THE NEW BIRTH
by Walter Scott
CHURCH PRINCIPLES (3)
by John Heading
by J. B. Good
CHRIST IN THE HEBREWS
by J. B. Hewitt
PAUL’S SECOND EPISTLES
by R. W. Beales
by J. C. R. Tambling
by John Cowan
by Walter Scott
THE NEW BIRTH
“Born again” (John 3). is but a feeble statement of this fundamental truth of scripture. “Born anew” (R.V.) intimates a new source, a fresh commencement of life altogether different in character and origin from birth of the flesh (verse 6). Both the birth and life imparted— divine and eternal—are absolutely independent of, and totally unlike the old. New birth is an act of divine sovereign power, having its origin solely in the divine will and purpose (John 1:13), yet it is not dissociated from faith (verse 12). In the new birth eternal life is actually communicated to believers. The Holy Spirit is the agent (John 3:8) and the word of God, i.e., the incorruptible seed (1Peter 1:23), is the means by which new birth is effected (James 1:18). There can be no amalgamation of “flesh” and “spirit.” In character (Roman 7:25) and results (Galatians 5:17-23) they are diametrically opposed—are contrary powers. Thus the man born of God has within him two totally distinct natures, the one wholly corrupt, the other absolutely impeccable. The natures are irreconcilable in character. While every act, thought and word flows from the respective nature of which it is the source, it must ever be born in mind, that the man, is the responsible I. The man, not the nature, is born of God, and he, not it, is responsible for the activities of either nature. The “new man” is created after God, after his likeness (Col. 3:10), while the person is born of God (1 John 5:1).
The new birth is not a process of improvement, nor is it the sanctification of or even the subjugation of the corrupt nature—a sheer impossibility (Romans 8:7). It is an absolute new work of God in which a life as real as adamic life becomes ours, of which Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is its pattern and display (Ephesians 4:21). New birth is a subjective condition, as “regeneration” with which it is often confounded is an objective one; of course the man who is the subject of so mighty a creative act ever retains his responsibility as a creature intact, this latter having its source in the speciality of his creation (Gen. 2:7). We may further observe that it is not the life or nature communicated that is born of God, but it is a man “he is born of God” (1John 3:9). In new birth one is made a child of God. It is an act done once, and cannot be repeated. It is an eternal fact. It is therefore a monstrous idea that a child of God can ever be finally lost.
Jerusalem was the place, and Nicodemas the person, where and to whom the Lord opened out in its fullness the truth of new birth (John 3), the lesson being that neither religion nor the highest culture can avail as a standing before God. The new birth lays the axe at the root of the tree. Not improvement, but a new nature, a new source of life must be imparted, even to the most religious, moral and learned ere fruit acceptable to God can be produced. It was not in Samaria, nor to the immoral woman of Sychar, nor on the cross and to the dying robber that the lesson on new birth was so solemnly opened out by the Lord. This naturally unpalatable subject should be especially declared in cathedrals, churches and chapels, for all need it. Religious rites and ordinances tend to obscure this great truth.
CHURCH PRINCIPLES (3)
by J. HEADING
THE CHURCH AND ITS STEADFASTNESS Acts 2:37-47
In our first two chapters we have looked at God’s choice of men found in a local church, and then at the principles of service that God expects to see undertaken there. But one can still confess all this without functioning so as to please God. The life must be so orientated as to allow time for steadfastness. There can be no such thing as easy-come, easy-go attitudes in assembly life; putting the local church last and ones own interests, comfort and convenience first is disastrous for spiritual power. Omitting exceptional circumstances, this manifests itself in irregular attendance at the breaking of bread, no service engaged in, never being seen at any weeknight meetings, even perhaps because the pleasures of the world have priority, sapping away spiritual interest and vitality.
When God forms something, it is not inert; rather it is intended for fulltime activity. In biological life, the millions of cells mature, and subdivide in the process of growth. They always are fulfilling their allotted portion in the service of the organism. In the universe, the sun and stars always function as radiators of light, heat and energy. In the service of the Old Testament tabernacle, the priests had to offer two lambs day by day continually—the continual burnt offering, Exod. 29:38. Every evening and morning they had to burn incense—perpetual incense, 30:7. Hebrews 10:11 states that every priest “standeth daily” offering the same sacrifices, although they can never take away sins.
Now of course we are under grace (with liberty) and not under law (in bondage). Yet we cannot do as we please; we must not use our liberty as an occasion for the flesh, Gal. 5:13. Hence we must superabound under grace, far above the formal continual functioning of the Old Testament priesthood. In fact, membership is a fulltime membership; we are one body in Christ and everyone members, Rom. 12:5; we are living stones and a spiritual house, 1 Pet. 2:5. Bricks do not sometimes form part of the walls of a house, while at other times forming just a heap in the garden. The ap-predation of full time membership and the responsibilities this brings pleases God, when we are truly occupied with eternal and spiritual things. Some few believers may find this outlook precious from the time of their conversion; others may find it difficult to adjust their mind and life to it. It is good therefore to learn from specific examples of others —in The Acts of the early steadfastness of the church in Jerusalem; of individuals, “be thou an example of the believers,” 1 Tim. 4:12; of the church, “ye became followers of the churches of God in Judaea in Christ,” 1 Thess. 2:14.
Initial steadfastness. In resurrection, the Lord appeared to witnesses chosen beforehand of God. The effect was that immediately after His ascension they looked steadfastly towards heaven, Acts 1:10. This was their initial zeal—their affection was heavenward, while their testimony was earthward. Their affection centred on things above, but in their testimony they had to look on the fields. It may be that such a balanced company is now hard to find. After the initial vision, they “continued with one accord in prayer … the number of names was about 120,” vv. 14-15. BUT in 1Cor. 15:6, He had appeared to over 500 at once. This suggests that there was a lack of steadfastness right from the start; where were the other 380? Whatever the reason, let not any local church degenerate, with 500 on the Lord’s Day present, but only 120 at a meeting for prayer during the week. The ones who are faithful were “all with one accord in one place,” 2:1, able to move dynamically in the power of the Spirit. Others who may have been half-hearted could only move statically. All would have the Spirit, but do we allow Him to have us? Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, but is it true in experience that we are “not your own”? 1 Cor. 6:19.
From the time of the first converts in Acts 2, they continued stedfastly in the spiritual things that matter. One might suggest that these things would be too new, and that it would be best not to introduce new converts to them straight away. Rather, build them up on their past experience, pleasures, occupations and religious outlook! Instead, the new man makes a complete break with the old man, so new converts must be introduced to new ground immediately. The polite excuse that passes over church principles is inexcusable. Peter exhorted in Acts 2:38 that they should repent, and that everyone should be baptized. Then in verse 42, they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers. Also in service, to enable God to add daily those who were being saved, v. 47.
Steadfast in baptism. In Acts 2:41, we have specific order: gladly receiving Peter’s word by faith is followed by baptism. This is always the divine order in every scriptural example; baptism is expected after conversion and never before. Thus in Matthew 28:19, they had to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them. In Acts 9:18, Paul had been converted; then he arose and was baptized. In Acts 8:36, the desire of the eunuch “What doth hinder me to be baptized?” arose because he had faith. In Corinth, they heard and believed, and then were baptized, 18:8. Scripture never conceives of infant baptism, and never conceives of an unbaptized believer. The nature of baptism is important, since we find several baptisms in the New Testament. Baptism by John’s baptism was not good enough—the men in Ephesus had to be rebaptized, 19:5. The reasons behind baptism are several. It saves us from a bad conscience toward God, 1 Pet. 3:21. Sins are washed away—not in the sense of legal justification and cleansing by the blood of Christ—but in the deliberate abandonment of past sin, Acts 22:16. Baptism signifies that the old nature has been crucified with Christ, so that the new man after the Spirit can walk in newness of life, Rom. 6:1-11.
Note that there is a command to baptize, Matt. 28:19, and a command to be baptized, Acts 10:48. Note too that service follows the owning of the Headship of Christ, but steadfastness follows being crucified with Christ, this being displayed outwardly by baptism.
Steadfast in the apostles’ doctrine. Every other activity follows from the doctrine that we hold or have learnt. Thus Timothy had to give attendance to doctrine, 1 Tim. 4:13; he had to take heed to the doctrine. 4:16; he had to value doctrine according to godliness, the words of the Lord, 6:3. Paul stressed that all scripture is profitable for doctrine, 2 Tim. 3:16. The apostles’ doctrine is embraced by the day-by-day activity of learning, being corrected, appreciating; it also is acquired by attending regular assembly meetings for teaching and instruction. To abandon this rapidly produces stunted growth.
The book of the Acts is full of useful examples. Peter’s first and second messages in Acts 2:14-40 and 3:12-26 are full of extractions from the Old Testament and the prophets, showing that Christ crucified, raised and ascended all fulfil the Old Testament scriptures. In Acts 6:4, the apostles gave themselves “continually” to prayer and the ministry of the Word, this being the means of engraining their own steadfastness into others. In 11:26, Barnabas and Paul assembled with the church at Antioch, and taught “much” people for a “year”—there was no decline in the interest of listening to them! In 13:16-43, we find Paul’s dependence on the Old Testament scriptures, and his adherence to the Christ who died and rose again. In 17:2, Paul reasoned with the Thessalonians out of the Scriptures, while in Corinth he taught the Word of God for one and a half years amongst them, 18:11. In Ephesus it was three years, so that the Word of God mightily grew and prevailed, 19:20. In Ephesus earlier, Apollos had known the Old Testament scriptures, but Aquila and Priscilla (having learnt from Paul) explained to him the way of God more perfectly, 18:26. Thus now every young convert should make it their declared intention to know the Scriptures—the same teaching as that of the apostles, avoiding the “ism’s” of the day. If we love the Word, we will abide by it in practice, but if we are ignorant of it, our lives will be in darkness. Joshua had to meditate in the law “day and night,” so as to walk therein and to be prosperous in God’s service, Josh. 1:8.
Steadfastness in fellowship. In keeping with the doctrine learnt, fellowship follows with a common outlook, a common harmony and a common activity in the work of the Lord. In Acts 2:44-46; 4:32 we have an expression of this fellowship in daily living by being together and having all things common, by all being in the temple courts, and being united in meals, etc. We must of course distinguish in a passage like this between (i) what is convenient in ordinary daily life according to local circumstances, and (ii) the abiding principles of fellowship in local church service. We should note that the former changed in The Acts according to places and circumstances.
Fellowship continued whatever the circumstances of life. After a persecution and release from prison, “being let go, they went to their own company,” 4:23; in other words, they valued the presence and help of the Lord’s people. Later, in 5:12, they were with one accord in Solomon’s porch in the temple; no unbelievers dare join them, but the Lord added. This shows what the fellowship consisted of and what it did not. In 9:28, Paul had fellowship with the Jerusalem church; he was “with them coming in (for internal service) and going out (for external service).” In 11:30, there was practical financial fellowship from Antioch to Jerusalem brought by the hands of Barnabas and Saul. In 13:1-3, there was spiritual fellowship at Antioch; the workers were fasting and praying, and they laid their hands on Saul and Barnabas to signify their identification with them and their new work. In 14:27, at the end of the first journey, there was fellowship in the church at Antioch to come together to hear the work of the Lord through Paul. In 15:3, they were “brought on their way by the church”—the fellowship of hospitality shown by those with homes on the apostle’s route to Jerusalem. In 18:2, Paul abode in the home of Priscilla and Aquila in Corinth—the fellowship of labouring together from a home devoted to the Lord’s service. In 20:4, names from the first, second and third journeys accompanied Paul from Corinth to Macedonia; here was fellowship with fellow-workers and fellow-travellers. Such examples show the wide scope of fellowship, appreciated because of the oneness of mind in Christ Jesus of those participating.
Steadfast in breaking bread. In keeping with the Lord’s request, “This do in remembrance of me,” Matt. 26:26; Luke 22:19, this was then perpetuated (i) by the apostles who had received directly this request in the upper room, and (ii) by Paul, who had received of the Lord what he delivered to the Corinthians, 1 Cor. 11:23. It was practised steadfastly by Paul at Troas, Acts 20:6, 7, where he had to abide for seven days ready to depart on the Monday, evidently to spend the Lord’s Day there “upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread.” Here is no place for ritual or for legalism, as many would allow and introduce from vain tradition. Neither can it involve true steadfastness if the Lord’s service during the rest of the week is neglected.
Steadfast in prayer. There is something wrong if the breaking of bread shows the whole church gathered, while the weekly prayer meeting is attended by a faithful proportion only. We sing, “O the pure delight of a single hour, That before Thy throne I spend; When I kneel in prayer and with Thee, my God, I commune as friend with friend.” But the Lord said, “Could ye not watch one hour?” when alas they were fast asleep. However, in The Acts we find many fine examples of this continuity in prayer. Peter and John went up to the temple to pray, Acts 3:1; after deliverance, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, 4:2; the apostles gave themselves continually to prayer, 6:4; prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God, 12:5; many were gathered together praying, 12:12; Paul kneeled down and prayed with them all, 20:36. In most of Paul’s epistles, he observes that he was always praying and thanking God for different aspects of the life and testimony of the churches, and in most he urges them to pray likewise. For example, see Romans 1:8, 10; 15:30-32. Search these out in the other epistles.
Steadfast in service. The examples throughout the New Testament are too numerous to list briefly. May we mention only the words of Paul, “I laboured more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me,” 1 Cor. 15:10.
—(To be continued)
CREMATION. IS IT OF GOD?
by J. B. GOOD
There is much confusion among the Lord’s people with regard to this all important subject, and consequently, many sincere believers, in the hour of sorrow and bereavement, have been deceived and allowed the remains of their loved ones to be cremated.
The question which must be predominant, is not the financial saving, or the so called hygienic benefits of cremation, but is cremation of God? It is true that this mode of disposal of the dead has been accepted by Christendom without a murmur, what else could be expected, when it has already accepted the mythical ideas of miracles, and relegated the creation as recorded in Genesis to the level of fables. Again the Vatican, the centre of a religion of convenience, and always opposed to cremation, has granted a dispensation to allow the adherents of the church of Rome to practise cremation, provided that in doing so, there is no denial of the doctrines of Rome with regard to the life after death!
The first recorded burial is found in Genesis 23:19, “And after this Abraham buried Sarah his wife” there are numerous Scriptures which could be quoted from the Old Testament, with regard to burial, Moses, Joseph and others! When we come to the New Testament we find that the truth of the Gospel is based on three great facts, (1Cor. 15:3-4). “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” tender and loving hands took Him down from the Cross, and laid Him in Joseph’s new tomb, but on the third appointed day God raised Him from the dead. Surely this must be the supreme example and pattern which every child of God must follow. The message from the empty tomb would tell us in eloquent language that the truth of resurrection is based on burial not burning!
Scriptures such as 1Cor. 6:19-20, would leave us in no doubt as to the sanctity of the believer’s body in life, again Rom. 8:23 would stress that it is this same body which will be raised incorruptible, and Philippians 3:20 teaches us that this body of humiliation will bear the likeness of His own body of glory. In 1Cor. 15:52 the figure of sowing is used, as the apostle deals with the subject of death and resurrection, could there be a clearer reference to burial?
It is true that God commanded cremation in judgement, (Deut. 7:25) “The graven images of their gods shall ye burn with fire” and again in Joshua 7:15 when the judgement on Achan’s sin was that of cremation, it was a mark of dishonour to have no burial, of that there can be no doubt. In 1Sam. 31 we have the bodies of Saul and his sons burned by the men of Jabesh-Gilead, and their bones buried under a tree at Jabesh. In 2 Sam. 2:4-5, David is told that the men of Jabesh-Gilead have buried the remains of Saul, and David sends messengers to them to express his gratitude at the kindness they had shown in burying Saul. One of the sins of Moab was in this same practice (Amos 2:1). It is evident that cremators were idolaters, the Ammonites were fire worshippers, the fire god Moloch was their god, does the foregoing not apply to the day in which we live.
There is a difference between sentiment and reverence, and no observant Christian can deny that Christian burial is losing the dignity and sanctity which was once accorded to this act by the Lord’s people. The world in many instances is dictating the pattern, services being conducted by brethren who use phrases we have long since associated with clerisy. There is a dignity (and it cannot be borrowed) connected with the Scriptures of Truth when read in sincerity and simplicity at the graveside service, and what a great opportunity to speak a word of warning to those who are still without Christ. May occasions which afford such opportunities not be marred by brethren who seem to prefer the ritual to the spiritual, there needs to be a solemn heart searching among overseers as to the spiritual character of those who engage in ministering succour to the bereaved among us!
One tries to imagine the care and preparation of that precious body, when removed from Calvary’s Cross for burial (John 19:40 and Luke 23:53). Again in Acts 8:2, “devout men carried Stephen to his burial and made great lamentation over him.” I repeat there is as much difference between night and day as is between, cold ritual and loving care, between, sentimentality and spiritual dignity, the latter is easily identified!
In conclusion, the practice of cremation is definitely Pagan, Burial is Christian, the silence of our God on the subject of cremation, should be sufficient to cause every child of God to abhor this practice. Let us be on our guard against conformity to modernism, and against the possibility of this pagan rite finding acceptance among the Lord’s redeemed people.
- Low in the grave He lay, Jesus my Saviour,
- Waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord.
- Up from the grave He arose,
- with a mighty triumph o’er His foes,
- He arose a victor from the dark domain,
- And He lives for ever with His Saints to reign,
- Hallelujah, Christ arose!
CHRIST IN THE HEBREWS
by J. B. HEWITT, Chesterfield
“The Impressive Minister in the New Sanctuary” Ch. Eight
Displacement marks this Epistle; “He taketh away the first that He may establish the second.” The new Priest has been installed ch. 7. This necessitates a new sanctuary, 8:1-6; and a new covenant 8:7-12; then the priestly family and the new worshippers chapters 9 and 10.
The Dignity of the Priest v. 1. Installed in majesty at God’s right hand. The Sanctuary for the priest v. 2-5a heavenly, helpful, real and permanent. The Ministry of the priest v. 3,4. Its necessity—something to offer,” locality, not on earth v.4a, its suitability “ordained” v. 3a; its excellency v. 6a The Better Covenant v. 7-13. The limitations of the Old Covenant v. 6-9; The satisfaction of the New Covenant v. 10-13.
A More Excellent Ministry Verses 1-6.
The Superior Priest v. 1. Here we pass from the consideration of the Person of the Priest and watch Him perfectly discharging the duties of His office in the new sanctuary. The chief point is “we have such a high priest.” He is infinitely above all other priests, in position—“sat down,” in dignity—“at the right hand,” in authority—“at the throne of God,” in supremacy—“the Majesty in the heavens.” No other priest ever sat down in recognition of a finished work, nor had any the perfect right to this place of highest honour in heaven. His sitting down is an indication of His royal position; for He is a royal priest. He is the antitype of Melchisedec—thus combining in Himself the two offices of Priest and King.
The Sanctuary Perfect v. 2. This living High Priest is the administrator of the holy things in the real tabernacle in heaven. There He has a work to do corresponding with the spiritual dignity of His office, and He never fails to give us help. “The heavens” as referred to here, denote the eternal dwelling place of God Himself.
The word ‘minister’ signifies one who serves in an official capacity and it is used of the service of the priest of the sanctuary Isa. 61:6; Jer. 33:21; Neh. 10:40. As there is only one Priest, Christ in heaven, so there is only one holy place, the heavenly sanctuary v. 5; 9:24. “True” — real, abiding; opposed to that which was typical and temporary. His ministration there is more to us than all the old pompous ceremonies and services of the old economy. That perfection which the earthly tabernacle could never produce is reached here and in this tent God does really and personally dwell. Acts 7:48; 17:48.
In this tabernacle the Lord Jesus is not only High Priest but Mediator likewise uniting in His person the offices of Moses and of Aaron.
A Sacrifice Essential v. 3. The purpose of priesthood is to “offer gifts and sacrifices.” This was to be accomplished in and by Christ, which He did when He offered Himself: 9; 13,14. This theme is developed in chapter 9. “Gifts” covers all types of offerings presented to God; sacrifices, gifts in which an animal was slain.
Sphere of Priesthood v.4. Heavenly not earthly. The teaching refers to Christ’s present ministry in the Sanctuary, and not to what He did on earth. ‘Sphere,’ not time or place is in view here. Seeing that God had vested the earthly priesthood in the tribe of Levi, Exodus 28:1; the Lord Jesus who belonged to the tribe of Judah 7:14, would not violate that order, and consequently could not be a priest on earth. His priesthood must needs be heavenly and eternal, being connected with the new covenant.
Superior Ministry v. 5,6. The quotation in verse 5, taken from Ex. 25:40, proves there is a real tabernacle in the unseen world of which the one that Moses built was a copy.
The Tabernacle in the wilderness was a figure of the way of access to God. The outer court represented the earth, and the holy place answered to heaven; the holiest of all corresponding to the heaven of heavens, the very presence of God Himself. The true tabernacle, the heavenly and the spiritual is designed and passed by God Himself. To go back to Judaism is to leave the substance for the shadows and this was retrogression not progress. In contrast to the work of Aaron our Lord Jesus has a more excellent ministry; is the Mediator of a better Covenant giving to His own better promises. The superiority of His Priesthood is emphasized in the words “better” and “more excellent.”
May we heed the warning here and not be tempted to go back from the Priest in the true sanctuary to the priests in the copy of the true.
“‘In Him’ we have a present priesthood, which we are to appropriate v.l. It is a royal and ministerial v.1,2, sacrificial v.3, heavenly v.5 and perfect v.6” W. H. Griffith Thomas.
The More Embracing Covenants Verses 7-13.
From Christ’s Priestly acceptability v.1,2; and activity v. 3-5; we turn to His Priestly assurance v. 6-9 and announcements v. 10-13.
Strictly the new covenant has application to Israel, but we have to read the spirit of it, we must be on the terms of the new covenant though not strictly under it. The covenant itself is made with Israel and Judah and will be under grace not law. It is a covenant of promise and the Son of God is the surety that the promises will be fulfilled 7:27.
Its Perfection Announced v. 6b-7. God does everything in this new covenant. A covenant is a contract in which each party lends himself to the other in certain conditions. The first covenant was not perfect Ex. 24:7, its basis was the promises of man—“we will.” The second covenant is perfect, the basis of it being the promise of God “I will” Jer. 31:34.
The character of the Priest gives superiority to the Covenant ch. 7, but here it is the superiority of the Covenant which adds dignity to the Priesthood. Other contrasts might be noted; ch. 7 Christ is Surety of a better Covenant; ch. 8 He is the Mediator through whom all the terms of the Covenant are carried out.
The Old covenant though educative was impotent and temporary and its replacement is contemplated v. 7. The new covenant is redemptive, dynamic and eternal, its promise of spiritual blessings being the principle thing. The mind is directed to heaven, the heart is cheered with the hopes of immortal life.
Its Provision Adequate v. 8-12. It is promised by God v. 8, prophesied to be better v. 9, and providing fellowship with God for all, v. 10.
The weakness is not with the old covenant but with the people v. 8. Their total depravity was brought out in their failure to keep the promises they rashly made. The law, revealing to man his sinfullness, was designed to be preparatory to the Gospel. God Himself set the old covenant aside because it was inadequate. In the new, God is the principle party covenanting—“I will make” v. 8. His power and faithfullness are pledged to its fulfilment. Note this covenant is directly with the twelve tribes and does not apply to Christian’s today v. 8b. We enjoy the spirit of it today, forgiveness from God and fellowship with God. The new covenant is new in quality and in its scope, for it is going to unite that which had been divided and close the schisms.
What God promises He provides, for His promise is absolute. The new covenant is better because of its spirituality v. 10, and its efficacy v. 11, and its assurance of forgiveness v. 12. The character of the covenant is stated negatively v. 9, and positively v. 10-12. The effect produced will be permanent. The people of God will enjoy a deeper revelation, their understanding being enlightened—“My laws in their minds.” Their affections will be engaged—“My laws upon their hearts”; a new relation will be enjoyed. “I will be to them a God,” and their allegiance will be expressed in being—“to me a people.”
That coming day of blessing will also be marked by an intimate knowledge of the Lord—“from the least to the greatest,” an experience of unparalleled mercy—“be merciful” and assurance of free forgiveness v. 11, 12.
Its Permanency Assured v. 13. The old is obsolete and ready to vanish. The sacrificial system did indeed vanish away with the destruction of the temple in AD 70. This covenant is faultless and final, based as it is upon the complete redemption of Christ 10:15-17. “Near to disappearance,” this refers to that covenant and its outward administration—the temple, the priests and the order of approach to God.
The New will be permanent, for Jesus not Aaron is the Surety, the Guarantor from God’s side. He is also the Mediator, not Moses, for only our Lord Jesus could secure and bring to fruition the terms of the covenant. What was prophetically foretold Jer. 31:31-34, and historically fulfilled Luke 22:20 and doctrinally expounded Heb. 8:10-13, is absolutely guaranteed v. 8.
May we appreciate this revelation of love and mercy v. 12, of law and knowledge v.10,11, and the realisation of fellowship v.11,12 and worship in the beauty of holiness within the veil.
—(To be continued)
PAUL’S SECOND EPISTLES AND THE OTHER APOSTLES (SATAN’S WORK)
by R. WOODHOUSE BEALES
First of all we must notice that all the second epistles have to do with the work of Satan. Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians has in view all the way through the sins of the flesh, with the exception of ch. 15 which deals with the Resurrection, but even here apostate ideas had crept in regarding this most important subject, but the second epistles all have to do with departure from the faith and especially the workings of Satan. These deal with the subjects elaborated in the Book of Revelation, which was not written until some 35 or more years after Paul’s epistles. We have little information about the very last days in the epistles and we believe that is why these second epistles were written which deal with these very subjects. Second Corinthians deals with the subtle powers of satan in many ways, while the other Second epistles deal with the coming apostasy in much detail.
So that in the first epistles we have sin underlined, in the believer and in the world but in the second epistles Satan and his works. Let us briefly look at this, hoping that the reader will have sufficient interest to pursue the subject.
In 2Cor. 1:8, we have the unique dangers besetting Paul himself. Then in ch. 2:11, Paul speaks of Satan getting an advantage over the Christian especially with regard to the disciplined one (the subject of 1Cor.). In ch. 3:14 the purpose of the evil one is to draw a veil (as he undoubtedly did, over the heart of Israel), lest the light of the glory of the Gospel of Christ should shine into them. The blinding of the minds of the believers to cause them unbelief is next alluded to in 4:4. The manner in which the serpent beguiled Eve in the garden is next brought before us in 11:3, bringing down the whole of creation into turmoil and estrange-from God. False apostles are alluded to in 11:13,14, Satan coming to such as an angel of light as indeed he had done in the case of Eve at the fall and lastly Satan is seen as a messenger to buffet Paul in many ways, so that he found opposition wherever he went whether to Jew or Gentile.
We invite the reader to follow these thoughts up throughout this epistle and he will find much to guard against; especially those who are in the forefront of the battle.
Next we have the second epistle to the Thessalonians and in the second chapter of that epistle there is a full unfolding of the attacks of Satan through the Antichrist. This creature and his work are only unfolded completely in the Book of Revelation). The world is not going to be converted by the Christian Gospel and we must here remind ourselves that in the first Epistle we have brought out fully the great hope of the Christian, the Coming of the Lord FOR His people and their coming translation. This is to be followed then by the revelation of the Man of Sin which is the subject of Revelation 13 where this great world ruler is referred to as The Beast. (We will not here go into the question of the fact that he is preceded by the world domination of the “whore” the false Church or Christendom, nor the fact that there more detail is given us when we see that he has a kind of “lieutenant” so that there are two beasts, who together with Satan form an ungodly trinity).
This false “christ” sits in the rebuilt temple of God shewing himself that “he IS god” and that the whole world worships him under pain of martyrdom. (We have no doubt that there will be many who in that day will be enlightened and will turn to God and have to flee for their lives). God Himself, it says shall send them a strong delusion that they may believe “the lie” (as opposed to Him Who is The Truth)
In order that this may be brought about we find false teachers (2Tim. 2:16-18) who will turn away men’s ears from the truth and shall turn them to fables that they may be thus deceived. This is to be seen in 2Tim. 2 but also in 4:3,4. These are the perilous times to which he refers in 3:1.
Paul says he is about to be offered which shows us the days to which he refers, he is looking to the time when the believer will have no human help such as an apostle can give, and Peter speaks of “after my decease” (1:15) and the apostasy in 2:1 and 19, where there will be apostasy from the truth and the false teachers and he illustrates this by referring as illustration to the “old world” and also Sodom which city was done away with (as this world will ultimately be). Some will be asking “Where is the promise of His coming” and that is of course a reference to His coming in power and glory to put down all enemies and reign. Not only so but the flood is also alluded to as an illustration of the coming judgement in which only few souls were saved. But Peter carries us still much further (and here is the likeness with Revelation) where he speaks of the dissolution of all things in that Day of the Lord where he tells us that even the elements will melt with fervent heat and looks forward to the afterwards of the new heavens and new earth. Thus we have the book of Revelation (or part of it) anticipated which deals with those things which usher in eternity, wherein everything will be “New” and wherein righteousness will dwell. There are also many references to this time in the Old Testament (See Isa. 11:6-9 and ch. 30:26, etc.).
by J. C. R. TAMBLING
Read Genesis 13:10-18, Genesis 23, Numbers 13:21-25, 1Corinthians 2:5-16.
“And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah, before Mamre, the same is Hebron, in the land of Canaan,” (Genesis 23:19). This is not the first mention of Hebron; it comes up earlier in ch. 13:18, as being Abram’s dwelling place, by the oaks of Mamre, but nonetheless, it establishes an important point.
That “the field is the world” is a principle of interpretation we will be constantly recalling when we come to the various fields in Scripture. What a field was this one! We have often been reminded that it was Abraham’s only possession in Canaan. The land was promised to him, but he paid for this field. Everything belongs to God, but is in enemy hands; the sons of Heth—“terror” possess it; all has to be regained on the ground of purchase, which is what we see Abraham doing when he pays down 400 shekels of silver, “current money with the merchant.” There is only one coin that is current money with God, not gold or silver, but the precious blood of Christ.
The field is bought, and not only that, but “the cave that was therein and all the trees that were in the field, that were in the borders round about,” v.17. The trees will bring in the thought of life, as in Genesis 13:18. That thought is strengthened by the meaning of Mamre—“vigour.” Though there is a burial here, it is in view of life. “As the days of a tree are the days of My people,” (Isaiah 65:22). Death is not to be the final thing! The name Machpelah means “a doubling back”; it shows that the grave, which “asks”— the very meaning of the word “Sheol”—asking, at present, as something that is never satisfied, (Prov. 30:15,16)— will yet give up its dead. “I will ransom them from the power of the grave, I will redeem them from death,” (Hosea 13:14). “The earth shall cast out the dead,” (Isa. 26:19).
At present, the earth is one great graveyard. Yet, as in the parable in Matthew 13:44, the field has been brought, and though the earth, like Judas’ field, which he buys later on, is at present only to “bury strangers” in, yet what it is going to be will yet be revealed. The burial at Machpelah cannot be the end.
What should help us here is to see that the field is over against Hebron; “opposite to Mamre, that is, Hebron,” as Mr. Darby renders it. Faith will look across from the graveyard character of this world, and see another—the idea of which is conveyed by Hebron. And though Hebron may have another name, Kiriath Arba—“the city of the strength of Baal,” and though other lords may have dominion in Canaan, yet faith sees that things will not be maintained as they are; there is a greater than Caleb who has taken the city for God, in order that His original thoughts about it may be expressed.
God’s original thought for Hebron, the resurrection world, is seen in Numbers 13:22. There we read of the spies coming to Hebron, and the Spirit of God tells us that “Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.” Seven years expresses the idea of completeness. God ever has Hebron in mind, as something that He has established. What about Zoan in Egypt? Zoan means “a place of departure,” and recognising Egypt as the world, we may say, what departure from God there has been! Men and women busy carving themselves out a portion down here, in somewhere which we may say morally is a place of death, ignorant of what God would provide for them. The world in its independence of God! “The river is mine own, I have made it for my self”—Pharaoh’s language in Ezekiel 29:3, is typical. Egypt depends, not on the rain of heaven for its fertility—i.e. that which would speak of grace—but on the river, so Moses says of Egypt, “thou sowedst thy seed, and wateredst it with thy foot,” (Deut. 11:10). Pretty miserable!
When it came to a choice of land, Lot’s reason for choosing “the plain of Jordan” was that it was like the land of Egypt, (Gen. 13:10). In contrast, Abraham went in for Hebron. What do we go in for? The Corinthians were guilty of Lot’s attitudes. Within the inheritance that God had given them, they were seeking to import things that resembled the world. They went in for things carnal—things that could be seen by, and that would appeal to, the flesh. They might have been called out of the world into the fellowship of His Son, but they were bringing human wisdom into the assembly, they were setting up human leaders, they were content, in the realm of spiritual gifts, only with those ones that excited the flesh. In contrast, the things that would build up the assembly—the wisdom that God has provided, the acceptance of the sole authority of the Lord, and the going in for the things that would edify one another—these they had rejected. In the assemblies of the Lord’s people today, these things have many counterparts.
The only thing that will prevent us from going in for things as much like Egypt as possible—the world that we profess to have finished with at our baptism, is the coming to Hebron, and an appreciation of what that place means. Now, as remarked, Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt. Before the world’s wisdom ever got under way, the Lord had provided something else. We speak, says Paul, wisdom among them that are perfect—or full-grown—as the Corinthians were not, (see 3:1, 14:20). What is the wisdom the apostles spoke? “Even the hidden wisdom which God ordained before world unto our glory.” Such a wisdom involves us in a “mystery,” as he says. But a “mystery” in the Scriptures is not something that cannot be understood. Verses 9 and 10 help here: “As it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit.”
If we would understand this wisdom, we will have to follow up the “mystery” for ourselves. There are many mysteries in the New Testament, but we might say that there is THE mystery, par excellence, and that is first mentioned in Romans 16:25, then in 1 Cor. 2:7, and then fully opened out for us in the Ephesian epistle. It is touched on again in Col. 1:26. It fully answers to the idea of Hebron, “a company.” It involves the unique blessings that have been bestowed upon the Church. That company, the whole of, the “body,” is a prepared vessel, in the purposes of God, for the containing of “all the fullness of God,” (Eph. 3:19). There is coming a time, in the resurrection world, where the universe will be completely filled out by God in Christ, (Eph. 1:23, 4:10). And, wonder of wonders, this universe, in breadth and length and depth and height, will be occupied by the Church, as the fullness of Him that filleth all in all. In the comparison that Paul develops in Eph. 2:20-22, the Church will be a holy temple in the Lord to contain that reality of which the glory spoke when it filled the Tabernacle, and the Temple. To think of the Church being capable of containing the full revelation of God! In the day of glory, the Church will come to “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,” (Eph. 4:13). The “body” will correspond exactly to Him, known, not as He is personally,—that would be “the measure of the stature of Christ”—but known as the One Who will fill all things. The Church will exactly answer to that—indeed, it will be the fullness itself.
We read these things in Ephesians, and admit them to be the topstone of Church truth—but we will deplore our lack of appreciation of them. In this wisdom, we will agree, here are things that the eye hath not seen, nor ear heard. Here is the path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture’s eye hath not seen, (Job 28:7). How shall we enter into
them, come, that is, practically to Hebron, and dwell there, as Abraham did, and look upon this world in the light of it? We shall have to do it via First Corinthians. For Paul, showing to the Corinthians that there is this truth that he desires to impart to them, has to bring sharp elementary lessons to bear upon them, touching on their position as a local assembly. These lessons need to be imbibed before the truth of the one body can be really appreciated. And thus, when we turn from 1 Cor. 2 to ch. 3, we find that we are in the atmosphere of the local assembly, as God’s building, His tilled field, a sanctuary of God. In this last, “the Spirit of God dwelleth in you.” Here is preparation for the mystery! What wisdom has gone into the making of the local gathering! We shall be helped to understand Ephesians if we know that we have the realised presence of God in the assembly, something to be known by all, compare ch. 14:25.
To enjoy His presence, there will have to be assembly order, and we will all have to be able to “keep rank,” (1 Chron. 12:33). There will have to be separation from Egyptian principles. Understanding the significance of what Hebron means brings its responsibilities to us, as well as its privileges. We need to grow in our appreciation of what God is going to do in Christ, in bringing in the order of things of which Hebron speaks. David reigned at Hebron before he went up to Jerusalem. Before we have the full day of glory, the Lord Jesus will be known in fellowship with His own. Hebron is where we need to find Him. May we bring these things to bear upon our lives in the assemblies of the Lord’s people to which we belong.
by the late JOHN COWAN
In the first month, in the second year, in the first day of the month, the Tabernacle was reared up, so, Moses finished the work: then the cloud covered the Tent of meeting, and the Glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle. A Finished Task, a Filled Tabernacle, but a Further Teaching yet to be given, before it will be able to function in the manner of the Divine requirement.
Not only does God desire to dwell amongst His people, but it is also His Desire that His people should be able to approach Him, and thus, a basis for this communion must be laid. So, God again called unto Moses, this time, not out of the Bush Ex. 3, nor out of the mountain Ex. 19, nor yet out of the cloud Ex. 24, but now out from the Tabernacle God calls. In Ex. 3 it is a Messenger on a Mission of Deliverance, in Ex. 19 it is a Mediator with a Mandate of Demand, in Ex. 24 it is a Master workman with a Model of a dwelling, but now in Lev. 1 it is a Minister with a Ministry of Direction. Ex. gives us the materials of which the Tabernacle consists, Lev. the Ministry it contains; thus in the good of this Ministry, the basis of approach is laid. A Burnt Offering and a Meal Offering for Acceptance, then a Peace Offering, in order that the enjoyment of their acceptance may be experienced and enjoyed.
Although now a redeemed people amongst whom the Lord is pleased to dwell, yet, such is the fallibility of His people, that inadvertently communion may be disturbed, and in order that it may be restored and enjoyed a sin and a trespass offering have also been given. It is our intention now to take a look at the completed structure, every whit of it expressing the Glory of God, the Glory of Holiness, the Beauty of Divine order, everything established according to the pattern given—God in the midst of His Redeemed People, to journey with them, His Presence protecting, His Power providing. Happy art thou O Israel, who is like unto thee O people saved by the Lord. God has come out in order that His people may go in, so as we seek to consider the approach provided, it is not our desire to isolate principles and attempt to apply them in this isolated way, but to take the whole in its integrated sense and interpret the New Testament Doctrine in the Draperies of the old. We realize that, to do so, our intelligence must be sanctified by the Holy Spirit, and our imagination restrained; to be spiritual without losing our touch with earth, and to be practical without losing our touch with heaven.
Starting out from the Camp, the Court would first be approached. Although God is in the midst of His people, and all inside the Camp enjoy this nearness of His Presence, yet there are nearer nearnesses that can only be enjoyed as we exercise ourselves to progress along the pathway that His Grace provides. This exercise of His people would begin in the Camp and would bring them to the Court, where they may experience and enjoy, in this nearer sense, a fellowship and communion with their God.
If we were allowed to walk round about the Court, the unbroken continuity of the fine twined linen in all its spotless purity would cause us to think of the Holy character of God, how that holiness becometh his house for ever, and how that he must be had in reverence by all those that are about Him. No one could be allowed to approach, unless the requirement of His Holy character had been fully met; this then would suggest the necessity of the Gate, the only means of access into His Presence to obtain this nearer view. The Gate completed the enclosure and, while composed also of fine twined linen, was richly ornamented with the needlework of colours, the Blue, the Purple, and the Scarlet. Twenty cubits was its length and the height five cubits answerable to the hanging of the Court.
If the fine twined linen of the Court proclaimed the Holiness of God and the requirement of His Holy character, here is a means of access answerable to His claims. There are three avenues of access into the presence of God with their differing degrees of nearness, namely the Gate, the Door, and the Vail, giving unfoldings of the Glory of Christ, which as apprehended and appropriated by us, will enable us to gather up in an appreciative way these unfoldings of God as Christ has told him out. The Gate then gives access into the Court, and is expressive of those excellencies of Christ, meeting all the claims of Divine Righteousness and imparting them by imputation to us who believe and thus allowing us as justified ones to enter the sphere where justified joy is experienced and enjoyed.
These avenues of access as described by God the Spirit are very fitting indeed and are always descriptive of the particular sphere of nearness into which we desire to come. The Gate is always the Gate of the Court, the Door, the Door of the Tabernacle, whilst the Vail is always the Vail of the covering, i.e. the Covering for the Ark. The Gate then is the fitting expression of our access into the Court.
—(To be continued)