BEHOLD YOUR KING
by J. Flanigan
ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle
THE KINGS OF JUDAH AND ISRAEL
by G. H. Hutchinson
PAPERS ON PROPHECY
by W. W. Fereday
CHARACTERISTICS OF DECLENSION
by D. S. Parrack
THE BIBLE AND BAPTISM
by H. W. Graham
by J. Adams
by John B. D. Page
MY CONVERSION AND CALL
by J. McCann Jnr.
(Meditations in Matthew)
by Jim Flanigan (Belfast)
19. Martyrdom and Miracles (Ch.14)
Dispensationally we have arrived at a most interesting chapter. The King has been rejected and in the previous chapter a mystery form of the kingdom has been announced in parables which describe the course and character of the kingdom during the absence of the King. Now we have the condition of things which will prevail during the days of the King’s rejection and this is pictured in the three incidents which comprise the chapter.
First we have the murder of John Baptist, an illustration of the persecution of the godly and the testimony. This is followed by the miraculous feeding of the five thousand, a picture of blessing for Gentile multitudes in this present age of grace. Then the storm, depicting the care of the Lord on high for His perplexed disciples in the troubled sea.
The Herods were perhaps without exception, evil men. They were puppet despots, their authority being conferred on them by Rome. This Herod is Herod the Tetrarch of Galilee, son of Herod the Great who massacred the innocents after the visit of the wise men from the East. He had imprisoned the faithful John who had dared to denounce his adulterous relationship with his brother Philip’s wife. Now there is a feast in celebration of his birthday, with the customary indecencies reminiscent of that other feast recorded in Esther ch.l, to the embarrassment of Queen Vashti. In the height of the revelry and dancing Herod made a rash promise, which, because of those present, he must keep. His troubled conscience told him the thing was wrong, but he must save face, as they say, and he gave the solemn edict. John Baptist was to be beheaded in his dungeon and the head of the faithful prophet was to be presented in a dish to the young dancer. Of course an evil woman was the instigator of it all, cunningly manipulating the circumstances. A king and a woman! Politics and religion! It has ever been so through the ages, until the alliance of priests and soldiers in the trial of our Lord, and the coalition of religious and civil authorities in the Acts of the Apostles, and it will be so until the scarlet woman rides the beast in the days of vengeance after the rapture of the church. Politics and religion joined in opposition to, and persecution of the saints of God.
As with the martyr Stephen in a later day, devout men attend to the burial of John’s precious remains and come to tell the King. The Saviour’s reaction is quiet and dignified. He departs in silence to a desert place, but His disciples and a great multitude follow Him. There might well have been a manifestation of justified anger, but instead we read of His compassion and a gracious healing ministry.
It is now toward evening. The day is fading as the sun is setting. It seemed a reasonable suggestion of the disciples, that He should send the multitude away, to buy victuals in the nearby villages before nightfall. Those were kindly words of the Saviour, "They need not depart." He would not send them away hungry. But the need was great. It was beyond human ability to meet it. Their resources were meagre, five loaves and two fishes. John is even more explicit in his Gospel, when he says that the loaves were barley loaves, a cheaper cereal, the fishes were small, and it was just a lad who had them. The crowd numbered some five thousand men besides women and children. It was indeed a need greater than the scant supply. But the King was Lord of land and sea and He quietly took the harvest of land and sea and bade His disciples to distribute to the seated multitude. He had given thanks and blessed the food. They did all eat and were satisfied and twelve baskets of fragments remained. It is a fitting picture of this present age. Twelve baskets remain for Israel after the great need of Gentile nations has been suitably met. John writes that they would have made Him King there and then, but He retired to the mountain-side to pray, apart and alone, and His disciples below, on the sea.
That night was a troubled night on the sea of Galilee. The wind was contrary and the waves boisterous and the King was not with them. But He was watching from on high. What a picture of this present age. How many saints are in a storm. How many are perplexed and afraid. The Saviour knows. In the fourth watch of the night, as the dawn approached, He came to them. He may sometimes delay, but He will come to succour His afflicted people. He walked on the sea. He put the thing which troubled them beneath His feet, but still they were afraid. Then those lovely words of cheer, which He would still speak to every frightened saint, "It is I; be not afraid." Peter wanted assurance, and Jesus said, "Come". Poor Peter; his courage failed him in the water as indeed it would fail him again in the moral storm of that last night of our Lord’s trial before Caiaphas. An outstretched hand responded immediately to his cry for help. They came into the ship together, Peter and his Lord, and the wind ceased. It is no wonder that they worshipped Him, and acknowledged, "Thou art the Son of God."
They came to land at the dawning and the country was stirred with the word of His coming. They brought their sick, their diseased, seeking but to touch the hem of His garment, for just to touch Him brought health and healing.
The King’s faithful ambassador is dead, but the King lives and the miracles continue. He will yet come face to face with the Herod who murdered His forerunner, but that is another chapter of the story.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)
(4) ENTER ESTHER, PART A Read Chapter 2.1-11
Esther chapters 1 and 2 describe God’s provision for His people. Haman has not yet come to power, and his infamous plan to eradicate the Jews has not yet been implemented. But God fully anticipated the attempted genocide of the Jews, and was already working for their deliverance. The significance of the opening two chapters becomes very clear indeed as the story unfolds. We have already examined the first of the three principal events described. These are:
- The Removal of Vashti
- The Selection of Esther
- The Loyalty of Mordecai
Before studying this chapter it might be helpful to notice that the book of Esther is not alone in displaying the providence of God. How about Acts 18.1-3? "After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; and found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them. And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers." First of all, God moved Claudius Caesar to expel the Jews from Rome. There was no one higher in the world than the Roman Emperor — but that was no obstacle to God. Secondly, God overruled in the education and training of two obscure Jews. Claudius and Aquila and Priscilla were poles apart, and only God could put his hand upon people so diverse to further His purposes! As a result of it all, Paul found shelter and employment at Corinth. Just think about it: God did all this in order to plant an assembly in that wicked city.
But you don’t have to go further than the birth of the Lord Jesus Himself to see the providence of God displayed. Once again, God moved the Roman Emperor: …And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed … and all went to be taxed, every one to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth …" Lk.2.1-7. The decree of Cyrus (Ezra 1.1) is another clear example.
All this should make us think seriously. Well, if it does not have this effect, then it certainly should! God works silently behind the scenes — in all our lives.
Now, back to Esther 2, and to the second of the three principal events through which God provided for His people:
2) THE SELECTION OF ESTHER
The chapter commences with a remorseful king. The statement, "he remembered Vashti," apparently carries the thought of affectionate remembrance but, in view of the decree, there was little Ahasuerus could do about the situation. After all, the decree was irreversible: see 1.19. However, his courtiers had a good idea, but it was not such a good idea for the Persian girls. ‘Little imagination is needed to appreciate the horror caused by the round-up of these girls, whose fate it was to be carried away from their homes to be secluded for life as the king’s concubines. What a liability to be beautiful!’ J. G. Baldwin, The New Bible Commentary, Revised. This statement is well supported by v14, and the expression "round-up" is not exaggerated. The whole business was at "the king’s commandment and his decree." v8.
There are three strands to this part of the story: (A) Esther and Mordecai, v5-11; (B) Esther and Hegai, vl2-15; (C) Esther and Ahasuerus, v16-20. We will consider the first of these now, and the remaining two in our next study.
A) ESTHER AND MORDECAI. v5-11
Esther plays a passive role. We know that she was "fair and beautiful," v7. We also know that she was assigned "seven maidens" and given "the best place in the house of the women," v9. Mordecai plays a more active role. Notice:
i) His ancestry, v5-6. Think about these verses: they are more than bald statements of fact. In the first place, we have the providence of God. "Now in Shushan the palace there was a certain Jew, whose name was Mordecai …" He could have been in Babylon, or Persepolis, or Ecbatana. But he was in Shushan! Was it purely coincidence — a quirk of fate? We know better than that. We’re back to our introduction! God is in control of our movements.
Secondly, we have the government of God. He was a Benjamite, the great-grandson of Kish, "who had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captivity which had been carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away." The Babylonian captivity was the direct result of Judah’s disobedience. Disobedience always brings captivity. See Tim.2.25-26.
ii) His adoption of Esther, v7. "And he brought up Hadassah (meaning in Hebrew, ‘myrtle’) that is, Esther (meaning, it is generally assumed, in Persian, ‘star’), his uncle’s daughter … whom Mordecai, when her father and mother were dead, took for his own daughter." Notice, yet again, the providence of God: had someone else adopted Esther, she might have been anywhere but in Shushan.
Esther had nothing outside Mordecai: her old life had come to an end in her parent’s grave. It’s like that with us too. We have nothing outside of Christ. We too have been placed in a different family. Paul quotes Hosea in Rom.9. "And that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory, even, us, whom He hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? as He saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not my beloved. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God." v23-26. See also Rom.8.15 and Eph.1.5.
iii) His instruction to Esther, v10. "Esther had not shewed her people nor her kindred: for Mordecai had charged her that she should not shew it." See also v20. Haman soon discovered Mordecai’s ancestry (3.6), but Esther’s nationality was not known to either Haman or Ahasuerus until 7.4. Whilst, again, the withholding of this information was providential, and Mordecai presumably had Esther’s best interest before him, we must not take this as a spiritual precedent. Paul was very happy to reveal his connections: "There stood by me this night the angel of God, Whose I am, and Whom I serve …" Acts 27.23. He is most positive in Rom. 1: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ …" v16. See also 2Tim 1.8, "Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God." So far as we are concerned, it is a case of ‘nailing our colours to the mast.’
- "Ashamed to be a Christian!
- Afraid the world should know
- I’m on my way to Zion,
- Where joys eternal flow!
- Afraid to wear Thy colours,
- Or blush to follow Thee!
- Forbid it, O my Saviour,
- That I should ever be."
Now, let us suppose that Esther had declared her nationality. Yes, it is pure speculation, and perhaps we should not do it! Possibly, Haman would not then have attempted to eradicate the Jews. Her confession might have saved an awful lot of trouble. Well, we just don’t know, of course. But we do know that a clear confession of Christ at the earliest possible opportunity can save us from a lot of awkward situations later on. When people know that we belong to Christ, they often seem to know that there are certain things which we avoid, and so we don’t have to end up making weak excuses when the "crunch" comes.
iv) His concern for Esther, v11. "And Mordecai walked every day before the court of the women’s house, to know how Esther did, and what should become of her." She was no longer in his custody — that had passed to "Hegai, keeper of the women," v8. We just need to remember that this isn’t the Western World of 1999. This is Persia BC 478 or thereabouts. In commanding Esther not to disclose her nationality, Mordecai was evidently endeavouring ‘to make the best of a bad job.’ She was certainly not free to pursue life outside, so he was anxious that she should progress to the best possible position inside. That would, at the very least, make life more tolerable for her. Hence his daily concern for her welfare. There certainly does not seem to be anything particularly selfish in his motives.
All of which reminds us of the concern which, as believers, we should show to each other. "And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it," 1Cor.12.26. See also 1Jn.3.16-18.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by Graeme Hutchinson (Belfast)
Asa (Paper 5)
King Asa was the grandson of Rehoboam – 2Chron.12.16; 14.1 – and his reign marked the first serious attempt at raising the spiritual climate in Judah. Although the revival failed to sustain a promising start, the reign of Asa allows us to ponder some of the necessary ingredients for spiritual restoration – national or personal. The following are some of the more prominent.
Although Asa fluctuated in a similar way to his grandfather, the swings were nothing as frequent. For instance, once Rehoboam had resided over three brief years of spiritual prosperity – 2Chron.11.17 – he forsook the law and led the nation astray – 2Chron.12.1. Asa, on the other hand, appears to have ruled well for thirty-five years, before falling prey to the weaknesses of the flesh. It was only the remaining five to six years of Asa’s life that were sadly characterised by departure and sin -2Chron.16.1,13. It is possible, in the case of Asa, to sub-divide the point on consistency into two separate fields:
2Chron. 14.2-7 record some of the positive things that Asa enacted during the initial years of his reign. For instance, he dealt with idolatry (v3), he encouraged devotion to God and the Law (v4) and he used the period of peace wisely by fortifying the nation against future attacks (v6). Surely we should be doing the same to-day. Fleeing from those things that would displace the Lord from our lives -Un.5.21. Following after the Lord and His Word – lTim.6.11. Fortifying ourselves against the enemy.
It is almost impossible to believe that the words of 2Chron.16.12, ‘in his disease he sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians’, actually refer to the same king. Sadly scripture is a testimony to the fact that many characters start promisingly but fail to sustain their spiritual momentum until the end. BEWARE! In any race, the importance of pacing yourself through the whole race is important, ensuring that sufficient resources are available for the duration and not just the start, 1Cor.9.24-27.
During the course of Asa’s reign, there were two major incidents with other nations. Initially it was with Ethiopia – 2Chron.14.9-15 and then with Syria and Israel – 2Chron.16.l-6. In the first case, Asa responded in a very commendable fashion by praying for direction – 2Chron.14.11 – whereas in the latter he was more dependent upon himself – 2Chron.16.2-3.
Although it may appear that Asa was merely using natural methods to counteract the threat posed by Israel – he engaged a third party (Syria) to distract Israel from their activities in Raman – there were a number of faults. Firstly, unlike the battle
with the Ethiopians, Asa did not ask the Lord for guidance (v8). Secondly, he depleted the resources within the house of the Lord to pay for his actions (v2). Finally, whilst the approach received some short-term gain (v5), with the Israelites leaving the site of Ramah, the long-term was less encouraging (v9). Thus the record of Asa should teach us a lesson – taking situations into our own hands rather than leaving them with the Lord is sure to fail.
To the natural eye, the balance of power between the Ethiopians and the army from Judah was unequal. 2Chron.l4.8 records that from the two Southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin, the total number of warriors stood at a mere 580,000. From Ethiopia the number was one million (v9). In such circumstances, Asa did the only thing possible – he prayed (vll). Although we must react to problems in a similar way (Jam.5.13), it is important to consider some of the features of Asa’s prayer.
The words that Asa uttered to the Lord were ordered in such a fashion that we marvel at the respect shown. For instance, not only was the proper title used -‘Lord’ – but the wording was personal and affectionate – ‘Lord his God’ – and – ‘O Lord thou art our God’. Are we able to approach the Lord in prayer in such a fashion?
Irrespective of the size of the Ethiopian army, Asa was confident that the Lord would be able to overthrow them – ‘it is nothing with thee to help ..’. How important it is for us to develop characters that are marked by faith – trusting the Lord even when the circumstances appear hopeless.
Although the world would interpret confidence and dependence as two features that could not possibly co-exist together, the Christians know different. Being confident in the Lord implies that we are dependent upon Him. Matthew Henry makes an excellent point: ‘We do not say, Lord, take our part, for we have a good army for thee to work by; but, take our part, for without thee we have no power’ (1994, Vol.2, p.735).
In this brief prayer, Asa showed a remarkable grasp of theology! – ‘let not (mortal) man prevail against thee’ (vll). In other words, Asa was tenacious enough to suggest that if the Ethiopians were to prevail over the nation of Judah then God’s intrinsic feature of omnipotence would be brought into question – impossible! Such words were only possible because the king had steeped himself in the Law and its content (v4). Perhaps we fail to see answers to our prayers because we fail to deepen our understanding of the One we approach.
Although there are many points that we could use to illustrate the commitment that characterised the reign of Asa – for the most part – we must consider the content of 2Chron.15.16. For such was the determination to carry through the reforms, Asa was prepared to remove one of his own relatives from a position of influence.
Maachah – likely grandmother of Asa (1 Kings 15.2) – was a descendent of the rebellious Absalom, and it appears that she inherited the same disobedient streak, for she refused to destroy her idol.
Perhaps this would be an acid test for our own commitment to the things of God – being prepared to address wrong, even when it is being perpetrated by members of our own family. Sadly, as David Newell remarks: ‘How often in a local assembly has the truth of God been sacrificed on the altar of family loyalty!’ (The Minor Prophets, 1992, p.166).
Twice in the recorded passages of Asa’s reign, we are informed that he was approached by messengers of God – Azariah (2 Chron. 15.1-7) and Hanani (2 Chron. 16.7-9). In the first case, the prophet was used to challenge Asa – ‘Be ye strong .. let not your hands be weak..'(v7), whereas in the latter it was a necessary word of correction – ‘because thou hast .. therefore ..'(v7). Although the response to the words of Azariah was good, the same cannot be said with Hanani. For instance, once told about the error of his ways, Asa responded with anger and irresponsible behaviour – oppressing the people (2 Chron. 16.10). However, Asa is not alone with such an attitude – Ahab (1 Kings 22.8) was another who had a similar attitude to God’s messengers. Perhaps it is a worthwhile question to ask ourselves – how do we respond when we read the Word of God and it cuts right across our own actions? Is it with avoidance, anger or acceptance!
See paper 1 for details of Bibliography/Figures
—to be continued (D. V.)
by The Late W. W. Fereday (written in 1897/98)
11(c)—The Bride, the Lamb’s Wife
There are guests at the supper. "And He saith unto me, write, Blessed are they which are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb," Rev.19.9. Who are these? Not angels, for they are never said to be "called". The term is only used of objects of redeeming grace, i.e., of men. Are not these the friends of the Bridegroom, as John the Baptist said in his day? Jn.3.29. Heb.12.22-24 comes to mind also. There we have the different companies in "the heavenly Jerusalem", and among them "the spirits of just men made perfect" as distinct from "the Church of the first-born ones." These are plainly the saints of the Old Testament dispensation. They will share in the common joy of the marriage-day, though not included amongst the myriads who form the Bride.
Need we wonder that the angel thought it necessary to add, "These are the true sayings of God"? The glory of the scene is so wonderful, the relationship so intimate, the blessedness so vast, that the heart needs, as it were, to be assured that it is really God’s intention to make it all ours. Oh, that the thought of the future acted more powerfully upon our lives in the present! Seeing that we look for such things, what manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness!
We will now pass to Rev.21. There we have the Bride shown under the symbol of a city — the holy Jerusalem. Many figures are borrowed from the Prophet’s description of the earthly city, and are here given a heavenly turn by the Spirit of God. Every reader should carefully observe that this chapter does not describe the Bride’s home, but herself. This is necessary to remark, as many have read these glowing utterances as referring to heaven. Some may wonder why such a symbol should be used of the Bride of the Lamb. We must remember that she is to be associated with Him in all His future government. When He administers the government of the earth, His Bride will share in His honours. Viewed as in connection with the earth, she is set before us as a city, radiant in glory, and illuminated by the divine presence.
How full of meaning are the words "the Lamb’s wife." The title "the Lamb" reminds us of the sufferings and death of the Blessed One. The Church is called to have fellowship with His sufferings during the present time; and, in consequence, shall participate in His glory. The suffering comes before the glory. Let us remember this. It may help us in some of the circumstances through which we may have to pass for His Name’s sake.
It should be carefully observed in Rev. 21, that verses 1-8 speak of eternity , and that verse 9 carries us back to the millennium condition of things. Verses 1-8 follow the description of the great White Throne, which will be set up at the very end of time, when the heavens and the earth are no more. The language of the verses clearly refers to a condition settled for all eternity, whether for the blessed or for the lost. But the succeeding verses carry us back to the time-state. Does not the mention of the vials and the plagues prove this? And if confirmation be needed, we would refer the reader to the mention of "nations", "kings", and "healing", 19.24-26, 22.2. Such expressions would not be used if the eternal conditions were being described. Chap.21.9—22.5, we have no doubt, shows the Lamb’s wife in her millennial attire.
To behold this glorious vision, John was carried away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain. It is good to get far above all the mists and swamps of this poor world, and to enter into God’s thoughts. The Spirit of God delights to show what the Church is to be in the future, that it may have power over our souls during the present. It was a fairer sight that was shown to John than Moses beheld when with God on the heights of Pisgah. The one was earthly, the other heavenly; the one was soon marred by the sins of God’s people, the other will retain its God-given perfection for ever.
In describing the Holy Jerusalem the Spirit uses a great many charming figures, all very full of meaning. Our space will not permit of a detailed examination of them all; we must content ourselves with a few brief remarks. But we earnestly commend the study of this chapter to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ. It will amply repay care and patience. The Spirit of God is here showing the glories with which grace will invest the Church in the coming day. What more pleasing or elevating study for our hearts? What more sanctifying in its effects?
First, she is said to have "the glory of God". Hope has given place to realisation, expectation to possession. For this the Lord Jesus prayed to the Father, and for it we rejoice in hope. Then the Church will be a perfect light-giver. "Her shining was like a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal." Her shining has been sadly marred here. She has suffered the world and other things to come between her and her Lord. It is only as He shines on His own that they are able to reflect His glory before the eyes of others.
Next we read of "a wall great and high." This suggests the twofold idea of separation and security. Alas! the Church has not been careful to exclude all evil during her sojourn on earth; but in the glorified state "there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth." Separation from evil will then be perfectly carried out. Also, what security is there! No more thieves and robbers occurrent, and the roaring lion no longer going about seeking whom he may devour. And, what is even more blessed, no more evil hearts of unbelief to lead us astray!
There are gates, implying intercourse with the outside world. The heavenly redeemed will not keep to themselves the blessing of God, but will gladly dispense them to all around. Angels are at the gates. Their place is not to rule, but to serve. They are content to be the heavenly porters of the city. No jealousy is in their hearts. They know their place, and fill it for God; and they admire the grace which has called redeemed men to an incomparably higher place and relationship. God is glorified in it all, and that is sufficient for them.
The gates bear "the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel." This fact has been viewed by some as showing that the earthly Bride is contemplated in these chapters. But there is no need thus to understand the statement. The names are on "the gates" which, as we have said, speak of intercourse with the outside world. Now it is plain that God will administer the earthly part of the inheritance by means of Israel. We regard this connection with the heavenly Bride to be as follows: The latter will be the inner circle of government and in the closest association with the King; Israel will be the outer circle of government and will be in direct contact with the people of the earth. Even in present day administration these differences may be seen; the Cabinet being the inner circle in connection with the Sovereign, lesser officers forming the outer circle who come into more direct contact with the people.
The wall of the city has twelve foundations, and on them are inscribed "the names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb." This reminds us of Eph.2.20. The Church is built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets. They were the vessels inspired by God to bring out the truths, as far in advance of Old Testament revelation, that are needed for the present dispensation.
—to be continued (D. V.)
by D. S. Parrack, Somerset, England
That our defensive armour may be complete, we are encouraged to "take the helmet of salvation," v17. The Thessalonians were also encouraged to wear "for an helmet, the hope of salvation," 1Thess.5.8. This piece of armour was for the protection of the head, where thought patterns originated. The believers at Thessalonica had not been sure quite what to think "concerning them which are asleep." Had they missed the blessing in that they would not be there when the Lord Jesus, true to His promise, returned for His people? Would, or could, there ever be a reuniting with believers whose bodies had died and been buried? In considering these matters their thoughts were troubled and confused. Now this is a dangerous position to be in and one which Satan will exploit to the full. Paul sets out to clarify their thinking. "I would not have you to be ignorant brethren," he says, "concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not even as others which have no hope," 1Thess.4.13. The answer to all muddled thinking is the clear teaching and application of the word of God. That is why the apostle includes in the passage concerned, "This we say unto you by the word of the Lord," 1Thess.4.15. From not knowing what was really going to happen, Paul leads the believers to a position where their thoughts were safe from the onslaughts of doubt because they are guarded by "the hope of salvation," the assured avowal of God that both "the dead in Christ" and "we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together," 1Thess.4.16,17. There is no room left for vague speculation rather a positive and certain hope in which to stand. How easy is it to let our minds run away with themselves in unguarded moments, when perhaps we are mentally or physically tired? That ‘the thought is father to the deed,’ is a saying which though not found as such in Scripture has often proved to be true for most of us. Of "him that hath an evil eye" we are told "As he thinketh in his heart, so is he," Prov.23.6,7. If we play with sins in our minds we will soon find those very same sins working themselves out in action. We would do well as regards our thought life, to remember the apostle’s injunction. "Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things," Phil.4.8. Here is a catalogue with which our minds can be taken up and upon which we can profitably meditate. By so doing we can share the blessedness spoken of concerning the man, "Whose delight is in the law of the Lord and in His law doth he meditate day and night," Ps.1.2.
In considering the final item in our armoury, our thoughts switch from defence to attack. The weapon is to be "The sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God," v17. This weapon is unique for it "is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart," Heb.4.12. More can be accomplished by the sword of the Spirit than by the keenest surgical instruments. Even in the hands of the finest surgeon they can at best probe and dissect the physical bodies of men. But it is after all, not our physical ills which are the most serious, our spiritual sicknesses, the maladies of our hearts, are cause for much greater concern. Here only God’s word can reach and we can rely on nothing else to be effective in these spheres. In our campaigning for the souls of men, our own thoughts, our own ideas, will count as nothing. There will always be intellectuals cleverer than we are, debaters more skilled in the use of rhetoric, orators more able to arouse emotions, writers to stir men’s imaginations. In the ultimate it will be the Word of God alone that can prevail for it contains not the puny thoughts of man but it is the living oracle of God Himself. With such a weapon we can enter the conflict with confidence. Men who will never submit to logical argument or religious theory will have their inner selves laid bare to their own view and this is a very sure beginning on the road to conversion.
But our warfare is not in soul winning alone, or at least it ought not to be. There are areas in our own lives, in our local assemblies, amongst believers generally, which are held in domination by spiritual forces opposed to our Lord Jesus. This may be the result of false teaching, or ignorance, or even plain selfwill. In these spheres too there is need for aggressive action with the Scriptures. Now by the aggressive, we most certainly do not mean fleshly bigotry or even carnal zeal. If we really mean what we sometimes say as to the truth of God’s Word being for all His people, surely our love for them would make us wish for them the best and not to be "tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the sleight of man," Eph.4.14. Other believers will not be attracted by our own pet ideas, nor with a sectarian creed, however stoutly propounded. But the opening up of God’s Word in simplicity and love, in faithfulness and affection, will accomplish what all the theorising in the world cannot achieve. Do we feel that the gatherings of God’s people are lacking the enjoyment of spiritual blessings which are the birthright of the saints? This lack will never be redeemed by an avowal to ‘put them right’. But neither will it be by a wringing of the hands, by unhappy compromises, or by jumping aboard whatever bandwagon is the current vogue. For Timothy, in the middle of a warning of coming perilous times when even believers would, "turn their ears away from the truth," Paul’s remedy is "Preach the word, be instant in season and out of season, refrain, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine," 2Tim.4.2,4. It is this perseverance in the faithful teaching and ministry of God’s Word that will prove itself as not merely the most effective weapon, but indeed the only effective weapon in our spiritual warfare.
What is to be the end result of our availing ourselves fully of "the whole armour of God?" It is "that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand," v13. We are not promised exemption from evil times, but we may know, by His grace, the proving of the promise that, "A thousand shall fall at thy side and ten thousand at thy right hand, but it shall not come nigh thee," Ps.91.7. May we, in our own day, be enabled to stand firm even in the midst of declension and apostasy. Let us keep to the right pathway, so that it can be said of us that "thou walkest in the truth," 3Jn.3. Let us foster and encourage the family spirit and "love the brotherhood," 1Pet.2.17. In simplicity of heart, confessing our own inability, may we have grace to be always "Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith," Heb.12.2. Let us prove the armour of God to be all that it claims to be by putting it to personal use. In so doing we shall be kept free and happy in the Lord, enjoying to the full our present spiritual inheritance and bringing joy to the heart of the Lord Jesus, through whom the inheritance is given in such abundance.
by H. W. Graham (Eire)
Before reading this article on the subject of baptism please pray to God for light and guidance and be sure you are willing to obey the truth. Then open your Bible and read the following passages with their context: Matt.28.19; Mk.16.16; Acts 2.38,41; 8.12,13,37; 9.17,18; 10.47,48; 16.15,33,34; 18.8; 9.4,5; Gal.3.27; Rom.6.3,4; Col.2.12; lPet.3.21. With these Scriptures in view we will consider seven simple questions.
WHO WERE BAPTIZED?
Those who received the apostles’ word concerning repentance, Acts 2.38. Men and women who believed Philip and his preaching, Acts 8.12,13,37. Saul who had confessed Jesus as Lord and is called a brother, Acts 9.5,17,18. Those who had received the Holy Spirit, Acts 10.44,47. Lydia whose heart the Lord had opened and who had been judged faithful, Acts 16.15. The jailer and all his household who had believed, Acts 16.33,34. Many Corinthians hearing, believed and were baptized, Acts 18.8. Twelve men who had been baptized as disciples of John were baptized again as believers on the Lord Jesus Christ, Acts 19.4,5. In these examples we see the carrying out and the results of the Lord’s commission to teach (make disciples) and baptize them, and he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, Matt.28.19; Mk.16.16. Not one example nor even a hint is found in Holy Scripture of the baptism of any but believers. If any affirm that infants were included in the households baptized they must prove it. Infant sprinkling involves fundamental error for it teaches that infants are thus made children of God and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven; that their ingrafting into Christ and engagement to be the Lord’s are thus signified. This is downright falsehood. Infants after christening are still children of wrath even as others, Eph.2.3.
Philip the evangelist baptized the Ethiopian, Acts 8.38. Ananias, a disciple, baptized Saul of Tarsus, Acts 9.10. The six brethren who accompanied Peter baptized Cornelius and his family, Acts 10.48; 11.12. Paul personally baptized some of his converts, and left his fellow-labourers to baptize the majority, 1Cor.1.14-16. The conclusion is that a disciple of Christ can baptize. Neither pope, prelate, priest, pastor or preacher is requisite.
WHERE WERE BAPTISMS CARRIED OUT?
The only positive answer is: in water. In no case is it possible to be dogmatic about the place where any Christian was baptized. It may have been in rivers, pools, the sea, or baths, but it was in water. God seems to have purposely omitted details that no rules may be imposed. Certainly a consecrated building was not a necessity. Let none be so foolish as to bring up the old wives’ fable about the scarcity of water in Palestine. Any reader of the Bible can see that in those days it was a land of abundant water.
WHEN WERE BELIEVERS BAPTIZED?
The three thousand converts on the Day of Pentecost were baptized the same day (Acts 2.41). The Ethiopian, listening in his chariot to the preaching of Philip and seeing water, requested to be baptized and it was carried out there and then (Acts 8.36-39). Saul, who seems to have been physically prostrate after his conversion, was baptized three days later (Acts 9.9). Cornelius and his household were baptized at the close of the meeting in which they were saved (Acts 16.33). If this scriptural order were observed it would largely keep down the number of false professions that bring reproach on the Lord’s work and name.
WHAT IS BAPTISM?
The word baptize means dip. Practically every scholar of every denomination says so. The Church of Ireland prayer book lays down that the priest shall dip the subject to be baptized, but permits pouring in case of infirmity. Dipping was almost universally practised until the 14th century and in Scotland until the Reformation. In the Eastern Churches it is the custom until the present time. Philip and the Ethiopian went both down into the water, he baptized him and they came up out of the water (Acts 8.38). Baptism is dipping.
WHAT DOES BAPTISM MEAN?
According to 1Pet.3.21 it (like Noah’s ark) is a figure of salvation. Noah in the ark passed through the waters of judgment and was safe in the ark. The believer’s sins have been judged but the judgment did not reach him sheltered in Christ. The ark bore the weight of the flood and Christ bore the penalty of His people’s sins on the cross. Baptism is a figure of what took place at the cross. That is why in Rom.6 it is brought before us as a figure of our death, burial and resurrection with Christ. Christ died and the believer was crucified with Him (Gal.2.20). Christ was buried and the believer with Him. Christ was raised and the believer was raised with Him. This He shows by being buried with Him in baptism and living in newness of life (Col.2.12). As many as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ (Gal.3.27). Baptism is making publicly known that I belong to Christ, confessing Him before men, taking sides with Him before His foes and in His rejection. Modern methods have been introduced such as hand-raising, card-signing, standing up, going forward, etc. These put human devices in the place of what God commanded.
WHY BE BAPTIZED?
There is one all-important reason: the Lord commands it. Peter in the name of the Lord commanded them to be baptized (Acts 10.48). This was to Gentiles just as he had previously commanded Jews to repent and be baptized (Acts 2.38). You may argue, reason, boast and talk loudly, but until you have been baptized you have not taken the first step in discipleship.
One final word, the Bereans were commended for searching the Scriptures daily, whether certain things were so (Acts 17.11). "Go, and do thou likewise." (Lk.10.37).
by J. Adams (N. Ireland)
In these papers it is our intention to focus on "Wisdom’s House" as seen in Prov.9 and to associate with it relevant assembly truth from various groupings of seven, found in other parts of God’s word. It is our desire that these considerations will be blessed of God and lead to a strengthening of assembly testimony.
THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE HOUSE:
In Prov.9.1 we read, "Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars." It is a solid structure that has the completeness and perfection of seven pillars. Such a structure is a New Testament assembly, which is described as "house of God," 1Tim.3.15. An early reference to such a company is Acts 2.41-42, in which the seven pillars are brought to our attention.
- The pillar of a SOUND CONVERSION – ‘They that gladly received His Word’;
- The pillar of a TRUE CONFESSION – ‘were baptised’;
- The pillar of a HAPPY COMMENDATION – ‘were added unto them’;
- The pillar of SCRIPTURAL CONDUCT – ‘continued in the Apostle’s Doctrine’;
- The pillar of SAINTLY COMPANIONSHIP – ‘fellowship’;
- The pillar of BLESSED COMMEMORATION – ‘breaking of bread’;
- The pillar of SWEET COMMUNION – ‘prayers’.
Unfortunately there is the possibility of pulling down the house through folly, Prov.14.1, "Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with their hands." By removing any of these pillars the testimony will become weak just like Samson who had removed from his head seven locks of hair, Jgs.16.19. It would be our desire to stabilise and build up that which has been constructed by God.
1. The pillar of a SOUND CONVERSION. – "They that gladly received His Word.’
What does it mean to gladly receive His Word? This begins when the Word comes in the power of the Holy Spirit resulting in conviction of sin. That is, we learn what we are by nature and by practice and thus feel our guilt, defilement and need of cleansing. Then comes the understanding of the exclusive manner of salvation, Acts 4.12, and by exercising one’s responsibility the sinner trusts the Lord Jesus and receives the great blessing of eternal life. Jn.3.1-6; Acts 16.30-31.
2. The pillar of a TRUE CONFESSION. – "Were baptized."
The Bible has nothing to say about sprinkling as a mode of baptism. Nor has it anything to say about children’s baptism. It speaks clearly about water baptism but by immersion and that for believers only. There are just two NT ordinances, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Both are instituted in the Gospels, celebrated in the Acts and explained in the Epistles.
Baptism is a command of the Lord – Matt.28.19; Mk.16.16. Matt.28.19 is the Lord’s EDICT to the evangelist. Mk.16.16 is the Lord’s EXPECTATION of the convert.
These are seen in operation in Acts 8.36-38. Notice both went down into the water. This obviously negates any thought of water in a bowl or some small container, this passage teaches baptism by immersion.
Thus the subjects of baptism are believers only, ‘They that gladly received His Word,’ Acts 2.41.
The mode is by immersion in water. The authority comes from the Lord Himself. What is the meaning of baptism? This is found in Rom.6.3-4. Baptism is the identification of the believer with the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus and thus professing to walk in newness of life.
It is also a declaration to the world that I am saved and am a new creature in Christ, 2Cor.5.17. The old man, that is all that we were in Adam, has been judicially put to death, and we now display the features of the new man, that is all that we are in Christ as part of the new creation.
3. The pillar of a HAPPY COMMENDATION. – "were added unto them."
The adding implies the importance of individual responsibility in seeking to gather scripturally where the Lord has placed His Name. This is clearly a company of believers called out from all others in a locality with a common bond and purpose as seen from Acts 2.41-24; 4.31; 9.26; 1Cor.1.2. Now baptized and acknowledging the Lordship of Christ they function together as a local church. The seven pillars we are considering, will be seen. It is clearly a company which can be identified. The Apostles wrote to such, and in Acts 20.17 Paul called for the elders of such a company. There will be within these local assemblies those raised up by the Lord to lead His people. Those brethren are known as bishops, elders or overseers, Acts 20.17-18. There will be servants or deacons also Phil.1.1. In each company there will be gift recognised, 1Cor.1.2.
4. The pillar of SCRIPTURAL CONDUCT. – "continued in the Apostles’ Doctrine."
We learn from 1Tim.3.15 that behaviour in the house must be Scriptural. Everything must have ‘Thus saith the Lord.’ The holy presence of God demands godliness of life. Such has been seen in Eden’s garden; in the Tabernacle; in the Temple; and now in the assembly. Jacob learned that God’s House is a Holy Place, Gen.28.17, and he called it a dreadful place. It is a place where we should fear to sin. It is wrong to sin anywhere but especially where the Lord manifests His Presence, see Acts 5.5. We do well to note this Scripture for some will even provoke discipline on this very subject. Some may judge it is unscriptural to bring business matters into the assembly, suggesting that if business dealings fall short of the Divine standard the issue is not doctrinal error. However, it is a moral issue which is sinful and corrupt, and cannot be overlooked. It is necessary for all believers gathered in assembly fellowship to be very conscious of the fact that our manner of living has a bearing upon the local testimony. This truth grasped and practised will help us in business life and private life to seek to live above the standards of the world.
Those saved in the early Acts were not permitted to add their own thoughts, likes or dislikes. All behaviour must be in accord with God’s dwelling and character. The same applies in our day. Much damage has been done by the introduction of unscriptural innovations and the dispensing of clear Scriptural precepts.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by John B. D. Page (England)
In Bible times the firstborn son meant more than just seniority in a family, but positional honour was conferred upon him which was not bestowed on any other younger sons. For the significance of this unique honour in a family, we need to turn to the aged patriarch Jacob blessing his twelve sons: to the eldest he said, "…thou art my firstborn, … the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power," Gen.49.3. the word "excellency" occurring here twice, denotes ‘superiority’ or ‘preeminence’ and it is related to two spheres — "dignity" and "power". With this definition of "firstborn" in mind, let us consider briefly the occasions when the word "firstborn" is applied metaphorically to Israel, the Church, and Christ. We will look first at Israel, the Lord’s chosen nation.
ISRAEL THE FIRSTBORN
When speaking to Moses in Egypt about His people the Lord said, "… Israel is My son, even my firstborn," Exod.4.22. This did not mean that Israel originated first in the family of nations but it expressed the Lord’s purpose that, among the nations which had already existed for many centuries, Israel would be His firstborn among them in the sense of pre-eminence.
This was stated clearly later by Moses in a discourse to the people when he said, "… Jehovah thy God will set thee supreme above all nations of the earth." Continuing, "And Jehovah will make thee the head, and not the tail;" explaining this metaphor he said, "and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath," Deut.28.13; J.N.D. Such world-wide supremacy and prominence, or rather preeminence, among the nations has not yet been realised by Israel, although it was seen to some degree during Solomon’s reign. It awaits fulfilment in Messiah’s millennial kingdom on the earth.
THE CHURCH OF THE FIRSTBORN
Believers are described once as "… the church of the firstborn, …" or literally "the assembly of the firstborn ones," as found in Heb.12.23. Reading this for the first time, those early Hebrew Christians may have reflected upon several Scriptures such as the Lord’s command to their forefathers, the Israelites, "Sanctify unto Me all the firstborn …," Exod.13.2, which means that every firstborn was set apart exclusively for God. A principle here may be applied to believers indicating that our lives should be separated unto the Lord and lived for His glory. Again, those early Hebrew Christians may have recalled how God told Moses concerning Aaron and his sons, "… sanctify them, that they might minister unto Me in the priest’s office," Exod.28.41. Today, we, as believers, are priests (not ordained by a hierarchy), rendering our service to the Lord. Furthermore, they may have thought of the Israelites whom the Lord commanded: "Keep the Sabbath day to sanctify it,…" Deut.5.12. Observance of the Sabbath was for setting it apart to worship the Lord. As believers, not just one day a week but all our time should be for glorifying the Lord.
CHRIST THE FIRSTBORN
The Scriptures apply the term "the firstborn" as a title to the Lord Jesus before His Incarnation and in His Resurrection glory, but never during the days of His flesh. When the Gospel writers state that He was "the firstborn son" of the virgin Mary, Matt.1.25, Lk.2.7; this refers to His earthly manifestation which is expressed doctrinally: "God was manifest in the flesh," 1Tim.3.16. As a title "the firstborn" relates to His relationship in several spheres not in the sense of a beginning but of pre-eminence. These titles, four in the New Testament and one in the Old, will now be considered chronologically.
The Firstborn in Creation: This is the only one of these references when the eternally pre-existent Christ is in view: "the firstborn of every creature." This is not in the sense of having been created as alleged by false teachers. Its significance is not of being first in rank among created beings but of pre-eminence as their Creator. All beings, both celestial and terrestrial, both visible and invisible including all angelic hierarchies, were created by Him and for Him, 1Col.1.15f. Hence, as "the firstborn" He is foremost positionally in all realms of creation. ,
The Firstborn in resurrection: "the firstborn from the dead," Col.1.18, cp. Rev. 1.5, or literally "the firstborn from among the dead." Those persons in the past who had been raised from the dead, died later but Christ died, arose from the dead and lives for evermore. His resurrection from among the dead gave Him priority over all those still to be raised from the dead. As "the Firstborn from among the dead" means that He is first in position in relation to the future resurrection of both the just and the unjust. The resurrection of the just will be before the millennium and that of the unjust after the millennium. And so, the Risen Christ has the priority and the pre-eminence in this realm.
The Firstborn in the Church: "The firstborn among many brethren," Rom.8.29. All believers are foreknown and predestinated by God to be conformed to the image of His Son in the sense of resemblance to Him, so that He might be "the Firstborn" among them. The thought is that He, as "the Firstborn," should be supreme among "many brethren" — not among merely a few but rather numerous brethren throughout this age of grace.
The Firstborn in the Millennium: "And again, when He bringeth in the first begotten into the world, He saith, And let all the angels of God worship Him," Heb.1.6. "And again,…" — this infers an additional OT quotation to those cited in the last verse, which is misleading. Preferably, the adverb "again" should follow the verb "bringeth" as in the margin: "And when He bringeth again the firstborn into the world, He saith, And let all the angels of God worship Him." The Second Advent of Christ is in view. For the First Advent, He was "sent" or "came" into the world, but for the Second, God "bringeth again" His "Firstborn into the world." Then, and not before, "all the angels of God (will) worship Him" fulfilling the ancient prophecy of Deut.32.43 (LXX) which the writer quotes. Universal worship during the millennium will be ascribed to Him, for He alone is worthy of it.
The Firstborn in Dominion: "Also I will make Him My Firstborn higher than the kings of the earth," Psa.89.27. Much of this psalm is Messianic and millennial. The "Firstborn" is a metaphorical title that refers only to Christ. In this verse Jehovah expresses His intention to exalt His "Firstborn" to regal supremacy. During the millennium, Messiah will be the matchless Monarch and all other monarchs will be subject to Him.
In conclusion, this title, "the Firstborn," sets forth the unsurpassed excellence of Christ in this age and the age to come.
by John McCann Jr. (Brazil)
Amongst the greatest privileges one can have, is to be born and nurtured under the sound of the Gospel, to have a home where God’s Word is feared and honoured and where parents seek the spiritual welfare of their children as their highest priority. Such was my background and from my earliest days I was taught my need of God’s Salvation. Sadly these privileges, as in the case of so many, were lightly esteemed. Truly they do not change the wayward sinful nature or guarantee the child’s salvation. Only God’s Grace can reach and save even the most favoured.
In 1968, Gospel Meetings came to an area near Tandragee, N. Ireland. By this time, my five older sisters were already saved, leaving only my older brother and myself without Christ. This older brother took an interest, and professed salvation in these meetings. This spoke loudly to me, as I knew the Lord was coming and I was in danger of being left behind alone. The result was I made up my mind to listen intently in the meetings and to seek salvation. Sadly that series of meetings finished leaving me still without Christ. However I thank God that the desires for salvation did not leave me and during the winter of 68-69,1 often had thoughts about my soul.
In the month of May 1969, a series of meetings came to the Kilmore Gospel Hall. Upon hearing that they were starting, I resolved to seek for reality with all my heart. However Satan, in the first week or so, was busy to hinder us thinking, but God had His Own Way of working. After the meeting one night, I, along with my sister, went to take home some of the believers’ children from the Lurgan area. Upon arrival at one home, we noticed an ambulance was parked outside and soon the mother of this family was carried out. This somehow spoke to me and made me think about eternity and all my interest in my soul returned. For some days I tried to come and trust and believe but all to no avail.
On the 29th of July, shortly before going out to the meeting, I was in my room with my Bible seeking, as I had often sought, for a verse to give peace to my soul. Many of the well known verses like Jn.3.16, Is.53.5-6,1 had read and reread. At that moment I remembered that I had heard so many tell of being saved through these verses and I was understanding nothing. This came as a shock to me, as I realized that perhaps there was no salvation for me and that I had already sealed my choice for hell and the lake of fire forever. I trembling, went to the meeting and listened almost having lost hope of ever being saved. The second preacher that night spoke on sin but emphasised the Work of Christ to cancel the sinner’s sin. I listened with interest knowing that this was what I needed. The meeting ended and I went directly to the car. I wanted to be alone. I turned over in my mind what Christ had done upon the cross and a verse learned in the Sunday School came before me. It was the words of 1Pet.2.24, "who His Own Self bare our sins in His Own Body on the tree". Without feeling anything or seeing anything, I understood that He had taken my place and had died for me. I simply understood, that the judgment that my sins deserved had fallen on Christ, and all that was needed was for me to rest upon Him. Already the dread of making a false profession made me wonder was salvation so simple. I said nothing but went home with the others. Once home, I went straight to the bedroom and without thinking what I was doing, bowed my knee to thank God for giving His Son for me. The joy of assurance of salvation, filled my soul, and I knew all was well for eternity. How it still gives us joy to remember those first moments of love to Christ.
Kilmore was, and is, a small assembly and in 1976 when received to fellowship, I sought to be a help in whatever way possible. Around the time of my reception, the two brethren who carried the main responsibility of the assembly were called home. One of these brethren, the late George Dawson, had sought to encourage us to have a burden about the lost. Before his death he used to bring us with him to the neighbouring villages. We continued with this exercise in the giving out of tracts and in open-air work. In 1979, I had my first visit to the South of Ireland. This visit showed us something of the darkness and need of those who have never heard the Gospel. From that time forward I felt a burden to pray that God would guide us as to our future. In 1984 I was married and together with my wife Christine, we prayed that we might be able to know God’s plan for our future. We felt a burden about the South of Ireland and although Brazil did occur to us, we sought to keep it out of our minds.
During 1985, we eventually spoke with the Kilmore brethren about our thoughts about the South of Ireland and asked them to pray for us. From that moment it became clear that this door was closed and yet the burden about our future remained. Brazil again and again came before us and yet we felt unwilling to move without clear divine guidance.
About this time, a series of Gospel Meetings came to the Glenanne assembly in South Armagh. A large number of young people were attending and many were relatives of my wife including her two brothers. One night, brother Tommie Wright invited us to his home, and spoke with us about the need of Brazil. We explained exactly our situation, and our fears of missing the way. We were encouraged to ask for a clear token of God’s will in seeking an answer to prayer. Later, both of us decided before God to ask for the salvation of one of these relatives. The following Monday, I read in Judges 6, of how God had given Gideon the second sign before sending him to do His will. I really felt it was a word from God for us. Later that morning we heard that my wife’s cousin had been saved. That evening I showed my wife this passage and once again we prayed, especially with a burden about her brothers. Two days later, God’s guidance became clear, when her younger brother trusted Christ.
Even though we were thereby clearly shown it was Brazil where God desired us to be, we felt an exercise that God might open the way. Much could be written about the following months but finally in January 1987 our visa was applied for along with brother Gregg Buchanan’s. We expected to join 6 missionary couples who were then in the Rio Grande do Sul, but such was not to be. When our visas were granted in October 1987, two of these brethren, brother Wilfred Glenn and Sam Curran were already with Christ having died within one week of each other. Over the past years we-have come to know something of the vast need of this state where millions still have never heard the Gospel. We often wonder, why are others not being raised up to come over and help in the vast harvest of souls. "Pray ye therefore the Lord of the Harvest, that He will send forth labourers into His Harvest" Matt.9.38.
"WHAT IS TRUTH?"
Unless information is proven to be true, it cannot be relied upon and it can never be a basis on which to act. How many have acted on information which they thought was correct, to discover later, perhaps too late, that they had been deceived. Likewise as we consider the plethora of religions and cults today, we may well survey the whole scene of confusion and ask, "What is truth?"
I unhesitatingly refer you to the unerring Scriptures of truth, the Word of Him that cannot lie. The sacred text contains many truths which are vital for you to learn and will bring you untold blessings if you bow to them. Ignore them, listen to the lies of "the devil that deceived them," Rev.20.10, and you will place yourself in escapable peril.
Let us consider six truths which are most relevant to you and your eternal destiny.
1. UNIVERSAL SIN
"For there is no difference: for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God," Rom.3.22,23. "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned," Rom.5.12.
Because of this there is no one who is fit for heaven without experiencing God’s-salvation and what the Saviour taught Nicodemus in Jn.3.7 is true of all, "…ye must be born again."
2. THE UNDYING SOUL
"God… breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul," Gen.2.7. Your body will die and decay but your soul is immortal. It cannot be drowned, burned or buried and when your brief life on earth is over, you will continue to exist in eternity — have you addressed the all-important question, ‘Eternity Where?’ Will it be to enjoy pleasures inconceivable in heaven forever, or to endure pain unimaginable and unrelenting in the fire unquenchable?
3. THE UNIQUE SON
The Lord Jesus Christ is "the only begotten of the Father," Jn.1.14.
So many truths pertain to Him which we unashamedly state and confirm in a day when they are assailed on every hand — His eternal Deity, His immaculate conception by the Holy Ghost, His Virgin birth, His sinless life and stainless walk, His sacrificial, sin-atoning death, His literal, physical resurrection from amongst the dead and His bodily ascension to the right hand of God. We point you to Him as your only hope of heaven, for ‘Life is found alone in Jesus.’
4. HIS UNLIMITED SACRIFICE
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son…" Jn.3.16; "…He should taste death for every man," Heb.2.9; "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world," Jn.1.29; "Who gave Himself a ransom for all," lTim.2.6.
When Christ suffered at Calvary, He provided salvation for every sinner everywhere. Have you trusted Him as your personal Saviour? If not, your folly is inexcusable.
5. AN UNCOMPLICATED SALVATION
No energy or expense on your part. God makes no hard conditions or impossible demands — you have only to trust Christ. "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life," Jn.3.36; "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life," Jn.6.47; "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved," Acts 16.31.
6. UNENDING SUFFERING
"And these shall go away into everlasting punishment…" Matt.25.46; "Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched," Mk.9.44,46,48.
This will be the portion of all who fail to trust Christ. The pain will never be alleviated, the remorse will be endless and the torment without respite. If not saved, I plead with you to consider this, ‘Can thy spirit the swellings of sorrow endure, or bear the impenitent’s doom?’
- LEAVE THE FUTURE — (Selected)
- "Leave the future" —let it rest
- Simply on thy Saviour’s will.
- "Leave the future" — they are blest
- Who, confiding, hoping still,
- Trust His mercy
- To preserve them safe from ill.
- Thus, like travellers in the dark,
- Following the appointed way,
- Though no beacon-fire they mark,
- Still their faithful spirits say,
- "We will follow —
- Jesus leads to perfect day."
- Let the present moment pass,
- With a blessing on its head;
- And as Time metes out his glass,
- While our sands are numbered,
- Use the present —
- Soon ’twill sleep with ages fled.
- When with mists thy joys, are clouded,
- And when darkness fills the air —
- When with sin thy soul is shrouded —
- Then to Calvary repair;
- Jesus gives thee
- Beams of pure refulgence there.