In the remarkable twelfth chapter of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, Paul ('our apostle') tells of a unique and most interesting experience, a revelation he had received from God. This had taken, place no less than fourteen years previously. During that space of time the apostle had kept silence, communicating to none an event of which we should all probably have gone hot-foot to report to friends as a matter of personal pride. This latter aspect doubtless governed Paul in keeping to himself so outstanding a mark of God's favour. He tells us also that in the wisdom of God there was given to him a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan, lest he should be exalted above measure. Though he besought thrice this was not removed, but the answer from the Lord was 'My grace is sufficient for thee; for My strength is made perfect in weakness.' And the response of the servant 'Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me.' (vv 7-9).
The precise nature of the communications received by Paul at that time are not disclosed to us : he says 'I know a man in Christ' (not 'knew' as in A.V., conscious knowledge, J.N.D.), 'such an one caught up to (as far as) the third heaven.' 'How that he was caught up into Paradise, and beard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.' (w 2, 4). That which he then heard was entirely suited to the heavenly conditions to which he had been transported, in modern parlance 'out of this world.' Perhaps in a coming day, when along with Paul in an even higher sphere (Christ ascended up far above all heavens), he will disclose to us that which he then heard. We remember that Paul was, as his Lord said of him, 'an elect vessel unto Me.' With no trace of false modesty or of fleshly pride, he fittingly describes himself as 'A MAN IN CHRIST.' Such a title involves both status and a corresponding quality of state. The status is the sovereign prerogative of God: the state is the practical answer to it, the product of the work of the Holy Spirit in one worthy to be so designated. There can be little doubt that this experience distinctly coloured the whole of the ministry of the apostle.
Another great influence upon, him, occurring in his unconverted days, but doubtless later coming often to mind and profoundly affecting him is related. 'And the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet. Whose name was Saul.' (Acts 7.58). Here surely is another well worthy of the designation, 'A MAN IN CHRIST', Stephen, the first martyr. We hear little of this truly great servant of the Lord, but what we hear is most certainly calculated to promote a desire to draw upon the resources upon Which he drew in such large measure, 'the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.' (Phil. 1.19). The apostle himself, in using such an expression, was conscious of the great need of this supply, even relating it to his own 'salvation!', not from sin or its guilt, but to the preservation in its integrity of the unique body of truth which had been entrusted to him by the Head of the Church, as the apostle of the Gentiles : and the unfolding of the mystery of the Church.
Stephen, we are told in the previous chapter (Acts 6) was chosen as deacon, 'a man Mil of faith and the Holy Ghost and of power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.' But certain of the synagogue, unable to resist the wisdom and the spirit by Which he spoke, brought false witnesses against him. 'And all that sat in the council, looking stedlfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.' (v. 15). Even his enemies cannot but pay tribute to the character of the man before (hem, angelic but fearless, speaking truth amidst the hostility of his hearers. There follows a long and trenchant discourse setting out with tremendous power and ability God's dealings with His people of old, beginning with Abraham and the patriarchs, going on to Moses and tracing the history of Israel through David and Solomon. Towards the end of this long chapter (7), he ends what is probably the most Idling indictment of the people Who had been so favoured with these words : 'Ye stiffnecked and uncircuimcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost : as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before the coming of the Just One, of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers : who have received the law by the disposition of angels;, and have not kept it? (w 51.3).
The re-action; of the council to this faithful word delivered in the power of the Spirit of God, finally convicting them of the betrayal and murder of the Christ of God, sent for (heir deliverance, out them to the heart and they gnashed on him with their teeth. 'But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. And said. Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.' (vv 55,56). At the outset of this remarkable discourse he had spoken of the God of glory appearing to Abraham : now he sees the glory of God, Jesus standing and the opened heavens. They cast him outside the city (where his Master had suffered, from Whom he took character so markedly) and stoned him. Even as his Lord bad cried on the Cross 'Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit' (Luke 23.46), so Stephen, calling upon God ('invoking') says 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,' and again, true to character, he cries with a 1oud voice (triumphant), kneeling, 'Lord, lay not this sin to their charge', in line with the crucified Saviour's words 'Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.' The short history of Stephen thus teaches us how to live as a true Christian and also how to die. His glorious exit from this scene amidst the tumult and the hail of stones was with 'an inner peace as the divine record shows:- 'And when he had said this. he fell asleep'.
by E. L H. OGDEN
Matthew 5, 1-12
The Beatitudes, with the entire discourse generally called 'The Sermon on the Mount', have frequently been misinterpreted by some as millennial teaching only. That they have no relevance today is however a fallacy which deprives the child of God of much that instructs, encourages and challenges; and it is a tacit denial of Paul's words to Timothy "all scripture is ... profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." 2 Tim. 3.16.
That these gracious utterances by the Lord 'relate to the kingdom of the heavens does not confine them to a future revelation of that kingdom on earth; and there is no scriptural justification for linking them to a specific age or dispensation. The kingdom of the heavens speaks of the realm of God's rule. The kingdom of God, a synonymous term, speaks of rule in God's realm. In other words, the terms introduce teaching concerning the rule of God in His realm. It is true to say, therefore, that when the Lord was on earth, the kingdom could be found there. Where Christ is acknowledged today, there is the kingdom residing within the heart. When He reigns on earth in a future dispensation, the kingdom will be there. Today's application is very practical and is for believers only in whom the rule of God is acknowledged.
In approaching the Beatitudes which introduce the discourse, it will' be seen how relevant they are.
BLESSED ARE THE POOR IN SPIRIT: FOR THEIR'S IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.
This is not a poverty of possession, but rather an attitude towards one's self, having nothing in which to glory. How different this attitude of mind is to that of the world in which affluence and prosperity in material things are the recognised aims of life. God looks for humility in His own. To the poor in spirit is this kingdom promised, and God dwells with such. (Isa. 57. 15). Moreover, He gives to them the authority of the kingdom; the right of possession to all who are humble in spirit. The Lord said to those to whom this would have applied, "If ye shall ask anything in My name, I will do it." (John 14.14).
BLESSED ARE THEY THAT MOURN: FOR THEY SHALL BE COMFORTED.
This follows in proper sequence. The poor in spirit acknowledge a spiritual condition. Those that mourn receive spiritual comfort in that condition. Again the words were not spoken in a natural sense, true though that may be, but rather in the spiritual sense. To mourn is the effect of self examination. Recognition of God's holiness is the cause, and a correct assessment of one's self causing mourning over sin is the result. Paul experienced the spirit of mourning when he cried "0 wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death"? 'He mourned the strength of the flesh. Knowledge of the existence of its fruits causes mourning. It is not a knowledge without hope, however, for such mourning brings comfort, of which God Himself is the constant source.
BLESSED ARE THE MEEK: FOR THEY SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH.
The word 'meek' is only used upon three other occasions :
in relation to the disposition of the Lord when He entered Jerusalem, and the people proclaimed Him 'Blessed' (Matt. 21. 5-9).
In relation to His character displayed in the Lord's invitation to the weary and heavy laded. (Matt. 11. 28-29).
In relation to the conduct of the believing wife. 1 Pet. 3.4. The attribute of meekness should be seen in every believer through his disposition, character and conduct. He is required to show humility and gentleness in all his relationships. This is not weakness, but true spiritual meekness.
There is no doubt that the repentant believing Jew will inherit the earth in the millennial reign of Christ; but the believer has an inheritance also, of which the seal of the Holy Spirit is already the earnest, the guarantee of fulfilment. (Eph. 1. 13-14). While he may possess no land today, the truly meek person in Christ will always be content with what daily provision he has, knowing that spiritually he possesses all things in Christ while he waits for the "inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away . . . ." (1 Pet. 1.4). Although by the world's standards this would make him proud, it keeps him meek !
BLESSED ARE THEY WHlCH DO HUNGER AND THIRST AFTER RIGHTEOUSNESS: FOR THEY SHALL BE FILLED.
This is a hunger and thirst to be desired, bringing the blessing of God. It is an enlargement of the promise of the Lord Where the blessing of satisfaction was conditional to those who came. (John 6.35). Here the blessing is conditional to those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.
Righteousness, with peace, comprises the kingdom of God. (Rom. 14.17). It is an attribute of God. It is His holy standard. Those who seek it desire (hat the principles of the kingdom shall be observed in their lives. To all such, the promise is "they shall be filled." The void that caused their hunger is satisfied in the Lord Jesus Christ. That satisfaction comes from being right with God the righteous One. Right in all relationships with Him; free from the manifestation of sin in the life. May our hunger and thirst for (his never be appeased or quenched !
BLESSED ARE THE MERCIFUL: FOR THEY SHALL OBTAIN MERCY.
This Beatitude touches our relationship with others. Mercy is the attitude of undeserved grace, and attention toward one who has no claim whatsoever upon it. It means that the one who shows mercy does not demand his rights, however justified he may appear to be to do so.
The question of attitude towards law breakers is not involved here. It is not a matter of the system of justice overlooking flagrant breaches of the law of the land. Rather is it a matter of a personal attitude towards another in human relationships when the desire for vindication arises in the flesh. We are not to stand upon 'our rights' if we are to receive this blessing from God. To do so, could lead to vindictiveness, and not mercy.
We do not show mercy if we do not forgive our brother or sister in the Lord. It is not compatible with the rule of God in His realm. Indeed, our forgiveness should extend to all. Not to do so is contrary to the spirit of Christ Who "when He suffered. He threatened not." 1 Pet. 2.23.
The promise to the merciful is dear; "they shall obtain mercy." The repentant sinner first obtains mercy at the cross. To bestow it is God's prerogative. Showing it to others is the business of the child of God, who in doing so will continue to obtain it.
BLESSED ARE THE PURE IN HEART : FOR THEY SHALL SEE GOD.
This blessing has to do with the deep affections embodied in the word 'heart.' It is not concerned with wisdom or knowledge. It is not purity of wisdom or pure knowledge that brings the blessing of God. Rather is it purity of heart. It is an inner cleansing inherent in the word 'pure'; it is the state of heart enabling one to see God. A heart undivided in its affections, uncompromising in its attitudes, and unsin-ning in its actions. So defined, a pure heart is the condition for seeing God. Humanly speaking, (his is a paradox. "No man hath seen God at any time.' (John 1.18). Yet Moses endured, "seeing Him Who is invisible." (Heb. 11.27). So it is with the eye of faith that God can be seen by the pure in heart, as the blessedness of His presence is enjoyed day by day.
It is also a promise soon to be fulfilled, when in eternal purity we shall see the face of our beloved Lord, and seeing Him, we shall see God. (John 14.9).
BLESSED ARE THE PEACE MAKERS : FOR THEY SHALL BE CALLED THE CHILDREN OF GOD.
Romans 14.17, already referred to, speaks of peace which, with righteousness, comprises the kingdom of God. The believer acknowledging the claims of the kingdom upon him now, must be a person of peace.
The war ridden history of the world would appear to denote a complete absence of 'peacemakers in it. There have, however, been many attempts through organisations and leagues to make and keep peace internationally, industrially and socially. That they have failed and will continue to fail lies in the human inability to fulfil the condition of this Beatitude. Only a child of God can be a peacemaker in the truest sense.
Peace is an attribute of God. (Heb. 13.20). It can only be established where ever God is given entire control in all circumstances. It is happening in (he lives of individual believers who acknowledge the rule of God. It will happen on this earth when Christ Himself reigns as King, and His authority and rule is established and acknowledged throughout the world in that new kingdom relationship of peace. Until then, let all the children of God rejoice that He is their peace. (Eph. 2.14).
BLESSED ARE THEY WHICH ARE PERSECUTED FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS' SAKE : FOR THEIR'S IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.
It will already have been seen that possession of the kingdom is promised to the poor in spirit. (3). The subject of this Beatitude are the persecuted ones. The reason is for the sake of righteousness. For being righteous; for trying to be like Christ; for seeking to serve Him. (John 15. 18-21). The Bible contains many examples of those who suffered for the sake of righteousness. Persecution is the weapon in Satan's armoury against righteousness, and against those who by living witness and spoken and written testimony practise righteousness by a close walk with God. The persecution may not necessarily be physical, but by mental pressures of antagonism in the workshop, office, college and school, the opposition of family against one solitary member of it witnessing faithfully and stedfastly for the Lord. There are also many who suffer physical persecution in many parts of the world for righteousness' sake, and they do so much need the prayers of us all.
All such, irrespective of the specific circumstances besetting them, being truly born of God, possess even now the liberty and joy of the kingdom, as God rules in their lives. These have the assurance of the knowledge of the inheritance of blessing throughout eternity.
BLESSED ARE YE, WHEN MEN SHALL REVILE YOU, AND PERSECUTE YOU, AND SHALL SAY ALL MANNER OF EVIL AGAINST YOU FALSELY, FOR MY NAME'S SAKE. REJOICE AND BE EXCEEDING GLAD: FOR GREAT IS YOUR REWARD IN HEAVEN.
These verses continue the theme of persecution. The Lord has brought the subject on to a personal level. It now embraces persecution by speech as well as deed, and not only is blessing to be an experience, there is to be a response in and from the heart in a rejoicing and glad spirit.
The persecuted are to rejoice and be exceeding glad because :
It is proof that they belong to Christ.
It is proof of their faithfulness to Christ.
It is proof of their identity with Christ.
The true believer does not, however, look upon persecution as a means of gaining a reward. This was not the purport of the Lord's statement. He knows, nevertheless, that however dark the days of persecution may be, he will for his faithfulness receive a crown of life. (Rev. 2.10). Paul was able to speak of his experiences as "light affliction which . . . worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." (2 Cor. 4.17).
We have considered those things which should mark the people of the kingdom. May the Lord enable us to live more consistently in accordance with those characteristics, and thus show in all humility the outworking of God's rule in His realm, our surrendered lives.
PREPARATION FOR REVIVAL
by the late JOHN RITCHIE
(Reprinted from the Believer's Magazine, 1919)
All true revival is of God, it is (he operation of the Holy Ghost in the believer and in the church. Some have foolishly spoken of "getting up a revival," but a true revival of spiritual life and renewal of spiritual power is not "got up" but "brought down." Its coming is invariably in answer to earnest, united, believing prayer. We have never seen or heard of real times of reviving, renewing and refreshing coming upon a prayerless, self-satisfied and pompous people. The Lord's way still is to "revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones" (Isaiah 57. 15). We may take it therefore that the first stop toward a true revival is found in heart searching and self-judgement before God. This will result in that chastened, contrite and lowly condition, upon which God looks with approval, and upon which "like rain upon the mown grass and as showers that water the earth" (Isaiah 57. 15) His revivings and His refreshings come. It is ours to make room for the Lord to work, not to dictate to Him how and when He is to do it. The word, in the time of Elisha, to the widow, who was in poverty and in debt, but who had still one "pot of oil" in her possession, in the house, was, "Bring empty vessels not a few." And when these empty vessels were brought and the door shut upon them, the oil began to flow, until all the empty vessels brought were filled (2 Kings 4. 1-7). Then the oil ceased. God never wastes His mercies, when they are not wanted, or where there is no room to receive and use them to profit. That house, with the pot of oil still in it, yet unused, may surely speak to us of the heart and the church in which the Spirit of God and of power dwells, but yet waits for "empty vessels" to fill.
In the scene without, (he same principle appears. The prophet said to the men who came in the time of drought seeking water, "Make this valley full of ditches" (2 Kings 3. 16). When these had been prepared the Lord filled them with water to overflowing.
There is power in the Spirit for all ministry: for awakening the 'lost, for keeping the saved in spiritual condition, for sending (he Gospel forth in converting power, and giving the Word unction and grip when ministered to the saints. But there must be "empty" vessels, men and women cleansed from sin, sanctified to God, vessels "meet for the Master's use," whom He can fill, and through whom He can work for the blessing of others. The solemn and searching question for each one is "AM I SUCH A VESSEL."
HELPS FROM HEBREWS
by J. G.. GOOD
This letter was written to deliver from the old order of things, i.e., Judaism, and by virtue of the subject matter of the epistle, prevent a return thereto. The writer contrasts all that pertained to the old order, with the excelling glory of the Son of God, the substance of every shadow, the antitype of every type, the complete and final revelation of God. Again, this One is the Creator, Upholder, Sin Purger, Serpent Crusher, living in the power of an endless life with a priesthood which is intransmissible, of this One and no other can it be said, "Thou art a Priest for ever" Hob. 7-21.
The Hebrew believers were in the crucible of suffering, "a fight of afflictions" 10-32, they "took joyfully the spoiling of your goods" 10-34. The struggle to renounce that which was God given, the persecution which would follow such a decision is momentous. The writer in circumstances such as these, would remind them that the loss incurred by them as a result of embracing the rejected Lord Jesus Christ, was temporary, in contrast, the blessings gained were eternal and spiritual. "We have a great High Priest" 4-14, "Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul" 6-19, and "Ye have in heaven" 10-34.
To encourage to this goal, the writer, with pathos and feeling, continually exhorts, "Let us," "also fear" 4-1, "hold fast" 4-14, "draw near" 4-16, "go on" 6-1, "draw near" 10-22, "hold fast" 10-23, "consider" 10-24, "lay aside" 12-1. "have grace" 13-13, "offer" 13-15, "go forth" 13-13.
Three of the foregoing exhortations form the basis of this present meditation;
1. LET US GO ON TO KNOW HIM. Ch. 6-1.
The Hebrews had failed to make progress in Divine things, 'they were spiritual dwarfs, the 'full growth' carries the thought of spiritual maturity, this is not in any way connected with age, but with spiritual experience. The Christian life is not static and stationary, but positive and progressive. The words of Paul in Phil. 3-12 'I press on' corroborate this thought of experimental knowledge being necessary to spiritual growth. There is a grave danger of thinking that the experience of being saved is sufficient, and the sole requirement of the child of God. The Word of God, teaches the opposite, the receiving of God's salvation is only the beginning, and unless we know in reality a 'daily salvation' 7-25, growing in grace will be a distinct impossibility. There can be no appetite for the Word of God unless there is a laying aside, of those things which retard spiritual growth. I Pet. 2-1. It is the desire of our God that by growing we shall reach maturity, "Unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" Eph. 4-13. Hosea 6-3. There were three things that marked Samuel, the mantle of prophecy, the ephod of priesthood, and the coat of progress. Are we going on to know the Lord, let us 'sound,' Acts 27-28, and see if a change of course is required to bring us to the desired haven. Of this there can be no doubt that spiritual growth is the forerunner of spiritual prosperity. Psalm 144-12-15.
2. LET US GO IN-TO ENJOY HIM. Ch. 10-22.
What a truth is here emphasised, the free way of access in to the Holiest of All, the innermost shrine of God's abiding presence. The boldness of our entrance being the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. On the basis of this glorious fact, that the veil has been rent in the midst, Luke 23-45, and from the top to the bottom. Matt. 27-51, the exhortation is given, "Let us draw near." The veil which typified the humanity of the Lord Jesus, that we might go in!
"We thank Thee for the precious blood,
Which purged our sins and brought us nigh,
All cleansed and sanctified to God,
Thy Holy Name to magnify"
We have three words used in this chapter, used in connection with the worshippers, worthy of note, the second verse, 'once purged' i.e. cleansed, verse ten, 'sanctified,' i.e. separated to God, and in verse fourteen, perfected i.e. to perpetuity, (Newberry), once for all, the thought of finality, a finished fitness for the presence of God, not for a particular period of time, but FOR EVER. This grand truth of the ever open way into the presence of God, is enjoyed so little! Why? The reality of heavenly things, and the experimental knowledge of God's presence with us, will only be our portion in the measure that we 'draw near.' Is the Lord Jesus Christ, the living bright reality. He is prepared to be, to each one of us? This is a glorious possibility, if we are prepared to draw near into the peace of His presence to enjoy Him!
3. LET US GO OUT-TO BE WITH HIM. Ch. 13-13.
"Let us go forth UNTO MM," the magnetic Person of Christ. How suggestive are the words recorded by Mark in the first chapter of his Gospel, and verse forty-five" and they came to Him from every quarter." The mal-contents of the nation of Israel went to the cave of Adullam, I Sam. Ch. 22-1. Why? David was there! Have we gone forth unto HIM! The 'camp' mentioned here refers to Judaism with all its religion, we must remember that the temple was still functioning when this epistle was written. The 'camp' today would indicate a place, where the Lordship of Christ is denied, and the Word of God has not its rightful place. Christendom at large would fall into this category! The writer uses strong language, as if in a final appeal, "we have an altar whereof they who are serving the tabernacle have no right to eat" verse ten. The levitical priesthood has no part in the Cross Work of the Lord Jesus Christ, to partake of the blessings of the sin-offering of Calvary, there must be a forsaking of the camp of Judaism, these indeed were solemn words to the Hebrew, and reproach of necessity would follow such a step. The sin-offering of Lev. 6-30 reminds us that when the blood was brought into the Holy Place by the High Priest, the flesh was not eaten, but burned without the camp. The place of separation and rejection is the portion of all who would be identified with the One who suffered without the gate. Let us go forth UNTO HIM!
by JOHN NELSON DARBY
The simplest, fullest, and most direct statements of what eternal life is, are to be found, perhaps, in John's first epistle (the main object of the whole Epistle being to shew what that life is). "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life ; for the life was manifested, and we have seen and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, Which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us." Here we have eternal life, first with the Father, but manifested in the Person of Christ. So in the last chapter : "This is the record, that God hath given unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." "He is the true God, and eternal life." This, then, is most definite and distinct. The life is in the Son. He is eternal life. So the gospel: "In him was life, and the life was the light of men." "As the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself" (John 5). He is a life-giving Spirit; He quickens Whom He will.
All this is plain. Life is in the Son, or He is life. He has it in His Person ; He communicates it It is given of God, not won. "The wages of sin is death ; but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 6 : 23). "I," says Christ of His sheep, "am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."
We may now see how it is obtained. It is the Spirit working by the word. We are born of the Spirit; and "of his own will begat he us by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures" (James 1 : 18). The power of it is in the Spirit, Jesus' divine gift. It "is a well of water springing up into everlasting life" (John 4). The Spirit is life if Christ be in us (ROM. 8). He was to give eternal life to as (many as the Father bad given Hun (John 17).
A few accessory passages may be added. Titus 1 : 2, "the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before the world began." There is another aspect in which eternal life is viewed, namely, its full accomplishment in glory, according to the full purpose of God. In this view we are, of course, not said to have it, but to follow after it. Thus Romans 6 : "Ye have your fruit 'unto holiness, and the end everlasting life." So Paul to Timothy : "Lay hold on eternal life."
FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
by J. B. HEWITT, Chesterfield
(7) THE LOVE OF GOD
It is good to remember in difficult days that "God is love" in spite of all appearances to the contrary; saying "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him." Look back over your own history as revealed to you by grace, and you will see one central fact growing large-God is love. Consider this revelation, the eternal fact that God is Love, not. God is loving.
"God is light" (1 John 1. 5) is the splendour of His perfection, He is the sum of all excellency. "God is love" (1 John 4.8; 2 Cor. 13.11), is the sublimity of His nature. Love is not merely one of His attributes, but the very essence of His moral nature. He is the source of all love. Love is an exercise of the Divine Will in deliberate choice, made without assignable cause save that which lies in the nature of God Himself (Deut. 7. 7,8).
Seven times in Deuteronomy God declared his love for Israel. His love is sovereign in its choice (4.37); selective in its objects (7.4); sacred in its remembrance (7.8); sanctifying in its outcome (10. 15,16); supplying in its bestowment (10.18); strong in its determination (23.5); and singular in its benediction (33.3)." (Dr. F. E. Marsh).
The love of God is SOVEREIGN (Deut. 7.8; 10.15) for it is uninfluenced by anything in the creature. There was nothing in the objects of His love to call it into exercise. Because God is love. He loves whom He pleases (Rom. 9. 13; Eph. 1. 4,5).
It is GREAT (Eph. 2. 4), both in its manifestation and in its ministry. It is indispensible and unbounded in its work (Rom. 5. 6-8). It is UNFAILING (Isa. 49. 15,16). A mother may cast her child away from her presence and forget to attend to its needs. God never does. His is Shepherd love (Isa. 63.9); and Father-love (John 14.21). Read Deut. 21 which unfolds the loving care of Jehovah for Israel. It is EVERLASTING (Jer. 31. 3). As God Himself is eternal so His love is unending in its character for He has chosen us in love (Eph. 1. 4, 5). Love covers our past, present and future, and where we cannot comprehend we can bow in adoring worship.
It is INFINITE (Eph. 3. 19). His love is without limit and without end. Who can scale the height or fathom its depth, its length and breadth defies measurement by our standard.
It is unknown in its fulness like the ocean, yet perfectly tender and responsive to its objects of mercy (Job 7. 17; John 11. 5).
It is SPONTANEOUS (Hosea 11. 1,4); uncaused and free. Constraining like a father teaching his child to walk inducing him by care and kindness. He loved us when we were loveless, quickened us and drew us to Himself.
It is IMMUTABLE (John 13. 1; Song of Songs 8. 6, 7). We live in a world of hatred; we are "His Own" and enjoy His love all our life-time down here. Immutable in its unchangingness of character (1 John 4. 16,17). As with God Himself there is no variableness (Jas. 1. 17), so His love knows neither change nor diminution, nothing can stop its inexhaustible supply (Rom. 8. 32,39).
Consider this revelation, the eternal fact that God is love in His very nature. Love can be known only from the action it prompts. God's love is seen in the gift of His Son (1 John 4. 9,10). Love had its perfect expression among men in the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5.14; Eph. 2.4; 3.19; 5.25).
Love displayed in the COMING OF CHRIST (2 Cor. 8.9; Mark 10.45; John. 10.10,11). The sacrifice of Christ displays the measure of God's love (John 3.16). Love was the impulsive power of Christ's incarnation (1 John 4. 9). Divine love is great, gracious and generous (Tit. 2.11-14; 3.4-7; Rom. 8.32). Genesis 22 illustrates the service and sacrifice of love. In Christ's coming into the world, love is revealed in its lowest stoop (1 John 4.9), and in its greatest sacrifice (1 John 3.16).
The foundation of God's love is holiness (Heb. 12.14). God's love must be the justification of His holiness. If God's nature is holy. His love must be a holy love. The fact of God's love is accepted by faith and is fully displayed in the reconciling work of Christ (2 Cor. 5. 18-21). His love never conflicts with His holiness (1 John 1.5).
Love seen in the COMPASSION OF CHRIST (Matt, 9. 36; 14.14). It reveals the tenderness of the heart of Christ and the power human grief has over Him. When He saw the scattered multitude (Matt. 9.36), toward the sick (Matt. 14. 14), toward the starving (Matt. 15.32); when He met the blind men (Matt. 20.34); when He saw the sorrowing widow (Luke 7.13); the sorrowing sisters (John 11. 33,35); and toward the sinful (Luke 19.41; John 8.11); the poor (Mark 8.2) and the needy (Heb. 5.2,7). Some people profess compassion 'but it does not move them.
Displayed at the CROSS OF CHRIST (Rom. 5.8; 8.32; Eph. 5.2,25). In giving Himself for us (Gal. 2.20), in dying for us (John 15.13; 1 John 3.16; 4.9,10). These verses show that redemption is out of the Father's love. In the cross we see Divine mercy satisfying His law (Rom. 3.21-26). God himself provided the sacred satisfaction (Rom. 8.32). The death of the Lord Jesus was a necessity to meet a need (John 3.14,15).
Displayed BY THE CHRISTIAN. The love of God is dominating in its 'power (2 Cor. 5.14) and dedicating in its influence (1 John 4.16); illustrated in Jonathan's love for David (1 Sam. 18.1-3).
The Lord Jesus is the object of our love (1 Pet. 1.8). It is manifested in. seeking Him (Song of Songs 3.4); in ministering to Him (Matt. 27.55; 25.40); in obeying Him (John 14. 15,21,23). Our love to the Lord should be affection-ate (Song of Songs 1.3,4); ardent (Song of Songs 2.5); unquenchable (Song of Songs 8.7); sincere (Eph. 6.24); and in appreciation of His forgiving mercy (Luke 7.47). It is a mark of discipleship (John 13.34,35; 15.12; 17.10) and should be growing (Phil. 1.9).
"Keep yourselves in the love of God" (Jude 21). Have we lost the import and warmth of God's love? We are too introspective today, our feelings ebb and flow and we mourn. Drink deep and full of the love of God and you will not demand the impossible from earth's loves, and the love of wife and child, of husband and friend, will be holier and healthier and simpler and grander. We know how to keep ourselves in health, how to keep ourselves in knowledge and so on; but to keep ourselves in the love of God is a big order and our minds are exercised to know what Jude means by this exhortation. "Keep" means work. Live in the spiritual sphere of the love of God by faith, live near Him, delight yourself in Him. It is not "keeping on loving God" but live in the ocean fulness of the love of God (Rom. 8. 35,39).
THE MAN OF GOD
by JOHN PETERS
This majestic description occurs frequently in the Old Testament (e.g., Deut. 33, 11 ; I Samuel 9. 6-10), but only twice in the New Testament-1 Tim. 6, 11 and 2 Tim 3, 17. The man of God is :
1. HOLY IN HIS WALK.
Firstly he is humble. As in all matters reflecting his daily walk his example is the Lord Jesus Christ, 'who humbled himself and became obedient unto death' (Philippians 2. 8). He, the Son of God, left the ivory palaces, to step into a world of shame and woe to win man back to Himself. The humility of love led to exaltation and victory via the Cross. Humility is viewed in the New Testament as part of the 'life of faith : to be humble is simply to live in a way consistent with the profession of our lips (Colossians 3, 12 :
James 4, 10; I Peter 3, 6 : 'to be clothed with humility') The man of God in his reverent humility desires the exaltation of the Lord Jesus Christ; the attitude of John (he Baptist was 'He must increase, but I must decrease' (John 3 v. 30). Secondly he is obedient to the Word of God. We must not only be like Mary, who learned at the feet of the Lord (Luke 10 v 39), we must also 'search the scriptures' (John 5, 39) and allow them to rule our conduct. Obedience to the Word of God has a prominent part in the New Testament (John 14. 23 ; Titus 1. 9; 2 Timothy 3. 14-17 ; compare Psalm 119. 105) -ultimately our obedience in this respect is the expression of our love for the Lord. Notice how the Lord used the sacred scriptures to counteract the subtlety of the Devil in (he wilderness (Matthew 4) when tempted to self-satisfaction (v. 3), self-destruction (v. 7) and self-glorification (v. 9) He prefaced His reply on each occasion with the ringing affirmation, 'It is written.' And of course obedience to the Word of God leads to conformity to the Will of God. The principle of obedience led our Lord to the Cross of Calvary, Peter to martyrdom and death, and Paul to much suffering. Thirdly the man of God loves. This is the import of (he teaching of John's 1st Epistle, a work written to encourage the beleagured believers of Asia Minor. Loving the brethren, claims the Apostle John, is one of the proofs that we have eternal life. A contemporary historian recorded that the early Christians loved each other with deep sincerity and intensity. Peter's injunction is as relevant today as it was when first he wrote it: 'love one another with a pure heart fervently' (I Peter 1, 22). Fourthly the man of God is wholly yielded unto God-Romans 6, 13.
2. EQUIPPED FOR THE WORK OF GOD.
There is an excellent illustration of (his in 2 Kings 4. The Shunammite woman prepared for Elisha a room containing a bed, a table, a stool and a candlestick. The bed would speak to us of rest in Christ (Matthew 11. 28-30). The man of God has rest from a condemning conscience because he has been justified by faith; from dependence on his own ability and fitness for service. The table would speak to us of communion with Christ (Revelation 3. 20) Norman Grubb in his biography of C. T. Studd relates how the intrepid missionary would rise about 2.30 am. each day and, after a cup of tea, he would take down the Bible and be alone with God: 'what passed between them in those silent hours was known a few hours later to all who had ears to hear.' The candlestick would speak of witnessing to Christ, and the stool of learning from Christ (see Philippians 2. 14-16 and 2 Corinthians 10. 5).
3. POWERFUL IN HIS WITNESS.
Again what an inspiring example we see in the life of Elisha, 2 Kings 4. 18-37. The child was dead, as indeed we all are spiritually until we are quickened (made alive) by the Lord Jesus Christ. Gehaz was unable to do anything for the child, and not surprisingly, because he went to his task without prayer or preparation; nor was he persistent or believing in his attitude. Elisha began with prayer and trusted to God to give the dead child new life. He showed great exercise of heart and perseverence in his dealings with the child and the result was that the Shunam-mite woman's son 'opened his eyes.' It is ever the task and privilege of the man of God to lead the unconverted to a position where the eyes of their understanding are opened to perceive the truth of God; and then to instruct the converts in such a way that they progress, with enlightened understanding to a position of maturity in the Lord Jesus Christ (Colossians 1. 28). May we all endeavour to more like the men and women of God as they are described in the Word of God.
SOME THOUGHTS ON ESTHER
(1) HOME RULE.
Chapter 1.22. "Every man should bear rule in his own house."
Esther -- last of the 'historical' books; a book which, with the book of Ruth, bears the name of a woman-perhaps in itself suggestive of the great hope of Israel kept alive by faithful women. Women who kept alive the faith of Sarah.
A strange book, Esther, in that the Divine Name is not mentioned, unless indeed the view is accepted that the Name of Jehovah occurs four times, and the Name of Ehyeh once, in acrostic form; said to be indicative of the fact that whilst God had hidden His face from His people-as He said that He would-He was nevertheless still working for His people 'behind the scenes' in order that His promises and His purposes should not fall or fail before the onslaught of the adversary, Satan.
Incidentally the Median king is mentioned upon 192 occasions in the scope of 167 verses.
One verse is chosen from this well known story - the advice given to Ahasuerus by his princes, "Vashti hath not done wrong to the king only, but to all the princes ... for this . . . all women shall despise their husbands . . . and then shall arise contempt and wrath."
Accepting, as we do, that this book is part of the canon of Scripture, it is evident that God had, and still has His purpose in it, and therefore it has a lesson for His people- the book is still included in the "things written aforetime."
The king's counsellors were wise in their advice and the king wise in his acceptance of that advice, and in his issue of the subsequent edict, and although perhaps they did not know it, they were establishing in their own kingdom and its many provinces that which had been from the beginning when God Himself instituted a principle. (Genesis 3. 16.).
"Wives, submit yourselves unto your husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the Church: and He is the Saviour of the body. Therefore as the Church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be subject to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it: that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such things; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself ..." (Ephesians 5. 22-33).
This is not an argument for the subjection of women; rather, for the emancipation of the weaker sex in its fullest sense.
"Wives, submit yourselves in everything" yes, but remember how the Lord of the Church loved. So ought men to love their wives, that they, too, might present their wives to themselves in perfection-a part of themselves of which they may well be proud.
This is home-rule. A rule which in Esther's day glorified the king as supreme and husbands as domestic lords, but which at the same time gave women their rightful place.
A rule which seems to have been very much forgotten in our own day and age, but which if kept-especially in Christian homes-can bring only happiness and contentment.
Cf. 1 Timothy 3. vv. 5, 15; Joshua 24. 15; and remember our Lord Jesus Christ the Son over His own house.
(2) "FOR A PURPOSE."
Chapter 2. 5. "Now in Shushan the palace there was a certain Jew; whose name was Mordecai."
A possible criticism of Mordecai (and here the view of some commentators that the events of the book of Esther were subsequent to those of Ezra-Nehemiah, is accepted) is that he was prepared to stay in Shushan in preference to a return to his native land. If this view is rejected then, of course, the criticism does not arise.
In any case, however, it is certain that God had His man in the right place and at the right time. Mordecai was the man - "A certain Jew . . ."
A criticism levelled at the Old Testament writings by so many secular writers is that it displays a certain blood-thirstiness by men who acted as instructed by God, and something of this is seen in the book of Esther. Similar violence is seen in the actions of Samuel and of David. What must always be kept before us, however, is that Israel and all that Israel stood for was Satan's constant target-especially the "seed royal." Those who were moved by God to do His will were not always men of peace. To His chosen ones-whether men of war, or men of peace-there was a task to be fulfilled. Some were aware of the purpose; others were apparently ignorant of their purpose. Some failed in their task-or should it be that they failed in God's purpose for them?
But we can surely leave the critics to flounder at the omniscience of God and assure ourselves that God had, and has. His workers and His witnesses, even though He is not apparently seen, heard, or even mentioned!
In Damascus there was "a certain disciple named Ananias" (Acts 8. 10). Not a Peter or a John, but nevertheless a disciple called by name by His Lord to do a certain task. Perhaps just this one task. Who knows? In Samaria there was an Oded, a prophet of the Lord [2 Chronicles 28. 9) - not an Isaiah or a Hosea, but a prophet called by God to do a certain task. Perhaps just this one task.
It is well to encourage our own selves with the knowledge that either we are where we are because that is where we want to be, or we are where we are because it is where God wants us to be.
To the church at Pergamos our Lord wrote (for it is not only individuals that God uses), "I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's throne is . . ." (Revelation 2. 13).
Wrote Paul, "All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Ceasar's household." (Philippians 4. 22).
Dare mortals of a fallen, sinful' race,
With puny intellect, essay to trace
In Christ, eternally immaculate,
The seeds of latent sin, investigate !
They say of Him, "He could, if He but chose"
Who, in His Manhood carried all our woes :
Begat a nature prone, though free from sin,
And by suggestion, carried it within !
Demonic doctrines, propagated free,
Assail God's Holy Word, infernally!
Could they but tarnish His claimed sinlessness,
'twould cancel His inherent holiness !
If Christ could sin. His claim to Deity
Is but an empty boast: duplicity.
If Christ could sin. He died for me in vain !
If heresy were fact. He ne'er had risen again !
Desist. Your claims unproveable, they be.
With sin. He never held affinity.
Vain mortals of a fallen, sinful kin :
For, "Which of you convinceth Me of sin."
John Campbell, Larkhall, 7-12-79.
The will of God is the centre of the obedient soul. God values not so much what man counts to be a great act of obedience, as ALL acts which imply and exemplify the centralisation of the will of God. We have an illustration of this in Matthew 10, which 1 dwell upon with great delight, where the rewards of God are given. We should expect that if Christ were going to refer to rewards. "He that receiveth you receiveth Me, and he that receiv-eth Me receiveth Him that sent Me." Reception is the simplest act of which one is capable; to receive the Lord Jesus is simply to welcome Him, simply to take Him in, in the person of His ambassador or messenger.
- DR. A. T. PIERSON.
One possessed of a clear advent faith would choose for himself such an epitaph as that which Dean Alford composed for his tomb, "The inn of a traveller on his way to Jerusalem." Ah, yes, that is it! A pilgrim's portion, food and raiment and contentment therewith; the mansion which fortune has provided, or the cabin which penury has reared, each alike counted a hospice where one lodges as "a pilgrim and stranger in the earth;" and the grave a narrow inn whose windows look towards the sunrising, where the body of the sojourner sleeps till break of day-this, without question, is the ideal of the Christian life as outlined in the gospel.-WORDS IN SEASON.