EDITOR’S REVIEW OF THE
Swanwick Conference of Brethren
PASTOR, MINISTER OR BISHOP?
by A. J. Last
EPISTLE TO THE COLOSSIANS
by Dr. J. Boyd
FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS—THE HOLY TRINITY
by J. B. Hewitt
by A. M. S. Gooding
REVIEW OF SWANWICK CONFERENCE OF BRETHREN
CONFERENCE SUBJECT “WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?”
“This conference of Brethren has no official standing, has been arranged annually by a group of conveners (none of whom has any representative capacity).” These words find themselves in the first page of the Introduction to the Report entitled “Where do we go from here.” We are told also that this theme meant “the future of the Brethren.” Again we are informed that “the Report in no way attempts to provide a formulation of policy … the speakers were free to interpret their topics as they wished and no papers were vetted or compared with each other beforehand … The Conveners, therefore, accept no responsibility for the opinions so freely expressed . . .”
I trust that everyone both within the assemblies and outside (including the editor of ‘Evangelism Today’) will carefully note these statements “NO official standing” — “arranged by conveners in NO representative capacity.” In other words the conveners (though men with a care for the Lord’s people) have no authority! The Speakers are chosen by them and have no authority. The men who were present were there as individuals only—not as representatives, and the things said and the report now printed is in no way an expression of current thought in the assemblies —it has no authority!
It is a pity then that the conference took a subject which appeared to be authoritative, and that the impression was created that those present were delegates. Surely this is why so many denominational magazines were pleased to give space to the article “Brethren Facing a Crisis.” If the conference had no official standing how could the speakers speak on behalf of WE (the Brethren) and say where they are wanting us to go from here?
Why did the conveners see it necessary to publish a paperback volume like this report? (It would hardly be an economical proposition to produce under 3000 copies and would cost a lot of money) Are they not continuing the impression that this conference was of unusual importance, that the utterances of the speakers, and the contributions of the brethren present, should be printed in a volume for future reference and guidance? Is it not really trying to tell the ‘Brethren’ where they should go from here? You may be sure that the way marked out is the way we shall NOT go.
I note too that “the conveners accept no responsibility for the opinions so freely expressed.” I accept that completely, but would point out that in choosing the speakers, the conveners chose the mold and knew what line the speakers would take. One could name 50 other teachers of God’s word who if they had been asked to deal with these subjects would have answered in an entirely different way, and consequently the questions and comments would have been entirely different. Did the conveners not know the views of these brethren on “inter-denominational activities,” “women’s ministry,” “salaried ministry,” etc. You would not have far to travel in English assemblies to find good men completely opposed to the views held by these men. Did you not want them to say these things?
Is not this a further attempt to bring in the principles that were suggested at the “High Leigh Conference” entitled “A New Testament Church in—” some years ago?
Do not the conveners realise that while they may have 270 and more men present at Swanwick (and others who wanted to come and were disappointed) who believe the things taught (for there do not seem to be any strong objections in the Questions and Comments Section) the vast majority of those in assembly fellowship do not want and will not have this “New Brethrenism.”
Certainly the “Brethren are Facing a Crisis”—it is the one caused by the Swanwick conference. We do not shut our eyes to the weakness of assembly testimony, to the lack of growth, to the lack of interest in God’s word by many young folk, we are also aware that some of those who claim to be leaders are trying to lead the saints to disobey God’s word. The need of the hour is not to depart from God’s ways to become more like the denominations around us, but in humility and confession to abandon our worldliness, our selfishness, our carnality, our disobedience and get back to God and His word.
- “Let the wicked forsake his way; and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.’’—Isaiah 55.7.
My dear, dear brethren, may the Lord give us grace to return.
by A. M. S. GOODING
I have examined the addresses given at Swanwick by the four speakers who were F. ROY COAD (Editor of “The Harvester,” prime mover in launching the “Christian Brethren [Research Fellowship”).
- Dr. MICHAEL GRIFFITHS (General Director of the Overseas Missionary Fellowship).
- VICTOR JACK (Counties Evangelist).
- G. JOHN POLKINGHORNE (Editor of “The Witness”) and from these I have tried to build up a picture from the kind of assembly procedure suggested of what meetings would be like if these ideas were implemented.
(1) BREAKING OF BREAD.
Communion Service (page 50) in Evening (page 37) Service must not be mournful because at the moment it is —
- “most mournful service ever attended”
- “attending a memorial service”
- “too melancholic, we sit in deathly silence”
- “singing slow and ponderous—no music”
- “over concentration on the physical sufferings of Jesus” “somewhat sombre and sad tone of the service”
- “the worshippers are often inhibited and somewhat dull and uninspiring.” (pages 33 and 34).
The new suggestions are
- “We should remember we are celebrating a victory, the greatest triumph of all time”
- “We need to be involved in joyful praise”
- “The congregation should be involved in worship, vocally, musically and bodily”
- “The Psalms have 15 different instruments used in praising God (including loud clashing cymbals)”
- “We ought not to restrain those who wish to worship lifting up there hands to God” (page 34)
and of course, don’t forget
- “No over emphasis on the Physical Sufferings of Jesus” —that’s mournful, sombre, sad! (and yet ‘We show the Lord’s death’—so says the Word of God—Ed.)
- We need to crowd out the cocoons of tradition and formality and let the Spirit of God set us free to praise God with infectious joy and grateful worship.
- No prayers steeped in the Levitical Offerings, or intricate typology or profound expositions of Scripture (page 34)
- No leading theme suggested by an opening hymn (page 35)
- Begin with an exposition of Scripture which exalts Christ and glorifies God (3 Lord’s Days out of 4 ministry by the same man* (pastor chosen by the overseers and paid) the other Lord’s Day in the month some one chosen by the pastor. Different portion to be expounded each time — the worship would follow from that by either brethren or sisters, and therefore long silences and lengthy prayers would give place to helpful ministry and meaningful worship, (pages 35 and 55)
- The leading of the Spirit does not seem to be of major importance, (page 54).
- * I suspect this could be a woman for the conference was informed that 1Corinthians 14 and 1Timothy 2 were not applicable to us today! — Ed.
(2) THE MINISTRY MEETING
- A full-time Pastor and part-time associates to be formally publicly installed, (page 55)
- A local man could be selected or a man from elsewhere, no trial sermons (no preaching match) or maybe there is a suitable man and we could have him trained. (London Bible College, etc.)
- He would perform 75% of the ministry, other brethren could perform at the Lord’s Supper and the prayer meeting.
- The pastor should look out for suitable talent and encourage it
- While the teaching body (pastor and associates) should meet for prayer and consideration of their ministry, they should be subject to the guidance and control of the local overseers. (What about the guidance of the Spirit of God and the Lordship of Christ?).
Adequate Salaries. Both the full time pastor and his part-time assistants have to be paid, (paid well—for you only get what you pay for) Big Churches could provide help for smaller ones or the small churches could share a pastor.
Training—more than academic education or Bible college is needed (though this is essential!) but also an apprenticeship system. Besides initial training the Pastor should have refresher courses to up-date him. And on top of that all his expenses should be paid while training and he should be allowed ‘Sabbatical Years’ (It sounds to me like an excellent profession! — The difficulty is that you can’t find a single hint of anything like it in the Word of God. It says “Not for filthy lucre”—Ed.) (page 56 and 57)
Visiting Ministry not to be totally despised, but their visits are to be the exception rather than the rule. They are at present employed (I like that, they don’t ‘perform’ like the new pastors do! — Ed.) on a ‘wandering minstrel’ basis —too many are virtually self appointed, untrained and out-of touch with current realities (Some of course are excellent) We grossly under-employ them (Whose fault is that, Sir? —Ed.).
But I will not weary you any more this month. I shall in following months examine the suggestions made by the speakers in the light of the word of God—I shall value the prayers of all who love the right ways of the Lord.
I would suggest that elder brethren purchase the Report, so that you are aware of the dangers that have arisen and also that you might be able to check for yourselves whether what I report is true. You can obtain the Report entitled “Where do we go from here?” from H. E. Walter, Ltd., 26 Grafton Road, Worthing, West Sussex, BN11 1QU. England, at £2.95p. (post paid).
“What I want to say…..
Firstly, about the question of teaching and training. There is a proposal for holding short-term Bible-schools on a regional basis. It is envisaged that these Bible-schoois could last from one to six weeks with gifted teachers and lecturers in certain specified areas. It is presently under discussion. Secondly, in terms of full-time workers. A list has been compiled of assemblies needing full-time men and of men who are wanting to engage in a full-time ministry and looking for an assembly. So, if anyone wants to engage a full-time man, it might be possible to do so, because there is a list in existence. Thirdly, on the aspect of training. The Christian Brethren Research Fellowship at their next annual meeting will be concentrating on the whole theme of leadership, including the roles and types of leadership and what is involved in leadership within the assemblies.” (page 116/117).
The report does not say who was the author of this statement. Is it a statement on behalf of the conveners of the conference? Or was it made on behalf of the speakers? Was it an official leak from either of the editors as to the activities of their respective magazines and publishers? Or is it C.B.R.F.? It sounds as though its authoritative. Who are the people who have taken upon themselves such a task? Who actually made this statement? Would it be possible to have a copy of the list please?
Is the Scriptural Assembly Possible Today?
There was in the early part of the last century a wide spread movement by which large numbers of God’s people were able to free themselves from the shackles of human tradition and to meet together in conformity to those principles which the Scriptures set forth. That movement arose, not in one locality, nor from a single centre from which it spread. On the contrary, in various places Christians met together under the guidance of the Word of God, independently of any knowledge of what was simultaneously going on in other places, itself an evidence of the work of the Spirit of God, and of the absence of human propaganda and organization.
It is always possible for people to conform to the truth; and a deep significance lies in the fact that owing to the world-wide circulation of the Bible, companies of believers in different lands have been led by the Scriptures to return to apostolic teaching apart from human agency and instruction.
WHAT THE NEW TESTAMENT SETS FORTH. The New Testament makes clear that under apostolic teaching no single minister was appointed to conduct the worship of God’s people, or to administer the sacraments. Such things are conspicuous by their absence. According to 1Corinthians 10:16 it is “the bread which we break … the cup of blessing which we bless.” There is no such paradoxical arrangement as the communion rail, no such ritual as the reception of the elements from a minister or priest. The Spirit of God acted in the churches to provide spiritual gifts of elders or overseers in a single gathering, to take oversight, Acts 20:17,28, and other spiritual gifts. The work of the Holy Spirit in this respect is clearly set forth 1Corinthians 12:4-11. He divides “to each one severally even as He will.”
The teaching of 1Corinthians 14, 26-33, shows how a gathering should be open for one and another to lead in praise or to edify the company under the direction of the Spirit of God. To this the ministerial system is definitely opposed and constitutes a quenching of the Spirit. Many gifts which might edify the Church are rendered inactive. Numbers of believers are shut up in their pews week by week listening to sermons, and are like paralysed members of a body. A veritable return to obedience to the revealed will of God would constitute a reformation that would revolutionize the denominations of Christendom.
The Question Answered—That there are failures, imperfections, and delinquencies among those who are seeking to follow the Word of God affords no grounds for the supposition that it is impossible to get back to its teaching. The existence of evil affords a ground for humiliation before God, and for a rectification according to the revealed mind of the Lord.
To endeavour to counteract failure by following the tradition of men is only to turn from one evil to another. Two blacks do not make a white. One error cannot be corrected by the pursuit of another.
W. E. Vine, M.A., taken from Church Doctrine and Practice (p. 46) published by “Precious Seed.”
Read also the twin volume by the same publishers “Treasury of Bible Doctrine.”
by A. J. LAST
WHAT SAITH THE SCRIPTURES?
It has often been emphasized that the Tabernacle was built “according to pattern.” Instructions given to Moses, recorded in Exodus chs. 25, 26, 27, were carried out accurately in chs. 36, 37 and 38. In ch 39, the phrase “As the Lord commanded Moses” occurs ten times.
Similarly, the plans for the Temple were given to David, and passed on to Solomon to implement. “And the pattern of all that he had by the Spirit.” 1Chron. 28:12, and verse 19 says “All this, said David, the Lord made me understand in writing by His hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern.”
But where is the Tabernacle today? Where is the Temple? There is no trace of the Tabernacle, and the ruins of Herod’s temple are seen on the top of mount Moriah. These buildings, the Tabernacle, and the Temple, are no longer in existence, and yet their plans were given by God, and obedience was demanded in every detail of their building. Today, each believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is a member of that company which He calls “My church” of which He says “And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matt. 16:18.
And has not the Lord given written patterns for the establishment and maintenance of such a spiritual building? If such instructions were given relating to buildings which were to pass away, and from which His Glory would depart, surely He has given plain and unambiguous instructions for that which shall never pass away.
A favourite phrase of the Apostle Paul in his church letters is “To put you in remembrance” and without doubt, a constant ministry of the principles of gathering is most necessary today. Not only the principles of the Book, their scriptural foundation, but also the terms used in scripture, which so often have become tainted with their use in Christendom.
One of the spheres where this is most apparent is the use of Biblical terms as (1). “Apostles and Prophets.” (2) Bishops, elders, overseers, deacons, ministers, servants.” and (3) Evangelists, pastors and teachers. A constant statement of the scriptural import of these terms, divorced from the normal popular conception of their meaning would save assemblies from further departure from the “pattern” and halt the growing clamour for a “full time Pastor” Israel passed that way, and insisted on a king, to be like the nations, but in so doing they rejected God. 1Sam. 8:1-9. Alas, we have already organised out the activity of the Holy Spirit, are we now going to reject Him altogether?
The terms used in the scriptures to describe those who seek to “feed the flock of God” 1Peter 5:2 can be classified into three groups.
- Apostles and Prophets. Eph. 4:11. These no longer exist, since the scriptures are completed, and no further revelation from God as inerrant as the Bible will be given.
- Elders, overseers, bishops, deacons, servants, ministers. These are those whose responsibilities and activities are solely local in the assembly in which they are in fellowship.
- Evangelists, pastors and teachers. Those who are gifted by the Lord, which gift is exercised both in local assembly and in wider areas as the Lord may lead.
1. Apostles and Prophets. Eph. 4:11.
Such are not operative today, in the sense of being used by the Holy Spirit to convey His truth, which truth has become part of our New Testament. According to 1Cor. 2:13, not only were the truths inspired, but the very words with which they conveyed the truth. No one can claim that ability today. In Heb. ch. 2:3. we read of the “great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him.” That is, those who heard the Lord Imparted what they heard to those who had never actually heard Him. Similarly in 2 Tim. 2:1 and 2. “Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”
2. Elders, overseers, Bishops, deacons.
The original word for overseer and bishop is the same, meaning to oversee or to watch over. The word elder means an older person, one who is mature, not so much relating to age, but rather the opposite to “a novice” 1Tim. 3:6. With these meanings of the terms it is readily understood from Acts 20, that they refer to the same persons. In v. 17 of that chapter the apostle calls together the elders at Ephesus, and in v. 28 says, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves and to all the flock over which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God which He hath purchased with His own blood.”
The character and qualifications of bishops are listed in 1Tim. 3:1-7. It will be noted that scripture nowhere elevates these brethren to a hierarchy, which would divide the flock into bishops and laity, but they are among the flock. Peter says (ch. 5:1 and 2) “The elders which are among you,” and “Feed the flock of God which is among you.” What harmony exists in such a company. The elders are among the flock, and the flock is among the elders. In no way can these names suggest an elevated position, distinctive dress or an elite class. When the apostle writes to the assembly at Philippi, he addresses the letter to “all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi with the bishops and deacons.” Notice the order, saints, bishops, deacons.
That quotation has brought in one more term under this second heading—deacons. In the New Testament, that word is translated deacons three times, servant seven times, and minister eighteen times.
It has often been taught that Acts ch. 6 gives us authority to appoint deacons. But does it? The word deacon does not occur in Acts 6.
Surely what the apostles are doing here is not appointing an office but a task. These seven men were already servants/ deacons/ministers, and as such the apostle asked them to see after the widows, while they themselves continued in the preaching of the Word of God. Certainly they did not appoint servants of the Lord, they were already that, and later in the Acts it is seen that two of them, Stephen and Philip were evangelists also.
Human qualification or secular calling does not qualify a brother to be a bishop, overseer, or elder, for the Holy Spirit makes such. Acts 20:28. Neither are deacons appointed, but are men “full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom” with the qualifications of 1Tim. 3:8-10, who may be entrusted with a specific responsibility in the care of an assembly.
Such men as are described by these four terms are local in their work for the Lord.
3. Evangelists, Pastors, Teachers.
These terms appear in Eph. 4:11, which are gifts which the ascended Lord has given unto men. Men thus gifted by the Lord (v. 8) are themselves gifts to His body (v. 11:12) for the express purpose of “Perfecting the saints, the work of the ministry and the edifying of the body of Christ.” The “some” of v. 11 is for the benefit of the “all” in v. 13. “Till we all come to the unity of the faith.”
An evangelist is one whom the Lord has gifted to evangelise; to spread the news of the Gospel. That gift may be used in the district of the local assembly or in a wider sphere. In the village, town or city, where ever and when ever the Lord leads. It may be that a person seeks to evangelise “full time” and therefore seeks commendation from the local assembly. Such commendation, however does not constitute that person an evangelist, he is that before commendation. The commending of Paul and Barnabas from Antioch (Acts 13:1 and 2) did not promote them to teachers and preachers, for that they already were, but they were released from the local company to engage in wider fields of service.
Pastors and teachers (Eph. 4:11) suggest that these gifts were resident in the one person. The word pastor is translated thus only once in the New Testament but seventeen times as shepherd. That is the obvious meaning. Again, as with evangelists, this gift is used in local assembly responsibility and in wider spheres. An evangelist, shepherd, teacher is not confined to the local assembly in the exercise of the gift from the Risen Lord, but the overseer, bishop, elder and deacon (servant, minister) can only act in such capacity in the meeting in which he is in fellowship.
Scripture teaches clearly that there are shepherds (pastors) in a church, but not pastors of a church.
Equally clearly does scripture teach each assembly is answerable to the Lord for all of its activities, and never to a central oversight.
To form elders into a central oversight, thereby extending their sphere of overseeing, beyond that of the local assembly, or to install a resident pastor over a company of believers, thereby restricting the gift of shepherding to a pastor, and stifling the exercise of the rest of the local brethren, are actions which deviate from the pattern set out in the New Testament, especially the Acts, Corinthians and Ephesians from which we have quoted.
The scripture in 1Tim 5:17,18 “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour” has been used sometimes as a basis for payment to elders, which of course is the first step to a paid pastor. Should an elder use time in the care of the assembly which causes his business or work to suffer, then he should be reimbursed by receiving perhaps an honorarium. That is to assume that the meaning of “Honour” means financial aid. If that is so, then double honour must mean double remuneration.
Even if such interpretation is allowed, it is not scriptural permission for a paid pastor, because the elder as we have seen, is local in administration, whereas a pastor is such all the time and in all places. It is not what he does, but what he is.
If an elder is to be rewarded for his teaching, who decides which elder qualifies for such reimbursement? Who makes the distinction between those who rule well, and those who do not? Which character of work in an elder’s responsibility is under scrutiny? Who decides the standard of living to which an elder is entitled? These, and many other questions spring to mind, as well as the obvious problem of elders disbursing assembly funds to elders.
Is not this interpretation dividing the elders into parties? Those who rule well and those who do not. Those who have employment from which they can get “time off” for assembly matters and those who cannot. Or possibly between elders who are employees and elders who are employers, in which case secular position intrudes into the spiritual care of the flock.
Is not the interpretation of this scripture simply, that no elder, nor indeed any member of a local assembly is left uncared for, certainly not to starve, hence the ox that does the work receives food, and the labourer is worthy of his reward (Luke 10:7) or as the related passage in Matthew 10:10 says “The labourer is worthy of his meat,” and that is in the context of making no provision for material things.
In the U.K. conditions it is doubtful if any elder suffers material loss through assembly work. Assuming an average ratio of one elder to every ten believers in local fellowship, with at least some of the elders retired from secular employment can we really say that it is impossible for the flock to be tended, watched and spiritually fed and visited. In these days of a forty hour week, ease in travelling and all the other amenities, our pastoral care should be infinitely better than that of say 80 years ago, and yet that was when the assemblies flourished.
How thankful we should be for the scores of elders in various assemblies, especially in the smaller ones, who faithfully continue week after week, and year after year in dedicated service to the local company, in both spiritual and practical work for the comfort of the Lord’s people. Let us honour those who “have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints.” 1Cor. 16:15.
by Dr J. BOYD
CHAP. 4:15-18 PAUL’S PERSONAL SALUTATIONS
v. 15 Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, Paul now sends personal greetings, and messages to various individuals. He salutes, first, the brethren that formed the church at Laodicea, a town in the Lycus valley, near to Colosse. Paul had not apparently visited it (2:1).
and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house. It is difficult, from the varying manuscripts, to decide if Nymphas was the name of a man or a woman. Some refer to the church in ‘his’ house, inferring that Nymphas was a masculine name; others give the adjective as ‘her’ house, as though Nymphas was the name of a woman. But the older manuscripts give the adjective as ‘their/ suggesting that Nymphas was a man’s name, the head of the house in which the brethren in Laodicea met.
v. 16 And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; Paul gave instructions that, after the letter to the Colossians had been read by them, it should be sent to, and read by the Laodicean church. Because of the proximity of one church to the other, both were exposed to the same false teaching; both needed the same admonitions.
and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea. There was no epistle directly addressed to the Laodiceans in the New Testament canon. The letter to which Paul now refers was possibly a circular letter sent to all the churches in the Lycus valley, going to other churches first, then to Laodicea, and finally to Colosse. Note that Paul calls this other letter, the letter ‘from’ Laodicea—the preptosition describing the route the letter would take before reaching Colosse.
The epistle Paul possibly had in mind was the so-called Epistle to the Ephesians. This would be a circular letter. The words in Eph. 1:1, ‘at Ephesus,’ are not found in the older manuscripts. This circular letter, which contains very similar teaching to that in the Epistle to the Colossians, may have been intended for all the churches in the Lycus valley. All would be afflicted with the same trouble. All needed similar instruction, that is, the admonitions of the ‘Ephesian’ letter. It was brought to them also by Tychicus, at the same time as the Colossian Epistle (Eph. 6:21).
The circular letter would naturally be delivered first to Ephesus, as being the main city in the valley, and possibly the largest church of the seven. This would explain why someone added the words, ‘at Ephesus’ in Eph. 1:1. It was also the nearest city to Rome, whence the latter had come. As Colosse was at the other end of the valley, the latter might have failed to reach the church there, so Paul was particular about it being read by the Colossians, to complete the circuit.
v. 17 And say to Archippus, Paul had a special message for Archippus, possibly the son of Philemon, who lived at Colosse, and whom Paul had led to Christ (Philemon 2, 19). The apostle calls Archippus a fellowsoldier, most likely a young man, energetic, but slightly unreliable. Paul writes, “Say to Archippus,” speak definitely to him this message in unmistakable language.
Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, Paul wants Archippus to pay attention to the work which the Lord had given him to do. He must needs attend to spiritual things, not to the passing pleasures of the world. ‘The ministry was the particular gift he had received from Christ (Eph. 4:7). Most believers know what this gift is, but we need to stir it up (2Tim. 1:6), because the Lord has called us to it. It is a sacred trust, a solemn obligation; with it we serve, not men, but Christ; to Him we must give answer.
that thou fulfil it. This ministry Archippus must reeds fulfil; he must complete it, see it through to the end. Thus he needed perseverance.
This is a message so much needed by young believers to-day. How many at the start run well, but later grow indolent, through engaging in other, worldly pursuits. We are not told what was this ministry given to Archippus. Scripture is silent, in order that we all might take the exhortation to ourselves, and each fulfil to the utmost the task the Lord has allotted to us.
v. 18 The salutation by the hand of me Paul. This is Paul’s final, personal salutation to the church at Colosse. Thus he usually finished his epistles, of which the main part had been written by an amanuensis.
Remember my bonds. Paul reminds the Colossians of his bonds, not to evoke their sympathy, but to remind them of the seriousness of the appeal. Even in his bondage he felt he must needs write this epistle to them.
Grace be with you. Amen. This is Paul’s own signature. The shortened salutation, commending his readers to the grace of God, and written by Paul’s own hand, was a token of the genuineness of the letter (2Thess. 3:17-18).
by J. B. HEWITT, Chesterfield
(2) THE HOLY TRINITY
We must approach all these subjects with reverential awe, and in utter dependence upon the Spirit of God, to reveal to us the mind of God on these matters. The Holy Scriptures are our only source of information, so ponder over all passages referred to in these studies.
The word “TRINITY” is not a Bible Term but it is Bible Truth and the interpretation of Bible Teaching. “It is derived from the Latin word “TRINITAS” which is derived from the adjective “TRINUS” meaning “THREEFOLD” or “THREE IN ONE” or the One which is three, and the three which are One.”—A. A. Hodge.
“ARIANISM” which contends that the Godhead consists of One Eternal Being, Who in the beginning created in His own image a super-angelic being, His only begotten Son, who thus became a kind of secondary God with the power to create. He was the beginning of the creation of God. The first and greatest creature created through the created Son was the Holy Ghost. This attack on the Deity of Christ is answered in John 1:1-4; Col. 1:15-17.
CHRISTADELPHIANISM says that God is One Power, the incarnate Father by whom all things have been created. Jesus Christ born of the Virgin Mary through the begettal of the Holy Spirit, by whom He became Son of God. This system makes Christ a created being, and denies the personality of the Holy Spirit. See Prov. 8:22-31; John 1:18; 14:16-17.
MILLENNIAL DAWNISM makes Christ before His earth life a created and superior Angelic being, during His earth life a mere man, and after his earth life, God. See John 1:2; 8:28; 17:5; Rev. 1:8, 17, 18, for the eternal Being of the Son.
The Trinity expresses the Divine Mystery of three Persons in the unity of One Godhead. It can be expressed as One God without division in a Trinity of Persons, and Three Persons without confusion in a unity of essence. “His Eternal Power and Godhead” (Rom. 1:20). Dr. Handley Moule writes, “The One God stands in Scripture really and absolutely alone as the free personal cause, the Creator, of all material and spiritual existence; as its true reason, not only of origin but of continuance in being; as its supreme and entirely Just Lord, Lawgiver and Judge.”
The Deity of Scripture is One Being—the One sovereign, eternal, almighty; the Creator and Sustainer of the whole universe. Gen. 1:1; Read Deut. 4:35, 39 with Rom. 1:20; Exod. 15:11; Deut. 6:4; 1Kings 8:60; Psa. 47:7; Isa. 40:12, 13, 18, 28; 44:6; 45:22; Rom. 11:33-36; 16:26-27.
God alone exists in the form of God and this unity is insisted upon in Old and New Testaments, Deut. 32:39; 2Kings 19:15; John 17:3; 1Cor. 8:4; Gal. 3:20; 1Tim. 2:5; 6:15-16.
The Oneness of the Godhead is altogether unique, and implies a unity of the eternal Content ineffable, absolute, God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity. Neither confounding the Persons nor separating the substance. While God is One, it is in another respect Three; three eternally harmonious Wills, Agents, Persons. Each has as His nature the entire Divine nature; each is truly God.
It has been set forth thus—“One God without division in a Trinity of Persons and Three Persons without confusion in a unity of essence.” Author Unknown.
There is One God the Father, one Lord Jesus Christ, and one Holy Ghost, 1Cor. 8:6; Eph. 4:3-6. Names of God prove plurality of persons, ELOHIM is a plural noun accompanied by a singular verb. e.g. “God is good.” Sometimes it is the plural of majesty or to indicate that the living God comprises the totality of powers within Himself. Plural pronouns are used of God, proving plurality of Persons, Gen. 1:26; 3:22; 11:7; Isa. 6:8; Dan. 2:11; 4:8; 5:11; John 14:23; 17:11. Three self-acting persons—The Lord God, the Messiah and the Holy Spirit are referred to as anointing, blessing, sending and doing things for one another Isa. 11:2; 42:1-7; 48:16, 17; 59:21; 61:1, 2; 63:1-14; Zech. 12:10.
The Theophanies of the O.T. in which are emphasised a distinction of persons in the Godhead, though the persons revealed is the Second person of the Godhead—the Eternal Son, John 1:18. e.g. Hagar in Gen. 16:7-10, 13; here the Angel of the Lord is clearly identified with the Lord (Jehovah) in v. 13. In Gen. 18:1, 2, 9, 10, 13, 14, 16, one of the three men clearly identifies himself with Jehovah. In 19:1 only two come to Sodom, One has remained behind v. 27 with 18:22, 33.
In Judg. 2:1-2 R.V. the “Angel of the Lord” distinctly says “I” did what Jehovah did. See also Judg. 6:11-14; 19-24 R.V. Consider other passages—Josh. 5:15; 2Sam. 7:14; Psa. 2:7; Isa. 48:16; Micah 5:2; Hag. 2:4-7. All these passages indicate a plurality in the unity of the Godhead; the unity of the infinite God in Trinity.
The whole of the Divine nature is in each Divine Person simultaneously and eternally. Think of the plural benediction Num. 6:24-26, and the threefold ascription of praise, Isa. 6:3.
The co-ordination of the Trinity in the scheme of redemption as well as in creation is a fruitful study.
- The Form of God’s blessing is threefold, Num. 6:24-26.
- Intimation of the Lord’s anointing as Man for service in Isaiah. The voice of the Spirit 11:1-9; the voice of God in 42:1-4 and the voice of the Son in 61:1-3; find an answer in Matthew, Mark and Luke’s Gospel. See the Servant songs for similar teaching. The Lord’s character in ch. 42 with Mark; His calling in ch. 49 with Luke; His consistency in ch. 50 with John; His credentials in ch. 52 with Matthew.
- Identification of the Son of God to John the Baptist. John 1:32-34 at the Lord’s Baptism, Matt. 3:16, 17.
- Redemption’s Plan. The Father elects and calls, the Son redeems by His Blood, and the Spirit sanctifies, 1 Pet. 1:2; Eph. 1:3,4,7,13,14.
- Redemption Accomplished. God judges sin in the Saviour, Matt. 27:46. The Son of God gave Himself, Gal. 2:20 through the Eternal Spirit, Heb. 9:14; and acceptable to God, Eph. 5:2.
- Resurrection of Christ. 1 Cor. 6:14; John 2:19; with 1 Pet. 3:18.
- Commission of the disciples in Matt. 28:19-20. All believers were to be baptized in the Triune name (singular) and to observe the commands of the Lord.
- The Salvation of God is a threefold work, 2Thess. 2:13; Tit. 3:4-6; Eph. 1:13.
- The Coming of the Spirit. The Father sends the Holy Spirit, John 14:16, 17, 26; in answer to the request of the Son. The Spirit is also sent by the Son, 15:26 with 20:22; Luke 24:49; Acts 2:33.
- The Sanctification of believers by God, Jude 1; by the Lord Jesus, Heb. 2:11, and by the Spirit, 1Pet. 1:2.
- Source of Eternal Life; from God, John 17:2; the gift of the Son, John 17:2; 10:28; Rom. 6:23 and from the Spirit, Gal. 6:8.
- Supplying Gifts to the Church, from God, Rom. 12:3; the gift of Christ, Eph. 4:7; shared out by the Spirit, 1Cor. 12:11. They function in the Church under the three Persons of the Godhead, 1Cor. 12:4-6.
- Spiritual Worship, John 4:23, 24; Phil. 3:3; 1Pet. 2:5; Gal. 4:6.
- Benediction given in the name of the Trinity, 2Cor. 13:14. There are other portions suggesting spiritual truth, 1Cor. 6:19; Eph. 2:22; 3:17; 1John 2:27.
- In the “O.T.” we have the revelation of God, the Father —this takes away our infidelity.
- In the “Gospels” we have the revelation of God, the Son —this takes away our sin.
- In the “Acts” we have the revelation of God, the Spirit —this takes away our hardness of heart.
Man himself is a trinity—body, soul and spirit. Assailed by a trinity of evil, the world, the flesh and the Devil.
The Three Principal Jewish Feasts. The Feast of Tabernacles Lev. 23:34 is associated with God the Father, Rev. 21:3. The Feast of Passover Ex. 12:17, redemption by Blood—the Son, 1Cor. 5:7; 1Pet. 7:19. The Feast of Pentecost Ex. 34:22, Lev. 23:34, reminding us of the Spirit, Acts 2:1-4.
May the boards of the Tabernacle help us to see the grace of the Lord Jesus—the silver sockets, the bars to the unifying Spirit, overlaid with gold—to the love of God, Exod. 26:15-29.
v. 10. “But these (the certain men of v. 4 and the dreamers of v. 8—being one and the same) scoff (or sneer) at the things they do not understand; but what they do understand naturally, as the irrational animals (brute beasts), in those things they corrupt themselves.”
- Cf. v. 8. “scoff at glories.”
- “They do not understand”—No effort to understand; no intuition.
- “They do understand”—By attention to, or by instinct.
- What they see, they understand; what they do not see, they do not understand, and even what is understood is abased—to their own ruin.
v. 11. “Woe unto them! for they went in the way of Cain, rushed (poured out in streams) after the error of Balaam for reward (or hire) (Numbers 22:7; Deut. 23:4), and perished in the rebellion of Korah!”
- Triplet No. 7. The way of Cain; the error Balaam; the gainsaying of Korah.
- What is the way of CAIN? In Hebrews 11:4-6 it is lack of faith. In 1John 3:11-12 it is lack of love coupled with evil works. In Genesis 4 it is “and Cain went out from the presence of the Lord.” No hope? Notice Cain’s first recorded word was, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” A lesson to be learned here.
- BALAAM? Here we have his error; 2Peter 2:12-16 his way; Revelation 2:14 his doctrine.
- His error? Knowing the mind of God for blessing, he sought to curse and in doing so forgot the love of God for His people. Cf. Numbers 22:34; Deut. 23:4, 5; Nehemiah 13:1-2.
- His way? Knowing the mind of God, he went his own way (Numbers 22:32).
- His doctrine? Knowing the mind of God, he placed stumbling blocks in the way.
- And KORAH? Open rebellion against those who had the rule over them (Numbers 16). Envy of Moses and of Aaron the saints of the Lord (Psa. 106:16). Levelling against Moses the same accusation as had been levelled against him in Egypt (v. 13). But it was not so much against Moses and Aaron that they murmured, but against the Lord (v. 11). Each, an example; each a tragedy. Cain, an ignored sin offering; Balaam, ignored warnings; Korah, an ignored leader and high priest.
v. 12. “These (again the same people) are hidden rocks in your love feasts, feasting with you without fear, posturing themselves, clouds without water, (rainless clouds), carried about by winds; autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots.”
- Jude pours out his invective against “these”—sunken rocks, rainless clouds, fruitless trees; sea, sky and earth; men full of danger, holding no promise, and fruitless in themselves. We remind ourselves that these men are ungodly men who turn “Christian liberty into licence;” who deny the Master and Lord Jesus Christ. With a commentator we note 1John 2:22, “He is antichrist that denieth the Father and the Son.”
v. 13. “wild waves of the sea; foaming out their own shame; wandering stars (planets) for whom has been kept the gloom of darkness for ever
- Cf. Isaiah 57:20, “The wicked are like the troubled sea … . whose waters cast up mire and dirt.”
- Planets wandering through limitless space. Dead worlds.
v. 14. “And to these also Enoch the seventh from Adam prophesied, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord came with myriads of His holy ones, to execute judgment against all, and to convict all the ungodly concerning all the works of impiety which they did impiously, and of all the harsh things which impious sinners spoke against Him’.”
- Notice to WHOM Enoch prophesied—“these;” notice the tense—“The Lord Came”—the event seen, even in those early days of Biblical history, before it comes to pass—an event yet future.
- Enoch the seventh from Adam was contemporary with Adam for some 308 years; walking with God, after the birth of Methuselah, 300 years; “and he was not; for God took him.” (Gen. 5:22-4).
- Adam had walked with God—for how long we do not know—but by transgression fell, and what remorse must have been his as he watched Enoch take his place in that walk; what remorse when he saw the havoc caused by the fall. Enoch, in a measure, restored that which he did not take away—a walk with God. And he walked with God for 300 out of the 365 years of his life—a witness of the increasing wickedness of the world, and of that world which was yet (to him) future. Hence his word of prophecy.
(to be continued)
HETERODOXY AND ORTHODOXY
- In days of movements Ecumenical,
- Some call their Churches Evangelical:
- Making their standing an enigma ;
- Losing their separation’s stigma.
- Thus mixtures of religion, zealous,
- Offend our God, the Just and Jealous:
- And link the “few,” in separation
- With heterodox amalgamation!
- What God marked out in isolation
- Becomes a harbour of negation:
- The “twos and threes” once gathered to Him,
- Assumes a testimony ’gainst Him.
- His promised Presence in their Meetings
- Becomes a place of formal greetings:
- While, in a hostile world, its status
- Lends ammunition, them to hate us.
- When riches were of all things absent,
- And piety and pity present;
- God’s Saints knew naught of Halls extensive:
- Nor titles queer, nor names expressive.
- Then, through a close, and up a stairway
- Sufficed their meagre wealth, their poor pay;
- Yet then, a Heaven on Earth they relished,
- Communion sweet and true they cherished.
- Could we but capture in declension
- That honoured title, sweet to mention:
- The “Gospel Hall,” where Christians muster,
- The Lord is there, in undimmed lustre!
- —John Campbell: Larkhall (7-Feb-1979)