The same speaker was responsible to give an address on both these subjects— “Where is Here?” and “Unity.” One would feel that he was ideally fitted to deal with the second subject seeing that he is an extremely kind man with a very wide interest in caring for folks who find themselves to be in need, far and near. I note that he is associated with caring for aged servants of God when they are no longer able to continue their service for the Lord. A perusal of various issues of “The Harvester” will confirm that its Editor is a man who has deep convictions about “doing good to all men especially those of the household of faith.”
His address on ‘Unity’ is indeed strange, commencing as he does with a reading from Acts 17:13-31, which reading, as far as I can see, has no connection with the subject. I presume that the conveners had in mind unity amongst the people of God and this must have been somewhat disappointing to them. Our brother commences with the subject of unity of mankind and wandered on to the subject of unity of saints. He is evidently more concerned about inter-denominationally caring than the unity of the Spirit. Only in the last few moments of his address did he concern himself with the unity of the companies that this conference calls “The Brethren.” With reference to the local churches (which I presume means the companies with which he is supposed to be associated) we have such expressions “Paul ... did not mean ... that if anyone differed they were to throw him out! I once had that put to me as the interpretation of the verse by someone with ‘exclusive’ thinking” (page 70): and again, “We all know the sort of troublemaker that exploits the cry of ‘unity’ to enforce his own narrow conscience on the local church. That’s not the sort of unity we seek. That can have disastrous consequences.” * (In between he gives a reference to Amos 3:3—his quotation from R.V. is, of course, right. Amos is doubtless thinking of meeting and walking with someone in the wastes of Tekoa). Altogether in this paragraph of 24 lines he makes three jibes at the assemblies. Unity with the World?—Yes. Unity with the denominations? — Yes. But what about Unity in the Assemblies? — Would the following statements promote unity?
* If I slightly altered the statement made by our brother above, I would be considered to be unkind, but it would be equally true. “We all know the kind of troublemaker that exploits the cry of “unity” to force his latitudinarian conscience (or lack of conscience) on the local church. That’s not the sort of unity we seek. That can have disastrous consequences.”
The following is from the same speaker when his subject is “Where is here?”
“I am going to construct a deliberate parody, to point a lesson. First, we say, the church must be organised in accordance with the Scriptural pattern. We rarely ask first what guidance there might be in Scripture as to whether there is intended to be such a pattern, and if so of what kind it may be. Instead, we assume that we must imitate the early churches as closely as possible. Here is a good verse for our purpose—Acts 2:42. That ‘obviously’ means that we must have four sorts of meetings! — teaching meetings, fellowship meetings, breaking of bread meetings and prayer meetings. (You notice how that word ‘meeting’ creeps in!) But how are we to conduct them? Well, of course, Scripture is a little more difficult on that point (except for 1 Corinthians 14, and even there you have to be careful because of all that talk about tongues), so in the absence of clear Scriptural indication we shall do exactly what father and grandfather did—and anything else must be ‘out’. God, of course, must be bound to bless us if we do that, because we are being ‘obedient to the Scriptural pattern’: and, of course, we can have nothing to do with anyone who does anything else. So a strait-jacket is made: and because we killed off our old fashioned Bible readings through sheer incompetence, we do not have even the amount of participation or fellowship they provided for our membership. We just sit all our folk down and preach at them (even in our prayer meetings!)—and take care to let them know that we shall judge their faithfulness to God by the extent to which they come along for regular punishment. The Breaking of Bread, of course, is a little different (1 Corinthians 14 sees to that—although admittedly the Breaking of Bread is not actually mentioned in the chapter; and watch out for the tongues, though the bit about women is good)—but we can soon freeze out anything ‘unseemly’, and rapidly reduce even that most delightful and sacred of experiences to a repetitive weariness.
And the angel of our church is weeping his heart out.” (pages 7 and 8)
“Brethren, far from being some special and wonderful Divine Act, are only one manifestation—even if a rather idiosyncratic and ‘johnny-come-lately’ manifestation.” (page 3)
“Or do we, however unintentionally, on the other hand, seem to them to be carrying on an activity to perpetuate ourselves, trying by all means to win additional members for our ‘club’?” (page 5).
Let me also add that the Swanwick Conference which we are reviewing, with its proposals is more likely to cause dis-unity in local assemblies than anything that has taken place in the last 50 years. Note page 96 of the report “It is wonderful to talk about unity but I do fear that even some of the things that we have been speaking about during this conference might indeed result in further divisions among us and, I believe, we have to pray very much about this.”
Then again, is not the “Christian Brethren Research Fellowship” in which our brother has a fatherly interest— a fellowship within a fellowship. It includes some who are in assembly fellowship—it excludes others! A fellowship within a fellowship is therefore a division. Its papers and seminars are but for the few—it not only divides (maybe with the best of intentions) but also creates suspicion. This is not Unity—neither does it tend to Unity. Would it be appropriate to say “Physician heal thyself”?
On page 7 this speaker seems to have something against “meetings” and yet the Word of God instructs “Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together” and the Lord Himself said “Where two or three are gathered together in My name.” Meetings are scriptural, five kinds at least are found in the New Testament Scriptures and instructions with regard to them are given. While good works to saint and sinner are commendable we must remember that the assembly is God’s cultivated plot, God’s building, God’s Temple. What the assembly is to God is of primary importance.
Notice again this unnecessary statement “the very structure of our churches (or lack of structure) ... stultifying effect on any new initiative, or the inbuilt inertia in our decision making processes: in an inability to bring forward or retain effective leadership; and especially in the tragic way in which the structure seems to throw up petty foolishness in church discipline and ridiculous local quarrels. We often suffer from a double dose of the British Disease.”
It should be noted that the speakers at the conferences had varying subjects, some of which were “Where is here?” “Leadership,” “Ministry.” Is it not strange that the three speakers who I suppose would claim to be teachers (the other was an evangelist) all arrive at two subjects—“Clerisy” and “Women’s Ministry” — Normally in dealing with the three subjects speakers would not have hinted at the one, and of course the other was nothing to do with their subjects.
We heard these topics before (at “High Leigh” where different men put forward similar ideas) but the speakers are becoming bolder now. I feel sorry for the present speaker here, for the editors of the report have left out quite a bit of what he had to say. Among other things they have left out (1) his best admission, and (2) his weakest reasoning— I quote lower down from tapes taken at the conference.
The speaker admits the accuracy of the relevant passages (1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians 14) and acknowledges that the statements are made with apostolic authority and are to be taken seriously. Excellent, my brother,—to take these passages seriously you simply have to obey them. He then proceeds to try to convince his hearers (or was he trying to convince himself—I don’t think he was successful in doing either) that while the word of God is perfectly clear and plain these particular passages do not apply to us in our day and to our circumstances. They only apply to that far distant day and to their own contemporary circumstances. So the speaker adds
“Nevertheless, the interpretation and application of those statements, which includes decision as to their scope and, notably whether they apply outside their immediate historic context, is part, not of the original statement, but of our personal responsibility. This is something that gives us not a moment’s worry in relation to most of the Scripture, but seems to puzzle us inordinately here. In exercising that responsibility we are entitled to take into account both other scriptures (such as 1 Corinthians 11:5 and Acts 21:9) that tend in the opposite direction, and also general biblical principles. It is a serious responsibility. Do we have sufficient reason, from these Scriptures alone, for deciding that the Holy Spirit does not wish us today to act differently; for denying the exercise of gifts manifestly given to a large proportion of the membership of the church.”
This kind of exposition seems to be acceptable to those gathered at Swanwick but contains certain fundamental mistakes.
It presumes that the word of God was only given for those who lived in Apostolic days. It was to be taken seriously by the saints in Corinth for the statements were made with Apostolic authority. These statements however are not for us today, so we are left without the instructions of the word of God in our day. The God who caused the Apostle to write instructions for that day has made no provision for us. In fact Mr. Coad’s “God is too small”—not big enough to know the conditions of the twentieth century and to make the necessary provision. But, my dear brother, our God is bigger than that. We believe He knew all about the days in which we live and that His word is quite sufficient for all time, until the end of the age. We believe the two passages must be taken seriously by us—and we are determined to obey them.
The speaker seems to believe that 1Corinthians 11 and Acts 21:9 contradict 1Corinthians 14 and 1Timothy 2 —they “tend in opposite directions.” Let me say that the Word of God does not contradict itself, it is one harmonious whole. “The Spirit in the Word, as John Knox said to Queen Mary, is never contrarious to Himself”—F. F. Bruce. “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of private interpretation. For no prophecy ever came by the will of man: but holy men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Ghost.” 2 Peter 1:21-22 (R.V.).
He also presumes that the Spirit of God will lead God’s people in our day to do differently to what is taught in the Word of God. Does the Spirit of God contradict Himself? Is not the Word of God a final revelation. Has God not spoken finally. We believe that what is being done in accordance with the word of God today is of God; and anything that is being done today that is not in accord with the word is NOT of God, is direct and often deliberate disobedience—and should be repented of.
Again, another presumption, seems to be that God has given gifts for women to use and that we are denying them the exercise of their gifts. Our brother makes the mistake that is common amongst clever men. He mistakes natural gifts for spiritual gift. The word of God distinguishes between Natural Ability and Spiritual Gift. The Lord has not given gifts, and the Spirit of God has not distributed gifts for anyone to use to disobey God’s word. If one has spiritual gift the one who has received such gift should be exercised to find where it can be used in obedience to the Word of God.
Let all take particular note of the words of the Apostle as he closes 1Corinthians 14. “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.”
Before I close, let me include the two points mentioned above, viz. (1) His best admission and (2) His weakest reasoning— On page 10 the 17th line, after the word ‘debatable,’ the speaker said “some have argued that they mean just chattering, I think probably not, with good reason” I presume he meant that some argue that the word “speak” means just chattering. I’m glad you had the courage to say “I think probably not.” Your friends, many of them have said it so often that they begin to believe it’s right—I wonder why the report left that statement out? I quote what two worthy veterans of the past say on the subject—
“To the cavil that 1 Cor. 14:34 was a temporary and local veto laid on Corinthian women only to subdue their irreverent spirit of chattering, it is enough to draw attention to the solemn claim made in the immediate context that the things Paul was writing are not the jaundiced prejudices of an embittered bachelor but the commandment of the Lord. Moreover, the things he enjoins on the Corinthians are in line with his directions to other Christian churches (1Cor. 14:37; 7:17; 11:16; 14:36).”
— J. B. WATSON, (Former Editor of The Witness’)
“The prohibition here is said to refer to ‘chattering.' The Greek word used occurs frequently in the New Testament, but never, in the sense of ‘to chatter.’ In this very chapter it appears 24 times—22 times clearly relating to ministry. Let the student attempt to substitute the word ‘chatter’ in any of these and he will immediately perceive the resulting absurdity, verse 29 for instance! Besides, would not the chattering of men be equally reprehensible? Why the restriction on sisters only.”
—Quote from “New Testament Church Principles” by A. G. Clarke.
This word here translated “to speak” (and similar words) is used in a great many places in the New Testament Scriptures. It is translated as “preach,” “say,” “speak,” “talk,” “tell,” “utter,” but never “chatter.” It is used not only relative to members of the assemblies of God’s people in this age. It is used of God, of Angels, of Moses, of Abel, of the prophets and is there not a similar word used when the Lord Jesus is addressing His Father in John 17? Would any dare to suggest that our adorable Lord was chattering to His Father in the irresponsible way as some would suggest that the women in Corinth were doing—“Far be the thought!”
The second point (2) His weakest reasoning—see page 10, lines 32/33. Here the speaker said: “When our Lord said ‘As I have washed your feet ye ought to wash one another’s feet’ most of us have not the slightest hesitation in applying it in a symbolic way, When Paul says ‘Greet one another with a holy kiss (in fact I think he says it 7 or 8 times in his letters) our Italian brethren double it up and give you two kisses, we just shake hands, don’t we? No problem over the application there. No exercise of conscience.” I say again what weak reasoning, no wonder the editors of the report left it out. The two passages mentioned are so obvious in their meaning. What connection have these two passages with the subject on hand and the two passages our brother is trying to explain away from our consciences?
1Corinthians 14:37—‘a commandment of the Lord’—In the same section as the instruction to “Remember Me” —Do you spiritualize the bread and the cup away (like ‘washing feet’ or ‘holy kiss’ above) or do you literally take bread and wine (or was that only for that time and in Corinthian conditions—after all the rest of the Epistles do not mention the Lord’s supper).
“Let them be in subjection, as also saith the law.” Is there in the ‘washing feet’ and in ‘the holy kiss’ a reference back to the authority of Old Testament instruction.
In 1Timothy 2:13, notice that the Spirit of God goes back again to the Old Testament to show that what is taught is according to divine principle from the very beginning — Adam’s priority in Creation and the woman’s priority in the transgression.
In both passages the apostle’s instruction are perfectly clear. Difficulties only arise when one is not willing to obey the Word of God.
The official report of Swanwick Conference entitled: “WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE” is published by H. E. WALTER LTD,, 28 GRAFTON ROAD, WOtRTHING, BN11 1QU, England. Price £2:95.
‘Assembly Testimony’ asks for the name of a magazine with an article entitled ‘Brethren Facing a Crisis.’ This was in a copy of the November issue of ‘Evangelism Today’ containing the article which is mentioned. Bill Spencer is the editor. He was present at the September 1978 Conference at Swanwick as a Christian journalist. His account was his own, and not seen by any of us until the paper appeared. His quotations are accurate but selected and the impression given is not a whole view of the Conference. That will appear in a few days in a book to be published by Henry E. Walter Ltd., 26 Grafton Road, Worthing, Sussex.
I would suggest, if I may, that any review in Assembly Testimony should be of the book rather than the article. Conveners would be grateful for a copy of the relevant issue of Assembly Testimony, when it appears.
May the Lord bless our common endeavour for the well-being of the Brethren.
Yours warmly in His service,
A. G. BAMFORD
Chairman of the conveners of the conference.
10th July, 1979.
Dear Mr. Gooding,
Thank you for arranging the despatch to me of six copies of ‘Assembly Testimony’ in which you make reference to the conference at Swanwick in September 1978 under the title “Brethren Facing a Crisis.”
I do not know whether you will have received my earlier letter (copy enclosed) in which I gave information regarding the publication of the Report of the conference, which I felt would be more helpful to you than the brief articles which had appeared in some Christian journals and magazines. If you have been able to obtain a copy of the Report entitled “Where do we go from here?”, I am sure you will be able to see what was said and discussed more representatively. If you have not been able to obtain a copy please do let me know and I will arrange with the publisher for one to be sent to you straightaway.
The Report will give you details of the names of the conveners and also information about the programme planned for this year’s conference.
While we would consider that any conference which responded to the question put would be an important one, we did not seek to establish the relative importance of this conference in the context of other activities by fellow-believers in other places at other times. The assessment of profitability will be truly made only by the Lord Himself.
The status of those who attended is clearly defined in the printed Report, which confirms what has clearly been indicated in the conference’s literature down the years. We pass no resolutions; we make no decisions. None of those who attended the conference was either a delegate or a representative. Each came as an interested individual, representing no-one but himself.
In order to clarify the position for your readers, my fellow conveners and I believe it would be helpful if my two letters were published verbatim in the earliest possible issue of ‘Assembly Testimony.’
I have no doubt that we share the ambition that the churches with which we are so happily associated will grow and develop in ways which are to the praise of His glorious grace.
With warm greetings in our Lord Jesus Christ.
A. G. BAMFORD
The following extract from page 166 of “Where do we go from here?” is taken from a short address by the conference chairman (Mr. Alan G. Bamford). It tells us a little bit about the writer of the two letters printed above.
“It is my privilege to live and work in one of the very influential centres of Christian belief, practice and mission in this country, namely Selly Oak Colleges, in Birmingham. It is a truly ecumenical setting—some people call it the ecumenical centre of the British Isles. Even further, at a meeting in Hamburg last Easter, as representatives of various aspects of the work of the colleges, we were told by representatives of European Churches and Missions that they saw “Selly Oak” as the European and an international ecumenical and mission training centre. In the midst of all this, one has the unique privilege of living and working with Christians from about fifty countries who also represent the most amazing range and variety of ecclesiastical experience and practice; just about every shade of the spectrum from Quakers to Roman Catholics.”
This may all sound very good to the group gathered at Swanwick, and our dear brother is no doubt an excellent man with outstanding qualifications. To be the principal of Westhill College no doubt fits him to be chairman of the Conveners of the Swanwick Conference of Brethren. However we do well to remember that the assemblies of the Lord’s people are by no means “ecumenical”—the very word has become obnoxious to us. We certainly have no intention of working with Quakers, and Catholics and those in between.
Was not there a conference at Swanwick some years ago on this very subject? Was there not a representative of the British Council of Churches (or was it the World Council?) present? Let it be clearly understood, the assemblies are not interested in “Going in” — they “came out.”
The last line of the Report states on page 168—
“The conference closed with a united recital of The Grace.” —Whatever is that? Capital ‘T’ and capital ‘G’ Is this some new ritual?
The various translators apparently find no difficulty in translating—they agree and what they say is perfectly clear.
“Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak, but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” (A.V.)
“Let the women be silent in the assemblies; for it is not permitted for them to speak, but let them be in subjection, as also the law saith. But if they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home, for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in an assembly.” (W. Kelly)
“Let [your] women be silent in the assemblies, for it is not permitted to them to speak, but to be in subjection, as the law also says. But if they wish to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home, for it is a shame for a woman to speak in assembly.” (J.N.D.)
“As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says, if there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.” (R.S.V.)
‘‘As in all congregations of God’s people, women should not address the meeting. They have no licence to speak, but should keep their place as the law directs. If there is something they want to know, they can ask their own husbands at home. It is a shocking thing that a woman should address the congregation” (N.E.B.)
‘‘As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.” (New International)
“Let your women keep silent in the assemblies, for it is not permitted to them to speak; on the contrary, they should be obedient, as the law also says. But if any wish to learn they should ask their husbands in their own houses, for it is scandalous for women to speak in a public meeting.” (Ferrar Fenton—Modern English)
“Your women in the assemblies let them be silent, for it hath not been permitted to them to speak, but to be subject, as also the law saith, and if they wish to learn anything, at home their own husbands let them question, for it is a shame for women to speak in the assembly.” (Robert Young—Literal)
“Let the women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak: but let them be in subjection, as also saith the law. And if they would learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for a woman to speak in the church.” (R.V.)
“As in all the churches of God’s people, the women should be quiet in church meetings. They are not allowed to speak; as the Jewish law says, they must not be in charge. If they want to find out something, they should ask their husbands at home. It is a disgraceful thing for a woman to speak in a church meeting.” (Good News for Modern Man)
“Your women must abstain from speaking at church meetings. They are not authorised to speak in public: they must be submissive—just as, in fact, the Mosaic law enjoins. If they desire to put any questions, let them ask their own husbands at home. It is not decent for a woman to be addressing a public meeting.” (Arthur S. Way)
“Let women be silent in church; they are not allowed to speak. They must submit to this regulation, as the Law itself instructs. If any have questions to ask, they must ask their husbands at home, for there is something indecorous about a woman’s speaking in church.” (J. B. Phillips).
Here are just a few of the available translations (there are of course a multitude more)—but these are sufficient to show that translators are in agreement on the silence of women in church gatherings—Notice what the Spirit of God says of the idea of women speaking—“It is a shame,” “It is shameful,” “a disgraceful thing,” “not decent,” “Indecorous,” “shocking,” “Scandalous” — This should be sufficient for anyone who really wants to please the Lord.
I have received from Dr. John Boyes, Chairman of the Christian Brethren Research Fellowship, two papers read at a Seminar held at London Bible College in early June. One by Prof. F. F. Bruce and the other by Miss Mary Evans (lecturer in London Bible College). I shall print these at a later date and show how unscriptural they really are.
The following quotations are from pages 148 and 149 of Swanwick Report—
“CHANGE FROM TRADITION”
“A rethink of the traditional interpretation of Scripture relating to the behaviour of women in the assembly, dress and vocal expression has become necessary, in my experience, due to obvious examples of real spiritual maturity in the lives of known women.”
What a contradiction of God’s word “If any man think himself spiritual let him acknowledge the things I write are the commandments of the Lord (1Corinthians 14:37). My brethren I do not know who put this question but I do (know that according to this verse he is not a spiritual! man, I also know that women who disobey God’s word are not spiritually mature. But more—Other expressions alarm me—
“If after prayerful review a decision is made to allow women to pray or participate in Bible Reading Discussions.”
“The elders proposed after very careful prayer and consideration of the Scriptures, that women should be permitted to take part in the prayer meeting and also in prayer and Bible reading and announcing hymns at the Breaking of Bread.”
“It is very difficult for a spiritual woman in that situation to take part (i.e. when some don’t agree)” (Spiritual women never take part! — Editor).
“We left the subject for our own private deliberations and prayer for 6 months when we went round the table we were of one mind entirely” (i.e. that women should be allowed to take part).
Do these brethren really think that women who want to disobey God’s word are spiritual—Is disobeying what the Spirit caused Paul to write, an evidence of Spirituality?
Do they think that prayerful review of the subject, or careful prayer and consideration make their departure from God’s word more acceptable?
Do they think that six month’s prayer sanctifies their disobedience?
Do they think they need to pray for guidance when the word of God is absolutely plain? When God has said it, you do not need to pray for guidance but for grace to obey.
“Behold to obey is better than sacrifice and to hearken than the fat of rams.” —1Samuel 15:22.
The Holiness of God signifies His absolute separation from evil. God is perfectly, absolutely, essentially and effectively holy.
In Scripture He is frequently styled “The Holy One;” holiness is the very excellency of the Divine nature, “He is glorious in holiness” Exod. 15:11.
God is called “The Holy One of Israel,” over twenty-five times in Isaiah and frequently in Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
“God is Holy,” means “God is absolutely pure.” Trace the references to the word “holy” in your concordance and study its implications. The truth that God is holy is the fundamental truth of the Old and New Testament. The attribute of holiness gives glory and harmony to all God’s attributes.
The Holiness of God is incomparable. Exod. 15:11. “There is none holy as the Lord” 1 Sam. 2:2. It makes Him as quite different and distinct from all His creatures. Ps. 99:3; 103:1; Isa. 6:3; 40:25; 1 John 1:5.
DECLARED PLURALLY by the Father, by the Son and the Spirit. Read Isa. 6:3 with Isa. 63:10; with John 17:11; 1John 2:20; Acts 3:14; Eph. 1:13. The character of God is the standard of holiness Lev. 19:2, with Eph. 5:1; 1Pet. 1:15,16. He calls us to be like Himself.
DECLARED PROPHETICALLY “Sing unto the Lord” Isa. 12:5,6; 57:15; Hab. 1:12,13. The seraphim in
Isa. 6:2, not only celebrated God’s holiness, but His plans for redeeming fallen man. God’s infinite holiness made Isaiah conscious of his deep sinfulness v. 5. No man can see God without holiness. Heb. 12:14.
DECLARED PLAINLY Lev. 11:45; 20:7,26; Psa. 15:1; 60:6. His holiness is such that He cannot overlook wickedness and dishonesty Micah 6:7-13. Holiness must punish wrong worship Lev. 10:1-3; and wrong practice 2 Chr. 26:16-21; Psa. 5:4-6. Holiness is the rule of His actions Psa. 145:17.
DECLARED PRAYERFULLY Psa. 22:3; John 17:11; 1 Thess 5:23.
DECLARED PRAISEFULLY Psa. 99:1-3; 99:5; 97:12; 108:7; 110:3; Rev. 4:8 with Isa. 6:3. Each seraph had six wings. Four of the six were used in reverent worship. What an endless theme for our worshipful adoration.
Seen in GOD’S DESIRE FOR SAINTLINESS Lev. 10:3. God is to be served with fear. Psa. 2:11. Because God is holy the utmost reverence become our approaches unto Him Psa. 89:7. “Worship at His footstool” Psa. 99:5. Like God we should love righteousness Psa. 11:7; Matt. 5:6; 1Tim. 4:7,8. Yet what His holiness demanded His grace has provided in His Son, Eph. 1:7.
HIS DENUNCIATION OF SIN Gen. 6:5-7; Psa. 5:4-6; Prov. 3:32, 33; 15:26; “The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord.” “If Thou Lord shouldst mark iniquity, O Lord who shall stand” Psa. 130:3; 143:2; Hab. 2:12, 15, 16; Zeph. 1:2-12; Nahum 1:2; Titus 3:3; Rom. 8:7,8; 1 John 3:8,9.
HIS DEMAND FOR SEPARATION Lev. 20:6,7; 1 Sam. 7:3,4; Psa. 19. v. 8,9,13. Sin severs all communion with a holy God. A righteous life and a holy walk are essentials to fellowship with God. Matt. 5:8; 1 Cor. 6:11.
The positive side in Luke 1:74,75. We need a new awareness of the presence of God, this brings an awareness of sin. Luke 5:8. We must serve God with reverence in character and conduct as becometh godliness. Eph. 4:32—5:2; 2 Cor. 6:17,18; Titus 2:11,12. There must be separation from the wicked. Num. 16:21, 26; Gal. 1:4.
IN DEVOTED SERVICE We should “go, tell, how great things the Lord hath done for thee.” Mark 5:19. Those who know God best want to love and serve Him. The Lord is dishonoured and grieved by our failure to respond willingly to His call to service. “Yield yourselves unto God” Rom. 6:13; 12:1. Our lives should commend the Gospel to others 1 Thess. 2:10; 5:23; 2 Thess. 3:3-5; 2 Tim. 2:21, 22; Titus 3:8.
Beware of the sin of materialism Isa. 5:8; This is due to a wrong emphasis and evaluation of creature comforts. Instead of evaluating them in a proper relationship to God, the Giver of these blessings, we often place these benefits ahead of God. Jas. 2:14-16 warns against an empty religious profession. We are commanded to imitate holiness Lev. 11:44,45; and praise His holiness Psa. 30:4.
In Personal Life we should follow after holiness Heb. 12:14; and have fruit unto holiness Rom. 6:22. The new nature of God’s creating, shows itself in a just and devout life. Eph. 4:23,24.
In Home Life. In Israel’s direction — look, the words, “remember,” “observe,” “teach” are continually emphasized in relation to family life. Deut. 4:9,10; 6:4-9; Lev. 27:14.
In Social Life. Holiness is seen in loving our neighbour and walking honestly. Rom. 13:9-13; 14:16-18. Living like Christ and being renewed in our mind Eph. 4:20-24.
In Prayer Life. We have an especial obligation to pray for all in authority. 1 Tim. 2:2,8, and do it from pure motives, and a clean heart. Psa. 139:23,24.
In Business Life. Prov. 11:1; Rom. 12:17; Mal. 2:10; Col. 3. v.22-25; Eph. 6:5-7. Industry, honesty and integrity are the hall marks of a Christian life. All moral uprightness has its source in an ethical and infinitely holy God. Secularism is that attitude of heart that ostracises God from everyday affairs of life.
In Assembly Life. Acts 5:1-11; 1 Cor. 5:1-7,13. The Church needs to remember that she has a holy God in the midst.
Study other Attributes of God; His Supremacy, Sovereignty, Faithfulness, Patience and Wrath.
Into a world where death reigned (Gen. 5) and amid all the wickedness of that world which preceded the Flood— not only preceded, but also precipitated the Flood, Enoch is outstanding. Twice in this chapter of death it is recorded that Enoch walked with God, and this walk was not his only characteristic for not only did he walk with God, but the walk was well pleasing to God (Heb. 11:5). A true state of communion out of true faith. Further, out of that communion arose the hope of His coming—“Behold, the Lord came ...” And God did, indeed, come for Enoch. “He was not for God took him.”
Is it mere coincidence that the messages to the churches in the Revelation of our Lord are preceded by this great object lesson which we see in Enoch? True it is that the Church awaits the coming of the Lord for His saints as distinct to His coming with His saints—as Enoch saw it, but nevertheless the Lord is coming, and in Enoch we see the true attitude of heart necessary for, and preparatory to, and anticipatory of, His coming.
The great message to the Church was, and is, “Behold, I come quickly, and My reward is with Me ...” (Rev. 22:12) and again we see the object lesson of Enoch’s faith, “He that cometh to God, must believe that He is, and that He is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” (Heb. 11:5-6).
So then, we see the great character of Enoch shining out from the darkness of his day. He believed God; He sought to know more of Him for He walked with Him; He looked for His coming and witnessed to that coming; His translation was confirmation of the coming of the Lord, and of His judgments. Said Paul, “For me to live is Christ ... .” (Phil. 1:21), and again, “See that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Eph. 5:15). Irenaeus wrote, “Enoch also, pleasing God without circumcision, was God’s ambassador to the angels, although he was a man, and was received to heaven, and is preserved until now as a witness of the just judgments of God. For the angels by transgression fell to earth for judgment, while a man, by pleasing God, was raised to heaven for salvation.” (Interesting—not necessarily true!).
v. 16.“These are murmurers (Greek—‘ogongustes—an onomatopoeic word—i.e. a word based upon the sound emitted), complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaks great swelling words, admiring the person for the sake of profit”
Triplet No. 8. Murmurers, complainers, walking in their own lusts.
Remember the opening words of the Apostle’s song of love? (1Cor. 13)? “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.”
Complainers—those discontented with their lot.
Boasters—“Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters ...” (Rom. 1:30).
Paying lip service—as Balaam to Balak.
v. 17-18.“But ye, beloved, remember the words which have been spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; that they said to you that in the last time there shall be mockers (scoffers), walking after their own lusts of impieties.”
This verse again makes us aware of the appropriate position of this letter, for the ‘last days’ are in view.
v. 19. “These be they who are setting apart (creating divisions), sensual, having no spirit” (? Holy Spirit).
“These”—notice that the three occurences (Triplet No. 9) introduce three sections—vv. 12-15; vv. 16-18; and v. 19, and it has been suggested that they describe respectively, those who follow in the way of Cain, the error of Balaam and the rebellion of Korah.
“Sensual”—Greek phychi—i.e. ruled by human reasoning and human affections—not rising above the world of sense.
v. 20-27. “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith (which‘these’ would deny), praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, awaiting the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto life eternal”
Keep yourselves unto life eternal.
Triplet No. 10. Praying in the Holy Spirit; keeping in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.
By these is the building erected upon the faith foundation which ‘these’ would destroy.
The faith once delivered to the saints (v. 4) is now “your faith” and further, it is a “holy faith.”
Praying in the Holy Spirit—He Who “makes intercession for us” (Rom. 8) “Hereby know we that we dwell in Him, and He in us, because He hath given us His Holy Spirit.”
“God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” (1John 4:13-16).
“By prayer in the Spirit, we are kept in the love of the Father, for the mercy of the Son.” (A Commentator).
That same mercy for which men besought Him—“Thou son of David, have mercy on me.”
v. 22.“But some convict when they contend (dispute) with you” Or perhaps, “Some convict when they are in doubt”
v. 23. “And others save, snatching them from the fire; and others pity in fear, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.”
Triplet No. 11. Convict, save, pity.
The last clause—“and others pity in fear” is not in the A.V. but is shown in other versions.
Some save by eliminating their doubts.
Others, snatch as brands from the burning. (Zechariah 3:2; cf. note on v. 9).
The rest, pity, but in pitying, fear (1Cor. 5:11; 1Tim. 5:22; Titus 3:10, 11).
v. 24-25. “Now to Him Who is able to guard you from stumbling, and to set you blameless and exultant in the presence of His glory; to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, might and authority, before all time, and now, and to all the ages. Amen.”
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Triplets 12 and 13. Glory, Majesty, Might; Past, Present, Future.
Before time began; through time, and when time ceases— from eternity to eternity—glory, majesty and might belong to God and are ascribed to Him through Jesus Christ our Lord.
This doxology is a shout of triumph. God will perform that which ungodly men would seek to frustrate.
We repeat the sevenfold duty seen in vv. 20-23—a duty which is included in the opening exhortation that we ‘contend for the faith’—
Build upon the faith;
Pray in the Spirit;
Keep in the love of God;
Waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ;
Convict those in doubt;
Enoch’s walk impossible? He walked with God, and God took him.
Enoch’s God is our God, and He is able to guard us from stumbling (in our walk) and to set us blameless and exultant in the presence of His glory.
It was a great moment for his own soul, and fraught with immense consequences for many others when Luther learned from God that justification is by faith alone. For centuries the mass in Christendom had groaned under the mistaken notion that only by toilsome works and the observance of religious ordinances could men hope to stand ultimately in the favour of God. The truth was all along enshrined in the Scriptures, but somehow the eyes of men were holden that they could not see it.
To justify a man is to reckon him righteous. Against such an one no charge can ever be brought; before the throne of judgement he stands acquitted for ever. To justify one who has committed no offence is a simple matter, of which every magisterial bench in the world is capable. But to justify a sinner is another matter altogether; this presents a problem that only God can solve. Both Job and his friend Bildad long ago raised the question, “How can man be just with God?” (Job 9:25); both having before their minds the fact that man is fallen and guilty. Their question found no definite answer in Old Testament times; for this, as for the solution of many another riddle, men had to wait until God sent forth His beloved Son. “But now,” says the Apostle, “the righteousness of God is manifested” (Rom. 3:21). It is offered “unto all,” and it is “upon all them that believe.” Its foundation is the blood of Christ; which, shed once upon the cross of Calvary, has answered all the claims of the throne of God in regard to the sins of all God’s people, whether they be Jews or Gentiles. Christ’s resurrection is the token before all eyes that God’s righteous claims have been satisfied. The Man who bore my sins in His own body on the tree is now sitting on the throne of God without one of them. For Him, condemnation is past for ever; and in Him every believer is justified from all things. The believer possesses in Christ a life which is characterised by resurrection-power, and to which no charge of sin can ever be attached. This is what is meant by “justification of life” in Rom. 5:18. From such a vantage ground the Christian is able to challenge all his foes: “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth; who is he that condemneth?” (Rom. 8:33-34). The very righteousness of God, so dreaded by the guilty, becomes the safeguard and boast of the justified.
The Apostle James has been thought to contradict in his epistle the Pauline doctrine of justification by faith. Even Luther failed to reconcile the teaching of the two inspired writers. Whatever difficulty the reader may find vanishes immediately the fact is grasped that Paul is occupied (in Rom. 3-5) with the justification of the ungodly, while James (in chap. 2) speaks of the justification of the godly. The one is before God and the other is before men. God justifies the ungodly on the principle of faith; it is of grace alone, works being altogether excluded: the godly justify themselves (i.e., their confession) before men by their good works, hence the statement of James 2:18: “I will shew thee my faith by my works.” A life abundant in good works naturally results from the possession of a living faith; when the works are lacking, we may well doubt the profession of the lips.
No man could well be more occupied with self-righteousness than Saul of Tarsus, but there came a day when God revealed Christ to His soul, and Divine righteousness in Him. From that moment all human efforts and advantages became in his eyes as loss and dung; his glorying henceforward was in Christ alone.
Satan makes choice of such as have a great name for holiness to do his work; there is none like a live bird to draw other birds into the net. Abraham tempts his wife to lie—“Say thou art my sister.” The old prophet leads the man of God out of his way.