ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle
TESTIMONY IN TROUBLOUS TIMES
by I. McKee
CHRISTIAN CONDUCT IN A MODERN WORLD
by W. A. Boyd
by J. A. Davidson
by W. W. Fereday
TRANSLATION OR TRIBULATION?
by J. B. D. Page
MY CONVERSION AND CALL
by W. N. Gustafson
The apostle Paul was in prison. He did not know when he would be released and some on the outside were preaching in such a way as to "add affliction to my bonds," Phil.1.16. His work was being attacked, division in the assembly was a possibility and there were some who were in danger of giving way to the enemy.
He did receive encouragement by the arrival of Epaphroditus who brought with him a gift of fellowship from the saints at Philippi. As he wrote the letter of acknowledgement he sought to encourage them in the ways of the Lord. In the midst of all his problems and the darkness of the situation he told them again and again of joy and rejoicing. The lesson is clear, if we are to overcome the difficulties surrounding us we must not become sour in our souls but retain a spirit of joy in the Lord. He did not enjoy the circumstances but he enjoyed in the Lord in spite of them.
Thus in chapter three he is looking up. This is the direction with which we need to be more occupied. Often looking around will depress and discourage but there is no discouragement with Him. Yet it did not mean that Paul was oblivious to the need around. Hence in the chapter we find him: WARNING; WRESTLING; WEEPING; WATCHING.
WARNING – v2 "Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision."
He is not afraid to identify the sources of error and he specifies each by using the word ‘beware’ three times and each carries the definite article. THE dogs = their UNCLEAN CHARACTER and they were SAVAGE. THE evil workers = UNGODLY CONDUCT and they were SINFUL. THE concision = UNSCRIPTURAL CREED and they were SUNDERING. They mutilated the truth of God and we still need to be warned against such so as to avoid both them and their evil teaching.
However, he did not dwell on these unworthy people. He had a greater desire and that was to appreciate the full reason for his salvation. Thus he was WRESTLING, v12 "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus." He appreciated that even after 30 years of Christian experience the fulness of salvation was still to be pursued. Too few have an exercise about this matter and they meander through life without finding the path God would have for their lives.
As he considered the situation around him, even though he was rejoicing in the Lord we find him WEEPING. "(For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things,)" v18-19. He does not so much listen to their talk but he looks at their walk and comes to the conclusion that these are "the enemies of the cross of Christ." In our day, some would tell us not to judge, not to be harsh, be ever so tolerant, until the situation arrives when almost anything and anybody is accepted as being Christian. The apostle underlines throughout his ministry that it is not a profession, nor a story, not a date on the calendar, not even a verse of Scripture which proves the reality of salvation – it is a life of godliness. His conclusion was not that of a hard austere preacher. It caused him to weep.
What will lift his spirit and ours?
WATCHING, "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," v20-21.
We do not find our solace in the murky political world. "Our conversation" or our citizenship, commonwealth, politics "is in heaven." The word ‘is’, is not just the verb "to be" but as 2.6 "BEING in the form of God" ie, it is something fixed and unchangeable. We are absolutely sure of heaven and show by our living that our citizenship is there. Because we desire to be there "we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:" The word "look" implies that we do this with eagerness. Not a casual glance but an intense desire to see the Man we love.
What a change will take place then! These bodies of humiliation will undergo a tremendous change. There will be a change outwardly, a transformation, v21 "Who shall change" and a change inwardly, "it may be fashioned." The person is changed at conversion, the body at the rapture. With this John agrees, "when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is," 1Jn.3.2.
My dear fellow believers, as we see the darkness around us deepening and the love of many waxing cold, let us WARN; WRESTLE; WEEP; and above all WATCH. This may be the year when we all go to heaven together and see Him whom our souls adore. Amen!
Though these are the first days of another year in our fleeting lives, we are increasingly conscious that we are in the `last days’ alluded to by Paul in 2Tim.3.1. There is something very final about the word `last’ and soon Christians will utter their last prayer, face their last problem and shed their last tears. The last funeral of a believer will soon take place and at the Lord’s coming, in a moment, we will be changed and raptured to glory.
`This blessed hope illumes with beams most cheering, the hours of night.’
We are humbled to consider the mercies of our God in the year that is past and are sincerely grateful for all the help so willingly bestowed by His people in relation to the publication and distribution of the magazine. Many have been exercised to write articles for the edification and encouragement of the saints while others have prayed definitely and constantly for God’s blessing upon this ministry. Others have so generously helped in a practical way by their freewill offerings. It is so gratifying to know that there is still a deep interest in divine things as indicated by the encouraging letters received from time to time from believers in different countries.
A special word of thanks is due to our editor in ensuring that profitable material is published, to the Secretary and his wife for their unremitting labours and kind hospitality and to the Accountant for his valued services. It is our heartfelt desire that we may continue to enjoy your prayerful and practical support and look to the Lord to fully compensate all who, in various ways, offer inestimable help in this work.
by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)
HAGGAI – PAPER 5 – "I AM WITH YOU, SAITH THE LORD"
Read Chapter 1.12-15
As we have seen, the Book of Haggai comprises four messages: (1) To reprove their idleness, 1.1-15; (2) To restore their confidence, 2.1-9; (3) To rebuke their unholiness, 2.10-19; (4) To reward their leader, 2.20-23.
1) TO REPROVE THEIR IDLENESS, 1.1-15
The first message can be divided into two sections:
A) The reproof, v1-11;
B) The result, v12-15.
A) THE REPROOF, v1-11
We have already studied Haggai’s searching message: "Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this house lie waste?", v4. God’s people had put their own interests before His interests, and, centuries later, Paul was obliged to say, "All seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s," Phil.2.21. Bearing in mind that the "Lord’s house" today is the local assembly, (see 1Tim.3.15), we should seriously assess our own priorities. Is His house ‘lying waste’ today because we are ‘doing our own thing? ‘We are happy to report, however, that Haggai’s preaching was heeded, and this brings us to:
B) THE RESULT, v12-15
The little word "then" occurs twice in this section. See v12 and v13. In the first case, it introduces what they did: Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God." They recognised how wrong they had been to neglect God’s interests in favour of their own. In the second case, it introduces what God did: "Then spake Haggai the Lord’s messenger in the Lord’s message unto the people, saying, I am with you, saith the Lord."
We can analyse these verses as follows:
Their attitude, v12. They "obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and the people did fear before the Lord."
Their assurance, v13. "I am with you, saith the Lord."
Their activity, v14-15. "They came and did work in the house of the Lord of hosts, their God."
Their attitude, v12
"Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God had sent him, and the people did fear before the Lord." We must notice:
a) Their unity
The leadership was united. Zerubbabel and Joshua acted together. The people were united. "All the remnant of the people" were involved. The leadership and the people were united. "Zerubbabel … and Joshua … with all the remnant of the people." The leaders and the people acted as one. This delightful unity of purpose contrasts with previous self-interest: "ye run every man to his own house," v9. Other references show that unity characterised God’s people this time. See 1.14, 2.2, 2.4. They had one common aim and purpose.
This reminds us of Ps.133: "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity … for there the Lord commanded the blessing." It also reminds us of Phil.1.27, "Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit with one mind striving together (not, ‘striving with each other’) for the faith of the gospel." There is nothing worse than a bunch of irreconcilable people trying to preach a message of reconciliation! In this connection, we should also notice the occurrence of "one accord" in Acts. "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication," 1.14. "They were all with one accord in one place," 2.1. They continued daily with one accord in the temple," 2.46. "They lifted up their voice to God with one accord," 4.24. "They were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch," 5.12. "It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord," 15.25.
Assembly unity is promoted and maintained by activity. Fellowship inevitably suffers when God’s people are idle. The old proverb is so true: ‘the Devil finds work for idle hands to do.’ He also finds work for idle minds to do! People who are busy in the Lord’s work just haven’t got time to fall out with each other! Working together, with common desires and objectives, is a great preservative from disharmony. We have a wonderful example in the book of Nehemiah where "the people had a mind to work," 4.6. Just look at them ‘labouring together’ in ch.3! You never saw such a mixed bunch! But their diversity did not hinder their unity. The construction of the tabernacle provides another excellent example. See Ex.35. The men, v23-24, the woman, v25-26, and the rulers, v26-27 were all involved.
We must therefore "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace," Eph.4.3. It is often pointed out that the Holy Spirit creates that unity by indwelling each believer in the Lord Jesus. We do not make the unity. But we must keep it! With this in mind, we must "consider one another to provoke unto love and good works," Heb.10.24. Alas, there are other ways in which we can provoke each other! "Let us therefore follow after the things that make for peace, and the things wherewith one may edify another," Rom.14.19. See also 1Thess.5.13. If you do needlessly upset or offend a fellow-believer, do not hesitate to apologise. A genuine apology is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of spiritual strength.
b) Their obedience
They displayed their obedience in their relationship with God ("obeyed the voice of the Lord their God"), and in their recognition of Haggai ("and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God had sent him"). This contrasts vividly with Zephaniah’s description of God’s people: ‘She obeyed not the voice; she received not correction; she trusted not in the Lord; she drew not near to her God," 3.2. We can go a little further in the contrast. Zephaniah describes the "princes" as "roaring lions," the "prophets" as light and treacherous persons,’ and the "priests" guilty of pollution and violence, 3.3-4. But what a difference here! Zerubabbel was a prince, Haggai was a prophet, Joshua was a priest, and all three were honourable servants of God.
Their relationship with God. They "obeyed the voice of the Lord their God." We all began our Christian lives by obeying the gospel. See Rom.6.17, "But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you." Romans begins and ends with reference to "the obedience of faith," 1.5; 16.26. Compare Acts 6.7, "And the Word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith." But if we commenced our Christian life by "the obedience of faith," then we are to continue our Christian life on the same principle. "As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance," 1Pet.1.14. It would be very nice indeed if it could be said of us, "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed," Phil.2.12. We must never forget the words of Samuel to Saul: ‘Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams," 1Sam.15.22. This does not mean that obedience is easy, especially if the emotions are involved.
Their recognition of Haggai. They "obeyed … the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God had sent him." They recognised that he was "the Lord’s messenger in the Lord’s message." Haggai was not one of the prophets described in Jer.23.21, "I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken unto them, yet they prophesied." We must remember that it is not a man’s identity that is important, but a man’s ministry. "Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man," 1Cor.3.5 Compare Amos, "I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son; but I was a herdman, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit: and the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel," Amos 7.14-15. We must value and esteem servants of God, not because of their education or professional status, or even because of their interesting and engaging personalities, but because they bring the Word of God. Even then, they are simply servants exercising their God-given ministry: "as the Lord gave to every man."
We cannot fail to notice a significant change of language. When the people were occupied with their own houses and their own interests, God describes them as "this people." He does not acknowledge them. But now, with their change of attitude, and the resumption of work, He is "the Lord their God." See v12 (twice) and v14.
c) Their fear
"The people did fear before the Lord." In his comment on Ps.19.9, ("The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever"), C.I. Scofield writes, ‘The "fear of the Lord," is a phrase of the Old Testament … meaning reverential trust, with hatred of evil.’ Perhaps we could define it as a ‘reverential awe.’ It is not cringing fear, but a hatred of anything in our lives that will bring the Lord grief or displeasure. The late Montague Goodman (a lawyer) likened it to ‘the attitude of a devoted son to his much loved and honoured father, lest anything should mar the perfect harmony that subsisted between them.’ It is not surprising that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge," Prov.1.7, and "the beginning of wisdom," Prov.9.10. The early churches "had … rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied," Acts 9.31.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by Ian McKee (Northern Ireland)
Paper 5 — Personal Privilege and Perplexing Problems
We have already noted how few Jews returned to serve the Lord at Jerusalem. We shall now consider the outstanding example of disadvantaged persons who returned to serve and, in contrast, think about some from privileged backgrounds whose exercise was compromised by earlier carelessness.
The Nethinim and the children of Solomon’s servants (Ezra 2.43-58)
Although only 392 individuals returned from these two classifications, over one-fifth of the chapter is devoted to them, indicating the value God puts upon their exercise.
The term "Nethinim" means "given or dedicated ones." These people probably descended from the Gibeonites who were spared from death to serve under perpetual bondage as "hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God," Josh.9.23. Their numbers may also include descendants of other prisoners of war, which would explain why the names recorded in Ezra 2 were of Arabian, Babylonian, Edomite, Egyptian, and Syrian origin. As such their exercise in returning to recommence menial temple service was exemplary. Their actions afforded pleasure to God, particularly as untold thousands of Abraham’s descendants preferred Babylon to Zion.
Similar pleasure was brought to God by the return of the children of Solomon’s servants. These were possibly the descendants of foreign nationals enlisted by Solomon in the construction of the Temple, 1Kg.5.1. They may be skilled craftsmen.
Both groups valued their association with God’s purpose. They recognised that service in the things of God is not by natural right but according to Divinely bestowed privilege. They desire the opportunity to restore, in some little measure, that to which their forebears had made a distinct contribution. And in returning as Nethinims and the children of Solomon’s servants, they demonstrate that they have no aspirations for prominence.
by Walter A. Boyd (South Africa)
No.4 — THE CONSIDERATE LIFE (Continued)
(D) Respect the Weaker Brother (Romans 14.14-23)
It has been necessary to provide a second paper for this concluding consideration in respect for the weaker brother, which runs from v14 down to the end of the chapter at v23. It helps to underscore the weighty responsibility upon each of us, to notice that a whole chapter (ch.14) and part of another chapter (ch.15.1-7) have been given to the subject of relationships one with another. The amount of space given to the subject matter ought to satisfy our minds as to the need for it and impress upon our hearts the demand for obedience to it. Three great spiritual exercises are taught in these few verses:
1. Following after Peace (v19).
2. Practising Self-Denial (v21).
3. Exercising Faith (v22,23).
1. FOLLOWING AFTER PEACE (v19)
"Let us therefore follow after the things that make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another."
(A) The Pursuit of things that make for peace. "Let us therefore" translates the same expression as at the start of v12. It is helpful to note the structure of the truth taught by the apostle; being "acceptable to God," v18, flows from the responsibility of "giving account to God," v12. Similarly, what we are about to discuss in v19-23 flows from the concept of being "acceptable to God," in v18. Every revelation of Divine truth is given to provoke the response in my heart of seeking a way in which I may obey the practical implications of the truth. It is unfortunate that some develop an attitude to the Word of God that studiously avoids or ignores their personal and practical responsibility to its searching implications in Christian living. Too often we will discuss, debate and even disagree about the Word of God without ever a thought of our obedience to its demands. The exhortation to "follow after" (pursue earnestly, aim at) is a conclusion based upon the bondservice to Christ and acceptability to God of v18. This statement has the force of an imperative command and sets before us the required pursuit of things that engender peace in the company of saints and edification in the believer individually. The object of each and the order of both are vital to our understanding of them. If we pursue things that engender peace then peace will be the outcome. If we obtain peace then edification will be the outcome. If my activities disrupt the peace of the assembly, then I need have no doubt that I am engaged in demolition work, rather than building up and strengthening. Before I engage in any activity I need to ask myself, is this going to contribute to the peace of the assembly and hence the edification of the believers?"
If not, don’t pursue it since the work of God will be damaged. As seen in our previous study, peace is one of the distinctive features of the kingdom of God, v17, and ought to be pursued by the subjects of the kingdom. Simply put, a spiritual believer will not be spoiling for a fight. He will not have the fiery temperament that provokes a dispute or the pugnacious manner that pursues a showdown so as to make his point. These things are of the flesh. Of course, this is not to suggest that a peace-at-any-price mentality is adopted; that which will not withstand error and will cover up wrong doing to avoid the responsibility of confronting what is not of God. When troublemakers are "molly coddled" for the sake of peace, usually it will encourage a long-term sore to fester and spread its poison in the body. While the present situation will be pacified, be assured, tomorrow will see a bigger and worse eruption of the flesh.
(B) The Pursuit of Edification. Spiritual health is the direct result of spiritual harmony. Peace is not a commodity in itself but the command of the verse is that we pursue those things that contribute to peace. So too, edification is not a commodity in itself but is the result of pursuing these proper activities to their end. Both peace and edification should govern my activities. The idea is not that we seek peace in the midst of conflict but that we should pursue things that lead to peace, thus conflict is avoided. What a challenge in the diversity of assembly life!
2. PRACTISING SELF-DENIAL (v20,21)
"For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. It is good to neither eat meat, nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother is stumbled, or is offended, or is made weak."
In these two verses we are taken back to the foundational principle given at the start of the chapter — denying self for the benefit of others. There are two reasons for self-denial, clearly stated.
(A) Because of the Work of God, v20. "For meat destroy not the work of God."
If in the matters of meats and herbs etc., I place my own objectives above God’s, my rights rather than peace among the saints, then the work of God will be torn down. The verb destroy has the idea of tearing down a building in demolition. The "Work of God" is a general title for the activities within the kingdom of God. My pursuits ought to build up that work and not tear it down. It is a sad reflection on us that so often we are prepared to risk serious damage to the testimony by pursuing our own selfish goals rather than placing the work of God in the kingdom of God above everything else.
(B) Because of the Weaker brother, v21. Another matter to be taken into account is the possibility of stumbling, ensnaring or weakening a brother. We have covered the two problem areas of meat and wine earlier in the chapter, but now the apostle widens his teaching to include "anything." While the word "anything" is supplied by the translators of the KJV, it is required to give the full sense of the sentence. Any activity that threatens the steady walk and simple faith of a fellow-believer must be forfeited, even though in itself it is not wrong. If I persist in that "thing" to the detriment of a weaker believer, I will reap the consequences in lost reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
V20 re-states the principle of v14, that meat and drink in themselves are not inherently evil. Nevertheless, it is wrong for a man to eat anything or drink anything that causes another to stumble. V21 shows the seriousness of the truth taught. It is not a case of doing what is beneficial or better, it is a case of doing what is right. "It is good" means it is right. To do our own thing to the detriment of another believer is wrong.
3. EXERCISING OUR FAITH (v22,23)
"Hast thou faith? Have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin."
Those two verses take us right to the core of the matter; we go right to the heart of the believer as he walks with God. Here, as a conclusion to the teaching of the chapter, we get three primary principles that act as spiritual landmarks, from which to chart our course. They apply appropriately to every believer, to the strong and to the weak.
(A) The Freedom of Faith before God. "Hast thou faith? Have it to thyself before God."
The personal conviction of the strong brother to eat anything and the personal conviction of the weak brother to refrain from certain things must be based on faith before God. In his own heart he must have his convictions worked out before God as a matter of faith. It is too easy, and perhaps commonplace, to form our convictions by what will please others or to pursue a party line. This is wrong and any actions so taken do not spring from personal heart conviction before God and thus are not of faith. That being the case I must not impose my views upon another believer, for it is sin! "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin," v23. This principle of faith before God is applicable to the liberty of the strong and the scruples of the weak.
(B) The Happiness of a Clear Conscience. "Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that which he alloweth." If an action is "of faith," the conscience will not condemn and thus the believer will be "happy" or better translated "blessed." An uneasy conscience robs the heart of true blessing and happiness in the presence of God. This is of particular relevance to the strong believer.
(C) The Condemnation of Doubt. "He that doubteth is damned if he eat because he eateth not of faith." For a weak brother to eat meat with doubt in his heart and so disturb his conscience and give rise to feelings of guilt is to have his own conscience condemn him. Eternal damnation is not in question here, "condemnation" is the better word. Whatever a believer does — engaging in an activity or refraining from that activity, must be motivated by his own conviction before God so as to ensure a clear conscience and the absence of the pangs of guilt.
As we conclude this very searching chapter there have been words of counsel that we ignore at the peril of suffering loss at the Judgment seat of Christ. To the strong — do not assert your liberty; to the weak — do not violate your conscience. To all — do not blindly follow others so as to act without personal conviction before God. In all these matters, Scripture is plain, "whatsoever is not of faith is sin."
—to be continued (D.V.)
by J. A. Davidson (Northern Ireland)
PAPER 3 — ATHLETICS : THE RUNNER
In previous papers we have noticed how the Apostle, as he moved through the great cities of his day, drew lessons from the materials, structure and types which he observed. He would not only have seen humble houses to live in and great temples given over to idolatry but in Ephesus, Athens, Corinth, Rome and all the major cities of those days he would have seen a great amphitheatre. The historic remains of some of these vast constructions are preserved until this day. In those arenas, the Greek athletes strove in the contests which gave the pattern of the present day Olympics.
The Isthmian Games were an athletic event known to all his readers. They were held on alternate summers at Corinth. It was an event not to be missed by anyone of importance in all parts of Greece. As a national institution Paul was using familiar language as he spoke of the runner, the race and the rules. As discipline and self control were necessary for the athlete, so it was essential for the believer. As the Greeks applauded their heroes contesting in the running, wrestling and feats of endurance, Paul would remind the saints that we are in the race; we strive for masteries (contend in the games); we are made a spectacle (theatre) and we press toward the mark. With every breath and sinew, his eye upon the prize with unflagging zeal Paul continued in the race. "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus," Phil.3.14.
The believer has no interest in the ball games of the worldling but esteems it better to suffer loss in this world that he or she may win Christ. The names of national or local teams are not familiar to the saint who is pressing on with singleness of eye to the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. We follow our Forerunner in a greater race, we fight in the good fight of more noble cause. The sober believer, with the eye of faith set upon the incorruptible reward from the Righteous Judge, will have no interest in the corruptible toys and tinsel of sport.
Others have run the race before us. We are expected to lay aside every weight and run with patience as we consider the Lord Himself, Who reached the Throne by the way of the cross. John Baptist, though his race was energetic and very short; "fulfilled his course," Acts 13.25. The Gospel which brought us salvation, is considered as a runner. "That the Word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified," 2Thess.3.1. How beautiful are the feet of those who continue to publish the message. Paul himself, the race nearly over, about to breast the tape, could say, "I have finished my course," 2Tim.4.7. The grace of God in salvation has given us a good start. Do we esteem highly the blessing of an unblemished testimony and a good finish?
"Every man that striveth for the mastery is temporate in all things," 1Cor.9.25. Every Greek athlete had to produce a birth certificate, undergo strenuous training, conform to precise standards of discipline, must be temperate, show moderation, have a special diet, eat wholesome food and study the course. We must begin with a personal experience of the new birth for without it we are running in the wrong direction. The race, if run to God’s glory, requires sacrifice, the course is costly and there are things we may need to give up. Hindrances, hobbies and half heartedness will produce a loser. Again in this chapter Paul says, "I keep under my body." This requires self control and the starving of fleshy cravings. We often hear the question, "What harm is there in it?" If it is tempting to the flesh, it is an added weight which will impede progress in the race.
"Exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things," 1Tim.4.7-8. Bodily exercise pertains to this life but Paul would exhort a youthful Timothy unto exercise in godliness. In the priorities of the heavenly course, godliness comes before gift and in this sphere, holiness is healthiness.
"If a man also strive for masteries (contend in the games), yet is he not crowned, except he strive (contend) lawfully," 2Tim.2.5. When Paul first got saved, he said "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" The course before us is clearly set out in the Guide Book, the Word of God. In humble obedience, we should seek to follow straight paths, taking no short cuts, not stepping out of our allotted sphere of privilege and responsibility as brothers and sisters prepared to do the Lord’s will. It is good for the young believer to discover the course.
"None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I received of the Lord Jesus," Acts 20.24. Paul had a clear vision of the course, the hindrances and the finish. To make steady progress without wavering we need to have fixed singleness of eye; "serving the Lord with all humility of mind," Acts 20.19.
"We are made a spectacle (theatre) unto the world, and to angels, and to men," 1Cor.4.9. Every city held its contests, the people had their favourite heroes, the populace would come to cheer on the champion. Paul was in the arena, he was contending in the fight against the powers of darkness, he was in the thick of the conflict with the principalities of evil, every effort was being made to hinder him in the race and the crowd was not favourable. Thus while Paul was putting every drop of energy into the contest, the Corinthians were reigning as kings, relaxing in the gallery. "We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised," 1Cor.4.10. Are we in the race, straining every nerve, putting our last drop of energy into that which is Divine and Eternal? If we are sitting judging, criticising anything that is being done and finding fault with all about us, then we are just unworthy spectators.
There are differences in the strategy involved depending on whether the race is sprint, medium distance, obstacle, endurance or marathon. Paul knew of no holding back but warned of the obstacles in the path.
This requires strenuous effort. "I press toward the mark," Phil.3.14. All nerves and sinews strung, as the distance between his feet and the winning post diminished, he did not slack but pressed on more and more with all the spiritual vigour which he could muster.
We either use energy, effort and exertion by putting our best into it or we slack off, grow tired, feeble, faint and may even drop out. This demands spiritual energy. Though imprisoned in chains, Paul was still energetic in the race, full of spiritual vigour with the goal ahead, right on to the tape, eyes fixed on the glory of Christ.
The stress is on endurance. "Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain," 1Cor.9.24. The thought is not of a competition but run as a prize winner, the prize within reach of all. Run as Paul ran. "If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead," Phil.3.11. Paul’s aim was the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, being made comformable unto His death and so coming as near as possible to a resurrected man, and so win Christ.
There are obstacles in the race. "Ye did run well; who did hinder you?" Gal.5.7. The Judaisers and their teaching had been a stumbling block to the Galatians. It is possible to run and not finish the race. "Lest by any means, I should run, or had run, in vain," Gal.2.2. Some may get discouraged and dishearted and drop out of the race. Others sadly, may by neglect or carelessness, get tripped up and fall headlong.
When the race is finished, the reward will be righteous. "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me in that day," 2Tim.4.7-8. Paul had known unfair judgment by fellow believers and harsh treatment by the ungodly but he was confident that the Lord would rightly assess the course and assign the prize, He was the Righteous Judge. The Greek athlete in Paul’s day at best, could enjoy the applause of the people in the amphitheatre and receive a garland of leaves around his neck. Those green leaves would soon wither and pass, just as the awards of earth are corruptible. For the believer who maintains mastery over self, there will be an "incorruptible crown," 1Cor.9.25. Paul speaks of a "crown of rejoicing" for the soul winner, 1Thess.2.19. There is promise also of a "crown of righteousness … unto all them that love His appearing," 2Tim.4.8. May we esteem above all, a good finish and seek that we may be preserved diligent in the Race until we have gone the last mile of the way.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by W. W. Fereday
Paper 1 – "THE BEGINNING OF MONTHS"
The Passover was Israel’s fundamental institution. It marked the commencement of their history as a nation, and as a people in special relationship with Jehovah. That night in Egypt was never to be forgotten by them. Its terrible doings were to be rehearsed in the ears of their children from generation to generation.
What a night! The angel of Jehovah sweeping through Pharaoh’s empire from end to end with his destroying sword! Every house, save those which were marked with blood, was bereaved of its first-born. Every stable too was robbed of its choicest and best. One deep united wail ascended to heaven as Jehovah thus vindicated His offended majesty, and manifested His superiority over all the gods of the heathen, and over all the might and glory of men.
The awful story has a living voice for men today. God was acting in His judicial character as the avenger of sin. Pharaoh and his people had openly defied His commandments. Spite of plague after plague they still refused to let Israel go. Even divine long-suffering has its limits. Accordingly we have Jehovah in Ex.12 carrying into effect His original threat as given in ch.4.22-23: "Thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, thus saith Jehovah, Israel is My son, even My first-born; and I say unto thee, "Let My son go, that He may serve Me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy first-born." Are men more subject to the voice of God in our day than in Pharaoh’s time? Is it not a fact that His every commandment is outraged amongst us and His authority everywhere challenged? As surely then as He desolated Egypt in ages past, so will He desolate the whole earth shortly. None will escape His avenging hand but those who are sheltered beneath the Saviour’s blood.
The Passover chapter opens very suggestively. "And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, "This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: It shall be the first month of the year unto you," Ex.12.1-2. The month in question was Abib, otherwise Nisan, Ex.13.4, and corresponded to our March-April. It had hitherto been the seventh in order in reckoning, but from the time of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt it was to be counted the first. Redemption thus gives the people a new start with God. Even so is it now. When a man acknowledges himself a sinner in the divine sight, exposed to eternal wrath, and in simple faith takes refuge under the blood of the Lamb, he begins life anew. His past of sin and guilt is divinely expunged. His whole previous course of alienation from the life of God, Eph.4.18, is accounted as so much waste, and so utterly worthless that it is mercy on the part of God to wipe it out of all remembrance.
We are aware that this is not men’s usual; way of looking at things. When it becomes whispered around that such and such a one has become "converted," it is too commonly supposed that the individual referred to has said "goodbye" to "life" once for all. What men call "life" and what God so describes are two wholly different things. Men’s idea of "life" is the gratification of their own lusts and pleasures at the utmost possible distance from their Creator. Bitterness and disappointment result, as the Lord so graphically showed in the parable of the lost son in Lk.15, and as the wise man so painfully records (writing down on his own experience) in the book of Ecclesiastes. It is feeding upon ashes and striving after the wind. Life according to God is participation in divine joys. "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life," Jn.3.36. The happy man of whom this is true finds himself in heart and mind in touch with pleasures outside this world. The life he has thus received, as the fruit of sovereign grace, is of a heavenly order, and carries with it capabilities of entering into divine thoughts, divine affections, and divine counsels. This is life indeed. He who is in it looks back with shame and self-judgment upon all the years spent in ignorance of God and His Son. The knowledge of redemption involves a tremendous revolution; it is "the beginning of months" — a new point of departure, a new mode of being altogether.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by John B. D. Page (Sheringham)
Will the church pass through the tribulation? To answer this question, it is helpful to know what is meant by the word "tribulation." Its derivation is from the Greek word thlipis (sometimes translated "affliction") which means, primarily, ‘pressure’ on account of circumstances or due to antagonism of persons. Next, its use needs to be discovered. Sometimes it refers to the present – experimentally for believers; other times to the future – prophetically. The latter concerns us for the subject under consideration.
Between this present age of grace and the millennial age of righteousness, there will be the Tribulation even as Dan.12.1 says, "there shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time." This "time of trouble," surpassing all previous troubled times since the beginning of the nations, will be unprecedented just as the Lord Jesus said centuries later, "then shall be great tribulation such as was not since the beginning of the world," Matt.24.21. The Tribulation, still future, is said to be "the time of Jacob’s trouble," Jer.30.7, meaning it will be centred on Israel and affecting all nations, according to other Scriptures. Its duration, says Dan.9.27, will be "for one week" of years, that is, for seven years, commonly known as ‘Daniel’s 70th week." Elsewhere the Tribulation is described as "The great day of the Lord …, that day is a day of wrath, a day of darkness and gloominess, …" Zeph.1.14f. During those seven years the wrath of God will be poured out upon Israel for its sinfulness and wickedness, resulting in trouble and distress physically for the people and a moral cloud of darkness and gloom will hang over the nation.
Calamity will follow calamity such as wars, famines, pestilences, earthquakes, distress of nations and so "men’s hearts failing them for fear," said the Lord Jesus, Matt 24.6f; Lk.21.5f.
"Wars and rumours of wars:" these have characterised all centuries but historians have calculated that the 20th century has seen more wars and more deaths due to war than any of the preceding nineteen centuries. Despite this, worse is to come. In Israel, during the coming day of God’s wrath, a river of blood will reach the bridles of the horses for a distance of 1,600 furlongs – about 200 miles, Rev.14.20. Its horror and extent are too dreadful to contemplate.
"Famines" will then devastate the world. Down through the centuries, nations have never been entirely free from famines, which lead to hunger and death. Even today, according to a national press report, about 10 million people die due to famine and disease every year. During the Tribulation famine is likened to "a black horse" whose rider has "a pair of balances" in his hand, figurative of food shortages. This will mean that two staple foods of the poor, such as "a measure of wheat" and "three measures of barley," will cost "a penny," Rev.6.5f – "a penny" was a worker’s daily wage, Matt.20.2. This high cost of basic foods will undoubtedly result in hunger and death.
"Pestilences…" These deadly infectious maladies take a heavy toll of human life at times. For instance, malaria, once conquered by medical science, is raging again, causing about three million deaths annually, according to one press report. Similarly, tuberculosis was seemingly wiped out but has now reappeared with vengeance. This is true of other dreaded diseases. The situation will not improve, but worsen, when this present age gives place to the Tribulation and one-fourth of the earth’s population will be killed by the sword, hunger and pestilence, all of which we have just considered, besides by wild beasts, Rev.6.8, R.V.
"Earthquakes:" For centuries major earthquakes were exceptional and made headline news but, since 1948, the year when the present State of Israel was founded, such earthquakes of the magnitude of 7.0 or higher on the Richter scale have been too numerous to report, unless there was a heavy death toll. In 1997, according to The Times (2nd January 1998), 2,913 people were killed by 17 major earthquakes besides many thousands left homeless. The annual death toll is rising. This may be heading up for the "great earthquake" early in the tribulation, followed by another of unprecedented magnitude causing widespread devastation in urban areas, Rev.6.12; 16.18f.
Space forbids to mention Anti-Semitism, lawlessness and other dreadful features of these fearful seven years. The question arises whether the Church will face these frightening calamities which will overtake Israel and the world at that time. Referring to these unequalled troublous times, Jer.30.7 says, "Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of it." This unparalleled Tribulation will be, primarily, for the sifting of Israel and divine judgment for all their sins. This dreadful time is emphatically "the time of Jacob’s trouble" with the promise that "he will be saved out of it" – but not from it! Only one-third of them will the Lord deliver whilst the other two-thirds will be cut off and die, Zech.13.8f.
The Church, not to be confused with Israel, comprises all Jewish and Gentile believers from Pentecost to the Rapture. Some Christians, known as Tribulationists, teach that the Church will be raptured after the Tribulation on the same day as the Lord Jesus comes again in glory to the earth. Others, known as Pre-tribulationists, believe the Church will be raptured before the Tribulation. With these two diverse points of view in mind we ask, what saith the Scriptures?
In 1Thess.1.10 R.V. is Paul’s exhortation to believers: "to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivereth us from the wrath to come." Several decades earlier, John the Baptist had warned the Jews to flee from "the wrath to come," Matt.3.7, by which he meant flee from the Tribulation with all its horrors. In Paul’s use of the phrase "the wrath to come" which relates to believers, two words in the verse should be noted. The first is ‘rhuomai’ (Gk), translated "delivered" (AV) which implies a past event, but is better translated "delivereth" (R.V.). W. E. Vine gives the meaning "to rescue from’ and ‘preserve from,’ but not ‘through.’ The other word is "us" which embraces all believers of the present church age. As this age of grace ends, so the Tribulation will follow with all its divine judgment of the Jews and the nations, besides catastrophic horrors. But we, as believers, are assured that the Lord Jesus, for Whom we are waiting expectantly, will descend from heaven to rescue us from the imminent danger of God’s wrath to be poured out in judgment on this wicked world. As we shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, we shall be preserved from the terrible calamities about to overtake the world.
Let us now turn to another verse in the same epistle, 5.9: "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ." This 5th chapter opens with "the day of the Lord" when the wrath of God will be manifest immediately. However, God has not appointed us, as believers, to incur His wrath intended for the unrepentant wicked of this world, but He has purposed that we shall obtain salvation in its ultimate sense – that of the body. What a contrast – wrath for the ungodly and salvation for the godly! Of course, we are already saved but our salvation is progressive, relating to the past, the present and the future. Here, the future aspect of our salvation, its consummation, is in view. This will be experienced by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ to the air to snatch us from the impending wrath of God poured out during the Tribulation.
According to Rom.5.9 R.V., "…We shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him." As this is written in the future tense, it is still future assuring us that we shall be saved from the wrath of God that will befall the world. This will be only possibly by the coming again of the Lord Jesus Christ to the air before its onset.
In the light of these Scriptures, our prospect is not the Tribulation from which godly Jews will flee to the mountains of Israel, but Translation which will be a physical deliverance from its fearful horrors by the Lord Himself coming to the air for us. Truly, this is a blessed hope!
by Walter N. Gustafson (U.S.A.)
Even though my parents were unsaved, my mother brought me up strictly so that at 17, I became sincerely religious, joined the neighbourhood "church" and eventually taught a Sunday School Class. I didn’t smoke, drink or dance. After graduation from high school, I preached a high standard of morals to all with whom I worked, even the men at the Boston Gear Works.
I was sincere but I was sincerely wrong. I was really on the clean footpath down to hell. Prov.14.12 and 16.25 both say, "There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." In reading through the Gospels, I was startled one day by the Lord’s words in Lk.5.32, "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." I had thought, up until that moment, that Christ had come for people, like myself, who were trying to live a good life. I knew that I had sinned, but was not prepared to take my place as a sinner. I am thankful that God brought me to that place.
One Lord’s Day when the minister was away on vacation, some young people from the Providence Bible Institution, 40 miles away, were responsible for the meetings. One young man favourably impressed me. In giving his testimony, he said he was a Sunday School teacher before he was saved. He was the first person I ever heard say that he was saved. Being a Sunday School teacher myself I thought, "Maybe he has something that I don’t have." He surely did, for he had Christ as his own, personal Saviour and I had a religion without Christ. While he was speaking, I asked myself, "Why is it that I have been trying so hard and I don’t have any love, nor joy, nor peace in my heart like he does?" After they had left, I decided that I wanted what that young man had above all else.
Shortly afterwards, at the Boston Gear Works, I was transferred and met Mr. Thomas Harvey of the assembly that met at Cliff Street, Boston. He invited me to come with him to the Gospel Hall. I had never heard of a Gospel Hall, but if there was any possibility that I could find what I was looking for, I wanted to go.
The late Mr. Hugh Thorpe preached that night from Nicodemus, in Jn.3. Like Nicodemus, I was moral and religious, but I had never been born again. Near the end of the meeting he said, "Don’t wait until you’re better or you may never come at all." Those were strange words to me, for I had been trying to make myself better for many months. I heard enough that night to cause me to return.
At the second gospel meeting, both brethren who preached, Mr. James Stevenson and Mr. Joseph Kerr, preached on leprosy as a type of sin. One verse they quoted, that especially pierced my conscience, was Isa.64.6, "But we are all as an unclean thing and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags;…" I couldn’t adequately describe in words how miserable I felt. After many months of trying to fit myself for the presence of God, I found out that in spite of all my effort, in spite of all my Sunday School work and in spite of all my preaching, I was only a guilty sinner in the sight of God with the loathsome disease of sin.
The next Lord’s day I spent with the Harveys. After dinner, Mr. Harvey and his son, James, took me for a walk. In spite of all the convictions by the Holy Spirit, I still kept up a religious conversation. But when we got to a quiet section of the city, Mr. Harvey turned to me and asked, "Was there ever a time in your life that you saw that you were a guilty sinner and received Christ as your own personal Saviour?" I hesitated and then said, "No, there never has been." From then on, I was on the receiving end. First the father and then the son took turns preaching to me. By the time we got back to the house, I was feeling just as miserable as the Sunday night before. I asked myself for the last time, "What’s the difference between me and these people? They are trying to live a good life and so am I." As soon as I had asked the question, the Spirit of God brought home to me forcefully," These people have accepted God’s way of salvation and you are trying to work your own way to Heaven." I fully realised then that I was lost, but did not know how to get saved.
At the prayer meeting, it cheered me to hear one brother after another get up and ask God to save "sinners," for I knew that word included me. It made me all the more anxious to get saved. In the gospel meeting following, I listened intently. Mr. Fred Squire preached from Lk.19.41-44. The last hymn he gave out was:
"Is there a heart that is waiting,
Longing for pardon today?
Hear the glad message proclaiming,
Jesus is passing this way."
I thought, "If there is any possibility that I can get saved tonight, I want it more than anything else in the world." I went directly to Mr. Squire after the meeting and told him so. We sat down and he read some good gospel verses to me. One I remember especially, Isa.53.6, "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way;…" he stopped right there and asked if that was me. I thought back of how I went my own way as a boy and then reformed to go another way, but it still wasn’t God’s way. So I answered, "Yes, that’s me." He read the rest of the verse, "and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." Then Mr. Squire suggested that we pray. While on my knees I felt a horror of desperation thinking, "In a moment or two we will be up off our knees and I’m not saved." Just then, Mr. Squire was praying that God would reveal to me Christ on the cross taking my place. I was instantly saved because I realised for the first time in my life that when Christ died on the cross, God laid on Him all my sins. I was crying for joy to know that at last I had found peace with God, not through any works of my own, but simply accepting Christ as my own personal Saviour. The few who were still there sang a hymn I had never heard before. Part of it was:
"Happy day! happy day!
When Jesus washed my sins away."
Thus November 2, 1941, became that happy day for me, five days after I was 20 years of age.
Ten months later I was drafted. I was conscientiously opposed to serving in combat duty so I went in as a non-combatant. After 31/2 years, I returned to civilian
life. My only brother and I were in France when my father died. Under the G.I. Bill of Rights those who had served could get a free college education. Since my mother was a widow with six children and the twin sisters, the youngest in the family, were still going to high school, only one of us brothers could go to college after the war. As much as I loved studying, I didn’t think it was right for me, the oldest, to make the family sacrifice so that I could go to college; so I let my brother go.
Later, at a critical time in my life, I had to put my heart into something just to keep my mental equilibrium. It had to be a hobby or the things of God. God knew what it was going to be. I’m thankful that the assembly that met in the Cliff Street Gospel in Boston began to have three open-air meetings a week. Then in the winter, they had an extra meeting for Bible readings on Thursday nights. In the summer I could put my heart into the open-air meetings; and in the winter I could put my heart into the Bible readings. I estimate that 90 of my first 100 times preaching were in the open air. It was good training. I could preach for two or three minutes and then think of ways to do better, and it wouldn’t be long before I tried the better way!
In my exercises before the Lord as to what He would have me to do, I first thought of being a missionary. When I heard the late T. Ernest Wilson, an Angolan missionary, say that he didn’t think that any brother should go to another race of people without his wife, that settled it for me! I decided that I wouldn’t be going as a missionary unless the Lord gave me a wife first!
In the spring of ’53, I asked Mr. Togus, a French Roman Catholic who was the head of the engineering department, if I could have Good Friday off so that I could be at most of the three day conference in Manchester, Connecticut. To my great surprise, he asked me, "When are you going to leave the Gear Works altogether and go preaching?" I have been thinking of it; but before I would do that, I would want to get a leave of absence to try it out for two or three months or so." He said "The Gear Works doesn’t give any leaves of absence, but I will tell you what I could do. I would put such a strong recommendation on your terminal leave that you could come back any time." When I left, Mr. Togus showed me what he wrote on my terminal leave. He mentioned specific good qualities and he finished with, "The Gear Works should not hesitate a minute to rehire him for employment." I did go back to see him but I never went back for employment.
I left the engineering department of the Boston Gear Works in the end of June of 1953 to try preaching full time. The first gospel series that I had was with a younger brother in Newport, Maine, which was 37 miles north of the nearest assembly. We went on for nine weeks. One night I told how God had saved me. Mrs. Braille was there, probably for the first time. At the close of the meeting, she exclaimed to Mrs. Weymouth, a saved Baptist woman, "My, if a good living young man like that needed to be saved, how about a poor sinner like me!" Thankfully she really got saved.
In December of that year, I went before the seven overseers of my home assembly at Cliff Street. I told them what I had done and that I would like a letter of commendation, but only if all of them were happy to give it to me. If any of them would rather wait, then I would rather wait. They gave me a letter in January of 1954 commending me to the Lord’s work.
JUST A MOMENT
A moment – how brief – one of the smallest measurements of time and yet years of agony and remorse can flow from a moment’s folly, a moment’s thoughtlessness. It takes only a moment to pull a trigger or detonate a bomb but that moment can result in a life ruined, a body irreparably maimed. Much of the carnage on the roads is the result of a moment’s carelessness. Moments can be momentous.
My friend, I beg of you to take a few moments from the busy schedule of life and consider what can happen in a moment.
Death takes place in a moment. The illness may be protracted, the weakness may have lasted for months, but "in a moment shall they die, …" Job 34.20. How frail we are; regardless of our physical strength and health, so much can happen in a moment to change all this. Have you considered that some moment will be your last and suddenly, swiftly you will find yourself in Heaven or hell? A moment thereafter is too late — nothing and no one can bring you back from that changeless abode. You may have lived for many years but eventually that moment will be reached when life’s clock suddenly stops and your soul flees to its eternal destiny. Do not waste the precious moments, so quickly passing, which God so kindly gives you, in order to be saved and be prepared for that moment which, for most people, arrives unexpectedly and unannounced.
At His return, Christ will take all the saved from earth "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye," 1Corinthians 15.52. Only those who are ready will hear that summoning shout which will muster the myriads of redeemed ones, "For the Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, … and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain 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," 1Thessalonians 4.16,17. Dear reader, are you saved?
For ‘twill be too late to seek Him
When at last you sadly find,
That the saints have all been taken
And that you are left behind.
Just a moment, but the door will then be closed against you forever and every hope of salvation will then be gone eternally. Do not delay; in view of the astounding rapidity of that great event, make preparation NOW and know that all is well should Christ come before you finish reading this article.
You can be saved in a moment and yet it will make all the difference for eternity. After that precious and memorable moment there will be no possibility of you being in hell, the dark past will be blotted out and your name will be inscribed in the Lamb’s Book of Life, that accurate register of the saved. Salvation is not a process, nor is it a reward for a life of good works — it is something that happens quickly and yet its effects and benefits are eternal.
All this is gloriously possible because God’s Son has been to earth and has died upon the Cross that you might be in Heaven with Him eternally. In Luke 2.38 we read of an aged believer called Anna who came into the Temple and found the child Jesus with His mother and Joseph. "And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of Him to all them that looked for redemption …" Why had He come? It was, my friend, that you ‘might go at last to Heaven, saved by His precious blood.’ Some thirty-three years later that same blessed One who had been lifted up in the arms of Simeon on that occasion in the Temple, was lifted up on a rough Cross. "Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree," 1 Peter 2.24. All that was required to save souls eternally was accomplished by Him before His lifeless body was taken down from the Cross. God demands no more — what more do you need? Why not then, this very moment trust this blessed and only Saviour of sinners?
To see what is right and not to do it shows a lack of courage.
R. C. Chapman
What God uses is not great learning or great preaching, but great likeness to Christ.
It is not who men are that counts with God, but what they are.
Matthew J. Cordiner (Kilwinning)
What holy industry do we behold,
A vessel beaten out of purest gold;
According to the pattern God had planned,
The metal changes in the craftsman’s hand;
What was a shapeless talent of pure gold,
Is hammered to the form which will unfold;
The wisdom and the glories of the Lord,
As all is made according to His Word;
The shaft and branches form the mighty frame,
The bowls and knops and flow’rs made of the same;
See now the seven-fold lamps send out one light,
So priestly eyes can view the glorious sight;
A beautiful and balanced symmetry,
A Divinely ordered testimony.
Would that assemblies gathered to His Name,
And every member which compose the same;
Were just as simply shaped to His design,
And demonstrated gold supremely fine;
In order for God’s purpose to fulfil,
There must be a submission to His will;
It does involve the hammer and the heat,
Until at last the vessel is complete;
A beautiful and balanced unity,
All functioning in perfect harmony;
Channels through which the oil will flow to light,
Lampstands for God in this dark world of night.