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 GREAT TRIBULATION
by W. F. Naismith
MY CONVERSION AND CALL
by W. Buckle
by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)
3) Reviewing the Journey: From Kadesh-Barnea to Gilead
Read Chapter 2
As we know, Deuteronomy chapters 1-3 trace Israel’s journey from Horeb, via Kadesh-barnea, to the plains of Moab. This chapter covers the period from Kadesh-barnea, through the wilderness, back to Kadesh-barnea, after which Israel turned east through Mount Seir, north through Moab, across the Arnon, through Ammon, and into Amorite territory.
The actual wilderness wanderings are covered by v1: "Then we turned, and took our journey into the wilderness by way of the Red Sea, as the Lord spake unto me (see 1.40, and Num.14.25): and we compassed Mount Seir many days." The march to Canaan begins with v2-3, "Ye have compassed this mountain long enough: turn you northward."
Notice the three warnings against meddling in the affairs of the people through whose territory they passed. See v5, 9, 19. We must endeavour to ascertain why Israel was not to meddle in the affairs of "the children of Esau," the Moabites and the Ammonites, or engage them in battle, v9. After all they were to possess the territory of Sihon and Og, and "contend," v24, with them in battle. We must also attempt to explain why are we given details of the previous inhabitants of these three territories. We will suggest some answers, without taking an entranced view, as we proceed with this study. Bear this in mind as we read on.
1) PASSING THROUGH MOUNT SEIR, v4-8
"Ye are to pass the coast of your brethren the children of Esau, which dwell in Seir, and they shall be afraid of you." Perhaps the answer to our first question lies here. "The coast of your brethren the children of Esau," see also v8. The Edomites, Moabites and Ammonites, were all related peoples. This is stressed in v9 and v19, where the Moabites and Ammonites are both called "the children of Lot." Notice, however, that there was to be:
i) No interference. "Meddle not with them." Israel were "strangers and pilgrims," and involvement in the affairs of other nations was not their business. Like Israel, we must remember our calling. "Our citizenship is in heaven." The kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ is "not of this world." As "strangers and pilgrims" we are to have "our conversation honest among the Gentiles" and "submit ourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake," 1Pet.2.11-17. But this does not mean participation in the politics of this world. The greatest service we can undertake on behalf of our fellow-men is to pray for them, and preach the gospel. Nothing must move us from this objective. Not even the ballot-box. We need to "take … good heed" to ourselves in this matter, v4.
ii) No inheritance. "I will not give you of their land, no, not so much as a foot breadth; because I have given Mount Seir unto Esau for a possession." Deut.32.8 now becomes compulsory reading. While the children of Israel, as true pilgrims, were authorised to buy meat and water, v6, they had no need to occupy Mount Seir. The reason follows: "For the Lord thy God … knoweth thy walking through this great wilderness: these forty years the Lord thy God hath been with thee; thou hast lacked nothing." The Lord Jesus taught extensively on this subject. Our object must be to "lay up … treasures in heaven" (Paul calls it "fruit that may abound to your account,") rather than amassing possessions on earth, and in pursuing this goal, we can trust God implicity. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things (the necessities of life) shall be added unto you," see Phil.4.19. We should ‘mark, learn, and inwardly digest’ the Lord’s teaching in Matt.6.19-34. The God who "knoweth thy walking through this great wilderness," is our Father and He hasn’t changed. "Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things."
An earlier request for passage through Edomite territory was made from Kadesh, Num.20.14, which was evidently also known as Kadesh-barnea. The request was refused, and "Edom came out against him with much people, and with a strong hand." Quite clearly, this is not the event described here, for God specifically states, "they shall be afraid of you," v4, and passage was evidently granted. See v8, 29. We should note however, that Edomite animosity continued until the sack of Jerusalem. Read the book of Obadiah.
2) PASSING THROUGH MOAB, v9-12
"We turned and passed by the way of the wilderness of Moab. And the Lord said unto me, Distress not the Moabites, neither contend with them in battle." Notice the same pattern.
i) No interference. "Distress not the Moabites, neither contend with them in battle." This is a little different to the instructions regarding "the children of Esau," and reminds us that we are not to be contentious people, either amongst ourselves as believers, or in the world. "Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man," Col.4.6. Some believers do seem to love a fight! We must certainly "earnestly contend for the faith," Jude 3, but setting out to pick quarrels is rather different! The Lord Jesus did not "strive, nor cry, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street," Isa.42.1-3. The servants of God are to resemble the perfect Servant, see 2Tim.2.24-26.
ii) No inheritance. "For I will not give thee of their land for a possession; because I have given Ar unto the children of Lot for a possession." This repeats the instructions given in connection with Mount Seir, and reminds us that as "pilgrims and strangers," we are to "set our affection on things above, not on things on the earth," Col.3.2.
Moabite territory was previously occupied by the Emims, see Gen.14.5, who are described as "a people great, and many, and tall, as the Anakims; which also were accounted giants, as the Anakims," v10-11. This is followed by reference to the previous occupants of Edomite territory (the Horims: see Gen.14.16), v12. Bear these facts in mind until we reach v20-23. The words, "as Israel did unto the land of his possession, which the Lord gave unto them," evidently refer, not to Canaan, but to the possession of territory formerly occupied by Sihon and Og, see 3.12.
3) CROSSING THE ZERED, v13-18
"And the space in which we came from Kadesh-barnea, until we were come to the brook Zered was thirty and eight years; until all the generation of the men of war were wasted out from among the host, as the Lord sware unto them." We should now turn to Jn.5.5, "And a certain man was there (at the pool of Bethesda) which had an infirmity thirty and eight years." He was a true picture of Israel, and the imparting of health to him by the Lord Jesus was one of the "signs" that "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God," Jn.20.30-31. Jehovah, Who had given new life to His people after thirty-eight years in the wilderness, was present to give new life to a man who had been incapacitated for the same period! For Israel, the period of judgment was over and, continuing the parallel, the Lord Jesus said to the man, "Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee." The loss of "all the generation of the men of war," reminds us that sin and disobedience will not go unpunished.
4) PASSING THROUGH AMMON, v19-23
"And when thou comest nigh over the children of Ammon, distress them not, nor meddle with them," v19. This repeats the pattern in connection with "the children of Esau" and the Moabites. Once again, there was to be no interference and no inheritance.
As in the case of Moab and Edom, v10-12, the previous inhabitants of Ammon are named: "Giants dwelt therein in old time; and the Ammonites call them Zamzummims (evidently called Zuzims in Gen.14.5); a people great, and many, and tall, as the Anakims (and the Emims, v10)." Now, it seems, we come to the reason for these details. "But the Lord destroyed them before them; and they succeeded them, and dwelt in their stead: as he did to the children of Esau, which dwelt in Seir, when he destroyed the Horims from before them," v21-22. We have an added piece of information in v23, which tells us that the Caphtorims destroyed the Avims, and occupied their territory. Whatever else we make of all this information, it is perfectly clear that none of these events were ‘quirks of history’ or ‘the fortunes of war.’ God removed these people, illustrating the well-documented lesson that "the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will." He "putteth down one, and setteth up another," Ps.75.7. But God does not act in an arbitrary manner, and we must conclude He destroyed these peoples because of their sin. The name "Emims" evidently means ‘terrible ones,’ and "Zamzummims" means ‘noisy ones,’ although Matthew Henry gives the meaning as ‘crafty men’ or ‘wicked men.’ The variation just proves that it is inadvisable to build theological skyscrapers on weak foundations!
5) CROSSING THE ARNON, v24-25
"Rise ye, taking your journey, and pass over the river Arnon: behold, I have given into thine hand Sihon the Amorite (the ‘iniquity of the Amorites was full,’ Gen.15.16) … This day will I begin to put the dread of thee and the fear of thee upon the nations that are under the whole heaven." Now read Josh.2.9-11. God gave Israel an awesome reputation, not because they were frightening warriors, but because He was with them. How does the world perceive us? What kind of testimony do we bare? We may not reach the heights of the early preachers of the gospel, of whom it was said, "these that have turned the world upside down (‘in tumult,’ JND) are come hither also," Acts 17.6. But we ought to be known as people who love the gospel, and take every opportunity to share it with others.
6) CONFLICT WITH SIHON, v26-36
We should read Num.21.21-31 in conjunction with this section of the chapter. Notice that "words of peace," v26, were met with hostility. Peter refers to God’s word to "the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ … whom they slew and hanged on a tree," Acts 10.36-40. The "gospel of peace," Rom.10.15, was almost invariably met by opposition and persecution in the book of Acts, and this has continued ever since. There is increasing evidence that past apathy towards the gospel in Great Britain is changing to opposition, and in view of proposed European legislation, there is no doubt that this will increase.
But this should not fill us with alarm and despondency. Israel triumphed over Sihon and his fellow Amorites. "The Lord our God delivered him before us; and we smote him, and his sons, and all his people." Similarly, in the book of Acts, God’s people witnessed the triumph of the gospel in the teeth of bitter opposition, see 2Cor.2.14. We now live in a society which strikingly resembles the paganism of the First Century, and if the Gospel was effective then, it must be effective now. God’s power enabled Moses to say, "there was not one city too strong for us: the Lord our God delivered all unto us," v36, and the Gospel remains "the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth."
We should not be alarmed by the fact that God "hardened his (Sihon’s) spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that He might deliver him into thy hand," v30. The conquests of Israel on both sides of the Jordan were far more than military triumphs. The sword of Israel was the sword of divine judgment on unrepentant sinners. Remember the "iniquity of the Amorite." Their failure to repent brought judicial hardening. Compare Pharaoh, who first "hardened his heard," Ex.8.15, 32; also 7.13 JND. The chapter ends with reference to Israel’s obedience. A much happier note! God’s prohibitions were carefully observed: "Only unto the land of the children of Ammon thou camest not … nor unto whatsoever the Lord our God forbad us," v37. This speaks for itself, for "to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams."
Moses’ review of the journey continues in Chapter 3.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by Ian McKee (Northern Ireland)
Paper 13 — The Second Return to Service
(Ezra Chapter 8.1-20)
The first fourteen verses of Ezra chapter 8 are a diminutive of chapter 2. They enumerate those who return with Ezra from Babylon to Jerusalem in 457 BC. Although reference is made here to only some 1,500 persons, they were each as precious to God as the 50,000 who had returned with Zerubbabel and Jeshua some 80 years before. All were similarly known. Everyone counted.
The men who returned (Ezra 8.1-14)
Chiefs of their fathers, or 18 heads of houses, are first mentioned. Fathers with sensitivity to God’s guidance who can provide a good example to their families are ever of immense value. An outstanding example was Abraham of whom the Lord said, "For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment," Gen.18.19.
As well as considering these principal guides we should also reflect upon the potential spiritual growth of families. It would be peculiar to conclude that the rising generation could not, by God’s grace, achieve more than the one that preceded it! After all, the "chiefs of their fathers" were themselves emulating the faith of those who had gone before. With the exception of the sons of Joab, Ezra 8.9, all those named were related to the returnees in ch.2, although the number of families and constituent members are less numerous. But consider the joy of reunion at Jerusalem, reviewing generations of family history and similar experience with God.
The family heads first mentioned are of priestly and royal lineage. Gershom and Daniel are of the lineage of Phinehas and Ithamar respectively and Hattush is a great great grandson of Zerubbabel and a descendant of King David. However no details are given of the number of their accompanying family members. Then we have the names of 15 other, dare we say, ordinary family heads together with a total of 1,496 accompanying males. This indicates that for everyone with a name prominent among the people of God there were at least a hundred others, with an equal exercise in returning, whose names are not recorded. Yet these unknown saints were of a calibre that they could be counted. Also, while family size varied between a total of 28 and 300 males, the small families received equal recognition with the large.
Assembling at the Ahava and the Challenge at Casiphia (Ezra 8.15-20)
Having commenced their journey on the first day of the month they reach the Ahava River nine days later, where they rested for three days, Ezra 7.9; 8.15. However, this was not a time-wasting delay. It provided time for physical and spiritual recuperation, plus opportunity for Ezra to take stock and plan for the future. These seasons are necessary. Remember God ordained night to follow day and gave one day of rest in every seven! Also the Lord Himself said to His disciples, "Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest awhile," Mk.6.31.
However it was during this period of rest at the Ahava that he "viewed the people, and the priests, and found there none of the sons of Levi," Ezra 8.15. Rest, review and reflection allowed Ezra to recognise a deficiency that, otherwise, might not have been apparent: namely while two priests were returning, there were no Levites. Yet there must be Levites to bear the vessels of the Lord. Deficiency in spiritual energy will lead to unhallowed methods. Unscriptural innovation will lead to tragedy, 1Chron.13. Ezra therefore sends for nine chief men plus another two with understanding, Ezra 8.16. He was not guilty of selecting boys to do a man’s task! Only men with moral influence, whose word carried weight, together with those skilled in understanding and communicating Divine truth, will do.
These eleven men are sent to Casiphia to speak on Ezra’s behalf to Iddo, who obviously had oversight of this Jewish community. The request they carried was clear. It was for "ministers for the house of our God," Ezra 8.17. Their task was successful and the two men of understanding recruited another "by the good hand of our God upon us they brought us a man of understanding," namely Sherebiah, Ezra 8.18. Like begets like. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do His commandments," Ps.111.10. And Sherebiah did not come alone for his sons and brothers joined him. Then Hashabiah and Jeshaiah with brothers and sons also associated with them to provide a total of 38 Levites. Also 220 Nethinims joined them and "all of them were expressed by name" as God also honours menial service, Ezra 8.18-20.
This passage provides evidence for the productivity of sanctified rest. During this period a particular need was identified. Ezra brought eleven men into his confidence and commissioned them to perform a special task, which they performed to the letter. Men of understanding gained a companion, who was the inspiration for the exercise of others together with their sons and brothers. In turn 220 Nethinims joined them. Action following rest and due consideration achieved far more than dogged, unthinking determination. "Wisdom is the principal thing: therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding," Prov.4.7.
Prolonged tiredness leads either to despondency or fractiousness, neither of which is of any benefit among the saints. But the recognition of deficiency by a spiritually clear-sighted and rested man led to purposeful exercise and productive results. This should lead us to reflect on the composition of our lives. For instance, have we a healthy balance between the legitimate secular and the essential spiritual, and between public service and private devotions? Or, have we lost, in large measure, the cultivation of holiness, of spending time in prayerful reading and reflection upon the Word of God? If we achieve an appropriate balance we may have a beneficial influence on others. But only by "the good hand of our God upon us"!
—to be continued (D.V.)
by Walter A. Boyd (South Africa)
No.6 – THE CONCLUDING SALUTATIONS
(A) His Commendation of Phebe (Romans 16.1,2)
The benedictory prayer at the end of chapter fifteen has led some to think that the epistle concludes with the word "Amen," and that chapter sixteen is an appendix, or postscript. This is not the case, as can be confirmed by a careful reading of the final chapter, which reveals firm links with the earlier fifteen chapters. Therefore, chapter sixteen must be regarded as an integral part of the whole letter. In our consideration of this chapter, we will note some of the links as we come to them, and discover that many of them serve as examples of what Paul had taught in the previous part of the epistle. It will be sufficient at this stage to point out that the features of the gospel that he mentions in ch.16.25-27 are a repetition of truths taught in chapter one. Chapter sixteen serves as a very fitting conclusion to the letter.
In his conclusion, Paul greets his friends in Rome, and passes on the greetings of friends who are with him in Corinth, from where he is writing. He commends Phebe to those in Rome, and mentions the names of so many individuals, including a word of warning against division-makers. The chapter can be divided into five sections;
1. His Commendation of Phebe v1, 2.
2. His Salutations to Rome v3-16.
3. His Admonition and Encouragement v17-20.
4. His Salutations from Corinth v21-24.
5. His Concluding Benediction v25-27.
1. His Commendation of Phebe (v1,2).
While it cannot be proven conclusively that Paul entrusted Phebe with the safe conveyance of this epistle to the saints in Rome, it is not unreasonable to accept this as an explanation for her name being singled out for special commendation at the start. If that is so, it is clear why her name should have such prominence in this chapter, amongst the associates of the Apostle Paul. When she would arrive as a stranger in Rome, the commendation of the Apostle to the Gentiles would give her a ready acceptance among his many friends in assembly fellowship, in the capital of the Gentile world. In addition, it would relieve his friends in Rome of any anxiety as to the genuineness of the bearer of a letter that had his signature. The mention of so many names in Rome and Corinth would have given weight to the authenticity of the letter. If Phebe did convey this letter to Rome, what a noble service she performed for those to whom Paul wrote, and indeed to every Christian throughout the present dispensation. The mention of Phebe’s name in this letter did not constitute a letter of commendation of exactly the same sort as Paul states in 2Cor.3, but the principle is the same. A letter of commendation, carried by a believer moving from one assembly to another, is quite scriptural, and is still required today. The mention of her name in v1 was a testimony to her genuineness, and was necessary when she arrived in Rome. Another principle is noteworthy: Phebe was engaged in a service for the believers, and as such had to be of commendable character. The world watches on with far more interest than we are aware of, and careful attention should be given to ensure that those who are engaged in public or private service of the saints are of good report.
A) Her Introduction to the saints in Rome (v1,2). Phebe, whose name means "pure," appears only here in the New Testament. She is commended in a three-fold way, that highlights her — relationship: "sister"; responsibility: "servant"; resources: "succourer of many." She was a sister in Christ, a servant in the church, and a succourer of the Christians. That relationship in Christ led Paul to describe her as "our sister." She may never have met any of the believers in Rome before, yet she was related to them as a sister in Christ. The use of the word "servant" does not identify the office of deaconess. It simply indicates that she used her time and energy in the service of other Christians in the assembly. Ecclesiastical history may have formalised the office of deaconess, but that gives no warrant for assemblies to adopt the practices of Christendom. Since Paul was happy to commend such a servant, her service would have been within the limitations for sisters that he teaches in other epistles. Her service was not public; it was not preaching, nor was it pastoring. These types of service by a sister are not sanctioned by Scripture.
One idea in the word ‘succourer’ is a person who affords protection for a stranger. As an itinerant preacher, the Apostle would have needed such a ministry. This is still a noble service for any exercised sister, and when done for the Master and His people it will reap a rich reward.
B) Her Reception by the saints at Rome (v2). Paul asks that she should be received and assisted. It is important to observe that her reception is to be "in the Lord." She was to be received in the fellowship of the Lord, or because she belongs to the Lord. Her obedience to the Lord as Master, and their submission to the same Master, would combine to provide a willing reception of Phebe. To do so is becoming of those who are saints; or, in other words, it is acting worthily towards the Lord. If some in Rome were of a mind to reject Phebe, they would be rejecting her Lord, and acting unworthily of the name of saints. This is why Diotrophes comes in for severe censure by John in his third epistle.
Phebe was to be assisted in whatever business she required. She should be made to feel at home among them, with warmth and Christian love. This would include asking her how they could help in the furtherance of the purpose of her visit to Rome. This is a practical responsibility that we should fulfil, when a visitor bearing a letter of commendation comes to our assembly. Help should be readily available for whatever needs they have. The writer knows of some assemblies where this is manifested today; and young believers away from home, at University or College, are assured of practical help, as well as the fellowship of the various meetings of the assembly. The availability of a mature believer to help young saints in a hostile world has been a great blessing to many, and has proved to be a significant spiritual help and preservative in their young lives. It also forges links of fellowship that are lasting, and a testimony to the grace of God. How sad, when a believer arrives at a new assembly, to be greeted with nothing more than a suspicious glance, or icy stare. When we do that, we have failed!
Paul had every confidence that Priscilla and Aquila (v3), Mary (v6), or the mother of Rufus (v12), to name but some, would do as he requested in the reception and help of Phebe. His past experience of their fellowship assured Paul that they would extend the same to Phebe. This is one reason for the list of names in the section from v3-16. Paul was not ‘name-dropping,’ in order to get on in life, as some would do. He was showing the sterling character of those Christians that he knew in Rome. He was confident that they would worthily receive Phebe, and honour his request. If Paul were writing to the assembly in your locality, would your name appear in a list of those in whom he could have confidence?
—to be continued (D.V.)
by W. W. Fereday
Paper 9 — "EAT THE FLESH"
The blood of the lamb having been sprinkled according to the ordinance of Jehovah, the flesh of the animal was to be cooked and eaten. Here also for every detail there was divine legislation: nothing whatever was left to the decision of the people. So we read: "They shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. Eat not of it raw nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof," Ex.12.8-9. Eating has in Scripture the double force of appropriation and identification. In Jn.6.51-57 the Saviour insists upon the necessity of eating His flesh and drinking His blood in order to have and enjoy eternal life. It is folly to drag the Lord’s Supper into Jn.6, for it had not been instituted at the time our Lord thus spoke. The meaning is that not only must He be slain in order to meet the need of sinful men, but men must distinctly appropriate Him in faith in that character. Hence the language of the new song in heaven: "Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood," Rev.5.9. They who surround the throne adoringly acknowledge that their every blessing is due to the Saviour’s death. Israel’s feeding upon the lamb in Egypt is thus typical of our appropriation today of the once-slain Christ.
But there is more than this. It was distinctly forbidden to boil the flesh, as also to eat of it raw. It must be "roast with fire." Fire is the emblem in Scripture of the holiness of God in judgment. It is not enough for me to know that Christ died; it is essential that I should believe that He died atoningly, having first exhausted all the judgment of God that my sins deserved. "His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree," 1Pet.2.24. Feeding, as it were, upon the roast lamb, I enter in some measure into the awful judgment which fell upon Christ as my sin-bearer, and I realise that but for His self-sacrificing love I must myself have remained under the wrath of God for ever, Jn.3.36.
A sense of this doubtless weighed heavily upon the soul of Saul of Tarsus in Damascus when for three days he could neither eat nor drink, Acts 9.9.
The "bitter herbs" which accompanied the roast lamb are suggestive of the same principle. The realisation that sin, my sin — is of such exceeding gravity in the sight of God that nothing could expiate it, and thus save me from eternal ruin but the death of Christ, and that in the midst of circumstances of unparalleled grief and shame, is bitter indeed, though the knowledge of redemption yields ultimately and for ever exceeding joy.
Anything that remained of the Paschal lamb was to be destroyed in the morning. The sacrifice in all its ceremonial was to be completed within a single night. "Ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire." The rising sun was thus to see no trace of the slain lamb. In like manner the atoning work of Christ in process of being accomplished; it has been accomplished definitively and eternally. As a fragrant and hallowed memory Calvary’s costly sacrifice abides with God and the redeemed for ever, but the sacrifice itself is past and completed. So divinely efficacious is it that nothing further could ever be required or accepted. For God’s suffering Lamb the dark night of judgment is no more and He lives on high in the eternal sunshine of divine favour and love.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by J. Flanigan (Northern Ireland)
1. The Garments of Deity
It is perhaps well known that garments in Scripture speak of character. It is therefore interesting to consider the garments of the Saviour with a view to meditations on His life and ministry, and a study of the great fundamentals touching the glory of His Person. All His garments are fragrant with memories of Himself, whether the swaddling bands of His infancy, or the coat that was without seam, the purple robe of mockery, the grave clothes in which they finally wrapped Him, or the other garments which He wore during the days of His flesh.
However, in Ps.104.1-2 it is said of Him, "Thou art clothed with honour and majesty. Who coverest Thyself with light as with a garment". Here we look back before Bethlehem and the incarnation. In the dateless, timeless past, in the uncalendared days of eternity, He who voluntarily became Man to be our Saviour was robed in light. "His train filled the temple," Isa.6.1. His glory filled the holiness of the heavens and every intelligence there acclaimed His inscrutable greatness. Seraphim and cherubim veiled their faces while myriads of angelic beings hastened to do His bidding, and the Scriptures confirm that it was indeed the glory of the Lord Jesus that Isaiah saw in his awful vision, Jn.12.41. He wore the garment of light, covered with honour and majesty.
Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great Name we praise.
Well did the hymn writer conclude – "’Tis only the splendour of light hideth Thee."
The truth of our Lord’s Deity is assailed on every hand. It has always been so, since the beginning, and the earliest New Testament writers had to defend and emphasise it. But the Saviour wears titles which are the titles of Godhood, He exercises attributes which are the prerogative of Deity alone, and He accepts honours which can be ascribed only to One who is God. It is somewhat difficult to understand how anyone with an open honest mind can read even the two Scriptures already referred to and still deny that Jesus is God, Isa.6.1; Jn.12.41.
Note that the title "Son of God" infers and implies a relationship within the circle of Divine Persons and has ever been seen by Jew and Moslem alike to be a claim to Deity, Jn.5.18. They told Pilate, "By our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God," Jn.19.7. The relationship of the Son to the Father is unique and eternal. He alone is the Son of the Father in a timeless intimacy which makes Him the Only Begotten. He is the Son ever in the bosom of the Father. Though He came by incarnation into our world yet He never left the Father’s bosom, and though He was, by grace, found in fashion as a Man, yet that word is always true, "Who, being in the form of God," Jn.1.18; Phil.2.6.
He is Immanuel, God with us. He is the Ancient of Days, the Father of eternity whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting, Micah 5.2. He is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending. He is the Word, the revelation of God to men, and He is the great "I AM", without beginning of days or end of life. He is both the root and the offspring of David, so that King David might well have said, as John Baptist did, "After me cometh a Man which is preferred before me: for He was before me," Jn.1.30. He is eternal, inscrutable, and incomparable. He is God!
During His lifetime Jesus exercised the attributes of Deity. Omnipotence and Omniscience belong to God alone. Omnipotence is All-Power and Omniscience is All-Knowledge. The Saviour had both. As the omnipotent One He made water wine, He calmed the winds and waves with a word, and He walked on the troubled waters. He once bade a fish bring a coin to Peter, He multiplied bread and fish, the harvest of land and sea, to feed the multitudes, and He withered a barren fig tree with a word. He healed leprosy, palsy, blindness, and deafness. He made the dumb to speak, He delivered from demon possession, He healed all manner of diseases, He cured the incurable, and even death itself had to obey Him. He was omnipotent indeed.
The deep, the demons, and the dead,
Were subject to the word He said,
Unveiling thus His power and might
To exercise His Godhead right.
In His omniscience He knew all things. How often He answered the unspoken reasonings in the hearts of the scribes, saying, "Why reason ye these things in your hearts?" Mk.2.8. On His last evening with His disciples He revealed His knowledge of all things. See Jn.13.1,3,11,18. "Jesus knew that His hour was come." "Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He was come from God, and went to God". "He knew who should betray Him." "I know whom I have chosen." He knew too, what His enemies were planning. On His last journey to Jerusalem He knew what lay before Him. He knew about the Garden, the betrayal and the arrest, the House of Caiaphas, Peter’s denial, the Judgment Hall and Golgotha, thorns, nails, thirst and spear. In His omniscience He knew it all, yet set His face determinedly to go to Jerusalem nevertheless, Lk.19.51.
All this was evidence of His Deity. He therefore had a right to accept honours which were due to God alone. "My Lord and my God" said Thomas, and the Saviour accepted that. All men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father, He had taught them. He had expounded to them a five-fold equality of the Father and the Son, Jn.5. Eight times throughout our Bible Jesus is directly called God.
Isa.9.6 "His Name shall be called … the mighty God;"
Mt.1.23 "His Name Emmanuel … God with us;"
Jn.1.1 "The Word was God;"
Jn.20.28 "My Lord and my God;"
Rom.9.5 "Who is God over all, blessed for ever" (JND);
Tit.2.13 "Our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ" (RV; JND);
Heb.1:8 "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever" (also Ps.45.6);
1Jn.5.20 "His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God."
Some things are too big for our tiny human intellects. Sometimes we can but bow in wonder, and worship. How can we understand that the Omnipotent should become dependent? That the Son of the Father should become the Son of Mary? That the Ancient of Days should become an Infant in time? Yet this is what we shall find as we continue to consider the garments that He wore. "What manner of Man is this?"
—to be continued (D.V.)
by D. Richards (Canada)
These papers are designed to help believers who are gathered to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ alone, seeking to follow the pattern of the local assembly as seen in the New Testament, to understand what the Bible teaches about the subject of the reception of believers. There are differences of opinion among assemblies as to whether we should receive to the Lord’s supper believers who have no assembly association. The writer will try, in a sensitive way, to present what he is convinced the Bible teaches on the subject.
Read Rom.15. 5 – 7; 1 Cor.11. 28.
Some believers in assembly fellowship find it difficult to accept that when they bring a relative or friend, who is saved but not in assembly fellowship, to the Lord’s supper, that individual will not be received to break bread. And one of the things that believers from denominations find most offensive about assemblies is not being received to break bread, even though they are living godly lives.
The texts above have been used to justify assemblies receiving denominational Christians at the Lord’s supper, as long as they are not known to be living sinful lives. An expression commonly used in certain circles is "we receive on the ground of the One Body," by which they mean, "we receive to the Lord’s supper all believers, who are in the body of Christ, as long as they are not living in sin." One of the texts they will use to support this is Rom.15.7, "Wherefore, receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God." First of all, this text is not referring to receiving to the Lord’s supper, nor even receiving to the fellowship of the assembly. Those being addressed in this verse were already in assembly fellowship, but, because of coming from different religious backgrounds and different cultures, were tending to sit in judgment upon one another. The whole context, from ch.14.1-15.7 is dealing with this problem of intolerance. Paul was exhorting them to accept their differences and have fellowship with one another. Secondly, even if Rom.15.7 was referring to receiving to the Lord’s supper, it does not say anything about, "as long as they are not living in sin." Christ did not wait until we had cleaned up our lives before He received us; He received us just as we were. A moral change was not a precondition to Him receiving us, but the result of Him receiving us. Hence, if we use this verse for receiving to the Lord’s supper, we cannot insist on only receiving them if they "are not living in sin." Thirdly, if we receive "on the ground of the one body" then we cannot expect the sisters to be silent, for "there is neither male or female" in the body of Christ, Gal.3.28. Also, we cannot exercise discipline upon a sinning Christian, because there is no excommunication in the body of Christ. All believers are in the body of Christ, and since the Bible teaches that we can never lose our salvation, we can never be excommunicated from the body of Christ. Clearly, this verse has nothing to do with receiving to the Lord’s supper.
The other text that people often quote is 1Cor.11.28, "But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup." This verse very definitely has to do with the Lord’s supper. The appeal is that we are not to examine the man, but he is to examine himself, and decide if he should partake. What they fail to see is that this chapter was addressed to the assembly in Corinth, and that all the saints were exhorted to examine themselves before partaking of the Lord’s supper. If the context be examined, 1Cor.11.17-34, it will be seen that there was a lot of sinful behaviour amongst the saints at Corinth, particularly preceding the Lord’s supper. God had seriously disciplined many as a result, v30. Paul’s point here is that we should all do an inventory on ourselves, before we remember the Lord, rectify any wrongs, and then partake (not abstain). The verse has nothing whatever to do with receiving someone from outside the assembly.
Four questions that must be answered.
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?
1) To what should we receive? Read Acts 9.26-28; Rom.16.1,2.
There are two different views among assemblies of the Lord’s people on this subject. The one view is that we should receive believers to the Lord’s supper. The other is that we should receive believers to the full fellowship of the assembly. Which is correct?
In Acts 9: 26 Paul "assayed to join himself to the disciples." The verse says nothing about the Lord’s supper, although undoubtedly that would be included. Clearly, he was wanting to be part of the assembly in Jerusalem. So that, when he was eventually received, "he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem." Likewise, in Rom.16.2 there is no reference to the Lord’s supper. Phebe was a business lady visiting the imperial city, and the saints were exhorted to "receive her." Are we to understand by this statement that Paul was merely asking them to receive her to the breaking of bread? Not at all! They were expected to receive her into the fellowship of the assembly for the duration of her time in Rome. Reception, in the New Testament, is never to the Lord’s supper, it is always to the full fellowship of the assembly. The Lord’s supper is an assembly function, therefore to partake of the Lord’s supper we must be in the fellowship of the assembly.
It is the practise of some well meaning believers to break bread as a family if they are away from an assembly for whatever reason. Others will "take the emblems" to a sick Christian at home or in hospital. While this is a noble gesture it is totally contrary to the Word of God. The whole context of 1Cor.11.17-34 indicates it is as an assembly that we break bread.
2) Who do we receive? Read Acts 2.41,42; 9.6,18,26.
In Acts 2.41, firstly, "they gladly received His word," secondly, "they were baptized," thirdly, "they were added." Having been added "they continued steadfastly … in the breaking of bread." In Acts 9.6 Saul was converted, in v18 he was baptized, and in v26 "he assayed to join himself to the disciples." In the Scriptures believing always precedes baptism, baptism always precedes reception to the assembly, and reception always precedes participating in the Lord’s supper.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by W. Fraser Naismith (Scotland)
The Lord has given His people a "Blessed Hope," Tit.2.13; a "Steadfast Hope," Heb.6.19; and a "Purifying Hope," 1Jn.3.3. Despite the many great and precious promises, some, in our day, believe that the saints of this present dispensation will undergo the terrible throes of the Great Tribulation. "To the law and to the testimony," said Isaiah; so we shall proceed to examine the Holy Scriptures to ascertain what God has declared regarding this time of severe testing and trial.
There are six definite and direct allusions to the Great Tribulation in the Word of God at which we may profitably look. (There are numerous indirect references, to some of these also, we may refer).
The first is in Jeremiah 30.7, and reads thus: "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." Note the words, "the time of Jacob’s trouble." Who was Jacob? He was the wrestler of Gen.32 who had his name changed to ‘Israel.’ Paul distinguishes the peoples of this earth in 1Cor.10.32 saying, "Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the Church of God." Born again souls in this economy are in the Church of God which Christ loved, and for which He gave Himself, Eph.5.25. Promethean hate has kindled the flames of persecution throughout this long period of divine grace, and many of the dear saints of God have won the martyr’s crown for their unswerving fidelity to Christ and the truth of God’s Word. The persecution, or tribulation spoken of by our Lord in Jn.16.33 has no reference to "The Great Tribulation," called "The time of Jacob’s Trouble." This period of time relates to God’s earthly people Israel; and exemption must be claimed for those who compose the "body of Christ," the Church.
The second Scripture to which we would refer is found in Dan.12.1: "At that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time; and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book." It is worthy of note that Michael has always a special association with God’s earthly people: see Dan.10.13,21; Jude 9; Rev.12.7. Michael is alluded to as "the great prince that standeth for the children of thy people." Who was Daniel? He was a Hebrew captive in Babylon. His people must have been Hebrews. There is going to be a time of trouble such as never was since national history began, and at that time Daniel’s people are going to be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. The history of Israel has been a chequered one! What has the Church to do with that history or that particular nation? Surely there is only one interest and that is the salvation of the souls of the personnel who are Israelites.
Both of the Scriptures quoted are culled from the Old Testament Scriptures: and it should be kept in mind that the Church is not the subject of Old Testament declaration, but of New Testament revelation. Those who try to find the doctrine of the Church in the Old Testament are like the blind man in the dark room looking for a black cat that isn’t there. How necessary to accept the exhortation of Paul to Timothy: "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth," 2Tim.2.15.
The third reference to the Great Tribulation is found in Matthew’s Gospel, ch.24. The Olivet Discourse is the greatest prophecy extant, because it was given by the greatest Prophet, the Lord Jesus Christ. Two questions were asked by the disciples in Matt.24.3 — the first — "When shall these things be?" was answered in Lk.21. The second — "What shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the age?" was answered in Matt.24,25.
It should be carefully noticed that the context of the first section of the Olivet Discourse, Matt.24.4-44, has a definite Jewish bearing. Note v14 where reference is made to "the Gospel of the Kingdom," which shall be "preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." The following verse refers to "the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet": see Dan.9.27. In v16 "Judea" is alluded to, and those living there are warned to flee. V20 refers to the "Sabbath Day", which was the day of rest for Israel, Ex.31.16-17. In verse 21 the Tribulation is referred to in such terms as "tribulation such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be." V22 speaks of the "elect"— this has no reference to those who are "chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world," but to the elect of Israel. See. Deut.7.6 and Ps.139.16.
Perhaps the greatest evidence that it is not the Church period which is in view in this first section of the Olivet Discourse is in the usage of the term "Son of Man" six times: see v27,30,37,39,44. This title was first used by Christ to indicate His rejection, then afterwards to affirm His universal authority as supreme ruler. It is not a title used in the epistles relative to the Church, and found only in Rev.1.13 to indicate that Christ is the One who discriminates and judges as He moves among the lampstands.
There is nothing in this section of the Olivet Discourse to indicate that the Church is in view: in fact, it is quite the reverse. (The divisions of the Olivet Discourse are as follows: Matt.24.4-44, Christ’s coming in relation to His earthly people. Matt.24.45-25.30 is the second division and relates to Christ’s coming to Christendom. Matt.25.31-46 presents His coming to the living nations). The whole context of the first section, in which a lone reference is made to the Great Tribulation, has a definite bearing on the Jew and not on the Church.
The fourth reference is found in Mark 13.19. In this passage there is presented the Olivet Discourse, and it would be unnecessary to cover the same ground again. In v20 there is the shortening of the days and these are confined to 1,260 days, Rev.11.3; 12.6; or 42 months. Rev. 13.5; or "a time, and times, and half a time," Rev. 12.14; Dan.7.15; 12.7.
The fifth reference is found in Rev. 3.10: "Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation which shall come upon the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth." The foregoing is part of the statement made by Christ to "the angel of the church in Philadelphia." The writer accepts the outline of Rev.2,3 as a preview of church history. The period alluded to in the message to Philadelphia is this epoch of time in which our lot is cast: in fact the last three messages, to Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea run concurrently to the close of church history. With the darkening clouds gathering, and paucity in numbers characterising the saints — "thou hast a little strength;" and loyalty to divine truth being maintained — "thou hast kept My word, and hast not denied My name;" the promise of the Lord is, "I will also keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth." The Lord did not say, "I will keep thee through the hour;" nor did He say, "I will keep thee in the hour;" but "I will keep thee from the hour." The hour is not sixty minutes: it is a measured span of time, e.g., Jn.12.27; Mk.14.35; Lk.22.53. The hour referred to in Rev.3.10 is a period of three and a half years — the latter half of Daniel’s last week. The question may be asked, "How will the Lord keep the saints of this Church period from the Great Tribulation? He will take them into eternity, free forever from the limitations of the inveterate hate and fierce fires of the Tribulation. Isn’t it simple? Isn’t it sublime? Why then do people desire to pass through the Great Tribulation? It is a blessed hope we have, and not a haunting nightmare. If it could be established that the saints of this present dispensation must go through the Great Tribulation then there would be sleepless nights, and a haunting spectre of carnage such as has never been experienced on earth before would invade our hearts and minds; then we would seek death, as did Elijah. Lift up your heads! The coming of the Lord draweth nigh.
The sixth and final allusion to the Great Tribulation is found in Rev.7.14. This chapter is a revelation of the purposes of God — relative to Israel, and consequent upon that in relation to the nations of the earth. The hundred and forty-four thousand of the tribes of Israel are sealed: that is, they are set apart to God. Today the believers are sealed, Eph.1.13, the sealing is Godward, as the ‘Earnest’ of the following verse is manward. So in that coming day God will set His soul on the remnant who will be preserved through the Great Tribulation, so "all Israel shall be saved;" compare Rom.9.27; 11.26. This will be the nucleus of the nation which will people the Millennial Earth as the head of the nations and not the tail. There will also be an innumerable company of all the nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues who shall be prepared for, and blessed through the Millennium. When John sought to know who this latter company was he was informed "these are they which have come out of Tribulation the great one, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." They are morally before the throne of God. (Daniel has been cast into the den of lions alive and Darius made a decree when he was preserved there, thus: "that in every denomination of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel"). This was not a scene in heaven, any more than that of Rev.7. It is a scene characteristic of those who are on the earth who have been cleansed and prepared for the delights of the Millennial reign of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It will have been noticed that there is not even a trace of a suggestion that the Church will pass through the Great Tribulation. Let us therefore be satisfied with the divine revelation which clearly teaches that the Great Tribulation is not a fire kindled for the purification of the Church: Christ does that "By the washing of water by the word," Eph.5.26. It relates to God’s earthly people of whom He says, "I will sow her unto Me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not My people, Thou art My people! And they shall say, Thou art my God," Hos.2.23.
Lay your head on your pillow in the blessed hope of being out of this scene when the Great Tribulation rages: "He that shall come will come, and will not tarry."
by Wallace Buckle (Canada)
I was born and raised in a little fishing village on the Labrador Coast, Newfoundland., Canada. Some years later, I got a job with a mining Company at Seven Islands, Quebec. At first I put money away and even sent some home, but soon I began to drink and gamble and the money went as fast as I made it. After many a night of drinking we would put the little motor car on the railway track and head back up the line, not knowing at what corner we would meet a train.
One weekend a young man came to me and said, "Newf, let’s go to town for a good time." This is what we thought was real happiness. We went down the sixteen miles and got our room and booze for the weekend. The ‘good time’ ended in a brawl on Sunday night so I took a taxi to Mile 12 and walked the rest of the way home.
The first news that I received the next morning was that my buddy had been killed! After walking to the scene of the accident, I saw something I will never forget. As I looked down at the mutilated remains of my buddy, I thought of his family, and what sorrow and grief this would bring to them. I thought about home and I longed to see my own loved ones again. I left for home soon after. When I arrived back home, (Forteau) there was talk of a new religion in our village. I went out to listen one night and the preacher spoke of heaven and hell. He said that those that die without Christ would be in hell. I became so angry that as I left I tore the door off its hinges. But when I got home I started to think: "if what he says is right, then I’m wrong!"
I had never read the Bible before, but I had always thought it to be true, so I got out Eaton’s catalogue and ordered a Bible. Thank God, that was one time Eaton’s didn’t send a substitute!
After reading it for two months, one night in my room I came to the verse: "Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved." Acts 2.21. That very night I trusted Christ as my Saviour. I can truly say, the worst day I’ve had since I’ve been saved has been better than the best day I had before I was saved. The forty and more years that have passed since I received Christ as my Saviour have been the happiest years of my life. Above all, I know for sure that whenever this life comes to an end, it will be heaven and home for all eternity.
Will you not, right now, trust Christ as your Saviour? "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." Acts 16.31.
Approximately three years after trusting Christ as my Saviour, my wife Olive and I were residing in Toronto, Ontario and were gathered with the Saints at Pape Avenue Gospel Hall. I was working as an automotive mechanic and attending training classes in that field. We felt the Lord was directing us to move back to the south Labrador coast. A new roadway was being developed, linking the small coastal communities and I saw an opportunity to open an automotive repair shop. This allowed me to move back and pursue my desire to do a little work for God in the area where I was born and raised.
Mr. Herb Harris encouraged me to participate in the effort to spread the Gospel by going to coastal Newfoundland and Labrador communities in a small cabin cruiser because I had grown up in a fishing community and had knowledge and experience around small boats. I agreed to go and my wife stayed at home and sold automotive parts from our little business.
After visiting a number of fishing communities we stopped at Rocky Harbour, on the West Coast of the Newfoundland Island. We had nightly open-air meetings from the boat and there seemed to be a good interest. Encouraged by the level of interest we fixed up an old garage in the community and moved our meetings inside. Souls got saved and Mr. Herb Harris asked me if I thought my wife would move there so that the work could continue through the winter.
Olive, my loving wife, was more than willing to make the move to see souls saved and along with our firstborn daughter we made Rocky Harbour our new home in 1961. I sold my business, Mr. Harris stayed with us and together we began to pursue the Lord’s work in the area. My wife and I also had a second daughter and our first son during our four year stay in Rocky Harbour.
The Elders of Pape Avenue wrote me to inquire whether I intended to go into the Lord’s work full-time, but I was still intending to go back into my business. Those plans were gently altered by God’s will and I was led to get involved in new outreaches at Fogo Island and then Flowers Cove. I was later commended to the Lord’s work full-time in 1965 from the English Point, Lance au Loup, and Red Bay Assembles in Southern Labrador.
We moved to Flowers Cove in 1966 and helped with the work there for about five years, then spent one year in Corner Brook in 1971 to help with the construction of a new Gospel Hall there. Then we moved back to English Point for two years where our second son was born. We moved back to Flowers Cove in 1974 where we stayed until 1983 when we moved to Goose Bay, Labrador. Since moving here to Goose Bay we have seen a number of souls saved, and a new Assembly formed.
We would appreciate the prayers of the Lord’s people for ourselves personally and for the preservation of the work in which we are involved for the Lord’s glory.
A SOUND INVESTMENT
It would be easy to be confused with the choice of investments available today — ISAs, AVCs, With Profits Bonds, Endowment Policies, Private Health Care, Critical Illness and Long Term Care Policies and many have discovered the advantages of tax havens where interest rates are appealingly higher. Insurance companies market aggressively in an effort to combat consumer lethargy and the notion that ‘it could never happen to me.’ There are policies to cover almost any eventuality in life and some are complacent in believing that they have watertight security for the years ahead. It is also a fact that more people are living longer and so there is an emphasis on investing for the future.
It all seems to make sense and yet how many people have absolutely no preparation for eternity. You may live to collect your pension but on the other hand you may never enjoy the nest-egg you are storing away — BUT you will be in eternity and there is no avoiding that. You will have to leave every penny behind. Have you been obsessed with material things, planning a retirement free from financial worries? Surely you have not been so foolhardy as to neglect ensuring your eternal welfare.
Do you think it will be a step in the dark? Are you merely hoping that all will turn out well? Surely you would not be so foolish as to try to console yourself that there is nothing beyond death or have you tried to persuade yourself that a God of love would not send any of His creatures to a place of torment forever? Allow the Word of God to settle this issue conclusively — "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:" Hebrews 9.27
My dear friend, there is no need for uncertainty in these all-important matters; you can know here and now where you will be going when life is over. Would it not be wisdom to make this your top priority and be sure that all is well for eternity?
The apostle John wrote in 1John 5.13, "These things have I written unto you … that ye may know that ye have eternal life." No one can possess anything of greater value than eternal life and all the wealth of the world could not purchase it. However, you can receive it as a free gift according to Romans 6.23 "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:" Nothing has cost God so much to provide and yet He offers it freely to all who feel their need of it. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3.16.
No one will ever be able to calculate how much Christ had to pay before salvation could be procured. "… the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me." Galatians 2.20. Before He expired on the Cross the Lord Jesus proclaimed with a loud voice "It is finished" indicating that the full price of salvation had been paid.
If you want to make the safest investment you could ever make and know for certain that every risk regarding eternity has been removed, then trust Christ and …
"Know with assurance thou never cans’t die
Since Jesus thy righteousness lives."
Seven Blessed Things in Revelation
Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, 1.3
Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth, 14.13
Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, 16.15
Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb, 19.9
Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection, 20.6
Blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book, 22.7
Blessed are they that do His commandments, 22.14
by H. A. Barnes (England)
Divine Order – Acts 2 v 41, 42
The Apostle’s trump, gives no uncertain sound,
And only in the sacred page ’tis found;
This hallowed ground we tread with unshod feet
No room for haughty spirit or conceit.
The wise and prudent may of knowledge boast,
But babes in Christ the Bible treasures most;
The pilgrim’s manna, gathered day by day
Pillar of fire by night, to lead the way.
Christ is the only Saviour for the lost,
To save a poor soul think of what it cost;
Christ is the gathering centre for His own
Unto His Holy Name, and His alone.
All rival names throughout all Christendom,
Names of great persons, and of doctrine some,
These split the Church of God in petty sects
Unlike the church in chapter two of Acts.
Hiss of the serpent in all sects we see,
Who hates the sight of Godly unity;
A unity so pleasant and so good
For which the Godly in all ages stood.
A unity we are not told to make,
Here zealous ones have made the same mistake;
Distinguishing themselves with good intent
Such practise they o’er look, God never meant
Simple the order of God’s grand design,
To break the bread and drink the cup of wine;
Privilege of those in fellowship to share
And also in His Name to meet for prayer.
To Scriptural order let us warmly cling,
In loved obedience to our Heavenly King;
Baptized and gathered to His lovely Name
Outside the camp to bear reproach and shame.
The unbeliever and unlearned may gaze,
As the Assembly raise their songs of praise;
Outside the fellowship none do partake
It is Assembly privilege that’s at stake.
Thus commendation letters were the rule,
To guard against the "open table" school;
The table is the Lord’s and not of man
So let us stick to Acts Two’s all wise plan.
And when the Lord descends the open air,
All blood bought ones shall in the rapture share,
But not one sect or party shall arise
Christ’s the great gathering centre in the skies.
Then open table and its advocates,
Will have to leave the sectarian names and states;
And to one Name and Lordship humbly bow
Better to take the step and do it now.
R. Hull (Belfast)
The Approbation of the Lord
(J. N. DARBY)
It should be joy to anyone who loves the Lord Jesus to think of having His individual peculiar approbation and love; to find He has approved of our conduct in such and such circumstances, though none know this but ourselves who receive the approval.
But, beloved, are we really content to have an approval which Christ only knows? Let us try ourselves a little. Are we not too desirous of man’s commendation of our conduct? or at least that he should know and give us credit for the motives which actuate it? Are we content, so long as good is done, that nobody should know anything about us — even in the church to be thought nothing of? that Christ alone should give us the "white stone" of His approval, and the new name which no man knoweth save only he that receiveth it?
Are we content, I say, to seek nothing else? Oh! think what the terrible evil and treachery of that heart must be that is not satisfied with Christ’s special favour, but seeks honour (as we do) of one another instead! I ask you, beloved, which would be most precious to you, which would you prefer, the Lord’s public owning of you as a good and faithful servant, or the private individual love of Christ resting upon you — the secret knowledge of His love and approval? He whose heart is specially attached to Christ will respond, "The latter."
Both will be ours, if faithful; but we shall value this most; and there is nothing that will carry us so straight on our course as the anticipation of it.
The Lord does not delight in His people’s suffering, but in what the suffering produces of Himself, which is precious to God.