Amos "lifts up" a burden — a personal lamentation for the "house of Israel"— the whole nation. The beloved virgin upon whom had been lavished the covenant love of God had fallen. "Fallen thou art, now and for ever; thy might, thy glory departed; for there is no rising; no more tender care; thou, once known as "the virgin of Israel", thou art cast down, a rejected thing; a wreck upon thine own land, in the midst of thine resources for a prey and a derision." (O. T. commentary). Israel fell and only in recent years do we see signs of revival, but just as a 'remnant'. "Woe to them that are at ease in Zion ... to those who are careless (and trust)..." (6.1;) It has been said that in many ways the message of Amos to his day and generation was, or is, not unlike that required by the present day generation. His situation was not unlike ours. He was a man of God living in a wildly permissive society. Another has said "We should study this book for the Holy Spirit would still speak to us through its pages." Desiring the day of the Lord; thinking they were God's people; resting upon His promises; they had nothing to fear from His wrath and His judgments and were apparently unaware that their constant rebellion must end in judgment.
ENTREATY — "SEEK YE THE LORD." (v. 4-9)
Three times in this section there is the appeal to seek the Lord and Isa. 55.6 comes vividly before us "Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near. . ." How patient our God is!
Israel wanted change; the old ways and the old paths were out of date; everything was so 'boring'; they wanted excitement in their worship. They wanted 'life'. But God says, "Seek ye me and live." Do not seek after the excitements of Bethel and Gilgal in the northern kingdom and Beersheba in Judah. (See 1.5; and 8.14;) Bethel the "house of God" was now Bethaven the "house of vanity". Gilgal (a circle) would roll away. The oath at Beersheba was forgotten. (See 8.14;). All Israel is spoken of here — Dan to Beersheba. (Cf. 1 Sam. 3.20;) Joseph would appear to speak of Israel, the northern kingdom largely composed of Ephraim and Manasseh the sons of Joseph.
The blessings of the "fruitful bough" (Gen. 49.22-25;) were about to come to an end. In v. 8 and 9 God appeals to Israel as the Creator of the heavens and earth, and it is almost as if He "signs His Name"— He is JEHOVAH.
Israel when in the wilderness were 'star worshippers' (v. 20; Acts 7.40-43;) let Israel seek Him who made them. They saw the never varying circuits of the "signs" (Gen. 1.14;), the 'lights' dividing day from night and light from darkness (Gen. 1.18;), let Israel seek Him who ordered them. They saw the sea and how it kept its bounds (Gen. 1.9-10;); let Israel seek Him that divided the waters from the land. Let Israel remember that He who created could also destroy. BUT.... despite all that God had done in Creation and for Israel they did not like His admonitions through His servants — including Amos. Instead of love there was hatred.
"I WILL PASS THROUGH" (v. 10-17)
v. 11-13 are a picture of an affluent society; treading down the poor; self-seeking and taking full advantage of the temporary prosperity that was theirs, but forgetting the law, they missed the warnings of Deut. 28.30,39. It may be remembered that this part of the Deuteronomic law was written for the time "when thou art come in unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee." (Deut 26.1;). In modern parlance it was an "I'm alright Jack" society. The prophet realizes the truth of the proverb, "A still tongue makes a wise head." (Cf. Prov. 21.23;). The days were indeed evil. Do we see a picture of a modem affluent society? The word of our Lord in His "Sermon on the mount" are still as true as the words of Amos to Israel. "Seek ye first. . ." (Matt. 6.31-33;). Amos continues to appeal (v. 14-15) and repeats "Seek the good. . .that ye may live." The foreshadowed doom is conditional. It is "as ye have spoken" — that is, they believed that God was with them, then if He was truly so the doom would be turned to grace for "the remnant". In the measure in which they obeyed, so would be the presence of God among them. "I will pass through"(v.l7). Did Amos wish to remind his hearers of the words of Ex. 12.12;? A dreadful reminder.
AND WHAT IF WE DO NOT? (v. 18-20.)
What is this "day of the Lord" so desired by Israel? There are many references to this day throughout the scriptures. If Amos is indeed the second of the prophets whose writings have been preserved for us, the occurence here of "the day of the Lord" is the first chronologically (although it may be contemporary with Isaiah). It is certain, however, that the expression was well known to Israel, as is evident here. A writer has said of the day of the Lord, "Expecting that day to bring you deliverance and judgments upon your enemies. It shall be the reverse! There is a dark side to the pillar of fire." No doubt but that the writer had Ex. 13.21-22; 14.20 in mind. "Very dark" (v. 20) is the same word as in Ex. 10.22 Cf. Isa. 5.30;. Was "the day of the Lord" a common expression in Israel? Was it used by the patriarchs — the song of Moses, for instance (Deut. 32.43;)? Judgment before the rejoicing. There would be no escape for how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation? (Heb. 2.3;). This verse was addressed to the Israel of the N. T.
WE DO THE BEST WE CAN
"Look at what we do! We keep the feasts and the holy days; we even offer more than required by the Law of Moses; what is it that you require of us? We sing the hymns and songs of David and we play our musical instruments to God can we do more than that?
In effect, the answer that God gives to the "worshippers" is, "I have no pleasure in that which you bring to Me for it is all "sham" — a pretence (Isa. 1.10-15;) Your sacrifices, your offerings, your hymn singing and your "sacred music" bring Me no joy for it is all so false. From the time of your altars in the wilderness until now, you have not changed. Why do you not bring to Me the cool refreshing waters of justice and of integrity? No? Therefore I will send you away from Me." Cf. Deut. 32.17, "They sacrificed to demons." See also Jer. 5.5-7; Acts 7.37-43; Deut 15.1-13 is upon them!
(to be continued)
by A. D. THROPAY (California)
Paper No. 5
C. The Prayer of the apostle 1.15-23
1. The Cause for His prayer 1.15-17
Their faith and love
That they might grow in their knowledge of God Verse 15
—Wherefore: (dia touto) on this account, i.e., what is stated in v.13 making v3-14 true of them.
—I also: (Kago) I on my side.
—after I heard of your faith: (pistis) trust, some grammarians translate it "I heard of the faith among you" (Interpreters Alford and Westcott).
—in the Lord Jesus: Faith in the Lord Jesus means that they placed their complete confidence in Him for their eternal salvation and welfare. Their confidence was in no one else and nothing else.
—and love: (agape) A sacrificial attachment based on reason, selection, and choice from seeing in that person a need for love. This person loves the unattractive in spite of, not because of. He loves regardless of what is done or not done.
—unto: (eis) unto or toward.
—all: (pantas) the saints" their love encompassed every believer and was manifest toward them.
—Cease not: (pauomai — pres. ind. mid. — pauo) = to cause to pause or cease, restrain, prohibit. The middle voice indicates that Paul would not restrain or prohibit himself from giving thanks. Thanksgiving was such a natural part of Paul's life that it would require restraint not to do so.
—to give thanks for: (huper) on behalf of, in the interests of.
—you: Though Paul was in prison, see 3.1,4.1,6:20, Acts 28.30, he was still thankful for the blessings of others and used his time to pray.
—making: (poioumenos = pres. mid. part, of poieo) = English, "poem." A creative performance, a productive action pointing to an actual result. It is an action that requires thinking and creativity. We are to find new and creative ways of expressing ourselves to God. Prayers are not to be dull repetitions. See Matthew 6.7.
—mention of you: possibly by name, see 1 Thess. 1.2. —in: (epi) This word means 'at' or 'on' as added upon. When used with the genitive case, as here, it emphasizes contact.
—my prayers: (proseuchas) This is a comprehensive term and is used of general prayers addressed exclusively to God. Like the frosting on a cake, 'I top my prayers off by making thankful mention of you.'
—That: (hina) in order that, stating the purpose for his prayers.
—the God of our Lord Jesus Christ: This phrase views Christ as Man without detracting from His Diety. See v.3.
—the Father of glory: literally, "the Father of the glory." — glory originates in Him and emanates from Him. He is its source and splendour.
—may give: it is free.
—unto you the Spirit: There is no article in the Greek text. Grammar, context and usage indicate this is the Holy Spirit and not our spirit. (Expositors) However, He works through our spirit (Romans 8.16).
—of wisdom: (sophia) It includes the ideas of producing the best end result by using the best means while having insight into the true nature of a thing. The Holy Spirit gives us His insight into the true nature of a thing; what is fitting.
—and revelation: (apokalupsis) The unveiling and disclosing of hidden things; the uncovering of mysteries.
—in the knowledge: (epignosis) exact, accurate, and full knowledge (W. E. Vine).
—of Him: that is, God. Paul's desire was that they would increase in their knowledge of and acquaintance with, God Himself.
2. The effect of his prayer 1.18-23
That they might know
The hope of His calling 1.18
The riches of His glory 1.18
The greatness of His power. 1.19-23
—The eyes of your understanding: (dianoia) Lit. 'To think through." It refers to the operation of the understanding, thoughts, imagination, and intellect. Many MSS have "kardias," "heart." This would refer to the core of ones person, the source of his every thought and deed. It is the centre of affection, the birthplace of conviction; the seat and centre of mental and spiritual life.
—being enlightened: (Pephttismenous — perfect, passive part, of photizo) "to be illuminated by light."
—that: (eis) to the end that; with a view towards.
—ye may know: (oida) to see or perceive. Hence, to know from observation.
—what is: (tis) i.e., the true essence and nature of a thing.
—the hope: (elpis) favourable and confident expectation. Happy anticipation.
—of His calling: (klesis) Invitation. In the New Testament, it is always used of God's invitation to mankind.
—of the glory: (doxa) the outshining; brightness or splendour; The outward manifestation of God's attributes.
—of His inheritance: (kleronomia) "A lot, properly, an inherited property, an inheritance." W. E. Vine. The phrase embodies all that we are to receive. In this case it is His (God's) inheritance yet to be given.
—in the saints: (en tos hagios) The saints "are the sphere in which these riches of the glory of the inheritance are known and realized." (Expositors). This knowledge is for the present time. Paul is not only praying that we might know what the inheritance is, but that we might also know its brightness and splendour. Again, it is not only its brightness and splendour that we are to know, but the fullness of this glory. Only God can reveal this to an individual!
—And what is the exceeding: (huperballo) 'To throw over and beyond." (WEV) "Surpassing", (Interlinear Newberry), 'To excel something." (II Cor. 3.10).
—greatness: (megethos) greatness, vastness.
—of His power: (dunamis) inherent ability; power residing in a person or thing by virtue of its (his) nature. (Thayer) The word "huperballo" is repeated three times in this letter (1.9, 2.7, 3.19). Inherent power that exceeds or surpasses greatness is limitless. It is the origin and controller of all other power; Viz. atomic, cosmic, electrical, chemical, physical. Power that excels greatness, is a power that is more to be desired than greatness itself.
—to usward: (eishemas) Lit. "Unto us." The direction towards whom His power flows even now. It has reached us and is inherent within us, ready for God's use in His times.
—who believe: This mighty power is only directed to the believer. The unsaved person, cannot handle such holy, pure, power.
—according to: (kata) In accord with, being measured and characterized by.
—the working: (energeian) (In the N.T. it is only used of super human power. It is either used of power that is Divine 3.7, 4.6; or Satanic, II Thessalonians 2.9) = "efficiency; operative, energizing power." (Exp.).
—of His mighty: (kratos) power as shown in action; power as force, mastery, or strength.
—power: (ischus) inherent, passive might or power possessed by one. It is an attribute, element, or quality of His inmost being. Hence, the phrase means, "the efficiency of the active power which expresses inherent might." (Exp.) or "the efficient energizing of the powerful force proceeding from His attribute of power."
—which He wrought: (energeo) Means literally, "to work in;" "to be operative in." This power of verse 19 was operating in.
—the: note the article.
—Christ, when He raised Him from: (ek) out of, from among.
—the dead: God used tremendous force and power when He raised His Son from among the dead. He uses no less no power in the life of every believer now, so that we may become better acquainted with Him.
—and set: (kathizo) to cause to sit down, make to sit down (Cp. 2.6)
—Him at His right hand: The right hand denotes the highest power; the most Divine authority. (This is called "anthro-popatheia" or "condescension." Human attributes are ascribed to God. He condescends to our ignorance to improve our understanding of His work).
—in the Heavenly places: (epouraniois) the upper heavenlies; i.e., the upper heavenly regions. The abode of God. This is an infinite sphere encompassing all heavens. Christ has ascended far above all heavens that He might fill all things (4.10). It is a spiritual sphere where our spiritual blessings are resident (1.3). Since it is spiritual, it is invisible to us but very real, more real than this physical universe. It is also eternal (II Corinthians 4.18). It is a place where spiritual wickedness fights against God and His people (6.12). Although there are wicked beings in the heavenlies, Christ is far above them all (1.21). Those who are saved are with Him. It is the place where believers are now seated intimately together in Christ Jesus (2.6).
—far above: (huperano) over above.
—all: (pases) every.
Paul is going to list a number of titles. In each case, classes or categories of spirit beings or human leaders are expressed.
—principality: (arche) Literally, "a first one, a leader," government, rule. This would be an angelic being given leadership over other angelic beings whether good or evil. (See Colossians 2.10; Ephesians 6.12). It may also refer to a human leader over other leaders (Luke 12.11).
—and power: (exousia) delegated authority; those with permission and liberty to exercise power. This would be a group of spirit beings (either good or evil) with delegated authority under the head leaders (the principality). (Cp. Ephesians 6.12).
—and might: (dunamis) power; inherent capability to perform anything. This would be a group of beings given inborn, intrinsic powers to fulfil God's will. They could be very powerful beings in the spirit realm called "mighty angels" or literally, "angels of power." (II Thessalonians 1.7). They may also be evil spirits of power, or men such as the Antichrist, to whom Satan has given his own wicked power to execute his malignant evil. (Cp. II Thessalonians 2.9; Revelation 13.2).
—and dominion: (kuriotes) lordship. These are beings (spiritual or human) that are given a sphere of beings over which to rule. (See also Colossians 1.16; II Peter 2.10; Jude 8 — Only used in four places in N.T.).
—and: This word has a summary force, "in a word." (Vincent).
—every name that is named: i.e., let any name be uttered, or mentioned, Christ is not only above it; He is far above it! —not only in this world: (aion) age, the present state of things.
—but also in that which is to come: There is still another age to come in which God will govern His universe by very powerful, intelligent, and superior beings. The Lord Jesus Christ has a position of acceptance, authority, and power far above them all.
NOTE: There are at least seven periods of time called ages or dispensations during which God is governing this world. We are in the sixth age at present, there is still one to come. These periods can be outlined as follows:
The age of innocence — Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden.
The age of conscience — After sinning, Adam and Eve transmitted to mankind the knowledge of good and evil, the basis for conscience and moral judgment. This age ended with judgment at the flood. See Gen. 3.7,22; 6.5,11,12; 7.11,12,23
The age of responsibility — After the flood, God gave man authority over the earth. This ended in the tower of Babel and the confusion of languages. Gen. 9.1, 2; 11.1-8.
The age of promise — After mankind was divided by language barriers and dispersed, God chose Abram and promised him a land and a Saviour. Abram believed God's promise and lived by faith. Gen.12.1-3; 13.1-4; 15.5; 26.3; 28.12-13.
The age of law — God tested Abraham's children in the land of Egypt. Finally, He delivered them and brought them to the desert of Sinai. He there gave them the ten commandments. They said "All that the Lord hath said we will do," instead of asking God to deal with them according to grace as he had done already; This age ended in their failure to keep the law and the ultimate murder of the Lord Jesus Christ. Exodus 19.1-8; Romans 3.19-20; 10.5.
The age of grace — The death of the Lord Jesus Christ brought in the age of grace. God offers salvation absolutely free to "whosoever will," based on the finished work of His Son. He is longsuffering, not punishing the evil doer immediately when he sins. John 3.16.
The age of Christ's personal rule — After this present age is concluded in judgment because of mankind's rejection of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord Jesus will personally come back to this world to rule over it in peace and power. That age will end in the final destruction of the earth. Isaiah 11.1-16; Revelation 20.1-15.
—and hath put all things under: (hupotasso) a military term meaning, "to put in subjection under another, to arrange or subordinate under another individual."
—His feet: Quoted from Psalm 8:6. This means that the Lord Jesus has complete supremacy, authority, and position over all others. He is not only far above all others regarding their varied ranks of government and administration, but all things are subdued underneath His own power and will.
—and gave: (edooken) to give, deliver to another, assign to a person or group.
—Him to be the Head: That is, the One Guide, the Final Authority, the One on whom all must depend.
—over all things: There is nothing over which He is not Head. All things includes both visible and invisible.
—to the church: (ekklesia) to call out and call together. The church is not an organization. It is a body of people. It is composed of individuals who have been saved from sin and its penalty by the Lord Jesus Christ. After exalting Christ to the highest place of authority and supremacy, as Head over all things He is presented as a gift to the Church!
—Which is His body: (soma) a living, vibrant, organism with all the parts united and functioning as one. Christ then, is the living, vital, life giving and controlling Head of the Church. He is inseparably united to it.
—the fulness: (pleroma) "That which completes and complements another." As head, He would be incomplete without a body. Not only does the church, which is His body complement and complete Him, but it is through the church, His body that He is seen. People can not physically see Christ now, but they can see His people the church.
Marriage gives the picture with the man being the "head," and his wife as his body. (This will be dealt with in 5.23,28, 29) As Adam was not complete without Eve, so Christ will not be complete without His church. See Genesis 2.18-20.
—of Him that filleth: (pleeroo) to complete, fill, make full.
—all: (panta) all things. (Without the Lord Jesus, nothing is complete).
—in all: (en pasin) That is, everything necessary to make them complete and beautiful. (For example, see Psalm 24.1, "The earth (is) the LORD'S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein." He fills the earth with fulness). We (the church) are the fulness or complement, of the One who fills everything with what is necessary to make them complete and beautiful!
Nothing is complete and beautiful without Him. He will not be complete without His church!
(to be continued)
Messages from Muller
These are notes of addresses given by the late George Muller
No. 2—"Crucified, Dead, and Risen with Jesus."
An address delivered at a Conference of Christians, on the 7th of November, 1865.
How may we know that we are crucified with Christ, that we have died with Him, and that we are risen with Him? Possibly some believers may not know how to settle this point. It is of the deepest moment to have a clear understanding of it. It is not by a voice from heaven, not by some powerful impression made on us in a dream or otherwise, but simply by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, trusting in Him for the salvation of our souls, that we settle the point that we are united to Him, that with Him we were crucified, that with Him we are raised again, and with Him sit in heavenly places. We have simply to say to ourselves, Do I trust in Jesus for the salvation of my soul? Do I know I am a guilty, wicked sinner, deserving nothing but judgment; but do I trust, at the same time, in the Lord Jesus for the salvation of my soul? If so, then Jesus is my substitute; then Jesus died in my room and stead; then am I looked upon by God as one united with Christ; then have I been punished for my sins in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ; then was I hung, as it were, on the cross with Jesus—God having accepted Him as my substitute; then was I buried with Christ, and have been raised again with Him; then, in my Forerunner, I am seated at the right hand of God in heaven; then, as assuredly as the Lord Jesus is there, so shall I be. These are precious truths, not man's inventions. The Book of God speaks of them again and again. The epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians, and others, are full of these glorious truths. But what we need is, that they become increasingly realities to us. Not so much that we are able to speak with clearness about them, but that more and more we know their power in our hearts. We have, therefore, to say to ourselves, I am a wicked, guilty, hell-deserving sinner; and had not God, in the riches of His grace, given the
Lord Jesus to die in my stead, hell must have been my portion for eternity; but it pleased God to deliver Him up for me; and since I trust in the Lord Jesus for salvation, I shall not be punished, because my blessed Substitute, the Lord Jesus Christ, was punished in my room and stead. Now, what follows? My sins are forgiven. Not, shall be when I die. Not, I shall find out some day that they are forgiven. But, they are forgiven—are now forgiven. By the grace of God I am as certain that my sins are forgiven as I am certain that I am speaking to you. Not because I deserve it. I am a guilty, wicked, hell-deserving sinner; but I trust in the Lord Jesus for the salvation of my soul; and God declares that all who put their trust in Him shall have forgiveness. As it is written in Acts 10.43, in reference to the Lord Jesus—"To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name, whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins." I do believe in Him—that is, I do put my trust in Him, and therefore my sins are forgiven.
Now, let me affectionately press this point on you, because it is a matter of deep moment that we be assured our sins are forgiven, and habitually assured of it Because it is just this which makes heaven certain to us—that we know God has nothing against us. The knowledge and the enjoyment of the forgiveness of our sins will keep our hearts from going out towards this present world.
To be heavenly-minded, really and truly, we must be assured our sins are forgiven; and this we know simply from the Divine testimony, that those who put their trust in Jesus have the forgiveness of their sins. But this is not all. Through faith in Jesus we are now the sons of God. We are not only reconciled, because of our Substitute and Surety, and God is wellpleased with us, but we are also the children of God, and as children we are the heirs of God, and as the heirs of God we are joint-heirs with the Lord Jesus Christ. Now this brings us to another point. If we are the children of God, if we are the heirs of God, and joint-heirs with the Lord Jesus Christ, then all who believe in the Lord Jesus constitute one family. They may be scattered all over the world, may in ten thousand things differ as to the present life, and in ten thousand things have differed as to their manner of life before they were brought to the knowledge of the Lord Jesus,—may differ after their conversion as to their position in life, and in numberless ways also as to attainments in knowledge and grace; but nevertheless, as assuredly as they believe in the Lord Jesus for the salvation of their souls do they constitute one heavenly family— they are brethren. We glorify God by living as, such here. In heaven we shall be together. Throughout eternity we shall be unspeakably happy, and love one another perfectly and habitually. But we are to glorify God by manifesting this love now earth, while in weakness and exposed to conflict, while the struggle is going on; now we are to be united together, and to manifest that we are one family, the heavenly family. This is the way to bring glory to God. In order to do this let us keep before us "Crucified with Christ." What does this imply? That we deserve to be crucified, that we are sinners, wicked, guilty sinners—I, and every one—all the members of the heavenly family, all sinners, and such sinners that we deserve nothing but hell. And in order that we might escape the torments of hell, the blessed Lord Jesus Christ died in our room, and became a curse that we might escape it. Where is boasting then? Who has ground for boasting? Perhaps one says, "Ah, but I have made much greater attainments in knowledge and grace than others." But what does Paul say? "He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord." The child of God has nought wherein to glory but the cross of Christ. Therefore if we boast, let it be that the blessed Lord Jesus died for us guilty, hell-deserving sinners. And if we have a little more light and a little more grace than some of our fellow-believers, let us testify that it is by the grace of God we have it.
Now because we love one another we may speak freely. It has been stated, that, if we are of one mind about the foundation truths, we should agree to differ about minor points, in order that thus brotherly love may not be hindered. Allow me to say, that according to Philippians iii. 15, 16,1 am of a different judgment. We should not agree to differ, but should expect and pray that we and other believers may have further light given to us; yea, we should remember that the day is coming when we shall see eye to eye. In the meantime, however, we should act according to the light which the Lord has given to us already,—always seeking, at the same time, to exercise gentleness, tenderness, and forbearance towards those from whom we differ; remembering that we are what we are by the grace of God, know what we know by the grace of God, and that a man can receive nothing except it be given him from Heaven. Instead of agreeing to differ, let us agree to love one another because of Christ's love to us. While in weakness and infirmity, let us agree to walk together, having the same precious blood of Christ to make us clean, and being of the same heavenly family.
Perhaps some present are not prepared for eternity. I cannot sit down without sneaking one word to you, my fellow-sinners. I know the state in which you are, for I was once in the same state. You may be seeking for happiness,—you will not find it except you find it in Jesus. Seek it never so much and never so eagerly, you will not find it except you find it in the crucified, risen, and ascended Lord Jesus. Let me, as one who has been brought to the knowledge of Christ, tell you of the blessedness I have experienced as a disciple of Christ. Times without number might I have gone back into the world, if I had desired to do so; but so unspeakably blessed and precious have I found it for forty years to be a disciple of Christ, that, if the attractions of the world were a thousand times greater than they are, by the grace of God I should have no desire for them. Well, then, as one who eagerly sought happiness in the present world, and never found it, and now for forty years knows the sweetness and preciousness of walking with Jesus, I affectionately beseech you to seek Him. Poor sinner! only put thy trust in Him, only depend on Him for the salvation of thy soul, and all thy sins, numberless as they are, shall be instantly forgiven; thou wilt be reconciled to God, brought unto the road to heaven, and when this life is over, have eternal happiness as thy blessed portion.
by Jim Flanigan (Belfast)
TO GOD'S ASSEMBLY? OR TO THE LORD'S TABLE?
"Reception to God's Assembly" is not a statement from scripture, neither is "Reception to the Lord's Table." But the former is nevertheless a very scriptural statement, while the latter, as we hope to show, is not only UN-scriptural but ANTI-scriptural also. A firm grasp of the correctness of the first statement will do much to establish the believer in many truths relative to the local testimony, whereas the latter is a phrase and a doctrine not to be played with at all, which undermines many fundamentals of assembly truth, and opens the door for all kinds of looseness and compromise in a company of God's people. The widespread practice of this present day is to "receive to the Lord's Table, all who truly love the Lord," but this presumed graciousness is not really grace, and this supposed humility and love really harbours much that is erroneous when brought to the Scripture of Truth. Let us go then to that same scripture and learn the mind of the Spirit regarding "Reception." With regard first to
'THE LORD'S TABLE"
a deeper study of 1st Corinthians 10 and 11 may suffice to reveal that the meeting in question might be more intelligently known as "The Lord's Supper" (1 Cor. 11.20). Surely the Lord's Table is not that wooden article of furniture which we cover with a cloth, and around which we sit to remember our Lord Jesus? Yet undoubtedly that is what is in the mind of most who speak of "receiving to the Lord's Table all who love the Lord"! —and with this they link the plausible agrument — "it is the LORD'S Table, not ours, and how then can we keep away from the LORD'S Table those who love the Lord?" But let us think of this very argument in another aspect. On these hallowed occasions we celebrate the LORD'S SUPPER (1 Cor. 11.20). This was instituted by the LORD Jesus (v. 23). It was revealed to Paul by the LORD (v. 23). The loaf and the cup are emblematic of the body and blood of the LORD (v. 27). During the supper we ought to discern the LORD'S body (v. 29) and the whole procedure should be a proclamation of the LORD'S death (v. 26). Are the solemn implications not obvious? There is a favoured little corner of the earth, where in almost every building used by those who meet as God's assemblies there is displayed that glorious text, "Jesus Christ is LORD" (Philippians 2.11). That is it! The weekly supper is a gracious privilege of those who meet outside the rebellion and insubjection of earth, distinct from the schisms of Christendom, giving, in a scene of mass rejection of Christ, a corporate confession of the LORDSHIP of our still-rejected LORD Jesus. Participation in the supper is only a privilege (and a responsibility) of those who have been received into the fellowship of such an assembly, sharing all the other joys and sorrows of that separated company which acknowledges the LORDSHIP of Christ.
"Outside the camp unto Thy dear Name;
This in Thy Word I see,
Unto that Name, then I share in His shame,
Privileged place to be.
Feasting on Christ, His reproach to share;
Tempt not my soul away,
Nought can compare with the blessedness there,
Outside the camp with Thee."
It might be necessary (sadly enough) to point out here that every believer is not in the local church. As the late, much-esteemed W. E. Vine has put it— "We are living in days when there are believers in ecclesiastical circles who do not form part of the local assembly. They are ignorant of what constitues an assembly in a locality according to the scriptures." While every believer, young or old, weak or strong, has a place in that glorious church which is Christ's body, yet there are multitudes of Christians who refuse to have fellowship with those companies which, in a scriptural manner, meet in various districts in local testimony to Christ. Such companies are known in scripture as "The churches of God" (1 Thess. 2.14). "The churches of Christ" (Rom. 16.16). "The churches of the Saints" (1 Cor. 14.33). Any believer who deliberately puts himself outside the fellowship of such a church, puts himself also outside the sphere of assembly discipline and should not expect to be permitted to share in the privileges of that company when he will not be subject to its disciplinary authority.
A devout Christian in an evangelical denomination used to present to the writer another argument from this very same chapter. It says—
"LET A MAN EXAMINE HIMSELF
and so let him eat" (1 Cor. 11: 28). Now, said this believer, it does not say "let a man's brethren examine him, and decide whether or not he should partake." It was unfortunately forgotten by this dear brother that the recipients of the epistle were ALREADY IN FELLOWSHIP in the assembly at Corinth. As members of an assembly we should still subject ourselves to stern examination with the supper in view. 1 Corinthians 11: 28 has absolutely no bearing on reception.
What then of those who are devout believers, who meet in sectarian circles, but who desire to have
on a Lord's Day morning, to show at least that they are not sectarian bigots, and wish, by their occasional visits to express their brotherly love to the assembly. Such conduct, say some, will do much to break down the denominational barriers that divide God's people. Will we receive such an one? Or is he to be excluded from participation in the supper, even with the knowledge that he is a genuine believer?
A similar case is that of a believer who is visiting friends who are in assembly fellowship, and he wishes to break bread where they do, though he has denominational connections. His friends can vouch for his being a genuine believer, and his practical living agrees to his confession; can we dare refuse such? Human sentiment and mistaken notions of grace and love would say "Receive our brethren." (But godly overseers acting in a scriptural manner will assure us that it takes exceeding more love and grace to ask such dear brethren to take their proper place outside the company and look on while the others break the bread and drink the cup.) Now with regard to these cases, where in all Holy Writ can we find any precedent for this occasional or casual fellowship? Where, anywhere, do we read of one breaking bread who is not in church fellowship? Occasional fellowship has absolutely no place in scripture, but "steadfast continuance" is the scriptural example and order (Acts 2: 42). "Saul assayed to JOIN HIMSELF to the disciples" (Acts 9: 26). And again, in that same Acts 2: 42 the indisputable implication in the Spirit's order is that the person not only receives the word of the evangelist, but is baptised, before proceeding to the fellowship and the breaking of bread and other assembly privileges. It will be conceded that there are many who are said to "Love the Lord" (thus qualifying for "casual fellowship") who have never obeyed the Lord in baptism! And so the Spirit's order is abandoned. In the case of these visitors, too, there may be a person who holds false teaching; for instance, denial of the eternal security of the believer. What happens if such should desire to take active, audible participation in the meeting? Would not confusion result, no matter how the brother was silenced? Scriptures relative to the church order do not in any sense leave room for casual fellowship. The Spirit of God also does not admit of any believer, anywhere, meeting in any place other than in God's assembly. Sectarian circles and denominational organisations are hateful to the Lord and can never be acknowledged by Him, no matter who they are who form them. God has ONE place — His assembly. It is never a sect, but in most places and times has the character of a remnant. We sing sincerely and with joy—
"Soon Thy saints shall all be gathered
Inside the Veil.
All at home no more be scattered;
Inside the Veil.
Nought from Thee our hearts shall sever;
We shall see Thee; grieve Thee never;
Praise the Lamb! shall sound for ever—
Inside the veil!
"But," say some of our brethren, "there is another case yet." That of some
BELIEVERS WHO DO NOT KNOW
They may be, for instance, young believers who have not yet learned the great truths of the assembly. Are they excluded, in their ignorance, from the supper? Here we need to pray for our beloved brethren who take the oversight in the assemblies and ask for them a great sense of discernment.
Might it not be that some can be received to the assembly and THEN nursed and nourished in its glorious doctrines; whereas with some it may be wiser to let them look on for a while and occupy the place of the "unlearned" (1 Corinthians 14: 23, 24, here absolutely distinct from the unbeliever), and then after some time, receive such in a scriptural manner to assembly fellowship. Pray for wisdom for our dear brethren who will one day give account as shepherds and guides of the assemblies. In either case, the supper is only for those who meet as part of the assembly, having been received to it with all that reception entails. Whatever may be the cause or reason for the ignorance, the unlearned are still regarded as outside, until scripturally received in. We do not of course be harsh or unkind in any way, because a brother or sister is so excluded, but with all grace and joy we show them brotherly affection and look forward to the day when they with us will share in the songs and sorrows, the triumphs and tragedies, the privileges and responsibilities of fellowship in an assembly of God.
LETTERS OF COMMENDATION
These leave no doubt for the fact that in New Testament days only those meeting with one assembly were received in another. Paul said to the assembly at Corinth, "Need we, as some others, letters of commendation to you" (2 Cor. 3: 1). Undoubtedly it would have been arrogant behaviour on the part of the Corinthians to demand a letter of commendation from the well-known and beloved Paul, but does not Paul's very statement show that they were very correct in demanding letters from others. Literally Paul says: "Do we need, as others need, letters to and from you at Corinth?" The brother has no scriptural rights to be received, who cannot bear a commending letter from an assembly, and the assembly has all scriptural rights to refuse such a brother a part in the supper. (Indeed it is a duty to refuse such).
Now may the Lord help us to a solid conviction regarding scriptural reception. It may mean that we shall have to stand against the strong current of modern opinion. These are last Laodicean days, with our long-rejected Lord on the threshold of the door, but assembly testimony must not cease. In Revelation 3: 20 the Lord looks for communion and fellowship with THE INDIVIDUAL, but He still looks to the assembly for corporate testimony, right to the end of church history down here. He still has a place for His Name! God still has an assembly! Let us gather there! Let us stand firmly for the great truths that are relative to the local testimony, and let us pray that many of our dear brethren with sectarian connections may sever those connections and that in our day, before the return of our Lord, we may see much more of scriptural reception to God's Assembly.
(The above was first published in Melbourne, Australia, in 1954. It is printed here with the author's consent).
by T. WILSON, (Levin, New Zealand)
In his first epistle Peter was writing to suffering Saints. Theirs were not just the ordinary problems of life. Although only a generation had passed since our Lord had died and risen again, they were suffering all kinds of trials because they belonged to Him (1.6). These adversities would continue (4.12-14). They were part of following the steps of the Lord Jesus Christ through life (2.21). Had He not said before He suffered on the Cross that His disciples were to take up their cross, and follow Him (Luke 9.23)?
These sufferings were not arbitrary, they had a purpose. They would teach His own to abide in the will of God (4.1,2). They were a continuing reminder that their hope was in God, not in the temporalities of an alien world (4.12-14).
It was however necessary for them to know that their sufferings were for Christ, not merely the result of their own misdeeds. Only then would they bring glory to God (4.15-16).
Against this reasoned background of inevitable sufferings in the lives of God's children Peter then makes the classic statement of chapter 5.6-7: "Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you."
A SIMPLE INJUNCTION:
In a world of pride, power play and selfish ambition, they were by an act of will to humble themselves under God's mighty hand.
They represented the One to whom authority and power belonged by sovereign right He was the Word of God, who had ever been with God, indeed who was God. He had brought all things into being. He was the Source of life and the Giver of light. Yet even He humbled Himself, deigning to become flesh, adding humanity to His deity, so that men and women might come to know "the unknown God" (John 1.1-5; 14; cf. Acts 17.23).
It was the Father's will that He be humbled and to that will He was in total subjection. He had come glorify the Father on earth, to declare His name. His own would not only know that oneness that He had with the Father, they would also demonstrate His humble spirit to the world from which they had been chosen (John 8.29; 17.4; 21-26).
This grand design was not imposed upon His followers, they would express it of their own volition. How can love be conveyed by compulsion: Peter's call to humility was primarily to the younger believers — a new generation (5.5). But it applied to all. How could they follow the steps of the Saviour and not humble themselves under the mighty hand of God? A simple directive, but how profound!
A CLEAR PREDICTION:
"that He may exalt you in due time"
But they were also being humbled by persecution inflicted upon them, over which they had no control. The Holy Spirit through Peter promised that though they were abased in this way for a season, they would be exalted in due time.
Even today many suffer for the gospel's sake. True, in the western world not many of us face martyrdom as some of our forebearers have done, yet even today in our world there are those who face physical death for the cross of Christ.
Persecution has not silenced the gospel testimony or extinguished those who are the light of the world (Matt. 5.14). Indeed the light often shines brightest where the darkness is deepest. It is recognition and prosperity that have often brought coldness and decline, whereas facing death has often caused a ravaged child of God to prove the ultimate victory of the risen Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 8.37).
In this epistle Peter is in effect saying to the chastened believers of his day that though so many of them had to face those who were able to kill the body (Matt. 10.28) their humbling was in fact not before men but under the mighty hand of God. And had His Son not given this assurance: "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake"? Had He not then said, "Rejoice and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you" (Matt. 5.11,12)? On the strength of that promise Peter was able to give them the assurance that that same One would exalt them in due time.
A GENTLE EXHORTATION:
"casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you."
How sweet this promise: He cares! He who sent His only begotten Son to die in our place, how could He now leave us destitute and comfortless? Humbled from without, they ought also to humble themselves within. What else matters?: "He careth for you"! Humble yourselves under His mighty hand because no matter what life brings — even death itself — He will exalt you in due time. That is the measure of His care as it is the measure of His power.
It is unlikely (but not impossible) that we shall face a martyr's death. But as faithful witnesses for Christ we shall surely suffer, perhaps increasingly so in this alien world. What cross can we bear that does not cause us to "die" in one sense or another (Matt 10.38-39)?
Whether we live or die, however we are called to suffer, let us heed the gentle call to cast all our care upon the One whose care for us led Him to the Cross. Let us humble ourselves under His mighty hand, knowing that He will exalt us in His good time.
"For every tribulation,
For every sore distress, In Christ I've full salvation,
Sure help and quiet rest. No fear of foes prevailing!
I triumph, Lord, in Thee! Lord Jesus, Friend unfailing,
How dear Thou art to me!"
by William Blane
No. 1 — Introduction
When selfish, narrow-minded man
The mighty works of God would scan,
He's sure to estimate the whole
In keeping with his narrow soul,
Till he, by truth divine, advance
Into the infinite expanse
That lies beyond his shallow thought,
And face-to-face with God be brought
To measure, by Jehovah's strength,
The height, the depth, the breadth and length
Of all His works, which, every one,
Are worthy of their Author done.
God's works are perfect; therefore man,
Who is imperfect, never can
Their fulness infinite explore,
But, gazing on them, must adore,
Ascribing wisdom, honour, might
To Him who reigns in Heaven's light.
Then let us, with the consciousness
Of all our own unworthiness,
And with a deeper, holier sense
Of what God is, with reverence
Approach His mightiest work, that we
May meditate thereon, and He
May condescend to shed some ray
Of light divine to chase away
The misty notions all abroad
About this wondrous work of God,
Which yet is as the purest light
Shed freely on the darkest night,
Wherein God's glories shine so clear
That sinless seraphs cannot bear
The sight; while we, as in a glass,
Behold them dimly, till we pass
To where no vail shall intervene,
Nor cloud nor darkness come between;
But face-to-face, before the throne,
Well know as we ourselves are known.
(to be continued)
MY CONVERSION AND CALL (17)
by Noel P. Burden (Prince Edward Island)
I appreciate having the privilege and count it an honour, to put on paper the very simple story of God's grace in reaching down and rescuing me from perishing in unquenchable fire.
In January, 1937, I was born into a family of twelve, four girls and eight boys, and was brought up in the village of Annalong, Co. Down, N.L We were a poor, hard-working family and while we were not too religious, yet there was some reverence for God and a respect for the Sabbath, as it was called.
When about six or seven years old, I remember the Church of Ireland preacher coming to our community (we lived about a mile north of the village) and when making his rounds, he told the folks that he was coming to the little Church Hall for one week's meetings.
The meetings commenced, each evening the little hall was full to capacity and the most of our large family attended. There were farmers and fishermen, as well as hard-working men from other occupations.
As the man preached very fervently each evening, there were impressions made on my young mind. The preacher spoke faithfully and seemed to have a balanced message. When he spoke of the love of God, he would quote those grand words of the hymn—
"I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene
And wonder how He could love me, a sinner, condemned, unclean.
How marvellous, how wonderful, and my song shall ever be; How marvellous, how wonderful is my Saviour's love to me." This hymn was sung each night. (The man is still living and when I was on a visit to N.I. some years ago, he told me this was still his favourite hymn).
Then the preacher would give the other side of the story and told the dear people that there was an awful day of wrath coming. Most solemnly he would quote those verses from Rev. 6.14-17 "For the great day of His wrath is come and who shall be able to stand." The meetings ended and I guess the most that I heard was forgotten, but impressions remained.
A number of years passed, I grew up, then left home to work in Scotland and while there, met a young man from Northern Ireland with whom I companied. After a while we decided to go to Canada, so in the year 1957 we both came to Montreal, then on to Toronto and after some time there, we moved to Vancouver.
After walking the streets of Vancouver for days in search of work, one hot afternoon, tired and weary, walking eastward on Broadway Street, we decided to take a bus. Coming to the bus stop, we found a bench, sat down and waited. On the back of most of these benches there were advertisements, but on this particular one was the address of a Gospel Hall and part of a verse from the third chapter of John, "Jesus said, 'Ye must be born again.'" This didn't mean much to me, but my friend took down the address and time of meetings. The following Sunday, for the first time in my life, I ventured over the threshold of a Gospel Hall.
As I sat in my first gospel meeting that evening and listened to what the man was preaching. I must say it was all foreign to me. I don't know what he preached about and remembered very little of it; however, as at other times there were impressions made, so at this meeting. I was impressed by the preacher's relating an incident when he was in South America.
He was having gospel meetings and there was a saved widow who was deeply concerned about her teenage son, so she asked the preacher to invite him out to hear the gospel. The opportunity arose on the Tuesday of that week and while the missionary was in conversation with the young man, he asked him along to the meetings. His reply was, "I won't be there this week as I have a date with my girl friend on Friday and we are going to the dance, but I promise you I will go to your meeting on Sunday." The young man worked in the shipyard and his work took him high up on the ship. On the Thursday while at work, either he lost his balance, or misplaced his foot and fell to the steel deck of the ship. Without any notice or warning, he left the shores of time and entered the confines of eternity, never to come back. He didn't get to the dance, nor did he get to hear the gospel. This incident made a lasting impression on my mind.
The next Sunday we were invited for the day to a Christian home. After the evening meal, the man of the house said, "Would you young men like to go to a meeting tonight where you will meet many people from Belfast?" We consented and again were found listening to the gospel.
That evening, another Christian man and his wife invited us to their home for the following Sunday. During the afternoon, they took us for a drive to see some of the beautiful City of Vancouver.
As we were driving along, my friend asked these people for their phone number. The lady very kindly said, "Our name and number are in the phone book and my name is in the Lamb's Book of Life. How about yours?" My friend answered in the affirmative. She then turned to me, "How about yours, Noel?" I said, "I am sorry to say, my name is not in the Book of Life." I only wished I could have answered in a positive way.
We went to other meetings and met many more from Northern Ireland. These people had an interest in our souls and showed us no small kindness.
Before I came in touch with the clear gospel, I thought we were all God's children and one day we would all land in Heaven. By this time, my spiritual geography was a little clearer because of what I heard from God's Word. "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path." After hearing the gospel for six or seven times, as well as a number of individuals at different times speaking to me about my soul and the need of salvation, within my heart there was a real desire to get to know Christ and be sure of being in Heaven at the end of life. My yearnings were like that of Job, "Oh that I knew where I might find Him."
In the middle of the second week of September 1957, as I was working in one of the large sawmills on the Frazer River, Vancouver, between ten-thirty and eleven at night, the words of the chorus, "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so," were going through my mind. Then the next verse came to mind,
"Jesus loves me, He who died,
Heaven's gates to open wide;
He will wash away my sin,
Let His ransomed one come in."
Although not having heard much of the gospel preached and ignorant of most of what was in the Word of God, that night on the old wooden platform, for the first time in my life, I understood and appreciated the marvellous truth that the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, died in my stead and bore my sins in His own Body. In childlike simplicity, I took that noble truth for myself and at that very moment passed from death to life. I became the possessor of eternal life, saved from Hell and fitted for Heaven, on the sole ground of the redemptive work of our Kinsman-Redeemer. I thank God for the truth of those words in Gal. 2.20 'The Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me."
After I was saved there was a real desire for reading God's precious Word and while travelling to work on the bus, spent my time reading, as well as during lunch hour, when others were playing cards, I would be reading my Bible. In this way I was growing stronger. After some time I was baptized and received into Assembly fellowship at 14th Avenue and Woodland Drive, Vancouver, B.C. Canada.
As time went by, from what I learned at the prayer meetings and Bible readings, the uniqueness of God's Assembly became clear to my mind. I kept reading and did some praying in my own simple way. Now and again, I would ask a question and take a little part in the prayer meeting; also on Lord's Day give God thanks at the remembrance of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. This is a great honour and privilege and I am grateful to God for His mercy in saving me and through His Word, showing me the truth of God's Assembly.
My weekends were spent in gospel work. On Saturday I would go to a small town outside the City and visit from door-to-door with gospel tracts, then on the way home would call at the Home for the Aged, distributing tracts, reading Scripture and speaking a little word in the gospel. In the evening I would go down town and stand on the street corner with those who preached and was encouraged to take a little part. Two weeks vacation were usually spent in visitation work in some small towns of the British Columbia interior. Right from the beginning of my Christian life, I had a definite interest and exercise in this type of gospel work and enjoyed it very much. The Holy Spirit of God was creating within my heart a real desire to give all my time to this work.
In 1963 I returned to Northern Ireland and took my place in the Assembly there. The brethren asked if I would tell how I got saved. This I was pleased to do and on the second Lord's Day after my return, I told my very simple story. That evening the hall was filled and a number out who had never come before. After that meeting, some of the brethren suggested trying a few gospel meetings, to which, after some consideration, I consented, being helped each evening by some of the local brethren.
Each evening the hall was well filled with a number of strangers coming out. The first six weeks came and went, people came steadily, but there was no break up to that time. These meetings went on for eleven weeks and ere they finished a few professed faith in Christ as Saviour. Some of these continue on to this day and are in Assembly fellowship.
The same year our esteemed brother James Henry Mayhew retired from his work in the city of Belfast. I became acquainted with him and for the next three years spent much time in his company. His sound, balanced advice was to me invaluable, his godly life and shepherd care I appreciated. We preached together and found we had much in common and I greatly enjoyed the hospitality and kindness that he and his wife showed to me. He was a good man and full of the Spirit of God.
Returning to Canada in 1967, I spent some time in British Columbia carrying on as I had done previously, working daily and keeping exercised in the spread of the Word. God was giving some encouragement and we did see a soul saved now and again. One afternoon in the home of our late brother Mr. Cecil Copp, he asked, "Do you ever think of giving your full time to gospel work?" My answer was, "I think about it all the time." He then inquired, "Do you have any place in mind?" And I said I had been thinking of Prince Edward Island a lot. Brother Copp wrote to Mr. Albert Ramsay and told him of my exercise, as well as writing to Mr. Mayhew and at least one other preacher, seeking their mind in relation to my exercise. The answer he received from these different sources seemed to be positive.
About that time, brother Albert Hull and I had a series of gospel meetings in the assembly where I had been received over ten years previously. When those meetings finished, God gave some fruit in the gospel. The assembly at Woodland Drive, in conjunction with the saints in Westbank (where I had spent a few years) gave a joint letter of commendation to the grace of God, for the work where-unto I was called.
I left Vancouver in the month of May, 1968, travelled across the country by train and arrived on the red soil of Prince Edward Island, where I was met at the ferry by our brother Albert Ramsay. After spending a short season at his home, I moved to the west end of the Island. I did much visiting in many areas of this part, carried on gospel meetings and tried by God's grace to help build up the little assemblies. Betimes God gave some souls as a result of the gospel preached. These souls have been added to the little companies and over the years have grown.
After being here for over twenty years, our circle has enlarged somewhat and now we move in the general region, including Newfoundland. God has been pleased by His grace to save some here and there and it is still our exercise to help the assemblies gathered to His Name.
More could be said about this work, but I come to a close and trust that what has been written in relation to the moment of salvation may be used by God in others trusting Christ. Also regarding my exercise in spiritual matters, that the same God by His power, may use such to stir the hearts of His own to rise to their responsibility and seek to fulfil the purpose for which God by His grace has saved them.