ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle
THE PARABLES OF THE KINGDOM IN MATTHEW
by S. Fellowes
QUESTIONS YOUNG PEOPLE ASK
by A. Summers
EARLY GALILEAN MINISTRY OF THE LORD JESUS
by J. Gibson
by W. Banks
GIVING IN GOD’S WAY
by W. Gustafson
GRIEVE NOT THE HOLY SPIRIT
by C. Jones
SUCH A VOICE – SUCH A PERSON
by H. Butcher
by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)
THE FIRST BOOK OF PSALMS
No.8: PSALM 6
Psalm 6 is the first of the seven suggested “penitential Psalms”. The others are Psalms 32,38,51,102,130 and 143. However, Psalms 102,130 and 143 can hardly be described as ‘penitential’, although it has to be said that Psalms 130 does warn against the possibility of sinning against the Lord: “If Thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” v.3. Psalm 102 is clearly a Messianic Psalm! The sorrow these three Psalms express is not said to be the result of sin, which is clearly the case in Psalms 6,32,38 and 51.
Psalm 6 commences with the words, “O LORD, rebuke me not in Thine anger, neither chasten me in Thy hot displeasure” v.1. David was evidently aware that he had incurred God’s displeasure, but no further information is given in the psalm. Psalm 38 opens with similar words, and includes confession: “For mine iniquities are gone over my head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me” v.4. In Psalm 32, David says: “I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD;’ and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah” v.5. Psalm 51 is equally explicit: “Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against Thee, Thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight” vv.2-4.
We should pause for a moment, and think about repentance. It means a change of mind, and involves turning from sin, and turning to God. We rightly emphasise the need for repentance when preaching the gospel. Paul testified “both to the Jews and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” Acts 20.21. He told king Agrippa that his preaching required both Jew and Gentile to “repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance” Acts 26.20. Nevertheless, Christians need to repent also. In five out of the seven letters addressed to the churches in Asia Minor (Revelation chs.2,3), the Lord Jesus calls for repentance. See also 2Cor.7.8-10 and 2Tim.2.25. There can be no value in asking the Lord to forgive our sins, if we really have no intention of leaving them. How much are we really troubled by sin in our lives? If Psalm 6 only teaches us the need for repentance, our little study will be very worthwhile, but there is a great deal more to learn.
There are three main paragraphs in this psalm:
- David was Aware of Discipline, vv.1-3
- David was Afraid of Death, vv.4-7
- David was Assured of Deliverance, vv.8-10.
DAVID WAS AWARE OF DISCIPLINE – vv.1-3
Read through Psalm 6 again (and the other ‘penitential’ psalms too), and give some thought to the physical and mental distress that is mentioned. “Have mercy upon me, O LORD; for I am weak: O LORD, heal me; for my bones are vexed. My soul is also sore vexed” vv.2,3. Notice what David says in Psalm 32: “When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me; my moisture is turned into the heat of summer. Selah” vv.3,4. Psalm 38 is even more graphic: see vv.3-8.
Now you have got to make a judgment: do these verses actually refer to physical disorders, or is the extreme distress caused by sin expressed in physical terms? Several commentators see David lying weak in bed, v.6, suffering from an illness which threatened to be fatal, v.5, which he regarded as evidence of Divine displeasure, vv.1,2, and over which his enemies rejoiced, v.7. This may be correct. It seems more likely however, that David is acutely conscious that he has incurred Divine displeasure, and feels absolutely terrible about it. We’ve all either used or heard the expression, “It made me feel quite ill”. Well, that was exactly how David felt: just compare the end of Psalm 5 with the beginning of Psalm 6: “For Thou, LORD, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt Thou compass him about as with a shield … O LORD, rebuke me not in Thine anger”. How much does it really trouble us when we are no longer enjoying God’s presence and blessing? It made David feel positively ill, and it should make us feel ill too. That’s not all: David’s enemies were quite delighted that he was so downcast and discouraged. The possibility of his demise was quite exciting. Just remember too that our spiritual enemies are quite delighted when our fellowship with God is interrupted. After all, a Christian in good spiritual health is a positive menace to them.
In the first paragraph, we have three little expressions which sum up David’s feelings: “hot displeasure … heal me … how long?”
“O LORD, rebuke me not in Thine anger, neither chasten me in Thy hot displeasure” v.1. While we are not told how, why or where, David had sinned, we are told that sin is utterly hateful to God. The words “anger … hot displeasure” make this very clear indeed. This is something quite different to “chastening” in the New Testament. God allowed the ‘Hebrew’ Christians to experience intense persecution at the hands of the Jews, not because of sin in their lives, but for their ultimate spiritual good: “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” Heb.12.11.
How did David know that God was angry and displeased with him? While it is true that in the Old Testament, national disobedience brought national disease, Deut.28.58-61, and at least one king (Jehoram) was smitten with “an incurable disease” 2Chr.21.18, it seems rather exaggerated to suggest that David knew by illness that God was angry with him. On one notable occasion in his life, David felt God’s anger against his sin through the Word of God. Read 2Sam.12.1-23. How do we know when God is displeased with us? Isn’t it in the consciousness that we have disobeyed His Word? Disobedience immediately severs communion and, if allowed to continue, will destroy prayer and Bible study. Let’s face it, we all know when we are not well-pleasing to God.
Do notice something else before we leave the first verse. David does not say, ‘O LORD, rebuke me not’ and ‘neither chasten me’. He says “O LORD, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure“. It is a cry, not for exemption from rebuke and chastening, but for mercy in rebuke and chastening. Rather like the prayer of Habakkuk: “O LORD … in wrath remember mercy” Hab.3.2. We all have to say, “It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not” Lam.3.22. David appeals to God as ‘Jehovah’ (“LORD”, A.V.): the covenant-keeping God.
“Have mercy upon me, O LORD; for I am weak: O Lord, heal me; for my bones are vexed” v.2. God’s work in David’s soul is now producing the desired result. He cries to God for mercy and restoration. Let’s always remember that if interrupted communion with God brings distress to us, it is no less distressing to God. If you are conscious of distance from God through disobedience to His Word, what are you doing about it? David certainly did something about it.
“My soul is also sore vexed: but thou, O LORD, how long?”. It is not only that David cries for mercy and restoration: he wants it now. He cannot bear to wait. Is that the value we too place on fellowship with God? He ‘trembled’ [A.V. “vexed”] physically and mentally – that is, his whole being trembled – in the consciousness that he was not right with God. Notice the reverse in Psalm 35.9,10: “And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD … All my bones shall say, LORD, who is like unto Thee …”
It is worth mentioning that the Lord Jesus was probably referring to this verse in saying, “Now is My soul troubled …” Jn.12.27, but He used it in quite a different way. David was distressed by reason of self-inflicted distance from God: the Lord Jesus was troubled by reason of distance incurred on our behalf. His sufferings were incomparable.
The depths of David’s distress become even more apparent in the second paragraph:
DAVID WAS AFRAID OF DEATH – vv.4-7
Notice, first of all, a feeling of distance. “Return, O LORD, deliver my soul: oh save me for Thy mercies’ sake” v.4. Let’s leave it there. It speaks for itself. We all know that this happens when we disobey God. Haven’t you ever felt that you haven’t really got any right to ask for God’s blessing and help, and that you’ve got to ‘go it alone?’ It’s a terrible feeling! Thank God, it can be put right. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” 1Jn.1.9. Like David, after confession, we can pray, “Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation” Ps.51.12.
Notice, secondly, a fear of death. “For in death, there is no remembrance of Thee: in the grave who shall give Thee thanks?” v.5. This statement is so different from the joy and assurance of the New Testament. David couldn’t say with Paul, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” Phil.1.21. Or, “for I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better” Phil.1.22,23. The Old Testament saints viewed death “as a condition in which they were cut off from the blessings which to God’s people were a token of His favour”1. Heb.2.14,15 tells us that “through death”, the Lord Jesus “destroyed him that had the power of death; and delivered them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage”. The Christian says, “Absent from the body … present [at home] with the Lord” 2Cor.5.8.
This raises some interesting issues and, in particular, the question of the state of men and women after death in the Old Testament.
Notice, thirdly, he was full of despair. “I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears. Mine eye is consumed because of grief” vv.6,7. The idea of “consumed” is ‘grown dim’; that is, through weeping. We know of another man who “went out, and wept bitterly” Matt.26.75. Both shed penitential tears. Do we?
Don’t forget David’s “adversaries” at the end of v.7. As we noted earlier, our unseen enemies will do all they can to make capital out of our spiritual weakness. You’ve heard the accusing voice, haven’t you? It all adds to the discouragement, but David is doing the right thing: he is crying to God for mercy and deliverance, and now it comes:
DAVID WAS ASSURED OF DELIVERANCE – vv.8-10
Notice, first of all, the return of David’s enemies. “Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; for the LORD hath heard the voice of my weeping” v.8. The Lord Jesus used this verse in Matt.7.23, “And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity“. He will pronounce this solemn sentence in all His majesty and with all His authority. Perhaps this gives us an indication of the tremendous change in David. Restoration of fellowship with God gave him authority in dealing with his adversaries. Fellowship with God means strength. David had prayed that the Lord would return to him, v.4: now he tells his enemies to depart from him. “Let all mine enemies be ashamed and sore vexed: let them return and be ashamed suddenly” v.10.
Notice, secondly, the response to David’s entreaty. “The LORD hath heard my supplication: the LORD will receive my prayer” v.9. Whilst it is true that “he that covereth his sins shall not prosper”, it is equally true that “whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” Prov.28.13.
Notice, thirdly, the reality of David’s entreaty. “My weeping … my supplication … my prayer”. At the expense of repeating ourselves, let’s just ask a final question. How concerned are we about our relationship with God? With David, it was a matter of life or death. Yes, as serious as that.
Perhaps Ps.30.5 is an apt comment on this Psalm: “For His anger endureth but a moment; in His favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning”.
To be Concluded (D.V.)
1. Clarke, Arthur G. “Analytical Studies in the Psalms”. J Ritchie, Kilmarnock, Scotland, 1967
by S. Fellowes (Republic of Ireland)
No.7 – THE PARABLE OF THE PEARL
In our last study, in which we examined the parable of the treasure, we noticed that the treasure spoke of Israel secured by the Lord in the purchasing of the field. In the parable of the pearl its purchase speaks of the church as bought for the Lord’s possession.
The Lord is presented in a number of ways throughout Matthew chapter 13. In general we see Him as the Teacher unfolding the kingdom in mystery form. Who else ever taught like Him? His teaching was concise, succinct, clear and powerful; truly “He taught them as one having authority” Matt.7.29. Next we view Him as the Sower, spreading the Word of the kingdom. In the parable of the tares, as well as being the sower He is the Householder with authority over the household. In v.33 we thought of Him as the Meal, in all the loveliness of His person, and in v.44 as the Man Who secured the treasure, the Messiah Who came to redeem Israel.
When we come to the parable of the pearl, it is not just “a man” we read of, but “a merchant man”. The word in Greek is “emporos” meaning “a person on a journey” (W.E. Vine). We will be familiar with the word “emporium” adopted into our English language. It suggests a man associated with retail, trade; a man of business. How fitting this is when we consider the words of Eph.5.25 “Christ … loved the church, and gave Himself for it”. The purchase of His bride was the chief business of the merchant man.
- From heaven He came and sought her
- To be His holy bride;
- With His own blood He bought her,
- And for her life He died.
- (Samuel J. Stone)
We learn from v.46 “when He had found one pearl of great price …”, its oneness is emphasised. In the same Gospel where we have the revelation of the truth of the church, we have it in picture, in this beautiful parable. However, we must wait until chapter sixteen to get the teaching, that great fundamental statement of our Lord Jesus, “and I say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock [Christ] I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” Matt.16.18. Here is something altogether new, a distinct entity: not only a people called out and founded upon Christ, but also a people united together, and herein we have the significance of the oneness of the pearl.
We read in John’s Gospel “… and there shall be one flock …” Jn.10.16 (J.N.D.). The blind man in John chapter nine had just been “cast out” of the fold of Judaism v.34, but He had heard the Shepherd’s voice and followed Him, Jn.10.3,4, becoming instead a member of the “one flock”, not “one fold”. The fold is a description of Judaism and is presently set aside by God. F.B. Hole’s words are helpful, “Sheep held together by outward restrictions: that was Judaism. Sheep constituted a flock by the personal power and attraction of the Shepherd: that is Christianity.” In this flock there would be “other sheep … which are not of this fold” Jn.10.16, which reminds us of the bringing in of the Gentiles. How wonderful is the grace of God that has given us a place in His flock!
The thought of oneness is further developed in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, where we are taught, “there is one body” 4.4. With this we must link the words in 1Cor.12.12 “by one Spirit were we all baptized into one body …”. This one body was formed at Pentecost, and is composed of every believer in Christ, both Jew and Gentile, from Pentecost until the Rapture. They are viewed now as “one new man” Eph.2.15, no longer two! “New” as there has never been anything like this before, and “man” demonstrating completeness. This union is the subject of the mystery of Ephesians chapter three.
The pearl was “of great price”, literally “of great value”. This word is used of the spikenard, Jn.12.3, and a very similar word is used in 1Pet.3.4 of the “meek and quiet spirit” advocated for Christian wives. The value that the Lord places upon things is really all that matters. The treasure spoke of the value of Israel, and here we have the infinite worth and value of the church to the heart of Christ.
In order to purchase the pearl the merchant man must “[sell] all that He had” v.46; He would voluntarily “[become] poor” 2Cor.8.9. Once again we are directed to the self-sacrificing love of the Saviour, stooping down from Godhead glory to the very depths of “the death of the cross” Phil.2.8. There Christ gave Himself: “He loved the church and gave Himself for it” Eph.5.25. Willingly, completely and sacrificially He “gave Himself.” He could give no more!
Many aspects of the pearl have been applied spiritually to the church, and without letting our imagination run riot, we can see clear links. A pearl is taken from the sea, which is, of course, a picture of the nations, see Rev.17.15. Out of the nations, whether the Gentile nations or the Jewish nation, in this day of grace, the church is being built. Perhaps the most fitting application is the fact that a pearl is the product of suffering. The church owes its being to the deep, profound sufferings of the Saviour. Again, we understand that the pearl is formed layer by layer. Perhaps the words of Acts.2.47 correlate with this, “… the Lord added to the church daily such, as should be saved”.
To be Continued (D.V.)
by Alan Summers (Scotland)
No.6 – How Can I Know I am saved?
The work of salvation is not a visible work. The eye cannot see the Spirit taking up residence. The ear cannot hear the pronouncement of forgiveness from heaven. Hence there is nothing to see or hear at the point of salvation. However, the Word of God says that salvation should result in a life that is marked by obedience to God. Therefore the proof of salvation should become clear in the life of the individual, Jn.3.7,8. Nevertheless, the fact is that salvation does not rest on a good life. Otherwise it would be a salvation based on works. Salvation rests on faith in Christ and on His ability to forgive. He can forgive because every claim of God’s throne was met at Calvary. Hence the thief that trusted the Lord Jesus at Calvary went to Paradise because he trusted the Lord Jesus – not because he had opportunity to do good deeds. Since every Christian retains the propensity to do evil after salvation our salvation cannot rest on our ability to live a righteous life. Thus I know I am saved because God’s Word declares that those who trust Him are redeemed, justified, forgiven and saved. If God says so, we should believe so, Jn.3.36. Sin in the life of a believer is not a good thing but it does not prove a lack of salvation. It proves the continuing existence of the flesh. It is a different matter when sinning becomes a characteristic feature of life. That would call into question the reality of salvation. A Christian does not continue to live a life of sin.
Is it possible to lose salvation?
We answer with a resounding, “No!” The Bible teaches that at the moment of salvation we are justified, that is declared righteous, Rom.8.30,33. This pronouncement is made by God once for all. It is not anticipated that God might make a mistake and have to reverse His verdict at a later date. Justification does not just deal with past sins, but it also deals with us retrospectively and prospectively. It confers a new status and clears us from all guilt, whether it is inherited guilt from Adam or the possession of a sinful nature or sins yet to be committed. It is a new standing, 2Cor.5.17. Hence justification does not depend on my practical righteousness. It does not depend on my ability to live a good life. It is true that those who are justified should live a righteous life but justification does not depend on my ability to merit it.
It is obvious that Christians sin. Anyone that claims otherwise is a liar, 1Jn.1.8. However, sinning does not mean that God rejects us. Just as He forgave us our sins at salvation when He justified us, so the sins that damage our communion with God can be forgiven by restoration and personal forgiveness, 1Jn.1.7. We sometimes make the mistake of confusing a profession of salvation with actual salvation. In Jn.1.23 there were people who believed in the Lord Jesus but He knew they were not genuine. Hence in Jn.6.64,66 they turned away when tested. Bear in mind that the devil believes in the Lord Jesus in the sense that he believes in His existence and what the Bible says about Him, but he does not believe in the sense of trusting Him, Jms.2.19. Those who do not progress in the Christian pathway may be unsaved, but the fact that a saved person may sin and fall does not prove that they were never saved, but sinning is not a habitual feature of a believer’s life. Ultimately the Lord knows who are genuine and who is not, 2Tim.2.19.
To be Continued, (D.V.)
by Jeremy C. Gibson, England
Paper 5: Cleansing a leper.
Read: Matt.4.23-25; 8.2-4; Mk.1.35-45; Lk.4.42-44; 5.12-16.
The cleansing of the leper is just one example of many miracles performed by the Lord Jesus during His first Galilean preaching circuit. His early morning prayer time was the linchpin which joined the events of the previous evening with the beginning of this northern teaching tour.
The Saviour prayed early and alone: “in the morning, rising up a great while before day, He went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed” Mk.1.35. Only by slipping out of the house while others slept, before the busy demands and distractions of the day pressed in upon Him, could the Lord Jesus squeeze in a time of uninterrupted prayer. This seems to have been His habitual practice, as Isaiah had predicted of Messiah, the Lord God “wakeneth morning by morning, He wakeneth Mine ear to hear as the learned” Isa.50.4, and as David wrote concerning himself, “My voice shalt Thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto Thee, and will look up” Ps.5.3. And yet, on this particular occasion Jehovah’s perfect Servant prayed after and before: after a tremendously busy sabbath, during which He had healed illness and exorcised demons late into the evening, He rose early to pray. These prayers also immediately preceded Him embarking on His first major preaching circuit throughout Galilee. This prayer time is, of course, a perfect example for us. We too should pray early each morning, without distractions (e.g. electronic devices), and before and after all Christian service, for it is only through private prayer that we can experience public power.
But be careful. Crowds and popularity can hamper our fellowship with God and divert us from the path of duty. Notice how Peter and those who were with him broke into the Lord’s time of prayer with the words, “all men seek for Thee” Mk.1.37; and they “stayed Him, that He should not depart from them” Lk.4.42. Many probably craved to see more miracles; others likely sought healing. Peter, blind to the fickleness of crowds, was undoubtedly delighted at the surge in his Master’s popularity in his home town of Capernaum. Having awoken to discover that Christ was not in the house, “Simon and they that were with him followed after [katadiōkō, ‘hunted Him down’9] Him” Mk.1.36.
The Lord Jesus would not, however, be swayed by popular opinion. He had not come forth from heaven, nor been sent by the Father, to restrict Himself to one city; His mission was to evangelise widely, Mk.1.38; Lk.4.43. This He did, “preaching the gospel of the kingdom … in their synagogues throughout all Galilee” Matt.4.23; Mk.1.39; Lk.4.44. During this period He healed “all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people … and cast out devils” Matt.4.23,24; Mk.1.39, His fame spreading widely, so that “there followed Him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan” Matt.4.24,25. While His miracles validated His message and prefigured millennial conditions, the Lord Jesus always prioritised preaching and teaching. We do not have the power, nor the need, to perform miracles; nevertheless, the Lord’s zeal to spread His message widely should inspire us to do the same.
It was during this preaching tour that the Lord Jesus healed the leper. Biblical leprosy appears to have been a severely itchy skin condition. The Hebrew word neteq or scall (of leprosy) of the K.J.V. and A.S.V is replaced by “itch” or “itching disease” in the R.S.V. Its occurrences in the Bible are limited to Lev.13.30-37 and 14.54. Designated as the major symptom of “leprosy,” its use here derives from the idea of something which a sufferer desires to scratch or tear away.”10 Leprosy could develop in ulcers or inflammatory lesions, Lev.13.18,19, and burns, vv.24-28, which may represent the Koebner phenomenon in which skin lesions appear on lines of trauma. While appearing as an elevated white area, that may have an erythematous (red) element to it, Lev.13.19, it gave the visual impression of being deeper than the skin, v.20. It affected hair growth, causing hair to go white, or to be thin and yellow, Lev.13.3, and could involve the hand, e.g. Ex.4.6, the head or beard area, Lev.13.29,42; see 2Chr.26.19, sometimes spreading to cover the whole body, Lev.13.12,13. At times healthy flesh appeared within the lesions, Lev.13.14-17. Israel’s priests were capable of inspecting, diagnosing and declaring ceremonially unclean those who were afflicted, although the diagnosis could be difficult, necessitating a period of quarantine and review, Lev.13.4,21,26,31,33. This detailed Levitical description of leprosy, together with its list of differential diagnoses, sounds much more like modern day psoriasis than what is now termed leprosy, the infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae. Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory skin condition, which has been so difficult to successfully treat that it has been called “the antidote to a dermatologist’s ego” (Bechet, 1935). There remains no medical cure.
Luke, the physician, described this man as “full of leprosy” Lk.5.12. While the law stated that if “the leprosy cover all the skin of him that hath the plague … he is clean” Lev.13.12,13, it seems that Luke was emphasising the severity and extensiveness of his condition, not implying that he was ceremonially clean. Showing the utmost respect for Christ, the leper fell on his face before the Lord, worshipped Him, and besought Him, “if Thou wilt, thou canst make me clean” Matt.8.2; Mk.1.40; Lk.5.12. He did not doubt Christ’s power. Neither did he allow the law of Moses, which demanded his separation from others, Lev.13.45,46, to prevent him from coming to the Saviour. It was a great act of faith, apart from Moses sign to Israel, Ex.4.6-8, and Miriam’s temporary leprosy, Num.12.10-15, there was no Biblical record of any Israelite ever having been cleansed of leprosy.
The Lord could have healed this man with a word. Instead, “Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth His hand and touched him” Mk.1.41, who may not have felt human touch for a long time. As the Holy One of God, the Lord Jesus remained undefiled by this touch, see Heb.7.26. This may give a small insight into what took place at the cross, when the Lord Jesus “bare our sins in His own body on the tree” 1Pet.2.24, while remaining undefiled and holy. The man was cleansed immediately, Matt.8.3, proving the Saviour’s Divine power, see 2Kgs.5.7, and verifying His claim to be Israel’s Messiah, see Matt.11.5; Lk.7.22. The physical illness of Biblical leprosy is seen to picture the defiling influence of sin. For example, after his adulterous affair with Bathsheba, David prayed for God to “Purge me with hyssop” Ps.51.7, likely alluding to the ceremonial cleansing of a leper, Lev.14.4, and suggesting that he was a spiritual leper because of his sin. Healing this man also showed the Lord’s ability to cleanse guilty sinners.
Seemingly without any delay the Lord’s tender demeanour completely changed. “He straightly charged [embrimaomai, to snort like a horse] him, and forthwith sent [ekballō, to cast out] him away” Mk.1.43, saying, “see thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them” Mk.1.44. Why this harsh treatment? Knowing the character of this man, the Lord Jesus perceived his excitement to tell others about his cure. But if he did this immediately there would be at least three adverse consequences. First, he would not be fully restored to Israelite society, which required formal ceremonial recognition by Israel’s priests. Second, a wonderful opportunity to bear witness to these priests that Jesus of Nazareth was Israel’s Messiah would be missed. Before this event, there is no record of Israel’s priests ever examining and declaring as ceremonially clean a healed leper. In the case of Miriam, Moses did not record whether the prescribed ceremony of Leviticus chapter 14 was carried out, Num.12.10-15. This could well, therefore, have been the first time in the history of the nation that the ceremonial cleansing of a leper was enacted. Third, if the healed leper blazed abroad the matter, the heightened publicity would hinder the Lord’s ministry. This is exactly what happened, “insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places” Mk.1.45. Sadly, as we all know, salvation and obedience do not necessarily go together.
To be Continued, (D.V.)
- 9. Hiebert, D.E. “A Portrait of The Servant”, Moody Press, 1974, p.39
- 10. Harris, R.L, Archer G.L, Waltke B.K. “Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament” Moody Publishers, 1980, p.610.
by William M. Banks (Scotland)
No.2a: THEIR CLASSIFICATION: ELECT AND FALLEN
There are two major classes of angels; the “elect” 1Tim.5.21, (also called “holy” Matt.25.31), and “fallen” Isa.14.12. Among the elect angels two main personages are named; while among the fallen one angel stands out from the others. Also among both the elect and fallen angels there are a number of selective sub-groupings.
THE ELECT ANGELS INDIVIDUALLY NAMED
There are two outstanding elect angels who are individually named. Perhaps the most well-known is Michael whose name means “Who is like God”. He is given a prominent place in the book of Daniel, 10.13,21; 12.1, and referred to as the archangel in the book of Jude, v.9. Michael and his angels fight with the dragon and his angels in Rev.12.7. These are all the direct references to this mighty angel. There is one further interesting reference to “… the voice of the archangel” in 1Thess.4.16.
There can be only one archangel, so he is clearly the supreme force for good among the elect angels. He is called Israel’s “great prince” Dan.12.1; he is great in authority and power, capable of effecting deliverance for the nation in the great tribulation; “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book”. The fact of “war in heaven” Rev.12.7, (are all wars fought and decided “in heaven” before the evidence is seen on earth?) where Michael overcomes the Dragon and his angels is a further emphatic indication of his power and may well parallel the time frame in Daniel chapter 12.
The reference to him disputing with Satan over the body of Moses in Jude, might give an indication of one of his main spheres of influence, viz. the bodies of the saints, and throw light on the reference to the voice of the archangel in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4, where the bodies of the saints are in view. The shout of the “Lord Himself” characterised by archangel voice will be sufficiently powerful to raise the sleeping bodies of the “dead in Christ” and thereafter rapture them into His presence. In passing it is worth noting the respect paid to authority by Michael in Jude v.9; “Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee”. In days when authority is lightly regarded the lesson should not be lost.
The other named elect angel is Gabriel. His name means “the mighty one” or “champion of God”. His activity is associated with unveiling the future. He was sent to Daniel, 8.16, to reveal divine secrets in the vision of the ram and the he-goat, and to communicate the all-important details of the seventy weeks’ prophecy, 9.21-27. He announced the birth of John the Baptist, Lk.1.11, and of the Messiah, Lk.1.26. He describes himself as “… Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God” Lk.1.19. Like Elijah, 1Kgs.17.1; 18.15, and Elisha, 2Kgs.3.14; 5.16, before him, he evidences that those who stand in the presence of God can give an effective communication of the mind of God.
THE ELECT ANGELS COLLECTIVELY NAMED
There are again two of these with which we are familiar. The first are the cherubim, also called “living creatures” in Ezek.10.20, and Rev.4.6, where they are called “beasts” in the A.V. It is difficult to determine one unified activity for the cherubim since there is such a diversity of references to them. They are first seen as guardians of Paradise in Gen.3.24. They then have a large place symbolically and ornamentally in both the tabernacle, e.g. Ex.25.18ff, and the temples of Solomon, eg 1Kgs.6.23ff, and Ezek.41.18ff. In addition their intimate link with the throne of God is seen in both the Psalms, e.g. 80.1; 99.1; Ezekiel chapter 1 and Revelation chapter 4.
Integrating the truth associated with the variety of references, indicates at least the following to be true of the cherubim.
They defend the holiness of God and are guardians of sacred things; if necessary linked to judgment, Gen.3.24; Ex.25.18ff, with no possibility of exclusion or evasion from that judgment, “… full of eyes before and behind” Rev.4.6; and with faces looking in all directions, Ezek.1.10. To defend Divine holiness they were capable of movement universally and instantaneously as necessary, Ezek.1.12,14.
They have an intimate relationship to the throne of God. The throne can be transported or supported as necessary, Ps.18.9,10; Ezek.1.22. Additionally they are “round about the throne” giving all necessary supplementary protection, Rev.4.6-9, linked to devoted worship.
They are an emblem of the Divine presence, Ps.80.1; 99.1.
The second named are the seraphim. The name means “fiery serpent” or “burning ones”. While in the A.V. there are only two direct references to “seraphim”, viz. Isa.6.2,3, there are another five references where the word is either translated “fiery” Num.21.6; Deut.8.15, or “fiery serpent” Num.21.8; Isa.14.29; 30.6, giving a total of seven references in all. The link with the “serpent” is of interest. Banks1 has shown that the word may well have connotations in relation to the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, with Satan taking on the appearance of a fiery seraph or in the words of Paul, “an angel of light” 2Cor.11.14.
The references to the seraphim in Isaiah indicate an atmosphere of unceasing worship presented in an attitude of humility, (covered face) and dignity (covered feet), and recognising the awesome majesty of the throne sitter; “Above it [the throne] stood the seraphim each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory” 6.2,3.
In addition there is an affirmation that access to holiness can only be through sacrifice (cf. the meaning of their name) with uncleanness being removed; “Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphim unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged” 6.5-7.
There are a number of other references to elect angels, e.g. Eph.1.21; “… principality, and power, and might, and dominion”. Some angels have specially assigned territory: “power over fire” Rev.14.18, and another described as “the angel of the waters” Rev.16.5.
THE FALLEN ANGEL INDIVIDUALLY NAMED
There seems to be only one fallen angel named. According to Chafer2 he has forty different names or titles with the best known being Satan (resistor); serpent (guile); Lucifer (son of the morning); dragon (power); devil (slanderer) and Apollyon (destroyer – angel of the abyss) Satan was the greatest being ever created. He is “the chief of the fallen angels”3. Along with other angels he has personality (emotion, will and intelligence). He was created as an “anointed cherub”, “perfect in beauty”, “full of wisdom” – yet “… iniquity was found in thee” Ezek.28.11-19. As a result it was said of Him “… thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit” v.15.
To be Continued, (D.V.)
- 1. Banks, W.M. In “The Glory of Godly Women.” Assembly Testimony Publication, 2013
- 2. Chafer, L.S. “Systematic Theology.” Dallas Seminary Press, 1978
- 3. Ibid
by Walter Gustafson, USA
In the previous paper we noted that our giving should be systematic, proportional, individual, discriminatory, cheerful, and secret. We considered the first two and now come to individual giving.
1Cor.16.2 says, “Let every one of you lay by him in store.” The instruction concerning the collection is given for each one in assembly fellowship. Paul also taught individual giving in Gal.6.6, “Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things”. Paul places the responsibility on each individual who receives teaching to communicate or help with the temporal needs of the one who teaches.
If an individual discharges his responsibility by giving all through the assembly, and the assembly disburses the funds approximately as the individual would do, then I have no fault to find. However, I do find fault with the idea that everyone should give all through the assembly, because Scripture does not support such teaching.
I personally am thankful that God’s Word teaches individual giving, so that God is not shut up to assemblies collectively to meet the needs of poor persons or to meet the needs of His servants. One summer in the 1950’s I had a particular need and my wife and I were the only human beings that knew about it. This was fully met through the exercise of a number of individuals, not assemblies.
Regarding Needy Persons
Gal.6.10, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially those who are of the household of faith.” Of needy persons known to us, assembly believers should have first claim, denominational believers second claim (because they also are of the household of faith), and unsaved ones as last claim on us.
Those who have “for His name’s sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles” 3Jn.7. This is substantiated by Paul: 1Cor.9.13,14, “Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.” 2Cor.11.9, “And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself.”
Regarding Preachers Doing Pioneer Work (that is, not near any assembly).
In 1Tim.5.3-5,16, Paul instructs us that widows should be cared for discriminately. Surely, that principle applies here as well. When we give to a worker who has gone forth for His Name’s sake, it should be fellowship and not charity. (I am not suggesting a financial investigation before giving.) There are extra expenses associated with working a distance from any assembly, like hall rents, room rents, food and automobile expenses. The needs of such workers should be sympathetically considered.
2Cor.9.7, “God loveth a cheerful giver”. 2Corinthians chapters 8 and 9 have a lot to say about giving. There are four examples of giving. The first example is “the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia” 8.1-5. “How the abundance of their joy and deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality” v.2. They gave beyond their power, v.3. The secret of their giving is in v.5, “but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God”. If we give ourselves first to the Lord, He has everything, our time, our talents, and our treasures.
Their response was beyond expectation as was the giving for the materials for the tabernacle, Ex.36.5. and for the temple, 1Chr.29.6,9,14,17. The second example of giving is the zeal of the Corinthians being ready to give, which had provoked many, 9.2. The third and fourth examples of giving are the giving of the Lord Jesus in 2Cor.8.9 and the giving of God in 2Cor.9.15, both of which should affect our giving. Since giving should be cheerfully and not grudgingly or of necessity, we see that giving God’s way is not in a grudging response to a special appeal.
SECRET – Matt.6.2-4
To quote the late William Fisher-Hunter, “it is not a sin to be seen giving, but it is a sin to give to be seen”. I think all of us know the difference. “But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth” Matt.6.3. We should not take v.3 slavishly or literally, but we should take the principle to heart.
We must keep accounts if we are to give proportionately. We must have our eyes open to sign a cheque. When we give, we should not tell others of the gift, and there is a sense in which we should not tell ourselves. John R.W. Stott writes well, “We are not to be self-conscious in our giving, for our self-consciousness will readily deteriorate into self-righteousness … Christian giving is to be marked by self-sacrifice and self-forgetfulness, not by self-congratulations.”1
REWARD FOR GIVING IN GOD’S WAY
Some Christians think that we should not do anything hoping for a reward, but God’s rewards will someday be what we can cast at His feet in worship and who would not want to have more then to give to Him Who is so worthy! All of God’s rewards are meant to encourage us in Christian living. Moses is commended in Heb.11.26, “he had respect unto the recompense of the reward”. We should have the same respect. We also read of our Lord Jesus in Heb.12.2, “Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame”.
The Philippian assembly had communicated with Paul’s affliction and so he wrote, “But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” 4.19. The Philippian assembly had met Paul’s need according to their poverty, but God was going to meet their need according to His riches in glory. Prov.3.9,10 and Mal.3.10 indicate that there can be material blessing for honouring the Lord with our substance (but that should not be our motive for giving). We should remember the words of the Lord Jesus in Acts 20.35, “It is more blessed to give than to receive”. These words are not found in the Gospels but Matt.10.8 and Lk.6.38 are somewhat similar. Paul is encouraging the Ephesian overseers by his own example and the words of the Lord Jesus that they should seek in all things the good of others.
Reward In The Future – Matt.6.20; Phil.4.17.
Each child of God has the same opportunity for reward hereafter in giving, whether rich or poor. It is not how much in pounds or dollars that counts with God. The Lord Jesus sat over against the treasury in Mk.12.41-44 and observed that many who were rich cast in much. We should notice the evaluation of the Lord of the widow’s two mites, “Verily I say unto you that this poor widow had cast in more than all they that have cast into the treasury for they have cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living”.
I am thankful that there have been and are, rich believers who have supported the work of God very well; but I am sure that some saints will be surprised at the judgment seat of Christ to learn that a number of poor saints have supported the work of the Lord much better than they ever could have imagined.
1. Stott, John R.W. “Christian Counter Culture.” Intervarsity Press, April 1978
by Cliff Jones (Wales)
Paper no. 2
MEMBERS ONE OF ANOTHER
The Holy Spirit is concerned not only with our witness to the lost around us but also with our behaviour in the assembly and our attitudes to other believers. In Eph.4.25, the Spirit tells believers not to lie. Lying comes naturally to a human being: even a very young child will lie. A lie is a false statement or a true statement made in such a way that it deceives the listener. Satan “is a liar, and the father of it” Jn.8.44. The Lord Jesus Christ is “the truth” Jn.14.6, and “the truth is in Jesus” Eph.4.21. All that the Scriptures reveal about the Lord and about all that He did, said and taught is true, Acts 1.1. He was truth personified. He was God manifest in flesh, 1Tim.3.16, and God cannot lie, Titus 1.2. Speaking to His disciples, the Lord referred to the Holy Spirit as “another Comforter … the Spirit of truth” Jn.14.16,17. The Lord also said, “when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth” Jn.16.13. The Holy Spirit teaches that which is true and He glorifies the Lord Who is the truth. Believers should always speak the truth, in love, without ambiguity, Eph.4.15,25. We should speak the truth to each other, for we are “members one of another” Eph.4.25. We are all members of one body, the Church, of which Christ is the Head, Rom.12.5; 1Cor.12.27; Col.1.18: we are interdependent members of one body, Eph.4.16. Lies cause trouble in the world and among believers, Acts 5.1-11. Included among the things the Lord hates are a “lying tongue” and “A false witness that speaketh lies” Prov.6.16-19.
When and if a believer becomes angry, there is an ever present danger that he may sin. Being hurt and angry against that which is evil and sinful is different from being angry against the person committing the sin. There was a time when the Lord looked at the Pharisees in the synagogue “with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts” Mk.3.5. He loved the men but hated their sin. A believer must be careful not to become angry quickly, Eccl.7.9. If a believer is angry with a person rather than being upset by sin and evil, then malicious, bitter and self-righteous thoughts can arise. When a believer is angry, then the matter must be taken to God in prayer, not letting “the sun go down” while he is still angry, Eph.4.26, otherwise there is a danger that the believer will harbour sinful thoughts, and fellowship with God and service for Him will be hindered. The assembly will be adversely affected and the Holy Spirit will be grieved. If sinful thoughts do enter the believer’s mind then the sin must be forsaken, confessed to God, and forgiveness sought, 1Jn.1.9.
Keeping angry thoughts in the mind for a long time can “give place to the devil” Eph.4.27. Satan will have opportunity to fill the believer’s mind with evil thoughts and intentions. If anger and sinful feelings toward another person are retained for a long period then the believer will suffer spiritually and experience mental stress. The spiritual life of the assembly will be adversely affected and the Holy Spirit will be grieved.
Having been saved, a believer should “steal no more” Eph.4.28. God said “Thou shalt not steal” Ex.20.15. Stealing involves taking or acquiring anything which belongs to another without that person’s consent. Theft can take many forms, such as stealing another’s property, an employer’s time or equipment, or not paying, or delaying payment of amounts due to others.
A believer should be a reliable, conscientious worker, doing all things “heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” Col.3.23. He should “labour, working with his hands the thing which is good” Eph.4.28, doing honest work for the benefit of himself, his dependants and society. The need to work goes beyond providing for personal needs: it involves being able, as Paul was, Acts 20.33-35, to “give to him that needeth” Eph.4.28. We are told to “do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” Gal.6.10.
Believers are to avoid unwholesome and corrupting talk, but should speak in a way which helps to edify others and build them up in the faith. This means avoiding worldly foolish talk which is without spiritual value and is capable of corrupting listeners. The things we say should “minister grace unto the hearers” Eph.4.29, and be a blessing and benefit to them.
Corrupt speech, like evil deeds, hurt the Holy Spirit, and we are told to “put off … anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth” Col.3.8. An assembly of believers and individual believers within that assembly can offend and grieve the Holy Spirit Who loves us and to Whom we owe so much. When we were saved, we “were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise” Eph.1.13. We were sealed “unto the day of redemption” Eph.4.30, when our bodies will be redeemed, Rom.8.23. The indwelling Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee of the eternal security of a believer’s salvation.
A number of sins which a believer is to “put away” are mentioned in Eph.4.31. These are sins against people, and each of the sins mentioned can easily lead to the next in the list. Bitterness must be put away. Bitterness is a brooding resentment which refuses to forgive. It harbours grudges and corrodes the mind. Wrath is an attitude and state of mind which can reveal itself in anger and bad temper. Clamour is a loud and noisy expression of anger. Evil speaking is a result of anger, and words can be spoken which hurt and damage other people. The last sin mentioned in this awful list is malice. Malice results in a vicious, wicked and evil habit of thinking and speaking. A malicious person is glad when others suffer and sorry when things go well for them. Malice results in all sorts of animosity and evil. Let us remember that the verses we have been considering were written to believers.
BE YE KIND ONE TO ANOTHER
Eph.4.32 contrasts markedly with v.31. The Holy Spirit causes entirely different thoughts to pass through our minds. We are caused to think of kindness, tenderness, forgiveness and of the Lord Jesus Christ Who is “altogether lovely” S of S.5.16. In v.32 we have the antidote to what is brought before us in v.31.
God is love, 1Jn.4.8, and the Lord said “he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father” Jn.14.9. The Lord’s life manifested the love He had for His Father and for us, Jn.14.31; 13.1. We see the Lord’s love, His care for His loved ones and His humility when He washed the feet of His disciples, including those of Judas Iscariot who would betray Him, Jn.13.1-15. Shortly after doing this, He said to His disciples, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another” Jn.13.34,35. We are enjoined elsewhere to love one another, 1Jn.3.16-23; 4.7-12.
Love among those of us who are believers will be shown in the way we treat one another. In Eph.4.32 we are told to be “kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you”. Being kind means being prepared to help one another. To be tenderhearted is to be sensitive and sympathetic to others, having pity and compassion. To forgive is to pardon offences and wrongs, not seeking revenge. Let us remember those words found in 1Jn.4.10, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins”. God “for Christ’s sake” has forgiven us. He has been able to forgive us justly and righteously because of the completed work on the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, Rom.3.26; Col.2.13, and we should forgive one another.
Love for God, the Word of God, other believers and those who are not saved will prevent our doing many things which would grieve the Holy Spirit. In the light of the truths we have been considering, let us seek, by the grace of God and the enabling power of the Holy Spirit, to lead such lives as will glorify God, exalt the Lord Jesus Christ and not grieve, but rather please, the Holy Spirit.
by H. Butcher (England)
“For He received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to HIM from [or ‘by’] the excellent glory, This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased” 2Pet.1.17. “Such a voice” was borne “to HIM.” Let us think upon the Voice and upon the Person.
It was “such a voice.” Consider its origin. From Matt.17.5; Mk.9.7 and Lk.9.35 we learn that the voice came “out of the cloud.” Each of the three evangelists who give the inspired record of the transfiguration speaks thus of the voice. The voice came out of the cloud [the bright cloud]. Peter writes by the Holy Spirit, “The voice was borne by the excellent glory,” and again, “This voice we heard out of heaven.” The voice was the voice of God the Father speaking of His Son, the Beloved One.
It was “such a voice” indeed, coming not only out of the bright cloud, by the excellent glory, and out of heaven, but from God Himself.
It was “such a voice.” Consider also its effect. When the disciples heard the voice, they fell upon their faces, and were greatly terrified. (See Matt.17.6, Darby’s translation). At the sound of the Divine voice the three chosen disciples fell down in exceeding fear. They were filled with fear before the cloud came, Mk.9.6; “they feared as they entered into the cloud” Lk.9.34; but at the sound of the voice they feared exceedingly and fell on their faces.
It was “such a voice.” Further, consider its subject. In a former day one on earth did testify, “This is my beloved.” To Him on the holy mountain there came a voice out of heaven, “This is My beloved Son.” The testimony on earth forms the culmination of the graphic description given in response to the question, “What is thy beloved more than another beloved?” SoS.5.9; the utterance from heaven forms an answer to Peter’s suggestion (given when he knew not what he should say) that the Lord should be set on a par with Moses and Elijah. Peter’s remark echoed the question put by the daughters of Jerusalem and the silence of heaven was broken to declare that here was One Who was more than any other beloved.
The voice out of heaven directs the attention to the Person, God’s Son, Who is the object of God’s pleasure and Who must be given the place God wills for Him. “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I have found My delight; hear Him.”
The scene is one marked by glory. The word “glory” occurs four times in the Divine record of our Lord’s transfiguration. Our Lord Jesus Christ “received from God the Father honour and glory” 2Pet.1.17. That was a vesting of glory. Moses and Elijah “appeared in glory” Lk.9.31. They were visitors in glory. When Peter and those with him awoke, “they saw His glory” Lk.9.32. That was a vision of glory. Then there was the voice borne “by the excellent glory” 2Pet.1.17. So the scene is a glorious one, but the glorious Saviour, the subject of the utterance out of heaven, is greater than all the glory. The hour was not too much for Him. In a scene of majesty, honour and glory the three disciples were exceedingly afraid. It was not beneath the dignity of the King to have regard for their need, in meeting which He displayed the glory of His grace. They needed His immediate presence, touch and word of assurance. He gave all three, Matt.17.7. He came near, near enough to touch them; more than that, He did touch them. He spoke the word, “Arise, and be not afraid.”
The voice was soon past. Moses and Elijah were departed, but Jesus, the precious Lord Jesus, was still found there. The One of Whom the voice had spoken was yet with them. He is with us also. By faith we know His nearness, His gracious touch, His soft gentle voice. What is more, He will be with us, whatever our circumstances may be, until the morning without clouds, when we shall behold His beauty. Blessed prospect! Then
- “He and I, in that bright glory
- One deep joy shall share;
- Mine, to be forever with Him,
- His, that I am there.”
- (Gerhardt Tersteegen)
Time for a Change
Fuelled by unfulfilled promises, unrealised hopes and mounting difficulties, “It’s time for a change” is frequently heard from both politicians and the general public.
THERE HAVE BEEN CHANGES IN THE PAST
Within the recent past, changes have occurred with surprising suddenness. Governments once thought to be stable have been toppled. Financial institutions have failed. Once-successful businesses have collapsed. More serious than all, the moral fabric of society has been shattered by turning away from God and the principles of His Word, the Bible. The “Do what feels good” philosophy – casting off restraint and the rejection of authority which is really lawlessness, the essence of sin – has broken up families, ruined lives and brought the disillusion, disease, death and destruction we see all around us.
THERE WILL BE MORE CHANGES
When Jesus Christ was asked what the signs of His second coming in glory would be, He replied, “Ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars … and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows” Matthew 24.6-8.
Also, the Holy Spirit through Paul in 2Timothy chapter 3 reveals the coming apostasy, the “falling away,” which is the result of professed Christians deliberately rejecting revealed truth concerning the Person of Christ and His work on Calvary’s cross. This has already set in, and in v.13 we read, “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” This rapidly increasing apostasy will soon bring a swift change. Instead of God’s grace being still offered to all men whereby they may be saved, His judgment will fall upon this godless world of unbelievers to their eternal destruction.
THERE MUST BE A PERSONAL CHANGE
To escape the judgment of God upon sin you need to be changed. The Lord Jesus desires to change you from death to life, from darkness to light, from sin to salvation, from judgment to glory. To enable this change He died on the Cross for you. There He “suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” 1Peter 3.18. That work is finished and sin’s penalty has been paid. The proof of God’s acceptance of that payment with Jesus’ shed blood on your behalf is seen in that He rose from the dead. The Lord Jesus lives, and now from heaven, through His Word, declares the way by which you may be changed.
WHAT MUST YOU DO TO BE CHANGED?
The Lord Jesus declares, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” Luke 13.3,5. To repent means to change your mind as to the wrong course you are following without God. It means you accept His verdict that you have sinned and come short of His glory, and you can do nothing to save yourself. You must repent!
Secondly, He says, “Ye must be born again” John 3.7. New birth is spiritual birth from above, from God. It is brought about by receiving Christ as your Lord and Saviour. “As many as received Him, to them gave He power [authority] to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name” John 1.12. To receive Him is to believe on Him. To believe He died for you makes you a child of God. You receive everlasting life, and thus become a completely new creature in Christ Jesus, 2Corinthians 5.17. This is the change you must have, or else perish in eternal separation from God.
THE TIME FOR A CHANGE IS NOW
“Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” 2Corinthians.6.2. Trust Christ and be changed in this day of His grace. “Flee from the wrath to come” Luke 3.7.