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

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Vol. 7, No. 3, May - June 1978 EDITOR: Mr. Harry Foster

Brimming Over 41
The Goings Of God (4) 43
The Importance And Value Of God-Given Vision 49
Chapter By Chapter Through Romans (11) 52
Corporate Testimony To Christ 55
God Has Spoken And Is Speaking 59
Inspired Parentheses (13) ibc



Harry Foster

"My cup runneth over" (Psalm 23:5)

THIS psalm is full of references to "me" and "my", so that at first sight it may appear that its author was self-centred. A compensating fact, however, is that it is also full of references to God; it begins and ends with His personal name, The LORD. The real truth about David is that he was God-centred. While his psalm is intensely personal it is in no way selfish. As we look at it more closely we find that it contains a phrase which is really the secret of all spiritual helpfulness to others: "My cup runneth over". All the personal concern and experience is well justified if it results in an overflowing of blessing to others. Put the other way round, there can be no overflowing blessings from my life unless I am living in the good of a close and satisfying walk with God. Men are not blessed by my attempts to help them, or by my sermonising to them: they are only truly blessed when they meet me brimming over with a vital knowledge of the Lord.

My cup runs over. This is an impressive claim for David to make. What it amounts to is that whenever and wherever men meet me, they are affected by the spiritual overflow of God's goodness from my life. In myself I am no more than an empty cup, but as I feed in God's green pastures, find refreshment in the still waters of communion with Him and even suffer those valley experiences of deep shadows under His hand, there flows out, often unconsciously to me, a life-giving stream of His fullness. This is my ministry. It is an overflow. What is more, it is a continuous overflow. This is a tremendous claim, and it may be worth our while to examine it in order to discover if it worked out like that in his history. Were these just exuberant poetic fancies, or were they substantial facts borne out in his experience?

1. David's Overflowing Cup

The song itself provides an answer, for Psalm 23 has been an inspired source of comfort throughout the centuries. It has overflowed even to us. If the sweet psalmist of Israel had only written this, his words would have been an amazing ministry of life and refreshment to millions. But he did write many more. His walk with God gave him so much of spiritual blessing to share with others that his psalms are an outstanding contribution to God's Book. And it was not his successes but his sufferings -- and even his sins -- which provided the occasion for this living ministry of helpfulness. He opened his heart so fully to God's loving kindness and tender mercies that their rich plenty has overflowed to many other sufferers and sinners. David did not enter into forceful arguments about God's plan of salvation; he so lived and spoke that men met the Saviour Himself by observing and listening to him. Why should not our cup overflow in the same way?

David did not only speak of mercy; he practised it. Those were harsh days when men tended to be ruthless with their foes, but he steadfastly refused to lift a finger against his arch-enemy, Saul. When at last Saul's misspent life came to its tragic end, David had no word of spite to say about him but rather concentrated on what had been good. What is more, in the days of his own prosperity as king he took real pains to discover a grandson who had survived, and gave him a place among his own royal sons. He overflowed in kindness to the third generation of his enemy, giving his personal command that Mephibosheth should eat continually at the king's table (2 Samuel 9:13). To this rather pathetic remnant of Saul's family, David overflowed with practical kindness.

And what shall we say of David's bountiful provision for God's house? If ever David's cup overflowed with bounty if was in connection with the building of the Temple. His giving was not in measured droplets but in generous outpouring. When the site was first purchased, the owner offered to make a free gift of it together with the relevant provision for sacrifice. His offer was set aside. "And king David said to Ornan, Nay; but I will verily buy it for the full price: for I will not ... offer a burnt offering without cost" (1 Chronicles 21:24). Sometimes the very free nature of redemption leads God's people to want the best spiritually at the minimum cost to themselves. They seek the inflow into their cup and fail to think in terms of outflow. David was not like that. [41/42]

Came the time for building and, to his great disappointment, David was not permitted to have a part in this great work which he had dreamed and prayed about for so long. Nothing daunted, he gave of his best so that others might do the work. In handing over the materials which he had amassed for this project he said: "Moreover also, seeing that I have a treasure of my own of gold and silver, I give it unto the house of my God, over and above all that I have prepared" (1 Chronicles 29:3). His was a very different spirit from that which is often found among Christian workers who resent being replaced by others and jealously refuse to give assistance to a work if they feel that they have been overlooked or rejected. In David's case, then, it seems clear enough that his cup overflowed.

2. Paul's Overflowing Cup

Well, that was the Old Testament. The standard of the New Testament is the same. "Always abounding in the work of the Lord," Paul wrote, and he could write it because that was how he lived. There may be no significance in this, but the fact remains that his name is last on the list of the prominent leaders in the church of Antioch (Acts 13:1). Barnabas naturally is the first, for he had been a spiritual father to the church from its early days. Saul of Tarsus, however, had been the great teacher among them. What is more, he was the man with the special commission to the nations, already described as a "chosen vessel" by the risen Lord. Further, he was the one commissioned to accompany Barnabas to Jerusalem to carry up the church's gift to the needy saints there. Why, then, does Luke insert three other names between him and Barnabas? Who were these three? And why was Saul put last on the list? It may seem trivial to raise such a point, but I have known God's work hindered and spoiled by just this kind of personal triviality. Happily Paul was not so affected. He may have been irked by the delay to his world ministry as they waited there; he could have been slighted as to his personal dignity, but he overflowed with patience and he overflowed with humility. The churches of our day could do with similar overflows!

It is difficult to select particular evidences of the overflow of Paul's cup, for there are so many of them. The Corinthians, who owed everything to him, turned critically against him, but were only met by his assurance that in spite of this he would most gladly spend and be spent out for their souls (2 Corinthians 12:15). The Galatians, whose conversion had been so costly to him that his experience could only be likened to birth-pangs, were informed that he repayed their subsequent fickleness by travailing for them all over again (Galatians 4:19). The overflow of rejoicing in his letter to the Philippians is well known to us all. Indeed there can be few better examples of an overflowing cup than that which is everywhere found in the letters which the apostle wrote from his prison cell.

How we wish that we knew Paul's whole life story. How we would have liked a third volume from Dr. Luke! Well, we have to be content with what we have. It is easier to do this when we realise that the book of the Acts leaves us with the picture of Paul under guard, awaiting trial for his life, rejected by his Jewish co-religionaries, and yet still brimming over with kingdom blessings. The last phrase of our English version in Acts 28:31 is really just one word -- "unhindered" (RSV). There can be no hindrance of the overflow of blessing from any life which is being continually replenished by God's grace.

3. Christ's Overflowing Cup

Like so many other psalms, this one has a fulfilment in the Lord Jesus Himself. He is the one who had a table prepared for Him in the presence of His enemies, who came triumphantly through the valley of the deep darkness of the cross, and who is anointed with the oil of joy above His fellows. And above all others, it is He who can claim to have the overflowing cup. What was Pentecost but the brimming fullness of His Holy Spirit? His head was anointed with oil and His cup still runs over to His Church. It is a continuously present experience -- it keeps on running over. What is more, it is the Church's vocation to be the vessel through which the overflow pours.

It may be good for our own encouragement to consider a few of the events in the earthly life of the Lord Jesus which single Him out as the Man of the Overflowing Cup. Think of the hot noontide by Sychar's well when, in spite of bodily tiredness and thirst, He overflowed with living water to the astonished Samaritan woman. Think of His gracious generosity to Peter when [42/43] He took full cognisance of the way in which the apostle would deny Him before others and yet assured Peter that He had prayed for Him. And think of Him in His darkest hour when He was suffering such torments on the cross. He still had consolation to spare for His earthly mother, which was wonderful. Much more wonderful, however, was the fact that He had time and thought for the penitent thief. There in Paradise is a man who has no questions about whether the cup of Jesus ran over. It overflowed even to him! It overflowed in spite of the unbearable pressure of evil powers upon the Saviour.

4. The Church's Overflowing Cup

As we have already noted, it is the Church's vocation not only to receive the overflow of grace but itself to be a vessel from which that brimming over of blessing is ministered. He who overflowed in the ways we have considered still waits to overflow through us as we mingle with needy sinners or are confronted by disappointing brothers. We have our moments of dark trial and of fierce Satanic assaults when, humanly speaking, we could have neither time nor strength to think of others. At these very moments the Lord plans to make our lives opportunities for an overflow of His blessing. We share His cross: we may share His overflow.

There is of course a secret. There is a sequence in this psalm. The cup which runs over is the consequence of the sevenfold experience of blessing which is described as leading up to it. We need to feed in the green pastures of His Word and to lie down and chew over what we have fed on. We need to learn the rest of faith as He leads us to the waters. We need to follow Him as He leads us to the right paths and to come closer to Him as we pass through the dark valleys as a part of that leading of His. We need to practise the blessings of the table, which surely are the pursuit of fellowship in Him. And we need to do this even though surrounded by enemies, not put off by their threats but rejoicing as those whose heads are anointed with fresh oil by the Spirit. If we make sure to keep close to the Lord in this way and to be ever learning more of Him, then the cup will overflow and others will get the blessing.

This psalm also has a message for under-shepherds. Perhaps we long for "revival" in our church assembly, but think of this in terms of blessings sovereignly outpoured from heaven upon us. Might it not be more practical to work and pray for church members with overflowing cups? If we do so, we find that we are faced by the shepherd responsibilities of caring for the flock. When we come to think of this, the risen Lord's charge to Peter was precisely in this direction. The ministering brothers must see to it that the flock has green pastures, still waters, right paths, comforting rod and staff, a full table and anointed minds. The challenge is to us first. If by the Lord's grace we can make such provision for His people, then ours will be a Church of the Overflowing Cup.



(Studies in the book of Exodus)

J. Alec Motyer

4. THE INDWELLING GOD (25:1 - 40:38)

WE now come to the climax of the book of Exodus, the matter of Fellowship with the Indwelling God. The Redeemer had brought His people by a direct road to Mount Sinai because He wished to give them direction and guidance concerning their way of life. God would have His people so live as to show His image, and it is the law which is the written image of God. This being so, when the redeemed pattern themselves according to His law, they live in His likeness, having fellowship with the holy God. We have already seen that fellowship with this Holy God is always and ever fellowship beneath the blood.

It is impossible here to deal in detail with this long and somewhat complex passage of Scripture so that we begin by first running through the chapters to get a glimpse of what they contain:

Chapter 25. At the opening of this chapter we [43/44] have the command: "Take for me an offering". The purpose of this offering is the building of what we call The Tabernacle. The divine motive is stated: "Let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them" (v.8). God wants this sanctuary because He wishes to be the Indwelling God, the God who lives in the midst of His people. Then verse 9 lays down a requirement which we will find over and over again in these chapters, namely that everything must be done as God directs. Nothing is to be governed by the whim of man nor even for his helpfulness, but only by the will of God. Having thus expressed His wish, God goes on next to speak of the furnishings of this dwelling place. This is God's order, though it would not be man's. We would start by speaking of the house and then of the furnishings, but God starts with the furnishings, "an ark" (v.10), "a table" (v.23) and "a lampstand" (v.31). Please take particular note of this priority given to the furnishings and that only later are we given a description of the tent (26:1). The furnishings are not there to decorate the house, but the tent is there to house the furnishings.

Chapter 26. Here we have the Tabernacle itself with a description of the curtains (v.7), the boards (v.15), the veil in front of the holiest of all (v.31) and finally the veil hung at the entrance which is called the screen of the door" (v.36).

Chapter 27. As we move on we notice that the direction is always outwards. We pass from the ark and the tent to the altar (v.1) and then to the courtyard (v.9). Following this we find a description of the ministers of this dwelling place or tabernacle. The order of things here is rather interesting: we have "oil for the light" (v.20) with a command that this light is to burn throughout their generations (v.21).

Chapters 28 and 29. These two chapters are devoted to the functionaries, first how the priests are to wear the holy garments and secondly how they are to be inducted into their sacred office. At the end of chapter 29 we are instructed as to the second priestly duty: "This is what thou shalt offer upon the altar" (v.38) with special attention given to "a continual burnt offering throughout your generations" (v.42). Just as the description of the priestly functions began with the maintenance of a perpetual light, so it now ends with a command to maintain a perpetual offering. I am not sure why they are placed in this order but make a suggestion that it may be because the priests have a double function. They are to let the light of God shine out to man, but they have also the function of bringing man to God. Perhaps this is why on one side they are bracketed with the shining light and on the other side with the continual offering: they shine out to man and they usher man into God. The Scripture itself gives no explanation.

We then come to the key passage. Having described the tent and its contents, the priests and their ministry, God reveals the purpose of it all: "There I will meet with the children of Israel. The tent shall be sanctified by my glory, and I will sanctify the tent of meeting and the altar. Aaron and his sons will I sanctify to minister to me in the priests' office, and I will dwell among the children of Israel and I will be their God. And they shall know that I am the Lord their God that brought them forth out of the land of Egypt in order that I might dwell among them" (vv.43-46). The Indwelling God in the midst of His people is what redemption has as its purpose.

Chapter 30. This tells how the ministers and people are to be prepared to approach God. We should notice that the movement is reversed. Up to the end of the previous chapter God is moving out to His people, but now the people are moving back to God. So we have the altar of incense (v.1) which symbolises the prayers of the people, the laver of brass (v.18), the provision for the continual cleansing of those who minister to God, the anointing oil (v.25), which makes everything acceptable to God, and how to make the incense (v.35). The key thought of this chapter is that of acceptation before God. Prayer must rise up to Him, ministers must be clean and everything must be made acceptable to Him by the anointing oil.

Chapter 31. Here we have described the workers who are to manufacture and set up the Tabernacle, being endued with the Spirit of God for this sacred function.

Chapters 32-34. Here we meet with a dreadful shock. After all that glory and the climax of God's declared purpose to live among His people, what a blow to read of The Great Rebellion! Moses delays in coming down the mountain, the people of God fall into the sin of impatience and prefer a god which they can touch and see, and Aaron takes their gold and makes for them [44/45] a golden calf. There has to be a visitation from the holy God who is rightly angered by this fearful rebellion.

Chapters 35-40. It may seem that here we are being dragged all over the same ground once more. May I say, though, that it is important to watch out when the Bible seems to be boring, for it is never boring by accident. If it says the same thing all over again it says it for a purpose, as we shall see. So we are given again the details of the Tabernacle. This one thing we can learn, and that is God's requirement that everything should be exactly as He first ordered. John Calvin's words that "worship must be conformable to the will of God as its unerring standard" could be written as a motto over these chapters. The key thought in worship is not what man finds helpful, nor what this group or that has found traditional, but what God has commanded. Worship must conform to the will of God.

We now come to the climax of the whole matter: "Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of meeting because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle" (v.34). We first met the glory of the Lord in a tiny, isolated bush in the desert (3:2). Then we met the glory of the Lord when we came to Mount Sinai and saw a whole mountain blazing up into the heart of heaven, but it was a glory that was both majestic and remote, for the people were not allowed to climb that mountain. Here, however, is the climax; here is the central lesson which God would have us learn: the glory of the Living God, superlatively expressed, as He comes to live in the midst of His people. Not remote, as in the bush; not majestic and far off, as in the mountain; but near at hand, dwelling in the midst of His redeemed people. Here, then, is the passage laid out before us. Now we must retrace our steps and seek to find what God may teach us out of this portion of His Word.

1. The Tabernacle was designed by God to perpetuate the covenant relationship between Himself and His people.

I want to try to make clear to you the perpetuity of the covenant by saying three separate things, namely that the Tabernacle perpetuates, intensifies and completes Mount Sinai.

i. The Tabernacle perpetuates Mount Sinai

As we saw, Mount Sinai is not to be identified exclusively with what John Newton calls "The law's loud thunder". At Mount Sinai God did speak His law for the guidance and direction of His redeemed people, but there was more than that. Mount Sinai was the fulfilment of half the covenant promise: "I will take you to me for a people, and I will be your God" (Exodus 6:7). As we saw at the end of the last study, this is such a permanent relationship that it was set up in stone: "Moses built an altar and put twelve pillars round it" (24:4). That permanent relationship was sealed by the blood of the covenant. The blood was dashed upon the altar, signifying the fact that the blood of the lamb takes away the wrath of God; and the blood was sprinkled upon the consecrated people, signifying the fact that as they walk the life of obedience they are sheltered by the blood of the lamb. Now, as they leave Mount Sinai, the Tabernacle perpetuates that relationship. At Sinai they saw the appearance of the glory of the Lord like a devouring fire, and now as they move forward, the cloud covers the tent of meeting and the glory of the Lord fills the Tabernacle. The glory of the Lord is now in their midst. That relationship goes on.

ii. The Tabernacle intensifies Mount Sinai

Moses was able to enter into the glory of the cloud on the mount (24:18), but when the glory filled the Tabernacle "Moses was not able to enter" (40:35). It seems that the glory of God dwelling in the Tabernacle is an intenser glory, a fuller presence of God, than upon the mountain-top. Thus God says to us that what He showed the people on the mountain-top is not a greater experience which recedes into the past; the people of God are not called upon and never will be called upon to live in the fading afterglow of a great experience. They are called to walk on with God into a greater experience, which He enables as He comes to live and dwell with them.

Perhaps this calls for just one peep into the book of Leviticus. Exodus finishes with Moses not able to enter into the Tabernacle. But that is not what God desires. His dissatisfaction with this state of affairs is shown if we ignore the division of the books and read on: "And the Lord called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tent of meeting, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When [45/46] any man of you offereth an oblation unto the Lord ..." (Leviticus 1:1-2). Now the word "oblation" means "to come near". When anyone of the children of Israel wishes to bring near that which is to be brought near, the holy God makes it possible for him to come near into the presence of His glory. So if we were to follow on into the book of Leviticus we would find that it speaks to us of fellowship with the Welcoming God. Through the blood of the covenant God now welcomes His people into His presence. So the Tabernacle intensifies Mount Sinai.

iii. The Tabernacle completes Mount Sinai

There at Sinai one half of the covenant promise was: "I will take you to Me for a people" but the other half was: "I will be to you a God". This is a two-way arrangement, the people being brought to God and His coming to them in this capacity. It is the Tabernacle, therefore, that brings the covenant scheme to its climax, going beyond even the glory that was experienced at the mountain, going beyond even that which was set up in the stone pillars, to actualise that which was there prefigured -- God coming to dwell in the midst of His redeemed, to prove Himself to be their God. The Tabernacle is the climax: "They shall know that I am the Lord their God who brought them forth out of the land of Egypt in order that I might dwell among them". Since the Tabernacle is mobile, this relationship goes on with a pilgrim people. Mount Sinai, with its altar and its stone pillars, disappears over the horizon, but the Tabernacle goes on. There is a Pilgrim God for a pilgrim people.

2. The indwelling is a product of the mind, will and purpose of God.

Throughout all these complex details of the Tabernacle, there is one continuing story line, one truth that binds the whole together: "There I will meet with thee and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the cherubim which are upon the ark of testimony" (25:22). Did they ask Him to come? No, not at all. Could they have compelled Him to come? Certainly not! Why, then, has He come? Because it is His will to do so. We have to keep coming back to this assertion: "There I will meet with the children of Israel. The tent shall be sanctified by my glory" (29:43). God says it. The only compulsion put upon Him was that of His own nature. The whole idea of the indwelling God is a product of the mind and will of God.

i. The love of God

As we explore the dimensions of the reliability of this truth we find first of all that the indwelling arises out of the love of God. Right in the centre of the passage on the Great Rebellion, we read these surprising words: "Thou shalt worship no other God, for the Lord whose name is Jealous is a jealous God ..." (34:14). The heart of man is potentially fickle, so the redeemed need to be warned against going after other gods. This is just as true in the New Testament as in the Old: "My little children, keep yourselves from idols" (1 John 5:21). Notwithstanding all the glory that had been revealed to them, the people of God had to be warned lest they go awhoring after other gods. The redeeming love in the blood of the lamb, the caring love of the pilgrimage journey to Sinai, the majestic holiness of God at that mount, still leave them capable of being enticed away. Man's heart is fickle, but there is no such fickleness in his God.

He told Moses that His name of Yahweh is His name for ever. There is no change in Him. This, then, is the same Yahweh whose name -- that is to say, whose inmost nature -- is Jealous. What a name for God! Pure jealousy in burning, passionate consistency. We have degraded the idea of jealousy by confusing it with possessiveness, as we sinners are bound to do. God's jealousy, however, is pure love, which means that He has a burning, passionate consistency with regard to us.

ii. The perseverance of God

If we look back again over the chapters 25 to 31 concerning the pattern of the structure, then 32 to 34, the story of the Great Rebellion and then come back to the final section 35 to 40 which resumes the story of the building of the Tabernacle, we are impressed with the perseverance of God. He is so determined to dwell among His people that even that dreadful rebellion could not deter Him. This is the second lesson to be learned from that tedious repetition of the details of the building. At every moment God is saying to His people, "See, this is what I planned to do, and this is precisely what I have done. The fact that you proved rebels cannot deflect Me off course". Not even the sin of God's people can turn Him away from His purposes. He just goes on persevering. [46/47]

iii. The gentle consistency of God

Perseverance means that God goes on until He gets His own way, but consistency means that He always acts in accordance with His own nature. Here is the root and ground of our assurance. We belong to a changeless God. This proved the basis of Moses' appeal on behalf of the people. "The Lord spake to Moses saying, Go, get thee down, for thy people which thou broughtest up out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves" (32:7). Moses, for once, disobeys. He does not go down: he stays to pray. Now what did he say to God? First he appealed to God's consistency as the people's Redeemer: "Why is Your wrath hot against Your people whom You have brought forth out of the land of Egypt?" (32:11). Secondly he appealed to God's consistency regarding His own name: "Wherefore should the Egyptians say, For evil did He bring them forth?" (32:12). He urged God to be mindful of His own name and reputation. "What, then," says Moses, "would the Egyptians think of You when they find that the Redeemer has after all turned out to be a Destroyer?" Thirdly Moses appealed to God's consistency regarding His word of promise: "Remember Abraham, Isaac and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self" (32:13). "You do not speak idle words," Moses argued, "You swore this on the basis of what You are. Your good name is involved." So it was that Moses was able to base his prayer on the matter of God's consistency, reminding God that He could not go back on His work of redemption, He could not go back on the revelation of His name and He could not go back upon the word of His promise. Moses was quite right. This was something that God simply could not do. So we read that "the Lord repented of the evil which he had said he would do unto his people" (32:14). He could not do it for He is a consistent God.

God put a temptation in Moses' way by speaking to him of "Your people" (v.7). "Your people," says God, "just look at them, your people!" Moses might well have repudiated them. How easy would it have been for him to reply: "They are not my people. They are not my responsibility!" God added to the temptation by offering to have done with that nation and make a great nation from Moses' family. In this way He offered Moses an opportunity to seek his own personal glory, but this Moses at once set aside and even offered his own life for the people of God and their salvation: "Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin ... and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book of life" (v.32).

As we read on in the story, we learn that Moses never ceased to intercede on behalf of God's people. They had forfeited their right to have that holy God in their midst, and their rebellion was exposed when the Lord announced that He could no longer go with them. Moses, however, could not accept this. We read that he "used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp" (33:7). It was not the Tabernacle, but was pitched well away from the camp and was called the "tent of meeting". The whole Tabernacle project was in suspense because of the people's rebellion, but Moses kept the matter alive by putting up a little "mini-tent" and calling it by the same name as the great tent. In His marvellous grace the Lord came right down to Moses in his little tent and met with him there. So we read: "the people saw the pillar of cloud stand at the door of the tent ... and the Lord spake to Moses face to face" (v.10) .

We are told what they talked about, for Moses only had one topic of conversation, which was an appeal for God to continue with His people. Moses never stopped interceding over this one point. "You must come up with us," he pleaded, "if Your presence does not go up with us, then don't let us move on at all." He does not stop until he wins back from God the promise of His continued presence as they move on together. This reaches a climax when Moses has a private revelation of God's glory, and the name of God is proclaimed before him: "The LORD, the LORD, a God full of compassion, gracious, slow to anger, plenteous in mercy." Moses, a supreme opportunist, leaps in at this, knowing that if God is like that there is hope after all. "Moses made haste and bowed his head to the earth and worshipped, and said, If now I have found grace in thy sight, O Lord, let the Sovereign One, I pray thee, go in the midst of us" (34:9). God's gracious reply was, "All right, Moses! You win! I have made a covenant, and I will not leave you" (v.10).

So we see how God is acting in accordance with His own nature. He goes with them because it belongs to His nature to be a God who pardons iniquity, One who maintains His holiness and [47/48] yet will live and move in the midst of sinners. What a precious truth for us! We may rely on the divine indwelling because it is the purpose of God's own heart. He planned it and it is carried through by His love, His perseverance with us and His consistency with Himself. This is most clearly illustrated by the fact that the man who became the high priest was Aaron, the Aaron who led the rebellion.

"He maketh the rebel a priest and a king,

He has bought us and taught us a new song to sing:

Unto Him who has loved us and washed us from sin,

Unto Him be the glory for ever. Amen."

3. How do the people enjoy the presence of the Indwelling God?

We need to consider the other side of this truth. The fact of His indwelling is a sure one but we must ask how the people of God enter into true enjoyment of His indwelling.

i. By honouring His supremacy

At the beginning of this passage we noted that everything began with the Holiest of All. That is to say that everything took its shape from the holy place where God dwells. The Ark was not a piece of furniture in the Tabernacle, but rather was the Tabernacle provided to house the Ark. Everything took its shape from the inner sanctuary and everything moved out from there. God determined the whole structure, and the one thought which runs throughout these instructions is: "See that thou make them after the pattern which has been showed thee" (25:40). The basic condition for the enjoyment of the divine presence was that everything should be done as He commanded. Let one thing fail to be as He desired it, and God could not come and dwell in the midst of His people. The attention to detail may appear tedious to us but it is a divine principle for us all. God will certainly dwell in the midst of His people but if they are to enjoy the reality of His presence, then they must be obedient to His will.

ii. By a life of consecration

The people of God only enjoy His presence as they embark deliberately on a life of consecration: "Speak unto the children of Israel that they take for me an offering ..." (25:2). The description shows that it was a very costly offering. Now where did they, a slave people, get all these precious things? They got them from the Egyptians before they left. The gold and the silver and the rest all came under the sheltering blood on that Passover night and were carried out under that blood from the land of Egypt. It was only because they were a redeemed people that they possessed these things. So we see that Consecration means giving back to God what has become ours because of the blood of the Lamb.

Consecration is also a deliberate entering into the meaning of that blood in a personal way. The priests were those who chiefly enjoyed the tabernacling presence of God, for they were busy about the Tabernacle all the day, and they did so by virtue of an experience of the benefit of the blood of the covenant. The essence of their consecration to the duties and the privileges of their holy task was based on a sin offering (29:14), a burnt offering (29:18) and peace offerings (29:28). Until those offerings were made they could not enjoy the presence of God. Priests though they were, they had to enter into the benefit of the shed blood if they were to enjoy God's presence. They had to look at the blood of the sin offering, and say, "Yes, for me that blood is shed. My sins were laid upon the Iamb of God". They had to look upon the blood of the burnt offering, and say, "Yes, that offering secures my consecration. That blood has been put upon the tip of my ear and the thumb of my hand and the toe of my foot, in token of the fact that it consecrates to God my mind, my actions and the direction in life's walk". They had to recognise that the blood of the peace offering expressed the resultant fellowship between man and God, and looking at the blood of that peace offering, they could say, "Thank God that I, even I, can enter into fellowship with God". These offerings represent the total blood of the covenant and to us they speak of that precious blood which cleanses us from all sin, that has achieved for us a consecrated status before God and that has provided us with a perpetual basis of intimate fellowship with Him. "This is my blood of the new covenant," said Jesus. So not just as priests, but as high priests, we are able to enter into that Most Holy Place of All, "through the veil, that is to say, his flesh" (Hebrews 10:20).

We must do this. We must embark quite deliberately on a life of consecration, giving back to Him all that is ours through the blood [48/49] of the Lamb, and entering into the virtues of that blood by simple faith. For those men in far off Sinai, Aaron and his sons, the way of salvation was that of simple faith. The blood was shed; concerning that blood God said, "This blood is your way of forgiveness and access", and they replied, "We will accept the promise of God" and showed their faith in what God has said by laying their hands upon the sin offering to nominate it as a personal substitute. We must do the same. Simple faith is the way of salvation right through the Bible. All the promises of Calvary are implicit in Exodus 12, in Exodus 24 and in the book of Leviticus. The way of salvation is identical through the whole of Scripture.

iii. By worshipping before the Ark

This is the third condition for enjoying God's presence. God put this first. This is the thing which He showed to be of supreme importance -- the Ark. In principle this was what every Israelite worshipper did. The Ark expressed what God is. Inside it there was the holy law, the expression of the innermost nature of the holy God. The Ark also declared what God has done. There above it, bending inwards, face downwards, and of one piece with the Ark there were the cherubim. In Genesis 3 we read of these cherubim for the first time. There they carried a sword and were on constant watch to guard the presence of God from sinful intrusion. On the Ark, however, the sword had been taken away and their eyes no longer roved to search out intruders but gazed with fixed intensity upon the shed blood. The blood occupies their whole vision. God has done a new thing. He has found a way whereby His wrath has been quenched and communion established. The adoring gaze of heaven is fixed for all eternity upon a Lamb as it had been slain.

For those who worshipped before it, the Ark not only expressed God's nature and declared His redemption work, it also showed what God requires. If we ask what He requires of us who now move forward in our pilgrimage, the answer is twofold: He requires us to abide in fellowship with Him by the constant efficacy of the blood of Christ and also to recognise that we have been called to holiness. So we are to go on our way. The vision is not to recede; it must intensify. We must go on our way in faith and obedience, living always very near to the cross. If we do this we will discover that we too are moving in "the goings of God".



T. Austin-Sparks

"Come hither, I will show thee ..." (Revelation 21:9)

AT times of crisis in the Church's history there has always been one factor which has been decisive; that is, the presence or absence of God-given vision. Again and again, such vision has been, by its absence, the cause of calamity and disaster; or, by its presence, the turning point for good or ill, according to the attitude taken to it. God has many times reacted to either actual or threatening tragedy by the presentation of a new vision: new, so far as His people were concerned.

The need and importance of such vision is found in its various features. In the first place:


Such vision is something which has existed with God in clear-cut definition in the eternal counsels from the beginning. It is not something abstract or nebulous, something that is what people term 'visionary' or mystical. It is quite definite, clear and real in the mind and intention of God. God-given vision is not something subsequent to eventualities, an afterthought because of things having arisen unexpectedly; a kind of alternative to what God originally meant. It is not a substitute for His original plan. It is not an emergency expedient because of a [49/50] situation unforeseen. God-given vision has its roots outside of time and circumstance, eventualities, contingencies or emergencies. All those things have been already taken account of, and have -- so to speak -- been swallowed up in the vision of God.

To be brought into such vision is to be brought on to a ground of confidence and assurance when the sands seem to be sinking and everything giving way. This, surely, is of no little importance and value. Then again:


Things, whether they be good or whether they be evil, are not ends in themselves. They are either embodied in or overcome by the vision. Under the sovereign government of the Spirit of God all things are made to serve that purpose which is the substance of God's vision. That is just the significance of the words so familiar and so often used about all things working together for good (Romans 8:28). We so rarely see them in their setting, and stop short of the full import. We just say: "All things work together for good ..." and stop there. The context has two aspects. Lives wholly under the Holy Spirit's government are in view, and "His purpose" is governing. Unless these two things are implicit, all things do not work together for good! Given that being "called to his purpose" we, in response, are lovers of God, then all things are the sphere of His sovereignty which makes them work together for good. Purpose governs all, and the purpose is the substance of God-given vision. It therefore requires a vision of God's purpose in greater fullness, not in part. The purpose comprehends all parts. No phase or part is an end in itself. One wheel of a machine has no adequate meaning in itself. There lacks a real motive if all the other parts are not in view. We must not be too obsessed or taken up with the part or the phase. If we are, the whole becomes bound up with that phase so far as we are concerned, and we see no more. This may put us completely out of commission if any one phase has served God's purpose and He is now moving on. Sufficient motive demands sufficient vision, and we must see much more than that which is immediately before our eyes. Then, further still:


It is very important to remember that God-given vision is never given in completeness at any one time. This is something borne out by an abundance of Scriptural evidence and instances. Such vision is always subject to enlargement. It will always be developed and fulfilled through new phases. This is a law in nature, and nature embodies spiritual principles.

The means employed by God at one time may -- and very likely will -- pass or be changed. In the sovereign order of God one particular phase, method or means will pass out, though greatly used and blessed so far. This does not involve a change of vision (unless it is ours and not God's) but an enlargement of vision. With God all that He uses and blesses, however wonderfully, is only relative and not final or ultimate. Therefore we must not cling to what has been, and regard that as the form for all time. So often this has been a most disastrous attitude of mind, and has resulted in God having to go on with His full purpose in other directions and by other means, and leave that fixed thing behind to serve a much lesser purpose than He wanted with it. Eventually it has spiritually died, although perhaps carried on by human effort and organisation. It just lives on its past and tradition. Further:


In its first apprehension it seems to have such immediate, temporal and earthly significance. The implications of any movement of God are not always recognised at the beginning, but if we go on with Him we shall find that much that is done here and is of time is, and has to be, left behind. The spiritual and the heavenly is pressing for a larger place and becoming absolutely imperative to the very life of the instrumentality and those concerned. It is spontaneous, and just happens. We wake up to realise that we have moved into a new realm or position, and no amount of additional earthly resource can meet the need. It is not only something more that is demanded, but something different. This is a crisis, and it will only be safely passed if there is vision of God's ultimate object. This demands spiritual mindedness, capacity for grasping heavenly things. Our world may be tumbling to pieces, but the full and final outcome is what matters. The great pity is that so many just cling to the old framework or partial vision. God presents His heavenly pattern in greater fullness and demands adjustment. He does this with foreknowledge, [50/51] knowing of a day which is imminent when this vision alone will save. But because it seems revolutionary or unlike what God has blessed in the past, it is rejected and put aside. Then the foreseen day comes and all sorts of expedients have to be resorted to in an attempt to preserve any values for God.

Abraham had a vision of "the city which hath foundations" and he looked for it, but he never found it on earth. He found it at last in heaven, but only as the climax of a walk which was ever upward. Ezekiel was another man of vision. In his "visions of God" he saw the glory lifting from the earthly scene and moving up and on, finally culminating in a spiritual house and river which find their counterpart in the final revelation given to John. It was heavenly, spiritual, universal. What a significant phrase that is about the house seen by Ezekiel -- "there was an enlargement upward" (Ezekiel 41:7). God-given vision is always heavenly and always moves away from the merely temporal and earthly. To understand this is to be found in ways of vital fruitfulness.

God never works for reduction or limitation, even though at times He may seem to be doing so. When we are able to see as He sees we find that what looks like trimming and reduction is really His way of leading to more spiritual and heavenly enlargement. It was "the God of glory" who appeared to Abraham (Acts 7:2). It was "the pattern in the heavenlies" that was shown to Moses (Hebrews 8:5). It was "... above the firmament ... a throne ... and upon the throne ... a man above upon it" that Ezekiel saw (Ezekiel 1:26). It was that "the heavens do rule" that Daniel apprehended (Daniel 4:26). These are not only sovereign factors in government, but heavenly conceptions in the nature of things.

These two things proceed as one. God in sovereignty will run the risk of shattering, or allowing the shattering of much that He has used of scaffolding or framework, in order to realise His fuller purpose. It is not that what went before was wrong, but only that He now desires something more. We thank God that ever He took Paul away from his ministry of travelling evangelism and let him be shut up in prison, for it was then that the full glorious vision and revelation of the "heavenlies" and the "eternal" was given. This seemed to eclipse all the earthly and temporal. It was worth it. What might have seemed a tragedy was not one after all. Satan may have had a lot to do with Paul's imprisonment and with John's banishment to Patmos, but from these troubles the Church has gained very much in heavenly values. The Holy Spirit is the custodian of the full purpose of God and under His government the Church and the individual believer will move ever on and up. Once again:


When God does give vision it is that which becomes the occasion and basis of our testing, our education and our discipline. This is far more important to God than easy fulfilment and realisation; than that kind of facilitation which is made possible by God's overruling. Look at the prophets! They were men of vision. They stood in the gap between threatening disaster and the survival of God's people. But what discipline they endured because of their vision! It was their vision which brought all the inward as well as the outward suffering upon them. Look again at Habakkuk. How he cried to God about the situation and then took his position in relation to the vision. It is faith and patience which are the virtues to be perfected, so he realised that "the just shall live by faith" (Habakkuk 2:4). Similarly John, the man of the Patmos visions, described himself as the brother "in ... the patience of Jesus" (Revelation 1:9).

So we may find that although things may be taking a new and different shape, the purpose of God has not changed. We may be presented with His vision in new and more advanced aspects, but it is only what God originally purposed. Can we adjust? Can we leave the things that are behind? Without raising questions as to the right or wrong of what has been in the past, can we go on and grow up as we move towards God's end? Finally:


This is almost too obvious when we remember the men of the Bible. It was vision which got them away from the trivial and petty. It required vision to get prayer on to the major lines and to make it a matter of real travail. What a bound and range those prophets had in prayer! But what immense issues were precipitated. It is not our vision for God, but His vision in us that will be dynamic, and that will determine lasting values. [51/52]

I cannot conclude without pointing out that what could have been voluntary with a minimum of loss has often had to be made compulsory with gains that are less than they could have been. This is because we do not from time to time stand back and in detachment wait upon God so that He can adjust and enlarge our vision. Many a work which has mightily served the Lord and been a great spiritual testimony has lost much of its glory and impact by becoming an organised routine which has made no provision for the further light from God which could have come from periods of retreat and waiting upon Him. Perhaps the Lord would send more prophetic vision which would lead into fuller spiritual values if we were not too busy to receive it. Without renewed vision there can so easily be a leakage of spiritual power.



Poul Madsen

11. REIGNING GRACE (Chapter 6:1-14)

LATER in this letter Paul says that he writes "the more boldly" (15:15). There are those who may think that several things in the Roman letter are too bold. For example, the statement about God justifying the ungodly (4:5) and the one which affirms that "where sin abounded, grace abounded more exceedingly" (5:20). It is as if, with such statements as these, Paul leads us to the brink of an abyss, leaving us dizzily wondering how we can avoid plunging down into it. He can hardly mean that we can presumptuously continue in sin in order to increase God's grace. Nor can he possibly mean that God does not take sin so seriously in a Christian's life as in the life of an unbeliever. What does he mean?

The apostle has considered this problem and now takes it up for a thorough examination. Firstly, however, let us notice that he does not shield us from sin nor attempt to save himself from being misunderstood by saying: "What I mean by my bold assertion that 'the law came in beside, that the trespass might abound' (5:20) is that the law leads every person without the Spirit of God to despair, and so to realise that he needs the grace of God". This is often heard in modern preaching, where care is taken to stress that in the case of those who are justified and have the Spirit, the law acts as a barrier against temptation and a spur to make the effort to fulfil it now that they have the Spirit's aid.

Paul says the exact opposite, denying that the law has any positive effect on a man just because he is now justified and has the Spirit of God. That it cannot operate as a barrier against sin seems evident: "Sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under law, but under grace" (6:14). Paul is far "bolder" than many earnest Christians, who dare not follow him so far, fearing that if the law does not govern in the life of the Christian, the result will be nothing less than laxity, superficiality and lukewarmness. In the Galatian letter Paul treats the same problem and positively rejects the thought that in the Christian's life the law can have the advantage of a sanctifying influence.

What safeguard against sin do we have then? Before we answer this question we must notice that Paul does not stress any difference between the guilt of sin and the power of sin, a difference which dominates a certain form of teaching on sanctification. Nowhere, in the Roman letter nor anywhere else, is such a distinction made. Paul does not teach that once justification has set us free from the guilt of sin, then it also makes it possible for us to become free from its power. How many Christians have been confused and stumbled through such preaching which is really a mixture of gospel (you are free from the guilt of sin) and law (you can find freedom from the power of sin by obeying certain legal requirements). Such teaching lacks saving and delivering power.

THE apostle does not say: "Since you have now received the Spirit of God, you are able to fulfil the law. Now make every effort to do so by the power of the Spirit, and then you will free yourself from the power of sin!" What he does say is: "We who died to sin, how shall we any longer live therein?" It sounds like an outburst of spontaneous surprise. Is it more than just an outburst? Or has it some connection with [52/53] what has gone before? Clearly it is not just a sudden interjection, but is closely connected with his previous arguments given in 5:12-21. There he affirmed that the fate of the natural man is bound up with Adam, whereas the destiny of the justified is bound up with Christ. That which happened to Christ as our Head, has now happened to us. He died to sin, therefore we also died to sin. As previously emphasised, sin is a power which came into the world by one man and rules us all. It sought to exercise its dominion over Christ too, but was completely defeated. When the Lord Jesus died, sin's power was finally broken and by His resurrection there was heralded an entirely new era with an entirely new human race, who are not under the dominion of sin. It is this basic fact upon which Paul now builds his argument. That the power of sin is broken is due wholly and completely to the work of God in Christ Jesus. It is not our job to break this power or even to help to do so. This has happened already, for Christ has done it.

And we are one with Christ! We are members of His body, for in one Spirit we have been baptised into that body (1 Corinthians 12:13). This surely means that, just as that which happened to Adam includes all those who are in Adam, so does that which happened to Christ include all of us who are His. His death to sin is our death. His resurrection to an entirely new life is our resurrection. Baptism vividly illustrates this very truth. "Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death?" By this Paul does not mean that we were baptised in order that we might die, as though it had not yet happened, but rather that we testified by baptism of that which had already taken place. Baptism is not a consecration unto death, but a proclamation of the death which has already occurred. Therefore we read further: "We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life" (v.4). We could only be buried if we were already dead, and we can only walk again if something miraculous has happened to us to raise us up again. In no sense can Paul's words be interpreted as a mere exhortation to try to be better and live differently by remembering Christ's resurrection. It is not so much what we ought to do but the wonderful reality of what has happened to us. By the grace of God we are one with Christ, we have been brought into an entirely new life where the power of sin is broken.

It is clear that the apostle has in mind the course of the baptismal procedure. When the candidate for baptism is immersed under water, he shows that he is buried with Christ. When he is lifted up, this represents his rising to that newness of life where the power of sin is broken. He speaks of being "united with him" because he still has Adam and Christ as the background of his thinking. We were strangers to Christ, outside of Him, but have now become members of His body, that is, united with Him. Baptism proclaims that we are united with Him in His death ("a death like His" -- Danish), and that we are united with Him in His resurrection ("by a resurrection like His" -- Danish).

THIS is something that we know (v.6). The apostle is enunciating an undeniable fact, an incontestable truth, an historic event, namely that our old man was crucified with Christ. "I have been crucified with Christ" (Galatians 2:20). It has no more to do with mysticism than our share in Adam's fall has anything mystical about it. It has nothing to do with our feelings: it is a liberating fact. When our old man was crucified with Christ, the body of sin lost its power. This is the work of God in Christ Jesus for us and with us, and because of it we are no longer the slaves of sin. By the death and resurrection of Christ we have been brought out of our relationship to the body of sin and its power and brought into the body of Christ under the dominion of obedience. This is not the result of some "consecration" from our side but is the effect of God's work of redemption. It is, hard to understand how I, who live nearly two thousand years after Christ, can be a partaker in His death and resurrection in practical terms. I know, however, that although I live very much longer after Adam, I am definitely involved in his fall and condemnation. In neither case does the time-lag make any difference to our present experience.

PAUL does not seem to think that this is hard to understand. By the simple assertion that we know, he speaks categorically about the matter and does not attempt any further explanation. This is because, as we have already [53/54] remarked, he does not accept our modern individualistic view of the race, but regards mankind as a collective whole, a fellowship, a body with Adam as its head. So it is that he is able to pursue consistently the thought that what happens to the head, happens also to the body. This, to him, needs no explaining and admits of no argument. It is God who has put us into Christ with these consequently wonderful results, and that is something much greater than just our bringing Christ into our affairs.

Death is the boundary of sin. Sin's dominion cannot reach beyond that. "For he that hath died is justified from sin" (v.7). What more can sin demand or do? Its final demand is that he who sins must die. When that demand is fulfilled then he who has died is freed from sin. It has nothing more to do with him. On the positive side, though, the situation is that "if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him", that is, live as members of His body, in His world, in His eternal age, where sin and death exercise no dominion.

Here it is well to be reminded that Paul is all the time speaking of sin as a power, a ruler, under which all who are not in Christ have to serve as helpless slaves. The opening question was whether we were to continue in sin, that is, remain in its sphere of power. We are now told that we should no longer be in bondage to sin (v.6) and then in the rest of this section the apostle speaks of sin as a reigning power which we no longer serve (vv.12 & 14). It can hardly be more clearly emphasised that the Bible regards sin not only as a moral flaw of weakness but as a positive tyrant. The only deliverance is by the breaking of the tyrant's power and releasing its slaves, which is precisely what Christ has done. Death no longer has dominion over Him, for He has died once and for all (v.10) and we have died with Him "away from sin" (Danish), that is, away from the sphere of its power. Since He now lives unto God we who are in Him may reckon ourselves to be alive unto God in Christ Jesus (v.11). This is the fact. It is not because we reckon it that it becomes a fact, but the opposite; because it is so, we reckon on it. This is the first time in the Roman letter that we meet the apostle's famous expression, "in Christ", an expression which emphasises that Christ is the Head of a new humanity, that He now has a new body of which all true believers are living members.

IT might be thought that there is no more to be said. If we are freed from the power of sin, surely we are free from all danger. Paul however does not conclude the section in this way. It is true that we are freed from the power of sin, but sin is not dead. Far from it. It will still seek to catch us in its net. A conquered and dethroned tyrant may very well seek to regain his power. For this very reason the apostle tells those who have died to sin and become alive to God not to let sin reign in their mortal bodies (v.12). His words are not laying a new burden upon us, as might perhaps seem. They subtract nothing from the mighty message that we have been set free from the dominion of sin. They do not refer us back to ourselves as though everything now depended upon our uprightness and determination. If it were so we would have no earthly chance of escaping from the domination of sin over us.

His intention is not to leave it to us to make it work: it is just the opposite. Sin has no dominion over us. Sin is defeated. It is dethroned. It was not we but Christ who defeated it, so we may be sure that the victory is perfect and final. We who belong to Christ are no longer its slaves, therefore we act quite differently in relation to it for whom the Son makes free is free indeed (John 8:36). Now, then, we are able to do what we could never do before, that is, present ourselves to God and our members as instruments of righteousness unto Him. In this positive act, which liberty in Christ enables us to do, we find the negative virtue of not allowing sin to reign in our mortal bodies. The old man could do no other than present himself as an instrument of sin, for he was its slave. We are freed so that we can present ourselves as instruments unto God.

"For sin shall not have dominion over you; for you are not under law, but under grace" (v.14). With these "bold" words Paul closes this part of the discussion about the possibility of his consistent preaching of grace leading to laxity of life. The contrary is true. Consistent preaching of grace contains the assurance that sin shall not have dominion in the life, for the dominion of grace is the same as the dominion of Christ. He has become our only Lord. The law does not protect the Christian from sin. For this reason Paul does not dilute his preaching of grace, but presses it home consistently and boldly without allowing himself to be forced back on to the law as a possible protection against law-breaking. [54/55] Few have dared to follow him. The gospel has always been and still remains a mystery. Perhaps it is because Paul knows how difficult it is for the religious person to understand the full meaning of grace that he devotes the rest of this chapter to the same subject.

(To be continued)


John Blanchard

Reading: Ephesians 4:1-6

NO isolated Christian can give a full testimony to Christ. Only the Church in active function can do that. If we are now to consider the Church perhaps the first thing to say is that the vastness of our theme is quite beyond our powers of apprehension. I find the subject stressed and developed in the Word of God to such a degree that I am daunted by the magnitude of my task. In some ways I feel like the man in America who stood before the judge in a court of law and was sentenced to 99 years of imprisonment. The man had an acute problem in that he was already quite old. He turned to the judge and said: 'Your Honour, I'll never finish it!' The judge looked at him quite kindly and said: 'Well, go away and do as much as you can'. I am not in any way under condemnation, but I have a like problem about the impossibility of my task, and can only take up this profound Scripture in Ephesians and make a beginning of expounding it. I will do so by making two appeals. The first is that we consider the Mystery of the Church, and the second that we consider the matter of Submission Within the Church.


There is no difficulty in persuading people at large in the world that the Church is a mystery. To many it probably seems an irrelevant mystery. Now of course that is very sad. It is even sadder when those who are within the Church fail to have a Bible grasp of what that Church is intended to mean. It is saddest of all, though, when their ignorance of the true nature of the Church leads to behaviour which is not worthy of or in keeping with their membership of it.

This passage makes it very clear that, in spite of divisions and differences, the Church of God is one. This is certainly a mystery. We need God's help if we are to begin to understand it. In verses 4 to 6 Paul mentions seven facets of this tremendous truth. Some of these centre in the Holy Spirit, others centre in the Lord Jesus Christ, while the last and consummating one centres on God the Father. This tells me that the Church is Trinitarian. What is more, it tells me that wherever within the Church you have an over-emphasis on One of the Persons, with a consequent and inevitable de-emphasis on the Others, you have an imbalance which is totally unbiblical.

Given, then, this basic relationship with the Trinity, what has Paul to say about the Church?

1. "There is one body"

This phrase, "one body", makes it clear to me that the Church's constitution is not organisational but spiritual. This is evident, for not every Christian in the world is found in the same outward grouping. If the unity of the Church is a divine fact, it can only be by virtue of its origination and not one of organisation. Its unity is spiritual and not the result of any man-made arrangement. Paul stressed to the Romans: "So we being many are one body". Whatever we may feel about the various groupings, denominations and fellowships within the Church, we are forced to face God's insistence that there is only one body. What is more, we must agree that it is always and without exception a tragedy when these groupings or loyalties to a denomination obscure this glorious truth of the oneness of the body.

2. "There is one Spirit"

Matthew Henry has this comment: 'Two hearts in one body would be monstrous'. Every human body has one heart, one heart only, which drives the life-giving blood into every limb and artery of that body. And it is precisely in the same way that the Church is empowered by one Spirit. The Holy Spirit indwells every Christian in the Church without preference, without favouritism and without distinction. As [55/56] there is one body, so there is one Spirit, and of course the key verse in the matter is: "For we were all baptised by one Spirit into one body -- whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free -- and we were all given the one Spirit to drink" (1 Corinthians 12:13). Could there be any clearer passage in all the pages of Scripture about the unity, the essential oneness, of the Church than this which so dogmatically asserts what is true of us all. Yet how often is it used by Satan to make divisions. I doubt whether there is a greater tragedy in the Christian Church today than that this wonderful verse, which so gloriously illuminates the unity of all Christ's members, should be made an instrument for bringing about some of the most tragic divisions among them.

3. "There is one hope"

The full phrase is: "There is one hope of your calling" which makes a lovely link with the previous section for it is the Holy Spirit who seals God's people for their inheritance (1:13-14). Paul describes the Holy Spirit as the immediate deposit which guarantees the ultimate fulfilment. The word "earnest" is one which is not used in this context nowadays, so we translate it; "deposit", which is a conception familiar to us all. May I say in all reverence that when our God puts down a deposit we may be absolutely sure that He guarantees that in due course the balance will be forthcoming. This is actually stated elsewhere: "He has put his seal upon us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee" (2 Corinthians 1:22). The hope of the Christian's calling has reference to the redemption of his body which is for all who are in Christ without distinction.

One might say that Bible spelling is most peculiar, for it spells out the idea of hope in four letters: S-U-R-E! This may be a strange way of spelling but that is precisely what is involved in Scriptural hope -- absolute certainty. It means that since it is God who has laid down the deposit, final fulfilment is absolutely sure. Every true Christian is united in this and shares the promise that one day he will experience the redemption of the body and the fullness of life in the presence of God. We all have the same hope.

4. "There is one Lord"

This phrase clearly speaks of the Lord Jesus. Later on in the same epistle Paul tells us more specifically that Christ is "the head of the church" (5:23). You would hardly think so at times. An objective observer, going into many churches and noting their procedures, methods and politics, would regard it as the most surprising revelation in the world to discover that the Boss of the churches, the Head of this church, is the Lord Jesus Christ.

With so much of pomp and ceremony, human glory and display, there is need for the Church to relearn one of the great truths which was preached by John Collins at the time of the Great Ejectment: 'The Church's power is not authoritative; it is only ministerial'. He did not mean ministerial in any clerical or ecclesiastical sense, but in the Bible sense of service. The power which the Church has is the power of ministering, of serving, under the Lordship of Christ. The Church's great duty is not to legislate, but to accept the legislation which God has already laid down, to give obedience to Him who purchased her with His own blood and who alone has the right to rule. A part of the mystery of the Church is that she has Christ as her sovereign Lord.

5. "There is one faith"

This follows on exactly and is confirmed in Paul's reminder to the Galatians: "You are all sons of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptised into Christ did put on Christ. There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female; for ye are all one man in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:26-28). "All one in Christ Jesus" is so often our watchword. We know it. We believe it. I wonder if we really understand it. It is a bedrock truth of tremendous significance. The word "one" is not primarily emphasis on unity but on equality. This is obvious from the context. To say that as soon as you become a Christian you are no longer a Jew would make nonsense. What God does say is that the fact that you are Jew does not make you superior to the other man. He does not suggest that you are no longer a free man, but He does most emphatically assert that this gives you no spiritual superiority over the slave. It is not that you are no longer a man, but that this fact in no way makes you superior to a Christian woman. You are all equal in Christ. In the Christian Church there is no third world and no second-class citizenship. At the cross there is no room for complexes, superiority or inferiority, for the ground at the [56/57] cross is absolutely level. White is no better than coloured, young than old or vice versa. In terms of salvation we are all equal in Christ Jesus. I gladly respect the superiority of my brethren in matters of spiritual understanding and experience, but in one respect I am equal to the best of them. My sin is covered by the same blood, my trust is in the same Saviour, my Father is the same God, my Empowerer is the same Spirit, my security has the same guarantee; my justification is as unalterable as theirs and we are heading for the same home in glory.

Peter expresses this truth so beautifully. Here was the apostle Peter, a great mountain of a man, deeply experienced in spiritual values, and yet writing to anonymous and unimportant Christians, he addresses them as, "those who have received a faith as precious as ours" (2 Peter 1:1). He writes to people whom we will never know until we meet them in heaven, and says: "Your faith is as effective as mine and as valuable as mine". Paul confirms this attitude when, writing about Onesimus, who was not only a slave but a runaway slave, he calls him a brother. Here was a man who was the lowest of the low, a man whom people would not wish to touch with a sterilised barge-pole, yet the great apostle described him as "a brother beloved". There is indeed one holy faith.

6. "There is one baptism"

In Scripture baptism is the outward sign of an inward faith. It can perhaps be described as the initiatory evidence of membership of Christ's Body. It is, of course, possible to have salvation without baptism, as it is also possible to have baptism without salvation, but clearly the Biblical norm is both. To me the point being made here is not the method or mode of baptism but the meaning of it. It allows of no distinction. The sign of our initiation into fellowship is the same for all of us. James throws some light indirectly on this by his illustration of wrong behaviour when a seat of honour was provided for a rich man, while a poor one was told not to expect anything like that but to be content with sitting on the floor. That was wrong discrimination in the Church, when men were being received on a different level.

7. "There is one Father"

The full passage reads: "There is one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in all". The word "all" is obviously limited by its context; it refers to the Church and the true Christian. There is no refuge here for those who falsely preach the universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man. That may have a basis in a creatorial consideration; Paul did not dispute it with those who said it before him when he was preaching to the Athenians. Here, however, he was not dealing with creation but with redemption. It was in this connection that he pointed out that all blood-bought Christians have the same God for their Father.

What rich treasures are contained in this one statement. In the Church God is equally our Father. He is the Father of us all in terms of His providence, of His care, of His sovereignty, of His provision, of the access we have to Him and of the potential blessing we can receive from Him. God is the Father of each and everyone of us without distinction. He is the Father of the merest babe in Christ who is groping to get hold of the fundamentals of the faith, and also of the spiritual giant who has walked with God for years. He is Father of both these men, equally and without distinction. What a marvellous wonder that is! As I have already said, the Church has no third world, no second-class citizens and no despised minorities.


Our second consideration from this passage is the matter of Submission within the Church. I used the word "submit" deliberately. It is often employed in the New Testament, and especially in regard to relationships within the Church. It is tremendously impressive to find the preponderance of stress which is placed on the duty and privilege of submitting to one another.

Here such a call is hardly surprising, for the matter of our walk is introduced by the word "therefore", which makes us look back to the preceding verse at the end of chapter 3. "Unto him be the glory in the church." If there is to be glory for Him in the Church, Paul argues, then you must lead a life of lowliness and meekness. If God is going to be exalted in the Church, then we must go out of our way to see that we are not exalted in it. If God is to be exalted, then we must not seek an exalted position for ourselves.

Paul says that our life should be worthy of our calling. It is striking how often the Bible reminds us that our calling and our conduct should go hand in hand. In this passage the apostle mentions five aspects of this worthy life: [57/58]

1. "With all lowliness"

That is where we must all begin. When a man gets too big for his boots he gets too big for God's blessing. Surely it is impossible to consider such a subject without turning to the next letter to read Paul's further words: "Have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, counted it not a prize to be on an equality with God, but emptied himself ..." (Philippians 2:5-7). While not being casual or careless in my choice of words, may I try to render this passage in the simple comment that Jesus went out of His way to make Himself of no reputation? The trouble with us is that we lose too much nervous energy trying rather to create a reputation for ourselves.

At a conference of Christian workers a leading evangelist said to me, 'John, this life is a tremendous strain, isn't it?' I could agree with him in part, but wanting to know just what he meant, I asked, 'In what way is it a strain?' His startling but honest reply was, 'Because of the need to be successful!' I had to confess that at times, and too often, it had been true of me also that I have got into a tension because I felt the need to be successful, of having the approbation of men. How easily we fall into the temptation of wanting to carve out a reputation for ourselves! Jesus, however, made Himself of no reputation -- He succeeded by submission. There would be something like a revolution within our local churches if anything approaching this spirit were to govern their members.

2. "and meekness"

The word used here is untranslatable, but perhaps the best rendering we can find is: "strength under control". It implies the attitude of the person who is prepared to forfeit his own rights in the interest of others. This contrasts greatly with the tragedy in church-life when the self-assertive insist on what they think or wish or claim to be. By nature we all have this spirit, this frightening compulsion to prove that we are somebodys. Only grace can deliver and transform us. In this matter Paul is an outstanding example, for he writes: "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, was this grace given, to preach unto the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Ephesians 3:8). Preaching was his great occupation, and he did it so well. To him it was about as important as breathing. Yet he described it as a matter of pure grace, a free gift of God, attributing no merit of any kind to him.

3. "with long suffering"

We could perhaps translate this as gentle patience with the mistakes, the wrongdoings of others, and even over the injuries which they may cause us. Sometimes we say of a person that he is a 'perfectionist'. That is fine, for it means that he sets a very high standard for himself and even for others. It is far from fine, though, if it means that when things go wrong in that person's house even the cat has to run for shelter!

4. "forebearing one another in love"

This is also translatable as "enduring one another in love". It may be that, in some cases, all we can do is to grin and bear it, for we are having to deal with an almost impossible person. God knows very well that we are not all of the same temperament and will never all hold the same views, but He insists that we must make allowances in love for those who are not like us. If necessary we must love our brother when we cannot feel any liking for him.

5. "giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit ..."

Why is this the last of the five aspects? Because it flows from all the others. The alternative to this unity is found when Christians are proud and assertive, impatient and lacking in love. Then the sparks fly! But when Christians are humble, meek, patient, forebearing and loving, then there is the "bond of peace".

My final point which I would wish carefully and earnestly to press is that when the uncaring, cynical world outside sees more and more Christians behaving in this way, then perhaps it will begin to take more seriously the Church's testimony to Christ.

"Blest be the dear uniting love

   That will not let us part;

Our bodies may far off remove,

   We still are one in heart.

Joined in one Spirit to our Head,

   Where He appoints we go,

And still in Jesus' footsteps tread,

   And show His praise below.

Oh, may we ever walk with Him,

   And nothing know beside;

Nothing desire, nothing esteem,

   But Jesus crucified." [58/59]



Eric Fischbacher

THERE are those who claim that God is dead, and they base this extraordinary view on the apparent lack of response from the heavens to their calling. Frequently, of course, such attempts to communicate with God are more in the nature of a shout of challenge than a cry for help, but in any case there is no answer, and the apparently logical conclusion is drawn that there is no one at home. To such an approach the prophet Elijah would say, "Shout louder! He may be pre-occupied with other responsibilities; he may have gone on a journey, or he may even be sleeping!" Some even go on to inflict injury on themselves, by blasphemous insult, in a vain attempt to attract His attention.

Under such an assault the gates of heaven do not even rattle, for the attack falls short by a hundred million light years, and so it is not unreasonably concluded that there is nobody there. If there were He would be bound to answer such provocation. The idea of distance here is, of course, misleading. To use radio terms -- the trouble is that the wrong frequency is being used, and no amount of wattage will improve our communication if the frequency selection is mistaken. The same applies to reception. Even the most undiscerning radio-knob twiddler knows that a fractional alteration of the frequency will lose or regain a powerful transmission.

THE Christian believes that God has spoken, and is speaking now, and that man must take the time required to search the range until he discovers the frequency on which God is transmitting. Not until he has found this will communication begin. The air around us is full of voices, a babel of radio communication, yet we hear nothing without the appropriate receptors and a precise tuning.

The situation on Mount Carmel is graphically depicted: "And as midday passed they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice; no one answered, no one heeded" (1 Kings 18:29). God was there, but in this case they were calling the wrong name. Will I answer if it is not my name that is called?

The Christian knows the Name, for he himself is called by it, but as he looks at the problem of communication with God, a subject on which many are uneasy and uncertain in these stressful days, he must consider that the question of precise tuning to the correct wavelength is of paramount importance. God is speaking continuously, as the psalmist states: "The Mighty One, God the Lord, speaks and summons the earth, from the rising of the sun to its setting" (Psalm 50:1). He does not keep silence.

FROM the dawn of creation God began to speak, and He will continue to do so until the end. From early morning until sunset God is dealing with His creatures, and indeed His voice can be heard through the night also. The creation itself speaks loudly and continuously for God, and the so-called 'scientific' explanation of the fact which excludes God from His own universe, is simply a hiding place from that Voice, built by men who are not unable to hear the Voice but who will not listen. Why will they not listen? Because the Voice not only speaks out the truth, it summons man to an accountability which is frankly alarming, and man is determined to prove that the undeniable facts speak for themselves only and not for God, judging that they say nothing intelligible or relevant to his daily life. But the Voice continues to speak and man, having changed the wavelength, claims that he can hear nothing. This, however, does not diminish his accountability.

AND what of believers, the people of God, the Church? is God not communicating? I am sure that He is, continuously and in two distinct ways. First, by all that He has already said and caused to be written for us. The commandments, the truth, the Word of God, written down and placed in our hands, represent the continuous speaking of God, His unceasing communication. It portrays His own character and purposes, and His requirements of His people. While such may appear to be a boring restatement of the obvious, yet Christians will complain that God is silent, when their lives are in flagrant violation of what God has already said in precise, unambiguous detail. The cause is not always a deliberate and conscious [59/60] rejection of God's instructions, but a gradual, almost imperceptible drift from the true frequency. The result is that although the Word is read, the message is distorted and indistinct.

Secondly, God speaks currently, through His servants. "Rising up early and sending them," is the graphic phrase of the A. V. Here is the picture of God's active, urgent communication with His people, through the written and spoken ministry of the Word -- "sent forth" to accomplish a mission, to bring a message from God. Sometimes no human agent is employed; God illumines by His Spirit some part of the Word, and the message is conveyed vividly and directly. Again, sadly the Christian is often out of tune, and fails to receive the message so distinctly and specifically directed to him from heaven. The parable of the Sower defines the ways in which the precious seed can fail to arrive in good soil -- failure to pay attention, robbery by the enemy, inadequate care over it, preoccupation with other things. The fault is not with God. The Sower is constantly sowing; the Word is being sent forth daily. The man who says that God is silent would be more precise if he confessed that he himself hears nothing.

THERE are times when God is silent, refusing to communicate with those who have already heard His instructions and refused to obey. He is longsuffering and patient with us, but there comes a time when repetition of a message which is consistently ignored or avoided becomes pointless, and to such an attitude God falls silent. In many respects the silence of God speaks loudly and clearly, and can be a more alarming experience than the Voice of rebuke and condemnation. Such a complete unwillingness on God's part to communicate with a man, I imagine to be relatively rare, for the Scripture is full of evidence that the Lord is extra-ordinarily long suffering and patient with us. Only the most flagrant and persistent disobedience would result in a complete breakdown in communication. Wherever there is a little contrition of heart and a rising desire to be right with Him, God is ready to lead the way to renewed fellowship.

IT is also true of course that although the presence of the Creator in the universe causes reverberations which no man can fail to hear and feel, these are but "the edges of His ways", and the Voice is in fact but a whisper, "a sound of gentle stillness". For the man to hear the message he must not only be tuned to the right frequency band -- he must also be at the right place at the right time, and must have the quietness to hear. The Old Testament prophets and men of God had often to wait for days, undisturbed, until the Word of God came through to them. Waiting seemed to be an essential factor in obtaining the message. No wonder, then, that in our day it seems so difficult to hear that Word.

No consideration of God's communication with our world can omit the strange and enigmatic statement that "God having spoken in the past by His prophets has in these last days spoken in a Son" (Hebrews 1:1). Here is God's final Word to the silent planet, His Logos, His means of communication, the new and living Way, the Ladder up to heaven. This is the Message Himself. God has spoken indeed, not only in sending a message, but Himself coming in Christ to reveal Himself in all His grace and glory. This is the divine way of reconciling to Himself the world that has for so long turned to Him a deaf ear.



We would like readers to know that there will be no bound volumes of the magazine for 1978. For various reasons it seems right to discontinue the preparation of these volumes. We hope that it will mean a minimum of inconvenience and that this notice is not too late to warn readers to retain their loose copies if they wish to have the messages in permanent form. [60/ibc]


[Inside back cover]


"(that is, to bring Christ down)"
"(that is, to bring Christ up from the dead)"
(Romans 10:6-7)

IT was certainly Moses who wrote that the man that doeth the righteousness which is of the law shall live thereby, but it was also Moses who gave this comment on the righteousness which is of faith. Before we start blaming him for the impossible standard set by his words: "Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments; which if a man do, he shall live by them" (Leviticus 18:5), we should also notice that this other quotation about the righteousness which is by faith was also spoken by Moses. He it was who provided Paul with his encouraging words here quoted, beginning with "Say not in thy heart ...". The full passage reads: "This commandment which I command thee this day, it is not too hard for thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it" (Deuteronomy 30:11-14).

THIS, then, is the gospel according to Moses. What does it say to us? That Christ came down from heaven to earth without any assistance from us. We could not climb up to bring Him down. We did not need to do so. He chose to come down so that He could draw near to us in the fullness of His love. The Word is very nigh to us. He became flesh and dwelt among us. Having come down from heaven to seek sinners, and having been crucified for them and descended into the very abyss for their salvation. He neither sought nor needed human help to lift Him up again. He rose triumphantly from the dead, and now is nearer to us in His resurrection even than He was in His incarnation. The Saviour is neither too high for us nor too distant; He is very near to all who call upon Him in truth. Let us leave the self-righteous to his ineffectual struggles to find acceptance with God, and let us boldly claim as our very own the Saviour who first came down from heaven and then went back there that we might have hearts that believe unto righteousness and mouths that confess unto salvation.

WE do not know if Moses had any idea that his words of encouragement referred to the coming Christ. It may well be that he could not see beyond the fact that God's Word is within easy reach of all humble believing hearts who will receive and obey it. He certainly wanted the Israelites to know that it is faith and not self-effort which is the proper response to God's promises. In common with other prophets of old times, he enjoyed some clear glimpses of the coming Saviour. He once had a shining face as the result of such a vision. However he could hardly have foreseen what use the great apostle would later make of his words.

THE original inspiration, though, was not from Moses but from the Holy Spirit, and there can be no doubt but that He always had Christ in view, not only when Paul wrote the words to the Romans but also when Moses spoke them to the Israelites. We must not imagine that the apostle simply used a quotation from Moses as a convenient confirmation of his argument, but must appreciate that he was enabled to present us with the full meaning of the inspired words, even if their original speaker, Moses, was not completely aware of their significance.

FAITH does not have to climb up to heaven by its own efforts, but only to rejoice that Christ has brought heaven down to us. Faith does not have to attempt to plumb the depths of God's judgment on sin, for the Lord Jesus has done that for us, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. Not only Abraham but Moses also rejoiced at the prospect of seeing what Jesus called "My day". These two parentheses remind us of the essential unity of the Scriptures. Moses and Paul were not antagonists but workers together in the gospel task of presenting God's Christ to needy men.


[Back cover]

2 Corinthians 9:8

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