BEHOLD YOUR KING
by J. Flanigan
ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle
MEN OF GENESIS
by J. E. Todd
PAPERS ON PROPHECY
by W. W. Fereday
AND THE NAME OF THE DAUGHTER OF ASHER WAS SARAH
by D. Ogden
THE MIND OF CHRIST
by C. Jones
THE JEWS SCATTERED
by John B. D. Page
THE GARMENTS OF THE LORD
by D. M. Clark
‘BY ALL MEANS SAVE SOME’
by S. S. Nicholes
MY CONVERSION AND CALL
by T. J. Blackman
(Meditations in Matthew)
by Jim Flanigan (Belfast)
14. Further Miracles (Ch. 9)
Half of the 20 miracles recorded in Matthew’s Gospel are in chapters 8 and 9. The King was moving in power in the midst of a sad and sick humanity. It was not only power, there was compassion and tenderness too, as He entered into human sorrow. He calmed their fevers, cured their leprosy, delivered from demonism, opened blind eyes, unstopped deaf ears, loosened the tongues of the dumb, and even raised the dead. For Israel it was Psalm 103.3 — “Who healeth all thy diseases”.
From the country of the Gadarenes the Saviour came back across the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum. Capernaum had now become “His own city”. He had gone to live there after His rejection at Nazareth (ch.4.13). What privileged cities were these. They were indeed seeing the powers of the world to come (Heb. 6.5). They carried to Him, there at Capernaum, a man paralysed, sick of the palsy. Mark tells the story most graphically. The people thronged the entrance to the crowded house, but the friends of the palsied man were not easily deterred. They ascended the outer stone staircase to the roof, broke up the tiling, and lowered their sick friend to the feet of the Saviour, who first pronounced forgiveness of the man’s sins. Sin was a greater problem than the palsy. He then challenged the hyprocrisy and unbelief of the scribes. Which was easier to say, “Thy sins be forgiven thee”, or “Arise and walk”? The former, of course, was easier to say, for who then could see or tell or know whether sins had been forgiven or not? “Arise and walk” was a different matter. Men would wait and watch and know whether or not some power had been imparted to the paralysed man. There was power. The man arose at the Saviour’s word and departed to his house as the people marvelled and glorified God.
The call of Matthew follows. Of this we have spoken before in an earlier introductory paper. It was a simple call, “Follow Me”. There was an immediate, unquestioning response, “He arose and followed Him”. Matthew is Levi. Little did he know on that memorable day, that he, a poor despised publican, was to become the biographer of the King of Israel, and give to succeeding generations the first Gospel of the New Testament, the royal, regal, “Gospel according to Matthew”. The young believer, and every believer, should take courage from this. Who can tell what God may have in mind for us to do when He calls us by His grace? Matthew prepared a meal for the Saviour and in bold testimony invited many of his old associates, publicans and sinners, to meet his new Master and Lord. It is the sick who need the Physician, Jesus tells the critics. These Pharisees had much to learn both about mercy and true righteousness.
The disciples of John the Baptist then had a problem about fasting. The disciples of Jesus apparently did not fast as John’s disciples and the Pharisees did. Why was this? It was not the time for fasting, Jesus replies. His disciples could not mourn while He was with them. But He would one day be taken from them, He would be rejected, and then, in the days of His rejection, His followers would deny themselves the pursuits and pleasures of the men of the earth. Then again, there was a new thing being introduced which would not mix with the ceremonial ritual of old Judaism. It would be like new cloth patched on an old garment, or like new wine poured into old skin bottles. It would never do. New wine must have new bottles. Jesus was bringing in a new order of things which would displace and replace and supercede Judaism. It would be entirely new.
While He was explaining all this, Jairus came. He was a ruler of the synagogue. His little 12-year-old girl was dying, even now already dead. Would the Saviour come? Of course He would. He arose with His disciples and followed after Jairus. But on His mission of mercy there was an interruption. A woman, whose very life had been haemorrhaging away since Jairus’s daughter had been born came through the crowd to touch Him. For 12 years she had been ill. Human physicians had failed her. She had spent all. Her touch was a touch of faith upon the hem of His garment. All His garments are fragrant with myrrh and aloes, and the healing cassia (Psalm 45.8). The Saviour took time to speak words of comfort and assurance to the woman who was instantly healed by her touch of faith. It was an interlude of grace and the company then proceeded to the ruler’s house.
The minstrels were there, with their music and noise. He put them all out, mockers, mourners, minstrels and all. There is no room for earthly clamour when God is about to work. They had laughed Him to scorn, but in a holy calm He takes the little maid by the hand, lifts her out from the grasp of death, and His fame is spread abroad.
Two blind men now follow Him imploringly. Blindness has ever been a sad problem in Israel. “Son of David”, they cry, “have mercy on us”. They followed Him into the house. He challenges them if they have faith in His ability to heal them and in a simple faith they answer, “Yea Lord”. As the woman had earlier touched Him, so now He touches them and in accordance with their faith their eyes are opened.
There now comes to Him a man dumb and demon possessed. How much demon possession there was in Galilee. When the demon was cast out the people marvel, but still the Pharisees are critical. They blasphemously attribute His works to the Prince of demons. Later He will tell them that this is the unpardonable sin, (ch.12.24-32). They attribute the work of God to the Devil. In a future day, when the man of sin is revealed with his deceptions, they will attribute the work of the Devil to God. Oh the perversity of man in his unbelief.
Our Lord continues His busy ministry, travelling, preaching, teaching, healing, praying. Through cities and villages He moves in grace, teaching in their synagogues and ministering to their sick with compassion. “Moved with compassion” is, in the original text, one word. His whole being was moved emotionally, compassionately, as He saw the multitudes. In His teaching the Saviour expounded His message. In His preaching He applied it. In healing He illustrated it. But while the harvest was great and plenteous the labourers were few. It is still the same, “Pray”, He urges. “Pray the Lord of the harvest that He would thrust forth labourers into His harvest. Note that it is His harvest, not ours. It is His prerogative to send. It is ours to hear His voice and move in obedience when and where He directs. It is a high privilege to be workers together, under God, in the gathering in of the lost and the gathering together of the saved.
—to be continued (D. V.)
by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)
The Church and the Churches (21)
Head Coverings (1) — Read 1 Corinthians 11.2-16
In the next two papers, we are going to investigate the question of head-coverings in assembly gatherings. To many professing Christians, this is regarded as non-essential. We are told that ‘as long as the heart is right, the question of a head-covering is really quite unimportant. A piece of material on a sister’s head doesn’t make any difference to her at all’. This teaching has been accepted wholesale in some places, and has almost inevitably led to further retrograde changes. Of course it is important that the heart should be right and when this is the case, biblical teaching on the subject will be gladly recognised and practised. After all, we should all count it a great privilege, whether brothers or sisters, to confess the headship of Christ. If there has been some kind of change, and the headship of Christ has been withdrawn or lost, we might have some reason for ignoring New Testament teaching on the subject. The very suggestion brings its own refutation! The Holy Spirit deals with the subject in 1Cor.11. This chapter divides into two sections. In v2-16, Paul deals with the Headship of Christ, and the section commences, “Now I praise you”. The subject is developed with particular reference to public participation in assembly gatherings. In v17-34, Paul deals with the Lordship of Christ, and the section commences, “Now I praise you not”. The subject is developed with particular reference to the Lord’s supper. In this study, we are particularly concerned with the apostolic teaching in v2-16.
It is noteworthy that the passage commences with the words, “Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you”. We should notice Paul’s commendation before censure. That always makes censure more acceptable.
Paul’s teaching on the subject arose out of irregular practices in the assembly of Corinth. The words, “But I would have you know”, introduce a matter where deficiency existed. Paul refers to this in v4-5: “Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head”. We must notice that there were two irregularities.
- Sisters were present in assembly gatherings with uncovered heads, and
- they were participating audibly.
Paul deals with the first irregularity in this chapter, and the second irregularity in ch.14, which deals with the entire question of audible participation in assembly gatherings. We will see why Paul deals with the problems in this particular order later in our study.
Paul deals with the question of head-coverings in the assembly in four ways. He points out that the uncovered head of a sister, and for that matter, the covered head of a brother, is:
- Contrary to divine principle, v3-6;
- Contrary to creatorial precedent, v7-12;
- Contrary to spiritual propriety, v13-15;
- Contrary to apostolic practice, v16.
(1) IT IS CONTRARY TO DIVINE PRINCIPLE, v3-6
In the first place, Paul establishes the principle of headship, v3, and then he explains the violation of headship, v4-6.
A) The principle of, headship, v3
“But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God”. This verse describes a series of graded headships, culminating with the words, “the head of Christ is God”. It might be helpful to deal with this first:
i) “The head of Christ is God”. This emphasises two most important aspects of the subject. Firstly, that the principle of headship operates between divine Persons and, secondly, arising from this, that the principle of headship involves relationship, not inequality. The words, “the head of Christ is God”, have particular reference to His manhood where, without for one moment resigning His absolute deity, the Lord Jesus was willingly subject to the will of God. Witness the following. “Then said He, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God”, Heb.10.9; “I seek not Mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent Me”, John 5.30; “O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt”, Matt.26.39. See also Phil.2.6-8. Turning to the future, “And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject to Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all”, 1Cor.15.28. Notice that Eph.5 links headship with subjection.
ii) “The head of every man is Christ”. This emphasises the authority of Christ in relation to the man. When the Lord Jesus was here, He prayed, “I have glorified Thee on the earth: I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do”. The Lord Jesus lived and died for the honour and glory of God. Every man in the assembly should bring honour and glory to Christ by subjection to Him. Men should therefore be marked by dignity and reverential awe. There should be nothing frivolous about their behaviour. They must act at all times with reference to His authority. They are responsible to Christ, and the relationship between Christ and God constitutes the pattern of this recognition. Headship involves devotion and love: it is not rigid tyranny.
ii) “The head of the woman is the man”. This does not mean that the woman is not subject to Christ in the same degree as the man, but that she shows her subjection to Christ in her subjection to the man in the assembly. The woman does this by acknowledging that God has ordained that the man should be directly responsible to Christ in the assembly, whereas the woman is indirectly responsible to Him. Please remember that this passage does not infer either the superiority of the man, or the’ inferiority of the woman: it teaches that men and women, whilst equally important, have differing roles.
But where and how is this headship displayed? The answer is delightfully simple: both men and women display the headship of Christ in their heads! This brings us to:
B) The violation of headship, v4-6
i) As to the man. “Every man praying (Godward) or prophesying (manward), having his head covered, dishonoureth (the word means ‘to disgrace’ or ‘put to shame’) his head”. Whilst it is true that a man praying whilst wearing a hat would disgrace himself by acting inconsistently with his station, it is even more serious than that. He is dishonouring Christ, ‘In so doing, he dishonours Christ by taking from Him the honour due to Him as the head of the man’. (J. Hunter, ‘What the Bible Teaches’: 1Cor.). The uncovered head symbolically displays the glory of Christ. The principle is expressed in v7: “For a man ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God”. In the assembly, the man’s head is a symbol of Christ. “The head of every man is Christ”. Therefore, if a man covers his head, he veils Christ’s authority: and that is a disgrace.
ii) As to the woman. “But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head”. This must be understood with reference to the statement that “the head of the woman is the man”. An uncovered woman praying or prophesying in the assembly at Corinth dishonoured the man by displaying his glory. After all, “the woman is the glory of the man”, v7, and that glory must be covered. Christ’s glory alone must be seen in the assembly. Rightly understood, v4-5 have nothing to do with local customs, or with ‘brethren traditions’, but everything to do with the glory of Christ.
At this point, we ought to address two conclusions which have been wrongly drawn from these verses:
i) The public participation by sisters in the assembly is permissible as long as they are covered. After all, Paul does say, ‘Every woman praying or prophesying’, JND. Whilst it could be argued that silent prayer is in view, that certainly could not be said of prophesying! The answer lies with the fact that Paul deals specifically with headship in 1Cor.11, whereas he deals with the subject of headship first, because once this is rightly understood, there can be no question of sisters taking audible part. Recognition of the man’s headship settles both questions. The woman is subject to the man. In any case, there can be no possible collision between 1Cor.11.4-5, and 1Cor.14.34-35, 1Tim.2.8, and 1Tim.2.11-12.
ii) That the covering mentioned in this chapter is actually the woman’s hair. Her hair, we are told, is a covering anyway, and therefore there is no need for anything further: v15 is cited in support of this argument. A little thought will show that this conclusion must be wrong. If the covering in v15 and v6 are one and the same, we have some very strange teaching indeed “If the woman be not covered (that is, has no hair), let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven (having: no hair in the first place), let her be covered (either grow her hair, or wear a wig)”. We don’t even have to study the different Greek words here to see the inconsistency of the gainsayers! Paul’s argument is very clear indeed: either a woman has her head covered in two ways, or not at all. Her first covering is her long hair: this is her natural glory, which was bestowed on womanhood at creation, v15. The second covering, to be worn during assembly gatherings, is an artificial covering. In the western world, this usually takes the form of a hat, but we must be careful not to lay down hard and fast rules about the precise nature of this head-covering. J Heading (The First Epistle to the Corinthians) points out that ‘although such creation glory is for the pleasure of God in its rightful place, Rev.4.11, yet in spiritual service even the best and most legitimate things of the flesh (and we do not use this term in any derogatory sense) are out of place. The hair, then, must either be covered or removed. Now God is not unreasonable in His holy demands, so He insists upon the covering of the hair and not its removal. This would avoid natural shame and embarrassment, and would of course permit the woman’s glory to be manifested in its proper sphere’. It is worth adding that throughout the passage, Paul refers to the covered or uncovered head of the woman, rather than her covered or uncovered hair.
There are therefore two clear alternatives in v6: either “let her also be shorn” or, “let her be covered”. To preserve her glory as a woman, and at the same time to honour the man, she must cover her glory. We should also notice that it is not a question of husbands and wives here. The principle of headship does, of course, apply to marital relationships, see Eph.5.22-25. But here it is not “head of the wife”: it is men and women. The argument that if a woman wears a wedding ring, then she need not wear a hat, will not stand the light of Holy Scripture. Neither, for that matter, will the argument based on Gal.3.28, where Paul states, amongst other things, that “there is neither male or female”. This passage refers to our standing in Christ, not to the local assembly. It is so important to interpret scripture in context.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by J. E. Todd, England
4. Abraham and his altars
We have noted that in the book of Genesis the lives of many men of God centre around a single feature. In the case of Abraham it was his altars.
An altar is a means of worshipping God by an offering. The five altars of Abraham illustrate five ways of worshipping God.
The Altar of the Covenant
God made a threefold covenant with Abram, First, his descendants were to become a great nation, “I will make of thee a great nation”, Gen.12.2, which was the Israelites and later known as the Jews. Second, by that nation to bring a great blessing to all mankind, “In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed”, v3. That blessing is the gospel, ‘The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abram, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed’, Gal.3.8. Third, the nation of Israel to dwell in a great land, “Unto thy seed will I give this land”, v7, that is the promised land of Canaan. Immediately, Abram built an altar, ‘There builded he an altar unto the Lord, who appeared unto him’, v7. This was Abram’s act of acceptance of the covenant, the outward expression of his inward faith, ‘He believed in the Lord; and He counted it to him for righteousness’, Gen.15.16.
Here begins our true worship of God, when by faith we accept the new covenant in the person of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, Jesus said, “For this is My blood of the new testament (covenant), which is shed for many for the remission of sins”, Matt.26.28.
The Altar of Conduct
‘He (Abram) removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the Lord, and called upon the name of the Lord. And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south’, Gen.12.8-9. In obedience to that which the promises implied, Abram journeyed deeper and deeper into Canaan, the land of God’s promise. ‘Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone’, Jms.2.17. Our daily progress in the holy life of faith is also our act of worship. We can daily build this altar of sacrifice, ‘To do good and communicate (share) forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased’, Heb.13.16. We also can call upon the name of the Lord, ‘Let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name’, v15.
The Altar of Confession
‘Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land’, Gen.12.10. Later, under similar circumstances, Isaac was forbidden to leave the land of Canaan for Egypt, 26.1-5. Abram left the path of faith for the path of human wisdom. Our failures can be in our strong points, rather than our well-guarded weak points. This led Abram into scenes of fear, 12.12, lying v13, adultery v15, judgment v17, and rejection by men v20; see Matt.5.13. But it brought to Abram great material wealth, vl6 and 13.2, which shows that material wealth is not necessarily a sign of spiritual wealth. However, the Lord worked, vl7, and brought Abram back to Bethel. ‘Abram went up out of Egypt . . . even to Bethel, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai; unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of the Lord’, Gen.13.1-4. We must come back to the place where we left the path of faith. Abram came back to Bethel, to the altar, the place of worship, to prayer and communion with God. ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’, Un.1.9. ‘My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous’, Un.2.1.
The Altar of Confidence
‘The Lord said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever’, Gen.13.14-15. Abram was told to walk through the land as a symbolic act of possessing the land for his posterity. ‘Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee’, vl7. As he travelled through the land Abram built another altar. ‘Then Abram removed his tent . . . and built there an altar unto the Lord’, vl8. This act of worship showed his confidence in the promises of God regarding the land and his posterity.
Do we arise confidently and take hold of all the spiritual promises God has given to us in Christ? For example, ‘Yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you’, Rom.6.13-14. Living out the promises of God is also an act of worship.
The Altar of Consecration
‘Abraham built an altar there . . . and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar’, Gen.22.9. God now called upon Abraham to give everything to Him. For in Isaac Abraham not only possessed his well-beloved son, but also the promises of God, which could only be fulfilled through Isaac. The death of Isaac would mean the end of all that God had promised Abraham. Abraham was willing to consecrate his all to the will of God, ‘Seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me’, v12.
Are we willing to worship God by erecting the altar of consecration in our lives? ‘What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s, lCor.6.19-20. ‘In your hearts reverence Christ as Lord’, lPet.3.15, R.S.V. As the Lord Jesus Christ said, ‘If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments’, John 14.15, R.V.
Consecration to His will, however difficult and costly, is also an act of worship daily performed.
—(to be continued D. V.)
by The Late W. W. Fereday (written in 1897/98) VOLUME 2
10(b)—Babylon and the Beast
“So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness; and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet-coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns”, v3. This point of view is very striking. When the angel showed Johnthe bride of the Lamb, he carried him away “to a great and high mountain”, Rev.21.10. To get into God’s thoughts about the true Church, we must be lifted above the mists and clouds of this world into the clear atmosphere of His own blessed presence. But the seer was carried “into the wilderness” to see the great whore! thus would the Spirit of God remind us that all her surroundings are barren, even though her wealth and splendour abound. Do not genuine souls prove this? The impressive and gorgeous ceremonies of her ritual may captivate and overawe the senses, but they leave the soul unsatisfied and unfed. Ritual is not Christ, and He alone can satisfy the hunger and thirst of the soul.
In connection with both visions, John tells us he was carried away “in the Spirit”.
It is important to note this. On the one hand, heavenly things can only be truly learned when we are under the influence of the Holy Spirit; on the other, we only really discern the evil character of such a system as Babylon as He instructs us. With such deceitful hearts as ours, it would be hardly safe to gaze upon the glory and splendour of the harlot under any other guardianship. We might be attracted and ensnared.
Observe the woman’s seat. She rides a scarlet-coloured beast, with seven heads and ten horns. We will say more about this when we come to the angel’s interpretation of the vision; we merely say now that it is the revived Roman empire. The harlot has always loved and striven after earthly supremacy; here she has it fully.
The Spirit of God next dwells on her gaudy attire: “And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colours, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand, full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication”, v4. Here we have every mark of earthly glory and even royalty. How utterly opposite to all that God has declared as His mind and will for His Church! Her heart is plainly in the world, not heaven; present and seen things are everything to her, not the unseen and eternal.
Now examine the contents of her golden cup: “full of abominations”. The Spirit means by this idolatry (compare 1Kgs.11.5,7). How awful that such an evil should ever have crept into the profession of Christianity! Such is the poor human heart that it yearns for an object that may be seen. This is fully shown in heathendom. In Christendom such things came in first as aids to worship and as memorials of the departed; they soon became full objects of adoration to superstitious minds. Babylon has helped this enormously by means of her priesthood and hierarchy. This is in plain defiance of the law, Exod.20.3-5; how much more is it opposed to the spirit of Christianity!
Alas, idolatry will assume an even graver form still in the days to come! When the true saints of God quit this scene for the Father’s house, and the presence of the Holy Spirit is withdrawn, the full height of human evil will be reached. We refer, of course, to the days of antichrist. Then it will not be a mere image or crucifix; but man, energised by Satan, will assume God’s place and title, to his utter and fearful ruin.
The harlot’s cup contained also “the filthiness of her fornications”, v4, speaking to us of the awful moral corruptions which have resulted from her guilty intercourse with the world. The two ingredients of her cup appear in their early form in the epistles to Pergamos and Thyatira. In addressing Pergamos, the Lord rebukes her for dwelling where Satan’s throne is — i.e., in the world — and then proceeds to speak of “the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication”, Rev.2.12-14. In Thyatira we note a further advance in departure and evil, for Jezebel is brought before us, which calleth herself a prophetess and teacher, and seduces Christ’s servants to commit fornication and to eat things sacrificed to idols, Rev.2.18-22. The whole epistle to Thyatira should be carefully pondered in connection with our subject, and it will be seen that Babylon the Great is really Thyatira fully developed.
—to be continued (D. V.)
by David Ogden (Luton, England)
Possibly one of the greatest dangers besetting the companies of the Lord’s people today is a misunderstanding and misappreciation of the vital work of a sister. This can come from a lack of teaching, sometimes sadly it owes more to an imbibing of the spirit of rampant feminism which is permeating the world. The argument runs on these lines: since Scripture says that, “There is neither Jew or Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for ye are-all one in Christ Jesus”, Gal.3.28. Women can therefore publicly perform the same role as men in worship and teaching and also, it is now being argued, in leadership. Such a view completely misinterprets Scripture, it even makes The Holy Spirit contradict Himself. It is not even logical. It is a sad commentary, on how much departure there has been from the Word of God, that it was a secular correspondent in a daily paper who, commenting on the agitation for “women priests” in Christendom observed that there is a difference between office and work. Paul makes precisely that point in 1Cor.12, when, through the Spirit of God, he mentions the different parts of the body, different in function but all vital to the well-being of the whole. It is not a question of men forbidding women to function publicly in the assembly, it is the Lord of the assembly Himself. That same Lord however has given the women valuable work for Him, which only they can fulfil.
God considered the name of Sarah, Asher’s daughter, worthy to be included in His sacred word. In like manner He has called the sister to a place of honour in service for Him. As the elders are the standard of an Assembly’s spirituality, the young men the source of an Assembly’s strength, so the sisters are the secret of an Assembly’s serenity.
How well Scripture illustrates the absolute and intrinsic worth of Godly women. Prov.31.10-31. It was a woman to whom the risen Lord first revealed Himself, Jn.20.14-17. The first mention of the Angel of the Lord is in connection with His appearance to a woman, Gen.16.7-13. Women stood at His cross, Jn. 19.25, and came in devotion to the tomb, Lk.23.5;24.1. It was a woman of whom He said that her act of love would be forever spoken of for a memorial of her, Mk.14.1. Women ministered to Him, Lk.8.2-3, as they ministered to His servants, Acts.16.15, Rom.16.2, and as they had done to the prophets, 1Kgs.4.8-11. A woman hid Judah’s rightful king, the link in the fulfilment of the promise of God, 2Chron.22.11.
On the other hand, it was women who led the people of God astray, Num.25, and it was a woman who was the cause of Samson’s downfall, Jud.16.4-21, and another who cast a sad stain over the history of the early church, Acts.5.1-10. It was women whom Paul had to beseech to be of the same mind in the Lord, Phil.4.2.
Although most are relatively unknown, yet playing such an important role in the provision and purpose of God, godly sisters have an unparalleled privilege. The present writer thanks God for those godly women who taught him the Scriptures when a very small boy, and those who continued to be an example and encouragement to him. Paul commended Timothy’s grandmother and mother in like manner, 2Tim.1.5.
In this day and age when home life is often in jeopardy and under attack, the woman has a tremendous influence. See Tit.2.3-5. It has been said to the young couple standing together in the marriage ceremony, “The husband is the head of the house, the wife is queen of the home”. 1Tim.3.11 makes it clear that the wife of one who would serve the Lord must have certain qualities, that does not of course absolve other wives. A wife can either hinder or enhance her husband’s testimony and work for God. A brother once commented publicly thus: “Sometimes wives have been known to say “My husband may be the head but I am the neck which turns the head”. He added that he had once used this as an illustration but was told that medically it is not so, both are controlled by the brain. He then went on to make the telling observation that it should be such in a believer’s married life, both are under the control of the Lord Himself, Eph.5.22-31 and 1Pet.3.5-7 are both relevant here.
Sisters are not second rate brothers, in fact some are far more spiritual and discerning. The work is different, it is not inferior. 1Cor.11.3-16 paints a lovely picture of headship. “The head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man and the head of Christ is God”, v3, and to suggest inferiority in the second relationship is to imply it in the third, and that is both blasphemy and heresy.
Are you an unknown and frequently unappreciated saint, toiling long and devotedly for your Master, unextolled and often unnoticed? Fear not, he who cares for sparrows and records their fall, knows all about you and loves you with an everlasting love, holding you firmly in His care.
“And the name of the daughter of Asher was Sarah”. Unknown to man — known to God.
by C. Jones (Cardiff, Wales)
Although He was God, He was “. . . found in fashion as a man”, v8, that is, in appearance He was a man. He humbled Himself and was completely obedient to the Father’s will,”Ps.40.8, Jn.6.38, 14.31, 15.10, even to the extent of dying on a Cross. He need not have died because death is a result of sin, Rom.5.12, and He is eternally sinless, for He is “. . . holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners . . .” Heb.7.26. He voluntarily tasted death for every man, Heb.2.9, “. . . that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil”, Heb.2.14. He experienced the awful physical and mental agonies of death on a cross and of being punished by His God for sins, not His own since he was sinless, but for the sins of the whole world, lPet.2.24; Un.2.2, all this “. . . by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God”, Acts.2.23. He became a curse for us, Gal.3.13, Deut.21.23, and was “. . . despised and rejected of men”, Isa.53.3.
Verse 9 tells us that because of all the Lord did in looking on the needs of sinners, coming down from heaven, becoming a Servant, being found in fashion as a Man, humbling Himself and being obedient even to the death on the Cross, God has highly exalted Him and given Him a name which is above every name. The servant is now exalted, Isa.52.13. He was highly exalted at His resurrection and. ascension and now He sits on the right hand of the Majesty on high, Heb.1.3, 8.1, “Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come,” Eph.1.21. The next time He descends from His position of glory He will come to take believers to be with Him forever, 1Thess.4.13-18.
All created things, in heaven, on earth and under the earth, are going to bow at the name of Jesus, v10. This is really the name given to Jesus and is the name Jehovah and it is before a Man who is declared to be Jehovah the Saviour, that all will bow.
In Col.1.20 we read “And, having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself; by Him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven”. Here, things under the earth, i.e. infernal beings, are not mentioned because they cannot be reconciled to God, but nonetheless they will acknowledge that He is the exalted Lord, Phil.2.10. Ultimately, all creation will praise Him, Rev.5.13, Ps.148.
One day every tongue will openly confess the same truth that Jesus Christ is Lord, v11, because He is Lord and His throne is everlasting, Heb.1.8. Understanding that Jesus Christ is Lord can only be by revelation from God, 1Cor.12.3. The believer has the opportunity now, in this life, to confess Him as Lord and to show in the life the reality of that confession. This can only come about through the gracious working of the Holy Spirit gradually causing the believer’s mind to become more like the Lord’s mind. The Lord did all things well, Mk.7.37 and to the Glory of God the Father, Jn.17.4. The honour, exaltation and praise given to the Son glorify the Father, Jn.5.23. We have seen Him emptying Himself and voluntarily accepting the limitations resulting from taking the form of a Servant and being found in fashion as a Man in order to carry out the will of the Father. In verses 9-11, however, we see Him highly exalted and every tongue confessing Him as Lord to the glory of the Father. The glory of the Father was always the object of all the Lord did, Jn.17.4.
Now we come to the practical import of this teaching. ‘Let this mind be in you . . .’
Through prayerful study of the Word, meditation on its truths and obedience to its precepts, we will, under the leading of the Holy Spirit, become more like the Lord. We will not simply be imitators of Christ’s perfect example in our own strength but, empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit, the life of Christ will, by the grace of God, be seen increasingly in us. Our minds will become more like the Lord’s mind and minds control actions. We are told to humble ourselves, Jms.4.10, and believers who are being led by the Spirit will think less of themselves and more of others and will experience joy and peace in so doing. The main object of the mind and life will not be self but Christ and this will result in blessing, help and encouragement for others and an absence of strife. The Christ-centred life is disciplined. The fruit of the Spirit, Gal.5.22-23, will be seen and every aspect of that life will be affected. Time, energy, God-given abilities and possessions will all be used in accordance with the will of God and to His glory.
We have been saved by grace, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and are called to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called, Eph.4.1, to “. . . walk, even as He walked”, Un.2.6. If His life is to be lived out in us then His mind must be in us.
by John B. D. Page (Weston-super-Mare)
At the dawn of their long history, the Lord miraculously brought the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt. This was the first light of freedom for them. Coming to the foot of Sinai where they encamped, the Lord made known His purpose for them: that was “an holy nation”. For Christians, the divine purpose is not different: God hath . . . called us … unto holiness”. Holy living was meant for the Israelites and similarly it is intended for Christians: no worship of idols, Lev.26.1, and no intermarriage with ungodly persons, Deut.7.3f. Breaking either or both prohibitions results in turning away from following the Lord.
On Mount Sinai God told Moses to warn the people that “if ye will not … hearken . . . unto Me, but walk contrary unto Me; then … I will scatter you among the nations, … and your land shall be desolate . . .” Lev.25.1; 26.27f; 30.33. Walking contrary to the Lord was for the Israelites, on this occasion and subsequently, to turn away from Him and turn to idols. They had an innate tendency to worship heathen gods as their forefathers did, initially east of the River Euphrates and later in Egypt, Josh.24.24,RV. In this warning, the Lord was looking ahead to the time when the Israelites would enter and dwell in Canaan. He told them clearly that if they failed to destroy the Canaanite idols, He would then, in judgment, not only destroy such abominations, but scatter them among the nations. The Lord then demanded of His earthly people what He now requires of His heavenly people: turning to God from idols, which are all things that detract from Christ, 1Thess4.9.
By the fortieth year after leaving Egypt, all that generation, except two, had died owing to unbelief and disobedience and there had arisen a new generation. They were encamped in the land of Moab, Deut. 1.3-5 and just one month before crossing the Jordan to possess the promised land when Moses addressed them several times. In his first address, after rehearsing how the Lord had led their fathers from Horeb and through the wilderness, he said, “Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the Lord your God . . . and make you a graven image, . . . which the Lord hath forbidden thee”. Continuing, he warned, “When thou shalt . . . make a graven image … to provoke Him to anger. . . the Lord shall scatter you among the nations, and ye shall be left few in number among the nations …”, Deut.4.23,25,27. To this new generation the Lord said “lest ye forget”. If they did forget His covenant and make a heathen idol, then the consequences would be serious — scattered among the nations and few would survive. Forgetfulness is a human failing which also applies to us. But let us be determined like the Psalmist who said “I will not forget Thy word”, Ps.119.16 — when reading the Scriptures. Let us be “not a forgetful nearer”, Jas.1.25, when listening to ministry at a meeting.
Still encamped in the land of Moab where Moses addressed the people for the fifth time, he said, “if thou shalt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all His commandments . . ., the Lord shall scatter thee among all peoples from one end of the earth even unto the other . . .”, Deut.28.15,64. Failing to “hearken” and “do” (not some, but) “all His commandments” would mean dire trouble — the nation scattered from one end of the earth to the other, that is, worldwide scattering. Hearkening and doing seem to be inseparable, not only concerning the Israelites of old but also Christians today. Believers are told to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only”, Jas.1.22. Hearing the Word of God should have a salutary effect on our behaviour.
The Israelites possessed the land. The centuries passed, but the Lord’s warnings through Moses were generally unheeded by the people during the periods of the judges and the monarchy. After the kingdom was divided, the idolatrous northern kingdom of Israel was told that “the Lord . . . shall root up Israel out of this good land . . . and shall scatter them beyond the river (Euphrates), because they made groves (i.e. idols of wood), provoking the anger of the Lord”, 1 Kgs.14.15. later, they were exiled to Assyria. Subsequently, to the rebellious southern kingdom of Judah the Lord said, “I will scatter you like chaff driven by the wind from the desert”, Jer.13.24, RSV. A telling simile! Even during the Captivity in Babylon the Lord warned the exiles collectively that “the whole remnant of thee will I scatter unto all the winds, Ezek.5.10, RV. A striking illustration for scattering them throughout the world.
Not until A.D.70, after the Jews’ rejection of Christ — the climax of their waywardness, did these ancient prophecies begin to be fulfilled. This apparent delay demonstrated the mercy of God towards His persistently rebellious people. In that year the Romans destroyed Jerusalem with its temple which was followed by the scattering of the Jews and so the dark days of their dispersion began. Scattered into nearby countries and eventually to distant lands unknown to them as the Lord had said, “I shall scatter them also among the nations, whom neither they nor their fathers have known”, Jer.9.16. the Jews have been found in every country of the world, except Iceland.
During nineteen centuries of dispersion the Jews have been hated and rejected, suffering inconceivably from false accusations, banishment, massacres and anti-Jewish laws, particularly in Europe where the climax was reached in 1940-1945 when six million Jews were systematically killed: fathers and mothers with their children, both young and old people alike. Foreseeing such terrible sufferings, Moses said, “among these nations shalt thou find no ease . . . And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee … In the morning thou shalt say, Would God it were even! and at even thou shalt say, Would God it were morning! for the fear of thine heart . . . and for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see”, Deut.28.55,ff. In times of uncertainty and full of fear in foreign countries, this is precisely how they have reacted. The accuracy of Scripture!
The instigators of persecuting the Jews will not escape the judgment of God, Who told His people: “he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of His eye”, Zech.2.8. A solemn warning against anti-Semitism!
Against this background of the Jews’ disobedience to divine commands, leading to departure from following the Lord and culminating in their global dispersion, there is an art gallery, as it were, in Heb 11 of men and women who pleased God in living by faith. Truly, the Lord has His own in every age.
- The above article, and one to follow in the next issue are very relevant to the 50th Anniversary of the State of Israel in May, 1998 —Ed.
by D. M. Clark (Canada)
HIS GRAVE CLOTHES
John 20.7, “And the napkin, that was about His head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. There has been endless discussion about the validity of the “Shroud of Turin”. Such discussion could have been settled very quickly by reference to this Scripture. Clearly there was a napkin wrapped separately about His head, while the balance of His body was entwined in linen. Not a single shroud.
The grave clothes remind us that Christ died. The work on the cross was completed. Although He died on the cross He did not die because of the cross. Christ dismissed His own spirit, for He had received that power from the Father. Jn.10.18, “No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of My Father”.
They also tell of His burial, when the kind hands of Joseph and Nicodemus, having prepared His body, laid Him in a tomb and rolled the stone over its mouth. His body was there for the required three days, (a Rabbi of that period has said: “A day and a night are an ‘onah’ and the portion of an ‘onah’ is as the whole of it”. This has been added to explain the “three days and three nights” that the Lord was in the tomb.
They declare His resurrection. The care with which the grave clothes were left, when the Lord departed the tomb, shows that there was no haste in His departure. Most of all, they are part of the witness that He rose triumphantly over death, so He could say: Rev.1.18, “I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death”. These words thrill us, for they make us realise that: “… if we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him”, 2Tim.2.11.
Phil.3.20-21, “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself.
THE PRIESTLY ROBES OF JUDGMENT
Rev.1.13, “And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle”.
The Lord Jesus is presented to us here as the Son of Man, clothed in priestly garments. The golden girdle speaks of His divine righteousness. He is seen exercising His priestly office in connection with the seven churches of Asia, however, He will also be the judge of all, for the Father has committed all judgment into His hands, Jn.5.22.
The things that characterise Him are similar to those in the vision that Daniel had of Him in ch.7.9, “I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like the pure wool: His throne was like the fiery flame, and His wheels as burning fire”.
The judgments given in the second and third chapters of Revelation remind us of His omniscience, for He repeats the expression “I know” as He addresses each of the seven churches. This also has a message for us, for there is nothing that we can hide from His all-seeing eye. We should be conscious at all times “that all things are naked and open unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do”, Heb.4.13. We can claim the promise of the Word that, “if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin”, lJn.1.7. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”, Un.1.9. It is good to know that as our Advocate He is there to effect restoration when we fall, Un.2.1.
BLOOD STAINED GARMENTS
Rev. 19.13, “And He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood; and His name is called The Word of God”. The blood on the vesture of the Lord Jesus, in this instance, is symbolic of the blood of His enemies, who will die at the end of the tribulation, when His earthly kingdom will be established.
Isaiah predicted this time in Isa.63.1-4, “Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? This that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of His strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore art Thou red in Thine apparel, and Thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with Me: for I will tread them in Mine anger, and trample them in My fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon My garments, and I will stain all My raiment. For the day of vengeance is in Mine heart, and the year of My redeemed is come”.
As we view the world and see the workings of sin, in the conduct of people and nations, we know that judgment is pending. We also know that the only thing that delays the tribulation, and the judgment which will follow, is the continuing grace of God, and the presence of the Holy Spirit on earth in the church, 2Thess.2.7. We understand too, that “the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh”, Gen.6.3.
The Lord of Glory, who has been considered in the various garments in which He appears, is to be known to all creation as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Rev.19.16. Thus the purpose of the Father, concerning His Son, will be fulfilled before a wondering world.
For the church, our next view of the Lord Jesus will be when He comes for us. lThess.4.16, “For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with a voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and, so shall we ever be with the Lord”. Then shall the reality of our hope be fulfilled for, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is”, Un.3.2 We shall then be clothed with the garments of righteousness and salvation, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels”, Isa.61.10.
- Lo, He comes from heaven descending,
- Once for guilty sinners slain!
- Thousand thousand saints attending
- Swell the triumph of His train!
- Jesus comes and comes to reign.
- See the Saviour, long expected,
- Now in solemn pomp appear!
- And His saints, by man rejected,
- All His heavenly glory share:
- See the Son of Man appear!
- Lo! The tokens of His passion,
- Though in glory, still He bears;
- Cause of endless exultation
- To His ransomed worshippers;
- Christ the Lamb of God appears.
- Israel’s race shall now behold Him
- Full of grace and majesty;
- Though they set at naught and sold Him,
- Pierced and nailed Him to the tree,
- Now in glory
- Shall their great Messiah see.
- ‘Tis Thy heavenly bride and Spirit,
- Jesus, Lord! that bid Thee come;
- All the glory to inherit,
- And to take Thy people home.
- All creation
- Travails, groans, till Thou shalt come.
- Yea, Amen, let all adore Thee,
- High on Thine exalted throne:
- Saviour, take the power and glory;
- Claim the kingdoms for Thine own:
- Come, Lord Jesus!
- Hallelujah! Come, Lord, come!
by S. S. Nicholes (Wales)
The title of this article is found in lCor.9.22. These words sound very good yet are sincerely used by many to justify unscriptural methods in seeking to reach the lost. It is necessary, as with all scripture, to consider them in light of the context in which they are found.
What did the apostle mean? He asks in vl8, ‘What is my reward then’? This is in contrast to vl7 where he indicated that his reward consisted of the joy of refusing a reward. What a paradox! Let us read through verses 18-22 and seek to elucidate their meaning. The author’s comments are in italics. “Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel! For though I be free from all men, (i.e. free from any who could exercise compulsion or control over him. There is the worldly saying, ‘He who pays the piper calls the tune’), yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; (i.e. when among them he practised the customs which he was not obliged to observe); to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, (Gentiles, not necessarily lawless — they were outside the scope of the Mosaic law) as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ), that I might gain them that are without law. (Gospel freedom is not lawlessness, but ever subject to the ‘law of Christ’. His freedom from the law of Moses did not involve freedom to please himself). To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: (he abstained from things which they considered to be wrong, though he did not necessarily view them as such) I am made all things to all men, (does not mean a sacrifice of principles, but a readiness to approach people on their most accessible side) that I might by all means save some. (Every permissible method was used in order to save men). v23, “And this I do for the gospel’s sake”.
The following verses make it abundantly clear that the ‘all means’ of v22 must be subject to the given rules if-he was to receive a crown. “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize”? v24. The idea is not that of competing with others, but that of the self discipline necessary to be successful in the race. The apostle likely had in mind the great Isthmian games that were held every three years close to Corinth. “So run”, he exhorts, “that ye may obtain”. The victor received a crown consisting of a garland of ivy or pine leaves. For them it was a corruptible crown. For the apostles and us, an incorruptible crown. If, however, in spite of winning, one of the competitors had broken the rules, he was disqualified. This is the thought behind the word ‘castaway’, in v27.
So the words, ‘by all means save some’ must be understood in the light of the context of the chapter which is subjection to the law of Christ, abiding by the rules and this will involve self discipline if we are to be among those who will receive the crown at the judgment seat of Christ.
by T. J. Blackman (Brazil)
For the third time I was at a retreat in the Surrey countryside for a course of intensive Buddhist meditation. This time I was in earnest. I wanted to make it my life’s purpose to seek true wisdom and “enlightenment”, and had thoughts of becoming a “monk”. This may have been possible even without going to the Far East as there were Buddhist communities in the London area, and I had resolved to talk this over with the meditation teacher, himself a Buddhist monk from Thailand.
As the week proceeded it became increasingly difficult to concentrate, and unclean and violent thoughts, which I imagined had been left behind long ago as I practised the “eightfold path”, came flooding back with overwhelming force. So much so that it soon became clear that all that this meditation and self-discipline had done, was nothing more than to place a flimsy veneer of superficial tranquility over a seething mass of incurable wickedness.
The reader may think this description a little extreme. In fact words cannot adequately describe the bottomless cesspit of sin that is the heart of man, and that I found to be in my heart. I have since learnt that, in His sovereign mercy (there is no other explanation), our Saviour God was teaching me the first lesson in “the word of the truth of the Gospel”. For that awful vision, which liberated me from the illusions of oriental mysticism, was in complete accord with all that the Holy Scriptures say about our human nature. See, for example, Mk.7.20-23 and Romans 3.10-18 — dear reader, if you are not saved, read these two passages on your knees — what they describe is how God, your Judge, sees you!
At this time I was 21 and living with my parents in the northwest London suburbs. My interest in eastern religion had come about through a fascination with the art, music and general culture of that part of the world, combined with a growing concern to understand what life was all about. Our family was vaguely connected with the Anglican denomination and for a while I had attended their Sunday school, but soon drifted away, attracted by all that “this present evil world” was offering the young.
Disillusioned now with Buddhism and gradually realizing that I could never save nor enlighten myself, I began to despair of ever having peace or understanding. Finding an old Bible in the attic I began to read and found that this Book spoke to me in a way that none other had ever done. This was a copy of the Authorized version. Hearing that modern translations of the Bible were readily available, I obtained one, imagining that God’s message would be even clearer in modern English. The language, doubtless, was clearer, but, instead of giving me a solid basis for faith, my head was soon filled with doubts and uncertainties due to the interminable footnotes informing that “many authorities omit . . .”, “other manuscripts have”, etc.
However, in spite of the confusion of my mind, and, often, the despair of my heart, as I groped in the darkness, God in His sovereign grace was still drawing me with cords of love and teaching me how much I needed His Son to cleanse me with His precious blood. From my initial awakening to the fact of my sin, I was now enabled to see, as I read the Scriptures, the exceeding sinfulness of sin and the terrible holiness of my Creator and Judge.
Having continued in this state for some weeks, one day a gospel tract appeared on the doormat. In itself the tract did not meet my need, nor did the “follow-up” literature, including Bible correspondence courses, for which I wrote. But eventually I was put in touch with a godly couple in the local assembly, and they were willing instruments in the Lord’s hand, sparing no pains to expound for me the way of Salvation.
Incidentally, I learned subsequently that about 10,000 tracts were distributed in the Harrow area on that occasion —mine was the only response. But this one soul being saved has resulted in many more thousands of tracts being distributed both in the UK and in Brazil. Keep sowing the precious seed brethren! Eternity will show it was time and effort well spent.
At that time shift work kept me from attending many meetings, but whenever possible I went to the Gospel Hall where my new friends were in fellowship. Sadly, the Gospel was not always preached on Lord’s day evenings, some speakers apparently thinking it right to give a “talk” about their recent holiday in the USA or whatever. However, from time to time a faithful preacher was invited, and what I heard helped me on a little towards an understanding of God’s salvation.
Again and again I was told, “you just need to believe on the Lord Jesus . . . just believe in His finished work”, but I had great difficulty in understanding what this meant. At times I would wander in a nearby wood in an agony of soul, desperately wanting the blessings that believing would bring, but still not understanding what it meant to “only trust Him”. Sometimes I tried in vain to “believe”, as if faith could be worked up by an exercise of will, but mostly I just cried out to this God I did not know, begging Him, if He really existed, and really loved a wretch like me, to lighten my darkness.
Finally, over nine months since first being awakened to the fact of my sin, I was present at the Gospel meeting when a brother spoke plainly from Romans 6.23. The truth of that verse remained with me the following day. Gradually it became clearer to me that salvation was a free gift, given to the sinner on the basis of the merits of Christ alone. At about 1 00 a.m. on Tuesday 16th May 1972 it pleased God, to reveal His Son to me, and I rested in the all-sufficiency of His sacrificial death and the infinite power of His triumphant resurrection.
As I write, with tears of thankfulness, this account of God’s gracious dealings, I am many thousands of miles from England, in southeast Brazil. I will attempt to relate briefly how I came to be here.
It was only after conversion that I discovered what true meditation is — meditation on God’s Word in His presence. After about three years, and in spite of being a man of few words, and those few words generally far from eloquent, God began to enable me to open my mouth in the proclamation of the Gospel, and later in the ministry of His Word. I also gave much time to tract distribution, sometimes cycling to nearby towns and villages to sow the precious seed.
The first awakening of interest in Brazil came when, in 1974, I met, and subsequently married, Dorothy, eldest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Nye who had served the Lord in that land for many years. However, it was not until 1981 that, through two missionary reports on the work in Brazil, we began to think seriously about the possibility of serving the Lord in that vast land.
Although deeply interested in the work of the Gospel, and always keen to be involved in it, I realized that I had not got what it takes to be a pioneer missionary. But repeatedly the need for teaching in many parts of Brazil was brought to our attention, and I thought perhaps in some small way we could try to help in this direction. As the exercise deepened, we made our thoughts known to the assembly at Ebenezer Gospel Hall, Gloucester, where we were now in fellowship.
There were many obstacles, which could only be removed by the Lord Himself. Not least of these was our complete lack of financial resources; we could not even afford the train fare to London to apply for visas. But the Lord wonderfully confirmed His purpose for us, often providing what we needed in most unexpected and timely ways. These experiences were an important preparation for the many trials we would face in Brazil, and often it has been the remembrance of God’s clear call and gracious provision that has kept us going.
Commended to the grace of God for His work in Brazil by the assembly in Gloucester, we finally arrived here on 9th October 1985. After just over a year in Tupi Paulista, learning the language with the kind help of John and Claudete Axford, we moved to Pirassununga where we still live, seeking to assist in the spread of the Gospel in the region, and endeavouring to build up the small assemblies. “Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory, for Thy mercy, and for Thy truth’s sake”.
AN UNEXPECTED EVENT – CONVERSION
In the realm of business, planning has to be done for years ahead. The planners seek to anticipate every eventuality and then have some contingency plan to cover the unexpected and unanticipated event. It is true that there are unexpected events which come into the lives of all. Some are pleasant surprises, like the unexpected invitation to a wedding, the resolution of a seemingly insurmountable problem; others are unpleasant, like the news of unemployment, a sudden illness and even death itself.
Many people have experienced an unexpected event which changed their eternal destiny. There was a man called Saul who came from Tarsus. He was a religious Jew, fanatical in his zeal, an enemy of Christ and the gospel and a persecutor of the Christians. He left one morning to embark on a campaign of severe persecution against all who professed Christianity. Just as the morning was passing, at noon, there was an unexpected event and the zealous Jew became a Christian. God suddenly intervened in his life and the greatest persecutor Christianity had known became its greatest preacher. Saul of Tarsus became the apostle Paul who wrote, under inspiration, much of the New Testament Scriptures.
How did that come about? You can read it in Acts ch.9, ch.22, ch.26. He also refers, in an oblique way, to this great experience in other scriptures, eg Gal.1; Phil.3; 1Tim.1.
The first thing that happened was an intervention from heaven. God spoke to this man as he was in rebellion and sin. Saul, in days prior to the completion of the Bible, heard a literal voice. All who presently are in relationship with God have heard His voice through the Bible. Saul learned that God was right and he was wrong. Dear reader, have you learned that God is right regarding His condemnation of sin and is right to punish the sinner eternally? Have you learned that your thoughts and ideas are wrong and are, in fact, irrelevant? God says, “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways”, Isa.55.8.
There was then a revelation of the risen, exalted and glorified Lord Jesus, the One whom Saul had deemed to be an imposter. He was now convinced that he was wrong about Christ. Smitten to the dust of the Damascus Road, Saul acknowledged this “imposter” as his Lord and was at that moment saved. Before this he had religion, and that the only one sanctioned by God, but then he got salvation. Have you got salvation and are you sure of heaven? Religion cannot take away your sins and give you a fitness for heaven. There is only one power that can do this, “ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ”, 1Pet.1.18-19.
Read the story of Bartimaeus, Mk.10, Zacchaeus, Lk.19, the dying thief, Lk.23, the Philippian jailor, Acts 16, and see how that salvation comes to a soul suddenly. It is not the result of a long process and is not something into which a person grows. Nor is it a result of having believing relatives or religious ordinances. It comes the moment a soul is convicted of sin, does an about turn, thus repenting of their sins, and accepts the Saviour who died for all mankind on the cross of Calvary.
- Like a moth fluttering round a candle, the Christian who plays and tampers with sin will one day fall with his wings destroyed and his testimony blighted.
- Donald Ross
- And shall I really see Thee, glorious Lord:
- Who though unseen, art worshipped, loved, adored?
- What joy and rapture fill my longing heart,
- To think that I shall see Thee as Thou art:
- Shall stand before Thee — perfect, spotless, whole,
- Fruit of Thy suffering, travail of Thy soul,
- O joy of joys, O ecstasy of bliss,
- What thought can measure such a thought as this?
- As for me, I will behold Thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Thy likeness
- Psalm 17:15