The speaker who had this subject allocated to him began his address with a list of words used in the letters to the different churches, which he considered had some connection with Leadership. He asserted that these names describe “church officers.” Where is that in the word of God—this expression is not used among the assemblies of God’s people. Why is it that these men are so well acquainted with terms used “outside” rather than “within”?
Thereafter our brother proceeds with a rather impressive list of words with the original Greek words and their meaning. I am sure the listeners must have been impressed by such a display of knowledge—though one wonders whether many would retain much of it for very long (now that it has been printed in the report it is both useful and profitable). The surprising thing is that at the foot of page 15 these words are found :
“I have taken some time on this, but it seems necessary because it is possible to be so dogmatic about what we see as “the Scriptural pattern.” In fact there seems to be no one single pattern, but, instead, a variety of nomenclature, according to culture. There is always some kind of leadership, but what you call it does not seem to matter. We should notice the great cultural flexibility in the word of God: it may help us to be more charitable to others who call their leaders by different names.”
The inference seems to be that all this variety of names the Spirit of God has used is meaningless—all referring to the same thing and the same kind of persons—“Church Officers”!—The names chosen are just according to the culture of the various peoples! So today we have “Pope,” “Archbishop,” “Archdeacon” and at the lower level “Reverend,” “Vicar,” “Rector” and of course General and Lieutenant, etc., all according to background and culture—it doesn’t really matter. The Scripture contains “words that the Holy Spirit teacheth.” Our brother has told us the words, given the meaning; if he had interpreted them in their context his message would have been most instructive and edifying, but he uses his amazing knowledge to teach us (1) not to be dogmatic (2) that there is no Scriptural pattern (3) to be more charitable to those who call their leaders by different names. In fact one concludes after examining three pages that the main point was to suggest that there is no Scriptural pattern in the New Testament Scriptures. We could not disagree more!
There are several references to Phoebe — “a deacon, which is, incidently, masculine” (page 13) also “The most interesting of all is Phoebe, not only called ‘diakonos’—the office of a deacon, but ‘prostatis’: had she been a man the word would have been translated, ‘leader, protector, patron’ ... instead we meet the very weak translation ‘helper’ and ‘succourer’ for which usage there would seem little or no evidence whatever. The text would bear the translation ‘she was designated by me a ruler of many’.”
I wonder why other translators failed to find that meaning in the original text? Here are a selection.
Weymouth: “She has indeed been a kind friend to many, including myself.”
R.S.V. “She has been a helper of many, including myself.”
New International: “She has been a great help to many people, including me.”
Phillips: “She has herself been of great assistance to many, not excluding myself.”
N.E.B.: “She has herself been a good friend to many, including myself.”
Conybeare and Howson: “For she herself aided many, and me also among the rest.”
A. S. Way: “Many there are whom she has shielded from suffering, myself among the number.”
Twentieth Century: “She has proved herself a good friend to me and to many others.”
J.N.D.: “She hath been a helper of many and of myself.”
Notice how these versions translate the word: ‘Kind friend,’ ‘helper,’ ‘great help,’ ‘great assistance,’ ‘good friend,’ ‘aided,’ ‘shielded from suffering,’ etc. Nothing about ‘leader’ at all, and of course the subject of the address was ‘leadership’— so there is really no connection between Phoebe and the matter being considered.
But also take note of our brother’s remark “If she had been a man, the word would have been translated . . Does he seriously suggest that all the various translators of the New Testament had such a bias against women that they deliberately wrongly translated this verse? Has he the necessary scholarship to allow him to say that reliable scholars, both past and present, who have translated these words have either been ignorant or deceivers? When so many translators agree surely one should be slow to disagree? Again he says the word means ‘leader,’ ‘protector,’ ‘patron,’ Was Phoebe Paul’s leader? Was he led by a woman? Was Phoebe Paul’s patron (one who protects, gives influential support to, sometimes protects in return for certain services). The word “protector” could fit the context, but the A.V. “succourer” is equally good and is more expressive.
As with the former speaker the subject led to the subject of Women in the assembly (I wonder why?). One feels sorry for the “sister I know very well, brought up in the assemblies, who said frankly ‘I do not want my daughter to grow up in a church which silences half its members’.” (page 22). May the Lord be graciously merciful to her, lest her desire become true.—Such words said in defiance of God’s word can return again with bitter tears.
Now see this quotation from page 22.
“But does the word of God teach what we have thought it taught” (this sounds very like “Hath God said?”—Editor).
“I will not take time now to show that the usual proof texts can be understood properly in their contexts to mean other than the traditional interpretation, and' my view of Scripture will not allow me to sweep such Scriptures under any alleged cultural rug.”
However he does sweep the passages under the rug—-for the next thing is a quotation from James Hudson Taylor, and no reference to the usual proof texts! He does say however “Biblical Truth ought to feel right. Our traditional attitude to the role of women does not, to many of us, nor to many thoughtful and spiritual women in the assemblies.”
So it is not a matter of what the Scripture says, but Does it feel right?—May I submit that whether it feels right or not depends whether one is Spiritual or not. If the person is Spiritual the ‘traditional attitude’ will feel right.—“If a 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.”
The general impression that I gather from this address is
the speaker has a good knowledge of the original text
that in spite of his knowledge he is completely confused on the subject of women’s participation in the local assembly (unwillingness to obey leads to that state)
that because he is not clear about it, no one else could be, or should be and
therefore no one has a right to be dogmatic, and refuse to allow conduct in the assembly which is contrary to the plain teaching of the word of God.
I suppose the term he uses on page 17 would be his attitude to those that oppose these new ideas—“a little man with a big Bible who has no status in the outside world and compensates for it by trying to be a petty ruler in the local assembly.”
It appears that the end product of the address was to
bewilder the hearers with a display of knowledge
to cast doubt on the traditional interpretation of God’s word. Then
to encourage God’s people to disobey those plain passages.
An old strategy indeed.
Hath God said?
Ye shall not surely die.
First implanting doubt as to what God has said and then contradicting it. I am absolutely certain that my brother would not want to do that.
“I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity which is in Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:3.
After an introductory passage Dr. Griffiths proceeded to use the Philippian epistle as a base for his paper, interpreting his subject as ‘Growth and Progress’. In his address he says some excellent things, but, after four pages the subject of ‘women in the assembly’ comes up again! I wonder why? It isn’t his subject! He states of Euodias and Syntyche “they seemed to share with the apostle and Clement and others in Gospel ministry” What does that mean? He adds “There are many sisters in our assemblies who are frustrated because there is no opportunity for them to develop spiritual gifts in the assembly.” (page 77) So I presume he means that these two women engaged in preaching the Gospel along with Paul. There are plenty of other ways of labouring without having to disobey God’s word.
On page 78 there seems to be a suggestion that
we should have an impact on the secular world by taking active part in politics
Our young people might follow the example of a group in Singapore and produce a Christian Musical on the life of Paul (page 79) and
the subject of Christian Unity is handled in an excellent way but is spoiled by “closer links with Christian Churches of other traditions than our own”—the third Swanwick aim—Inter-denominationalism.
Under the heading ‘Growth in realistic missionary outreach’ he spoils a good section by “We ought as assemblies to train more workers and send more of them when trained as missionaries” and he follows this up with the idea of a young brother and his wife being fully supported as fulltime workers in a Singapore assembly—So he arrives at another Swanwick objective—Full-time local workers with adequate salary.
Now the final note. This address was apparently the closing address of the Conference (with the exception of the Chairman’s concluding address).
“We have met together over this weekend for conference. Is this just more talk or will it lead to action? Are we going to work out the solution to the problems of the assemblies with fear and trembling? Do you really care enough to act? Unless we are convinced from the word' of God, by the Spirit of God, that we are commanded to make progress and unless we want that progress with all our hearts, I am afraid that we will not go anywhere from here. Instead, we will become the discarded sectarian dregs of a human movement that began with a clear Biblical vision but lost its sense of direction and purpose, before it arrived at the Biblical destination. May God grant that we may regain the Biblical vision and the Biblical desire to press on to maturity.
As a final word of encouragement, it will not be necessary to change the whole Brethren movement to achieve that.”
—(page 85). (Bold type, the editor’s).
It would appear that this last sentence quoted is incomplete. Where is the final word of encouragement? Bill Spencer in his article in “Evangelism Today” adds the missing words “just their own.” With this idea the final call has point.
The conveners of the conference are at great pains in their introduction to point out that there was nothing official about the Swanwick conference—‘no official standing, not delegates.’ In this they are right, but does this speaker think so. Take notice of his words. (Bill Spencer calls it “the final plea.”) It is like a national or party leader rallying his troops for the battle, or his party members before a political campaign! It sounds good, thrilling, moving—the “trumpet is not giving an uncertain sound”!
But wait, notice the word ‘WE’ eight times. ‘We have met together’, that must be the 270 or more ‘Men of Swanwick.’ Then ‘We will become the discarded sectarian dregs of a human movement that began with a clear Biblical Vision’— that must be the co-called Brethren movement. So WE are the Men of Swanwick and WE is the Brethren movement! Notice WE are going to endeavour to put right the problems of the assemblies. This speaker talks as though this gathering represented the brethren movement, but it didn’t! Not officially. The Men of Swanwick are not the Brethren Movement—nor the representatives of the assemblies.
Finally the speaker suggests the plan of action—Don’t try to change the whole Brethren movement—just start with your own assembly.
So my fellow elders, be on the watch for the ideas of Swanwick being introduced into the local assembly, they are
Public participation of Women in assembly gatherings;
Trained Local Pastors;
May I suggest again that the elders of assemblies should obtain a copy of the official report of the Swanwick Conference entitled “Where do we go from here.” You may then check whether what I say is true, and also be forewarned relative the dangers of the movement. It is obtainable from H. E. WALTER LTD.
Reprinted from “Letters of Interest” (published in U.S.A.)
IT WAS NEVER GOD’S INTENTION TO CONCENTRATE MINISTRY IN ONE MAN
In the early history of the Christian church, two cities surpass all others in importance. They are Jerusalem and Antioch.
The central role of Jerusalem in church history is obvious, for it was there the church began. The crucial role of Antioch is not as well known. It was in Antioch that the first Gentile congregation was formed.
If Antioch equals Jerusalem in historical importance, it surpasses it in offering a pattern for the future. This might well be expected, for, apart from the first few decades of its history, Christianity has always been predominantly a Gentile religion. By contrast, the church in Jerusalem was composed entirely of Jewish Christians. It had strong ties to Jewish religion. The church in Antioch never had such ties. When attempts were made to form them, it offered stiff and successful resistance (Acts 14:26—15:2; 15:22-31).
But more than that. The church in Jerusalem is limited as a pattern for churches elsewhere, not only because it was predominantly Jewish rather than Gentile, but also because it came into being in a unique way. Its founding nucleus was a band of men who had travelled with the Lord Jesus. As they had moved from place to place, they had shared everything. Judas Iscariot had been their treasurer (John 12:6; 13:29). The Lord Jesus had been their leader.
After the Lord had ascended to heaven (and after Judas had committed suicide), the eleven men that remained met daily for prayer in an upper room in Jerusalem (Acts 1:12-13). Other followers of the Lord Jesus joined them, bringing the total number to about 120 (vv. 14-15). It was on this group that the Holy Spirit descended, bringing the Christian church into being (Acts 2:1-4; 1Cor. 12:13).
This Jerusalem congregation was marked by two characteristics that were not passed on to churches in other communities. Both characteristics were a direct result of its unusual origin.
The first of these was the practice of pooling financial resources (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-35). It was simply a continuation of the way the travelling band of apostles had operated during the Lord’s earthly ministry. There is no indication in Scripture that this practice was passed on to any other churches.
The second characteristic was the dominant role of apostles, who had a great deal more authority than ordinary elders.
In course of time, as the apostles died or moved away, the Jerusalem church became more like churches in other places. It is interesting to observe this change in the book of Acts. At first, leadership was provided entirely by the twelve. There is no mention of elders (Acts 6:2; 8:14). Before long other brethren had been drawn into the decision-making process, so that there were elders as well as apostles in Jerusalem (11:30; 15:2, 4, 6, 22, 23; 16:4). Still later only elders are mentioned, particularly James, who was not one of the twelve (21:17-18). There is no further mention of apostles in Jerusalem.
Thus it might be said that the church in Jerusalem, rather than being a pattern for churches elsewhere, gradually adapted itself to the pattern that other churches set. The church in Antioch, by contrast, set a pattern from its very beginning. It was brought into existence (by means of evangelism (Acts 11:19-21, 24). The converts were quickly gathered together into assembly fellowship, where they were taught the Word of God (v. 26).
Let us look at the subject of ministry in the local church. What form shall it take? What voices shall be heard in the ministry of the Word?
The assembly at Antioch gives us a two-fold pattern for ministry in a New Testament assembly. It teaches us that there should be variety of ministry, and it teaches us that there should be plurality of ministry. But it gives us no pattern of a pastor, which is the common practice in most churches today.
VARIETY OF MINISTRY
Acts 11:19-30 is the first of several passages relating to the church at Antioch. In these verses we find mention
of (four different types of ministry. First, of course, came evangelism (v. 20). When Barnabas arrived, he had a ministry of exhortation (v. 23). After he brought Saul, the two of them carried on a teaching ministry for a whole year (v. 26). Finally, when Agabus came, there was an exercise of the gift of prophecy (v. 28).
Variety in ministry is important to the growth of a church. People need encouragement, and sometimes rebuke. They need to be edified, and sometimes warned (1Cor. 14:3; Acts 20:31). They need to be taught doctrine (Titus 1:9), and they need to be taught the principles of Christian living (Titus 2:4-7).
In Antioch there was no steady diet of evangelism to the exclusion of teaching. On the other hand, neither did exhortation and teaching replace evangelism. It seems evident from Acts 11:24 that the exhortations of Barnabas to the church were thoroughly mixed with the gospel message.
A congregation that neglects teaching may grow in numbers, but not in maturity. A congregation that neglects evangelism will wonder why its deepening maturity is not accompanied by growth in numbers. And why its children grow up as nominal Christians without a genuine conversion experience.
What of the gift of prophecy such as Agabus exercised? All would agree that our churches need a ministry of prophecy, at least in the sense of speaking forth the mind of God. This means preaching, not just teaching.
But do we have prophecy today in the sense of prediction? There is considerable difference of opinion on this point. Agabus predicted a great famine, and told when it would come to pass. Many feel that the ability to make such predictions is, like the New Testament gift of tongues, a supernatural gift that is no longer being given. Others tell us that both gifts are with us today.
Unfortunately, most of the debate rages around the gift of tongues. It would be helpful if it centred on prophecy instead. When someone claims a gift of tongues, no one, including the speaker, can be absolutely sure of its source. Nor even if it is a legitimate language. But predictive prophecy is different. Let those who claim supernatural gifts tell us what’s going to happen in respect to inflation, recession, flash floods, tornadoes, or even severe winter weather. Then we can make preparation for the aid of our fellow believers (Acts 11:29-30). And we will have convincing proof of the continuance of supernatural gifts.
On the other hand, the absence of convincing, verifiable, predictive prophecy is a pretty good indication that tongues have ceased (compare 1Cor. 13:8). The two gifts receive side-by-side treatment right through chapters 12, 13 and 14 of 1Corinthians. They are also linked together in Acts 2:4, 17, 18 and Acts 19:6. In fact the only places where the gift of tongues is mentioned separately from the gift of prophecy are Mark 16:17 and Acts 10:46. But the gift of prophecy is treated separately from tongues in Acts 11:27-28; 13:1; 15:32; 21:9-11; Romans 12:6; 1Cor.ll:4-5; Eph, 4:11; 1 Thes. 5:20; 1Tim. 1:18; 4:14 (not to mention pre-Pentecost occurrences like 1Samuel 10:10 and Luke 1:67).
Inasmuch as the gift of prophecy receives more attention in the New Testament than the gift of tongues, is it not appropriate to look to it for proof that supernatural gifts are still given today? When we see instead that the unverifiable gift of tongues gets most of the attention in the modern charismatic movement, are we not justified in questioning the validity of the movement’s claims?
PLURALITY OF MINISTRY
Acts 13:1-3 is the second passage describing the church at Antioch. It brings us immediately to the subject of plurality of ministry. It names five men who were actively ministering the Word of God in the assembly—Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius, Manaen and Saul.
It was never God’s intention that ministry in the local church should be concentrated in one individual! Even if he possessed the necessary variety of gifts! A “one-man ministry” might be necessary when the church is first plainted, but if the pattern of Antioch is followed, others will soon be participating in the preaching.
If it appears that Barnabas was sent to Antioch to be “the minister” there, that notion is quickly dispelled when he goes to Tarsus and brings back Saul (Acts 11:22-25). If some would label the two of them “co-pastors”, what would they call the five men in Acts 13:1? Surely this was not a hired staff, but rather a group of gifted men, some local, some from a distance, who were sharing in the public ministry of the assembly.
If we’re still not convinced, we turn to Acts 15:30-40, the fourth New Testament passage describing Antioch (the third is 14:26-15:3). Paul and Barnabas, after their first missionary journey and a subsequent trip to Jerusalem, had resumed their ministry in the assembly, “teaching and preaching the Word of the Lord, with many others also” (15:35).
Who is the pastor now? The church in Antioch had grown through variety and plurality of ministry. As it grew, the number of ministering brethren also increased, so that now it could be said that not just five but many were teaching and preaching the Word of the Lord.
NO PATTERN OF A PASTOR
Yet in spite of this New Testament pattern, most of evangelical Christendom follows the modern tradition of a hired minister, putting him in charge, not only of worship and preaching and shepherding, but all too often of church government as well.
For the person in the pew the New Testament pattern may be even further distorted. Twenty-five years ago I asked a Christian woman what church she went to. I have never forgotten her answer. It epitomizes the distance between traditional church practice and the New Testament pattern.
“I go to such-and-such a church,” she replied. “He’s a very good man.”
The incipient editor that was within me rebelled at the grammatical shortcomings of her comment. A church is not a he. But I knew what she meant. She had left a middle sentence unspoken. “I go to such-and-such a church. The pastor is so-and-so. He’s a very good man.”
Many times since I have heard similar comments, though not expressed as vividly. The omission of that middle sentence reflects a widespread weakness in biblical understanding. It conceives of the local church, not as a fellowship of believers, but as an auditorium to which people go to hear a prominent minister. If he is replaced by someone less talented, it might be time to move on to another congregation with a dynamic preacher that suits our tastes and meets our needs.
More Scriptural thinking says: “I go to such-and-such a church. They’re a wonderful group of Christians.” Plurality of ministry encourages1 this thinking. Concentrating everything in a hired pastor does not.
It is refreshing to note a recent trend toward plurality of ministry, often given impetus by men who are pastors in traditional settings. This re-discovery of biblical practice should be encouraged by those of us who have been familiar with it for a long time. It represents a spiritual maturity that is a vital part of the growth of a church.
EXTRACT FROM REVIEW IN EVANGELICAL TIMES (Sept. 1979)
“Though much that is said here has been said for the past 20 years or so, some of the suggestions are revolutionary and if put into effect in an assembly are bound to precipitate a crisis of identity (‘Are they really Brethren any more?’!). One contributor makes a strong plea for the assemblies to seek out, train, and set apart men to a stated (though not exclusive) full-time preaching office in the local church. Those of us who feel that this has been a great lack in assembly-life will rejoice to see such a change of attitude, but may we sound a word of caution? Such men would need to earn the confidence, and be given the recognition, of the members — else there will be chaos worse confounded! The relationship between pulpit and pew is delicate indeed.
The open Breaking of Bread services, the centre of traditional Brethren life, is given some honest and heart-searching scrutiny. The role of women was the subject of some discussion, but the question of women teaching in the church was left open-ended. Other suggestions were even more surprising. Is the Evangelical Alliance the most obvious place for Brethren to demonstrate the oneness of Christ’s people (pp. 95—96). Are not assemblies compromising the gospel if they associate with local Councils of Churches, as is advocated on pp.97-98?
As one who owes much to a Brethren background, the reviewer wishes the churches of that ilk the blessing of God. But he fears that, either from a sincere desire for new vitality or out of sheer frustration with the status quo, some will press to implement the many suggestions contained in the report without first searching the Scriptures to see whether these things be so.
This report will do good if it drives the assemblies back to the Bible, as the speakers and convenors clearly desire. But pity any innovators for whom it becomes their Bible!”
The Editor has received a large number of letters with regard to the Review of the Swanwick Conference.
He wishes to thank all who have written.
He regrets he cannot reply individually and space forbids printing the letters.
“I believe in the forgiveness of sins.” Familiar words, often used by our fellow-men in the presence of God. Yet it is to be feared that many who thus speak would hesitate to assert that their own sins are forgiven, and that they stand perfectly clear before the throne of God for ever. Under such circumstances, one naturally enquires, “Whose sins do they believe in the forgiveness of?”
Certainly, there is not a soul who does not need forgiveness, though we do at times fall in with some of the ninety-and-nine just persons who judge they have no need of repentance. But they are deceiving themselves. The wise man’s words are all too true: “There is not a just man upon earth that doeth good and sinneth not” (Eccles. vii. 20). The summing up of the Apostle is even more conclusive: “There is no difference, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. iii. 23). Such comprehensive language leaves no door of escape for any; the whole human family is brought thereby under the judgement of God. Moreover, from such a condition none can extricate themselves; no amount of human effort, as amendment of life, almsgiving, etc., can possibly purge away a single sin.
In such circumstances one’s heart turns in all its helplessness to the One against Whom all our sins have been committed. In Him is mercy, compassion, and love. And there is more. In Him is the matchless wisdom that has found a way whereby He can fully and frankly forgive the sinner, and yet retain the righteous consistency of His throne. That way is Christ, “whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation (or mercy seat) through faith in His blood” (Rom. iii. 25). If this is the character of Him with Whom we have to do, let us away with both the pride that refuses to acknowledge its guilt, and the despair that feels its sins are too grievous to be forgiven. For some are afflicted with the one disease, and some with the other. Nearly 1900 years ago Paul made proclamation in the Pisidian Antioch—“Be it known unto you that through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins” (Acts xiiii. 38); and the proclamation has not yet been withdrawn by the God Who authorised it. Such a welcome as the scapegrace of Luke xv. received on his return to his father is awaiting all who will return in true contrition unto our God. The kiss of forgiveness and the ring of endless love are favours He delights to bestow.
GRACE’ is a great word, an all-inclusive word, because it is the word most truly expressive of God’s character and attitude in relation to man. Grace is found over 150 times in the New Testament and Paul refers to it 130 times directly or indirectly. Grace was the secret of his life and the keynote of his teaching. Trace the eleven references to “grace” in Ephesians.
It comes from two or three roots in the Hebrew and Greek. The root seems to mean ‘to give pleasure,’ both to the Giver and to the receiver.
THE MEANING OF GRACE
It is the free, spontaneous, unmerited love of God to sinful man. Grace is first, a quality of graciousness in the Giver, and then a quality of gratitude in the recipient which makes him gracious to others, e.g. 2 Sam. 9. Grace when applied to God, the Supreme Giver, two aspects are presented:—
1. It expresses the Divine Attitude to man as guilty and condemned. Grace means God’s favour and goodwill towards us. Luke 1:30; permanently favoured or graced Luke 1:28. Grace is eternal; planned before it was exercised, purposed before it was imparted 2 Tim. 1:9. It is sovereign, because God exercises it toward and bestows it upon whom He pleases—Rom. 5:21. It comes from the throne of grace, Heb. 4:16.
Being unmerited favour, it is exercised in a sovereign manner Exodus 33:19; Gen. 6:8. It is free, (no conditions required) for none can purchase it—Rom. 3:24. It is spontaneous and generous and abiding. Paul was a grace-made main, 1 Cor. 15:10.
2. It expresses Divine Action to man as needy and helpless. Not only benevolence but benefaction; not solely good will also good work, Phil. 1:6. It is God’s free bounty; His spontaneous gift which causes pleasure and produces blessing, Rom. 5:15; Rom. 12:6; 1Cor. 4:7.
It is distinguished from mercy which is related to misery and to (negatively) non-deserving. Grace is related to redemption and to (positively) undeserving, Eph. 2:5,8. R.V.
THE MANIFESTATION OF GRACE
There is no grace in heathen religions. It comes from God through His Son, our Lord and Saviour. John 1:17; Acts 15:40; Acts 18:27; 20:24. God is the God of all grace -1 Peter 5:10; the giver of grace Ps. 84:11; Jas. 1:17. Grace was upon Christ Luke 2:40; John 3:34. He spoke with grace Ps. 45:2; Luke 4:22. He was full of grace John 1:14,17. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of grace Heb. 10:29. The Father is the fountain of all grace, the Son is the channel of grace and the Holy Spirit is the administrator of grace.
The manifestation of grace commenced in God’s purpose, 2 Tim 1:9; is embodied in God’s revelation in Christ Tit. 2:11; and declared in. the Gospel Acts 20:24.
It is God’s mercy pitying; e.g. Saul Acts 9:1; 1 Tim. 1:13; the Corinthians 1 Cor. 6:9-11. Grace is God’s wisdom planning, before the world began Eph. 1:4; from the foundation of the world Rev. 13:8. Among the Jews a Saviour was prepared for the world and among the Gentiles the world was prepared for the Saviour. It is fully manifested in God’s love providing salvation John 3:16 When Christ appeared He was the revelation of the grace of God bringing, not sending, salvation, for His character was “full of grace and truth.” In Christ it is saving grace, Matt. 1:21; Eph. 2:4-7; no merit, no effort and no payment Eph. 2:9. It is sanctifying grace, suggested by the word “Christ” which means ‘Anointed.’ We have fullness of grace in and from Christ John 1:16; Col. 2:10. Being ‘Lord’ His is Sovereign grace Rom. 5:17; 14:9. Grace reigns by Jesus Christ and He has power and resources to enable us to live for Him and serve Him. Phil. 4:13.
THE MINISTRATIONS OF GRACE
There is the election) of grace which is in opposition to works and worthiness Rom. 11:5,6; 2 Thess. 2:13. The latter text tells us why we are saved; and how we are saved. Like Paul we are called by grace Gal. 1:15; Rom. 8:30; 2 Tim. 1:9. Grace brings salvation Tit. 2:11, and effects justification Tit. 3:7; Rom. 3:24. It is linked with predestination Eph. 1:5,6. It is the source of faith Acts 18:27; of forgiveness Eph, 1:7; it secures acceptance Eph. 1:6,8; gives us a standing before God Rom. 5:2; and an, inheritance in Christ Acts 20:32. It gives us consolation and hops 2 Thess. 3:16.
Grace, like the Good Samaritan, not only meets the present emergency, but provides for daily and future blessing. Available to us in time of need Heb. 4:16; establishment against error Heb. 13:9. It delivers us from the dominion of sin Rom. 6:14; it is necessary to the service of God Heb. 12:28; we should grow in grace 2 Pet. 3:18; and be strong 2 Tim. 2:1.
THE MEASURE OF GRACE
It is described as great, Acts 4:33; sovereign Rom. 5:21; free Rom. 3:24; rich Eph. 1:7; 2:7; all-sufficient 2 Cor. 9:8; 12:9; and is increased Jas. 4:6; 2 Peter. 1:2. It is abundant Rom. 5:17,20; 2 Cor. 4:15; 9:8,14. God’s grace is manifold; there is teaching grace for living, and sustaining grace for trials, 2 Cor. 12:9.
“Grace,” says Spurgeon, “is the morning and evening star of our experience. Grace puts us in the way, helps us by the way, and takes us all the way.”
MISUNDERSTANDING OF GRACE
(1) Law. This rule of life was revealed from God and accepted by Israel at Sinai. The law is held in contrast with the teachings of grace John 1:17. Contrast the Decalogue with Grace in 2 Cor. 3:3-16, seven things are contrasted; see also Gal. 5:18; Eph. 2:15; Col. 2:14.
False teachers who came to Galatia proclaimed a mingling of grace and law Gal. 1:6-8; 3:2,3. The law curses Gal. 3:10; grace redeems from that curse 3:13. Law says, do and thou shalt live, Luke 10:26,28; grace says, believe and live John 5:24. These are only a few contrasts. Rom. 6:14.
(2) Works. Salvation is by the grace of the Creator rather than by the works of the creature. Salvation by grace precludes the idea of any works either great or small, moral or ceremonial, Luke 18:10-14; Rom. 11:6 R.V.; Eph, 2:9.
(3) Debt or Obligation. Grace excludes the principle of debt or obligation. Salvation by grace means that God is not obligated to save Rom. 4:4,5. Salvation is always presented as a Gift, an recompensed favour, a pure benefit from God. John 10:28; Rom. 6:23.
(4) Ceremonialism. The Jewish element in the early Church was slow to abandon the law and its ceremonies, a double standard is revealed in the first council of the Church in Jerusalem, Acts 15:1-2, 5,7, 19-21; 21:19-26.
(5) Antinomianism. There are two dangers concerning grace; one is the danger of frustrating it, the other of abusing it. We frustrate grace when we teach that righteousness comes by keeping the law Gal. 2:21. We abuse grace when we use it to justify a life of sin Rom. 6:1,2. Grace not only reaches us as sinners but teaches us what we should loathe, how we should live and whom we should look for, Titus 2:11-13.
OUR RESPONSE TO GRACE
Having received grace 2 Cor. 6:1, we should continue in it Acts 13:43; share it Phil. 1:7; be growing in it 2 Pet. 3:18; finding it at the throne Heb. 4:16; standing in it 1 Pet. 5:12; singing with it Col. 3:16; speech ruled by it Col. 4:6. We should be enjoying it 1Pet. 3:7; and yet expecting it 1 Pet. 1:13; be liberal through it 2 Cor. 8:19; and witnessing to it Eph. 3:8; Acts 20:24 and be glad when we see it in others Acts 11:23.
Our life is to be a Monument of Grace. All that we are, have, do and become is of grace, and we are so to live that our lives are to be to the “glory of His grace” Eph. 1:6. It should be a power in our life Luke 2:40; Acts 4:33.
Our lips are to be the Mouthpieces of Grace. We are to testify to the Gospel of the grace of God Acts 20:24; be proud of the Gospel Rom. 1:16. It should govern our speech Col. 4:6; and enable us to sing to God Col. 3:16.
Our love is to be a Means of Grace. There is no means of grace to compare with a Christ-like spirit. God’s love is only made available for others through 'his saints. His love in our hearts will lead to the love of others, and all our relationships will be sweetened, hallowed and transfigured. Grace will make us gracious in our dealings and enable us to avoid the spirit of hardness and severity, and manifest the spirit of forgiveness and patience.
Our Labour is to be a Messenger of Grace. Like Paul this grace is our Companion in labour and the Spirit of God endows us with the gifts of grace to minister to others 1 Cor. 15:10.
Our service is the outflow of the grace of God in the heart. Grace humbles pride, incites hope, inspires to service, and glories God.
“GRACE” - Gives us salvation Eph. 2:8; Revealed in Christ 2 Cor. 8:9; Abundant 1 Tim. 1:14; Comes from God our Father Eph. 1:2; Enjoyed by all saints Phil. 4:23.
The Christian in the New Testament is viewed as an athlete, 1Cor. 9:24, a husbandman, James 5:7, and as a soldier, 2Tim. 2:4, typifying the characteristic features which should mark us, i.e. energy, diligence, and endurance. The Christian life is not passive but active, of course, there must be balance, abundant foliage on a plant must have a healthy root system, to support and sustain. Is not this the lesson which the writer of Hebrews is teaching, this race upon which we have entered is not a sprint but a marathon, therefore, healthy regulated growth, stamina, and strategy are essentials. The following references would emphasise the need for endurance, which apparently was lacking in the spiritual character of the Hebrew believers. Ch. 3:14, 6:12, and 10:36.
PROVISION FOR THE RACE
Entrance-Exclusive. The race is open to all who are in the family of God, by the new birth, having experienced salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, partakers of the heavenly calling, Ch. 3:1, having tasted of the powers of the world to come, Ch. 6:5, and being illuminated by the Holy Spirit of God, Ch. 10:32. Is there perchance a reader who desires to engage in this race as a serious competitor, but has never taken steps to enter, now is the time to start, the course is getting shorter but the end result will be the same.
Encouragement-Exemplified. This encouragement is twofold, firstly, the witnesses of the previous chapter, the heroes of faith, who can read these exploits without being thrilled, secondly, the Great Exemplar of faith our Lord Jesus. ‘Looking off unto Jesus,’ the name of His humanity and humility, which tells us of His experience here as the Man among men, acquainted with our circumstances, yet sin apart. The Author and Perfector of faith, the Alpha and Omega, our path may be difficult and dark, but look at His path, ‘uncheered by earthly smiles,’ a path of suffering, yet marked by blessing. How wonderful, it was as ‘Jesus’ that he trod the path to the Cross, the dependent Man, faith unshaken, Psalm 16:8, the joy set before Him, endured, despising, set down. Would we seek another order, it is first the sufferings then the glory which shall follow, 1Peter Ch. 1:11.
Endurance-Expedient. Time is the great tester of conversion, the depth of personal conviction and faith are soon manifested. Endurance is a quality necessary to succeed in the race of faith, to persevere, submission to the will of God, determination to complete the course. The New Testament abounds with references to the need for it, and examples of it as displayed in the individual. The earlier in the race, the need for endurance is recognised, the better, when tenacity and stamina can be cultivated and strengthened. Character is formed in the school of grace, each test makes us stronger, enabling us to hold fast and run with endurance. Ecc. Ch. 9:11.
PRINCIPLES FOR THE RACE
Love to Endue. The fuel or power for this race is primarily love, the paramount importance of this virtue is expounded by the Apostle in 1Cor. Ch. 13, again in 2Cor. Ch. 5:14 compelled by the love of Christ, this should motivate us in our service, energised for the race, able to recover from a set back, overcome obstacles, as we are endued with His love, we shall be supported and sustained. Not love at the expense of truth, but a love which is governed by principles of righteousness. Remember that the same Lord Jesus, who wept over the city, Luke Ch. 19:41, was the same Lord Jesus who drove the money changers out of the temple, John Ch. 2:15.
Liberty to Enjoy. ‘Lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us,’ the ‘weights’ could be the legitimate things of life, right and proper in their own place, but a weight in the race of faith. The ‘sin’ needs no explanation we are too well aware, or should be, of the power of indwelling sin, freedom is a must, to be effective in this race, anything which restricts our movement should be discarded, so that our running can be successful.
Legislation to Enforce. Every race has rules of entry, regarding route and distance, the Christian race has no less. ‘A man is not crowned except he strive lawfully’ 2 Tim. Ch. 2:5. I suggest that Acts Ch. 2:42 is the course guide for the believer. Church truth is important and should be respected and acknowledged. It is true that the Church age will be succeeded by the Kingdom age, and the promise of the Lord Jesus is to the individual Rev. Ch. 3:20, but this does not render inoperative the principles and practices of a New Testament Church as binding on every enlightened believer nor does it exonerate those who wilfully disregard such truth.
POSSIBILITIES IN THE RACE
One who Deviated—Asaph Psalm 73. The precentor without a song, occupied with the prosperity of the wicked, the wrong object, to his own spiritual detriment. This is a grave danger to link material prosperity with spiritual health, there is nothing more calculated to stumble us in the race, than the spirit of envy and jealousy, this desire to accumulate possessions. Let us listen to Asaph, ‘my steps had well nigh slipped’ verse 2, when the line of communion had been restored, ‘Until I went in to the sanctuary of God, then understood I their end’ verse 17. A true perspective of things can only be obtained in the sanctuary, Sodom had a different meaning for Abraham, ‘Abraham stood yet before the Lord’ Gen. Ch. 18:22. When the object of our vision is adjusted, it is easy to say ‘Whom have I in heaven but Thee’ verse 25.
One who Deserted—Demas. 2 Tim. Ch. 4-10. One can detect a note of sadness in the words of Paul, ‘Demas hath forsaken—having loved’ the present age has appeal, and we need to see the God of glory, Ur of the Chaldees meant nothing to Abraham after this experience was his. Acts Ch. 7:2. We are in the world, but not of it, John Ch. 17:14. Let us have no love for it, 1John Ch. 2:15, no friendship with it, James Ch. 4:4. and no conformity to it, Romans Ch. 12:2.
One who was devoted—Paul. 2Tim. Ch. 4:7. Surely there is a note of triumph in the words of the aged warrior of the Cross. 1Kings Ch. 20:11. Paul’s fighting, finishing and keeping, were a testimony to the power, provision, and purpose of God. God is able, but there must be effort on our part, there is no place in this race for the indolent and lethargic, and there will be no finishing the course without fighting with conviction, every inch of the way must be contested. The ‘faith’ the revealed body of Christian doctrine was observed by Paul, the whole counsel of God, what resources, more than enough for every emergency. The authority and sufficiency of Divine revelation was recognised by Paul throughout the race!
“These things said Isaiah, when he saw His glory, and spake of them.” John 12:41.
Let us be assured that no man may rightly claim to be Christ’s servant unless some such experience has been his; it may be a burning bush, a falling mantle, pulse and water, an almond rod or a light above the brightness of the sun, but whatever the details, the call of Christ to discipleship is always as clear as when He said to Levi, “Follow Me.”
From that radiant hour, life could never be the same to the young prophet, and though he lived in storm-tossed, stirring times, it is to him that we owe many of the choicest heirlooms of faith and confidence in God, words which were first his own soul’s anchorage, long before they were handed on to the Church.
“Meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips.” Prov. 20:19.
Nehemiah’s enemies tried to weaken his hands by offering to help him in building the wall of Jerusalem; but this failed. Nehemiah was on his guard, and he refused their help. The enemy then came out in his true colours, and openly opposed the work. Satan observes the same tactics still, whenever a soul is born into the kingdom. A young convert is in great danger of being hugged to death by the caresses of the world. Satan comes as an angel of light, and would fain HELP the believer on in the divine life! Let us not be ignorant of his devices. The kindness and flattery of the world have made havoc of many who have had grace to withstand its persecution.