PAPERS ON PROPHECY
by W. W. Fereday
MIRACLES AT CALVARY
by John B. D. Page
BEHOLD YOUR KING
by J. Flanigan
by J. E. Todd
ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle
by D. McAllister
by E. J. Down
A MEDITATION ON LOVE
by E. W. Rogers
MY CONVERSION AND CALL
by D. Gillies
PAPERS ON PROPHECY
by The Late W. W. Fereday (written in 1897/98)
Paper 7(b) The Olivet Prophecy
Now let us briefly survey chapters 24 and 25 of Matthew’s Gospel. The prophecy naturally divides itself thus—
- Part I—Chapter 24. 4-14.
- Part II—Chapter 24. 15-31.
- Part III—Chapter 24. 32—25.30.
- Part IV—Chapter 25. 31-46.
Part I. is general. The Lord describes the general circumstances of His servants until the end of the age. That which follows is, in a certain sense, the expansion of these verses. The same principle may be observed in Rev. 11.15-18. There we have Christ’s appearing with all its results, reaching through the kingdom on to the time of the judgment of the dead. All the rest of the Book of Revelation is really summed up in those few words. It is so in Matt. 24.4-14. The servants of Christ must be prepared for deceivers, for tumults in the world; and for persecution for His"Name’s sake. All this is more dwelt upon in Mark’s account of the prophecy. His special theme is Christ as the Servant of God; consequently anything bearing on service has a large place in his Gospel.
These counsels are unquestionably of value to those who serve the Lord Jesus during the present time, but in their strict application, they are for the witnesses in the latter-day crisis. "The gospel of the kingdom" will be their grand theme. It will bring them suffering and rejection assuredly, but those who endure to the end, until the Son of Man appears, shall be delivered and rewarded by Him.
Part II enters more into details. In verse 15 we read, "When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation." This is a very plain mark, leaving no doubt as to the scene of the sorrows described. This will be set up in "the holy place." Where in all the earth does God own such a place, save in Jerusalem? When in the past was an idol (abomination) set up there? Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed a few years after the Lord’s words were spoken, and the temple has been restored since. But plainly it will be set up again, and the Lord’s words mean nothing less than a serious attempt to introduce idolatry into it.
"How will this be?" some may say. The Word of God answers the question clearly. A false Christ in the last days will be welcomed by the Jewish people, as the Lord solemnly warned them in John 5.43. He will apparently find a number of them in their land, with their temple and ritual restored (Rev. 11.1,2). He will present himself to them, and will be received. All will go on well for a time, but in due course, he will manifest his true character and designs. Backed up by the new power of the West, he will stop the daily sacrifice, and set up an idol in the sanctuary, and even sit there himself as God (Dan. 12.11; 2 Thess. 2.4). Then will begin a reign of terror for the ungodly. At that juncture Satan will be expelled from the heavens, and will come to earth filled with great wrath, knowing that he has but a short time (Rev. 12. 7-12).
The Lord’s counsels now before us refer to this solemn period. The godly are to flee, not staying even to get their clothes. The mountains of Judea are to be their hiding-place, their Zoar. So compassionate is the Lord for them in their trial, that He bids them pray that this may not happen in the winter, or on the Sabbath day. Either would be serious. A winter flight, without time to fetch an overcoat, would be attended with much suffering on the one hand ; and on the other a conscientious Jew would be in a serious dilemma if the signal were given on the Sabbath day. But these are Jewish marks, beyond doubt. What has the Church of God to do with the mountains of Judea, or the Sabbath day? All this is followed by the great tribulation, already considered in these papers. So violent and severe will be the onslaught of the enemy, that but for divine intervention, no flesh would be saved. How comforting it is for suffering saints to know that God holds the reins !
The fugitives must be on their guard against deceptions in their hour of distress. If thwarted in his designs by their flight, Satan will devise another course, and seek to persuade them that their longed-for Deliverer has arrived at some point. This the saints must watch against. Their agonised hearts will be yearning for Christ to appear in accordance with the testimony of the prophets. The character of their hope, in contrast with that of Christians, will expose them to the snare. Whilst Christians look for Christ to descend into the air only, the Jew looks for the Lord to come to the earth. How easily therefore might these bewildered and perplexed ones be deceived! They are not to heed such reports. Such are of the Serpent. When the Lord Jesus really comes, they will not need to be informed of the fact, for as a lightning flash He will manifest Himself to Israel, and every eye shall see Him. "The carcase" helps further to fix the scene of these sorrows (Matt. 24.28). It is Israel (Isa. 26.19; Ezek. 37.11); the vultures being her many enemies.
The Lord’s appearing will be attended by solemn signs, in the heavens and on the earth. Sun, moon, and stars will be affected. "Then shall all the tribes of the earth (or land) mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" (v. 30). This is not His coming as Bridegroom for the Church, but His public manifestation with His saints, as Col. 3.4 speaks. All who have been previously caught up will come with Him in the solemn day of which we are speaking. This will be the Father’s proof to the world, that He loves us as He loves His Son (John 17.23).
The great trumpet is then blown, and the angels are employed for the gathering together of God’s elect. Who are these? The ten tribes of Israel, I believe. The two tribes are the only sufferers in the land at the end ; the ten tribes will be brought home at the Lord’s appearing. Isa. 27. 12,13 speaks of their gathering together. The following Scriptures speak of them as God’s elect, and as His saints, Isa. 65. 9-22; Ps. 50.5. At this point in the prophecy, the Lord leaves the main subject, and turns aside into a lengthy parenthesis, resuming the thread at chap. 25.31.
—to be continued (D.V.)
Miracles at Calvary (12)
by John B. D. Page (Weston-Super-Mare)
12. The Miracle of two conversions:
Describing the scene at Calvary with the sun still shining brightly before being miraculously darkened and the people with the religious rulers joined by the soldiers taunting Jesus, Luke says that, "one of the malefactors," who were hanged, "railed on Him, saying, If Thou be Christ, save Thyself and us" Luke 23.39 . Sarcastically, this criminal requested hat Jesus should prove His Messiahship by emancipating Himself and the Jewish nation from the rule of Rome. Since 63 B.C. when Roman legions under Pompey conquered Palestine and took Jerusalem, the Jews had borne the yoke of the Caesars for about ninety years but not without rebellions which Rome crushed ruthlessly even sometimes by crucifixion. These two malefactors may have been involved in such uprisings. Obviously, this malefactor’s demand was for political salvation not spiritual for the soul. Recognising this fact, the other malefactor "rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed (suffer) justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this Man hath done nothing amiss" Luke 23.40f . With his Jewish upbringing and background, this hardened criminal should have shown fear for God and knowing that he was under the same sentence of condemnation, so the other argued. Then he said so strikingly that they themselves were suffering justly the death penalty for their evil deeds, "but’, in contrast, "this Man hath done nothing amiss". Clearly, the one malefactor was unrepentant. Evidence of the other’s repentance as a sinner is found in the confession of his sinful actions although the other man’s are included. Unequivocally, he declares the sinlessness of the Lord Jesus, of whom he seemingly had some knowledge to make such a definite statement. Apparently, he understood the fundamental truth expressed by Peter several decades later that "Christ . . did no sin," and was undoubtedly impressed that "when He was reviled, (He) reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not" 1 Pet. 2.21 ff.
Addressing Jesus this malefactor said, "Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom" Luke 23.42 . The tone of this request is utterly different from the cynicism of the other brigand. By saying "Lord, remember me . . .", he recognised the Godhood of Jesus, although he knew nothing of the Incarnation— "God was manifest in the flesh." After hearing Christ’s prayer for the perpetrators of His death, "Father, forgive them . . ." but before the hours of darkness, he said, "Lord, remember me . . ." expressing his belief in the Saviourhood of the Lord Jesus. By not saying, ‘save me’, he dissociated himself from the political motivation of the other man’s request, "save . . . us." Continuing he said, ". . . when Thou comest into Thy kingdom", by which he confessed Messiah’s Kingship. As a Jew and from the Old Testament prophets, he knew about the future earthly kingdom and he believed Jesus to be the Messiah-King. Remarkably, he confessed Christ’s sinlessness, Saviour-hood, and Kingship.
Responding to this man’s confession of faith, Jesus said to him, "To day shalt thou be with Me in paradise" Luke 23.43 . "To day," not tomorrow or years ahead, this repentant and saved sinner will be "with Me", so Christ promised. Similarly, believers have the confidence of one day being absent from the body but present with the Lord. Christians of this present age are now "in Christ" signifying their heavenly position through a spiritual union with Him. If by death they leave the earth, then their spirits are immediately "with Christ" in heaven. When the Lord Himself descends to the air and the saints of this church age are caught up, then their bodies will be changed instantly and so they will be "like Christ" with a body like unto His body of glory. To this dying and saved sinner, the Lord Jesus promised he would be with Him "in paradise". If paradise is "the third heaven" as said later by the Apostle Paul (2 Cor. 12 2,4), then Christ, at His death, went into heaven itself accompanied with the converted criminal. But this presents a problem in the light of other Scriptures. According to the Messianic 16th Psalm (v.10, RV), the soul of Christ would not be left in Sheol (the Old Testament equivalent of ‘hades’, Gk.) indicating that, at His death, His soul would descend there. After quoting this Psalm, Peter sees its fulfilment in Christ whose soul was not left in hades (Acts 2.31, RV). Commenting upon this verse in Acts John Heading says, "We believe that the Lord entered hades during the three days in which His body was in the tomb, the place being called ‘paradise’ when the Lord was there". This meant that the saved malefactor, like all Old Testament saints already there (cp. Gen. 37.35, RV Mgn., and N.Tr. footnote, etc), went into hades where he was with his Saviour. Heading continues, "The saints in hades with Him rose also with Him, not of course as to their bodies…, but the Lord ‘led captivity captive’ (Eph. 4.8) as He led a multitude heavenward." Therefore, on the day of His resurrection the Lord Jesus took the Old Testament saints from hades, where they had waited for many centuries, leading a vast throng, amongst whom was the saved malefactor, into heaven. This insurgent Jew was saved and is now in heaven. Praise God! The three synoptic gospel writers report the reaction of the Roman centurion and his four soldiers to the supernatural happenings. With these burly and hardened men accustomed to the terrible sights of human suffering from crucifixion and not squeamish at this cruelest form of capital punishment, the various miracles did not pass unnoticed. Many times they had undoubtedly witnessed crucifixions, but never before had they seen such miraculous things occur as on this occasion when Christ was crucified. When Christ died the earth quaked and the rocks were rent is told by only Matthew who says that "when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly, this was the Son of God" Matt. 27.51,54 . While these five military men were keeping watch on Jesus, they "saw" the earthquake besides observing other things that occurred, in consequence of which they were terribly frightened, saying, "Truly this was the Son of God". Coming from pagan lips, this corporate testimony to the Deity of Christ was remarkable.
"Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost," by which, according to Mark, the centurion was impressed. Continuing, the narrator says, "when the centurion, which stood over against Him, saw that He so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God" Mark 15.37,39 . This is different from Matthew’s record and another occasion involving only the centurion who, this time stood facing Jesus, "saw" that He had twice cried with a loud voice and died quickly. Never before had he heard a crucified man cry out aloud, not just once but twice, and never before had he witnessed a victim of crucifixion die so soon at the end of only six hours. Realising these things were miracles, he professed personally, "Truly this man was the Son of God" – that, unlike other men on the gibbets, this Man was unique, for He was the Son of God.
Concerning the centurion’s statement, the last part in some versions reads "a son of God" which means that the centurion identified Christ as one of the many pagan deities. The translators’ reason for the change is the omission of the definite article in the Greek Text, but it is no ground for adopting the indefinite article when there is none in that ancient language.
Although the definite article is essential in English, its omission (as elsewhere in the New Testament) denotes the quality and character of a thing or person, and so here it serves to emphasise the nature of the Person of Christ, which in this instance is His Deity. Therefore the seemingly minor alteration in the centurion’s declaration in these modern versions would appear to be a deliberate attack upon the divine nature of the Lord Jesus.
The Deity of Christ is a fundamental doctrine. Of this important truth when Peter declared "Thou art. . . the Son of the living God," the Lord said to him, "flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven" Matt. 16.16L Such spiritual truth is comprehended by only those whose spiritual faculties have been quickened by God (1 Cor. 2.11-14).
When Jesus had commended His spirit to His Father, He gave up the ghost, says Luke who continues, "Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous Man." Like the other synoptists, Luke reports what the centurion "saw" but, unlike them he refrains from specifying the phenomena that the centurion saw. Instead he says when this army officer saw "what was done" that is, what had occurred – three hours of darkness from midday, the two loud cries of Jesus of Nazareth, the erect position of Jesus’ head for six hours and then the deliberate act of bowing His head at death, the earthquake with the rending of the rocks, and not a prolonged but the quick death of Jesus. He recognised these five things to be miracles. Having never seen such supernatural happenings before, this Roman pagan "glorified God." Only a saved man glorifies God! An unsaved man blasphemes God. But the centurion glorified God, which was evidence of his salvation. He then said, "this was a righteous Man". By this statement, he expressed his belief in the intrinsic righteousness of Christ’s Manhood which was complementary to his faith in the absolute Deity of Christ.
Luke points out the different reaction of all the other people who, "beholding the things which were done" by way of various phenomena, "smote their breasts" which was an oriental custom for expressing mental grief, and then "returned," Luke 23.48, but apparently unmoved spiritually like the masses of that day and also today.
For the conversion of these two men, the timing and the divine method was different with each of them. The dying malefactor was saved before the three hours of darkness which was the first of the supernatural happenings, and the means of His salvation was the spoken word of the Saviour Himself who is the Incarnate Word. His conversion is illustrative of "being born again, … by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever" (1 Pet. 1:23). The centurion was saved after seeing the remarkable phenomena which caused him to profess the Deity and righteousness of Christ and to glorify God. Such miracles are not an every day occurrence. But since the beginning of the world the invisible nature and eternal power of God are clearly seen and understood in the works of creation, so that unsaved men are without excuse (Rom. 1.20; cp. Psa. 19.1-4). Despite this, we still preach Christ crucified (1 Cor. 1.23).
The salvation of these two men, one a hardened criminal and a Jew whilst the other was a hostile pagan and a Gentile, demonstrates how the efficacy of the atoning death of Christ was immediate, for they were saved instantly. The efficacy of the Lord’s sacrificial death was intended to be universal, because both a Jew and a Gentile were then saved.
The Jew was saved first and then about three hours later the Gentile, which is not without significance in the light of Scripture. This order was not of human ingenuity but was divinely purposed, illustrating the principle of Romans 1.16, ". . . salvation (is) to every one that believeth; to the Jew first and also to the Greek." This indicates a privilege for the Jews which is not one of superiority over the Gentiles but rather the order for preaching the gospel – first to the Jews and later to the Gentiles. It accords with the command of the Lord Jesus to His disciples before ascending into heaven that they should preach in His name beginning at Jerusalem and then among the Gentile nations (Luke 24.47; cp. Acts 1.8), which they did (Acts 13.46).
When Christ died at Calvary, the miracles seen by the centurion were wonderful. But more wonderful was the greatest miracle – Calvary itself where the Son of God gave Himself for a guilty sinner such as you and me.
Finally, we may join Edward Denny in his hymn,
- To Calvary, Lord, in spirit now
- Our weary souls repair,
- To dwell upon Thy dying love,
- And taste its sweetness there.
BEHOLD YOUR KING
(Meditations in Matthew)
by Jim Flanigan (Belfast)
(2) The Genealogy
It is perhaps well enough known that in the four Gospels there are two genealogies of Christ. There is no genealogy in Mark. That is the Gospel of the Servant and a genealogy there would be neither appropriate or relevant. There is no genealogy in John. That is the Gospel of the glory of the Son of God. It commences with a "beginningless beginning" where human genealogy is not possible. Matthew, however, paints a portrait of a King and Luke presents the beauties of a perfect Man. The legal rights of that King to the throne must be established beyond all doubt and it is needful also for Luke to trace the human lineage of that perfect Man. In these two Gospels genealogies are both necessary and welcome.
There is an acknowledged difficulty in the reconciling of the two genealogies and an explanation is needed. It will, of course, be easily and readily observed firstly, that the two genealogies move in opposite directions. Matthew’s begins with Abraham and moves forward through David and Solomon eventually to Joseph, husband of Mary the virgin mother. Luke begins with Joseph and moves backward through David and Abraham to Adam. There is then, for a little, a common line in the two. From Abraham to David in Matthew, agrees with David back to Abraham in Luke. After David however, there is a divergence, and for a very important reason.
Matthew’s genealogy will proceed from David through his son Solomon. Luke will rather trace the line through David’s other son Nathan (see 2 Sam. 5.14). The reason for this digression becomes apparent from Jeremiah 22.24. Jechonias, of Solomon’s seed, is cursed and disinherited. He is reckoned as if childless, without heir, and Joseph is of that line. So our Lord’s lineage may be traced in another way. Joseph is "son" (in law?) of Mary’s father Heli. Jesus is therefore Joseph’s heir, but he is not of Solomon’s line, but Nathan’s. He is Son of David but He is not Son of Solomon. Had He been so descended from Solomon He would have inherited the curse on Jechonias. The Lord Jesus, born of a virgin, inherits the title to the throne, but not the curse on Solomon’s seed.
Now note the orderliness of Matthew’s genealogy. He will reckon the generations in three series. From Abraham to David is the first series. Then from David to the carrying away into Babylon. Then from the captivity to Christ. It has been said that he is following the line from Israel’s morning to Israel’s noon, and on to Israel’s evening. In each period he will list fourteen generations, but note the inspired accuracy of Holy Scripture. Matthew says that "all" the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen. Notice the careful inclusion of the little word "all" in the first series but its omission from the second and third series. He does not say that "all" the generations from David to the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen. He simply states that we may observe fourteen generations in that period. The reason for the omission of the word "all" here, is of course, that not all the generations of that period are listed. There was a wicked Queen, Athaliah, daughter of Ahab, who once tried to destroy the seed royal (2 Chron. 22.10). The names of her immediate progeny are omitted, as Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah, leaving fourteen generations as Matthew gives them. This is divine accuracy. Matthew knew that any and every intelligent Hebrew could verify the authenticity of the genealogy. He was not manipulating the history of the nation or attempting to mislead. Nor was he constructing an inaccurate lineage of Jesus. Other genealogical lists were available to confirm what he was saying.
Now it has often been pointed out that Matthew’s unusual inclusion of five women in the genealogy is very touching. And such women as four of them were! Tamar; Rahab; Ruth; Bathsheba. Rahab was a Canaanitess; Ruth was a Moabitess, Tamar and Bathsheba were adulteresses. Is Matthew emphasising that same grace that had reached him as a publican? Tamar’s is an unsavoury story of deceit and immorality and shame. Rahab is ever remembered as "Rahab the harlot." Ruth had been an idolator from Moab. Bathsheba had been complicit in David’s awful sin of the adultery which had led on to murder. We are reminded that she had been the wife of Urias. Yet in sovereign grace these four women are here included in the lineage of the Messiah.
Someone has beautifully remarked that grace reaches to sinners like Tamar, on the ground of redemption as seen in Ruth, on the principle of faith as seen in Rahab, to raise to a position of glory as seen in Bathsheba.
The fifth woman is, of course, that pious maiden from Nazareth, who bowed her will to the will of God, and, accepting the inevitable reproach and scorn, became the virgin mother of the Messiah. Of Mary it would be said, "Blessed art thou among women".
The grace that had reached these women was indeed the same sovereign grace that had reached Matthew the publican. This is the grace that has reached us too. Most of us were in Gentile darkness and insignificance. We had no claims and no rights. We were strangers like Ruth and Rahab. We were sinners like Tamar and Bathsheba. The grace that brought these women into the genealogy of the King, and that made Matthew the tax-collector the King’s biographer, has brought us to be His royal bride and His companion in the glory of the coming kingdom. "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out". Well do we sing—
- Oh, this uttermost salvation,
- ‘Tis a fountain full and free,
- Pure, exhaustless, ever flowing,
- Wondrous grace, it reaches me.
- How amazing God’s compassion,
- That so vile a worm should prove
- This stupendous bliss of heaven,
- This unmeasured wealth of love.
- It reaches me. It reaches me.
- Wondrous grace, it reaches me.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by J. E. Todd (Chesterfield)
2. THE PROOF OF DISCIPLESHIP
Sometimes when an apprenticeship reaches its end the apprentice is required to produce a test-piece. An article to demonstrate that he has mastered the necessary skills of his trade. The apostle John records in his gospel three of the test-pieces which the Lord requires His disciples (apprentices) to produce in their daily living.
First, "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples" (John 15.8). Fruit is the proof of our true discipleship. The fruit is to abide in His love (verse 9), to abide in His love is to keep His commandments (verse 10), to keep His commandments is to love one another, as I have loved you’ (verse 12).
This fruit of love is fully expanded by the apostle Paul, ‘The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control’ (Gal. 5.22-23, R.S.V.).
- Love means helping others (Luke 10.25-37).
- Joy means being cheerful under all circumstances (Acts 5.41).
- Peace means being content without anxiety (Phil. 4.7).
- Patience means perseverance (1 Thess. 5.14).
- Kindness means doing good deeds for the benefit of others (John 13.5).
- Goodness means both being good and doing good like Barnabas (Acts 11.24 and 4.36-37).
- Faithfulness means loyalty (2 Sam. 15.21).
- Gentleness means being sympathetic (Rom. 12.15).
- Self-control means being even-tempered not evil-tempered (James 1.26).
These are the fruitful test-pieces of our discipleship, and the ability and skill to produce these virtues is supplied by the indwelling Holy Spirit, ‘the fruit of the Spirit’. Do we believe that He, the Holy Spirit of God, has the power to produce this fruit in our lives? ‘The exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power’. (Eph. 1.19).
Second, ‘By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another’ (John 13.35). The craftsmanship of the skilled apprentice is apparent for all to see in the work he produces. The fruitfulness of love within the church is the visible evidence to the outsiders of the value of our discipleship. We can preach, but does our practice match our preaching? We preach that the Lord Jesus Christ saves from sin and makes sinners into new men and new women. That is the theory, but where is the practice? Is this the weakness of our testimony? Cars are advertised on every hand and in every way, but you do not see advertisements for Rolls Royce cars, because their quality is such that it needs no advertising. Actions speak louder than words. Does our public practice match our pulpit preaching?
Third, "If ye continue in My word, then are ye My disciples indeed" (John 8.31). The Lord spoke these words as the crowds followed Him. Many people today profess to be Christians, that is disciples of Christ, but who are the true disciples? Those who continue in Christ’s teaching. Not those who neglect His words for their own ideas and the ideas of others. Emphasis is laid on the continuation in His teaching. The next verse shows us the meaning of continuation, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (verse 32). We shall only know the truth by continually reading His words. We shall only experience freedom from sinning (verses 33 to 36) by continually practising His words. Let us remember that every command is also a promise that He will supply the spiritual power to obey despite the difficulties.
As disciples we are apprenticed to the greatest Master, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. We are apprenticed to the most important craft of all, the art of living. That we, as disciples, should succeed in our apprenticeship is the will and provision of God, ‘For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them’ (Eph. 2.10).
—to be continued (D.V.).
Assembly Testimony Bible Class
by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)
THE CHURCH AND THE CHURCHES (9) The Lord’s Supper
Assembly fellowship is expressed in various ways, and in particular by participation in "the Lord’s supper." Paul uses this term in I Cor. 11.20 to describe what we commonly call the ‘breaking of bread’, which is also a thoroughly Biblical expression: see Acts 20.7. It was not optional: the Lord Jesus said, "This do in remembrance of Me", Luke 22.19; 1 Cor. 11.24. But He expects more than reluctant compliance. If we love someone, it follows quite naturally that we will do all in our power to please them (see Gen. 29.20), and our love for Christ should not be an exception to this rule. The Lord Jesus said, "If ye love Me, keep My commandments . . . he that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me", John 14.15,21.
Before considering various aspects of "the Lord’s supper", we ought to examine the expressions, "the Lord’s supper", and "the Lord’s table." We will make this the first of two major points in this study. So:
I) CONFUSION REGARDING THE NAME OF THE SUPPER
A) "The Lord’s supper"
- It is "the Lord’s supper." The Greek word (‘kuriakos’) ‘signified pertaining to a lord or master.’ (W.E.Vine). ‘The word was used in the papyri in the sense of belonging to the Caesar, or Imperial.’ (The Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament). Since it is His "supper," and He is the divine Host, we cannot do as we please or say what we like.
- It is "the Lord’s supper." Whilst, as we know, it was instituted "when even was come", Matt. 26.20, Mark 14.17 JND, it is the type of meal rather than the time of day which is particularly important. See Rev. 3.20, "I will come in to him, and sup with him, and he with Me." Supper was a long meal, the main meal of the day, when members of the family and their guests spent time in conversation and reflection. It was unhurried, and more leisurely, than other meals. The "Lord’s supper" is therefore an occasion when believers gather to spend time in praise and worship as they are ‘occupied alone with Him.’
B) "The Lord’s table"
Whilst our hymnology often uses this expression in relation to "the Lord’s supper", or ‘breaking of bread’, it really means something quite different. In 1 Cor. 10.21, Paul uses the expression in connection with fellowship with God. In the Old Testament, the "Lord’s table" was the altar, see Mai. 1.7,12, and the sacrifices on the altar are described as "the bread of thy God," see Lev. 21.8 etc.. The altar was the place of fellowship with God, and this was expressed particularly in the peace offering, in which God, the priests, and the offerer and his family, all participated (see 1 Cor. 10.18). We were brought into fellowship with God on faith in Christ. It was then that we took our place at "the Lord’s table." Moreover, we are always there, and we will never leave it! Whilst Paul certainly alludes to "the Lord’s supper" in describing our place at "the Lord’s table", he reverses the order of the emblems. The "cup of blessing" is placed first, because it is the basis of fellowship with God, and the bread second, where it is used a symbol of fellowship between believers. Whilst "the Lord’s supper" is essentially a time when we remember the Lord Jesus, it also expresses the principal benefits of "the Lord’s table", namely, our fellowship with God, and with each other.
It might be helpful to notice that the Lord’s teaching in John 6. 53-56 does not refer to "the Lord’s supper." His words, "Whoso eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life", refer to salvation. The children of Israel had to appropriate the manna to stay alive in the wilderness, and men and women have to appropriate Christ in order to possess eternal life, see verses 47-51.
2) CIRCUMSTANCES SURROUNDING THE INSTITUTION OF THE SUPPER
"For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread", 1 Cor. 11.23.
- It was Passover night. "This is that night of the Lord", Exodus 12.42. But no ordinary Passover night. The Lord Jesus said, "With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer", Luke 22.15. He was thoroughly aware of His coming suffering, witness His words, "before I suffer." The Saviour’s words, "this passover", indicate its importance. It marked the end of an era, and the commencement of something entirely new. Within a matter of hours, He was to die as "the Lamb of God." In Paul’s words, "Christ our passover is sacrificed for us", 1 Cor. 5. 7. For centuries, Israel had kept the passover in remembrance of their deliverance from Egypt: now, another Lamb was to die, in order to deliver men and women from worse bondage.
- It was ‘night’ in another sense. "The night in which He was betrayed." The imperfect tense suggests the rendering, ‘the night in which He was being betrayed.’ Judas was about his treachery, possibly at that very moment. The fact that the Lord Jesus instituted "the Lord’s supper" at this time is, in itself, quite amazing. Human nature was at its worst in committing one of its foulest crimes, and it would have been perfectly reasonable for the Lord Jesus to have completely severed all connection with the human race. But in infinite grace He still valued the love and devotion of "His own", John 13.1, and instituted the "supper" by which they could meet to remember Him.
—to be continued (D.V.)
AMILLENNIALISM EXAMINED (6)
by David McAllister (Zambia)
C. The Arguments of Amillennialism
We must consider the points which Amillennialists make in favour of their views. We will never be able to convince Ihefti that they are wrong if we cannot at least answer their points. Also when they make their points, these often seem at first to be very plausible. It is sometimes only after looking a little closer that we see the error of them; so we need to look a little closer now.
There are several main reasons that an Amillennialist will give in support of his position:-
- The use of figurative language in prophecy.
- The claim that OT prophecies which on the face of it are literal, are given a spiritual interpretation in the NT.
- Alleged difficulties in the Pre-Millennial position.
- Objection to the view of the church as a parenthesis.
- The claim that the only Scripture for the Millennium is Rev. 20.1-7. 6. Argument based on 2 Peter 3.8.
We will consider each of these points in turn:
Argument 1 : The use of figurative language in prophecy.
It is argued that since so much of prophetic writing uses figurative or symbolic language, it was never meant to be taken literally, thus we are free to spiritualise prophetic passages.
However, while it is true that much prophetic writing is in figurative language, these figures are nonetheless used to represent actual things, people and events. The use of figures does not do away with their reality.
Scripture abounds with the use of figures. For example, in Ex. 19.4, God tells the people of Israel that He has borne them out of Egypt "on eagles’ wings". This is clearly a figure. No-one is seriously going to suggest that they left Egypt on the wings of birds. God is using a figure to show the might and power with which He took them out. But God’s use of a figure in no way lessens the fact that it was a literal exodus from Egypt. Figurative language is used to describe it, but it is nonetheless a real event.
It was so in recording past events. It is so in prophecy too. Take for example Isa. 11.1: "And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots’. No-one doubts that this refers to the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus the words "rod", "stem", "Branch," and "roots" are figurative. Nonetheless this in no way negates the fact that the Lord Jesus is a literal descendant of Jesse. The use of figures does not nullify the literal fact.
Turning now to the Book of Revelation, which is so much attacked because it abounds in figures and symbols. Take chapter 1 for example. We read in v. 12 about 7 candlesticks (lampstands). These are figurative, but we are told in v. 20 that they represent 7 churches. And those 7 churches are actual churches, as we see in the following 2 chapters. The use of the figure of the candlesticks (lampstands) does not mean that they did not represent literal churches. Take ch. 5.6. The Lord Jesus is represented as "a Lamb as it had been slain." This draws our attention to His great sacrifice. No-one would suggest that the One being worshipped is a literal Lamb, but this figure in no way lessens the reality of that great scene of worship. The use of figurative language does not remove literalness. Thus while prophecy does not often have figurative language, this is used to describe literal people, things and events. The use of figures enriches the Scriptures and gives to the reader many insights which he would not obtain if figures were not employed. But to use these figures as an excuse for doing away with literal events, is not valid.
Argument 2: The claim that OT prophecies which on the face of it are literal, are given a spiritual interpretation in the NT.
This point is really the cornerstone of the Amillennialist’s argument. He will point to NT quotations from the OT, which would appear to interpret the OT passage non-literally, and thus say that this shows that the OT passage was never meant to have a literal fulfilment, and the spiritual fulfilment is all the fulfilment there will be, i.e in the present age for the church and not for Israel in the future.
However, in taking this line, the Amillennialist is making a very big assumption. He is assuming that when an OT passage is quoted in the NT, then the NT quote is giving the only, the full, and the final interpretation for the original passage. This is not a valid assumption, for many reasons :-
(a) There can be two fulfilments for the same OT Scripture. 2 examples:
- Matt. 2.15: "Out of Egypt have I called my son". This is stated by Matthew to be the fulfilment of the words of "the prophet", that is, a fulfilment of Hosea 11.1, where the context shows beyond doubt that God is referring to the Exodus of the nation of Israel from Egypt, many years before. Thus this verse, while it clearly describes a past event, is said to be fulfilled in the events in the Lord Jesus’ life in Matt. 2. Hence we see that the same Scripture refers to 2 distinct events. But the fact that it refers to 2 different events does not mean that one of the events could not have taken place. They both took place, but one Scripture referred to both .
- Matt. 2.18: "Rachel weeping for her children’. Matthew tells us, in v.17, that this fulfils the words of Jeremiah (Jer. 31.15). In Jeremiah the context is the sorrow of the Babylonian Captivity. Thus this one Scripture refers to two different events. Both are actual distinct events but are described by one Scripture.
The above examples are not the only ones, but have been chosen because there is little room for argument about the fact that they show that one scripture can describe two different things. But the point is this— Matthew’s quotations of these passages did not in any way do away with the reality of the Exodus, or of the Babylonian Captivity. By the same token, the quotation of an OT Scripture in the NT, in a context different from that given in the OT, does not nullify its OT meaning. One OT passage can refer to two different things, and the fact that one of these is given in the NT does not mean that the other is untrue.
Thus, for example, in Rom. 4.17, when Paul quotes God’s words to Abraham, "I have made thee a father of many nations", it is clear from v.16 that he is saying that the OT quote is fulfilled in the spiritual children of Abraham. However that does not in any way nullify the literal fact that Abraham was the physical progenitor of many nations, which we know to be true . The fact that God’s word to Abraham can be taken in two ways does not make one or other way untrue. Both are true.
And so it is for many OT prophecies yet to be fulfilled. Their use in NT quotations, which appear to indicate their fulfilment already, does not in any way mitigate against their future fulfilment. A Scripture can be fulfilled in more than one way.
Malachi 4. 5,6 gives us an example of two fulfilments for the same passage. These verses promise that Elijah will come before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. This prophecy relates to John the Baptist, as our Lord’s words in Matt. 17.12,13 show. However it is equally clear from the same passage that this Malachi prophecy also awaits future fulfilment, as the Lord says in v. 11, "Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things." That this cannot refer to John the Baptist is seen in the fact that the tense used is future (and John was already dead when the Lord spoke these words), and also by the fact that the Lord says Elijah will "restore all things" (John certainly did not do that). John’s being the final fulfilment of Malachi 4.5,6 depended on the nation accepting his message (Matt 11.14), but their rejection of it, and thus of the Messiah means that the prophecy will have a future fulfilment. The fact that John fulfilled, in a measure, this prophecy does not mean it will not be fulfilled again in a day to come.
(b) Related to the above point, but different from it, is the issue of partial fulfilment. A prophecy may have a partial fulfilment in the NT but may still await its full and final fulfilment. An example is from Luke 1.32, where the angel tells Mary that her Son "shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest". This was fulfilled in large measure at His first coming. But, from the evidence of other prophecies, it awaits a fuller and final fulfilment. His greatness is yet to be fully manifest to all. His Sonship is yet to be acknowledged by all. The words of the angel have been partially fulfilled, and will be fully fulfilled in a day to come.
Thus it must always be kept in mind, when a prophecy is quoted in the NT, it may have been fulfilled only to an extent. The full fulfilment may be yet to come. The quotation in connection with its partial fulfilment does not remove the fact of its complete fulfilment in a day to come.
—to be continued (D.V.)
BY E. J. DOWN
We read in Deut. 32.2, "My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew,". In this song of Moses there is prefigured something of the speech of the Lord Jesus. The word "distil" means to purify. When applied to the word of God it should have this purifying effect, when it comes to us in the power of the Spirit of God. How different are His words from those of men.
In John 8.3 they bring a woman taken in adultery. The scene is dark. They quote Moses and the law expecting judgement to follow. In the darkness of the situation the dew falls, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." The dew falls on their hard, stony hearts but it begins to penetrate, "And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst . . . When Jesus had lifted up Himself, and saw none but the woman, He said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more." When it is dark the dew can fall bringing refreshment and comfort.
He has not promised skies ever blue. We wonder as we pass through dark days and nights. We get anxious and troubled and cry from the depths of our hearts, "Why?". Through sleepless nights we meditate and commune with Him on the path of life. We feel alone and others do not understand. We do not know what to do but as we tell Him the dew begins to fall. Heb. 13.5, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." Isa. 45.2, "I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight." 2 Cor. 4.17,18, "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal." This lovely dew falls from the heart of God and revives, lifts, purifies and matures us.
Think of Peter. It was very dark for him, "he denied Him, saying, Woman, I know Him not . . . Man, I know not what thou sayest." Luke 22.57,60. The dew of heaven began to work as Peter remembered His words and wept. Another shower of dew fell and softened him further as the Lord extracted from him the confession of his love in John 21. The dew distilled his mind and he was commissioned, v. 19, "Follow me."
Even in the collective situation the need is for the purifying effect of the word of God. Thus to the Corinthians Paul wrote, 2 Cor. 1.20, "For all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen, unto the glory of God by us." Sometimes assembly fellowship can be disturbed when a state of antagonism comes in between two believers and it festers until a root of bitterness springs up. Yet they continue to come to the meetings, break bread together and carry on in cold formality,
instead of putting things right. It would be far better to be honest before God in prayer and hear Him say, "Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; (1 Cor.13). This will come like dew and dispel all hard feelings. We will desire to have our hearts filled with the dew of forgiveness and shall the gracious Holy Spirit whisper, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:" (Phil. 2.5.)
The dew can reach the hardest and proudest of men, even those in high places. Think of Nebuchadnezzar who had the fire made hotter for the three Hebrew children; see his violent temper; hear his boasts. Yet he had to retreat before a power which was greater than his. Eventually he was wet with the dew of heaven for a period of about seven years, "till he knew that the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that He appointeth over it whomsoever He will." (Dan. 5.21). Also Job would not have chosen the way God took him, yet he learned the wondrous ways of God in severe trial.
It is essential to experience the dew before we gather to break bread in remembrance of Him. We need to have recourse to the laver and be cleansed from defilement. To do otherwise is very solemn, since we become guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. (1 Cor. 11.27). At the remembrance, as we consider Him, "despised and rejected of men; a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief," hard thoughts disappear. In the midst of His suffering we hear Him say, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. (Luke 23.34). As we meditate upon Him we become more like Him, the dew touches us and we say as did Stephen, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." (Acts 7.60).
In the Song of Songs He communes with His bride and in 5.1 says to her, "I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey." This is the produce of bees in a colony and is a picture of each believer bringing his portion and all combines harmoniously to produce the honeycomb. This is not the produce of the flesh, but is the spiritual contribution from each saint all uniting to yield that upon which He can feed. He says, "I have drunk my wine with my milk". The wine is that which has been distilled and all impurities removed. This implies those who are mature in the things of God and it is a great blessing when in the assembly there are such. The milk would indicate young believers, who are controlled by the Spirit and the word. To produce milk it is necessary that there is the process of chewing the cud, teaching the great importance of meditation on the word of God. This will lead to spiritual development, hence an appetite for stronger food and so to the strong meat. This is His desire, "eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved."
In the dew coming from heaven, without human instrumentality, we see the gift of God, the Lord Jesus. John 3.16, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son." Yet He was willing to come as we see in Phil. 2, "but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, … He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." While He was rejected by His people, He wept over the city and the desolation which would come upon them. Such tenderness of spirit will be the portion of all those who are touched with the dew of heaven.
In a coming day, a glorious day, He will be as the dew to Israel and their hard hearts will be melted in mourning, "And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for Him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon" (Zech. 12.10,11). This was seen in miniature when Joseph was made known to his brethren. (Gen. 45)
May the Lord instruct us and let us know the distilling and purifying effect of His word. Then what was true of Peter and John shall be true of us, "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus." (Acts 4.13).
A Meditation on Love
by the Late E. W. Rogers
The hall-mark of practical Christianity is love: its absence renders worthless any profession which one makes of being a Christian.
He who journeying to Jericho, has fallen victim to robbers and thereafter has been the object of the gracious ministrations of the Good Samaritan, is enjoined to "Go and do likewise" to any others who may, in any way, be in need of mercy. This is the essence of Christianity: love received resulting in love bestowed.
It is to this effect that John writes in his first Epistle. He affirms that love is the proof of the genuineness of our profession.
This is His commandment—this is His golden rule—that we "should believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another as He gave us commandment," that that is our bounden duty. Inward faith in Christ should be accompanied by outward evidence in love: each believer should love the other: not merely a loving b (for that is but 50%) but b loving a also. It is useless for any to say, "I love God" (that is the Trinity, the Father who gave the Son, the Son who gave Himself, and the Spirit who indwells each one that believes) if simultaneously he hates his brother, for such verbal profession and actual conduct are mutually contradictory, and totally incongruous with each other. "He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen is utterly unable to love God whom he hath not seen." The golden rule enunciated by the lawyer (vide Luke 10. 27) relating to these two "things which God hath joined together" and which should never be put asunder, applies here, that "he who loves God love his brother also." A mere verbal profession of Christianity is inadequate: it must be accompanied by practical proof.
John, furthermore, observes that, since "God has so loved us, we ought (that is, we owe it) to love one another," for failure to love incurs a debt as real as failure to pay for goods received.
Love is the Display of the Nature of God for "no man hath seen God at any time" (that is, God in His essential being), and the only thing that man can see of God is, either what was seen historically in Christ, or what has since been seen in His people. "If we love one another," God’s love has reached its goal in our case (that is the force of the word "perfected" in chap 4. 12.). The design of that love was that it should find, not a terminus in us, but a junction from whence to flow out to others. Quarrelling and its allied evils furnish a shocking display of the corruption of the flesh, which, as with Abraham’s and Lot’s servants, is calculated to stumble the unbelieving Canaanites, Perizzites, and others who witness it. Who can measure the damage that has been done to unbelievers, as well as believers, through the absence of love? Love is the evidence of the possession of divine life.
It is very satisfactory if a young convert finds his assurance of life in the basic utterances of our Lord (vide John 3. 16; 5. 24; 10. 28) with which promises none can afford to part at any time. But the older Christian should find additional confirmation of his possession of eternal life in his own active display of love. "We know that we have passed from death to life because we love the brethren," that is, because there is that within us which irresistibly goes out in affection to every born again soul who, by reason of such birth, is in the family of God. "Everyone that loveth is born of God"— it is the indubitable evidence of life. It is this which makes us so quickly feel at home with an erstwhile stranger.
If any one should find himself harbouring an unkind spirit to any believer, he may well question his own possession of eternal life. Christians may not see eye-to-eye on certain things; some may even be linked up with systems and people with which it would be impossible to have fellowship; but this should constitute no hindrance to active love, rather it should furnish the opportunity for its display in seeking their deliverance and good.
Love is not an idle ideal: it is that which is real and active. Love is practical. "Let us not love in word and tongue"—it is not to be mere surface talk, but "in deed and truth." Such love will show itself in a concrete form when a case of genuine need comes under one’s notice, and it lies within our power to help. If there be failure to render that possible help, the Apostle enquires, "How dwelleth the love of God in him?" (3. 16). It comes very near to "wasting our Master’s goods" (Luke 16.1) when they are not used to alleviate distress, and it is a matter of the most solemn moment when, as with the rich man and Lazarus, the need is brought before us, but luxury and plenty mark ourselves whilst the beggar starves. If the Lord "laid down His life for us we ought to lay down our lives for one another," although in His case it entailed vicarious death, and it could not involve that for us. He gave all He had for the good of others, thus leaving us an example that we should follow His steps.
But John tells us, further, that love is obedient. This is the day of compromise, when it is generally supposed that we can serve our brethren’s best interests and display real love to them by "agreeing to differ," and "not insisting on minor details," but mutually omitting to refer to matters where agreement of judgement thereon does not exist, and so acting as if divine principles were of no consequence. Chapter 5, verse 2, points the very opposite way. Love insists on compliance with the Father’s commandments, an insistence which is imposed on one’s self, and encouraged in others. It is not unknown for children in an earthly family to act contrary to the father’s wish thereby incurring his displeasure, although some of the children may have been culpably disobedient, and others may have been unwittingly so. So, too, there are many of God’s dear children who are ignorant of His will and, as a result, their conduct in ecclesiastical and other ways is not in accordance with His commands. These need instruction. On the other hand, there are others of His children who "know their Lord’s will" (and many readers would take the position of being such) and non-compliance in their case becomes a serious matter, calling for discipline. The best interests of our fellow Christians are served when we are insistent on obedience to the Father’s will for ourselves. We render them no kindness (although we may deceive ourselves into thinking that we do) when, for their sake, we act contrary to the Word of God.
It is not uncommon to hear that "Love is blind," and although the phrase is largely used in a restricted sphere, yet it conveys a certain measure of truth. The "blindness and deafness" alluded to in Isa 42. 19 have their spring in His love to others. But John, in chapter 2.11, emphasizes that it is hatred which is blind, for Love has sight.
The one who hates his brother is unable to foresee whither such hatred will lead him. Had Cain been able to see beforehand the issue of his hatred toward Abel, would he not have abandoned it forthwith? Had Christians foreseen the damage incurred in later years by their petty strifes, would they not gladly have abandoned their disputes? Love, however, has sight. There is no risk in its exercise. It issues are always for good. It stumbles none. It works no ill.
The Lord grant that we all may be marked again by that which characterised the early Christians of whom it was said, "See how these Christians love one another."
—(Reprinted from Believer’s Magazine, January, 1939)
MY CONVERSION AND CALL (40)
by Dan Gillies (Scotland)
I count it both an honour and a privilege to submit this little article. One’s only regret is having to speak so much about oneself.
I was born in 1944 into a working class family in the city of Glasgow where most of my childhood and youth were spent. Although not privileged to be reared in a Christian home my mother sent us to a Sunday School and Children’s meeting run by some "baptist" believers. There, I first heard the sweet and precious name of Jesus, learned bible stories as well as children’s hymns and choruses. Although I can never recall being concerned or really challenged about my need of salvation nevertheless, impressions were made. When I was eight years old our dear mother was taken with cancer and died during surgery, aged thirty-six. Being the youngest of the five children I had been very close to her. We were absolutely devastated and grief stricken. Thereafter, the family life was neither easy nor happy.
Soon we drifted from the Sunday School and lost contact with the believers. When eleven years old I joined the "Boys Brigade" affiliated to the "Church of Scotland" and spent five years attending "Bible Class" and "Church Services", and never once can recall hearing the gospel — it was all morality and try your best. Apart from saying a little prayer most nights (parrot fashion) and more out of superstitious fear, 1 thought little or nothing of God — I was in darkness and loved the world and the devil’s ways. Despite this little bit of Sunday Religion. I was dabbling from an early age in the ways of the world — smoking, gambling, the picture-house. I had a great love too for sport, music and the dance hall. Influenced by other companions I began frequenting the public-house too, though mercifully never developed any craving for strong drink. Though largely thoughtless and careless I do remember times of serious thought — the wonder of the universe used to strike a sense of awe and fear into my heart — fear of the unknown. I proved the truth of Ps. 19.1-6. I suppose in a feeble sense I acknowledged there was a God — I was never an atheist.
At eighteen years of age I moved through to Paisley to study for four years. I had chosen Civil Engineering for a career. I had great ambitions to get on in the world. Almost the very first day at college I came into contact with a believer. He was in Assembly fellowship at Linwood and was "not ashamed to own his Lord or to confess His Name." I was greatly impressed by his total belief in the bible and by the account of his conversion I had never met anyone like this before. Jesus Christ was a living Person to him whereas to me He had always been a historical Person — the figurehead of Christianity but not really alive and relevant today. Here was someone that Christ had changed and made a new creature. Through this brothers’ life and testimony, I learned that God hates sin but loves the sinner and that He was not only able to save but to make a man a new creation in Christ. I began to somehow envy believers — they had something I didn’t have! I was convicted of my own personal sinfulness and need to be saved. During the next three years I continued in my pursuit of satisfaction through worldly pleasure and self gratification yet all the time becoming increasingly dissatisfied, accompanied by a deepening sense of guilt and shame. At last I could go on no longer and so on Monday, 22nd March, 1965 at around 7 p.m. alone in my room, I turned to the Saviour believing that all my sins had been laid upon Him on Calvary’s tree — it was Christ for me! There and then my chains were snapped, the bonds of sin were broken and I was free. Immediately I confessed Him before one and all. Old companions thought me mad but it did not bother me.
Through the above mentioned brother I was introduced to the assembly at Linwood the next night. Three weeks later I was baptized and received into fellowship. Very soon I was engaged in all the activities of the assembly — door to door visitation, open-air testimony, Sunday School work and hospital visitation. I came to appreciate the importance and preciousness of God’s assembly and loved the gatherings of the saints. It was all new to me. I began to read the scriptures and learn the importance of maintaining personal communion with God. Many holidays were spent helping servants of God in their labours. Brethren came regularly and gave reports of their work for the Lord, and the great need of a perishing world bore in upon me and the need too of labourers. I had worked hard for my degree and loved my work but I began to feel that God was calling me to devote all my time to His service. I kept this growing conviction to myself lest I was mistaken but prayed much about it. I wondered where the Lord would have me to serve Him. Soon the need of my own beloved country was laid upon my heart. One scripture that spoke loudly to me was the Lord’s words to legion — a man who wanted to cross the sea with Christ — "Go home to thy friends and tell them what great things the Lord hath done for thee," Mark 5.19. Eventually my work took me to Perth. After two years the project was completed and the firm wanted me back in the head office in Glasgow. I was undecided and afraid of becoming more and more involved in my career, so I resigned and choose to stay on in Perth where I engaged in gospel outreach, supporting myself. In retrospect I question the wisdom of this but I was still a bit uncertain as to whether it was really the Lord’s will that I should devote all my time to serving Him. Finally one of the oversees at Perth approached me and asked me if I would not consider the commendation of the assembly. I met with the oversees and made known my exercise. They were most happy to give me the right hand of fellowship, as were the overseers at Linwood and so in April 1972 I was commended jointly by the assemblies at Perth and Linwood to the grace of God for the work of the Lord. The letter they gave me is most precious to me. In 1976 I was married and Gwen and I have made our home in Luthermuir. As we look back over these past years we can see all the way the Lord has led us and He has graciously confirmed our call again and again. To God be the glory!
A SEED HAS BEEN SOWN
- A seed has been sown, the result yet unknown,
- But this to the Master we leave;
- He gives us to sow, but He makes it to grow,
- And yield in abundance full sheaves.
- A seed hidden deep, in the soil may long sleep,
- But one little quickening touch,
- Can make it take root and bear precious fruit,
- The power of the Master is such.
- We do not know then, just how, where or when,
- The seed may have started to grow;
- What results may appear, first blade then full ear
- From one little seed that we sow.
- Full well we do know that the harvest is sure,
- Though the sower the sheaves may not see,
- For never a word was spoken for Him,
- But shall ring for eternity.
- In faith we must sow, for well we do know,
- The master the increase will give;
- The harvest is His, and certain it is
- Our God all His ends will achieve.
- So seed may be sown by the wayside unknown,
- But who knows what it may bring forth;
- Then let us be bold, the seed not withhold,
- But tell of the Saviour’s great worth.
- * * *
- "So shall My Word be that goeth forth out of My mouth:
- It shall not return unto Me void,
- But it shall accomplish that which I please,
- And it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it."
- Isaiah 55.11.
HOW THE BIBLE DIFFERS
- H. C. G. Moule of Durham once recorded: "It was said to me by a young Oriental student at Cambridge, just on the verge of stepping into the full light of God and joy in Christ, after long and cautious enquiries into Christianity: ‘I have been reading your sacred Book; and the difference between it and our sacred books of the East is not altogether in its precepts; for there are wonderful precepts, high and great also in our books; but your Book and yours alone, contains, I see, the secret of how they may be done,’ "
- "Look not wistfully at that speaker great,
- Whom I have blessed and used,
- But as you on that invalid wait
- My Child — my task you’ve not refused.
- Each task that certain talents need,
- Tis I who must choose who.
- For you must trust in Me to lead
- My Child — to that which is best for you.
- For what do I ask of all
- But that they do My Will,
- So when on the lonely you call
- My Child — My work you’re doing still.
- Some I choose to labour o’er the sea,
- Others the world not see or hear,
- But each doing that which pleases Me,
- My Child — fret not and do not fear.
- No matter what your duty is today
- If ’tis for Me with heart you’ve done,
- You’re labouring in My chosen way
- My Child — when you that "extra mile" gone.
- So that all who devoted service give
- Be on platform, with children, or sick,
- ‘Tis fulfilling the Way I would you live
- My Child rejoice! — Your task I did pick."
- —John W. Diamond (Guernsey)