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

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Vol. 10, No. 4, July - Aug. 1981 EDITOR: Mr. Harry Foster

"Some Better Thing" 61
Lessons In Life And Leadership (1) 63
Life In Its Fulness (1) 67
Beholding His Glory 70
Notes On 2 Corinthians (5) 73
In The Beginning (3) 76
Inspired Parentheses (31) ibc



Harry Foster

THESE words are taken from Hebrews 11:40 and are doubtless dispensational in that setting, but they apply to all of God's dealings with His people, and not least in the moments of our greatest disappointments. The Scriptures make plain that whenever God says 'No' to His praying people, He sees to it that in the end He has done so in order to provide an even greater blessing.


When we talk of prayer it seems natural to begin with Abraham, God's friend, and it is with something of a shock that we read of the time when God refused to answer him: "And Abraham said unto God, Oh that Ishmael might live before thee!" And God said, "Nay ..." (Genesis 17:18-19). Abraham was not asking that Ishmael might stay alive, for there was no fear that he would die. What he did want God to do was to recognise Ishmael as the true inheriting son; to accept him as the makeshift substitute for a true-born son of Sarah.

This was not a lightly uttered prayer. Abraham was actually on his face before God when he voiced it. At that time Ishmael was the only child he had, the object of his love, and he felt that it could help God's plan if he were made to inherit. Nor was God's answer lightly uttered when He had to say No to His friend. There are some things which God cannot do. He cannot go back on His promises. He cannot accept a human substitute for His divine plans. And He cannot give the easy answers to prayer which would ultimately involve loss and not gain.

Had Ishmael been incorporated into God's covenant people, for ever afterwards the new race would have been a sad testimony to what man has to do when God is powerless. What would have happened when the Lord asked Abraham to offer up his son on Moriah? Ishmael was "a wild ass among men" with "his hand against every man" so instead of harmonious submission to his father and being placed on the altar, there would probably have been a disgraceful scuffle on the holy mountain, with a son far more likely to turn the knife against his old father than meekly to submit, as Isaac did.

No, Abraham did not know what he was asking when he pleaded for Ishmael. Nor do we when we try to force God to accept our ideas and efforts as though they were His own. But although God refused, He is not negative in His intentions. He followed up His emphatic "No", with the "much better thing" of a true son, concerning whom He could later say to Abraham: "Thy only son, whom thou lovest" (Genesis 22:2).


And what a man of prayer was Moses. Yet in one matter God had to say to him: "Speak no more of this matter ... for thou shalt not go over this Jordan" (Deuteronomy 3:26-27). How can we say that Moses received a better thing by having his earnest plea rejected? Well, let us imagine that he had not died as he did. In the land he would have grown old and feeble. Perhaps, like Eli, his eyesight might have failed or worse, like David, he might have become a pitiful old invalid. Instead of the actual image we have of the vigorous leader, he might have come to be known as a poor, worn-out character, shuffling pathetically out of history. Instead of that, "his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated". His honour and dignity never deserted him; he was taken away in such full strength that the people felt that they could only go on if Joshua was, in effect, another Moses (Joshua 1:17).

And what shall we say of Moses' share in the glory of the Mount of Transfiguration? And of the honour implied in the heavenly "song of Moses, the servant of God, and of the Lamb" (Revelation 15:3). Only that for him, as for all of us, seemingly earthly deprivation makes eternal gain all the greater.


There were good reasons why God should not answer David's agonised pleading over the son of his sinfulness (2 Samuel 12:15-25), but David felt that they could perhaps be set aside in view of God's great grace to him. But the child died after all. So great had been his distress in his seven days' crying to God, that his servants were afraid to tell him of the death, for they could [61/62] not imagine what fresh paroxysm of grief would meet the denial of his prayer. To their astonishment, no such thing happened. David "came into the House of the Lord and worshipped ...". As a spiritual man he behaved as though the Lord had said 'Yes' rather than 'No', finding peace and joy -- as we may do -- by accepting the will of God.

But the story does not end there. It goes on to tell us that the sequel was "some better thing" in the person of the child whom the world called Solomon but whom the Lord called Jedidiah because he was so greatly loved. Even if, as in David's case, human sin has complicated things for God, His refusal to answer our prayer is only because He has even for us "some better thing".


"... and he sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now O Lord, take away my life ..." (1 Kings 19:4). It was a very natural prayer, and there have been times when the best of us have prayed it, but nevertheless it was a silly prayer. Elijah had prayed mighty and noble prayers for God's people and God's honour but this time, we are told, "he requested for himself ...". What mean and unworthy utterances come from us when self-pity spoils our prayers! God did not even say "No" to this prayer: He simply ignored it. We, like the prophet, have reason to be very grateful at times that God ignores some foolish prayers of ours. Yet it would be wrong to imagine that Elijah did not mean every word he said. Only those who have risen to such heights of devotion as he had, and then sunk to such depths of seeming failure as he endured, can understand how he felt when he asked the Lord please to take him out of it all. "It is enough!" Surely it would have been kinder of the Lord to excuse him further heartbreak and let him fade quietly out.

But no! The Lord's servant has to go right on to the end. So Elijah was not granted his request. He had to go on a little longer. He was most graciously cared for by an angel, led on to Horeb and made to hear "the voice of gentle stillness", and in the end he did not die at all, but made a triumphant ascent to glory. And he left behind that faithful Elisha who would have gone on ploughing for the rest of his life if Elijah had died then. So if we want to give up; if we feel that the kindest thing is for the Lord to take us Home, by all means let us pray Elijah's prayer if it gives us any satisfaction to do so; but we need not expect God to agree. He will not answer that prayer, for He has "some better thing".


We need not be surprised to find that such experiences did not terminate with the Old Testament. The New Testament carries on the same story. Take the case of John: "And there come near unto him, James and John ... saying unto him: Master we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we ask of thee" (Mark 10:35). This sounds spiritual enough: "Whatsoever we ask ...". Why surely that was a good prayer! Yet it was a prayer which was never answered. When the Lord enquired further of the two men, He found that they wanted personal pre-eminence -- a place on His right hand and on His left hand in the glory .

Christ asked them if they were willing to pay the price. This is a most important question, for it is no use our praying if we shrink from the cost of the prayer being answered. To their credit they were ready to pay the price, and in fact they both did drink of the cup of suffering for their Lord. Even so, the prayer was not and will not be answered. John himself is the best witness of this.

Late in his life he was given a look into heaven. He received a marvellous vision of the glory that is to be (Revelation 5). He looked on the right hand of the Lamb, and what did he see? No place for James. No place for their rival, Peter. No place for John himself. There was no place for any other, either at the right hand or at the left, for the Lamb was the central figure in that great scene, alone in His great majesty with no place found for any other.

Far from being disappointed, John gives us the impression that he thoroughly agreed with those Living Ones and the Elders and the "ten thousand times ten thousand" in their exultant praises of the unique and all-glorious Lamb in the midst of the throne. Perhaps he wished that his foolish prayer for pre-eminence might be blotted out of the divine record. How stupid and selfish will some of our most pious requests appear when they are seen in the light of eternity! But what did it matter, for now he saw the "better thing" which was the unique and unshared glory of his beloved Lord? We shall not waste any time in [62/63] heaven grieving over our own faulty prayers but be completely taken up with the wonders of surpassing glory in which we have a part.

For John did see someone at the right hand of the Lord Jesus. As we read on in his book of Revelation we find that it culminates with what the psalmist says: "At thy right hand doth stand the queen in gold of Ophir". She is there because she is the consort of God's king whose "throne is for ever and ever" (See Psalm 45). In John's words: "I saw the holy city ... coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband" (Revelation 21:2). We know that God's redeemed Church is being prepared for eternal bridal union with His reigning Son, and we believe that John will be among that company as, by grace, we ourselves hope to be. So although the Lord Jesus seemed to deny John's request, He only did so because He knew that the Father was going to provide "some better thing".

To be part of the Bride, the Lamb's wife, sharing the throne and the kingdom with Him, to be one of the blessed company of the redeemed in most intimate association with their enthroned Lord, this was a privilege infinitely above the petty throne which John had longed for and been denied. It will doubtless be part of the thrills of eternity to discover how the Lord has not rejected our unworthy prayers but purified and fitted them into His own purposes of grace and glory. And even here on earth we will not complain if some lesser requests of ours seem to be denied when we remember that "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9).

For redeemed sinners to have a place among Christ's Bride will indeed be "some better thing". It will be more than that, for it will be the best thing of all. Even now, although the great Day of consummation has not yet come, we are assured that to be with Christ is "very far better" (Philippians 1:23). So if concerning ourselves or concerning some loved one, we have a sense of the Lord having denied us in our praying, let us take heart from these and many other examples of the fact that our Lord gives the very best to those who leave the choice with Him.



J. Alec Motyer


WE consider the book of Exodus in trying to discover the basic principles of life which God taught to Moses and also the way in which he lived out his life according to what God had taught him. The first part of the book is largely a story of private dealings between God and Moses. Very few others enter into it -- Pharaoh now and again, the people of Israel hardly at all. It is a God and Moses matter. For instance, at the beginning of things, when God says to Moses, "I am come down to deliver them" (3:8), He goes on to say: "Come now, I will send you". It is a God and Moses arrangement. In chapter 15, however, a big change comes over the scene so that from then onwards Moses is brought into direct relationship with the people who are given into his charge: "Moses led Israel onward" (15:22). So we have here a pattern which often works out in the men and women of the Bible called to leadership. They start off with a secret apprenticeship in which God has private, personal dealings with them, trimming them into shape by His discipline and then sending them into their work in the world.

A Life of Submission

The first main lesson Moses had to learn can be summed up by an adaptation of familiar words. "Not I, but the Lord." For this I have coined a word for the occasion and it is "self-unimportance". This lesson of submission involves the opposite of self-importance, so that is surely "self-unimportance". The other side of this lesson is that of "God-importance". See how Moses learned this lesson. [63/64]

1. "Not I" in my ability.

In these chapters there is a pattern. It consists of Vision (3:1-11), Assurance (3:12-26) and then Failure (5:1-22). Moses went bouncing into the land of Egypt full of confidence, and fell flat on his face. So the pattern had to be repeated but with a dramatic change, marked by God's word, "Now" (6:1). The change is not in the Vision, nor in the Assurance but in the outcome. This time it is not failure but Success, for from this time onward Moses is able to carry the work through to completion and bring the people to meet God at His mountain, Sinai.

Now what is the difference? Vision, Assurance, Failure: Vision, Assurance, Success. It is to be found in 7:6: "Moses and Aaron did so; as the Lord commanded them, so did they". It is as simple and elementary as that -- "Not I any more, but the Lord" in the exercise of obedience.

First of all there had to be the removal of the ungodly 'I' element, the first stage of which was to show Moses the failure of what we like to call 'strong natural leadership'. Moses was such a leader and he had to find out that by itself this will not do. Strong natural leadership! Moses tried it but it did not work: it is not God's way. He was brave and resolute, a decisive man with many of the attributes that may seem so desirable in God's work. But he failed utterly. God had to show him -- and us -- that He does not work in that way. He has to deal with any element of self-confidence or self-importance. So Moses was rejected by the people who asked, 'Who made you a prince and a judge over us?' His only answer could be, 'It was I who made myself such a prince and leader'.

That will never do. So Moses went off into the wilderness and made his home with the priest of Midian, marrying one of his daughters. We see the difference in the statement that he "was content to dwell with the man" (2:21) and with what he said when his son was born: "I have become a resident alien in a foreign land" (2:22). He was beginning to come to a new estimate of himself. Forty years later he was still in the same situation: "Moses was keeping the flock of Jethro his father in law" (3:1). He had made no progress: he was still keeping another man's sheep. And yet he had been learning that valuable lesson of self-unimportance. And there was a wonderful divine purpose in it. Why did God keep him feeding another man's flock for forty years? Because for the next forty years he was to shepherd the flock of God. God is always positive. He deflated the strong natural leadership of Moses so that he would be fit to be trusted as God's chosen leader.

2. "Not I in my inability."

Now, however, he had to learn the "Not I" in quite the other way. "Not I" in respect of ability, but also "Not I" in respect of inability. Here we have Moses pleading inadequacy (3:11), pleading ignorance (3:13), pleading ineffectiveness (4:1), pleading inability (4:10) and pleading unreadiness (4:13), as though saying, "Anybody but me, Lord!" But God said, That is not the point. It is all part of the principle of "Not I". It must be followed up by "But God!"

Having therefore deflated Moses and assured him that He was well aware of his unimportance and lack of capacity, He now begins to fill the picture with Himself. First privately, and then publicly, He insists that He will be present in Moses' life as LORD.

3. "But God."

First of all Moses had to learn obedience in his private life. "The Lord met him and sought to kill him" (4:24). How remarkable! Yet no, it was God's way of saying, 'Moses, I can do without you. I am not dependent upon you. Please don't think that I have committed Myself in any way into your hands'. The story is a remarkable one, but as Zipporah made the boy's foreskin "touch his (presumably Moses') feet", so associating Moses with the act of circumcision, so God released His deadly grip upon Moses -- "He let him alone". Although this has puzzled many commentators, it surely indicates plainly that Moses had been living in disobedience to the Word of God, but when the family came back into the place of obedience and the divine word concerning circumcision was implemented, the crisis was over. To the disobedient Moses God made it plain that He will only use the man whose life is hall-marked with obedience to the Word of God. It is one thing to say, "Not I", but sometimes another thing to say "but God". In the private sphere of his own life the servant of the Lord has to do just that.

Then Moses passed on to learn the same lesson of obedience in his public life. From 5:1 onwards he is out of the privacy of their room at the inn and into the public arena of the court of Pharaoh. [64/65] Moses and Aaron came and said to Pharaoh: "Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, let my people go that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness" (5:1). It sounds marvellous. The only fault was that it was quite different from what God had told him to say. It was different in tone and it was different in content. What God had said was: "unto the king of Egypt you shall say, The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met us. Now, let us go we pray thee three days' journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God" (3:18). This is quiet; it is conciliatory; it is modest in its request. Moses, however, spoke in a manner which was hectoring and thundering and demanding. He refused to use the phrase which Pharaoh would understand -- "the God of the Hebrews has met with us", insisting rather upon using the word which Pharaoh would not understand -- "the God of Israel". 'Israel' was a name which Pharaoh never used, knowing only the term 'the Hebrews', which was what God told Moses to employ.

Moses was not yet a man disciplined to the Word of God so, of course, he came to the place of failure. But happily when he failed he knew what to do about it -- "Moses returned unto the Lord" (5:22). That is what to do with failure. There is nothing like trouble and failure for driving us into a corner by ourselves, but the Bible tells us to do just the opposite. The thing to do is to take it to the Lord. "Moses returned unto the Lord and said, Lord, why have you done so much harm to Your people? ... neither have you delivered Your people at all." The Lord answered this in two ways. First, He repeated the vision of Himself, for it is the vision of God more than anything else that will teach us: "Not I, but God", and then He repeated His insistence upon His Word: "I am the Lord. Speak thou unto Pharaoh, king of Egypt, all that I speak to thee" (6:29).

A Life of Obedience

From 7:8 onwards we find Moses in the arena of the court of Pharaoh, negotiating, demanding, seeking the release of the people of Israel. And here the same truths are tested. Anybody who goes into the place of obedience, goes into the place of testing. Conflict is essential to their walk with God. Not that we should seek it, but it is essential in the sense that obedience must be able to withstand testing.

For example, Moses was tested when counterfeits were produced. The magicians of Egypt could do just as well as the rod of God. They also could produce frogs. Whether Pharaoh was appalled at the production of even more frogs than there were already, we do not know, but we do know that it must have been a severe test for Moses. It seems to be a distinctive feature of those who truly follow God that they are tested by ceaseless opposition.

There are eleven distinct references here to the hardening of the heart of Pharaoh. It is not just that the opposition goes on but that it mounts, so that at the end it is eleven times more severe than at the beginning. Perhaps the most severe tests which came to Moses were those of the proposition to compromise. First Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron and said, "Go, sacrifice to your God in the land" (8:25). He grants what God requires, but not where God requires it. Then he said: "Go, serve the Lord, only let your flocks and your herds be stayed. Let your little ones even go with you" (10:24). This is the very opposite -- granting where God wanted but not what God required. Moses found that to grasp the fact that it is "Not I, but the Lord" demands uncompromising obedience.

A Life of Prayer

Right through this section of the story of Moses, runs the truth that prayer must be proved. When you come to think of it, this is the second necessary element in the basic principle of "Not I, but God". It is not only a matter of obedience but also of drawing on divine resources. Moses was learning that there are resources in God which must be tapped by prayer. If you look at the references in 8:12, 8:29, 9:29 and 10:18, you will notice that Moses always goes out from Pharaoh before he prays. He goes apart to pray, for prayer is the nourishing of life in secret, drawing life from God Himself. It is the cry to God which is the solution of the problem.

A Life of Spiritual Growth

In this sequence of stories, we notice how Moses grows in stature. In other words, the life of obedience and the life of prayer is the way of sanctification. This is so clear in the Exodus story of Moses, and it is confirmed throughout the rest of the Bible.

Consider how Moses grew in stature. One of the striking things about him at the beginning [65/66] was his repeated testimony, "I am slow of speech and of a slow tongue", a fact which is borne out by the fact that his first speech to Pharaoh at the beginning of chapter 5 occupies five meagre lines. In chapter 7 he is able to manage a speech of fifteen lines. Later in the same chapter, he puts up his record of speech to eighteen lines (7:20), and then in 9:13 he manages a speech which occupies thirty lines of print in my Bible, and in his last speech to Pharaoh, he fills up twenty-four lines (11:4). Slow of speech and of a slow tongue, indeed! First he had to lean on Aaron as a kind of crutch, but by the time we reach chapter 11, Aaron is forgotten. Now it is Moses, the man of God. This may sound frivolous but it can be a very telling example of the way in which growth is made from the "Not I", to the "but God".

The Practice of Leadership

Having considered the personal story of God's dealings with Moses, we pass to the later chapters of Exodus to find how the principles worked out as he undertook the call to leadership. How important is the place of the leader among the people of God! At every significant point of the people's need, God sent them a leader. When they were slaves in the land of Egypt, He sent them a leader. When they were poised on the brink of the land of Canaan, He sent them another leader, Joshua, to bring them into the possession of the land. When they had declined from all true spirituality, He sent them a leader, namely Samuel. When they were to be brought into their characteristic position as the people of God, ready typically to enjoy the prosperity God intended for them, He again sent them a leader -- David. When they departed from truth and needed to be recalled, what did God do? He sent them leaders -- the prophets. When they needed saving by one sacrifice for sins for ever, what did He do? He sent them the Leader, the Lord Jesus Christ. But if we are called to any kind of leadership, let us learn the Mosaic principles of leadership.

The first is the practice of self-forgetfulness, self-effacement -- Not I! Perhaps we may begin with the time when Moses was overburdened with the tasks and responsibilities of leadership, took his problem to God and was told that the Lord would take some of the spirit upon him and put it on seventy elders (Numbers 11). For certain reasons, objection was made to two of them and Joshua, his minister, "answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them" (v.28). Joshua was jealous for the dignity of Moses, but "Not I" means that Moses would not yield to self-importance and replied, "Are you jealous for my sake? Would God that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!" It is a mark of true leadership to be able to rejoice in the gifts which God gives to others.

We return to Exodus 32 and note the searching tests of self-unimportance which were imposed upon Moses. God offered to destroy the sinning people and begin again with Moses: "... I will make of you a great nation" (v.10). This was an offer which Moses rejected as he continued to plead for the erring people. He was even ready to forfeit his own eternal welfare on their behalf: "... if not, blot me I pray, out of thy book". What a prayer!

Later we read of the deepest disappointment of his life, when he was forbidden to enter the promised land but allowed to go up to the mountain of Abarim and contemplate it (Numbers 27:12). It seems that he ignored his own personal deprivation and was fully occupied with the needs of God's people, so he prayed: "Let the Lord the God of the spirits of all flesh appoint a man over the congregation ..." (v.16). He was not preoccupied with the fact that he could not go but rather by the fact that if they were to go, they needed a divine leader in his place. How well he had learned the lesson of "Not I"!

What we have been saying and much more shows us also how well he had learned the lesson of prayer. Whenever there was a crisis among God's people -- and there were many, as there always are -- we are told that "Moses cried unto the Lord". When perhaps the greatest crisis of all arose, we are told: "Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces" to pray (Numbers 14:5). Crisis after crisis was met by prayer. This is a great feature of those who have learned "Not I, but the Lord". Have you ever heard of the Motto Card: "Why pray, when you can worry?"

As to obedience, it might be good to try to discover how often in these stories we read the words: "And the Lord said to Moses", but we would be blinded by the statistics. The thought runs right through the whole Pentatech: "The Lord said to Moses ..." and Moses did exactly [66/67] what the Lord said to him. Just in the Tabernacle sequence of Exodus chapters 25 to 40 there are twenty-one distinct references to the fact that in Moses' case, the will of God was done on earth just as God in heaven had said it should be. No wonder God described him as "faithful in all my house" (Numbers 12:7). He obeyed as he grew, and he grew as he obeyed.

So there it is; the life of Moses exemplifies "Not I, but God" -- "when I am weak, then I am strong". But if that is so, we have the one example when he showed the opposite -- "When I am strong, then I am weak". For the great man, the man who had learned and practised the law of obedience, lost his inheritance in the land because of disobedience. Let us beware lest any strength of ours gives Satan a handle to defeat us. Right through to the end, may we abide by the great Biblical truth, "Not I, but God"!

(To be continued)


(A running commentary on Romans 8)

George Harpur

IN Romans 8 Paul has reached a turning point in his argument in this deep and fascinating study of the gospel. He introduces it with the words "therefore" and "now". He has dealt with the matter of our standing in chapters 1 to 5, showing that faith has brought us into a new standing and relieved us of the shame and condemnation that was upon us as sinners. In chapters 6, 7 and 8 he is expounding the kind of persons that believers have become, and stresses that in their innermost heart they are without condemnation. For them there is no manner of condemnation, and the result of this is that they have a comfort and joy in knowing that they are right with God which forms a basis for a life of power, purpose and serenity.

Paul puts this in a special way. He could have said that there is no condemnation to those who believe in Christ Jesus, but in fact what he says is: "There is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus". This is important and worthy of our attention for its clarification will help us to understand the drift of the whole chapter.

Over against the phrase, "in Christ" or "in the Lord" and other similar New Testament variations of this matter, there is the other phrase which Paul so often uses, "in Adam". When we were born, we were in Adam; when we were born again we became "in Christ", and it is this which makes all the difference. In Adam there is only condemnation, our standing is all wrong, we are wrong with God and fundamentally unacceptable to Him. Now we have been moved into another race and are no longer "in Adam". We still have adamic bodies, but inside we are new persons, new people belonging to a new race. Just as Adam was the head of the first race, and we all descended from him, so Christ is the Head of another race, a new humanity, a new race sometimes called the "corporate Christ". There is a wide cleavage, and this is why we insist on people being "born again" or "born from above". We didn't have to do much about being born into the adamic race -- really we didn't have to do anything. But we do have to do something about the new race; we must come to the Saviour and take our place in Him. Once we do that, there is no more condemnation.

PAUL gives us the reason. He says that it is because "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death". The law of sin and death is what operates in the race of Adam; they work under that law in degree and over time. Sin can be gradual, varying in quantity in individuals. Death, too, is in a sense a gradual thing, working spiritually, mentally and physically. It takes place over a range of time, but it is the absolute law of existence for the adamic race; men are bound by it. But when we come to Christ there is a new law, one which cuts us off from the old law and delivers us from it. Just as the old adamic race operated by the law of a sinful nature which went on to death and finished in corruption, so the new race, the new humanity in Christ, operates by another law, and that law is the law of the Spirit of life, the living Spirit of God. [67/68]

Paul goes on to explain that the law could not do this. He needed so to explain it because Jews wanted to know what the law was about, since it had operated for some 1,500 years in their history. He had to point out that the Law could tell them what to do, but it could not give them the power to break from the bondage of sin; it could not empower them to live the way they ought to live -- it was weak through the flesh. So the apostle tells us of four ways in which God has solved this problem.

1. He did it by sending His Son -- He came about the business Himself.

2. He came in the likeness of sinful flesh, that is, He was a true member of the adamic race, but without sin. Adam himself had originally been a member of that race without sin, but then he sinned. Jesus came with a sinless human nature and He did not sin.

3. He came about the business of sin. That was what He came to deal with, the whole problem of the adamic life.

4. He condemned sin in the flesh. There on the cross, the Lord dealt with the problem of sin in judgment.

Then the purpose of all this is stated: "so that the righteousness of the law (or the righteous requirements of the law) might be fulfilled in us" (v.4). That was God's intention, namely that what the law was really aimed at might be secured. It could not be secured by the law, because the law was frustrated by our old nature, but now it can be secured in Christ. The righteous requirement of the law is not just the regulations and rules that are found in the book of Moses: what Paul is talking about here is the perfect fulfilment of the holy will of God for man.

THE old passes away and decays, as the Letter to the Hebrews says. It had to, for it was largely aimed at the outward. It said, for example, that you are not to commit murder, but you could hate like poison -- indeed it was said that you could hate your enemy -- so long as you did not follow through your feelings with an act. But that, of course, was not what God really wanted, as the Lord Jesus explained in His Sermon on the Mount. He says that God wants you to be the kind of person who doesn't even hate anybody, for the heart that hates is the heart that murders, and God is always looking into the heart. It is easy enough to refrain from actually murdering people. As a red-haired boy in an Irish school, I would cheerfully have murdered some of my teachers. I never actually did! It wasn't too difficult to refrain from it. But it would be very difficult indeed to ensure that one's heart was always filled with love and never harbour hatred, but that is what God wants. And when we hate somebody we do harm to God Himself.

Similarly it is not too difficult -- even in these degenerate days -- for one to avoid adultery; and in the old days that was what the law was concerned about. You could have concubines, for example, and not offend the law; you could have a dirty mind, but the Law of Moses was not concerned with that. God, however, is deeply concerned, for He wants the kind of heart that has no moral perversion in it. It needed the teaching of the Lord Jesus to bring this out, though in fact it is clear for, while the eighth commandment said, Thou shalt not steal, the tenth commandment got right underneath to what God was after and said, Thou shalt not covet. It is interesting that in chapter 7 of this Letter Paul exposes this. Like the young ruler, he could say about the other nine, "All these things have I kept from my youth up", but when the Spirit of God directed him to the command not to covet, he realised just how sinful he was and had to confess: "I died". Through the gospel he discovered that what the law could never achieve in him had been fully provided for by God, who had relieved him of all condemnation by putting him right in Christ Jesus.

The apostle uses the word "fulfilled" deliberately because such a programme takes time. A child is a sinner by nature, but not by practice, but in due course it will become an obviously practising sinner. So in a sense, we who are "in Christ" are no longer sinners but are called "saints"; but it takes time for this to be developed, for the life to show itself, for the baby to become a youth and then to grow into a man. So Paul talks about this righteousness being 'fulfilled' in us. As persons, when we are born again we are absolutely right with God, but we have to grow in this new sinless human nature given to us by the Spirit of Christ. It is now possible if only we walk after the Spirit and not after the flesh.

'After' is one of a number of prepositions used in this section, and all are worthy of close investigation. This one about walking 'after', is [68/69] just a description; the ordinary human being walks after the law of his nature and the new Christian walks after the law of his new nature, which is the Spirit of God. Of course if we walk after the Spirit, then the righteous requirements of the law are fulfilled in us, because the Spirit of God will not guide us into anything that is wrong and will not empower us to do anything that is carnal.

IN the following verses Paul explains to us some of the contrasts of these two natures: the old nature which we still have because it is allied to our bodies, and the new nature which is our real person, what we really are underneath, by grace. He contrasts them first in regard to their affections -- the kind of things they like. The things that interest fallen human nature are the things that are typical of this world. But those who are in Christ have different interests: a new affection comes in. This is one of the most extra-ordinary things in the conversion of any person. Do you remember it? Suddenly your desires were changed. There were things that you stopped liking, if they were wrong, and there were things that you had a mind for, for they pleased God. Such things became of paramount interest because of the new nature in Christ has new ideas and new affections.

The Holy Spirit does give us a new mind. The 'old man' still likes the old things, but there is a 'new man' in us which likes the new things. This, of course, leads to difficulty, and that is all explained in chapter 7 where Paul confesses that it was a wretched position to be in for, even though he had a new nature, he still had an old nature, and the two were contrary the one to the other: "that ye may not do the things that ye would" (Galatians 5:17). But he doesn't leave us without a solution. We not only have a new nature now that we are in Christ Jesus, but we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. That makes all the difference. To have Christ dwelling within us is a very different matter from just having a new nature. If it were a matter of the new nature and the old fighting it out, with us trying to arbitrate between them, then we would be in one great mess. But the scales are weighted by the Spirit of God in the Christian's heart. It is His presence that enables us to triumph, and that is what the rest of the chapter is about.

"To be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace" (verse 6). Everything that the natural man is interested in ends in death and finally he dies. Everything he has dies and then he dies. This is the tragedy of eternity, that the things which men have wrapped their lives around while they were here -- even the good things -- are lost at death and they will never find them again. They do not await them in another sphere to be enjoyed there: they are gone for ever. To be carnally minded is death. But to be spiritually minded is life. Everything will live. We will carry our things through; the things that are in Christ, the things that He has given us, the things that the Spirit of God and our new nature are interested in are ours for ever. And not only them, but all other good things too. As Paul says in another Letter, "All things are yours" -- things past, things present or future, things up there or down here, seen or unseen -- all things are yours because they are Christ's. Such conviction brings a life of tremendous serenity. There is peace as well as life in following the Spirit.

The opposite is too sad to be endured. Paul gives a very succinct summary of the dilemma and tragedy of those who have only got a fallen nature: they are at enmity with God; they are not and cannot be subject to God's law and they cannot please Him (verses 7 and 8). But in the next verse he goes on to show that those who have become Christians are in a different situation; they are not "in the flesh". We are no longer in the adamic race: we are now part of the new race in Christ Jesus, and in that new race we have a new nature, "if so be", he says, "that the Spirit of God dwell in you".

This is what makes somebody a Christian -- "if so be"! It is not just church going; we are not "in the Spirit" because we do that, indeed it is possible to go to church and be in a very wrong spirit. Nor is it that we are able to speak languages we have never learned. Such speaking is not rated very high by the apostle, who makes it the least of all the gifts and points out that for himself he would rather speak five intelligent words in his own tongue than ten thousand (about an hour and a half's sermon for any normal speaker) in some unknown tongue. Since he demands that in any case the 'tongue' must be translated afterwards, the comparison is staggering.

No, it is the presence of the Spirit of God dwelling in us that makes all the difference. There are gifts of the Spirit, some of them wonderful to us and given to each of us, but it is His [69/70] presence not the gifts which makes us to be "in Christ". It is not without significance that the Lord Jesus warned us that one day people will come to Him claiming to have done great miracles in His name. Notice not just "great miracles" but "miracles in Your name". But He will deny ever having known them. Far from being "in Christ" they were total strangers to Him. It is the Spirit of God's presence in us that makes the difference. "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." Just as if a being had not a human spirit he would not be human. If anyone has not Christ living within him, then he is not a Christian. If you don't feel Him within, then you can be grateful, for He is not just a feeling. He may produce feelings, and sometimes does, but they themselves are not the Spirit.

PAUL then argues that "if Christ be in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is life because of righteousness", and many commentators agree with the R.V. in putting a small 's' for the spirit here. Though the body is dead, that is, it will not respond to the will of God, the spirit is very much alive. Paul has said: "Evil is present with me, and there is a law in my members, warring against the law of God in my mind" (Romans 7:14-23), but now shows that not only is the spirit life because of righteousness but there is also the Spirit of God who weights the scales and produces the difference. He then explains further that "If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you". No doubt he here includes the coming resurrection, but he is not directly referring to that. Paul uses his words carefully. When he uses this word translated 'quicken', he refers to being made alive. When previously he had spoken about our bodies being dead, he didn't mean that they were in the grave but rather that they were non-functioning -- dead to the will of God. He now assures us that the Spirit of God in us gives life to our mortal bodies, making those bodies able to do the will of Christ, so that they will speak what He says and go where He says, and act as He wishes. This is the present and glorious 'quickening' by the new life of the Spirit. In chapter 7 he has shown that having a renewed spirit and still having the old spirit leaves a believer in a quandary -- and we are acutely aware of that! Now he tells the solution of our problem, namely to recognise that we have the Holy Spirit to tip the scales and enable us to make our mortal bodies to do the will of God.

So, then, we are under an obligation (verse 12) "not to the flesh, to live after the flesh ...", but to mortify the deeds of the body and live. We are under an obligation, not to do what the old nature says -- we have been freed from that -- but to carry out the will of Christ. For we can do His will. It was Paul himself who asserted, "I can ..." and who also exhorted the Ephesians to pray for themselves that they might be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man. It is the work of the Spirit of God in our hearts and our yielding to Him, that enables these bodies of ours to be brought into line with the will of God. The trouble with the unconverted, adamic man is that he cannot stop his body doing the wrong things, but the Christian can. "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (verse 14). This does not refer to the items of daily life for which we need (and may pray for) guidance, but rather that the son of God finds the Spirit saying, 'Come this way! This is the way in which I want you to go'. If we follow Him we will learn to conquer sin and walk in the way of righteousness. This was where our chapter started -- "that the righteous requirements of the law may be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit".

(To be continued)


(A Study of John Chapter 12)

John H. Paterson

OF all the Gospel writers, John is the one who most clearly wrote his Life of Jesus to prove a point. While Luke's concern was with the sequence of events -- that is, with the factual record -- John's purpose was what we should now call didactic: he wanted to convince his readers of a truth. "These are written, that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; [70/71] and that believing ye may have life in his name" (20:31). John selected those incidents or words which best contributed to the point he wanted to make.

What he evidently hoped to do was to lead his readers by the same path that he himself had followed, from ignorance to faith in Christ. He wanted them to share the experiences which, cumulatively over three years, had convinced him that Jesus was indeed the Christ, the giver of life. They had not been present as he had but, by picking out the significant points of evidence, he hoped to recreate for them the road to faith and eternal life.

For the first three years in Jesus' company had brought to John a dawning realisation, firstly, that He was someone with special powers; then, that He was unique; then, that He was indeed the Son of God. The evidence had gradually accumulated before John's eyes so that, when he came to write his Gospel, he took as his theme the weight of evidence. He wrote "We beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father" (1:14). The miracles of Jesus which he described in his narrative he called not miracles but "signs", or evidences. And so the fundamental challenge of the Gospel becomes simply this: When you look at Jesus, do you behold His glory, the glory of the Son of God, or do you not? And in the Gospel, each character who appears in his narrative falls into one category or the other.

Nowhere is this structure of the narrative clearer than in the twelfth chapter. Compared with those which precede and follow, this twelfth chapter may well appear rather scrappy -- as a collection of anecdotes assembled under a general heading such as 'A day in the life of Jesus'. But if we bear in mind John's purpose and John's theme, the anecdotes are marvellously transformed into a series of case studies of people who beheld His glory and others who did not.

The Case of the Blind Disciple

The first case study (vv.1-8) is of two people with very different estimations of Jesus and His value. One was Mary, with her ointment of spikenard, who anointed Jesus' feet. The other was Judas, who said "What a waste!" And the difference between them lay in their estimation of the comparative worth of the ointment and of the worship of the Son of God. By his attitude Judas was implying 'He's not worth it'. And Mary as responding 'Oh yes, He is! He's worth this and much more, for I have beheld His glory, and it is the glory of the only begotten Son of the Father, You simply cannot over-value that !'

The Case of the Dead Man Alive

The second section of the chapter (vv.9-11) deals with people's reaction to one of the most striking of John's "signs" or pieces of evidence -- the raising of Lazarus. It is apparent from the story that, unlike some others of Jesus' miracles which were known only to a few people, this particular event occurred with what we should now call the full glare of publicity to accompany it. So well-known were the events of the past few days that there was no possibility of explaining them away; everybody knew that Lazarus was alive, and then dead, and then alive again. The only question, really, was what to make of this sequence. And the logic of the matter was inescapable: only God had authority over life and death, therefore only God could have brought this about. But in that case the voice of Jesus, crying "Lazarus come forth", was the voice of God. The glory that they had seen was the glory of God. And many of the Jews, we are told accepted the logic and believed on Jesus (v.11).

But the chief priests did not see it that way. Their solution was to get rid of the evidence (v.10) -- to have Lazarus safely buried again. When you wake to find the glory of the sun shining through the window, you can either accept the logic of the fact that day has dawned and get up, or you can pull the curtains tightly shut, and pretend that it is still night!

The Case of the Cheering Crowd

Verses 12-19 present the third incident in this chapter -- what we usually refer to as the Triumphal Entry. From the account, this was clearly a great public spectacle; hundreds and perhaps thousands of people saw it, and each of them might well have gone away and told his friends 'I beheld His glory'. They had seen Jesus treated royally, and hailed with shouts of "Hosanna". Surely these people, at least, had understood?

I wonder. And in particular I wonder because John, writing long afterwards, added that strange [71/72] comment, "These things understood not his disciples at first: but when Jesus was glorified, then ..." (v.16). John is very frank -- that the true meaning of the event did not dawn even on the disciples, let alone the crowd of onlookers, until something else had happened -- and that something was, precisely, Jesus being glorified. John tells us, then, that the true glory was not here in the shouts of acclamation; that this Triumphal Entry was, in itself, meaningless without what followed afterwards; that it had been only incidental to, and preparatory for, the real moment of glory.

No doubt the crowd thought that they had seen glory. No doubt they went away saying 'What a moment of glory!' But no doubt, also, some at least of them had enough breath left to shout very different words a few days later -- words like "Barabbas" and "Crucify Him!" Had they really "beheld His glory", or had they simply been swept along on a wave of public enthusiasm? There was all the difference in the world.

The Case of the Foreign Tourists

The next event in the crowded sequence which John describes (vv.20-26) is the coming of some Greeks who were in Jerusalem on this occasion, and who sought an introduction to Jesus. To judge by the Lord's reaction to their request, they were simple sightseers, curious about the goings-on in a strange city, in the same way that you can find foreign tourists any day of the week, waiting outside Buckingham Palace to catch a glimpse of the royal family.

We cannot believe that, if they had been genuine and earnest seekers after truth, Jesus would have avoided meeting them, as He apparently did. His response was wholly negative. But to judge by His words in vv.24-26, the Lord was reacting in this way: 'What is the use of their seeing Me as I am at present? When they meet Me they will inevitably get the wrong impression. To see Me as I am, here and now, will give them no clue as to the real nature of My mission. For that mission is concerned not so much with living as with dying. Only when I die will anybody really behold my glory'. For there is a distinction between seeing and understanding what you see. "Seeing ye shall see, and shall in no wise perceive."

The Case of the Thunderstorm

The last of the anecdotal sections of this chapter, before John comes to his summing up, is found in verses 27-35 and, like its predecessors, this section too is about glory. As the Lord Jesus began to feel the approach of the shadow of His death, His thoughts turned not to His own safety or sufferings, but to the glory of God. Rejecting out loud the idea of trying to avoid the suffering that lay before Him, Jesus showed that His sole concern was that people should behold God's true glory -- and this, as He recognised (v.32) could only happen when He was seen not as some kind of tourist attraction, nor yet as a national leader, but as a crucified Saviour.

To this attitude God responded immediately: "Father, glorify Thy name. There came therefore a voice out of heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again" (v.28). The message, alas, had been lost on the crowd. It had been delivered, Jesus told them, not for His sake but for theirs, but they missed it; they thought it was just another roll of thunder! In verse 34 of our chapter, they appear as mixed up about Jesus as at any time during His years among them. Men and women who had watched the Triumphal Entry and stood listening while God spoke about His name had seen and heard -- what? Nothing of the true glory!

Glory -- True or False?

John now draws his twelfth chapter to a close and, with it, the section of his Gospel which covers the public ministry of Jesus. From this point in his narrative onwards, the public as a whole never saw Jesus again, except as a crucified felon. From chapter 13 on, He was shut away with His disciples. In the last part of chapter 12, therefore, John is summarising, in his own words or those of Jesus, what the Lord's public ministry had been about. And the theme of that ministry, says John, had been glory.

The paradox, John says, the conundrum of Jesus' life, was that people saw Him and yet did not see. They watched the things He did, but failed to draw from them the logical conclusion. And the only explanation of this puzzle that John could offer was that provided long before, by the prophet Isaiah (v.39); that there was a process going on in human eyes and ears and minds which made them impervious to the sight and sound of true glory. [72/73]

What was this process? In some cases, John feels, it was easily identified. For some people, he says, there is no mystery at all: "... even of the rulers many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the glory of men more than the glory of God".

But there must be a broader explanation, and it is surely this -- that the glory of God, the true glory, is insulated from the merely spectacular. There was always the danger during the ministry of Jesus, that people would get the wrong impression from His miracles; that, in His own words, they would follow Him for the bread He gave them rather than for Himself. If faith in Christ was generated merely by seeing a miracle, then how unfair on those who do not happen to have witnessed one -- and how disconcerting for those who have witnessed apparent miracles that have nothing to do with God! After all, on the television the other day I saw -- or so I thought -- a large cage containing a lion disappear from one place and reappear a hundred feet away a moment later. Needless to say, this 'miracle' had no connection with God!

The miracles themselves were not the glory of the Son of God. They were the signs of the glory -- the challenges, if you like, to investigate further; to face the logic of the situation. And so Jesus' very last words to the crowd, before He passed out of their presence for ever (vv.44-50), were an appeal to them to look beyond the person and the events that they saw before them to what lay behind. His words were an attempt, to use an awkward modern word, to depersonalise the situation. People who met Jesus were always troubled by the fact that He was one of themselves: they knew His father and mother, they met Him on the street -- therefore how could there be any more to Him than met the eye?

But there was. Behind the glamour of His entry and His miracles (and how short a time the glamour was going to last at this point!) there was a true glory, which those who observed honestly and fearlessly might yet behold. If they followed the crowd, or minded what other people thought of them, they would miss it. But it was there. Glory as of the only begotten Son of the Father -- the glory of God Himself.

These things said Isaiah because he saw

His glory, and he spoke of Him.



Poul Madsen

Chapter 4

AFTER discussing so fully the work he is doing, Paul turns back to what had occasioned his explanation, namely, accusations of unreliability and deception: "Therefore, seeing we have this ministry (of the Spirit), even as we obtained mercy (when God revealed His Son on the Damascus road), we faint not ...". There are other MSS which read: "we do not neglect our duty", which suits the context better.

There is clearly a controversial undertone in his words but, even as he could change petty people's sarcasms into beautiful truths concerning the gospel, so now he handles the polemical issue in such way that attention is not drawn to the more or less convincing arguments about it so much as to bringing everything into the clear light of God. He commends himself to every man's conscience. At first glance it might seem that he is doing the same as his opponents, seeking to win men's approval by asserting himself, but this is not the case. So far as attempts to attract adherents by self-praise are concerned, he would regard that as among "the hidden things of shame" which he has renounced. No, what he is doing is to ask his readers to come before God together with him, and allow God to speak to all their consciences concerning him and his ministry. If only they will do that, he will be content.

By including "every man" in his appeal, Paul shows both that he regards it as possible that God can speak to all consciences, and also that he is not seeking recognition for any particular group in Corinth. He denounced the idea of some [73/74] saying, "I am of Paul", for he never could permit a party to gather around him personally. He claims that his commendation in God's sight is by "manifestation of the truth", that is, by showing how preaching Christ is a matter of daily life as well as of words. For this reason he devotes the rest of the chapter to a description of the endless trials under which he carried on his preaching.

One would think that such a recommendation would convince all who read it -- but no! Although nothing was veiled by him, yet the gospel remained veiled from many who could, if they would, allow God to speak to their consciences. Those who are perishing are Satan's victims. To describe him as 'the god of the world' is not to attribute omnipotence to him, but only to stress the power he has to attack and blind men, so that they may not see the light which radiates from the gospel of God's glory.

It was not Paul who was veiling the gospel. In no area was he obscuring Christ; in his preaching he never drew attention to himself and in his behaviour he never assumed any lordliness. In more positive terms, he preached the absolute lordship of Christ and confirmed his words by humble living in which he always took the place of a servant.

Jesus Christ is Lord! This is the sum total of our faith. This means that:

(1) God has raised up the crucified Saviour and exalted Him as Monarch of the whole universe.

(2) He who atoned for man's transgression has conquered Satan and all the powers of darkness.

(3) As Lord, He has the right to demand obedience in terms of complete trust.

This is what Paul preached and when he adds that he was the servant of the Corinthians "for Christ's sake", he reminded them that it was obedience to the Lord Jesus which sent him to Corinth and enabled him to serve them with a love beyond human understanding (See 12:15). This was his only commendation, and it was addressed to every man's conscience in the sight of God.

To the apostle there was no problem in calling Satan "the god of this world" and the next moment asserting that Jesus Christ is Lord. It presented no problem to him to say that it is Satan who blinds the minds of unbelievers and at the same time to recognise the personal responsibility of those unbelievers as well as the sovereign right of God to choose and elect. These truths seem contradictory to us and the apostle makes no attempt to reconcile them. Each of them is fully valid and our wisdom is to accept that the ways of God are unsearchable and cannot be fitted into any scheme of human logical reasoning.

Paul now passes to an allusion to Creation, but still in connection with what he calls "This ministry". In order to understand verse 6, we need to answer three questions:

Q.1. Who is it who is working?

Ans. It is God and God alone. He created in the beginning and He has taken the initiative now.

Q.2. What did God do?

Ans. He shined in Paul's heart; that is, He revealed His Son to him.

Q.3. What was God's purpose is so doing?

Ans. That the knowledge of God's salvation as revealed in Christ might "shine brightly" (Danish) for others.

When we consider these three answers to the posed questions, we come to the conclusion that what Paul is here comparing with the first day of creation is not only his own salvation but also his apostolic ministry. The light which illuminated Paul at his conversion is diffused by his ministry of the gospel, and so creates light in others. This shows that for a living knowledge of God more is needed than explanations and statements, for it comes by nothing less than an act of creation. Such a creative act happened to the apostle and was continually acting through him. This is why he speaks later of men coming into Christ as "a new creation" (5:17).

There is a tremendous difference between the gospel (the treasure) and the messengers of the gospel (earthen vessels). The gospel is the message about the glory of God, but not about the glory of Paul or anyone else. God's purpose is to keep the treasure in earthen vessels in order to ensure that the exceeding great power may be from Him alone. Already Paul had spoken of [74/75] the steps taken to make him despair of himself so that he should not trust in himself but in God (1:9). He knew that it was not natural for him to trust only in God. On the contrary, it was much easier for him to trust in himself, for by nature he was a strong and talented man. That was why he had to go through deep experiences which robbed him of all self-confidence and left him cast upon God alone. He discovered also that other people could easily begin to trust in him more than in God. If that happened, he would be a bad servant of the Lord. For this reason, God had to keep him very weak in order to use him and also to avoid anybody imagining that the "exceeding greatness of the power" was due in any respect to him.

So God broke Paul down day by day. This involved a daily trial of faith for the apostle. The margin is very narrow between being "pressed on every side" and yet "not being straitened"; between being 'perplexed' and yet "not in despair". This whole letter is a powerful reminder that divine omnipotence reveals itself best in human weakness. Paul did not expressly state that the earthen vessel has to be smashed in order that "the treasure", the light, may stream out to others, but the thought never seems to be far away. There can be no doubt that what characterised Paul's ministry more than anything else was suggested by the Lord's words to Ananias about him: "I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name's sake" (Acts 9:16). Paul does not actually mention the cross in these verses, but that is what he is referring to when he speaks of being "always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake" (v.11). Day by day he experienced a real fellowship of suffering with his Lord and Saviour.

There was, of course, a positive purpose behind this, namely, that the life of Jesus might be manifested through Paul. When he was describing his life of trials he was not appealing for sympathy, but rather taking pleasure (12:10) and in good heart. He notes with holy satisfaction that "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God" shines so clearly through him that others come also to enjoy that light. No servant of God can have greater satisfaction than that.

The apostle ignores the arguments against him, contenting himself with emphasising that the life of faith is just the sort of life he had been leading: "But having the same spirit of faith, according to that which is written, I believed, and therefore did I speak: we also believe, and therefore also we speak; knowing ..." (vv.13-14). It seems that he was suggesting that the natural consequence of a life like his would be to give up and the natural evaluation of it would be that he lacked a vital knowledge of Christ, but his own answer was to reject the natural and insist that faith should be given its opportunity: "but having the same spirit of faith according to that which is written ...".

The Scripture he quotes is from Psalm 116 and it is possible that he has the whole psalm in mind. It concerns a man in a similar situation to his own, compassed about by cords of death, landed in trouble and sorrow. In his alarm, but also in his faith, he insisted that "all men are liars". The lies represent the false conclusions of the natural mind of men. He, however, rejects that natural verdict and speaks in faith, in accordance with gospel principles, that God works when circumstances are hopeless to man. The faith which Paul recognises has God alone to lean upon. Like Abraham's faith, it hopes against hope. It finds no reliance on self or on other men, but trusts in the God of resurrection: "knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise us up also with Jesus, and shall present us with you" (v.14).

He then repeats what he has already stated in verse 1, that he does not faint or neglect his duty, and explains the reason why: "Wherefore we faint not; but though our outward man is decaying, yet our inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is for the moment, worketh for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" (vv.16-18). Far from fainting under his continual afflictions for Christ's sake, the apostle enjoys a constant inner renewal, even while his outward man is subjected to continual processes of death.

It is important to note that the contrast is not between body and soul but between his outward man (which is in Paul himself), and his inward man (which is Paul in Christ). The outward man is the 'old man': the inward man is 'the new man'. Renewal of the inward man depends upon his remaining in unbroken fellowship with the [75/76] Lord. Paul was not looking at the present world which will pass away, but at the world to come, which is eternal. He already knows something of that eternal glory, even in the midst of the trials which, humanly speaking, were anything but glorious. He knows it by the daily renewing in Christ Jesus.

The things which are seen, as he explains, are those which may seem very real now, but which do not last. He does not only mean the visible things, when he talks of the outward, but he includes all the interests and values which have no permanent part in God's scheme of things. He will not direct his attention to them. They belong to the old world which can and must pass away. He centres his gaze on the eternal realities of God's new world and, as he does so, the transforming and renewing work of the Spirit operates to produce for and in him "an eternal weight of glory".

(To be continued)


(Some studies in Genesis)

Harry Foster


THE enemy of all God's loving purposes for man can be described in one word -- pride. When we think of the majestic greatness of the Creator, we are apt to imagine that He is proud, but this is quite untrue, as is proved by the revelation of the Father's character given to us by the Son. The Saviour who, towel-girded, had just washed the feet of the twelve disgruntled and quarrelsome apostles, could claim that those who had seen Him -- if you like, had just seen Him -- had seen the Father. That is what God is like.

No, pride is God's greatest enemy and, so far as man is concerned, has provided Him with His greatest problem, as the opening chapters of Genesis disclose. What completely ruined that earthly paradise of sabbath rest was the Satanic offer to Adam and Eve that by one single act of disobedience they would be made as clever as God (3:5). That looked good to them, and tasted good too, but it introduced into the human race a deadly poison which continues to defile every heart of man to this day. "Everyone that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord" (Proverbs 16:5).

The agent by which this evil was introduced to the human race is called "the serpent" (3:1). This appellation for Satan is consistently used throughout the Bible. He is clearly identified by Paul who passes from speaking of the serpent who beguiled Eve to the reminder that "Satan himself" appears as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:3 and 14). The final book of the Bible gives us an identification which includes all the titles of God's adversary; he is "the great dragon ... the old serpent, he that is called the Devil and Satan" (Revelation 12:9). There is much that is mysterious about this arch-enemy of God's love plans for man, but two prophetic passages undoubtedly refer back to his pre-creation rebellion and both emphasise that the primary motive was pride.

Pride's Originator

Everybody is familiar with the phrase 'As proud as Lucifer'. The passage in Isaiah 14:12-15 gives us the original description of this arrogant being. It is true that the passage refers to the king of Babylon, but it is quite consistent with Isaiah's prophetic manner of giving revelation to extend beyond the original subject in view to embrace larger spiritual realities which lie behind the obvious surface allusion. If 'Babylon' is a term for the world's pride, then the king of Babylon clearly relates to "the god of this world", that is Satan. We therefore conclude that this is not just an exaggerated description of some earthly monarch but a reference to the one whom Jesus Himself called, "the prince of this world". Isaiah tells us that this spiritual being is the acme of pride, for he aspired to make himself "like the Most High " and to set his throne above the stars of God. [76/77]

And what shall we say of Ezekiel's disclosure of what must surely be the same being, though in this case the words are associated with the king of Tyre (Ezekiel 28:11-17). The great commercial centre of Tyre is itself quoted as boastfully claiming to be "perfect in beauty" (Ezekiel 27:3), and its ruler is charged with setting himself up to be as God. Several facts emerge from the passage under consideration. The first is, that it applies to a created being. The earthly king of Tyre, like the rest of us since Adam, was procreated and so not one of whom it could be said: "You were blameless in all your ways from the day you were created". Nor could it be stated concerning any son of Adam that there was a day when "iniquity was found in him". Furthermore, this one who at the beginning was perfect in beauty and able to walk "in the midst of the stones of fire", was then rejected by God and cast out of His presence as profane. We are left in no doubt as to the nature of the transgression of this hitherto honoured servant of God, for it is said of him: "Your heart was proud because of your beauty" (Ezekiel 28:17). So it was pride which caused the condemnation of the devil (See 1 Timothy 3:6). It has been thought by some that Christ's reference to His having seen Satan fall as lightning from heaven refers back to this precreation judgment, an idea which seems possible since the context was His words of warning to His disciples that they should beware of conceit over the success of their ministry and be humbly grateful for their own secure place in heaven (Luke 10:17-20). Twice over the New Testament cites the statement from Proverbs that "God resists the proud".

Pride's Victims

The tragedy of original sin in the universe became the tragedy of the human race when Adam entered into complicity with the serpent because of his desire to be "like God", and was cast out of the glories of Eden because pride was found in his heart too. Every son of his has become a victim of this pride, as may be traced in the history of his descendants.

It was wounded pride which made Cain murderously jealous of Abel, and it is an interesting comment on the corrupt antedeluvian community which God had to destroy by the Flood that "there were giants on the earth in those days" (Genesis 6:4). Following that, satanic pride seems to have found full expression in a character called Nimrod who was "a mighty hunter" (or rebel) in his attitude to the Lord (Genesis 10:9). H. L. Ellison describes him as 'the personification of human society in its pride'. Genesis goes on to tell us that the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, or Babylon, which throughout the Scriptures is consistently presented to us as the concentration of godless pride. We are later given more information of this kingdom and how it took action by its notorious tower to get the better of God (Genesis 11:4). It may not be quite clear what was the intention behind this building of a heaven-high tower, but it seems that God Himself regarded it as a united human attack upon His majesty and acted accordingly. The men of that place conspired together to make a name for themselves -- a very common expression of human pride. What is more, they worked audaciously to carry that name right up to heaven itself. Some think that they were trying to outwit God by making provision against a possible repetition of the judgment of the Flood. They were certainly pioneers of the religious idea that man can attain to heaven by his own efforts, which is a deep-rooted conceit of fallen humanity. At that time God robbed them of their united power by a simple device but, from then onwards, it has always been the policy of 'Babylon' to enforce unity by imposing universal submission within its kingdom.

We read no more about Babylon until the fall of Jericho when Achan sinned by coveting riches and planning to give himself airs with "a goodly Babylonish garment" (Joshua 7:21). Again there is a long lapse of time before we reach the sad story of the fall into pride of that great Judean king, Hezekiah. The story is told twice (2 Kings 20:12-20 and Isaiah 39) which shows how important it is, and Hezekiah's conceit was said by Isaiah to be the deciding factor in the forthcoming captivity (Isaiah 39:5). Flushed with the special goodness of God to him and flattered by the attentions of the king of Babylon, Hezekiah could not resist the temptation to boast and had to confess: "there is nothing in my store-houses that I did not show them".

One of the most striking of pride's victims was the great king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, whose heart was indeed lifted up but who, in God's mercy came finally to admit concerning God that "those who walk in pride he is able to [77/78] abase" (Daniel 4:37). Almost always Babylon is described as the "great", and this is especially so in the book of Revelation where she is reported as saying: "I shall sit as a queen for ever" (Revelation 18:7). This proud attitude had already been described by Isaiah who makes her say twice over: "I am, and there is no-one beside me" (Isaiah 47:8 and 10). No wonder that all heaven cries "Hallelujah" when this kingdom of pride is brought to its final end (Revelation 19:3).

That will herald the full expression of the new creation. Meanwhile the old creation continues to repeat Adam's first sin. Everyone of us who has heard the honest verdict of his own conscience will confess that humility is his greatest lack and pride his favourite sin. Sometimes it did seem that God had produced a man who was untainted by this satanic characteristic but even Moses, "the meekest man on earth" betrayed his deep-seated pride when he cried to the grumbling Israelites: "Shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?" (Numbers 20:10). For this he was excluded from the land for this kind of spirit could not be overlooked; it is the meek, not the overbearing, who inherit the earth.

The case of David is even more striking. In our last article we dealt with what we would consider his greatest sin, but later we find something which appears to have been even more serious, that is, the numbering of Israel. He deeply offended God and provoked judgment on the whole people when he yielded to Satan's temptation in this matter (1 Chronicles 21:1). Seemingly this wilful determination to gloat in pride over the forces under his command was the worst sin of all. Even Joab, the man of the flesh, was reluctant to be involved in such a project and in fact left it uncompleted. Alas that the man who could claim that God's gentleness had made him great could succumb to the satanic urge to be proud in heart over that greatness.

Pride was not just a possibility in Old Testament saints, witness Paul's own confession of how severely God had to deal with him to ensure that he should not be what he calls "exalted overmuch" (2 Corinthians 12:7). If we had doubted the deep incurability of fallen man, this would surely convince us, but in any case we must be aware of the constantly repeated calls to humility which abound in the epistles. The Romans, with their seeming doctrinal superiority; the Corinthians, with their special gifts; the Galatians with their pride of ritual; the Ephesians, with their special sense of high calling; the Philippians, with their personality clashes in the Lord's service; the Colossians, with their holding on to people and things rather than to the Head -- all had to be urged to be "not wise in their own conceits" (Romans 12:16); to have a love which "vaunteth not itself" (1 Corinthians 13:4); to cultivate "a spirit of meekness" (Galatians 6:1); to "do nothing through faction and vainglory" (Philippians 2:3) and to "put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness ..." (Colossians 3:12).

Right on through the rest of the epistles, Christians are warned of the dangers of pride in its multiplicity of forms. They can be proud of their orthodoxy, proud of their liberty, proud of their enlightenment, proud of their gifts, proud of their physical health, proud of their prosperity (or perhaps of their adversity), proud of their zealous service, and even proud of their pride! Pride is such an insidious sin that God's people can not only be blind to it in themselves but even regard it as a virtue. Many of the problems in church life and most of the difficulties in the larger realm of evangelical Christians would disappear if here were no such thing as pride. But there is! And we return to our consideration of Genesis to re-affirm that pride is the greatest menace to God's love-purposes for men. It is too much for us, even the best of us. Happily it is not too much for God. Being God, He has already solved the problem.

Pride's Overthrow

As we have said, pride is God's greatest enemy. He could find no lasting sabbath satisfaction in His relationship with man so long as it persisted. Being Almighty, it follows that nothing can finally defeat Him and if His believing people are described as "more than conquerors", His victory over pride must surely be a superlative one. It is that, for the Incarnation was His master-stroke to provide a new creation humanity in which there is no trace of pride. Jesus only once gave a Self-revelation of His inmost life and the revelation is highly significant: "I am meek and lowly in heart" (Matthew 11:29). It is striking that this claim to humility is associated with heart rest. Adam forfeited the sweetness of sabbath rest when he yielded to pride: Jesus enjoyed that rest [78/79] (and even offered to share it) because no suggestion of pride could ever be found in Him.

The whole matter is graphically described for us in Philippians 2:5-9 in a passage which begins in eternity and heaven and ends in eternity and heaven but which covers the whole interim period in time while the Son of God lived here on the earth. The familiar story moves on to the climax of the cross, but in this particular passage the apostle is not so much explaining the atoning sacrifice for sinners as offering a most moving presentation of the humility of mind which characterised God's new Man.

He relinquished all his rights; He emptied Himself; He accepted man's low estate; He humbled Himself; He utterly submitted Himself in total obedience to the will of the Father. Each one of these statements deserves a chapter to itself. The Gospels spell them out as they give us some glimpses of this perfect Man who deliberately chose humble beginnings, renounced all rights and took upon Himself "the form of a bond-slave", purposely pursuing a course of selfless love though it led Him on to the most painful and shameful of deaths. Why did he do this? Because that is what He is like; this was and is the 'mind' of the Lamb of God. So in one Member of the human race at least, the kingdom of pride has no place: "the prince of the world cometh; and he hath nothing in me" (John 14:30).

But there was a further reason. Jesus did not only come to contradict Babylon: He came to destroy it. His Incarnation and life of service were directed towards one goal, namely the production of a new humanity which would also be "meek and lowly in heart" like Himself, and would be eternally disposed and able to worship the Father in "the beauty of holiness". It took but a confusion of languages to scatter those conceited builders of Babel's tower, but it took the infinitely costly sacrifice of the cross to deliver man from innate pride and provide a kingdom in which selfishness has no place.

There is so much about the life and death of the Lord Jesus which may give the impression of unnecessary suffering. While we accept the need for His sacrificial death for redemption, we may wonder why He had to endure "such opposition from sinful men" (Hebrews 12:3), spiteful, senseless and unrelenting opposition in addition to the nails of the cross. Why that treachery of Judas? Why those base denials of Peter, that harrowing caricature of a trial by the Jews and the brutal mockery of the Roman soldiers? If indeed Isaiah's words truly applied to Him, why did the Lamb of God have to be the "Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief"?

Was it perhaps to demonstrate that He really is The Lamb of God ? Were those accompanying pains and insults part of divinely permitted attempts of Satan to extort one single word of resentment from this sensitive Man? They totally failed. "Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, threatened not ...". And by this perfect expression of true humility did not Christ completely overthrow the whole kingdom of satanic pride?

By weakness and defeat,

He won the meed and crown;

Trod all our foes beneath His feet

By being trodden down.

This is a moral universe; therefore pride cannot truly be overthrown by crushing force but only by pure humility. When the meek and lowly Jesus died on the cross, He effectively and totally destroyed God's great enemy, pride. That is included in the great cry of victory: "It is finished". In His own good time God will finalise the outworking of that triumph, though the actual work was accomplished at Calvary, as may by seen by Paul's assertion that: "Wherefore also God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name that is above every name." (Philippians 2:9).

The Lord Jesus has not only given us an example of the first Man untainted by pride, but has pressed the attack upon pride to its ultimate issue, undercutting and forever destroying Babylon's kingdom and Babylon's king. We live in a world already judged; we know that, by the cross, the prince of this world was "cast out" (John 12:31). At the beginning God had said that this would be so, when "the seed of the woman" would bruise the serpent's head, though suffering the bruising of His own heel in doing so (Genesis 3:15). "In His own time" (1 Timothy 6:15), God will make that total victory obvious to all, but meanwhile He allows His defeated enemy to continue his operations because He wishes to [79/80] complete His task of redeeming men and women for His new creation and establishing that victory first in their regenerate souls. We must all "clothe ourselves with humility" (1 Peter 5:5) and so resist the roaring lion tactics of Satan. Strangely enough, God can overrule Satan's attacks and use them to increase in us the Christlike virtue of humility.

A striking example of this sovereign overruling for victory over pride is given us by Paul's account of his "thorn in the flesh" (2 Corinthians 12:1-10). It seems that this "thorn in the flesh" was so suprisingly painful and so persistent that the apostle could only describe it as a "messenger from Satan". He did not waste time questioning how Satan could attack him in this way but, convinced that his Lord was greater than all, he pleaded with God to remove whatever it was. God did nothing of the kind. After the third agonising appeal, however, He gave a personal assurance that there was a sufficiency of grace in Christ to bear the trial and even profit from it. What is more, the Lord gave Paul an explanation as to why the severe suffering was being permitted and not removed. It was to save him from being "exalted overmuch", that is, conceited by reason of the overwhelming experience of blessing which he had enjoyed when he was caught up to the third heaven.

Any man, even an apostle, might be tempted to think highly of himself after such a signal honour from God, but it was supremely important that Paul should be kept from pride, which is Satan's sin. So God allowed Satan to harrass His beloved servant in this cruel way to make sure that the apostle kept humble before his God. God used Satan's attack to preserve His servant from Satan's sin! No wonder that Paul was able to find reasons for rejoicing, even in spite of his pain, and to recognise that his new experience of humbling was providing fresh occasions for a demonstration of the power of Christ. It is always "the Lamb" who overcomes, whether that be in the actual person of Him who is the Lamb or in His people who are learning of Him and knowing the lamblike spirit of Christ's humility. The "thorn in the flesh", therefore, not only saved the apostle from pride but sanctified him in humility. No wonder Paul claimed that "in all these things we are more than conquerors !"

(To be continued) [80/ibc]

[Inside back cover]


"(the Lord grant unto him to find mercy of the Lord in that day )"
2 Timothy 1:8

THIS is a favourite proof text for people who are trying to find Scriptural support for the practice of praying for the dead. It is an extremely doubtful one. The objective of the wish or prayer is not the present at all but 'that day', and in any case there is no proof that Onesiphorus had already died.

IT is, however, a somewhat unusual passage. It begins by including the whole house of Onesiphorus and was provoked by Paul's recollections of how much he owed to this helpful brother in Christ. He tells us that Onesiphorus used a visit to Rome for searching out and finally discovering where the apostle was. Having found him in the danger and disgrace of imprisonment, he was not ashamed of him, as were many other Christians, but frequently brought Paul what he calls "refreshment". Since the only other use of the word is found in Peter's promise of "seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord" (Acts 3:19), we may conclude that it was the apostle's spirit which was comforted and ministered to by this brother.

NOT that Onesiphorus was unpractical -- far from it. Timothy himself well knew how helpful the brother had been when he was with Paul in Ephesus. I am glad that the old and pressed apostle retained such grateful memories of the kindnesses received from an otherwise unmentioned Christian. Gratitude is not always a prominent virtue among the saints. I am glad, too, that he not only put Onesiphorus's kindness on record, but prayed that it might be appreciated in eternity -- "in that day".

IT will be! And so will a multitude of other kindly acts and words which are ignored or forgotten in this life. Even if Paul had not praised Onesiphorus nor prayed that he might ultimately be rewarded, there could be no question of his being overlooked "in that day". We are clearly told that all the hidden things will be brought to light and "then shall each man have his praise from God" (1 Corinthians 4:5). If Paul remembered, we can be sure that Paul's Lord will never forget.

AND what shall we say of this double mention of the household of Onesiphorus (See also 4:19)? It suggests that if in fact he had died, his name was still being honoured and his faith practised by his family. Any man can die contented if he knows that his faithfulness will both be carried on in time and remembered in eternity.


[Back cover]

Luke 11:28

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