ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle
TESTIMONY IN TROUBLOUS TIMES
by I. McKee
CHRISTIAN CONDUCT IN A MODERN WORLD
by W. A. Boyd
by J. A. Davidson
by W. W. Fereday
THE PERPLEXED PROPHET: AN OVERVIEW OF HABAKKUK
by G. Hutchinson
SHOULD SEPARATED CHRISTIANS PREACH IN THE SECTS
by the late E. Hughes
MY CONVERSION AND CALL
by S. Davidson
by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)
HAGGAI - PAPER 9 - "FROM THIS DAY I WILL BLESS YOU"
Read Chapter 2.10-19
Again we remind ourselves that the book of Haggai comprises four messages:
1) TO REPROVE THEIR IDLENESS, 1.1-15:
2) TO RESTORE THEIR CONFIDENCE, 2.1-9:
3) TO REBUKE THEIR UNHOLINESS, 2.10-19:
4) TO REWARD THEIR LEADER, 2.20-23.
We are now considering the third.
3) TO REBUKE THEIR UNHOLINESS, 2.10-19
We must notice that:
a) this solemn message was delivered approximately two months after the encouraging message to the senior citizens in Jerusalem, and
b) it was delivered on the very day that the foundation of the temple was laid, see v18. It contained a serious charge and yet it also contained a wonderful promise.
i) The serious charge. The people were unclean. "So is this people … and that which they offer there is unclean." v14. Since unholiness is such a serious matter, we must conclude that this was something that had happened in the previous two months, otherwise the subject would have been raised much earlier in Haggai’s ministry. Notice the present tense: ‘So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the Lord; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there (i.e. on the altar) is unclean." Things had evidently gone badly wrong since the last message, and this emphasises that progress must be accompanied by unceasing vigilance. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall", 1 Cor. 10.12. Decline can begin so quickly.
Whilst we are not specifically told why God was obliged to speak to His people in this way, the context strongly suggests that within two months the enthusiasm of the people had begun to wane and their offerings and sacrifices had become an empty form. MC Unger observes that ‘initial zeal to obey the Lord with whole hearted enthusiasm … had begun to abate, despite the glowing promise of future blessing, v6-9.’ (Unger's commentary on the 0T). The situation can be described by Isa.29.l3, "… this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, …" Defilement can take many forms and be contracted in various ways. We learn here that the sin of hypocrisy is as objectionable to God as moral evil. This should make us search our hearts.
ii) The wonderful promise. "From this day forward will I bless you," v19. This seems quite sudden and unexpected, until we remember that the promise was made on the very day that the temple foundation was laid. Their zeal in obeying the Lord had been rekindled. They proved the reality of their devotion to Him and He, therefore, promises divine blessing. The lesson for us is very clear!
We must now consider the details. The passage can be divided as follows:
A) Defilement by sin, vl1-14;
B) Judgment by God, v15-17;
C) Assurance of blessing, v18-19.
God invites them, (i) to look back, v15-17, and (ii) to look forward, v18-19. Notice the repetition of "consider", and "now" v15,18. (Compare 1.5 and 1.7:- the word ‘consider’ means, ‘set your heart on, or ‘give attention’). The matter was very urgent. They must give it their consideration ‘now’. Notice also the repetition of, "this day and upward," v15,18. Notice the contrasting ‘days’: "since those days were … from this day will I bless you," v16,19. Notice the contrasts between ‘I smote you," vl7 and "will I bless you," v19.
A) DEFILEMENT BY SIN, v11-14:
"In the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying …" v10-11. As LG.Baldwin (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries) observes, ‘Haggai’s question is not asking for information, but is a methodological device familiar to every teacher. The exchange of question and answer arouses and sustains interest.’ We must also notice the way God approaches the subject: (i) He establishes the facts, v12-13, and (ii) He applies those facts, v14. God’s lessons are always built on solid foundations. Let every Sunday School teacher, Bible Class leader, preacher and teacher, take careful note!
i) The facts established:
The priests were certainly the best people to answer the two questions which follow: "If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No. Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these (i.e. bread, pottage etc.), shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean", vl2-13. Whilst, as we have noticed, God’s people had become defiled by their lack of reality, the lessons are applicable in all cases of unholiness.
a) Holiness is not transmissible, v12. The "holy flesh" was the priest’s portion of a sacrifice offered to God. See, for example, Num.6.20. lCor.9.13 will also help us here: "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?" Let’s remember that holiness is separation or consecration to God. Unconsecrated food did not change by contact with consecrated food. This reminds us that we can mix with devoted and consecrated Christians, but remain unholy and unconsecrated ourselves. M.C.Unger puts it like this: ‘Sanctity or holiness cannot be imparted or acquired apart from vital faith and obedience to the Lord, for it flows from contact with Him.’
b) Defilement is transmissible, v13. The words, "unclean by a dead body," probably refer to Num.19 which details the ordinance of the red heifer. This particular sacrifice was God’s provision for people who had contracted defilement. "He that toucheth the dead body of any man shall be unclean seven days … whosoever toucheth the dead body of any man that is dead, and purifieth not himself, defileth the tabernacle of the Lord … and whatsoever that unclean person toucheth shall be unclean; and the soul that toucheth it shall be unclean until even." We all know, only too well, how easily we can be defiled by things we see, hear and think, and how easily such uncleanness can affect every part of our lives, and the lives of others. Defilement is contagious. We can understand the injunction, "Wherefore come ye out from among them, and be ye separate saith the Lord, and touch not (or ‘watch not … listen not … read not’) the unclean thing … let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God," 2Cor.6.17-7.1.
To sum up, these verses contrast the limited effect of holiness (holy flesh - the priests - but no holiness conveyed) with the unlimited effect of defilement (dead body - the person involved - uncleanness conveyed).
ii) The facts applied:
"Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the Lord; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean." The people had become defiled themselves, and their uncleanness had tainted their work and their worship. The nation had become defiled, and everything it touched, including its offerings, had become unclean. Once again, we encounter the expression, "this people." Compare 1.2. But now it is accompanied by another similar expression, "this nation." They didn’t speak or behave like God’s people. They had forgotten the demands of their holy God: "For I am the Lord your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy", Lev. 11.44. See also 19.2 and 20.26. They had forgotten that "holiness becometh Thine house, O Lord, for ever," Ps.93.5. They had also forgotten that God had expressed His total displeasure in the past by chastening them. So:
B) JUDGMENT FROM GOD, v15-19:
Uncleanness, in this case, the uncleanness of an empty religion, is most serious, and must be dealt with immediately. This is emphasised by the words, ‘And now, I pray you, consider …" So: ‘And now, I pray you, consider from this day and upward, from before a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of the Lord. Since those days were, when one came to an heap of twenty measures, there were but ten … I smote you with blasting, and with mildew, and with hail, in all the labours of your hands; yet ye turned not to me saith the Lord."
The people are told to look back, and assess the situation before "a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of the Lord." God had not stood on the sidelines, and allowed His people to forget His interests and persist in their backsliding. He chastened them with a view to their recovery. "I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all the labours of your hands; yet ye turned not to Me, saith the Lord." These were not natural disasters: they were ‘acts of God’ in the truest sense. See Deut.28.22 etc. Haggai is obviously referring to the disasters described in 1.6 and 1.9-11. See also Zech.8.9-10. Compare Amos 4.9. Perhaps Haggai was quoting his fellow-prophet here. We know that the prophets read each other’s books. See Daniel 9.2.
Whilst the "foundation of the temple of the Lord" had been laid some sixteen years before (see Ezra 3.10), there can be little doubt that the words, "consider from this day and upward, from before a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of the Lord," refer to the period immediately preceding the recommencement of work in 1.14-15. Hebrew scholars tells us that the words "this day and upward," can signify movement either backwards or forwards in time. Hence J. N. Darby’s footnote: ‘some take it as meaning ‘backward’ in v15.’
The important thing to notice is that God’s chastening had been rejected. "Ye turned not to me, saith the Lord." How do we respond to God’s dealings with us? Do remember what we said in connection with 1.9 ‘If, on reflection, you discover that God has "called for a drought" in your soul, and there is no spiritual joy, fruit, or progress in your life, turn to Him in confession and repentance. He is longing to say, "From this day will I bless you", 2.19.’
If God had taught His people that disobedience brought chastening, then He now teaches them that obedience brings blessing. So:
C) ASSURANCE OF BLESSING, v18-19:
Haggai now invites them to look forward in view of the recommencement of the work. Having described the situation before "a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of the Lord," he now describes the situation from that very day, "Consider now from this day and upward, from the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, even from the day that the foundation of the LORD’S temple was laid, consider it." Preparatory work recommenced as a result of the preaching of Haggai and Zechariah. See Ezra 5.1: "Then Zerubbabel … and Joshua … with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God … and they came and did work in the house of the Lord of hosts, their God," 1.12-14.
Once again, the "day that the foundation of the Lord’s house was laid" evidently refers, not to the laying of the temple foundation some sixteen years before, but to the date on which the builders actually recommenced work after three months preparation (compare I.15 and 2.18). Now the message is refreshingly different. The defilement of their unreality in worship had given place to genuine zeal for God’s glory. "Consider now from this day and upward, from the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, even from the day that the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid, consider it. Is the seed yet in the barn? Yea, as yet the vine, and the fig tree, and pomegranate, and the olive tree, hath not brought forth: from this day will I bless you." Compare similar language in Zech.8.11-12, "But now I will not be unto the residue of this people as in the former days, saith the LORD of hosts. For the seed shall be prosperous; the vine shall give her fruit, and the ground shall give her increase …"
Bearing in mind that this was the middle of winter, the seed had not yet been sown, and no one would have dared to forecast the quality of the next year’s harvest. After all, recent experience gave no cause for optimism. Their crops had been attacked by "blasting and with mildew and with hail," v17. But anxiety and uncertainty gave place to assurance, with the divine promise, "From this day will I bless you." Whilst there was no firm evidence of an abundant harvest, since it was too early to make any predictions, they had something far better than evidence. They had the certainty of God’s word.
We have this too: "be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord," lCor.15.58. "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not", Gal.6.9.
On this happy note, Haggai concludes his ministry to the people at large. His final message was addressed to Zerubbabel personally. It was a message of encouragement. It was to Reward Their Leader - this we will ponder in the next paper DV.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by Ian McKee (Northern Ireland)
Paper 9 — Ministry from Heaven and a Report to a King (Ezra Chapter 5)
We have already noted that in the fifteen years following the laying of the Temple foundations, Ezra Chapter 3, there was little progress in rebuilding. However lethargy will soon be swept aside.
Renewal of prophet ministry (Ezra 5.1-2)
Two men of God appear suddenly upon the page of inspiration. "Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel," Ezra 5.1. These were men who had received weighty words from heaven and who felt the burden of communicating that truth to their fellowmen. The opening verses of Haggai and Zechariah’s prophecies emphasise that the Lord is the source of their ministry. They also provide the time reference. It was "the second year of Darius;" that is Darius I, Hystaspes in BC 520, which is almost 17 years after the decree of Cyrus (Ezra Ch.1) and the return to Jerusalem of the Jewish exiles under Zerubbabel and Jeshua. By Divine power the word of God reached the conscience of a lethargic people. The incisive, forthright, exhortative ministry of Haggai was effective and in 24 days the building of the Temple recommenced, Hag.1.15. The complementary ministry of Zechariah, based upon eight edifying and panoramic visions, assisted this reinvigoration.
It is important to note that the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah represent God’s gracious intervention at a time of spiritual sloth. Their ministry is relevant to contemporary needs. It is given in "the name of the God of Israel" (Ezra 5.1), with His authority and power. Genuine revival must have the Word of God as its foundation and a response, begotten in the power of the Holy Spirit, from those who hear and believe that God has spoken.
The message delivered by Haggai and Zechariah was a powerful expression of the mind of God through the faithful instrumentality of His consecrated servants. This was not sermonising. Nor was it the regular teaching ministry of the Word of God, important though that is. These were words from the sanctuary of God delivered in Spirit guided power by men consecrated to God. They were words of rare value that demanded attention and response. Would that such preaching was heard again in our day!
This ministry encouraged Zerubbabel and Jeshua to build in faith disregarding the prohibitive decree of Psuedo-Smerdis, Ezra 4.21. So they "began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem" upon the foundations earlier laid, Ezra 5.2. They are not building because of the earlier decree of Cyrus, but are directed by the unchanging Word of God as ministered by His two faithful servants, Haggai and Zechariah. Those two prophets continued to encourage by their ministry and to lead by example right through the period of construction, "And with them were the prophets of God helping them," Ezra 5.2.
Scrutiny by unsaved men (Ezra 5.3-17)
Alongside the positive and spiritual we have the ever attendant negative influences as represented by the investigations of "Tatnai, governor on this side the river, and Shethar-boznai, and their companions," Ezra 5.3. There was no such interest in the activities of the Lord’s people when they were engaged in building their own houses. But as soon as rebuilding commences on the house of God the Governor of Trans-Euphrates and his entourage appear to seek the builders’ authority and ask their names, Ezra 5.3. Is it not similarly true today that carnality will not incur the interest of the devil? But as soon as there are aspirations toward the Scriptural pattern and principles, whether in an individual life or in assembly experience, opposition is manifest. "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places," Eph.6.12. Yet it is an encouragement to us to see that God honours the faith of the builders. "But the eye of their God was upon the elders of the Jews," Ezra 5.5.
In Divine providence Tatnai did not suspend the work, although he will report to Darius. The text of Tatnai’s communiqué is provided in Ezra 5.7-17. This provides an objective insight to the work in progress. He records that large hewn stones are being laid and timber beams are being built in, which is consistent with the design of Solomon’s Temple, cf. Ezra 5.8, 6.4 with 1 Kings 6.36. And he confirms the energy input to the work and the progress made: "this work goeth fast on, and prospereth in their hands," Ezra 5.8.
The report also records the builders’ assertion of their authority to build, "we are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and build the house that was builded these many years ago, which a great king of Israel builded and set up," Ezra 5.11. This is not mere human endeavour but the carrying into effect of a Divine commission and the seeking to recover something that had been instituted in the reign of Solomon almost 500 years before.
Surprisingly Tatnai also details the builders’ honesty about the sin and guilt of their forebears. Sin had weakened their public position as the people of God, which meant they could no longer stand before their enemies. They had defected from God and He forsook them, Ezra 5.12. However the return of Divine favour is also recounted, which led to Cyrus’ decree to rebuild the house of the Lord.
Finally, Tatnai asks Darius to ascertain the veracity of the builders’ account by authorising a search of the royal records and seeks a decision about the rebuilding, Ezra 5.17. Notwithstanding this investigation, the people continue to build in faith, fortified by the ministry of Haggai and the visions granted to Zechariah.
This report to Darius by an unsaved official raises an interesting question. If such a report were to be completed on the people of God today, what would it say? Would it, like that of Tatnai’s, record earnest endeavour, a consciousness of our place in the purpose of God and an understanding that sin will ruin individual and corporate testimony? Or would it be a testimony to shallow complacency and the pursuit of selfish interests?
—to be continued (D.V.)
by Walter A. Boyd (South Africa)
No.5 – THE CONSECRATED SERVANT
(A) Paul and his Preaching (Romans 15.14-24, Continued)
In the previous paper (ch.15.14-16) we considered Paul and his preaching under the headings; (A) His Happy Persuasion and (B) His Unique Ministry. We will now look at v17-24 under three headings;
(C) His Personal Testimony.
(D) His Missionary Objective.
(E) His Future Plans.
(C) His Personal Testimony, (v17-19). In these verses we have Paul’s own testimony to the work which God had done through him in the furtherance of his unique ministry towards the Gentiles. His testimony comprises three things;
(i) His Ability to Boast, (v17). "I have therefore whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ in those things which pertain to God." Paul always had a deep sense of personal stewardship before God, and was ready to tell openly what God was doing through him. There is no boasting about what he had done, it is all about Christ Jesus and God. A truly consecrated servant will never boast in this realm, but with reverence and godly fear he will recount accurately what God has done.
(ii) His Achievement in Service, (v18). "For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed." Paul would not dare to boast in another man’s labours, and any time he spoke of his own labours it was only to glorify Christ. The goal of his preaching was "to make the Gentiles obedient." Paul understood that when Gentiles heard the message of the gospel it demanded obedience, and thus he preached the message in such a way that his hearers understood this implication. This was not a message of "only believe!" When a sinner heard Paul preach, he learned that he was a rebel at heart who had disobeyed God and the only hope of eternal life was found in "the obedience of faith," 16.26. Repentance was a real issue that was preached so as to grip the heart and unsettle the conscience of the sinner, and thus demand the response of obedience. The "evangelical" world has so sweetened the message of the gospel that it is almost beyond recognition when compared to the preaching of the apostles. We need to be aware of this and be careful lest we adopt their language and ways, for if we do, we will produce their results – spurious conversions!
What Christ "wrought" through Paul’s ministry was by means of both "word and deed." Paul’s life was closely modelled on his Master’s, of Whom Luke records in Acts 1.1 what "Jesus began both to do and to teach." The life of a consecrated servant of the Lord made deep impressions on both the unsaved and the saved. Paul lived what he preached!
(iii) His Accomplished Task, (v19). "Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ." Paul used three words to describe the demonstrations of Divine power that accompanied his unique ministry. He says that God worked to make sinners obedient through (or by means of) what were miraculous happenings. These are described as:
Signs – The Message they conveyed.
Wonders – The Marvel they created.
Power – The Might they carried.
These are called "the signs of an apostle" in 2Cor.12.12. These "signs and wonders by the power of the Holy Spirit" were demonstrated wherever he preached as the apostle to the Gentiles. When he says he has "fully preached the gospel," he is not giving notice of his retirement! He is showing that in his responsibility to the Gentiles, the territory has been fully covered and the message has been fully conveyed. He left nothing out in terms of the matter he preached nor did he leave anywhere out in terms of the area he covered. Notice his descriptions of the gospel; in v16 it is "the gospel of God," and in v19 it is "the gospel of Christ." He is viewing the gospel from two different standpoints as he so speaks; in v16 he speaks in the context of his priestly service, and it is to God hence the gospel of God. In v19 he speaks in the context of his bond-service to the exalted Christ, hence it is the gospel of Christ.
(D) His Missionary Objective, (v20,21). It is clear from Acts 16 that Paul was sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit in the circumstances of his ministry. Although this was the case, he was not directed nor driven only by the circumstances of life. Above anything else, his ambition was to preach the gospel where Christ was unknown and where the people were unreached. His calling was that of a pioneer. In support of Paul’s missionary objective he quotes Isa.52, showing us that the Jewish prophets supported his exercise in gospel pioneering to the Gentiles. We could learn from his clear objective and fixed purpose in the service of the gospel. He always worked on the same principle; preach the gospel to those who have never heard the name of Christ. Surely there are people around us today who have never heard that blessed name – are we burdened about their spiritual need? Is their spiritual darkness the constant motivation of our service?
(E) His Future Plans, (v22–24). Paul now goes into greater detail concerning his earlier mentioned desire to visit Rome, 1.10-15. As we examine his strategy and thinking it is instructive to read alongside this passage, his journeys in the Acts of the Apostles. As we do so, one clear principle in his life will emerge; he was not under the dominative control of any man or body of men. He took his instructions as to where and when he should move, from heaven alone. One of the great blessings from the missionary movements of the past two centuries has been the widespread travel of the gospel; but a great bane of those same movements has been the man-made restrictions placed upon the servants of the gospel. There should be no authority between the servant and his Master. As Paul reveals his plans he tells them of:
(i) Past Hindrances. "I have been much hindered from coming to you," v22. In 1.13 he states that he "oftentimes purposed to come unto" them but was "let hitherto." Now in 15.22, he explains that that hindrance was the work of the gospel in which he was engaged. He was not free to visit Rome until he completed his work by preaching the gospel fully in the area from Jerusalem in a full circuit to Illyricum.
(ii) Present Desire. "Having a great desire these many years to come unto you," v23. While Paul was not responsible to man or men, he was not irresponsible or cavalier in his movements. He didn’t do just as he liked; his personal desires and ambitions were subservient to the demands of his service in the gospel. When he says that he "has no more place in these parts," he does not mean that he is no longer welcome there, but that his pioneering work in that area has been completed. In the past, duty had over-ruled desire, but now he can realize his ambitions.
(iii) Planned Objective. "Whensoever I take my journey into Spain, I will come to you," v24. As he pioneered in that area east of the Mediterranean Sea, his desire to travel west and visit the saints in Rome was controlled by the pressing responsibilities in the gospel. Now that his work in that area has been completed, surely he will consider himself free to head straight for Rome? Not at all; his desire to visit Rome is controlled yet again, this time by future service in the area of Spain. En-route to Spain he intends to travel to Jerusalem, v26-28 and Rome. One thing is clear as we read his intentions – everything is subject to the plan and purpose of God in his service in the gospel and among the saints.
(iv) Proposed Fellowship. "For I trust to see you in my journey, and to be brought on my way thitherward by you, if first I may be somewhat filled with your company," v24. Paul was eagerly anticipating having fellowship with the saints in Rome. He hoped to visit them and enjoy their company for a while, after which he would move on towards Spain. This is the meaning of the expression "be somewhat filled with your company." Alongside the personal fellowship with the saints there was also the matter of practical fellowship in view of the journey to Spain that lay ahead. Paul never begged for help or support, either overtly or implicitly, but he reminds them gently that they have a responsibility to the work of the Lord and the furtherance of the gospel. His stay with them would afford them an opportunity to help in the spread of the gospel.
This is a challenge to us in days when travel is relatively easy. The Lord working through the hearts of His people meets the needs of His servants. When a servant of the Lord calls with an assembly, as Paul intended to do with Rome, the responsibility of having fellowship with him so as to further him on his journey lies with the assembly and those in touch with God. This is a delicate matter that needs to be addressed in our hearts in the presence of God; for when such help is given to the servants of God, a share in their work and labour is enjoyed now, and a share in the reward will be enjoyed in a day to come.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by J. A. Davidson (Northern Ireland)
PAPER 7 — ATTIRE : PART 1
The metaphor of clothing is ascribed to the Lord Himself. "The Lord reigneth, He is clothed with majesty; the Lord is clothed with strength, wherewith He hath girded Himself," Ps.93.1. "Who coverest Thyself with light as with a garment," Ps.104.2. "All Thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made Thee glad," Ps.45.8. Thus is signified His infinite and admirable majesty and beauty; the transparency and brightness of His works and warfare, or the sweet comeliness and fragrant graces manifest toward His beloved. Attire befits the occasion, apparel indicates the importance of the gathering and appearance is indicative of character itself.
God believes in dress and He has suitably clothed creation, "Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field," Matt.6.30. He adorns the countryside with richness and beauty. None of God's creation is unclothed as He provides adequate protection from the harshness of winter and the summer vestments of beauty and glory. The fields and hedges are clothed in verdant green, the foliage of the trees and shrubs declares His handiwork. He has carpeted the mountains with spreadings of brown, green and purple and even the rare flower of the desert has beauty surpassing even Solomon in all his glory. The twist of the plant, the blade of grass, all creation is a miracle of Divinely ordained dress.
The nocturnal sky is clothed with heavenly glory, the smallest star to the largest planet is garbed with sparkling brilliance. Paul writes, "All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory," 1Cor.15.39-41. The apostle is considering the resurrection of the dead and "glory" as essentially something additional to the body. The foliage of the tree, the feathers of the bird declare each after his kind and identifies the species and natural habitat. Every living thing wears weather proof clothes of wool, skin, hair or feathers. The membranes of scales are the garments of the fish, the elegant plumage are the wardrobes of birds, the busy bee is given leggings of fur by an all wise Creator.
It is foolish to argue as some professing believers do, that God only looks on the heart, the inner man and therefore our outward appearance is of little relevance. The Bible does not teach such a position. "Doth not even nature itself teach you?" 1Cor.11.14. The assembly teaching of 1Cor.11 is based on the principle of the distinctions which God has made from the beginning of creation. If you are a man, be a man with uncovered head and short hair; If you are a woman, be a woman with the natural glory of her long hair and her head suitably covered in the gathering. These pages will be read in different countries, climates and customs of national dress but the basic Scriptural principle is that any attempt whether visually or orally to negate the distinctions between male and female is an abomination unto the Lord.
The metaphor of ‘putting off’ and ‘putting on as a garment’ in Paul's writings shall have our primary consideration in this paper.
"The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light," Rom.13.12. It is not appropriate to appear in night clothes during the day. We once lived in darkness and sin but now as children of the day we must dress with appropriate dignity and glory. The old clothes were "rioting and drunkenness" (public); "chambering and wantonness" (private); "strife and envy" (personal). Where there is strife and envy among the Lord's people, these are old rags of the flesh which should be promptly discarded. "But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof," Rom.13.14. This is a practical exhortation for ‘the armour of light’ is at once a dress and a protection primarily against the flesh.
"But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communications out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him," Col.3.8-10. The old man is the man of old; all that is connected with the old Adamic man before salvation. We are to strip off and put away from ourselves these old filthy, threadbare, outworn, foul, corrupt, useless garments which we habitually wore before salvation. "Put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts," Eph.4.22.
"Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice," Eph.4.31. These are not things with which we were born and manifest in our proneness to sin which we put on and so they are to be put off. ‘Habit’ is still a word used for dress (e.g. ‘riding habit’) which is to be put away; discarded as an old garment.
"In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ," Col.2.11. Paul's expression ‘putting off;’ Hebrews ‘laying aside,’ Heb.12.1; James ‘lay apart,’ Jms.1.21, are similar to Peter's expression ‘laying aside,’ 1Pet.2.1, as an act of will rather than an act of faith. The ‘flesh’ as to the origin of these evils is to be kept in the sphere of death but the habits are to be put away.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by W. W. Fereday
Paper 5 — "KILL IT"
Death is everywhere stamped upon our chapter, Ex.12. Let us at this moment lay all possible emphasis upon the solemn words of v6: "The whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening." Nothing short of this could satisfy the claims of God, and avert the destruction that was approaching. The lamb must die: the blood of the innocent must be shed if the guilty were to be spared.
Death lies upon men everywhere as the fruit of sin; it is sin’s wages, as Rom.6.23 tells us. Had sin not intruded itself into God’s fair creation, not a grave would ever have been dug, not a tear of bereavement would ever have been shed. Let us have no misunderstanding as to this. Those who speak of their impending dissolution as "the debt of nature" are simply hiding from themselves the real truth of their position in relation to God and His throne. No folly could be greater. The presence of death in the world admits of but one explanation — man is a fallen creature, a rebel against his maker. For those who fail to seek divine grace and pardon the death of the body is but the prelude to "the second death, the lake of fire," Rev.20.14. The righteousness of God demands that if any are to be spared the last dread sentence then death must fall upon another instead.
This is what is set forth with all plainness in the ordinance of the Paschal lamb. The angel of death was to pass through the land of Egypt at midnight to destroy the firstborn in every house. No way of escape was possible from so fearful a visitation but the death of the lamb. Between themselves and God there the stroke fell. Even so is it now. The death of Christ, humbly accepted and appropriated in faith is our only possible door of escape from the eternal judgment of God. A living lamb would not suffice in Israel, a living Christ could not suffice for us. His personal presence on earth was an inestimable privilege and blessing for men, but atonement was not effected thereby. He must die ere He could be available as Saviour for the lost. His own words in Jn.6.51 show this conclusively. "I am the living bread which came down from heaven, if any man eat of this bread he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." To this may be added His memorable utterance to Nicodemus, "as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. Jn.3.14-16. Happy is the man who can say "The Saviour died for me." Upon such a one the stroke of divine judgment can never fall.
The whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening." Not "them," but "it." Thousands of lambs were slain that night, and yet in the mind of God there was but One. Christ is God’s first great thought, and to Him every sacrifice pointed. There is no salvation in any other.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by Graeme Hutchinson (N. Ireland)
As we read through the prophecy of Habakkuk it soon becomes obvious why this series is entitled the ‘perplexed prophet.’ In 1.3 the prophet, in the light of apparent injustice, asks the penetrating question — Why? Believers today are often found in similar circumstances, asking the same question. However, in studying this prophecy we learn how God can work amid scenes of hopelessness and despair. As a general introduction to the book we may consider:
Unfortunately it is difficult to precisely determine when Habakkuk wrote his prophecy. The reference to the Chaldeans (Babylonians) in 1.6 suggests that the writings must have occurred sometime before this power invaded the southern nation of Judah, 2Kgs.25. Moreover, the description of sin and lawlessness in ch.1.2-4 would seem to conform to the way that king Jehoiakim ruled over the nation, 2Kgs.23.36 24.7; 2Chron.36.5-8. From this we may learn the following:
It was a period of corruption and chastisement. In ch.1.2-4, the prophet describes how sin had multiplied within (and outside) the nation of Judah. In v4, it is stated that the law was slacked (Strong 6313 - literally, it ceased to be effective). That which had been divinely given was now disregarded and ignored by the inhabitants of Judah. As a result of this, Judah was to be punished and Babylon was to be the tool through which the punishment would be administered. Even today, God's children must be conscious that they cannot live as they like. God will intervene in the affairs of His people in order to preserve the sanctity and holiness of His name, Acts 5.1-10; 1Cor.11.28-30. In the light of this, may we ‘serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear,’ Heb.12.28.
It was a period of conflict and confusion. In ch.1.6, the Lord demonstrated His sovereignty - He established the nation of Babylon to invade Judah! The description of this foreign power in 1.6-10 would, in part, explain why Habakkuk found it difficult to understand why God would use them to punish Judah. This pattern of the wicked prospering also troubled David in Ps.73.3. However, as Rom.11.33 reminds us: ‘How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out.’ We too may despair at our seemingly ‘unfair’ circumstances, but the Lord is sovereign. From Habakkuk we learn that we ought to be faithful — not fearful and worship — not worry. At times easier said than done!
In reading through the prophecy of Habakkuk, it is important that we seek to understand something of the character of the writer. Consider the following:
Habakkuk was sensitive. The opening phrase of the prophecy is instructive: ‘The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see,’ Hab.1.1. In this connection, it is interesting to consider what the particular burden of the prophet was. Firstly, prayer was seemingly unanswered: ‘how long shall I cry and thou wilt not hear,’ 1.2. The fact that he prayed for the sin in Judah to cease, but had received no positive answer was troublesome to the prophet's soul. Perhaps the prophet would have been better to rehearse the sentiments expressed in Ps. 121.4 - the nation was in safe hands, and God would work, but only when He so desired! Mary and Martha were to learn a similar lesson centuries later, Jn.11. We too must learn that God's delays are not necessarily His denials. Secondly, the growth of sin was seemingly unchecked. Instead of the righteous prospering, they were being hemmed in by the wicked. Habakkuk inquired as to why God was allowing this to continue. Finally, the answer from God was seemingly unbelievable — the Holy God would use a vile nation like Babylon to accomplish His purpose! An earlier prophet, Isaiah, wrote of God: ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways saith the Lord,’ Isa.55.8, and Habakkuk could certainly testify to this truth! Therefore, a combination of all these factors had caused this godly prophet to enquire: How long! (1.2) and Why? (1.3) — a very great burden and one that Habakkuk felt greatly.
Habakkuk was submissive. In Hab.2.1, having entered into dialogue with God, the prophet accepts that he must wait for an answer from heaven. Often the prophets had to wait for God to answer some petition (see, for example, Jer.42.7), and Habakkuk is to be commended for his patience and acceptance of the situation. The Psalmist is another who waited upon the Lord, Ps.40.1. Interestingly, in the case of Habakkuk, the looking around brought anxiety, ch.1, but the looking up brought adoration, ch.3. If we face adverse circumstances, it is important that we look in the right direction!
Habakkuk was studious. In Hab. 3.3-15 we learn that the prophet was evidently one who knew the Word of God, or perhaps more accurately, the God of the Word. In the days of Habakkuk, the nation had neglected the Law, 1.4, but the prophet was able to recall the occasion when the Law was given, 3.3. Over nature, God was in supreme control, 3.8-11, and amongst the nations, God was able to accomplish mighty victories, 3.12-15. However, the prophet's in-depth understanding of God's dealings in the past was only possible through a careful study of the Scriptures. For Habakkuk, the Scriptures were more than informative, they were helpful in every predicament of life — may we prove the same!
Habakkuk was strong. As the prophet closes his book, 3.16-19, we are informed that the source of his strength was in the Lord. In Phil.4, the apostle Paul was able to express similar sentiments: his joy was in the Lord (compare Hab.3.18 with Phil.4.4), and so was his strength (compare Hab.3.19 with Phil.4.13). Spiritual giants seem to be conscious of their dependence upon God!
The prophecy of Habakkuk roughly follows the chapter division. Thus:
• Chapter 1 deals with THE PROBLEM — the sin of Judah and the invasion of Babylon as the means of punishment.
• Chapter 2 deals with THE PROPHECY — where Habakkuk records a series of ‘woes’ that would soon fall upon Babylon.
• Chapter 3 deals with THE PRAYER — where Habakkuk worships his Saviour God.
However, aside from this division, the following are some of the more important themes of the book:
Doctrinal — what we learn about God.
The prophecy reminds us of:
i) the holiness of God. In 1.12-13, as Habakkuk wrestled with the thought of God using Babylon to punish Judah, the prophet took comfort from the truth that God is holy: ‘O Lord, my God, mine Holy One, we shall not die,’ v12. A similar truth is repeated in 2.20 and 3.3. Interestingly, of all the divine attributes, God's holiness is most often mentioned by the OT prophets — see, for example, Isa.43.3, 14, 15 and Hos.11.9. Perhaps, as we reflect on God's intrinsic holiness, it would encourage us to refrain from anything that would tarnish His name or character, 1Pet.1.15-16.
ii) the righteousness of God. In ch.1, in response to the sin of Judah, God tells Habakkuk of how He will use Babylon to punish the nation. In ch.2, the wickedness of Babylon is also prophesied for judgment. In short, all of God's dealings are right and just — with Him there is never any miscarriage of justice!
iii) the greatness of God. In ch.3 we are informed that God is the supreme Creator. Rivers are under His control, v8; Jos.3.14-17, and the very mountains quake at His appearance, v10; Exo.19.18. Little wonder that the prophet looked to God as the source of his strength, ch.3.19.
Practical - what we learn about Christian living.
Hab.2.4 is perhaps the pivotal verse within the whole prophecy. Here, the prophet is instructed regarding the important principle of faith/faithfulness. In the NT, this verse is quoted in Rom. 1.17; Gal.3.11 and Heb.10.38. However, within Habakkuk we may note the following features of faith:
We have in:
Ch.1 — the trial of faith. As a prophet of the Lord, Habakkuk was tested on what he knew and believed. Being informed that Babylon would be used to punish Judah was something that Habakkuk found difficult to appreciate and understand. Often, we too are confronted with circumstances that are difficult to interpret, however, this is when our faith is being tried — see, for example, 1Pet.1.6-7 (RV).
Ch.2 — the teaching of faith. The possession and enjoyment of true life, as God intended for every righteous Israelite, would require him/her remaining faithful toward God and maintaining implicit trust in all His dealings. For NT believers, the importance of this still remains. As stewards, it is incumbent upon us to be faithful, 1Cor.4.2, and it is also the principle for day-to-day strength, 2Cor.5.7.
Ch.3 — the triumph of faith. Hab.3.17-19 demonstrates how the prophet accepted God's will, irrespective of its nature, and still remained joyful and strong. C. I. Scofield observes ‘Verses 17-18 declare that Habakkuk's love for God, like that of any devoted believer, is not based on what he expects God to give him. Even if God should send him suffering and loss, he declares, he will still rejoice in the God of his salvation. Here is one of the strongest manifestations of faith in the Scriptures’ (Scofield Bible Notes).
—to be continued (D.V.)
A Letter to a Fellow Believer in Christ
By the late E. Hughes (England)
I have this morning received your letter, and hasten to reply to the question which you ask therein. You ask:
"Is it right for one who has been separated from sects , by the Word of God, and gathered unto the Name of the Lord, to go into sects or sectarian missions to preach, if invited to do so?" And you desire that I give you a "plain answer" to this question from God's Word. I shall endeavour to do so in all simplicity.
First, let me give a word of personal testimony. Many years ago, God, in His mercy, saved me from sin and hell. He also delivered me from Romanism and all other isms, and gave me His own Word as my guide and my counsellor. He gave me, at the time of my conversion, an intense love for His Word, and I began to read it and seek to be guided by it in everything, as His child. I learned, as I read the Word, that I was born of God, Jn.1.12,13, and His child, that He had given to me eternal life, 1Jn.5.13, and that, being in possession of it, I should never perish, Jn.10.28, none being able to pluck me from His hand.
I learned that I was dead and buried with Christ, Rom.6.4-6, and also risen with Him, Col.2.11-13, and that baptism in water, by immersion, is a figure of this, 1Pet.3.12. So, in obedience to the Word, I was baptised, Acts 10.47,48;18.8.
I learned that it is the desire of the Lord Jesus that His people should "Remember Him," and show forth His death in the breaking of bread, 1Col.11.23-25, on the first day of the week, Acts 20.7; that His saints gathered in His Name, apart from the world, should be together, Acts 2.44; that the Church is one body, Eph.4.4, not many, and that all the members have been set in their places by God, 1Cor.12.12,28, and have their special work to do. I saw that they, when so gathered, are to be led of the Spirit of God in their worship, 1Cor.12.11; 14.15-25, and that those who so gather are not to forsake the assembling of themselves together, Heb.13.12,13. As I sought to yield obedience to these simple and plain commandments of the Lord I found myself outside all denominations and every other system that is contrary to the path marked out in the Word for His people, and I found myself with those who had been led by the same Word and were seeking, as I was, to obey it. I remain where obedience to the Word has led me, and until I see from that Word that I am commanded by God to go into the sects and systems which men have formed, and of which I find nothing in the Word but condemnation, I must (and by grace I will) remain where I have been led by the Word of God. I have no inclination or desire to leave the happy position into which I have been brought, and in which I enjoy fellowship with God's saints in worship and service, to enter any place where such fellowship is impossible. I cannot worship God in such circles, because of the will and the ways of man displacing the Word and the way of God, and, for the same reasons, I cannot serve or preach there. Worship, in God's order, comes first, service next. We "draw near" to worship first, and "go forth" to serve, Heb.10.22;13.13, next. As a "holy priesthood," believers are to "offer up" their spiritual sacrifices, and then, as a royal priesthood, to show forth the virtues of Him who has called them, 1Pet.2.4-9. We are not at liberty to sever things that God has joined together. If I cannot go in and share in the worship of these sects, then I am unable to go and take part in service with them. And this is not because of no invitation being given — for I have had tempting invitations, with golden baits accompanying them — but simply because the Word of God, that severed me from all such religious systems, can never lead me back into them again, not even for a day or an hour. This is how the whole matter stands with me. I have no liberty to huckster or tone down the Word of God on this or any other subject; it has been given to be obeyed, not to be trifled with, or held fast and loose as occasion requires.
You may ask me — "Why should you hold so tenaciously to these things? Many do not so hold them. Some who profess to be where you are go in and out among sects and sectarian missions, and their names appear as preaching in them." My answer to this is, it is my responsibility to obey the Word, whatever others do. If you were to ask me why I "hold so tenaciously" to the truth of eternal life, I would answer by quoting Jn.10.28, and say, "That is enough for me." If I am asked, "Why were you baptised as a believer?" I would turn to Matt.28.18-20, for the command; to Acts 8.38, for the example and mode; and to Rom. 6.4-6, Col.2.12, for the doctrine. If I am asked why I gather in the Name of the Lord Jesus, and not in the name of a sect or party, I refer to Matt.18.20; 1Cor.1.10; 5.4; and Acts 2.41-44. And, if these be according to God, then every departure from them, and every limitation and corruption of them, such as are plainly seen in all the sects and systems of men, is in opposition to God and His Word. How could any man who fears God and is guided by His Word, go into such places where God's Word is dishonoured and the Lord, as Head and Ruler, is denied His place. If these denominations and sectarian missions are right, then we should never have separated from them. If they are wrong, as I am certain the Scripture shows all sects and divisions to be, 1Cor.1.9-16; Rom.16.17, then it is wrong to return to them, whether to preach or to hear. For me to enter one of those places would be to disobey 2Cor.6.14-18; 2Tim.2.19-22; to say in practice that they are not so far wrong, after all; that separation from them is not of much importance, but can be laid aside when occasion requires; that the Truth of God can be given up without much concern, and that to turn my back on those whom God has separated from the world's religious systems and gathered to Christ, is a small matter compared with preaching. Those who go in to preach in sects, help to perpetuate them, and to draw others to them, and stumble others who are seeking to find their way out from them. Some justify their action by saying they "go in" to help others "out." What a fallacy this is! Let me close with an illustration.
It is Saturday afternoon, and the pit is closed for the week. The miners have all reached their homes, but John F—— has not arrived. His wife is alarmed, and in her distress goes to Andrew F—— to tell him her trouble. Andrew makes his way to the pit-mouth, but finds nobody there, the engines are stopped and all is quiet. Shouting with all his might down the shaft, "Hullo, John, are you there?" A voice from below replies, "I cannot get out, there is no cage here." Andrew is moved with pity for his neighbour and volunteers to slide down the wire and help him out of his unhappy position. "No, no!" cries the entombed man, who knows that the presence of another in the pit will not make matters any better for him. "Do not on any account come down here. If you are to be of any help to me in getting me out of this place, you must stay out of it, and help me from where you are." So I would say, dear J—— if those who have been brought out of sects and unscriptural systems of religion are to be of any service in helping others out of them, they must keep entirely outside of them all themselves. Read Jer.38.6-13, and you will see how they got him out, and let us give heed to the Word spoken to the prophet long ago, which is as applicable now as then. "If thou take the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as My mouth; let them return unto thee, but return not thou unto them," Jer.15.19.
I shall be glad to hear if these Scriptures which I have quoted, and the reasons I have given, are a satisfactory answer to the question which you have asked.
Yours ever in the Lord — E. H. (Barrow).
by S. Davidson (Brazil)
While reading the experiences of others we are often made aware that there seems to be a definite pattern in God’s dealings, both in the call to repentance and faith through the Gospel, and in the further call to specific service. We write these lines hoping that they may be useful to someone seeking God’s guidance for their life and service.
Although brought up under the preaching of the Gospel, I have no recollection of serious thoughts about salvation until around the age of 11 years when preaching about the Lord’s return began to trouble me deeply. I clearly recall occasions when terror struck me because of unusual home circumstances which indicated that the Lord may have already come.
At the beginning of 1961, Mr. J. G. Hutchinson was having a series of Gospel meetings in Bangor, near to where we lived and we all attended these meetings and once again I became concerned about salvation. On 22 January, deeply troubled and wanting to be saved but not wanting anyone to know, I went home and up the two flights of stairs to my attic bedroom resolved to get the matter settled. I read and prayed and tried to believe until after midnight, but all seemed hopeless and I knew I still wasn’t saved. After midnight I decided to make my desire known to my father and mother and can still recollect the temptation not to make a fool of myself and to give it all up. However, I was determined that if there was salvation for me it was going to be that night so I woke them up and told them I wanted to be saved. They read and prayed with me for some time, going over the gospel verses that I knew so well, but this still brought me no further light on the matter. All was dark and I knew I was still unsaved and hopelessly lost. There was a silence and just as I was inclined to the thought that there was no salvation for me a very simple yet powerful thought entered my mind "Why did Christ die?" The answer came back from within my troubled soul with a fresh, deep understanding- "He died for me". In a very real and personal way at that moment I grasped the great gospel truth, "Christ died for me". The burden went and joy entered my soul and I simply said "I believe I’m now saved" and there was rejoicing and thanksgiving as we all went back to bed. The following day I went off to school still rejoicing but during the morning a doubt began to form in my mind if it could really be so simple as what I had experienced. At mid-day, when at home for lunch, I opened my Bible at John 3.36 and read those precious words: "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life". The word HATH came home with such power that the doubt immediately left me for ever and I praised God for giving me the assurance from His Word. And after 40 years I can still praise Him for that!
About 2 years afterwards, I was baptized and received into assembly fellowship in Central Hall, Bangor, N. Ireland and in due course was involved in Sunday School and tract distribution work. One other day stands out very clearly when in August 1967, the late Mr. John Grant had some meetings in Bangor and on the last day of the month spoke on Romans 12:1,2. The message came home to my heart with such conviction that I realised there was something important lacking in my consecration to God and after the meeting, in my own bedroom, made my life available to God in whatever way He could use it. This was a very real and deep experience and I knew God had heard my sincere prayer, but had no idea what His will might be.
From that time onwards interest deepened in missionary work and although further study took me to Scotland, I kept in contact with missionaries and especially Harry & Jean Reid who had been recently commended by the Central Hall assembly to Brazil. Correspondence also started with a missionary’s daughter called Ann Finegan who was doing nursing training in Belfast and we discovered we had the same desire to serve the Lord abroad after training, probably in a self-supporting manner as the thought of seeking commendation scared us both very much. Ann had been brought up in Zambia where her father and mother have served the Lord for many years, so naturally she had a desire to go back there. I was still inclined towards Brazil, but willing to change direction if the Lord so indicated. When planning for marriage in 1973 we both felt sure that we shouldn’t purchase a house but rent for a while and wait upon God to open up the way for us abroad. Still thinking of self-supporting work, I applied for teaching posts in both Zambia and Brazil — a type of "fleece" to understand God’s will as to where we should go. At that time the door to Zambia opened for a 3-year contract with the Zambian Government and the door to Brazil closed and so in 1974 we arrived in Livingstone, Zambia to take up work at Hillcrest Secondary school and Ann soon found work in the local hospital there.
There was then no assembly work in that part of the country, so we did what we could through opportunities for Gospel work at the school, Sunday school work in surrounding villages and in prison visitation. It was our "desert" experience when we had to face other teachings and study for ourselves from the Scriptures the "assembly principles" which we had taken for granted for so long. It was a very useful time for Ann to see Zambia from a different point of view and she became increasingly aware that the Lord’s will for her life lay in another place.
When our contract finished we returned to N. Ireland and soon had employment but still waiting upon the Lord for a door to open into Brazil. Visas for missionaries were not being granted at that time so we continued to seek work in Brazil. We spoke to the overseeing brethren of our exercise and they were very encouraging and helpful. Shortly afterwards contact was made with a Christian school in São Paula which needed Math and Physics teachers urgently to teach missionaries children using English language. Feeling sure this was of the Lord and a step in the right direction, we signed a 2 year contract which later stretched to 3 years and gave us time to obtain permanent visas, learn Portuguese language and seek to help a little in a local assembly there. Our hearts were towards the needy north and a visit was made to Santarém, Pará during school holidays, which confirmed our call to the North.
We arrived in Santarém in early 1983 with our young "international" family, Wendy, born in Zambia, Andrew born in N. Ireland and Roland, born in Brazil! Romans 15:20,21 has been a guiding principle in our priorities here, and we still seek to reach out to those who have not heard and to help in the planting and consolidation of local assemblies in the state of Pará. We are deeply grateful for the faithful prayer support of many and in spite of much opposition, the Lord has blessed His good Word and we can gladly testify to His faithfulness, guidance, protection and provision in every step along the way on the many journeys made each month by river and road. To Him be all the glory. Ps 36:5-9.
Presently there seems to be much interest in the subject of reincarnation. As Eastern mystical religions become popular in some circles, it has become almost trendy to believe that we will return to this earth after death and live over again in some other form. Those who believe the Bible will reject such an idea because we are clearly taught, "it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:" Hebrews 9.27. We die once only but after death it is not reincarnation, but judgment.
However, a fundamental truth of the Bible is resurrection. To many this seems impossible but when the apostle Paul addressed a King he asked the question, "Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?" Acts 26.8.
There is no greater fact of history than the resurrection of the Saviour. After His resurrection He was seen. If we could bring more than 500 eye witnesses to prove our case in some judicial court the outcome would never be in doubt. This is what happened regarding the resurrection of Christ. 1 Corinthians 15.6 records, "He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep." The apostle is so confident of his case that he is saying "there are more than 500 witnesses and since the majority are still alive, go and ask them." The implications of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead are so tremendous that the power of the old Roman Empire tried to ensure that He did not rise again. Thus they put the stone at the door of the tomb, sealed it and set a watch of soldiers. But all was vain and He arose on the third and appointed morning. To the generation who could have disputed the happenings from historical fact the message was preached, "they took Him down from the tree, and laid Him in a sepulchre. But God raised Him from the dead," Acts 13.29.
His resurrection is the guarantee that we too shall be raised. "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive," 1 Corinthians 15.22. Thus there will be the resurrection of the saved. That is of all those who have believed on Him to the saving of their soul. This will happen when the Saviour comes again and calls us to Himself, which could happen at any moment. 1 Thessalonians 4.16, "For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first…" That will be for eternal glory.
There will also be the resurrection of the sinners. That is of all who have died rejecting the Saviour and God’s offer of free salvation. Revelation 20.12, "I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life:… v15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." That will be for eternal gloom.
Dear reader, where will you be found? This is no fanciful fairy story. We are dealing with eternal facts. Judgment is assured by His resurrection, "Because He (God) hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man (Jesus Christ) whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead."
Moses' cry is ours, "O that they$B?¿??Ä$ ÿ@??Ä .ÿÄ??Ä ¤Ä??Ä
1. Oh depths of love unfathomed,
Such grace and mercy free,
The cost to Christ unmeasured,
That found and rescued me.
2. How deep, how dark, how dreadful,
Those sufferings that He bore,
There in those hours of darkness,
That sin may reign no more.
3. Oh precious Lord, my Saviour,
Thy wounds by faith I see,
'Twas love not nails that bound Thee,
That I might ransomed be.
4. With all my soul I trust Thee,
Own Thou art Lord of all,
And wait for that bright morning,
When I shall hear Thy call.
(T. Martin, N. Ireland)
Directions for Young Christians
by Walter Scott
1. Make the Holy Scriptures your sole authority for your justification, and hope of glory (Rom.5.1; 1Jn.2.12; Col.1.27).
2. Make the Bible your daily companion, and prayer, at least night and morning, your characteristic daily habit (2Tim.3.15; 1Thess.5.17).
3. Confess Christ at all times, and under all circumstances, by word, behaviour, or by silence (Lk.12.8,9,11; 2Tim.2.12,13; 1Pet.3.4).
4. Do not in public relate your experience, telling how good you are, how devoted, how holy; let the life tell (Ex.34.29; Ps.66.16; Phil.3.13-17).
5. Never go to meetings or join in amusements where you would not like the Lord to find you (Ps.17.4,5; 1Cor10.31; Titus 2.1-14).
6. Give up at once for Christ's sake, all habits, all ways unlike the Lord (1Pet.2.11; Eph.5.13-18; 4.22; 5.1-4).
7. Do not choose as companions any who are not distinctly on the Lord's side (Ps.1; Acts 4.23; 15.38-40).
8. Never ridicule or make fun of the mistakes or weaknesses of any, especially of Christians (Rom.14; Eph.4.2; 1Cor.12.21-26).
9. Avoid as you would the plague, all and every form of joking, jesting, and punning on the Word of God (Eph.5.4; Ps.119.22,63,103,133).
10. Make it a rule never to read books or periodicals, the writers of which do not regard the Bible as fully inspired (Jn.5.44-47; 1Cor.2.10-14; Rev.1.3).
11. Meet with your companions often for prayer and conversation on the Lord's things (Jude 20; Mal.3.16; Heb.10.24,25).
12. Watch and pray. Live only and wholly for Christ. Wait for God's Son from Heaven (Matt.26.41; 2Cor.5.15; Phil.1.20,21; 3.7-15).
(Reprinted from ‘Milk and Honey’)