BEHOLD YOUR KING
by J. Flanigan
ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle
THE KINGS OF JUDAH AND ISRAEL
by G. H. Hutchinson
PROPHETIC PICTURES OF THE LORD
by J. E. Todd
ABRAHAM IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
by D. McAllister
CHRISTIAN CONDUCT IN A MODERN WORLD
by W. A. Boyd
MY CONVERSION AND CALL
by Adillo Dos Passos
It is undeniable that we live in a very dark day. Society is becoming more corrupt; moral standards are plummeting; violence, vice and perversion all are increasing and "Men’s hearts failing them for fear." There is only one answer and that is the gospel. It is sad that in many places the zeal of saints for the spread of the gospel is waning. In some places it is polluted with many unscriptural innovations. For an assembly to survive there must be a healthy and Scriptural outreach in the gospel. As has often been said, "We either evangelise or fossilise."
The apostle Paul was a man who was specially chosen of God and had many revelations committed to him, yet he never lost sight of perishing humanity and he never ceased to preach "the unsearchable riches of Christ." This is a great treasure that has been committed to our trust. We dare not change it; we dare not water down its truth. For the gospel to prosper and be in truth "the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth," it must be preserved in all its purity. Much that passes for gospel preaching either omits or distorts the truth of Scripture.
A gospel that does not produce conviction of sin, a dread of eternal fire, true repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ who satisfied every claim of God’s throne when He died at Calvary, is of no value for either time or eternity. The gospel is not a social message. We are not called to be social workers. Undoubtedly genuine conversion to God radically changes the person. In fact a profession of salvation that does not save from the world and the thralldom of sin is unlikely to save from hell and the lake of fire! However, the change of life is the outcome of salvation, not a reason for obtaining it.
Regeneration is not the result of pressurising people into a profession. It does not come by signing cards or visiting an inquiry room. It is not produced by someone giving the correct answers to a number of logically packaged questions. It is not someone responding to an invitation to be converted to a way of life. Salvation only comes when a. sinner is converted to Christ. This is not a mere mental assent nor a doing of lip service. Salvation is a work of God. He enlightens by His Holy Spirit through His Word, which experience leads to the reception of His Son as Saviour. Man in responsibility exercises his will and places unreserved faith in the Lord Jesus who shed His blood to atone for sin upon the cross.
Nowhere in the New Testament are people cajoled into a profession. The issues are much too serious and the message much too dignified to be reduced to the level of a door to door salesman. Nor must the message be trivialised by mixing it with entertainment, drama, puppet shows and the like.
Brethren, what are we to preach? Let the Word of God answer. lCor.1.23, "we preach Christ crucified." This embraces the kernel of the gospel as outlined in lCor.15.3, "how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. And that He was buried, and that He rose again the third according to the Scriptures." Note seven salient points:
- SEPARATING PRACTICES – "our sins":
- SINLESS PERSON – "Christ":
- STAGGERING PRICE – "died":
- SACRIFICIAL PASSION – "for":
- A STATEMENT WHICH IS PERFECT – "according to the Scriptures":
- SUBSTANTIAL PROOF – "buried":
- SUPREME POWER – "rose again":
It is this and this alone we must preach, leaving the issues with God who alone has the ability to save. Until the Lord comes again may we be found discharging our obligations to a perishing world, as Paul said, "I am debtor to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to-the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also," Rom.1.14,15.
Twenty centuries came to a close at midnight on 31st December 2000. The year 2000, or in common parlance Y2K, has come and gone. The dark foreboding and the prophetical utterances that greeted the year, concerning the computer world especially, have not been realised. It has been just another year, sadly another year to testify of man’s sin and failure. Consider only one aspect of a nation’s widely acclaimed achievement viz. the Millennium Dome in London. Total failure and gross mishandling of finance mark it from beginning to end.
We only cite one case yet does not Gen.l 1 come to mind, with its tower of Babel and consequent intervention by God? Perhaps God moves more often than we are prepared to acknowledge, blowing upon man’s efforts and boasting, showing that whatever he might achieve, man in his sin and unbelief is a total failure and under Divine condemnation. Through rich grace and abundant mercy the believer in our Lord Jesus Christ, has a message and a ministry concerning a Man who never failed. One who moved through a corrupt scene, unknown and unwanted. The only man who could give a reason for God loving Him, said "Therefore doth my Father love me, BECAUSE I lay down my life, that I might take it again," Jn.10.17.
Our main object in Assembly Testimony is to exalt this Man (God has already done this), in the ministry contained in each issue. For those, therefore, who contribute in this way, occasionally or regularly, we do express our appreciation. Others help by prayers and practical fellowship, these, together with our Editor, Secretary and Accountant, who give freely of their time and talent, greatly assist in the work of the magazine — to each we give thanks. We are at all times indebted to our God for His faithfulness in another year of Assembly Testimony work, to Him be praise and glory.
BEHOLD YOUR KING
(Meditations in Matthew)
by Jim Flanigan (Belfast)
30. The Olivet Discourse, continued (Ch.25)
There is an unfortunate chapter division. Ch.25 continues the ministry of ch.24 and both chapters should be read together in an unbroken sequence. Our Lord now introduces the well-known parable of the ten virgins. It must be conceded that many excellent expositors interpret the parable of the virgins as depicting profession, both real and false, in this present age of Church testimony. Such expositors indeed believe that with verse 45 of ch.24 our Lord has commenced a new section in the discourse, dealing with Christian profession rather than with the things relevant to Judaism and the remnant of those earlier verses. Those who reject this view see a continuing consistent theme, all to do with the days subsequent to the Rapture.
The opening word of the chapter is important, and perhaps decisive, "Then". The question must be asked "When?". The parable looks forward to the coming of the King with His Bride. The virgins are not the Bride. The Bride is already with the Bridegroom, and they will come out together to bring the guests into the joy of the wedding feast. To explain in detail just how this all agrees with Eastern culture and with Rev. 19 would be outside the scope of this meditation, but the correspondence with both is so strikingly accurate. Indeed, although the interpretation does not depend upon it, some ancient manuscripts, as the Syrian Version and the Vulgate, actually have three additional words, and read, "Ten virgins that having their torches, went forth to meet the bridegroom and the bride." If it is accepted that there is a consistent theme in this discourse, then the wise virgins would represent that faithful believing remnant of tribulation days and the foolish would represent those of the nation who, while having a form of godliness, have no spiritual reality. The lamps are an undoubted symbol of profession. The oil is a well-known symbol of the Spirit. The coming of the Bridegroom with His Bride will reveal reality. The midnight cry, "Behold the Bridegroom cometh!" will be the great moment of truth. It is true, of course, that such mixture of false and true prevails today in the kingdom. To quote the late E. W. Rogers, who says of the parable, "Its main principles apply throughout the whole of the period from the time the Lord returned to heaven till the time that He again comes back to earth. Its principles apply to us of the present calling; its principles will apply to the godly after the Church has been taken away." But this parable is essentially a warning and exhortation for those who wait for the Son of Man. Believers today wait for the Son of God, their Bridegroom and Saviour. "Son of Man" is a title associated with Israel and with judgment rather than with the Bride, the Church.
There follows another parable, and the connection "for" of v.14 seems to indicate that the earlier theme is being continued. A man is travelling into a far country and he calls his servants. He delivers to them five talents, two talents, and one talent respectively, according to their several ability. Neither their ability nor their capacity are equal, but their lord will require only faithfulness with what he has given them. He will not expect a return of five talents from the man to whom he gave two, neither will be expect two talents from the man with whom he left but one. Two servants then served wisely and diligently. "Well done!" is the commendation. He calls them good and faithful, and rewards them with further responsibility and the assurance of a share in the joy of their lord. The third servant buried his talent in the mud. This was not only a disappointment, but an insult, to the master who had entrusted him with the talent. There was a great lack of respect for the master, and there was also sloth and neglect. He was an unprofitable servant having neither love or regard for his master, and he would be dealt with accordingly. This is the judgment of those in Israel, who, in the days subsequent to the Rapture, will presume to be what they are not. They will be judged on the ground which they have taken up and will be found to be unfaithful servants.
The concluding parable is based upon a scene with which our Lord’s hearers would have been very familiar. Invariably in Israel, sheep and goats run together in one flock, but on occasions, such as the watering of the flock, they must be separated. I once said to an Arab shepherd as he divided his flock at a watering hole, "Since the sheep and goats seem to run together happily for most of the time, why do you separate them now?" He answered without hesitation, "They are a different nature. The goats would molest the sheep and would not allow them to drink in peace." A different nature indeed! Here, in the parable, the King has come and is seated upon the throne of His glory with His holy angels in attendance. The nations are gathered before Him to be judged. This is not the great White Throne judgment of Rev.20. That will be a judgment of the resurrected wicked dead. So, to distinguish, this judgment is often referred to as "the judgment of the living nations."
The King is about to set up His millennial kingdom. It will be a righteous kingdom into which only the righteous will enter, and the purpose of this judgment is to separate from the nations those who have responded to the message of the remnant, the gospel of the kingdom. It will be like the familiar separating of sheep and goats. Many Gentiles will have heard and believed that message. "A great number which no man could number, of all nations and kindreds, and people, and tongues," Rev.7.9. They have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Scattered among the nations, they have received and befriended the godly remnant of preachers and their attitude to them is accounted as their attitude to the King Himself. Whatever men do to their preachers of the gospel of the kingdom, and their message, they do to the King.
To the sheep on His right hand the King says, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you." To those on His left hand the word is solemn, "Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." On the one hand, blessing and a prepared kingdom. On the other hand, cursing and a prepared punishment. "These shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal." The words "everlasting" and "eternal" are the same word, appearing twice in this closing verse of the chapter. The word expresses eternity. Punishment and life are alike eternal. Those who deny eternal punishment must therefore deny eternal life and must answer this question, "admitting that the Saviour wanted to teach eternal punishment, in what other way could He have said it?". The original word occurs some seventy times in our New Testament and it is used seven times of the punishment of the wicked. If this punishment is not eternal, then neither is the life and happiness of the righteous, nor indeed, the existence of God Himself, of whom the word is used twice, Rom.16.26; Heb.9.14.
On this solemn note the Olivet discourse ends. The Passover is now approaching, and with it the last sad hours of the Saviour. The shadow of the cross is now looming large. Gethsemane and the betrayal, the House of Caiaphas and Peter’s denial, and the judgment hall with its blasphemy, mockery, and agony, and Calvary itself, are now almost upon Him. He knows all, but with firm step will move resolutely towards the accomplishing of the will of His Father.
- No unforeseen event
- E’er took Him by surprise.
- Towards the cross, with fixed intent,
- He moved with open eyes.
—to be continued (D.V.)
Assembly Testimony Bible Class
by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)
(15) "MORDECAI WAXED GREATER AND GREATER" Read Chapter 9
"The thirteenth day of the twelfth month" now dawns. Haman intended it to be the day on which all the Jews in the Persian Empire would be eliminated. But it was now to be the day on which the Jews would destroy all their enemies. It’s all summed up in vl: "The day, that the enemies of the Jews hoped to have power over them, (though it was turned to the contrary, that the Jews had rule over them that hated them)." There are three main paragraphs in the chapter:
1) THE DESTRUCTION OF THE ENEMY, v1-16
A) How the enemy is described
- "The enemies of the Jews hoped to have power over them," v1. As you can see, the enemies were numerous. Haman evidently had many supporters. Peter warns his readers to be "sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour," 1Pet.5.8. He was intent on far more than physical harm, as the following verse makes clear: "Whom resist steadfastly in the faith." His intention was to make these early Christians deny the faith. Paul reminds us that, like Haman, Satan has many eager supporters: they are called "principalities … powers … the rulers of the darkness of this world." Their objective is to defeat God’s people. Hence the necessity to wear "the whole armour of God" so that we "may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand," Eph.6.13.
- "Them that hated them … those that hated them," v1,5. The Lord Jesus taught, "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you … they hated Me without a cause, Jn.15.18-25. See also Jn.17.14. It is certainly very significant that having said that Cain was "of that wicked one," John continues, "Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you," 1Jn.3.12-13. Haman certainly knew how to inflame hatred for the Jews, and Satan certainly knows how to do the same towards God’s people. We mustn’t be under any illusions about this: we are hated people. No wonder the Jews "stood for their lives," vl6. Christian life is not a playground: it is a battle ground.
- "Such as sought their hurt," v2. It was a deliberate and calculated strategy. As we have already noted, our "adversary the devil … walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. "He looks for every opportunity to inflict damage.
- "Principalities and powers,
- Mustering their unseen array,
- Wait for thine unguarded hours,
- Watch, and pray."
B) How the enemy was defeated
- The decisiveness with which victory was achieved. There was no doubt about the outcome. "The Jews had rule over them," v1. "No man could withstand them; for the fear of them fell upon all people," v2. "The Jews … did what they would unto those that hated them," v5. We must remember, of course, that in applying the lesson from this, we are thinking in terms of victory over Satan’s power, rather than conquering people! Paul tells us more in 2Cor. about his persecutions and difficulties, than he does in any of his other letters. "We were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life," 1.8. But he also writes: "Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ (‘leads us in triumph in Christ’), and maketh manifest the savour of His knowledge by us in every place," 2.14-16. He was under tremendous pressure, and suffered fearful persecution, but triumphed completely over the spiritual forces which opposed him. "For whatsoever is born of God, overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith," 1Jn.5.4.
Altogether, there were 800 killed in Shushan, v6 and vl5, and 75,000 in the provinces, vl6. Plus the ten sons of Haman, all of whom are named in v7-9. Since the Jews were only concerned with their enemies – they did not kill all and sundry – Haman’s sons were obviously enemies of the Jews in the same way as their father. They shared his hatred, and this recalls the words of the Lord Jesus: "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him," Jn.8.44. Haman was certainly a liar, 3.8, and a potential murderer, 3.9. In this he reflected the character of his own dark master. Hainan’s sons were slain, vlO, and their bodies were publicly displayed, vl3-14. People should be able to see that we too are victorious over the enemy.
- The means by which victory was achieved. "Thus the Jews smote all their enemies with the stroke of the sword," v5. This speaks for itself. "The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God."
- The power by which victory was achieved. "And all the rulers of the provinces, and the lieutenants, and deputies, and officers of the king, helped the Jews; because the fear of Mordecai fell upon them. For Mordecai was great in the king’s house, and his fame went out throughout all the provinces: for this man Mordecai waxed greater and greater," v4. In short, the Jews were triumphant over their enemies through the power of an exalted man! Without Mordecai, the Jews would have been powerless, and their enemies would have achieved their object. Mordecai had vast resources under his command, and this serves to remind us that our Saviour is "the Lord of hosts." This can be rendered ‘the Lord of armies.’ "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth."
Do notice the way in which Mr. Darby renders v4: ‘for the man Mordecai became continually greater.’ If this doesn’t remind you of some New Testament references to the Lord Jesus, shame on you!
- Mordecai was "great in the king’s house." We shall see more of this later, but let’s stop and enjoy the fact that God has addressed Christ with these words, "Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool … Rule Thou in the midst on Thine enemies," Ps. 110.1-2. Stop a little longer, and remember that "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David," Lk.1.32-33.
- Mordecai’s "fame went out throughout all the province." The queen of Sheba said of Solomon, "thou exceedest the fame that I had heard," 2Chron.9.6. But a "greater than Solomon is here!" The world is yet to learn about the glory of Christ: "I will send those that are escaped of them unto the nations … that have not heard My fame, neither have seen My glory …," Isa.66.19.
- Mordecai "Waxed greater and greater." Doesn’t this remind you of Isa.9.7, "Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end?" The Kingdom of Christ will expand continually. But can we say that He is "greater and greater" in our lives?
2) THE REJOICING OF THE JEWS. v17-19
There were three main elements in the rejoicing of the Jews following the destruction of their enemies:
- They rested. "On the fourteenth day of the same (month) rested they … and on the fourteenth thereof; and on the fifteenth day of the same they rested," v17-18. Historically of course, they rested after warfare, so that we could apply this with reference to Rev. 14.13, "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them." On the other hand, we must remember that whilst we remain here on earth’s battleground, we can enjoy rest of soul. The Lord Jesus said, "Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls," Matt. 11.23-29.
- They feasted. "They … made it a day of feasting and gladness," v17-19. "a day of gladness and feasting, and a good day," v19. Previously, there had been "great mourning … and fasting, and weeping, and wailing," 4.3. Whilst Isa.25.6 looks forward to coming blessing for Israel, we certainly enjoy God’s rich provision now: "a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined." You see, we are always at the Lord’s table: that is, always enjoying the provision which He makes for us. Incidentally, in the Old Testament, the Lord’s table was the altar. See Mal 1.7,12. That ought to help you sort out 1Cor.10, and enable you to differentiate between the Lord’s table and the Lord’s Supper!
- They sent portions. "A good day, and of sending portions one to another." Compare Neh.8.10. So there was fellowship too amongst the victorious Jews. It’s always nice to ‘send portions’ to each other: something you have been enjoying from the Scriptures is likely to cheer a brother or sister in Christ too!
- Have you had a kindness shown? … Pass it on!
- ‘Twas not given for you alone: … Pass it on!
But do note v22: "Sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor." Don’t forget the need to take this quite literally. See Gal.2.10. Don’t forget the masses of people around us who are spiritually impoverished.
3) THE COMMEMORATION OF VICTORY. v20-32
"And Mordecai wrote these things, and sent letters unto all the Jews that were in all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus, both nigh and far, to stablish this among them, that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same, yearly." So the feast of Purim was instituted, taking its name from the lot cast by Haman, v24-26. It covered two days, the 14th and 15th Adar, recalling the rest of the provincial Jews after the destruction of their enemies on the 13th Adar, and the rest of the city Jews after the destruction of their enemies on the 13th and 14th Adar. Let’s just emphasise some features:
- It was to be observed by all the Jews. "Mordecai … sent letters to all the Jews that were in all the provinces," v20.
- It was to be observed perpetually. "That these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, every family, every province, and every city; and that these days of Purim should not fail from among the Jews, nor the memorial of them perish from among their seed," v28.
- It was established on the highest authority. "And Mordecai wrote these things … to stablish this among them," v20-21. "Then Esther the queen, the daughter of Abihail, and Mordecai the Jew, wrote with all authority to confirm this second letter of Purim … to confirm these days of Purim in their times appointed, according as Mordecai the Jew and Esther the queen had enjoined them," v29-32.
- It was linked with fellowship. They were to keep the "fourteenth day of the month Adar… that they should make them days of feasting and joy, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor. "So the feast of Purim was the occasion of joyful unity amongst God’s people. It was central to their fellowship, v21-22.
- It commemorated a crushing victory. This is recalled in v24-25, which recite the rise and fall of Haman. The victory "turned … sorrow to joy, and … mourning into a good day," v22.
- It was kept with a sense of commitment. "And the Jew undertook to do as they had begun, and as Mordecai had written unto them," v23. See also v27-28, where "the Jews ordained, and took upon them, and upon their seed … so as it should not fail, that they would keep these two days according to the writing … and that these two days, should be remembered and kept." Do notice the words, "to do as they had begun." Sadly, it is often so different with us.
- It was a testimony to others. "And the decree of Esther confirmed these matters of Purim; and it was written in the book," v32. That is, in the "book of the (Persian) chronicles," 2.23, 6.1.
Now, having noticed all this, apply it to the Lord’s supper. The Lord Jesus said, "Take eat; this is my body, which is (broken) for you: this do in remembrance of Me … This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me," 1Cor 11.24-25.
—to be continued (D.V.)
The Kings of Judah and Israel
by Graeme Hutchinson (Belfast)
Manasseh (Paper 16)
Despite the spiritual progress that Hezekiah made during his reign as king of Judah, his son, Manasseh, returned to the ways of his grandfather, Ahaz, given his preoccupation with idolatry and witchcraft. Thankfully, however, the record of Scripture in relation to Manasseh is not all bad. Consider:
(a) The King in Command
2Kg.21.1-9 and 2Chron.33.1-9 outline the way in which Manasseh ruled as king of Judah. Instead of repairing the temple as his father did, 2Chron.29.3, he erected false idols, 2Chron.33.7, and wrought ‘much evil,’ v6, in the sight of the Lord. In these verses, we can identify the king in the following positions:
2Chron.33.3-5 record the way in which Manasseh erected the false idols throughout the nation of Judah. With such an attitude, he displayed not only contempt for his father, v3, but also for the Word of God, v4. As such, he stands in contrast to his father, the latter built for national profit as he sought protection from the enemy, 2Chron.32.5; Manasseh built for personal pleasure as he erected the false idols.
2Tim.3 records the condition of those who live in the ‘last days’ v1. Similar to the character of Manasseh, parental guidance will be set-aside, v2, and people will seek personal pleasure rather than God, v4. Perhaps the character of Manasseh is then living testimony to the fact that godliness is not inherited from our parents, rather it is a condition that is earned. Moreover, we either build constructively for God or not at all, there can be no middle course.
During the initial years of Manasseh’s reign, 2Chron.33.]6 indicates that the altar was neglected and its condition deteriorated. The king was more interested in how other nations pursued their spiritual lives, through sorcery and witchcraft, than he was in the revealed will of God, 2Chron.33.7-8; 7.16.
How important it is for us to respect the place where God has chosen to place His name, lTim.3.15, and within, shun the practices of the world and follow the pattern of the Word!
2Chron.33.9 states that ‘Manasseh made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err…’. On the basis of the king’s wayward heart, the whole nation was led astray.
Elders within the New Testament assembly have the responsibility of leading the company in paths acceptable to God. Perhaps this is why the character of ‘effective elders’ is so extensively outlined in lTim.3 and elsewhere. Generally, if the leadership is right, the assembly will be right and the Lord will be glorified. This is why the Apostle Peter exhorted elders to set an example to the flock: ‘Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock,’ 1Pet.5.3. How they need our prayers!
(b) The King in Captivity
2Chron.33.10-13 illustrate that God was not prepared to let such actions go unchecked. For once Manasseh ignored the warning, vlO, he was delivered into the hands of the enemy of Assyria, vll. The purpose for such dealings was that Manasseh might repent of his evil and that the nation might be thoroughly cleansed, 2Kg.21.13.
During the period of captivity, we learn that Manasseh humbled himself and the Lord responded by allowing him to return to Jerusalem, vl3. However, what do we learn about God from this passage? We observe His concern: sufficiently interested in the sinful nation that He takes corrective measures against it. We observe His approach: warning first before dealing in judgment. We observe His righteousness: having to cleanse the nation of its impurity, for He had associated His name with it.
Within each believer there is always the real potential of becoming ‘entangled with the affairs of life,’ 2Tim.2.4. When this happens we become ‘captive’ to the world’s attitudes and approaches. We too, like Manasseh, will be warned and spoken to, before judgment is sent. Being our Father He must chastise, but He will speak first; more than anything, the judgment will speak of His concern for His child. How thankful we should be that the record of the kings is such that, whilst there is the reality of decline (as in the life of Asa), there is also the possibility of conversion (as Manasseh now exhibits).
(c) The King in Conversion
The remainder of Manasseh’s life was lived to prove the reality of his repentance in Babylon. Interestingly, the king makes amends for each of the sins that he had committed when he was ruler before. Consider him again in the following positions:
Instead of erecting graven images of idols, Manasseh fortified the city of Jerusalem against the enemy. Similar to Uzziah (2 Chron. 26.9) and Jotham, 2Chron.27.3, he restored the area of Ophel and the vicinity. Now, instead of disregarding the efforts of his forefathers, Manasseh sought to pursue similar paths of godliness. We must also remember that to follow the godly example of those who have lived before us, is not to be ‘old-fashioned’, rather it is to be faithful to God and to His Word.
2Chron.33.15-16 states that Manasseh took away the idols from the House of the Lord and repaired the altar. All in all, he shows much more respect to the Lord’s name and house. Instead of sacrificing his own children, v6, he sacrificed peace and thank offerings, v16. Thus, the genuineness of Manasseh’s repentance was seen in his devotion to things spiritual. The same approach should be followed today for, when overtaken with sin, we demonstrate our contrite spirits by showing a reformed life, rather than merely stating that we have changed.
Instead of leading the people astray, Manasseh exhorted them to serve the Lord God of Israel, vl6. However, as verse 17 illustrates, it was easier to lead the people of Judah astray, than it was to bring them back to the Lord. ‘Nevertheless the people did sacrifice still …’. As Matthew Henry remarks, ‘Manasseh could not carry the reformation so far as he had carried the corruption. It is an easy thing to debauch men’s manners, but not so easy to reform them again,’ 1994, Vol.2, p.785. Therefore, whilst we can rejoice in the truth that we have a forgiving God, the truth still remains, the nature of sin is such that it brings its own disastrous legacy. For Manasseh, not only did the people continue their idolatrous practices, but his own son, Amon, followed the example of his father’s early years, v22. In short, we could say that Manasseh was a stumbling block to his own son! Much the same way as Abraham’s excursion into Egypt proved detrimental to his nephew, Lot, Gen.13.1,10. May we live in such a way that, when others follow, they will pursue godly paths.
Therefore, the narrative in relation to Manasseh provides both positive and negative ministry. On the positive side, we marvel at the patience and love of God, and rejoice in the possibility that wayward man; irrespective of the depth of sin, has the potential to change for the good. On the negative side, the effects of sin, even forgiven sin, can last for many years, perhaps even after the person who committed the sin has died.
See paper 1 for details of Bibliography/Figures
—to be continued (D. V.)
PROPHETIC PICTURES OF THE LORD
by J. E. Todd (England)
6. THE LAMB
The prophetic picture of the Lamb is unfolded step by step in the Scriptures.
Adam and Eve’s attempt to cover the shame of their sin by sewing fig leaves into aprons was unacceptable to God. ‘And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons,’ Gen.3.7. God presented them with the awfulness of sin by the slaying of an animal to provide them with skin as a covering. ‘Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skin, and clothed them,’ Gen.3.21. Thus was laid down the principle that, ‘The wages of sin is death,’ Rom.6.23.
God’s insistence upon blood atonement for sin is shown in His rejection of Cain’s offering of the fruit of the ground, Gen.4.3, and His acceptance of Abel’s offering of a lamb of his flock. ‘And Abel, he also brought the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel, and to his offering: but unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect’, Gen.4.4-5. Abel had learned this lesson from His parents, and obeyed it by faith. ‘By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts,’ Heb.11.4.
In the incident of Abraham’s offering of Isaac, the principle of substitution is emphasised. God rejected human sacrifice, which is an abomination to Him, Jer.19.4-5. Abraham said, "My son, God will provide Himself a Lamb for a burnt offering," Gen.22.8. Then a substitute was offered instead of Isaac. ‘And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son,’ v.13.
In the judgment of Egypt at the Passover time it was necessary to shelter from the judgment of God under the blood of the lamb. "Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male … the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. And they shall take the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses … And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, when I smite the land of Egypt,’ Ex.12.5-7,13. The obedience of faith has always been God’s condition of salvation.
Isaiah the prophet summed up this prophetic picture of the coming Lamb. ‘The LORD hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter … thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin … By His knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for He shall bear their iniquities. … He bare the sin of many,’ Is.53.6-7,10-12.
But it was for John the Baptist to introduce the Lord Jesus Christ to the nation of Israel as the atoning Lamb of God’s providing. "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world," Jn.1.29.
Both Paul and Peter declare that the Lord Jesus Christ is our Passover Lamb, under whose blood we shelter to escape the judgment of God. Paul said, "For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us," lCor.5.7. Peter said, "Ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things … but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot," 1Pet. 1.18-19. "Your lamb shall be without blemish," Ex.12.5, was to be the condition of the Passover lamb.
John the apostle portrays the risen and exalted Christ as the Lamb once slain. "And I beheld, and, lo … stood a Lamb as it had been slain … Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing … Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever," Rev.5.6,12-13.
—to be continued (D.V.)
ABRAHAM IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
by David McAllister (Zambia)
(4) ABRAHAM AND THE GREATEST PROOF, Rom.2.14-16
—"I will shew thee my faith by my works." Jms.2.18
In the previous paper, we saw how Paul, in Rom.4, used the example of Abraham to show that justification is by faith, and faith alone. In this paper, we will consider how James, in ch.2, also uses Abraham, to show justification by works.
Two mistakes are commonly made in comparing the teachings of Rom.4 and Jms.2. The first error is to think that Paul and James are contradicting one another. The second error is to put the two passages together, and to suppose that a person is saved by a combination of faith plus works. As we shall see, both these ideas are false. Paul and James are presenting two different sides of the same truth — justification is received by faith, and works are the result. Faith is the cause of justification; works are the effect. A person is not saved by faith plus works, but by a faith which results in good works.
In this passage, James establishes the reality of justification by works in several ways:
1. By Interrogation, v14
James opens with a rhetorical question, the answer to which is obvious; indeed, the question is phrased in such a way as to demand a negative answer: "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him?"
The man spoken of in v14 says he has faith. The word "say" is crucial here — it is what he professes with his lips, but there is no evidence of it in his conduct. When James asks, "Can faith save him?", the word "faith" has the definite article, i.e. "the faith." Thus James is asking, "Can the faith save him?" What faith? The faith that this man professes to have, a faith without works. The answer is evident: such a "faith" is not saving faith. Such a man is not saved.
2. By Illustration, v15-17
In v15,16, James gives an illustration of the futility of faith without deeds. To express a desire that a destitute brother be fed and clothed, and to have the means of supplying the need, but to fail to do so, is to render the expressed desire worthless.
This illustration serves at least two purposes:
- It gives us a very practical example of faith in action. To refuse help to a brother in dire need is to make a mockery of a profession of faith. Here we have a case which will test the reality of our faith.
- The phrase "Even so" at the beginning of v17 shows that v15,16 is also an analogy:- just as a professed desire for someone to have the needs of life supplied is empty, if there are no works to prove it, in like manner, a profession of faith is empty if there are no works to prove it.
3. By Conversation, v18-20
Now James give us part of a conversation, in which "a man", vl8, who is saved is talking to another "man", v20, who claims to have faith, but no works, and who therefore is unsaved. Two points are clear from these verses:
- v18: you may say that you have faith. But there is no person who can see that, unless you show it by your works. It is not enough to say you have faith — you must show it by your works.
In other words, works are the means by which the reality of one’s faith is demonstrated. This phrase "I will shew thee my faith by my works" is sufficient to show that James is not here teaching salvation by "faith plus works" — the word "shew" is all-important. It is a matter of the works showing the faith that is already there.
- v19: it is not enough to give verbal assent to fundamental statements of the faith. For example, to state belief in one God does not mean you are saved — even the demons believe in the one true God, and they certainly are not saved. Indeed, it is because they know they are doomed that they tremble with fear of Him. Mental assent to certain facts is not saving faith.
Thus, in v20, the speaker concludes that a statement of faith, without works to verify it, is dead.
4. By Examination, v21-25
James now proceeds to examine two Old Testament cases, to show justification by works, similarly to how Paul uses two Old Testament cases in Rom.4, to show justification by faith. Like Paul, James uses Abraham as one of his examples, but, whereas Paul uses David as his second example, James uses an ancestor of David — Rahab.
Each case is introduced by a question of identical construction: v21: "Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had …?" v25: "Was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had …?"
What a contrast! "Abraham our father" and "Rahab the harlot" — a revered patriarch and a reviled prostitute! Yet they both prove the same point — justification by works.
(a) Abraham, v21-24
V21 shows that Abraham was justified by works in offering up Isaac. This story is recounted in Gen.22. As we saw in the previous paper, Abraham was pronounced to be justified by faith in Gen.15. The order is very important. The events in Gen.15 took place some 40 years before those in Gen.22. As soon as Abraham believed, he was justified. In ch.22 his faith was tested and proved to be genuine.
The order shows the falsehood of the idea that one is justified by "faith plus works." Abraham was justified by faith first, then afterwards by works. The faith came before the works. If the order in Genesis had been reversed: if we had read in ch.15 of his being justified by works, and then 40 years later that he was justified by faith, it would have been a different story. But it is not so. The works were the consequence of his faith.
In v22, we read that "faith wrought with his works." The thought here is not that his faith and works worked together to produce salvation, but rather that the two (faith and works) were inseparable:- the faith produced the works, and the works gave evidence of the faith. Neither could exist in isolation. Thus, when James says, "by works was faith made perfect," the phrase "made perfect" means "carried to the end." The faith found its fulfilment in action.
So, in v23, James says, "the Scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness." It was indeed fulfilled, practically. Here was proof of Abraham’s faith. He proved himself to be "the Friend of God," v23, by what he did. If I claim that I am a friend to a certain person, no-one will take me seriously if I just state it, I have to show it practically. So it was for Abraham, his offering up of Isaac showed that he was not just God’s friend by profession, but in reality.
Hence James concludes in v24: "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only."
(b) Rahab, v25
By receiving the spies and helping them to escape, Josh.2, Rahab showed that she was a true believer. If she had refused to receive the spies, or if she had handed them over to the city authorities, no-one would have given any credence to her professed belief in the LORD of Israel. Her works proved that her faith was real. She was "justified by works."
It is interesting that both Abraham and Rahab are also mentioned in Heb.ll, the great chapter on faith, and that the very same incidents that in Jms.2 are said to show justification by works, are said in Heb.ll to be "by faith":-vl7: "By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac;" v31: "By faith thee harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace."
It was "by faith" that these works were done. Faith was what enabled them to do the works. Thus we see once again that the faith led to the works, and the works proved the reality of the faith.
5. By Application, v26
Finally, James states a scientific fact, and applies it to faith and works. The scientific fact is: "the body without the spirit is dead." The application of this fact is: "so faith without works is dead also." James likens faith to a human body, and works to the spirit of the person. A body without the spirit is dead. So is a claim to faith without works. It is dead. It is worthless. James therefore concludes by stating what he has already said twice, v 17,20: "faith without works is dead."
Some try to solve the problem of the supposed discrepancy between Rom.4 and Jms.2 by saying "We are justified by faith before God, and by works before men." However, this is not a satisfactory solution. For one thing, the offering of Isaac and the hiding of the spies were private, not public, acts. Also, these actions would hardly have seemed too impressive to men: they would have regarded them as (respectively) murder and treason, not a cause for justification!
Rather, the solution is that Paul and James are using the term "justified" in two different senses:
- To "be justified" can mean to be made righteous. This is what Paul is describing in Rom.4, where he shows that a man is made righteous by faith alone.
- But to "be justified" can also mean to be shown to be righteous, or to be acknowledged as being righteous. It is used in this sense of God in Lk.7.29, of the Lord Jesus Christ in lTim.3.16, and of wisdom in Matt.11.19. In none of these cases could it mean to be made righteous; it means that their righteousness (which they already had) was acknowledged or demonstrated. This is the sense in which James is using the term. It is the demonstration of a believer’s justified state, by his works.
So, in Rom.4 we see how righteousness is effected; in Jms.2 we see how it is evidenced. In Rom.4 we see the act of justification; in Jms.2 we see the actions of those who are justified. The faith that saves brings forth fruit unto God.
Thus, there is no contradiction between Paul’s use of Abraham in Rom.4 and James’ use of Abraham in Jms.2. We do not go along with Luther, who felt he had to choose between Paul and James, and chose the former and rejected the latter. There is no need to "reconcile" their teachings:- friends do not need to be reconciled. Paul and James are not standing face-to-face, fighting each other; they are standing back-to-back, facing different foes. Paul, in Romans, is opposing the false teaching which says that a person can be made just by human efforts. James is opposing the false teaching which says that, as long as a person has faith, he can live anyway he likes. Paul and James do not contradict each other — they complement each other.
In closing, it behoves each of us to ask ourselves — how is my "faith"? Is it in word only, or does it manifest itself in actions? The greatest proof (indeed, the only proof) that a person is saved is how he behaves. Does my life give evidence that I am truly the Lord’s?
We have looked together at a believer’s faith and works. Faith that I exercised in the past ought to manifest itself in the present, by works. But what about my future as a believer? What does God promise to the person who has been justified? In the next paper, in the will of the Lord, we will see how Abraham is used to confirm to us God’s promises to His people.
—to be continued (D.V.)
Christian Conduct in a Modern World
by Walter A. Boyd (South Africa)
No.3 — THE CHRISTIAN CITIZEN (Continued)
(c) The Christian – A Heavenly-Citizen (Romans 13.11-14)
We now come to the final section of this very practical chapter, in which we have been confronted with our responsibilities as citizens. The Apostle has brought us face to face with daily responsibilities to the State and others. The full impact of these duties is now felt in verses eleven to fourteen, were we are reminded of our link with heaven. The reminder that we are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ and thus citizens of heaven who are awaiting His personal return to remove us from this world of darkness is the primary reason for the Apostle’s exhortations. Each verse in this short section is replete with wholesome truth for heavenly citizens and can be summarised briefly as follows:
- v11 — Spiritual Vigilance;
- v12 — Spiritual Equipment;
- v13 — Spiritual Behaviour;
- v14 — Spiritual Provision.
This paragraph contains short terse commands that are designed to make us take note of serious matters. We are to open our eyes, have our senses fully alert and our hearts finely tuned to heaven. It is very easy in this modern world to allow the stupefying influence of sin and the flesh to deaden the heart to the Word of God and essential truth. Paul is telling us that the hour to waken is already here — the Rapture is upDn us, the Lord is at hand. The time for slumber and its accompanying sloth is over; waken up, walk properly and wear the Lord Jesus Christ!
1. The Requirement for Spiritual Vigilance, v11.
"And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake our of sleep: For now is our salvation nearer that when we believed." The Requirement for Spiritual Vigilance is stated clearly and in straightforward language. Here, we are not only given a command to wakefulness but the Apostle also presents two great truths, which if apprehended and continually held, will ensure we remain wide awake. This is an urgent trumpet call to awake.
An Appreciation of the time period in which we are living; "knowing the time." To appreciate the point we are presently at in the dispensation of God’s grace ought to wake us out of spiritual slumber. It is clear to even the casual observer that this world is heading for climactic events, all of which are preceded by the return of the Lord for His people. How near that event must be!
Coupled to that appreciation of the time should be an Awareness of the Lord’s Coming. Time is not passing for no reason, in the purpose of God the passing of time is bringing us nearer that great day when the prophetic programme will recommence. The rapture will bring to an end the day of God’s grace with all the privileges we have for service. This awareness ought to cause a genuine awakening out of sleep for every child of God. Salvation is used here in the ultimate sense as deliverance from all of sin into the perfect blessing of His presence. Notice in this verse how the time is narrowed to intensify the urgency to awake: "Knowing the time" (the season), "high time (present hour), "Now" (immediate moment). Paul evidently looked for the imminent return of the Lord, which would bring salvation in all its fullness. The phrases " high time," "nearer," "far spent," "at hand," all indicate an attitude of immediate expectancy. Paul extends the metaphor for slothfulness, not just the stupor of sleep but also the lack of energy and effort it infuses. The coming of the Lord is nearer than ever it was and every day brings it nearer. We must, therefore, waken up and fulfil our responsibilities of citizenship, as citizens of both heaven and of earth. We are destined for heaven and will soon be introduced to that place by the Rapture — we need to start behaving like it!
2. The Resources in Spiritual Equipment, v12
The Resources in Spiritual Equipment are freely available for the Christian who is serious about living for God in this world. "The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Nothing can be so salutary as the thought that the Lord may come at the next moment. In this verse the Apostle skilfully employs a number of stark contrasts to make his point clear: night/day; darkness/light; casting off/putting on.
The believer who is vigilant will soon appreciate the need for spiritual equipment if he is to survive in a dangerous world. Before we are commanded to put on the armour of light, Paul gives compelling reasons to do so; the Advent of the Day and the Activities of the darkness.
a) The Advent of the Day — "the night is far spent the day is at hand." Paul wants us to understand the character of the time in which we live. Describing it as "night" indicates forcefully the presence of darkness in addition to the absence of light. That darkness brings with it the opportunity for activities that are unseemly and sinful. This world is a night scene, dark and full of the eerie presence of evil. "The day is at hand," reminds us of the character of the land to where we are travelling. The Rapture will usher us into the glory of the presence of the Lord with its never-ending day. That day with all the congeniality of its presence is right at hand, we are on its threshold. Surely those who are living on the threshold of "the day" will never be found engaged in the activities of the night and darkness.
b) The Activities of Darkness are specified in v13. We should not restrict our minds to these examples, the works of darkness include any activity that finds its source in the realm of Satan’s power or that shies away from the light of the truth of God’s Word.
c) The Armour of the Light (armaments, weapons) is to be personally appropriated by each Christian. Here we are reminded of the basic antipathy of this age to all that is the Lord’s. The presence of darkness in this world means that we are in conflict with infernal foes. In that conflict we cannot defend ourselves nor wage war against the darkness in our own strength but God has provided all that we need to withstand and overcome the enemy. Paul repeats these themes in the Ephesian epistle, where in 5.8 he mentions the change from the darkness to the light and then in 6.13 we are to take the armour of God. In Ephesians the emphasis is upon defensive armour but here in Rom.13 the emphasis is upon the weapons of offence. The "armaments of the light" is a stronger expression than just a neutral description of those things that pertain to the realm of the light. Paul explains what he means as dressing oneself in the weapons of the light as "put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ" in vl4. When it comes to combat with the darkness the only suitable and effective resource is the Lord Jesus Christ. He has already defeated the darkness at Calvary and as we live in Him and fully manifest our union with Him we will overcome the darkness in the present world. Just as we must decisively cast off like night attire the works of darkness, so too we must dress ourselves in the Lord Jesus Christ. The responsibility is mine; to daily appropriate the Lord Jesus Christ in all His fullness.
—to be continued (D.V.)
MY CONVERSION AND CALL (68)
by Adillo Dos Passos (Brazil)
In 1981 I was a part-time leader in the Roman Catholic Church in a rural part of the state of Rondonia, Brazil where we had a farm and cattle. I served under a priest called Father Romano, now dead, and another called Father Jose, who today is the Archbishop of the city of Porto Velho in the state of Rondonia. Knowing that I was a sinner and fearing a Holy God I was thus hoping to obtain my soul’s salvation and so I served faithfully and was well respected by all, until one day something happened which changed my life.
I was at home preparing a message I had been asked to give about the Catholic communion and Mass, using the printed notes which we received from our superiors. My wife, Irene, came into the room and pointing to the large pile of notes I was studying, said "Check those notes with the Bible to see if they are right." I was shocked and somewhat annoyed by this remark and told her to go to the kitchen and make us a cup of tea, but that voice came with such a force to me that it was as if a sword had penetrated my heart, and I knew it had to be obeyed. Greater still was my surprise and anguish when upon checking the references used in the notes I found they were clearly misinterpreting the Scriptures. Greatly shocked, I immediately went into the bedroom and kneeled beside the bed and cried to God with tears falling to the floor and in agony of soul I prayed "Oh my God, don’t let me go to hell, have mercy on me Lord and show me the way of salvation if I am on the wrong road."
I cannot describe the anguish and affliction that we passed for some days as we sought someone to teach us the way of salvation but didn’t find anyone to help and even now the memory of those days still brings pain. The surprising thing to me was how that those few words of advice from Irene, who never had read the Bible and knew nothing of what it said, could have had such a profound effect upon me.
Finally I decided to go and speak to my superiors in the city of Ji-Parana, some 20 miles away and tell them that I wouldn’t be giving the message they had asked for and that we wouldn’t be returning to the Catholic Church, for our eyes had been opened from the Bible and we could see the error of the teaching we had received and were expected to give, not only about the Mass, but many other things as well. The two priests asked me with which type of "Protestants" I had been talking and I explained that I hadn’t spoken to any Protestant but had been examining the Scriptures and comparing their notes. When I said I no longer could continue in their service, they wept and I wept also. Father Romano then asked me where I was planning to worship and I answered that I didn’t know but was searching for a group of people who serve the Lord and follow only His Word, and that if I couldn’t find such people I would just study the Bible and pray at home with my family. I then asked him if he thought I could find such a group? Father Jose said "It will be very difficult" and Father Romano added "Yes, it will be difficult, but you will find them," so that encouraged me to keep looking.
I tried many denominations and religions, but none of them was following the sound teaching of God’s Word and obeying the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ. One day when in a place about 20 miles from home, I saw a hall with a sign outside which said "CASA DE ORACAO" ("House of Prayer") and showing the times of meetings which I noted down. Later, Irene and I went to one of their meetings and we really liked the simplicity of it and the emphasis made on God’s Word, but when we spoke to them afterwards they clearly didn’t trust us and the more I explained my background, the more suspicious they became. When I asked if they would come to our area and preach the Gospel, they made excuses why they couldn’t come! However we kept on going there and learnt a lot and continued asking for help in our area as we had many friends now showing interest in the Gospel. Finally, one elderly man, brother Salomao Geraldo, agreed to come. He commenced Gospel meetings in a community near our farm and continued each Lord’s Day for eight months, at the end of which time 17 people had professed salvation and were baptized, including Irene and myself. What a joy and what a blessing those meetings were to us all!
Soon after this, due to a very tragic and cruel death in my family and with much pressure upon us to seek vengeance, we no longer could remain in that area and the Lord comforted us and directed us through Scriptures such as lTim.6.11, 1Pet.3.11, Matt.10.23. We sold everything we had, farm, cattle, horses, land etc. at cheap prices and left with letters of commendation from the assembly already mentioned for the neighbouring state of Parana. We really didn’t know where we were going and tried city after city renting houses for a time and after two months arrived in Brasilia where we had some Gospel meetings in our rented home. It was a nice place and a good climate but I felt the Lord was leading us still further northwards. During this time I always prayed "Heavenly Father, lead us to the place where we can serve Thee best," but after praying thus I always said to my family "We are going to find a nice place to live with asphalt roads, telephones, Gospel Hall within 200 metres" — little did I know then that God had other very different plans for us!
In September 1984 we moved north again and arrived in the town of Santarem, Para. We had heard of brother Jose Penna and others who laboured in the Gospel in the Santarem region and soon we found where the local assembly met near Jose’s house and were received into fellowship. Helped by the assembly, we soon were having Gospel meetings in our rented house. However, after about a year there, we felt led to move out to the Transamazon Highway, in the forest some 300kms from Santarem. The Santarem brethren had their doubts about this plan as we were still young in the faith and there wasn’t a single known believer there, much less an assembly. The1 road was very different from the asphalt I had promised my family and there wasn’t even a post office, never mind telephones! However, God’s hand was with us, even though we still didn’t yet know His plan for that place. We arrived at KM 85 on a Saturday night and the next morning while reading the Bible together, some people from the area came to visit us and to help in whatever way they could. We invited them to hear the reading with us and preached the Gospel of Christ to them and afterwards they asked if they could do this every Sunday and would it be alright if they brought their friends? What an opportunity and pleasure!
On the following Sunday, 30 people turned up to hear God’s Word. We then planned to meet also every Wednesday and Saturday evening to study the Bible together. After two months of this I realized we needed help from Santarem and returned to ask for some of the brethren to come and help in the preaching and teaching. Some came regularly and souls were saved and the assembly work started at KM85. A little later, when some were baptized, the Gospel hall was built from local timber 150m from our cottage home. We planted bananas and other fruits to make our living during this time.
After five years when the work was more established we were praying about a possible move to another needy place. We then heard about a town called OBIDOS of about 45,000 people on the left bank of the Amazon River, some 150 kms above Santarem where brethren from the Santarem region were visiting with Gospel tracts each month and had made a few contacts for Gospel meetings, but who were praying for the Lord to send helpers to live in Obidos. The Lord continued to bless at KM 85, truly His love and grace and mercy are infinite and as we continued to pray, it became clear that we should move to Obidos. So, in November 1990, after six years in the forest near the Transamazon Highway, and five years breaking bread there each Lord’s Day, we left our cottage home with its productive fruit plantations, which have no lasting value, and moved to Obidos with no place there to live. The grace of God abounded and soon we were able to buy a small wooden house where we started to have regular Gospel meetings. We made and sold bread and other foodstuff to earn our living and soon another faithful young brother, Solomon Gabriel, came from Sao Paulo with an exercise to help in the new work and helped greatly in preaching the gospel and soon the first fruit appeared. The Lord provided a good-sized plot of land with a large house already built which served as the first Gospel Hall and when some were baptized we commenced to break bread there in 1992.
About this same time we felt the Lord was leading us to full-time service in His work and we made this exercise known to our brethren in Santarem and at KM 85 and they jointly gave us their commendation. We are now almost 10 years here in Obidos and even though we are unworthy servants, by His grace we continue to this day in the Lord’s work.
(Translated by S. Davidson, Santarem)
Good Tidings from Heaven
THERE IS NO GOD
In this ‘enlightened’ age of radical free-thinking, when people are encouraged to question everything and come to their own conclusions, many are waxing bolder and more vociferous and the existence of God is being disputed and denied If men could only explode the myth of God’s existence, if only they could prove there is no God, they could divorce themselves from every obligation to this ever-present, all-seeing, all-knowing God They could at last live for the present only and sin with impunity, free from the fear of eternal retribution But THERE IS A GOD and mere atheism or agnosticism cannot dispel that fact, a God who is the Creator of all and to Whom all, without exception, are responsible
His finger-prints are upon all creation, His glory is displayed in the firmament He has unfurled above the earth, His handiwork is all around us "When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained " Ps 8 3,4 "By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth," Ps 33 6
He is not a God who sits dispassionately upon His throne, insensitive and unmoved by all that is happening in the world, "for the eyes of the Lord run to and fro through-out the whole earth " 2Chron 16 9 All through our lives, although we may not like to admit it, we are entirely dependent upon God for every breath and every moment
At times He has shown His grave displeasure with the sin and rebellion of His creatures He was aware of the sin committed by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and drove them from that fair paradise He saw the increasing wickedness of the ante-deluvians, their disregard for God as though He saw not, knew not and cared not and He caused a flood to overflow the whole earth and "all in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died," Gen 7.22
The Scriptures abound with God’s judgmental dealings with nations, cities, families and individuals Be warned, dear friend, God has seen your every sin and if they are not forgiven, you will be punished "These things hast thou done and I kept silence, Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself But I will reprove thee and set them in order before thine eyes Now consider this, ye that forget God " Ps 50.21,22
But wonder of wonders, He is a Saviour God and a God of love "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life," Jn 3.16 "God our Saviour, Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth," 1Tim 2.3,4 "But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us," Rom 5.8
The greatest proof of His love is Calvary He spared not His own Son that we might be spared He punished Him for our sins that we might never suffer the dread penalty of sin He exacted from Christ the full price of our redemption As I consider Calvary, the only conclusion I can reach is, that God genuinely and earnestly desires my eternal blessing Can I dare to reluse His gracious offer of salvation and live as a fool, knowing that if I die unsaved, "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God," Heb 10 31