to the Father. That Will is not expressed in vague generalities, short of the nature of atonement.
Verse 10 makes clear that in the offering of Christ’s body there is fully expressed the Will of God. Preparation for Christ vv. 1-4; the incarnation of Christ vv. 5, 6; the Dedication of Christ vv. 7-10; the Perfection of His Work vv. 11-18; our Association with Him in the Sanctuary vv. 19-25; and the rejection of Christ vv. 26-39.
The Necessity of His Work, vv. 1-4. Here is the more excellent sacrifice. Having stressed the validity of His work in chapter 9, he closes his doctrinal argument by emphasizing here the finality of His work.
“For” in v. 1 links these chapters together. The subject is resumed and by a series of contrasts the glory of Christ and His work are established. The Law was only a shadow, a representation of the substance. Being only an outline of greater things to come, it ought to have kindled in the heart a desire for Christ, who fulfilled all things in detail. The old sacrifices were oft-repeated v. 2, and kept before the worshippers the remembrance of sins. By the shedding of Christ’s blood remission was eternal. The old made no-one perfect, removed no fear, nor did they give to Cod a sufficient atonement, or cleanse the worshippers. The memory of sins committed, was revived by the continual repetition of the yearly sacrifice of the Day of Atonement. What a contrast to-day as we “remember” Him who blotted out our sins and remembers them no more.
His Suitability for the Work, vv. 5-7. In marked contrast to animal sacrifice we have the advent of Christ and the work He accomplished. Verse 5 tells of His Incarnation— “cometh into the world,” and His declaration—“He saith.” When He comes types and shadows are no longer needed. They cease and the body prepared for the Lord was accepted by Him and presented to God in sacrifice.
The source of His sacrifice is the Will of God, vv. 5-7; the virtue of it is in His obedience, vv. 8, 9 and the design of it is our sanctification, v. 10.
“When He cometh” assumes the pre-existence of Christ and the precious intercourse of the Son with the Father. His willingness to do what God required involved the sacrifice of Himself. Note the change of language in v. 5 and that of Psalm 40. The word “Delight” is omitted here, perhaps to emphasize the demands of the Will of God. In Psalm 40 “the ears are digged” here a “body prepared.” His body was the organ of obedience, the “bored ear” was the symbol of willing obedience.
From the moment the Lord Jesus assumed human form His ear was opened to hear the voice of God and His obedience expressed itself in absolute surrender to altar sacrifice.
The Efficacy of His Work, vv. 8-10. The four offerings of Leviticus are in view in verse 8, “Sacrifice” refers to the peace offering; “offering” to meal offering, also the burnt and sin offering. The Lord in His sacrifice supercedes all these old offerings and He has done what they could not do. The holy requirements of the throne of God having been satisfied the first covenant is taken away and the second covenant is established by God. This last clause is the key to the argument in this Epistle. The believer is set apart to God and His service by the finished work and by the once-for-all character of Christ’s sacrifice, v. 10. There is an air of finality about this sacrifice. Nothing can be added to perfection.
The Finality of His Work, vv. 11-18. Here we see the crowning proofs of the completeness and efficacy of the sacrifice of Christ. The sacrifices the Levitical priest offered repeatedly were totally unable to deal with sin, v. 11. The priests of old always stood, their work was never done; but our great High Priest is sitting at the right hand of God, v. 12, “This Priest” is contrasted with “many priests.” Instead of many sacrifices, Christ offered ONE. His sacrifice is not only pleasing to God but it has absolute power. It issues in perfect sovereignty, the posture of one being ministered to as a king. The full consequences of His holy passion in the routing of His enemies, and the perfecting of His people, vv. 13, 14. It indicates that the One sitting has completed His work and salvation is accomplished.
Sanctification in the Hebrews is viewed as the work of Christ for us. The shed blood of Christ justifies us from sin, the offered body of Christ sanctifies us and makes us God’s people. The Holy Spirit’s witness is objective, v. 15, and subjective—“put my laws into their hearts,” v. 16. Sin as a debt requires forgiveness, bondage requires redemption, and alienation requires reconciliation. All these have been accomplished for us by our Lord Jesus.
The Sufficiency of His Work, vv. 18-25. Here is the practical application of the work of the Lord for us. Privilege and responsibility lie side by side. We have freedom of access, v. 19; a faithful High Priest v. 21, and the fellowship of saints vv. 23-25. We should draw near in faith v. 22, hold fast in hope v. 23, spur one another on to love v. 24, and appreciate Christian fellowship v. 25. We are welcome guests in God’s Presence vv. 19, 20. The privileges must be used; the duties must be discharged. Because we possess we ought to use and enjoy.
To approach to God was a priestly prerogative under the old order, the author describes the Christians access to God in sacerdotal metaphors. Sincerity is the prime requisite in our approach to God, Psalm 51:4; John 4:24; The work and priesthood of Christ gives us acceptance with God and an uneasy conscience is as real a barrier to fellowship with God, as ceremonial defilement was to a Jew.
Privileges Exercised by the Saints, vv. 22-25. There is the exercise of faith—because of access. The exercise of hope—because of assurance, and the expression of love— because of association. In meeting together we enjoy fellowship and exercise gift in worship and ministry. There is no substitute for worshipping together, may we not lose faith, but try to encourage each other for He is faithful that promised.
Their Rejection of the Work of Christ, vv. 26-39. Here is further warning to professing Christians as in ch. 6, who were in danger of slipping back from their outward Christianity to their former Judaism. Their presumption— “they sin deliberately;” privilege—“received the knowledge of the truth;” prospect—fearful judgment. To deliberately repudiate the knowledge of the truth and reject the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ and turn back to a religion founded on good works is fatal.
They thus deny the Deity of Christ—“Son of God,” treat the blood of Christ as common, and do despite to the Spirit. These are all signs of apostasy. After the exposure of sin vv. 26-31 comes encouragement to the saints vv. 32-39.
The Encouragement of Former Days, vv. 32-34. The writer had confidence in the first readers of the Epistle. The light enjoyed when their faith had emerged unscathed from a great contest of sufferings. The early persecution they endured, their merciful care of others, and their slender hold on this world’s goods, all gave him an indication that they were not likely to abandon faith.
Despite the personal risk involved, they did not shrink from visiting those of their brethren who were imprisoned for the sake of the gospel, and willingly ministered to their needs v. 35.
The prospect is bright “an abiding possession” v. 34 (R.V.). Matthew Henry writes ‘In heaven they shall have a better life, a better estate, better liberty, better society, better hearts, better works, everything better.’
Exhortation for Future Days, vv. 35-39. A call to courage v. 35 “Let not go your confidence.” We have need of endurance and the nearness of the reward should strengthen us. Holiness will be its own reward; self-devotion for Christ will be its own rich recompense, Matt. 5; 12; 10:32.
The ‘IT’ in Habakkuk refers to the vision—the coming of Christ to reign. IT becomes HE in Hebrews and refers to the Rapture. Until then may we have patience, Luke 21:19. Faith is the means of preservation, in contrast to apostacy. The cheer of His coming v. 37 challenges our hearts v. 39. The writer quickly disassociates himself and his fellow believers from those who draw back to destruction. They are not the faint-hearted faithless class who draw back, but exercise faith daily and look forward to the reward.
The language of time speaks volumes to our hearts, and the transient nature of all around is constantly impressed upon us, consequently, the immutability of our God, and divine things are made precious to every believer. Yet so often many lament, especially older Christians, that their lives have been lacking in direction and fulfilment as far as the grasping of the promises of God are concerned and living and serving in the good of them. It would be fitting for us daily to pray the prayer of Moses the man of God. as recorded in Psalm 90, and verse 12 “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” The very fact of the brevity of time, places upon the child of God, a great and solemn responsibility, and we need grace and courage to discharge this to the glory of God and to the blessing of our fellow men.
There are three references to time, that could profitably occupy us in this short meditation :
‘Pass the time of your sojourning here in fear' (1Peter 1:17) BREVITY. We are viewed in this Epistle as strangers and pilgrims, strangers away from home, pilgrims going home, and yet how often we live and act as if we belonged to this present world. In this day of affluence (Rev. 3:17) there is a tendency to measure everything from the materialistic standpoint, and in many instances material prosperity is preferred to spiritual power. It is written of Esau in Hebrews 12:16 that he “for one morsel of meat sold his birthright” are we not guilty of this, bartering away the fture for the present, allowing material things to rob up of spiritual blessings? The tent and the altar, were a mark of the true pilgrim (Gen. 12:8), yet how sad to read that Abraham under pressure “went down into Egypt” verse 10, far better to have proved God in the famine, than resort to an escape route, which proved an endless source of trouble to the pilgrim Abram. Genesis 13 begins the recovery of Abram, coming up out of Egypt, marked by a measure of prosperity, verse 2, cattle, silver and gold, but no mention of tent and altar, no communion or pilgrimage in Egypt, spiritual restoration must of necessity begin at the altar, verse two, the tent will follow verse eighteen. The pleasures, pursuits and politics of this passing scene would seek to rob us of our true pilgrim character, but far better to face the famine with God, than be in Egypt without Him!
“Not for ease or worldly pleasure,
Nor for fame my prayer shall be,
Gladly will I toil and suffer,
Only let me walk with Thee.”
“Knowing the time, that now it is high time” (Rom. 13:11) URGENCY. The imminence of the consummation of our salvation, is calculated to form character and regulate conduct. What was true of the virgins in Matt. 25:5 alas is true of many Christians today, a slumbering state of soul, apathy and indifference to the things of God. This is the only time that this word sleep is used of spiritual lethargy in the New Testament, which really means “spiritual conformity to the world” (Vine). The night is far spent, the night of the Lord’s absence, of sin and sorrow, and still we can know that “He giveth songs in the night” Job 35:10. Thanks be to God, for every one who knows what it is to Pass the Night under the shelter of the precious blood of the Lamb (Exodus 12:12) again for those who are Passing the Night, defending the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ (Song of Songs 3:7) again for all who are Passing the Night, building the wall of separation (Nehemiah 4:22). In our passage before us, the thought is that of Passing the Night intelligently and soberly. Let us rejoice that the day is at hand, the eternal day to be ushered in when the Lord Jesus returns for His own, a day that shall never know a night, there shall be no night there, “Now is our salvation nearer” how near, the consummation of our salvation, past, from the Penalty of sin, presently from the indwelling Power of sin, but then from the very defiling Presence of sin, even so come, Lord Jesus!
“Redeeming the time” (Ephesians 5:16) OPPORTUNITY. “Making the most of every opportunity” 20th Century N.T. This passage comes in the practical section of the Epistle which is emphasising conduct against the background of ever increasing evil, we should be buying up the opportunities, which very seldom return when missed. The obligation rests upon us, to be looking for the appearance of the occasion to redeem the time whether it be to enlighten sinners or encourage saints. No man ever utilised time like the blessed person of the Lord Jesus, did He not say in John’s Gospel ch. 9:4 “the night cometh when no man can work.” He is portrayed in Mark’s Gospel, as the Perfect Servant of Jehovah, which stresses the preciousness of passing time, (1:21-34) and we are privileged to see the labours of a solitary day in the life of the Lord, when the question “All men seek for Thee” was answered by “Let us Go” (Mark 1:37-38). Rapidity of action marks the service of the Perfect Servant, attracted by need, this Gospel is alive with a sense of urgency — “straightway,” “anon,” “forthwith,” and “immediately” occuring no less than forty-one times. We do well to remind ourselves, that despite the pace at which the Lord Jesus worked, there was nothing haphazard about His service but rather the reverse. The same Gospel which tells us about the tireless Servant of Jehovah, is the only Gospel which records in detail the fine touches which could be forgotten when working under the pressure of time. Mark alone tells us that in connection with the healing of Peter’s wife’s Mother, “That He took her by the hand” (1:31), again Mark alone mentions that the Blessed Saviour, “Taking him in His arms” referring to a little child. Again we are indebted to Mark for recording (under the direction of the Holy Spirit) relative to the rich young ruler (10:21) “Then Jesus, beholding him, loved him,” sympathetic, sensitive, selfless, approachable and available to all.
In days of agitation and doubt, such as the present, the question is of paramount importance to us all—What is Faith? Much depends, both for the present and for the future, upon the answer we are able to give our hearts to this question. Perhaps the simplest account of what faith is, is furnished to us in the words of Paul the Apostle, uttered in the midst of the violent storm which befell him on his voyage to Rome. The circumstances were most distressing. For several days the vessel in which he sailed had been tossed up and down in the Adriatic, with every prospect of total loss. When his fellow travellers were at the point of despair, he told them of the simple message that had been conveyed to him by an angel of God, that not a life should be lost of all the 276 contained within the ship, adding: “Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer; for I believe God that it shall be even as it was told me.” (Acts 27:25).
Here we have the whole secret of faith—“I believe God.” The first man and his wife lost confidence in their Creator when in the garden, preferring rather to credit the word of the Serpent; ever since it has been common with man to distrust and disbelieve his God. Faith is the return of the soul to man’s original confidence in his Maker.
May the voice of God be heard today by those who desire to hear it? Most assuredly. It is conceivable that a Being of unfathomable love and goodness would leave the vast human family without some light wherewith to illuminate its darkness? The thought is unnatural and impossible. Where, then, may the Divine voice be heard? In the Scriptures, which are “God-breathed,” as Paul assured his son Timothy long ago. Let us, then, cherish confidence in the sacred writings, accepting them as the very Word of God. If these be surrendered, all is gone; we are then without chart or rudder wherewith to shape our career through the intricacies of the present world. Where, too, if we refuse to hear the Scriptures, are we to turn for light concerning the unfathomable beyond?
The arch-enemy well knows where the key of the situation lies; hence his persistent efforts throughout all ages to wrest the Scriptures from human hands. His tactics change with changing times; at one season rousing secular authorities to an epidemic of Bible burning, at another season filling the religious atmosphere with unholy criticism. But whatever the tactics the aim is always the same—to destroy both faith, and that on which faith rests.
“Sirs, I believe God.” In the Book He tells me of my sins, humbling me into the dust thereby. As a faithful Watchman, He warns me, in writings that will never deceive, what must be the consequences of sin, if pursued and loved. More, and better than all, He unfolds to me a heart of infinite affection, which held not back even from the sacrifice of His own well-beloved Son, that sinful men might, on a perfectly righteous basis, be saved and blessed for evermore. Surely such a God is worthy of all my heart’s confidence and love!
We are comparing the tribes of Judah, Issachar and Zebulun, and the sardius, topaz and carbuncle stones, with the Gospel by Matthew.
Matthew is unquestionably the Gospel of the King. The Lord Jesus is not King in relation to the Church. His Kingship has to do with the earth, and the universe that is to be brought into unity in the Millenial age. and called “the Kingdom of heaven,” a phrase that occurs some 33 times in Matthew and reminds us of the activities of the God of Heaven Who moves behind the passing empires of this world in Daniel’s prophecies. It is a profound mistake for the reader to think that he is dealing with “church truth” as soon as he opens Matthew’s Gospel. The Lord Jesus came to fulfil the promises made to the fathers, (Rom. 15.: 8), and these promises, as viewed in the Psalm David composed for Solomon, (Psalm 72), in which all his prayers were consummated—“the prayers of David, the son of Jesse are ended,” is the way he finishes it—have to do with the kingdom. Now when we open Matthew’s Gospel, we find that the Lord Jesus is called there “the Son of David.” He is stated to be that before he is said to be the “son of Abraham.” Does that not suggest to us that there will be a fulfilment of the promises made to Abraham concerning the land only on the basis of His royalty? The phrase “Son of David” occurs nine times here — and is distinctive as a feature of the Gospel. It would be profitable to follow up the references to Him as the Son of David in Matthew—they are: 1:1, 9:27, 15:22, 12:23, 20:30, 31, 21:9, 15, 22:42.
As “Son of David” He belongs to Judah—it is evident, Hebrews reminds us that our Lord sprung out of Judah. We shall need to turn to Genesis 49 several times in our study, to see what is said prophetically about the tribes— when we come to Judah we read, “Thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise.” He is set forth then, as someone unique—why? Because of Calvary. “Judah is a lion’s whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up.” A greater than Judah has gone up, as Ps. 68:18 reminds us —gone up on high. The last reference to Him as Son of David in Matthew tells us more—it tells us that having gone up, the words of Psalm 110 are true of Him—“Jehovah said to my Adonai—my sovereign Lord—Sit Thou on my right hand, until I make Thy foes Thy footstool.” From Calvary, where He took the prey, He has gone up, and sat down. “He lay down, He couched as a lion ... that is where Rev. 5 finds Him—He is in the midst of the throne, after Calvary. But He is not there for ever. “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet.” The sceptre tells us of royalty. Balaam foresaw that a Sceptre would arise out of Israel (Num. 24:17) and so wise men hasten to see the one born King of the Jews; Only Matthew, amongst the Gospel writers tells us that men thought so little of this Sceptre that they placed a reed in His right hand, 27:29. He is the Royal lawgiver in this Gospel—we see Him as such in chs. 5-7, in what is often called the “sermon on the mount.” Such verses as 5:20, “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter the kingdom of heaven” impose conditions of blessing upon those in the profession, which put us on strictly legal ground—for it is on that ground that Israel are yet to be brought into blessing. It will be true for them, as it is not true for the believer in the present Church period, that “Whosoever endureth to the end shall be saved,” 21:13, verses that have, alas, led some believers to think that it is possible for them to lose their salvation. Teaching is abroad today which would diminish the importance of distinguishing between the doctrines taught in the synoptic Gospels, which are all for the earthly kingdom, and the doctrines taught by the Apostle Paul, which place us securely within the bounds of the Church, the “mystery” unknown totally in the period referred to in the Gospels.
The royal lawgiver takes His seat upon the mountains— indicating His power. The mountain is prominent in Matthew, as the sea is dominant in Mark, the road in Luke, and Jerusalem in John. There are seven mountain scenes to be found in Matthew. In Matthew, too we see His identification, in lowly grace with the remnant—“Binding his foal to the vine, and his ass’s colt to the choice vine;” we see Him, too, with the joy of the kingdom upon Him— His eyes red with wine, that which speaks of the kingdom joy—and His teeth white with milk.
Red His eyes, and the sardius, as mentioned in the previous paper is the red stone. Matthew is the Gospel that tells us that He was arrayed in a scarlet robe at His trial. Mark and John both tell of a purple robe, Luke of a shining one, the colour not specified, but indicating, no doubt, a white robe, expressive of His moral glories (compare this robe, Luke 23:11 with Acts 10:30 where the original expression is the same). These differences between the Gospels are not contradictions, but draw our attention to different aspects of our glorious Lord. Whereas purple speaks of universal rule and dominion, scarlet, given by Saul to the daughters of Israel, reminds of a glory belonging to Israel’s king. Moreover, this glory is achieved as a result of suffering, for the word for “scarlet” in Hebrew—tola— draws attention to the worm that must be crushed to provide the dye for the colour in the Tabernacle. How it reminds us of Him who said, “I am a worm, and no man.”
Four women appear in the royal genealogy. Space forbids us to deal closely with them, to show how scarlet is associated with Tamar, in her giving birth to Pharez and Zarah, how the scarlet line was given to Rahab in Jericho, and to see from 2 Sam. 1:24, that Bathsheba, as one of the daughters of Israel, would have been clothed in scarlet, and to see how the virtuous woman, in Proverbs 31:21 clothes her household in scarlet. The word for “virtuous” only occurs elsewhere in Ruth 3:11, and the present writer feels that King Lemuel’s mother—Bathsheba herself, if we go along with the Jewish view that Lemuel is a name of Solomon—is describing things that fit the character of Ruth in the woman of Proverbs 31. The honourable women who make up His genealogy are linked with that which speaks of glory for the nation. The King Himself is marked out by it.
Chapter 15, records how God through His servant, the prophet Samuel, gives a charge to King Saul to make war with Amalek and to utterly destroy both man and beast, old and young, to fulfil a Divine edict pronounced at the time when they withstood the children of Israel during their journey through the wilderness to the land of promise (Ex. 17:8-16). Again Saul fails sadly, the voice of the people prevails, and King Agag and lowing cattle and bleating sheep are evidence that the commandment of God is not complied with, and covetousness had intruded, the Amalekites were destroyed only as far as Shur, v. 7 c.f., Chap. 30. God reveals His sore displeasure to Samuel, who again meets Saul at Gilgal. He is very complacent, but Samuel has stern words for Saul, v. 22-23. “Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord; He hath also rejected thee from being king,” v. 26. The grievousness of his sin is laid bare and the consequences made plain. V. 28 “The Lord hath rent the Kingdom of Israel from thee this day and given it to a neighbour of thine.” This is the Lord’s last communication to King Saul, and marks the end of his reign under God. Nevertheless, Saul does not submit, but is determined to function as Ruler and King, v. 30 — a usurper of Divine authority. Then Samuel with an impassioned display of righteous zeal slays King Agag and departs v. 35—and “Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death ... and the LORD repented that He had made Saul King.” All this is a very sad anti-climax to the fair hopes and high expectations associated with the choice of Saul, and his anointing to be Israel’s first King (see chapter 10). Samuel mourned for Saul, but ere long he came to fear him; for Saul cast off all Divine restraints.”
Chapter 16. Now God’s choice of one to take Saul’s place is made known to Samuel. It is one of Jesse the Bethlehemite’s sons. With trepidation Samuel journeys to Bethlehem, and is so received. Apprehensively they ask: “Comest thou peaceably?” v. 4 “Yes, peaceably,” he replies. “Sanctify yourselves and come to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons, and he called them to the sacrifice—a peace offering to feast upon, cf. ch. 9:11-13. Now, following the due order of precedence in the family, seven of Jesse’s sons are presented before Samuel, and the LORD plainly indicates that none is accepted, v. 6-10. Then at Samuel’s request David, the eighth, the youngest son, till now thought to be of no account, is brought in from shepherding his father’s flock. “And the Lord said arise, and anoint him, for this is he” v. 12. So David was anointed King in the midst of his brethren. Here is an event most engaging in itself, but which has also an importance affecting the future history of Israel, that is only surpassed by the infinitely important advent of our Lord Jesus Christ in that same “little town of Bethlehem.” “And the spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward” v. 13; the import of this statement can hardly be overstressed; it must be fully taken into account in considering all the important events and exploits which are spoken of in the Holy Scriptures concerning David, whether involving Crook or Sword or Sceptre and all the spiritual ministry of later years, as in the Psalms, etc. Verse 14 records that “the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.” At Saul’s request, David comes and graces the King’s palace, and soothes the distraught mind of Saul with his melodies. Did not David reflect upon these things when in evident anguish he poignantly cries in later years: “Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me?” (Psalm 51:11) ... At an earlier time he had prayed “keep back Thy servant also from presumptuous sins” (Psalm 19:13).
Whatever hinders us from receiving a blessing that God is willing to bestow upon us is not humility but its opposite. The truly humble man will seek to be filled with all the fullness of God knowing that when so filled there is no place for pride of heart or for that vain thing—self.