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

Previous issue | Next issue


Vol. 10, No. 1, Jan. - Feb. 1981EDITOR: Mr. Harry Foster

The Significance Of The Ascension1
Songs Of Praise (5)4
The Secret Of Daniel's Strength (7)7
Notes On 2 Corinthians (2)13
A God Ordered Life16
Jesus And His Bible18
Inspired Parentheses (29)ibc



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 heaven.

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.

1. Salvation

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 more".

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.

2. Glory

"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 Father.

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 people.

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 God.

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]

3. Fullness

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 ascended King.

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?



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 declining years.

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.



Harry Foster


"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 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)?


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. They are:

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, "that night 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 Truth" (10:21).

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 (10:12).

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 will.

(Conclusion) [12/13]


Poul Madsen

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 Grace.

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 future glorying.

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 us [13/14] 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 saving promises.

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 all believers.

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 and 7:12).

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)


Angus M. Gunn

"Ye meant evil against me; but God meant it for good"
Genesis 50:20

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 Abraham.

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.

God's Overruling

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.

Man's Co-operation

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.

ii. Vision

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 life.

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 God's righteousness.

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.



[Harry Foster]

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 His Bible.

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]


"(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 prayer.


[Back cover]

Luke 11:28

Printed by The Invil Press, 4/5 Brownlow Mews, London WC1N 2LD -- Telephone: 01-242 7454

  • Alphabetical
  • Chronological
  • Topical
  • Alphabetical
  • Chronological
  • Topical
  • Alphabetical
  • Chronological
  • Alphabetical
  • Chronological