"... 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. 5, Sep. - Oct. 1978 EDITOR: Mr. Harry Foster

God's Sabbath Rest 81
Chapter By Chapter Through Romans (13) 85
A Matter Of Urgency (1) 90
A Man In Christ 92
Learning From Leviticus (1) 95
Why Don't You Leave Them Alone? 97
A Pilgrim's Prayer (1) 99
Inspired Parentheses (15) ibc



Harry Foster

"There remaineth therefore a sabbath rest for the people of God "
(Hebrews 4:9)

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest"
(Matthew 11:28)

IT is no accident that the wonderful words of invitation to find rest in Christ are followed by a challenge to Him concerning the Sabbath. It is not by chance that the chapter which concludes with the Saviour's offer of perfect rest to the weary in heart should precede the incidents in Matthew 12:1-14 which reveal the emptiness of the pharisaical Sabbath of man's efforts. The true Sabbath, as Hebrews 4 clearly shows, is not just a general kind of rest but it is God's rest. When the writer affirms that believers do enter into that rest, he clearly refers to the particular kind of rest which is God's rest. Of course God did not need a Sabbath in which to rest. Anyone who believes in a deity must agree that there can be no restlessness, tension or warring elements in the Creator of the universe. The idea of the Sabbath, however, was to express God's rest in relation to mankind. It was on the seventh day that He gave Himself to heart rest in regard to man and faced the happy prospect of sharing that rest of His with human beings.

At first, when the labours of creation were over and God's handiwork pronounced very good, this whole earth of ours became a scene of indescribable blessedness. It was God's Sabbath. To be in the world at all was to be in the sphere of perfect rest. Anywhere within the whole of God's creation on that first blessed seventh day there was a reign of peace; to come into the world at all was, so to speak, to enter God's rest. Is this what Moses meant when so many centuries later he enjoined the Israelites to "Remember the Sabbath day" (Exodus 20:8)? None of the other commandments carried this introduction, though it was just as important to remember to honour one's parents and remember not to covet or lie. Nothing else had been mentioned in God's Word about this seventh day until instructions were given concerning the gathering of the manna, but we may conclude that godly men still commemorated that first Sabbath by keeping a day apart for God. Was the Sabbath which they were specially to remember that first marvellous day of harmony in the whole realm of mankind?

Alas, it did not continue. The introduction of sin disturbed the relationship of harmony between man and God; the rest no longer operated and God was obliged to look forward to another rest. This time it was not for mankind generally but for the people purchased by precious blood and it lay ahead of them in the land of His promise. The good tidings or gospel of that promised rest was preached to those redeemed Israelites (Hebrews 4:2) but they came short of it and never entered in. They kept their own Sabbaths but they never enjoyed God's Sabbath. We know, of course, that the next generation did enter into that promised land, and therefore we may be somewhat surprised to find the writer arguing that Joshua did not give them rest (v.8). Unbelief still robbed them of what might have been and they could only remember that first Sabbath without ever experiencing its bliss. Much later God was still making His offer of rest as, through David, He appealed to His people not to harden their hearts and so miss the promised rest. After so long a time, then, God was still seeking a means of sharing His rest with men (v.7), and we might have felt that at Jerusalem He had found it, for in another psalm David wrote: "The Lord hath chosen Zion; He hath desired it for his habitation. This is my resting place for ever; here will I dwell; for I have desired it" (Psalm 132:13-14). The sphere of rest had been narrowed down from the earth to the land, and from the land to the temple. Still, however, men were weary and heavy laden because of sin, so that it was not until Jesus the Saviour came that God's perfect rest could be fully enjoyed. Jesus is the true Sabbath and as such He made a violent contrast to the religious formalities which so misrepresented God to the restless hearts of sinful men.

If we look back with wonder as we remember that first great Sabbath, we may also look forward with glad expectation to the future inheritance which awaits believers. "There remaineth therefore a sabbath rest for the people of God. " The fullest interpretation of these words may well [81/82] refer to eternal bliss, and we have no need to feel ashamed of longings for that future paradise where sin can never enter and God's beautiful Sabbath will never again be disturbed. We notice, though, that one of the operative words of Hebrews 4 is "Today". Any day, any where, we may know God's Sabbath rest, for it depends not on a time or place but upon a Person, who still assures the heavy-hearted that they may find rest to their souls if they will but come to Him. Indeed it is "Today" that this matter is decided, for it is pitifully vain to wish or pray that any soul may "Rest in Peace" in the hereafter unless it has first found forgiveness and peace here in the present.

A thoughtful perusal of the Gospels will disclose that Christ did many of His mightiest miracles on a Sabbath. Either He Himself chose the Sabbath as the battleground on which He would meet His critics or else the Holy Spirit picked out these special incidents to impress the importance of the Sabbath on all who now read. In either case it is clear that we are meant to turn away from mere observance of a day to think in terms of faith in a Person. We no longer have the Sabbath of a seventh day. We do not even know which is the seventh day, for the numbering of days is quite arbitrary and in no way connected with Adam's first full day on earth. We have what we call the first day, but it is not in any sense the Sabbath, but rather the Lord's Day. Incidentally it is increasingly becoming the feature of our secular society that calendars begin with Monday instead of Sunday nowadays! This is most unacceptable to us, for the first day of our week is the Lord's Day. So Christ is the first and the last: He is our resurrection life and He is our Sabbath rest. We will never find rest in religious observance but only in coming direct to Him.

There was something aggressively negative in the Pharisees' attitude to the Sabbath. It was as though they made hard work out of their prohibitions and restraints. They were intent on what they would not do and what others must not do, so that the day inevitably became an occasion of tension. Any such negative attitude on our part will have the same effect. True fellowship with Christ means not repression but release. No doubt His invitation was given to men who are "heavy laden" with sin, but it surely included the many who found the legalistic burdens put upon them by Judaism hard to bear. To come to Christ means to know blessed forgiveness but it should also mean full deliverance from all other yokes but His, which is the kind and comforting yoke of submission to His will. Here, then, is the promise of Sabbath rest. The secret is to be found in coming to Jesus. If we ask what is meant by the words "Come unto Me", we surely find the answer in the statement: "We which have believed do enter into that rest" (Hebrews 4:3). It focuses down into the matter of living faith.


To pursue this matter further, we are confronted with the call to have faith in God's love. Why is this world such a restless, turbulent place? Is it not because men have no conviction that God is love. One of the commonest complaints about God is concerned with this very matter. "How can God be a God of love?" men ask. If we remember the first Sabbath day we realise that then that matter was not in question. Straight from the hands of his Maker, man had no questions about the perfect love which surrounded him. It was when the tempter raised questions about that love and when his insinuations were listened to, that the human race began its long journey into restless wandering.

If we look at the incident recorded at the beginning of Matthew 12, we find that the Pharisees mistakenly imagined that God would prefer to see men hungry rather than that there should be risk of their breaking the Sabbath by rubbing grains of corn in their hands to separate the wheat from the chaff. There was no difficulty about the ownership of the plucked ears, nor about the using of their jaws to munch the grain; it was the act of plucking and separating that they condemned as "unlawful". Christ insisted that His disciples were guiltless and that the reason behind the Pharisees' harsh condemnation was that they misunderstand the God who wanted mercy and shows mercy. In other words they may have had some theoretical knowledge of divine things but they were far from being in harmony with God's nature of love.

Had the controversy been continued, these religious leaders would possibly have cited the experience of their ancestors when gathering manna. Indeed we have the very first reference to the Sabbath in connection with the daily fall of bread from heaven (Exodus 16:23). "There you are," the objectors might have argued, "it was better for the people to go hungry on the [82/83] Sabbath than to pick up the manna on that day," a specious argument but a false one, for in fact there was no manna to be gathered. In His bounty God had provided a double portion on the sixth day, so stressing the fact that this heavenly bread was a free gift of God's love and not a merely natural phenomenon which could be counted on automatically. It is true that there were some hungry Israelites on the Sabbath in the desert, but this was not because they kept the day but rather because they had ignored its significance and refused to prepare for it as God had ordered. They did not so much break the Sabbath, for there was no manna to be collected, as miss the blessing of the Sabbath by mistrusting the love of God.

One of the Sabbath miracles of Jesus which most exhibited divine love was the healing of the man at the pool of the five porches (John 5:1-9). To my mind he seems to be the most unattractive of all those whom Christ healed, as well as the most ungrateful. For thirty-eight years, that is, for nearly two thousand Sabbaths, he had waited vainly in his paralysed condition, with never a friendly hand to help him. On that Sabbath, however, the love of God met him in the Person of Jesus Christ, and he walked away a free man. Would the sabbatarians have condemned anybody who extended a hand of love to this needy being? They were certainly quick to condemn the healed man for daring to carry his bed instead of lying helpless on it. In due course they were informed that the Jesus who had healed the cripple had also told him to carry his bed, so they turned their spite on the Son of God.

These religious bigots, so intent on their exaggerated observance of a day of rest, were prepared to murder Jesus for challenging their loveless code. Religious bigotry usually carries the seeds of hatred within it; it certainly knows little or nothing of divine love. Through the years a traditional conception had been built up which made the Sabbath a matter for dread rather than love. The Pharisees feared God's anger, and they feared their contemporaries' condemnation. Christ showed that their fears were groundless -- at least so far as God was concerned. He who had shared in the original Sabbath rest of the Creator could rightly claim that He had always functioned in perfect harmony with heaven: "My Father worketh even until now, and I work" (John 5:17). To Him it must have seemed pitifully tragic that men were prepared to be so spiteful to Him and to their fellows over a day which had had as its original basis God's rest of satisfied love.

In this case the Lord Jesus did an unusual thing. He sought out the healed man and gave him some advice. This was surely to remind us all that God's love is not open to presumption. Further sin would bring further -- and worse -- calamity. The Sabbath is for liberty, not for licence: God's love calls us to rest from self as well as sin.


No doubt the Saviour's attitude to the Sabbath was a genuine puzzle to the Pharisees. God's thoughts are often strange to man. They are both different from and higher than all human ideas. If we try to reason spiritual matters through, we inevitably get into a state of tension. The generation described in Hebrews as those of whom God swore in His wrath: "They shall not enter into my rest" (3:11) were rejected because they would not trust God's leading. They accepted the evidence of their own eyes and the calculations of their own minds, instead of humbly bowing to the superior wisdom of God. No rest then for them, or for any others, who so react to God's Word!

The New Testament tells us of an occasion when the disciples were in danger of the confusion which comes when human reasoning tries to grapple with spiritual truths. On a certain Sabbath day they encountered a man who had been born blind, and they tried to involve the Lord Jesus Himself in their arguments as to the cause of this tragedy. The Lord soon silenced that kind of mental ferment with a blunt statement that God had a purpose in the man's condition and, what is more, had a cure for it. For the moment human reasoning and disputations were silenced. They waited in submissive patience for Christ to work the works of God, and as they waited, the true power of the Sabbath brought healing and light to the darkened sufferer. This happy man cheerfully admitted that there was much that he did not know (John 9:25) and so he had no quarrel with God's wisdom. He could have reasoned. He could have questioned the need for the clay. He could have logically denied that washing it off would help his sightless eyes, or in any case that he needed to go to Siloam for that purpose. He did none of [83/84] these things. He trusted the word of the Saviour, he submitted to the wisdom of God; and the result was a full recovery of sight. What a wonderful Sabbath that must have been to him! It is always so when a man finds his rest in complete submission to the will of God.

I think that it was the poet Milton who described the devil as 'Sabbathless Satan'. When God questioned Satan as to his movements he reported that he had been going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it. When later the Lord challenged him as to where he had come from, his reply again was: "From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it" (Job 2:2). There is no rest for those who dispute God's will. The Sabbath peace on the earth was broken because questions about the Word and wisdom of God were entertained by our first parents. They wanted to know. They thought that they did know. They doubted the perfection of God's will. From then on, man was excluded from the blessing of God's rest. There was no true Sabbath until the second Man came, delighting in the will of God and prepared under the fiercest test to make the choice: "Howbeit not what I will, but what thou wilt", The secret of Sabbath rest is to be in active, intelligent, humble co-operation with the will of God. God's rest is not idleness but the frictionless harmony of submission to the mind of God.

It may seem strange that the Pharisees who were such ardent students of the Word of God could so frequently clash with the Lord Jesus who is central to it, yet is it not a fact that much of the disharmony and conflict among Christians is associated with interpretations of that same Word of God? Why is the true Sabbath rest so absent from the churches today? How is it that there can be such acrimony among those who profess to honour God's Word? Is it because we centre on ideas or procedures instead of having Christ as our Centre? May it even be that, like the Pharisees, we are more concerned with traditions and convictions of our own than with accepting the yoke of the meek and lowly-hearted Saviour? Perhaps we are more afraid of seeming to be wrong or of what we call 'compromise' when our first fear should be "lest haply a promise being left of entering into his rest, anyone of you would seem to have come short of it" (v.1). "Come unto me," said the Lord Jesus. When we use our Bibles to do that we shall find rest, but if we only treat them as a handbook we are in danger of controversial unrest.


There can be no question of the importance of having implicit faith in God's power. The repeated miracles which took place on the Sabbath Day stress the fact. It is quite surprising to notice that a large proportion of the Gospel miracles took place on the Sabbath. God rested from the actual work of creation on that first Sabbath, but the quietness was not the hush of inactivity but the irresistible manifestation of His power. Natural activities were not suspended on that day; they functioned in effortless harmony. It seems as if the Lord Jesus went out of His way to impress men with the marvellous energy put forth when God is at rest.

There was the man with the withered hand. Nature could give him no aid. Every effort he had made to stretch out that hand and grasp the gifts of God had been completely ineffective. He was clearly a faithful attender at the synagogue, but religion could not help him, for it was as powerless as he was. Indeed the religious leaders would have hindered him if they could, and they would have done this as part of their sabbath observance. The Lord Jesus made the man stand out right in front of all (Mark 3:3). This was to be no private affair between him and God but a public demonstration of divine power. Then the Lord stressed what day it was -- if that were necessary -- and challenged the religious leaders on this very point. Did the wisdom of God provide for a needy man to be helped or harmed on His special day of Sabbath rest? Their hard-hearted unwillingness even to consider this point provoked the gentle Saviour to real anger. They too were angered, but theirs was the loveless anger of selfish bigotry, while His was the holy anger of divine love. The crippled man evidently believed in God's power, for when Christ told him to stretch out his hand, he obeyed. God's Sabbath did all that was needed and his hand became as healthy as the other one.

Then there was the case of the woman who had been crippled with back trouble for eighteen years. The comment that she could "in no wise lift herself up" (Luke 13:11), suggests that she had exerted herself to the full again and again during those long years, but had never been able to do anything about it. She was powerless, [84/85] and she was therefore a candidate for God's Sabbath power for "he that is entered into his rest hath ceased from his own works ..." (Hebrews 4:10). The lesson is that for all who will cease from their own struggling, cease also from unbelief about Christ's power, and leave their case in His capable hands, there is the experience of the fullness of God's Sabbath power. "There remaineth therefore a rest for the people of God."

An extra factor which is mentioned in this case is the part which Satan had played in this woman's sufferings. It was Satan's interference which robbed earth and mankind of God's Sabbath rest. It was therefore unthinkable that a redeeming God could observe one single day of non-activity until this wrong had been righted. To the Lord Jesus it was not a question of man-made procedures but of what ought to be in the face of this satanic challenge: "Ought not this woman ... to have been loosed from this bond on the day of the sabbath?" It is not right that any child of God should be subjected to the pressures and confusion which Satan seeks to introduce into his life and what is more, it need not be. Faith is the answer to all his attacks, faith in God's love, God's wisdom and God's power.

When the Lord Jesus made His offer of soul rest to all who would come to Him and accept His yoke, He added the injunction that we should learn of Him. We need to read His story again and again in the Gospels. We need to learn how possible it is to have heaven's peace in the heart and heaven's power in the life even while we live and work in a hostile world. Best of all, we need to allow the sharp, two-edged sword of His living Word to exercise its discriminating power in our hearts, separating the natural ideas and the soulish emotions from the truly spiritual leading of His Spirit. That is why this passage ends with a reminder that we are not dealing with the dead letter of the Book but with the ever-living Word, "the one with whom we have to do" (v.13). If we allow Him to do so He will disclose the causes of our lack of heart rest and draw us into an ever deeper experience of God's Sabbath rest.



Poul Madsen

13. DELIVERANCE (Chapter 7:1-25)

THIS chapter contains passages which are more difficult than all else in the letter, perhaps even than anything else in the whole New Testament. For the sake of clarity we will divide it into three sections: Dead to the Law (1-6), The Law and Sin (7-13) and The Power of Sin in the Flesh (14-25).


IN chapter six the apostle has proclaimed the liberating truth that we are set free from the dominion of sin and have become the servants of God. We have died to sin (6:2). He has also said that we are no longer under law but under grace, and that as a consequence sin shall not have dominion over us (6:14). By this he has implied that in reality we are also dead to the law. Can he really mean this?

We can understand that we have died to sin, but expect that the consequence of this will surely be that we are alive to the law, which is really the highest expression of the will of God. Can he really mean that the alternative is to be under the law and therefore under sin, uncleanness and lawlessness or under grace and therefore under obedience, righteousness and God? Can this be Paul's gospel? Yes, this is what he preaches without apology. This is his "bold" and unbelievable gospel, and it is the gospel of God. Although the law was given by God, it cannot help us to take even one step along the way of salvation. It contributed nothing to our justification, and equally can contribute nothing at all to our sanctification. [85/86]

Some Christians may imagine their life to have this pattern:


The Law


The Christian

According to this conception, the Christian has a direct relationship to the law. Having been saved he is now put under an obligation to keep the law which could not save him, with the comfort of knowing that if he does not succeed Christ will intervene again and forgive his transgressions, but will do so with the object of again placing him under an obligation to keep the law.

The apostle's approach is quite different. He sees the relationship in this way:



The Christian

According to him, the Christian has no direct relationship to the law. On the contrary, he is dead to the law, so it cannot come in between him and his Saviour and Lord. Christ Himself is his righteousness and sanctification and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30). How is it possible that we have died to the law? In the same way as it happened that we died to sin. When Christ died, we died. This is a fact. This is the work of the cross which God has done for us and with us.

In the first three verses Paul has emphasised that the law is only valid for people while they are alive. Everyone knows that. The dead are outside of law's dominion. A wife is bound to her husband only as long as he lives. The law binds him to her and her to him, stamping her as an adulteress if she joins another man while her husband is still alive. If her husband should die, however, she is immediately freed from the law which bound her to him. It seems that there are two possible ways of understanding Paul's illustration.

Some understand it thus: The first husband is our old man (6:16), that lives in the flesh (7:5). The law is valid for him. So long as this man -- in the illustration, the woman's first husband -- is alive, she is legally bound to him. In other words, so long as we (the first husband) live in the flesh, we (the wife) are bound under the law and thereby are under the power of sin. But when he (the old man) dies, we (the wife) are free, not only from him but also from the law which bound both him and her. The death which set the wife free from her husband and the law, has taken place in our case.

Others avoid the allegorical application and simply emphasise that the only thing which Paul is saying is that death terminates the dominion of the law. To make his point clear, the apostle has chosen the example of marriage, not because it illustrates man's new relationship to Christ, but simply because it provides an excellent example of how death ends the dominion of the law. Could there be a better illustration of this fact?

Whether we regard the first idea of an allegory as the correct one or whether we prefer the second explanation that it is simply a well-chosen illustration, the result is the same. Paul's teaching is that the law cannot extend its authority to those who are dead, so that the very fact that we have died with Christ means that we are no longer within the law's sphere of competence. The gospel clearly tells us that we do not belong to the law, having died to it so that we might become joined to another, even Christ. If we hold to the first allegorical interpretation, then we may say: "We have been married to Christ", and as we do so we remember that according to the biblical view of marriage that means that He has headship over us.

That we have died to the law is the liberating aspect of the gospel. That we belong to the Lord is the positive and affirmative side. It is the Lord "who was raised from the dead" (verse 4), who has made sin and death powerless, He has all power in heaven and on earth. We belong to Him: He is our Head. This fact makes it possible for us to bear fruit unto God.

Paul seems to teach that our first marriage (when we lived in the flesh and belonged to the law) could not bear fruit unto God in sanctification. "For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were through the law, wrought in our members to bring forth fruit unto death" (verse 5). The apostle is really saying that being under the law leads to the same result as being under sin. "What fruit then had ye at that time in the things whereof ye are now ashamed" he asks, "for the end of those things is death" [86/87] (6:20-21)? Here in verse 5 he now affirms that when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which are awakened ( Danish) through the law, wrought in our members to bring forth exactly the same fruit, namely, death. To escape from the dominion of sin, therefore, we must escape from the dominion of the law. How can we do that? Only by dying. That is the only way, for as long as we are alive, we are under the rule of law. Its validity covers all who are alive; it only fails to apply when men die.

But we have died. That is the liberating message of the gospel. "But now we have been discharged from the law, having died to that wherein we were holden" (v.6). We are not "married" to the law: we are "married" to the risen Lord, and we have to do only with Him. This is a characteristic Pauline expression, "wherein we were holden " which is translated in the Danish: "that under which we were held prisoner". He is, of course, thinking of slavery under the tyranny of sin, uncleanness and lawlessness, but he includes the idea of slavery under God's law. He who is a slave under the law is also a slave to lawlessness! This applies even when he thinks he is serving God. Paul does not forget how zealously the law-abiding Saul of Tarsus tried to serve God without realising that in fact he was serving lawlessness and sin. He calls that activity "serving in oldness of the letter" and places it in contrast with "serving in newness of the Spirit" (v.6).

Our old man (6:6) that lived "in the flesh" (7:5), was married to the law and served in the oldness of the letter (v.6). This led to the law which commanded us to do what we ought and forbad us to do what we ought not, awakening in us all our sinful lusts through its very commands and prohibitions, with the consequence that we bore fruit unto death. This "marriage" is dissolved by death! We are now "married" to the risen Lord and Saviour. He is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:17), and consequently we find ourselves new people in the new service of the Spirit.


FROM now on Paul uses a different form of presentation from that in most of the letter by using the first person singular, the "I-form". He presumably does this because he feels that if the great apostle describes himself in this way, there can be no grounds for others thinking that they have any superior position. The first person singular includes us all in itself. We shall therefore regard this section as an autobiography of universal significance.

There can hardly be any doubt that the law was the greatest problem in Paul's life, both before and after his conversion. Throughout his life he was occupied with the meaning and place of the law. What he has just written suggests that when it is in operation, the law always awakens sinful passions. Does this mean that this will happen in the experience even of an apostle if he allows the law to govern? Our Danish translators of the New Testament so understood him, and consequently render the text: "when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which are awakened by the law, were active in our members ..." (v.5). Since the law provokes sin, is it not then itself sin? Are the law and sin really synonymous? Natural reasoning may so conclude, but Paul emphatically rejects such a suggestion with his forceful "God forbid!".

Having put aside that argument he now turns to his use of the first person to get to grips with the problem which he has gone into so thoroughly. "I had not known coveting, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet: but sin, finding occasion, wrought in me through the commandment all manner of coveting ..." (vv.7-8). Although the law is not sin, but on the contrary holy, the fact remains that sin can use it as a basis for its operations. So long as the law had not said: "Thou shalt not covet", the matter of covetousness does not arise, but when the command has been given, sin gets an opportunity, which it duly utilises, to awaken "all manner of coveting". " Apart from the law sin is dead".

The question has been raised as to whether Paul is really speaking of himself. In his letter to the Philippians did he not claim that as a Pharisee he was "as touching the righteousness which is in the law, found blameless"? How does this agree with his statement here that by the law sin awakened all manner of coveting in him? In fact there is no contradiction in these two statements as they applied to him before he became a Christian. The law judged him from the outside and according to those righteous demands he was blameless. Outwardly Saul of Tarsus never broke the law. But the real meaning of the law was inward, so that God who looks beyond the outward to the inward, found in [87/88] Saul a deceitful and a treacherous heart (Jeremiah 17:9) and pronounced him a sinner and a transgressor.

It is striking that in this autobiography Paul singles out covetousness as the hallmark of sin, for this corresponds with the Sermon on the Mount where the stress is laid not only on the outer actions of the sinner but on his inner desires. "When the commandment came, sin revived, and I died" (v.9). Having previously repudiated the idea that the law was sin, he now asks whether the holy law, with its commandment which is holy, righteous and good, became death to him. Can we really lay the blame for our wretchedness on the law? If so, it would be God who bears the blame, for He gave the law. Once again the apostle will have none of this and answers the question with a decided. "God forbid"! It was and is sin, and not the law, which became death to me (v.13).

This is no odd, theoretical problem without practical significance. It is a question which concerns us all. If we get the impression which some hold, that if we are sinners it is God who is ultimately responsible for our state, then we weaken both the seriousness of our sin and the grave fact of our personal responsibility. If we are aware of our misfortune as sinners, it is important to know the explanation of it all. What God's law did to me was to show me how sinful I really am. By the help of the commandment sin was made to show itself in its exceeding sinfulness (v.13). A power which utilises God's holy and righteous law to bring death upon me is exceedingly evil; it is devilish. Thank God there is one power which is superior -- the grace of God (5:20-21). Only grace can destroy the dominion of sin.


THIS part is even more difficult. Endless discussions have taken place as to whether Paul is thinking of his condition before or after his conversion. Some (including Augustine and Luther) affirm that Paul is here describing the Christian, pointing out that he uses the present tense and places his statements in the context of the Christian life. Others (including Evangelicals from the 18th as well as our own century) insist that the apostle is describing the unconverted person. They feel that such expressions as: "I am carnal, sold under sin" (v.14) and: "O wretched man that I am" cannot apply to a Christian. For them the difference between the atmosphere of defeat in chapter 7 and the enjoyment of victory in chapter 8 simply expresses the difference between a non-Christian and a Christian.

In fact, however, the question of Christian or non-Christian hardly enters into the apostle's line of argument. His problem is the relationship of law and man, whether that man is a Christian or not. A Christian is certainly not under the law, but should he turn back to it instead of remaining totally dependent upon the grace of God in Christ Jesus, then he will find himself just as helpless as a non-Christian and, like him, having nothing more to rely upon than his own strength of character. So the tragedy repeats itself: sin finds occasion through the commandment.

I have already pointed out that the Danish translation reads: "When we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which are awakened through the law, wrought in our members ..." (v.5). If a Christian falls back on to legal ground -- which we are all in danger of doing -- then even an apostle finds that in himself he has no defence or resistance against sinful passions. These are always awakened by the law.

By his use of the first person (the I-form), Paul gives the greatest possible emphasis to what he is saying. He means it very seriously. He wishes to stress that in himself an apostle has no other resource than the grace of God alone to keep him from the dominion of sin. His presentation is passionate, for Paul feels very deeply about trying to use the law as a way of salvation or sanctification. Everyone who treads that path is bound to come under the power of sin, as Paul knows from his own experience. Hence his hot words in his letter to the Galatians and his frank self-disclosure here. He will shrink from nothing, however humiliating it may be for himself, in his effort to insist that no one -- not even the chief apostle -- can so attain as to be able to manage without the grace of God. Expressed in another way, this means that however much spiritual experience we have, in ourselves we are just as weak and prone to sin as ever we were. No one, then, can have any grounds for self-confidence. If ever we regard grace as something elementary which we have left behind, then our experience will correspond with what Paul says of himself in this universal autobiography. [88/89] It is sometimes asserted that in this section Paul is describing the Christian life when the "I" is governing, whereas chapter 8 describes that life when the Spirit is governing. It is pointed out that the words "I", "me" and "my" appear frequently here with no mention of the Holy Spirit, while it is just the opposite in chapter 8. If, however, we think in terms of graduating out of chapter 7 into chapter 8, we miss the apostle's real line of thought which is that as he is in himself (v.25) he will always remain a wretched man, totally dependent upon the grace of God, since in his flesh dwells no good thing. If, therefore, he departs from his dependent relationship to the grace of God in Christ Jesus, he finds that he is still what he was when he was first saved by grace -- a slave of sin.

Surprise has been expressed that Paul describes himself in the present tense: "I am carnal, sold under sin" (v.14). How can the apostle say this about himself after so many years of faithful service? Is this really his experience? Does he not seem to be sanctioning a Christian life of constant defeat? However surprised we may be, we must note that this is not the only place where Paul speaks of himself in this way. Much later he writes: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief" (1 Timothy 1:15). He does not say that he was but that he still is the chief of sinners. The truth is, of course, that after many years of service accompanied by unbelievable hardships and sufferings he finds that he needs the grace of God as much as ever. His old nature has not improved at all. He is still completely dependent upon God's inexplicable and undeserved love.

This is difficult for us to receive. Man is always bound to the idea of rewards for success. After some years as a Christian he tends to think that now he is somebody and can do something -- almost that God can now depend upon him. In this way he no longer thinks of himself as a sinner saved by grace, but rather as a deserving and consecrated Christian who can expect to receive from God some reward for his efforts. The moment he does this, he again comes under the law, with the result that sinful passions come to life again. He has to learn that a deserving Christian, a devoted servant of the Lord, yes, even a great apostle, is no better than a wretched, helpless sinner when he is left to himself and trusts in his own experiences. In fact such a man has moved away from that gospel which is God's power for full salvation.

Paul regarded bondage to the law as extremely dangerous. That is why he fights against it uncompromisingly in his letter to the Galatians, and why he concentrates on exposing its deceptive appeal in the Roman letter. He says frankly that his flesh has not been improved nor tamed by his many years of Christian experience. Every time he reverts to the thought of reward, then -- but only then -- his flesh gets its opportunity and exposes itself as incorrigibly sinful. This is most humiliating, but it is the realistic truth.

We must be careful, though, not to read this section in a different spirit from which it was written. Paul did not dictate these words when he was in deep despair, gripped by hopelessness, but in a spirit of triumphant faith. Nor does he want his readers to give way to despair when they hear his words. Far from it! His purpose is to undercut any kind of self-confidence or idea of merit. Instead of saying: "O wretched man that I am", he might just as well have exclaimed: "O incorrigible man that I am! In myself, apart from grace, I am hopeless!" That is what his words meant. They indicate that there is no power in us and there never will be which can conquer covetousness, lust, and their effects. Only one power exists which is superior to sin, and that is the grace of God. It is the gospel of God which alone is the power of God for us. Woe to anyone, whether he be a great apostle or an insignificant "layman", who moves away from this fact and begins to think something of his own powers, embarking in self-confidence upon attempts to fulfil the holy law of God! Far from being a despondent man, Paul affirms that he knows the answer: "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (v.25), in other words: "Thank God for full and constant deliverance by Christ".

He closes this autobiographical passage with a pithy summing-up of his position, "as I am in myself" (Danish). So he has used all his apostolic authority to disclose to us what is the liberating truth, and does so by assuring us that in himself he is no better than anyone else. Let us note that there is no apostolic authority for thinking that a Christian need remain a servant of sin, one who must be content with wanting to do good and yet being forced to do evil. God forbid! He will now go on to describe in chapter 8 what the Christian life is like for one who is not "in himself" but "in Christ Jesus". There we can discover what in the apostle's view is the glorious experience of full and constant deliverance [89/90] which God has provided for us in the gospel of His Son.

The revealing autobiography of chapter 7 provides a radical emphasis on the fact that the law is never any help in living the Christian life, and it therefore acts as an introduction to the liberating preaching of the gospel found in chapter 8. He gives us a warning against the peril of imagining that the gospel should be understood as a divine means whereby we are enabled to fulfil the law and so become righteous in ourselves. If we understand the gospel in this way then we cannot avoid a direct confrontation with the law, thinking that now, thanks to the power of God through the gospel, we are able to fulfil it. This must bring failure, for everyone of us will fail if we have a direct confrontation with the law. Paul experienced this himself.

The gospel is God's own righteousness. In it is revealed the righteousness of God or righteousness from God. It is not a means which we can use to become righteous in ourselves, but it gives us righteousness from God by faith and unto faith. In this way the law is fulfilled. The gospel, therefore, does not confront us with the law, but with Christ. He who believes the gospel is righteous before God for time and eternity. He has not first to win righteousness, for he is fully righteous. He does not have to prove that he is fulfilling the law, for God's righteousness needs no proofs. The law has no demands to make on such a man; he is not living within its sphere and is not occupied with its "Thou shalts" and its "Thou shalt nots", but is filled with the love of God in Christ Jesus.

(To be continued)


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

John H. Paterson


THE words of the Lord Jesus which are contained in the thirteenth to seventeenth chapters of John were evidently spoken in a short time period between supper one day and the arrest of Jesus later the same evening. Some scholars have argued that it was not so: that John was never very concerned about chronology, and that he merely brought together in these chapters a collection of the Lord's sayings which may have been spoken over a long period and on different occasions. There is, of course, no way of disproving such an assertion. The best we can do is to try to understand these chapters, and see whether their internal coherence is sufficiently striking to make us feel that what we have is a more or less verbatim account of the Lord's words on that memorable evening.

If we accept, for the moment, that everything happened in one short period, immediately prior to Jesus' arrest and removal, then we are confronted with a situation which it takes a little effort to imagine. The Lord Jesus had been with His followers for three years. During that period He had been teaching them, but they had proved to be dreadfully slow learners: they misunderstood what He told them, and refused even to consider some of the possibilities to which He tried to open their minds. At the end of these three years He now had, let us suppose, three hours in which to round off His instructions -- to tell them all the other things they needed to know in order to survive in the future.

This would have been difficult enough if He had known that He would, in some way, be available to them in the future as He had been in the past. But the very first point which He had to get them to grasp was that He would not be there: He was going away. Whatever could He do now to make them understand?

There is a rough contemporary parallel to which we can turn for understanding of this dilemma. As I write this, the World Cup is under way in Argentina. It appears that some of the teams involved have indeed been in training for at least three years -- learning to work together; learning how to survive on the road to the cup final. Now we can imagine that the coach or manager has just a few minutes before his team takes the field. What is he to say to them? [90/91] Should he start at the very beginning and try to remind them of all that they have learned in those three years? Or should he pick out one or two key factors and say, in effect, 'If you forget everything else, at least remember this'? Should he give them an elementary lesson in kicking a football?

I suggest that there hangs over these chapters the same kind of question and the same sort of urgency, but with added dimension. For one thing, the precious moments available to the Lord Jesus were further reduced by the questions of His bewildered followers, some of which showed all too clearly that they had little or no idea of what was going on. At least the team manager in Argentina would not expect to be interrupted in his 'pep talk' before the game by players asking to be reminded of the rules of football. The goalkeeper would not interrupt to ask 'What is a goal?' or the captain to be reminded how many players the team was allowed to field. Yet some of the questions which His disciples asked Jesus were about the equivalent of these, in their perception of what He was saying. What a waste of valuable time!

For another thing, when Jesus was preparing to leave His disciples He knew -- indeed He predicted to them (13:37-38) -- that the very first thing that would happen after He left them was to be a tragic defection. Peter would deny Him. If we may use the trivial football analogy once again, this was a team which, within seconds of taking the field, would have conceded the simplest of goals. It would enter the competition not on level terms but at an immediate disadvantage. How could it hope to succeed?

Under such stresses as these, most of us would become irritated, desperate or strident. The Lord Jesus did not; on the contrary He turned the stupidest questions to suit His purposes. But all these interruptions can only have increased the sense of urgency. The hour had come and there were certain things they had to understand.

His principal concern was to prepare them for the fact that they would be without Him. His coming into their lives, three years before, had been revolutionary: what would His leaving them be like? For they had come to rely completely on Him. Not only were they reliant on Him in a material sense -- had they not left their livelihoods behind to follow Him? -- but, much more importantly, they relied on Him for their knowledge of God. He had taught them things about a Father -- and that concept in itself was new -- which their own teachers, the priests and rabbis, had evidently not even glimpsed. More important still, He had provided for them a contact with the power of God; through Him they had been able to do things which, within their knowledge, only the very greatest figures in their nation's past had been able to do: "Lord, even the demons are subject unto us in your name" (Luke 10:17). Through Him, they could actually see and feel God at work. And now He told them, almost casually, that He, their vital link with God, would not be available any more. They must have been stunned.

All this forms a minimal background for our understanding of these chapters: the limited time available, the enormous changes about to take place, the disciples scrabbling for a foothold in what must have seemed to them like a mental earthquake. Through this situation there sounds out His calm, reassuring message: everything has been foreseen and planned. Alternative arrangements have been made. If only they will listen, He will explain.

The Lord Jesus used the remaining few moments to do four things: (1) to give an example, (2) to offer an explanation, (3) to deliver an exhortation, and (4) to pray. The first of these occupies the well-known passage at the beginning of John 13: "I have given you an example" (v.15). The fourth occupies the seventeenth chapter, in which the Lord prayed both for Himself and for His disciples. The second and third -- explanation and exhortation -- occupy the central section of the chapters, beginning with 13:12: "Do you know what I have done to you?"

It is these central sections, occupying chapters 14 to 16, on which critical attention has been focused. They are rather fragmented; the line of thought is not easy to trace, and several of the ideas are repeated two or three times. It might therefore be concluded that we do indeed have here a collection of Jesus' sayings, assembled by John from different times and places. What I think is much more likely, however, is that they contain a single set of explanations and instructions, interrupted repeatedly by the disciples' questions. The Lord Jesus, with all the pressures of time against Him, patiently stopped, responding to these questions, and then worked His way back again to restate [91/92] His intended theme. The questions led Him down a number of by-ways, and would probably have distracted anyone of us to the point of complete frustration. But somehow He kept up the momentum of His talk, returning to, and repeating, the point at which He had been distracted. It is in this way, I suggest, that the repetitions are to be explained, and it is a method which those of us who are teachers ourselves would probably try to adopt in class, always providing that our patience did not run out before the end of the period!

The key idea in the whole of the Lord's discourse is what I have referred to as the 'alternative arrangements'. Over the three years which had elapsed since they first met Him, the disciples had found an access to God, to both His thoughts and His power, which neither they nor their contemporaries had previously known. This lifeline to God ran through the Lord Jesus. If they needed anything, they asked Him for it. If they had questions about what God is like, He answered them. He told them what God was thinking, and what He expected them to do. He explained the events that surrounded them from God's point of view. They knew how empty and ignorant they had been without Him.

Given all that, how could it possibly be true that there was some better arrangement for the future? Yet that is precisely what He set out to convince them of: "It is to your advantage that I go away" (16:7 RSV). The 'alternative arrangements' which involved His absence would be preferable to the old system -- more truth; greater works; direct access to the Father without need of a go-between or interpreter. All this and much more would be theirs if only they could face the fact of His departure.

Let us try to visualise the magnitude of this change-over, so that we may more fully sympathise with the disciples in their perplexity. In these days of medical discovery and ecological concern, we have become familiar with the idea of a 'life-support system'. We know about heart transplants, about 'switching off the machine' and about astronauts who breathe an artificial atmosphere all the way to the moon and back. All these are examples of 'alternative' life-support systems. And it is not, perhaps, too far fetched to use the medical analogy and see in these chapters of John's Gospel the first-ever heart transplant. The disciples who had for three years enjoyed a life-support system of which the Lord Jesus was the heart were going to undergo a kind of transplant. He was going away, and the heart of the new system was to be 'another Comforter'.

No wonder, then, that they felt a little confused!

(To be continued)


T. Austin-Sparks

"I know a man in Christ" (2 Corinthians 12:2)

THE object of our consideration is manhood in relation to the Lord's testimony, and for it we take a little phrase used by the apostle Paul about himself: "I knew a man in Christ". To it may be linked a few other simple phrases:

"I JESUS have sent my angel to testify unto you ..." (Revelation 22:16)

"I JOHN, your brother and partaker with you ..." (Revelation 1:9)

"Now I PAUL myself entreat you ..." (2 Corinthians 10:1)

"I DANIEL understood by the books ..." (Daniel 9:2)

These personal references were evidently inspired by the Holy Spirit, and therefore carry their own significance. Humanity is a divine conception, something taking its origin in the mind of God. Being, then, in the eternal thought of God, it has come to stay. There is nothing in all the Scriptures to indicate that God at some time, at some point, is going to finish that order of beings and replace it with another -- angelic or otherwise. No, manhood has come to stay. In [92/93] the divine thought, manhood is a very noble thing with a very great and high destiny.


In this article we may have largely to be occupied with the correcting of faulty ideas in order to get at the true. Our ideas about man have become somewhat confused. Evangelical Christianity has placed great emphasis upon man's total depravity. I have nothing to take from that. We need to remember, however, that every truth runs close to error. It is just as true to affirm that man is a very wonderful creation, "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14). We are constantly discovering new realms within the human soul, and it is the soul of man which is the very core of humanity. From time to time we are surprised at what there is in us all of capability and capacity, of unsuspected forces at work. There are two sides to this matter of humanity; the one, which is perfectly true, of man's total depravity; the other, equally true, of the dignity of the human idea in the mind of God. These two must be properly balanced, or many evils may result. May we try to correct a few faulty ideas so that we can understand more of God's real thought concerning man?


Running closely alongside of what is so often our unbalanced conception of man, there is our idea as to the meaning of the cross in his experience. We place a great deal of emphasis upon that side of the cross which relates to our identification with Christ in His death; not only the removal, by that death, of our sins, but also of ourselves. The cross wholly and utterly sets aside one kind of man. There is nothing to take from that, and nothing to add to it: it is true. But our individuality is not annihilated by the cross; the cross does not destroy our personal entity. It deals with the basis of that humanity upon which we are now living because of Adam, but it does not destroy us. We need to be very careful not to try to carry the cross into realms where it is never supposed to operate. We must not think that identification with Christ in death and burial somehow means that we cease to function as sensible beings. The cross is never meant to create or minister to asceticism.


Another faulty conception is related to membership of the body of Christ. The body of Christ is a great reality, a wonderful truth. We have nothing to take from the fact that we have a related life in Christ as members of His body. We must be careful, though, to avoid the false conception of the Church as Christ's body which regards the individual distinctiveness of each member as being destroyed so that all may be merged as it were into a general lump. Paul is very careful to point out the importance of the personal form of each member: "If the whole body were an eye ... If the whole were hearing ..." (1 Corinthians 12:17).

We have only to consider our own bodies, both inside and out, to know that the smallest organ has its own distinctiveness. Each has a specific form and a distinct function, and at times it is one of the effects of disease that it destroys the distinctive function of some organ. If this is true physically, it can be true spiritually. We must not confuse individualism with individuality. That is a mistake. Yes, individualism is unacceptable but individuality is of supreme importance.

The same truth obtains in the whole creation. One of the wonders of God's creation is its endless variety. Yet the whole of the creation is interdependent: every branch depends on another branch, the flower on the bee and the bee on the flower. This is a divine principle found everywhere, each individual living thing must have its own form, though being dependent on others for the justification of its existence and the realisation of its destiny.


A further faulty idea is to think that God's work is performed by reason of an office rather than with the person who bears that office. We think of them under certain designations, such as 'ministers', 'missionaries', 'whole-time workers' or 'preachers', but God thinks of them in their capacity as human beings. They must not cease to be persons and become things. It is easy for those concerned to regard themselves as something that belongs to a platform or a class and so obscure the importance of personality. We may think of sending out a missionary, but God talks of sending a man. It is the man not the occupation which matters with Him, and we must not let any office obscure the character of the person who holds it. [93/94]


Here is a very important point, this matter of originality. From one point of view it may be argued that there is nothing in itself really original: "There is nothing new under the sun" was what Solomon said. Nevertheless God can do in us that which makes "all things new". Nothing should be copied or mechanical in our life and ministry, but everything emerging from a first-hand experience of God. This is the secret of spiritual authority. What made the authority of the Lord Jesus greater than that of the scribes (Matthew 7:29) was not that He had more academic information than they had, but that He clearly spoke from His own experience, He spoke directly from God.

On our case, too, God demands a history behind what we say. His testimony is not the mechanical propagation of truths but their living power as embodied in human lives. We are not here just to stand as a kind of middle man, taking up from a store and passing on in a mechanical way, but to communicate what has become original spiritual truth in our own personal experience. Originality is essential. Everything has got to begin with us before it can be given to others with an effect or lasting value. We need to begin with personal history. We cannot live on the experience of others, however real those experiences were to them.

"I JESUS." Does not that impress you, coming right at the end of the Bible and being the last utterance of the Lord to His churches? Notice that He did not say, "I the Lord", but "I Jesus". All Bible students know that in the New Testament the name 'Jesus' refers to the days of His earthly life. After His exaltation they always added 'Lord' to His other titles and names, and the apostles only used the name Jesus alone when they wished to emphasise His perfect humanity. Used by itself the name refers back to His life of humiliation when He took the form of a man. "He was found in fashion as a man" (Philippians 2:7). The word 'fashion' means that in all outward appearance He was like other men. Another word is used of what He was inside; that was something other. But in this outward fashion as a man He took the name Jesus, which was one of the most common names in Palestine then. So the name carries us back to the day when He was going through all that which made spiritual history in Himself -- tried, tested, tempted in all points like as we are (Hebrews 4:15) and being "made perfect through sufferings" (Hebrews 2:10). History was being made in His Humanity. As a Man, He was learning obedience by the things which He suffered (Hebrews 5:8). This in no way questions His deity. It means that though God incarnate, Jesus was knowing all about human life, making spiritual history in terms of manhood, with intrinsic values which will be for the ages of the ages. Having done all that in terms of manhood, He at last presents Himself to His churches, saying: "I Jesus".

Then there is the writer of the book who introduces himself with the phrase, "I John". His experience was on so much smaller a scale, yet in its measure it was true that what he wrote was not something which had come mechanically to him but the result of vital experience. Of the Word he was able to say: "That which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, and our hands handled ...". It has become a part of us. We have a vital relationship with the truth as it is in Him. It follows that we are now in a position to mention ourselves in relation to the testimony of Jesus.

Then Paul, who spoke of himself as "a man in Christ" was also allowed to bring himself into view with the authority of one who had history behind him: "Behold, I Paul say unto you ..." (Galatians 5:2). What Paul taught had become the very substance of his being. He was not talking about abstract truths but about things which had actually happened to him. Having had the truth wrought into him he could affirm in the Spirit: "I Paul say unto you".

Was that not also true of Daniel? "O man greatly beloved" (Daniel 10:19). God did not say to him: "O prophet greatly beloved" or "O servant of the Lord greatly beloved" but "O man ...". The man is a man of God, a man in the Lord, and so there is great spiritual authority when he says: "I Daniel".

Naturally woman is included, for God is concerned with humanity. He plans to fulfil His will in human beings. Leaving aside our special reference to Jesus, whom we know as a human being plus, we glory in the fact that these servants of God were so essentially human. John was so human. Paul was so human. Daniel was a human being. Through His Son God makes something of Himself as a part of human life, and in doing so constitutes the testimony of Jesus.

God's great objective with you is not to make [94/95] you a Bible teacher, a missionary, a Christian worker. These may emerge, according to the form which your life may take, but they will not be eternal. It is you as a man or a woman with whom God is taking such pains, He is more concerned with our humanity than with anything else. You will misunderstand His ways with you if you fail to recognise that. You will be tempted to worry about your reputation, your job, your function, while God is supremely concerned with the kind of man you will be in Christ. All else is of lesser importance. The great thing is for God to find His eternal satisfaction in glorified men -- men in Christ.



Arthur E. Gove


Reading: Leviticus 1:1-17

THE book of Leviticus may seem obscure and uninteresting to the superficial reader, especially as its title suggests that it is concerned with the ministry of the Levites. This is really a misnomer, for there is only one single reference to the Levites in the whole book (25:32-33). In accordance with the Hebrew procedure of calling these books by their first words, the real title of this book is "And the Lord Called". This is most significant for in fact it contains more of the very words that God spoke than any other book in the Bible. Since it deals with the priesthood, the Tabernacle and the offerings, it might be argued that there is no need to look at the shadows when we have the New Testament substance, but there are good reasons and important issues for God's redeemed people in the book, and therefore it merits close attention.

This much neglected book tells us:

(1) How God is to be approached and worshipped

(2) Of the holiness of God

(3) That even the redeemed may only approach God on the ground of sacrifice and shed blood

(4) That the redeemed people are to live holy lives because their Redeemer is holy.

For these and other reasons, therefore, this may claim to be the most remarkable book in the Old Testament. In Exodus we see God approaching man in redemption, whereas in Leviticus we see man approaching God. In Exodus God offers pardon; in Leviticus He calls the pardoned to purity. In Exodus man is given union with God, but in Leviticus he is called to communion with Him. In Exodus God speaks from the mount while in Leviticus He speaks "out of the tabernacle of the congregation". It is so possible that Christians who are truly grateful to the Lord for deliverance from the slavery of sin are not so ready to enter into their privilege of communion with God. But that is the divine intention in redemption and it is all possible through Christ. In fact one old writer has said: "In the Old Testament economy God was showing His people their letters." Now He teaches us how to put the letters together and when this is done they spell out C H R I S T.

EACH of the five offerings show us some aspect of Christ's one offering, and in each offering there are three elements: The Offering, the Priest and the Offerer. Christ is to be seen in each one of these three. Our method would naturally be to begin with the last of the five, the Trespass Offering, for this is the one which deals with the putting away of our sins. God, however, does the reverse for He begins with the Burnt Offering for it is this which brings to our notice the Godward aspect of the cross. It is natural enough for us to think of the wondrous cross which brings us forgiveness of our sins, but how much more important it must be to understand what the death of the Lord Jesus on the cross meant to His Father. This is the meaning of the Burnt Offering.

The essential truth of the Burnt Offering is that it portrays Jesus in His absolute devotion to the Father, delighting to do His will. For the moment there is no question about the putting away of sin but everything is focused upon Christ's unswerving dedication to the Father's good pleasure. There were different grades in the offering, the bullock (v.5), the sheep or goat (v.10) and the dove or pigeon (v.14), so that the sacrifice was available for all classes of people according to their means, but in each case the supreme feature of the Burnt Offering was that [95/96] ALL was consumed upon the altar. Christ's fulfilment of this absolute devotion to the will of God is described in Hebrews, where there is a quotation from Psalm 40: "Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me) to do thy will, O God".

It is specifically stated that the Burnt Offering must be "without blemish" (v.3). Only Christ could make such an offering to God. "Christ through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God" (Hebrews 9:14). No one had ever done that before. No one else could ever do it. Only the perfect Christ could affirm that He had glorified the Father on the earth and finished the work entrusted to Him. The offering was "before the Lord" (v.3) and "of a sweet savour unto the Lord" (v.9). Only God Himself could fully estimate the value of the person and work of Christ. It was an offering of the highest order. The perfect Man Christ Jesus brought absolute satisfaction to God in all His holiness. By the absolute devotedness which He showed in His life and even to death, and by His complete obedience to the Father's will, He brought deep joy and utter satisfaction to the heart of God. The supreme feature of the death of Christ at Calvary was that it gave God His full portion of devoted love. "Walk in love, as Christ ... hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour" (Ephesians 5:2).

WE are apt to think so much of the cross as the place where the sin question was settled, where our guilt was atoned for and where Satan was vanquished. All this is true, gloriously true. But it was also the place where the love of the Lord Jesus was told in terms which only the Father could understand. The Burnt Offering is described as "voluntary", for Jesus voluntarily took the cup which the Father gave to Him and He did so with the conviction that this would bring satisfying joy to the Father's heart: "Therefore doth the Father love me, because I lay down my life for the sheep" (John 10:17-18). God's glory is the supreme issue; Christ's love to us and our salvation in Him could only be valid if they were founded upon the established glory of God.

The offerer was to put his hand upon the head of the offering and in this way to be fully identified with it. In a sense Christ was both offerer and offering, but in our human experience it is for us to be identified with our great Burnt Offering, as it were to lay the hand of faith upon Him. There is no acceptance without the offering, so that the person who is not so identified with Christ is "still in his sins", unaccepted and unacceptable. Those who are so identified with Christ, however, have the joy of knowing that the question now is not what we are but what the sacrifice is, which means that we have perfect acceptance with God through Jesus Christ. We ask, Is it possible for me to bring God the devoted love which He deserves? The answer is: "It shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him" (v.4). Christ's unshakeable devotedness to God is accounted to the believer. On our behalf Christ has provided perfect satisfaction for the heart of God. The word "atonement" here implies "making satisfaction " and its fullness and perfection can be measured by the perfect satisfaction which it brings to the heart of God. How wonderful it is to be assured that as we claim Christ as our whole Burnt Offering we are not only accepted but we bring complete pleasure to the heart of God.

"He shall flay the burnt offering, and cut it into his pieces" (v.6). This is peculiar to the Burnt Offering, and is similar to the procedure with the fowls when the priest was commanded to pluck away the crop with the feathers (v.16). The removal of the skin of the animal was intended to reveal its inward parts and to remind us that Christ was perfect inwardly as well as outwardly. In His case there could be no question of a mere surface work; the more exposed His inner life becomes, the more we see the utterness of His devotion to the Father's will. So completely was He tested and tried for our sakes that it was as though He were cut to pieces, but in all the severity of His trials there was never revealed one single blemish in His holy love for the Father.

IT was a feature of the Burnt Offering also that everything was for God: "The priest shall bring it all, and burn it upon the altar" (v.13), and "the priest shall burn all on the altar" (v.9). From this sacrifice there was nothing for the priest nor for any man; it was all for God. What a defective understanding of the work of Christ upon the cross is that which thinks only or first of the sinner's need! The supreme value of that sacrifice is what it meant to God Himself. There is that in Calvary which only He can know and appreciate. There were no especially strong points in the character of Jesus because there were none which had any weakness. His character was [96/97] perfectly balanced and symmetrical, and everything He had and was, He gladly gave in utter devotion to the Father's will.

This, then, is the testimony which the Holy Spirit delights to bless, the message of Christ's perfect acceptance with the Father on our behalf and our consequent perfect acceptance in Him. The Godward aspect of the cross should fill our hearts with worship and wonder, for it assures us of God's complete satisfaction through Christ's death and reminds us that this is the measure of our own standing before God; we are "accepted in the Beloved".

(To be continued)


David Burnett

"WHY don't you missionaries leave them alone? The Muslims have got their own Faith, the Hindus have theirs, and the Buddhists theirs. Surely they are all right as they are, with their own religions. Why do they need to be converted to Christianity?"

From time to time a missionary on furlough will meet this sort of argument. It would be easy to pass it by and avoid the real issue that the question raises. What is our attitude to other religions and to the people who practise those Faiths?

This is not a new problem. It faced the early Church as it began to move out of Judaism into the Gentile world. One of the clearest examples of contact between emerging Christianity and contemporary religions is found in Acts 17:23-31, where Paul is brought to the Areopagus to speak to the philosophers of Athens. Paul's subsequent speech furnishes us with some Biblical guidelines concerning our attitude to those of other religions.


At the beginning of his address, Paul's attention is focused on the religious devotion of the Athenians: "I perceive that in every way you are very religious" (v.22). Right from the beginning Paul recognises that these people were religious, and sincere in their Faith. For a Jew, brought up in a strong monotheism, their idolatry must have horrified him. Yet he didn't scorn them for their seemingly strange beliefs. He respected their religion and avoided unnecessary criticism. He saw in their religiousness an expression of the fact that man was made in the image of God, and therefore made to respond to his Creator. However inadequate and even false the Gentile religion might be as a consequence of sin, its very existence is nevertheless a confirmation of the fact that man still retains the fundamental character of a religiously responsible being.

So often Christians have scorned those of other religions and failed to show much love. In past times, some Christians fought against the Muslims. Now we no longer fight with swords, but some Christians still think it is their duty to battle against Islam with hot arguments and abuse. Often people have thought that to be a good Christian you must condemn the non-Christian. This is a mistake (Luke 6:37). As Christians, we should hold firm to our own Faith, whilst showing love and respect in our attitude to people of other religions.

Jesus Christ said that the second commandment is: "You shall love your neighbour as yourself" (Mark 12:31). Whether one is a missionary working in Africa, or a Christian in this country with an immigrant family living in the same street, one must love those of other religions. One should be friendly, and little by little try to break down the barriers that separate, accepting the sincerity of their beliefs and giving respect to whom respect is due.


In approaching people of other religions, there are two errors that a Christian can make. The first we have already seen is being hostile and aggressive. The other is that of compromise or keeping silent about one's faith. Some think that they shouldn't tell others anything about the gospel because that might offend them.

Paul did not compromise or keep silent. Although he respected their Faith, he was not afraid to make an evaluation of the religion of the Athenians. Paul says in effect: "That which you worship, acknowledging openly your ignorance, I proclaim unto you" (v.23). In saying this he does not mean he is going to complete what the Athenians already possess of true [97/98] religion. On the contrary, what they acknowledge as ignorance has a far deeper meaning for Paul. He maintains a clear distinction between the Christian gospel and other religions. Paul is careful neither to accommodate his gospel to the Athenian religion, nor to imply that they need only supplement their Faith with a few new concepts from Christianity. He calls them to repentance and conversion from their ignorance.

Frequently the actual beliefs of the people are unrelated to the pure teaching of their religion. Buddhist priests in Japan ought to spend their lives in pursuit of enlightenment. In practice, the priests spend much of their time reciting prayers in a language that is quite incomprehensible to the modern Japanese. They are motivated by a fear of the spirits of the dead and seek to prevent them from interfering with the living. It is not true that people are happy as they are; most of them are bewildered and lost in superstition and fear of death.

When approaching those of other religions, a basic principle of good teaching is to start from the known and move to the unknown. Our starting point should be those things with which people are familiar. Paul began with the altar "to an unknown god", which was a familiar object to the people of Athens. Likewise, in speaking to a Muslim, our approach should open with those aspects with which he is already acquainted -- One God, Jesus as Prophet and Teacher, prayer, and the last judgment.


The answer to ignorance is wisdom. Some people would argue that the important thing is a person holding to a Faith, regardless as to whether it is Islam, Hinduism or some other religion. They have their Faith, and that is sufficient. But their faith must be based on truth. A faith in a non-existent god is as ineffective as faith in an imaginary chair. If one places one's trust in either, one will be let down. Paul's sermon therefore continues with a disclosure of the nature of God. First, He is the Creator: "God that made the world and all things therein" (v.24). Secondly, God is Spirit. He does not live in shrines made by man. He is not confined by the physical, but is Spirit. Thirdly, He is Self-sufficient. He does not need to be carried in a temple cart, or to receive gifts of food from men. On the contrary, He is the First Cause of all things. Not only is He the Creator of man, He is also the Lord of human history: "having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation" (v.26).

Finally, God is the Ultimate. God has made every man so that instinctively he longs for God. In the darkness, man gropes for reality, and is dissatisfied until he finds Him. A religion, of itself, will never satisfy unless it brings man to God: "They should seek God in the hope that they might feel after him and find him" (v.27). It is sometimes argued that God may well have spoken to men through other religions and we ought therefore to give them the benefit of the doubt. The Bible does not deny that God has spoken to men outside Christianity. Christians fully accept the Jewish Scriptures as authoritative and inspired by the same Lord in whom both Jews and Christians believe. But now has come the final revelation of God in Christ Jesus, which leads Peter to proclaim: "There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).


Paul moves on logically in his argument to face his listeners with the practical repercussions of this revelation. "The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent" (v.30). We are now in a new era. In Christ the full revelation of God has come. In the New Testament, the term "repent" refers basically to a change of mind. It consists of a radical transformation of thought, attitude and direction. Repentance must come first in conversion, because only one who is oppressed by sin will realise his need of salvation.

Men everywhere are conscious of not having lived up to their own moral standards. Hudson Taylor claimed that he had never met one Chinese, be he scholar or farmer, who for an instant could claim that he had lived up to all the light which he possessed. Many Muslims are deeply concerned about the Day of Judgment. In his daily prayers he asks for forgiveness, and he continually repeats the formula: "I ask forgiveness of God". He knows when he has done wrong, and hopes for forgiveness through the mercy of God. Yet he is fully aware that through his religion he can have no assurance of forgiveness or pardon for sin.

God commands all men everywhere to repent. Even in this, Paul did not stand aloof from the [98/99] Athenians. A missionary only dare go to those of other religions as one sinner going to another in love. The fact that the missionary knows that he has been forgiven should engender no pride. Paul in his fanatical adherence to Judaism needed to repent and come to the living Christ. Likewise, the Muslim, the Buddhist, the Hindu and even the nominal Christian must repent and acknowledge Him who "will judge the world in righteousness".


Evangelism has been defined by J. I. Packer as "communication with a view to conversion". Not all will respond to the message. There will be those who mock. They will refuse to accept anything that is outside their preconceived ideas.

Just as the Athenians stumbled over the concept of the resurrection of the dead, most Muslims today stumble over the idea of Jesus as the Son of God. Muslims feel that the title "Son of God" is dishonouring to God and to the Lord Jesus. Yet many really do want to know the truth about the person of the Lord Jesus. So often by insisting upon our doctrinal phrases, we may fail to communicate the truth. When a Muslim asks: "Was Jesus the Son of God?", it is better to answer by asking what he means by this term.

The Pharisees often asked Jesus if He was the Messiah, but He seldom said, "Yes, I am". This was simply because their ideas of the Messiah were false. He conveyed the truth about Himself in other ways, for example, by taking the name of God and adding simple illustrations to it, such as, "I am the bread of life", or, "I am the good shepherd". We must try to convey to the Muslim something of the wonder of the person of our Lord without using the term, "Son of God" until he has begun to understand.

Even though some of the Athenians mocked, there were others who said, "We will hear you again about this". There will always be those who will want to hear more. They will refuse to conform to the popular notions around them. Out of this group will be those who respond and believe -- men like Dionysius, the Areopagite, one of the members of the unique court of the Areopagus, consisting of thirty of the most respected men of Athens. Thank God that throughout the history of the Church there have always been those who have responded to the claims of Jesus. What a mercy that Christ's witnesses paid no attention to the cry: "Why don't you leave them alone?"!



Harry Foster


"Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness "
(Psalm 119:36)

THE sinner does not really start his pilgrimage by turning to Christ. This first movement is simply an urgent action of fleeing to Jesus for refuge. Having done this, however, and discovered something of the greatness of the love of Christ, he finds his own heart moved in an eager quest for the will of God. He becomes a pilgrim, then, because he is a man of a captured heart. As he sets out on his spiritual journey, he finds that he can only do so with the Word of God ever near at hand. It is a wonderful day when a person who has hitherto found the Bible a boring book suddenly meets Christ in the Word and so discovers it to be a source of endless delight.

This pilgrim's enthusiasm is due to the fact that every aspect of the Word is made intensely personal by the possessive pronoun, "Thy", which provides a personal link with the Lord Himself. There are only four verses of this long psalm in which this is not so. The speaker insists that he does not just deal with commandments or testimonies, but with "Thy commandments" and "Thy testimonies". His heart love, then, is not just for a book (even though that be the most wonderful Book in the world) but it is concentrated directly on the person of its Author. What is so precious to him -- more than all riches -- is not just the law, but "the law of Thy mouth" (72), coming warm, as it were, from the lips of [99/100] Him who is so dear. The happy pilgrim, then, is the man or woman who has Christ as first love and is learning all the time to give glad priority to His ways and His wishes: "O how I love Thy Law!" (97).

So important is this love that it keeps him pressing on when otherwise affliction might have caused him to despair: "Unless thy law had been my delight, I should have perished in mine affliction" (92). Even in his darkest hour the Word gives him sweet compensation: "Trouble and anguish have taken hold on me; yet thy commandments are my delight" (143). His delight at communion with his Lord bears very favourable contrast with the self-indulgence of his proud neighbours: "Their heart is as fat as grease", he comments, but I delight in thy law (72). The Christian neither envies nor condemns. In Christ he has something better.

Full of love as his heart is, he feels that it is all too small, so he cries out: "I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart" (32). It is a good thing when we are impatient with our own slow progress in the path of holiness, but growth will come not by self-effort but by the Lord's giving us a larger heart. Such enlargement can only come by means of the Word of God. Fresh love to Christ can only be flooded into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, and He always uses the Word for His gracious activities. So warm is this pilgrim's devotion that it makes him fiercely intolerant of any other will than that of his Lord: "I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way" (128). To him Christ is the only One who is always right.

It is striking that one of the predictions of the Lord Jesus about the period immediately before His coming is that "because iniquity shall be multiplied, the love of the many shall wax cold" (Matthew 24:12). This cooling off of love seems to be due not so much to some special iniquity but to the general atmosphere of what we call the permissive society. There is only one answer to it, and that is a new devotion to the Word of God, not in a mere doctrinal sense but as spiritual food: "How sweet are thy words unto my taste!" (103). Doctrine is not unimportant, as is indicated by the pilgrim's constant quest for understanding; but the first essential for an eager walk in the way of holiness is a heart aflame with personal love for Christ.

Love to the Lord must include love to those who are His. In this matter the pilgrim presents us with a most challenging statement: "I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that observe thy precepts" (63). It is not so difficult for us to invite fellow believers to meet us on our own ground, but this goes far beyond that. The psalmist says that he will gladly offer companionship to all other true pilgrims; in other words that he will join others on their ground, giving them sympathy and support if they are lovers of the Word. "I am a companion ...". Am I?

The apostle John was one of God's great pilgrims. He spoke of the matters which occupy our psalmist. He was also very strong in his challenge about fellowship. He pressed hard the close relationship between love for God and love for our brother. So it is that the Old Testament is confirmed by the New in this call for loving unity among the pilgrims on the heavenly way. How the men of the world would open their eyes with surprise and envy if they saw God's people tramping along their pilgrim way, both delighting themselves in God's commandments and happily united in seeking Him with their whole hearts!

"What is this psalm from pitiable places

  Glad where the messengers of peace have trod?

Whose are these beautiful and holy faces

  Lit with their loving, and aflame with God?"

(To be continued) [100/ibc]

[Inside back cover]


"(for he saith, At an acceptable time I hearkened unto thee, and in a day of salvation did I succour thee; behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation)" (2 Corinthians 6:2)

THIS quotation and comment are marked off by double brackets because they are not an essential part of Paul's argument. This does not mean that they are unimportant: Far from it. They accentuate the importance of timing in our dealings with God. It is essential that those who hear His message should eagerly grasp its offer while there is time. It is also necessary that God's messenger should be in harmony with God's acceptable time if he is to be truly successful.

THE apostle was clearly concerned for his hearers and readers that they should give prompt heed to the gospel message. God's grace is full and free, but it must be received without delay, or it may be "in vain". In this connection we notice that the apostle will not tolerate delay. He reminds us once again that the Spirit's day for obedience is always Today. Now is God's acceptable time for us to call upon Him. He eagerly awaits our appeal to Him. The word "acceptable" which is found in the Isaiah quotation carries the idea of what is well-pleasing. In other words, God enjoys hearkening to our prayers. It is wonderfully true that today can be a day of salvation. "It is now," urges the apostle, "there is no need to wait. Indeed it may be perilous to do so. This is God's day of favour. It may not always be so."

THE main context of the verse shows, however, that the apostle is dealing with the experiences of those who have been honoured by Christ to be His ambassadors. The Scripture quoted is from Isaiah 49:8 and refers first of all to the Lord Jesus Himself. Through the prophet the Father spoke these words of encouragement to His Servant-Son. The circumstances are most notable in that God's holy Servant seems to be under pressure and even to feel that His labour had been in vain (Isaiah 49:4). The following verses are full of reassurance, with promises of success far beyond the limited sphere of Israel. It is as though the Father calls for just a little patience. His "acceptable time" will soon come, and then it will be seen that the delay was not due to lack of love or of power but just to this one perfect feature of the perfect God, which is perfect timing.

WE remember that on more than one occasion the Lord Jesus affirmed that His time had not yet come. His time was God's time, and God's acceptable time is always a day of salvation. Jesus went to the tomb completely prepared to await the Father's hour for resurrection. The acceptable time came, and the glory of the Father entered that dark sepulchre and raised the Son to fullness of life. The Saviour now sits at the Father's right hand, quite content to wait for the moment of His full and final vindication. That Day will certainly be "The day of salvation". The implication of this parenthesis seems therefore to be that God's chosen servant needs to be patient and to be found in the perfect timing of God. This is borne out by the further description of apostolic service which Paul gives to commend himself as a minister of God (2 Corinthians 6:3, 10). The list begins with the words: "in much patience" and possibly implies that all the subsequent trials which he endured were borne in the spirit of patience which characterises the servant of the Lord. Like his Master, the apostle might often have complained, "I have laboured in vain. I have spent my strength for naught". Many of us may share precisely this same temptation to despondency. If so we, like the apostle and like our glorious heavenly Servant of the Lord, may gratefully hear the Father say that our prayers have been given His favour and that His succour is near at hand.


[Back cover]

2 Corinthians 9:8

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