ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle
TESTIMONY IN TROUBLOUS TIMES
by I. McKee
THE GARMENTS OF THE SAVIOUR
by J. Flanigan
REASONS FOR WRITING
by D. S. Parrack
FIVE REASONS FOR HOLY LIVING
by J. E. Todd
THOUGHTS ON THE LORD’S PRAYER
by W. W. Fereday
THE LORD JESUS CHRIST – ‘HIS DEITY’
by C. Jones
MY CONVERSION AND CALL
by Arthur L. Ward
by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)
11) “What doth the Lord thy God require of thee"
Read Chapter 10.1-11.1
This chapter completes the section of the book in which Moses reviews events during the journey from Horeb, via Kadesh-Barnea, to the plains of Moab. Having described God’s preservation and protection, ch.8, and pardoning mercy, ch.9, he now refers to His provision in the wilderness, ch.10. God gave them His Word, the law, priesthood, service and leadership. This chapter can be divided as follows:
(1) Incidents in the past, 10.1-11. These are introduced with the words, “At that time,” 10.1.
(2) Instruction for the future, 10.12-11.1. These are introduced with the words, “And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee?” 10.12. These instructions are set out in broad principle. The detailed instructions follow in subsequent chapters.
1) INCIDENTS IN THE PAST, v1-11
There are three parts to this section, each introduced by the words, “at that time,” v1,8,10. In each case, Moses refers to the events at Horeb. (A) The tables of the law, v1-7: (B) The choice of Levi, v8-9. (C) The leadership of Moses, v10-11.
A) The tables of the law, v1-7
Our attention is drawn to the giving of the law in the mount, v1-5, and the journey through the wilderness, v6-7.
i) In the mount, v1-5
The provisions of the law. We have already noted the fact that the ten commandments were written on “tables of stone.” See our comments on Deut.4.7-22. The law is inflexible! It offers no compromise, with the result that “all the world” is “guilty before God,” Rom.3.19. But under the terms of the “new covenant,” believers are “the epistle of Christ … written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God: not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart,” 2Cor.3.3. This alludes to Jer.31.31-34. We should also notice the words, “And I will write on the tables the words that were in the first tables, v2 … according to the first writing,” v4. God had not changed His mind! His Word is unalterable. Solomon said “meddle not with them that are given to change,” Prov.24.21.
The provision of the ark. “Make thee an ark of wood … and thou shalt put them, ‘the two tables of stone,’ in the ark.” The “ark” is mentioned four times in v1-5 and was made of “shittim wood.” It was evidently the first piece of tabernacle furniture to be made, even if it was not actually completed at that time. Whilst it has been suggested that this was a temporary deposit-box, Moses does say “and there they be, as the Lord commanded me,” v5. Since the “ark of the covenant” had been in existence for forty years when he said that, it does seem to be the same ark!
ii) In the wilderness, v6-7
The provision of priesthood. The giving of the law, and the provision of priesthood are related matters. See Mal.2.7. These verses emphasise the continuity of the priesthood during the wilderness journey: “there Aaron died, and there he was buried; and Eleazer his son ministered in the priest’s office in his stead.” The full log of the journey from Egypt to Canaan is given in Num.33. God’s people were not without priestly representation, and neither are God’s people today. But there is a difference: “And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: but this man, because He continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood …,” Heb.7-23-25. Moses now turns to other aspects of the priestly ministry.
B) The choice of Levi, v8-9
Our attention is drawn here to the separation of Levi in the mount, v8, and the inheritance of Levi in the land, v9.
i) In the mount, v8
“At that time the Lord separated the tribe of Levi,
(a) to bear the ark of the covenant of the Lord;
(b) to stand before the Lord;
(c) to minister unto Him, and
(d) to bless in His Name, unto this day.”
We know that it was in “the wilderness of Sinai,” Num.1.1, that God said “bring the tribe of Levi near, and present them before Aaron the priest,” Num.3.6. This was before Israel broke camp en route for Canaan. See Num.10.11-12. So the words, “At that time,” do not refer to the places named in v6-7, but to Sinai or Horeb.
There is a complete sermon in this verse! Time and space here do not permit anything like an exposition, but it is highly recommended! Do notice that the ark was to be carried by the Kohathites, one of the three Levitical families, See Num.4.4-15. They weren’t provided with wagons like others, Num.7.1-8. They felt the weight of the ark, the table of the shewbread, the candlestick, the altar of incense, and the brasen altar. Their responsibilities demanded strength and dignity, and this reminds us that we must never treat “the things concerning Himself,” Lk.24.27, lightly or carelessly. Another part of their ministry was to “minister unto Him.” No ministry could be more important. Compare Acts 13.2, where the word “ministered” refers to priestly service. Look up the word in your concordance. You might even have an ‘On Line Bible!’ (But don’t let it make you a lazy Bible student, will you?). Priestly service isn’t confined to what we call “worship.” See 2Cor.2.15; Phil.4.18; Heb.13.15-16.
ii) In the land, v9
“Wherefore Levi hath no part nor inheritance with his brethren: the Lord is his inheritance, according as the Lord thy God promised him.” He is our inheritance as well. See Eph.1.11. For further details of your inheritance, read Rom.8.17, Col.1.12, 1Pet.1.3-4. In the spiritual realm, we are all ‘landed gentry!’
C The leadership of Moses, v10-11
Moses spent time in the mount, v10, before he embarked on the journey through the wilderness, v11. Notice the order. The Lord Jesus “ordained twelve, that they should be with Him, and that He might send them forth to preach,” Mk.3.14.
i) In the mount, v10
We do not have details of all that took place during these “forty days and forty nights, but there is no doubt that Moses spent a great deal of that time in intercession for Israel: “the Lord hearkened unto me at that time also, and the Lord would not destroy thee.” See Ex.32.31. Israel’s divinely-appointed leader gave himself to prayer and intercession. Men who lead and care for God’s people take note! If an elder’s work is confined to the so-called ‘oversight meeting,” the assembly will soon be in dire straits.
ii) Through the wilderness, v11
This verse stresses another aspect of leadership. “And the Lord said unto me, Arise, take thy journey before the people, that they may go in and possess the land which I sware unto their fathers to give unto them.” See Ex.32.34. Moses was to be seen to lead. This is most important. Elders lead by life as well as by lip, but beware of a non-teaching oversight.
2) INSTRUCTION FOR THE FUTURE, 10.12-11.1
This section enumerates the Lord’s requirements of His people, 10.12-13, and establishes His right to those requirements, 10.14-11.1.
A) The Lord’s requirements, 10.12-13
The words, “And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee,” recall a similar statement in Micah 6.8, “What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” Notice that since He is “the Lord thy God,” He has every right to their obedience and devotion. There is another complete sermon in these verses. The teaching here can be developed along the following lines:
a) “To fear the Lord thy God.” There are fourteen references to “the fear of the Lord” in Deuteronomy. This is a filial fear: not the fear of a slave, nor of a sinner, but of a son. It has been described as “the attitude of a devoted son to his much-loved and honoured father, lest anything should mar the perfect harmony that subsisted between them.” This was a lawyer’s definition! (M. Goodman). Read Ps.25.1-5, and trace the subject in the book of Proverbs. Back to your concordance.
b) “To walk in all His ways.” In the Bible, the word “walk” refers to our conduct and behaviour. This injunction can be profitably developed with reference to Eph.4.1; 5.1,8,15; Col.4.5, etc.
c) “To love Him.” When the Lord Jesus was asked, “What is the great commandment in the law?”, He replied, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment,” Matt.22.35-38. He still says “lovest thou me …,” Jn.21.15, etc.
d) “To serve the Lord thy God.” But not half-heartedly. It must be “with all thy heart, and with “all thy soul.” The expression “with all thy (or ‘thine’) heart” occurs five times in Deuteronomy. Do notice Paul’s total commitment to God’s service in Rom.1.9, “God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son.”
e) “To keep the commandments of the Lord, and His statues.” We must be “obedient children,” 1Pet.1.14, but it isn’t a matter of gritting our teeth and saying ‘I must do my duty.’ The Lord Jesus said, “If ye love Me, keep My commandments … he that hath My commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me,” Jn.14.15,21. It was in Israel’s best interests to do this: it was “for thy good.” It is in our best interests as well. “Godliness is profitable unto all things (physically, morally, and spiritually), having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come,” 1Tim.4.8.
B) The Lord’s right to these requirements, 10.14-11.1
These verses emphasise the Lord’s right to the obedience of His people in three ways. In each case, Moses reminds them that He is “thy God,” 10.14,20, or “your God,” 10.17. and in each case this is followed by a command introduced by the word “therefore,” 10.16,19;11.1. Space allows us only to summarise briefly:
a) He was the Creator Who loved them, 10.14-16. In view of His glory as Creator, and His love in choosing them, compare 7.6-7, they were to be marked by true faith and obedience. “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiff-necked.” Circumcision was introduced in Gen.17.9-14, and Rom.4.11 makes it clear that it was the outward sign of Abraham’s faith in Gen.15.6, signifying that he had no confidence in himself, but every confidence in God (compare Phil.3.3). Sadly, the ordinance became a sham, Jer.6.10, Acts 7.51. We must be careful that we don’t become like the religious world, having “a form of godliness but denying the power thereof,” 2Tim.3.5.
b) He was the Almighty Who cared for them, 10.17-1. In view of His mighty power (“a great God … mighty and terrible”), yet tender care (He is concerned for “the fatherless and the widow,” and “loveth the stranger”), they were to care for others. “Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
c) He was the Saviour Who delivered them, 10.20-22 and 11.1. In view of His intervention on their behalf, they were to love and obey Him. “Therefore thou shalt love the Lord thy God, and keep His charge, and His statutes, and His judgments, and His commandments alway.” There are no exceptions to this rule!
—to be continued (D.V.)
by Ian McKee (Northern Ireland)
Paper 21 — The Conclusion of the Matter (Ezra Chapter 10.18 – 44)
Recorded for all to see are the names of those who had taken strange wives. Name by name every individual transgressor is identified. Each had violated God’s law. The first to cohabit may have scandalised the Jewish community. However, with each successive transgression, another precedent was established to accelerate the downgrade towards widespread and gratuitous disregard for God’s Word.
The sons of the priests who sinned, Ezra 10.18-22
The fact that seventeen priests are named in the list of transgressors is shameful. That four of these priests were from the family of the High Priest is exceedingly so. These who were most culpable are cited first as a warning against sin. They had violated Lev.21.7. Comparison with Ezra 2.36-39 would indicate that not one of the families of the priests who had returned from Judea was free from involvement in this transgression.
While “sin is a reproach to any people,” Prov.14.34, those sins which take hold in the upper echelons of society have a pernicious influence on the rest of the population. Today, every avenue of the media is used to pander to base appetites. By extensive coverage and reiteration, by exposing the scandals of the famous and employing fiction containing dysfunctional families, contemporary western society has become sufficiently desensitised to accept marital infidelity and perversion either as normal or as an alternative lifestyle! In view of this pervasive atmosphere every Christian should, from Scripture, establish the mind of God on these matters and hold fast to Biblical teaching without equivocation. However, it is recognised that such a position will run contrary to contemporary sociology and permissiveness. But no matter what contrary view is taken by the opinion formers of this world, sin is still sin. And God hates sin.
There is also the risk that, owing to the general atmosphere in society, that Christians become withdrawn and hesitant in relation to public teaching on the indissolubility of marriage, faithfulness to one’s spouse and the sanctity of married life. Sadly in Ezra’s day, the mouths of those who should have taught Scriptural principles were closed either because of partiality towards family, or embarrassment. But we cannot abrogate responsibility, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad,” 2Cor.5.10.
It is sobering to note that a family prominent in the revival under Jeshua and Zerubbabel, is here prominent in sin. Priests contributed some 10 per cent of the total that returned to Jerusalem in Ezra ch.2. But they contributed a much greater percentage in the list of the unruly in Ezra ch.10! Neither godly forbears nor privileged position can guarantee preservation.
However, “they gave their hands” that they would put away these women. This solemnises a treaty or covenant, 2Kgs.10.15; Ezek.17.18. “And being guilty, they offered a ram of the flock for their trespass,” Ezra 10.19. Trespass and sin through ignorance in the holy things of the Lord, Lev.5.14-19, must have priority over trespass against the Lord in relation to matters involving other people, Lev.6.1-7. Ignorance of the law cannot be cited in mitigation; nor can a previously tranquil conscience. But once the trespass has been brought to light (here by Ezra’s teaching) it is needful for an unblemished ram to die, for part to be offered to God on the brazen altar, for the officiating priest to retain the skin and to share with other priests in the eating of the trespass offering in the holy place, Lev.7.1-10.
Levites and laymen who sinned (Ezra 10.23-43)
In addition, we learn from Ezra 10.23,24 that ten Levites (including one singer and three gatekeepers) were also implicated in the trespass. When men of position and influence sin, others follow. From Ezra 10.25-44 we see that over eighty others had trespassed, implicating nine of the thirty-three families mentioned in Ezra ch.2, plus another two families.
Depending on the precise view taken on certain textual interpretations there is a total of some 111 or 113 individuals involved in this sin. An equal number of women were also implicated. An equal number of homes were affected and an equal number of families. Had Ezra not given timely teaching, the entire community would have been corrupted. Certainly this was another satanic attempt to frustrate the purpose of God in regard to the incarnation of Christ on the lineage of David and His redemptive purpose for all mankind.
Reformation was not without sorrow and pain as, in some of the cases investigated, children had been born, Ezra 10.44. On this poignant note Ezra’s present ministry to apply the law of God to this people is completed and he disappears from this page of inspiration until he reappears, some 13 years later, in Neh.ch.8.
We have travelled many miles together from the broad boulevards of Babylon to rebuild among the ruins. We have enjoyed the company of great men. But beyond it all, we marvel at the grace, longsuffering and faithfulness of God.
“Therefore thus saith the Lord; I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: My house shall be built in it, saith the Lord of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem. Cry yet, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the Lord shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem”, Zech.1.16,17.
Amen, let it be so as Thou hast said.
by J. Flanigan (Northern Ireland)
9. THE GARMENTS OF PURITY
Those were highly privileged men who were chosen to handle the holy Body of the Lord Jesus in death, and attend reverently to His burial. To Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus was committed the tender task of preparing the Body of the Saviour for interment, and this involved wrapping Him in His last earthly garments, the linen grave clothes.
The enemies of Jesus had never intended it to be like this, for they had appointed His grave with the wicked, Isa.53.9, JND. As they had numbered Him with transgressors in His death, crucifying Him with malefactors, so would they have buried Him with them in some communal grave. Divine sovereignty, however, had ordered it otherwise. It was as if the hand of God was raised to them, just as it was to the mighty ocean, saying, “Hitherto … but no further,” Job 38.11. In longsuffering God had remained silent, viewing all that men did to His Son, but there was a limit, and now He took the burial of the Saviour out of their hands completely. Neither the rough and careless hands of Romans nor the irreverent hands of unbelieving Jews must be allowed to handle the sacred Body.
Joseph, the rich man, became a beggar! He went boldly to Pilate, and, as Matthew, Mark, and Luke each record, he begged the Body of Jesus, Matt.27.58; Mk.15.43; Lk.23.52. It was indeed a courageous and bold thing to do, for such an action would identify him with Jesus. Pilate must surely have wondered! Two honourable counsellors interested in the Body of the crucified Nazarene? Members of the Sanhedrim! Notable men of position and standing in the Jewish community! Now, if it had been Simon Peter, or James and John, or some other of those disciples, perhaps he could have understood it. But Joseph? And Nicodemus? However, he duly granted custody of the Body and the two counsellors hastened to attend to the burial before the sun went down.
It was evening as they made the final preparations. Nicodemus brought the embalming spices, a mixture of myrrh and aloes. It was a heavy burden which he brought to the tomb, “about an hundred pound weight,” Jn.19.39. This “pound” was the “litra”, the equivalent of twelve ounces (Strong 3046). It was therefore quite a weight that Nicodemus carried, seventy-five pounds of spices.
They brought also, a roll of linen with which to enwrap the Body of the Lord. The word used by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, signifies “fine linen,” a costly material in which the bodies of the dead were wrapped by those who could afford to buy such. This was to be the Saviour’s last garment. In the sovereignty of God, the Carpenter was to be given the burial of an Emperor!
But the first duty would be to gently remove the holy Body from the cross. How carefully and reverently they must have withdrawn the coarse nails from His hands and feet. With what mingled feelings would they have handled the sacred burden and lifted Him down from the tree. How gently indeed, as if afraid to cause any more pain to a Body already beyond pain. Together, silently, these two counsellors bore the lifeless form of the Prince of Life from the cross to the tomb. That resting-place was a new tomb, whether intended for Joseph himself and his family, or prepared in anticipation of the inevitable death of Jesus, we cannot tell, but the sepulchre was there, nigh at hand, in the place where Jesus had been crucified. It was now given freely by Joseph as a burial place for the Saviour. Little did he know that his gift would be appreciated, but accepted only as a loan, to be returned to him in three days time, with interest. And such interest! The name of Joseph of Arimathea is inscribed indelibly in the pages of each of the four Gospels.
The Body of the Saviour, having been carried to the tomb, must now be wrapped in the linen. Joseph and Nicodemus would attend to this delicate and sacred duty, while some of the women who had followed Jesus from Galilee watched from a discreet distance, beholding how His Body was laid.
As the linen was being wound around the body the powdered spices would be sprinkled between the white folds of the cloth. If it should be objected that it would not be physically possible to enclose seventy-five pounds of spices in the linen wrappings, indeed this may be so. It is often pointed out, however, that at the burial of King Asa in 2Chron.16.14, they made a bed of spices on which to lay his body in the sepulchre, and so it may well have been in the case of our Lord. It will be remembered that after His birth wise men from the East brought myrrh and frankincense. Now, at His burial, others bring myrrh and aloes.
Spices most sweet they chose;
Aloes they brought, and myrrh;
Wound Him with these in linen clothes,
Gave Him a sepulchre.
This was a new and undefiled sepulchre in which they laid Him, and this was fine linen, clean and white, with which they wrapped Him. All is in keeping with His purity. For thirty-three years the Saviour had lived sinlessly, and although He had suffered as a Sin-Bearer, nevertheless He was always personally pure. Notice that it is more than once said of the sin offering of those earlier days, “It is most holy unto the Lord,” Ex.30.10; Lev.6.25. He who was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities had neither transgressions nor iniquities of His own and the conditions of His burial must be in accord with His holy life.
There was, however, yet another purpose for these garments of purity. They were to become the silent witnesses to the miracle of the resurrection of the crucified Lord. Three days after the burial, on the first day of the week, early in the morning, Mary Magdalene finds the stone rolled away from the sepulchre, and fearing that the sacred Body had been stolen, she hastily finds Peter and John who come at once to the sepulchre. Three times it is said of these two disciples that they saw the linen clothes “lying”, Jn.20.3-8. Note that this word “lying” is unnecessary if there is no significance in what Peter and John saw. Why therefore does it not simply say that they saw the linen clothes? The grave clothes of the Saviour had been wondrously vacated and left undisturbed, lying as they had been wound around Him, but lying flat because of the weight of the spices in the folds. The napkin however, that had been about His head, was still in its convolutions, still rolled and bearing the same shape as when it had been around His head. There would not have been sufficient weight of spices in the napkin to depress it like the grave clothes. It was in a place by itself too, on the upper ledge where the Saviour’s head had rested while the Body lay on the lower bed of the tomb.
These garments of purity had become evidence of a miracle. They had not been unwrapped and cast aside. They had not been folded either, and laid down in an orderly fashion. They had just been vacated. The Saviour was alive and the tomb was empty except for the linen witnesses, bearing their powerful testimony.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by D. S. Parrack (England)
"That thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave" 1 Tim 3.15
Timothy was obviously someone of whom Paul was very fond and the apostle gives some clue as to why this was so. He addresses him as “my own son in the faith,” 1Tim.1.2, implying that he was the channel for the younger man’s conversion. But that is not just a manner of speech, the relationship had developed into a real family-like bond. In commending Timothy to the Phillipians Paul says, “Ye know the proof of him that as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel,” Phil.2.22. He was not confined though to being just number two in a preaching duo, there were occasions when he was to undertake duties on his own, see e.g. 1Cor.4.17, Phil.2.19. In such situations he was clearly expected to “do the work of an evangelist,” 2Tim.4.5 to “care for your (the believers) state,” Phil.2.20, and to “exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine,” 2Tim.4.2, so exercising the combined gifts of evangelist, pastor and teacher, see Eph.4.11, a full-orbed ministry. Even while still a comparatively young man, see 1Tim.4.12, he must have been what we would have considered as being a mature and spiritually developed leader.
That did not mean though that he had ‘peaked.’ The wider his responsibilities, the more necessary it became that his understanding widened too, especially as he was working among groups of believers needing establishing in the truths of the gospel. As Paul was unable at that time to give the face-to-face teaching which he would have preferred, he instead wrote to Timothy saying, “These things write I unto thee — that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself (how one ought to conduct oneself J.N.D.), in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth,” 1Tim.3.14-15. Such knowledge was of particular importance at that time, because what we often refer to as ‘church doctrine’ was only then in the process of revelation. Jewish believers would know only the procedures of their synagogues and most Gentile believers not even that, so there was a whole tranche of teaching required. Even someone as mature as Timothy needed instruction before he could be expected to adjust his life in conformity with the revealed teaching and so, by life as well as by lip, be able to beneficially teach others.
We might perhaps sometimes feel that we have had so much teaching on a wide range of subjects, that there is not much that is not generally known and it should just be left to individual believers to apply what they have heard. In what is loosely called ‘the brethren movement,’ we might hark back to the 19th century and pride ourselves that many truths that appeared lost have been recovered. Such a stance is though, both dangerous and unspiritual. Why do we see such a decline in assembly testimony and a lack of building up of both individuals and local churches? It is suggested that what was once taught as vital, i.e. life sustaining, truth, is now seldom taught at all, or is, at best, presented in a formal or legalised manner. Speakers often deprecate what they see as a growing lack of spiritual interest among believers, but as most of us tend to look back over life through rose tinted glasses, we should balance that by paying attention to the Scriptural warning, “Say not thou. What is the cause that the former days were better than these? For thou dost not enquire wisely concerning this,” Ecc.7.10. The real question to ask is not, ‘Why are things like this?’ But, ‘What is needed to remedy the situation?’
Once the Israelites were in the promised land, they had a wide spectrum of blessings to enjoy, things they had neither earned or deserved. They were given them by God as a composite gift, see e.g. Josh.24.13. But a responsibility was placed on the more mature among them, to make plain not only what had transpired to bring such a situation about, but how the God who had made it all possible, expected His redeemed people to behave in such an environment. Moses laid down the detail and relied on his bearers to ensure that it was passed on to succeeding generations, see e.g. Deut.6.1-25.
Paul envisaged a similar system evolving amongst N.T. believers. Timothy was encouraged to “hold fast the form of sound words which thou hast heard of me,” not just as catechised dogma, but “in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus,” 2Tim.1.13. Then, having put into practice what he has heard, he is further told “The things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses,” so Timothy was not the only one involved, “commit the same to faithful men” step one along an ongoing pathway, “who shall be able to teach others also,” 2Tim.2.2, a perpetuating of the system down to our own day.
Being mesmerised with what we see as declension or just sighing resignedly that we must after all accept that “in the last days perilous times shall come,” 2Tim.3.1, will not though achieve anything. We need to see how Paul faced such a situation. Of course he was well aware of what was going to happen, he after all wrote the above warning. But he prefaced those words with “this know also.” He wanted Timothy to know, but not so that he had a good excuse for letting up. After an extended detailing of something of what those “perilous times” would involve, the apostle continues “But” i.e. in spite of all that “continue thou in things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them.” There was more though, much more, than what he had learned from Paul, important though this was. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,” and to what end? “That the man of God may be perfect (complete), throughly furnished unto all good works,” see 2Tim.3.1-17.
If you feel that there is a pressing need, not for sectarian purposes but for the well-being of God’s people, for revitalised teaching regarding behaviour of, and in, local assemblies, remember that it was to meet just such a need that Paul said he was writing to Timothy. The Scriptures do address specific issues arising at particular times. God is infinitely more aware of those needs, and the reality of them than we are. It is because of his foreknowledge that He can promise that “before they call I will answer.” That does not mean though that we should not bring our concerns to him, for He continues, “While they are yet speaking I will hear,” Isa.65.24.
Those answers of God are in His Word, and although there certainly are “handfuls of purpose,” Ruth 2.16, which are readily and easily gleaned, there are also “things hard to be understood,” 2Pet.3.16, which need effort and time to sort out. The degree to which we are prepared to carry out such searching, is an indication of how real we see current needs to be and what we are willing to expand of ourselves to discover the God-given remedies. Not only for our own betterment, though that must first be evidenced to introduce a factor of reality, but more so that we shall have something to share with other believers. Remember the words of the Lord Jesus to His disciples when they suggested that the five thousand be sent off to forage for themselves. His instruction was rather “Give ye them to eat,” see Mk.6.35-44. Teachers cannot teach what they have not first learned for themselves and such learning will involve time, effort and the foregoing of legitimate interests. As Paul says “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient (are not profitable J.N.D.) – let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth,” 1Cor.10.23-24.
The way that believers conduct themselves in their local assemblies, their behaviour in the spiritual, social and moral aspects of their corporate lives will be affected both by what they are taught of the Word of God and by the degree to which they see the reality of that teaching being worked out in the lives and experiences of the teachers.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by J. E. Todd (England)
4. BECAUSE I HAVE BEEN BAPTISED
As the apostle Paul describes the way of salvation in the first five chapters of Romans the subject of baptism is not even mentioned. But when we come to chapter six, where the subject of holy living begins, Paul assumes that his Christian readers have been baptised. This shows that baptism is not necessary for salvation, however it is necessary for a full compliance with the Lord’s teaching. ‘Baptising them … Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you,’ Matt.28.19-20. The New Testament consistently teaches believers’ baptism by immersion.
Why be baptised? Why did the Lord teach baptism? Baptism has a twofold purpose. First, the symbolism of baptism teaches vital spiritual truths, which need to be learned and practised if the believer is to live a holy life. Second, baptism gives to the believer an opportunity to publicly testify that he or she has learned these truths and intends to practise them. Baptism is for both teaching and testimony.
By the lowering of the body completely in water, the symbolism of baptism portrays a death and a burial. Then the raising up from the water symbolises a resurrection to live a new life. ‘Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptised into Jesus Christ were baptised into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life,’ Rom.6.3-4.
In the epistles of the New Testament reference is made to the ‘old man,’ Rom.6.6, Eph.4.22. The ‘old man’ speaks of the Christian before conversion, when ‘the flesh,’ that is sinful human nature, controlled his or her life. This resulted in the works of ‘the flesh,’ such as ‘enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness,’ Gal.5.19-20, R.S.V. That old order of life, condemned by God, died at the cross when Christ died in the place of the believing sinner. Hence the symbolic death and burial of the “old man’ in the act of baptism. Now a new order has replaced the old order. The believer is raised to a new life. The risen Christ now shares His life with the believer by the gift of the Holy Spirit. The ‘new man’ is ideally the life being ruled by the Spirit. This life reveals itself by the fruit of the Spirit. ‘Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control,’ Gal.5.22-23, R.S.V.
The second reason for baptism is that not only does it symbolise the death and burial of the ‘old man’ and the resurrection of the ‘new man,’ it also allows the believer the opportunity to publicly declare that he or she knows these truths and accepts them and intends by the Lord’s help, to practise them. A solemn undertaking. In fact it is a public declaration that the person being baptised intends to live a holy life.
This is to be achieved in three steps as outlined in Rom.6. The first step is something that we need to know. ‘Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin,’ v6. We need to understand in our minds the new situation. That our ‘old man,’ that is the former person controlled by ‘the flesh’ (our fallen human nature), this person has died with Christ. ‘I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live: yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of (i.e. ‘in’) the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me,’ Gal.2.20. But how can we have been crucified with Christ when 2000 years have elapsed since the event? From God’s point of view, as a believer, Christ died for my sins, He died the death due to me as a condemned sinner. Therefore our old person has died from God’s point of view, this must now become our point of view. This is what we must know. Therefore our bodies once the instrument through which sin expressed itself, ‘Your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin,’ v13, now sin’s power to use our bodies has been destroyed, we need no longer serve sin, ‘That the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin,’ v6.
When we understand this in our minds, then our will must reckon it to be true in practice. ‘Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord, v11. We must reckon that we are dead to sin in every decision we make. This is the burial with Christ. But also through the Lord Jesus Christ, who makes us spiritually alive by His gift of the Holy Spirit, we must reckon ourselves as alive to God. That is to be aware that we live in the presence of God, that we walk with God. This is our resurrection with Christ.
But finally we must yield ourselves to these truths in our daily actions. ‘Yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God,’ v13. This is walking by faith, ‘For we walk by faith, not by sight,’ 2Cor.5.7. This is to trust that in every decision we make, every word we speak and every action we perform the Holy Spirit will give us the ability to do what is right, despite all the opposing circumstances. ‘That ye may know … what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His great might,’ Eph. 1.18-19.
In short, baptism is a symbol of holy living. The old life of sin is dead and buried with Christ, His death is our death. The new life, empowered by the Holy Spirit is NOW being lived. That new life is a holy life.
We remember the Lord weekly in the breaking of bread. We must remember Him daily that we have been baptised in Him to die to sin and live a holy life. ‘If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily (dying to sin), and follow Me (holy living), Lk.9.23.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by W. W. Fereday
Let us now briefly consider the prayer itself in the fuller form of Matt.6.9-18. It may be divided into two parts:
the divine interests, v9-10;
and the disciples’ need, v11-18.
“Our Father, which art in heaven.” This is a distinct advance on anything previously known of God. The patriarchs communed with Him as the Almighty; Israel knew Him as Jehovah; but the coming into the world of the Only Begotten Son has brought out the sweet name of Father. Here then He is declaring the Father’s name, as He says in Jn.17.6-26. It is true that in Ex.4.22, Jehovah says, “Israel is My son, My firstborn,” but that was merely a national relationship; what we have in the Lord’s prayer is personal and individual. But Matt.6.9 falls far short of Jn.20.17. There we hear the risen One announcing the fruits of His great victory thus: “go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend to My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God.” In Matt.6.9, there is no suggestion of identification with the Son; it goes no further than this, that men who had previously known God as Jehovah should now know Him as Father; Jn.20.17 lifts us up to the Son’s own platform of blessing. To His Father and God we are henceforward “many sons,” Heb.2.10; and to Himself we are many “brethren,” Rom.8.29. A moment’s reflection should convince anyone that it is perfectly shocking to teach a mixed company to say “Our Father.” It is teaching them to utter the biggest of all falsehoods, to their own hurt and delusion, as well as to the divine dishonour. Though the Lord’s prayer was uttered in the hearing of the crowd, the Lord was manifestly instructing His disciples only, Matt.6.1.
In the words “which art in heaven,” supplemented later by the title “your heavenly Father,” the Lord was seeking to lead His disciples beyond Jewish hopes to relationships and expectations of an immeasurably higher character. As Jews, they followed Him with anticipations of an earthly kingdom; the Lord knew that no such kingdom was possible for the time being, and so in all His teaching He sought to prepare them for the heavenly unfoldings of Christianity.
“Hallowed be Thy name.” Grace must not be presumed upon. He who has brought us wondrously near to Himself is our Creator and God. The deepest reverence becomes us in our every thought of Him, and with unshod feet we should draw near into His presence.
“Thy Kingdom come. They will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” Thus were the disciples (and we also) taught to desire that throughout the universe everything may be brought into fullest correspondence with the Father’s character. This petition goes beyond the Millennium in its scope; not until the new heavens and the new earth appear will the Father’s kingdom be fully established. We shall enter into the Father’s kingdom as soon as we are caught up, and from thence we shall shine forth as the sun, as Matt.13.43 shows; but not until the Son of man has subjugated every foe will He deliver up the kingdom to Him who is God and Father, that God may be all in all, 1Cor.15.24-28. But realising, as we do, that everything here below is as wrong as it could be, we long, and we pray for, this blessed consummation. Meanwhile, we seek to be fully subject to the Father’s will ourselves. Else, how could we consistently take such a petition upon our lips?
Thus the Lord teaches us that the divine interests should be uppermost in our hearts. But human need has a large and sympathetic place in the Father’s heart, and so the disciples were taught to say next:
“Give us this day our daily (or sufficient) bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Thus both body and soul are considered in their various necessities. An aspect of forgiveness is here found which needs to be carefully considered. It is not sinners speaking to God, but disciples — children to their Father. The Gospel to the sinner speaks of forgiveness full and free in virtue of the Saviour’s blood, nothing that the sinner can do having anything whatever to do with the matter; in Matt.6.12 it is the Father’s government of His family, a different principle altogether. He expects to see in all His children a merciful spirit towards everybody. His own attitude towards men is to govern ours, and “He make His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust,” Matt.5.45. Those who do not cultivate this generous spirit of grace cannot walk happily with the Father.
It is interesting to note that while we read “debts” in Matthew, we have “sins” in Luke. Now Matthew’s is essentially the Jewish Gospel. Most suitably therefore are the disciples taught to ask forgiveness for “debts.” Did they not belong to a people who had long stood in special relationship with God, and who had generously failed in the discharge of their obligations? (comp. Matt.18.23-25). Luke’s Gospel, on the other hand, has Gentiles more particularly in view. They never stood in a special relationship with God, but they were “sinners” indeed, if not exactly “debtors” as the people of Israel were.
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Here we have the language of dependence upon God, and of utter mistrust of self. We may well deprecate being put to the proof, knowing how very frail we are. Both Job and Peter were thus tested, and how much badness came out in both cases, though the utterances of the patriarch are not to be compared with those of the apostle. If God is pleased to test us, then we may well consider ourselves “blessed” as James tells us in his first chapter, for God will not fail us, and He is well able to turn the painful experience to profitable account for our souls. But it is fitting that we should humbly pray that no such sifting may be our portion. Our Lord could meet the full power and deepest subtilty of Satan, as the story of the forty days in the wilderness shows; but we are not equal to these things.
Brief as the Lord’s prayer is, it is wonderfully complete, as far as it goes. It takes into account both the divine interests and human necessities, physical and spiritual. It speaks of the realities of today, while looking onward to the final issue of all the ways of God in the new heavens and the new earth. We repeat, the prayer is complete, as far as it goes. It was the Lord’s gracious provision for believers who lived prior to the accomplishment of redemption, who were therefore not in the blessed condition of having their consciences once for all purged from sins, Heb.10.1-2, and in whom as yet the Holy Spirit did not dwell. Indeed, in Lk.11.13, immediately after the giving of the prayer, the disciples are instructed to ask the Father for this crowning endowment.
We look in vain in the Lord’s prayer for any reference to the characteristic blessings of Christianity, and to use it habitually now is to put ourselves back into the dim light from which the death and resurrection of Christ has delivered us once for all. “Wherefore leaving the word of the beginning of Christ, let us go on to perfection” (full growth). (See Heb.6.1. R.V. margin).
by C. Jones (Wales)
Paper 1 — His Diety
The Lord Jesus Christ is the only begotten, eternal and beloved Son of God. The Lord was sent by God His Father, 1Jn.4.9,14, and came down from heaven which had been His eternal dwelling place with His Father, Jn.6.38. He was born of a virgin, Isa.7.14, Matt.1.18-20, and came into the world to save sinners, 1Tim.1.15. He became what He never had been before, that is man, and yet never ceased to be what He always had been from all eternity, is now, and ever shall be, and that is God, Jn.1.1,2. His Deity and Holy Humanity are inextricably linked — God and Man, in One Person. Christ Jesus possesses full Deity eternally. He is very God in His Being, Personality, Nature and Essence.
His Father declares it
God the Father said to the Lord, “Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee,” Ps.2.7, (cited in Acts 13.33, Heb.1.5, 5.5). In Ps.45.6 we read of God speaking to His Son and addressing Him as “God” when He said, “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever,” (cited in Heb.1.8). The Holy Spirit caused David to write in Ps.110.1, “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou at my right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool,” (cited in Matt.22.44, Acts 2.34). These latter words tell us what God the Father said to God the Son when He ascended back to heaven after His time on earth.
Scripture declares it
There are many places in the Word of God where the Holy Spirit declares the Deity of the Lord. We read in Jn.1.1, “in the beginning was the Word.” The Word, (Gk. Logos), is the eternal Lord Jesus Christ. He expresses the Mind of God. We are told, in the same verse, of His separate and distinct personality, “the Word was with God”: there was communication between God the Father and God the Son. We are told also that “the Word was God,” a clear unequivocal declaration of His Deity.
Paul, who at one time thought he “ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth,” Acts 26.9, wrote in Col.2.9, “in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” In the Lord Jesus the totality of absolute Deity dwells eternally in bodily form. We can truly say “great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh,” 1Tim.3.16.
The Lord Jesus Christ “is over all, God blessed for ever,” Rom.9.5. He is “the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ,” Tit.2.13. “Jesus Christ … is the true God,” 1Jn.5.20. He is “our God and Saviour Jesus Christ,” 2Pet.1.1, R.V. Thomas, His disciple, addressed Him as “My Lord and my God,” Jn.20.28, and in Is.9.6 He is referred to as “The Mighty God.” He is equal with God, Phil.2.6, and is the image of the invisible God,” Col.1.15. In Him, “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” Col.2.3. Whereas Adam and Eve sinned, seeking to become like God, Gen.3.5,6, in Christ Jesus we see God voluntarily becoming Man. He was Emmanuel, Isa.7.14, “God with us,” Matt.1.23.
His Attributes declare it
The Lord Jesus Christ, being God, possesses all the attributes of Deity. His omnipotence was demonstrated many times. He changed water into wine, Jn.2.1-11; when there was a storm on a lake He said “Peace, be still … and there was a great calm,” Mk.4.39, and He fed thousands of people by creating food, Matt.14.19,20. He has His life in Himself and the power to give life, Jn.1.4, 5.21. When He raised a man from the dead, Lk.7.14,15, “there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying … God hath visited His people,” Lk.7.16. After the Lord had cast demons out of a man, Lk.8.32, He said to the man, “Return to thine own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee. And he went his way, and published throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done unto him,” Lk.8.39. Jesus is God. He has all power “in heaven and in earth,” Matt.28.18. He is Almighty, Rev.1.8.
The Lord was omniscient. He knew “all men” and “what was in man,” Jn.2.24,25. He knew “from the beginning … who should betray Him,” Jn.6.64. He knew “all things,” Jn.16.30. In Jn.19.28 we read, “Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.” This shows His Deity in knowing that, up to that moment in time, all the purposes for which He had come to earth had been accomplished. We also see His Humanity in this verse for He was thirsty, and said, in fulfilment of prophecy, Ps.69.21, “I thirst.”
He is omnipresent. He could say, “where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them,” Matt.18.20, and promised to be with His disciples to the end of the age, Matt.28.20.
He is eternal. In Jn.1.1,2 we are told of the Lord’s eternal existence. He spoke of the glory He had with the Father “before the world was,” Jn.17.5. He was “before all things,” Col.1.17. The Lord could say, “Before Abraham was, I am,” Jn.8.58. When Moses asked God what he should say to the children when they would ask him for God’s name, God said, “Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you,” Ex.3.14. “I am” is the name of God who has an un-derived, eternal existence, and the cause of His existence is in Himself.
He is immutable. God does not change, Mal.3.6, Jas.1.17, and in Heb.13.8 we read, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day and for ever.”
His Deeds declare it
He created and upholds all things, Col.1.16,17, Heb.1.2,3, Ps.102.25 (cited Heb.1.10). Acts 17,24,25 tells us that God made all things. The Lord Jesus Christ is God.
He forgave sins. All sin is against God, Gen.39.9, Ps.51.4, and God alone can forgive sins, Isa.43.25. The Lord forgave sins, Lk.7.48, Mk.2.5-11. He said to a sick man, “Son, thy sins be forgiven thee,” Mk.2.5.
God is Holy, Lev.19.2, and He alone is to be worshipped, Matt.4.10, Ex.34.14. The Lord Jesus Christ is Holy and was worshipped, Lk.1.35, Matt.2.11, Heb.1.6. He accepted worship, Matt.28.9, and will be worshipped, Phil.2.9-11.
All judgment is committed to Him, Jn.5.22, Acts 10.42.
His Words declare it
The Lord declared that He was God. He said, “all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father,” Jn.5.23. He claimed that He was equal with God, Jn.5.17,18, and that He was one with God, Jn.30-33. He said to Philip, “he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father,” Jn.14.9. When He was tried, the high priest asked Him, “Art Thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? And Jesus said, I am,” Mk.14.61,62.
The Lord spoke with all the dogmatism of Deity. He said, “no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me,” Jn.14.6, and whereas the prophets would say, “Thus said the Lord,” Isa.10.24, Jer.2.2, Ezek.5.6, the Lord said, “But I say unto you,” Matt.5.22,28,34,39.
His Resurrection declares it
The Lord was “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead,” Rom.1.4. The bodily resurrection of the Lord, Matt.28.6, Acts 2.24, demonstrated and established that He is the Son of God.
The Lord paid, in full, the penalty for our sins when He suffered, bled and died on the Cross, 1Pet.2.24, 1Pet.3.18, Gal.3.13, 1Jn.1.7. Only One possessed of full Deity could have fully revealed God to men and borne the judgment our sins deserved from a Holy God, Heb.1.1-3. He is the perfect Saviour, and Mediator between God and men, 1Tim.2.5. He possessed full Deity before His incarnation, during His life on earth and throughout His sufferings and death on the Cross. The Lord Jesus Christ is God, and now sits “on the right hand of the Majesty on high,” Heb.1.3.
— to be continued (D.V.)
by Arthur L. Ward (U.S.A)
I was born in 1953 and was raised, along with five siblings on a dairy farm in South-Western Wisconsin. We were not raised in a Christian home. The Bible was never read nor prayers made.
Early life was filled with boyhood things and farm chores. I do not remember that I ever thought about meeting God. One matter that bothered in early years was the fear of death. My father was an alcoholic. He was a good man in many ways to many people, but he was very hard on his family. He was a WWII veteran, and received a purple heart from General De Gaulle from France. My mother said that after being in the war, my father was not the same man that she had married. He was cruel when he was intoxicated. My mother was never like that, she was a very hard worker; she did the best that she could with what little she had to work with. I well remember when she, in her plight, joined the Jehovah Witnesses as they offered her a false hope that she maintains to this day.
When I was 16, a desperate situation led to my mother and three younger children leaving the home at my bidding, as I feared for my mother’s life. Such hard decisions eroded the joy of youth, making life hard. An altercation with my father led to my departure from the farm and being the only help available, the farm was soon sold.
When I was 17 I met a young lady who later became my wife. She was raised in a Christian home but was not saved at the time. She later professed to be saved. She ceased certain activities and seemed different. I attended some gospel meetings with her and her parents and God used a preacher, Mr. Stephen Mick, reading from Rom.1.28-32 to tell me of my need of salvation. Sad to say, the conviction slipped away before long.
God brought this back to me about two years later, while on a motorcycle trip with friends to Yellowstone National Park. A near serious accident left me shaken, knowing God had spared me and sitting on the bike, the conviction came “That if this being saved is real, if God brings me back to Wisconsin, I aim to find it.” We went on to Yellowstone from there, and then back home to Wisconsin. The last day saw over 1,000 miles covered alone to reach home. I arrived home on a Saturday night, and on Sunday, I went to see the man who had spoken from the end of Rom.1 in the gospel meeting. When I arrived at Mr. Mick’s home, his wife told me that he was in Ohio having gospel meetings. She gave me some gospel tracts and encouraged me to attend a gospel meeting that night in Blue River, WI. I did and was impressed with the earnestness of the preaching.
The next morning, a faithful Christian sister approached me at work and gave me some gospel tracts. She told me she was praying for me. It was striking that she cared for my soul. From then on, I started taking all the gospel tracts that people had given me, and looking up all the Bible verses that were in the tracts using a Bible I got from my mother. Not knowing Genesis from Revelation, this involved a lot of time. The first time the Bible and tracts went to work with me, I faced ridicule upon punching the time clock. It didn’t matter, as there was only one thing that mattered to me: If I could be saved, I wanted to be. Rom.3.10 “As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one” was fastened in my mind.
An old school friend came on Thursday night and wanted me to go partying with him, but I told him, “Steve, I’m not going. I have found out that I’m on the way to hell and I want to be saved”. I stayed home, reading the tracts and looking up the verses. I went to bed with the Bible and the tracts, falling asleep with the light on. Awaking several times in the night, this thought came immediately upon awaking, “If I die as I am, I will be in hell.” In the morning, the same words echoed in my mind. Conviction of sin and a lost condition is so humbling as the Holy Spirit does His work. Jn.16.8. When I woke up in the morning, I looked up those verses again and took the tracts and Bible to work. When I got to work I went into the men’s bathroom and on my knees to pray for the first time since a young child, cried to God for salvation. I waited for a feeling, a flash of light, or something big to tell me that I was saved. But nothing happened. I arose and left, not knowing what to think. I started to work and later on, the lady who worked nearby approached and asked what was wrong with me. She asked if I was sick and I said “No”. She told me I looked awful and that I’d better go see the plant nurse. I said, “Kate, I found out I’m going to hell, and if I don’t get saved, that’s where I’ll end up.” She threw her hands up in the air and said, “Oh, you’re getting religious!” and walked away.
“I’m a sinner on the way to hell and I know that Christ died for sinners; why, oh why, can’t I say I’m saved?” In soul trouble this thought came to me, “Art, you’ve done everything that you can do, you’ve tried everything and you’re still not saved. So I walked over to where the Bible and the tracts sat on a small table. Sitting down, I looked at the tracts and the Bible and thought, “What’s the use, because I never will be saved.” That was the darkest moment of my life. I picked up a tract lying on the top of the pile, turned it over, and found there this verse on the back of the tract, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house,” Acts 16.31. I had read this verse before but saw nothing in it but this time it was different. Sitting there, that verse opened to me this way, “God isn’t asking me to work; He doesn’t want my money, my prayers; He’s not asking me to do anything but to trust His Son as my Saviour.” For the first time in my life I thought about the Lord Jesus Christ and His death on the cross for a sinner like me. The next few words astonished me, “and thou shalt be saved.” I knew at that moment that God was telling me I was saved. I thought, “Can this be true, can it really be that simple?” What had been so dark was now absolutely clear as God revealed His Son to me.
I arose, remembering the stories of others who had been saved and how they knew what time it was. The factory clock stood at 11:50 a.m. on July 26th, 1974. Then I went and immediately told the aforementioned lady and I then met Buzz, my boss and a companion in revelry — I told him, “Buzz, we won’t be going to any parties together anymore. God just saved me from going to hell.” The Bible became precious to me, as the Lord Jesus had, and my constant companion.
Following soon after this came baptism and then being received into assembly fellowship in the little assembly, which now meets in the Mount Sterling Gospel Hall, Mt. Sterling, WI. After seeing God work in different gospel efforts over several years, a deepening exercise pressed as to the need of full-time work. Encouragement from a number of saints was so appreciated. I hesitated to go for fear of losing our children. On a memorable night in the fall of 1987 God confirmed to us through Lam.3.27 and Matt.21.28-31 that we should yield totally to Him and fulfill His will in His work. In 1989 my wife and I were commended to full-time work for the Lord. God has graciously led the way with souls being saved and having a hand in seeing an assembly planted. The grace of God has seen four of our five children profess to be saved. New work has always appealed to us and we plough in hope of seeing another assembly planted and saints aided in their testimony for our Lord Jesus Christ. We, with all the saints, are waiting for our Lord from heaven and desiring that He might have the preeminence. Col. 1:18.
"AT THE END OF THE DAY"
It seems that language is never static and new words and phrases are being introduced to our vocabulary. I listened to young people speaking and they described a situation that involved heat and sweat yet it was described as, “cool”! A phrase, which is often repeated by many folks from many walks of life, is, “At the end of the day.” This seldom means a day of twenty-four hours. To a politician it may mean, “at the end of the debate;” to a sportsman it may mean, “at the end of the season;” to a student it may mean, “at the end of the term or semester.”
The Bible also uses the word, “day” to describe a lengthy period of time that could last for many years. One such example is found in 2 Corinthians 6 verse 2, “For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” It is this expression, “the day of salvation” which I would like you to consider by pondering three questions — Why do I need salvation? How can I get salvation? When can I get salvation?
Why do I need salvation?
People who are lost need to be saved. The Bible teaches that all of us, all humanity without exception is lost, just like sheep. Isaiah 53 verse 6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way…” Because this is true collectively, it must be true individually, thus the Psalmist wrote, Psalm 119 verse 176, “I have gone astray like a lost sheep.” The New Testament underlines the same thought, Romans 3 verses 10-12, “There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”
How can I get salvation?
We cannot work for salvation. Just like a lost sheep we will wander farther away from God until at last we are condemned by Him to be banished from Him eternally. Salvation was supplied by God’s marvellous and rich grace, when He gave His Son to die for our sins upon the cross. 1 Peter 3 verse 18, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.” John 3 verse 16, “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.” The chapter which tells us we are as lost sheep also tells us how we can be saved, Isaiah 53 verse 5, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.” A person will be found when he or she returns to God by putting their faith in the Lord Jesus. In 1 Peter 2 verse 25 people who are saved are described as, “sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.”
When can I get salvation?
That there is a time limit can be clearly seen from the expression, “the day of salvation.” This day commenced when the Saviour died, went back to heaven and sent the Holy Spirit to earth. It will conclude when the Saviour returns to take all who have put their faith in Him for salvation, to heaven. His coming is an event that could take place at any moment. Thus we must be saved and can be saved but only before His coming. That is an undefined moment and thus we need to be ready. Isaiah 55 verse 6, “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon Him while he is near.” You could search when it is too late. Ponder what the Lord Jesus said in Luke 13 verse 25, “When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and He shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are.”
The big question for each reader to answer is “Where will I be AT THE END OF THE DAY?”
By (Through) Him
all things were created by Him, Col.1.16
all things were made by Him, Jn.1.3.
the world was made by Him, Jn.1.10
all things consist [i.e. continue to exist] by Him, Col.1.17.
God did miracles and wonders and signs by Him, Acts 2.22
people healed of their infirmities by Him, Lk.5.15
glorious things that were done by Him, Lk.13.17
all things reconciled by Him, Col.1.20
we believe in God by Him, 1Pet.1.21
we come unto God by Him, Heb.7.25
all that believe are justified from all things by Him, Acts 13.39
enriched in all utterance and knowledge by Him, 1Cor.1.5
giving thanks to God and the Father by Him, Col.3.17
let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God by Him, Heb.13.15
by H. A. Barnes (England)
What the Lord was to the Psalmists
Rock, fortress, deliverer, God, strength, shield, high tower, 18.2
Light, salvation, strength, 27.1
by H. A. Barnes (England)
When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished: and He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost.
– Jn 19.30
A pilgrim and a stranger He,
In this sad vale of woe;
Behold the Man nailed to the tree!
How could love further go?
He bowed His head upon the cross;
The cup His Father gave
He drank and cried, ‘Tis finished!
And died the lost to save.
A sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet. and heard His Word …
Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
All along my homeward way,
Though many foes I meet,
My sweetest joy from day to day
Is sitting at His feet.
And when His face unveiled I see,
‘Mid heaven’s bliss complete,
My everlasting joy shall be
To worship at His feet