THE MYSTERIES OF THE KINGDOM OF THE HEAVENS
by W. Scott
NOTES ON THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PETER
by W. Rodgers
THE EPISTLE TO THE PHILIPPIANS
by R. W. Beales
THE PERSON AND PROGRAMME OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
by S. Jardine
THE PRIESTHOOD OF THE BELIEVER
by Dr. J. Boyd
THE SUPREME EVENT AHEAD
by H. Pickering
NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY
Review by The Editor
by the late WALTER SCOTT.
Matthew 13—THE MERCHANT-MAN (Verses 45-46)
THE sixth parable is the merchant-man seeking goodly pearls. In the previous parable the likeness of the Kingdom is to treasure. In this, the briefest of the seven, the similitude is to a merchant-man. It is not the “pearl” but the seeking merchant-man to which the Kingdom is likened. The treasure was found hid in the world, the pearl is found in the depths of the sea. Here attention is called to Christ searching the universe for pearls of value. His eye lights on one. He is captivated by its beauty. The search is over. He has found the best. No other jewel of such incomparable value and beauty. In the previous parable He buys the field, but here He buys the pearl. He “bought it.” Here, there is intense singleness of purpose. One object absorbs thought, attention, love. The merchant-man gave Himself up for it. To possess Himself of it, He sold all that He had. Here the teaching of the parable closes with this grand fact: The pearl (the Church) belongs to Him who found it, loved it, and bought it. The treasure might consist of many pieces : the pearl is but one. This is a much misunderstood parable, and yet it is remarkably simple. Who is the merchant-man ? Is it the sinner ? Strange that it should be supposed so, but this blunder, as many others, lies in thinking of self instead of Christ.
Christ is the merchant-man seeking goodly pearls. It is language foreign to Scripture to represent the sinner seeking Christ. Was it Adam who, when he sinned, went after God, or did God go after him ? “Adam, where art thou ?” was the language of a Saviour-God ; it was God seeking man. Did the lost sheep seek the shepherd, or did the shepherd seek the sheep ? “I have found my sheep which was lost.” “The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost.” Can the sinner buy the pearl of great price ? What! is it really come to this, that people will be bold enough to say that Christ (even were He the pearl) could be bought ? And what has a sinner to give ? Righteousness he has none (Rom. 3. 10) ; goodness he has not (Rom. 3. 12). What has he, then? Sin, sin—nothing but sin. No, no ! reject the God dishonouring thought as utterly unworthy of Him and equally unworthy of our truest blessing—that the merchant-man is the sinner and the “pearl of great price” Christ. The merchant-man seeking goodly pearls supposes not only love, but taste and skill. He found “one pearl of great price” ; other pearls there were, but none of costliness or beauty equal to the one He found. The Church, then, in her unity, beauty, and value, was the pearl for which He sold all that He had as Man on earth, and Messiah in Judea. He found this one pearl where the costliest are ever found—in the depths of the sea. He found us under the judgment of God. He saw beauty and value, and for the love He bore the Church, “He gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of the water by the Word : that He might present it to Himself, a glorious Church not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5. 25-27). First, He possessed Himself of the pearl by giving Himself for it; second, He is now removing all grit, cleansing and beautifying it; third, He presents it to Himself—love’s triumph; all glorious and spotless.
The wondering, worshipping nations of the millennial earth will behold the Church as Christ now views her, as He values her—“And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, every several gate was of one pearl.” Each separate gate cf pearl is enclosed in the jasper wall of the heavenly city (Rev. 21). The jasper is emblematic of the Divine glory. The pearl is the grand and great millennial picture, and its setting nothing less than the glory of God.
(To be continued)
by the late WILLIAM RODGERS
The many and close parallelisms which we have pointed out between these epistles and other Scriptures might suggest that, so far at least as the writings of Paul, James and Jude are concerned, our apostle is a mere copyist. But more careful comparison of the passages which are similar will show that this is far from being the case ; and that, while Peter’s mind is well stored, not only with the Old Testament writings, but also with as much as had then been penned of the New Testament, he has made the truths contained in them his own, and presents them in his own way. This .may be seen, not only in the relative degree of prominence he accords to some matters as compared with others, but also in his use of favourite words and phrases seldom occurring elsewhere.
Nowhere, for example, is more emphasis laid upon
CONDUCT BECOMING TO OUR CHRISTIAN PROFESSION
than in these epistles, and nowhere are the exhortations on this subject more frequently linked with references to our glorious future. Yet not once in them have we a clear allusion to the Lord’s coming to the air for His people, as distinct from His coming to earth to reign. Again, although on the surface 1 Peter follows closely, as has been shown, the lines of the Epistle to the Ephesians, yet the saints are not in it looked on as already in Canaan, or in “the Heavenlies” of that epistle, but as still journeying thither through the wilderness. Contrast, in this connection, Paul’s “Ye are no more strangers and foreigners” of Eph. 2. 19, with Peter’s “I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims” of 1 Peter 2. 11.
These, and other such differences, do not, however, necessarily imply that the one apostle had a more limited knowledge of truth than the other, but only that the writing of each was in keeping with the purpose he had in view, and with the readers he had specially in mind. For although each wrote to all the saints in the localities named by them, there can be no doubt that converted Jews were more prominent in Peter’s thoughts, and converted Gentiles in those of Paul.
With regard to our apostle’s choice of
WORDS AND PHRASES
quite a large number might be mentioned, which are characteristic of his writings and are employed by him with more than usual frequency. A connected study of their occurrences will in most cases well repay the trouble of searching for them. One notable example, which has been referred to in an earlier paper, is his use of the words “suffer” and “suffering.” It will be noticed that he constantly employs the former word where another writer would have said “die.” Thus, concerning Christ, Paul again and again tells us that He “died” for us, or for our sins ; but Peter invariably that He “suffered” for them. So, of ourselves, Paul writes, “He that hath died is justified from sin” (Rom. 6. 7, R.V.) ; but Peter says, “He that hath suffered . . . hath ceased from sin” (1 Peter 4. 1).
Another characteristic, almost peculiar to Peter, is his use of the phrases, “your souls,” “their souls,” etc., where a simple pronoun would have served instead. He writes—
- “The salvation of your souls,” 1 Peter 1. 9.
- “Ye have purified your souls,” 1 Peter 1. 22.
- “Lusts which war against the soul,” 1 Peter 2. 11.
- “Shepherd and Bishop of your souls,” 1 Peter 2. 25.
- “The keeping of their souls,” 1 Peter 4. 19.
- “Vexed his righteous soul,” 2 Peter 2. 8.
- “Beguiling unstable souls,” 2 Peter 2. 14.
Yet another example is his employment of the terms “obey” and “disobey” with their derivatives, almost always in a gospel connection or at least with what might be called a gospel background. Thus the phrase, “Unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood,” in his opening paragraph (1 Peter 1. 2), must refer to their “obedience” to the gospel at the time of their birth into God’s family, of which the next verse speaks. The expression, “Children of obedience,” in verse 14 (R.V.) carries a suggestion that the likeness in holiness to their heavenly Father, which he here enjoins upon them, is involved in, and should be the outcome of that birth into His family; while the clause, “Seeing ye have purified your souls in your obedience to the truth . . . see that ye love one another,” in verse 22 (R.V.) in like manner suggests that this further exhortation, to love those who are their brethren in His family, rests on the same basis, their “having been begotten again,” as he expresses it in his next words.
That the “disobedient” ones of ch. 2. 7 and 8 are
DISOBEDIENT TO THE GOSPEL CALL
is clear, especially as they are set over against the “You which believe” of verse 7 ; and that the expression, “If any obey not the Word” in ch. 3. 1 refers to husbands remaining unsaved, is just as clear. The phrase, “Them that obey not the gospel of God,” at ch. 4. 17, bears its meaning on its face ; and even the reference in ch. 3. 20 to those of Noah’s days, “which sometimes were disobedient,” points, not to the “great” wickedness of Gen. 6. 5, that was the original cause of the Flood being sent, but to something of which they were guilty “WHILE THE ARK WAS A PREPARING,” and which therefore must have been their rejection of Noah’s testimony and preaching.
Attention has already been drawn, when comparing Peter’s first epistle with that to the Ephesians, to his many references to the calling of the saints by God.
His use of the word “called” in it, as applied to this, results in a remarkable series of expressions. He speaks of them as “called”—
- To be holy, as God is, ch. 1.15.
- To show forth His praises, ch. 2.9.
- To suffer for Christ’s sake, ch. 2.21.
- To inherit blessing, ch. 3.9.
- To God’s eternal glory, ch. 5.10.
We have the words once more in 2 Peter 1. 3, where God is spoken of as having “called us by His own glory and virtue” (R.V.). And is it not fitting that, after all these suggestions as to what His calling implies, we should come to the exhortation of 2 Peter 1. 10, “Give diligence to make your calling and election sure” ?
Another matter often dwelt on in 1 Peter is the importance of
LIVING IN THE FEAR OF GOD
and the apostle’s hints as to this are of interest, not only because of the variety of connections in which they are found, but because of the care taken in some of them to differentiate between the fear of God and that of man. In ch. 1. 17-19 godly fear is introduced as being a desirable feature of the entire Christian course, “the time of your sojourning,” as the apostle calls it, in keeping with his presentation of it as a wilderness journey to the promised land. He urges it upon the saints in view of the fact that the One whom they call on as Father, “judgeth according to every man’s work,” and also on the ground of their knowledge of the great price which has been paid for their redemption.
He follows up this general exhortation to the fear of God by introducing it in various particular relationships. In ch. 2. 17 it is associated with the Christian’s
ATTITUDE TOWARDS THE POLITICAL WORLD
as described in the preceding verses ; while in ch. 2. 18 it is brought in again, in relation to what we might speak of as his attitude to business affairs. In ch. 3. 2 it is mentioned as a becoming thing in home life; and in verse 15 of the same chapter we are reminded that it should characterize the saint who is called on to bear testimony before persecutors.
That the fear which he commends to them is not the fear of man, whether of a master, or of an unsaved husband, or of persecutors, is made clear in each case in which the point might be raised. The servants are exhorted to serve with all fear, not only the good and gentle master, but also to the froward one. Had he meant tear of the master the order would of course be the opposite, “not only the froward (who would compel in any case), but the good and gentle (who might not)’’ The unsaved husbands are to behold the chaste conversation coupled with fear, of their Christian wives; yet the latter are not to be “put in fear by any terror” (v. 6, R.V.). Those who suffer persecution are encouraged to “FEAR NOT their fear” (ch. 3. 14, R.V.) ; while at the same time they are told to give their “reason . , . with meekness and fear” (v. 15). It is therefore clear that the “fear” which Peter wishes the Lord’s people to have is fear of grieving Him, or of marring their testimony for Him ; and this fear not only is very different from the fear of man, but actually removes it. No one knew better than he did that “the fear of man bringeth a snare” (Prov. 29. 25), since he had proved it so in his own experience more than once. It had led to his threefold denial of his Lord in the High Priest’s palace; and at least on one later occasion (Gal. 2. 12), it had caused him to “build again the things which he destroyed.”
by R. WOODHOUSE BEALES
Chapter 3 (Continued)
Paul has two “Finally’s” (see 4. 8), he cannot stop writing to them. But first a warning against legalistic teachers undermining their faith; “dogs, evil workers, the concision,” they who did not do away with the flesh and its works but only partially dealt with it, but gloried in it (see Gal. 6. 11-13). Paul had finished with it as the succeeding verses show, in all its activities especially the “religious” ones. Did they call the uncircumcised Gentiles “dogs” ? It was their preferred name for such, but Paul would apply it to them, but first their safeguard would be in their rejoicing and not irksome, it would guard them from attacks so long as it is rejoicing in the Lord and not in the flesh.
The three descriptions are not of three separate groups but designate the Judaisers, always hostile to the Gospel he preached. What difference did circumcision and law keeping make ? None, as he had written to the Romans.
Paul himself had once been hostile to the Gospel but such law keepers were only mutilators, cutting around the flesh but not cutting it off. While supremely religious and hair splitting with regard to fleshly indulgences, they never dealt with it, only the application of the cross could do that. (See Matthew 23. 16-22 and 2 Corinthians 10 and 12 chapters).
When the true believer accepts God’s verdict about the flesh and applies the cross to it, then and then only, is he a true worshipper of God in the Spirit, rejoicing in Christ Jesus only, having voted against and “put out of business” the flesh and all its activities.
Paul had everything in the flesh to boast about both RACIALLY and by ATTAINMENT and RELIGIOUSLY, and here he lists this sevenfold boasting, in order that he may jettison it all. We have in this section allusions to his past life (vv. 4-6), his then present life (vv. 7-10), and his future life (vv. 11-14). There is also a present attainment (vv. 15-16), one mindedness among the saints alluded to, as the outcome. By his birth, upbringing, social and religious status, his former life of zeal for God, keeping the law blameless (he does not say ‘faultless’) he stood head and shoulders above all, even as his namesake in the Old Testament had stood in physical stature. But if Christ had emptied Himself of His accoutrements of glory and dignity outwardly, then Paul also will empty Himself this being “the mind of Christ.”
To-day, human learning is almost deified and it is humbling to read the Apostle’s valuation of it and remember his words to the spiritual “babes” in Corinth, the seat of learning. There is no rush for the low place!
Paul therefore counts it all as rubbish, not “dung” as that is a valuable commodity. It is but “rubbish’’ or “offal” and he throws it all overboard that he may WIN Christ.
“For the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus as my Lord” and that he might “win Christ.” Christ at the beginning of the life of faith and Christ at the end, as the Rewarder of that life. But first, in verse 9 he gives again the Gospel foundation of his faith and its outcome, the basis of which he had laid in the Epistle to the Romans of which this is an echo. Then in verse 10 the life that should follow, even though it end in martyrdom, for in so doing he would attain unto the “out-resurrection” from among the dead, most probably the “better resurrection” of Hebrews 11. 35, and to which he had already alluded in 1. 20, 21 and 2. 17.
The pathway to this, for he had not yet attained to it, follows in verses 12-14. Christ had laid hold of or apprehended him in the first place and drawn him into the race, putting him down at the starting point, and then had proceeded to go to the final finishing post to hand to him the crown of victory, if he had run the race properly, and he wanted above all things to lay hold of that prize. This is the imagery used. Christ was to be his prize and His “well done” the reward.
This is a favourite theme of Paul’s, see 1 Cor. 9 and 2 Tim. 4. 6-8. The word “press on” is the same one he uses to describe his pursuit and persecution of the Christians in the early days. He now had the same zeal and tenacity of purpose in this new objective and desires that they should have the same.
Thus he had the MIND of Christ, who had run the race before him, He who was the beginner and finisher of the life of faith (Heb. 12. 2) and who had Himself won the race and gained the prize, and Paul would have them and us to be “thus minded”, to walk, and run, and MIND the same thing. In assembly life there should be no such thing as rule by majority, nor minority, nor agreeing to differ, but one-mindedness, i.e., the mind of the Lord ascertained by waiting upon Him. Happy indeed is such a church.
Now he returns (vv. 17-19) to speak again of those who are enemies of the cross of Christ and the application of this to the life. The finality of their race is destruction, the flesh being the whole rule of their life. He weeps over them so apparently they may be those who were once professed Christians, but who now show by their life as well as their teaching, that they were false. They glory in their shame and MIND earthly things.
The end of our race and the handing out of rewards will be at the Coming of the Lord and His Judgment Seat, which will also bring about the putting off of the body of flesh altogether; and our very bodies of humiliation, which have been subject to His Lordship, will be glorified together with Him. So he reminds them that their true “citizenship” is in heaven from whence we look for Him as Saviour, who shall accomplish this glorious consummation by the working or power which He has, and which will ultimately subdue all things to Himself (see 2. 10, 11).
This is the reference which is illustrated by Philippi being a Roman colony, a little bit of Rome, under its allegiance and with its customs and living its life in the midst of heathendom. See chapter 1. So this church and we, are to be a little bit of heaven in the midst of this dark world, living under His Lordship, while we wait for Him from heaven.
It has been said by Ultra-dispensationalists, and quite incorrectly, that we do not get a word about the Lord’s coming for His Church in any prison epistle. The exact words may not be there, but the truth most certainly is in these two verses. Our citizenship, or commonwealth, or political life is in heaven from which we look for the Saviour …. What is this but the hope of the Church in the personal return of the Lord Jesus ? Will those left on earth after the translation of the Church, i.e., Israel and the nations etc., have such a transformation and receive glorified bodies ? Scripture does not say so. But we shall at His return for us, and the power available for it is with Him and that same power will ultimately subdue all things to Himself.
(To be continued)
by SAMUEL JARDINE, Belfast.
THE SPIRIT IN THE BELIEVER
“The Extent of His Operations”
1. SPIRIT EMANCIPATION
“The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8. 2). By uniting the Apostle (“me”) to Christ Jesus in living bonds, acting as the Spirit of life, He gave him a position where the law of sin and death was powerless to touch Him. There was a judicial side to this since God Himself had provided in the Son and His death the satisfaction the law demanded. But in that death on the cross God had condemned sin in the flesh and finished with it once and for all. There was need therefore for the justified man to say his “amen” to that. Thus the need for the practical side arises where there is a fulfilment of righteousness in the justified man. It has been clearly shown that the flesh being totally corrupt cannot produce “any good thing.” It has been as fully demonstrated that the law cannot either as it has nothing in human nature
to work upon, nothing akin to itself. “The law is weak through the flesh” (v. 3). But the introduction of a new law or principle, emanating from a living Person, here called “the Spirit of Life” can produce that experimental righteousness which should characterize those whom God has declared righteous in Christ. So the new law or principle operates in the renewed spirit of the believer because of the indwelling Spirit of God.
2. SPIRIT DISPOSITION
A further important step is taken when this thought is introduced. “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh : but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8. 5). The man without spiritual life and the natural bent of his life are lucidly depicted in the first part of that statement, while the new-born man and his distinctively new mind are as succinctly portrayed in the second part. This manifesto of deliverance from the control of the flesh and its innate corruption is placed on the high level of ‘‘Spirit-mindedness”. By virtue of His incoming there is a new order of thinking, a new outlook coupled with new desires and aspirations consistent with the presence of the “Spirit of life”. This “mindedness” connotes ‘thought’, or ‘purpose’ or ‘intention’ and this applies to the two opposing minds; that which once controlled and is branded as “death” and that which now disposes and directs and is here denominated “life and peace”. Here is the reason that the possessor of divine life can really enjoy life on the highest plane and know what is unknown to the worldling, the peace of God : what is first called THE LAW OF THE SPIRIT OF LIFE, and later “the minding of the Spirit” (8. 2, 6). Furthermore, here is what places him in the realm of the Spirit as distinct from being “in the flesh” and indicates that he belongs to Christ (8. 9). “The Spirit of Christ” is one of those lovely titles belonging to Him who alone can fill the life with Christ and make Him wonderfully real in life and experience. It is because of His indwelling our mortal bodies now that in the soon-coming day of resurrection we shall share the resurrection-victory of our Lord Jesus Christ (8. 11, see N.T.).
3. SPIRIT DIRECTION
When the big idea that is here progressively unfolded is grasped, the believer will be responsibly aware that he is not a mere ‘spectator’ of a great truth but an involved ‘participant’ in it. He is committed to a WALK in the Spirit (v. 5) which in v. 14 is seen to be synonymous with the leading of the Spirit. This is “the mind of the Spirit” becoming effective in conduct and behaviour : the “disposition” becoming ‘direction’, and this in verse 12 is equated with living by the Spirit. Here words written by C. A. Coates go to the very heart of things : “Instead of the body being the source of impulse, it is now the Spirit. Nothing could show more forcibly the extraordinary place which the Spirit has as characterizing the believer. The Spirit is life. This is life as the source of all movement in a moral sense. All movements of righteousness in the believer have their origin and vital strength in the Spirit”. Only by His power and enabling can “the deeds of the body” be put to death and only in His life can righteousness be practically expressed.
This God-begotten, Spirit-disposed Christian living is the debt we owe (v. 12) and can be paid in terms of love and likeness to the Lord Jesus Christ. A Self-centred, worldly disposition that finds its interest in its own affairs, that adapts itself to the often embarrassing ways and fashions of a depraved society with its unscriptural trends, its lawless eruptions and immodest attire is certainly not Spirit-mindedness. To quote again from C.A.C. on Romans 8, “People sometimes speak of the ‘higher’ Christian life, but there is no truly Christian life LOWER than ‘the Spirit life on account of righteousness’. May we know what it is to walk in the practical and experimental power of the Spirit as life !”
4. SPIRIT CONFIRMATION
Spirit-disposition and Spirit-direction are very naturally followed by Spirit-confirmation. The Spirit of adoption (v’ 15) is literally the Spirit of sonship and He resides in the believer as the token of both relationship to the Father (‘Children’ v. 16) and family likeness (‘Sons’ v. 14). What a joy it was when spontaneously there arose in the redeemed spirit the filial cry, “Abba, Father”. That was the true beginning of the life of prayer and just as truly the evidence of a new birth and a new life, the Abba-Father cry is simply the gravitation of the child of God to his true level—his loving Father, and after all that is what all true prayer really is. The greatness and grandeur of all this associates in the inspired mind with future INHERITANCE and GLORY (w. 17-20) as well as with the present SUFFERINGS that are the lot of children of God. It is in this connection that the final references to the Spirit are given us in this paradise of truth.
5. SPIRIT INTERCESSION
The groans of “the whole creation”, a creation “subject to vanity” because of sin and the curse, because of corruption and mortality, is the environment of those wno “groan” as they await the complete consummation of sonship: the absolute and perfect maturity and harmony which will attend the redemption of the body and the glorification of the saints (vv. 21-25). This surely gives the atmosphere for what follows: “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities (or ‘joins His help to our weakness” (v. 26, N.T.) ; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the MIND OF THE SPIRIT because He maketh intercession according to God.” (literally). Dr. Vaughan has beautifully paraphrased this for us: “The Holy Spirit makes entreaty to God for us in those unuttered yearnings which the Searcher of hearts recognises as the breathing of His own Spirit and therefore the expression of His own will.”
The wonder of it all is that amidst the corruptions of this groaning and travailing scene of pain and with deepening consciousness of mortality the believer has “the mind of the Spirit” operating effectually in him and for him. It is He who in such circumstances begets “the groanings which cannot be uttered”. ‘He joins his help to our weakness’ to awaken desires and yearnings for which there would seem to be no adequate human expression. But our gracious Father with omniscience can read their full meaning and answer accordingly. These deep-set groanings are “according to God” and therefore accord with His will.
(To be continued)
by Dr. JOHN BOYD, Belfast.
The doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, while acknowledged by most in our assemblies to-day, seems to be imperfectly understood. Many are ignorant of the responsibilities and privileges attached to such a priesthood. In their minds it only applies to the worship meeting, that there any brother is free to take whatever part the Holy Spirit may direct, and that he needs no clergyman or priest to lead him in worship. This is quite true. But much more is implied in our priesthood. We do well to examine the scriptures to find out what they teach on this important subject.
Let us first consider God’s mind concerning priesthood in general. A priest is one who approaches God on behalf of men, and performs specific rites. At first man approached God as an individual. Cain and Abel each presented his own offering to God. Then, in the times of Noah and the patriarchs, we find that the head of the family was the priest. At this time we find in Melchizedek a special priesthood. He was both king of Salem, and priest of God Most High. What is recorded of him in Hebrews 7. 3 presents a picture of the present High-priestly activity of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In Exodus 19. 6 God chose Israel as a priestly nation, a kingdom of priests. In default the family of Aaron was selected to undertake the priestly work for the nation. Like the other priesthoods the Aaronic priesthood failed. But there will be a reinstatement of the national priesthood in a coming day, when the people of Israel will again be called priests and ministers of the Lord (Isaiah 61. 6).
Following the failure of the Aaronic priesthood God has ordained a new priestly system. After the death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ all believers are constituted priests. The redeemed of all nations have been made kings and priests (Rev. 5. 10).
In the New Testament there are four main portions dealing with the believer’s priesthood, each teaching us something different concerning its nature, and its duties. These scriptures help us to serve efficiently in the priestly office, to the praise and glory of God. They are
- 1 Peter 2. 1-5. Here we are designated a ‘holy priesthood—indicating the character of the priest.
- 1 Peter 2. 9-10. In these verses we are given the title of a ‘royal priesthood’, setting forth its dignity.
- Heb. 10. 19-22. Here the priests’ privileges are outlined.
- In Rev. 1. 5-6; 5. 9-10 the expression ‘priests unto God’ indicates the intimate nature of our relationship with God.
Let us examine each of these passages.
THE HOLY PRIESTHOOD (1 Peter 2. 5)
In this title the Holy Spirit would remind us that God demands holiness in His priests. He nas sanctified us, set us apart from the world, and expects us to maintain that sanctification (1 Thess. 4. 3). This is done by yielding our members as servants to righteousness instead of using them in the service of sin (Rom. 6. 19). As priests we should be distinguished by uprightness in all dealings with our fellowmen. We should have clean hands and pure thoughts, our lives wholly dedicated to the service of God.
The priest’s function is to offer sacrifices—not the material sacrifices of the Levitical economy, not animals, nor bread, nor wine, but spiritual sacrifices. These we must offer continually. Many sacrifices and offerings are specified in the New Testament as coming within the sphere of the believer’s service as priest. Let us look at some of them.
1. The Presentation of the Body to God (Rom. 12. 1).
What do I know of this offering ? What do I know of sacrificing myself, and all my interests to the service of God ? It is but the logical outcome of considering what God has done for me. It means forsaking the customs of the world around, and having my mind firmly set upon doing the will of God.
2. Ministering the Gospel (Romans 15. 16).
The word translated ‘ministering’ literally means doing the work of a priest. This may be for you a wholetime occupation, or a part-time activity in the gospel, perhaps a word spoken to the individual by the wayside, or across the fence.
3. A Life of Faith (Philippians 2. 17).
Paul regarded the Philippians as living a life of faith in full devotion to God. This they offered in priestly service as a continual Burnt Offering (Num. 28. 3).
4. Ministry to the Saints (Philippians 2. 17).
Upon the Burnt Offering of the sacrifice of the Philippians’ faith Paul poured out his life’s energy as a Drink Offering. He belittles his Dart in all this by calling it a Drink Offering, something added to the Burnt Offering as an extra (Num. 28. 7).
5. Giving to the Lord’s Servants (Philippians 4. 18).
Paul in acknowledging the gift sent him by the Philippians calls it a sacrifice that was acceptable and wellpleasing to God.
6. Praising the Lord (Hebrews 13. 15).
This is a sacrifice which the New Testament priest must offer continually. It is the fruit of the lips—praise expressed in words or song, making much of the name of God, His majesty, His glory, His mighty works for the sons of men.
7. Doing Good Works (Hebrews 13. 16).
The Holy Spirit calls this a sacrifice—good works done to all men, but especially to fellow-believers (Gal. 6. 10).
8. Fellowship (Hebrews 13. 16).
This is also a sacrifice that pleases God. It finds its expression in sharing the sorrows and the joys, the uardships and the successes of one’s brethren, and helping to meet their needs.
We are set apart by God for these sacrifices. How often do we carry out our bounden duty, and offer them ? God was not pleased with the work of the Aaronic priesthood. The closing books of the Old Testament are full of its corrupt practices (Mai. 1. 6). There God accuses the priests of despising His name, of offering polluted bread, and blind and lame sacrifices. Is God pleased with your sacrifices and mine to-day ? Does He find in us the same tendency to slackness in carrying out our priestly duties as in the days of Malachi ? As we have a Great High Priest before the Throne of God we are assured that our sacrifices are acceptable to God through Him. The merit of His work alone gives value to any sacrifice we offer.
THE ROYAL PRIESTHOOD (1 Peter 2. 9)
This designation tells us of the dignity of our priesthood. It is one of four titles formerly given to Israel, and now used of the Church. Like Israel (Deut. 7. 6) we are an elect race, chosen in grace by God in eternity past as those upon whom He would bestow His blessings (Eph 1. 4).
Israel was intended by God (Ex. 19. 6) to be a holy nation—a body of people bound together to keep the law of Sinai. We are a community consecrated to His service, set apart by God from the world, a distinct body of people delighting in the law of Liberty (James 1. 25).
We, like Israel of old (Ex. 19. 5) are a peculiar people, lit., a people for God’s own possession (R.V.), a people acquired and possessed by God as His own peculiar treasure—the pearl of great price( Matt. 13. 46).
Let us appreciate the dignity of God’s calling as ‘a royal priesthood’—a priesthood that suggests a personal relationship to the King Himself, with whom the sacrifices are intimately associated. This priestly work is to show forth the excellencies, the glories of the God and King who chose us. This we do by allowing our light so to shine before men, that they may behold our good works, and glorify our Father in heaven (Matt. 5. 16). Conscious of such a calling in grace, let us realise that we live not unto ourselves, but unto Him who called us. Let us proclaim abroad His virtues, His love, His wisdom. Let us bring glory to God in all we do.
We should seek to maintain this dignity. We ought not to be found in company unworthy of such honour, nor do things to bring discredit upon our King. Let us’ever remember that we are the children of God.
(To be continued)
REVIEW by the EDITOR (Continued)
- General Editor : G. C. D. Howley.
- Contributing Editors : F. F. Bruce ; H. L. Ellison.
- Obtainable from Messrs Pickering and Inglis Ltd. Price 50/-.
THE preface of the New Testament Commentary contains the following passage:
- “The contributors maintain an objective and positive attitude in their work, each man being free to express his own mind on the matters he deals with, and no attempt has been made to press their contributions into a uniform mould.”
It is strange therefore that on the subjects we have considered in past issues of this magazine there has been general agreement in the application of certain prophetic passages to the year A.D. 70 or thereabouts and the impression also created that the writers in the main do not accept the teaching of the pre-tribulation rapture of the saints. One comes to the conclusion that the work could be styled as “Tribulationist with a touch of A-Millenniallism”. Of course if other writers had been invited to deal with Matthew, Mark, John, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 1 Thessalonians, Revelation, etc., the result would have been entirely different. We quote from a review:
- “Some of the views expressed are different from those more generally held in assemblies … We might mention, that the commentator on Romans’ regards the restoration of the Jews as an ‘influx of new blue blood into the Church’ (363), while Professor Bruce interprets much of the Revelation in the light of the history of the times. Thus the first beast of Chapter 13 is ‘the persecuting Roman Empire’ and the second is the embodiment of the cult of Rome and Augustus.” T.C. (in “Tidings” magazine published by Australian Missionary Tidings).
There is also a general agreement amongst the contributors on 1 Cor. 11 and 14; 1 Timothy 2; and the article entitled “The Apostolic Church”, who teach that women should publicly participate in prayer and discussion in the Christian Church. Again it is evident that if a different group of writers had contributed on these passages the result would have been different ! Again I notice that there is a tendency with some contributors at least to doubt the Authorship of certain of the New Testament books. Thus H. L. Ellison questions whether Matthew was the author of the first Gospel and suggests that it might have been written by some unknown individual who compiled it from Mark’s Gospel and Matthew’s “oracles”. David F. Payne casts doubt upon the authorship of the Second Epistle of Peter, but adds these words :
- “While it is possible that some unknown author of 2 Peter borrowed much from 1 Peter it is equally possible that the same man produced both letters, but employed a different secretary.”
(One would comment here that the last error seems to be worse than the first ! Do we not believe in inspiration,? Were the words that Peter dictated breathed by the Spirit of God or did the Spirit of God allow for the intervention of a secretary correcting what Peter said. Old Testament writers spake as they were moved by the Spirit of God; is this not equally true of New Testament writers? The present reviewer believes emphatically that the words that came from Peter’s lips were in very truth the Word of God), Again D. J. Ellis doesn’t seem clear whether the fourth gospel was the work of John or what part “the witness”, “the evangelist” and “some unknown redactor” had in its compilation. G. F. Hawthorne apparently thinks it is doubtful that Timothy in Hebrews 13. 23 was the Timothy we know. The writer on John’s Second Epistle takes it for granted that “the elect lady” is an example of the personification of a church and thus robs his readers of the extremely valuable moral instruction that the epistle contains. Again it will be true to say that a different group of writers chosen from a more conservative school would not have put forward these ideas.
Examining the work in this way one is forced to the conclusion that the choice of the contributors has been a decisive factor in the shaping of the general teaching contained in the book. The question is “Who chose the contributors?” and again “Who allocated to them the particular passages or subjects?” We presume that all these writers were well-known to whoever made this choice and that he (or they) would know the brethren’s beliefs on these particular subjects. We submit therefore that while it is true that “no attempt has been made to press the contributors into a uniform mould” it is equally apparent that whoever chose the contributors made the mould and therefore decided the ultimate shape of the teaching that is contained therein.
May we draw attention to an excellent article on the “Service of Women” in the July issue of ‘The Believer’s Magazine’ by J. R. Caldwell, one-time Editor of ‘The Witness’.
We regret that owing to lack of space the second article in the series ‘Some Aspects of the Cross’ by J. M. Cowan has had to be held over till aext Issue.
by the late HENRY PICKERING
Could any man have written these words ? Could Matthew, John, Peter or Paul have written them ? Not apart from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit! Read the words once more, and note their simplicity, conciseness, and heart-warming power.
1 Thessalonians 4
- For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air : and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
Study them piece by piece.
“The Lord Himself.” Not Michael, not Gabriel, not anyone in Heaven, or the Hosts of Heaven, but “Himself.” He will be the first to welcome all His own. What a moment of triumph, that will be, to hear that Voice we have never heard, to see that Face we have never seen, to be in the immediate presence of the Man who died for us, will indeed be glory for me.
“Shall descend from Heaven.” Did He not come “out of the ivory palaces into this world of woe” for our salvation ? Did He not lay His Heavenly Glory by and “become obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross” (Phil. 2. 8) for our sakes. With what “joy” must He come out of Heaven the second time, to secure the full fruition of salvation—spirit and soul and body—of all His own.
“With a shout.” The word used for “shout” is keldsmo, the cry of the helmsman or boatman, only used here. It will not be a mere whisper, but a loud cry, sufficient to call the saints out of the deepest depth of ocean and remotest corners of the land to be with Him.
- “From the deepest depth of ocean,
- From the mountain and the plain,
- From the desert rock and valley
- Countless throngs shall rise again.”
No matter what the mode of burial—those quietly laid to rest in God’s acre, those lost in the desert, left fathoms below in the mine after explosions, cremated according to modern methods, or buried in every style or form, shall hear that Voice and come forth. “The hour is coming when ALL that are in their graves shall hear His Voice and shall come forth” (John 5. 28, 29).
“With the voice of the Archangel.” His own Voice with angelic fervour, for all the living saints on earth—white, black, yellow, brown, tawny—will all be “changed in a moment of time” (1 Cor. 15. 51). You feel you sadly need to be changed, so do I. That will be a radical, revolutionary “change”, in a moment of time into “His own image”, “changed” by divine power, changed to revert to the old image no more for ever.
“And with the trump of God,” or “last trump.” The Roman Army had three trumps. One, get ready, prepare yourselves. Two, fall into line, get into form for marching. Third, march forward ; and at the third trump every soldier went marching forward. The first trump has long sounded—“Be ye also ready” ; the second trump is sounding loudly now—“Stand “together, march together, a united band” “ONE BODY” (1 Cor. 12. 20). The third trump may sound any moment, at midday or midnight, and not one saved one will be left on earth. As in Egypt when redeemed Israel marched out, “not a hoof was left behind” (Ex. 10. 26), so when the Redeemed of the Lord “arise” and steadily forward march, not a particle of one of the Redeemed will be left to the Devil and his angels.
“And the dead in Christ shall rise first.” Sweet thought! Sympathetic Lord! That sweet babe, sorrowfully laid to rest, will be resurrected before one living soul is touched. Before ever He takes in hand the loving son, that loved mother lying cold in yonder tomb will be raised. The dead, the great masses of the dead, whom we have loved and lost and laid to rest, will receive first attention, “will rise first.”
“Then we which are alive and remain.” Not “them,” but always “we,” implying that the living state is the hope to be in when He comes. Look at a map of the world, see the many countries therein, think of the saints in all these lands, some in stately castles, many in lowly cots, all amongst those who remain. A mighty remnant indeed. What a host on earth, with even a mightier host in Heaven!
“Shall be caught up together with them.” Two sweet words “caught up” and “together.” “CAUGHT UP!” “Down” long enough on earth, “up” to the realms of light and glory. Artists picture Elijah the prophet seated in a chariot of fire in stately magnificence drawn by fiery horses, riding triumphantly to Heaven. But Elijah did not go to Heaven in a chariot of fire, he went the way that I and all the living hope to go “in a whirlwind”— one puff here, the next there (2 Kings 2. 1). Like Elijah, one moment traversing the dusty lanes of earth, the next moment impelled by Heavenly power greater than any power of earth, they shall begin to ascend, “and in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Cor. 15. 52) they shall be at Home for ever. “TOGETHER.” The dead shall not get to Heaven first, as they might boast of having died; the living will not be the first, or they might boast of a double triumph—never dying and in Heaven first. All emulation will be gone, for together saved dead and saved living will go triumphantly forward at His Return. How gracious of our Lord even to the last moment.
“In the clouds.” Some read this as “in clouds” or massive companies of saints. Such may be, but, I think, it simply indicates the free cloudy Heavens as the assembling place of those masses as they rise “to meet the Lord in the air.”
“To meet the Lord in the air.” The best to the last. Not to meet with archangels or angels, not to meet with patriarchs and prophets, not to meet with apostles and elders, nor with Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, or even, in one sense, with loved ones gone before, but “with the Lord,” actually to see Him face to face, to be like Him. to be “with Him,” and that for ever. Oh, consummation of bliss ! and that may take place to-day. Well may this marvellous moment be called “that Blessed Hope” and the “Glorious Appearing” of the Great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ, and well may we each be exhorted to be “looking for” that event.
“And so shall we ever be with the Lord.” “EVER BE,” not for a day, not for a year, not for a holiday, nor for a while, but “for ever.” All works of time are past. We reckon now, “Yet a little while” (Heb. 10. 37). Such is unknown then. Peter speaks of “after that you have suffered a while” (1 Peter 5. 10), but then neither suffering nor a while. Paul speaks of the “time of my departure” (2 Tim. 4. 6), but that time is past. Now we sing:
- “Here we suffer grief and pain,
- Here we meet to part again”
- “No partings shall ever be known,
- On that happy, that Heavenly shore.”
The promise is “ever be—ever be.” Oh, blessed Eternal State, and it is to be with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to be with Paul and Peter and John, to be with “loved ones gone before,” and even better than all these, “with THE LORD.”
Well does the Divine author add :
“Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” Not frighten one another, not ever threatening the Judgment Seat, but “comfort” one another. Say: “The way may be rough, but it cannot be long ; the trials may be great, but they will soon be past—the Morning cometh,” and encourage to sing :
- “Oh, blessed Hope, with this elate,
- Let not one heart be desolate,
- But strong in faith, in patience wait,
- Until He Come.”
On reading or meditating on this Blessed Hope, so graphically here foretold, only one cry comes from our hearts, the last words of the Blessed Book—“Even so, COME, LORD JESUS, AMEN.”
Extract from ‘The Witness,’ May, 1935
- Psalm 77
- Thy Way is in the Sanctuary ; Oh God !
- Inscrutable, mysterious, unknown.
- That court, where priestly feet alone have trod,
- To prying, vulgar curious eyes unshown.
- Wherein Shekinah glories radiate :
- Ineffable illuminant whose rays
- Reveal the Golden Vessels, choice, ornate.
- ’Tis here our God His Majesty displays !
- Here God the guilty sinner justifies ;
- Emancipates him from the power of sin.
- Shed blood : the outraged Godhead satisfies,
- Thus peace benign is resident within.
- A Holy Priest, I serve within that court,
- Where Light effulgent shines with brightest rays
- Whose scintillescent beams my thoughts transport
- ’Tis here our God His boundless grace portrays.
- His Way is in the Sanctuary ; the Sea,
- And here I rest: ’tis good enough for me !
- J. Campbell.