by E. R. Bower
THE LORD’S FLESH IN HEBREWS
by B. Currie
CHRIST IN THE APOCALYPSE
by J. B. D. Page
FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
by J. B. Hewitt
by J. Campbell
WHO WAS TIMOTHY?
by E. Stock
by J. Heading
THEY THINK IT STRANGE
by P. Squires
HYMNS AND THEIR WRITERS
by J. Strahan
by E. R. BOWER (continued)
THE SEVENTH VISION. The four chariots. (6.1-9)
v. 1. Are these mountains, as some suggest, Olivet and Zion? The mountains between which was the ‘hollow’ or low valley of 1.8 and 4.7? Or the mountains of 14.4-5 where the Amplified Version reads, "And you shall flee by the valley of My mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal . . ."? Azal is not mentioned elsewhere in Scripture. Is it inappropriate to think of Ebal and Gerizim (Deut. 27.11; 30.20; note 30.1-8) as applicable to the ‘captivity’ situation?
vv. 2-5. "and bay"—and strong (margin); "spirits" — or winds. The explanations are unequivocal; the chariots, horses (and horsemen or charioteers) are "four spirits of the heavens, which go forth" and Ps. 68.17 tells us that "the chariots of God are 20,000 and many thousands of angels." (See 2 Kings 6.15-18; 13.4). Whether these chariots correspond to the horsemen of 1.10, or perhaps with Rev. 6.1-8 is not, it may be, relevant. They are all "ministering spirits" (Ps. 104.4; Heb. 1.7). Various meanings have been given for the chariots, the most favoured being false christs, war, pestilence and famine. (Matt. 24.1-8; Rev. 6.1-8 — "the beginning of sorrows"). The "going forth" certainly seems to compare with the "Go" (rather than ‘Come’) of Rev. 6. 1,3,5,7. Some see the spirits or winds here as those of Rev. 7. 1-3; Dan. 7. 1-3 and others see the four kingdoms of Daniel’s visions (that is as ruled by spiritual powers).
v. 6. Many see in the white horse, our Lord as conqueror; in the red horse, war; in the black, famine; and in the grizzled and strong, various judgments. The going forth is not necessarily concurrent but consecutive. The black and the white go to the north—Assyria, Babylon, Media, Persia —the nations which comprise the two great empires of Asshur-Babylon and Medo-Persia. The grizzled go to the south—Egypt. O.T. prophecy is much concerned with these countries not only as to their then present history, but more importantly, the still future of the latter days. See for example, Jer. 23.5-8; Zeph. 2.12-13. It may be that these chariots in their going forth provide a retrospective picture of judgment which, as Zechariah writes, were those that had already fallen upon the northern and southern nations, but on the other hand it is difficult to get away from the prospective future. The northern and southern spheres of influence relative to Israel are still very much in evidence as the end time comes ever nearer. There is, however, a new northern power. (See Ez. .38 and 39; cf. Zech. 6.8). The general picture given by commentators is that of famine and false christs (or, antichrist) going to the north; various judgments (reminiscent of the plagues which fell upon Egypt) to the south; the missions of the horsemen as signs of the coming of our Lord. Matt. 24.3).
vv. 7-8. "Cried Upon me"—appealed to me; "quieted MY Spirit" — quietened My wrath. Cf. Jud. 8.3; Ez. 5.12. Some See the red horses as defensive and not offensive. As already noted the margin renders ‘bay’ (vv. 3,7) as ‘strong’ or ‘powerful ones,’ but if we see these horses as symbolizing war, then we may see here the "wars and rumours of wars: nation against nation: kingdom against kingdom" of Matt. 24.6-7. Was it the fall of Babylon that appeased the Spirit (v. 8)? The tenses would imply that the missions of the black and the white horses have a future connotation.
THE CROWNING OF JOSHUA The Temple Builders. (6.9-15).
vv. 9-15. "Take" — take an offering; "are come" — have arrived; "crowns" — a complete, or more excellent crown; "Even He" — this is emphatic; "the glory" — royal honour.
These verses give a delightful picture of the Temple builders, not perhaps working with bricks and mortar, but builders nevertheless. First of all, there is God Himself; He who gave the word; He whose desire it is to dwell among men; He who desired His people to be His sanctuary and holy nation, a kingdom of priests (Ex. 19.6; Is. 61.6). Then Zechariah himself; the ‘go-between’; urging forward the work and taking part in the work himself. He goes to the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah (Jah hides) who had the appelative of ‘Hen’ (v. 14) which means ‘grace’ or ‘favour.’ The RV margin reads v. 14, ". . . and for the kindness of the son of Zephaniah." The kindness of Josiah would remind us of Heb. 13.2, "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers . . ." To the house of Josiah had come three men from the Captivity at Babylon—Heldai or Helem (v. 14), Tobijah and Jedaiah—bringing gifts of gold and silver for the Temple. From their gifts a crown is made for the high priest Joshua. This scene of the crowning of Joshua is, in effect, a follow-up to chap. 3, where at the behest of the prophet Joshua was given a clean mitre and we read that "the Angel of Jehovah stood by." There, too, God said, "Behold, I will bring forth My servant the Branch." Here, as Joshua is crowned, God says, "Behold the Man, whose Name is the Branch." (John 19.5). It is as if God is introducing, not Joshua, but the Angel of Jehovah for who but the blessed second Person of the Trinity could say (v. 15) ". . . and ye shall know that the Lord of hosts hath sent ME unto you."?
In 4.9 it is said of Zerubbabel that he laid the foundation of the House and "his hands shall finish it," thus it appears that the Temple of the Lord here (v. 13) refers to something beyond that day and greater than bricks and mortar. The wearing of this crown by Joshua is a symbol of the Branch who will wear the two crowns of King and Priest with a "counsel of peace" between the two offices, and it is He, the Crowned Priest, Who will build the Temple of the Lord. (Ephes. 2.21). Some see the counsel of peace as being between Jehovah and His Christ as seen in Ps. 110. Cf. Gen. 49.10; Ezek. 21. 25-27.
It may be safely assumed that the ‘giving’ by these three men was in their hearts before ever it was ‘taken’ and the crown of gold and silver was laid up in the as yet unfinished Temple as their ‘credit.’ Their giving was matched by the hospitality of Josiah and he, too, was given credit and included in the memorial. Said Paul (2 Tim. 4.6-8), ". . . henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing." (See Gal. 6.10; Heb. 6.10). The circumstances of this prophecy indicate that the "building of the Temple" by "they that are far off" is yet future and has a spiritual application. The Saviour "came and preached peace to you which were afar of . . ye . . are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the Chief Corner Stone . . an holy Temple in the Lord." Refs : 3.8; Is. 9.6-7; 53.2; Hag. 2.7; Matt. 23.37; Luke 19.41-46; John 2.19; Acts 2.39; Ephes. 2.11-22;
Of the woman who brought the alabaster box of very precious ointment, our Lord said, "Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached . . there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her." (Matt. 26.6-13).
Notice the condition attached to this promise—"this shall come to pass if . . ." (See Deut. 28.1).
by B. CURRIE
The last of the three references to the flesh of our Lord Jesus in the epistle to the Hebrews is found in 10.20. The major doctrinal section of the epistle ends at v. 18 and on the basis of the vast superiority of Christianity over Judaism, deductions are made which have a very practical import on our lives. This order, of a doctrinal section followed by a ‘therefore’ which introduces a practical section, is a common feature of Paul’s writings e.g. Rom. 12.1; Eph. 4.1; Col. 3.1 (J.N.D.).
In Heb. 10 the ‘therefore’ of v. 19 introduces us to the great privilege which we as Christians have of entering the holiest (v. 19) and drawing near to God (v. 22). This the Israelite could never do. Only the high priest on one day of the year, the day of atonement (Lev. 16), could enter through the veil and that under threat of death, (Lev. 16.2,13). How different is our position to-day! It is not a special class of men who have the right of entry, it is all who have been born into God’s family and are thus in relationship with Him and each other i.e. the ‘brethren’ of v. 19. Also we have ‘boldness’ to enter. Such a word does not give license for casual language or irreverence. The word means frank speaking, confidence or liberty. In the context it is boldness with respect to the guilt of our sins which will be ‘remembered no more’ (v. 17). Thus we are not inhibited by the guilt of sins as we enter. We must always remember the Holiness and Power of God as we approach Him, and not adopt the language of the world nor of modern day paraphrases as we speak to Deity. The use of such language is indicative of a spirit which knows little of the fear of God.
Our entrance is called, in v. 20, the way which He consecrated or dedicated for us. This way is described as
- through the veil,
- His Flesh.
(a) New—This means newly or freshly slain and indicates the lasting, eternal freshness of the work of Christ to God.
(b) Living—The high priest of Israel, we have already noted, entered under threat of death, but to us there is no such threat—it is a living way and it is linked with a Living Saviour.
(c) Through the veil—This expression is often mis-quoted as ‘through the rent veil.’ However in the Hebrew epistle the veil never said to be rent. The veil that is spoken of in the gospels as being rent (Matt. 27.51; Mk. 15.38; Lk. 23.45), firstly was not that of the tabernacle but of the temple; secondly was not rent to let people enter but to show that the Lord was not there, that He had left Judaism; ,and thirdly was rent from the top to the bottom to indicate something God did and that He was coming out to men.
It is less than logical to speak of a way being required through a rent veil—such is open to all, but to enter through the covering veil of the tabernacle was to be in the Holiest of all and to such a place the Christian is invited. In this epistle the people of God are seen as in the wilderness, thus the tabernacle and not the temple, is the background. Also the tabernacle is seen in all its pristine glory in order that the writer can show that we as Christians have a portion better than the best of Judaism. Paramount among our privileges is free, unlimited access to the presence of God through the veil.
(d) His Flesh—This is the final description of the way, not of the veil. In fact the veil of the tabernacle is a type, not so much of the work of Christ, but of His Person. Thus in order that we may enter the Holiest it took both His Blood (v. 19) And His Flesh (v. 20). How precious and costly an access!
If in v. 19 we have ‘boldness,’ in v. 21 we have ‘a high (better—great) priest over the house of God.’ Why is He called a Great Priest? The answer is simple—He is Great because He can bring us to where no other priest could ever have brought us—through the veil and into the immediate presence of God.
Based on this tremendous privilege we have three imperatives :
- v. 22. Let us draw near
- v. 23. Let us hold fast
- v. 24. Let us consider one another
The first is linked with faith, the second with hope (R.V.) and the third with love.
Drawing near is based on an inward condition as suggested by the references to ‘faith,’ ‘hearts,’ and ‘conscience.’ The one who draws near to the true sanctuary has a true heart and is not as the apostate of vv. 26—39. This correct attitude to God is based on the full assurance of our right to draw nigh and" our acceptability Godward which are grasped by faith. Faith understands that we have been cleansed both judicially (hearts sprinkled) and morally (bodies washed) and can therefore draw near. At the end of the chapter the apostate is seen to ‘cast away’ (v. 35) and to ‘draw back’ (v. 38,39), but the believer is to ‘hold fast’ (v. 23). That which is to be held continuously is the confession of our hope which hope is based on the promises of God. Such a hope is linked with the eternal inheritance (9.15), and is to be held ‘without wavering’—the opposite of 11.34 ‘turned to flight’ i.e. in the grasp of our hope we must not be beaten by the enemy and turned to flight.
Finally in v. 24, we are to ‘consider one another.’ Not with a view to criticism but to produce a holy paroxysm of love and good works. This is done as we gather collectively (v. 25), and as we exhort or encourage each other in light of the approaching day of the Lord’s return when we shall be gathered unto Him Personally (2 Thess. 2.1). Thus we have the importance of continuing in the collective gatherings of the saints, since the passage implies that the habit of forsaking the assembling of ourselves is the first step on the road to the apostasy of v. 26—39.
Even in our day there are many leaving the simple assembly gatherings and being attracted to the modern day equivalent of Judaism which is denominationalism with its priesthood separate from the laity, ornamented buildings, singers, choirs, musical instruments, visible incense, etc., etc. A grasp of the heavenly calling and tremendous privileges of simple scriptural Christianity as found in a New Testament Assembly would be a preservative against such drift and departure.
Realising, then, that great privileges have been procured at infinite cost, and help to provide protection from departure, we have the responsibility laid upon us to utilize what has been provided for us by God—Brethren ‘Let us draw near.’
by JOHN B. D. PAGE
HIGH PRIESTLY GLORIES (i)
Reading: Revelation 1, 9-12.
This is the first of John’s visions and it is truly an ‘unveiling of Jesus Christ’ in His glorified humanity. It is the third of three visions of the ascended Christ recorded in the New Testament.
Stephen, in the hour of his death by way of martyrdom, saw the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God ready to set up His kingdom on earth, which was deferred owing to the Jews’ rejection of the glorified Christ as displayed by the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7.56). By this Christian martyr, Christ was seen as King.
On the road to Damascus, Saul of Tarsus encountered the glorified Lord, from Whom a bright light emanated, and twice Saul addressed Him as "Lord" (Acts 9. 3-6). By Saul, who later became known as Paul, Christ was seen as Lord.
Exiled on the isle of Patmos, the seer saw One like unto the Son of Man standing in the centre of seven golden lamp-stands, and He was arrayed in an ankle length garment with a golden girdle about the paps (1.13). By John, Christ was seen as High Priest.
Never before had the eye of mortal man beheld such a vision of the glorified Christ. For the occasion, John was "in the Spirit" (1.10; Cp. 4.2), which is a reminder that Ezekiel said "the Spirit entered into me" when the Lord communicated with him (Ezek. 2.2; 3.24, etc).
Such a spiritual condition is required of believers for fellowship with Christ and an appreciation of Him.
In the prelude to the vision, beheld by John, several titles are used of Christ, which should not be overlooked.
The first of these titles, which may sound strange, is …
The Patmos prisoner "heard behind" him "a great voice" and then he "turned to see the Voice" (1. 10,12). There is nothing unusual to hear a voice, but it is unusual to turn to see a voice, as John did. Obviously, the Voice is here a personification of Christ. This "great Voice" was "as of a trumpet" like "the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud" on the summit of Sinai which struck terror to the hearts of the Israelites who heard it (Ex. 19.16), but not to John who soon recognised the Voice.
Loud like a trumpet, the Voice said to John, "I am Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last" (1.11), which were words not of fear but identification. Although it is not apparent in the Authorised Version, this is a three-fold compound title used by the Divine Speaker, and the first is …
As the words "I am" in this verse are emphatic in the Greek text, they may be taken as a name of Deity and capitalized thus : "I AM." Immediately, our minds go back to the occasion when the Lord Jesus said to unbelieving Jews "Before Abraham was, I AM" (John 8.58), by which He claimed for Himself eternal pre-existence. In the Apocalypse, this Divine Name has already been used as part of a five-fold compound title in verse 8, but the Speaker is apparently "the Lord God" (RV & J.N.D.), a title connected with man in Eden (Gen. 2.7), and so He is not Christ. In like manner this trumpet-like Voice ascribed to Himself this Divine Name "I AM," making "an unqualified claim to completest and supremest Deity" as one writer says. In thought, John undoubtedly went back to the first occurrence of this Divine Name when Moses asked God for an answer to a question that the people were likely to ask concerning God, "What is His Name?" or literally, ‘What sort of Person is He?’ In reply, God said to Moses, "I AM THAT I AM" (Ex. 3.13f). By this Name, God revealed Himself as the sort of Person He is, not in terms of nature or humanity, but by the revealing of Himself then and through the succeeding centuries, which was gradual and progressive, until the climax was attained in the Incarnation.
When the Apocalyptic Voice declared Himself to be I AM, as the Lord Jesus did several times during His earthly ministry (not often apparent in the Authorised Version), He indicated the sort of Person He is, for the Name means that He knows no past or future, but He lives in a continuous present. He is, as Liddon says, "the Eternal Now." The Name signifies not only that He is eternal, but also He is the Self-existent One. As such He is independent of all external forces, both material and spiritual, whilst, in contrast, man is dependent upon that which is outside himself for his existence and continuance of life. Man’s life is derived from an external source, and his life depends upon regular supplies of food and drink from external sources. Only Jesus Christ possesses underived life, having "life in Himself" (John 5.26).
These two Divine attributes, eternal pre-existence and self-existence, will suffice, but truly "in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." (Col. 2.9).
Alpha and Omega
This designation, already applied to the Lord God in verse 8 (RV), is never used of Christ by another person but, like the last one, it is always Self-applied by the glorified Christ, occurring twice (see 22.13). (The other two occurrences of the title apply to God). By this title, which is not found outside the Apocalypse, other facets of the glories of Christ are brought out.
To the superficial reader, this designation may seem meaningless if not foolish. It is common knowledge that .’ ‘alpha’ and ‘omega’ are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, and so they may be looked upon as emblematic of the two extremities of human knowledge and understanding. By assuming these two letters, "Alpha and Omega," as a title for Himself, the Lord Jesus signifies graphically that all truth, all wisdom, and all knowledge, which can be expressed by these two and intervening letters of the alphabet, are possessed by, and comprehended in, Him. No mere human could make such a claim.
In the ancient world, man sought truth, wisdom and knowledge, as he does today, but "the wisdom of man" is derived from his own investigation and experience (1 Cor. 1.22; 2.5). This cannot be said of Christ, for "in (Him) are hid all the , treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col. 2.3), where Paul may be alluding to an eastern custom of hiding valuables and money in the ground as a treasure was hid in a field according to one parable and a talent was buried in the
earth as stated in another (Matt. 13.44; 25.18), but the Divine treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid, and to be found, in Christ Who is "Alpha and Omega." Surely, this name denotes the Divine attribute of Omniscience belonging to this Apocalyptic Personage.
The First and the Last
This is the third and last title in this compound appellation, which is an Old Testament expression used of Jehovah three times in Isaiah (41.4; 44.4; 48.12). In the New Testament, it is not found outside the Apocalypse where it occurs four times, of which Christ applies it to Himself on three occasions.
Of the Jehovistic use of the title in Isaiah 41.4, W. E. Vine says, "That He is ‘the first’ means that He is pre-existent to all history and that all things are under His control; . . . that He is ‘the last’ means that He rings all things to their appointed end . . ." Hence, the use of the title by the Lord Jesus is not only a claim to identification with Jehovah and a re-affirmation of His eternal pre-existence, but the consummation of all things will be in Him.
(To be continued)
by J. B. HEWITT, Chesterfield
(28) THE DEITY AND PERSONALITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (Part 1)
The basis of the mediatorial work of the Lord Jesus is His proper and essential Deity. This is equally true of the Holy Spirit. All the dignity, efficacy and glory of His office and various operations spring from His Divine Personality. It is sad to think that today we must emphasize that the Holy Spirit is a Person, not just an influence or a thing or an idea, but a Person—as much a Person as God the Father; as much a Person as God the Son. Never ‘IT,’ a Person please ‘HE.’ He speaks, He prays, He teaches, He guides. He is God, just as much as the Father and the Son are God, for our God is a Triune God—three Persons in one God. The teachings of the Bible on this vital subject are all too little understood and too little studied. When last did your Assembly have a series on the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is the ultimate fact of Revelation and the unique force in Redemption.
We are living under the dispensation of the Spirit; in that character God now reveals Himself to His people. The Holy Spirit is the Revealer of all truth and the Active Agent in the Church and in the Christian.
Because of His union with the Godhead, we ascribe to Him DEITY; and because of His personal properties and acts, we ascribe to Him PERSONALITY. There are three passages in which the Spirit is spoken of as a PERSON, and distinguished from an ATTRIBUTE. (Acts 10.38; Rom. 15.13; 1 Cor. 2.4). From these passages we understand that the Spirit is a distinct and intelligent Agent and is never to be confounded with the Divine attributes. (See Matt. 12. 31,32). The inference here is that blasphemy is committed against God Himself. John’s Gospel stresses the Personality of the Spirit, but Paul in his writings is concerned with His work.
In speaking of the Holy Spirit the Lord Jesus uses the masculine not the neuter pronoun. (John 14.16,17,26; 15.26;-16.7-8,13,14,15). Note the Personal pronoun used twelve times in four verses in John 16. "I will send Him" (v. 7); "He is come," "He will reprove" (v. 8); "He, the Spirit of Truth" (v. 13). "He will guide," "He shall not speak," "of Himself," "He shall hear," "shall He speak," "He will shew you" (v. 13). "He shall glorify me," "He shall receive" (v. 14). These are all acts of a Person, not merely an influence.
The Spirit is not the Father or the Son, but is distinct from both. He is an Agent possessed of intelligence and will, power and wisdom. The masculine pronoun applied to Him, and the nature of the mission on which He is sent attest a Person.
The Essential Attributes of Personality.
"SPEAKING" (See Mark 13.11). "Separate me Barnabas and Paul" (Acts 13.2; concerning Paul (Acts 21.11; apostasy (1 Tim. 4.1); speaking to the Churches (Rev. 2.7,11,17,29; 3.6,13,22).
REVEALING (Luke 2.26; John 16.14b). WILL (1 Cor. 12.11). A WITNESS (Acts 5.32, Rom. 8.16). KNOWLEDGE (1 Cor. 2.10,11,13). SPIRITUAL LIFE (John 6.63; 1 Pet. 3.18). SENDING forth Apostles (Acts 13.4). GOODNESS (Neh. 9.20). APPOINTMENT to a work (Acts 20.28). INTERCEDING (Rom. 8.26). EXERCISING His own
pleasure (Acts 15.28; 1 Cor. 12.11). He can be GRIEVED (Eph. 4.30). LIED TO (Acts 5.4). RESISTED (Acts 7.51). HE LOVES (Rom. 15.30).
These are all acts of a living Person; and evidences in favour of the distinct personality of the Spirit. Does He speak? then I must listen. Does He teach? then I must-be willing to learn. He sends, are we willing to go? (Isa. 6.8-10). He is a personal Helper (John 14.16); Friend (John 14.17); Ambassador (John 15.26); Guide (John 16.13); Revealer (John 16.13) and the Glorifier of Christ (John 16.14).
Divine Titles are ascribed to Him. My Spirit (Gen. 6.3); The Spirit of God (2 Chron. 15.1; 1 Cor. 3.16; 1 Pet. 4.14). The Spirit of the Lord (Isa. 11.2; Acts 5.9). The Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8.9); Of His Son (Gal. 4.6); The Lord the Spirit (2 Cor. 3.18). These reveal the nature of the Spirit.
His other names demonstrate His qualities. Note seven of these in Isa. 11.2—The Spirit of Truth (John 14.17; 15.26; 16.13); Spirit of Grace (Heb. 10.29); Spirit of Wisdom (Eph. 1.17); Of Life (Rom. 8.2); Adoption (Rom. 8.15); of Love, of Might (2 Tim. 1.7); of Power (Eph. 3.20); of Grace (1 Pet. 4.14). There are many others you can find using a concordance.
Divine attributes are His
Omnipotence (Job 33.4; Psa. 104.30; Zech. 4.6; Rom. 8.11; 15.18,19). Omniscience (1 Cor. 2.10,11; 14). Eternity (Heb. 9.14). Omnipresence (Psa. 139.7; 1 Cor. 12.13 RV). Sovereignty (1 Cor. 12.11). This right belongs to God alone. Holiness (Luke 11.13). He is called the Holy Spirit over 80 times.
Divine works ascribed to Him
Creation (Gen. 1.2; Job 26.13; 33.4; Psa. 33.6). Inspiration of Scriptures (Acts 1.16; 1 Pet. 1.11; 2 Pet. 1.21). Regeneration of souls (John 3.6; Titus 3.5). Sanctification of saints (2 Thess. 2.13; 1 Pet. 1.2). The Revelation of truth (Eph. 1.17,18). Statements which in the O.T. distinctly name the Lord, God or Jehovah, as their subject are applied to the Holy Spirit in the N.T. (Ex. 16.7; Psa. 95.8-11, with Heb. 3.7-9). The Holy Spirit is a distinct Person FROM, yet co-essential, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Son. He is the Author of a supernatural work—the work of God in our souls.
by JOHN CAMPBELL, Larkhall
AFTER THE RAPTURE
At the Rapture, the local Church loses its distinctive character; and the first change we will experience will be that of the body. If the believer has died prior to the Rapture, he will take precedence over the living (1 Thess. 4.16). Mortality shall be swallowed up of life. The dead shall rise first. The order is, "The Lord Himself shall "descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and "the trump of God," then the dead raised, then the living caught up, to be forever with the Lord. Some have suggested all will be confusion at that moment of rapture; tombs wrecked, gravestones displaced and ground upheaval As evidence of His resurrection, Matthew 27.52 says, "the graves were opened" and there was an earthquake: otherwise no mention of general confusion or catastrophe. Such is the might of our Lord’s power, He could accomplish the physical resurrection of the saints worldwide, yet not disturb one single blade of grass! Following a bodily change, will be a change of place and condition. Earth exchanged for Glory, mortality for immortality. Not now life governed by faith; but life which knows no weariness or limitation, the "glorious liberty of the children of God," (Rom. 8.21).
I judge, the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Bema, will follow, the Reward Seat for deeds done in the body. Positions of distinctions then allocated for faithfulness, here. Then the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Both truths in themselves, worthy subjects for separate analysis.
THE ETERNAL STATE
The Scriptures alone, present the few facts we possess. Some certainties suggest themselves. Let us gather together what the Bible discloses about the future state of all who have trusted Christ as Saviour. First, we will experience an "out of the body" condition, at death. The spirit returns to God, Who gave it (Ecc. 12.7), and the soul goes to the place of its choice, while in the body. Between death and resurrection, we have, not we await (2 Cor. 5.1-4):—
- A Building of God. – Ek – from God.
- A House – A Dwelling.
- Not made with hands – Not of Human construction.
- Eternal – Not temporal.
- In the heavens – In contract to earth.
- We earnestly desire this house.
- We desire to be clothed with this house.
A BUILDING FROM GOD (2 Corinthians 5) The inspired play on the words of Vs. 1-4 is delightful and instructive. Tent, dwelling, building, house and spirit-body = OIKETERION =, V. 2. Our physical body, at death is spoken of as being dissolved. The word means to loosen down, as a Tent. The word HOUSE in V.2, and only in Jude V. 6, there translated, habitation, is used in the Septuagint of Jeremiah, 25.30, of God’s holy habitation. This illuminates 2 Cor. 5.2. Note the confidence with which Paul asserts the truth he discloses = WE KNOW =; while the unbeliever gropes in the darkness of his unregenerate ignorance. The pronoun, WE, does not limit this knowledge to the Apostolic circle, it embraces the Corinthians, and we with them.
The clause, "not made with hands" means not of human construction. The laws of human generation do not apply here in the text "of 2 Cor. 5.1. The words of John 1.13, explain the thought, "not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."
"Eternal" carries with it the truth of being age-lasting, in contrast to the "dissolving" of the earthly house; as "in the heavens" in contrast to earth.
In the present we groan, for two reasons:— .
- To be clothed upon with our spiritual body, because we fear nakedness.
- We have a great desire for the change from mortality to life.
With such assertions let us be content. Speculation and conjecture about a temporal or astral body brings confusion into the known facts of divine inspiration. We are convinced the believing dead are, "With CHRIST" and "FAR BETTER."
THE ETERNAL STATE
God fitted our human bodies for earth; He will fashion the resurrection body for Heaven. Only God can operate in this manner. He is Creator. Our earthly body housed our spirit and our soul. The resurrection body, which is from
-EK- God will house our personality, and since it is similar to the Lord’s body in Resurrection, will possess features ■ unknown to mortals, yet some akin to flesh. He, after His rising again could:—
- Be seen and handled.
- Prepare a meal and eat food.
- Speak and hear.
- Recall incidents before His death which caused Him sorrow.
- Distinguish personalities.
- Appear in a room, without opening the door.
- Vanish out of sight.
Philippians 3.21 asserts we shall possess such a body, fashioned for eternity, never again to feel pain, shed tears or experience death.
We cannot spend eternity. It could, as humans, expend us. Where there is no past, i.e., the present as spent, or a future, which is the present yet to be; but always a forever, now. Time is but a parenthesis in the — to us — onward flow of timelessness, a state incomprehensible to human intellect. Tennyson was right when he said,
For "WAS" and "IS" and" "WILL BE," are but "IS." We begin, we pursue and complete what we began, and measure it by the time taken in its accomplishment. In observing limitations of language, we will be engaged forever in contemplating Deity unendingly; praising and adoring the Lord Jesus Christ in the serried ranks of Heavenly intelligencies—Archangel, Sereph, Cherub, angels, Principalities, Powers, Mights and Dominions, together with the vast hosts of the Redeemed beings. The least of our occupations will be judging and governing the world and judging angels. There are features it has pleased God to disclose, for in the unending ages yet future, God will demonstrate the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness to us through Christ Jesus (Eph. 2.7).
THE ETERNAL STATE OF THE UNBELIEVER
The Bible is clear in its teaching about the future portion of the unregenerate dead. It is one of fixity and changeless-ness. In Rev. 22.11, they are unchanged as to their DESCRIPTION and their DESIRES. No possibility of a moral or spiritual change, carrying with them into eternity their filthy nature with unsatisfied desires. The alcoholic, his unquenchable thirst, the fornicator, his fleshly passions un-gratified. In Luke 16.26, Christ revealed they are fixed as to Destiny. No second chance beyond the grave.
Matt. 25.46 describes the unchanging DURATION of their punishment. It is everlasting. There is the thought of unchanging DISTANCE, between the saved and the lost in Luke 16.26. "Abraham afar off," and "great gulf fixed," convey ideas of remoteness, with no possibility of breaking the barrier God has placed there. And finally, the Devil, after 1000 years imprisonment, on being let loose, will again attempt to deceive the nations; and DEITY will remain inflexibly the same forever (Heb. 13.8). In a scene of unending misery their DAMNATION also will be unchanged and unchangeable.
- The Lake of Fire
- To be forever lost, a soul from Hell,
- To estimate the cost, no one can tell,
- No hope on which to lean,
- No grain of comfort glean,
- In that benighted scene, ever to dwell!
by EUGENE STOCK
(Reprinted from the Bible Student)
While Titus was a Gentile, Timothy was neither a Gentile nor a Jew in the full sense. His father was a Greek and his mother a Jewess (Acts 16.1). We have the names of both his mother and his grandmother in 2 Tim. 1.5, Eunice and Lois; and the mention of these in this way suggests that his father had died early. Although, no doubt, his Gentile paternity was the cause of his not being circumcised as a child, the mother and grandmother brought him up to know the God of the Hebrews, and he was taught the ‘sacred Writings’ of the Old Testament from infancy, as the Greek word for ‘child’ in 2 Tim. 3.15 indicates, meaning literally ‘babe.’ It is a beautiful picture that is thus presented to our view: the widowed ‘daughter of Abraham’ with her one young boy, living with her old mother in the far-off heathen city of Lystra, in the heart of the great territory we now know as Asia Minor; the child denied the much-prized sign of God’s covenant with Israel in deference to the father’s wishes, but learning what was much better, the Book of the Covenant (the Old Testament), daily at his mother’s knee; yet without the advantage which so many Jews in foreign cities enjoyed, of a synagogue for Sabbath worship and teaching—as we may fairly gather from Acts 14.
1. Then, one day, occur the events recorded in that chapter. Two travelling Jews come to Lystra, and begin preaching, not to countrymen of their own in a synagogue as elsewhere, but to such heathen as will listen to them (verse 7). Apparently they are not much noticed until one day a startling sight rouses the whole city. Here is a well known character, a cripple from his birth, leaping and walking, at one brief word from these strangers. The cry is raised "The gods are come down!’ ‘This dignified personage must be Zeus himself, the father of gods and men; and this one, who does most of the speaking, must be his attendant Hermes! * Fetch the priest! Bring oxen and garlands! Let sacrifices be offered! Lystra is indeed honoured!’ Barnabas and Paul, not being acquainted (apparently) with the mother-tongue of the Lyconians used by the populace in their excitement (though evidently Greek was also spoken), fail at first to make out what is going on. It was as if an English preacher in Wales were puzzled by the cries of the bilingual Welsh, who understand him though he does not understand them. But presently the strangers do perceive what is meant, for here is the priest about to sacrifice the ox before them; and then we hear their indignant remonstrance, and their appeal to the people to turn to the one Living God Who has given the rain and fruitful seasons.
- * Zeus and Hermes Are the names of these gods in the Greek (see R.V. margin). The A.V. adopted the more familiar Latin names, Jupiter and Mercury, and the R.V. does not alter these in the text.
Did young Timothy witness all this? It does anyway seem that he saw the sequel, when Paul was stoned and left for dead; for, long years after, the Apostle reminded him of his ‘suffering and persecutions’ ‘at Lystra’ (2 Tim. 3.11). And was Timothy’s conversion to Christ one of the fruits of this missionary visit? It seems so; for he, like Titus, was spiritually a ‘very own child’ of Paul’s (1 Tim. 1.2).
2. Two or three years pass away, and Paul is again at Lystra (Acts 16.1-3). Timothy is now ‘a disciple,’ ‘well reported of by the brethren,’ not only there, but at the more important city of Iconium. Had the young Christian been evangelizing already? There were ‘prophets’ in the Church who marked him out and named him as a future missionary (1 Tim. 1.18). No wonder Paul, who no longer had Barnabas and Mark with him, but only Silas, felt that God had raised up for him a fresh and promising companion, and ‘would have him to go forth with him.’ But there was one obstacle. The Gentile converts were not to be subjected to the Jewish rite of circumcision, but here was a young man who was half a Jew, and who was to accompany Paul to many cities where there were large Jewish communities. Certainly they would not tolerate one of their own race Without the covenant token. So the Apostle, on his great principle of being ‘all things to all men,’ ‘took and circumcised’ Timothy, seeing no inconsistency in this even while at that very time he was conveying to the various churches the decrees of the Council of Jerusalem which exempted the Gentiles from the rite (Acts 16.4). Then came the ‘laying on of hands’ (1 Tim. 4.14; 2 Tim. 1.6). The Greek prepositions used are different; the ‘gift’ coming through (dia) Paul’s hands, but ‘with’ (meta) the presbyters’ hands. **
- ** Paul definitely states in 1 Cor. 12.4-11 that it was the special prerogative of the Holy Spirit to impart spiritual gifts. F. W. Grant comments on 1 Tim. 4.14: ‘In Timothy’s case this gift had been given through prophecy, with the laying on of hands of the eldership. It was not the laying on of hands that communicated the gift, although it acknowledged it no doubt. The gift was given through prophecy (2 Tim. 1.6), the voice of. God announcing it, as prophecy means here as elsewhere. He had thus a special place which none of us can pretend to.’—(Editor of Bible Student).
3. The young evangelist now leaves his home and his mother, and goes forth with Paul and Silas to preach the Gospel. Their progress through Asia Minor is traced in Acts 16.4-8, till at Troas they stand on the seashore and look across the AEgean Sea towards Europe; and the vision of the ‘man of Macedonia’ calls them thither. They have now become a party of four, as we find by the word ‘we’ occuring for the first time (verse 10), showing that they had been joined by Luke, the beloved physician, who writes the narrative. But he is only with them a little while. The ‘we’ occurs again at Philippi (verse 16), but after that we find ‘they’ as before. Only Paul and Silas are mentioned by name, but Timothy is with them, as we find a little later (17.15); and a passage in the Epistle to the Philippians (2.19-20), written years after, reveals Timothy’s presence at Philippi on this first occasion: T hope … to send Timothy shortly unto you … Ye know the proof of him that, as a child serveth a father, so he served with me in furtherance of the Gospel.’ Moreover, we know that he joined in the preaching at Thessalonica, for both the Epistles to the Thessalonians are written in the names of ‘Paul and Silvanus (i.e. Silas) and Timotheus,’ and the words ‘we’ and ‘our,’ which occur so often in those letters—thirty-five times in the first three chapters of the First Epistle—tell us that Timothy had his share in their labours and trials.
But when Paul is hurried away from the next city, Eerea, to escape his Jewish pursuers, he goes on to Athens alone, leaving Silas and Timothy at Berea. Re sends them, however, instructions to follow him quickly (Acts 17.14,15), but the narrative only shows them joining him later at Corinth. It is only from the First Epistle to the Thessalonians that we find that Timothy did follow him to Athens, "but was sent back to Macedonia to comfort and strengthen the Church at Thessalonica. (See 1 Thess. 2.17,18; 3.1,2. Ramsay explains Timothy’s movements differently, but I fail to reconcile his view with these passages). Then Paul, discouraged by his lack of success at Athens, goes on to Corinth alone; in that great commercial and specially wicked city he is ‘in weakness and in fear and in much trembling’ (1 Cor. 2.3); and the narrative of the Acts indirectly confirms this (18.1-11). He is working at his tent-making in order to pay his way, and only uses the Sabbaths in the Jewish synagogue for quiet ‘reasoning and persuading’; ‘but when Silas and Timothy come down from Macedonia,’ Paul is ‘pressed in the spirit’ (A.V.), or ‘constrained by the Word’ (R.V.), and then begins that mighty work which shows that the Lord had ‘much people in that city’ (verse 10). In this work we might anyway be sure that Timothy had his share; but we are expressly told so in 2 Cor. 1.19 ‘The Son of God, Jesus Christ, was preached among you by us, even by me and Silvanus and Timothy.’
4. We next meet with Timothy at Ephesus, in that long period of ‘three years’ during which Paul worked in that great city (Acts 19.22; 20.31). From here he is sent, with a companion, Erastus, into Macedonia (19.22), where he would no doubt visit the churches of Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea. He is also to – go on to Corinth, as Paul announces in a letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 4.17), and further (16.10,11) specially commends him to them. ‘If Timothy come, see that he be with you without fear; for he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do; let no man therefore despise him.’ Clearly the Apostle is a little afraid of the reception Timothy may meet with there, knowing his gentle and naturally timid character. It appears that Timothy failed to correct the evils rife at Corinth (if he ever reached there), and that then Paul sent Titus instead.
Afterwards, when Paul himself is at Corinth (Acts 20.2), Timothy is with him, as appears from (he Epistle to the Romans, which was written from that city at that time, and which contains a message to the Roman Christians from the young evangelist (16.21). Then when Paul starts on his journey to Jerusalem with the ‘collection,’ Timothy and others go on before him and wait for him at Troas (Acts 20. 4,5). But there is no indication that he went all the way to Judaea, as certainly Luke and Trophimus did (21.15,29); nor that he was with the Apostle during the latter’s two years’ detention at Caesarea (24.27); nor that he was in the ship wrecked at Melita, as Luke was (28.1). But we find him afterwards at Rome, as his name is joined with the Apostle’s in three of the Epistles written during the two years there (Phil. 1.1; Col. 1.1; Philem. 1); and Paul hoped to send him to Philippi, as appears from a passage already quoted: T hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy shortly unto you’—words followed by a beautiful testimony to his character: T have no man likeminded, who will care truly for your state . . . But ye know the proof of him,’ etc. (Phil. 2.19-22).
5. The rest of our knowledge of Timothy’s career is derived (with one exception) from the two Epistles to him. During one of the later journeys of Paul, after his release at Rome, the Apostle leaves Timothy at Ephesus to superintend the work there (1. 1.3); and thither he sends the First Epistle. The Second Epistle is written from the Roman dungeon during the second more rigorous imprisonment, and it begs Timothy to come to Rome quickly. The one addition to our knowledge is in the Epistle to the Hebrews (13.23), ‘Know ye that our brother Timothy hath been set at liberty.’ It may be that Timothy did reach Rome, either before or soon after Paul’s execution, and was there arrested himself, and that the writer of Hebrews hearing of his release, proposed going with him to the Jewish Christians (whoever they may have been) to whom this Epistle was written— ‘with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you.’
Tradition makes Timothy ‘Bishop’ of Ephesus after this, and relates his martyrdom, the Ephesian mob attacking him on account of his protest against a festival in honour of Diana, and killing him with clubs.
by JOHN HEADING, Aberystwyth
(1). Basic Considerations
One of the basic verses showing the activity of the first church established in Jerusalem is Acts 2.42, "they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in (the) prayers." Such a verse consolidates much N.T. teaching about assembly service, so we should take 2 Corinthians 13.5 very much to heart, "Examine yourselves . . . prove your own selves." The various meetings of the assembly may be given scriptural names, but are they characterized by scriptural principles? We may think it easy to judge things that are outside the assembly (1 Cor. 5.12), by asserting that in these days of massive religious departure from the Word of God we cannot see much of God’s pattern around. Yet it is our responsibility to judge things within, by checking whether our obedience is better than any sacrifice of self and zeal perhaps directed to the pursuit of what is not scriptural.
We must realize that meetings by themselves do not form believers into a local assembly; adding is God’s work (Acts 2.47; 4.14; 11.24), and He uses His servants gifted as evangelists and teachers to achieve His ends. Rather, meetings are one manifestation of the existence of a local assembly. Otherwise one may gain the unscriptural thought that the hall where meetings take place is the church (and this is the common idea held by the man-in-the-street). The local assembly is far from being a part-time institution consisting of being together for various hours during the week; it is a full-time bond of true fellowship that is expressed (partially but not fully) by the meetings that are convened.
In these papers, we shall first present some basic considerations that ensure that assembly meetings possess a spiritual standard consistent with N.T. teaching. Then we shall ask the question, "Does it matter?" about various aspects of assembly meetings, and finally we shall consider many examples of these meetings.
1. God’s Word and not Man’s. The Word of God alone must be our guide in all matters pertaining to assembly meetings. This inspired Word has been given so as to be "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3.16). Similarly for the N.T. message; it enables us to serve "not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts" (1 Thess. 2.4). Before the people entered into the land, the Word of God was very clear: the only place of service was to be "the place which the Lord your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there" (Deut. 12.5). In the land, David’s tabernacle and Solomon’s temple were erected respectively on mount Zion and mount Moriah, and these were the centres of worship. But some kings, such as Jeroboam, Ahaz and Manasseh, formulated their own religious systems, though restoration was available to return to the Word of God through Moses and David. Later, when the Lord was here, the Word of God had been displaced, and Jewish tradition was the order of the day, with their temple, sacrifices, synagogues, law and doctrine. "In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Mark 7.7) was the Lord’s assessment of the religious scene around Him. How the Lord’s people today should be thankful that they have been redeemed from their vain manner of life received by tradition from the fathers (1 Pet. 1.18). Today, in evangelical interdenominationalism, some of the Lord’s people choose the highest common factor of all the various doctrines and practices available, and seek to build upon that foundation. But is this holding the whole Word of God, or neglecting part of it? The Scriptures know nothing about relegating parts of the divinely given pattern, and retaining only that which is common to all those who love the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. This attitude can only bring about compromise on important issues, treating as irrelevant other parts of Scripture.
2. Holiness. Assembly meetings should be characterized by holiness. An unsanctified atmosphere brought in by some renders it very difficult for others to maintain spiritual service. In the O.T., God had said, "the tabernacle shall be sanctified by my glory … I will sanctify the tabernacle . . . and the altar . . . both Aaron and his sons" (Exod. 29.43-44). At the end of his life, David recalled his preparations that he had made for "the holy house" (1 Chron. 29.3). In an unsanctified frame of mind regarding his heathen Egyptian wife, Solomon nevertheless declared that "the places are holy, whereunto the ark of the Lord hath come" (2′ Chron. 8.11). The prophet Ezekiel foresaw restoration, "This is the law of the house … the whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy" (Ezek. 43.12).
In the N.T., the same principle applies: "the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are" (1 Cor. 3.17); "in whom all the building . . . groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord" (Eph. 2.21).
3. The Lord’s Presence. If this is not recognized, then an assembly may degenerate over the years into Laodicea, its character being similar to many a worldly association. "That I may dwell among them" was God’s intention in the building of the tabernacle, (Exod. 25.8). Later, the land was described as the Lord’s possession "wherein the Lord’s tabernacle dwelleth" (Josh. 22.19). Concerning the house of God that was to be built, He said to Solomon, "I will dwell among the children of Israel" (1 Kings 6.13). The full recognition of God’s glory among them would have kept the people from many a fall. Similarly during the Lord’s lifetime on earth, His presence was described by John as "the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory" (John 1.14); could a man ever be the same after having known the reality of such a divine presence? Thus after His resurrection, the Lord prepared the disciples for His forthcoming unseen presence: when "the disciples were assembled" He came unto His own (John 20.19). Paul pressed the O.T. promises into the changed N.T. situation, "I will dwell in them, and walk in them" (2 Cor. 6.16). Consequently, as forming the temple of the living God, their conduct in "perfecting holiness in the fear of God" had to be completely consistent with the living presence of the Lord.
4. Recognition of the Headship of Christ. Man is head in his proper sphere, but in an assembly meeting both men and women, by their heads being respectively uncovered and covered, display the truth that the Headship of Christ is recognized therein. If the truth of 1 Corinthians 11.2-16 is neglected (and this neglect today is of very recent origin, so cannot have its basis in the age-old Scriptures of truth), then many other aspects of assembly meetings fall by the wayside. For example, for the Lord’s Supper the Corinthians came "together not for the better, but for the worse" (v. 17), so much so that by their actions they implied (to Paul, at least) "this is not to eat the Lord’s supper" in spite of partaking of the emblems (v. 20). Chapter 14 shows that the conduct of meetings was in disorder, with many brethren taking part at one time to no profit. Chapter 15 shows that a gospel with no resurrection was preached, with faith vain and men still in their sins. To recognize the Lord as Head would avoid all this!
5. Control by the Spirit. In assembly meetings, the quiet, peaceful, reverent yet ordered control by the Spirit should be in evidence. He takes up whom He will, in contrast to man’s ordered and traditional arrangement where one man is in control, a copy of the old Jewish priestly system. In 1 Corinthians, spiritual gifts are distributed by the Spirit, "dividing to every man severally as he will" (12.11). In Acts chs. 13 and 16 we read of men separated by the Spirit, and led into specific avenues of service. In 1 Corinthians 2, knowledge for service comes by the Spirit; in Ephesians 5.18-20, song and thanksgiving are by the Spirit, as also is prayer (6.18). We "worship by the Spirit of God" (Phil. 3.3,R.V.), and all this demonstrates that we must not "quench" the Spirit (1 Thess. 5.19). Such verses as these span the range of assembly activity, yet the still quiet voice of the Spirit can be disturbed by the restless energy of the flesh, which sometimes seeks licence to tire the saints with unprofitable utterances.
6. Spirituality. The realm of nature is what we call natural (Whether good or bad). The realm of the Spirit is what we call spiritual. The realm of the Lord is what we call dominical, an unusual word that occurs only twice in the N.T., translated "the Lord’s supper" and "the Lord’s day" (1 Cor. 11.20; Rev. 1.10). The word "spiritual" appears 15 times in 1 Corinthians, but only 11 times elsewhere in the N.T. Thus we read of spiritual meat, spiritual drink, a spiritual Rock, spiritual gifts, spiritual blessings, spiritual songs, spiritual understanding, a spiritual house. Three times men are spoken of as being spiritual — that is, they are dominated by the outlook and activity of the Spirit given by the Risen Lord. In 1 Corinthians 2.11 to 3.2 the reception of the divine mind by a spiritual man is according to God’s methods and not man’s. In 14.37, a spiritual man knows that the regulation of assembly meetings is by "the commandments of the Lord." In Galatians 6.1, restoration by a spiritual man is achieved by quietly seeking to help another overcome by unspirituality. If brethren or sisters are spiritual, maintaining spirituality during meetings, there would be no outbursts of laughter and worldly conversation within seconds of the end of meetings, because the true atmosphere of such meetings should persist long after their termination.
7. Loyalty. In the N.T., there was never the attitude that says, "Let us be present for the breaking of bread, but it doesn’t matter if we are not seen again throughout the week." The writer to the Hebrews suspected that this danger might be present, so he exhorted "not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is" (Heb. 10.25). In writing like this, we stress that we are not talking about legitimate absences. When there was a material sanctuary, some men and women displayed enormous loyalty to the things of God: Joshua "departed not out of the tabernacle" (Exod. 33.11); David would dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life (Psa. 23.6; 27.4); Anna "departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day" (Luke 2.37). Paul’s Epistles show in many places that he engaged in daily prayers and thanksgivings for the local assemblies; his thoughts and presence, when possible, were always with them. But today, in a large assembly, it may seem easy to miss this or that meeting, and expect not to be missed, particularly if one is regular in one’s absences. Yet in a very small assembly, loyalty is necessary to maintain the testimony—where the presence of every brother and sister is essential, where a brother cannot be absent to preach elsewhere, and perhaps where even holidays have to be dispensed with so that the assembly meetings are maintained.
by PAUL SQUIRES (Ford Park, Plymouth)
The title of this article appears in 1 Pet. 4.4 In verse 3 Peter is writing of the old walk/life and in verse 4 of the result of the new walk/life. We cannot over emphasise that for the saint (one who is holy, set apart, i.e. positionally) the six sins of verse 3 are PAST; "the time PAST of our life." We have died with Christ and have been raised to "walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6.4).
Let us look at these six sins and verse 4.
LASCIVIOUSNESS — the Greek word is aselgeia and refers to those actions which would give rise to distaste, even disgust, in any civilised community. It is translated "filthy" (2 Pet. 2.7), "lasciviousness" (Mark 7.22; 2 Cor. 12. 21; Gal. 5.19; Eph. 4.19; 1 Pet. 4.3 Jude 4) and "wantoness" (Rom. 13.13; 2 Pet. 2.18).
LUSTS—cravings (see article entitled LUSTING in Nov./ Dec. ’83 issue of A.T.). Note the references in the First Epistle of Peter (1.14; 2.11; 4.2-3). For the Second Epistle see 1.4; 2.10; 2.18; 3.3.
EXCESS OF WINE—"wine-drinking" (J.N.D.). Ephesians 5.18 reads "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit." All Christians are indwelt by the Spirit (a truth needful of reiteration), but not all know what it is to be "filled with the Spirit." This One of the Godhead Three, Whom we hear too little about, is to be in full control.
REVELLINGS — the Greek word komos is translated "rioting" (Rom. 13.13 and "revellings" (Gal. 5.21; 1 Pet. 4.3).
BANQUETINGS — "carousings" (R.V.), "drinkings" (J.N.D.).
ABOMINABLE IDOLATRIES—"unhallowed idolatries" (J.N.D.).
In verse 4 the word "run" is ‘to run in company with’ (the verb is found also in Mark 6.33 and Acts 3.11) and "excess of riot" may be rendered "sink of corruption" (J.N.D. and see footnote in New Translation).
The result of the new walk/life is two-fold, strangeness and evil speaking. Those who are unsaved and know us will THINK IT STRANGE that we do not keep company with them in the sins outlined, as perhaps once we did. Think of our Lord and Saviour: He mingled with sinners, the very lowest of the low, yet was ever the separate One, a Man of dignity. Let us "follow His steps" (2.21).
The duty is ours to explain to those who perhaps wonder at the changed life, how it came about. May we seize every opportunity to speak of the glorious Person Who has saved us and the marvelous life available in Him.
by Jack Strahan, Enniskillen
"GUIDE ME, 0 THOU GREAT JEHOVAH"
WILLIAM WILLIAMS (1717—1791)
Wales has always been a land of song. Perhaps, no other country in the world has a finer singing tradition and few have superior fishes in tunes. When spiritual revival swept that land in the 18th century, it seemed as if a long spiritual winter had ended’—spring-time had arrived. Throughout the land at that time, a new spirit of song was awakened as never before and the voice towering above all the others was that of William Williams of Pantycelyn. He was the outstanding hymn writer of the great revival. Dr. Elvet Lewis in his "Sweet Singers of Wales" states that "what Paul Gerhardt has been to Germany, what Isaac Watts has been to England, that and more William Williams has been to the little Principality of Wales. His hymns have both stirred and soothed the whole nation for more than 100 years; they have helped to fashion a nation’s character and to deepen a nation’s piety." William Williams has gone down in history as, "the Sweet Singer of Wales."
William Williams, the fourth child of John and Dorothy Williams, was born in 1717 at Cefn-y-coed’ near Llandovery, Carmarthenshire. When William was a young man, the family moved to an adjacent and more prosperous farm at Pantycelyn and this homestead remains to the present the family home of the same Williams family. Thus Pantycelyn and William Williams became inextricably identified with each other—he exists for us today as, "Williams Pantycelyn."
William Williams as a boy received a good education. His parents planned that he should become a doctor and as a medical student he was sent to Llwyn-llwyd Academy about 30 miles from home. It happened that one day as he was returning home from college on horseback, and passing through Talgarth, Breconshire, he was arrested by the oratory of an open-air preacher mounted on a tombstone within the churchyard wall. He had never heard anything like it before but (as he records later) it was a voice evidently "from heaven" to his soul. Howel Harris, the young Methodist evangelist, was the preacher that day and that message brought salvation to Williams, then a medical student of 20 years of age. Within a few days of conversion’s experience, Williams became convinced that God would have him give up medical studies and become a physician of souls. He was appointed a deacon of the Church of England at the age of 23 and for three years served two small curacies in South Wales. Williams, however, incurred the displeasure of the ruling bishop by his evangelical views, by his going outside his own parish to preach the gospel and by his association with such dissenters and revivalists as George Whitefield. Those offences the bishop could not tolerate and Williams was refused full ordination as a priest. However, Williams all the while had been ill at ease within the established church and was happy to throw in his lot with fellow revivalists, taking all Wales as his parish. In association with Howel Harris of Trefeca, Daniel Rowland of Llangeitho and Howel Davies of Pembrokeshire, he moved up and down the country like a flame, arousing the people to a consciousness of their sin and need of a Saviour and mightily was he used of God, though suffering persecution in many parts. Howel Harris wrote of him, "Hell trembles when Williams comes, and souls are taken daily by Brother Williams in the gospel-net." In about half a century he travelled some 100,000 miles throughout the Principality on horse-back or on foot proclaiming the glorious gospel. He died in his home at Pantycelyn on the 11th January, 1791 at the age of 74, after a long and painful illness— honoured, much respected and indeed greatly loved, and was laid to rest in Llanfair-ar-y-bryn churchyard, Llandovery. A visitor to that spot today may there see his tombstone and read from the epitaph :
"A sinner saved"
"He waits here the coming of the Morning Star"
William Williams may be described as a truly great man. Besides being a great theologian, he was a great preacher. Besides being a great poet (reckoned by some authorities as the greatest of all Welsh poets), he was a great hymn-writer. In his hymns, numbering about 860 in all, we have the combination of truly great poetry and perfect theology. He wrote almost entirely in Welsh and cannot be freely or successfully translated; so his greatness as a hymnwriter cannot be truly assessed or appreciated, except by the Welsh people themselves. Springing as he did from a rural background, he drew widely for his compositions from nature around him—the dawn, the sunset, the mountains, the harvest field, a summer’s evening, a winter’s night, a clear morning after a storm or a quiet haven by the sea. These he used to reflect the experience of the soul, believing that the book of nature harmonised fully with the revelation of scripture. Williams’ hymns were a mighty influence among the Welsh people of the 18th century for many who could not themselves read soon learned’ his hymns and thousands of people knew a great many of them by heart. Such was their spiritual content that the common people used them more for private meditation than for community singing.
Of the very few of Williams’ hymns which we have in English today, the greatest and most widely known is, "Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah." Originally written in Welsh it consisted of five verses and was first published in 1745. Some years later Peter Williams (no relation) translated three verses into English. This translation, however, did not entirely satisfy William Williams, its original composer. He, himself, therefore re-wrote the hymn, preserving the first verse much as Peter Williams had rendered it but re-writing completely the second and third verses.
- "Guide me, 0 Thou great Jehovah,
- Pilgrim through this barren land;
- I am weak, but Thou art mighty,
- Hold me with Thy powerful hand:
- Bread of heaven,
- Feed me till I want no more.
- Open now the crystal fountain,
- Whence the healing stream doth flow;
- Let the fire and cloudy pillar
- Lead me all my journey through:
- Strong deliverer,
- Be Thou still my strength and shield.
- When I tread the verge of Jordan,
- Bid my anxious fears subside;
- Death of deaths, and hell’s destruction,
- Land me safe on Canaan’s side:
- Songs of praises
- I will ever give to thee.
The-lovely Welsh tune, "Cwm – Rhondda" to which this, hymn is sung today was composed by John Hughes in ,1907. The hymn and the tune are complimentary, indeed, almost inseparately linked-and have a universal appeal. Welsh men are unrivalled singers of this hymn and especially in the open air. Besides, the hymn has now been translated into 75 other languages.
The imagery of the hymn is based on, the-40 years journey of the Israelites through the wilderness to the land of Canaan. Williams, in his hymn, identifies himself with the pilgrims to Canaan and, appreciating the tortuousness and dangers of the way, he solicits the guidance, the care and the protection of the God of Israel. As through the wilderness, the pilgrim makes his Way, his eye and heart are lifted to heaven, "Guide me’," . . . "Hold me" . . . "Feed me" . . . so he proceeds to the better land. Truly Williams hymn is the prayer of the pilgrim!
ALL THE SAINTS
- Can I call Him Lord and Master,
- Yet in this heart of mine do harbour,
- Thoughts of malice, spite, and guile,
- For those on whom my Saviour smiles.
- Surely if I am in touch with heaven
- I will not allow such leaven,
- To permeate and with evil smear,
- His saints, my brethren and sisters dear
- If Thy love the power of sin can break,
- Can it not from my bosom take,
- Every unkind, unholy thought, which taints,
- Sowing discord, mar the fellowship of saints
- Solemn thought ‘unto Him’ we gather,
- His Precious Name, and Worth we proffer,
- Stupendous truth, that He doth us own
- He bids our love to ALL, His saints, be shown
- O Lord Thy love knows no Partiality,
- Embracing all in its totality,
- Loving All Thine own with tender care,
- Until All, above, its Fulness share.
—J. G. Good.