"... reaching forth unto those things which are before ...
toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus
(Philippians 3:13-14)

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Vol. 7, No. 6, Nov. - Dec. 1978 EDITOR: Mr. Harry Foster

Editorial 101
The Riches And The Enrichment Of The Church In The Place Of Prayer 102
Chapter By Chapter Through Romans (14) 105
Epitaph Of A Man Of God 108
Learning From Leviticus (2) 112
A Matter Of Urgency (2) 114
The Silver Trumpets Of Redemption 116
A Pilgrim's Prayer (2) 118
Inspired Parentheses (16) ibc



NOT long ago a friend who wrote appreciatively of this magazine asked if I could occasionally include some notes about new books. Normally I do not feel competent to do this, but now a book called JONI has come into my hands and I must take the opportunity to recommend it very highly, especially to sufferers. In it a girl tells of how at seventeen she found herself with a broken back as the result of an accident while diving. Her life was miraculously saved, but the result of the blow on her head was that she became an incurable quadraplegic who has no feelings or movement below her neck. Suffering from extreme helplessness, she passed through agonizing emotions till at last she found full rest of heart in the One she already new as Saviour. The whole story is a remarkable testimony to the sufficiency of the love of Christ in the fiercest of trials.

I was greatly moved at the way in which she came to realise the perfect sympathy of the Lord Jesus in every circumstance. Many of us, with much lighter afflictions, find this a truth which is sometimes hard to grasp. This, however, is what she writes: "I discovered that the Lord Jesus could indeed empathise with my situation. On the cross for those agonising, horrible hours, waiting for death, He was immobilised, helpless, paralysed. Jesus did know what it was like not to be able to move -- not to be able to scratch your nose, shift your weight, wipe your eyes. He was paralysed on the cross. He could not move His arms or legs. Christ knew exactly how I feel." ( Page 96 )

The story covers nine years and contains some very important spiritual principles which Joni Eareckson learned in the fires of affliction. Humanly speaking, she owed everything to fellowship; not only the great kindness and care of many friends, but the spiritual fellowship in the Word which came from friends and family. As is so often the case, she had to pass through the experience when well-meaning Christians persuaded her into almost demanding healing and then feeling aggrieved with the Lord because she did not get it. "You're twisting God's arm," her sister wisely told her. Still she was unwilling to refrain from telling God what His will must be until Steve, an amazingly mature Christian student, again brought her help from the Word. When she was insisting that he should have faith for her to be healed he replied: "I believe it's God's will for everyone to be healed. But maybe we just can't agree as to timetable. I believe it is His will, but apparently it doesn't have priority over other things. You will be healed, but probably not till you receive your glorified body." (Page 177)

Having found perfect rest in the will of God, Joni has a powerful testimony to others. This is what she says about eternal values: "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of men, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. Sometimes I recall experiences of feeling -- of running through grassy fields, swimming in a cool, clear stream, climbing up a rugged mountain, riding a horse -- all the sensations I'd have on my feet. But God says that all of this together cannot compare with the glory and future reality He has prepared for me. The only thing we can take to heaven is our character. Our character is all we have to determine what kind of being we will be for all eternity. It's what we are that will be tested by fire. Only the qualities of Christ in our character will remain." (Page 193)

Joni makes no secret of her descents into unbelief and despair, but she makes it very clear that her deliverances and triumphs were a direct result of the working in her of the Word of God. This book is a remarkable testimony to the supreme value of the Holy Scriptures at all times. As you read it you will find how wonderfully the Bible helped Joni to find her all-sufficiency in Christ. She closes with a moving assertion that all the years of agony will have been well worthwhile to her if even only one person came to trust in Christ through her testimony. This is the spirit which we should all have as we, too, "run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith." [101/102]



J. Alec Motyer

Reading: 2 Chronicles 20:1-30

THERE may be some (though I doubt it) who would deny that there are resources and dimensions in prayer which remain unexplored, potentialities which are still unused. I feel sure that there is no church whose resources in prayer are not still largely untapped. It is a point on which most of us would admit great inadequacy. Many would be prepared to agree that their ministry would be more vital and their life richer if they prayed more. Unhappily it is true that whenever the question of prayer is raised among believers, hardly any time passes before the objection is made that of course there are other things we must do beside praying, but it is equally true that such people have very rarely prayed themselves to a standstill. Most of us feel that it would be fine to belong to a Church where such an objection only arose because all that could be done through prayer was exhausted.

I would like to suggest that this marvellous story about Jehoshaphat is a real enticement to pray. In the Scriptures there are all sorts of commandments to pray, but sometimes the mind becomes weary and responds no more to commands. Let us leave commandments and even invitations to pray and see if the Word of God will not hang out before us an enticing little morsel which will act as a bait. This is what the story does to me. I am sure that there are many other truths in a passage so rich and full as this, but we will content ourselves with allowing it to draw us by its sheer attractiveness, so that we may be drawn enthusiastically and with anticipation of good into the place where God hears and answers prayer. We pick out certain facts which show us the riches and the enrichment of the Church in the place of prayer.

1. Prayer's Effectiveness

See how the story begins and how it ends. "There came some that told Jehoshaphat, saying, There cometh a great multitude against thee ... and Jehoshaphat feared" (vv.2, 3) was the beginning of the chapter but at the end we are told: "The Lord made them to rejoice over their enemies, and the fear of God was on all the kingdoms of the countries" (vv.27 & 29). This was an amazing transformation. At the commencement the enemies of the people of God were triumphant while that people was in fear, whereas at the end of the story the enemies had been dispersed and the people of God were triumphant, with the surrounding nations alarmed at such evidence of the power of God at work in Israel. And all they did was to pray! The simple but impressive link between the beginning and the end of the story is that the king mobilised the people to the place of prayer.

2. Prayer's Priority

We notice the absolute priority of prayer in God's scheme of things. As a matter of fact Jehoshaphat was a considerable soldier who had gathered great military resources into his kingdom. At the time of chapter 20, even though he was afraid, he was by no means without military strength. We know by 17:12-14 that he had built fortifications, amassed armaments and was able to number brave and efficient armies. Now we know from the Scriptures that God does not disdain to allow His people to use the resources which He has let them have, and we know how He made use of the military skill of Joshua and the armies of David, even casting Himself in the role of Commander-in-Chief. Even on this occasion He gave the command: "Go ye down against them" (v.16), giving no indication that He disapproved of Jehoshaphat's military skill and resources for normal occasions.

This time, however, the Lord allowed Jehoshaphat and the people to see that although they had a force which could be mustered against another military force, He put their army to one side and directed their attention to a different kind of power. He wanted to teach them the priority of the place of prayer and to remind them that He is not dependent on human resources. The power of God on behalf of His people is not commensurate with those powers which He Himself allows His people to have at any given time. The real power, the totally effective power against the armies of the aliens, was not the military power of Israel but their power in the place of prayer. [102/103]

Without such prayer all would be lost. "Hearken unto me all Judah ... Thus saith the Lord unto you ... the battle is not yours but God's" (v.15). This is why the power of prayer is the power above all powers, without which nothing can be done -- the battle is not yours! If this battle were yours, then by all means you should take your army, face your enemy and go out and fight. But it is not yours! The battle is God's, and therefore the only way to conduct it is to get Him involved. Get Him on your side. Mobilise the heavenly forces. Oh, how God wants to show His people the priority of prayer in the battles of the Church. Without it all is lost, but with it, with the power of prayer, God acts in sovereign freedom to bring us victory.

3. Prayer's Liberty

It is wonderful to note the liberty we may have in prayer. Jehoshaphat was really in this trouble by reason of his own sinfulness. Like all believers Jehoshaphat had a besetting sin, and in his case it was the sin of compromise. He loved making alliances and treaties and meddling in other people's wars. "Jehu the seer went out to meet him, and said to king Jehoshaphat, Shouldest thou help the wicked, and love them that hate the Lord? For this thing wrath is upon thee from before the Lord" (19:2). Even after this great experience of Berachah he returned to his old failing, as can be seen at the end of chapter 20. In spite of the signal victory which God granted him, he went back again to his besetting sin.

What can a man do when his sin has not only brought him into trouble but into the particular trouble of coming under the wrath of God? He can still pray. Although his folly has alienated the face of God from him, the amazing fact is that he can still pray. That is the liberty which we have in prayer. That is the kind of God He is. I don't know who said it, but I have written in the margin of my Bible: "The only way to flee from God is to flee to Him". That is what God is like. So Jehoshaphat can come into the place of prayer, and into the place of effective prayer, as the story reveals. There is an open-swinging door which ever invites us to

Come, and come again to Thee,

With this, the empty sinner's only plea --

Thou lovest me.

4. Prayer's Discipline

"Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek unto the Lord; and he proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah" (v.3). That phrase "set himself" is a very vivid one. It means that he gave his face to seek the Lord. That is to say, he disciplined himself to become detached from all else that might preoccupy him to concentrate his gaze on the Lord, and this devoting of himself to exclusive attention to the Lord took the form of fasting. God expects us to set ourselves to look to Him alone and to take whatever measures we must in order to detach ourselves from the occupations and preoccupations of the day in order to be with Him. This is certainly true in the case of whole-time Christian workers, and it may be so in the world of all Christian believers. We spend our lives sacrificing the best for the sake of the good. We would agree that we sometimes sacrifice the good and the best for what is wrong, but leaving that aside for the moment, we fill our lives with so many good things that we haven't time for the best. And the best demands the discipline of prayer.

If you study the example of the Lord Jesus you will discover that He knew how to say, "No". He saw a multitude coming to Him, but He said, "No", and went into the mountain to pray. The apostles also learned how to say "No". We read in Acts 6 that when it was brought to their attention the fact that the Church was facing an acute need in the social realm because of needy folk being neglected, the apostles refused to get entangled. They speedily set about organising somebody else to do the work, saying that they must stick to their task of prayer and the ministry of the word. Brethren, we live by demands when we should live by priorities. We must learn to discipline ourselves and never sacrifice the best for the sake of the good, never yield to demands at the expense of God's priorities.

We see here the element of detachment: "Jehoshaphat set himself to seek unto the Lord; and he proclaimed a fast ..." (v.3). We have forgotten how to fast. We are so afraid of the misuse of fasting in a supposed heaping up of merit before God that we have thrown out the use along with the abuse. We are such a unity of spirit mind and body that the detachment of the body from the pace of life brings with it detachment of mind and separation unto the will of God. Hence the value of fasting.

5. Prayer's Fellowship

Jehoshaphat surrounded himself with a praying fellowship. Some told him, and he speedily told [103/104] others, with the result that "Jehoshaphat stood in the congregation" (v.4) and "All Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives and their children" (v.13). This points on to the blessed institution of the Prayer Meeting. We find that Jehoshaphat did not bear the prayer burden alone, but engaged in that most delightful of all forms of prayer, praying with a praying band. Do you know that delight? I admit that it is sometimes very hard to pray in a large Prayer Meeting, but do you know the delight of praying with a group of praying friends?

Jesus had a special benediction for that kind of praying group. "There am I in the midst," He affirmed, having already promised that if two agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, "It shall be done for them of my Father ..." (Matthew 18:19). Notice His emphasis on My Father. You feel that He is letting you into the family circle. He does not say just your Father, but My Father. "I know what He is like. I am here to tell you about Him. I can assure you that He just loves to honour the united prayer of His people."

James indicates that we should always have somebody with whom we can pray confidentially, somebody to whom a thing is told not for the purposes of tittle-tattle but for concerted prayer. And James tells us that there is healing in that context (James 5:16). When hearts are opened and confidences given and received in the place of prayer, then God's healing power is at work.

It is not for me to belabour you, but may I ask if you go to your church Prayer Meeting? Maybe you say that you are past it, too old to get out at that time of night. Well, do you invite an elderly friend to come in and pray with you during the morning? Or do we just allow the passing years to edge us out of the place of prayer? Sometimes young people argue that they cannot join in that Prayer Meeting for everybody is so old. What a feeble excuse! How old is God? What a blessing you are missing. See here the wisdom of Jehoshaphat in associating himself with a praying fellowship. They started in the place of fear and they ended in the place of triumph; and all they did was pray.

6. Prayer's Access

There are here a lovely set of expressions: He set himself, he gave his face "to seek unto the Lord" (v.3). They gathered themselves together "to seek help from the Lord" (v.4) and "they came to seek the Lord" (v.4). There are three distinct expressions: "To seek unto the Lord", "To seek from the Lord" and "To seek the Lord". They all speak of access, but indicate different motives in the access. Although the word "seek" is the ordinary verb of looking for something you have lost, it is not so used in this first expression; nevertheless it conveys the idea of earnest deliberation. It is not that you have lost the Lord. You know very well where He is; but you seek unto Him with that same determination that you would use if you were searching for a precious thing which you had lost. It reminds us of the determination with which the Church should come into His presence.

The second expression does not have the word "help" in the Hebrew, but simply speaks of seeking from the Lord. Seeking in fact whatever He would like to give -- because it is all in Him. The praying Church should keep in view the glorious truth that all the resources are in God and that He will dispose of them out of His infinite bounty according to the requirements of His sovereign purpose at the given time. The third expression tells of access just for the sake of being near to Him. They seek the Lord. They are in great trouble and just want to be where He is. He is their Friend. They may not even want to say anything to Him in this moment of need, they may be unable to speak, but they just want to be near their Friend, in the sure confidence that He both understands and sympathises. The people of God are bruised with anticipation of trouble, so they seek the Lord. They just want to be where He is. That is the access which prayer gives us.

So we have the story of a people who began with fear and ended with praise, the explanation being this six-fold blessedness of the place of prayer. We see that this place is:

i. A Place of Revelation. "Then upon Jahaziel ... came the Spirit of the Lord in the midst of the congregation; and he said ..." (vv.14-15). Do you ever complain to yourself that you are getting nothing out of your Bible reading? Actually that cannot be true. To prove it may I ask you what you had for your dinner last Wednesday week? You can't remember? Does that mean that it did you no good? Of course not. Don't misunderstand and confuse blessing [104/105] with consciousness of blessing. Feeding on the Word is not like retaining in your memory what was yesterday's menu. It is richer than that. To change the metaphor, the Word is not only like a street lamp or a car lamp -- it is also like a sun-ray lamp. It has healing in its rays. Every time we come before God's Word it ministers deep-ray therapy to us. We cannot come before this potent Book and depart unblest. So may I suggest that if you are not finding the Word of God giving you living revelation, that you first bring it into the place of prayer. While it is true that we sometimes need the Word in order to lead us into prayer, it may also be necessary to reverse the order, reminding ourselves that although this Word is so marvellous, it will remain dark to us unless we seek God about it.

ii. A Place of Transformation. The people were utterly transformed by coming into the place of prayer. "They stood up to praise the Lord, the God of Israel, with an exceedingly loud voice" (v.19). They went in fearful and they came out praiseful. Just watch that praise! It begins in the place of prayer but it is carried over into the place of battle (v.21) and it continues through into the place of victory (v.26). There is always this blessed "bonus" of transformation for those who work at prayer. We go into the place of prayer to give worship to God and to effect things in the world, seeking His activity on behalf of our friends and family and church, to find that God not only acts for us but gives us His royal bounty of transforming grace in our own lives. Jesus went up into the mountain to pray "and as he was praying, the fashion of his countenance was altered ..." (Luke 9:29).

iii. A Place of Accomplishment. "When they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set liers in wait against the children of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir ... and they were smitten" (v.22). All they did was to pray! Yet the enemy was completely overthrown. We do not know whether the "liers in wait" were another army which unexpectedly came on the scene. The Lord has every potentiality at His disposal and it may be that there was an unknown enemy waiting there by divine providence. Or He may have brought angelic forces into play. It does not matter. God works providential miracles and He works miracles! "When Judah came to the watchtower of the wilderness, they looked upon the multitude; and behold they were dead bodies fallen to the earth, and there were none that escaped" (v.24). What is more, the people were enriched (v.25), the Lord was glorified (v.26) and the world was impressed (v.29). Here is a four-fold harvest to be reaped by answered prayer. Are these four things happening in your church? Is the enemy being defeated? Are the people being enriched? Is God glorified? Is the world impressed? We work hard to achieve these four ends, using all manner of efforts to bring them to pass, and over and over again we find that our methods do not work. Perhaps our disappointing failure or our only partial success will be God's means to bring us more into the place of prayer. That is still God's priority for His Church.



Poul Madsen

14. LIFE IN THE SPIRIT (Chapter 8:1-11)

THE law always speaks about our work. The gospel speaks about the work of God or "the mighty works of God". In chapter seven, together with the apostle we moved within the sphere of the law and were exposed as wretched people. We were occupied with our work and we reached an impasse.

Now without any connecting link whatever with chapter seven, Paul proclaims the gospel, saying: "There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus". Why this abrupt opening? Because there is no link between the law and the gospel; you cannot glide from law to grace. A total break with one is essential to the one who would see and lay hold of the other. Earlier the writer said: "But now apart from the law (that is, without works of law on our part) a righteousness of God hath been manifested, being witnessed by the law ..." (3:21). In chapter seven he has shown that this righteousness is not improved or sustained through any works of law on our part, but on the contrary is in danger of disappearing if such [105/106] efforts are made. There is no contribution which works, even Christian works, can make to the divine power of the gospel.

Paul now leaves the first person singular. When he wrote about the power of sin in the flesh, he felt himself to be the chief of sinners and would not mask that fact by using the plural. Now, however, as he is writing about salvation, he does not feel himself to be the greatest of those saved, so he changes to the first person plural. It is true that some manuscripts use the word "me" in verse 2, but others do not, and in any case he does not hesitate to record that the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made even him free from the law of sin and death.

Having already told us that we should reckon ourselves to be "alive unto God in Christ Jesus" (6:11) and proclaimed that the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (6:23), Paul now proceeds to give us a thorough description of this life in Christ Jesus. He begins with an assurance that "there is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus" and closes with the assertion "there will be no separation from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord". Life in Christ Jesus is the same as life in the Spirit, so it is not surprising that the Spirit, who until now has only been mentioned sporadically, is referred to about twenty-five times in Chapter 8. This emphasises that we no longer have to do with the law and our own works, but with Christ and His living power.

FOR those who are in Christ Jesus there can be no condemnation, since there can certainly be no condemnation for Him. In any case, the only one who has the right to condemn them is the Christ who has died for them, and in His risen glory intercedes for them instead of condemning them. For those who are in Christ Jesus condemnation as a reality cannot exist, but this does not mean that on occasions they may not feel condemned. Freedom from condemnation is linked with being free from the law of sin and death (v.2) and there are times when we do not feel that this is so. Can it be, then, that when we do not sin there is no condemnation, but that condemnation comes upon us when we err in thought, word or deed? If this were so, surely none of us would enjoy the true liberating power of the gospel in our consciences, and especially those who are more sensitive would suffer constant hurt. We must go back to the clear statement of God's Word which is that "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and death". This is not a promise for the future but a statement of what has already happened. It is not the believer's work but the work of Christ for him. And it is finished!

At this time Paul did not know the Roman Christians personally. He only knew that they belonged to the Lord. Since this was so, however, he also knew that they were set free from the law of sin and death, for this is what the death of the Lord Jesus has secured for all Christians. "For what the law could not do, God did ..." (verse 3 Danish), "... sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, condemned sin in the flesh ...". Here is a wealth of gospel truth compressed into the shortest possible form.

It was impossible for the law to set us free from the law of sin and death. Although in itself spiritual and perfect, it was powerless because of the flesh. Its appeal calls forth sin even in the best disposed person, indeed even in a Christian. The gospel of God, however, is good tidings to slaves telling them what God has done to set them at liberty. He did it when He sent His Son "in the likeness of sinful flesh", that is, He sent the Son into sin's own domain, for the flesh is sin's domain, where sin reigns undisturbed and has all men in its power. Note, though, that the apostle does not say that God sent His Son in sinful flesh, for there was no sin in the last Adam; but chooses the expression "in the likeness of sinful flesh" to stress that the Son of God became fully and completely a man, subject to human conditions, and so went into the area ruled over by sin and death to conquer them in their own home ground. The apostle adds: "and for sin" (Danish , "for the sake of sin") and by His sacrificial death "condemned sin in the flesh". The thought is that those who are in Christ Jesus cannot be under condemnation, for the sin which would condemn them has itself been condemned by the cross, so that its former slaves have now been set free from its tyranny. This is what God has done for those who are "in Christ Jesus".

PAUL pictures sin and man as two adversaries in a court of law. The Judge is God and so the sentence is not open to appeal. Man is represented by the Man Christ Jesus, who came in the likeness of sinful flesh, was exposed to all the attacks of sin, but completely triumphed. All [106/107] sin's demands upon man are therefore rejected. The sentence pronounced is that man is acquitted while sin is condemned. The sentence goes against sin: it is condemned. Christ, however, is completely exonerated: He is guiltless. It therefore follows that there can be no condemnation for those who are in Him.

It is noteworthy that the Danish translators speak of a "death sentence upon sin in the flesh". The court case had to end either with a death sentence upon man or a death sentence upon sin. Christ won the case for man, who is consequently not sentenced to death but fully acquitted. Man, guilty in himself and with no other expectation than that of condemnation unto death , receives in Christ the opposite sentence, acquittal or justification unto life, whereas it is sin which receives the death sentence.

This is what lies behind Paul's expression: "the law of the Spirit of life" (v.2). From his own experience, he speaks of your standing in a court of law opposed by an accuser (sin) which has all the arguments on its side and, being unable to offer a defence, you await with horror the apparently inevitable death sentence. Then Christ steps forward and presents your case. You are acquitted, indeed you are fully justified, and you are led out of the court not to be executed but to live -- you are "justified unto life" (5:18). It is like being led from hell to heaven, from despair to joy, from darkness to the light of a new life. This new life is filled by the Spirit of God which means that it is now ruled by a new law, a new power, which is the direct opposite of the old law of sin and death. So in this context it is obvious that when he uses the word "law" Paul does not refer to a code of regulations but to a new principle of life which applies spontaneously.

In accord with this, his words in verse 4 about God condemning sin in the flesh, do not speak of the ordinance of the law being fulfilled by us, but rather in us "who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit". Note the evangelical form of the words! He does not write that the demand of the law is fulfilled by us if we do not walk after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Such a statement would cast man back upon himself and disturb him with doubts and fears. The evangelical fact is that we no longer live after the flesh (v.9. See also 7:5), and therefore, thanks to the work of Christ for us, we do not walk after the flesh but after the Spirit. This method of expression avoids turning the reader in upon himself and makes him glad and confident as he walks in simple faith and confidence in the Lord. Everything from beginning to end is the work of God for him in Christ Jesus. That is the gospel!

PAUL now concentrates on describing this great contrast between the flesh and the Spirit. This is especially important in view of what he had said about the wretched man in chapter 7. "The flesh" is an expression which has its roots in the Old Testament and describes the power which natural man can muster without God. When Israel was tempted to seek help from Egypt which seemed so strong, the prophet warned that "The Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses (strength and power) flesh, and not spirit" (Isaiah 31:3). The flesh which Paul was describing in Romans 7 was natural man at his best, wanting to do the will of God, striving to fulfil His law. His verdict upon that is that in his flesh there dwelt no good thing. In himself he found no good power which could enable him to fulfil God's law. On the other hand the basic thought which the Old Testament reveals is that the Spirit is inseparably connected with God's supernatural power. When by salvation a man receives the Spirit of God, this means that there comes into his life the power to work in him what he could never do by himself -- love as God loves.

So it is that Paul now writes: "For those who allow themselves to be led by the Spirit, desire what is spiritual" (v.5 Danish). At first glance this may seem to contradict what he said about himself in chapter 7 about willing to do good: "To will is present with me". This is not so, for although he had a desire to do good, his real longing was the flesh and the real driving force of his nature was sin. This is inevitable for all who walk after the flesh, that is to say, trust in their own ability. "For the mind of the flesh is death." Paul does not say that the flesh desires death, but that the desire of the flesh is death. He does not even say that the mind of the flesh leads to death, but makes a much more radical statement that the desire of the flesh is synonymous with death. As a direct opposite he does not say merely that the Spirit desires life and peace or even that the desire of the Spirit will eventually lead to life and peace if it has not yet done so. Once again he postulates a fact; the [107/108] mind of the Spirit is synonymous with life and peace. "So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God" (v.8). Jesus had already sought to impress this point on Nicodemus, when He said: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit" (John 3:6). It is also made clear in John's Gospel that what is "born of the will of the flesh" or "of the will of man" has no acceptance in the family of God (John 1:13).

THIS raises the question: Are we in the flesh or in the Spirit? It is a matter of death or life, of enmity against God or acceptance with Him, of God's displeasure and wrath or His pleasure and friendship. Paul answers without hesitation: "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit" (v.9). He goes on to explain that this is because the Spirit of God dwells in you, as He certainly does if you are a true child of God. The apostle moves easily from "The Spirit" to "The Spirit of God" and further to "The Spirit of Christ" in verse 9 and then identifies all this with "Christ in you" in the following verse. This corresponds with his statement that the last Adam became a life-giving Spirit (1 Corinthians 15:45). Naturally this does not mean that he was at all confused doctrinally about Christ and the Holy Spirit, as though he were not able to differentiate between the Persons of the Godhead, but simply that he wishes to indicate that the experience of the Holy Spirit is the same as the experience of Christ. This is of enormous importance, for it makes very evident that the experience of the Holy Spirit is not a sort of magical activity of supernatural powers in the soul-life. So it is that John advises us to try every spirit by comparing it with Jesus as He is described in the Gospels (1 John 4:2-3). If a spirit differs from the historical Jesus, it is not of God. The Holy Spirit brings us into the most personal and direct vital contact with the living Christ, so Paul is fully justified in continuing his argument with the words: "If Christ is in you ...". The sum of being in the Spirit and having the Spirit in us is to have Christ in us, which is precisely the same as being "in Christ" (v.1). All these expressions speak of the basic fact that God has taken us out of our relationship to the old Adam and made us members of the body of Christ, to share in His fullness (See Colossians 2:9-10).

Being thus, spirit, soul and body, drawn into Christ and co-heirs with Him in all His glory, naturally has consequences for our earthly life here and now. The next section of the chapter will describe these.

(To be continued)


Harry Foster

"It is the man of God who was disobedient unto the mouth of the Lord "
(1 Kings 13:26)

KING JOSIAH was one of the best of Judah's kings. He lived in those twilight "last days" before the captivity, but he lived wholly for the Lord, especially after the Book of God was discovered among the rubbish in the Temple ruins and read to him. His reforming zeal took him as far as Bethel, and there he executed the judgment of God on the false alter which Jereboam had erected long before. Seeing a cemetery near by, he had the inspiration to express God's abomination of that altar by disinterring the bones which lay there and burning them on it as a symbol of utter pollution of its wicked worship. Among the various graves, he observed a special sepulchre of great antiquity and enquired of the locals what it was. The reply was astounding: "It is the sepulchre," the bystanders explained, "of the man of God which came from Judah and proclaimed these things which thou hast done against the altar of Bethel" (2 Kings 23:17). More than three hundred years before, an unnamed man of God had foretold in detail what the king had just done and even mentioned his name, Josiah. The king was solemnised at this further discovery of the power of God's sacred Word and gave the order: "Let him alone; let no man move his bones".

The A. V. says that the king's question was: "What title is this that I see?" but the R. V. [108/109] reads: "What monument is that which I see?" The latter is probably more correct, but if it had been a written epitaph, how would its words have read? So far as men were concerned it must just have commemorated the man's fame as an amazingly accurate prophet. That is what the men of Bethel had never forgotten, and in a sense it is good that only his success was perpetuated. The Word of God, however, gives us the whole story and leaves us with the inevitable conclusion that the divine epitaph would have to be something like this: "Here lie the bones of the man of God who failed to achieve a fulfilled life". When the first news of his death reached Bethel, he was rightly identified as "the man of God who was disobedient unto the mouth of the Lord".

As a matter of fact it was a double grave, as the divine chronicler records (2 Kings 23:18), so the further addition would have to be: "and also the bones of the prophet that brought him back from the way" (1 Kings 13:26). The history of this old prophet was one of unrelieved tragedy and will not occupy us now, but we must believe that this story of the fate of the unnamed man of God was written for a purpose and is intended for our spiritual profit. It is therefore worth taking a closer look at what happened.

UNDOUBTEDLY he was a true man of God. The phrase is used no less than fifteen times to describe him, and the first part of his story amply confirms that description. At the command of God he travelled from Judah into what was really enemy territory, and there he boldly delivered the message committed to him. What is more, God confirmed his message, both in the short term and in the long. He acted immediately by the sign of the disintegration of the false altar (1 Kings 13:5). This is the proof that a man is God-sent, when his words are confirmed by divine action (Deuteronomy 18:22). There could be no doubt about his divine commission. In his case there was also an amazing long-term vindication of his prophecy, for over three hundred years later there did come a king named Josiah who defiled the evil altar with dead men's bones. So far, then, this man was seen to be a true successor to Moses, who was the first prophet to be called "the man of God" (Deuteronomy 33:1).

Furthermore he met with swift hostility from the rebel Jereboam, who put out his hand against him in enmity. It is a good sign when the world hates one of God's servants -- the opposition proves the legitimacy of their calling. Not that God allowed the violent king to achieve his purpose. Far from it! He proved that this was His man by miraculously protecting him: "The hand which he put forth against him dried up, so that he could not draw it back again to him" (v.4). No man of God need fear his enemies, for if God's word is like a sharp sword in his mouth, then he will be hidden in the shadow of God's hand (Isaiah 49:2).

Yes, he was certainly a man of God and now we come to a further proof of that fact. He was willing to pray for his enemy. Many of us might have felt so elated at such a spectacular deliverance that we would have been well content to see it perpetuated by having an enemy with a permanently paralysed arm. There is something mean in our make-up that can find satisfaction in God's judgment upon others (though never upon ourselves), and this would have made us prefer to see the wrong-doer carry around evidence of how God had smitten him and protected us. The true man of God is not like that. When Jereboam asked for help by prayer, this man readily prayed for him and was as readily answered by his merciful God. The hand was healed. The status of the man of God was the more secured by the evidence that God answered his prayers.

One further matter arises. Will such a man accept any glory for himself? This man had one more commandment given to him by God and it was that he should refuse all offers of hospitality and return home by a different route (v.9). God knows Satan's tactics. He knows that when he cannot frighten a man by threats, the Devil will seek to corrupt him by flattery. This ploy is as old as the Garden of Eden and through the centuries it has served Satan well, though it completely failed in the case of the Lord Jesus. For the moment it failed with this man, too. When King Jereboam passed from threats of destruction to offers of patronage, saying: "Come home with me and refresh thyself, and I will give thee a reward" (v.7), he refused. The man of God did not have to understand the subtlety of the invitation: He only needed to be obedient to the mouth of the Lord. So he was able to keep free from the snare by explaining his divine instructions to the king, refusing the royal offer, and selecting a different route for his homeward journey. So far, so good. It was a critical moment, but the trick failed. [109/110]

AFTER this he perhaps made his first mistake. I may be wrong, but I have the idea that by sitting down under an oak tree and perhaps feeling just a little sorry for himself, he made himself more vulnerable to the next temptation when it caught up with him (v.14). There is no need to charge the old prophet with deliberate collaboration with the tempter. Anyone walking in the flesh is a suitable tool for the Evil One, even though his intentions may not be bad. This man's intentions, though, were not so good, for they were utterly selfish. He clearly wanted to have some occasion for boasting, even if it were only second-hand. Almost invariably, those who glory in a man manage to extract a little glory for themselves by so doing.

He is called "an old prophet", possibly because of spiritual rather than physical decrepitude. He was the man who should have been available to speak up for God when Jereboam led Israel astray. But he was a spiritual back number, as ineffective in Bethel as Lot had been in Sodom. The Lord was obliged to send a man from distant Judah, leaving this old prophet with the sad distinction of having deviated the man of God from the way of God's will. No doubt it was all excitement in that home when the old prophet's sons came bursting in with the news of the happenings at Bethel's false altar. They must have reported the whole story to their father, including the complete repudiation of the reward offered by Jereboam. It so happened that they had taken note of the new route adopted by the man of God, and this was enough for their excited father to demand an instant saddling of his ass so that he could set out post haste to ensure that the eminent servant of God should not go unrewarded. He was conceited enough to imagine that whereas an invitation from Jereboam might be unacceptable, he could presume on his standing as a prophet to go one better. He felt that he should have the right to entertain this man of God, and perhaps to gain some reflected glory from having done so.

Even on his donkey, would he have caught up with him if the man of God had kept moving? I doubt it. For that reason I wonder whether it was unwise to linger so long in the vicinity of his triumph. Even so, he had no need to be trapped. He had his orders from God. The unscrupulous old prophet invented a message which did not come from God but only from his own deceitful heart. Was the man of God really deceived? Perhaps he was, for it is sometimes possible for God to change His instructions. This, however, was most unlikely, and he ought to have demanded something more than the old prophet's self-recommendation before imagining that God's will had changed in this way. Or was there an element of persuasiveness in the old man's words which half hinted that one can always stretch a point on the quiet when it is only a matter between brothers? Is it possible that the man of God, like Adam before him, was not really deceived but disobeyed with his eyes open (1 Timothy 2:14)? In this case, as with Adam, the transgression may not appear all that grave, but it was an affront to God's expressed will, and met with dire consequences. Clearly God held this man of His culpable for his action and did not find it possible to overlook his deviation.

I ASK myself, How was it that such a Spirit-endued messenger of God should offend in this way? I think that perhaps I find the answer in my own heart. It was because he liked the praise of men. Who of us does not? It is hard to serve God faithfully and get no recognition at all. It goes against the grain to have not a single mark of appreciation when we have toiled sacrificially in God's service. We can boldly refuse this world's rewards, but when God's people want to give us recognition we crave for just a little self-glory. Was this the man of God's fault? Superficially it might seem to have been just a small act of disobedience. Not that disobedience to God's revealed will can ever be small. I suggest, though, that the real cause of God's displeasure with His servant was that he succumbed to the temptation of letting people make something of him, instead of giving all the glory to God.

The lion somehow suggests a conflict with the sovereign lordship of the Lord. There can be no doubt that there were features about it which were most unusual. It killed the man of God and yet spared his ass. It remained by the carcase, yet never molested the passers-by who carried the message back to Bethel. It did not challenge the old prophet when he came to collect the ass and the corpse. The whole episode reveals what can only be described as an act of God.

IT was a costly lapse. It meant, as the old prophet so rightly announced, that this man's history with God would fail to reach full fulfilment. He would never be buried with his own [110/111] people (v.22), and that to a Jew cast a shadow on his place in history. It is obvious that he was interred with special honours, and his grave marked by the erection of some monument which perpetuated in Bethel the record of the work which he had done for God. Nevertheless he missed something which was precious to every pious Jew: "thy carcase shall not come into the sepulchre of thy fathers". Through the lips of the unworthy and untruthful old prophet God pronounced this sentence on His erring servant. The tragedy was not that he died; but that his life was cut short of true fulfilment and his grave was distant from his own family.

To us this might seem a very insignificant matter. Most of us care little where or how we are buried. It has no connection with our eternal destiny and we seldom give a thought to it. To the Jew, however, the place and manner of a man's burial formed a kind of verdict on the value of his life. "They buried him in the city of David among the kings" (2 Chronicles 24:16), was the divine evaluation of Jehoida the priest, expressing the great honour given to one who was not a king in men's eyes but had reached a royal status by his devotion to God's house. On the other hand it was foretold of Jehoiakim, the son of Josiah, that "he shall be buried with the burial of an ass ... beyond the gates of Jerusalem" (Jeremiah 22:19). These are two extremes. The man of God fell somewhere between them. He was not without honour, for he was a man of God, but yet he failed to attain to God's full purpose for him. This is written down in the Word of God for our sakes. It at least suggests that Paul had this kind of shortcoming in mind when he expressed concern lest after having been God's herald here on earth, he should still fail to gain the prize which ought to have been his (1 Corinthians 9:27).

This man's exploits were memorable. His sepulchre was of some considerable honour. Yet his epitaph must be that he failed to attain. His story must have been told as a kindly warning to every man or woman of God. It was not enough that he spoke God's Word faithfully to others, that he proved God's power through the Word, that he was miraculously protected and that his prayer was answered in a spectacular way. It was not enough that he refused to accept the world's invitation to compromise. He needed also to have a humble and obedient walk with God. And in this he failed. He need not have done so, and nor need we, for the key to success is always the Word of God. Provision has been made there for a completely fulfilled life and ministry.

"ALL Scripture is God-breathed, and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness; that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The story of the failure at Bethel provides us with reproof or correction. Can we find another which will instruct us rightly so that we may not come short of spiritual fulfilment? We can. We now turn to another man of God whose end was very different. His name was Elisha. It is just a coincidence, but a very happy one, that whereas the 13th chapter of First Kings offers this sombre warning, the 13th chapter of Second Kings cheers us with a glorious contrast. Once again we stand by the sepulchre of a man of God, and once again we imagine what might have been his God-given epitaph. It would read: "Here lie the bones of a man of God whose ministry of life reached full fulfilment".

More than any other in the Bible, Elisha is described as a "man of God". It is apparent that when, in company with his master, he first visited the groups of believers known as "sons of the prophets" he was perhaps pitied and certainly patronised by them. All knew that Elijah was a man of God; he even looked the part (2 Kings 1:8). Elisha, however, was so unassuming that the village louts called him "baldhead". He was only known as "the man who poured water on the hands of Elijah" (2 Kings 3:11). Yet from the time when a widow was delivered from her penury until the time of his last mortal illness when his physical condition was superceded by the robustness of his faith in God (2 Kings 13:19), he is described again and again as "the man of God". There was no mistaking the spiritual power which emanated from him. So potent and varied were the expressions of God's power through him that we might almost imagine that he had some special resources which are not available to us. To avoid any misunderstanding on this point, and to make very clear the true source of his life-giving ministry, we are informed of a final miracle which happened after he had died. A corpse was raised to life simply by contact with his remains (2 Kings 13:21). [111/112] Not by any activity of Elisha but just by touching his bones, the man received new life. Clearly, then, it was proved to all that this man of God had attained complete fulfilment. There was no cessation of the ministry of life in his case.

WE are given no location of Elisha's sepulchre. No visible monument was erected over his bones. But he had something better than an ornamental plaque or a human epitaph -- he had the supreme honour of being involved in a ministry of life and blessing which continued even after he had gone. And that to us speaks of the eternal values of a fulfilled life. Like the other man of God, Elisha was offered grateful recognition. The cleansed and believing Naaman urged him to take a present ("blessing" Margin), but the reply of the man of God was: "As the Lord liveth, before whom I stand, I will receive none" (2 Kings 5:16). We are told that Naaman urged him to take it -- "but he refused". Was this, then, Elisha's secret? Elisha kept close to the Lord right through to the end.

The Word of God can only be "God-breathed" to us if we keep very close to Him. As He breathes out, we must breathe in. To do this, and to keep on doing it right through to the end is the way by which the man of God may find his complete spiritual fulfilment. What will our epitaph be?



Arthur E. Gove


Reading: Leviticus 2

THIS is the second of the "sweet savour" offerings. The Burnt Offering showed us the Godward aspect of Christ's death upon the cross, emphasising the meaning of that offering to God Himself. This is also an offering primarily for God, though the greater part of it was also used for food. It is often called the Meat Offering, in the old sense of the word which refers to food, but there was no sacrifice of an animal nor shedding of blood. It is, in fact, the Meal Offering.

Perhaps a word of warning may be inserted here, and that is to the effect that we must confine ourselves to discovering what we can of the Lord Jesus in this Scripture. The danger in studying Old Testament types is that we can put unwarranted emphasis on every word instead of concentrating on what is said of the Lord Jesus. There is a satirical couplet which has some truth in it:

Wonderful things in the Bible I see,

Some put there by you and some put there by me.

And it was C. S. Lewis who remarked that "What we see when we think we are looking into the depths of Scripture may sometimes be the reflection of our own silly face". We want to avoid anything fanciful and concentrate all our gaze on this as one of the five-fold aspects of Christ our Offering.

AS in the Burnt Offering, the whole purpose of this offering was acceptance and not sacrificing for sin. In this case there was no shedding of blood at all, though it was still an offering by fire. The thrust of its meaning seems to be the way in which Christ's life here on earth was lived for God on our behalf. If the Burnt Offering portrayed what the death of Christ meant to the Father, then the Meal Offering shows us what His holy life meant. It is a very beautiful type of Christ as He lived and walked and served here on earth as the perfect Man. Just as the Burnt Offering was to be "without blemish" so this one was to be without leaven (v.11). In this case we see Christ not as the "sin bearer" but as the One who presented His perfect humanity and all associated with it to the Father, and it was in this connection that the verdict from heaven upon this lovely Son was that the Father was well pleased with Him.

The perfection of that life is emphasised by the finely ground flour which was to be used. To be a perfect offering it was necessary that there should be no lumpiness, no unevenness, no coarse grain, but smoothness and evenness in all things. This was exactly how the Lord Jesus lived here for God. One day's walk never contradicted another and in Him every grace was full and yet perfectly balanced with all the others. With Him there was never a virtue [112/113] wanting nor ever one carried to excess. His gentleness was never weakness; His firmness was never obstinacy; His calmness never coldness or indifference. There was a perfect blending together of every grace in the human life of Jesus.

A FURTHER feature of this offering was that oil was poured upon it (v.1) and mingled with it (v.4). Oil is, of course, typical of the Holy Spirit and in its use for the Meal Offering we are reminded of the presence and working of the Holy Spirit in the Man Jesus. He was conceived by the Spirit, indwelt by the Spirit and anointed by Him -- hence the title "Christ". "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power" (Acts 10:38) so that the consequent earthly life lived by Him and the expression of perfect manhood in and through Him were all due to the Spirit's power. We see, therefore, the wonderful symbolism of pure, fine flour with the mingling of the oil.

But this was not all. The command was: "and put frankincense thereon" (v.1). We can say that if the oil typifies the power of Christ's perfect human life, then frankincense points to the objective of that life, namely the satisfaction and the glory of God. He did everything by the power of God and He did everything to the glory of God. Frankincense is the most precious of all perfumes whose full fragrance is brought out when it is submitted to the flames. So it was that the more tried Jesus was, the more He endured the contradiction of sinners against Himself, the more was every outgoing of His life sweet with a fragrance which brought satisfaction to the Father's heart. Because of the effects of the fire, honey was forbidden (v.11). Honey indeed is also sweet but when exposed to heat it ferments and spoils. For this reason it could not form a part of Christ's perfect Meal Offering. In His case there was no change or diminution of the sweet savour of His life. No word that He ever spoke was ever withdrawn or needed to be modified. No misstatement or half-truth ever crossed His lips. He never needed nor sought advice from the wisest men of His day; He never made any confession of sin, though so sensitive about it; He never explained His conduct, even when He was misunderstood or misrepresented, as He might have been when He fell asleep in the boat or when He failed to go at once to the help of the sisters of Bethany. What is more, He never asked others to pray for Him.

A FURTHER ingredient for the Meal Offering was the salt (v.13). This seems to stand over against the forbidden leaven, for while the latter speaks of corruption, salt is the great enemy of corruption and symbol of preserved purity. The balance of Christ's character was never disturbed or readjusted. Without blemish or deviation He perfectly fulfilled the will of God. In His life there was nothing to mar or diminish the sweetness of savour to the Father. The command was: "neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meal offering". In His case it never was lacking. There is no end to the faithfulness of God's covenant as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. Later on, God's people are enjoined that their conversation should be with grace and always seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6). In a unique way, the Lord put into practice this purity of speech and life.

This offering was for the most part eaten by the priests. It is notable that the offerer had nothing for himself. The offering was made "unto the Lord" for it was in that perfect life of obedience that Christ offered to the Father His portion and satisfaction. Since the priests were to eat, however, we can rightly say that Christians who have been made spiritual priests are thereby capacitated to feed on Christ in all His perfections. This is the privilege of the true worshipper, though unhappily it is all too seldom entered into. We know that the unforgiven sinners can see no beauty in the Lord Jesus that they should desire Him. But it is only too possible that Christians who fail to enter into their calling as priests and to come into the holy place, may go hungry spiritually and miss the joys of feeding on Christ as their Meal Offering.

IT is important to realise that the Meal Offering was only made by one who was already living in the good of the Sin Offering and the shedding of blood. The Bible story opens with the two brothers who brought their offerings to the Lord: "In the process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the fatlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and his offering: but unto Cain and his offering he had not respect" (Genesis 4:3-5). Cain's offering was a "Meal Offering" for which there was no blood shedding. His mistake was to think that he could satisfy the claims of his [113/114] God by his own human effort. Not only is this impossible for us but it is also true that we cannot find acceptance with God on the basis of Christ's Meal Offering, though His life was perfect. For us salvation is not found only in the life that Jesus lived but in the life that He laid down in death on our behalf. His holy life was necessary. It proved that He was the only One who because of His perfect fulfilment of the divine law was able to be a sacrifice for men's sins.

It is clear, therefore, that without the blood sacrifice of the Lord Jesus no man can be a true Christian. It should be equally clear that those who do trust in the sacrifice of the cross should also learn to appreciate and feed upon the absolute obedience of Christ and His perfection. And this appreciation should be in life as well as in thoughts and words. The Meal Offering was the work of men's hands, the fruits of the ground, the result of human cultivation, preparation and manufacture and therefore becomes to us a symbol of service offered. This service is to be free from the leaven of hypocrisy, selfish motives and malice. It is to be the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. How important, then, for us to be always learning more of Christ, receiving more of His virtues as we feed on Him, and offering as only blood-bought believers can, the pure worship and service of lives lived in the power of the Spirit of Christ.

(To be continued)


(Studies in John's Gospel. Chapters 13-17)

John H. Paterson


IN our last study I suggested that, in order to appreciate the events and the words recounted for us in John 13-17, we have to take note of their context: of the Lord's imminent arrest and separation from His disciples (of which He knew, although they did not), and of the sense of urgency which this knowledge must have given Him on that evening. There were so many "last words" and final instructions to be spoken. He would wish to make the best possible use of the few remaining moments.

In the event, as we saw, the Lord Jesus divided the time between four different activities: example, explanation, exhortation and intercession. Of these, He gave first place (13:15) to example.

In education we have become familiar with the term "visual aid". What that means in plain language is that we remember something which we have seen as well as heard better than something that has merely been explained to us. Countless surveys of the difference in impact between television and radio have made that clear. The Gospel writer himself seems to have been aware of it, for he began his first epistle, "that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands ...". It is not surprising, therefore, that so skilled a Teacher as the Lord Jesus should make use of this kind of teaching aid.

Everything about this incident is well known, except the answer to the question: Why did He use just one visual aid; this one in particular? We have marvelled, time and time again, at the condescension of the Lord Jesus. We have followed the story, knowing the background: that the washing of the disciples' feet arose from the circumstances that, on the way home from the baths, a person's feet would get dirty again, so that the feet -- but only the feet -- would need to be washed a second time on arrival. We know that it was the servant's task to see to this. We know, too, that in this incident we can see pictured the cleansing work of Christ, who washed us once and for all clean from our sins, but who also cleanses us day by day. And we can imagine that the disciples would not have been thinking of any such spiritual symbolism; they would have been recalling the arguments they had had about who should be greatest. To them, the example must have appeared first and foremost as a rebuke.

About all this, there is little new to be said: we can only wonder at the graciousness which guided our Saviour in His actions that night. But [114/115] we are left with the question of why He chose this one example to leave with them. Why not remind them, say, of how to change water into wine, or stones into bread? Why not demonstrate once again the method of casting out evil spirits (which, as we now know, they were going to do often enough in the days ahead)? This feet-washing was surely a curious -- indeed, a totally unexpected -- choice of "visual aid"! It certainly took the disciples aback.

I have been asking myself this question, and have three answers to suggest. To give them labels of a sort, we may say that Jesus did what He did on account of:

1. The power structure in the Church

2. The temptation of power

3. The task before the Church.

The Power Structure in the Church

By His example, Jesus made it clear that in His kingdom there will never be a higher rank than servant. During His earthly ministry, His disciples had deferred to Him as "Lord and Teacher" (13:13) and He acknowledged and approved their recognition of a difference in rank. The only question was: what rank did this represent? What the example showed was that the top rank in the hierarchy of God's men on earth, the apex of what we should nowadays call the "power structure", was a servant. Everybody else was in a much lower rank than that.

John in his account adds an extra dimension. Notice his marginal comment on this incident: "Jesus knowing ... that he had come from God and was going to God" (v.3). What struck John afterwards was that this was not just a teacher and rabbi performing, incredibly, the servant's task. There were plenty of teachers in Israel. But this was much more -- a Man from God who, even as He washed their feet, was already beginning His return journey to God. And this was how He behaved!

We can see what a problem this posed for the disciples, and we can guess how uncomfortable they must have felt, for we can feel this same discomfort by merely reading of the incident; by merely picturing the Son of God taking upon Himself the servant's role. If this is His place in the hierarchy, wherever must we stand?

I think that Jesus chose this as His example because He knew that, with His own departure, the question was bound immediately to arise, "Who gives the orders now?" His own authority among them had been virtually unchallenged. The new authority was to be the Holy Spirit -- but the Holy Spirit working through men. The Holy Spirit has not, in practice, exercised His power apart from people. The search for a form of fellowship or church in which nobody exercises any authority and the Spirit does it all has proved illusory.

This meant that there would have to be a "power structure". However small or local the expression of Christ's presence in His people, power and authority would have to be exercised; it would not operate in a vacuum. And we know to our cost that this has been the source of so many of the Church's defeats. It cannot exist without power being channelled through it; yet those in whose hands the power has lain, or the authority been placed, have still been arguing the very points which confronted the first disciples, "Who?" and "How?"

So the Lord Jesus defined the terms on which power was to be exercised -- it was to be done by servants. The men and women whom the Holy Spirit would use in the future as channels for His power would need to conform to the prescription. He had given them an example.

The Temptation of Power

Just as the first question which would arise after His departure was that of power or authority, so He foresaw that the first temptation to which His followers would be subject would be that of their misuse. For that matter, the misuse had already started! They had outlawed a man who was casting out demons in Jesus' name for no better reason than that they did not know him, and they were offering to call down fire on all and sundry to ensure a welcome for Jesus (Luke 9:49, 54). To be called into membership of the little group that surrounded Him, and given a taste of what it meant to cast out evil spirits or walk on water, had already provoked them to pride and jealousy. We can sympathise with them, for we recognise the symptoms. It is not, normally, the man with heavy responsibilities and real command who "throws his weight about", but the person who is tasting authority for the first time -- the minor dignitary or the newly-promoted official.

But just because these reactions were so natural, they were to be the source of endless trouble in the days ahead. To realise this, we [115/116] have only to take note of the amount of space in the epistles which is occupied by the subject of authority, its exercise and the rivalries it produces. Without this temptation to abuse power or resent its proper exercise, the two epistles to the Corinthians would hardly have been necessary; that to the Galatians would have lost much of its point and all of its dramatic climax -- the confrontation of Peter and Paul -- while the Colossians would have put Christ first and forgotten the rules and regulations to which they submitted -- and so on. Not only that but the real, present-day fellowship of God's people whom we ourselves know would have been spared untold sorrow, division and loss. Think of a church that has got into difficulties, and nine times out of ten you are thinking of a situation in which the key issue was authority. Somebody claimed that the Holy Spirit had given him authority, but nobody else could see it. Or somebody complained about the way the leadership exercised authority and challenged its right to do so.

How clearly the Lord must have anticipated this sad course of history as He gave priority to this lesson, and took the towel and the water. "I am among you as he that serveth."

The Task Before the Church

I think that a third reason why Jesus chose this example lay in the nature of the task He was calling upon them to fulfil. It was a task in which the factor of greatest importance was going to be their relationships -- to Himself certainly, but also to one another. When we come later to consider His prayer for them, of course, we shall notice again the importance He attached to the subject. This was a task whose dimensions Paul was later to spell out in his letter to the Ephesians and he, too, would stress this point. It was not to be thought of as primarily an individual thing, but as a collective effort; it was what they did together that would count: "that now unto principalities and powers in heavenly places might be made known by the church the manifold wisdom of God".

Fulfilment of God's purpose in His Church involves a particular relationship between its members. And to sustain that relationship, as Paul reminded the Ephesians, special qualities are needed. They are lowliness, meekness, forbearance and patience (Ephesians 4:2). To exercise authority while still maintaining all those qualities is God's call to His people. This lesson took pride of place on that last evening together.

What a difficult lesson it is! The disciples -- or two of them, at least -- found it so and reacted accordingly. Peter objected, and tried first one alternative and then another. It made no sense to him; he would have preferred something a bit more robust, such as laying down his life for Jesus, not washing feet (13:37). As for Judas Iscariot, this was the last straw. Whatever he had hoped for in Jesus, he now evidently decided that he hoped in vain. Having seen the foot-washing, he went out -- and it was night. The sight of God in the role of a servant is disturbing; it challenges all our assumptions about ourselves and our society. May He reshape them to serve His purpose better!

(To be continued)


T. Austin-Sparks

Reading: Numbers 10:1-10

THERE is a great deal about trumpets in the Bible: indeed the word occurs about a hundred times. This suggests that God has something to say to us on this subject, especially to His servants. This is our privilege as ministers of Christ, to sound forth the clear message of salvation like silver trumpets.

We notice that the material used for these trumpets was silver which, in Old Testament symbolism, denotes redemption. This suggests that God's message to man is about redemption, but it also means that no one can be God's trumpet unless he himself is redeemed. The trumpets were made of solid silver, which means that they were the embodiment of the spiritual reality of redemption. So it is that before we can proclaim the message of God we must know redemption in the very constitution of our being. What is more, they are described as being "of [116/117] beaten work". They have to be hammered out in such a way that redemption is wrought into their very experience. It is not just that God gives us words to say, but that our message must have a background of some real and thorough-going experience in the matter of which we speak.

These things, then, should characterise every one who would be a messenger of God to others. It is better to have a small experience but a very real one, and to witness of that, than to speak empty words which have no solid background in the life and cannot therefore serve God in the trumpet call of His grace. The process will go on if we allow God to pursue it and He will work our redemption into us, making us like those silver trumpets which were "of beaten work". Redemption does not begin and end just with our being saved from judgment and hell and being assured of heaven. This is an important part of our Christian experience, but it is only a part, for redemption begins to apply to and touch every part of our lives until we are wholly on that ground.

When the Israelites were redeemed by God from their bondage in Egypt, the result was that not one ox was left in the land. God applied this matter of redemption to the last hoof of the last animal to leave Egypt. His idea was a very thorough-going redemption which left nothing outside. Now that illustrates our point. It was true in history, but it shows us that in our spiritual life everything has to be wrought and beaten into us, so that our lives can be silver trumpets for God.

The trumpets were two in number. This surely stresses their devotion to witnessing. In the Bible the legal position was that the evidence of one person alone was never accepted. It had to be confirmed and corroborated by a second reliable witness before it could be valid. "At the mouth of two witnesses ... shall every word be established" (2 Corinthians 13:1). Two is the irreducible minimum of God. As many more as you like, but no less than two. It was equally the case with the silver sockets of the tabernacle boards -- there had to be two sockets for each board. God wishes to have everything ratified and confirmed in an unmistakable way where His testimony is concerned.

This matter is taken up by the apostle Paul in the passage about trumpets where he writes: "If the trumpet give an uncertain voice, who shall prepare himself for war?" (1 Corinthians 14:8). Unhappily there is far too much indefiniteness and uncertainty about some Christian witness today. It is essential that there should be nothing of the kind where redemption is concerned. The witness must be positive.

It is helpful to consider the purpose of these silver trumpets:

1. To Call Together (v.3)

In the first place they were to be used to call an assembly together. Here were instruments to establish the relatedness, the oneness, of the fellowship together of God's people. We should have a unifying effect on our fellow believers, avoiding anything which could tend to scatter or divide the people of God. It is a great ministry to bring the Lord's people together. The ministry of the silver trumpets is never to disintegrate God's people but rather to strengthen relationships and consolidate fellowship.

2. To Order Movement (v.5)

We find that the trumpets were used for the ordering of the life and movement of Israel. It is interesting to notice that the two silver trumpets come next to the cloud of Shekinah glory which rested upon the Tabernacle. They worked together. The pillar of cloud and fire provided guidance for God's people, and when Israel was in right relationship with Him, then the guidance was always towards the land of promise. So when it was time for the people to move forward, the trumpets were sounded to give direction to the march, bringing them ever nearer and nearer to the spiritual wealth and fullness of God's objective for them.

In this way we see that the trumpets proclaimed God's great purpose for His redeemed people. The trumpet note cannot be sounded too strongly in this connection nor too clearly, for we are called with a great divine purpose which God formulated before the world was. The Lord's people need to have it made known to them, for there is a tremendous purpose governing their being called together into the fellowship of His Son, and they need not only to know the purpose, but also God's way of realising it. They need to be kept from wandering round in circles, straying about indefinitely without any clear assurance of what redemption really involves and where it should be leading them. There is a great need for an enlightening and inspiring ministry of the Word which will summon God's redeemed people to move on to His eternal purpose for them in Christ. The [117/118] silver trumpets were to govern God's people in relation to the ultimate fullness which He has for them in Christ.

3. To Call to War (v.9)

They were also to sound the summons to war. Perhaps this note is as much needed as any, for every Christian is intended to be involved in spiritual warfare. It is so easy to be surprised or worried when we become involved in conflict, as though this were very strange and unfair for peace-loving persons. The fact is, though, that conflict is far from being strange or unusual but is the calling of every true Christian. The silver trumpets call us to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ. We must realise that we have a part in the Lord's battles and that these will go on to the very end. We must learn to respond to the rallying voice of redemption's trumpet. It calls us to victory, for the words seem to suggest that the Lord Himself would listen for the trumpet alarm and when He heard it, would remember His beloved people and send them salvation from their enemies.

4. To Express Praise (v.10)

The fourth purpose was simply the trumpeting of praise to God on feast days and special occasions of rejoicing. Salvation is a feast, and is often so described in the Gospels. Our testimony to the world around us should always be bright and clear. In this way the trumpet call can be a call of salvation to those who are outside of God's grace in Christ. Paul writes about their sound going into all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world (Romans 10:18). God's people are set in so many places that they may be a witness to Him, like the silver trumpets celebrating the perfect offering of Christ and the gospel truth of God's provision for sinners by that offering. For us, then, every day should be a feast day, a day of gladness. There is no time when we should not be sounding the silver trumpets of redemption as we remember Christ and rejoice in His saving grace. As we make much of the Lord Jesus and concentrate on Him, then from us goes out a message of hope and salvation to those around us. We blow our trumpets over the one great Burnt Offering and Peace Offering and we are assured that God will always remember us and work for us as we do this. The last word of this passage is: "I am the Lord your God". What a joy if others should enter into such a relationship because we have served as silver trumpets of redemption.



Harry Foster


"The opening of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding to the simple"
(Psalm 119:130)

"Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of the law "
(Psalm 119:18)

THE first requirement of a pilgrim on the heavenly way is that his heart should be aflame with love for God's Word. An equally essential one is that his mind should be enlightened by that Word. To be a pilgrim a man must be a disciple, which means that he must be teachable. The psalmist measures up well to this demand. He is ready to be taught and anxious to learn. He is well aware of his own limitations and constantly crying to God for instruction and correction. Although he is familiar with the rich technical variety of God's law, its commandments, precepts, statutes, testimonies and the like, he never assumes that expertise in spiritual matters which so often characterises the brash dogmatist, but humbly looks to God for understanding. Seven times over in the course of the psalm he prays: "Teach me thy statutes" (12, f.). The word he uses shows clearly that he is anxious to know how to behave as God would wish, since it is first used in reference to "that which is right in his eyes" (Exodus 15:26).

It is not enough to have an emotional relationship with God. The pilgrim must have an enlightened mind. In this connection it may be pointed out how practical all true spiritual learning is. The man on the road is not merely accumulating information but he is making [118/119] progress along the pathway of likeness to Christ. He is learning by doing and by suffering, and the Word of God is his teacher through it all. It is a light to his path, that is, it is directed to that way of living which he must follow if he wants God's will. It is also a lamp unto his feet (105). The simplest fact about walking is that it can only be done a step at a time. While in practice we may not always need to focus on our feet while we are walking, this is largely because we live in civilised conditions with artificially smoothed surfaces on our roads. The pilgrim in the wilds has no such advantage, so he must always look down to see where he is putting each foot. Woe betide him if his thoughts wander to the place where he will have to be in a few minutes time! The supreme matter is to look where he is treading at the moment, to make sure where he is putting each foot. When the New Testament tells us to walk by the Spirit or to walk by faith, it stresses this one point. There is light for just now. That is promised. There is a lamp from God's Word for each next step. If we obey it, then there will be the same provision for each succeeding step. Our folly is to be planning or worrying about the step after next, or the one beyond that. Was not that why Jesus warned His disciples not to be anxious for tomorrow (Matthew 6:34)? Probably the greater part of our anxiety is due to projecting our cares into tomorrow, the thing which the Lord said that we must not do. And the sad thing is that when we do this, we not only suffer unnecessary tensions about the future but we often put our foot wrong today. The lamp is shining on our foot; the light is offering us guidance on our immediate way. That is an elementary lesson for the successful pilgrim.

IT is a remarkable fact that this pilgrim says nothing about forgiveness. In the course of the very long prayer it is not once mentioned. Why can this be? Is it because a sinner cannot be a true pilgrim until the whole sin question has been finally settled by a personal experience of God's redemption by the cross? A believer only begins his heavenly pilgrimage when the burden of his sin falls from him at the cross. The forgiven sinner does not keep whining about his guilt; rather does he gratefully believe that this has all been taken away and addresses himself to the more positive exercise of walking in the way of life by faith. As he does this, however, he is careful to keep clean the channels of communication with his holy Father by confessing his sins and humbly accepting instant forgiveness for them. We are assured that if we keep on walking in the light, God will keep on cleansing us from all sin. At the very beginning of the pilgrim's journey, this principle is laid down: "Wherewithall shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word" (9). It may be possible to view this verse in the context of those warnings about clean living which are found in the book of Proverbs, but surely it is more meaningful here if we accept it as a reminder to the beginner that he must continue to walk in the light and so find cleansing, for "If we walk in the light as he is in the light ... the blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1:7).

If he says nothing about forgiveness, the psalmist is far from being casual about the matter of sin. For this peril, too, he finds the remedy in the Word of God: "Thy word have I laid up in my heart, that I might not sin against thee" (11). He is clear in his mind about this matter. He knows that he has no ability in himself, even when he walks with the Word of God in his hand, so he offers this earnest petition: "Order my steps in thy word; and let not any iniquity have dominion over me" (133). Humility and teachability go hand in hand. It is not surprising, then, that the pilgrim intersperses his avowals of devotion to the law of the Lord with constant admissions that he would never be able to keep it apart from grace: "Remove from me the way of lying; and grant me thy law graciously" (29). As we read these words, we instinctively remember the phrase in the prayer which the Lord Jesus taught us: "Bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one" (Matthew 6:13).

THE reference to "the way of lying" does not imply that he asks for help not to tell lies, but rather that he is concerned not to stray from the true road. There are "false paths" for the unwary pilgrim; he hates them and knows that the only safety for him is to get understanding direct from the Lord (104). When I was a traveller in the forest of Brazil I sometimes found that a false trail looked a much more likely one than the true path. Perhaps others found is so too, or perhaps it was just due to my lack of experience. Certainly in our spiritual path we may well be confronted with some specious [119/120] prospect which will really be a "way of lying". The sooner we learn to wait always for light from God, the safer will our journey be.

Perhaps it is in this connection that we can best quote the statement: "The opening of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding to the simple" (130). This is not just an encouraging text for the evangelist in his efforts to bring the gospel light to darkened hearts. It may include that, but it means much more. It is a reminder that we have no innate or acquired ability to find the right path, but are completely dependent upon that divine light which comes to us when the Word of God is opened up to us by the Holy Spirit. Our trouble so often is that we are too clever; we think that we know. God's light, however, is reserved for the "simple". The man who really hates every false way must maintain the attitude of esteeming all God's precepts concerning all things to be right (128). The pilgrim must be humble-hearted if he would be enlightened. Then if it proves that he is learning more quickly than his would-be instructors, he will not be conceited, but know that this is only because he practises communion with the Lord (99), and if he finds himself maturing in spiritual understanding, it will be because he is careful not only to read but to obey (100).

In this matter of the Spirit's enlightenment it is a great comfort to know that we are in the hands of our Creator-Redeemer: "Thy hands have made me and fashioned me: give me understanding that I may learn thy commandments" (73). Was it not that fine old plodding pilgrim, Peter, who told us to commit our souls in well-doing unto a faithful Creator (1 Peter 4:19)? This is an area for which Christians greatly need the enlightenment of the Spirit; the understanding of why God made man and how He proposes to realise that original purpose by means of redemption. So far as God is concerned our pilgrimage has a definite goal, which is that of our being conformed to the image of His Son.

PETER'S theme is largely devoted to God's use of suffering for our sanctification, a point which is clearly emphasised by the psalmist as he confesses: "Before I was afflicted I went astray", adding feelingly, "but now I observe thy word" (67). Far from complaining about God's ways with him, as the unenlightened believer will often do, he justifies those ways by praying: "I know, O LORD, that thy judgments are righteous, and that in faithfulness thou hast afflicted me" (75). His song is not a hollow attempt cheerfully to shrug off his troubles, but rather a sensitive appreciation of the wise purposes of God in allowing them to come upon him. Ministers of God's Word should pray for ability so to open up that Word to sufferers as to interpret their experiences in the light of God's eternal purpose for them.

There is a great deal more in this prayer concerning the enlightening power of God's Word, but perhaps the key prayer is found very early on in the pilgrimage: "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law" (18). All these things will surely relate to the Lord Jesus Himself, as the two on the Emmaus road discovered in the brief hours of their sacred pilgrimage. As we repeat the prayer we ask not only for the burning heart experience which they had but for what at that historical moment they could not know -- a vision of the Lord Jesus which never fades.

"O Word of God incarnate,

  O wisdom from on high,

O truth unchanged, unchanging,

  O light of our dark sky.

We praise Thee for the radiance

  That from Thy hallowed page,

A lantern to our footsteps,

  Shines on from age to age."

(To be continued) [120/ibc]

[Inside back cover]


"(for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds)" (2 Corinthians 10:4)

THIS is a most significant passage, though it hardly seems like a parenthesis. Apparently it is so bracketed because it breaks in on the explanation about the "casting down imaginations" (verses 3 & 5), but in fact this fourth verse is itself a significant comment on the Christians' weapons and war.

The Christian is not a pacifist. Whatever may be the arguments for and against earthly enlistment in national armies, the whole New Testament faces us with many calls to arms and reminders that in Christ we are involved in a fierce war for which full and up-to-date equipment has been provided by God. In no sense is this a defensive campaign. Believers are never to fight for their own rights and are not expected to battle for the survival of the Church. All these matters are to be left with God, and if we get involved in them we only hinder Him. No, our Captain is on the offensive and Himself leads His army into battle. When the Lord Jesus said that the gates of Hades would not prevail against His Church, He was not talking in defensive terms at all. Those gates are here described as "strongholds", and in both cases the indications are that God's people should be an invading force, entering into enemy territory in His name and rescuing men and situations from Satan's thraldom.

THE parenthesis begins by warning us against the weapons of the world. So far as we are concerned these are forbidden. Christ assured Pilate that since His Kingdom was not of this world His servants would not fight as other men do. Every sphere of human life has its own conflicts and its suitable weapons. In the spiritual warfare all these weapons of the flesh are worse than useless. What have the people of God to do with those strivings and agitations which are so much the feature of earthly conflicts in which attempts are made to "down" somebody or something which offends or threatens them? We are not wrestling with flesh and blood, and so we are not to use the means which men normally employ to get their own way. Ours is a different warfare, and it demands quite different methods. Not carnal! Not merely human! Not what natural man can provide.

WHEN, however, all attempts at human effort are renounced and discarded, then there is an opportunity for God to prove His own power which is indeed mighty. It may not appear to be so. The very fact that these weapons are spiritual and based on prayer means that they are despised and regarded as futile by men of the world or even by Christians who are influenced by the world's attitudes. In reality, though, "spiritual" does not mean feeble or ineffectual -- far from it. These are the only weapons which can subdue the great spiritual enemies of Christ and His people, and overthrow their strongholds. They consist in experience, exercise and use of the name of Jesus.

The apostles found this name weapon enough in their day. Alas, since then the Church has often turned to more earthly methods with a consequent loss of true power. Thank God that all through the centuries, though, there have been believers who have gained victories and brought enemies into subjection to the will of Christ by humble and holy lives and believing prayer. This parenthetical verse merits much more consideration than it usually gets from God's battling people.


[Back cover]

2 Corinthians 9:8

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