EXPLANATION OF A NEGLECTED CHAPTER 1 CORINTHIANS 7
by Eric G. Parmenter
by E. W. Rogers
THE PROPHECY OF AMOS
by E. R. Bower
THE MINISTRY OF THE RISEN LORD
by J. B. Hewitt
STUDIES IN THE LIFE OF AARON
by T. Meekin
PERILOUS TIMES OF THE LAST DAYS
by W. J. M’Clure
MY CONVERSION AND CALL
by J. Heading
An Explanation of a Neglected Chapter — 1 Corinthians 7
by ERIC G. PARMENTER, Basingstoke
Part 1—The Background
During Paul’s eighteen months stay at Corinth many of that city were converted under his preaching. When the apostle left Corinth these new converts wanting to live consecrated lives in separation from the world found themselves faced with certain personal issues and with little in the way of New Testament writings were unsure as to what they should do. What these personal issues were can be suggested in the answers given by the apostle Paul.
- Should young believers marry, and if they do will marriage affect their devotion to Christ?
- If a believing wife leaves her husband, would she be free to re-marry?
- Being already married with a family when the gospel came — would it be honouring to the Lord in continuing to cohabit with a partner, an idolater who despises and rejects Christ and His gospel?
- Should existing religious and social distinctions be altered now they are saved?
- Was it right for widows to re-marry?
These appear to be issues concerning which the Corinthians sought the counsel of the apostle.
Should Young Believers Marry?
The apostle states a general principle in verses 1 & 2 "It is good for a man not to touch a woman" the word "good" indicates what is expedient or advantageous. The meaning of the word "touch" is to "cohabit with" cf Prov. 6.29, but in view of the low moral state of their society where immorality was common practice among the people — to avoid this sin Paul continues with
"Let each man have his own wife and let each woman have her own husband". Paul was acutely aware of the prevailing moral standards at Corinth, he was equally aware of the real temptation to fornication, and the likely practices of the believers before their conversion, knowing that pre-marital relationships were prevalent among the heathen and more so at Corinth. In our own society also the younger generation considers pre-marital relationships as the norm.
The apostle emphasises that, such sexual sins are not to be indulged in by believers, and because fornication presented very real temptations he gives the instruction "let each man have his own wife and each woman her own husband". Without quoting Genesis 2.24 he clearly has in mind what God purposed from the beginning, one man and one woman exclusive to each other.
Sometimes the practice of the Patriarchs and Kings of Old Testament scripture is referred to as the basis for having more than one wife. We need to keep before us that in the beginning God had the power to make more than one woman for Adam, but that was not His purpose: His intention was one man and one woman. Paul in Ephesians 5 explains the purpose of God — the husband and wife relationship reflects the mystical union of Christ and the Church.
Verses 3,4 & 5 can be considered as a parenthesis in which he gives sound instruction to those already married. The word "render" in verse 3 means to "discharge an obligation". Whereas the word "benevolence" should tie omitted, only the AV text carries it.
Paul is giving instruction to those already married in respect of marital dues, the husband is under obligatibn to give to his wife her conjugal rights and in the same manner the wife to the husband: As "heirs together of the grace of life," 1 Pet. 3.7, the object of each is not self gratification but in selflessness having a mutual care for each other, the duty to each will be fulfilled, bearing in mind that neither the wife or the husband have control of their own bodies. The woman who marries gives up the full right to her own body and so the man. In view of this the apostle exhorts the married couple in verse 5 not to defraud ie refuse or deprive each other in the matter of their marital rights; unless it be for a limited time, by mutual agreement in order to give themselves with greater concentration to prayerful exercise before God, then they must come together again. Paul knew the very real danger to which such would be exposed and he was not ignorant of the devil’s devices who, if possible, would use the occasion to tempt one or the other to do wrong and sin against God through lack of self control.
Speaking by permission
Some have taken Paul’s words in verse 6 to mean that he was speaking outside of the inspiration of God. This is not so for the apostle makes it quite clear that "all scripture is God breathed" (2 Tim 3.16). The word "this" verse 6 looks back to what Paul has said in verse 2. This is confirmed by the word "for" verse 7. The apostle is not just giving his opinion as a private individual, he is writing in the consciousness of his apostolic authority and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He makes reference to his own single state in verse 7 desiring that all might have the power of self control, so in remaining they would not fall to the temptation of fornication. Paul then qualifies this personal desire, not wishing to force his state upon others recognise that each have their own gift of grace bestowed upon them by God. Whether a Christian marries or remains single responsibility in the matter is to God alone.
Evidently in reference to the service of God it would be an advantage in some circumstances to remain unmarried.
Younger Christians would be wise to seek the mind of God for them in respect of His service before deciding the question— shall I marry or remain single? To remain unmarried in no way makes the Christian more holy or spiritually superior to Christians who marry; but in relation to serving God it might be more expedient in some cases.
WIDOWS — Verse 8
The apostle considers the widow along with the unmarried and he reiterates — it is good for them to remain unmarried if they can, as he was, but if there is want of self control, if they cannot contain, rather than burn with passion or be tortured with ungrati-fied desire it would be better to go ahead and marry.
(to be continued)
VITAL VERITIES (15)
by E. W. ROGERS
Eternal Punishment — Part 2
So far, then, we gather that the term "Eternal punishment" means Punishment which never ceases.
Next we have to consider the word Judgment found in Heb. 6.2. It is a word which suggests many questions, e.g.—
- Who is the Judge?
- Who are they who are judged?
- What is the crime, or what are the crimes which form the subject of judgment?
- What is the verdict?
- What is the punishment?
- We will answer these seriatim.
is clearly God Himself. Abraham called Him the "Judge of all the earth." Solomon says it is He "who will bring every work into judgment with every secret thing whether it be good or evil." It is He with whom the writer to the Hebrews says "we have to do," or otherwise read ‘To whom we have to give account." The whole tenor of scripture makes it plain that God will judge.
Man has disputed the justice of this, asserting that his difficulties can only be appreciated by one who himself has trodden the same path, and therefore he ought to be judged by a man.
For this reason, inter alia, God has designed that all judgment is to be given to His Son, because He is Son of Man, and that He has appointed a day in which He will judge the world by that Man whom He hath ordained. He will be judged by a Man who by His life here has shown what man’s life should be.
WHO ARE THESE THAT ARE JUDGED?
It is not our purpose to broaden the issue by speaking of the final doom of Satan nor of the judgment of angels, in which saints are to take part. But concisely answered, those who are to be judged are Unbelievers, amongst others. For confirmation see Rev. 21.8.
The believer in the Lord Jesus has total exemption from judgment, John 5.24, says he will not stand in the dock for trial; Romans 8.1, that there is no judgment awaiting him after death; and 1 John 4.17 that "as He is so are we in His world." The Lord Jesus is on the resurrection side of Divine Judgment, it being all past for Him: and the believer is in a like case.
But the one who has heard the gospel, and refused to believe it, is in the list of those who being judged, will be eternally punished in the lake of fire.
We speak not here of the heathen who have not heard of the name of Christ. They are responsible to God for the witness they have in creation and conscience. The Judge of all the earth will do right in their case. But those whose opportunities have been greater, and whose responsibilities are therefore proportionately increased, will have to endure proportionately increased punishment
It has sometimes been said that Man will not be judged for his deeds, but will be judged for rejecting God’s Son. Now this needs to be modified as it does not accord with Scripture.
Time and again we read that man will be judged "according to his works." See in particular Rev. 20.12,13. Again Jude 15 speaks of "all the ungodly deeds and all the hard speeches" which will form the subject matter for judgment. Man has to give account of every idle word spoken and wrong deed done.
It is true that of all things done by man, the rejection of God’s Son is the most serious, for it is not only the greatest insult man could give God; it is also the greatest injury man can do himself.
But this, though the gravest, is but one of a long series of grave charges which are brought against the unbelieving sinner.
That "God will bring every work into judgment with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil" is the answer to our third question.
The result of this judgment is, to use legal phraseology, that a conviction is obtained. The person is not charged and condemned, merely, but he is charged, convicted of the justice of both charge made and punishment about to be meted out, and is then condemned. From another point of view "he is condemned already," but we here refer to the ultimate issue of the judgment of the Great White Throne.
It has been rare, but not altogether unknown, for the innocent to be charged, condemned and imprisoned. Such a case occurred in this country not long ago. When justice was done, the prisoner was released and handsomely compensated.
Such a prisoner must have held in his bosom all through the trial and punishment, the conviction that he was right, and his accusers and punishers were wrong. They might charge, try and punish him; but never could they convict him, seeing his conscience testified within to his own innocence.
But such a case cannot occur at the Great White Throne, for then God will Judge through His Righteous Son, and the issue will be that all will be convicted of their guilt (See Jude 15). None will ever hold it in his breast that God is wrong; he is right; and he does not deserve what he is experiencing.
WHAT IS THE PUNISHMENT?
In dealing with this question we will arrange our remarks under three headings:
- (a) The immediate experience of a sinner who dies in his sins.
- (b) The Great White Throne.
- (c) The Lake of Fire.
Immediately a sinner dies he enters on an experience which is described by the Lord Jesus Himself in the last part of Luke, chap. 16. Read either as history or parable it is terrible.
All is perfectly clear. The departed individual has not ceased to be, but has entered on a new phase of experience in a new, a disembodied state, consciously under punishment, called here by the term "Tormented."
The locality of the person concerned is termed "Hades" (here the word "Hell" should be so read) — the place of departed and disembodied spirits. It is not heaven. It is not Hell (Gehenna) the lake of fire.
The condition of the person is irrevocable. It is not possible for an alteration to take place. "A great gulf is fixed" — transference to Abraham’s bosom is impossible. The condition is hopeless.
It is evident the Lord wished His hearers to understand that it is in lifetime that the issues of eternity are settled, and that once a person passes the thin line which separates this world from the next, locality and condition are eternally settled. Alteration and transference are alike impossible.
This is not an isolated passage suggesting these things. Were it so it would suffice, but the general tenor of Scripture is that once a person dies he enters on a new condition of conscience experience, either of bliss, or of torment — and that once entered upon, it is fixed.
Oh! That God would impress our hearts with the fact that every unbeliever’s funeral is a reminder of a fresh addition to the lost who might have been saved if only they had believed the gospel which far too many of us preach but half-heartedly!
"Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation."
The resurrection of the Lord Jesus ensures the resurrection of every man, believer or unbeliever (1 Cor. 15.21). That the times of their resurrections differ is true, but the fact is universal.
The sceptic may scorn and question the possibility of such an event, seeing that the bodies of the departed have long since corrupted, gone off into gases, or have become chemical constituents of the soil in which they have been placed and such like objections. To all such the reply is "Ye know not the Scripture nor the power of God." Certainly He who called a universe into being by His word and who has since maintained it through countless ages, and who from the dust created man, is able to raise from the dust of His creation.
Raised from the dead they will stand before the Great White Throne, there to be judged "according to their deeds." The Books are opened in which is contained the detailed record of the person’s earthly course — "all his hard speeches and all his ungodly deeds." The book of life is opened, also. The books contain mention of unbelievers: the book of life omits mention of them, and the inclusion in the one, and the omission from the others, constitutes double ground for the infliction of punishment upon them.
THE LAKE OF FIRE
Surely in no part of Scripture appears a more solemn and awful passage than Mark 9.43-50.
He who was full of grace was also full of truth, and He who spake as none other, excelled all in candour, simplicity and faithfulness.
The reader should peruse before a thrice holy God the solemn statements, and allow the words to rest in the memory: "Gehenna, where their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched."
Listen to what another has written of Gehenna:—
"It was still within less than 30 years of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans that the idol — the hideous ox-headed human figure of Moloch — and its accessories were swept away from the valley by the good Josiah, and the place was so defiled that it could never again be desecrated by the frightful worship. But so deeply had the horrors of the past printed themselves on the popular mind that henceforth the spot bore the name of Tophet — the abomination — the place to be spat upon; and in later times the very words Gehinnom — the Valley of Hinnom — slightly changed into Gehenna became the common name for Hell." And again:—
"After King Josiah had defiled the place it became the open sewer of the city. Fires were kept continually burning to consume the filth and impurity of the place. Worms fed on garbage out of reach of the fire. Vultures gloated in crowds over the horrid scene. Stenchful smoke rose continually from the valley.
"Well might our. Lord use it as an emblem of hell, and stamp the usage of the word with the hall-mark of His authority. But let it be carefully noted that the Lord in speaking of Gehenna never referred to the pace outside Jerusalem, but used it to designate that place of eternal torment which is prepared for the devil and his angels, and to which the impenitent will be consigned."
Another scholar has stated that the word "Tophet" means a drum and says: "Drums were continually being beaten in this awful place to drown the cries of the helpless children who were constantly thrown alive on the flames; thus a fit emblem of that awful place where the unsaved must spend their eternity."
A careful analysis of the Lord’s words reveal the following facts:—
- The person is in a hopelessly lost condition.
- He is conscious — the worm dieth not.
- The condition is interminable — the fire is not quenched. Were the person annihilated then one may ask what need is there for "unquenchable" fire?
- The very element in which he is, "fire," a term descriptive of Divine judgment and wrath, is the very element which will preserve him in conscious existence therein (see v. 46).
Through the Spirit John calls it the "lake of fire" which burneth with fire and brimstone. Revelation is a book of symbols and the language here, therefore, may be read symbolically. Literally it would denote acute suffering; symbolically it lacks nothing of its horror.
Oh! God save us all from the indifference in this matter. The believer is entrusted with the only effective panacea for sinful man, and the only means of rescue from such a terrible doom. "Sermons" will never save souls, but whole-hearted Spirit-led and Spirit-empowered preaching of the glad tidings of Christ who died to save perishing man will.
(to be continued)
THE PROPHECY OF AMOS
by E. R. BOWER, Worcester
1—INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK.
After the death of Solomon the seeds of idolatry, oppression, moral depravity and spiritual decadence — always present in the nation of Israel from the wilderness journey and the Exodus onwards and encouraged by Solomon during his reign, bore their first inevitable fruit, in the division of the kingdom into the two independent kingdoms of Israel in the north, and Judah in the south. From the days of the anonymous prophet who inveighed against the altar set up by Jeroboam the son of Nebat" who made Israel to sin" to the days of Amos, Hosea and Jonah, each one prophesying in the days of Jeroboam the second who "did evil in the sight of the Lord" was, perhaps, 170 years; years of internecine strife, revolt of tributary nations, invasion by and oppression from surrounding nations then emerging and the reign of evil kings who fanned the flames of growing declension. Two names stand out during this period — those of Elijah and Elisha, prophets whose messages from the Lord were accompanied by signs and wonders.
Amos (the name means "he who takes up a burden and lays down a burden") came upon the scene as a prophet of woe to the Northern Kingdom which was to survive for about another 60 years. They were enjoying a time of "Indian Summer," for God, seeing the plight of His people, had used Jeroboam to recover some of Israel’s lost territories and thus enlarge Israel’s borders. This was "according to the word of the Lord" by Jonah (2 Kings 14). The successful campaigns waged by Jeroboam, and the "boom" then being experienced was, it has been said, a time of opulence and ease. They had "never had it so good ". Despite the new found wealth, the nation was rotten to the core; wealthy nobles of Samaria indulged themselves in drunken orgies, singing parodies of the sacred songs of David; urged on by their women folk they boasted of their power and satiated themselves to the full (4.1). This power and pleasure was purchased with the ill-gotten gains of oppression, the common people being ground down into that which was abject poverty. Their trading was corrupt and unscrupulous; slavery was the penalty for unpaid debts (2. 6, 7); judgment was perverted by bribery (5. 11-13) and, licentious idolatries. This was the world that Amos saw when God "took" him from following the flocks.
Amos the herdsman cum shepherd cum gatherer of sycomore fruit was, as we may say, an agricultural worker, a farm labourer — a real "son of the soil". Some see him in rather a different light as a sheep breeder, a cultivator of sycomore fruit, a smallholder. He was not a "trained" prophet from one of the "schools". Said he, "I was no prophet I was a herdsman …. and the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and said unto me, "Go, prophesy unto My people Israel." This commission would infer that the word of the Lord was intended for the whole nation (north and south) "My people" are in view.
Amos appeals much to the world of nature and to the rural life.. His eye ranges over the nations. Israel is no longer to be thought of exclusively or in isolation; its destiny is no longer contemplated apart from that of the surrounding nations. Jehovah is God of the whole world and not of His chosen people only. In passing we note that Judah the southern kingdom would go on for about another 150 years.
Joel ended his prophecy with the words, "The Lord dwelleth in Zion" and Amos begins his prophecy with "The Lord will roar from Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem." It is almost as if Amos carries on from where Joel left off. It may be that we forget that not all the prophets were "lone wolves" and when we consider that Amos was probably contemporary with Hosea and Jonah (and perhaps, Isaiah) we may well ask why it was that Israel remained deaf to their pleas? The message of each was an individual one. Together they had one purpose — to bring Israel back to the God they had forgotten.
As we may see from the testimony of Amos, he was unique among the prophets. His message from the Lord came by way of visions and it was short and to the point. Then, or so it would seem, his task was accomplished and he returns to his own humble occupation. These so called "minor" prophets are lessons in themselves, not only for the day in which they wrote but for the generations following, including ours. It is not too much to see Amos as an ordinary, humble, "man in the street"—an ordinary citizen who was God fearing and therefore hard working and conscientious in his work and truly "honest to God". As he saw the way his own nation and that of surrounding nations was going with the immorality, pleasure seeking, wealth and abject poverty, violence and self first attitude and, worse, the drift away from God he was greatly disturbed and distressed. In N. T. language, his heart failed him for fear of coming events as they cast their shadows.
Then he hears the word of the Lord proclaiming judgments against the nations who, in one way or another, had afflicted Israel THEY deserved what was coming to them. THEY had multiplied THEIR transgressions beyond measure, nevertheless these judgments against Damascus, Moab and Philistia and Edom were but a prelude, and introduction to the judgments that were building up against the people of God. His chosen people; those whom He had known in a husband and wife relationship; those who had a form of godliness yet whose very actions denied this power. Israel had multiplied their transgressions — not against the nations about them but against God whose law they despised. The voice of God was directed against them not from the outside but from inside — from Jerusalem. The nations would be punished BECAUSE (Moab expected) they had afflicted the people of God. Moab was to be punished because of their treatment of the body of the king of Edom.
(Is this how God views deliberate cremation?)
Israel and Judah would be punished BECAUSE they despised the law of God; evident corruption and perverted justice. Transgression, whether of Israel or the nations, must be punished. God must speak out and act. "All men and all nations are held responsible to God. The Lord does not forget sin, save as it is laid on Christ," "God’s special concern is His people."
How difficult it is to remove the beam from one’s own eye; how difficult to hear the voice of the Lord speaking to us when our own voices, our own business, our own pleasure, our own way makes so much clamour, demands so much attention. Godliness thus displaced is but a facade.
(to be continued)
The Ministry of the Risen Lord
by The Late J. B. Hewitt, Chesterfield
6—THE REVELATION TO DEFEAT AND DESPAIR John 21
This revelation of the Risen Lord was to give them something to remember for ever after, "He showed Himself as Lord of all. Lessons on work (v. 1-14); on character (v.18, 19); and on duty (v. 20-22).
Here is Christ with His disciples mediating, directing and controlling, giving us life (v. 1-14); love (v. 15-17) and light (v. 18-24). The title "Lord" occurs eight times in the chapter and is the message for our hearts.
LORD OF HIS SAINTS WHOM HE LOVES (v. 1,2) He is the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls. His ministry of revelation — Himself; No one else can save, sustain or satisfy the heart. In this book the Person of Christ is central. He made Himself visible. He had been there all the time, the constancy and the reality of His Love would be memorable. His ministry of recovery (v. 2). What variety and unity is seen in these seven saints. The unnamed are not unnoticed, and all loved by the Lord. His ministry of prevention (v. 3). A night of failure for them.
LORD OF OUR LABOUR WHICH HE DIRECTS (v. 3-6)
Did they go out of self will? Were they discouraged as they waited for Him? (Matt. 28. 10).
The Lord does care and He wants to control our service (v. 4). It is always morning which Jesus is near; His presence is our sunrise. He is ever watching us and waiting to help us. He is concerned (v. 5). He inquired as to the results. His personal interest in what we do is the very best incentive to faithful service (Mark 6. v. 48). Did the Lord all night long deliberately keep the fish out of their nets? Over much of our service He still writes, night— nothing. His restraining hand would enforce what He had told them; "Without me ye can do nothing" (15.5).
His word of command (v. 6). Here is the true method of work, when and where He orders. Their prompt obedience is commendable and fruitful (v. 6). He always compensates those who do His will.
LORD OF OUR NEEDS WHICH HE SUPPLIES (v. 7-14)
What preparation He had made for them (v. 9). Did the miracle recall to Peter’s mind a similar experience in this area which led to his enlistment as a disciple (Luke 5. 1-11). The Lord always meets our need, what rich provision He has for us. Just what those men needed most that morning, Jesus had prepared for them. They came in cold after being on the chill waters all night, and He had a fire for them. They came in depressed and perhaps irritable, they needed a friend and He gave them a welcome and fellowship. They were charmed by the warmth of His own presence and He invited them to break their fast They were hungry and He provided food for them. What a word of comfort "come and dine". "Fire of coals" (v.9) occurs here and in 18.18 only. At the one Peter thrice denied his Lord; at the other he thrice confessed Him.
The Lord’s provision is appropriate "all our need", it is abundant, (v.6, v.8), it is assured "come and dine", and should be accepted and appreciated; be sure to thank Him for everything.
This was no ordinary meal and there was a hush over the meal silent worshipping hearts in His presence (v.12, 13). It reminded them of another miracle and meal, when He multiplied what the lad gave that day (6. 9) Both a picture of what will be hereafter (Matt. 25. 34; Rev. 19. 9).
LORD OF MY LOVE WHICH HE SOLICITS (v. 15-17)
Peter is welcomed, warmed and fed before he is challenged by the Lord, "lovest thou Me more than these?" Jesus remembered the words of Peter (Mark 14. 29). This reminder which Peter is given of his previous self-confidence leads him to speak modestly in what follows.
The love of which Christ spoke was something absolute, heavenly, eternal and Peter had not reached to the pure heights of such love. He raises now no question of comparison with others, he was sure of personal affection (v. 15c).
The word of Commission (v.l5d) "Feed My lambs" Provide the little ones with that which is needed for their support (1 John 2.12).
This fisher’s work was to be followed by the shepherd’s work. In the Gospels Peter is the evangelist — the man with the hook, a fisher of men, in the Acts a pastor, the man with the crook — caring for sheep, in his Epistles a teacher, the man with the book — feeding our souls. The second time Peter is given a new charge — "shepherd my sheep", the mature and the vigorous to be guided. (1 John 2. 14), "the fathers".
The third time the Lord uses the apostle’s own word for love, lovest thou Me with the affection which will give up all for a friend? Peter leaves out the affirmation which he had made before, and throws himself wholly upon Christ; "Thou knowest that I love Thee".
The Final Commission to a sphere of difficult service, "Feed My Sheep" (1 John 2. 14b). All service to Christ depends upon our personal devotion to Him. Do you really love Him? Is your service for Him sacrificial? (2 Cor. 5. 14, 15). True love will never be idle.
LORD OF MY FUTURE HE DETERMINES (v. 18, 19)
Peter had learned what he was to do for others, what he might ask, would be the issue for himself. His past is described (v. 18a). He was impulsive and independent; he had freedom in his youth. His future is disclosed (v. 18b). It will be marked by surrender and suffering, complete outward bondage ending in martyrdom and glory (v. 19). His present is declared (v. 19c) "Follow Me." Christ glorified the Father by His death. Peter will do the same. Peter is now directed from all service and suffering to a life of devotion and allegiance to His Lord. He is still looking for lovers and followers.
Here is the foundation, the character, the issue of active service for Christ. There must be love, considerate thoughtfulness (v. 22) and self-surrender. This is the spirit of the Master and of the new covenant (1 Cor. 13).
LORD OF MY LIFE WHICH HE CONTROLS (v. 22-25)
All is under the sovereign control of our Master day by day.
Like Peter we are interested in what others do and inquisitive as to what their future might be (v. 21). Peter was fond of meddling and even tried to manage his Master (Matt. 16 v 22). But he had learned the lesson later, (see 1 Peter 4 v. 15). He learned that the Master’s will is always sovereign over all, but not always seen by all. Each servant has a special sphere. To Peter it is working, to John it is waiting. We must accept our responsibilities as individuals and serve the Lord Christ (Col. 3. 24; Mark 13. 24). We have a simple duty, a life of absolute trust, and implicit obedience. We have a splendid prospect — "till I come". This should thrill our hearts whether we are called to serve or to suffer, we do so in the expectation of His soon coming again. May we trust in the Lord, (v. 1-14) love and serve Him (v. 15-17), be courageous in suffering or death (v. 18, 19) and exercise patience (v. 20 -23).
It is sometimes more difficult to wait than to work, but it is not an inferior grace.
May we learn that our Glorious Lord is the Indispensable Christ (v. 1-7), the Inexhaustible Christ (v. 8-14); the Interrogating Christ (v. 15-17); the Illuminating Christ (v. 18, 19) and the Incomparable Christ (v. 20-25).
His last words in John Chs. 19-21.
- Three Precious Words for the Soul. "It is finished." 19.30
- Three Gracious Words for the Spirit. "Why Weepest Thou?" 20.13
- Three Cheering Words for the Mind. "Peace unto you." 20.19,21
- Three encouraging words for the Weary. "Come and Dine." 21.12
- Three Searching Words for the Conscience. "Lovest Thou Me?" 21.15
- Three Commanding Words for the Will. "Feed My Sheep." 21.16
- Three Directing Words for the Feet "Follow Thou Me." 21.12
- Three Inspiring Words for the Heart. "Till I Come." 21:22
STUDIES IN THE LIFE OF AARON
by T. Meekin (Glengormley)
1. THE SON IN THE SHADOWS
The life of Aaron could appeal to us in many ways. However for these few papers there are three aspects which we could profitably consider viz.
- The SON in the SHADOW
- The SPEAKER and his SERMON
- The SAINT and his NAME 1. THE SON IN THE SHADOWS.
i). His Silence at Moses’ Concealment
Among all the favoured homes in bible times there must be few, if any, who were so specially blessed as that of Amram and Jochebed. Generally in the best known stories of the Heroes of Faith (and even of secular history) it was left to one member of the family to make a very special impact on the course of world events. However in the case of the family before us, all three of their children were to make lasting contributions both to their own days and the generations to follow.
To have Miriam the prophetess, Aaron the High Priest and Moses the Deliverer all spring from the one home is nothing short of the miraculous ways in which God is pleased to work. We shall first of all consider the home life of Aaron as a son and as a brother before ever the illustrious mantle of priesthood falls upon him and trace without being over imaginative (for little is said in the way of scriptural record) some of the feelings that must have been his in the ordinary round of life. It is in this sphere that great men moulded for God ere He brings them to a place of prominence.
The days of Aaron’s early childhood were dark, with the threat of Pharaoh constantly hanging over the heads of Israel’s families. The tears of neighbours, relatives and friends would nothing strange to this three year old and his older sister and so it was in these days that Acts ch. 7 records " in which time Moses was born." It is a big day in the life of any three year old when a new baby is born into the home so why should we imagine that Aaron was different from others. I have observed homes both in riches and poverty where this universal joy is marked. Yet with the pride in the new baby’s appearing can come also the feeling of the possibility of being ousted from the special place of attention hitherto enjoyed by the next youngest The possible petty jealousies of childhood, common to all, would be magnified by the undoubted special features of the new arrival. —A "fairness" was manifested in the child Moses which may or may not have been physically apparent but was none-the-less appreciated by the loving parents. There would be a treatment of this child as perhaps there had not been in the case of the other two — perhaps unwittingly for we read that "they saw that he was a proper child…..he was exceeding fair . . ." Yet there seems to be in this happy household sufficient of the fear of God and respect for the parents wishes that for three months both children contributed to the secrecy surrounding the birth of Moses. What three year old does not like to tell of the new baby and what young girl does not like to be seen walking with or nursing her new charge? In this case personal things are put to the side and made to take second place, whether it be personal joys or personal jealousies, so that God’s work might be seen to prosper and the stage be set for the protection and nourishment of a man of God.
— A man who would undoubtedly come to greater prominence than either of the other two, yet lovingly protected he will be. What must Aaron’s thoughts have been as he watched the building of the ark of bulrushes? No record is given of this silent observer to all the strange happenings in the land of Goshen. No protest cry is heard as the story is told of its purpose. Was it because he went to bed at night with stories like that of Noah’s ark in his mind which boosted his confidence in the God to whom his baby brother is to be commended?
Thus is the character of Aaron being moulded as into his mind is undoubtedly poured the stories of the doings of the great God of Israel and the great things that He is expected to do for His people. Cannot our children thus be preserved and their characters be still moulded, Timothy-like, who from a child knew that Holy Scriptures which were able to make him wise unto salvation. We pass quickly over the days until at last the door bursts open by a panting sister with the announcement that Pharaoh’s daughter has found the babe and the mother’s services are being sought as a nurse!
We can somehow imagine the family gathering for prayer that evening as Moses, the threatened one, comes under the direct care of the one who had previously designed his downfall. Had they known the hymn they could have sang it lustily—
- "God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform,
- He plants His footsteps in the sea and rides upon the storm."
So the boys are together again, for how long we cannot tell. It would be certain that Moses lacked for nothing in that period either in food or raiment but the same could not be said of the other children. It is wonderful to see that in that critical period no seeds of resentment were sown in the heart of Aaron against his brother. It was in the youth of Abel, Joseph and David that such resentment stirred in the hearts of their brethren who were unaware of and uninterested in the purposes of God for the youngest brother but such is delightfully absent in Aaron — the SON.
ii) His Submission when Moses is God’s choice.
We come to Moses’ move to the palace. On days under the blazing sun as the lash of the taskmaster bit into the flesh of Aaron would his thoughts turn to the youth learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, the favoured prince (as some historical, though not biblical records show) leading out Egypt’s armies. Would not the natural mind have been, more than ever, at enmity with God in all this? The apparent injustice of it all! Could Aaron have been blamed for thinking "why not me?"
Especially as the passing of thirty years brought no inkling of exercise from the palace of the expected and hoped for deliverer (at least on the part of his family)
Yes, all too often these are our thoughts and assessments of God’s actions. We see others in positions that we judge could be better occupied by ourselves and there is thereby a hardness begotten within our hearts which in itself renders us all but useless to God in His service. Aaron in home life was above this. We shall see that spirit prevailing through his whole life.
His joys and jealousies can be curbed in the sphere and time of infancy given that God has something that He doesn’t want published. He moves in the shadow of a greater SON whose "voice is not heard in the streets". How careless we are with our tongues at times in relation to things that should never be published and often they are only broadcast for our own advantage without respect for the harm that may be done to the people and the work of the Lord.
How striking that this remarkable man Aaron bears no resentment when God takes from his home a brother, and a younger one at that, and puts him in the palace while he himself is left to feel the rod. The advancement of others, sometimes younger, sometimes unfairly, and their subsequent blessing even in material things has created the appetite which gnaws at spirituality and has led men to "bite and devour one another."
Aaron seems to have spiritual insight which Moses lacked at forty years of age, that we need others in the pursuing of the work of God and it cannot be done as an individual. So while Moses could be the great Leader, the man on the mountain, the communicator of Divine truth, he could never be the man for priesthood which exercise necessitated " one touched with the feelings of their infirmities".
Aaron is learning in the brick kilns what Moses could never learn in the palace, and both experiences were vital to the development of the things of God. Brethren, when will we ever learn that no man is bigger than the assembly and we still need one another in the work of the Lord?
iii) His support for Moses’ Call
The final picture of "Aaron the SON" we shall consider is in Ex. 4. 14 He has never forgotten the childhood days nor the boy who lay in the ark of bulrushes. He has never doubted that somehow, sometime God’s purposes concerning him would be fulfilled.
He seems sensitive not only when NOT to speak but also as to WHEN to speak. Notice that he makes no advances to Moses at the time when Moses thought "his brethren would have understood" but now at the very time when a bush is burning in the wilderness, and Moses’ shoes are off, and the man "mighty in word and deed" has seemingly lost his power in word, —this is the time when Aaron’s feet are turned towards the desert to play his part in bringing to the public view one of the greatest of God’s servants. We might have thought "if he doesn’t come back himself leave him in the desert" or " at eighty now, he is past his best" or then again "he tried it once before and made a bad job if it", but Aaron comes out with the specific purpose of meeting with Moses. Unlike the Cain/Abel meeting, the Esau/ Jacob encounter, the Eliab/David greeting or the Ten brethren/ Joseph reunion the Lord gives the assurance to Moses —
- "when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart"
What a heart is this! Oh for hearts to beat like this man’s. This son of Amram and Jochebed, this gold refined in Egypt’s furnaces and the bible says that they met "in the Mount of God". It is still the meeting place for men who will be useful to God and His people. Too often our time, our conversation etc. is spent on lower ground and —
- "the sorrows of the daily life, the shadows o’er my path which fall,
- too oft obscure the glory’s light, until I rise above them all."
May the Lord help us in His grace to learn from the life of this man and move with becoming selflessness and true desires for the glory of God so that sanctuary experiences will be ours as they were Aaron’s. Speaking FOR God will be done the more powerfully when the time comes for God to use us.
PERILOUS TIMES OF THE LAST DAYS (2)
By The late W. J. M’Clure.
(These articles appeared in 1922 in the Believers’ Magazine, and are still up to date).
OPPOSITION to the spread of the Gospel of God increases on every side, not always, nor chiefly openly, but by craft and wile of the adversary. In relation to spreading the Gospel by means of the printed page, in book and tract distribution, this is very marked. The enormous increase of cheap and attractively got up works of fiction, and magazines for the most part of the same character, cannot fail to vitiate the taste of those who read them, against everything of a wholesome and evangelical character. And we know that it does. News-stands at the railway depots, drug and cigar stores, as well as leading book shops, display these prints in thousands, which tell how widespread is the habit of novel reading. And when we remember that for the most part, these works of fiction are of a debasing character, suggestive of all sorts of evil, and as a rule minimising sin, making heroes of their subjects, who in many instances openly set at defiance the laws of God and of the State, glorifying crime and inciting to vice, little wonder if the novel reading community refuse to receive or to read any message that speaks of God, of sin and its sure judgement, and of eternity. Satan has for long aimed at stifling the spread of God’s Gospel by the printed message, and he seems to be in a large measure succeeding, by his ever-increasing spread of godless and impure literature. This is surely one of the perils of these last days, with which all who actively evangelise their fellows are confronted, and have to meet. And what makes it all the more difficult is, that many who bear the Christian name indulge freely in, and by their evil example help to extend this deplorable habit of novel reading. What a degrading effect this must have on their spiritual life inwardly! What a withering blight on their Christian testimony among those of their families, their kindred, and their fellow-workers who know their habit! How inconsistent, for those who profess to be "of the truth," and witnesses/or it, to be having their minds defiled in reading fiction. The practice is defended by some, who claim that fiction is part of their educational course, and that they must read fiction. This is a lame and worthless excuse on the lips of one who "belongs to Christ." For the greater number of novel readers, the period of school days has passed, and their excuse is as lame, as if a graduate in medicine who, in order to complete his course, has to spend hours in the dissecting room among the dead, were to continue gruesome work after he got his diploma, as a recreation. No novel reader can lay aside his book of entrancing fiction and take up the Book of God, to find in its pages "green pastures" for his hungering soul! The two do not harmonise, they never go well together. One feeds the flesh while it entertains the carnal mind; the other sustains the new life, and draws the soul Christward and heavenward. The times demand a cleaning testimony against Christians dabbling in fiction, and the Christian home a complete cleansing from it.
Devotedness is a much deeper, and, at the same time, a much simpler, thing than many suppose. Most think that that if they are earnestly engaged in the Lord’s work and looking to Him for guidance and blessing, this is being devoted; but it is much more. It is having Christ Himself as the delight and resource of my heart, and the bent of my mind towards Him. The highest service we can render the Lord is, to serve His heart, and that is a service to which few devote themselves. Occupation with Christ, with a view to becoming more intimately acquainted with His character, studying Him, that we may learn what pleases Him, Is very rare indeed. Many can be found who are occupied for Christ, like Martha; few who are occupied with Him, like Mary. When we have reached this, we have reached the foundation—stone of true devotedness. This is the Gilgal where the serving one returns to encamp, and whence he issues like the sun to run his course, and like a gaint refreshed with new wine. It is because the saints know so little of this Gilgal in the Lord’s presence that there is so much unsanctified activity and really profitless work. If there is zeal and ability, without a knowledge of God’s mind where and when to use it, how can there but be a turning to take counsel from nature; and how can we expect that the results flowing from such a source will be otherwise than profitless?
MY CONVERSION AND CALL (12)
by John Heading (Aberystwyth)
In my last article, I have recalled how the Lord led me unexpectedly to salvation, and then to a complete and absolute break with established religion, finding spiritual reality and truth in fellowship with the Lord’s people in local assemblies. I was then aged 21, and 1946 the question of service in any way did not enter my mind. Older brethren, both in Norwich after my special release from the army for university education, and in the assembly meeting at Panton Hall, seemed to me to be the spiritual experts, and service of all kinds was apparently in their capable hands. Only recently have I read the wise words of Spurgeon: "I will give you a little bit of worldly wisdom; it is this, —whenever you do not know what to do, do not do it. But some people, when they do not know what to do, go and do it directly, and get themselves into all sorts of trouble". That advice certainly fitted my life, and I suspect that it fits the lives of most of the Lord’s people — self-initiative is absent, except when there is a burning independent exercise for special service granted by the Lord.
From October 1946, I attended all the meetings held in Panton Hall; apart from a personal study of the Scriptures, and a testimony to the truth to friends in college, my service was nil. I had no interest in the many kinds of student activities available in Cambridge; the assembly came first and last, though diligence in academic work ultimately gave me degrees that exceed those of most — the Lord is no man’s debtor. I never saw fit to join the Christian Union, because it was obvious to me that it was really a Christian Dis-union (proved by what happened, and happens, on Lord’s Day mornings rather than what happened, and happens, on Saturday evenings). I had Christian friends in my particular college, of course, and they often met in my room for prayer and Bible study, because my room had an electric fire, unlike other rooms with coal fires, and because of coal storage these were banned until the evening. But theological students among them often brought to me their theological problems, and I still correspond with two of them every Christmas. None of the students in the assembly attended the weeknight meetings, except myself and David Gooding (a student of classics, now retired from the chair of Old Testament Greek in the Queen’s University, Belfast). He and I were together in Cambridge for six years; I saw him develop exceptionally as a teacher of Scripture, while I remained very much behind. In Panton Hall, I saw how Bible Readings should be conducted, and these were usually under the guidance of Dr. A. Hanton, an able expositor of Scripture.
The Lord opened doors of opportunity in service in His own good time. I was able to take part in work amongst German prisoners of war in Panton Hall, in testimony in a local cafeteria after the Gospel meeting, in summer work with others in nearby villages involving tracting and open-air preaching, in Sunday School work, and in taking services in an old people’s hospital each Lord’s Day morning and sometimes in the afternoon as well. There were many village and town assemblies around Cambridge, and possessing a motor cycle I was able easily to reach these meetings both for gospel preaching and ministry meetings. An occasional conference also came my way. My occupations were similar in Norwich during vacations, and sometimes there were meetings available every evening of the week in the various assemblies in Norwich. I was able to preach the gospel in quite a number of assemblies round about. All these aspects of service arose by invitation; I never chose anything for myself during the seven years I spent in Cambridge. In the assembly meetings themselves, I usually took quite an insignificant place, though always being present. After all, there were so many active elders and older brethren taking part in worship, in prayer and in the Bible Readings. Like so many younger believers, I was hesitant in the presence of so much spiritual expertise. All this was preparation under the Lord’s gracious foreknowledge and plans.
In 1953 I moved to Woodford Green for my first employment; together with my wife we were of one mind in assembly things. The assembly was large, but one by one invitations came to preach the gospel and to minister the Word of God in many meetings north and south of the Thames. Many of these came because the assembly correspondent Mr. W. Loynes mentioned my name in many assemblies which he visited. The little assembly at Ongar stands out in this connection. I was often invited to speak at a huge lodging house known at Carrington House in Deptford, a place for homeless men. The local assemblies around Woodford cooperated in what was known as the "Loughton Fellowship", namely a large number of council-run old people’s homes, and a gospel service was held in every one each Lord’s Day evening. This demanded a large number of believers to assist in many ways; I seemed to be in one or another of these homes almost every week. Invitations to speak at conferences also came my way, and I confess that I was always quite outspoken regarding what is called "assembly truth", and we were always grieved when we saw and heard of believers who seemed to have but little time for such holy truth.
In 1960 we moved to Southampton, and found ourselves in fellowship with the assembly at Sirdar Road. There were many good brethren in the smallish meeting; Mr. K. Morris had recently left for Bournemouth, and it seemed in a way that I was replacing him as a teacher in the assembly until his return. I regularly visited other assemblies such as Winchester, Salisbury, Fareham, Portsmouth, Wimborne and Warsash, both for the gospel and for ministry; I used to keep a list of all meetings I addressed, and this list still enables me to look back with happy memories to the times of fellowship spent with the Lord’s people over eight years. Opportunities to speak at many conferences were opened up as well by the Lord.
It was during these eight years in Southampton that I could perceive another side to my service. Leading Bible Readings systematically was one thing, but they entailed a lot of scriptural preparation, and this teaching reached to so few believers relatively speaking. Having already written several mathematics books, I decided to write up in book form the substance of Bible Readings that I was leading. This decision was perhaps the first personal exercise as to service that I ever had to take. So I wrote up in verse-by-verse style an exposition of First Corinthians, followed by Second Corinthians, and these were published by John Ritchie Ltd, and I received a great deal of help and encouragement from our brother Mr. A. M.S. Gooding who used to work for that firm of publishers before taking up full-time work for the Lord.
Early in 1961, the late Mr. C. Gahan of Ilminister took a series of ministry meetings at Sirdar Road. Visiting speakers usually stayed at the home of another brother, but this time it was more convenient for Mr. Gahan to stay in our home. The offering of hospitality often came our way after that, and names such as Mr. W. Trew, Mr. G. Fenn, Mr. H. Beattie, Mr. F. Cundick and Mr. P. Parsons come to mind. During his visit, Mr. Gahan often spoke about the magazine "Precious Seed" for which he acted as secretary, the editor being Mr. J. H. Large. He did not tell me that the committee were facing a difficulty at that time. But later that year, he. wrote to me about this difficulty. Mr. Large had intimated that he wanted to give up the editorship; would I be interested in this work? What could I say? I agreed, and joined the committee, taking over the editorship immediately, though this was only announced in the July 1962 issue. Mr. C. Hocking later joined me in manuscript preparation, but I saw each issue through the press, attaining as high a standard as was possible. Later Mr. D. Clapham joined me, but in-later years until 1987 I set up all the articles on a word processor, and the printers used my files on disc for direct transfer of all material to their own machines. I was also enabled to see all the Precious Seed Publications through the press, including five large books. All this took up a lot of time, but since it was done as for the Lord it was time well spent.
As a result of all this, I received an invitation from Walterick Publishers, U.S.A., to submit books to them for publication. By that time, we had moved to Aberystwyth in 1968, and having conducted Bible Study Meetings and Bible Readings on the Acts and Chronicles, I wrote two expository works on these Bible books. The assembly in Aberystwyth was small, but with many students in fellowship over the years. I devoted my teaching efforts in the assembly, and am thankful to know that my teaching was appreciated. It thus came about that I wrote up other series of studies, and this time I had to take a personal initiative to do so, one trusts according to the Lord’s will. Thus books on Revelation, Daniel and Luke were published by Everyday Publications, Canada, and Hebrews and Daily Bible Readings by Gospel Tract Publications, Glasgow, who are also publishing an exposition on Mark as I write this article. The invitation to write long expository works on Matthew and John for volumes in "What the Bible Teaches" was particularly solemn, but I gladly embarked on this service in the Lord’s Name, and I still seek to help the editors of this series of books in various ways.
During these years, I was exercised to write a large number of articles for magazines such as "Precious Seed", "Assembly Testimony", "Believers’ Magazine", and others. The possession of a typewriter since 1950 and more recently a word processor enabled me to do all this writing; with a pen I could have done almost nothing. My mind seems to work through the tips of my fingers!
My life became rather different from others who seek to serve the Lord. Although I made long journeys to speak at many conferences on Saturdays, yet I always felt it my responsibility to return to Aberystwyth afterwards, so as to be present at the meetings on the Lord’s Day. Since the assembly was small, I felt that this was necessary. Indeed, except for an illness now and again, I never missed one meeting of the assembly, and this policy taken before the Lord meant foregoing even holidays for about twenty years. But it had been a joy to help saints in the systematic study of both Old Testament and New Testament books. I have always believed that a verse-by-verse approach is far more rewarding spiritually that a haphazard jumping about through a passage or chapter. Younger believers learn by this approach, since if the Lord remains absent it will be their responsibility to continue a teaching ministry in years to come.
A word of warning. Do not accept every invitation in service, since one may not be equipped or gifted for it. The subject of overseership may be mentioned: "If any one aspires to exercise oversight, he desires a good work" (1 Tim 3:1 J.N.D.). I have been invited to be an elder exercising oversight in an assembly. But I have said "No". Firstly because it might appear that intellectual and academic expertise may be thought of as being a suitable qualification, and secondly because that touch of pastoral care needed in dealing with the problems of individual souls was not something that I possess. The idea of merely being an elder sitting on a committee taking decisions for others to work out did not appear to me to have any scriptural basis.
As one looks back by way of summary, I can see that I started in a way of almost nothingness, but by taking a stand on the unique position of the assembly revealed in the Word of God, He gradually opened unexpected avenues of service based on a serious study of the Scriptures after my conversion. As any believer gets older, no doubt physical and mental strength mean that service must of necessity become more restricted. Hence there should be much time devoted to His service in the days of health and middle-age, even though one may be in fulltime secular employment.
What had motivated my service throughout all the years of my working life? "Let all things be done unto edifying" (1 Cor. 14:26); "we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying", (2 Cor. 12:19). Younger believers who read this can see how the Lord uses many different ways to lead in many forms of service, even though they are in full time employment. The article has been written to encourage them to prepare their hearts and minds for future service, watching for the Lord’s guidance, and realising that invitations to service from others is the norm rather than the exception, the exception usually being to fulltime service both at home and on the mission field.
(Editor’s note — Our dear brother John Heading was a past contributor to this magazine and it was with regret we learned of his sudden homecall. When the "Conversion and Call" series commenced he requested that he be permitted to participate since he stated only the minority serve in a fulltime capacity and the rest like himself in fulltime employment through his life. He wrote this article in Feb., 1990. Our prayers are with his sorrowing loved ones who sorrow not as others).
- Blow after blow, attacks the Living Word,
- Go after go, against the Spirit’s Sword,
- Why so attacked? and why the pressure on?
- Well Satan knows that God is on the throne.
- Time after time, along life’s history,
- Man after man, assails its mystery,
- Why so maligned? and charges of all kinds?
- Satan himself has darkened all their minds.
- Line upon line, denotes the very fact,
- Word after word, with very quick impact,
- Conscience disturbed, produces awful shame,
- Reaction to sin and to that Holy Name.
- Hardened and softened, as each alternate,
- Rebellious, Repentant or reprobate,
- Changing responses, from each mortal man,
- The Living Word, a gift to fallen man.
- The natural mind, cannot its truth reveal,
- Only the Spirit taught, observe its great appeal,
- The living Word reveals the way to Heaven,
- Through Christ the Lord, the Saviour God has given.
- Do let it speak, read it on bended knee,
- Ponder its claims, you would more holy be?
- "Feed" on it daily, let it be your guide,
- Your comfort, solace, strength, whate’er betide.
READING WITH A RESERVE
Too often God’s people read what comes into their hands with a mental reserve. They are determined not to see anything against their peculiar beliefs or anything that would affect the position in which they are found. They do not admit the possibility that they may be mistaken or that what they sincerely believe to be the truth may after all be only one man’s interpretation of the Scriptures. Hence they may read the truth and reject it in order to cling to their traditions which they have learned from their teachers, and not from the Word of God.
May Christians who constantly subject themselves to teachings of any particular party, realise that their minds can be trained to think in a certain groove and to view truth in a certain light, but that light may not be the light of God.
How easy it is for those who have had only one side of things presented to their minds to form the idea that their view is unassailable, when all the time it is not God’s truth at all; but only man’s reasoning.