The Christian Ambassador
Stopping Short of God’s Call
Separation Among Saints
Notes of an Address
Love Never Fails
By Wm. Bunting
HOW then is an Ambassador to be preserved? How may he know what to do, what to say, what policy to pursue, what attitude to assume, and how may he be safeguarded against falling into disfavour with his sovereign? In the first place, an Ambassador carries with him, not only his credentials, which are presented to the head of the State to which he is commissioned, but also his Book of Rules under the seal manual. This is his guide in all matters of diplomacy. In every problem which may arise in the discharge of his official duties he must turn to its pages. It is his Magna Carta. So long as he acts in accordance with its instructions and within the limits which it defines, all the power and resources of his government support him. The wise Ambassador, therefore, will make himself thoroughly conversant with his Book of Rules. He will read it, study it, and perhaps even memorise parts of it. He will not lean upon his own understanding, but will make it the man of his counsel in every perplexing circumstance.
Thus it is that Heaven’s Ambassadors should seek unto the Divine Oracles, which have been committed unto us. This sacred Volume is our supreme, yea, our sole guide in all matters affecting our testimony for the Lord. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3: 16, 17). Another has said: “Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, and its decisions immutable. It contains light to direct and comfort to cheer, and should fill the memory, rule the heart and guide the feet”. John Chrysostom, the saintly scholar, who flourished in the fourth century, and who it is claimed could repeat the entire Bible from memory, was right when he called it, “The Book” (we need not wonder that he became known as ‘John of the Golden Mouth’). It is God’s Book, and is absolutely indispensable to His representatives. One of the first duties of a newly crowned king of Israel was to write out with his own hand the Law, that he might “read therein all the days of his life, that he might learn to fear the Lord his God” (Deut. 17:18, 19); and every seventh year, at the Feast of Tabernacles, it was to be read aloud in the audience of all Israel (Deut. 31:9-13). Every faithful Ambassador for God has been a man of the Book. Its study and meditation were the delight of Prophets and Apostles and of our Lord Himself. Days of recovery and revival of spiritual power, too, have ever been marked by a turning to its sacred pages for light and guidance. The returned captives, for example, said to Ezra, “Bring the Book . . . which the Lord commanded Israel”. So they “read in the Book in the law of God distinctly and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading”. Then, having learned God’s will for them, they did according to what “they found written” (Neh. 8:8, 14; 13:1). Therein lay their salvation from many evils, and therein lies ours also. “By the words of thy lips”, said David, “I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer” (Ps. 17:4). Paul, after outlining to his son Timothy, the characteristics and perils of the “last days”, added, “From a child thou has known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation” (2 Tim. 3:13). That Word, read and obeyed in fellowship with its Author, would preserve Timothy from every hurtful influence. Many other passages could be cited, all showing that a spiritual knowledge and understanding of Holy Scripture is the Christian’s great safeguard against the subtle machinations of wicked men and Satan. This is the grand lesson, for example, of the entire 119th Psalm. Then how we should prize and make use of our Bibles! Think of what we each owe to it. How often in the bustle of life, the still small voice of some passage has come home to our souls in the Spirit’s power and saved us in the hour of temptation! “To the law and to the testimony” (Isa. 8:20), then, must be the watchword of God’s Ambassador. Human thought and worldly philosophy have no place here. It is our sole, our all-sufficient and authoritative guide. Let us read it, meditate upon it, pray and weep over it; let us “rightly divide” it (2 Tim. 2:15), hide it in our hearts that we may not sin (Ps. 119:11), and tremble lest we detract from, or add one word to, what God has written. Let us “Hold fast the form of sound words”, guard them as a sacred deposit (2 Tim. 1:13, 14) in this day when Divine principles are so lightly field, and seek to conform our ways to their pattern. With the soul garrisoned by the Word, the Ambassador of Christ will be preserved from all evil, even though his testimony may have to be borne, like that of Antipas of old, where Satan has his seat (Rev. 2:13).
In the next place, it is an Ambassador’s privilege to enjoy a frequent interchange of correspondence with his home Country, and according to International Law the right of inviolability attends his dispatches. Any problem therefore which he cannot decide may be submitted to his own Government for a solution. Should there be any instruction which to him is of doubtful interpretation, he has but to ask for further light upon it. In the case of injustice suffered in the discharge of his official duties, he does not defend himself, but reports the incident to the one who commissioned him. An insult to a king’s representative is reckoned as an insult to the king himself, and will be avenged by his nation. As will be appreciated, this regular communication is a further safeguard to an Ambassador, and is not without its lesson for the people of God. It would speak to us of prayer. By this means we also are privileged—and priceless the privilege is— to communicate at all times with our Fatherland, and
- “A correspondence fix’t wi’ Heaven,
- Is sure a noble anchor”.
How wonderful it is to contemplate that, provided the lines of communication are not severed by known sin, we can make instant and direct contact with Heaven, that we are no intruders there, and that a kindly, sympathetic ear bends down to hear our feeblest petition. “His ear is ever open unto their cry.” There are delicate matters, and matters which call for great tact and discretion, about which we may prefer to preserve a silence even to our dearest on earth, but of which, thank God, we can freely speak to Him. How blessed it is that Jesus understands! No alien spy can overhear or intercept our heart communing with Him, though evil agents do continually attempt to distract our thoughts and thus hinder our intercourse. If we suffer, it is not for us to retaliate or to give tit for tat, but quietly to report the matter to Him and leave it there. Indeed, our Book of Rules expressly lays it down: “Avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto the wrath of God: for it is written … I will repay, saith the Lord” (Rom. 12:19, R.V.M.).
Paul, more perhaps than any other Christian Ambassador, valued contact with the Throne. How frequently he speaks of his prayers! and how often he must have proved that ‘Prayer Changes Things’! Prayer, like meditation upon the Word, is indispensable to the Christian. Where it is neglected the life is ill-balanced and the soul out of tune with Heaven. Prayer keeps us in immediate touch with God and preserves our feet from many a fall. It imparts to the soul confidence, strength, joy, and a holy calm in the midst of storm and tempest. Prayer moves the hand that moves the world. By it the enemy strongholds are demolished. Hence we believe the Devil dreads a praying saint.
- “Restraining prayer, we cease to fight;
- Prayer makes the Christian’s armour bright,
- And Satan trembles when he sees
- The weakest saint upon his knees”.
“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).
Not only so, but Paul repeatedly besought the saints to pray for him. In this connection we think especially of Eph. 6:18-20, the one other passage in which the beloved Apostle speaks of himself as an Ambassador. “Praying always”, he says, “with all prayer . . . and for me . . . that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an Ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak”. “An Ambassador in bonds”! How surprising!— the Ambassador of Heaven, the messenger of peace, imprisoned and chained! He is there for Christ’s sake, and writes this Epistle as “the prisoner of the Lord” (chap. 4:1). “Ambassadors”, says A. R. Fausset, “were held inviolable by the law of nations, and could not, without outrage to every sacred right, be put in chains. Yet Christ’s Ambassador is in a chain”. Two things we may here notice. The first is the patience and long suffering of God towards Paul’s captors. Though they had insulted the Majesty of Heaven by throwing His Ambassador into prison, He takes no action against them, but continues towards them the magnanimous offer of His grace. The second is that Paul is not concerned about the injustice done to him, or his personal danger. He does not ask the saints to pray for his release, but only that he may represent his Sovereign’s interests in a worthy manner. It would require sublime courage for him, a captive in chains, to witness “boldly” when he would appear at Caesar’s tribunal, and it is that this courage may be given him, that he asks the saints at Ephesus to pray.
It is by these two exercises, then—the reading of the Word and prayer—that the soul is preserved. An all-wise God has joined them together (see, for instance, 1 Tim. 4:5). In our meditation of the Word, God speaks to us; in prayer, we speak to Him. To keep spiritual balance, each of these must have its due place in the Christian’s life. We cannot afford to make much of one at the expense of the other. The study of the Word without prayer may lead to a puffed up, conceited mind—mere knowledge which has no power to mould one’s life. On the other hand, prayer to be intelligent and spiritual must be based upon the Scriptures. In view of these considerations, let us honestly ask ourselves in God’s presence: ‘Have I as an Ambassador of Christ the interest I ought to have in these two simple yet essential and basic exercises? When last did I hear His voice through the Word? And when last had I an audience with Him in prayer? Lord, am I too busy in worldly things?’
The prospect of an Ambassador is that when his term of office ends, he will return to his own country. This must be a great cheer to him in days of adversity, and the thought of it must give colour to everything he says and does. Should war clouds darken the sky, and his own land and that of his ambassage face each other in conflict, he has the assurance that ere a shot is fired, he will be recalled, will safely cross the frontier and be welcomed by his sovereign, to whom he will make a full report of his service abroad.
Even so it is with the Christian. If in fellowship with God, he looks for the golden daybreak of his going Home (2 Cor. 5:8). Consequently earth’s pleasures lose their charm, and its disappointments their smart. As we sing,
- “It is not for me to be seeking my bliss,
- And building my hopes in a region like this:
- I look for a city that hands have not piled—
- I pant for a country by sin undefiled”.
Do we, beloved, manifest that it is so with us? Does every word and deed, and even every look, say, “I’m going Home”? The hour is rapidly approaching when God will break Heaven’s long silence by opening hostilities upon this world. First, however, He must recall the “Ambassadors of peace”. Then they will no more “weep bitterly” (Isa. 33:7), as they so often do now, for in that blissful moment “He will swallow up death in victory, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces” (Isa. 25:8). Blessed, glorious, radiant prospect! At any moment He may come. Yet there is a solemn side to His coming, as our chapter in 2nd Corinthians shows; “For we must all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (v. 10). “The true Ambassador of Christ”, says A. T. Pierson, “never loses sight of this final court, and of his appearance before it . . . This constitutes the only court of judgment before which he needs to be appalled . . . Happy indeed is the Ambassador who knows, even now, that he already has the Divine approval for what he presents to men as the message of his God”.
By the late W. J. McClure, Cal., U.S.A.
“BRING us not over Jordan”, was the demand of the two tribes and a half, which had acquired a very great multitude of cattle, on the wilderness side of Jordan, and were much attracted to the land of Jazer in Gilead, because it was “a place for cattle”. This was its attraction to them; and it was this that brought them to Moses, Eliezer the priest, and the princes, saying, “Let this land be given unto thy servants for a possession”. Their expressed desire, “Bring us not over Jordan” (Num. 32:1-5), is in striking contrast to the oft-repeated prayer of Moses, “Let me go over this Jordan”, as he stood on the wilderness side of the river, looking across to the land into which he desired to go, and there “see the goodly land that is beyond Jordan” (Deut. 3:25), even after the Lord had told him he was not to go (Deut. 3:26). As the cross of Christ has severed the believer from this present evil world, so the Jordan in the Lord’s reckoning should have stood between Israel and the nations from which He had separated them (Num. 23:9). As the Jordan had to be crossed ere the redeemed of Israel could enter their inheritance, so must death and resurrection with Christ be experimentally known before believers can know themselves as a separated and special people unto Him (Deut. 7:6). This demand of the two tribes and a half, “Bring us not over Jordan”, revealed the condition of the hearts of those who made it. Their choice was to remain as “of the world”, living as those “conformed” to it (Rom. 12:2), while claiming the cross as that which procures their salvation (1 Cor. 1:23). How many do not enter into death with Him in practical experience, as that which delivers and severs them from “the present evil world” (Gal. 1:4)! The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh were more concerned as to what would benefit them materially, in the feeding and thriving of their cattle, than in what would answer to the call of God, which was to bring them in and plant them (Ex. 15:17) in the place He had appointed for them, and into which He had pledged His Word to bring them by His power (Ex. 6:6).
In this incident we are reminded of the choice of Lot, when he “lifted up his eyes” and beheld all the “well watered” plain of Jordan (Gen. 13:10). The attraction was the same in both cases—material advantage—the increase of flocks and herds, although this cost them very much in spiritual loss. In the case of Lot, it meant the loss of fellowship with Abraham, and in that of the tribes, a breach in the unity of the people of God.
Now, how did it fare with those who made such a choice? With Lot, it resulted first in his pitching his tent toward Sodom (Gen. 13:12), then in his “sitting in its gate” as a judge, and soon he found that the place of his choice became the battlefield of kings (Gen. 14:1-8), who took Lot captive, with all the property he had acquired. Thus his life ended in poverty and his testimony in shame. So it appears to have been with the tribes that would not go “over Jordan”, but remained in Jazer, where there was place for their cattle. They were the first to feel the oppression of the enemy. Isaiah and Jeremiah both speak of the “weeping of Jazer” (Is. 16:9; Jer. 48:32), from which we may conclude that their lot was “hard” in the land they had chosen, and that their desire—“Bring us not over Jordan”—was granted. So, as of old, the Lord gave His people their request, but sent “leanness into their souls” (Ps. 106:15). Jazer, in which these tribes chose their inheritance, on the other side of Jordan, made a breach in the unity of the one Israel of God, who were called to cross Jordan and live there as “a special people” to Jehovah. They were to be His witness to the nations, of their Divine calling and unity, as a people in whose midst He dwelt and whose Name was set in the place He had chosen (Deut. 12:5), and to which the twelve tribes were to go up to the testimony of Israel (Ps. 122:4). To live in Canaan, the land of God’s calling, has been spoken of in typical language, as the sphere in which the believer, who knows and enjoys that life which has its origin and power in death and resurrection with Christ, is to set his affection (Col. 3:1,2). Jordan should have been the boundary, severing Israel from the other nations, and such is the Cross of Christ in practical experience to the believer now. But is it so? Are there not professing Christians who still say, “Bring us not over Jordan”? In other words, they say, “Separate us not from the world and its ways. Let us live as the people do, not bearing the brand of the Cross in practical life, so making ourselves peculiar and separate from other people”. So it often, if not always is, with those who for material things forfeit the smile of God, and the fellowship of the Abrahams who walk with Him. Alas, this is no uncommon thing in our time among those who compromise God’s truth to gain worldly advantage, and leave the path of separation to gain common cause with the world in its social and religious aspects. This is sapping the spiritual life of thousands; and those more refined aspects of worldliness, represented in its educative and social combinations, manifested in worldly dress, musical entertainments, and popular “harmless” amusements, such as golf, tennis, picture houses, and the like, are often more dangerous in their attractions and effects on believers, than coarser forms of worldliness. Fashionable, worldly Christianity, if it does not demand it in so many words—”Bring us not over Jordan”—acts in practice by conformity to the present world which the Lord forbids (Rom. 12:2). An all round testimony of separation to God, in all its aspects, is becoming a thing of the past, to a great extent, even among those who at one time claimed to be “a special people unto the Lord”, a people associated with an earth-rejected Christ, whose place is still “without the camp.”
(“The Believers’ Magazine”).
By J. G. Bellett
SEPARATIONS among the saints of God, as they appear on the pages of Scripture, are painful and humbling to look upon. Yet they surely bear their message of instruction and word of warning to us all. Such separations do not usually arise from different measures of knowledge or of faith, there is something of a moral character in each of them.
The separation of Abraham and Lot was surely of this character: it had its roots, as we may say, in this soil. It was love of the world that caused it. Lot eyed the watered plains of Sodom for personal advantage, and chose them as his portion, and ere long he dwelt among a people who were sinners before the Lord exceedingly, to whom he speaks as “brethren” (Gen. 19:7), while Abraham was sojourning as a stranger there by the side of his altar, testifying of his relation toward God, his moving tent expressing his relation to earth as a stranger there. There was great moral distance between these two men. Both had a link with God it is true, but the object of the heart was different, and this resulted in course of time in their parting company. And the breach thus made, was never healed in this world. The man who at first allowed his eyes to be captivated with Sodom’s plains, is seen to sink at last behind the still more distant mountains of Moab ingloriously, leaving a warning to us all.
It was much the same in the case of Elijah and Obadiah, two saints of God who were contemporaries in the dark times of Jezebel and Ahab. There was moral distance between them also. There could be little in common between the saint who had denounced and left the kingdom over which Ahab ruled and the man who was in a place of honour there. How could there be? The world had already separated these two saints of God in spirit, they were morally apart, and nothing short of the victory of that faith which overcometh the world could put them together again. On one striking and solemn occasion they did meet, but how little there was of the true fellowship of saints in that meeting (1 Kings 18:7-16). There was much reserve on the part of Elijah, and manifest uneasiness in the language of Obadiah. They were both saints, but one was walking in the counsels of God apart, while he witnessed against the house of Ahab in which Obadiah held a place of honour. Obadiah seeks to make up to Elijah, and recounts his service to the Lord’s prophets when he hid them from Ahab’s rage in a cave, and fed them. But this will not do, and Elijah resents it. He reminds him that his true master and “lord” is Ahab (v. 8), before whom he ought to declare his faith and confess his relation to the Lord’s witness whose life he seeks. The “fellowship of saints” cannot be forced; it is a plant of heavenly birth, and must grow in its native air. If we traffic with the world and walk in the counsels of the ungodly, it is impossible to maintain true fellowship with those that walk in God’s ways.
By Harry Bell, Jarrow
1 Cor. 1:1-9
SEVEN THINGS ABOUT THE CHURCH AT CORINTH
By way of introduction, we shall notice the following:—
1. THE THREEFOLD CALL
- V. 1: Called to be an Apostle—Called to Service.
- V. 2: Called to be Saints—Called to Saintship.
- V. 9: Called to Fellowship—Called to the Son of God.
2. THE CHARACTER OF PAUL’S EPISTLES
- Romans is Confirmatory in Character—to establish the Saints. Ch. 16, verses 25-27.
- 1 and 2 Cor. and Gal. are Corrective in Character—Moral (Cor.) and Doctrinal (Gal.) evil.
- Eph., Phil, and Col. are Constructive in Character—Heavenly relationship to the Lord.
- Of the last three I would suggest that :—
- Ephesians gives us—Heavenly Standing.
- Philippians gives us—Heavenly Citizenship.
- Colossians gives us—Heavenly Privileges.
- In 1st and 2nd Cor. and Gal. the Church is viewed in its Local Character— in responsibility to Christ.
- In Eph., Phil, and Col. the Church is viewed in its Heavenly Character— associated with the blessed Man in the Glory.
3. 1 CORINTHIANS MAY BE DIVIDED THUS:
Danger from Within:
- Chs. 1-4—Danger of worldly wisdom (Divisions, etc.)—The WORLD.
- Chs. 5-7—Danger of fleshly lusts (fornication, enmity)—The FLESH.
- Chs. 8-10—Danger of Satanic defilement (idols, etc.)—The DEVIL.
Having corrected the conduct of the Assembly in Chapters 1-10, the Apostle goes on to correct its exercises, as follows:—
- In Ch. 11—Its Worship.
- In Ch. 12-15—Its Service.
- In Ch. 16—Its Collection.
4. A COMPARISON OF 1st AND 2nd CORINTHIANS
If in 1 Cor. we have dangers from within; in 2 Cor. we have Dangers from Without.
See Ch. 11:4—”If any preach another Gospel”—The Danger of clerical domination—admiring men’s persons.
With 1 Cor. compare—Exodus—The Tabernacle—The Lord among His people.
- e.g. 1 Cor. 14:25—“God is in you of a truth.”
- e.g. 1 Cor. 5:7—”Christ our passover is sacrificed for us”.
With 2 Cor. compare—Numbers—The Tabernacle Service—Levitical Ministrations,
- e.g. Chs. 1-7: True Servants—Paul, Timothy, etc.
- e.g. Chs. 8-13: False Servants.
5. WE SHALL NOW LOOK AT 1 COR. 1:1-9
The Epistle comes from an Apostle (Paul) and a brother (Sosthenes).
- Apostle (a sent one): From him we expect faithfulness.
- A Brother: From him we expect love to the brethren.
These two things should characterize us all—loyalty to our Lord, and love for all saints.
Now Paul’s Apostleship was different from that of Peter, James and John.
Acts 1:21-22 says that one who had moved in an out with the Lord on earth was essential as a witness—that is, a witness to Christ on earth, but Paul was a witness to the exalted Lord.
- Peter and others were sent primarily to the Jew;
- Paul was sent primarily to the Gentile.
Peter and the other disciples (Matt. 19:28) will sit on twelve thrones— not so Paul.
Saul is a Hebrew word meaning ‘Asked for’ (King Saul, 1 Sam. 9:2) … Both in his own thoughts of himself, and in physical stature, he was a big man; while Paul is a Greek word meaning ‘Small’.
So Saul (Greatness) now became Paul (Humbled). Compare how he “became all things to all men”—spoke suitably to all.
Verse 1—“OF JESUS CHRIST”—The One who was once here on earth in lowly grace, but is now in heaven enthroned.
We are now in a position to consider:—
6. THE SEVEN THINGS ABOUT THE CHURCH AT CORINTH
The Source of the Church ……
The Sphere of the Church ……
The Sanctification which brings us into the Church
“In Christ Jesus.”
The Saints which constitute the church ……
“Called to be saints”
The Society of the Church ……
“All that call on the Name of Jesus Christ.”
The Submission of the Church ……
The Supply of the Church ……
“Grace be unto you and peace”—for the upbuilding of the Church.
By George Hart, Warrington
ONE has said: “God in grace saw me in the blackness of my sins and pardoned me; God in mercy saw me in my helpless condition and pitied me.” This indicates very clearly the distinction between grace and mercy: a difference of condition on man’s part and of motive on God’s part. The grace of God moves in justification — sinful man is pardoned and made fit for God’s presence, on the ground of the sovereign grace of the God against whom he has sinned. In his mercy God delivers man from the bondage of sin, a bondage from which man is incapable of delivering himself. God justifies us by his grace that we might worship him; he redeems us by his mercy that we might serve him.
It would follow from this that the more we learn of the grace of God, the deeper will be our worship. Likewise true service will spring from an appreciation of the nature of our redemption. It is our desire in meditating on this latter theme that God’s people may come to a better understanding of the purposes of God in redemption, and so be stimulated to richer service for Him.
It will be helpful to view the subject from three standpoints:—
Redemption in Principle
In all His dealings with man God displays His own character, and it is the mercy of God which is in evidence in redemption. Israel of old could sing: “Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed” (Exodus 15:13). Paul wrote to Titus: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us.” Are we not humbled at this thought, that it is all of God’s mercy, and in spite of our weakness, that we are saved? Are we not constrained to join with the Psalmist and say:” I will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever”?
The mercies of God are not unconditional, though it is beyond man to fulfil the conditions; in His mercy it is God who fulfils the conditions He himself lays down. Redemption is available to man only on the basis of shed blood, but such is the weakness of man that God hastens to act on his behalf, be it in Israel’s day or in ours. “And when He seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side-posts, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come into your houses to smite you” (Exodus 12:23). When He saw the blood, God “hovered over” the door, interposing Himself between the destroyer and those inside. How beautifully does the hymn-writer re-echo the thought:
- “He, to save my soul from danger,
- Interposed his precious blood.”
Peter reminds us in his Epistle that we are redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” Paul draws the attention of the Colossian saints to this very fact and says: “In Whom we have redemption through His blood …”
The word “redemption” is associated with the idea of buying back, and we do well to consider this aspect of the principle of redemption, for we are reminded in 1 Corinthians 6:20 “… ye are bought with a price.” Nor is this without parallel in Israel’s experience. God makes this very plain in Exodus 13: “Sanctify unto me all the firstborn … it is mine …” This 13th chapter of Exodus is most instructive concerning redemption. God has brought Israel out of Egypt with a high arm, and He now claims them as His redeemed possession. There are still great lessons to be learned, however, before they can be shown God’s purpose in redemption. He tells them in verse 13: “And every firstling of an ass shalt thou redeem with a lamb; and if thou wilt not redeem it, thou shalt break his neck: and all the firstborn of man among thy children shalt thou redeem.”
Before we can be taught the divine purpose in redemption we have to be taught the divine estimate of man. The Israelite could say: “What, give a lamb for a rebellious, stupid, self-willed ass? He is not worth it. Break his neck.” By nature, man is associated with the ass—worthless, unfit for God’s service. Does it not cause us to marvel when we think that God could have looked on His Lamb and have said of man: “He is not worth it. Break his neck.” But because “He spared not His own Son, but freely delivered Him up for us all,” we are redeemed by the precious blood of the Lamb, and we are viewed in our association with Him, as being precious to God.
Having thus learnt our own worthlessness apart from the blood of Christ, we are now in a position to study our redemption from the second stand-point:—
Redemption in Purpose
We have already indicated that the purpose of God in justification is worship. This is best illustrated from the Epistle to the Romans. After expounding to the Roman saints concerning the riches of God’s grace in justifying man, Paul writes: “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable worship (Greek latreian)” (Romans 12:1).
By contrast, God redeemed His ancient people that they might serve him: “And the nation to whom they shall be in bondage will I judge . . . and after that they shall come forth and serve Me in this place” (Acts 7:7). They were brought from slavery to service. In Egypt they were forced to work for Pharaoh whether they would or not; in the desert they were to serve God willingly out of appreciation for Him. How their ingratitude and failure to serve Him properly reflect in our service, for our redemption is designed to produce service in us . .. “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the Kingdom of the Son of His love: in whom we have redemption through His blood …” (Colossians 1:13).
This verse introduces us to another aspect of the divine plan. God has not only changed the conditions of our work, so that we are now no longer the unwilling slaves of a hard task master, but obedient servants of a loving God. He has changed the very nature of our standing: “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). With what dignity should we serve Him Who has called us to this lofty occupation! We have been delivered from “the power of darkness” and translated into “the kingdom of the Son of His love.” These truths are ours to enjoy now, and the One Who freed us from that dark power expects us to live in the light of His kingdom.
Yet we look forward to a greater purpose in redemption than being freed from sin’s bondage to serve God here on earth, for “even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:23). We belong to a heavenly Kingdom, and we feel very much the bondage into which our body brings us. With what joy do we anticipate its redemption, “for our citizenship is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Phil. 3:20, 21).
(To be continued)
By H. Butcher, London
IN 1 Corinthians, Ch. 13, from which our title is taken, many have rejoiced to see precious truths, not only respecting the quality of love, but also respecting our blessed Lord. The chapter is readily divided as follows:—
- vv. 1-3: Love is indispensable,
- vv. 4- 7: Love is incomparable,
- vv. 8-13: Love is imperishable.
In our brief meditation together on these three sections let us recognise sweet adumbrations of the Lord Jesus.
Section I. Love Indispensable
According to verse 1, if I have not love, I HAVE NOTHING. I may speak with tongues (see 1 Cor. 12), the tongues of men and even of angels, but without love the speaking is so much empty noise, like sounding brass or clanging cymbal. I HAVE nothing.
According to verse 2, if I have not love, I AM NOTHING. I may HAVE something. I may not be empty (as in verse 1). I may have prophecy and thereby know all mysteries, and all knowledge, and I may have all faith, but if I have not love, I AM nothing.
According to verse 3, if I have not love, I PROFIT NOTHING. I may even BE something (that is to say, I may exceed the bounds of verse 2) as proved by virtuous actions in regard to my possessions and my person, but if I have not love, I PROFIT nothing.
Love is indispensable. Without it we have nothing, are nothing or profit nothing. Our Lord Jesus is Love. He is indispensable. We cannot do without HIM. Without HIM—NOTHING.
Section II. Love Incomparable
Our middle section so speaks of love that we are brought to the conclusion that love is incomparable. There is nothing like it. In these verses (4 to 7) we see something of the character of our Lord. There are seven positive statements and eight negative statements. Let us enumerate the seven positive statements.
- Love suffereth long (has long patience).
- Love is kind.
- Love rejoices with the truth.
- Love beareth all things.
- Love believeth all things.
- Love hopeth all things.
- Love endureth all things.
What truth lies in the expression, “all things”! With HIM there is nothing partial. As to evil, He is completely without it; and as to good. He is completely possessed of it. All virtues in their fulness are present in HIM, and all vices are totally absent from HIM. “Bears all things”, would tell us of the length to which He would go. “Believes all things”, would speak to us of the breadth of His embracing heart. “Hopes all things”, would direct our gaze upward and speak of height. “Endures all things”, would speak to us of the depth to which He would go. We have, therefore, the length and the breadth, the height and the depth of love.
Section III. Love Imperishable
Love never fails. Prophecies and knowledge shall be done away, and tongues shall cease, but love never fails. It is even greater than faith and hope. Love is imperishable. Our blessed Lord is Love. He is alive for evermore. He is imperishable.
Our Lord is indispensable—we cannot do without Him. Our Lord is incomparable—there is none like Him. Our Lord is imperishable—we shall never be without Him. What a Saviour!
THINE IS THE LOVE
- Thine is the love, Lord, that draws us together.
- Guiding our steps from the wilderness ways;
- Soon face to face we’ll adore Thee forever,
- Now our glad hearts would he filled with Thy praise.
- Faithful Thy grace o’er our pathway has waited.
- Deep the delight we have found, Lord, in Thee;
- Now with this treasure our spirits are freighted.
- Bowed at Thy feet, and the fragrance set free.
- For us, Lord Jesus, Thyself Thou hast given;
- Sufferings unfathomed for us hast Thou known;
- Now, in accord with the homage of heaven,
- Rises a song from the hearts of Thine own.
- Jesus, Lord Jesus, we love and adore Thee,
- Glorious Thy Name, all our praises above;
- Peerless Thy beauty, we worship before Thee;
- Hushed are our spirits, at rest in Thy love.
- A. M. Harding.
This is a day of clatter of talk. Those who have nothing to say are those who generally have the most to speak. There is always real power in the silence of a disciplined soul. It is the power of a man who thinks. Silence is, in reality, twin sister to thought. If a man cannot be silent, he cannot be anything but weak. No-one can give unless he gathers, and time must be taken to gather. If he attempts to give without gathering, it is pouring out of an empty vessel. It is painful to hear some men display their capacity for spoiling the silence, dilating some precious and beautiful Scriptures by an admixture of haphazard, ill-sorted commonplace platitude: the words whereof are sounding brass and clanging symbols. See what Prov. 22:17-18 says “Incline thine ear, hear the words of the wise.” Take the place of the learner, then you will be a ready listener, and your heart stocked with wisdom. Wise words dropped into the heart fructify into golden thoughts, becoming minted upon the lips in golden messages for others.