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 W. W. Fereday
GARMENTS OF THE SAVIOUR
by J. Flanigan
RECEPTION TO GOD’S ASSEMBLY
by D. Richards
THE DEVICES AND WILES OF SATAN
by C. Jones
MY CONVERSION AND CALL
by S. Mountstevens
by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)
4) Reviewing the Journey: From Gilead to Beth-Peor
Read Chapter 3
In this chapter, Moses completes his review of Israel’s journey from Horeb, via Kadesh-barnea and the wilderness, to Beth-peor. "So we abode in the valley over against Beth-peor," v29. It was in this area that Moses was buried by God, see 34.6. As in ch.1-2, he relates historical facts without comment. As we have already said, we cannot rightly understand what the Bible teaches, unless we know what the Bible actually says! In ch.4-11, Moses enlarges on the important lessons arising from their forty-year journey.
The chapter can be divided as follows:
(1) The defeat of Og, v1-11:
(2) The division of the land, v12-17:
(3) The directions for conquest, v18-22:
(4) The desire of Moses, v23-29.
1) THE DEFEAT OF OG, v1-11
Deuteronomy commences with reference to the defeat of "Sihon king of the Amorites, which dwelt in Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, which dwelt at Ashtaroth in Edrei," 1.4. They are often called, "the two kings of the Amorites," see 3.8. Og ruled territory to the north of Sihon, and his domain stretched as far as Hermon, see v9. The combined territories therefore lay between the Arnon in the south, and Hermon in the north, v8, and comprised Israel’s possession to the east of Jordan. As always in historical passages, there are valuable lessons here:
i) The victory promised, v1-2. "Then we turned, and went up the way to Bashan: and Og the king of Bashan came out against us, he and all his people, to battle at Edrei. And the Lord said unto me, Fear him not: for I will deliver him, and all his people, and his land, into thy hand." Israel went into battle with assurance of victory. John reminds us that when confronted with "the spirit of antichrist," we have superior resources: "ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world," 1Jn.5.5. We must not underestimate our spiritual opposition, and we must not underestimate the power of God for "if God be for us, who can be against us." Our forebodings and despondency are an affront to God’s power and provision for us.
ii) The people destroyed, v3. "So the Lord our God delivered into our hands Og also, the king of Bashan, and all his people: and we smote him until none was left to him remaining." Our comments in connection with the defeat of Sihon, see 2.26-36, are equally applicable here. The defeat of enemies on the east and west of Jordan were acts of divine judgment on wicked people, rather than military conquests. The complete elimination of Sihon and Og and their peoples, also reminds us that we have to act ruthlessly in connection with a wicked enemy. Israel was commanded to extinguish the original life in these territories, and we are also commanded to deal with our ‘old life’ in the same way. See Col.3.5, "Mortify (put to death) therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry."
iii) The cities captured, v4-7. The initial battle was followed by possession of his territory, and this included cities which were "fenced with high walls, gates and bars," v5. Like Israel, we have to face enemy strongholds, see 2Cor.10.4. Paul defines them, as "imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God." The word, "imaginations," means ‘reasonings.’ As A. McShane observes: ‘Whether we think of the Greek philosopher, the Roman imperialist, or the Jewish ritualist, they each had this in common, that they resisted the message of the cross.’ (What the Bible Teaches – 2 Corinthians). Paul came to Corinth preaching "Christ crucified," 1Cor.1.22-24, and he calls this "the weapons of our warfare" which are "mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds." It is only through the Gospel, that man’s rebellious thoughts are brought "into captivity to the obedience of Christ." Nothing else will be effective.
iv) The territory possessed, v8-10. "And we took at that time out of the hand of the two kings of the Amorites the land that was on this side Jordan, from the river of Arnon unto Mount Hermon. (Which Hermon the Sidonians call Sirion; and the Amorites call it Shenir). All the cities of the plain, and all Gilead, and all Bashan, unto Salchah and Edrei, cities of the kingdom of Og in Bashan." This is an important statement. There were no pockets of resistance left. It was a ‘clean sweep.’ Sadly, this did not continue, and Israel’s failure to completely occupy Canaan, to the west of Jordan, resulted in disaster. The warning in Num.33.55-56 went unheeded. Israel became past-masters at compromise, and it wasn’t long before they were worshipping the gods of the very people they should have destroyed. Does the Lord Jesus have pre-eminence in our hearts and lives?
v) The bed described, v11. "For only Og king of Bashan remained of the remnant of the giants; behold his bedstead was a bedstead of iron; is it not in Rabbath of the children of Ammon? Nine cubits (at least 13’6" or 4.11m) was the length thereof, and four cubits (at least 6′ or 1.83m) the breadth of it, after the cubit of a man." Matthew Henry calls Og ‘a very formidable prince,’ and continues: he was ‘very strong, for he was of the remnant of the giants, v11; his personal strength was extraordinary, a monument of which was preserved by the Ammonites in his bedstead, which was shown as a rarity in their chief city. You might guess at his weight by the materials of his bedstead: it was iron, as if a bedstead of wood were too weak for him to trust to: and you might guess at his stature by the dimensions of it; it was nine cubits long and four cubits broad, which, supposing a cubit to be but half a yard or 46cms (and some learned men have made it appear to be somewhat more), was four yards and a half long, and two yards broad; (4.11×1.83m) and if we allowed his bedstead to be two cubits longer than himself, and that is as much as we need allow, he was three yards and a half high (3.2m), double the stature of an ordinary man, and every way proportionable, yet they smote him, v3. Note, when God pleads His people’s cause, He can deal with giants as well as grasshoppers. No man’s might can secure him against the Almighty.’ We need say no more!
2) THE DIVISION OF THE LAND, v12-17
Compare Num.32.33-42. The southern part of the conquered territory east of Jordan was allocated to Reuben and Gad, see v12, 16-17. This comprised the land from the Arnon in the south to mid-Gilead in the north. The eastern border was fixed by the Jabbok: the further side of the Jabbok, where it runs from south to north before turning west, was Ammonite territory, see 2.37. The western border was the Jordan, from Chinnereth in the north to the Dead Sea in the south. The words, "half of the valley," v16, probably indicate the southern section of this border. The northern part was occupied by "the half tribe of Manasseh." This comprised "the rest of Gilead, and all Bashan," see v13-15. Particular reference is made to the inheritance of Jair, v14, and Machir, v15, both sons of Manasseh, reminding us that the inheritance was for the collective and individual enjoyment. Both Jair and Machir were given what they had taken, see Num.32.39-41. A prosperous assembly is made up of saints who, like Gaius, 3Jn.2, have prosperous souls. This places a responsibility on us all to ‘possess our possessions.’ "Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given you," Jos.1.3.
3) THE DIRECTIONS FOR CONQUEST, v18-22
In this section, Moses recalls his instructions to the two and a half tribes, and to Joshua, in connection with the invasion and conquest of Canaan.
i) Instructions to the tribes, v18-20. "And I commanded you at that time, saying, The Lord your God hath given you this land to possess it: ye shall pass over armed before your brethren the children of Israel, all that are meet for the war," see Num.32.16-32. If they would not do this, then "be sure your sin will find you out," Num.32.23. The principle was one of equity: all Israel had helped them to subdue territory east of Jordan: it was therefore equitable that they should help their brethren to subdue the territory west of Jordan. This illustrates the fact that "there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another," 1Cor.12.25. It is called ‘fellowship.’
ii) Instructions to Joshua, v21-22. "And I commanded Joshua at that time, saying, Thine eyes have seen all that the Lord your God hath done unto these two kings: so shall the Lord do unto all the kingdoms whither thou passest. Ye shall not fear them: for the Lord your God He shall fight for you," see Num.27.18 etc. Past victories gave assurance of future victories. We should remember too that Joshua was not ‘thrown in at the deep end.’ He had been trained for forty years, and his first lesson could be entitled ‘How to overcome the enemy.’ Read Ex.17.8-16.
4) THE DESIRE OF MOSES, v23-29
i) Moses’ request, v23-25. "And I besought the Lord at that time, saying, O Lord God, Thou hast begun to shew Thy servant Thy greatness, and Thy mighty hand: for what God is there in heaven or in earth, that can do according to Thy works, and according to Thy might? I pray Thee, let me go over, and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and Lebanon." He besought the Lord to live: Elijah besought the Lord to die! Centuries later they were both in the company of the Lord Jesus Who said, "I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore." Moses, and Elijah, had a remarkable ‘exodus,’ but the subject of conversation on the mount of transfiguration was the ‘exodus’ (AV "decease;" Greek ‘exodus’) of the Lord Jesus! See Lk.9.31.
ii) God’s reply, v26-28. "But the Lord was wroth with me for your sakes (see also 1.37), and would not hear me: and the Lord said unto me, Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto Me of this matter." It has been said that Moses was not allowed to enter Canaan because ‘he broke a type!’ It is far better to stay with the Scriptures, and note that under severe provocation, "he spake unadvisably with his lips," Ps.106.32-33. This refers to Num.20.10-12. No such charge could ever be levelled at the Lord Jesus. They said of Him, "Never man spake like this man."
Moses was allowed to see the "good land" from Pisgah. Like Abraham, Gen.13.14, he looked in all directions, but the responsibility for leading God’s people into Canaan was to rest on the shoulders of Joshua. "But (a) charge Joshua, and (b) encourage him, and (c) strengthen him: for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which thou shalt see." As he neared the end of his journey, Moses was to ensure that his successor was suitably prepared for leadership. The training and encouragement of future generations is emphasised in both Old and New Testaments. See, for example, Ps.71.17-18, Ps.78.5-6, 2Tim.2.2.
The review section of Deuteronomy ends where Numbers ends, see 36.13, with Israel encamped "in the valley over against Beth-peor," v27, which was "in the land of Moab," 34.6. In our next few studies, we will notice the lessons which Moses drew from this review of Israel’s history.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by Ian McKee (Northern Ireland)
Paper 14 — Waiting upon God (Ezra Chapter 8:21-23)
Having identified and then corrected a deficiency among the returnees, namely the absence of Levites, Ezra "proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God," Ezra 8:21. This is the only fast recorded in the book of Ezra, although two are recorded in Nehemiah, 1.4; 9.1. In each case there is a direct link between fasting and an intense seeking of the mind of God in relation to matters of particular importance.
The fast is here occasioned by a desire "to seek of Him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance," Ezra 8.21. Humiliation of spirit in the presence of God and a deep understanding of their dependence upon God led them to fast as they contemplated the journey and tasks before them. The burden of inward exercise was eloquently expressed by outward fasting. Their exercise to return to Jerusalem was not entered into lightly with either a blithe spirit or sense of bravado. Rather the intense reality of their purpose drove them, for a period, to abstain from all that the flesh would feed upon. That which is natural will not sustain that which is spiritual. They recognised this.
The context of this fast was the reluctance of Ezra to request a military escort "because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek Him; but His power and His wrath is against all them that forsake Him," Ezra 8.22. Prudence might have sought a band of soldiers and horsemen, but this would have led to the compromising of a spiritual exercise and a denial of God’s ability to preserve. Ezra’s attitude was similar to that of David’s, "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the Name of the Lord our God," Ps.20.7.
Yet Ezra is not foolhardy. He recognises the dangers of the way. He understands the needs of wives and children. And he assesses the provisions they will all require. But alongside this he believes that God’s providential care will attend those who seek Him. If their exercise is according to the will of God and if they proceed with a sense of reverential fear and dependence upon Him, then surely, God can be relied upon to preserve His servants. But Ezra is also conscious of the corollary. If Divine providence supports the righteous then that power must be against the unrighteous! Hence the reason for Ezra calling this fast. Honesty is required in the presence of God. A true assessment must be made of personal character. It would be disastrous for Ezra and those associated with him to embark on a venture in God’s name, presuming on His providence, if their character was other than that of a seeker! So also for us. Can we truly say that we are seekers of God? If not, are we forsakers?
But let us not think that fasting was a feature of the Old Testament only. Fasting preceded one of the most profound decisions taken in this present dispensation. "Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the Tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate Me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away," Acts 13.1-3.
It took this degree of humiliation in the presence of God, before the church at Antioch could discern the guidance of the Holy Spirit that only two of the five brethren mentioned should be separated unto a work of missionary evangelism. It took similar exercise to discern that three of the five brethren mentioned should not be so commissioned. And it also took exercise on the part of all of the five individuals to discern God’s particular purpose for each of them and to bow to it, irrespective of God’s will for their companions.
Before this period of fasting there were five brethren with, apparently, broadly equal spiritual credentials and application. There was no ungifted or lazy brother among them, which was evidently the minimum requirement for their consideration by the church at Antioch. And should we be satisfied with less today? No doubt the church at Antioch gave detailed consideration to motive and exercise, together with all other matters of relevance. But this in itself was not enough. It was imperative that they obtain the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It was this that required time and fasting to discern.
Returning to Ezra we read "So we fasted and besought our God for this: and He was entreated of us," Ezra 8.23. This was earnest prayer and a period of intense petitioning, which continued until they received an inward assurance that God would provide His protection.
It should, of course, be noted that simply by abstaining from food for a period will not provide spiritual blessing! But taking these two representative passages together, one in Ezra and the other in Acts, we learn the importance of special spiritual exercise in seeking to discern the mind of God at times of crisis.
Consciousness of the enormity of a task and our own inherent weakness may lead us to a level of self-discipline and exercise with which we are hitherto unfamiliar. Such will entail the decided refusal of self-interest. But, if honest, we must all acknowledge that we are guilty of giving insufficient time and importance to the necessity of waiting upon God. The tragedy could be that if we fail to wait upon God, He could weary of waiting for us!
—to be continued (D.V.)
by Walter A. Boyd (South Africa)
No.6 — THE CONCLUDING SALUTATIONS (Continued)
(B) His Salutations to Rome (Romans 16.3-16).
It would be most unfortunate if these verses were glanced over and dismissed as having no more value than that of a list of names. All Scripture is profitable, 2Tim.3.16. If we ask some questions as we read the passage, we will unearth hidden truths in the names that appear to have no purpose beyond being Paul’s friends. What does each name mean? What comment does Paul make about those he has named? Why are they here? These are the questions that will provide help and understanding in the passage, and above all, a challenge to our hearts.
Irrespective of the details of each name, the fact that they are mentioned by Paul, and often with apparent affection, shows the bonds of love in Christ that existed between Paul and these believers. After almost thirty years of labour in the gospel, it is not surprising that he had made friends along the way. These were obviously not fair-weather friends, but genuine helpers whose fidelity had been tried and tested by the rigours of first-century Christian testimony. This list of names gives authenticity to the whole letter, in the same way as the mention of Phebe’s name in 16.1,2 (see previous paper). If the letter was not genuine, a list of greetings to such individuals would not be feasible. The number of feminine names in this list of twenty-six, dismisses the unfounded notion that Paul was a male-chauvinist. It is clear that he appreciated the labours and fidelity of his sisters in Christ, and wanted to place that on record. Another interesting facet in the names is the wide diversity among those individuals who comprised the testimony in Rome: some names are Greek, some Jewish, and some Latin. That diversity is beautifully enhanced by the evident sense of unity among them (see v5, 10, etc.).
In this chapter expressive language is used to describe the helpful contributions to Paul’s work for the Lord: succourer; fellow-workers; much labour; fellow-prisoners; beloved in the Lord; approved in Christ; labour in the Lord; laboured much in the Lord.
It is difficult to outline these verses in any way other than;
1. Particular Salutations v3-15.
2. General Salutations v16.
1. Particular Salutations v3-15. It will be helpful to note that Paul’s salutation consists of two ingredients: (a) Greetings by name, and (b) Appreciative remarks.
V3-5(a) Priscilla and Aquila and the church in their house. If we follow the Revised reading in Acts 18.26, Priscilla (or Prisca) is mentioned before her husband (Aquila) on four out of the six times that they appear together in the New Testament. The reason for this is not clear. It may be that she appears first on those occasions where they are helping to advance the work of God, and Paul recognised them as his "fellow-helpers," Rom.16.3, because it was Priscilla who took the initiative. Four things of note are recorded about this fine couple;
1. Their Helpfulness —"fellow-helpers."
2. Their Sacrificial Service —"laid down their own necks."
3. Their Reputation —"to whom all the churches of the Gentiles … give thanks."
4. Their Hospitality —"the church that is in their house."
The Apostle had a number of helpers and co-workers; but the expression, "my helpers in Christ," seems to suggest that among all his helpers Priscilla and Aquila were the fellow-helpers of note. After their paths had crossed with the Apostle to the Gentiles, we read that he resided with them; he laboured with them; they travelled with him; they instructed Apollos — who later assisted Paul in the work of the Lord. But not only did they serve with Paul in the work; in doing so they exposed their lives to great danger. The phrase "their own necks," makes it clear that each of them was exposed to equal danger. For Paul’s sake, neither Priscilla nor Aquila shirked from placing their life on the line. We are not told where or when this was, but obviously the other saints knew of it, and were thankful to God for their courage. It was likely that they performed some act of bravery, which secured the service of Paul towards the Gentile assemblies, and ensured his continued service among them. This may have been in the tumult at Corinth, Acts 18, or later in Ephesus, Acts 19.
At the time of Paul’s letter they had moved to Rome, where their service for God was as constant as ever. An assembly met in their house. This is a manifestation of the genuineness of their hospitality, and the unremitting nature of their help to other saints. Some self-seeking individuals would be happy to host a notable servant of God, like the Apostle Paul; but Priscilla and Aquila had open hearts and an open home for all the saints, of whatever standing. They did not foster social class distinction or any other artificial division among the Lord’s people.
V5(b) Epaenetus who was well beloved and firstfruits to Christ. The word "salute" is the same word as "greet," and should be translated so throughout. Epaenetus is described as "my well beloved" (AV), or dearly beloved. Three others are spoken of in the same terms: Amplias (v8), Stachys (v9), Persis (v12). Describing Epaenetus as the firstfruits of Achaia seems to conflict with 1Cor.16.15, where it is the house of Stephanas. A number of suggestions have been made to resolve this difficulty, such as Epaenetus belonged to the household of Stephanas, or salvation came to both at the same time. The most convincing of all the suggestions is the change from Achaia to Asia, by JND and RV. There is substantial manuscript evidence to support this. Whatever the case, it is clear that Paul remembered his converts with affection. When Epaenetus got saved, the apostle rejoiced. Undoubtedly, Paul presented him to God in prayer as the firstfruits of that area, confident that there would be a great harvest to follow. In Old Testament days the priest lifted up the wave sheaf before God, in an expression of thanks for gathering in that sheaf, and what would yet be done in gathering in many more, to guarantee a full harvest.
V6 — Mary who bestowed much labour. There are a number of Marys in the New Testament, and very likely this is yet another one: not to be confused with the others. JND and RV change the object of her abundant labour from "us" to "you." Whoever it was that benefited from her toil, she laboured tirelessly, or diligently. She was a hard worker. Obviously, Paul knew the details and extent of her labours, and wanted to express his appreciation. It may have been some notable type of service, or it may have been something more general. One thing is sure: heaven knows it all, and has recorded it in full for a future day of reward. Mary is like many a dear sister today – known only by her Christian name; but in a future day of reward she will stand as one of the choicest labourers in the full joy of heaven’s acclaim.
V7 — Andronicus and Junia who were kinsmen; fellow-helpers; of note among apostles and in Christ before Paul. It is impossible to be dogmatic about whether or not this is a married couple, or two men. The difficulty arises in the second name. It can be either Junia (feminine), or Junias (masculine). Darby’s New Translation, Revised Version, and Newberry’s margin do not clarify the difficulty. In any case, what is said about them is of more importance to our present considerations than an exact identification.
"My kinsmen." In Rom.9.3, Paul uses this expression to describe his fellow countrymen. It is more in keeping here to have that meaning, than to think of them as family relatives.
"My fellow-prisoners." The apostle endured a number of imprisonments; and possibly more than recorded in the New Testament. At some stage, Andronicus and Junia were imprisoned with him, possibly also for their faith in Christ. They were especially dear to Paul in a three-fold way: in Christ, in the flesh, and in the hardship associated with the gospel.
"Of note among the apostles." This is not suggesting they were notable apostles, but that they were held in high esteem among the apostles. For some reason, they were highly thought of by the apostolic band. It may be because they were among the earliest converts, or perhaps because of their imprisonment for Christ.
"In Christ before me." There is something about Andronicus and Junia that is especially appealing to Paul. When he was ‘breathing out slaughter’ against the Jewish believers, Andronicus and Junia may have been among those he persecuted. But now, with them, he was "in Christ," and sharing their experience of hardship and imprisonment. Paul was always ready to acknowledge precedence in people and in situations. As an older man, he had no desire to claim seniority over others. As in other places, he uses an expression that links conversion to the positional truth of being "in Christ."
—to be continued (D.V.)
by W. W. Fereday
Paper 10 — "THE STROKE"
Man’s threats are sometimes mere idle words or empty bombast: not so the predicted judgments of God. At no stage in the world’s history has the Creator threatened judgments which He had no intention of executing.
There have been occasions when His hand has been averted by the repentance of the people. The sparing of Nineveh in the time of Jonah is an example of this. It is part of the declared ways of God to withdraw sentence when men humble themselves before Him. Jer.18.7-8 shows this plainly. It is also true that He is "slow to anger," leaving until the last an open door for repentance but even the long-suffering of God has its limits. This was solemnly proved by the defiant Egyptians in the days of Moses.
At the commencement of Moses’ mission Jehovah said to Pharaoh: "Israel is My son, even My firstborn; and I say unto thee, Let My son go that he may serve Me, and if those refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn," Ex.4.22-23. The patience of God being now exhausted after various appeals and preliminary judgments, this dread sentence took effect on the night of Israel’s Passover. "It came to pass that at midnight Jehovah smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead," Ex.12.29-30. There was thus no respect of persons. The royal palace, in every country shielded to the utmost from the calamities which befall the lowly, was no more immune that night than the prison cell or the stable. The king’s heart was torn with anguish as well as that of the meanest of his subjects. Truly, it is a terrible thing to defy the God of judgment!
Yet while desolation thus spread itself throughout the land of Egypt, the houses of the Israelites were absolutely unharmed. This was due solely to the fact that they obeyed Jehovah in faith and sprinkled the blood of the slain lamb outside their dwellings. Neither good conduct nor religious orthodoxy saved them that night, but the blood of the lamb alone. Under the shelter of this they could eat and drink in peace with girded loins and staff in hand prepared to march out of a scene which was in no sense their home.
We are ourselves living in a solemn moment in the world’s history. The gospel is ending, with all its opportunities of eternal blessing. The hour for God’s judgments to begin will shortly strike. Then the once-crucified Lord will arise from the throne on which He is seated and will come forth in His might as the divinely-appointed Judge of quick and dead. First He will deal with the quick (i.e. the living), destroying His enemies before Him like the driven snow; later, when His Millennial reign is ended, He will summon the dead from their tombs to stand before the great white throne. These are tremendous considerations, which it is folly and madness for any to ignore. Happy is the man who, as a confessedly guilty sinner, worthy only of eternal wrath, has fled to the Saviour for refuge, trusting wholly and solely in His precious atoning blood. Such an one is eternally secure — as secure as a righteous God can make him.
—to be concluded (D.V.)
by J. Flanigan (Northern Ireland)
2. Garments of Humanity
The Humanity of the Lord Jesus is as real and as true as is His Deity. But what wondrous grace is this, and what mighty incomprehensible condescension, that He who is God should for us become a Man.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
Hail, Incarnate Deity!
From that scene of light, robed in honour and majesty, the Son of the Father came forth to be wrapped in swaddling bands as the firstborn Son of a Jewish maiden. The miracle of His conception is not to be pried into. We are neither asked to understand it or explain it, but to believe it. "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son," Isa.7.14; Mt.1.23. "When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman," Gal.4.4.
Bethlehem is a divine blending of sovereignty, simplicity, and mystery. In the plan and purpose of God it was the decree of a Caesar in Rome which brought Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem. It was a long and hazardous journey, especially for a maiden carrying her Child, as Mary was. But the prophet had predicted Bethlehem in the land of Juda as the birthplace of the promised Messiah, and so it must be, Micah 5.2; Mt.2.6. Sovereignty therefore arranged it so and when the Child was born all was in accord with the prophetic word.
What simplicity there was! A Baby, a manger bed, and swaddling clothes. No palace, no royal welcome from earth’s great ones, and no regal splendour. "A Child is born," Isa.9.6. Mary brought Him forth; Joseph stood by; shepherds came to see the Babe, and in these, the most humble of circumstances, there began on earth the story of a Life that was to bring inestimable pleasure to the heart of God.
The mystery of the Incarnation is the wonder of God manifested in flesh. We bow in worship as we acknowledge with the apostle, "Without controversy, great is the mystery," 1Tim.3.16. He was "seen of angels." How they must have looked upon Him whom they had known only in the unveiled splendour of Deity, now become so approachable in a body of flesh and blood. It was indeed the beginning of a life of incomparable moral glory, to be lived in Galilee, Judea, and Samaria.
The uniqueness of the Saviour’s birth was in perfect keeping with the uniqueness of the holy Manhood which it introduced. For thirty wondrous years He would live in the defilement of Nazareth, but remain undefiled. For three years and more He would minister among men who would oppose His every word and deed, and criticise His every movement, and still He would be constant, perfect in all His ways. He did not sin, not because He would not sin, but because He could not sin. His was an impeccable Manhood. Impeccable means "no ability to sin."
This inability to sin is proven by several considerations. How could He sin who was "Altogether lovely?" SofS.5.16. There was nothing in His loveliness which would respond to sin or to sinful suggestions. He alone among men could say to His critics, "Which of you convinceth Me of sin?" Jn.8.46. How could He sin who, although truly Man, was, nevertheless, God? In one holy and indivisible personality Godhood and Manhood were His indivisibly. In becoming Man He never ceased to be God and it is always true that God cannot be tempted with evil, Jms.1.13. It matters not if this be God enthroned in the high heavens or God dwelling in Nazareth, for the character of Divine Persons can never change. How could this Man sin therefore, who is God incarnate?
Sometimes however, it is argued that if He were really and truly Man then surely He could have been tempted and He could have sinned. Those who advance this argument have not thought it through, for the question must then be asked, "Is He not still a real Man?" By their reasoning does this mean that the Man in the glory is still vulnerable and liable to sin because He is a Man? Every adoring heart will recoil from such a thought.
Yet still the argument will be pressed that Heb.4.14 does clearly say that He was in all points tempted like as we are. The word "tempted" must be understood in a two-fold way. Sometimes it implies an attempt at seduction to sin, an appeal to the sinful tendencies of our fallen nature. Men in the flesh are all too aware that this is so often the case with them. If the believer is so tempted, but resists the temptation, refusing to yield to sin, then this is to his credit. But he has been tempted nevertheless. Not so our Lord Jesus. As we have already seen, there was nothing in Him to respond to the evil suggestions which so often reach the hearts of other men.
"Tempted", therefore has another meaning. When God tempted Abraham (Gen.22.1) it was certainly not with any evil intent. It was to test and prove the patriarch. The Saviour was so tested and tried. He suffered hunger and thirst, loneliness and disappointment, grief and pain. He was misrepresented and misunderstood, He was falsely accused and unjustly condemned. It is likely too, that in early life He suffered bereavement, in the death of Joseph. So the writer to the Hebrews qualifies his words and says, "apart from sin." He was in all points, apart from sin, tempted like as we are.
Then it must be remembered, as has already been emphasised, that our Lord’s Manhood was unique. He had something that we do not have and we have something that He did not have. We have fallen natures, inherited from Adam. He did not. He was God. We are not. As has often been said, and so aptly, "He was as much a man as I am, but He was not such a man as I am."
So the little One wrapped in swaddling clothes was indeed wearing the garments of humanity, beginning life on earth apparently as many another Jewish infant. It is touching to remember the purpose of the swaddling bands. They were firmly wrapped around the tiny body of the new-born to give to it a feeling of security, a sense that it was being safely held. What mystery is this! The Omnipotent One wrapped in swaddling bands! The Almighty lying in a manger! He who was sustaining the mighty globe, who was maintaining the heavenly bodies in their ordained orbits, now in a body of flesh and blood and being held securely in the arms of a gentle maid from Nazareth. We say like the psalmist, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it," Ps.139.6.
No less almighty at His birth
Than on the throne supreme;
His shoulders held up heaven and earth
While Mary held up Him.
We bow in wonder. A Divine Person has been in our world. "What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that Thou visitest him? Ps.8.4. It was a visitation which took Him from Bethlehem to Golgotha, from the manger to the cross.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by D. Richards (Canada)
In seeking to elucidate this subject we have been answering the following four questions:
1) To what should we receive?
2) Who do we receive?
3) How do we receive?
4) What is the responsibility of those who are received?
In the former paper we dealt with the first two and now we shall deal with the remainder.
3) How do we receive? Read Acts.18.27; Rom.16.1,2; Acts 9.26-28; 2 Cor.3.1,2.
Some difference must be made between receiving a believer from the locality into the assembly as a member of that assembly, such as in Acts 2.41, and those who are visiting in the area, such as Phebe in Rom.16.1,2. First of all we will consider those who are seeking full, permanent fellowship in the assembly. As in the case of Acts 2.41 those who are to be received must have a very clear testimony of salvation. Secondly, they must either already be baptized as believers or must obey the Lord in baptism. Thirdly, they must personally request to be received into assembly fellowship as was the case with Saul in Acts 9.26. Other than these requirements there must be no moral reason for not receiving such into the assembly.
As far as visitors are concerned there are a number of ways such may be received. In Acts 18.27 we read, "And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him; who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace." Apollos was introduced to the assembly at Corinth by a letter from the assembly at Ephesus. The word here translated "receive" (apodechomai) means "to take fully," "to welcome," "to receive without reservation." As a result of being received in this fashion he "helped them much which believed through grace."
In Rom.16.1,2 we read, "I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you." Phebe was introduced to the assembly at Rome by a letter penned by Paul, a brother whom they knew. The word here translated "receive" (prosdechomai) means "to receive to oneself." This is the same word as was used in relation to Epaphroditus being received by the Philippian saints. He had laboured hard for them in order to deliver their gift to Paul, and had been "sick nigh unto death" as a result. They were to receive him tenderly to their hearts. Phebe was to be received in the same manner. Paul added, "… and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you." This is the manner in which we are exhorted to receive visiting saints. In this text we see that it is perfectly in order for a believer to be received on the strength of a letter written by an individual brother who is known by the receiving assembly, especially if the person seeking fellowship is from an assembly that is not known by the receiving assembly.
In Acts 9.26-28 we read, "And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. And he [Saul] was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem." Saul of Tarsus was introduced to the assembly at Jerusalem by personal commendation from Barnabas. No letter was involved. Saul had had to leave Damascus in a hurry, and it was not possible for him to obtain a letter. Thus, where a letter of commendation is unobtainable, due to circumstances, a personal commendation by a brother known to the receiving assembly is quite in order. But some may ask, "What if there is no brother present who knows the visitor who comes without a letter?" If the brother or sister is able to supply the phone number of one of the elders of his home assembly a quick phone call can clear up the matter. If this is not possible, the elders should interview the visitor to ascertain where he or she is in fellowship. If the assembly from which he comes is not known locally then it is necessary to question the individual on what he or she believes. The brother or sister should not automatically be rejected because he or she has come without a letter. It would be helpful if the visitor arrived early at the assembly meeting in order to be able to answer any questions that may be asked, or, better still, if the visitor could make contact with one of the elders at least a day in advance.
In 2 Cor. 3.1,2 we read, "Do we begin again to commend ourselves? Or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you? Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men;" Paul indicated that he himself required no letter of commendation. Since the assembly at Corinth was planted by Paul they were his letter of commendation. Inferred in these verses is the fact that saints who are well known by the receiving assembly for being faithful need not continuously bring letters of commendation. To insist on a letter by known Christians every time they come is to make the letter of commendation a mere formality.
4) What is the responsibility of those being received? Read Acts 9.26-28; 18.27.
Saul sought "to join himself to the disciples." The word here translated "to join" literally means "to glue." When you are glued to something everywhere that something goes you go, consequently we read of Paul, "He was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem." Fellowship in an assembly involves a total commitment. Fellowship not only brings privileges, but also responsibilities. Even when on holidays we are never on holidays from the Lord! I know that circumstances have to be taken into account, but apart from exceptional situations we should always make sure that we holiday in the vicinity of an assembly, and that we attend the normal functions of that assembly when we are there. If we consider that this is a hardship then there is something very wrong! It should be a pleasure to us to be with the saints around the Lord and the Word of God.
In Acts 18.27, when Apollos was received by the saints at Corinth, we read that he "helped them much which had believed through grace." Apollos used the gift that God had given him for the edification of the saints. Visiting another assembly is not an opportunity to sit back and relax. On the other hand it is not an opportunity to exercise a gift that God has not given us either. We should know our limitations, and seek to function within them.
When we have been received by an assembly, even if only for the duration of a visit to the area, we come under the authority of the elders of that assembly. We are not free to do as we wish because this is not our home assembly. Assembly fellowship is a very precious thing, but it brings with it certain responsibilities. May God help us to seek to be of the utmost benefit, not only in our home assembly, but also in any assembly we may be visiting.
Why is it so necessary to be careful about who we receive?
The simple answer to this question is because the Bible teaches this. We really shouldn’t need any other reason! But let us look at a warning Paul gave to the elders of the assembly at Ephesus in Acts 20.28-30. "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them." The reason the New Testament insists on such carefulness in receiving believers is for the protection of the flock. Some assemblies have been so careless about reception that they have received unbelievers. Some have actually received people who are living sinful lives. It is readily admitted that this can happen even where the utmost care is taken, but it is far more likely to happen where there is carelessness.
Finally, I would like to make clear three matters:-
1) The brother or sister who brings someone who is not in assembly fellowship to the Lord’s supper is responsible to make clear to that person in advance the fact that he or she will not be able to partake of the Lord’s supper. It is neither fair to the visitor nor to the elders of the assembly for it to be left till the last minute for the visitor to find out that he or she will not be received.
2) The fact that a believer, not in assembly fellowship, is not received at the Lord’s supper is not suggesting that that person is an inferior Christian. It is a matter of doing things according to Scriptural order.
3) The principles taught in this article are not shared or practised by all. Although there are those who, in all sincerity, receive, to the Lord’s supper, all believers who are not known to be living sinful lives, it is submitted that this is contrary to the teaching of Scripture. However, the author does not intend to be harsh or judgmental, and accepts that such is done in ignorance rather than open defiance of the truth.
by C. Jones (Wales)
PAPER 1 — INTRODUCTION
Satan, or the Devil, is a created being of amazing power and knowledge and must not be underestimated. He is the arch-enemy and adversary of God and man. He slanders and accuses God to man, Gen.3.5, and man to God, Job 1.9. He is "the prince of the devils," Matt.12.24; "a murderer and a liar," Jn.8.44. He is the "prince of this world," Jn.12.31, 14.30, 16.11; "the god of this world," 2Cor.4.4; "the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience," Eph.2.2, and "the accuser of our brethren," Rev.12.10.
Satan will attack and tempt believers and he is indeed a formidable foe, but we are to remember that he is not omnipotent, omniscient nor omnipresent, and "greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world," 1Jn.4.4.
If we study the Scriptures prayerfully, we can avoid being "ignorant of his devices," 2Cor.2.11, and can learn something of his wiles, Eph.6.11. Such knowledge will help us, in the power of the Spirit, to resist the Devil so that he will flee from us, Jas.4.7. Satan will adapt his subtle approach depending on circumstances and the person he attacks. Sometimes he approaches "as a roaring lion," 1Pet.5.8, and at other times as "an angel of light," 2Cor.11.14.
Hath God said?
Let us consider the ways in which Satan led our first parents into sin. In Gen.3 we learn of the fall of man, and here we hear Satan slandering God to man. All the sin, sorrow, sadness and suffering that people have experienced have been a consequence of this fall. Physical death and spiritual death, in the sense of eternal separation from God, are a direct result of sin, Rom.5.12.
In his malignant cunning Satan did not approach Adam directly to induce him to sin, but first spoke to Eve. Satan was aware of Adam’s great love for Eve and believed that if Eve sinned she would be able to persuade Adam to sin also. Satan knows our weakest points and will direct his attacks accordingly.
In his approach to Eve through the serpent, Satan sought to sow doubts in her mind regarding the truth of what God had said and as to the goodness of God’s motives in withholding something which Adam and Eve would enjoy and from which they would benefit. When Satan asked Eve "hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?", Gen.3.1, she replied by misquoting what God had said regarding not eating "of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil," Gen.2.17, by adding "neither shall ye touch it," Gen.3.3. God, in His sovereignty, had limited man’s freedom by prohibiting the eating of the fruit of one tree only. He had said nothing about touching it. Satan was seeking to cause Eve to deviate from God’s Word and to doubt that His prohibition was for her benefit and that of her husband Adam.
So we learn of some of the devices of the Devil. He causes men and women to doubt the truth of God’s Word and to doubt the love of God. Satan seeks to undermine the authority of God’s Word and confidence in His Word. He will try to persuade people that if they cannot fully understand the reasons for God’s commands and prohibitions then they need not obey them. Satan will add to, or subtract from, the Scriptures and attempt to persuade people to disobey God. He strives to cause men and women to try to get rid of God’s restrictions so that they are free "to do their own thing," to do that which is right in their own eyes, Jud.21.25. as a consequence of Satan’s success in causing the majority of people to doubt the truth of God’s Word and His wisdom and love, we have the chaos existing in the world today.
Satan next flatly contradicted the truth of God’s Word and also denied the severity of God by saying "Ye shall not surely die," Gen.3.4. He persuaded Eve that, rather than dying, if Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit then they would acquire knowledge and information, and be like God and know good and evil, Gen.3.5. Satan persuaded Eve that God’s Word was not true and that He withheld from them things that were good. Today, Satan still seeks to prevent people believing that "the wages of sin is death," Rom.6.23, not just physical death, but eternal separation from God. He strives to prevent people believing in the existence of heaven and hell and in the existence of God Himself. Satan also endeavours to convince people that he, Satan, does not exist. If people treat Satan lightly and as the subject of foolish jokes they will not suspect the power of the evil forces seeking their eternal loss. Eve was unaware of God’s holy hatred of sin. She could not foresee the awful consequences of sin. She did not believe what God had said regarding judgment any more than people believed Noah’s preaching before the Flood came or Lot’s warnings before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, 2Pet.2.5-8. The Lord said concerning Satan "he was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it," Jn.8.44. Eve’s experience and that of countless multitudes since has proved the truth of these words.
Eve was tempted and fell. She did not consult Adam, who was her head, 1Cor.11.3, but looked at the tree and saw that it was good for food, pleasant to the eyes and a tree to be desired to make one wise, Gen.3.6. This corresponds with God’s warnings given regarding love of the world. We read in 1Jn.2.16 concerning those things that are in the world, the lust of the flesh (good for food), the lust of the eyes (pleasant to the eyes) and the pride of life (to be desired to make one wise).
Eve ate and gave to Adam who, in eating, disobeyed the prohibition he had received from God, Gen.2.17. Eve was deceived by Satan and sinned, then Adam knowingly, deliberately and rebelliously sinned, 1Tim.2.14. It all started with doubting God’s Word and with Eve believing that she, and not God, knew what was best for human beings.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by Sid Mountstevens (England)
When considering the work of the Lord in my life I feel I must go back to 29th. January 1929, the day of my birth in the little village of Westonzoyland in Somerset. My arrival was unexpectedly early, almost 3 months premature I weighed in at 2.5 pounds (about 1 Kilo.) Wrapped in cotton wool and placed in a shoebox I was sent home to die.
My parents were poor indeed and it was not a happy marriage and therefore it was not a happy home for my brothers and myself. We were always waiting fearfully for something to happen, usually destructive. My Father was a farm labourer, about the lowest paid section of the community at that time. Educated in the little village school I did not take my schooling very seriously and awaited with much impatience my 14th birthday when I could leave school. One of my greatest achievements was to grab the head teacher’s cane and sort him out before he did so to me.
My father insisted that I should learn a trade and I served an apprenticeship as a bricklayer, much against my will as I always had a desire to be either a bus or lorry driver, a desire that remains with me to this day, albeit too late. Parents were to be obeyed in those days, in my case very reluctantly.
One of my brothers and myself attended a little Church of England Sunday school for a while but cannot recall anything remotely to do with faith being taught. Also I became a campanologist, I also pumped the old church organ for a while. The "church" was conveniently sited beside the local inn, the haunt for the bellringers during the church services.
I took my first drink in that inn and remember it was an innocuous mixture of beer and lemonade. My mother remonstrated with me warning me of the dangers of drink, but of course I thought I was in complete control. A mistake indeed as I would like others to know. Very soon I was hooked on drink and became a drunkard. "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging; and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise" Prov.20.1.
The nearby town of Bridgwater provided the largest one evening carnival in the country. The folly of drink was evidenced one such night as some friends and I cycled the 4 miles to town determined to take a drink in every pub. It is doubtful that we managed it, as there were 99 public houses in the town in those days. It was a shameful night as I beat an elderly lady to the ground as I objected to a song she was singing. Hurried off by my associates I remember awakening in the centre of a main road 3 miles out of town, my bicycle lying on top of me as I gazed up into the headlights of a car stopped in front of me. Oh, the foolishness of the drunkard. My own dear mother was unceremoniously shoved away when she questioned the wisdom of my drinking habits. Despite the unsettled atmosphere in the home my mother abhorred alcohol and my father was just a moderate partaker of it.
For 16 months I was called up for national service, this did not allow for heavy drinking as the pay was unrealistic. I received the occasional 10 shilling note (50p) from my mother to help me with food, needless to say I spent it on drink.
On my discharge I resumed life in the local community and in my early twenties one or two individuals became concerned about my welfare. One was the vice – captain of the local cricket team of which I was the captain. He lived opposite the pub. He and his wife were concerned as they watched from their bedroom window as I crawled home on hands and knees. (This, I cannot recall). The local grocer, a believer in the assembly at Bridgwater told me the same after he had baptised me as a believer. He was afraid that I would hit him if he came out to speak to me. I was introduced to the relatives of my friend the vice-captain of the cricket team. Although he was unsaved at the time he was anxious that I should meet relatives on his wife’s side. (He did get saved subsequently). They were believers, and fine people too if only I had acknowledged it. I was dumbfounded when they gave thanks for food, my only desire was to escape and get back to the local pub.
However, I could not keep away from these dear saints even though I wanted to do so. I was drawn to them as I saw a love toward me that was not in the hearts of others I knew. I had to cycle 12 miles to see them and this I did regularly week after week and going to a gospel meeting and being tortured within. Not assembly believers but believers indeed. The preaching was powerful and I was sure the only person in the speaker’s sight was myself, I felt I was the only one being preached at. Always I returned to the pub to drown my sorrows, but such sorrows will not stay drowned. The Scriptures preached tortured me, especially an oft repeated verse "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me, it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks". Acts 26.14.
This, kicking against the pricks, fighting against God continued for 6 years or so. Night-time was agony, no sleep came upon me as I tossed and turned in my bed realising that one-day I would have to meet God. Lying in bed I would count up the years that might be left for me. There was no guarantee and I was not prepared; I was going to Hell and it frightened me. Alcohol could never help me I knew that much, yet I stuck to it. It gave me a few happy hours until the time came for bed.
I had become very friendly with a dear man I will never forget, Alex Trafford. A lovely man, in assembly fellowship, the father in law of my friend the vice-captain of the cricket team. He was deformed and suffering much from polio at birth, but his lovely face, and inner joy made me long to be like him. I did not want his infirmities or disfigurement but my, how I longed for his peace and joy. I also longed for His Saviour.
At that time it was a regular feature of my Sundays to cycle 15 or so miles over the Polden Hills and push start his little Morgan three wheeler car, jump in beside him and go to hear him preach. I could hardly sit in the seats as he sang often "It is well, it is well, with my soul". I knew it wasn’t right with mine but I knew he really meant it, and lived it too.
My new-found friends had long since given me a Bible which I ungraciously took and placed on my bedside table, ignoring it while my agony of soul remained. One evening in 1957 I struggled home from the pub and lay on my bed in uncontrollable discomfort of heart, fearing death. My hand stretched forth and fell on this little Bible. The page opened at 2 Tim.2.11. "If we believe not, He abideth faithful, He cannot deny Himself". I knew that God would save me but for about six months I consciously ran away from God and tried to drink my way out of trouble. There was no escape; I could only turn. On the eve of Whit-Monday 1958 I crawled home drunk, lay in my bed agonising as usual.
At 2 am. that morning in desperation I rolled out of my bed and prayed earnestly, "Lord, I’ve made a mess of my life, You take it".
My chains fell off, and my heart was free. I was saved and my drink problem disappeared, He is a mighty Deliverer. There was no problem with separation from the world as far as my former friends in the local pubs were concerned; they did not want anything to do with a man with "religious mania" as they saw it. Over the years that hasn’t been a bad complaint, praise the Lord.
My parents cared little about my faith and suggested I left home, they preferred a drunk man about the place, not ashamed to shove his mother around. Yet, my mother was saved at the age of sixty years, and my father at the age of seventy years, I had the joy of baptising them both and shall see them again in Heaven. I well remember my mother saying this after her conversion; "I never had any love for your father until the Lord saved me. My two brothers are not yet saved despite ill health. They witnessed a mighty change in our parents when they were saved and also, one trusts, in my conversion. Prayer will be valued for them, and their families. He IS the answer to every need.
For 10 years after conversion I remained in the building trade and during that time the Lord gave me a life partner for which I rejoiced greatly and still rejoice.
The desire in my heart was to serve the Lord in a full time capacity. For 3 years or so I remained unattached to any "church" and gathered with the believers who gave me such help before I was saved, they were evangelical believers who gathered in a little congregational chapel. A few Methodist friends crossed my path but even in those days they disliked my fundamentalism and mocked at some of the things I already held dear.
Very soon I sought out a company of believers that believed the whole of the Bible and my search ended in a Gospel Hall in Bridgwater, Somerset where I was baptised and welcomed into fellowship by a godly brother, Cecil Ingleby. In 1968 I joined a non-denominational association and engaged in Colportage work for 10 years until, deeply convicted of my association with what I could see as error I left this and sought the Lord earnestly for guidance. During those 10 years I was engaged in beach work at Margate for 5 weeks each summer. This gave me a strong desire to work among children.
Lessons were learned indeed as many of my brethren endeavoured to dissuade me from leaving the "umbrella" of an association but I knew it was better to obey God than man, and this has proved so true through the many years since.
It was not an easy matter to engage in the work of the Lord in a full time capacity, not a thing to be grasped at. If the matter of conversion brings deep conviction so also does the ascertaining of the mind of God regarding His call. Jeremiah, Moses, and others hardly jumped at the opportunity but rather shrunk from it. Yet the Lord’s purpose is in it all, Jer.1.5, "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee …..". Was not the hand of my God upon me long before I knew Him?
In 1978 the assembly in Margate, Kent commended me to the work of the Lord, supported by several other gatherings in the locality. Sadly some are no longer in existence.
It has been one’s joy to serve the Lord by His grace over the years, mainly among children, and one can praise Him that He has gloriously saved some and we give Him the glory, it is His work. I am not prepared to say that I have led souls to the Lord but through the foolishness of preaching the Holy Spirit has done the leading and salvation has been wrought by the grace of God.
Through His provision ALL needs have been met and never has an appeal been made — that would certainly spoil the blessing and my wife and I give Him all the glory.
"And when life’s journey is over, and I the dear Saviour shall see,
I’ll praise Him for ever and ever, for saving a sinner like me."
Such have been the advances in computerised technology that almost any experience in life can be simulated with terrifying authenticity and alarming realism. By using flight simulators pilots can be trained to fly different types of planes and land at any major airport, without having to leave the building in which the simulator is housed. The film industry has harnessed this technology to produce special effects which a few years ago would either have been too costly, too dangerous or downright impossible to create.
It is now easy to dismantle the barrier between fact and fantasy, between reality and unreality and step from the ‘real’ world into the realm of make-believe. All this may be calculated to dilute reality and deceive people into thinking that they can, with ease, escape reality and take refuge in a world of dreams and deception.
Be warned, my friend, there are realities from which you cannot run away and the mere thought of even attempting to escape from them is greatest folly.
SIN is a reality. "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin;" Romans 5.12. Its power, its presence, its consequences, its chaos, its evidence on every hand make it a fact undeniable and irrefutable. Your sins are being chronicled, every day you live, and if not pardoned, must be punished eternally. Many try to make excuses, while accusing others, but it is your responsibility and yours alone, to ensure that your sins are forgiven before you leave this world. Do not try to dodge the issue, no exceptions will be made and none will be exempt from the eternal consequences of unforgiven sins. There is a remedy — " The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin." 1John 1.7
LIFE itself is a reality; we are not mere actors, nor are we rehearsing, but on a one-way journey from birth to death and from time to eternity. Did not Queen Elizabeth I grasp something of life’s precious reality in her dying moments when she cried out to her assembled physicians, "A million of money for a moment of time"? Have you discovered, dear friend, the preciousness of these passing moments with their passing opportunities, and made preparation for the world to come?
SALVATION is a great reality. It will mean all the difference between Heaven and hell, between eternal gladness and eternal gloom. Do you possess it, for "How shall we escape if we neglect (reject, make little of) so great salvation…?" Hebrews 2.3. It can only be obtained by faith in Christ, the Son of God, who died on Calvary’s Cross to provide salvation for those, who, neither by riches, reformation nor religion, could provide it for themselves. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…" Acts 16.31
DEATH is a great reality. Many have tried to minimise its seriousness and finality, humanists attempt to paint a rosy picture to obscure the reality of this solemn event and philosophers, agnostics and atheists hope, against hope, to persuade themselves that death is the end, the cessation of existence, with no hereafter to be enjoyed or endured. The Bible says, "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:" Hebrews 9.27. Coupled with death is the reality of ETERNITY, with its endless duration and inescapable destinies — Heaven and hell, in one of which you will be forever. Time ends and then eternity.
Do remember that while the truth may hurt, it will never harm and in due course "will make you free." Deception, on the other hand, is dangerous, detrimental and damning and is characteristic of the devil himself, according to Revelation 20.10, "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire…" Do not listen to his lies, do not share his fate and eternal abode but trust Christ and know the blessed reality of sins forgiven and peace with God.
The Hour is Come
Before the entrance of the ages,
Before the measuring factor — time,
(How this baffles all the sages
This blessed concept so sublime).
Before there ever was Creation,
Before the fashioning of this world,
The Lamb was there in highest station
His banner yet to be unfurled.
Before the Cross, in purpose stainéd,
Before His passion, crimson dyed,
Verily thus was foreordainéd,
The Lamb, unblemished, crucified.
Before Barabbas knew survival,
Or Lamb before the shearer dumb,
Anticipating His arrival,
Could prophesy ‘Behold I come.’
Come to glorify His Father,
The battle to be fought, and won,
‘The hour is come,’ the spoil to gather,
And Father glorify the Son.
In coming down, He brought God to man, In going up, He took man to God.
righteousness without works, Rom.4.6
love … without dissimulation, Rom.12.9
speaking the word without fear, Phil.1.14
lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting, 1 Tim.2.8
prayer … without ceasing, Acts 12.5
wisdom … without partiality, and without hypocrisy, Jas.3.17
hospitality … without grudging, Pet.4.9
hated … without a cause, Jn.15.25
tempted … without sin, Heb.4.15
offered … without spot, Heb.9.14
by H. A. Barnes (England)