SPIRIT IN THE LOCAL CHURCH
by Samuel Jardine
THE THINGS WHICH ARE
by Dr. John Boyd
CAMEOS OF CHRIST
by John B. D. Page
DANIEL THE PROPHET
by C. J. Atkins
NOTES ON PETER’S EPISTLES
by William Rodgers
RECOVERY AND ORDER
by Brian Smith
ABRAHAM—FRIEND OF GOD
by R. Woodhouse Beales
STUDIES IN THE TABERNACLE
by Ray Dawes
by SAMUEL JARDINE (Conclusion)
(4). The BODY-character of the local church will be displayed. In finding a basis for local usage the inspired writer resorts to the church as a whole. He needs a concrete picture of unity with variety and where better than in “the Spirit baptized body of the CHRIST.” (1 Cor. 12:12-13) “Body… so also is the CHRIST.” At once he proceeds to point out features traceable in a body. A body is an unit and yet is an unity. It is one and yet has many members. This oneness is wholly consistent with its variety. Its very character requires its variety. This provides “the spring-board” for a number of lessons to fellow-members.
First he supposes the ISOLATIONIST policy of “the feet” which because it is not “the hand” is ready to dissociate from the body and similarly “the ear” because it is not “the eye” will not be reckoned in the body. How foolish! Because I have not the more conspicuous place of one or the more important occupation of another, that I should withdraw my helpfulness from the whole. Next he attacks the very opposite; the “monopoly policy.” Truly a body that is all EYE is a monstrosity and cancels out the variety for which a body stands. No! God has formed the body whether it be physical or that to which the attention of the Corinthian church is being drawn, their own corporate existence and God has placed each member in its right and unalterable place. For one member to do the work of all, is to rob the other members of their God-given place/ and Spirit-bestowed function. What is wrong in principle must be wrong in practice so that it can never be the prerogative of one believer to either exercise all the gifts or control them. Such an expedient is either full-blown clerisy or a subtle form of “Dictatorship” closely allied to hypocrisy, for it can masquerade in the garb of orthodoxy and shout loudly about its defence of “Truth.” The “BODY” principle demands interdependence of the various members and rules out action which does not take into account the natural place and proper function of another. Mutual dependence and proper coordination are a law of life. All are necessary to complete utility, whether head or feet, whether feeble or strong, whether apparently honourable or dishonourable. Can we see that the Apostle has in mind the harmonious working of the Spirit-controlled Assembly of God, to whom he now says, “Ye are body of Christ and members in particular.” (1 Cor. 12:27). To achieve any likeness to this there must be an intelligent, willing, affectionate, God-fearing attitude adopted by one and all, which puts value on each and every one within the company. In music there is no such thing as one note saying, “I have no need of thee”, so in the harmony which God sees and hears every note will at some time or other be struck and God’s heart be gladdened. What an audience we have for our public, collective and silent breathings and ministrations! And how grievous our discords, our rents and disorders to the God of peace and order! It must be clear to the least observant reader of this amazing twelfth chapter of First Corinthians that every phase of Assembly life is in mind as the Body-wise function of the house-hold of faith is pressed home. Among living members what sympathetic and affectionate care the one for the other is bound to exist! What love and consideration breathe in those lovely words; “And whether one member suffer all the members suffer WITH IT: or one member be honoured all the members rejoice with it!” (v. 16). The truth is beautiful, but the truth in action is lovelier still. One has seen it in amazing demonstration when either disaster, bereavement or persecution has come to a fellow believer. A spontaneous out-burst of love in its tender-est and most practical forms expounded this passage as no merely human words could do. And yet again when sunshine displaced the shadow the joy and fellowship of love were in lively evidence. The fragrant anointing oil ran down to the utmost skirts of the priestly garment. The copious dews of Hermon and of Zion flowed in refreshing fulness. Remember, beloved brother and sister in Christ, these “Good and pleasant” things and the out-pouring of God’s blessing are conditioned by our personal relations with the Holy Spirit, which in turn mould our attitudes to each other. “Ichabod “is the unseen name of Assemblies where wrong relations between the members and the Spirit are permitted, for verily, “the glory is departed,” But where the ideal of Psalm 133 prevails the “Ashers” are in the ascendancy. Here are those who dio their foot in oil and leave an indelible God honouring and Christ exalting witness behind them. Recognise, dear fellow-believer the indispensable part the gracious Holy Spirit plays in your life and in your Assembly and yield unreservedly to His control.
by Dr. JOHN BOYD
PORTRAIT OF THE JUDGE (Continued)
John’s final observation concerning this Man was that ‘His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength’. This must have reminded John of his experience on the Mount of Transfiguration, for thus he had seen the glorified Son of Man (Matt. 17:2). In this vision he beheld in the countenance of the Man the dazzling blaze of celestial glory upon which no man can look and live (Ex. 33:20).
And such was the effect of the vision upon John. He fell in a swoon at the feet of Him who manifested such majesty and glory. This had happened before to those who had got such a vision, and were conscious of their sinful nature in such august presence—to John himself on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:6); to Daniel receiving a similar vision, when his ‘comeliness was turned in me into corruption’ (Dan. 10:8); to Isaiah who said, ’Woe is me! for I am undone’ (Isa. 6:5); to Saul and his company as they beheld the glory of the risen, ascended Christ above the brightness of the sun (Acts 26:13-14). But this Person of dazzling majesty, whose very presence caused John to be afraid, laid His right hand upon him, and with a word of comfort told him not to fear. This was no vain word of re-assurance, for He proceeded to identify Himself to John as ‘the first and the last’, a title that belongs to God alone—from eternity to eternity (Isa. 44:6). The Man of v. 13 is the Jehovah of hosts in v. 17. John recognised Him as the Word who was in the beginning, and who was God (John 1:1); the One who promised to be with him ‘always, even unto the consummation of the age’ (Matt. 28): 20, R.V.m.).
Furthermore, the Object of John’s vision described Himself as ‘the living One’ (R.V.), the One who has life in Himself, having derived it from no one. Again John recognised Him as the One of whom he had written, ‘In Him was life’ (John 1:4). Yet He ‘became dead’ (R.V.m.), that is, he voluntarily passed into that state. John had borne witness of such an event when he wrote that He ‘gave up His spirit’ (John 19:30, R.V.). When this Person said that He was ‘alive for evermore’ it indicated that He had triumphed over death. It could never again claim Him who had risen from the dead. The resurrection of Christ had been the great fundamental truth on which John had proclaimed Christianity. He had beheld the resurrected Jesus; he had seen the miraculous draught of fishes the Lord had provided; he had eaten with Him after His resurrection; he had been taught of Jesus to expect His return. That the Lord was alive for evermore John believed implicitly, for He had given to believers the promise of eternal life (1 John 2:25), and that life is in God’s Son (1 John 5:11).
Finally this glorious Man told John that He had the keys of death and of Hades (the order of the Revised Version). Keys bespeak His authority (3:7). He controls death and Hades, and that by reason of His conquest of death, going into it of His own volition, and having the authority to rise again. His control over Hades was evident in that He descended into Hades, and arose the third day. Did not these words concerning the keys remind John of what the Lord said to Martha, ‘I am the resurrection, and the life’? As ‘the life’ He could promise that whosoever liveth and believeth on Him should never die. As ‘the resurrection’ He could assure those who believed on Him that though they die yet should they live (John 11:25-26). He had the keys of death and of Hades.
What a revelation all this was to John! Even he who had known the Lord so intimately on earth did not at first recognise Him in such august majesty, but he was left in no doubt as to the indentity of the Man of v. 13, for His own description in vv. 17-18 established it firmly in John’s mind. The Man of the vision was none other than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. How clearly do all the symbolisms of the vision present themselves to us when seen in Christ! He was ‘son of man’, but also Jehovah of hosts. John uses this expression ‘son of man’ without the article three times as referring to the Lord Jesus Christ (John 5:27, Rev. 1:13, 14:14). In each case the emphasis is on His humanity, and relates to His authority to execute judgment. How comforting for us to realise that the Lord still wears our humanity! As such He will give us confidence amidst the multitudinous glories of heaven. Note the name Jesus in Heb. 12:24.
His robe and golden girdle reminded John that the Son of man had the Father’s authority to execute judgment (John 5:27). The whiteness of His head and hair, telling of His purity and holiness, vindicate His claim to righteous judgment (John 5:30). His eyes like a flame of fire tell us that His judgment is that of One who is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29). Do the feet like unto burnished brass suggest the furnace of affliction through which Christ has passed, the feet indicating where He has trodden, what He has passed through for us? If so, well might the believer bow in contrition at His feet, and humbly submit to His judgment. Or does this burnished brass indicate, as brass in the Old Testament, God’s righteous judgment against sin, e.g., the brazen altar (Ex. 21:2)? It might suggest that Christ has passed through judgment for us, and that He walks in the midst of the churches in a path of pure and righteous judgment.
As by faith we listen to His majestic, awe-inspiring voice, like the voice of many waters, we learn to fear the judgment of the Lord, even now as He walks amidst the churches, or later at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10-11). Well might sinners dread to hear his voice when passing the sentence of the impenitent’s doom.
The Lord holds in His hands the angels, the representative messengers of the churches, embodied in the overseers. How encouraging for such to learn that He ‘holdeth the stars’ (2:1)! The word ‘holdeth’ implies the use of strength, to hold in one’s power, to support. With what confidence John would pass on the messages, knowing that those to whom he wrote were the special objects of the unfailing protection and care of the omnipotent Man of this vision! What a responsibility thus devolves on those who convey to the churches the messages from the Lord! They are in His control, and under His authority.
Let us, as we consider the symbolism of the two-edged sword, realise that even to-day His voice penetrates into the inmost recesses of our consciences. This is not the ‘sword of the Spirit’ (Eph. 6:17), but the sword of the Son of man (Rev. 19:15). The two-edged nature of the sword, reaching into our inmost secrets. The sword is not the Scripture, but the consuming word spoken in judgment by the Lord.
As the One whose countenance was as the sun shining in its strength we perceive the Lord coming to judge the world. How can men in the day of His fierce wrath (6:16) bear the sight of that face from which the heavens and earth flee away?
John was told to write for our instruction those things he saw that we might learn to appreciate the majesty and judicial power of the Lord, both in the churches and in His final judgment of the world. Read it again and again, till its very power grips you. Then shall we, like John, be afraid in the presence of such holiness and penetrating gaze. But we, too, can find comfort in the words ‘Fear not’, as we realise that He who speaks is our Saviour and Lord. He has been through death for our sakes, and is risen from the dead, living evermore to bless and cheer. Hallelujah, what a Saviour!
by JOHN B. D. PAGE
HIS SEAMLESS COAT
THE scriptures refer to the garments of Christ seven times.
First, they declare that at His first advent the Babe was wrapped in swaddling clothes (Luke 2:12), and lastly at His second coming, as the Warrior-King, He will wear a vesture dipped in blood—blood stains not of the cross but of conflict, an allusion to Isaiah 63:3 (see Revelation 19:13).
Upon this canvas of His life, a central scene is of the four soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, dividing His garments. These were legal perquisites of soldiers who carried out executions. For the seamless coat, which they did not divide, they cast lots, which, unknown to them, was in fulfilment of Psalm 22:18.
John’s comment about this under-garment is of interest: “now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout” (John 19:23).
The phrase “from the top”, found only twice in the New Testament, is akin in the Greek to “from above,” which is used to qualify the new birth (John 3:3 & 7, R.V.), meaning that it stems from heaven. We are told that the seamless coat was woven “from the top”—“from above,” and likewise of the incarnate Christ, John the Baptist declared that He came “from above”—He was “from heaven” (John 3:31), by which he meant that Jesus was not only human but also divine. He was God come “from above,” and in His Manhood He was clothed with a garment of flesh and blood.
Of the seamless coat, it has been said that it was the type worn by peasants, and yet it was the garb of the Lord from heaven. To us, such a coat is a reminder of the Servant character of Christ, as illustrated by His stooping to wash His disciples5 feet, the most menial of tasks for an eastern
slave. In doctrinal terms, Paul expresses the truth as “Christ Jesus,… being in the form of God,… took upon Himself the form of a servant…” (Philippians 2:6f). Of the three times that the word “form” is applied to Christ, it is used here twice antithetically with the words “God” and “servant” to express the degree of His humiliation—the great stoop that He made. The word “form” does not denote outward appearance—there was nothing to show outwardly that Christ Jesus was “God” or that He was a “slave,” but it signifies the inward and real nature of His Being. His seamless coat of flesh and blood, as it were, concealed His true nature of Deity and, being God eternally, He did not set aside His Deity for the days of His flesh. In His Manhood, He was neither pompous nor haughty, but inwardly, unknown to men around, He assumed the character of a slave, and constantly He walked the path of humility leading to the death of the cross, which He endured, despising its shame.
THE RENT VEIL
With the scene of Calvary in mind, we recall that Jesus finally bowed His head and gave up His spirit, and then “the veil of the temple was rent from the top to the bottom” (Matthew 27:51, and Mark 15:38). This was the time of the evening sacrifice (about 3 o’clock in the afternoon) when the priest was in the holy place of the temple burning incense upon the golden altar, which stood before the veil. Although scripture is silent about the priest’s reactions, he must have been struck with fear as he saw the veil before him rent, not from the bottom but “from the top.” We do not know, but he may have thought that such a happening was of the supernatural realm.
This is the only other occurrence of the phrase “from the top”, which is translated “from above” in John 3. Surely, this unusual position for the rending of the veil, recorded by two of the synoptists, denotes that it was not the work of man but of God—that it was the Lord’s doing. Hebrews 10:20 interprets the veil anti-typically, “the veil, that is to say, His flesh.” Hence, if the veil is a type of Christ incarnate, then the rent veil signifies Christ crucified.
Whilst we think of man being responsible for crucifying Christ (Acts 2:23), thereby displaying his innate sin, we should not overlook the unseen forces of evil arrayed against the crucified Lord (Colossians 2:15, Genesis 3:15). But, above all, besides the human and Satanic aspects of His death, there is the divine, for, as the veil was rent “from the top”—“from above,” so Christ was “smitten of God” and, Isaiah adds, “it pleased the Lord to bruise Him” (Isaiah 53:4 and 10). Quoting Culross, David Baron writes, “Not only did the Lord bruise Him, but it was the “good pleasure of His will” to do so. He, Who has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, was pleased to put His righteous Servant to grief—not, of course, because the death-agony was a pleasure to look upon, but as means to the fulfilment of a great purpose.” Mysterious as it may be that the Lord smote Him, and miraculous as the rending of the veil “from the top” was, it is surely figurative of the Godward aspect of the death of Christ.
Luke, omitting the other synoptists’ remarks, tells us that the veil of the temple was rent “in the midst” (23:45), which means that the veil was not rent towards one side but in the middle. This suggests that in the prime of life, in the middle of the allotted span of three score years and ten, Christ was cut off. Does not Isaiah allude to an unexpected death! “Who shall declare His generation? for He was cut off out of the land of the living” (53:8).
The priest, who witnessed the rending of the veil, would have seen no special significance in it. For him as for all other persons of his day, the veil precluded entry into the presence of God, except for the high priest once a year. For believers, the rent veil has meant the opening of “a new and living way” into the Lord’s presence at all times, whilst “within the veil” the Forerunner, even Jesus Christ, has entered for us.
by C. J. ATKINS
His Teaching for These Last Days
THE NAME. Daniel means God my judge, and the book deals with God’s judgments covering the span of centuries from the period of the exile in Babylon, through the time called by the Lord Jesus “the times of the Gentiles.” The visions given and the events recorded took place whilst God’s people were suffering judgment in exile, because of their sin.
The general theme of the book is the universal sovereignty of God. It has been the target of unbelieving critics both in ancient and in modern times, but its authenticity is verified by the testimony of the Lord Jesus to Daniel the prophet (Matthew 24:15). It is in two parts and written in two languages. The first chapter and chapters 8-12 are written in Hebrew; their message is to the Jews. From chapter 2, v. 4, to the end of chapter 7 is matter concerning Gentile empires, and this is written in Aramaic, the language of the eastern empires. In the early chapters, 1, 3, 5, 6, are incidents which display God’s sovereignty, whilst chapter 2 and 4 tell of visions given to a heathen monarch. These visions, with those given to Daniel in the later chapters, display not only God’s sovereignty, but also God’s programme throughout the period called “the times of the Gentiles.”
Whilst the Lord Jesus was looking in sorrow at the Temple during His final visit to Jerusalem, someone spoke of the goodly stones adorning the Temple. The Lord then spoke sorrowfully of its destruction (Luke 21:5, 6) and foretold “Jerusalem shall be trodden of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (v. 24). Formerly it had pleased Jehovah to set His name in the midst of Israel, and His glorious presence was with them in the Ark and the Tabernacle. Continuing His purpose to be in their midst, as Solomon prayed before the people gathered for the dedication of the Temple, “the fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the house” (2 Chronicles 7:1). But even then, the omniscient eye of a holy God could see the weakness of His people and warned them through Solomon, even as He had warned through Moses centuries before (Deuteronomy 31:29). “But if ye turn away and forsake My statutes… and serve other gods, and worship them… then… this house, which I have hallowed for My name, will I cast out of My sight” (2 Chronicles 7:19, 20). As the people did persist in their sin, according to God’s sure word, the glory was withdrawn as revealed to Ezekiel, another exiled prophet, a contemporary of Daniel (Ezekiel 11:23). The “times of the Gentiles” extends from this period of the exile when the glory of God’s presence was withdrawn from the Temple until His glory shall return again as foretold in Ezekiel 43:4, 5.
In the first six chapters the prophet acts as the divinely chosen interpreter of dreams concerning the “times of the Gentiles,” and with his friends, by various incidents exhibits God’s power to keep and deliver. The last six chapters record visions given to Daniel himself concerning this same period, and particularly, how the nations will deal with Israel in “the time of the end” (chapter 12:9, 13), the short period before the overthrow of Gentile domination. This period is also called “the great tribulation” or “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Matthew 24: 21; Jeremiah 30:7; Daniel 12: 1).
When Daniel prophesied, he was unaware of God’s other plan of divine grace in calling out a people for His name after the chosen people Israel had rejected their Messiah. This “mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God” was “in other ages not known” (Ephesians 3:9 and 5). Nor was Daniel shown that during the times of the Gentiles, from the time of the final rejection of the Messiah at Calvary, there would be a people separated unto God, the Church, the Bride of Christ, who will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, to be with Him for a short time before returning with Him when He comes in judgment to end “the times of the Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 15:51-54; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9; Revelations 1:7).
In His sovereign power God moved to raise up the emperor Nebuchadnezzar as His instrument. “Now have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar… My servant” (Jeremiah 27:6). Whilst Egypt and Babylon were striving for mastery, Josiah king of Judah had foolishly opposed Egypt when Pharaoh-Necho was on his way to meet Babylon’s king. Josiah was killed at the battle of Megiddo (609 B.C.) and Pharaoh put Jehoiakim as king in Jerusalem (2 Kings 23:29-34). Three years later Jerusalem was taken by Nebuchadnezzar, who in the following year defeated Pharaoh-Necho at the battle of Carchemish (605). When Jerusalem was taken in 606 B.C. (2 Kings 24:1; Jeremiah 25:1; Daniel 1:1-2), the nobility and better types of the people were taken captive to Babylon. From this time, the seventy years of exile foretold by Jeremiah began (Jeremiah 25:11). Eight years later Jerusalem was again attacked by Nebuchadnezzar, and the rebellious king Jehoiakim taken in chains to Babylon (2 Chronicles 36:6, 7). More hostages were taken leaving only the poorest in the land (Jeremiah 39:10; 40:7). Jeremiah remained, but Ezekiel and Daniel were with the exiles. During this eight year period, Jeremiah had consistently warned that the nation should submit to Babylon, and he suffered for his faithful witness (Jeremiah 26:18, 19 and 20). Nebuchadnezzar then made Zedekiah king in Jerusalem, and Jeremiah, continuing his exhortation to submission, suffered still more (chapters 28; 34:21; 37:38). Finally in 587 B.C. Jerusalem was taken and destroyed as foretold (Jeremiah 39:1-8; 2 Kings 24:20-25; 2 Chronicles 36:13-16, 18-21).
Daniel as a young noble or a prince, well instructed in God’s word, became a captive in exile, together with all the noblest and best of his people. In the book, his character and faithfulness is revealed, and his dependence upon God is continually seen (for example, at 1:8; 2:17-18; 20:23, 28; 3:17, 18; 5:17-23; 6:4, 5, 22; 7:28; 9:2-4, 20; 10:2,
3, 12). He was a man of prayer, he studied God’s word, he believed God, he was a “man greatly beloved” of God (chapter 10:11, 19) and he was indeed a hero of faith (Hebrews 11:33). To this man greatly beloved was given the Old Testament picture of “the time of the end” (chapter 12:4,13) and similarly to John “the disciple whom Jesus loved” was given the “revelation of Jesus Christ” showing “things which shall come to pass hereafter” (Revelations 1:18) showing also the bliss of the redeemed when “death shall be no more… no curse” (Revelations 21:4; 22:3). The two pictures are related and the visions of Daniel should be compared with those given six centuries later to John, after the eternal sacrifice for sin had been offered.
Each chapter can be related to present day problems, and gives exhortation to God’s people of this age. Though the events in chapter 5 and chapter 6 are out of chronological order, for events after the end of Belshazzar’s, obviously occurred after the vision in chapter 8, given in the third year of his reign, their position is necessary to conform to the arrangement wherein the first part, chapters 1-6, illustrates God’s faithfulness and His purpose in judgment as revealed to a heathen monarch, whilst the second part outlines future events and God’s care of His faithful ones until the time of the end as revealed to Daniel by the visions.
by WM. RODGERS
Although 2nd Peter ends, as it begins, with exhortations to spiritual progress, the epistle as a whole sets before us, as characteristic of the present period, a progress, or rather sequence, that is downgrade. In ch. 1 we at first have saints who are going on in the ways of God, adding to their faith virtue, and so on. But this is succeeded by a reference to backsliding saints who have ceased to move in the right direction, who see only what is near, and who have forgotten the cleansing from the old sins. There follows in ch. 2 a lengthy description of men who profess to be saints, but are not really so; who, although they are found “among you” (v. 1) yet have still the unclean character of the “dog” and “sow” (v. 22). Finally, in ch. 3 we come in contact with open scoffers, who “walk after their own lusts,” and flatly contradict the Word of God.
It is noticeable that each of these types can easily drift into, or produce the one which comes after it. Saints who have been going on well are ever in danger of slacking off, and so becoming to some extent like those who go down to the pit; and when this occurs it becomes easy for unsaved professors to creep in amongst them. Then is brought about a state of things which in turn tends to encourage the development of scoffers and infidels, who sneer at God’s promises and warnings. We have, therefore, in our epistle what we might speak of as evolution downwards; which is indeed the only kind of evolution there can be, apart from God’s intervention. It is what the Scriptures lead us to expect, as marking the age in which we live; and yet we ourselves are not free from blame in the matter. If it were not for failure on the part of God’s people to go on for Him, professors and “false teachers” would, as in Acts 5:13, find no place amongst them; and if there were no unreal professors to cause a blot upon Christian testimony, scepticism would be deprived of its chief excuse and its keenest weapon.
GOD’S WISE PROVISION
To encourage the saints in this going on for God, Peter turns their thoughts in two opposite directions. In ch. 1 he reminds them of the wonderful start God had given them and of the provision He had made for their continuance in His ways. In ch. 3 on the other hand, he would have them look forward to the bright prospect that lies ahead, and to the “new heavens and the new earth” wherein dwelleth righteousness. The former consideration should assure them of God-given ability to continue in their stedfastness and growth; the latter should secure their willingness to do so.
Let us then first look more closely into his exhortation of ch. 1, and the basis upon which it rests. This chapter is composed of two almost equal paragraphs; and it is with the earlier one, which ends with verse 11, that we have at present to do. In this we are taken all the way through the Christian course, from its beginning when we obtained “like precious faith” with the apostles and early saints (v. 1) to its close when we shall have ministered unto us our “entrance into the everlasting kingdom” (v. 11); and in it we learn that, so richly has God provided us with all things necessary for the journey when He started us on it, that no excuse is left for us falling out by the way, or for finishing with any other than an “abundant entrance.”
The paragraph may be looked on as comprising four sections; (1) Verses 1, 2, which contain the opening salutation; (2) Verses 3, 4 in which God’s great provision for us is described; (3) Verses 5-9, which set forth the responsibility entailed on us in consequence of this provision; and (4) Verses 10, 11 in which we have an earnest exhortation, founded on all that has gone before.
FAITH AND KNOWLEDGE
The interest which the salutation has for us, as connected with the other sections that follow it, and indeed with the rest of the epistle, centres in its introduction of two great matters; (1) our precious faith—the means by which salvation became ours; and (2) our knowledge of God and Christ—the element in which not only grace and peace are multiplied unto us, but all true progress in Christian experience takes place. The importance of these two becomes evident in verses 5-8, where the “adding” to which the saints are there exhorted, has for its starting point “your faith” (v. 5), and for its goal “the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 8).
The next section of the paragraph, verses 3, 4 develops and explains the expressions used in the salutation, and in doing so introduces two other important words, “life” and “godliness.” These at first sight suggest to us, the beginning and the after development of our career as saints, reminding us that we have been granted all things that pertain, not only to getting eternal life when we believed, but also to godly living ever afterwards. But, indeed the connection between the terms is closer than this way of expressing it might imply; for the “life” which we received at the beginning abides in us still, and the “godliness” is the manifestation of it. Moreover, the phrase, “through the knowledge of Him that hath called us,” in the latter part of verse 3, applies to the “life” as well as to the “godliness,” recalling to us our Lord’s own words in John 17:3, “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent.”
INWARD AND OUTWARD
It may be pointed out in passing that the word “given” (R.V., “granted”) in verses 3 and 4 answers to the “obtained” of verse 1. We have “obtained,” or were allotted what God has “granted” to us, from whichever angle we look at it, whether our “faith,” or the “things pertaining to life and godliness,” or “His precious and exceeding great promises.” Note also that the two sides of our deliverance mentioned in end of verse 4, “become partakers of the divine nature,” and “escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust,” correspond respectively to the “life” and the “godliness” of verse 3.
These two aspects, the inward as well as the outward, the positive as well as the negative of what the “promises” accomplish for us, should be carefully borne in mind because when we come to ch. 2:20 we read of certain of whom the outward thing was in some degree true but not the inward. They had “escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ,” and yet they were “again entangled therein and overcome;” the reason being, as the context shows, that they had not “become partakers of the divine nature,” but still as has already been pointed out, had the unclean character of the “dog” and the sow” (v. 22). In consequence of this, they were found willing to listen to “promises” of a very different kind (v.19); and the final outcome was, in words quoted by Peter from our Lord’s own saying of Matt. 12:45, “their last state became worse than the first” (v. 20, R.V.).
by RAY DAWES
The Altar of Incense (Exodus 30:1-10)
The Altar of Incense or Golden Altar was also made of shittim wood overlaid with gold and having a golden crown upon it characterising the Risen Christ in Heaven.
It was placed immediately in front of the heavy veil that separated the holy place from the holy of holies. On the altar the High Priest burnt sweet incense each morning and evening. Hence there was a perpetual fragrance pervading the holy place.
It was a vessel of approach to God. The brazen altar in the court, together with the sacrifice consumed therein assured the sinner of his perfect acceptance, but the golden altar in the holy place assures the saint of his perpetual access. The former speaks of Christ’s work on earth as the Saviour, the latter of His work in heaven as High Priest. The one sets forth salvation, the other communion and worship. The one affords salvation to the many, but only the few avail themselves of the other. Many pass into the court and experience conversion but few proceed into the holy place to enjoy communion. May we be amongst the few.
The incense undoubtedly speaks of the fragrance of Christ continually ascending to God and filling His holy presence. This incense was compounded of four ingredients (v. 34) no other incense could be used. The fire which consumed its odours was taken from the brazen altar. This teaches us that the devouring flames of God’s holiness which kindled on Christ the Sacrifice at Calvary, to bring forth forgiveness, also had the effect of bringing out all the perfections of Christ which never cease to rise as sweet incense to God.
It was the duty of Aaron the high priest to offer the incense continually. Another truth now emerges. Christ, whom Aaron prefigures, acts in this way in God’s presence. He ever liveth to make intercession for us, and is able to save us to the uttermost. Aaron is also a figure of believers, as all believers are priests.
It is our privilege as priests to offer worship. The sweet incense surely is a type of this. True worship is the presentation of Christ to God. As the believer apprehends and appreciates Him, there is that response of and movement of the whole being towards God in adoring worship. And this worship God expects from His people daily. As Aaron offered the incense at the golden altar, so we are to offer our praises and petitions in the fragrance of His Name. This is a daily and individual exercise, but it takes on deeper meaning in the collective worship of the assembly when we meet to remember Him. Do we contribute to the incense?
There being four ingredients to this sweet incense, the four gospels are suggested. It is certainly true that as we meditate upon the Lord in the Gospel records, compare and contrast, there is this holy compound of incense prepared. It is solemn to observe that no other incense was acceptable. This condemns the varied forms of worship in Christendom and warns us too that Christ alone should occupy us in our communion with God.
As the priest moved out of the holy place the savour of the sanctuary having filled the folds of his garments, clung to his person. Likewise believers who enjoy God’s presence and fulfil their priestly obligations have about them the sweet atmosphere of heaven. May it be true of us all.
by BRYAN SMITH
Having firmly resisted his adversaries, Nehemiah now faces a fresh attack, this time in the form of a false charge against himself. “Then sent Sanballat his servant unto me in like manner the fifth time with an open letter in his hand; wherein was written: It is reported among the heathen, and Gashmu saith it, that you and the Jews think to rebel; for which cause thou buildest the wall, that thou mayest be their king, according to these words. And you have also appointed prophets to preach of thee at Jerusalem saying, there is a king in Judah: and now shall it be reported to the king according to these words. Come now therefore, and let us take counsel together” Nehemiah 6 v. 5-7. Nehemiah’s answer is short but decisive, “there are no such things done as thou sayest, but thou feignest them out of thine own heart” Nehemiah 6 v. 8.
In a similar way did Paul receive “an open letter” “Mine answer to them that do examine me is this” 1 Corinthinians 9 v. 3. Did he endeavour to maintain a place of power over the people of God and assume an authority in Divine things which he had no right to assume? Was he out for gain? The truth was they imagined the whole thing. He establishes the truth of his apostleship and right to “eat and to drink” as a guest of the church 1 Corinthians 9 v. 1-6. Thereupon, he asserts the right of all servants to this. Both nature and scripture, yes, and the express commandment of the Lord, affirm the right of the spiritual workman to be maintained and his house without resorting to working with one’s hands v. 7-15. Paul then explains why he did not use this right v. 16-18. But what does Paul mean when he says “for if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me?” v. 17. “Willingly,” that is, “a self chosen vocation.” “Against my will,” that is, “not my own choice but God’s appointment” (Heading). But would “I have a reward” apply to the first? “If I preach the gospel willingly—which is not the case—I have a reward. But if I do so by constraint—as is really the case—it is a dispensation committed” (Heinrici). Some readily responded to the Lord’s call, e.g. the twelve. They have a right to recompense. Paul was constrained of the Lord into apostleship. “What is my reward then?” v. 18. The gratuitous aspect of the gospel. “1 introduce into my apostleship that element of freedom which was wanting at its origin, and I thus establish, as far as in me lies, a sort of equality between me and the apostles who attached themselves freely to Christ.” (Godet). Out for gain Paul? Yes! The Jews v. 20. The Gentiles v. 21. The weak believer v. 22. And let the strong take warning v. 23-27. But how do we understand the words “lest when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway?” v. 27. The missing of salvation? (Grant, Stuart, Kelly). The missing of reward? (Vine, Bruce, Bunting). Perhaps the section of Nehemiah will help us decide for he encountered hirelings “and lo I perceived that God had not sent him; but that he pronounced this prophecy against me: for Tobiah and San-ballat had hired him. Therefore was he hired, that I should be afraid and do so, and sin, and that they might have matter for an evil report, that they might reproach me.” Nehemiah 6 v. 12, 13. Discerning their evil intent, Nehemiah turns in heart confidence to God that he might be preserved in faithfulness and leadership in the building of the wall.
The apostle Paul continues his warning from Israel’s wilderness history. Moral and spiritual disaster could befall them 1 Corinthians 10 v. 1-12. Let us not, therefore, brother or sister, put ourselves in a place of temptation as some of the Corinthians were doing by attending the idol banquet. It is a different matter if God tests us, we can count upon His faithfulness and support in the temptation v. 13, 14.
Nehemiah saw the wall completed, “so the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days” Nehemiah 6 v. 15. Again, “now it came to pass, when the wall was built, and I had set up the doors, and the porters and the singers and the Levites were appointed, that I gave my brother Hanani, and Hananiah the ruler of the palace, charge over Jerusalem; for he was a faithful man, and feared God above many.” Nehemiah 7 v. 1, 2. Having enclosed the city, Nehemiah ensured that watchfulness marked all so that there was no unwanted intrusion v. 3, 4. All had to prove their title to a place in Israel v. 5-73.
Paul seeks to complete the wall at Corinth. How? “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” 1 Corinthians 10 v. 16. He departs from the normal order to speak of the cup first. Why? The cup speaks of a real communion formed, firstly, with the Lord. So also, the loaf. Only it additionally speaks of a real communion formed with the other worshippers. The order best serves this transition “for we being many are one loaf, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one loaf.” v. 17. In Israel the altar furnished the table v. 18. Similarly in the Gentile temple banquet v. 20. The sacrifice of Christ in all its Divine acceptability is the basis of the believer’s communion with God at the Lord’s table, of which communion the cup and the loaf speak. “Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of demons: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons” v. 21. But how explain “cannot?” A moral impossibility. (Vine, Darby). But Paul cites in v. 22 the possibility that some had already attempted it. See also 1 Corinthians 8 v. 10. The enjoyment of the provision of the Lord, at whose table we sit every day of the week. You could not enjoy this provision and enjoy the devil’s fare. (Clarke, Heading). But the “cup of the Lord” is the same as in 1 Corinthians 11 v. 27. And is the “cup of demons” literal? It will render fellowship with Christ impossible (Lies, Kelly). Yes, but we go further. It is self contradiction, incurring God’s displeasure and drawing down Divine judgment v. 22. From the idol banquet the apostle answers two further questions. What of dinner in my own house? v. 25, 26. What of dinner in an unbelievers house? v. 27-30. He concludes with what we always do well to remember “whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” Do not stumble the unsaved (Jew or Gentile) nor yet “the church of God” v. 31-33.
by R. WOODHOUSE BEALES
We now come to a further appearance of Jehovah to Abraham and to a very important episode in his life showing the intimacy in which he stood with his Lord, and here we have returned to the question of Lot again, for he had gone back into Sodom and had become a great man in the wicked and doomed city. Jehovah is however coming to Abraham incognito, with two others, and they appear as “three men” but as the story proceeds it is apparent that two are angels and one is Jehovah and Abraham thus perceives Him, but note, he preserves that incognito while the other two are there. This shows great reserve and reverence, and while he speaks to them in the plural yet he addresses one, “my Lord” that is “Adonahay” which is “Master” or “Sovereign Lord.” Now this Title is in the plural but as Newberry points out that “in this form it is used only as a Divine Title.” This chapter, as it unfolds, is exact in its expressions, as we should expect and should be carefully noted as regards the Titles used and the “number” whether singular or plural. How wonderful and fine is the relationship between the Lord and Abraham and how far he has come in spite of his retrogressive steps, in the knowledge of the Lord.
He is going to “entertain angels unawares” or is it altogether “unawares?” Certainly one was far more than an angel. This is one of the Theophanies of scripture in the Old Testament, or we may say “Christophanies” anticipating as these do, the Incarnation of the One “being in the form of God” but one day to “become man.”
He runs, he bows, and he constrains, suggesting or promising “a little water for their feet” and “a morsel of bread.” Newberry puts capitals in verse 3. “My Lord,” “Thy Sight,” “Thy servant,” and then “you” and “your” in verses 4 and 5.
He promises little but provides much. He hastens, and runs, and what a feast he provides. Abraham, Sarah, and the servant are all hastening to entertain the strangers. Cakes, a calf, butter and milk, all quickly prepared and HE himself stands by while they ate, just as a servant would. This is all fine and wonderful, and we sometimes think of these early patriarchs as though they were little more than uncivilised men but they could certainly teach us a lesson in conduct, insight and gracious service. He was not invited to eat with them. This is reserved for New Testament saints. Verses 9 and 10 must be noted; “they said” and “He said” for one was the Lord, Who was the promiser of life and the quickener thereof.
Sarah laughs at the “impossibility” of the promise and is rebuked therefore, though she denies, in fear, but now the Divine question, appearing again and again in scripture “Is anything too hard for Jehovah?” and then “I will return” showing that this was Jehovah. And now the repast is finished and the men rise up and look stedfastly toward Sodom, and here the two angels passed on, but Abraham stood yet “before the Lord” v. 22.
Abraham has now become “My friend” and “the friend of God” (see Isaiah 41:8 and 2Chronicles 20:7 and James 2:23) and note specially that in 2 Chronicles Jehoshaphat in distress is threatened by the two nations of which Lot became the progenitor, Moab and Ammon. The whole chapter is most touching, heartening and instructive. See also Amos 3, 7 and the words of the Lord “Shall I hide from Abraham the thing which I do?” and the reason therefore. He is taking Abraham His friend into His confidence and doubtless because Lot is in danger. This is the first prayer in the Bible and we may learn many things from it.
But before proceeding we must look at these preceding verses. “Shall I hide from Abraham the thing which I do?” What a wonderful question. Here is one man in the earth with whom God desires the fullest fellowship. Not with angels but with a man, and chiefly because the promises and covenant belong to him; but to be fulfilled his children must keep the way of the Lord to do justice and judgment (v. 19). We know that they did not do this and the promise and covenant is now in abeyance until they are brought to this state. We must not read into verses 20 and 21 any idea that the knowledge of God is limited concerning things taking place on earth. This is the knowledge of experience and investigation similar to the first question of the Bible, to Adam, “Where art thou?” though He knew full well where he was. It is similar in the New Testament such as concerning Lazarus “Where have ye laid him?” Those who question this, desire to suggest that the Lord’s knowledge was limited though they forget that He had said, “Lazarus is dead…” showing that He did know all that was taking place. He is the same Person Who here “goes down to see…” It appears from many scriptures that angelic hosts report the doings on earth to the Supreme Being.
Abraham now takes up the position and advantage of the intercessor. The Lord has not SAID that He would destroy Sodom, but that is implied. The saintly soul is able to penetrate these things and know, and thus to intercede, and this because of Lot the backslider. Did Abraham think that this poor man had gained converts during his stay in Sodom? It appears likely, and so he starts with pleading for “Fifty” and he knows the Lord so well that he rests his lever upon this divine fulcrum “That be far from Thee to do after this manner.. that be far from Thee, shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Now this is what honours the Lord and He encourages Abraham to pursue his prayer and how reverently he does it, “I… which am dust and ashes” and “Oh, let not the Lord be angry…” once and twice. He comes down to ten and the Lord follows him in this, as long as Abraham asks, God will answer. What encouragement this should give us to enter into such fellowship and intimacy which these Old Testament saints enjoyed in such full measure.
This left Abraham at peace, everything was in the Lord’s hands, he had made his plans and left all there, for he returns to his place and in the next chapter at the destruction of the cities we read he got up early in the morning to view this terrible holocaust. The flesh would no doubt have rushed around and done something, going forth to warn Lot at least, but no, Abraham could leave everything to the Judge of all the earth Who must do right.
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord
- (Hab. 3:18)
- by William Montgomery
- Though the fig tree shall not blossom,
- And no fruit be on the vine,
- Though earth’s sweetest harvests fail me,
- I am God’s and He is mine.
- Tender flocks once clothed the hillside,
- Lowing cattle filled the stall;
- If His Hand hath left me empty
- ‘Tis the Hand that giveth all.
- Earthly brooks run dry and vanish,
- Still a river deep and broad
- Pours its waters o’er the desert,
- From the fountain-head of God.
- ‘Tis a flow that never faileth;
- Naught can satisfy like this;
- ‘Tis the love of my Redeemer,
- And for ever I am His.
- Since mine eyes have seen His beauty,
- Since mine ears have heard His voice,
- Let the wilderness surround me—
- Yet 1 will in Him rejoice.
- The sure way to become a moral shipwreck, to stand disgraced as a witness for Christ, is to neglect secret prayer and intercourse with God; also to give up the private reading and study of the Scriptures. “Praying always” and “watching thereunto with all perseverance” is an apostolic counsel to saints sitting in Heavenly places (Eph. 6:18). The knowledge of heavenly truths, or even an accurate acquaintance with the internal contents of the whole of the Sacred Volume, will not yield dependence upon God which is expressed in prayer. If you want to be preserved, never neglect private prayer. The Christian who, for a day even, omits this privilege and duty, trades upon his own strength, works upon his own resources, and, unless God in mercy upholds, he will most assuredly stumble. A Christian who has been with God in much prayer, is calm and not easily put out in the presence of evil and difficulty.—Selected