BEHOLD YOUR KING
by J. Flanigan
GATES OF JERUSALEM, NEHEMIAH 3
by D. S. Parrack
MEN OF GENESIS
by J. E. Todd
ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle
WHERE I AM
by R. Reynolds
PAPERS ON PROPHECY
by W. W. Fereday
LO, I COME
by John B. D. Page
MARY'S ACT OF LOVE AND DEVOTION
by R. Webb
MY CONVERSION AND CALL
by L. Perkins
As we enter a New Year we will often hear the greeting, 'Happy New Year'. There are many who utter this who do not know the secret of having a 'Happy New Year'. It is wonderful that we who belong to Christ are truly happy. The book of Psalms, which often tells us of trials and difficulties, is also the song book of Israel and thus lets us know of blessedness or true happiness. It is like Paul and Silas who, in the midst of painful trial in prison, 'prayed, and sang praises unto God', Actsl6.25. This all stems from unquestioning faith in God and His ways.
It commences with FAITH and SALVATION — Ps.32.1,2, 'Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity'.
There can be no realisation of true joy and happiness without this experience of having our sins forgiven. It would be a good and wholesome question for every reader to ask, :Have I personally experienced this-great blessing'?
It continues with FAITH and COMMUNION — Ps.65.4, 'Blessed is the man whom Thou choosest, and causest to approach unto Thee, that he may dwell in Thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of Thy house, even of Thy holy temple'.
Satisfaction is obtained by approaching and dwelling. Not following afar off, nor a spasmodic visit. How much we miss by not being diligent and consistent in our lives with God. The satisfaction is with 'Thy house'. This introduces the collective side of communion. All too often His house, the local assembly (lTim.3.15), is attended infrequently. The meetings for prayer, ministry and»the blessedness of the Lord's supper are neglected and eventually abandoned. It is no wonder that in such a situation there is no spiritual joy and satisfaction.
Such communion is maintained by FAITH and SEPARATION — Psl.l, 'Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful".
In our day, teaching on separation is looked upon as old fashioned and outdated. There is an idea abroad that we ought to be like the unsaved in order to win them. However, a Christian life ought to be a condemnation, not a comfort, to the world. Strength is always found in separation. Samson lost his strength when he mingled with the Philistines. The Word still teaches separation religiously, commercially, socially, yea in every way. It runs through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. The word to Abram in Gen.12.1 was, 'Get thee out'; to us it is, 'come out from among them, and be ye separate', (2Cor.6.17) and in the future will be, 'Come out of her, my people', Rev.18.4.
Many tell us that such a life is very difficult and hard. What is the answer?
FAITH and SIMPLICITY —Ps.40.4, 'Blessed is that man that maketh the LORD his trust . .
We sing 'Simply trusting every day; Trusting through a stormy way; E/ven when my faith is small — Trusting Jesus, that is all.
We have begun with faith and conclude by faith. We remember it is written, 'The just shall live by faith'.
What about those around? The answer is the same, FAITH and SOCIETY — Ps.33.12, 'Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; . . .'
The heartaches and misery of society generally can be traced to the fact that God and His principles have been abandoned. Sin is glamorised and legalised. The young are seduced into thinking there is happiness in freedom of expression. It leads to a life of dissipation, dissatisfaction and in the end an eternity of discomfort. In the midst of an apostate society we have the answer. Let us have a greater zeal in evangelism and that it can be said of us, 'from you sounded out the word of the Lord', lThess.1.8
If we seek to practice the principles outlined, we know we will have a 'Happy New Year', and it is this we wish all our readers.
As we contemplate another year, we do so with trepidation and yet anticipation. Another year — how glibly we use those words, largely unconscious of their import; another year with its potential, its problems, its pitfalls, its rapid passing and perhaps the year of His return.
'Another year, then let us all be watchful; With loins girt up and with our staff in hand; This year down here amid earth's tribulation, The next, perhaps with Him in Glory Land.'
"MARANATHA" — that ancient word so frequently used by disciples of the first century, must again become our watchword, "for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh". Jms.5.8.
Problems are developing which are baffling the politicians, there is political instability in many countries, turbulence in the money markets globally and the social infrastructure is crumbling, leaving many with a sense of unease and foreboding, but we who are saved, feel that God may pre-empt their plans with an event of such magnitude and on such a scale as to eclipse their puny schemes — "the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout", lThess.4.16.
As we reflect upon the year past, we are bound to give thanks to a faithful and unchanging God for His gracious help experienced. We are deeply encouraged by all who, through practical fellowship, have supported the publication. We thank all who help in its distribution and are grateful to all who have expressed their appreciation of the magazine. We appreciate most sincerely the contributions of all who submit articles and trust that the original aim of the magazine, the edification of the Lord's people and the strengthening of assembly testimony, is being achieved.
We are particularly grateful to our Editor for his careful and diligent work, the Secretary and his wife for their meticulous and unremitting labours, the Accountant for his valued services and our brother John Glenville for all his help.
We continue to earnestly request your unceasing prayers that through the written ministry the Lord will be pleased to bless His people and through the inclusion of the Gospel article, souls will be saved.
(Meditations in Matthew)
by Jim Flanigan (Belfast)
12. The Sermon on the Mount (concluded) (Ch.7)
Our Lord concludes the Sermon on the Mount with a parable. Two men are building. One is a wise builder who makes sure of a rock foundation. When the rains descend and the floods rise and the winds blow, his house withstands the storm. It is founded upon rock. The other man is foolish. He builds on sand. His house may have looked equally well as the other. It may even have gone up more quickly and perhaps it may not have been so costly. But when the winds and rains came and the storm beat upon that house, it fell, and great was the fall of it. So, says the Lord lesus, everyone who hears these sayings of Mine and obeys them, is like the man who builds upon rock. Those who hear and do not obey, are like the man who builds upon sand. Men are divided, wise and foolish, according to their attitude to Him and His teaching. How early in His ministry does the Saviour emphasise the importance of obedience to His word. It is wise to obey. It is foolish to disobey. This consideration ought to help us as we look at the concluding exhortations in His discourse on the mount.
We are exhorted that we should not judge where we ought not. We know, sadly, that in the assembly judgment is sometimes necessary. Paul rebukes the Corinthians for failing to judge when they ought to have judged. However, the same Corinthians were also failing in that they were judging the apostle himself when they ought not to have been judging. Here our Lord is warning against that needless carping criticism of others which can so often be associated with hypocrisy. "Search others for their virtues, thyself for thy vices", someone has said. How often do we so readily detect the mote in a brothers's eye and fail to notice the beam in our own eye. What troubles we might be spared if we would judge ourselves more ruthlessly and others moire sparingly.
We must zealously and jealously guard our character and our testimony. It is holy and precious and we must not give it to be devoured by dogs or trampled by swine. We must so live as to give no occasion for just criticism by the world. Dogs and swine are unclean. Our characters are precious as pearls. Live in holiness. Do not be careless in your living. It is indeed like casting your pearls before swine to give the world opportunity to accuse you of wrong doing. There will, inevitably, be accusations which are unfair and unfounded. It was so even with the Saviour and with His apostles. But we must not give opportunity for a criticism and blame which is justly deserved of our wrong doing.
Through it all we must continue in simple and sincere believing prayer. Ask, seek, and knock, says the Saviour. To simple faith there will be a divine response. He will give us whatever is for our good. If we seek in His will we shall find, and He will gladly open when we knock. It gives the Father pleasure to have the trust of His children. If earthly fathers know how to give good things to their children, how much more our Father in heaven. He will never give stones and serpents when we ask for fish and bread.
In this final section of the Sermon on the Mount there are two gates, two ways, two destinies, two trees, and two builders. Our Lord is emphasising that there is a choice to be made and that men are divided. Three times in John's Gospel we read that there was a division among the people because of Him. Men are responsible and our attitude to His Person, His word, and His work, will determine our destiny.
There is a strait gate and a narrow way of discipleship. It is not a popular way and they are relatively few that find it, but it leads to life. The other gate is wide and the road broad. It is a crowded road, with much noise and bustle and much to attract. It has ever been the way of the majority, searching for pleasures and the satisfying of the flesh. But it ends in death and destruction.
Then there are ever present false teachers, dressed as sheep but preying on the unsuspecting like ravening wolves. Their evil intent is to lure souls to the wide gate and the broad way. How shall we know such men? If they appear in sheep's clothing how shall we recognise them for what they really are? "Ye shall know them by their fruits", says the Lord Jesus. Observe what they are producing by their teaching. Do men gather a bunch of grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? There are good trees producing good fruit and there are worthless trees producing the bad. By this principle we can discern the worth of the true teacher and the others are destined for ruin.
Does our Lord here envisage the growth of a great Christendom where such false teachers are at home? They say, "Lord, Lord". They profess His name and purport to be His servants ministering in His name. But how many there are in the pulpits of Christendom to whom He will eventually say, "I never knew you; depart from Me". How many there are who profess His name but deny His glories. They deny His deity. They query His virgin birth. They decry His unique Manhood. They doubt His miracles. They refuse His sacrifice. They disbelieve His bodily resurrection, and His ascension and His coming again. False prophets indeed, worthless trees, and bad fruits from their pernicious teaching.
So does the Lord Jesus conclude His discourse on the mount with the parable of the two builders. His word is of paramount importance. The storm will eventually and inevitably come. It is well to be founded securely upon the rock of His word. His word has authority and assurance. Is it any wonder that the listening crowds were astonished? They had never ever heard such authoritative teaching from' the scribes. The scribes were not men of conviction. They lived in the shadow of fellow-scribes and Rabbis. They were conversant with the opinions of Rabbis past and present and would quote these rather than give their own understanding of a matter. With the Saviour it was not so. He taught with conviction and with authority and the people had never heard it quite like this before.
In the next chapter the Lord will descend from the mount with His disciples. His discourse has occupied them with high moral ground but now they must come down to the wretchedness below. We live in a defiled and defiling world. His word is our safeguard and our guide in the moral darkness which surrounds us, and He will now demonstrate the power with which He can keep us as we seek to live for Him.
by D. S. Parrack, England
viii) The Gate Miphkad, v31.
Miphkad means assignment or designated/appointed place.
'Whom can I look to and rely on to be sure that I am filling my designated role, or that I even have such a role?' The Lord Jesus said to His recognised disciples in the most difficult circumstances "Ye have not chosen Me but I have chosen you". But more than that, "And ordained (appointed) you to bring forth fruit and that your fruit shall remain" John 15.16. They were chosen, and chosen to accomplish a particular task Paul, in writing to Timothy obviously had more than just a young man in mind. "No man" he says emphatically, "No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please Him who hath chosen him to be a soldier" 2Tim.2,4. You, just like the disciples in John.15 were chosen. 'Ah', but you say, '] believed'. True, but remember, "He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world," Eph.1.4.
'So I, and all my fellow believers, have been chosen, and chosen to fulfill specific roles, but how can we get to know what those roles are?'
First of all to clear the ground, don't be so concerned with what someone else should be doing. Think of the different approaches of Paul and Peter in this context and then decide which is the best example for you to follow.
"Peter seeing him (i.e. John) saith to Jesus, Lord and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him - what is that to thee, follow thou Me" John.21,21.22 "(Paul) trembling and astonished said — Lord what wilt Thou have me do?" Acts 9.6. It is to be hoped that the right choice is easily made.
Well, it is perhaps easy to decide on the right question to ask, but what about the answer? Is there nothing that we can do to give us some assurance in the matter? Paul says "I beseech you brethren by the mercies of God", I base my appeal on what I have told you about the fullness of the gospel and its deserved response. "That ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God which is your reasonable (your understood and accepted) service. And be not conformed to this world but be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds that ye may prove (be assured experimentally) what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God" Rom.12.12. A full hearted, uninhibited commitment, is how to know what God's will is for you When Isaiah heard the question "Whom shall I send and who will go for us?" he did not ask, go where or for what? but responded without hesitation or conditions. 'Here am I send me" Isa.6.8. God did send him too, and it was by no means an easy task for which he had volunteered. Paul himself found that to be true as shown lo Ananias. "I will show him how great things he must suffer for My Name's sake, "Acts 9.16. Nevertheless it is far better to be engaged in doing the known will of God, even if it is uncongenial to our natural taste, than to be contentedly taken up with what we really know cannot be His purpose for us. Doing God's will does not automatically preclude us from problems and persecution but, "It is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing than for evil doing" lPet.3,17. Remember that "to him that knoweth to do good" and that includes knowing God's will for you, "and doeth it not, to him it is sin". Jas.4.17.
We need then, as well as knowing God's will as generally revealed in the scriptures, see e.g. 1 Thess.4.3, to ascertain what His will is for us personally. We will then be able to take our assigned place in a way which will be conducive to the blessing of His people whilst making us available too for service in outreach activities to those not currently in the good of the gospel's provision.
If we feel that the heart searching brought about by our consideration of the gate Miphkad makes it necessary to change our individual and collective activities then remember "the old gate" v6.
ix) The Old Gate, v6
We must not think that this gate signifies that everything old is automatically good, or at least better than comparable things today "Say not thou, What is the cause that former days were better than these? for thou dost not enquire wisely" Prov.9.10. It seems to be natural to us to look back through rose tinted spectacles. Our schooldays are spoken of as the happiest days of our lives, but we didn't feel like that at the time. Summer holidays were all blue skies, warm sun and clean beaches, but then lots of people could not afford holidays before World War II. At the end of one of His parables, the Lord Jesus said, "No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new, for he saith. The old is better" Luke 5.39.
Are we expected then to discard the old, to concentrate on new methods, new approaches, new forms of activities? Most certainly not. We are urged for instance to "Remember your leaders who have spoken to you the word of God, and considering the issue of their conversation (manner of life), imitate their faith" Heb.13.7, J.N.D. In view of vl7 of the same chapter, it is seen as reasonable to assume that the leaders spoken of here have now passed on, but the example of how faith reveals itself in practice is held up to be followed. Scriptural truth does not change and we are warned, "Remove not the ancient landmark (bound) which thy fathers have set" Prov.22.28. Maintaining the balance in this context requires the spiritual ability to discern what is only tradition or the "teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" Mk.7.7. The only safe way is to genuinely ask the question, "What saith the scripture?" Rom.4.3, and then to emulate the Bereans who, having "received the Word with all readiness of mind" went further "and searched the Scriptures daily whether those things were so," Acts 17.11.
Acting like the Bereans is not tantamount to casting doubt on what teachers, past or present, have told us. It is showing where the real source of assurance is found, in the Scriptures themselves. Jude had a consciousness of a need amongst the people to whom he was writing, what he might today call 'an excuse', but he included in his letter, "Beloved when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you and exhort you to contend earnestly for the faith that was once (i.e. once-for-all) delivered unto the saints" Jude 3. It is accepted that changes in methods of presentation may evolve, but that level of change is centuries old, e.g. printing, introduced some 500 years ago, has made it possible for everyone to have their personal copy of the Bible instead of being dependent on listening to readings from hand written copies of the Scriptures chained up in monasteries or church buildings. We ought not to think though that mere introduction of new means of communication will by themselves produce results unattainable otherwise. Remember that "it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe" lCor.1.21 and there is no more basic way of communicating the gospel, nor of teaching believers, than preaching the Word.
We do need though as preachers, or teachers, to be quite sure of what we actually say to our audiences. Paul, writing to an assembly with whom he enjoyed valued fellowship, see e.g. Phil.1.5-7; 4.15-16 says. "Finally my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you to me indeed is not grievous". "I don't find it difficult, irksome or dull to tell you things you have heard before," or, as Peter puts it, "Though ye know them and be established in the present truth" 2Pet.l.l2. And if it is not grievous to me be sure "for you it is safe" Phil.3.1. Much better to preach, and hear, truth which is well known but which, in this life at least we will probably never fully comprehend, than to tickle imaginations with some new and hitherto unheard of slant on established truth.
by J. E. Todd, England
2. Enoch and His Walk
We have noted that in the book of Genesis the lives of many men of God centre around a single feature. In the case of Enoch it was his walk.
A person's walk is a picture often used in scripture to depict their way of life. The picture being of a person walking through life with all its changing scenes.
The Commencement of Enoch's Walk with God
The Scriptures record that it was a particular point in time when Enoch commenced his walk with God. 'Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah', (Gen.5.22). This could be called Enoch's conversion, but what brought it about? It was the birth of his son Methuselah. Why should this event bring Enoch to faith in God? 'He (Enoch) had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him', (Heb.11.5-6). Enoch was a prophet (Jude 14). Did God reveal to him the fact that his son Methuselah would live until the year of the flood, the judgment of God against sin? Was it the revelation of a future judgment that caused Enoch to repent and believe? It is to be noticed that as Noah preached righteousness to the people, (2Pet.2.5), such was the patience of God (lPet.3.20) that Methuselah, who must die before the flood, lived longer than any other man. The same divine patience is displayed as we wait the second coming of the Lord. 'The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance', (2Pet.3.9).
The Continuance of Enoch's Walk with God
'Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years' (Gen.5.22). Enoch's daily walk was pleasing to God, 'Before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God', (Heb.11.5). What was it about the walk of Enoch that was so pleasing to God? First, his faith, he trusted God all the remaining days of his life, 'By faith Enoch ... he pleased God. But without faith it is imposible to please him', (v5-6). Second, he drew near to God, he wanted an ever closer communion with God, 'For he that cometh to God must believe' (v6). Third, he sought God, he positively wanted God to be involved in his life, 'That He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him', (v6).
The New Testament exhorts the Christian to follow such an example. 'We beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more' (lThess.4.1).
The Conclusion of Enoch's Walk with God
'Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him', (Gen.5.24). 'By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him', (Heb.11.5). So close did Enoch's communion with God become that he walked right into the presence of God.
It is a remarkable fact that we have three translations into heaven in the scriptures. These are Enoch, Elijah (2Kings 2.9-12) and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself (Acts 1.9-11). It seems that God gave a physical and visible demonstration to each dispensation that the believer will receive eternal heavenly glory. Enoch before the flood, Elijah during the old covenant and the Lord Himself at the commencement of the new covenant. These are practical demonstrations of the truth of IPet.1.3-4. 'Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you'.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)
The Church and The Churches (19) Assembly Discipline (1)
In lCor.1-6, Paul deals with things he had heard about the assembly, and in chps.7-10, he deals with questions put to him by the assembly. It is significant to notice that he deals first of all with matters that they had not raised. Paul's priorities evidently differed from the priorities of the Corinthians! So far as chps.1-6 are concerned, Paul first addresses the divisions amongst the believers (chps.1-4), of which he had been notified by "the house of Chloe", (1.11), and then the immorality tolerated by them (chps.5-6) which was "reported commonly", 5.1.
Our next two studies are based on lCor.5, and this chapter is the principle New Testament passage on the solemn subject of assembly discipline. Please have the chapter open as you read these two papers. We will attempt to analyse the chapter by asking four questions: (1) When is assembly discipline required? vl: (2) What does assembly discipline involve? v2-5: (3) Why is assembly discipline necessary? v6-8: (4) Who does assembly discipline include? v9-13.
(1) When is Assembly Discipline Required? v1
Whilst we are particularly concerned with lCor.5, we should be aware of the various New Testament references to assembly discipline:
- In connection with disorderly conduct. See 2Thess.3.6-15: "Now we command you, brethren, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly . . . For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies . . . and if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother". The required procedure in this case, is not excommunication, but the avoidance of fellowship, in order to make the people concerned thoroughly aware of their unacceptable and unbecoming conduct.
- In connection with divisions amongst God's people. See Titus 3.10-11: "A man that is an heretic (from a word meaning, an opinion — leading to error), after the first and second admonition reject ('have done with'); knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself. This is the man who persists in propagating a view which results in 'gathering adherents to himself . . . and, in so doing, causes strife, faction and division in the assembly'. D. E. West (What the Bible Teaches - Titus). In such cases, after two warnings (so patience is to be exercised) the man is to be shunned and avoided, rather than excommunicated, and certainly given no opportunity to propogate his views.
- In connection with doctrinal error. See 1Tim.1.20: "Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn (JND 'may be taught by discipline') not to blaspheme". Clearly, this was not a case of a mistaken interpretation of the scripture, or a slip of the tongue, but deliberate propagation of error. The only course of action in such circumstances is excommunication.
- In connection with moral behaviour. See 1Cor.5 Notice
- v1 which refers to immorality, and
- v11 which refers to covetousness, idolatry, railing, drunkenness and extortion.
Once again these are matters which call, solemnly, for excommunication.
- v1 cites a case of immoral behaviour: "It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife". (Probably, his step-mother). We should notice the words, "It is reported". This means that it was commonly known. 'It is actually reported', RV. The absence of further reference to the woman indicates that she was not in fellowship.
- v11 specifies a number of reasons for the exercise of assembly discipline. "I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called-a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat". We should carefully notice the sins mentioned.
- "A fornicator". When the word stands alone, it denotes immorality of all kinds. When it occurs with 'adultery', it has a more specific meaning, that is, pre-marital unchastity. See, for example, Heb.13.4, "Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers (JND 'fornicators') and adulterers will God judge".
- "Covetous". The word denotes a desire to have more: greedy of gain. It therefore covers all forms of gambling, together with sharp practice in business.
- "An idolater". This denotes any false system of worship together with, sorcery and spiritism.
- "a railer". This refers to reviling or abuse. Not 'blasphemia' but 'loidoria'. This covers vilification, defamation of character, and false accusation, (v) "A drunkard". Speaks for itself. The root word means 'mulled wine'. There can be no doubt at all that Christians are far better off without any alcoholic beverages. Remember that the drink which causes the trouble is the first one.
- "An extortioner". The words covers pillage, plunder, robbery. It therefore includes the misappropriation of property or funds, and fraud.
(2) What Does Assembly Discipline Involve? v2-5.
A) It involves the need for a proper attitude Godward, v2.
Paul was obliged to say, "and ye are puffed up". (From 'phusa', meaning bellows), and continues, "and have not rather mourned that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from you". There was no concern before God over the sinful life of the assembly member in question. For "mourned" ('pentheo'), see James 4.9: "Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy into heaviness". See also 2Cor.12.21, "For I fear, lest, when I come, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail (R.V. 'mourn') many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness, and fornication, and lasciviousness which they have committed'.
It is hardly tenable to suggest that the words "puffed up" mean that the assembly was positively delighted at such misconduct. These words evidently refer to the subject in the previous section, see 4.6 and 4.18-19. We learn from this that it is possible to become so engrossed in our own party position, that we fail to see pressing danger elsewhere. At Corinth, the saints were so involved in proclaiming their superiority over each other, that God's interests had lapsed. See Daniel 9 for a more commendable attitude: "And while Lwas speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel", v20.
Note the words, "that he that hath done this deed might be taken away". This implies that even if the Corinthians did not know how to deal with the evil in their midst, they should have waited upon God to intervene in the matter. We have only to recall Ananias and Sapphira in this connection. (There is a lesson for elders here: in times of perplexity, wait upon God). Paul then proceeds to shew them how they should have acted, and having done so, urges them to "put away from among yourselves that wicked person", v13. By the time the assembly reached this point in the chapter, they knew exactly what should be done. This brings us to the second requirement:
B) It involves the need for proper action manward, v3-5.
i) The parties involved
There are three parties involved in assembly discipline: "In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ". Thus
- The Lord Jesus Christ. This emphasises His authority. The title, "the Lord Jesus Christ", occurs twice in v4. (RV omits 'Christ', although JND is a little more cautious). It is "In the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ", and "With the power (dunamis) of our Lord Jesus Christ".
1Cor.5 helps us to understand Matt.18.15-20, and in particular the words, "Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be ('shall have been', Amplified Version) loosed in heaven". This does not mean that heaven will ratify the assembly's disciplinary or restorative action, but that the assembly implements heaven's judgment in the matter. So the assembly must be aware of the mind and will of God in these circumstances. An assembly cannot expect divine approval if it acts outside the will of God. This prompts us to say that such discipline is only to be exercised in the most dire circumstances. It is not unknown for believers to be silenced or excommunicated for the most petty reasons.
- The gathered assembly. "When ye are gathered together . . ." R.V., 'Ye being gathered together'. (Matt.18.20 must be understood in this context). So, the whole assembly puts; away — just as the whole assembly receives into fellowship. This must be clearly and fully understood. Undoubtedly the elders will take a lead on such solemn occasions, since it is their responsibility to guide the assembly. But they must not act in a clandestine, secretive way. They must carry the whole assembly with them. Should some saints in fellowship not be present when discipline is implemented, they should be duly informed.
- The apostolic authority of Paul. "And my spirit". See v3: "For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath done this deed". Compare 2Cor.2.10, "To whom ye forgive anything, I forgive also". Paul was bodily absent, but present in spirit. That is, they had his apostolic authority to act in this way. Compare Col.2.5, "For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ". What a difference to 1Cor.5!
In our next paper we will consider (ii) the punishment involved, and (iii) the purpose involved, togeher with the two outstanding questions, (3) Why is assembly discipline necessary? v6-8, and (4) Who does assembly discipline include? v9-13.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by R. Reynolds, Bleary, N. Ireland
The Lord Jesus cheered His disconsolate disciples with the thought that He and they would be together forever. "I go to prepare a place for you . . . that where I am there ye may be also", Jn.14.3. He was not leaving them to forget them but was going to prepare a place for them in the Father's house. In Jn. 17.24 He expressed that longing to His Father, "I will that they also whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am".
For that glad day He patiently waits, when "He shall see of the travail of His soul and shall be satisfied", Isa.53.11. Wondrous thought that He looks forward to and will enjoy the company of redeemed sinners eternally. To that very end He left the excellent glory and came to earth and languished at last upon yon lonely cross, that He might be surrounded by worshipping saints for all eternity. And that is what will make heaven HEAVEN for us — to be with Him, who Himself is the Light of Glory of that celestial sphere. He alone will satisfy our hearts forever, nought with Him our hearts dividing, to be ever and only occupied with Him, to behold His beauty and to explore, without ever exhausting, the infinite greatness of His person.
- He and I in that bright glory,
- One deep joy shall share,
- Mine to be forever with Him,
- His that I am there.
It will be Christ's presence on earth during His Millennial reign that will bring untold blessings to this world and to Israel in particular. Having been given His rightful place by the nation that once rejected His sovereignty, He will restore them to the position that God intended for them. Their troubles, unparalleled in history, will give way to hitherto unknown joy as, in that coming day, that oppressed and suffering remnant will acclaim their Messiah. The metropolis of the then world will be Jerusalem, for "the Lord dwelleth in Zion", Joel 3.21.
But now, dear believer, are you presently satisfied with His presence in the assembly? Is that what attracts you to the place of the Name or do you hanker after the innovations and inventions of men? A sense of the Divine presence really ought to be the greatest distinguishing feature of an assembly. It was the presence of David that brightened the cave of Adullam and drew the discontented, the debtors and the distressed.
Would you prefer the sensual and the social to the spiritual? Is the enjoyment of Christ's presence not enough to satisfy both young and old? Is not being where He has promised to be in the midst of His people (Matt.18.20), the greatest privilege on earth?
His presence, however is conditional. It we are indulging in sinful practices, if we are dealing unrighteously in our business, if we are dishonest in our affairs, we are going to hinder enjoyment of His presence by the entire company, "... a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump", 1Cor.5.6. When Achan sinned in Josh.7 and "took of the accursed thing", "the anger of the Lord was kindled against the children of Israel". His sin affected the whole company and had disastrous consequences. Sin and the Divine presence are mutually incompatible, they can never co-exist.
In 2Cor.6.14-16, five questions are asked which are designed to prick our conscience, to prompt consideration and to promote concern. They serve to reinforce the fact that God is holy and His presence demands abstention from sin and every form of evil.
- "What fellowship hath unrighteousness with righteousness"?
- "What communion hath light with darkness"?
- "What concord hath Christ with Belial"?
- "What part hath he that believeth with an infidel"?
- "What agreement hath the temple of God with idols"?
Merely knowing this is not in itself a preservative, we are weak at the very best and the flesh is powerful but humbly looking to God, we can be preserved.
May we value His presence and increasingly enjoy the blessings it inevitably brings and may that characterise our gatherings, our homes and our personal lives until that blessed moment, not far distant, when we shall be "with Christ; which is far better", Phil.1.23.
by The Late W. W. Fereday (written in 1897/98) VOLUME 2
9(d) — The Future of Russia
Micah 5 apparently refers to the Russian invasion also. "The Assyrian" finds his antitype partly in the king of the North, and partly in the Gog of Ezekiel. Micah 5, in our judgment, refers to Gog. Christ, the true Judge of Israel, is then in the land; He who once was born in Bethlehem Ephratah, and whose goings forth have been from everlasting, is then in the midst of His people, to feed, bless, and protect them. This makes the expedition of Gog and his hosts the more grave. "And this Man shall come into our land; and when he shall tread in our palaces, then shall we raise against him seven shepherds and eight principal men. And they shall waste the land of Assyria with the sword, and the land of Nimrod in the entrances thereof; thus shall He deliver us from the Assyrian when he cometh into our land, and when he treadeth within our borders", (Micah 3.5-6).
This is the final settlement of the Eastern question. This great question, which has perplexed all the leading men of Europe so long, Christ Himself will then set at rest for ever. None shall possess Zion and the glorious land but His elect; all other aspirants shall be disappointed, and all objectors and opponents shall be destroyed. Jerusalem, instead of being a burdensome stone to the nations, will be the centre of the earth, all dominion and glory flowing from thence.
Both Israel and the nations will learn a solemn lesson from all these appalling events. As regards Israel, we read, "So the house of Israel shall know that I am the Lord their God from that day and forward", (Ezek.39.22). Their hearts, now so cold and obdurate, will ere that day be turned to the Lord; and they will then be teachable scholars in the school of Jehovah. The nations, too, will then learn their lesson, that Jehovah will not suffer Israel to be tampered with by others, but will deal with them Himself in His righteousness, that their evil may be purged away in order to receive His lasting blessing: "The heathen shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity: because they trespassed against Me, therefore hid I my face from them, and gave them into the hand of their enemies; so fell they all by the sword. According to their uncleanness and according to their transgressions have I done unto them, and hid My face from them".
After these words, Jehovah proceeds to speak of their blessings, closing with the gracious assurance, "Neither will I hide My face any more from them; for I have poured out My Spirit upon the house of Israel, saith the Lord God", (Ezek.39.23-29).
How privileged is the Christian to be in possession of all this knowledge beforehand! Nothing is withheld from the heavenly joint-heirs of the risen Christ. Though our own proper portion is unquestionably in the Father's house on high, and not on the earth, we are permitted to know all that will transpire in this scene both prior and subsequent to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. May this lead us, not into a spirit of merely idle curiosity, than which nothing is more serious and dangerous in the things of God, but into earnest separation from the world, while faithfully bearing testimony to it. May our hearts ever be set on Christ in heaven, that when we hear His gracious voice saying, "Surely I come quickly", we may be able joyfully to respond, "Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus", (Rev.22.20).
—(to be continued D.V.)
by John B. D. Page (Weston-super-Mare)
"Search the scriptures; . . . which testify of Me," so the Lord Jesus commanded the Jews who rejected His equality with God. Concerning this important doctrine of the Person of Christ, only the scriptures bear witness to, and are the final authority of it.
Our Lord's command to search the scriptures was not new. It was practised by men of God in preceding centuries. In his first epistle, Peter tells how the Old Testament prophets "searched diligently" the prophecies about the spiritual salvation to come besides "searching" by the Spirit of Christ their own writings concerning the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow.
In like manner we too should search the scriptures for things concerning Christ. In so doing, we discover that the Pre-incarnate Christ spoke on two occasions of His coming into the world. Using the same words both times and speaking in the first person singular, He said: "Lo, I come". His first utterance was through the psalmist (Psalm 40.7) which refers to Messiah's first coming in humility according to the context. The second, about 600 years later, was through the prophet Zechariah (2.10) which relates to Messiah's second coming in power and glory as shown by the context.
In these scriptures Christ is portrayed clearly in two ways. The psalmist depicts Messiah in servitude whilst the prophet presents Him in sovereignty, both of which will be considered.
1. Christ the Servant:
Sometimes in the Psalms, the problem is to determine that which refers to the psalmist and that which concerns Christ. With Ps.40.6-8a, the difficulty is resolved in Heb.10.5-7 where these verses are quoted and applied unequivocally to Christ.
Speaking to Jehovah, the Pre-incarnate Messiah says, "Sacrifice and offering Thou didst not desire; . . ." The Hebrew for "sacrifice" (zebach) denotes a peace offering, and that for "offering" (minchah) means a meal offering. Continuing He says, ". . . burnt offering and sin offering hast Thou not required", v.6. These four offerings, ordained by God for Israel to offer to Him (Lev.1-7), typify various aspects of Christ's sacrificial death. Instead of starting with the burnt offering as in Leviticus 1, the first is the peace offering which signifies that, by His death, Christ became our peace. And so, peace with God is where we start in this paragraph. Next the meil offering typifies Christ as the sinless Man offering up Himself in death. As the burnt offering was offered by the offerer of his own voluntary will, so Christ fulfilled voluntarily, in His death, the will of God. The sin offering portrays Christ as the sinless One who was made sin for us. By saying that God did "not desire" these offerings and were "not required" by Him, the Pre-incarnate
Christ is indicating not their repudiation but rather their inadequacy in the sight of God and foreseeing they were "a shadow of good things to come", (Heb.10.1).
Between the first two offerings and the last two, the divine Speaker declares to Jehovah, "Mine ears hast Thou opened", implying His ability to hear Jehovah's voice. If the Hebrew word for "opened" is translated "pierced" as it is in Ps.22.16, then there may be an illusion to a Hebrew servant with one bored ear as a mark of life-long servitude (Ex.21.1-6). But in contrast the divine Servant has both ears pierced in indicating His absolute submission to His Master. In the question of these verses in Heb.10.5. ff, instead of "Mine ears hast Thou opened" we read "a body hast Thou prepared for Me" which is from the Septuagint Version. Adam's body was created by God. But our Lord's body was "prepared" for Him to become incarnate. In that body, He pursued a path of obedience during the days of His flesh.
In the midst of this cluster of verses in Ps.40, there comes from the lips of the Pre-incarnate Messiah this utterance: "Then said I, Lo, I come; . . .", (v.7). Here, He predicts His first coming into the world by way of assuming Manhood. In becoming Man, He never ceased to be God. According to this verse cited in Heb.10.7 (R.V.) He says, "Then said I, Lo, I am come . . ." Not "I come" but "I am come", signifying His first coming was then a fact of history.
Returning to Ps.40.7, "... in the volume of the book it is written of Me", so He says. All scripture has Christ in view (cp. Luke 24.44).
As the Servant, He says to Jehovah, "I delight to do Thy will, 0 My God: . . .", v.8. In the days of His flesh, He said, "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me . . .", Jn.4.34. His delight was in doing the will of God. Within the Godhead, such delight was reciprocal, for Jehovah says, "Behold My servant, . . . in whom My soul delighteth; . . . Is.42.1.
Do our lives day by day give delight to our Saviour and Lord? It is a question that we may ask ourselves.
This brings us to our second point for consideration.
2. Christ the Sovereign:
Like the psalmist of old, the prophet Zechariah of centuries later heard the Pre-incarnate Messiah declare: "Lo, I come".
Scarcely two decades had passed since comparatively few Jews left Babylon and returned to Judah. Among the returnees there was the prophet Zechariah, who was born in Babylon and young in age. He had a message from the Lord by way of eight visions to proclaim to these people.
In the third vision that Zechariah had from Jehovah, Ch.2, the people are called upon to be jubilant: "Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: . . ." In addressing them as "the daughter of Zion", a future generation is in view, not of the prophet's day but of a day to dawn when "all Israel shall be saved", Rom.11.26. Why should these future citizens of Zion, a poetical and prophetical name for Jerusalem, be jubilant? Why should they burst forth in song and joy? The reason follows: "... for, Lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord", v 10
This outburst of joy, still future, will be in anticipation of Jehovah-Messiah's coming as He says, "Lo, I come" This is His second coming — not to the air for the Church but to Israel in the land Some centuries later the Lord Jesus, speaking of this event in the third person, said, "they shall see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory", Luke 21 27 In that day a regenerate Israel will respond sponlaneously saying, " this is the Lord we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation", Is 25 9
Not only will Messiah come again but He promises Israel " and I will dwell in the midst of thee ", v 10 This means that He will make His abode among His people in the City of Jerusalem Early in this vision the prophet was shown that "Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls", v 4 An unwalled city was unprecedented in Zechanah's day and in succeeding centuries But in a coming day a re-built Jerusalem will extend far beyond the boundaries of its ancient walls Messiah will dwell, not in the City itself but, according to Ezekiel's prophecy, in the sanctuary of the millennial Temple which, as the glorified Messiah says, will be "the place of My feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel", Ezk43 7,cpl-6
John 12.1.9 By R. Webb, Norwich, England
The home at Bethany was our Lord's haven of rest in those final dark days. Here only could He find peace and love. That was all the more wonderful for the presence of Lazarus whose very life was His doing.
The act of Love and Devotion
In such company, on the eve of His betrayal and suffering there comes to our Lord's heart deep joy from the simple act that was destined to be interwoven into the fabric of the gospel, Mk.14.9. It was the act of one who was often found at the feet of Christ in joy and sorrow. She has learned of Him, and is near to His heart at this moment. Much is contained in this great memorial act.
Judas Iscariot's Thoughts
Judas and his like just could not understand. The very fragrance of the ointment must have nauseated them. To them it spoke of needless extravagance. Some would say that Mary could have expressed her love without throwing away such a costly gift, but nothing was too costly for Mary. Hearts that do not love cannot understand the motive behind such giving. Mary's act was glorious extravagance.
The Cross of Christ
It was in keeping with the cross of Christ, the drama soon to be enacted, where He would give Himself, His all, for the salvation of mankind. There was no easy way to procure forgiveness of sins and acceptance with God, it could only be the precious blood of Christ, The Lord accepts the extravagant gift, and commends Mary's action. He is not heedless of the poor that might have benefited. He cared for them far more than ever did Judas. The Christian who has caught a vision of what Christ has done, and has begun to respond in love, will count up all the cost and pay it gladly.
King David said to Oman, "I will not take that which is thine for the Lord, nor offer burnt offerings without cost", lChron.21-24. If Jesus Christ be God, and died for me then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him. In Mark 14.6, The Lord speaks of this memorial act as being a "good work". In Matt.5.16, the Lord commands us to let the world see our good works. Behind Mary's lovely deed was a heart of love for her Master; love that was unrestrained, giving all. Some may think that a few drops of this ointment surely would have been sufficient, but not so with Mary; in a moment of consuming devotion the whole box had gone. For Mary it was now or never, and she knew it. Our Lord accepts Mary's anointing as a preparation for His coming death.
After the cross she would realise in a fuller measure just what she had done. With all her imperfect understanding, Mary was very near to the heart of Christ at
this moment. Mary may have opened herself to criticism, even perhaps to rejection — but Mary acted. The disciples were painfully slow to understand the secret of their Master as a suffering Servant and Messiah, but Mary knew because she had often sat at Jesus' feet.
The Presence of Judas
The presence of Judas in this setting seems to spoil a lovely picture, but the gospel writers agree that this touching significant memorial act was the last straw for Judas. In John 13 the Lord is with His disciples in the Upper Room. After washing and wiping His disciples feet, He announced that, "one of you shall betray Me", and then indicated by the giving of the sop that it would be Judas. Judas left and we read the dark and solemn statement, "it was night". We know he went out into the lonely blackness of a night of treachery.
The very beauty of Mary's act must have angered the soul of him who was so out of sympaihy with Christ. Mary and Judas both left their memorial, but what a difference. As we think of Mary's gift the extravagance of it, nothing was too costly for Him. Mary had more insight than the other women, or any of the disciples, they came to anoint His body, but it was too late, He had Risen. Then there was the fragrance of the gift, something to be enjoyed not only by Christ but by all in the house.
Christ has given His all for us, we are bought with a price — what have we given for Him? Isaac Watts in his lovely hymn said:
- Were the whole realm of nature mine,
- That were an offering far too small,
- Love so amazing, so devine,
- Demands my soul, my life, my all".
by Lawrence Perkins (U.S.A.)
I was born in Toronto, Ontario in 1945 and we moved to the Niagara Falls area a few years later. My father was extremely interested in music and played in dance bands on weekends. As a boy it seemed only natural for me to pursue a musical career. In my teens I began playing in bands with my dad and my ambition in life was to be a jazz musician. Actually though, what I really lived for was pleasure. Wanting to be a Christian would have been the farthest thing from my mind.
Moving away from home to go to university in the big city of Toronto meant no more parental restrictions. Now I could do whatever I wanted. To me this was really living and I pursued pleasure and sin with increasing intensity. Although in school during the day, I often played in bands at night. During my last years at university, I was introduced to drugs. It wasn't too long before I started believing that drugs were opening my mind to new realities. But how deceived I was!
After graduating, I worked as a professional musician playing in nightclubs. My family and friends thought I was doing great, but inside I was empty. I began to investigate eastern religions such as Hinduism and Zen Buddhism. But I found trying to lift myself up to God by my bootstraps to be extremely difficult. Eventually I left the entertainment business because it seemed so artificial. I was looking for something real but didn't know where to find it.
About this time an elderly widow, for whom I was doing some work, began to talk to me about the Lord. (I don't recall ever having heard the gospel before). The lady was very kind to me in spite of my long hair and beard. At first I didn't believe her and I argued in favour of the eastern religions. But it was becoming apparent to me that some of the habits I had were ruining my life and that definite changes were needed.
As I tried to change my lifestyle, however, the reality began to sink in that I was powerless! Habits that once seemed harmless now had me in a vice-like grip. It was like waking up in the middle of a nightmare, only this was all too real. What happened to the bright future I once had? Life had suddenly become a dead end. At twenty-five years of age, having forsaken all for pleasure, I was now all alone. I felt like I was sliding down a greased tube — going down with no one to help me and with no hope of escape.
It was the worst time of my life. And yet it was a turning point. Before I had been proud, self-willed and self-righteous. But God brought me to the place where I finally saw that I was spiritually lost and on my way to hell. Although I knew very little about the gospel, this I did know — I was a sinner without strength to save myself and I needed a Saviour more than anything else in the world. And one afternoon back in June 1970, like a drowning man, I simply placed my trust in the Saviour of sinners, the Lord Jesus Christ.
A wonderful thing happened that afternoon. The Lord saved me — without special feelings, visions, or anything spectacular. In fact, it was some time before I really began to understand the gospel clearly. But what joy filled my soul as I learned truth such as "the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin". Before being saved I used to wish I could have a fresh start in life — but the guilt of the past would always be there. It was a dream come true to realise that Christ had washed me white as snow and that in Him I was a new creation. There was also a new power in my life that I had never experienced before. The Lord was delivering me, little by little, from the habits that had been enslaving me. I began to read the Bible in earnest and cry out to the Lord in prayer because I could see that He was the answer to all my need.
Shortly after being saved I lived and worked at a commune which tried to help young people get off drugs. Unfortunately I got involved with a cult with which some at the commune were connected. Thankfully I was reading the Bible and praying on a consistent basis and it wasn't too long before I began to see the error being taught. After a year I left both the commune and the cult.
Three years later, while passing out tracts in downtown Windsor, I met two sisters from the assembly that meets at Partington Avenue. At the time I was
involved with a Pentecostal group but God was leading, even though I was not directly aware of it. At the first assembly meeting I attended, a brother, who had been an alcoholic, gave his testimony and preached the gospel. It spoke to my heart and from time to time I came back. The simplicity of the assembly meetings appealed to me. At the first breaking of bread I observed, a brother read from Psalm 22 and spoke a little from it. A sense of the Lord's presence, the place of nearness of His people, and the pre-eminence given to Christ were all used by God to draw me to the One I had come to love. Nevertheless, I sat back for a year before asking for fellowship. I wanted to be absolutely sure I was where the Lord wanted me. The morning I broke bread with the assembly for the first time will not easily be erased from my memory. Two things stand out: an overwhelming sense that the Lord Jesus Christ was in the midst, and the assurance that after so many years of wandering I was finally where the Lord wanted me to be. The passage of time has only confirmed these truths to my soul.
In the succeeding years I sought to be of help in the assembly wherever there was opportunity. In 1982, James Beattie asked me to help him preach the gospel in a tent in DecKerville, Michigan. A number were saved that summer and the Lord began to deal with me about full-time service. At first the idea seemed preposterous, for I thought, "Who am I"? But as I waited on the Lord, portions of Scripture such as Isaiah 41.9-10 began to weigh upon me. There was no sudden illumination but rather a gradual and deepening conviction. As months passed, the burden of exercise to give all my time to the work of the Lord increased. At work (I was a school teacher) there came a crossroads. My assignment was changed and it looked as if I would have to devote myself to much study in taking additional courses. But just about all my spare time was being spent serving the Lord in Michigan so I had neither the time nor the desire for such additional study. God knew about the dilemma however and in January of 1984 I was commended to the work of the Lord by the assembly in Windsor.
It certainly appeared that Michigan was to be my field of labour, but when I applied for a visa to move from Canada to the USA, it soon became clear that this door was shut. For the next few years I worked around the Windsor area. In 1987 however, the Lord began to bring Michigan before me once gain and I reapplied for a visa. This time the door was open and a visa was granted. It was encouraging to know that my original exercise about Michigan was not wrong after all, but just a little premature.
As I look back over the years of my life, how thankful I am that the Lord ever saved me . . . and how thankful for all the way He has led and guided. There have been difficult times when all seemed dark and I hardly knew which way to turn. But God is faithful. ". . . there hath not failed one word of all His good promise which He promised . . ."
"Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think . . . unto Him be glory . . ."
Here in Ulster, plans have been afoot for years and many attempts have been made to secure a "just and lasting peace" and to include all parties in "meaningful and substantive" discussions around a common table. In various parts of the world a tenuous peace obtains and the situation is tense and volatile. A faint and flickering flame of hope encourages politicians to explore every avenue to bring hostilities to an end and bring about reconciliation.
In this article however, I wish to concentrate on a weightier matter by far, a more pressing problem, a more urgent need — your reconciliation to God. 2Cor.5.20, "Be ye reconciled to God". That peace does not exist between you and God, if you are yet unsaved, must be obvious to you. His presence affords you no comfort, you take no delight in His will or His Word, you reject His claims over you, you assert your own opinions, you shun His people and there is a very apparent need of reconciliation. Romans 5.10, "For if when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son . . ." Col.1.21, "And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled". Isaiah 59.2, "But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear".
You may think that you are sailing confidently and certainly to the unruffled calm of heaven's blissful shore but, be warned, you are sailing steadily and surely into disaster. Very soon, your little barque will be tossed mercilessly in the mountainous waves of death, into that thunderous cascade that falls forever downwards, to be at last sucked down in a whirlpool of judgment, helpless and hopeless, into the unfathomable depths of darkness and despair in the lake of fire, whence no one ever will or can return. You may think this is a gross exaggeration of your fate, but, it is rather understating the tragic horror of what awaits those who die unsaved and unforgiven.
But there are many obstacles in any peace process — some parties are not welcome and certain conditions are hard to meet. God raises no such obstacles, He has demonstrated a genuine willingness to meet you and pardon your sins. Isaiah 1.18, "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson,' they'shall be as wool". This He can do righteously since Christ has died to procure peace for the believing, penitent sinner. Col.1.20, "And, having made peace through the blood of His cross . . .", Eph.2.14, "For He is our peace . . ."
Owning your guilt and acknowledging your sins, you can trust Qhrist and know at last-, "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding", Phil.4.7. Romans 5.1,' "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ".
God has made peace and is ready to pardon and willing to forgive — the responsibility is yours to accept what has been done and have matters put right between you and God. Failure to do this will have disastrous consequences. Peace will never again be yours, rest will forever elude you and sleep will never come to grant respite from the relentless remorse, pain and misery in the eternal abode of the lost. Rev.14.11, "And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day or night..."
Peace with God is something worth obtaining, to think and act otherwise is folly of the highest order. Job 22.21, "Acquaint now thyself with Him, and be at peace".
- He who only sees difficulties is a failure.
- He who sees no difficulties is a fool, but he who sees the difficulties and sees God above and over all is a victor.
- I ponder oft, in quietude,
- The Saviour's death, so rough and rude,
- Those nail pierced hands,
- That spear torn side,
- God's Son refused and crucified.
- By crowds reviled and spat upon,
- By soldiers mocked, with thorn made crown,
- All His disciples,
- Feared and fled,
- Forsaken there, He hung and bled.
- Yet by His side, a thief could own,
- His own misdeeds, had brought him down,
- But of the Saviour's,
- Cruel fate,
- Could then declare His guiltless state.
- Request for pardon, quickly given,
- A promise made, a place in Heaven,
- Oh that men might,
- That Saviour see,
- Own their own guilt, and pardoned be.
May be sung to 'Deep Harmony'.
(W. Beynon, Wales).
CHRIST IN THE MIDST
- His preincarnate glories blazed
Amidst the hosts on high,
While all creation sang and praised
His virtues in the sky
- Shepherds and wise men gathered round
The Babe of Bethlehem,
Their hearts rejoiced when Him they found
Who came for folks like them
- Doctors and teachers of the law
All sat around and gazed, flaw,
At One who taught without a sweet
They listened there amazed
- The crowds in thousands gathered thick
Around our blessed Lord,
The hungry, thirsty, needy, sick
All pressed to hear His Word
- Uplifted 'midst that milling throng,
The suffering Saviour see,
The lion, dogs and bulls so strong
All gathered round the tree
- The gospel preachers Christ declare
And lift Him up to tell,
How sinners lost can heaven share
And all things can be well
- The saints in many places meet
According to His Word,
Gathered to His blest name — how
Remembering the Lord
- Soon, very soon, we'll meet again
With all the ransomed throng,
Around the Lamb, still freshly slain,
To sing redemption's song
M J Cordner, Kilwinning