ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle
REASONS FOR WRITING
by D. S. Parrack
THE TEACHING OF 1 THESSALONIANS
by J. C. Gibson
by D. Richards
PRINCIPLES OF DIVINE ELECTION
by M. Rudge
by C. Jones
MY CONVERSION AND CALL
by E. Geary
by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)
15) “THESE SHALL YE EAT”
Read Chapter 14.1-5
Deut.14 commences with the words: “Ye are the children of the Lord your God.” (‘Ye are the sons of Jehovah your God.’ JND). The chapter could therefore be entitled, ‘The conduct of God’s children.’ Their conduct was to be governed by the fact that they were “an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people (‘a people of possession,’ JND) unto Himself above all the nations that are upon the earth,” v2,21. See also 7.16. Compare Ps.135.4. As a holy people they were to be distinct in four ways:
(1) In their denial of idolatrous practices, v1-2;
(2) In their dietary regulations, v3-21;
(3) In their devotion to God, v22-27;
(4) In their distribution to the needy, v28-29.
This chapter is largely about ‘eating’. God’s people were to be careful what they ate, v3-21, careful where they ate, v22-27, and careful in enabling others to eat, v28-29.
1) DENIAL OF IDOLATROUS PRACTICES, v1-2
“Ye are the children of the Lord your God: ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead.” This reminds us that whilst we sorrow, we “sorrow not, even as others that have no hope,” 1Thess.4.13. This is true in every sense. In the world, sorrow often becomes the occasion of intemperate behaviour. Other passages also deal with disfiguration for the dead. See, for example, Lev.9.27-28: “Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard. Ye shall not make cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord,” Lev.21.1-6 and Jer.16.6-7 also deal with the subject. God’s people were not to be like the idolatrous world, and ape its customs and practices. Unsaved men and women disfigure themselves in other ways, including tattooing and ‘body-piercing’ in various forms. They damage their bodies by smoking and drinking. These are practices which should “not be once named among you, as becometh saints,” Eph.5.3.
2) DIETARY REGULATIONS, V3-21
“Thou shalt not eat any abominable thing.” The subject is addressed also in Lev.11. “For I am the Lord your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth,” v44. The chapter is summed up in v46-47: “This is the law of the beasts, and of the fowl, and of every living creature that moveth in the waters, and of every creature that creepeth upon the earth: to make a difference between the unclean and the clean, and between the beast that may be eaten and the beast that may not be eaten.” The entire chapter will repay careful reading and thought. (C. H. Mackintosh is recommended reading here).
The lesson is clear: holy people in those days had to be careful what they ate, and holy people today must be equally careful. We must ensure that we feed our minds with wholesome literature, and avoid reading — or listening — or watching — anything that will defile us in any way. The Lord Jesus said, “Take heed what ye hear,” Mk.4.24. As C. A. Coates observes ‘the creatures that may be eaten represent the influences which we allow to come into our lives and to form us morally,” (An Outline of Deuteronomy).
“Thou shalt not eat any abominable thing,” v3. This covers (A) animals, v4-8; (B) aquatic creatures, v9-10; (C) birds and other creatures, v11-20. God’s people were to avoid defiling influences in every sphere of life.
A) ANIMALS, v4-8
This section lists animals that could be eaten, “these are the beasts which ye shall eat,” v4-6, and animals that were prohibited: “these ye shall not eat,” v7-8.
i) Animals that could be eaten, v4-6
The clean beasts are not listed in Lev.11, but they are named here: “the ox, the sheep, and the goat, the hart, and the roebuck, and the fallow deer, and the wild goat, and the pygarg, and the wild ox, and the chamois.” These were animals that divided the hoof and chewed the cud, and these characteristics are most significant. The divided hoof suggests separation, and to chew the cud suggests rumination. The first is outward: the second is inward.
This reminds us that holy people walk rightly, and think rightly. See Josh.1.8: “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate (“cheweth the cud”) therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do (“parteth the hoof) according to all that is written therein.” In New Testament language, ‘clean food’ is called “sound doctrine,” see 1Tim.1.10; 2Tim.4.3; Tit.1.9, 2.1. The word “sound” (hugiaino, whence our English word hygiene) means healthy or health-giving. “Sound doctrine” bears the character of Christ Himself. Teaching that is “after Christ,” Col.2.8 is suitable for God’s people. This is now illustrated by the various animals listed.
a) “The ox.” The ox depicts the Lord Jesus as the perfect Servant. The ox was the serving animal. See Ps.144.14, “That our oxen may be strong to labour;” Prov.14.4, “Much increase is by the strength of the ox.” The Lord Jesus said, “I must work the works of Him that sent Me while it is day. The night cometh when no man can work,” Jn.9.4. See Heb.10.5-7. The perfect service of the Lord Jesus is emphasised in Mark’s Gospel.
Here is food for our souls! When we feed on Christ by reading about Him and meditating on Him, we become like Him. His Servant character is reproduced in us. We will be “steadfast unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord,” 1Cor.15.58. We will not complain like Ephraim, “I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke,” Jer.31.18. The Lord’s “yoke is easy,” and His burden is light,” Matt.11.30.
b) “The sheep.” The sheep is not marked by strength and labour, but by uncomplaining submission. The Lord Jesus “was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth,” Is.53.7. (Note the reversal of “lamb” and “sheep” in Acts 8.32. This emphasises the barbarity with which the Lord Jesus was treated. It would be an act of utmost cruelty to shear a lamb).
Here is more food for our souls! Once again, feeding on Him will enable us to become like Him. In fact, His uncomplaining submission is an example that we are to follow. See 1Pet.2.21-23: “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth, who when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not.”
c) “The goat.” The goat is one of three animals that “go well” (‘have a stately step,’ JND: ‘stately in their march,’ RV), Prov.30.29-31. This reminds us that the Lord Jesus was marked by calm and dignity. He never hesitated. He was never perturbed, and never uncertain about the next step! He was always marked by a ‘stately step,’ even in suffering: “And He bearing His cross went forth,” Jn.19.17.
Still more food for our souls! It is by feeding on Him, and abiding in Him, that we shall be able “so to walk even as He walked,” 1Jn.2.6. The assembly should be a place where believers display a ‘stately step.’ The man must display, by his conduct as well as by his uncovered head, that “he is the image and glory of God,” and the woman must display by her conduct as well as by her covered head, that she is “the glory of the man,” 1Cor.11.7. The local assembly should be a place of spiritual dignity, as well as a place of deep devotion to the Lord Jesus.
d) “The hart.” The hart is a picture of ‘inward and ardent desires after God,’ C. A. Coates. See Ps.42.1: “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God.” The Lord Jesus was marked by such inward desires. See Ps.40.7, “I delight to do Thy will, O my God: yea, Thy law is within My heart.” Notice Jn.2.17, where His disciples “remembered that it was written, the zeal of Thine house hath eaten me up.” Our own devotion to God will be strengthened and enriched as we ponder the perfect devotion of the Lord Jesus, enabling us to say, with inward conviction. “Wherefore we labour (‘make it our aim,’ or ‘are ambitious’) that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted (‘well-pleasing’) of Him,” 2Cor.5.9.
e) “The roebuck.” The roebuck (‘gazelle’, JND) is a beautiful animal. The same word (tsebi) is translated “beautiful” in Is.4.2; “pleasant” in Dan.8.9; “glorious” in Dan.11.16,41,45. we can sing:
What grace, O Lord, and beauty shone
Around Thy steps below!
What patient love was seen in all
Thy life and death of woe!
As we enjoy the Lord Jesus as the “roebuck”, His beauty will be seen in us. We should cry with ‘Moses the man of God,’ “Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us,” Ps.90.17.
Other animals are also mentioned: “the fallow deer (stag), and the wild goat, and the pygarg (dishon: a type of antelope: some say the bison), and the wild ox (pryx), and the chamois (wild sheep).” The absence of further details in the Bible about these animals precludes comment, but one thing is abundantly clear: there was no lack of variety for the Israelite, and there is infinite provision in the Saviour!
Jesus! My Shepherd, Saviour, Friend;
My Prophet, Priest, and King;
My Lord, my Life, my Way, my End;
Accept the praise I bring.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by D. S. Parrack (England)
“SUFFER THE WORD OF EXHORTATION” Hebrews 13.22
Apart from the priesthood itself, what about the beauty of all the accompanying accoutrements and the detailed ordinances of the sacrificial system, don’t they account for anything either? Are they too superseded? Yes they are, again in and through the Person of the Lord Jesus. They were just “a figure for the time then present,” 9.9, “pattern of things in the heavens,” 9.23, “figures of the true,” 9.24, “a shadow of good things to come,” 10.1, and the writer draws out for us the inherent superiority of what replaced them. He begins with the words “But Christ,” 9.11, and as has been said before, the form of words “But God” or “But Christ” should always cause us to consider carefully the contrasts and comparisons being made, and such is the case here. We read of “a greater and more perfect tabernacle,” 9.11, and “better sacrifices,” 9.23. The temporary, repetitive and shadowy nature of the old system is contrasted with “By His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption,” 9.12. “Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many,” 9.28. “For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified,” 10.14.
Now just what response would you expect the writer to look for as a result of such claims? “Having therefore boldness to enter into the holiest” not the shadow but the real thing, “by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He hath consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say His flesh.” Remember that we saw that if He was to be able to die for us it was essential first that, “He also Himself, took part of the same,” i.e. flesh and blood, see 2.14. “And having an high priest over the house of God” on the basis of all those things “Let us draw near — let us hold fast — and let us consider one another,” 10.19-24. The last “let us” is an encouragement to us as individuals to continue and expand the writer’s encouragement to each other.
Having waited for a long time to see the working out of what I believe, can I really come as boldly as that? Yes, in the light of what you have just been told you can. “Cast not away therefore your confidence which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise,” 10.35-36. There are many examples of people who have acted in that way, some of whom had to face even greater hardship than you. We are then given in ch.11 three lists of such people. V1-13 conclude by saying “These all died in faith, not having received the promises but having seen them afar off and we were persuaded of them and embraced them.” V17 to the first part of v35 show faith in action and include the two examples chosen by James to show that faith is not a dormant mental assent but active and to be worked out in practice, i.e. Abraham and Rahab, see Jms.2.20-26. V35-38 record unnamed believers who were probably much closer to the experiences of the first readers of the epistle. In spite of their anonymity they still “obtained a good report through faith,” even though they “received not the promise,” v39. Wasn’t God unfair in this context? After all they went through, ought they not to at least come into the good of the promises which they believed were worth suffering for? Ah, but God had something even better for them, and not only for them. He had “provided some better thing for us” i.e. all believers both then and now “that they without us should not be made perfect,” v40.
Doesn’t that array of examples galvanise your hearts and spirits? It should do so says the writer and, following the pattern of most of the other epistles, he uses his closing chapters to apply what has already been said, to the living out of your Christian lives here and now.
“Wherefore, seeing that we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us.” The basic sin with which the epistle is concerned is that of unbelief, the unbelief found even in true believers, see e.g. Mk.9 and Lk.17.5. But just laying aside the weight will leave us standing still, whereas for the Christian life to have any reality it must be ongoing, so “Let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” But can I, even with all those practical examples in chapter eleven, really respond to such an exhortation? Well, if those spoken of there are insufficient to give the necessary impetus, here is Someone who most certainly should. “Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith,” 12.1-2. You feel that you are hard done by because of difficulties which you are sure that God could deal with if He chose to? “Consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, v3, and that will set things in their right perspective. In any case God has His own clearly defined purpose in allowing such difficulties as you may be experiencing. They are allowed “for our profit that we might be partakers of his holiness,” but they are only effective in practical terms “unto them which are exercised thereby,” v11.
“Wherefore,” in view of that enlightened perception of events. “Lift up the hands which hang down and the feeble knees.” Instead of “that which is lame be(ing) turned out of the way” which would signify unwillingness to persevere, “rather let it be healed,” v13. These are the only two options, and the writer has time and time again provided incentives and encouragements for the latter course and warnings against the former. Now, once more, he contrasts the two conventional systems, emphasising the superiority of the new as compared with the old. Readers are told what they are not committed to, what “ye are not come unto,” v18. Even Moses, seen as the premier prophet of the past dispensation, see e.g. Jn.1.17 and 9.29, was far from happy at its inauguration. “Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake,” v21, “But ye are come — “followed by a whole galaxy of appealing and encouraging venues, headed up into a climax with the words “And to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant,” v22-24.
It is not only the old covenant though which is to be superseded. Those material creations which appear to us as being so indestructible are also to go, not to leave a void but to be replaced, just as the old covenant already has been, by that “which cannot be shaken,” v27, and so is eternally permanent. An event which John prophesies as “a new heaven and new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away,” Rev.21.
“Wherefore,” in view of that cataclysmic happening, “we, receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear,” v28. Just what does such service involve and in what way can it be carried out in practice?
In ch.13 we see that serving God involves serving our fellow men, amongst whom our fellow believers deserve special attention, see e.g. Gal.6.10, including “strangers (and) them that are in bonds,” see 13.1-2. as well as all of those Old Testament examples referred to earlier, there are others from your own fellowship who warrant following. Do so “considering the end of their conversation (mode of life, conduct),” v7. If their faith was effective, yours can be too, because “Jesus Christ (is) the same, yesterday and today and for ever,” v8. Remember the old chorus:
It is no secret what God can do.
What He’s done for others, He’ll do for you.
But the world is, in general terms, a rather nasty place, not at all conducive to serving either God or my fellow-men. Quite so, which is precisely why “Our Lord Jesus Christ — gave Himself for our sins that He might deliver us from this present evil world, ” Gal.1.4. When praying to His Father about all believers the Lord Jesus said, “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world.” He will do that one day but for most of us not immediately, “but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” But He goes on to say “They are not of the world as I am not of the world, Jn.17.15-16. So, as believers, we are in the world but not of it. We then have an illustration from the Old Testament and the experiences of the Lord Jesus, see v11-12, to show that our interests should lie outside the influences which characterise this world, “for here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come,” v14.
The writer then, maintains his method of approach right to the very end. To exhort, or encourage, and to base that encouragement, needed by even the most established and mature believers, on clearly annunciated and Scripturally supported statements. Do his words cause you in any way to doubt the eternal nature of your salvation, based as it is on the Person and the work of the eternal Son of God? We can’t to be quite honest, be 100% sure who the writer actually was but he would without doubt have been extremely disappointed if he thought that his letter would have that effect because that is the very opposite of that which he intended in writing it. He wrote to exhort, to encourage, but for that to be meaningful in our individual experience, requires a response.
By J. C. Gibson (Scotland)
Paper 4: 1 Thessalonians Chapter 2
This chapter is taking a backward look at the service which Paul, Timothy and Silas carried out for the Lord, and for the believers at Thessalonica. It falls neatly into three main sections:
1. THE REVIEW OF THE MINISTRY, v1-12
2. THE RESPONSE TO THE MINISTRY, v13-16
3. THE REWARD FOR THE MINISTRY, v17-20
The review of the ministry, v1-12
This paragraph concerns the character and conduct of these three servants while at Thessalonica, and is really an expansion of 1.5. They were the subjects of dishonest criticism. It becomes very obvious that the chapter was written as a defence against allegations levelled at Paul and his two companions. Enemies were slandering their reputation, seeking to cast doubt on their motivation and sincerity, and generally trying to drag their names through the gutter. They accused them of deception, ‘deceit,’ v3 and immorality, ‘uncleanness,’ v3. Because the charge of immorality is a common slander on the Lord’s servants they must keep completely free from any situation that might even hint at it. Numerous servants of the Lord have suffered such accusations, not least John Bunyan who refers to this in his testimony ‘Grace Abounding.’ Satan will do, or say anything to mar the testimony of believers. They had also been accused of preaching for financial gain, ‘a cloak of covetousness,’ v5. Paul is systematically going about to demolish such wicked accusations. If we want to serve the Lord we will be criticised, and untruths will be circulated as facts. The Saviour experienced it, and warned us to be wary when everyone praises us: ‘Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you,’ Lk.6.26. Indeed, if we are experiencing hurtful criticism it may provide encouragement that we are making steady progress in our Christian lives. One more thing: it is only because of these lies that we are given such a wonderful insight into the inner life of the great apostle. The insinuations levelled against Paul have simply served to show us his true character in a better light.
They were conscious of the careful observations of others. Time and again the missionaries appeal to the personal knowledge of the Thessalonians. ‘For yourselves, brethren, know,’ v1, ‘as ye know,’ v5, ‘for ye remember,’ v9, ‘ye are witnesses,’ v10, ‘as ye know,’ v11 all show this clearly. As the missionaries served they were aware that all eyes were upon them. Since they were bringing a new message, people were bound to notice how the bearers conducted themselves. Likewise today, let us ever be aware that the eyes of the world are upon us and that they will pick up on every slip that we make. Christian servants must live upright lives free from sexual impurity. The word ‘uncleanness in v3 is akatharsia which often appears directly with porneia, fornication. While the letter was written from Corinth, a city notorious for sexual degeneracy, Thessalonica had its share of immorality associated with the worship of the Dionysiacs and the Cabiri, whose character was indicated by their phallic symbols. No wonder Paul wrote ‘this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication,’ 4.3. More importantly, God saw their hearts, for they acknowledged His omniscience, ‘God is witness,’ v5. In this verse, when it comes to the charge of flattery Paul calls upon their witness in his defence, but in relation to covetousness, a condition of heart, he calls upon God as witness. How godly we would be in our service if we ever remembered that the Lord is cognisant of our motives. Their conduct was also irreproachable, or ‘unblameable,’ v10. Though some may have falsely charged them, there was not even a slither of truth in what they said. Elders in a local assembly are to be ‘blameless,’ 1Tim.3.2. In other words they are to live lives consistent with the gospel. The gospel preacher should be able not only to see people saved but also say to them, ‘Look on me, and do thou likewise,’ Jud.7.17. They are to be a living example to their converts. ‘And ye became followers of us,’ 1.6.
They were united in the service of the Lord. Notice how many times in the passage we read the words ‘we’ and ‘our’. This letter was from all three of them and in this chapter apart from v18 the plural is almost used entirely. Unity amongst believers is essential if we are going to be effectual for the Lord, for where there is unity, there the Lord commands blessing, Ps.133. Paul does not put himself forward as the chief but is keen to involve the others. One great barrier to unity is pride, Pr.28.25, and Paul acts with true humility here. Writing to Philippi Paul exhorts, ‘that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel,’ Phil.1.27.
They were the victims of intense persecution. ‘We had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi,’ v2. Their beating with rods, Acts 16.22-24, was not something they could quickly forget, and when they arrived at Thessalonica their wounds would still not have fully healed. We today are relatively sheltered from such violent opposition to gospel preaching in this country, but the Lord’s servant must never be taken by surprise when hostility arises. Paul knew what he was talking about when he said ‘that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God,’ Acts 14.22. The missionaries’ bodies were a living testimony to the fact that suffering is the common lot for Christians, 3.3, and were answer enough to all the false accusations laid against them.
Their priority was gospel preaching, v2, 4, 9, and no matter where a missionary is serving or how difficult the circumstances this must be his foremost priority. It is sad when one hears missionary reports where this priority appears to be missing. So often the physical well being or social ills of the people comes before their desperate need of salvation. They were ‘bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention,’ v2, despite persecution and threatening. Their preaching was weighty or full of authority, and as such was a divine gift, for ‘as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak,’ v4. They were well aware as they preached that God had entrusted them and so they would undoubtedly have preached with authority. Their preaching was also free, ‘for ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail … because we would not be chargeable unto any of you,’ v9. The missionaries had no interest whatsoever in getting rich or ‘a cloak of covetousness,’ v5; money was the last thing on their minds. We must be wary of any Christian servant or organisation that makes appeals for financial assistance and support. The missionaries came to Thessalonica not to receive but to give, v8, they came to give them the gospel and ended up giving themselves. We are living in a world that is never satisfied with what it has. Remember the exhortation of John the Baptist, ‘Be content with your wages,’ Lk.3.14, however, it seems, sadly, that many so-called gospel preachers are interested in doing well for themselves financially. The missionaries proved their point very effectively by working to support themselves so that they would not be a burden on others.
They were wholly absorbed in their work. We can see this in the use of their energies in v2, ‘with much contention,’ agoni, from which we get agonise. Darby translates it ‘with much earnest striving’. It paints for us the picture of intense effort with every ounce of energy being used to serve the Lord. The preaching was not half-hearted but wholly consumed them. If only we too were more energetic in our service. We can also see their dedicated use of time, ‘labouring night and day,’ v9. They were effective time managers. Parkinson’s Law states that ‘work expands to fill the time available for its completion’, which is why often the busiest people seem to be those who manage to do the most. Paul and his companions had no leisure time, Mk.6.31, and we should ask ourselves how much time we devote to leisure. Further, they worked to support themselves. They were not ‘full time workers’ as we know them, so busy serving the Lord that they have no time to help support themselves.
They benefited in at least five different ways from working to support themselves. Firstly, they maintained a healthy state of independence, so they could teach what they felt compelled to teach without fear of funding being removed because of offending or correcting someone. Secondly, they showed the Thessalonians that the normal pattern is for believers to work to support themselves, 2Thess.3.11,12. Thirdly, it provided ample evidence that they were not in it for the money. Fourthly, it acted as a practical demonstration of their love in that they did not wish to be a financial burden on new converts. Fifthly, it also gave them a change from their spiritual activities, so that they would not become stale but remain full of enthusiasm. All of this does not, however, deny support for gospel preachers since it is a Scriptural principle, 1Cor.9.9.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by D. Richards (Canada)
In dealing with Scriptures which bear on this vital subject we now come to:
Rom.8.29,30 “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren. Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified.”
These verses introduce the subject of election. In Eph.1.4 Paul says, “According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world.” Election is a truth that must always be kept in perspective. There have been extreme stands taken on both sides of this issue. Some teach that man is without a free will, and is therefore incapable of making a choice to trust Christ. Therefore, some are elected to salvation, and others to damnation. On the other hand, there are those who teach that God chose us because He knew we would believe. The result of this theory is that ultimately the choice is not God’s but ours. Both of these extreme views are wrong. Election and human responsibility are apparently mutually exclusive truths, totally irreconcilable to human minds, but both are taught in the Bible. They are not unreasonable, but are above reason. Only God can reconcile them! On the one hand all believers were “chosen in Him before the foundation of the world,” but on the other, “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” 2Pet.3.9. Don’t try to fathom this, just leave it with God. The Bible certainly teaches that “we were chosen in Him..”, but it does not teach that all others are chosen to damnation. If men perish, it is the result of their own choice. In our verses at the head of this paragraph Paul says, “… whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate…”. Election and predestination are not the same thing. Foreknowledge has to do with people (“Whom He did foreknow…”), but predestination has to do with the blessings God has in view for those people (“to be conformed to…”). Election relates to the past (“before the foundation of the world”) but predestination relates to the future (to be conformed to…”). So all who have been chosen in Christ, have also been predestinated to be conformed to His image. The goal is as certain as the fact that we have been chosen. These two verses do not relate to experience, but rather to the unalterable purpose of God. Every one who is saved was “chosen in Him before the foundation of the world,” but has also been “predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son.” The believer will one day be like Christ, not because of his own personal achievements as a Christian, but simply because he was “chosen in Him.” Now look at v30. “Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called:”. Each person who was “chosen in Him,” was also “predestinated to be conformed…”, but also was “called”. This is known as the effective call of the gospel. No one who was “chosen in Him” ever failed to hear this call. In other words all who were “chosen in Him” were brought to know Him in time. Then Paul adds, “and whom He called, them He also justified:”. In other words, all who heard the call obeyed the call, and consequently were justified. But the last clause is most interesting. “And whom He justified, them He also glorified.” It is because of this last clause that I indicated that these verses do not relate to experience, but rather to the purpose of God. Clearly, we are not yet glorified. But God has predetermined that we shall be glorified. You will notice that Paul does not add any conditions, such as “as long as you continue,” or “if you don’t fall into sin.” Salvation is entirely the work of God.
Phil.1.6 “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
In the New Testament salvation is seen in three tenses. In the past we were saved from the penalty of our sins, “Who [God] hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling…” 2Tim.1.9. In the present we are being saved from the power of sin in our lives, “…but unto us who are saved [literally, “being saved”] it [the gospel] is the power of God,” 1Cor.1.18. In the future we shall be saved from the presence of sin, “…now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.” Rom.13.11. All three tenses are seen in our verse from Philippians 1: 6. “…He which hath begun a good work in you…”. This is the past tense of salvation. There was a time when the work was begun, when we first trusted Christ as our Saviour. Paul says, “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it…”. This is the present tense of salvation. The expression “will perform it” is literally “will complete it,” and is in the future tense. This means that the One who has begun the work will carry it on towards completion. We do not keep ourselves in the way. Peter says, “Who are kept by the power of God through faith…” 1Pet.1.5. It is God Himself who keeps us in the way! Back in Philippians, Paul says, “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Having begun the work, He will not leave it half done, but will bring it to his desired goal. The work is all his own!
Heb.9.24,25 “But this man [Christ], because He continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost [literally “completely”] that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them.”
These verses have to do with the present ministry of Christ on behalf of His own. When He returned to heaven He was constituted our Great High Priest. In this context Christ, as our High Priest is contrasted with Aaron and his sons in the Old Testament. When Aaron died his priesthood was passed on to Eleazar his son, Num.20.28. Eventually Eleazar died and his priesthood passed on to Phinehas his son, Josh.24.33. But Christ “ever liveth,” and consequently has an “unchangeable [literally ‘untransferable’] priesthood,” Heb.7.24. Consequently, “He is able to save completely.” The obvious conclusion to be drawn is that if some who have trusted eventually will lose their salvation, then Christ will have failed in His priesthood.
1Pet.5.10 “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, [will] make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”
First of all notice His sufficiency. He is “the God of all grace.” He is not limited in His ability to carry out His plans. Secondly, notice His determination. “Who hath called you unto His eternal glory.” When God chose us in Christ “before the foundation of the world,” He knew exactly the material with which He was dealing, He knew exactly how we would turn out. But He called us unto His eternal glory. Why would He call us unto His eternal glory if, as He would have known, we would fail, and never see His eternal glory? Thirdly, notice His recipe for supporting us in our Christian lives. “…after that ye have suffered a while,…” Suffering is one of the means that God uses to refine us as believers. Sometimes God uses suffering to bring us to repentance after we have sinned, Heb.12.10,11. But other times it is in order to develop the features of Christ in us, 1Pet.1.7. In this verse its purpose is to “make you perfect … etc.”. God knows exactly what circumstances are required in each of our lives in order to make us more like Christ. Finally, notice His purpose, that is His purpose in our sufferings. “[will] make you perfect … etc”. I want you to notice the addition of “will”. This is not a prayer of Peter’s (“May He make you perfect …”), but rather it is a statement of fact, (“He will make you perfect …”). God always achieves His goals. Our responsibility is to let Him work out His plans in our lives. Many other verses could be quoted that clearly teach the eternal security of the believer, but these will be sufficient for our purpose.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by M. Rudge (Wales)
One of the main objectives which the apostle Paul has before him in writing the epistle to the Romans, is to establish the righteousness of God in His dealings with men, in the gospel. Chs.9-11, are a parenthesis, but nevertheless maintain the important objective of demonstrating the righteousness of God in His dispensational dealings with Israel and the Gentile nations, 9.14. This is the specific reason for the parenthetical chapters, but at the same time Paul lays down general principles governing Divine election and human responsibility.
It has been thought that in attempting to draw attention to these principles, the best method of approach might be, to give a simple, straightforward exposition of the key passages, and limit our consideration to ch.9.
It is helpful to remind ourselves that the teaching of the epistle to the Romans is fundamental to our being established “according to my gospel,” in the same way that the teaching of the first epistle to the Corinthians is fundamental, to our being established in the truth concerning the church of God. The order in which these epistles are arranged in the New Testament, is significant. There would be fewer breakdowns and fewer desertions of the assembly position if this was the order in which the truth of God was learnt and put into practice.
9.6-13 “Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect [‘failed’ — JND] …”, v6.
In this passage, Paul is establishing principles of Divine sovereignty in election, using two examples, the two brothers, Isaac and Ishmael and the twin brothers, Jacob and Esau. God exercised His sovereign right to choose Isaac and not Ishmael, and then Jacob and not Esau, in order to further His purpose. His sovereign choice was the beginning of the formation of the nation, “of whom Christ came, who is God over all, blessed for ever,” v5.
It should be noted at this early stage, that election is firstly an individual matter and then collective. The principle of personal, individual selection in Divine election goes back to Abraham, “the father of the faithful” and is true of all his spiritual seed. “Thou, even Thou art LORD alone, … Thou art the Lord the God ,who didst choose Abram, and broughtest him out …”, Neh.9.6,7. Abraham was chosen when he was an idolater, “a Syrian ready to perish” Note also Acts 13.17, “The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers …”
God not only chose the line for the fulfilment of His promise but conferred upon the nation of Israel, the unique privileges which have already been described in v1-5. In the exercise of His sovereign will, God also chose to reject Ishmael and Esau. Paul is refuting the argument that the setting aside of richly privileged Israel, v1-5, and the bringing of Gentiles into blessing, had made the promises to Israel, [“the word of God”], of “none effect.” Paul’s opponents would be in agreement with his counter argument at this stage.
“[But] Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect [‘failed’]. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel. neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but in Isaac shall thy seed be called,” v6,7. When God chose the seed of Abraham, to be an elect nation through whom He would accomplish His purpose of redemption, it did not mean that all Israel were “children of God,” v7,8, neither did it mean that those who were Abraham’s seed, but not one of the chosen people, were excluded. In the distant future, Gentiles were also in mind, in the promise given to Abraham, “in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed”, Gen.22.18.
The Word of God has not been made “of none effect,” when this involves the setting aside of Israel and bringing Gentiles into blessing. This is now explained, “For they are not all “Israel [the true people of God], which are of Israel [the chosen race], neither because they are the seed of Abraham [tracing their genealogy to Abraham], are they all children [the children of God]: but, in Isaac, shall thy seed be called.”
The chosen line of those who were called to take a uniquely important place in the plan of redemption was “in Isaac” — “in Isaac shall thy seed be called” — and not in Ishmael, though he also was “of Israel.” But a true child of God and a member of the true Israel, must be among the “called”, the “children of the promise.” The principle that God is righteous in acting within His sovereign right to choose individuals and then a nation, to fulfil His purpose, is applicable in principle, to ourselves, “Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. … So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free,” Gal.4.21-31. In verse 7, the term “children”, tekna, is used in the sense that entitles them to the inheritance. Paul is making an important point.
The Jews who lived during the time that the Lord Jesus was on earth, were no different to many who had lived before them. They never grasped the point that Paul is making and had never learnt, that “the axe is laid to the root of the tree.” (Matt.3.7-10; Jn.8.37-47; Lk.16.24; Rom.2.1-11,17-29). Neither did they learn that they must “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman,” Gal.4.30, and “if the Son [the true Isaac] therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed,” Jn.8.36. Instead of casting out the bondwoman and her son, they cast the true Isaac, the true heir, out of the vineyard and slew Him.
“That is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed. For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come and Sarah shall bare a son. And not only this; but when Rebecca had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac: (for the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth;) it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” v8-13.
The Word of God, v6, is now described as “the word of promise,” and the [true] children of God are called “the children of the promise,” foreknown, ie fore-acknowledged, by God and “counted for the seed.” God did not fail to fulfil His promise concerning the birth of Isaac, in spite of Abraham and Sarai’s initial unbelief, and the Word of God has not failed now, and will not fail in the future, when the promises to Israel which are still outstanding, will be fulfilled at the Lord’s second advent.
“And not only this, …” v10. Isaac and Ishmael are not the only example of God’s sovereign choice. It may have been argued that the choice of Isaac, the son of the freewoman, and the rejection of Ishmael, the son of the bondwoman, Gal.4, was an obvious one and did not really involve the exercise of God’s sovereignty. Paul now provides another example, demonstrating even more fully, not only the principle of election but sovereign choice.
God made an even more arbitrary choice, prior to the birth of Isaac’s children, when there was no ground whatever, for choosing one or the other, “neither having done any good or evil.” This example is emphatic in demonstrating the principle that Divine election is a sovereign act of God, independently of, and uninfluenced by, any external considerations.
Even at the birth of the twin boys, the firstborn’s right of primogeniture, which would normally have decided his entitlement to precedence as the elder son, was rejected, “The elder shall serve the younger,” v12. In the consideration of the choice of Jacob and the rejection of Esau, and the words, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated, v13, it is important to bear in mind the following points:-
(i) ‘In speaking of Jacob and Esau, either as men or nations, neither Genesis or Malachi or Paul have salvation in view. … it is the part they played, regarded from the theocratic standpoint, as is proved by the word “serve”.’ [‘theocratic’ — the state of Israel, where God ruled as sovereign and through whom He furthered His purpose]. We must also remember that whilst Israel was an elect nation, it did not mean that every member of the nation was saved. It was not election to salvation in their case, as it is in the Church, which is His body, where all the members are saved. As point (iii) below, shows, it did not exclude Esau’s seed from salvation and becoming one of “the children of God.”
(ii) ‘Esau, though deprived of the promise and the inheritance, nevertheless obtained a blessing and an inheritance for himself and his dependants.’ See Gen.17.19-21.
(iii) ‘The natural character inherited from the father of the race, is not so impressed on his descendants that they cannot escape it. As there were in Israel, many Edomites, profane hearts, there may also have been many spiritual hearts in Edom.’ Note these references, “Concerning Edom, thus saith the Lord of hosts; is wisdom no more in Teman? Is counsel perished from the prudent? Is their wisdom vanished? … “ Jer.49.7; also, “Eliphaz, the Temanite,” Job 4:1.
“Esau have I hated,” v13. The word “hated”, should be understood in the sense which it has, when used in contrast to love, ie ‘loved less,’ rather than not loved at all and hated. Note Gen.29.30,37, “and he [Jacob] loved also Rachel more than Leah, and served with him yet seven other years. … And she [Leah] conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Because the Lord hath heard that I was hated, He hath therefore given me this son also, and she called his name, Simeon [Hearing].” See also Jn.12.25; Matt.6.24; Lk.16:26.
The only ground on which either of the twins, Jacob and Esau, could have been chosen for primacy under normal circumstances, was primogeniture, ie priority of birth, but consistently with the principles of Divine sovereignty, the choice of “the younger” Jacob, was made, without any consideration of external factors, ‘Esau, the elder, was rejected, and Jacob, the younger, was made heir of the promises.’
NB Generally the quotations are from F Godet, ‘Epistle to the Romans.’
—to be continued (D.V.)
By C. Jones
In the Old Testament the vine is used as a symbol of Israel, Ps.80.8. Sadly Israel, despite all the blessings God showered upon the nation, did not produce the fruit God desired, Isa.5.4-7; Hos.10.1. In Jn.15.1-8 we read that the Lord Jesus Christ is the “true vine,” His Father is the husbandman and believers are the branches. The Lord spoke of the branches bearing “fruit” in accordance with the Will of God and to His Glory. God found in Him, all that was lacking in the nation and infinitely more besides.
The works of the flesh are such things as sexual immorality, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, jealously, quarrelling, outbursts of temper, selfish ambition, envy, factions, drunkenness and orgies, Gal.5.19-21. These contrast with the beautiful cluster of fruit produced in a believer by the Holy Spirit. The “fruit of the Spirit” is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness (kindness), goodness, faith (faithfulness), meekness and temperance (self-control), Gal.5.22,23. It is the will of God that after being saved believers should be fruitful, doing good works as led and enabled by the Holy Spirit, Col.1.6,10; Eph.2.10. Fruit borne by a believer will glorify God, bring joy and blessing to the believer and show the reality of his profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Phil.1.11; 4.7, Rom.7.4.
In nature a tree planted in an appropriate situation, and receiving suitable nourishment, grows and inevitably bears fruit. This is the figure used in Ps.1.3. When a tree produces fruit it is evidence of life flowing from the roots, through the trunk and out into the branches. Trees are known and identified by the fruit they produce, Matt.7.16-20. God wants believers to produce spiritual fruit all through their lives, even in old age, Ps.92.12-15.
A branch, that is a believer, which is unfruitful “he taketh away,” Jn.15.2. This could refer, as in 1Cor.11.30, to the physical death of a believer who is not bearing fruit. Alternatively, the word translated “taketh away” could be translated as “picked up” or “lifted up.” If a branch of a vine touches the earth it puts down roots and does not bear fruit. Because of this, the sense of v2 regarding an unfruitful believer might be that a believer sometimes needs to be lifted up away from earthly, worldly things so that he will become fruitful.
God the Father is the husbandman, tending the vine and watching for believers to bear fruit. Life is given through the Lord, and the Holy Spirit, who indwells each believer, 1Cor.6.19, causes the fruit to be produced in the life of a believer who is spiritually healthy. It is the purpose of God that believers should gradually become more and more like their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Rom.8.29. Spiritual health is maintained by remaining in close contact and communion with the Lord, like a branch being in contact with the vine and receiving life and nourishment from the vine. The believer should feed on the Word of God, being taught by the Holy Spirit, 1Pet.2.2. The believer who prayerfully meditates on the Word of God and obeys its teaching and precepts will grow spiritually and bear spiritual fruit.
Hindrances to fruit-bearing
The production of fruit will be hindered and prevented by the presence of un-confessed and un-judged sin in a believer’s life, 1Jn.1.9. Sin and worldliness grieve the Spirit, Eph.4.30, reduce sensitivity to further sin and hinder the effectiveness of the believer’s witness to those who are lost. If those of us who are believers love the world and the things of the world we will not bear fruit for God. The world has much to offer: popularity, material possessions, comforts and entertainments, all of which will distract a believer’s mind and consume time, energy and other resources. We are warned that “the friendship of the world is enmity with God,” Jas.4.4. We read in 1Jn.2.15, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.” Demas loved this present world,” 2Tim.4.10, and forsook Paul. Previously Demas had been a fellow-labourer with Paul, Philem.24; Col.4.14, but he became a backslider, his love was misdirected and he no longer bore fruit for God.
Lack of prayer, failing to meditate on the Word of God, lack of obedience and not spending time with godly believers hinder a believer’s fruit-bearing. Worldly success has, in some instances, stunted a believer’s spiritual growth. Love of money has been a snare to many, 1Tim.6.9,10. Even what appears to be service for God can cause a believer to fail to bear fruit if, in reality, that service is not carried out for the glory of God and in the power of the Holy Spirit but is undertaken using only human ability and with the intention of exalting self.
Believers who are not bearing fruit for God need to reject the allurements of the world. This will be achieved if they respond to the teaching of the Spirit from the Word of God or to chastening inflicted upon them by God for their blessing and His glory. Chastening is not pleasant, “nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby,” Heb.12.11. Spiritual fruit will be borne by believers who lead lives that are separated from the world and to God, 2Cor.6.14-17; Ps.1.1,2, and whose minds are fixed on things above, not on earthly things, Col.3.1,2. Believers who produce fruit for God need daily to feed on the Word of God that they may be taught, receive daily cleansing and produce more fruit. Even believers who are bearing fruit and becoming more like their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ will need worldly distractions and hindrances to be cleansed and pruned away so that they may experience even closer communion and fellowship with Him. Believers received a once and for all cleansing from sin when they were saved but they need a daily cleansing, by the Word of God, from sin and defilement, Jn.13.10; 15.2,3; 2Tim.3.16.
Abide in Me
A believer will not produce fruit for God if he allows un-confessed sin to come between him and his Lord and Saviour. Without the Lord, nothing can be done, and the fruitful believer must abide in Christ, obeying His commandments and continually depending upon Him for grace, strength and enabling, Jn.15.1-5,10. The eternal security of a believer is assured, Jn.3.36; 5.24; 10.28,29. The branches referred to in v6 are seen by some as believers who, through not remaining in communion with the Lord Jesus Christ, have failed to produce spiritual fruit. Their testimony will be rejected by men and the dead works which they have produced in their own strength will be burned up at the Judgment Seat of Christ though they themselves will be saved, 1Cor.3.11-15. However, some would see that v6 refers to those who profess to be believers, and may even be found in the company of true believers, but they have never been saved. These false professors apostatise and thus reveal there is no spiritual life in them and they will ultimately suffer eternal separation from God in a lake of fire, Rev.20.14; Matt.13.40-42.
Those who abide in Christ and have His Word abiding in them will grow spiritually. They will know and obey His will. Their prayers will be in accordance with His Will and for His Glory. These prayers will be answered, Jn.15.7,16. As they pray in accordance with the revealed Will of God, and are led and empowered by the Holy Spirit, so they will grow to spiritual maturity. They will serve God and bear “fruit,” and then ”more fruit” and then “much fruit,” Jn.15.2,5, and in so doing will glorify God, Jn.15.8.
by Eddie Geary (Buckinghamshire)
My parents were staunch Church of England people and so I was sent twice every Sunday to the Church of England Sunday School, and to the services. When I was 16 I was confirmed in the Church of England and then took a Sunday School class twice every Sunday. At the age of 18 I was on the Church Council, and read the lessons in the church for the vicar. I then had an illness and said to God that if I got better I would serve Him.
I did get better and decided I would be a Church of England clergyman. I started studying Latin and Greek under the curate who was in our parish. I did not, however, get on very well with these subjects and at this time a friend of mine was going to join the Church Army. When I saw his papers I decided that I too would join the Church Army thinking I could thus jump into the Church of England ministry without doing Latin and Greek. I applied to the Church Army and, being accepted on a month’s probation, I went to their headquarters in London.
When I had been with the Church Army a fortnight, I had a private interview with the prebendary Carlyle. Looking back I would say he was a very godly man, but he did not ask me the questions I expected he would. He did not ask me how many times I went to church, and if I took a class in the Sunday School, etc. He was rather blunt, however, and said, “You want to join the Church Army?” I said, “Yes sir.” Then he asked, “Have you ever led any other young man to trust Jesus Christ as his Saviour?” I did not know what he meant by this but I said “No sir.” He then said to me, “Look here young man, if I want eggs I go to the man who sells eggs. If I want chairs I go to the man that sells chairs, and if the Church Army wants souls led to Christ they must go to the man who gets souls.” When he said this to me I was very angry, and could quite easily have smacked him across the face, for I thought, “What right has he to say things like that to me, a good churchman like I am.”
Up to this point I was depending on my church-going and good works to get me to Heaven, and surely if God was going to take anyone to Heaven He would be sure to take me. I was up on a big pedestal of pride, and although thousands of times in church I had said, “God be merciful to us miserable sinners,” the other folk were all sinners not me — never. That Sunday afternoon what Carlyle said to me convicted me of sin. Needless to say my career with the Church Army was finished, and I could have wished all the evils in the world to Carlyle and the Church Army.
From then on for six months I had an awful, terrible burden of sin. So awful was this burden as I saw myself a lost soul that it nearly killed me, for I lost my appetite. It was sending me mad, for I could not sleep at night. If I died in the night, I would go to Hell, and I will tell you that Hell was real to me. (I would that people today had a burden like I had, for then there would be no need to make appeals to them to be saved).
I reached a point when I felt sure that one more week of what I was going through would either have killed me, or sent me mad, and on the Sunday morning September 3rd, 1933, I was walking through the very small village where I lived. My head was down and I must have looked as well as I felt that I was the most miserable fellow in the world. Suddenly God spoke to me, He said, “Go to Bradwell this evening. Go to the Iron Room.” The Iron Room was the assembly Gospel Hall, and New Bradwell was five miles from where I lived. I had never been there in my life, but God spoke again and said, “Go to Bradwell. Go to the Iron Room tonight.”
That evening I cycled the five miles to Bradwell and enquired three times for this place called the “Iron Room.” When I found it I went in and sat in a seat at the back. As I sat down my attention was immediately caught by a big scroll upon the wall above the rostrum in blood red letters, “THE BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST HIS SON CLEANSETH US FROM ALL SIN,” 1Jn.1.7. I had read that text many times before, for I used to read my Bible and say my prayers. I spent all the time I was there looking at that text, but I thought, “Yes, it might cleanse you, but it will not cleanse me for I am too wicked.” I cannot tell you a thing about the service. I have no idea who the preacher was, or what he was like. I do not remember if there were any hymns sung, I spent the whole time I was there in looking at that text.
When the service ended, I suppose because everybody else got up to go out I did the same. As I stood up I saw one old man at the front of the meeting whom I knew. He used to come and preach in our little village on Sunday evenings, walking six miles out, and six miles back. I was, by now, desperate. If I could possibly be saved then I wanted to be saved, though I did not think anyone could know that in this life. I waited for this old man, and when he came, I said, “Mr. Freeman, I want to talk to you.” I told him all about myself, what a sinner I was, and how frightened I was about the future.
He listened till I could say no more. He then laid his hand on my shoulder and the first words he said were, “THE BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST HIS SON CLEANSETH US FROM ALL SIN.” I looked at him and I think my eyes must have stuck out like chapel hat pegs, for I was so surprised at him saying the words that I had been gazing at for an hour. He explained to me that I was such a sinner and that God hated sin, and would never have sin in Heaven. While God hated my sins, He loved me, and in that love had given His Son to die for me, and that if I received the Lord Jesus into my life as my Saviour, my sins would all be forgiven. I would then know that “THE BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST HIS SON CLEANSETH US FROM ALL SIN.”
Even though he told me all this I just could not see it. It was not because I did not want to, for I desperately wanted, if it were possible, to know my sins were forgiven and that I would go to Heaven. That dear old man walked part of the way home with me and talked to me, and in the end he stood on the side of the road and prayed for God to save me. He went home sad, and I got on my bike and started to ride home. As soon as I started to ride, that big blood red scroll appeared in front of me, and all I could see were the words, “THE BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST HIS SON CLEANSETH US FROM ALL SIN.” Those words seemed to hit me both sides as well, and when I was a mile from home it seemed that a tremendous miracle happened. In those seconds, just there and then, I saw it all as clear as could be. Although I was such a sinner, God loved me, me of all people, and in that love for me He had given His Son to die for me. In just those seconds, I received and trusted the Lord Jesus as my Saviour. Then, from being the most miserable creature in the world, I was the happiest fellow living. It was just as if someone had taken a great sword and cut clean off the whole burden which I had carried for six months. I knew I was saved!
I was so happy that I did the daftest thing it was possible to do. I sat back on the bike and made the front wheel jump right up in the air, and said, “Well, Lord, If you can save me you can save anybody.”
That was the beginning of a very wonderful new life which has been going on now for over 70 years. I thank God I have never doubted my salvation.
When I got home, the first person to whom I witnessed was my dad, a good churchman, vicar’s warden, and morally upright. Sad to say, however, that my dad did not approve of what I told him, and he became quite opposed to me, but years later he was reconciled to me, and I am sure he was saved.
When I was saved I was convinced that the Lord wanted me to give my life in making known that great and wonderful message in a full time way. Eighteen months after I was saved I was received into fellowship in the assembly meeting in the Gospel Hall, Gold Street, Hanslope, where I have been in happy fellowship ever since. All the time I had the thought that the Lord was going to open the way for me to do full time evangelistic work, but He kept me working on a farm for 15 years, where I learned a lot about the ways of the Lord and how to walk closely with Him. The time came, in 1949, when the Lord made it clear that I should leave my employment and be occupied in full-time service for Him. So, with the commendation of the saints at Gold Street Hall we went forth depending on the Lord alone to meet every need of me, my wife and four children. He has done that abundantly as we have never made our needs known to anyone but Him. It has been a great joy to serve Him these many years and now in my mid nineties I can look over life with the joy of knowing we have been, in some measure, pleasing to Him.
“To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His Name, whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins,” Acts 10.43.
If a court has to prove that someone accused of crime is guilty, the evidence of a witness is often vital. The testimony of an uncertain witness is not reliable. It is better still if there are two or more witnesses who agree, “in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established,” 2 Corinthians 13.1.
When we turn to the Old Testament, we read the united testimony of men who wrote by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Two outstanding prophetic witnesses, David and Isaiah, gave personal testimony about the ‘remission of sins.’ David, the sweet Psalmist of Israel was a prophet too. In Psalm 32 he began, “Blessed (or very happy) is the man (person) whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered,” v1. Then he described how painful it was to face the seriousness of his sin. “Day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me, my moisture is turned into the drought of summer,” v4. He discovered that he was needy, like a person dying of thirst and that sin had awful results “Many sorrows shall be to the wicked,” v10.
Dear reader, have you ever felt concern about your sins and a ‘thirst’ to be right with God? Have you ever discovered that you cannot hide from Him? Do you really want to be clear of guilt and certain that all is well for eternity? If so, then just do what David did. He decided to “Confess my transgression unto the Lord,” v5. He did not try to make excuses, pretend that his sin was not serious or promise the Lord that he would be better in future. He was just honest before God.
Then this witness said something simple but wonderful. “Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin,” v5. So David gave personal testimony that forgiveness was really his “Through His Name,” that is with the authority of the Lord’s great Name. Having acknowledged and confessed his sin to the Lord and trusted Him, he received forgiveness. No wonder his testimony in Psalm 32 continued with “songs of deliverance,” v7, and ended with “shout for joy,” v11.
Another great prophetic witness was Isaiah. In Isaiah chapter 6 he recounted how he had his “iniquity taken away” and “sin purged,” v7. He pinpointed the time when it happened, “The year that King Uzziah died” and the place too, “the temple” at Jerusalem, v1. The majority of real Christians can look back to a definite time, place and circumstances in which they experienced the ‘remission of sins.’ Can you do this? If not, then you are still a sinner needing to have your ‘iniquity taken away.’
Isaiah saw the Lord’s holiness. He heard angelic messengers call out “Holy, holy holy is the Lord God of hosts,” v3. He found out that he was “undone”, “ a man of unclean lips” and living “in the midst of a people of unclean lips,” v5. He was helpless to do anything to make himself acceptable to God; no one else in the nation could do it for him either.
Just when Isaiah acknowledged how unclean and helpless he was, one of the angel messengers moved quickly and placed a live coal from the altar on his lips. An innocent, unblemished sacrifice victim was offered there, pointing forward to the “one sacrifice for sins” which the Lord Jesus was to accomplish at the cross. So Isaiah received remission of sins because of personal contact with the sacrifice. He received assurance that, by the sacrifice, his “sin was purged.” Today, anyone who is honest and humble enough to realise that he is “undone” and “unclean”, but puts his faith in Christ “who was once offered to bear the sins of many,” Hebrews 9.28, can be sure of the remission of sins.
When the Lord forgives sins, He does it perfectly. David also said, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us,” Psalm 103.12. That’s an infinite distance; the repentant sinner will never meet his sins again!
Sad to say, not everyone has accepted the testimony of these witnesses; Isaiah asked, “Who hath believed our report?”, Isaiah 53.1. Have you believed? “He that believeth in Him shall receive the remission of sins”.
My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus
I have nothing to do with tomorrow:
My Saviour will make that His care;
Should He fill it with trouble and sorrow,
He’ll help me to suffer and bear.
I have nothing to do with tomorrow;
Its burdens then why should I share?
Its grace and its faith I can’t borrow,
Then why should I borrow its care?
In Thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto Thee.
I do not know my future here,
But much I do know comforts me:
The presence of my Lord to cheer;
The home on high, my destiny.
Past, present, future known to Him,
In His dear love I may confide;
For every step I may indeed
Rely on Him to safely guide.
ROLAND ENTWISTLE (January 1998)
THERE on Gadara’s rocky coast he lived, among the dead,
A poor tormented soul, the tombstones for his bed,
In weary nights and days he cried, unfettered and unnamed,
Yet bound by sins and demons, demented and untamed.
THERE on dark Galilee, the Mighty Saviour passed,
He stilled the foaming sea and raging stormy blast,
That would o’erflow, were He not in control,
To cross the depths, to reach that tortured soul.
THERE on the calm shore He met the helpless man,
Who, when he saw the Lord, cried out and ran
To hail, “Thou Son of God most high, torment me not,”
The Saviour, casting unclean spirits out, forever changed his lot.
THERE in the ship the Saviour sought the Gadarene to leave,
But he with new found joy would to his Master cleave,
“Go tell thy friends the great things for thee wrought,”
Who published freedom to his own, the Lord had brought.
THERE in Decapolis he was seen, sane and sitting still,
His light, like ancient Hippos, out-shining from a hill,
To sinners in those other towns, a lifetime’s work before,
Where Christ Himself would never preach, He only witness bore.
THERE where we live or work, the places we are known,
THERE in darkness or in light, how much seed have we sown?
Are we content to fill our place and serve and work and wait?
Like Samuel, born and lived and died THERE just at Ramah’s gate.
Our old man is crucified with Him, Rom.6.6
We were buried with Him by baptism, Rom.6.4
A desire to depart to be with Christ; which is far better, Phil.1.23
Absent from the body … present with the Lord, 2Cor.5.8
Them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him, 1Thess.4.14
So shall we ever be with the Lord, 1Thess.4.17
Ye also appear with Him in glory, Col.3.4
by H. A. Barnes (England)
Practical Truth ‘in Christ Jesus’
faith in Christ Jesus, Col.1.4
ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, Gal.3.26
the faith which is in Christ Jesus, 1Tim.3.13
in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel, 1Cor.4.15
this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, Phil.2.5
we … rejoice in Christ Jesus, Phil.3.3
Salute every saint in Christ Jesus, Phil.4.21
that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus, Col.1.28
Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus, Rom.16.3
give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus, 1Thess.5.18
all that will give godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution, 2Tim.3.12
by H. A. Barnes (England)
Life is a brief spell of time in which we make choice where we are to spend eternity.