New Testament Assemblies
by Robert McClurkin
THE SPIRIT — AND THE MINISTRY
by J. R. CALDWELL
WHITHER GOEST THOU?
by J. G. GOOD
THE OBITUARY OF MOSES
by J. E. TODD
by W. W. FEREDAY
"SHE HATH DONE WHAT SHE COULD"
by S. R. STOKES
Another year! The circumstances grievous, the last days are upon us, but the "Glory shines before us," the prospect is bright, the hope is certain, the end sure—
"He is coming, the Man of Sorrows Now exalted on high."
This last decade has evidenced the determination of the adversary in attacking and undermining the Authority of the Word of God, questioning the absolute deity and impeccability of the Lord Jesus, and by the theories of Tribulationism- and Amillenimism robbing the saints of the hope of the imminent return of the Lord Jesus. Add to that the fact that there are those among us who are seeking to completely change the character of the assemblies of God, so that instead of conforming to the Scriptures they may conform to the world.
Of course there are super-pessimists who foretell an early demise of the assemblies that they call the "Brethren" and it may be that the particular assemblies with which those good brethren are in fellowship and amongst which they move are declining and unhealthy because of a lack of interest in and obedience to God’s word.
All however is not lost! There are encouraging signs almost everywhere. The gatherings of the Lord’s people over the New Year season in Scotland and Ireland were a cause for thanksgiving. In Scotland, at almost every conference, the saints reported that the numbers were larger than for many years. The editor addressed two Saturday night meetings in Northern Ireland towards the end of last year – the numbers attending were 500 and 600, a very large proportion being young folk. Even in England things are not bad everywhere. There are places and areas where God’s people are realising His presence and blessing, even places where for Bible Readings it is difficult to accommodate all who come. Take heart, my dear brethren and sisters – pray, work, keep dose to Him and His word— He will bless! If perchance my readers are in companies that are declining and weak, do not give up! Do not depart from His ways, but cling to the Lord with purpose of heart. It was when in weakness Jacob could no longer wrestle but only cling he received the ‘blessing. If you find yourselves in companies whore the leaders are departing from the right ways of the Lord, put all you can into those things that remain that are according to His word and pray about the rest. He is Lord of His own assembly – trust in Him.
During recent days we have been warning the saints against the things propagated by the speakers at Swanwick. I think we have spent enough time exposing their strange teachings. Three main points are apparent. They are advocating (1) Ecumenism (2) Paid, college trained and man appointed ministry (3) Women’s participation in public prayer and ministry. All three are departure from what God’s word teaches. I shall return to these subjects on later occasions. Having been warned, my dear brethren, I trust you may be helped to graciously, but very firmly resist those that would introduce these things.
One is reminded of the words of the apostle Paul to the Ephesian elders
"For I know this, that after my departure shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore WATCH and REMEMBER . . . Brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace." Acts 20. 29-32.
As to the future, there is no doubt days will get darker, things will become more difficult – this is to be the feature of the last days – do not be surprised – but look up! Your redemption draweth nigh. "Hold fast till I come!" "I come quickly." May the Lord bless all my readers until that long expected, blissful moment dawns. – A.M.S.G.
May I thank all who have written me during past months, some agreeing, others disagreeing; but all in a very gracious way. I am afraid there are so many that I could not hope to reply. However I wish to thank you all. May the Lord graciously lead us all back to Himself in personal revival.
A PLEA FOR DIVINE SIMPLICITY
by ROBERT McCLURKIN
The great commission of our Lord, the four parts of which are seen in the last chapters of the four gospels, was threefold : the disciples were commissioned to preach the Gospel and by the truth of the Gospel, to make disciples out of all nations ; they were to mark disciples in the waters of baptism; and they were to mould disciples by the teaching of the whole Word of God.
The Book of Acts reveals how this was carried out. When souls were saved through the preaching of the Gospel, they were baptized and gathered in congregations unto the precious Name of our Lord. The apostles never became pastors over each congregation, but put the burden of responsibility on the shoulders of the converts. Then, as soon as possible, they moved on and allowed the faith of the saints to work.
There were three reasons for the planting of New Testament assemblies :
WORLDWARD, they consolidated the gains of the Gospel and became outposts for the further advancement of the Gospel of Christ.
CHURCHWARD, they were to be places of holy concord where the saints could share their joys and sorrows. They were to be for mutual edification, and care and the training ground for the development of spiritual gift and leadership.
GODWARD, they were to be little sanctuaries from which the incense of worship and praise would ascend continually.
By what names are they to be known?
There is one Divine principle that guides us in this. Any name or names that do not embrace the whole, is sectarian. Paul rebukes the Corinthians for factionalism when they said, "I am of Paul; and I am of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ." Each name only embraced each party, to the exclusion of all others.
The Spirit of God points to three serious sins that are committed in assuming unscriptural names: it is a sin against the Person of Christ, "Is Christ divided?" It is a sin against the Work of Christ, "Was Paul crucified for you?" It is a sin against the Name of Christ, "Were ye baptized in the name of Paul?" (1 Cor. 1 : 12-13). The one Name of our glorious Lord is set over against all other names, as the only Name that can unite the saints in a practical way (v. 10). The truth of gathering in His Name alone means to gather in subjection to the authority of Christ which is enshrined in that Name. There only can true unity be realized.
By what features are New Testament churches to be distinguished?
Let me point out a few.
1. By the weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper was the centre of the church life of the early saints. It was the hub from which all their activities radiated. Paul, by the Spirit, taught the Corinthians that in the Lord’s Supper they expressed a fellowship (10 : 16, 17) ; they proclaimed a fact (11 : 26) ; they remembered a Person (11 : 24); and they cherished the hope of the Lord’s return (11 : 26).
It is this weekly feast that has preserved the assemblies from the apostasy of the religious world, for in it the Spirit of God interprets the meaning of the Cross every Lord’s day.
In the early days of assembly testimony, godly saints recognized that a physical circle was a beautiful symbol of our gathering around our Lord Himself, and of His presence in the midst of His own. The seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 formed a physical circle to give us the picture of our Lord in the midst of His own.
But the Devil could not leave these little companies alone. He hates Divine simplicity and Scriptural order. Today some have an obsession to change everything. They seek to push the Lord’s Supper into a corner and make it secondary to other things. As other things crowd in, the worship of the saints is disturbed. When the emblems are passed around there is no time for the word of ministry, when the hearts of the saints, melted by the felt presence of the Lord, are ready to receive it. Some assemblies are getting used to going through the procedure without the Word of God being opened at all. This new emphasis has created a restlessness among the Lord’s people so that, not infrequently, two or three hymns are given out, one after the other, with no exercise on the part of the brethren to rise up and worship.
The emphasis on the Lord’s Supper is only superficial, compared to (hose early days when it was so precious to the hearts of God’s people. A new generation has risen up, with its emphasis on youth and religious entertainment. Yet with all the unbounded activities among the young, there are few that come out with deeper convictions on the things of God and a deeper knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. The New Testament church was distinguished as the repository of Divine truth (1 Tim. 3 : 14-16). Truth is embodied in Christ, "the truth as it is in Jesus." It is enshrined in the Scriptures, "Thy word is truth," and entrusted to the church, "the pillar and ground of the truth." A casual acquaintance with the religious world will reveal that, in all, many truths are ignored or denied. Inter-denominationalism exposes God’s people to the errors of all. The safety of the assemblies lies in their separation. The role of the assemblies is to maintain a simple testimony to the whole truth of God. Only then will they become a haven of rest for weary saints who, when tired of the whole sham and mixture, seek a resting place for their confused spirits.
3. Another mark is the freedom of the Holy Spirit to work. In His sovereignty He imparts gifts (1 Cor. 12 : 11), and in His freedom He uses it as He pleases (1 Cor. 14). In ecclesiastical systems this important feature of the New Testament pattern is ignored. One, only, is recognized with the right to teach and to preach, and that by human ordination. We must insist on the Spirit’s unfettered activity in the assembly, if we are to keep to the New Testament order. Here again we must sound the alarm among the people of God. Any professed assembly that appoints one man to be a pastor over them, runs contrary to the Word of God and challenges the sovereignty of the Spirit of God in His own house. Pastors are shepherds and shepherds are overseers. These are appointed by the Holy Spirit and are in the plural in every New Testament church.
4. Another feature of early Christianity was government. Bishops, overseers, pastors, shepherds, elders, are names given to the men who take the oversight in God’s assembly. These godly men give leadership to the Lord’s people and carry out discipline whenever called for. Christendom is a far cry from this Divine pattern. Some, who never bought the truth, are prepared to sell it for an easy religious life.
They speak now of appointing a pastor for each assembly, meaning of course, that he will become preacher and teacher as well. They are willing to pay a good salary to a man who will do all their work for them. This is not just a change of method ; it is an infringement of Divine principles and departure from the truth of God.
Today we have acquired great organizational ability until many godly saints wonder if the Spirit of God will be organized out of business. We are convinced that the Devil is setting up machinery in many companies of the Lord’s people that will make it easy for their return to Babylon and be swallowed up in the ecumenical spirit of our age.
5. Another distinguishing mark of the early saints was a faithful presentation of the Gospel. In their preaching sin was exposed, sinners were convicted and God’s remedy for sin and the sinner was clearly presented. Assemblies are compared to lampstands to shed the light of truth upon the darkened souls of men. Conversions were accompanied with repentance. Are we producing conversions today without repentance? Are we not too often satisfied with a wishy-washy, sentimental believism? In some places, with a programme of chorus singing and a "hurrah-boy" display, the whole thing is geared to attract only children and imbeciles. Let us "quit ourselves like men and be strong." The dignity of the assembly can only be maintained by an intelligence in the truth of God. The Bible anticipates every age, and if rightly interpreted, is more than a match for its opponents today. Let us establish ourselves in its blessed truths, and with humility and courage, carry the battle to the gate of the enemy. Let us equip our young people with the truth so that they will not be ashamed in the college, the university or in the field of their profession. There is enough religious entertainment in the sects. Let the assemblies become in reality "the pillar and the ground of the truth."
6. Another mark of Divine simplicity was the autonomy of each assembly. Centralization, either of funds, government or teaching, is contrary to what is written. There is a fellowship of assemblies because we are sharers of the whole truth of God. We should refuse to adopt any silly methods in the work of God that would grieve and offend godly saints that are seeking to maintain Divine simplicity. But in government, every assembly stands upon its own base, responsible to the Lord alone. Therefore we must, in faithfulness to truth, set our faces against any attempt to centralize, whether in teaching, as in a Bible school; or government, as in central oversight; or in funds, as in a missionary society.
‘Our path then is to walk apart from the religious world. Our aim should be to please our Lord alone and seek to reclaim a knowledge of the truth of God. Then when weary souls, tired of the sham and confusion of Babylon, seek rest, they will find in the assemblies of the Lord’s people little "Bethlehems" where there is "bread enough and to spare" without mixture of the notions of men.
by J. R. CALDWELL (one-time editor lot ‘The Witness)
SEE I CORINTHIANS 12. 11.
"The self-same Spirit dividing to every man severally as He will." One may be qualified to preach the Gospel; another to instruct the saints; another to care for and guide the flock. In each case the qualification is of the Spirit, and never could ‘have existed but by the power of the Spirit. Man cannot confer such gifts; neither can they be developed by any amount of theological training. If there be a felt lack of any such gifts in an assembly of the saints, how are they to be obtained? The appeal for them must be made to God alone. It is He, by his manifold grace, who alone can qualify, raise up, and bring forward to the work.
Thus we are taught that for ministry, according to God’s thoughts and not man’s, we are cast upon the living God Himself. We cannot get on without gifts that are of the Spirit, the direction which is of the Lord, and the operation (or in-working) that is of God. Helpless are we, indeed. if we look to man! But the flesh is ever ready to lean upon man rather than God. Hence how many there are in assemblies who go in and out without any sense of responsibility
—professing to look to God, but really counting upon certain brethren to be present and "conduct the service;" much as others count upon the "minister," to whom they surrender all their responsibility. May God give us grace to see that we cannot but fail of blessing, unless each individual member is in living fellowship with God, and truly subject to the Lord.
"Dividing to each one severally as He will."
Here it is emphatically asserted that these distributions of the Spirit are according to His sovereign will. This is not man’s idea. Do not parents often regard "the ministry" just as they would any other "(profession?" A father may have three sons. He puts one to "business," one he qualifies for "the law," and the third he makes "a minister." In’ each case the main object in view is a sufficient and respectable means of livelihood! So whether it be "the law" or "the ministry," the necessary qualification is the university and its appropriate curriculum. This being completed according to man’s idea each one is fitted for his particular "profession." God has as little to do with the one as the other.
—from ‘The Charter of the Church’ published by Messrs. Pickering & Inglis Ltd. in two volumes (see page 172, 173 of Volume 2).
by J. G. GOOD
We are introduced in Acts Ch. 9, to the steps of spiritual progress seen in a new convert, in this instance Saul of Tarsus. The order is significant, ‘first the blade, then the ear, after that ‘the full corn in the ear’ Mark 4-28. Salvation is only the beginning of the work of God in the soul, assembly fellowship should be the end product of all Gospel preaching, having God’s glory and our good in view. There can be no doubt that the preaching of the Gospel in the Acts of the Apostles, had the formation of New Testament churches as its goal. The New Testament does not envisage converts left as ‘independents’ but rather as living stones in a local church, builded permanently in the structure. Eph. 2-22. Can we see in God’s dealings with Saul of Tarsus a blue-print for our day and age? Questions are answered which are being evaded today, causing confusion when the question of assembly fellowship arises.
Let us walk with Saul from the Damascus road, to the assembly at Jerusalem, the wonder of it. God in grace intervenes to reach a proud bigoted Pharisee to display the riches of His grace and mercy. The first priority must be in the salvation of the sinner, therefore the first step is ;
CONVERSION (Acts 9-4). The vision and the voice are predominant in the conversion of Saul, both were to be a regular occurrence in his later life. (Acts 16-9, and 27-23). Saul could never forget this conversion experience on the Damascus road, and as life advanced this experience became more of a living reality. ‘A light from heaven’ (Acts 9-3) ‘a great light’ (22-6), and finally, ‘a light above the brightness of the sun’ (26-13). The longer we tread the pilgrim pathway, the more vibrant the chords of eternal life become in the soul, the poet expressed the aspirations of the Christian thus ;
- ‘My Father’s house on high,
- home of my soul how near,
- At times to faith’s fore-seeing eye.
- Thy golden gates appear,
- Ah, then my spirit faints,
- to reach the land I love,
- The bright inheritance of saints,
- Jerusalem above’.
Conversion may be the end of a process, but it is a definite act realised immediately (I Thess. 1-9). The vision and the voice are important and necessary in the communion life of the child of God, the Psalmist felt the need for both. (Psalm 28-1 and 143-7). Conversion should lead to consecration, ‘Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do’ (Acts 9-6) this can only be accomplished when the Lordship of Christ is fully acknowledged and owned.
PRAYER (Acts 9-11). What beautiful words, ‘Behold he prayeth,’ there is no surer sign of Divine life in the soul than this desire to pray. Again this holy exercise was to mark the apostle throughout his life, prayer was his natural habitat, the assemblies of God’s people were a special burden on his heart. We can learn much by reading the prayers of Paul as recorded in his letters, how lofty were his desires, spiritual intelligence being the hallmark of the prayers of Paul. He prays for the saints at Philippi that they may be sincere and without offence until the day of Christ. (1-9. Paul prays that the Colossians might be filled with the knowledge of His will. (1-9). Many examples could be cited, showing the deep concern which he had for ‘the spiritual well being of the saints, ‘prayeth’ not a repetition of well worn phrases, but vital, persistent, heart felt prayer. Is there not a lack of reverence today, when approaching the Throne of Grace, the dignity and privilege of having audience in the throne-room of Heaven, should have a profound effect on the quality of private and corporate prayer.
BAPTISM (Acts 9-18). This ordinance was commanded by none other than our Lord Jesus Christ. (Matt. 28, 19-20). Baptism is not necessary for salvation, but follows on salvation. The outward evidence of an inward work in the soul. This ordinance speaks primarily of the believer’s identification with the Death, Burial and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans chapter 6 describes this act as follows, ‘baptized into His death’ verse 3, ‘buried with Him’ verse 4, and ‘raised up from the dead’ verse 4. The practical truth to be ‘to walk in newness of life,’ this is the truth of conversion, baptism proclaims it, the reality of this change of life, the ‘old’ man having been crucified, the ‘new’ man living in the good of resurrection power. The mode of baptism is placed beyond doubt, ‘buried with Him’ Gr. Baptizo – to dip, immersion, submersion, and emergence. Baptism should not be viewed as a gate-way ‘to the assembly, but as implicit obedience to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ. At the same time, only baptised believers should be received into assembly fellowship.
WITNESS (Acts 9-20). Paul was a zealous man, prior to his conversion, and ‘this feature was exemplified in a distinguished life of service. The same fervour with which he persecuted the church, was manifested in his preaching of the evangel. Preaching the faith that he once destroyed, (Gal. 1-23). ‘I am ready to preach the Gospel to you who are at Rome also, (Romans 1-16). The themes of Paul’s preaching emphasised, time and again, the Diety of Christ, His Death, Burial, and Resurrection. Paul pointed his hearers to the One Who was exalted at God’s right hand, to be a Prince and a Saviour. The future Judge and Coming King, formed part of ‘this variegated message, the Holy Spirit applies the message to suit the need of the individual, to some a message of Love, to others a warning of Judgement. Paul was ready to testify, are we ? Let the redeemed of the Lord say so ! (Psalm 107-2).
RECEPTION (Acts 9-26). Barnabas, (son of consolation, son of exhortation) introduces Paul to the saints at Jerusalem, displaying spiritual discernment and sympathetic understanding in this seeming confused situation. The verse reads, ‘Saul assayed to join himself to the disciples’, join— to glue, (Vine) not merely a place of convenience, but a permanent bond of fellowship. There is no Scripture which suggests ‘occasional’ fellowship, and if there is a destructive element which would destroy the truth of the gathered out company, it is the afore-mentioned. If the truths relative to reception were applied with love and resolve, the troubles which are the consequence of the ‘open’ Lord’s Supper, and un-baptized believers in fellowship would be non-existent. We may appear to be generous and all embracive, but the seeds of confusion are being sown with its possibility of a harvest.
FELLOWSHIP (Acts 9-28). ‘And he was WITH them COMING IN and GOING OUT at Jerusalem.’ ‘WITH THEM,’ surely this speaks of unity and fellowship, ‘Peter stood up with the eleven’ (Acts 2-14), the Lord Jesus chose twelve that they might be WITH Him, (Mark 3-14). Again Paul looked for Timothy WITH the brethren (I Cor. 16-11). Are we WITH the brethren? COMING IN, would this be suggestive of the privileges of the assembly, GOING OUT, this would speak of the responsibilities of the assembly, both are inter-related, and are equally important. How true it is that the ‘alabaster box’ must be broken in worship, before we blow the ‘silver trumpet’ in service. Should there be a desire to commence a work independent of the assembly, the brethren should be consulted, with a view to receiving the approval and fellowship of the assembly in this particular work. Fellowship carries these responsibilities and many more, and should manifest, intelligence and co-operation of the highest order. How many have sown the seeds of division by assisting brethren to commence independent activities. Service should issue from this fellowship in the assembly and be productive for the assembly.
by J. E. TODD
There is spiritual encouragement to be found in, the obituary columns of Christian magazines. We read of long years of faithfulness to the Lord, of works carried out and accomplished in His name. The question arises, what will my life be worth when it is reviewed at its close?
The obituary of Moses (Deut. 34 : 1-12) provides a model of how a Christian’s obituary should read. But the words cannot be written, if the deeds are not done !
Moses enjoyed the supreme blessing that is open to a human being in this life. He not only saw the purposes of God unfolding, but he also played a practical role in those purposes. As Moses looked over the land of Canaan from the top of Mount Nebo (v. 1-4), he realised that God was about to fulfill His promise to Abraham, by giving this land to his descendants, the nation of Israel. Moses also had the supreme satisfaction of knowing that he had been a divine instrument in bringing the nation to the borders of that land. This blessing is open to every Christian. We are in the happy position of seeing God’s purposes being fulfilled. Is ours the present joy of knowing that we are being actively used by God in this work by helping to spread the good news of eternal salvation?
But Moses was not perfect, ‘Thou shalt not go over thither’ (v. 4). Because of his sin in the wilderness of Zin, Moses was disqualified from entering the promised land (Num. 20 : 1-13). Moses could have been used by God to lead Israel into the land. But Moses’ usefulness to God, great as it was, was curtailed by sin. We must ever watch that sin does not limit our usefulness in God’s hands. Remember, it was not at the weakest point of his character that Moses failed, but at the strongest point. It was the Moses who ‘was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth’ (Num. 12 : 3), who lost his temper in the wilderness of Zin. Extreme provocation was no excuse!
‘Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died; his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated’ (v. 7).
Moses visibly enjoyed the blessings of God which he dispensed to others, for he had blessed the tribe of Asher thus, ‘As thy days, so shall thy strength be’ (Deut. 33 : 25). In the New Testament the Christian is not promised good physical health into old age, but the scriptures do promise another kind of good health all the days of our lives. John wrote to Gaius, ‘That thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth’ (3 John 2). It is the gospel which brings the glow of spiritual good health to the soul, including the joy of salvation (1 Pet. 1 : 8-9), the peace of God (Phil. 4 : 7) and the hope of eternal life (1 John 5:11-12). As we Christians proclaim the gospel to a joyless, troubled and hopeless world, do we exhibit the blessings of which we speak? As ‘the Asherites looked at Moses, so vigorous in his old age, the blessing he announced was credible. Does the world see in us, as Christians, the joy and the peace and the hope which are contained in the good news we proclaim? Or is there a credibility gap?
‘The children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days’ (v. 8). Moses’ loss was keenly felt. It was obvious to all that here was a man whose words and deeds had had a great practical effect for good on the lives of his fellow Israelites. They had not just lost Moses, they had also lost his indispensible good works. Do we with helpful words and acts of service, have an impact for good upon the lives of our fellow Christians ? Would our loss to our assembly be keenly felt? Would they weep?
The quality of Moses’ leadership is shown in his provision of the next leader for Israel after his own decease, in the person of Joshua (v. 9). This reveals Moses’ deep concern for the welfare of Israel, even when he was no longer with them. It is also the measure of his true greatness. For Moses did not want to be the ‘great’ leader of Israel out of lust for power, but because of his zeal for the honour of God and the welfare of his people. Why do we undertake Christian service, whether in a leadership capacity or not, is it to pander to our ego (the lust for power is the most subtle lust of the flesh) or is it out of genuine love for the Lord and his people?
Moses also rendered to God the service of a prophet (v. 10). His duty as a prophet was to pass on to the people of Israel the truth about God, for Moses knew God ‘face to face’. But every believer has known God ‘face to face’ with a much clearer vision than Moses ever knew! ‘For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’ (2 Cor. 4 : 6). In Christ we have come ‘face to face’ with the glory of God’s grace. Are we serving God as His prophets, by proclaiming the gospel of God’s grace to a lost world?
Moses had the finest education from the universities of Egypt (Acts 7 : 22), he also commanded great authority granted to him by God, but wonderful as these things were, Moses knew they were no substitute for hard work. ‘All the signs and the wonders which the Lord sent him to do …. all the great and terrible deeds which Moses wrought’ (v. 11-12, R.S.V.). Moses used the power God gave him to the utmost limit, he used it in the performance of DEEDS. What do we DO? We can engage our minds with noble thoughts and schemes. But what do we DO? God has given powers to us, intelligence, time, health, energy, wealth and education. Are we using these powers to the full in pursuing the purposes of God? Moses was above all a man of ACTION, his most lasting memory was what he DID.
Perhaps our own obituary will never be published in a Christian magazine. But an account of our lives will be rendered in much greater detail at the judgement seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5 : 10, 1 Cor. 3 : 11-15, Rom. 14 : 10-12).
How will the account read?
by W. W. FEREDAY
Salvation is only needed by those who are in distress or danger. It is not too much to say that the whole human family is in deadly peril through sin. Every member of our race enters the world morally poisoned; for who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not only this, but at the earliest possible stage each one enters upon a career of active transgression against God. Yet, though sin is exceedingly hateful in the eyes of God, the condition of the sinner does not excite His aversion, but rather His deep compassion and love. Hence Paul speaks repeatedly of Him as "God our Saviour." In His great mind a plan of salvation was formed even before sin made its appearance in this world.
As in creation, so in the matter of salvation, the Son is the person Who works out the Divine purpose to its appointed end. He came into the world to save sinners; yet men are not saved by His incarnation, but by His atoning death. The death of Christ has furnished God with an imperishable ground of righteousness on which to act in His grace towards perishing men. Nothing is demanded from men but faith—simple confidence in God and His beloved Son. He who in his deep need turns his eye in faith to God and Christ becomes at once entitled to all the advantages of Christ’s most costly sacrifice.
Salvation is presented in the New Testament in a threefold way.
(1) It is a PRESENT thing, in the sense of acceptance with God. The Christian is now "in Christ," and is consequently beyond condemnation, justified and reconciled. He stands in the Divine favour now and for ever. and is loved as Christ is loved. So we read in Eph. ii. 8: "By grace ye are saved through faith." In II Tim. i. 9 also : "God Who hath saved us." The Spirit’s use of the present tense in these passages should dissipate every unbelieving doubt and fear. Doubts and fears are an insult to the love of God and a dishonour to the work of the Lord Jesus.
(2) Salvation is also a PROGRESSIVE thing, but in this aspect it is not acceptance with God (hat is in view, but the difficulties of the daily path. These are very many, and often very serious. The power of Satan, the allurements of the world, and the treachery of the heart within are a trinity of opponents not to be treated lightly by the devout. But Christ is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by Him, "seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Heb. vii. 25). This is an effectual guarantee that every saint, however harassed, will reach the destined goal. Christ’s present ministry of intercession is the assurance that not one of His own will be suffered to perish on the road.
(3) Salvation is, moreover, a FUTURE thing; in this sense it includes the body as well as the soul. Though free and happy in spirit in the consciousness of the love of God, the believer is frequently constrained to groan by reason of his unchanged body. His body is a link with (he yet undelivered creation, and in sympathy with it his groan ascends to God. This will cease at Christ’s return. "Unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time, apart from sin unto salvation" (Heb. ix. 28). The first coming of Christ met the need of the soul; His second coming in glory will meet the need of the body.
What anguish men will experience who place themselves entirely outside of this great salvation by their rejection of (he Saviour-Son of God!
We have some Good Food in store for 1980 — Do your best to introduce the magazine to others. The circulation continues to increase —and PRAY ON.
(Mark 14. 8)
by S. R. STOKES
"She hath done what she could". Which would seem to imply that there was much that she could not do, and was not expected to do. She did what she was able to do ; a service which was her privilege to perform, and in the fulfilling of which she received the highest commendation.
A critical reading of the accounts in the four Gospels suggests that three women felt compelled to anoint the Lord Jesus Christ (the Anointed One) with precious ointment. There is the incident recorded in Luke 7. Here was one who was forgiven much, and nothing, no one, was allowed to stand in her way in showing her gratitude to the One who came to call sinners to repentance. Unlike the betrayer who so deceitfully kissed his Master on the cheek, she kissed His feet, anointing them, having washed them with her tears. She may have been unaware of Isaiah’s prophecy, but she knew something of the truth of the words Isaiah wrote. To her, how beautiful were the feet of Him who had brought her the good tidings of Salvation—God’s regard. and God’s provision for those burdened with sin!
Then there are the three references in Matthew 26, Mark 14, and John 12. Some say that, conforming to the characteristics of each Gospel, each of the writers record a different aspect of the same occasion. In this then there are difficulties. For example :
(1) The timing. Mark records that the incident took place within two days of the celebration of the Passover. John says, "six days before the Passover."
(2) The location. Matthew and Mark state specifically that it was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper. John seems to imply that, certainly in Bethany, but perhaps in the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, for Martha was busily serving.
(3) Matthew and Mark do not name the woman, but they agree that the very precious ointment was poured on the Lord’s head. John says that it was Mary who anointed His feet, and wiped them with her hair.
(4) Matthew registers protest from the disciples; Mark from "some" who were there. John names Judas Iscariot as the one who protested, and adds the reason why Judas should do so.
All three Gospels record the intervention of the Lord, but with some enlargement in Matthew and Mark. In His estimation the woman had wrought a good work, beautiful in His eyes, and a work which would be spoken of for a memorial of her, wheresoever the gospel should be preached throughout the whole world. Could any commendation be of a higher order than that? And, apparently, a ministry suitable, and appropriate for a woman.
But further. John quotes the Lord as saying, "against the day of my burying hath she kept this." Mark records the statement, "she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying." And we know that, in Old Testament times, prophets, priests, and kings were anointed, and indeed the Tabernacle, and all in it. The holy anointing oil (Exodus 30) was to be used, as indicated by the Lord God, in the appointment to a specified ministry. In that connection, Exodus 40, and 1 Kings 19 : 15,16 come readily to mind. Was there something of this in the woman’s mind when she anointed the Lord’s body to the burying, remembering that burial is the true certifying of death? Was she Divinely taught? Had she a degree of understanding, that the Father had appointed His Son to this sacrificial death? If this is a true assumption, then she was in advance of those who later declared that He was "delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God." That all was done in accordance with "whatsoever (God’s) hand and (God’s) counsel determined before to be done."
A silent, devoted sister, who needed not to covet ministry reserved for the brethren, but who had an understanding of the Divine will and purpose ; doing what she could, and which was entirely appropriate for her to do ; and delighting the heart of the One who was to her pre-eminent above all others.
Others also DID WHAT THEY COULD and will receive an abundant reward—
- PHEBE—Our sister, servant of the church, succourer of many, including Paul.
- PRISCILLA—a fellow helper, laid down her neck for Paul, the local church met in her house.
- MARY bestowed much labour on the saints.
- TRYPHENA and TRYPHOSA were labouring in the Lord.
- THE BELOVED PERSIS had laboured much in the Lord.
- THE MOTHER OF RUFUS had at some time "mothered" Paul. ( Romans 16).
God is able to make all grace abound toward you. II Cor. 9:8.
- Thy promises, 0 God, are Yea, And precious too, exceeding great;
- They ne’er can fail—they stand for aye, The stay of all who on Thee wait.
Another year has been entered by the grace of God and there is much to indicate that it may be the year in which we shall hear that SHOUT for which we wait, and the promise of our Lord be fulfilled. "Even so, come, Lord Jesus."
The past year has borne its testimony to the goodness of our God Who faithfully made "all grace abound toward us." We praise Him for His guidance and favour, and for His fulfilment of many promises in our recurring needs.
It his been observed that the spirit that is in the world can often invade the assemblies of God. We are not ignorant of the devices of Satan, and we know that our God is not the Author of confusion. The increasing confusion in the political world need not surprise us, nor should we fear the perverseness of Christendom and its amalgamations, for Scripture forewarns us. But the concern of the Apostle may well be ours to-day, as it was in his day, concerning some INSIDE the assembly. "Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them" (Acts 20:30). Preservation is still for us, "God, and the Word of His grace" (v. 32). Thank God His promises "ne’er can fail—they stand for aye, the stay of all who on Him wait."
We thank all those who contributed helpful articles. Their free labour of love will surely have its reward. Thanks are also due to all those who helped us in distribution of the magazine, and to our brother Glenville whose help is greatly appreciated. We also sincerely thank God for the help given to our Honorary Editor in the courage and wisdom shown in the production of the magazine, in addition to Ns service for the Lord in ministry of the Word in the homeland and overseas. Again we thank all those individuals and assemblies who were willing and able to extend to us their practical fellowship in the production of the magazine.
Our Committee has welcomed Mr. William Neill, who has offered to assist in the clerical work of the magazine. He is a Civil Servant, and, with his wife, enjoys fellowship with the saints in the Dunmurry assembly, Belfast. This is a great relief to. our brother Hogg, who, with advancing years, required clinical treatment for eyesight trouble during the past year.
And now a few NOTES FOR NEW READERS. We send the magazine post-free, If possible, endeavour to obtain your copies through assembly parcel. This reduces work and expense. Where this is not practical we gladly send direct. In applying for copies kindly state the NUMBER of copies required and oblige by giving name and address, with Postal Code, ALWAYS IN BLOCK LETTERS. This saves our time and reduces our mistakes. Since the magazine is supported by the free-will offerings of the Lord’s people, please AVOID WASTE AT ALL TIMES, by promptly advising us of reduction in numbers or cancellations.
To all those who have remembered us in their prayers we offer our grateful thanks. Please continue this Valuable grace.
One kernal of wheat can, in time, cover a continent and feed nations; and the results of cultivating the "imperishable seed" are as much greater and more desirable than the harvests of material seed as the heavens are higher than the earth. Only the "imperishable seed" can bring about imperishable results. The Bible says: "Every seed bringeth forth after its kind." Each promise, by the blessings promised, reveals the nature of the harvest the seed will produce. True Christianity is a system of promises fulfilled.
"Recompense to no man evil for evil, provide things honest In the sight of God." Rom. 12:17.
Our bitter feeling toward any human being means defeat in every part of our life. We cannot be right with God while we are wrong with a fellow man; only the lives that are right with God are winning lives. That is a striking word in a letter from Dan Crawford, the African missionary, "What a settling of old scores there is when the blood of the cross cleanseth away all crookedness between men, as well as a man and his God. Your straight, strapping African can often be crooked enough; but here we have the change; and now you have the man who is straight of back as well as straight of life, who believes the new doctrine, that no man treats Christ well who treats his brother wrongly."
—SUNDAY SCHOOL TIMES.
BUY THE TRUTH AND SELL IT NOT
- To us. Praise God, we have bequeathed,
- The Word of Truth, which is God breathed,
- Inspired of God, the Living Word,
- A gift to guide, the Spirit’s Sword.
- Let fundamental truth be taught.
- Buy the Truth and sell it not,
- Integral to the Christian Charter,
- Be not deceived, it’s not for barter.
- The Virgin Birth, let none gain say,
- The Sinless Life, let none say nay,
- The Atoning Death, for you and me,
- He bore the Wrath, to set us free.
- He rose again and now He Lives,
- Exalted high, yet freely gives,
- A pardon, peace and power to save,
- Each soul who comes – before the grave.
- He’s coming soon to take us Home,
- "Lord Jesus, Saviour quickly come,"
- The Church completely He will bring
- Throughout Eternity we’ll sing.
- Then let us all be up and doing,
- Find comfort while the way pursuing,
- For worthy to be praised is He,
- The Lamb, once slain, AH Glory Be.