ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle
TRAITS OF THE TRIBES
by I. McKee
DISCIPLINE IN THE HOUSE OF GOD
by T. Wilson
by J.A. Davidson
COMFORT FOR CHRISTIANS IN A CHANGING WORLD
by R. Reynolds
NOTES ON THE PRISON EPISTLES
by A. Summers
FOUR SYNAGOGUE RULERS
by D. O’Hare
As was intimated in the November-December 2017 issue of “Assembly Testimony Magazine”, I was invited to take up the editorship from the beginning of 2018. While appreciative of the confidence of the Committee, and recognising that it is a privilege to be entrusted with this work, I am deeply conscious that it is a heavy responsibility. In “weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling” 1Cor.2.3, I have accepted the invitation. Therefore I request the earnest prayers of the Lord’s people that He will graciously undertake in every way in the days ahead, in His will.
Personally, I thank God for the benefit I have received from the magazine, since I was a young man. Even back then, brother Brian Currie was working away in an editorial capacity. I would heartily endorse all that has been written in the “Committee Notes” concerning the invaluable contribution he has made over so many years. I have also learned much from his written and his spoken ministry, not least his clear and orderly presentation of the truths of Scripture. I also look back with happy memories to having preached with him, especially my first series in the gospel, in Parkgate Avenue Gospel Hall, Belfast, back in 1992.
Over the years when Priscilla (a former member of Brian’s Bible Class in Dunmurry!) and I were in Zambia, Brian kept in touch, and was an encouragement to us. More recently, and especially in the past few months, he has been most helpful to me, doing all that he can to advise and guide as to the responsibilities involved in editing the magazine. None could be happier than I that he will be remaining on the Committee, and that we will have the benefit of his many years of experience. I am grateful to him for his availability to help in the days ahead, Lord willing. It will certainly be needed!
Ever since its inception, “Assembly Testimony”, both in the magazine and in the book publications, has faithfully upheld “those things which are most surely believed among us” Lk.1.1. These include the inspiration of the Scriptures, the Person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ, the distinctiveness of the New Testament assembly, the pre-tribulation Rapture of the Church, the pre-millennial return of Christ to set up His kingdom, and the Word of God as the sole authority in all matters of faith and conduct. These things, which we hold dear, are all under attack today and increasingly so. It is my earnest prayer that the Lord will give the needed help, so that these precious truths, and, indeed, “all the counsel of God” Acts 20.27, will continue to be taught in this magazine.
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” 2Tim.3.16. It is therefore my desire that “Assembly Testimony” will continue to publish articles on both the Old and the New Testaments; that there will be a balance of expository, practical, devotional and prophetical ministry; that believers will be taught, edified, encouraged, corrected and challenged; and that what is written will be relevant to all the Lord’s people, irrespective of age, gender, nationality, or personal circumstances.
As we are reminded in the “Committee Notes” in the current issue of the magazine, much has changed in this world over the years; the great majority of it for the worse. However, God has not changed, nor has His Word, nor have the principles by which His people are to live. May God give us all grace to “hold fast” until He comes, and may He continue to use this publication to help individual believers and assemblies to do so, for His Name’s sake.
Another New Year lies before us, with potential and possibilities but, from experience, we also anticipate changing circumstances and fresh challenges. It is also a time to reflect on the year that is past, take stock and reconsider our lives and service.
We are all aware of significant and ongoing change. International uncertainty has undermined confidence in political institutions and leadership, replacing it with the fear of nuclear war. Reports of terrorism, natural catastrophes, famine and disease abound, yet the vast majority of people have no thought about God or eternity.
Indeed there is an ever increasing demand for societal norms to change in the face of aggressive atheism and secular intolerance of Scriptural teaching. Everything and anything is acceptable to opinion formers wishing to promote their agendas: but not the gospel, not the Bible, not Scriptural teaching. Divine truth is increasingly not to be tolerated in this anti-God age of humanistic relativism.
In spite of this there can be no excuse for spiritual lethargy! Christian testimony has always been opposed by the pervading spirit of every age. Admittedly there have, over the course of history, been special times of revival, reformation and recovery but, even then, the masses of humanity were still, in the words of Albert Midlane’s hymn, “bound by Satan’s captive chain, guided by his artful treachery, hurrying on to endless pain.” Christians in every age have lived within societies opposed to the gospel. Scriptural teaching has ever run contrary to the prevailing philosophy of contemporary society, yet God is still taking “out of [the nations] a people for His name” Acts 15.14.
This is our time of opportunity to go forward with the gospel message to a doomed world. We are not at any disadvantage to those heroes and heroines of the faith who have gone before us: we too have a Risen Christ, the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Holy Scriptures and the privilege of prayer.
It is also a time for restating New Testament assembly truth. It is too sadly evident in many places that an understanding of the distinctiveness of the assembly is being lost. Exercise in supporting all the assembly meetings is being adversely affected by alternative objectives of career focus, academic attainment, financial affluence and leisure activities. We long for recovery of “the years that the locust hath eaten” Joel 2.25.
We continue to have every reason to thank God for His faithfulness in meeting all of the needs in publishing the magazine and associated books. We appreciate greatly the practical and spiritual fellowship of the Lord’s people in support of this work. The input of our contributors, whose articles and chapters are published in the magazine and books, comes with a commitment cost of time and consideration in preparatory reading, study, meditation, writing, redrafting and refining; and they all have other spiritual responsibilities! Their sacrifice of time could not be given without the support and understanding of their wives and families! The contributions of proof readers, printers, distributors, accountant, etc. are also acknowledged with gratitude.
It has been a feature of “Committee Notes” to express gratitude to our editor for the role that he discharges in seeking to ensure the publication “of those things which are most surely believed among us” Lk.1.1. That has never been a casual acknowledgement, even though the comment has been concise.
On this occasion more needs to be said! Around 1980, our late brother, and former secretary and treasurer of “Assembly Testimony Magazine”, Mr John Hogg of Banbridge, encouraged brother Brian Currie to become more involved in the magazine work. Brian’s support of the then editor, Mr A.M.S. Gooding, led to his appointment as assistant editor in 1984. Brian was undertaking greater editorial responsibilities for some years until he succeeded brother Gooding as editor from the beginning of 1992. This issue of “Assembly Testimony” is therefore the first in twenty-six years not to carry Brian’s name as editor, although his direct editorial input has featured for well over thirty years. Our brother has discharged that onerous responsibility alongside his earlier secular employment and, since 1993, full-time service for the Lord. The time input alone has been incalculable and the final editorial responsibility in respect of the magazine, and more recently the book publications too, was immense. The value of our brother Brian’s input is beyond human assessment. However, we are very thankful to God for it and He will fully recompense in the goodness of His will.
Mrs Ethel Currie has supported her husband unreservedly in the faithful discharge of his spiritual exercise. The Committee Members of “Assembly Testimony Magazine” therefore wish to take this opportunity to formally acknowledge, with gratitude to God, her valuable supportive contribution, as should all those who have benefitted from this work over those many years.
The Committee welcomes brother David McAllister as the new editor of “Assembly Testimony Magazine” and asks for the prayers of the Lord’s people for him, and for his wife, Priscilla, as he seeks to fulfil this important service for the Lord.
It is appreciated greatly that brother Brian Currie will continue to be available to give counsel and advice. In this he will be following the commendable example of Mr Gooding before him.
As we look back to the commencement of this publication in 1952 we can truly say:
- How good is the God we adore!
- Our faithful, unchangeable friend:
- His love is as great as His power
- And knows neither measure nor end.
- (Joseph Hart)
Assembly Testimony Bible Class
by J. Riddle (England)
THE FIRST BOOK OF PSALMS
No.17: PSALM 13
As anticipated in our last study, this Psalm begins with yet more trouble for David. “How long wilt Thou forget me, O Lord? for ever? How long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? How long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?” vv.1,2. Once again, no details are given of the circumstances in which the Psalm was written. Perhaps this is quite deliberate. If we knew exactly why David wrote these words in the first place, we might be tempted to dismiss them as only applicable to him. As it is, the Psalm can help us in a wide variety of stressful situations. It does seem however that David is referring to the troubles arising from the hatred and persecution of King Saul. There are two references to “mine enemy” vv.2,4. On two occasions, first of all David’s men and then Abishai describe Saul as “thine enemy” 1Sam.24.4; 26.8. Notice too the statement in 1Sam.18.29, “Saul became David’s enemy continually”. A.G. Clarke (Analytical Studies in the Psalms) refers to 1Sam.27:1 as the possible background to this Psalm, although the latter verses suggest something far grander than escape to Philistine territory.
Whatever the exact background, there can be no doubt that we all feel very much like David at times. Circumstances get on top of us, we feel dejected and dispirited, and the unuttered cry of our heart is, “How long?”
Probably you will have noticed that Psalm 13 comprises three pairs of verses, and that each couplet includes reference to the Lord (Jehovah). We’ll use this pattern as follows:
- • David’s Perplexity before the Lord, vv.1,2
- • David’s Request to the Lord, vv.3,4
- • David’s Confidence in the Lord, vv.5,6.
DAVID’S PERPLEXITY BEFORE THE LORD – vv.1,2
The question, “How long?” is asked four times, and expresses David’s perplexity in three directions. He seems to be sandwiched between two great forces: the first is God Himself, and the second is the enemy. God appears to have lost interest, and the enemy appears to have gained the ascendancy. No wonder David exclaims, “How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily?” v.2. After all, he seemed to be between the hammer and the anvil! Let’s look at it line by line:
His Concern About The Lord – v.1
“How long wilt Thou forget me, O Lord? for ever? How long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me?” Well, does God forget? We are all delighted to hear Him say, “Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more”. However, does He somehow lose sight of us sometimes? A later Psalm answers as follows: “He that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” Ps.121.3,4. Now listen to the Lord Himself: “But Zion said, “The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me”. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee” Isa.49.14,15. It is deeply significant that in Revelation chapters 11 and 12, the period of the Great Tribulation is expressed in days: 1,260 of them, see Rev.11.3; 12.6. The same period is expressed in different ways (“forty and two months”; “a time, and times, and half a time” etc.), but why in actual days in these two passages? The answer is quite obvious: God will be aware of every day’s witness, and every day’s suffering. The fact that God does not actively intervene in our circumstances must never be understood as disinterest. The disciples made that mistake: “Master, carest Thou not that we perish?” Although He was asleep, He was, at the same time being God manifest in flesh, thoroughly aware of their circumstances. He had not blissfully abandoned His disciples to the mercy of the storm. “Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?” Mk.4.38-40. While God permits uncongenial and painful circumstances in our lives as part of our spiritual training, it is equally true we “have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities” Heb.4.15.
- Does Jesus care when my heart is pained
- Too deeply for mirth or song,
- As the burdens press, And the cares distress,
- And the way grows weary and long?
- Oh yes, He cares! I know He cares,
- His heart is touched with my grief;
- When the days are weary, The long nights dreary,
- I know my Saviour cares.
- (Frank E. Graeff)
The second “How long?” takes David’s perplexity one stage further. In the first case, God appeared to have forgotten David, just as it might have appeared to Joseph, for a time, that God had forgotten him in prison! Now He appears to have deliberately turned away: “How long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me?” Compare Isa.54.8, “In a little wrath I hid My face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer”.
In fairness to David, we ought to say that he is expressing a deep desire for God to intervene, rather than expressing distrust. In the Old Testament, the face is often used to indicate favour: see, for example, Num.6.25, “The Lord make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee”. Seeking the Lord’s favour is often expressed as seeking His face. Hence Ps.27.8, “When Thou saidst, “Seek ye My face”; my heart said unto Thee, “Thy face, Lord, will I seek””. See also Ps.105.4, “Seek the Lord, and His strength; seek His face evermore”.
His Concern About Himself – v.2
“How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily?” It’s a picture of a man who seems to be at his wits’ end. He makes one plan, then another, then another … and there just seems to be no answer to the problem. Paul describes his own problems like this: “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed” 2Cor.4.8,9. The key to these verses lies in the preceding verse: “But we have this treasure (i.e. “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”) in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us”. So as an ‘earthen vessel’, Paul was “troubled on every side … perplexed … persecuted … cast down”. That was the effect of all the pressure on Paul the ‘earthen vessel’. Nevertheless the battered ‘earthen vessel’ continued to bring glory to God because it was filled with a wonderful “treasure”. The fact that God had revealed Himself to Paul in Christ meant that he wasn’t “distressed (in a situation from which there was no escape) … in despair (without resource) … forsaken … destroyed (losing well-being)”. Paul was able to meet external pressure by drawing on inner resources. We can do the same – always provided that we have first stored our hearts and minds with the Word of God. Oh, by the way, don’t write David off by saying that Paul was obviously much stronger spiritually. David overcame his distress by doing exactly the same as Paul – as we shall see.
His Concern About The Enemy – v.2
“How long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?” The enemy was in authority and appeared to have the ‘upper hand’. It is a problem, isn’t it? “I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree” Ps.37.35. The prosperity and progress of the wicked is always perplexing – that is, if you only look at it on a human timescale. The progress of militant Islam, the increase of the ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ (so-called), the power of Roman Catholicism … it all makes you cry, “How long?” – doesn’t it? We must always remember, of course, that error is far more popular than truth. Men prefer to believe a lie, than receive the truth. See 2Thess.2.10-12.
Changing the application now, we ought to cry in distress, “How long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?”, if that enemy happens to be sin.
DAVID’S REQUEST TO THE LORD – vv.3,4
In these verses we should notice:
- • the ground on which the request is made
- • the actual request
- • the reason for the request.
The Ground Of The Request
“Consider and hear me, O Lord my God; lighten mine eyes” v.3. David uses two delightful titles in addressing God: Jehovah, the covenant name, and Elohim (“God”, A.V.) – a plural word from a Hebrew root meaning ‘to adore’ (see the Newberry Bible, Introduction; Eloah/Elohim). So David appeals to the faithfulness of God, and to his own devotion to Him. He is supplicating the God Whom he worships and adores – “my God”. Can we approach God like that?
The Request Itself
“Consider and hear me, O Lord my God; lighten mine eyes“. He had previously said, “Mine eye is consumed because of grief; it waxeth old because of all mine enemies” Ps.6.7. Compare Ps.19.8, “the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes”. David is praying that the gloom and despondency of vv.1,2 might be dispelled. Compare Ps.4.6, “There be many that say, “Who will shew us any good?” Lord, lift Thou up the light of Thy countenance upon us“. Then there’s Ps.31.16, “Make Thy face to shine upon Thy servant: save me in Thy lovingkindness (Newberry Margin)”; and Ps.36.9, “For with Thee is the fountain of life: in Thy light shall we see light“.
The Reason For The Request
David saw the possibility of death: “lest I sleep the sleep of death” v.3. He saw the possibility of defeat: “lest mine enemy say, “I have prevailed against him”” v.4. He saw the possibility of derision: “and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved” v.4. The enemy is certainly looking for a threefold victory like this over every one of us. So far as the first is concerned, read Eph.5.14; Rev.3.1. So far as the second is concerned, read Eph.4.14. So far as the third is concerned, read 1Tim.5.14, and other passages!
DAVID’S CONFIDENCE IN THE LORD – vv.5,6
From perplexity through prayer to confidence! “But I have trusted in Thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation. I will sing unto the Lord, because He hath dealt bountifully with me”. The opening words have been rendered, “As for me, I have confided in Thy loving-kindness” (J.N.D.). This is a dramatic change from the opening lines of the Psalm. David has trusted himself to the love of God. The prospect of death, defeat and derision now gives way to the prospect of salvation: “My heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation”. The enemy is not going to triumph after all: that is quite unthinkable. So v.5 is prospective.
But v.6 is retrospective. “I will sing unto the Lord, because He hath dealt bountifully with me”. David is anticipating the day when he will look back and lift his voice to God in praise and thanksgiving. When we reach our heavenly home and look back, we shall all say, “He hath dealt bountifully with me”.
David has climbed from the deepest valley to the mountain top. He has reached the summit via prayer, v.3, and faith, v.5, or, as A.G. Clarke puts it, David has come “from sighing, through supplication, to singing”. The journey began with David acutely conscious of the enemy. The journey ends with David deeply conscious of God’s faithfulness and love.
To be continued (D.V.)
Traits of the Tribes
by Ian McKee, N. Ireland
We now come to consider Simeon and, as in relation to Reuben, we will consider Simeon the man; the tribe; and the lessons.
SIMEON – THE MAN
Jacob’s second son was, like his brother Reuben, born to Leah, the unloved. “And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, “Because the Lord hath heard that I was hated [unloved], He hath therefore given me this son also”: and she called his name Simeon” Gen.29.33. It is clear that Leah by this stage understands the signal favour bestowed upon her. Indeed, the name Simeon means “hearing”. Thus Simeon entered a home where his mother had productive communion with God. Other than on the level of the physical, she evidently had little meaningful relationship with Jacob.
Simeon’s early years are passed over in silence. He next appears in the events recorded for us in Genesis chapter 34. Dinah his full sister was seduced by “Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country” Gen.34.2. At that time Jacob’s sons “were with his cattle in the field: and Jacob held his peace until they were come” Gen.34.5. The sense of outrage is understandable: they “were grieved, and they were very wroth, because he [Shechem] had wrought folly in Israel in lying with Jacob’s daughter; which thing ought not to be done” Gen.34.7. It is necessary in an age of increasing promiscuity to assert the Scriptural injunction: “Flee fornication … he that committeth fornication sinneth …” 1Cor.6.18. The apostle makes it absolutely clear in 1Cor.6.15-20 that sexual intimacy is only legitimate within the exclusive, life-long, “one flesh”, marriage bond.
However, then, as now, two wrongs do not make a right! The sons of Jacob take the lead in subsequent negotiations with Shechem and Hamor about the proposed marriage of Dinah to Shechem and associated co-operation between the two families in relation to land and trade. Nevertheless, “the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father deceitfully” Gen.34.13, and proposed that all of the men under Hamor’s rule should submit to circumcision.
The deceit was so devilish that neither Hamor, nor Shechem, nor all their menfolk, suspected treachery. “And it came to pass on the third day, when they were sore, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brethren, took each man his sword, and came upon the city boldly, and slew all the males. And they slew Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house, and went out” Gen.34.25,26. Arguably there had not been such a day of infamy since that in which Cain slew his brother Abel. It was an appalling crime.
The other sons of Jacob who were involved took the livestock and wealth of the Shechemites, including the orphaned children and widowed wives as captives, thus multiplying by a very significant magnitude the grief resulting from a murderous lack of restraint. Culpable as those sons were, Jacob has no doubt as to the identity of the ring leaders: “And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites: and I being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house”” Gen.34.30. One can feel and imagine the dismissive attitude of Simeon and Levi when they said, “Should he deal with our sister as with an harlot?” Gen.34.31.
Jacob’s earlier life had been marked by deception and low cunning. Sadly he had to learn in experience the timeless principle, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” Gal.6.7. However, in his brokenness Jacob then receives God’s exonerating instruction to go up to Bethel and receives God’s protection for the journey, Gen.35.1,5.
However, the sons of Jacob were slow to learn any lessons and so we have them collaborating again to the hurt, not this time of a stranger, but of a brother. “And when they saw him [Joseph] afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him” Gen.37.18. As we have already reviewed the sad subsequent actions in relation to our consideration of Reuben, we shall not rehearse those details again here. Years later Joseph hears the confession of Reuben that he had pleaded with his brothers not to sell Joseph into slavery. Then Simeon, the next eldest brother, is imprisoned in Egypt against the good conduct of the rest in bringing Benjamin to Joseph. Does this infer that Simeon was the leader in this infamy as well? We then read: “[Joseph] returned to them again, and communed with them, and took from them Simeon, and bound him before their eyes” Gen.42.24. While Simeon was an unsavoury character, the heart of a true father is heard in the later lament of Jacob, “Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me” Gen.42.36. One would hope that when the ruler of Joseph’s house was eventually able to release Simeon, the period of incarceration would have had some beneficial effect. Certainly the bald statement “And he brought Simeon out unto them” Gen.43.23, suggests no sense of bravado.
We next read of Simeon’s name in the list of those journeying to Egypt with Jacob. “And the sons of Simeon; Jemuel, and Jamin, and Ohad, and Jachin, and Zohar, and Shaul the son of a Canaanitish woman” Gen.46.10; cf. Ex.1.2; 6.15. Simeon put to death a prior inhabitant of Canaan, Shechem, together with all of his male relations, because he seduced his sister Dinah. Yet Simeon has a son by a Canaanitish woman! Is there not some element of inconsistency here, if not blatant hypocrisy?
Jacob later mentioned Reuben and Simeon to Joseph on the day when he blessed Joseph’s sons. “And now thy two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, which were born unto thee in the land of Egypt before I came unto thee into Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine” Gen.48.5. Again a father’s heart will not disown his sons, but it has to be acknowledged that Simeon, like Reuben, was a major disappointment, as we shall see.
SIMEON – JACOB’S PROPHECY
We have already considered in our first study in this series the context of Jacob’s prophecy in Genesis chapter 49. When all twelve sons of Jacob are gathered round their father’s deathbed, the departing patriarch states, “Simeon and Levi are brethren; Instruments of cruelty are in their habitations. O my soul, come not thou into their secret; Unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united: For in their anger they slew a man, And in their selfwill they digged down a wall. Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; And their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel” Gen.49.5-7. What an indictment! Jacob, even with a father’s heart, cannot overlook or excuse their earlier sins. Nor does he forget Shechem, who was then, and remains so in retrospect, “a man”.
“Simeon and Levi are brethren” refers to their close association in that long ago but ne’er forgotten slaughter. True, they were full brothers of Reuben, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun. True, they shared the same father as Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Joseph and Benjamin. However, Jacob is not thinking of biological parentage, but a butchering partnership! They had similar characters the one to the other and had the malevolent ability to nurture a grudge until it exploded into a disproportionate and cruel response. Their violent actions were perpetrated in arrogant natural pride: there was no fear of God.
“Instruments of cruelty” were in their possession long before they were used to massacre many innocent people and enslave even more. The weapons of their warfare were indeed carnal and were used with hatred and cruelty. It is Paul who beseeches the Corinthians “by the meekness and gentleness of Christ” that “though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” 2Cor.10.1,3-5. God’s work cannot be prospered by fleshly means or by unfeeling hardness. The actions of Simeon, and Levi, were disproportionate and inhuman. Jacob resented their actions and, with his dying words, told them so in no uncertain terms.
Jacob’s soul is grieved in recalling their past actions. “O my soul, come not thou into their secret [counsel]; Unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united” Gen.49.6, shows Jacob’s total abhorrence of their actions and that he recoils from any association with them. Yet Jacob’s initial reaction had been to fear for his own life following the massacre. Distance from this wanton cruelty did not diminish its horror; rather retrospect allowed it to be seen in its truer light now, at the end of Jacob’s life.
“For in their anger they slew a man” implies that the honourable actions of Shechem, and Hamor, in seeking to redress a wrong were remembered as a counterpoint to the disreputable actions of Simeon and Levi in seeking revenge. “And in their self-will they digged down a wall” is perhaps better translated “… they hamstrung an ox”. Mutilating animals is one thing; murdering men is altogether different. Are we to understand that these two brothers had a history of sadistic tendencies with animals, which progressed in depravity to plot and slay a neighbouring clan and, later, plot to eliminate Joseph their brother? Early sins can have long shadows!
Says Jacob, “Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; And their wrath, for it was cruel”. This is the only curse in Jacob’s farewell prophecy. Jacob however is not cursing persons, or the tribes of Simeon and Levi, but their cruel deception and ruthless determination. “I will divide them in Jacob, And scatter them in Israel” is the dying patriarch’s parting prophecy concerning them. This will be seen in relation to Simeon (and also Levi) – the tribe.
To be continued (D.V.)
Discipline in the House of God
by Tom Wilson (Scotland)
WHERE AN ASSEMBLY LACKS POWER
In the previous paper, we considered the responsibility of an assembly to deal with moral sin. However, a question arises: what should be done if the assembly lacks power to deal with particular cases that call for discipline? How can it rid itself of “strange children” whose ways are destructive, Ps.144.7? When Corinth did not deal with the flagrant breach of God’s moral code, there was the threat of Divine judgment on the assembly, the presence of the sin being so insidious in the assembly. Paul likens sin in the assembly to leaven in bread, which continues to work until it affects the whole lump. Anticipating the outcome of Divine judgment, what did Paul say? “… ye … have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you” 1Cor.5.2. In 1Corinthians chapter 5, Paul does not allow elders to sidestep their responsibilities but indicates that, even in appalling weakness, an assembly must not tolerate open sin. There is always access to God Himself for the weakest. There are weak assemblies, but none of them is too weak to mourn. How would the taking away be accomplished? Perhaps by Divine intervention like that recorded in Acts 5.1-5. The presence of the Lord in the midst of His people brought to light the carnality of Ananias and Sapphira, who lied to the Holy Spirit. The summary judgment that befell them caused awe to descend upon those who were aware that the rod of discipline had struck dead both Ananias and Sapphira separately on the same day; so that “great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things … And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them” Acts 5.5,11,13. That verse does not simply mean that no-one interfered with their liberties; it means that no-one would force himself into the fellowship of these saints, if he had not experienced the work of God in conversion. No need then to cry: “Rid me, and deliver me … from the hand of strange children” Ps.144.7,11. And let our generation note that the awe that descended did not halt the conversion of sinners, as, more than ever, believers kept being added “to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women” Acts 5.14.
Clearly in the first century A.D., while the apostles were active among the assemblies of God, the people of God could also write to the apostles for guidance. We know that the house of Chloe wrote to the apostle Paul about contentions in Corinth related to the allegiance of some to particular able teachers, including Paul, Apollos and Cephas i.e. Peter. Some even placed Christ Himself as the leader of the party they owned. Where there was a lack of guidance or the moral and spiritual capacity to handle the case in the absence of an apostle in the neighbourhood, Paul, for example, did send there, worthy servants to offer guidance. This was very valuable in the days before the written Word of God was available to them. Paul also spoke of matters he would address when he came to the assembly: see, for example, “… the rest will I set in order when I come” 1Cor.11.34; “We … sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and comfort you concerning your faith” 1Thess.3.1,2; “I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly … I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly. Yet I supposed it necessary to send you Epaphroditus …” Phil.2.19, 24,25.
John, in his Epistles, leaves no doubt that he wrote to the assemblies of the Lord’s people. He wrote to assemblies that knew him, but realised that there were matters that he would not convey by “paper and ink” 2Jn.12, or by “ink and pen” 3Jn.13. He was aware of men like Diotrephes, who suppressed the circulation of his letters, 2Jn.9. To the apostle John also, in the Revelation, the Lord Himself revealed assemblies that were powerless to deal with individuals that were marked by features that the Lord Himself hated. We recall:
- • “them which say they are apostles, and are not” Rev.2.2
- • “the Nicolaitanes”, whose deeds they hated, as did the Lord, Rev.2.6
- • “the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews … but are the synagogue of Satan” Rev.2.9; 3.9
- • “them that hold the doctrine of Balaam …” Rev.2.14
- • “them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes” Rev.2.15
- • “that woman Jezebel” Rev.2.20
What is clear from the seven letters to those selected first century assemblies is the Lord’s knowledge of their practices and state. He leaves no doubt in the minds of the first readers of those letters that He will judge what they should realise is offensive to the Lord of the churches. However, what is also evident is that He Himself knew the daunting task facing those assemblies, and that His resources are great. He had His servant John (and doubtless many others) who would enable them to meet the Lord’s requirements, but the task was so great that the Lord Himself would not place upon them any other burden, beyond that they had already, Rev.2.24. However the Lord did hold them responsible for matters they had not dealt with; matters that He Himself would judge, leading in one case to the removal of the lampstand, if there was no repentance, Rev.2.5. He says to Pergamos and Thyatira: “I have a few things against thee”, Rev.2.14,20; to Sardis: “I have not found thy works perfect before God” Rev.3.2; to Laodicea: “I will spue thee out of my mouth” Rev.3.16.
The seven letters in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 assure twenty-first century Christians that the Lord seeks repentance where He, through His servants, makes it clear that the elders should address particular matters. Where He had highlighted failures (in an assembly), this put considerable responsibility upon the elders of that assembly, to see that the outcome would be confession and repentance.
Clearly, in the first century A.D., God used apostles like Peter, Paul and John. He also used men like Timothy and Epaphroditus, whom we often describe as apostolic delegates. He is still able to support His assemblies in the twenty-first century. Even today, where an assembly lacks power to deal with particular cases, there are with the risen Lord resources that He will supply, if earnest souls own their limitations. No assembly is too weak to call upon the Lord.
To be concluded (D.V.)
by J. A. Davidson (N. Ireland)
DEVOTION or DEPARTURE?
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, 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.
Two main issues that confront us in contemporary assembly life today are spiritual commitment and shepherd care. What is my personal, individual responsibility in the assembly? We grieve at the passing of older saints who were stedfast and faithful. God will not bless us for old times’ sake. Do we blame the conditions on the elders? Do we leave the burden with others? Dear reader are you; “stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding”, or are you a spectator? Many attend the meetings on Lord’s Day and are fairly often at the midweek meeting but manifest little spiritual exercise in the work of the Lord. Am I a real help in the assembly or merely a passenger? What are my responsibilities?
1Cor.1.10, Keep the Unity. “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you”. The first problem Paul dealt with at Corinth was strife. If the assembly is divided nothing else can be dealt with. The order in 1Corinthians is to deal with contentions, then conduct, then matters of conscience before dealing with matters which arose when they came together. “Speak the same thing” or else the confusion is like Babel. The verse goes on to say that they are to be “perfectly joined”, knit together in perfect harmony. In 1.1-10 the name “Christ Jesus” occurs ten times. Where unity exists, my responsibility is to help to preserve it. Where trouble exists, make sure that you are not the source.
1Cor.3.16,17, Retain the Sanctity. “If any man defile [corrupt] the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are”. My responsibility, whether male or female, is to maintain the purity, holiness and reverence of God’s sanctuary. There is a destructive casualness abroad today, which falls far short of the standard of holiness becoming the house of God.
1Cor.5.6, Maintain the Purity. “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump”. The Corinthians had gift but they had immorality. Leaven spreads, swells and sours. Individually, we all need to pray, “Preserve me, O God” Ps.16.1. Assembly rule and discipline have a three-fold purpose – to maintain purity, to uphold testimony and to effect recovery.
1Cor.11.3, Display Authority. “The head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God”. Each of us, male or female has the personal privilege of manifesting Headship. The lesson of 1Corinthians chapter 11 is that if you are a man, be a man; if you are a woman, be a woman. Part of the local assembly testimony (on Lord’s Day and on Monday to Saturday: at the meeting and in the market, in the sanctuary and on the street) is to exalt Christ contrary to this so-called “gender equality” society. Heaven sets the style and angels look on.
1Cor.14.12, Seek to Edify. “Forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church”. “Let all things be done unto edifying” v.26. In the use of gifts two principles apply: “edify” v.26; do you seek to build up the assembly?; “decently and in order” v.40; do you personally contribute to the godly order of the assembly? If not, do not complain about the deadness and dearth of the meetings.
1Cor.14.26, Attend Regularly. The expression “come together” occurs seven times in these chapters of 1Corinthians. Can your fellow-believers count on you as being a steady, reliable attendee at all the meetings if physically possible? Problems arise and need to be dealt with in a scriptural manner as at Corinth, but it is no answer to take offence and go on strike or cut and run somewhere else.
“In simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom”. Delivered from the bondage of religious ritual, older generations of believers delighted at great cost to themselves to gather in simplicity to the Lord’s name. Human nature loves to organise. We become slaves to arrangement. Some make a ritual when partaking of the emblems. Others insist on a slavish procedure through the hymns. How blessed to simply, “shew the Lord’s death till He come”.
2Cor.3.17, Allow Liberty. “Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty”. Gifts given by the risen Head should be used in the liberty of the Spirit to the profit of the company then present in the meeting. The greater the departure from this principle the less power we experience.
2Cor.6.17, Separate Scripturally. “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate …”. This is a calling out in love to Christ, not a driving out in a legal bondage. It therefore forbids the unequal yoke in the commercial, political, social, matrimonial and religious world.
2Cor.9.7, Give Liberally. ” God loveth a cheerful giver”. This exhortation follows the statement of 8.9 “He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor”. Can we hold anything back?
1Cor.15.52, Wait Expectantly. “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed”.
More could be added but we return to our headline text:
1Cor.15.58, Labour Fervently. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord”. Spiritual commitment will not be in vain. The opportunity for faithful devotion will not be long. If we are constantly abounding in the work of the Lord, we will have neither the time nor the inclination to be involved in that which consumes the worldly person, such as ball games, parties, dancing etc.
To be continued (D.V.)
Comfort for Christians in a Changing World
by Roy Reynolds (N. Ireland)
His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness. Lamentations 3.22,23
As we look forward, we look back and remember the goodness and faithfulness of the God under Whose wings we have come to trust. In remembrance of His unfailing care and unchanging love, we raise our Ebenezer and affirm, “Hitherto hath the LORD helped us.” We recall the Lord’s comforting words to Joshua as he faced new circumstances and challenges, “As I was … so I will be …” Josh.1.5. After many years of experiencing God’s gracious help and care, Joshua reminded the elders of Israel, “… ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one good thing hath failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof.” Josh.23.14. What an encouragement as we face another year with so much that is unknown!
- Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
- Morning by morning new mercies I see:
- All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
- Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!
- (Thomas O. Chisholm)
The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. Deuteronomy 33.27
What a shelter! What almighty, invincible strength undergirds and surrounds our frailty! What a panoply for the anxious, fearing saint who dreads what is to come! What a tower to afford us shelter and security amidst all the storms of life! What an anchor for the soul in the restless sea of life!
He is the impregnable Rock of Ages. His strength never wanes nor does His omnipotent arm ever grow weary.
Your cares and needs, no matter how great, can never overwhelm Him and no matter how low you feel, His everlasting arms will always be underneath. The passing millennia have not diminished the greatness of His power or His love, and His care for you remains unvaried.
Lean hard upon His eternal strength as you take your early steps on the untrodden path of a new year.
- Trust in Him, ye saints forever;
- He is faithful, changing never;
- Neither force nor guile can sever
- Those He loves from Him.
- (Thomas Kelly)
NOTES ON THE PRISON EPISTLES
By Alan Summers (Scotland)
Paper 1 – INTRODUCTION
There are four letters in the New Testament that were written by Paul during a period of imprisonment in Rome and which are commonly called the Prison Epistles. He had been imprisoned before (for two years in Caesarea, Acts 24.27; cf. 2Cor.6.5) and would be imprisoned again just before his death. That Paul was imprisoned is evident from his language. In Ephesians he refers to himself as the “prisoner of Jesus Christ” and “the prisoner of the Lord” Eph.3.1; 4.1; in Colossians he speaks of a “fellowprisoner” called Aristarchus, Col.4.10; in Philippians he refers to his “bonds” Phil.1.7,13,14,16. In Philemon he refers to himself as “Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ” Philemon 9.
PHILEMON AND COLOSSIANS
Philemon was plainly written at the same time as Colossians since both refer to Onesimus, Col.4.9, the runaway slave whom Philemon had owned, Col.4.7-9; Philemon 10-12, and whom Paul sends back with Tychicus from Rome to Colossae. Philemon is not placed alongside Colossians in the canon but with the letters to Timothy and Titus, which were written some time later. The order in which the Prison Epistles appear seems to be decided by their length; and the position of Philemon may be because the letters to churches are placed before letters to individuals.
EPHESIANS AND COLOSSIANS
Ephesians bears a strong resemblance to Colossians and vice versa. The practical sections of the epistles are very similar. Ephesians deals with the obligations of wives, husbands, children and slaves, Eph.5.22-6.9, and so does Colossians, Col.3.18-4.1. The instructions given are very similar. In the closing greetings, two passages, Eph.6.21,22 and Col.4.7-9, are virtually identical.
Both Ephesians and Colossians devote a great deal of space to the pre-eminent status of the Lord Jesus. Whereas the Gospel writers set out what He did and said and do not devote much space to expounding the theological implications of His life, the Ephesian and Colossian letters, along with other New Testament epistles, devote themselves to the task of explaining Who He is. Philippians, as we shall see, takes up this task but does so in a different way. Ephesians and Colossians have strong similarities in this connection. Both emphasise that He is the “head” of the Church, Eph.4.15; 5.23; Col.1.18; 2.19. The purpose is to show that Christ has supreme authority over the Church and is in close communion with the individual believers which form part of it. Both Ephesians and Colossians describe Him as the “fulness”. Why Paul did so is a matter of debate1 but the underlying point is clear – He does not require to be supplemented by anyone or anything else. He is the all-sufficient Saviour, Eph.1.22,23; 4.13; Col.1.19; 2.9.
The letters are also bound together by phraseology not found elsewhere. He speaks of the unsaved as “alienated” Eph.2.12; 4.18; Col.1.21. He tells believers to “redeem the time” Eph.5.16; Col.4.5, and describes them as “rooted” Eph.3.17; Col.1.5. He describes the gospel as “the word of truth, the gospel” Eph.1.13; Col.1.5, and uses some distinctive wording to describe their links with Christ and one another, for example compare “fitly joined [held] together” Eph.4.16 with “knit together” Col.2.19; also note “supplieth” Eph.4.16 and “having nourishment ministered” Col.2.19.
There are some important differences as well. He had been to Ephesus and had planted the church there. He had never been to Colossae, Col.2.1. He does not refer to individuals by name in Ephesians. Some have supposed therefore that the letter was a circular destined for a number of churches. Colossians, by contrast, has a long list of people to whom he sends greetings, in chapter 4. In Colossians when Paul speaks of the church he refers to the local assembly whereas in Ephesians the Church is the whole body of believers, sometimes, for the sake of clarity, called ‘the Universal Church’ (to distinguish it from the local assembly). No particular doctrinal problem seems to be on Paul’s mind in the Ephesian letter whereas in Colossians there are clear references to the problems caused by Jews who were seeking to promote the use of the ceremonial law and also those seeking to introduce Greek philosophical ideas.
Paul’s situation had moved on from that recorded in Acts 28.30 in this letter. When Luke completed the book of the Acts, Paul was in rented accommodation in Rome awaiting trial. In Phil.1.12,13 he is no longer in a hired house but in the quarters of the Praetorian Guard, which was part of the emperor’s palace. This may mean that as his appeal/trial drew on and legal procedure began to occur he was taken into closer custody.
Philippians is organised in a different way from Ephesians and Colossians. Whereas they are divided into two sections, one doctrinal and the other practical, Philippians mingles the doctrinal and practical. Unlike the Ephesian and Colossian letters there is a strong autobiographical element in Philippians. In chapter 1 he discusses his present predicament in the Praetorian Guard’s prison and in chapter 3 reflects on his Jewish upbringing. He also spends time discussing his relationship with the church in Philippi and their longstanding loyalty to him. These features are absent in Ephesians and Colossians.
Philippians also has a strong emphasis on the humanity of Christ. Arguably the best-known passage of Scripture concerning Christ’s humanity is in chapter 2 where he speaks of the One Who “took upon Him the form of a servant” v.7, and has now been “given … a name which is above every name” v.9. Ephesians and Colossians focus on the Deity of Christ whereas Philippians concentrates on His humanity and the glorification of the Man Christ Jesus to God’s right hand.
THE OTHER PRISON EPISTLES
There are of course two other “prison epistles”. Philemon, as we will see, accompanied Colossians and has strong links to Ephesians and Philippians. 2Timothy was also written from prison, 2Tim.1.8. It does not appear however that this is the same imprisonment. The Acts of the Apostles ends with Paul in Rome and about to have his appeal heard by Caesar, Acts 28.16. It would seem he is under a form of house arrest, Acts 28.30. It follows from 1Timothy and Titus that he must have been liberated, since he refers to visits to towns which he had not visited during the period covered by the Acts, 1Tim.1.3; 2Tim.1.16,17; Titus 1.5; 3.12. In 2Timothy however he is back in prison and anticipating his execution, 2Tim.4.6.
To be continued (D.V.)
Four Synagogue Rulers
by Denis O’Hare (France)
A RULER THAT REJOICED – Lk.8.41,42
“And, behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue: and he fell down at Jesus’ feet, and besought Him that He would come into his house: for he had one only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she lay a dying.”
We read of three “twelve-year-olds” in the Scriptures: first there was Manasseh, who was wicked, 2Kgs.21.1, then there was Jairus’ daughter, who was wonderfully raised, and then the Lord Jesus Himself, in Whom “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” Lk.2.41-52; Col.2.3.
On arriving at the house, the Lord found musicians, the minstrels, and a crowd making much noise, and when He spoke to them “they laughed Him to scorn”. He put them all out for, as Matthew Henry writes, “They were unworthy to be witnesses of this wonder. What a cause of rejoicing it must have been to that household when the little girl was restored to her parents!” At another time, a centurion came to the Lord asking Him to heal his servant and revealed his own humility desiring simply that the Lord would just “speak the word” rather than go to his house, Matt.8.5-13. He said that he was unworthy and the Lord did as he asked and commended him for his faith.
Without doubt, Jairus always looked back to that day with great rejoicing, and thankfulness to the Lord for the great work He had done in raising his daughter. How glad he must have been that he had gone to Him to intercede on her behalf. This is a reminder to us that we ought ever to bring before the Lord in prayer those dear to us who are still in their sins. What rejoicing and thanksgiving it will bring to us to see those prayers answered.
A RULER THAT PROTESTED – Lk.13.10-17
“And He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself … and the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day … the Lord then answered him, and said … ‘And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?’ … And all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him.”
The very fact that this woman, despite her severe handicap, was found in the synagogue indicates that she was a woman who feared God and was desirous to hear the Word of God in the synagogue, where it was read aloud. The Lord’s reply put His adversaries to shame for their lack of compassion. For so many years she had been unable to lift her head, seeing only the ground before her feet, and was instantly and gloriously delivered. On another occasion the Pharisees criticised the Lord because His disciples picked ears of corn on the sabbath day, for they considered that to do so was labour, which was forbidden on the sabbath. He rebuked them and reminded them that “the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath” Mk.2.27.
May we seek to avoid the bad example of this synagogue ruler, who neither had pity for an oppressed soul nor rejoiced to see God at work. We ought to have a deep sympathy for those in the grip of Satan, and to ascribe glory to God when they are set free from his captivity.
A RULER THAT BELIEVED – Acts 18.8
“And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing, believed, and were baptized.”
Being the ruler of a synagogue in a Gentile city, Corinth, meant that Crispus was a man of conviction but when he heard the gospel, he believed and was saved. No doubt the testimony of Paul, a formerly devout Pharisee, would have impressed him, for Paul was, as it were, a man of his own kind. With his knowledge of Old Testament Scriptures, he would have been a valuable help in the local assembly for no doubt many of the believers were from idolatrous and sometimes licentious backgrounds and ignorant of the Word of God. But Paul would remind them that they had been washed, sanctified and justified “in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” 1Cor.6.11.
It is wonderful to know that God saves people from a wide variety of backgrounds, and that, in His service, He can make full use of their knowledge, experience and abilities, for His own glory and the blessing of His people.
A RULER THAT WAS BEATEN – Acts 18.17
“Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. And Gallio cared for none of those things.”
Opposition in Corinth to the preaching of Paul culminated in him being brought before the governor of the region, Gallio, who refused to be drawn into the controversy. The angry response of the local Greek population was laid on Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, who was beaten “before the judgment seat”. This punishment tells us of the strong feelings of the population, who showed a totally irrational reaction in beating the synagogue ruler. This indeed was an ironic situation where an unbeliever was persecuted because of the preaching of the gospel!
In this we see the dangers facing those who oppose the Word and work of God. Sosthenes and his fellow-Jews opposed the going forth of the gospel, but their efforts were brought to nought in a most unexpected way, not by the actions of Paul or the other believers, but at the hand of the heathen! God is over all, and those who set themselves against Him do so at their peril.
The outcome of it all was that Paul was enabled to continue in the work of God there at Corinth, and the attempts of the enemy to thwart it were seen to have failed. Today, we can have confidence in the same God, Who is able to overrule, even in the most trying of circumstances, for the furtherance of His work.
Good Tidings from Heaven
THE WAY TO HEAVEN
“My father was a wise man and he always explained it like this,” my friend began. I had just finished sharing the way to Heaven with him, but it was clear that the philosophies of his father were deeply embedded in his mind. Unfortunately, those thoughts were not according to Divine truth.
He went on: “My father said that going to Heaven is like going to New York: there are many ways to get there, and it doesn’t really matter which one you take. As long as you sincerely follow the way you believe, it will get you there.”
“You are right,” I quickly replied, “about going to New York, but you are completely wrong about going to Heaven. The only map to Heaven, the Bible, clearly presents only one way to get there. Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by Me” John 14.6. It is not true that there are many ways and He is just one of them. Nor is it true that Jesus plus something else is the way to Heaven.
Many people have formed various opinions and suggest there are many ways to reach Heaven. However, let us not forget that Heaven is God’s home, and He is the One Who decides who may enter and who may not. The opinions, philosophies, and religious systems which people have invented are not only useless for reaching Heaven, they are dangerous because they are sure to end in utter failure: “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” Proverbs 14.12.
Philosophy presents a form of moral respectability, but ignores God’s solemn verdict that “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” Romans 3.23. Religions of human effort promise that Heaven can be attained through good works and accumulated merit, but God says otherwise: “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” Ephesians 2.8,9.
The Word of God presents Jesus Christ, and Christ alone, as the way for ruined, helpless sinners like you and me to enter into Heaven. To cleanse us from sin, He “put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” Hebrews 9.26, when He “suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” 1Peter 3.18. The pouring out of His precious blood at Calvary atoned for sin and paved the way for guilty people like you and me to draw near to God. Through Jesus Christ we can be cleansed, forgiven, and made fit for His holy presence.
This way is still open, dear reader. Jesus has already entered into the Father’s house and wants you to be with Him in that place of eternal glory. To go to Heaven, you need to do nothing more than realise your hopeless condition, repent of your sin and trust Jesus Christ as the One Who died for you and rose again. This is salvation by grace through faith. This is the way to Heaven. Call upon Him today.
Following any other way, however plausible it may seem, however religious it may be, or however sincerely it is pursued, only leads away from God and is guaranteed to end in “the blackness of darkness for ever” Jude 13. Allow this article, as a signpost along the highway of life, to point you to the Lord Jesus, Who says: “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out” John 6.37.