|Vol. 10, No. 1, Jan. - Feb. 1981||EDITOR: Mr. Harry Foster|
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE ASCENSION
J. Alec Motyer
Reading: Revelation 5
REVELATION chapters 4 to 7 give us a wonderful and comprehensive
picture of the greatness and glory, and above all the fullness of our
Lord Jesus Christ. May I suggest an approach to the vision which does
no violence to the truth, but rather provides an extra spotlight on the
scene so beautifully depicted to us? It concerns the apostle John who,
with the others of that little band, actually saw Jesus ascend up into
When the Scriptural account was given, the Holy Spirit had it in mind
that the day would come when in the Church people might rise up and
cast doubt on the veracity of the story as given in Acts 1. To prepare
in advance against the possibility of men writing it off as just a
fanciful story, the Holy Spirit prompted Luke to use five different
expressions of visibility: "as they were looking ... a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they were looking steadfastly into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them ... which also said, Why stand ye looking into heaven? This Jesus, which was received up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye beheld him going into heaven" (Acts 1:9-11).
Now, however, as further confirmation of the fact, the Holy Spirit
later arranged that the same John who had been privileged to see Christ
depart was also privileged to see Him arrive. Being instructed in the
Word of God, he knew the meaning of that cloud, and was assured that
the Lord Jesus was being received into the cloud of God's immediate
presence. But now he was allowed to be an eye-witness of that glory. He
heard a voice saying, "Come up hither" and passing through heaven's
open door, he witnessed what was taking place there.
He became wholly taken up with his glorious Lord. We all know what it
is suddenly to come across a crowd who are all looking in one
direction, and to find ourselves with our attention focused to look
where they are looking, being caught up in the group enthusiasm. This
is what happened to John. He saw circles and circles around the throne,
and they were all looking in the same direction. He turned his eyes
towards the throne and suddenly, without warning, the centre of that
throne was occupied by the very One whom he had seen go up. He saw the
Lamb standing there, "a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain".
Slain lambs do not stand! This Lamb does, though, for He is risen from
the dead. Here, with an economy of words which could only be found in
the Scriptures, we have the whole story of God's sin-bearing Lamb, as
foretold in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New. He died. He
rose. He ascended into heaven and is there enthroned. John saw Him,
still bearing in His body the marks of that fearful sin-bearing
experience by which He went down into the reality and dust of death
because He was brought under the curse of God. But He was raised on the
third day and in due course He was received back into glory. And the
man who saw the cloud receive Him out of their sight was privileged now
to see Him arrive and take the throne.
It may help us to keep our eyes focused on this Lamb if we consider
three features which can be used, as it were, to embroider the heavenly
picture given to us in this chapter.
The Lord Jesus is enthroned because of the finished work of salvation.
The connection between verses 5 and 6 provides one of those lovely
contradictions of Scripture which are not really contradictions but
contributions to a fuller understanding of the story. John saw the
book, which the rest of the Revelation will presently show to be the
book of the unfolding purposes of God for His creation. It was a matter
of deepest sorrow to John that no-one was found worthy to open the
book, but his tears were dried when the angel reassured him with the
cry: "Behold, the Lion which is of the tribe of Judah has prevailed to
open the book ...". When he looked again, however, he saw not a Lion
but a Lamb. This, then, casts fuller light on the Lord; it is because
He is the Lamb that He is the Lion. It is because He is the One who
fully wrought out and finished the work of salvation that He is the One
in whom all power, all conquering power, resides. Examine Jesus in the
fullness of His might, and your attention is called to the Lion of the
tribe of Judah; but look closer at that Lion and you find that He is [1/2]
the Lamb, standing as though it had been slain. It is because of His
fully finished work of salvation, because of His atoning death which
was confirmed by resurrection, that He is lifted up to the place of
supreme power and authority.
"Every priest indeed stands day by day ministering ... but he, when he
had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand
of God" (Hebrews 10:11-12). Every version seems content to render the
beginning of verse 12 "but he", which is a pity, for the Greek makes it
much more emphatic: "But THIS ONE ...". This One is different and has a
widely different operation. This One sat down. This One is enthroned
because the work of salvation is fully completed.
This accords with the Lord's own words: "Of righteousness, because I go
to the Father, and ye behold me no more" (John 16:10). He said that the
Holy Spirit would convince of righteousness because He was going back
to the Father. How do we know that Jesus is the all-righteous One?
Because He has been received and retained with the Father. The
righteousness of Jesus consists in the fact that in every way He is
right with God. With regard to His character, He is right with God.
With regard to His activities, His teaching and His saving ministry, He
is right with God. It was as though the Lord said to His disciples:
"You will be able to know and rest upon Me as completely acceptable to
the Father, when I am received at His right hand, so that you see Me no
If, following His ascension, He had been compelled by the Father to
return to earth, it would have been evidence that He had taken a test
and had failed. Happily that is impossible. John had further proof of
the perfect righteousness of Christ when he was given a vision of the
Lamb at home with the Father in the heavenly throne.
"Unto him that sitteth on the throne and unto the Lamb, be
the blessing, and the honour, and the glory, and the dominion for ever
and ever" (v.13). The glory of the enthroned Lamb is glory shared with
the Father. The glory of Jesus is the glory of God. He receives the
worship of heaven where no idolatry is possible, and where worship must
and can be directed to God alone. Yet the statement is clearly made
that worship is given to God and to the Lamb. We are told of the prayer
of Jesus: "Now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the
glory which I had with thee before the world was" (John 17:5). That
prayer was answered. John could see that the Lord Jesus truly shared
the Father's glory.
Paul makes much of this great truth. Writing in Philippians 2 of the
voluntary choice by which the Lord Jesus first emptied Himself and then
humbled Himself, and putting emphasis on the fact that His death was
the result of the voluntary choice by which He said "No" to self and
"Yes" to the will of God, the apostle declares that the outcome of the
descent from glory to earth and then from earth into the dust of death
is that He is now exalted to the highest place. Because of His
readiness to suffer in this way, the Father has lifted Him to the glory
of heaven where no idolatry is possible, and ensured that all on the
earth and under the earth shall confess Him Lord, to the glory of the
As I try to put together the verses which bear upon the Ascension, I
find that a common factor in a significant number of cases is that the
place of shared glory is the place where prayer is heard and answered.
"Having then a great high priest, who hath passed through the heavens
..." (Hebrews 4:14). He passed through the heavens. They saw Him go.
They gathered with Him on Olivet and watched Him as He passed through
the heavens. The Jesus whose feet were on the earth on which we walk;
the Jesus who was pinched and pressed and pressured by all the things
which pinch and press and pressure us -- this Jesus passed through the
heavens and came out into the place of exaltation that He might be the
great High Priest of His people.
"We have not a high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of
our infirmities." This is a beautiful double negative. We have not got
that kind of insensitive and unsympathetic high priest. Poor Judas! He
had that kind of high priest who could not be touched with the feeling
of his infirmities. In his agony of soul he came back with the thirty
pieces of silver and cast them down before the high priest, saying, "I
have sinned in that I betrayed innocent blood" (Matthew 27:4). That
high priest, however, far from being touched at this confession of
wrong, gave the harsh reply: "What is that to us? See thou to it!" What
a calamity for us if our High Priest treated us like that! See thou to
it! Thank God that we do not have a High Priest who will turn us away
comfortless in this way. [2/3]
Our High Priest was in all points tested, yet without sin. That does
not mean that He had an escape-hatch. No! As a matter of fact it is sin
which is our escape-hatch for, in the heat of temptation, we escape by
succumbing. Jesus was without sin. He persevered in the place of
testing and temptation far beyond anything that ever touches us. Does
He therefore scorn us? Does He despise us because we fall so soon and
fail so easily? Never! We can always approach His throne of grace with
boldness. The Lamb upon the throne is the Lamb with the open ear to the
prayers of His people.
Once again we consult the actual words of the Lord Jesus: "... greater
works than these shall he do; because I go unto the Father. And
whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do ..." (John
14:12-13). What did going to the Father mean? It meant passing through
the cross, the tomb, the resurrection and the ascension; it meant the
total work of sin-bearing and then the Lamb accepted back upon the
throne. What then? Why, "whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will
I do". He is with the Father in order to attend to the prayers of His
The difference between the resurrection of Jesus and the ascension of
Jesus seems to me that the work of resurrection is confirmation while
the work of the ascension is sharing. The Lord was lifted up from the
dead so that we might have an abiding God-given confirmation of the
reality of His saving work. The stone was not rolled away from the tomb
in order to let Jesus out, but in order to let us in, so that we might
know that He is the Son of God with power according to the resurrection
from the dead. We know that He was delivered because of our offences. This is a straight-forward quotation from Isaiah 53. But we are also assured that He was raised because
of our justification (Romans 4:25). But if the resurrection was for
confirmation, what is the ascension for? What is the meaning of this
second act of God? It is sharing. All that He has wrought, He will now
pour forth. The ascended Lamb upon the throne has His ear open to our
prayers and out of the fullness that is His, there is a fullness that
shall be ours.
In all things that He shares with us, He shares His glory. John's
vision moves on to embrace the multitude which have come out of the
great tribulation concerning whom he is told: "they washed their robes,
and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, therefore are they before
the throne of God". He shares His glory with His blood-bought ones and
what is more, "He that sitteth on the throne shall spread his
tabernacle over them ... for the Lamb which is in the midst of the
throne shall be their shepherd ..." (Revelation 7:15-17). The Lion
becomes a Lamb and the Lamb becomes a Shepherd. Through all eternity it
is those pierced hands which will care for the blood-bought children of
Maybe some of those who read these words have loved ones whose days on
earth are coming quietly to a close. Or it may be that there are some
who in the loving providence and will of God are even now carrying in
their bodies an ailment which will soon, in God's mercy, take them home
to heaven. Many of us are all too aware of mortality. Well, then, let
us also be aware of glory! The precious blood of Calvary brings the
saints of God into the nail-pierced hands of the Lion who is a Lamb,
and the Lamb who is a Shepherd. Isn't that what He Himself said? When
He made His will, He said: "Father, I will that, where I am, they also
may be with me; that they may behold my glory" (John 17:24). He made
His Will and we are His heirs.
This is what He promised His disciples. "In my Father's house are many
mansions; if it were not so, would I have told you?" (John 14:2). That
is a possible translation of those well known words. Would He, the Lord
of truth, have spoken a falsehood? Would He have told us about the
place prepared if it were not so? We have a 12-year old daughter and
therefore still live in the era of birthday parties and the like, when
our house suddenly becomes invaded with small girls who seem to me to
be all hair and legs. Most of them have never met us before or in any
case have never been in our strange and somewhat forbidding-looking
house in the College. Nevertheless they come quite fearlessly. Whereas
their elders and betters might feel some awe, they knock and enter
without a tremor. You see, they have been invited. They know that
somewhere in this strange house there is a table spread and chairs and
places, and a name at every place. Their name is there. A place is
reserved for them. Why should they question or fear? And so the Lord
tells us not to fear. He has gone to prepare a place for us, and He
reasons with us, "If it were not so, would I have told you?" The glory
of the Lamb is a glory for sharing. [3/4]
This Lamb, "standing as it had been slain", is the Lamb in whom all the
fullness dwells. "For it was the good pleasure of the Father that in
him should all the fullness dwell" (Colossians 1:19). John heard the
myriads of heaven echoing this divine pleasure as they cried: "Worthy
is the Lamb that hath been slain to receive the power, and riches, and
wisdom, and might, and honour, and glory and blessing" (v.12). The four
living creatures joined in, expressing His power over all creation, and
the four and twenty elders acclaimed His Headship over all the Church.
The four living creatures show us the whole totality of the creation
acknowledging the Kingship of Jesus. The lion is the greatest of
beasts, the eagle the greatest of birds, the ox the greatest of tamed
animals and man the greatest of all. They fall before the Lamb. And the
four and twenty elders fall before the Lamb, confessing that He is Head
over all things to the church which is His body. And all this fullness
which is in Him is a fullness which is for sharing.
Taking that into the place where Jesus Himself speaks, we find that He
said of the Holy Spirit: "All things whatsoever the Father hath are
mine; therefore said I, that he taketh of mine and shall declare it
unto you" (John 16:15). This is the sharing, which is the main message
of the Ascension. He goes back to sit upon the throne in order that He
may pour out His benefits to the Church by the Holy Spirit. This gift
of the Spirit is the gift of His presence (John 14:17); it is the gift
of His saving mercy (Acts 5:31); it is the gift of "seasons of
refreshing from the presence of the Lord" (Acts 3:19). Who of us does
not long for such seasons of refreshing? They are the gifts of our
Paul puts it so wonderfully in his picture in Ephesians 4 in which he
describes the Roman triumph, when a general had wrought great deeds of
derring-do on behalf of his wretched empire and then came back with an
abundance of riches and captives in his train. He was given a Roman
triumph; a public holiday was proclaimed and his victorious armies
marched into the city in front of him and he came in a golden chariot
with his captives behind him, laden with chains. Beside him -- and that
was the thing that got the people out -- there were great, great
containers, full of gold and silver coins, so that as he went on in his
triumph he could scatter the coins widespread over the people. The
lucky ones got a piece of gold; the less lucky ones got a piece of
silver; and the world's born losers got a coin in their eye and were
blinded for life! It was all so haphazard. Though using the
illustration, Paul assures us that it is so different with our
all-conquering King: "When he ascended on high, he led captivity
captive, and gave gifts unto men" (Ephesians 4:8). His gifts are
precise gifts, they are measured gifts, they are individual gifts.
"This for you -- and this for you -- and this for you!" He chooses the
gifts for each one of us.
Isn't it mysterious that Jesus said: "It is expedient for you that I go
away" (John 16:7). In some ways this is the hardest verse of Scripture
to understand. Jesus says that this is the truth, that it is better for
us that He should go away. How we would like to have Him here with us;
How can it be better that He should go away? Because in going away He
goes into the place of sharing. He goes into the place of fullness that
is fullness for us. He goes into the place of outpouring.
You are coming to a King,
Large petitions with you bring.
Perhaps your need may not seem to be large. It may be small, but it is
so important to you. Your Lord Jesus, your Lamb upon the throne, is in
the place of fullness to be shared. What do you want to ask Him?
SONGS OF PRAISE (5)
John H. Paterson
He will keep me till the river
Rolls its waters at my feet:
Then He'll bear me safely over,
Made by grace for glory meet.
ALL men and women must confront the prospect that eventually they will
die. That the Christian believer can do so with confidence and without
terror is one of the very special blessings conferred by a knowledge of
Christ as Saviour. For He has delivered "them who [4/5]
through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage"
(Hebrews 2:15). The hymn that I have just quoted is one of the many in
our hymn books which celebrate God's grace in loosening for us the grip
of that last enemy.
I was singing this hymn recently, however when I noticed that these
lines speak not of one assurance only but of two. To be borne safely
over the river of death is one mercy for which we all look, and all of
us have known of individual believers whose last words have expressed
joy, peace and anticipation on the very brink of the river. But the
hymn writer is concerned also about the journey to
the river. For him, getting there is as much a matter of faith as
getting across. And with that realisation in mind I began to consider
these assertions more carefully.
The Journey and Its Problems
For the very old, no doubt, or the very ill, the river crossing is what
occupies their thoughts. But for those of us in middle life, there is
likely to come a moment when the real challenge becomes, "Will He really keep me all the way to the end?" Crossing the river, as Hopeful reminded Christian in Pilgrim's Progress,
is brief compared with the days and years that have gone before --
brief and inevitable. The real problem is that of growing old as a
Christian, and it is a problem which, so far as my own reading has
gone, is only very inadequately covered in Christian literature.
Why should growing old be a problem? There are, I think, a number of
obvious practical reasons, as well as a very valid theological one
which I will deal with last. In the structure of our Christian
experience and lifestyle there is ample explanation of a fall-off, in
the active side of our spiritual life at least, as we reach middle age.
All those young people's meetings lie far behind us (how many churches
have comparable meetings for the 40's to 60's?). The pressures of
family life reduce our regularity of attendance at the other meetings
we used to support, and we notice that the preachers, like the
policemen, are getting younger and less likely to be able to help us!
The often hectic pace of spiritual change which we knew in our younger
days slows to a crawl, and our world begins to contract as we are less
able to get out and about. The writer of the hymn I have quoted lived
to the remarkable age of 98, but it is safe to assume that in the last
years of his life his world had become very small, if only because he
had outlived all his contemporaries.
It is true that older Christians can fulfil a wonderful ministry of
prayer, but to pray one needs to have information about the world
outside, and the supply of that information will in due course tend to
dry up. The race we once ran becomes a walk. Whereas we used to
encourage each other by assurances that we could run and not be weary,
what interests us now is whether we can walk and not faint!
I do not know how common is the experience I have just described, but
it may well be familiar to many believers for the very good reason that
it accords with the rest of what we know about spiritual life and
warfare. For in all our lives we have to reckon with the presence and
the attentions of an enemy. His object is precisely to slow us down; if
at all possible to bring us to a halt before we reach the end of the
course. He does it by ensuring that the believer's journey through the
world will set up all kinds of frictions. Unless they are countered,
their effect will be to bring us to a standstill. Not for nothing does
the apostle speak of "hindrances" and "weights". The enemy will use
anything and everything to block our progress.
Sometimes, being absent-minded, I get into my car and drive off without
first releasing the handbrake. After a moment or two I generally become
aware of what has happened because I can feel the engine fighting the
drag of the brake, but unless I do something quickly, the car will be
brought to a standstill. I find the feeling of going forward in the
Christian life to be rather similar!
Partly, this braking effect or friction is something I bring upon
myself: the writer to the Hebrews tells me to "lay aside ... the sin
which so easily besets me" (Hebrews 12:1). It is sin which causes some
of the drag, and the Christian can always do something about sin: as
Paul says, he can "depart from iniquity" (2 Timothy 2:19). But partly,
also, it is produced by my mere existence as a Christian in this world
of reality. The only way to eliminate that friction is, as Paul once humorously remarked, to get out of the world altogether (1 Corinthians 5:10). So some
friction is inevitable. The question that faith has to answer is, "Will
He really override the 'brakes' and keep me going to the end?"
The problem is a particularly acute one for those who, in the providence of God, have known [5/6]
great events or experiences in their early lives, and who then seem to
enter a period empty of visible blessing. They are left with their
memories; perhaps left, too, with the questions, "Has God taken His
hand off me?" and "Has my life any further purpose?" The Lord Jesus,
they may recall, spent little more than 30 years here on earth: what is
the point of growing older?
It would be short-sighted to condemn those whose career I have just
described as "unspiritual" or "backsliding". Some great men of God have
known this pattern of life -- Elijah, for example. It seems from the
dating of events in the Bible narrative as if Elijah lived on for about
20 years after the tremendous confrontation on Mount Carmel (1 Kings
18). If that was the climax of his career -- and in a really public
sense it certainly was -- then the remaining 20 years were virtually
empty of achievements. A message to an erring king; fire called down on
some passing soldiers (2 Kings 1:10, 12) -- it was hardly the kind of
constructive evangelistic activity that a present-day minister would
hope to spend 20 years fulfilling! And a number of other prophets were
strictly one-message men: their "careers" consisted of a single event.
And yet we cannot argue that a fall-off is inevitable, in activity or
in fervour. The pattern of other Bible lives argues the contrary, most
obviously in the case of Moses and Caleb. "Moses was an hundred and
twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural
force abated" (Deuteronomy 34:7). More to the point, he had survived
the shock judgement of exclusion from the land of promise (Numbers
20:12) without in any way relaxing his efforts as leader of God's
people. He led them to the very end. And Caleb: after 40 desert years
he was able to say: "As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day
that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now
... now therefore give me this mountain" (Joshua 14:11-12). Caleb must
surely be the hero of every Christian over forty!
Keeping On To The End
If there exists a danger of fall-off as the years go by, what is the
real antidote to it? We cannot suppose that the Spirit's resources grow
less with the passage of time; on the contrary, it was Moses himself
who said "As thy days, so shall thy strength be" (Deuteronomy 33:25).
Nor can we doubt that God does graciously give "times of refreshing",
or renewal to His people -- although we shall probably err if we see
them as a necessity, and still less as an entitlement, rather than as a
bonus. But the principal antidote is surely a clear view of a programme to give purpose to the later, quieter years of our lives; a clear view of what remains to be done, even by or in the oldest of us.
So what is this programme? Whatever else it may contain, I want to
suggest two things which must surely form part of it. The first of them
I will call the affirmation of faith.
Let me explain what I mean by that. There is a tendency for us, as we
get older, to believe less and less. I suspect it of myself, and I see
it in my friends. The older we get, the more improbable the great
articles of our faith become. It is understandable: our mature minds
reject what we accepted with few questions when we were young. As our
knowledge of the world increases from year to year, we become wearied
and sickened by the injustice and suffering we see. Some truths of the
Bible for which we fought so hard in earlier days, seem to have little
relevance to the human condition and therefore hardly seem worth
splitting hairs over, let alone churches. There have been one or two
rather startling books published lately by mature Christians about what
they believe -- startling because one can discover only too clearly, by
noting the omissions, what they no longer believe.
I want, therefore, to suggest to you that to affirm the same faith in
Christ and the Scriptures at the end of our spiritual lives as at their
beginning does, paradoxically, represent progress. If when we are old, knowing what we now know
of the world and human nature, we can still hold to our faith, then we
have not stood still: we have won a tremendous battle. Knowing what we
now do of the many gigantic arguments against there being a God of
goodwill controlling the universe and ordering man's affairs, we can
only go on asserting this belief against the friction of doubt if our
faith actually increases with the passage of time. What we could glibly
assert when we were young, without a thought for the contradictory
evidence, we must be able to proclaim, even having seen what we have
seen, when we are old -- and that takes some doing! I think I know now
what Paul meant when he wrote, "and having done all, to stand"
(Ephesians 6:13). To be left standing at the end of the day is a
triumph in itself! [6/7]
Keeping On Growing
The second part of the programme is very familiar to us and very time-consuming. We can call it simply growing in grace,
or character development. Most believers are aware of this task as the
great unfinished business of the Christian life. We are "foreordained
to be conformed to the image of his Son". But there are one or two
particular features of this assignment to which, in the present
context, I should like to draw your attention.
The first is that this process of growth is not an optional extra in
the Christian life, like the quadriphonic sound system which you can
have installed when you buy a car! I am amazed by the number of people
I meet who explain their behaviour by saying, "I told him that he would
just have to take me as he found me. I am what I am, and I'm too old to
change now". In fact, I have heard that used as an excuse for more
rudeness and incivility than I should have imagined possible! The idea
that there is any obligation on us to strive for a nobler or stronger
character is thoroughly out of fashion in our society, where it is
considered that the highest good is to be yourself. The believer is not
offered the likeness of Christ as one of several possible choices: the
whole purpose of his salvation is that he should grow into it.
The second thing is that there are some aspects of character which can
only really develop as one grows older, so that the later years of life
may well be the time devoted by the Holy Spirit to their cultivation --
which in turn means the Spirit's placing us in the sort of experience
out of which they can spring. That is surely why our lives as
Christians fall so often into distinct phases: these are chosen for the
particular character trait that is to be produced in us. So let us be
on the alert to learn those lessons which only time and age can teach!
The third and last thing is that this character-forming process seems
to go on, if the Spirit is allowed to work, almost literally to the
last breath of our lives. He wastes no time at all, not even the
I learned this through my acquaintance with an elderly saint whose mind
gave way in her old age, so that she understood little of what went on
around her, and that little gradually decreased. Yet the interesting
thing was that this last remainder of consciousness was wholly
gracious. She had had a sharp tongue in her younger days but, as life
flickered out, all that sharpness disappeared and her few intelligible
comments were all kindly, appreciative and compassionate. It was a
striking testimony to the depth of the Spirit's working over the years.
Far down below the surface a structure of character had been taking
shape and it required the removal of all but a last remnant of
personality to reveal how deep the work had gone.
Will He really keep me going till I reach the very brink of the river?
Faith says that He will. He will be at work right up to that brink, and
He will of course want to finish the work. But then He'll bear me
safely over the river, made by that gracious work meet for the very
presence of His glory.
THE SECRET OF DANIEL'S STRENGTH
Chapter VII. THE ANCIENT OF DAYS
"Behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like the son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days" Verse 13
WE have already noted that in the book of Daniel the chapters are not
placed in chronological order. A glance at 7:1 and 8:1 will show us
that these experiences occurred during the period between chapters 4
and 5. Since, however, chapter 7 focuses upon God's ultimate, it seems
right that this should occupy our final study which is headed by the
very significant title: "The Ancient of Days". Chapters 10 and 11 deal
with events moving towards that ultimate, [7/8] and the book terminates with the consummation in chapter 12.
THE GLORY OF THE SON OF MAN
The title "Ancient of Days" appears three times in this chapter and is
found nowhere else in the Bible. It is the name given to the eternal
God. Before ever time began, He is the great I AM. He has always had
one clear objective which is described as His "eternal purpose"
(Ephesians 3:11). He has never deviated from this intention of His and
when time is no more, He will still be the I AM, though now with the
full realisation of that heart purpose of His. This purpose can all be
summed up in the other title of our chapter: "The Son of Man".
Amid all the symbolism of the everlasting burnings of the holy throne
of The Ancient of Days, we see Him adjudicating concerning the full and
final rulership of His kingdom. This He does by conferring it upon the
Person described as being "like the son of man" (v.13). It makes no
difference if the actual words are "a son of man", since there can only
be One so honoured. The identification is authenticated by the Lord
Jesus who chose for Himself this title and used it constantly. At the
end He confronted the high priest with the dread prospect of seeing
this Son of Man, "sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the
clouds of heaven" (Matthew 26:64). This must surely have been Christ's
own interpretation of this part of Daniel's vision.
We may wonder why Daniel was so perturbed by it all (v.28). There
hardly seems justification for such an overwrought mind in the simple
central fact of the Coming of Christ in glory. Was his perplexity due
to the rest of the vision? Was he troubled by the succession of beasts
whose activities would lead up to the great event? It may well be so,
for these are fearsome disclosures of the true nature of the kingdom of
men, much more so than the metals of the image of chapter 2. Or was it
in some way connected with the extraordinary way in which the vision of
the throne passes from one Ruler to be shared by "the saints of the
Most High" (v.22) of which he could claim to be one? We know now that
this divine purpose provides for the development from the personal
Christ to the corporate Christ, from the Unique Son to the host of
redeemed sons whom the New Testament calls "saints".
When dealing with chapter 2 we referred to the disclosure in the New
Testament of that hitherto hidden "mystery" which deals with this very
matter. It is just possible that Daniel received a faint hint of it
which was almost too much for him to bear. For our part we now know
that the throne is to be given to the Son of Man, but that He plans to
share it with those who, in Him, are called to be "joint heirs with
Christ". I suggest that the early Church so interpreted this chapter.
Otherwise how would Paul have challenged the Corinthians with the
question: "Know ye not that the saints shall judge the world?" (1
Corinthians 6:2). It is not unreasonable to suggest that the apostle
implied that the believers, simply by studying Daniel 7, should have
been aware of their own destiny in Christ. If so, this confirms the
fact that this was never meant to be a special truth, reserved for the
super-spiritual, but should have been common knowledge among Bible
loving Christians. It certainly ought to be so today, and it may be
helpful to note that Paul used this citation to help the saints in
Corinth in the matter of practical holy living.
God's purpose from all eternity has been to have a family of mature
sons, perfect in their likeness to Himself and spiritually competent to
rule the universe for and with Him. This family kingdom would be
eternal in the sense that it would never suffer any deterioration
through endless ages. This was the design. In and through Christ,
redemption has made it gloriously possible: "If we endure, we shall
also reign with him" (1 Timothy 2:12). It is a prospect which we hardly
dare to contemplate. It seems too high and majestic to be possible. Yet
this is the theme of Daniel's vision of The Ancient of Days as well as
being the theme of heaven's song of redemption (Revelation 5:9-10). The
destiny is for those purchased by the blood of the Lamb from all
nations. Who can these be but the "saints of the Most High"? It may be
worthy of note that Daniel 7 is included in and terminates the section
of the book not written in Hebrew and that in this chapter no mention
is made of Jerusalem or the Jews.
The joint-heirs suffer with Christ that they may reign with Him (Romans
8:17). Perhaps part of Daniel's troubled thoughts was due to the trials
awaiting the faithful saints, whose holy vocation permits God to allow
them to pass through strange and harsh discipline. Evil powers will
fight against them (v.21) and seek to "wear them out" (v.25). Their
destiny of reigning with Christ is to be realised by triumph through
testing: they will come to the throne as Jesus did, through trial and
overcoming (Revelation 3:21 ). [8/9]
Was this chapter in Paul's mind when he encouraged God's suffering
people with the words: "through many tribulations we must enter into
the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22)?
SOME SPIRITUAL IMPLICATIONS
The stark facts of the vision associated with this threefold reference
to The Ancient of Days are simple and clear. Chapters 8, 10 and 11
provide some background to this central truth. It is quite beyond the
purpose of these articles to offer any interpretive definition of the
people and nations involved, since we are just seeking to learn how in
his day Daniel gained spiritual strength from his ever-increasing
knowledge of God in order that we, in our day, may be strong and do
exploits. In this connection various points emerge, and we notice that
from now on Daniel takes up the narrative in a personal way, as well as
reverting to the Hebrew language: "A vision appeared unto me, even unto
me, Daniel ..." (8:1). This personal way of speaking has already marked
the prayer of chapter 9 and continues through to the end. This
encourages us to take personally to heart the principles here revealed.
1. Evil men and powers are given amazing latitude by the All-Powerful God.
Poor Daniel was confronted by a bewildering succession of tyrants and
rebels against God. The terrifying prospect produced by the symbolism
of beasts was intensified by accounts of more personalised violence in
evil men yet to arise. Some Bible students feel that they can trace
past historical events and characters from Daniel's visions, while
others opine that most of these despotic aggressors are yet to darken
the pages of human history. Be that as it may, the obvious implication,
abundantly verified in our own times, is that God gives surprising
latitude to evil men as they engage in their murderous violence. Daniel
was prostrated at the very contemplation of them (8:27) and we
ourselves are often sickened by human bestiality. God sees it all. He
must be much more sickened than we are; yet, in His permissive will, He
endures what He could so easily end.
Unenlightened men are irked by His long-suffering, forgetting that once
He begins to execute His total judgments on sinners, no-one outside of
Christ can escape His righteous wrath. "If thou, Lord, shouldest mark
iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand" (Psalm 130:3)? Happily for us the
psalmist goes on to affirm: "But there is forgiveness with thee, that
thou mayest be feared". God wishes that as many as possible may find
forgiveness, so that this mercy aspect of the matter partly explains
His long-suffering. Peter's final message to the Church stresses this
very point, arguing that God is by no means unable to hurry along to
the end of the story, but is "longsuffering ... not willing that any
should perish, but that all should come to repentance" before it is too
late (2 Peter 3:9-10).
What must be particularly noted in this connection is that the sum
total of the evils of this world's kingdom is both foreknown by God and
deliberately permitted by Him. It must have been a great shock for
Pilate, a provincial representative of one of the greatest of world
powers, to find that Christ's response to his threats was the composed
and dignified: "Thou wouldest have no power against me, except it were
given thee from above" (John 19:11). What was true of Pilate with
regard to Christ is equally true of every enemy of even the least of
His people. Concerning the fourth evil beast Daniel was told that
powers "shall be given into his hand until ..." (v.25). This phrase,
"it was given" is a most significant one and becomes almost a refrain
in the book of the Revelation, where more details are provided
concerning the enemies of God's people (Revelation 6:2, 4ff). If we
would read more of Daniel than we do of our newspapers, or if we would
read the two together, we might enjoy more of the stability of heaven
and experience less of earth's traumas and the tensions of modern life.
2. Every form of man's kingdom is doomed to failure.
The apparent prosperity of sinful men is short-lived. This truth
emerges very clearly from all of Daniel's visions. We are informed that
in due course these human rulers will either be destroyed by one
another or be crushed by the direct judgments of God. Daniel himself
witnessed the overthrow of the tyrannical Chaldean empire (5:30-31).
His message to us is that all tyrannies will eventually perish.
We return to the awe-inspiring title, The Ancient of Days. To the
believer this signifies that He is the Rock of Ages, serene in His
everlasting strength and imparting perfect peace to those who put their
trust in Him (Isaiah 26:3). But what to the unbeliever? To him it
should be a sober reminder that God will always have the [9/10]
last word, both with us as individuals and with world powers. Daniel is
told of a "king of fierce countenance" whose power is mighty and who
shall destroy wonderfully and shall prosper, but is reassured by the
last words about this despot: "he shall be broken without hand"
(8:23-25). Again, there will be a king who will "go forth with great
fury to destroy and utterly to make away many ... yet he shall come to
his end, and none shall help him" (11:44-45).
Even if we cannot make historical identifications, as we follow the
careers of these devotees of the god of this world here sketched out
for us, we must marvel at how much evil our wise God will permit. The
prophet assures us, though, that things will never get out of hand --
out of His hand! Even death cannot shield men from the evil fruits of
their rebellion against God, for they will find themselves among the
many who sleep in the dust of the earth who will awake "to shame and
everlasting contempt" when the time for resurrection comes (12:2). We
live in a moral universe, in spite of present appearances which are
foretold by God, though for the moment they are most perplexing to us.
But never fear! The Judge of all the earth will do right.
3. God is working to a time-table.
Bible students rightly insist that God is working to a Self-imposed
time-table, though sometimes they contradict themselves and often
contradict one another in their efforts to pinpoint its arrangements.
Certainly these chapters are full of time indications. There are the
weeks, the months and the days; the times, time and half a time; there
is even the promise of blessing for those who will wait from the
thousand two hundred and ninety days to the thousand three hundred and
thirty-five days (12:11-12). These are divine revelations, not human
speculations, so they must be treated reverently. We cannot question
these figures; even when we do not understand them.
Daniel certainly could not and was not ashamed to confess his
ignorance: "I heard, but I understood not" (12:8). But although -- or
because -- he was not clear about the timing of the "end", he did not
argue but made an earnest enquiry about what lay beyond that end: "O my
lord, what shall be the issue (or latter end) of these things?" What is
it all about? What is the final objective of the great Ancient of Days?
That is a good question which the New Testament will answer for us, but
meanwhile we can get much spiritual help from these reminders of the
simple fact of God's exact timings as we read these prophecies.
The captivity period was fixed as seventy years (9:2). Nebuchadnezzar's
mental unbalance was due to last for seven years and, "at the end of
the days", he fully recovered 4:34). Concerning Belshazzar God's
fingers wrote the significant word MENE -- numbered -- and sure enough,
the king was slain" (5:30). Such words as "till" and "until", and such
phrases as "the time appointed" emphasise and re-emphasise the
exactness of God's ways. We are told that "the vision of the evenings
and the mornings which hath been told is true" (8:26). There is even
one man whose appearance on the stage of world events is to be limited
to "within a few days" (11:20). God has it all mapped out. He has fixed
the time of the end. Incidentally the time indication that at the time
of the end "Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase"
(12:4) may suggest that the sands are fast running out.
Let us be encouraged! Let us allow to sink into our spirits the
conviction that God is keeping very closely and very exactly to His
planned programme. If we cannot identify all the people and events, we
can derive much comfort from "what is inscribed in the Scriptures of
4. Sufferings are designed to prepare for a glorious destiny.
"Some of them that be wise shall fall, to refine them, and to purify,
and to make them white, even to the time of the end" (11:35). This
prophecy points on to one of the main themes of the New Testament
epistles, namely that God's purpose in allowing His saints to suffer is
that He is working towards the day when they will not only see Christ
as He is, but be like Him. Some of the final words spoken to Daniel
return to this theme: "Many shall purify themselves, and make
themselves white and be refined ... they that be wise shall understand"
(12:10). The early chapters of this book describe some of Daniel's
trials and hint at many more. The last chapter reminds him -- and us --
of how small are any trials compared with the coming glory when "They
that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they
that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and [10/11] ever" (12:3). What do fiery furnaces and lions' dens matter to men who have such a glorious destiny awaiting them?
When we pass from the narratives of the earlier chapters to the future
events portrayed from chapter 7 onwards, we may well be appalled at
what is foretold concerning God's saints who are being prepared to
reign with Christ. Several times in chapter 7 we are given a glimpse of
Daniel's distress at what he was seeing. His troubled thoughts were
justified, for he saw a "horn" which not only warred against the
saints, but prevailed against them (v.21), and was told of the power
which would "wear out the saints" (v.25). The story is one of ultimate
triumph, with the saints eventually possessing the kingdom, but the
various descriptions of the bestial persecutions they must first endure
took the brightness from Daniel's face (v.28), and the prospect of
destructive violence made him quite ill (8:27).
There are those whose prayerful expectations of Christ's Coming are
mingled with a conviction that first the world will witness an
unprecedented outpouring of divine blessing in what is termed, Revival.
My own exercise in the Word with regard to this matter has rather led
me to anticipate growing darkness and greatly intensified opposition.
Perhaps both are possible. There can be no doubt, however, that both
the Lord Jesus and His Spirit-inspired apostles laid considerable
emphasis on the "suffering" features of the last days. This accords
with Daniel's visions. "Ye shall be hated of all men for my name's
sake", Jesus warned, adding "By standing firm you will save yourselves"
(Luke 21:17-18). Paul wrote about being "counted worthy of the kingdom
of God, for which ye suffer ... to you that are afflicted rest with us,
at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven" (2 Thessalonians
1:5-7). James adds his voice. "Ye have condemned, ye have killed the
righteous; he doth not resist you. Be patient therefore, brethren, unto
the coming of the Lord" (James 5:6-7). The apostle Peter agrees:
"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which cometh
upon you to prove you ... rejoice that at the revelation of his glory
ye also may rejoice" (1 Peter 4:12-13). By the special speaking of the
Spirit to the churches, John confirms the matter: "Ye shall have
tribulation ten days. Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee
the crown of life" (Revelation 2:10). These are representative New
Testament amplifications of Daniel's disclosure that men destined for
the throne must first be capacitated by suffering. Happily death itself
is no calamity for such, since they will rise from their sleep in the
dust of the earth to everlasting life and glory. God's last word to
Daniel also applies to every tried and suffering saint: "Go thy way
till the end be; for thou shalt rest, and shalt stand in thy lot, at
the end of the days" (12:13). Resurrection is always God's answer.
5. Our immediate task is intercessory prayer.
Although Daniel is not actually named among the heroes of faith, he is
given a place with those who "stopped the mouths of lions" (Hebrews
11:33). As we have seen, God's last word to the old warrior was an
assurance that although he had not been a member of that privileged
group which returned to re-build Jerusalem, he could rest in the
certainty of a secure place in God's eternal city. When he was
prostrate with weakness and a sense of his own unworthiness, he was
twice assured that he was a man greatly beloved (10:11 & 19).
Why was he so loved and honoured? Possibly because he was such a man of
prayer. God loves intercessors. His beloved Son is the Chief of them.
Daniel had other virtues. He was a most effective speaker for God, and
what is more, he had the proper background for a preacher in that his
private and public life were beyond reproach -- he had a good testimony
in the world. This, however, leads us back to the matter of
intercession, for the effective preacher should first of all be a man
of prayer. Daniel did not talk about praying -- he actually prayed --
and it was at the end of a prolonged prayer session that he was told
how greatly God loved him. Whatever else the book of Daniel is, it is a
powerful argument concerning God's need for intercessors. In this
connection we observe:
i. Prayer makes a way for God's on-going purposes.
Jeremiah prayed (Oh, how he prayed!) and Daniel entered into the good
of his prayers. Daniel prayed, and as a result Ezra and Nehemiah were
sent back to re-build Jerusalem. Nehemiah himself became a notable
example of prayer and work and it is interesting that in the books of
Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah, chapter 9 is always the prayer chapter. No
doubt others continued the prayer link in between, but when we take up
the New Testament we are confronted in Luke's Gospel with a faithful
praying [11/12] remnant, Zacharias, Simeon, Anna and others, who were all looking for the redemption of Jerusalem (Luke 2:38).
It has usually been a relatively small group which has grasped this
feature of their calling and persisted in prayer, but nothing in the
New Testament suggests that there is any special value in large
prayer meetings. Large or small, the need is as great as ever. In
Christian service there are so many other more interesting things to
do, that prayer tends to be neglected. But prayer must go on until our
Lord returns. It was in connection with His parable about the
importunate widow that the Lord Jesus posed His question: "When the Son
of man cometh, shall he find (this) faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8).
ii. Bible study should lead to prayer.
Such study is of doubtful value if it does not drive a man to his
knees. From chapter 9 we know that it was his reading of Jeremiah which
led Daniel to the Throne of Grace. Although his prayer contained a
powerful element of confession, it was in no way introspective but
concentrated on intercession for the honour of the Lord's name in His
people and His city. Prayer must be outgoing, as Bible reading will
show us. The Scriptures present us with men's need of salvation and
then urge us to take up this matter in prayer. They major on the
all-important matter of spiritual growth among God's people, and
provide us with many prayers which we may use to this end. There are
the needs of the world and the needs of the Church which call for
prayer, but even more, there are the Lord's own needs. "Men shall pray
for him continually" (Psalm 72:15). How can God's purposes for Christ
be brought to fulfilment unless we co-operate with Him in prayer?
We have been given the skeleton or framework of intercession in what we
call The Lord's Prayer. In this, priority is given to the Father's
name, His kingdom and His will. We must do more than repeat the
familiar words if we are to be effective intercessors. This is the
framework. We are meant to work within it, expressing our prayerful
concern for His name and kingdom and will as applied to actual lands,
actual people and actual situations. We bind it all up with the
declaration: "Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever
and ever", since if we stop short of that disputed finish we terminate
our prayer with "the evil one", and none of us can bear to do that.
iii. Prayer involves spiritual warfare.
Not that the Evil One is very far away when we are praying. There is
nothing more disturbing to the kingdom of darkness than believing
prayer. In chapter 2 we read of three young men at prayer. In chapter 3
we find those same three men in the burning fiery furnace. In chapter 9
we read the moving intercessory prayer of Daniel, and the sequel in
chapter 6 is the den of lions. We have to wait until chapter 10,
however, to get a glimpse behind the scenes and be informed of the
activities of principalities and powers in heavenly places who are
affected by true praying. It was a revelation to Daniel, this
uncovering of the spiritual forces which had been set in motion by his
praying. In the New Testament there are clearer explanations of this
fact, with a warning that those who pray in this way need to put on the
whole armour of God to do so (Ephesians 6:13).
My own view is that it is seldom helpful for us to become pre-occupied
with these unseen beings -- whether they are good angels or bad demons.
What we need to do is to pray to God. But it is healthy for us always
to have a realisation of the spiritual battle involved in intercession.
We need to remember that Satan either tries to keep us from praying or
else works to deflect the Church's prayers from the really big issues
so that we pray about our sins (which in any case, God says are blotted
out!), or about our aches and pains which He has promised to care for
if we seek first His kingdom. So we need to watch
and pray. And we need to keep at it. The astonished Daniel was informed
that although his prayers had been heard as soon as they were uttered,
it took heaven's emissary three weeks to get through with the answer
(10:12-13). And above all, we need to keep humble, as Daniel did
The apostle John was given fuller unfoldings of the visions granted to
Daniel, and in his Revelation he confirms this factor of the importance
of the Church's prayers (Revelation 5:8 and 8:3). Without the sweet
incense of Christ's worthiness, our prayers would be unacceptable, but
through Him they are both precious to God and vital to the fulfilment
of His purposes. At His Coming, will the Son of Man find this kind of
faith on the earth? We can only trust that these seven studies in the
book of Daniel will make some small contribution to ensuring that He
NOTES ON 2 CORINTHIANS
2. PAUL'S PLANS AND GOD'S PLANS
1:12 - 2:13
ALTHOUGH the apostle had thanked and praised God and sought to draw the
Corinthians into the light and pure atmosphere of praise, he was not
ignorant of the fact that such a light and pure atmosphere had not
always characterised the church as a whole and that by no means all its
members were inclined to thank God for him. They accused him of
fickleness and unreliability. For all he knew they might regard his
giving of praise as an effort to cloak the fact that he had changed his
travel plans and broken his promise to visit them. This section deals
with his attempt to refute such ideas and to explain the matter of his
plans and God's.
1. Boasting vv.12-14 "you can boast of us just as we will boast of you" (NIV).
Paul begins by speaking of his own boasting: "For our glorying is this"
(v.12). Paul would be reluctant to boast for there were in Corinth
those who were prone to do so. In contrast to Paul, though, they
boasted in an unspiritual way, motivated by earthly wisdom, that is,
wisdom which they make use of for their own selfish interests. In
contrast to such a spirit, the apostle speaks of the testimony of his
conscience that he behaves with holiness and godly sincerity, motivated
by grace. We notice that he does not lay claim to the wisdom of God as
contrasted with earthly wisdom, but prefers to describe his actions as
being governed by grace.
In order to understand him we must remember that boasting in the
biblical sense does not allow for any taint of self-commendation.
Paul's boasting always sprang from his personal nothingness and
powerlessness (12:9). Here he writes that he can only boast on the
basis of God's grace, something that seems illogical for, humanly
speaking, grace excludes all boasting. When therefore Paul says that in
the day of Christ he expects to be able to boast that the church in
Corinth is a result of his work, he shows that his thought of boasting
contains no element of self-congratulation but only of magnifying God's
We notice that Paul denies any attempt at subtlety, but insists that
all he writes is obvious and clear. Rather surprisingly, though, he
goes on to express the hope that in the day of Christ they will be able
to boast of him just as much as he can boast of them (v.14). We can
understand his boasting of them, for they were the fruit of his labour
(1 Corinthians 9:2), but what had they to boast of? They had done
nothing worthy of praise and Paul was in no sense the result of any
work of theirs, yet he associates them with himself in the prospect of
As we have said, there were some Corinthians who had no wish to boast
of Paul; to them he seemed weak and insignificant. Far from being proud
of him, they were inclined to disassociate themselves from him. Perhaps
that is why he expresses the hope that they will come fully to
understand what they already acknowledge in part. He boasted of them by
the grace of God and if they could get a full understanding of that
grace, then they would be enabled to boast of him. Those who fully
understand grace find that there is no room in their mutual
relationship for suspicion and misunderstanding of motives. Love
reigns. If you boast of someone, you think only the best of him. That
is how he thought of them.
He had already stated how much their prayer meant to him (v.11). It
contributed to the fact that his faith did not break down. In this way
he claimed dependence on them, just as he knew that they were dependent
on him. "we belong together in life and death" (7:3 Danish).
This relationship was wholly of grace. If they allowed that grace to
work in their lives and activate their prayers, then they would become
grateful as they saw their prayers answered and, in the day of Christ,
they would glory in him just as he gloried in them.
2. Vacillation vv.15-17 "I was minded to come ..."
Far from neglecting them, Paul wanted them to have a double benefit.
They should know that his love for his spiritual children was such that
he actually planned to visit them twice, by going to and returning from
Macedonia. What the apostle's plans actually were it is difficult for
now to recognise, but the Corinthians would have no difficulty in
understanding to what he refers in this outline of his proposed
movements. Unhappily there were discontented people in Corinth who were
all too ready to abuse him of vacillation and unreliability.
Paul does not deny that in himself he is capable of fickleness, but
insists that in his relationship with the Corinthians he had not acted
on his own wisdom but in the grace of God. He claims no personal merit,
he does not say, "As surely as I am true", but "As surely as God is
faithful". He maintains that he has been kept reliable by the
faithfulness of God's grace. He repudiates acting "according to the
flesh", as he has already repudiated "fleshly wisdom (v.12). This
world's wisdom gives priority to natural ideas and self-interest, and
is therefore all too prone to vacillate between saying Yes and No. By
God's grace Paul had been delivered from himself; even if by nature he
had been vacillating, God's grace kept him steady and delivered him
from human fickleness. The grace of God which comes by the gospel
delivers a man from double-dealing, for it imparts God's own nature to
the believer, and with God there can be no possibility of His saying
Yes and No at the same time.
3. God's Faithfulness vv.18-20 "in him is yea ..."
It is because all the promises of God find their Yes in Christ that,
through Him, believers can share in God's faithfulness. Paul enlarges
on the matter of the complete reliability of the gospel by saying that
Christ is God's comprehensive "Yes" to all the promises, so much so
that through Him we can say our "Amen", to the glory of God. The Son of
God did not suit His affirmations to what people thought or said, but
stood firmly for the will of God. He was not affected by circumstances;
if He had been, He might well at times have had to say "No" to the will
of God. But He never said "Yes" and "No" at the same time. He is the
very embodiment of the gospel and is the inclusive "Yes" to all God's
As the gospel was proclaimed by the apostle and his fellow-workers, the
preaching produced an emphatic "Amen" from believing hearers. Because
Christ never said other than "Yes" to the will of God, He gives men the
basis not only for saying "Yes" to what He has won for them, but also
the confirming "Amen" which brings glory to God in their lives. In
Christ God never says "Yes" and then fails to implement His word; He
never changes His "Yes" to "No", but always invites us to give a firm
"Amen" to all His promises. He is the God of the Amen (Isaiah 65:16).
Since this is so, the Church of Christ is committed to this same
reliability. The gospel denies it the possibility of saying both "Yes"
and "No" at the same time.
4. Establishment in Christ vv.21-22 "He that stablisheth us with you into Christ ..."
More than this, though, the Church does not say an isolated "Amen" as
being distant from the Lord, but has its life so truly one with Him
that it shares His reliability. Paul here emphasises four things which
God has done for him and for the Corinthians, things which deliver them
from vacillating and make them firm and unshakeable.
i. He has established them by putting them into Christ and keeping them
there. They are in Christ and He is in them, and this by virtue of an
act of God. In this way God provides for a firm standing in Christ for
ii. He has anointed them, causing them to share in the divine
commission and enabling given to His Son. The title Christ means "The
Anointed One". If the Church is in Christ, it follows that it shares
His anointing and communicates the anointing to each member. It makes
no provision for human fickleness.
iii. He has sealed them by virtue of the anointing. They are now set
apart and bear the mark of His ownership. Under that seal they are
eternally safe and are to be kept true to His governing will.
iv. He has given them the Spirit, so that He not only empowers their
lives but reigns in their hearts. This inner experience of the Spirit
is a guarantee of all that they are to inherit. His presence in the
heart means that the whole life is now centred on Christ.
By these four means the apostle's reliability, uprightness and purity
do not depend on his own strength of character but upon the
faithfulness of the God who has established him in Christ. The
Corinthians are in exactly the same position, and so are all those whom
the grace of God has put into Christ. Those who are so placed cannot
vacillate between "Yes" and "No" where the [14/15] will of God is concerned, but can only reply with a "Yes" and an "Amen" to all that will.
5. Compassionate concern vv.23-24 "To spare you I forbare to come ..."
Now perhaps the Corinthians would say that although this might be true,
in actual practice Paul had shown that he said one thing and did
something else. He promised to come, but then he changed his plans and
stayed away. The apostle could not deny that he had changed his plans,
but explained that the reason for doing so was not his carnality but
theirs. It was for their sake and not for his own that he refrained
from visiting them at this time. "I call God for a witness upon my soul
that to spare you I forbare to come unto Corinth" (v.23). The Danish
version reads: "my soul is at stake". Paul felt very strongly the fact
that had he gone to Corinth he would not have been able to spare them
very heavy discipline. He stayed away for their good. Not that he had
any intention of behaving as though he could domineer over them in the
matter of their faith, but he acted out of a genuine desire to help
them to true joy in the Lord.
Before commenting on the opening words of chapter 2 in which he
enlarges on his motives for staying away from them, let us try to
recapitulate the course of events so far:
i. During his first visit he had founded the church (Acts 18).
ii. After having left Corinth, he wrote them a letter (1 Corinthians 5:9).
iii. He later wrote what we call First Corinthians.
iv. He then planned two visits, but the first of these (which was his
second time in Corinth) was so painful that for the time being he
decided not to return. He would not make another painful visit (2:1).
The painful visit is mentioned several times in the letter (see 2:5-11
v. Instead of coming back to them, he wrote a severe letter "with many
tears" (2:4 and 7:8). This was presumably sent by Titus. Some think
that chapters 10 to 13 are this severe letter, but this cannot be
proved. If so, in the church's file it must have been put together with
the letter which he wrote after Titus came back with good news.
vi. For after this he wrote Second Corinthians or, if chapters 10-13 were already written, chapters 1 to 9.
vii. A third visit is planned in 12:14 and 13:1.
The reason why he had not visited them again, as he had originally
promised them, was that the first of the two planned visits was so
painful. Had he persisted in coming in spite of this, it might have
been a painful experience for them both, for their relationship was
such that they shared their sorrows and they shared their joys (2:3).
The deep mutuality of their belonging together is evident. There was a
father/child relationship between him and them which involved this
common emotion, either of joy or pain.
6. Call to obedience 2:5-11 "I beseech you to confirm your love ..."
We do not know the contents of that severe letter which was written
"with many tears" (v.4) unless, of course, its substance is found in
chapters 10 to 13. The drift of it, however, is fairly evident; it
concerned someone who was a disturber of the peace. This can hardly be
the sinner mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5, for it is most unlikely
that Paul would so quickly exhort the church to restore to favour a man
whom he had ordered to be "delivered unto Satan ...". I suggest
therefore that there was a ringleader of the group which was out to
discredit the apostle and that this man had now come under general
disfavour. There are quite a few indications in the letter of the
destructive criticism in which this group indulged. It is possible that
after they had received Paul's severe letter, the church realised how
they had been led astray by this disturber of the peace and had turned
very harshly against him. Paul's call was a call for forgiving love.
The primary concern of them all must be to foil Satan's schemes to
bring division and bad feeling among them and divide them into mutually
antagonistic groups. These were his crafty devices, and the surest way
to defeat them was to unite in forgiving love in Christ.
7. Further movements vv.12-13 "I said goodbye, and went on ..."
Paul's plans were certainly altered, but changes had been governed by
the way in which the situation in Corinth weighed heavily on his mind.
Not that he had been pessimistic -- God's servant is never that -- but
after he had written his severe letter, he had no rest of mind because
there was no word from Titus as to how the letter had been received at
Corinth. For the moment he leaves the narrative and only takes it [15/16]
up at 7:6 where he reports the glad news which Titus eventually brought
him. Meanwhile, however, he has to confess another seeming complication
to his gospel ministry for, in spite of the open door which he found in
Troas, he did not stop there but moved on into Macedonia. Some might
feel that this raised a further question about his service to God, for
he had turned away from an open door. For this reason he now devotes a
long passage to explaining the real nature of evangelical service, as
we will find in our next study.
(To be continued)
A GOD ORDERED LIFE
Angus M. Gunn
"Ye meant evil against me; but God meant it for good"
GOD is always right. That is perhaps the simplest way of describing the
term, The Righteousness of God. Joseph's story tells us how a man came
to know that righteousness in a very personal way. In the record of
Genesis we have the beginning of God's great promise in the life of
Abraham and then the line of promise coming through Isaac and Jacob,
but Joseph comes on the scene without anything other than the fact that
he was his father's favourite son. He is not specified to be in the
line of promise but comes on the scene without any credentials. He has
no special place in the line of promise, but appears just as one of
many. Nevertheless, before we finish the book of Genesis, he is seen to
be the saviour of the entire people of God.
He is a magnificent picture of Jesus Christ, perhaps more vividly so
than any other Bible character we might study. In the course of his
lifetime he went through enormous sufferings for no apparent reason.
His life is shown to be a beautiful clean record of faithfulness to
God, and yet he really had to go through the mill. We may well ask why
this had to be so.
The whole destiny of Israel, the whole promise to Abraham and his
descendants, hinged on the faithfulness of this one man. That is
exactly the story of Joseph and shows him to give a picture of the Lord
Jesus Himself. There are many little things in Joseph's life which make
him like Jesus Christ. He is the beloved son of the father; he is the
person who is hated by his brothers. He is sold for silver, just as
Jesus was sold, and is later stripped of all he has and later found in
the company of two malefactors, one of whom was saved while the other
was lost. This reminds us of the fact that Jesus was crucified between
two thieves, one of whom was saved while the other was not. Many other
details of Joseph's life correspond with the story of the Lord Jesus.
Joseph was full of wisdom, he knew the future; full control of the
world was given to him and he alone could succour and feed the starving
multitudes. In Joseph's life we see mirrored characteristics which were
found in their full perfection in the Lord Jesus. It is significant
that in Genesis more space is given to him than to any other except
If Joseph's life points on to the Lord Jesus, we may be sure that it is
given to us not only for that purpose but also to illustrate for us how
God works in every life which is committed to Him and which He plans to
conform to the image of His Son. We therefore consider Joseph's story
in order to learn more of God's ways in His dealings with us.
The first thrust of the message is that God is in sovereign control of
the ways of such a man: his is an ordered life. For years it seemed
otherwise. He was hated by his brothers, he was sold into slavery, he
was falsely accused and cruelly forgotten, yet when his terrified
brothers came to plead for mercy, he was able to say to them: "Do not
be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for
God sent me before you to preserve life" (45:5). What is more, he was
able to affirm: "So it was not you who sent me here but God".
It took time for Joseph to appreciate how marvellously God had ordered
his life. He was hated, he was sold into slavery by his brothers, he
was thrown into prison because of the lying lust of Potiphar's wife
and, being there, he was forgotten by the one man who ought to have
spoken up for him. Finally, however, he was [16/17]
exalted to the throne, and then he was able to understand what had been
God's purpose in allowing all those sufferings and wrong accusations.
He was able to compass the whole of those painful years with the
explanation that they represented the divine programme for his life.
"As for you", he frankly told his brothers, "you meant evil against me;
but God meant it for good ...". God did more than permit it; He meant it! There was never a moment when He was not in full charge.
Unlike Joseph, we are not yet privileged to see the end of God's
dealings with us but, as we look back over all the evil and hurtful
things which have happened to us, things which were hard to understand
and difficult to forgive, we may perhaps lose all our bitterness and
questioning if we are able by faith to affirm that it has all been a
part of God's perfect plan. We get the victory if we really believe
that God is always right. It may help us to do this if we consider the
contribution which Joseph made through it all. It was two-fold:
i. Commitment to what was right
So far as the record goes, we are not able to fault Joseph. At the
beginning of his life he was associated with his brothers who were a
devious bunch, but he would have nothing to do with their bad ways. He
reported their behaviour to their father, which made them hate him, and
he also told them his dreams. We might say that this was rather
foolish, but at least it shows that he was open and transparent. He
retained that attitude all through, never deviating from a life of
simple commitment to what was right in God's sight. He did this to such
effect in Potiphar's house that he was entrusted with rule there where
he doubtless learned lessons on the language and general comportment
which were essential in his later vocation. For the moment, however,
further sufferings awaited him by reason of his simple integrity, but
he maintained that integrity even amid the injustice of his prison
life. When at last he confronted his guilty brothers, his behaviour did
not spring from any personal pique but only to be sure that there
really was a different spirit among them.
The other feature of his whole life can be described by the one word,
vision. At the beginning he had a vision of the whole purpose of God
for his own life and, as he suffered under God's hand, he came to see
how that vision had been worked out. When his brothers came down to
Egypt he was able to see how wise God had been to send him there first:
"God sent me before you to preserve you a remnant in the earth, and to
save you alive by a great deliverance" (45:7). Increasing vision showed
him that the personal element was insignificant compared with God's
purpose to keep His chosen people alive and even to bring them down to
Egypt. At the end of his life, many years later, he disclosed that he
was looking beyond the 400 years' story of Israel in Egypt, so that he
could speak positively of the exodus and give commandment that his
bones should accompany God's people when they went back to the land. He
saw not only the immediate but the ultimate of God's purpose for his
All this helps to remind us that if we are wholly committed to what we
know to be true and have a vision which is larger than our own
well-being, God can do for us what He did for Joseph -- make every
circumstance and happening of life contribute to His divine purpose.
Romans 8:28 is absolutely true. "We know that to them that love God all
things work together for good, even to them that are called according
to his purpose".
The Righteousness of God
Joseph shows us that no harmful thing which comes to us can interfere
with the outworking of God's will for our lives, provided that we are
not found in a way of deliberate disobedience. We live on the basis of
God's righteousness. Of course, the beautiful thing about Joseph's life
as it is recorded for us is that he did not make any mistakes. We
cannot claim to have such a record, and because we do blunder we are
prone to be discouraged though we are not really surprised by
calamities which we feel we have brought on ourselves. What does
perplex us, though, is when we have no sense of having done anything to
deserve them, we yet have to suffer wrong and injustice. It was so with
Joseph, and it was then that he learned to triumph by faith. We have
his story so that we can get the victory by faith. There is no need for
us to be thinking hard thoughts about those who have wronged us. To
hold a grudge is something inwardly destructive; its bitterness eats
into us and diverts us from God's purpose for our life. Never mind our
puny righteousness. Let us find our rest in the rightness of God's ways
with us and get on with His business and purpose. [17/18]
Authority for God
When the brothers met Joseph in Egypt they were powerless before him
for in him they came face to face with the righteousness of God. It was
no longer a matter of Joseph's goodness, whether what he did or
experienced was right, but he now knew the righteousness of God. This
is what came to him during those years in Egypt. His first son, who was
born before the years of famine, was given the name of Manasseh, for he
said: "God hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father's house"
(41:51). His early dreams had gone down the tube. All the hopes of his
life had gone. He had come to an end of himself. All that related to
his old life -- however good it may nave seemed -- had had to go down
into a grave so that he would live on a new and resurrection basis. He
had had burned into the depths of his being that there is another
righteousness which alone can conquer the power of evil.
We are told that during his bruising and sufferings, the Word of the
Lord had tried him (Psalm 105:19). By the hard route (one translation
tells us that 'the iron entered into his soul'), he learned and
appropriated for himself the truth that God is always right. During his
years in prison he must often have wondered if his original vision had
been God-given, and if so why it seemed so to have miscarried. It was a
hard lesson and at times his faith wavered, as when he complained to
his fellow prisoner that he had done nothing to merit what had happened
to him. He had to learn -- as we all do -- that human righteousness is
not enough; it is tainted and it is inadequate and must be replaced by
Even at the end of his life Paul was found saying: "That I might have a
righteousness not my own". Here was a man who had more integrity and
better quality in his life than most of us, and yet he was gripped by
the realisation that the righteousness of God is infinitely greater
than the best than man can provide. It is more than a quality, it is a
Person, even Jesus Christ our Lord. The supreme thing is to know Him
(Philippians 3:9-10). Human righteousness is not enough. It will
collapse when faced by some social upheaval, some personal trial or
some pressure of enemy activity. Nothing less than God's righteousness
can face and vanquish the assaults of evil.
Joseph was a man who moved on with God while his brothers were stuck in
the mud of their evil consciences. All through the years they had
carried with them a burden of guilt which was never resolved. Their
first encounter with Joseph in Egypt brought the remembrance of their
sin to the surface. Reuben tried to excuse himself by reminding the
others that he had wanted to act differently but had been overruled. As
they feared before Joseph and squabbled among themselves, they never
got into the clear light of God in which Joseph had walked. He,
however, was to be their saviour.
Joseph represents the person who pioneers a new way with God and helps
his brothers by his own experiences under God's hand. Through him in
the end they got some idea of what God is like. At the end of the story
we are confronted by the contrast between Joseph and his brothers
(50:15-21). When the brothers saw that their father was dead they
feared that Joseph would pay them back for the wrong they had done him,
so they sent a bogus message to him purporting to say that Jacob had
insisted that they should be forgiven. When the message came to Joseph
he wept, as he might well do, for they were still shallow and narrow in
their outlook. He assured them that he would never come in between them
and God and, in the power of God's righteousness, he was able to
reassure and speak kindly to them. Though they did not understand or
deserve it, he had really suffered for their sakes, to pioneer a way
for their preservation and destiny.
This, then, shows something of the value to God and to other people of
a truly God ordered life. The one concerned will find that the Lord is
able to pick up all the hurts of the years, all the weaknesses and
injustices, all the painful mysteries and use them for His glory and
for the blessing of others. In the end we will find that God was not
just permitting things or accommodating Himself to them, but using them
in a purposeful way. Over everything in such a life it may be written,
GOD MEANT IT FOR GOOD.
JESUS AND HIS BIBLE
IN his article on Songs of Praise (page four), John Paterson alludes to
a disconcerting lack of confidence in the Scriptures which is evident
in some recently published Christian books. In an attempt to confirm
what Professor Paterson writes about our need to maintain faith firm to
[18/19] the end, I have been looking again at Christ's own personal confirmation and use of the Old Testament.
For this purpose I have been re-reading Luke's Gospel. It so happens
that I have recently given a series of studies on Luke's stress on the
importance of prayer, so it has been doubly helpful to look at his
Gospel again with a view to discovering what he has to say concerning
the attitude of the Lord Jesus to the Old Testament. As a Gentile, Luke
could have had little or no traditional or sentimental regard for the
Jewish Scriptures. If it were necessary this gives added value to his
inspired record of how Jesus Himself regarded them, taking it for
granted that our Old Testament represents the Bible as Christ knew it.
The result of my quest is most impressive. It merits a much more
extended treatment than I am able to give here, but I hope it may be
helpful to pass on to you what Luke's Gospel has to say about Jesus and
The first three chapters of the Gospel have quite a number of
references to the Word of God, but the first direct quotation of Jesus
is found in his reply to Satan's temptation in the wilderness (4:4).
The second of these temptations was also countered by a further
quotation, both of these coming from the book of Deuteronomy. How quick
the Adversary would have been to question the words if he had known of
any reason for doubting their authenticity! He did nothing of the kind,
but he pressed his final temptation by making use of the Scriptures and
the phrase, "It is written" for his own ends. Once again the Saviour
had an answer for him, from the same book of Deuteronomy, but this time
Jesus substituted for "It is written", the more telling phrase, "It is
said" (4:12). No wonder Satan gave up at that point! He has no answer
for those who base their conduct on the fact that the written word is
the direct utterance of God.
Our next quotation comes from the Lord's preaching in the Nazareth
synagogue. He began this with a claim that Isaiah's inspired words were
actually being fulfilled in Himself (4:21) and before He had finished,
He had given His unqualified support to the veracity and spiritual
significance of surprising miracles wrought through Elijah and Elisha
(4:26-27). A further appeal to the Word of God was made when the Lord
answered the challenge of the Pharisees with His question: "Have you
not read even this, what David did ..." (6:3)? He made use of Malachi's
prophecies to substantiate his appreciation of the work of John the
Baptist (7:27) and returned to quote Isaiah again when He explained to
His disciples His use of parabolic teaching (8:10).
This brings us to two remarkable pronouncements about the supreme
importance of hearing and obeying the Word of God. The first concerns
membership of the spiritual family of Christ (8:21). It has a parallel
in both Matthew and Mark but, whereas they speak of membership of that
family being open to those who "do the will of God", Luke boldly claims
that this is equivalent to "those which hear the word of God, and do
it". May we not assert that those who heard Him speak in this way,
including His mother and brethren, could only have understood that He
was referring to what we now call the Old Testament?
The second similar statement is unique to Luke and is so important that
I have chosen it as our back page text for 1981: "Yea rather, blessed
are they that hear the word of God and keep it" (11:28). This is worth
looking at carefully. When some well-meaning Jewish woman wished to
attribute special status to the Virgin Mary, she was promptly corrected
by the Lord who answered that the blessing was rather
for those who hear and obey God's Word. Luke, of all people, can hardly
be accused of any lack of respect for the virgin mother of Jesus, for
we owe most of what we know about that remarkable servant of God to his
Gospel. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, however, he reported the very
words which Jesus had spoken. Far from being offended, Mary would
doubtless rejoice that she can be included in that privileged company
of the blessed, for it was she who humbly prayed, "Behold the handmaid
of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word" (1:38).
We have by no means exhausted the use which Jesus made of the Old
Testament. He is responsible for assuring us that the queen of Sheba
really did visit king Solomon and that Jonah's preaching actually
produced the amazing scenes of repentance in Nineveh which his book
describes (11:31-32). He confirmed the fact of Abel's murder as
recorded in Genesis (11:51) and He made the most categorical statement
of all when He affirmed that "it is easier for heaven and earth to pass
away, than for one tittle of the law to fall" (16:17). And what shall
we say [19/20]
about the parable of Dives and Lazarus? It was Jesus Himself who was
responsible for making Abraham affirm that the message of Moses and the
prophets is more important than any possible testimony of a special
envoy who might be sent back from the dead (16:31).
As we proceed in our reading we find that Jesus made it absolutely
clear that He accepted the story of Noah and the Flood as well as that
of the destruction of Sodom by fire from heaven (17:26-30). He made it
plain that these events contain a message for those who will be on the
earth in the days immediately preceding His return, and He even made an
allusion to that controversial figure, Lot's wife (17:32).
When He cleansed the temple, Jesus claimed that in Isaiah it was
written that God's house should be a place of prayer (19:46) and when
men objected to His parable of the vineyard by saying, "God forbid!" He
looked on them and said, "What then is this that is written, The stone
which the builders rejected, the same was made head of the corner?"
(20:17). He authenticated the experience of Moses at the Bush (20:37),
He set His seal upon the Davidic authorship of Psalm 110 (20:41) and He
gave at least an indication of accepting the light given by Daniel's
vision of the Son of Man (21:27).
So much for the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus. It terminated with
a most moving appropriation of Psalm 31 for His last personal utterance
on the cross; His only addition to the Scriptural text being a wholly
proper and confiding use of the word "Father" (23:46). To me that one
last committal is proof enough of how Jesus loved the Word of God and
found comfort from it in His dying hour: "Father, into thy hands I
commend my spirit". Truly the law of God was in His heart.
In eternity we rightly expect to have the answers to all our questions.
Now Jesus came back from that realm and, far from correcting any of His
teaching concerning the Word of God, He was careful to give absolute
priority to it in His talks with His disciples. What shall we say about
His long conversation on the road to Emmaus, with its kindly rebuke to
the two who were so "slow of heart to believe all
that the prophets have spoken" (24:25)? What a privileged couple they
were to have a first-hand exposition from the risen Christ as,
"Beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, he interpreted to them
in all the scriptures the things concerning himself". They were not
alone in their privilege for the whole apostolic band had a similar
rich experience later in the day, and through them all believers now
can enjoy a like privilege. While over-excited visionary Christians
seem all too ready to advise the whole world of their alleged glimpses
into the other world, the Lord Jesus was content to limit Himself to
"the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms" -- the Old
Testament Scriptures (24:44). He left us in no doubt that this is the
all-important matter. Dare we suggest that we know better than our
Lord? Dare we try to intrude into realms about which He maintained a
sacred silence? Or dare we harbour questions about the very books which
He so prized and recommended?
The apostles were dear to the heart of Jesus. He would readily give
them of His very best. He made it plain that what they needed was not a
modified or scientifically analysed Bible, but only to have their minds
opened to understand the Scriptures which they already possessed.
Nothing better can happen to us than to share their thrilling
experience. The Spirit has come to us and the New Testament has been
written for us so that we may do just that. For them it involved power
to give a world-wide witness and brought them constantly together for
the great joy of worshipping and blessing God (24:46-53).
The Editor [20/ibc]
[Inside back cover]
INSPIRED PARENTHESES (29)
"(which becometh women professing godliness)"
1 Timothy 2:10
FAR from being an unimportant parenthesis, the words could well provide
a heading for the whole section, since this deals with what is seemly
for God-fearing women. We notice that what is in view is not a
legalistic ruling but an indication of what is becoming, or seemly.
IT seems reasonable to conclude that the subject matter of this whole
chapter is public prayer. We are told what is befitting for men who
pray, that is that they should have clean hands. In the case of the
women, the emphasis is laid on good deeds. Furthermore the men are told
to avoid anger and doubting, while the women are advised to avoid lack
of restraint in their appearance. Clearly the men's hearts are in
danger of being betrayed by carnal impulsiveness, whereas the women's
hearts are more likely to stray after what is showy and extravagant.
Both these tendencies must be avoided if those concerned are to pray
acceptably to God.
THE apostle felt it right to pursue this matter of husbands and wives
by asking the women to have modest hearts as well as modest dress
habits. It would certainly not be seemly for a God-fearing woman to
usurp her husband's authority in the home, so it is equally unseemly
for her to do so in the church. A woman professing to be God-fearing is
expected to be modest in heart and behaviour as well as in appearance.
IF she and her husband together continue in faith and love and holiness
with modesty, then she will be "saved". This can have no reference to
gospel salvation, for the injunction is given to women who are already
Christians. It probably means that mothers will be saved from
disorderly assumption of power in the church by fulfilling their
God-given instincts to rule in their own domestic sphere. It is a pity
that the N.I.V. rendering of verse 10 seems to obscure the fact that
what God said was that if "they"
(the married couple) live together in true spiritual harmony, "she"
(the mother of their children) will be saved. Saved from what? Surely
from tensions and frustration in other realms.
EVE was a harmful influence over her husband. Let every wife professing
godliness seek earnestly to be saved from such impropriety. Satan will
attack the husband through the wife if he can. Deliverance from his
attacks may well depend on the humility with which she shares their
life together with the faith and love and holiness which are fitting in
a Christian home. The key word of this whole passage seems to be
"modesty", what is becoming. The purpose in view seems to be answered
prayer -- see 1 Peter 3:7.
NO member of the Church of Christ must be frustrated: that is
unthinkable. All of us, however, need to be saved from any personal
aggression or conceit, so that we may have the background of lives
which are seemly for our task of intercession. This is the most
important and Christlike of all activities -- to prevail with God in
"BUT HE SAID: YEA RATHER, BLESSED ARE THEY
THAT HEAR THE WORD OF GOD AND KEEP IT."
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