|Vol. 8, No. 1, Jan. - Feb. 1979
||EDITOR: Mr. Harry Foster
A REVOLUTION OF LOVE
THE fruit of the Spirit is love. We believe Christianity is a 'revolution
of love', and we are convinced that there is nothing more important in all
the world than this. "God is love" (1 John 4:8). In other words, true love
is from God ... it does not exist apart from Him. We know that God is One.
Therefore, we cannot think of God the Father without thinking of love; we
cannot think of the Lord Jesus Christ without thinking of love; we cannot
think of the Holy Spirit without thinking of love. There is no separation.
God does not send love. God does not manufacture it. God is love.
As we see the state of the Church world-wide and the state of the average
believer, it is easy to become discouraged. We look for discipleship; we
look for those who are labouring together in unity, in prayer, in power ...
and we see quarrels and divisions, complacency and mediocrity. Many young
people are asking: 'Why is the Church in such a state? ... Why is Christianity
today making so little impact?'
Many talk about the 'secret'. Somehow we have missed the secret, they
feel, and therefore the Church is as it is. They think that perhaps what
is needed is a new book that will reveal the secret and bring deliverance
and restoration to the Church. Now it seems to me that it would not be very
fair of God to keep secret the most basic ingredient of Christian effectiveness.
And I do not believe that it is a secret.
The Basic Message
There is, I believe, a basic ingredient which is largely lacking in Christianity
today, and the lack of it is the source of most of our problems. It is the
cancer which is eating away at the Church, but it is no secret. In fact it
is so non-secretive that it is written on almost every page of the New Testament.
And yet, because the heart of man is so deceitful and desperately wicked,
and because we are so bent on our own way we do not see (or seeing we do
not believe) that the basic message of the New Testament is LOVE!
It is my absolute conviction that most of us miss this most obvious and
most repeated message, even while laying great emphasis on 'sound doctrine'.
Well, I would like to ask you, 'What is sound doctrine?' We have long discussions
on the Second Coming, on the Atoning Work of Christ, on the Church, the Holy
Spirit, etc., etc. But what about love and humility and brokenness? These
usually go into a separate category, but I want to tell you that if your
doctrine does not include love and humility and brokenness, then your doctrine
is not sound.
There are thousands, even millions, of people who claim to be 'orthodox
Christians' because they cling to a certain set of beliefs in accord with
the Bible. They are aware that they do not practise much humility, but they
do not think that makes them any less orthodox. They are aware that they
do not really love the brethren in Christ (especially those who are different
from them), but that does not cause them to think their doctrine is not sound.
They admit that they know nothing of 'laying down their lives' for the brethren
and esteeming the other as better than themselves, and yet they consider
themselves fundamental, orthodox Christians.
Oh, what an error is this! This false concept -- thinking that we can
be orthodox without having humility, thinking we can be sound in doctrine
without having love, thinking we can be fundamental evangelicals though our
lives do not show forth the fruit of the Spirit -- this is the greatest error
that has hit Christianity even before or since the Reformation! Doctrine
cannot be separated from practical living. Brethren, I do not see Jesus Christ
as a dual personality, partly doctrine and partly moral, trying to bring
two separate realms of truth into our minds. He was not on the one hand
trying to teach us what we call doctrine, and on the other hand trying to
make us morally right. It is completely wrong to think of doctrine as being
apart from living.
'Oh', someone says, 'there is a good, evangelical Christian ... he has
good sound doctrine. He does not have much love for others, and he is not
very humble, but he's sound in doctrine.' He is not sound in doctrine
if he does not love the brethren. What do we read in 1 John 4:8? "He that
loveth not knoweth not God", There is no sounder doctrine than love, and
apart from love there is no sound doctrine. This is the basis
[1/2] of all Bible doctrine. You take the base out and everything
you build will eventually collapse.
The Wise Man
"Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you?" (James 3:13).
Well, who is he? Who is wise and endued with knowledge? Is he the one who
knows all the answers? Is he the one who has the solution to every problem
... the one who always knows which road to take, how to witness and lead
souls to Christ, how to distribute literature? Is this the wise man in your
midst? Possibly. But not necessarily. The Bible says: "Let him show out of
a good conversation (or life) his works with meekness of wisdom". In other
words, God says to the man who has the correct theory and who knows what
the Bible teaches, 'All right, let's see it in your life. First, above everything
else, let's see it lived out.' If a man is truly wise, then he is truly meek.
Reading on in James, we find that certain factors disqualify a person
from this wisdom. "But if you have bitter envying and strife in your hearts,
glory not, and lie not against the truth." When we claim to be sound in doctrine
and to have New Testament truth, and yet our lives are not filled with meekness,
but rather with bitterness, we are actually lying against the truth with
our lives. This is the great problem everywhere today. Look at the next verse:
"This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish".
Do you see what that means?
Let me illustrate this kind of earthly 'wisdom' with an incident that
occurred recently. A brother made a mistake in a practical matter. One of
his co-workers who lacked this revolution of love, knew that the other was
in the wrong. Very quickly, he said, 'This is wrong. You should not have
done it.' The other brother, in a bit of excitement said, 'Well, I was told
to do it this way.' The first, a little more excitedly, said, 'Well, I know
it is not right. I will show you what you should have done.' And soon they
had a full-scale argument.
Later on I talked to the one who claimed to be right. I said to him,
'Do you feel that you were right in that situation?' 'Absolutely', he said,
'I was right and everybody around here knows I was right.' And he had managed
to convince everyone else that he was right. Then I said, 'Tell me, when
you spoke to him, were you in the flesh or in the Spirit?' He stopped at that
and thought for a minute. 'Well, I don't suppose that I was really what you
would call in the Spirit.' I said, 'Well then, you were in the flesh'. He
was a bit hesitant but said, 'All right, I admit that I was in the flesh!
But I was right!' I said, 'But dear brother, doesn't the Word of God say
that from the flesh cometh no good thing?'
He wasn't right! The way I think, the way I believe Christ thought, the
way I believe the New Testament teaches, he was absolutely wrong because
truth never comes without moral quality and you cannot tell the truth without
love. The curse of today is orthodoxy without love, orthodoxy without power,
orthodoxy without the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. When we move into the
Catholic world or the Muslim world or the Communist world, remember that no
matter how right we are about an issue, the minute we act without love, we
are in the flesh and not abiding in Christ, and it is sin. No matter how much
'truth' comes from such a mouth; it is not truth.
That is what the Bible says here. This 'wisdom' that does not come with
meekness and gentleness and love is not wisdom. It is sensual, devilish.
Some of the most horrible and unbelievable situations arise in the ranks of
Christianity amongst those who have 'lip truth' but do not live the truth.
The next verse says, "For where envying and strife is, there is confusion
and every evil work." The moment that envy creeps into the picture, no matter
how much 'orthodoxy' there is, or how much truth is floating around, the result
will be just what is described here -- confusion. And every evil work follows
Pure and Peaceable
"But the wisdom that is from above is first pure" (v.17). Do you see
it? The wisdom that comes from above is first, not orthodox, but pure. And
whenever what we say and do is not of the highest moral quality, then it
is not from above, but is the earthly, sensual, devilish pseudo-wisdom of
the world. God's wisdom is first always pure, then it is peaceable. Alan
Redpath says when you know that you are not in the Spirit, you know you are
a little upset, then never open your mouth! I like the way he puts it: 'At
that moment, literally force yourself back into the will of God.' Force
yourself back into the will of God, and then speak. But never open your
mouth when [2/3] you are not in the Spirit, for
no matter how hard you try you will never speak with true wisdom. How many
times have you hurt someone because you spoke too soon? Husbands, how many
times have you hurt your wife because you did not keep quiet a few minutes
longer? I know how many times I could have kicked myself all over our little
room because I could not wait a little longer before I spoke.
The Bible says, "The wisdom that comes from above is first pure, then
peaceable, then gentle". Gentle! What do you know about that, young zealot?
Of course it is easy to be zealous between the ages of 17 and 35. That's
right! It isn't hard for energetic youth to be zealous. 'Ho, I am out to conquer
the world! Everybody is going to hear about Jesus Christ!' And away we go
in the zeal of the flesh until around the age of 30 or 35, or after the first
child comes, and then we suddenly begin to discover that our 'zeal thermometer'
has started to drop. Finally, we have to admit that we have been working
in the energy of the flesh -- Youthful lusts! Youthful lusts directed into
Christian activity. Youthful zeal! Youthful enthusiasm! But where is the
youthful gentleness? The wisdom that is from above is gentle.
How Do You Respond?
And it is 'easy to be entreated'. What does that mean? It means easy
to be taught and corrected. The way you respond to correction is a great
test of what Jesus is doing in your life. When someone comes up and puts
his arm around your shoulder and says, 'Sorry, brother, but you are doing
that all wrong', what is your reaction? Do you thank God for the correction?
One of the greatest tests in the Christian life comes when you are confronted
with correction or criticism. Anyone can live for Christ when he is receiving
pats on the back. As long as you are doing your job well and are being appreciated,
you can lean on men's praise as a psychological 'crutch'. But when you are
criticised, rightly or wrongly, then you can only lean on Jesus.
That is exactly what we need to do, and possibly that is why God sometimes
allows the props to be knocked from under us, and puts us under fire in the
form of criticism. We need to learn to work only for His "Well done, thou
good and faithful servant".
Other tests of true wisdom are that it comes from above and is full of
mercy and good fruit, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Full of
mercy ... toward the weaker brother, toward the offending brother, toward
the guilty brother; full of mercy and full of good fruit. It is without
partiality and without hypocrisy. This is orthodox doctrine. And I pray
that if anyone can show me that this is wrong thinking or that I am misinterpreting
the New Testament and that it is possible for me to have sound doctrine without
peace, purity, gentleness, etc. that he will show me. But please do not try
to tell me that some dear brother has a miserable life but sound doctrine,
because I just will not believe you. Sound doctrine and wisdom that comes
from above always comes with a Bible-linked life. This conviction is the core
of all true Christian work. The greatest desire of our hearts for the Church
and for every believer is to see this linking of sound doctrine and sound
God's Work, Not Ours
A Christian is at all times indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God and so
has all His potential for this tremendous revolution of love. Jesus Christ
said, "Love thy neighbour as thyself!" This is not just talk. How did you
love yourself this morning? Did you get out of bed, wipe the sleep from your
eyes, go to the mirror and say, 'Oh, how I love you! You are so wonderful.
I love you so much?' If you do that for many mornings someone might call
in a psychiatrist for you. That is not the way we love ourselves. But it
is often the way in which we love our neighbours. It is just a matter of
Perhaps we can understand love better if we use the word 'care'. You
have been caring for yourself all day long, ever since you woke up and your
self-love went right into action. Perhaps you used soap and creams and lotions
and put on the proper amount of clothes to keep your body warm. When you
felt rather empty inside it was enough to get you into action, for immediately
you started toward the coffee pot and the bread and jam. There is nothing
wrong about this. God doesn't say that you should not love yourself. But He
does say that you should love your neighbour in the same way as you love yourself.
I know that I do not express myself well, but I just pray that the Spirit
of God will show you what this revolution of love really is -- what it means
to obey the second commandment of Jesus Christ from the time you get up in
the morning [3/4] until you go to bed at night. Only
this will make an impact on such a materialistic age as this one. Our tracts
will not do it. Our Bibles will not do it. Jesus said, "By this shall all
men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another". Not
if you have sound doctrine and zeal. No! They will know it if you love the
brethren. This is the greatest challenge in the Word of God -- to love men
as Christ loved them, to love them as we love ourselves, to care for men
as we care for ourselves.
What I am trying to do is to create hunger. Hunger in your heart to be
like Jesus. Hunger in your heart to know this life-changing love. I am convinced
that the world will never be evangelised except we experience this revolution
PILGRIM SONGS OF GOD'S PEOPLE
(Studies in the Songs of Ascent)
J. Alec Motyer
1. PSALMS 120, 121 & 122
THESE fifteen psalms are called 'Songs of Ascent' and the simplest way
to understand that not very helpful description is to say that they are
intended to be Pilgrim Songs which belong to God's people at those particular
times when, according to the commandment of God, they set out on pilgrimage
from wherever they were living to go up to Zion.
We will take the psalms in threes, and so divide them into five sections.
I hope we will discover that this does no violence to the way in which they
have been put together; they seem to work out in such an arrangement. In
Psalm 120 we find a believer who is among hostile people; in Psalm 121 we
find him in threatening circumstances and then, by contrast, we find in Psalm
122 that he has arrived and is rejoicing amongst those who can say: "our feet
are actually standing within thy gates, O Jerusalem". The adverse people are
gone: he now has the fellowship of God's people. The adverse circumstances
are gone: the gates of the beloved Zion have closed behind him and he is
So the movement is out of the world, through the pilgrimage and into
the city. That is the pattern for these three psalms and for each group
of three up to, but not including, the last. Psalm 120 starts with the believer
in the world: "Woe is me that I sojourn in Meshech, that I dwell among the
tents of Kedar" (v.5). That is where he starts. Psalm 121 tells of how he
moves on, encounters a hostile environment, longs for something different
and looks up to see if he can discern the hills of Zion afar off: "I lift
up my eyes to the mountains" (v.1). He plans his pilgrimage to get there.
In Psalm 122 he arrives safely and finds himself with his feet actually standing
in the City of God.
Because these were the songs of their pilgrimage, they are also the songs
of our pilgrimage, and the immediate challenge of these three psalms is:
How does it fare with us on our pilgrimage when trouble comes? Do we know
how to behave when people are hostile? Are we confident of our security in
God when circumstances threaten? Do we find in the Church the security and
the fellowship that we need?
PSALM 120 -- The Believer is Found in the World
He experiences hostility: "lying lips and a deceitful tongue" (v.2).
He feels ill at ease: "Woe is me that I sojourn in Meshech" (v.5). This
is not his home, as he feels in his spirit the acute nature of the fact
that his home is elsewhere and it is something alien to his nature that
he has to be even an overnight guest in this strange environment. As a matter
of fact it is impossible to sojourn in Meshech and to dwell in the tents
of Kedar at the same time, for the one is far north near the Caspian Sea
and the other is at the Syrian end of the Arabian Desert. We gather therefore
that he is not describing his situation in geographical terms so much as
in spiritual experience. He feels the surrounding alien world pressing in
upon him, just as though the foreign [4/5] values
of Meshech on the one hand and Kedar on the other composed the atmosphere
in which he had to live. He is aware of a basic incompatibility: "My soul
has long had her dwelling with him that hates peace. I am for peace, but
when I speak, they are for war" (v.6). It is by no means out of place that
he should be so uneasy; his feelings are in accord with the reality of the
situation. He is only a sojourner. There is a basic incompatibility between
the believer and the world.
"I am for peace; they are for war." It is necessary to ask ourselves
how true this is in our case. Such statements in the Bible set up normative
situations for us. May I give an illustration which will explain the point?
In writing to Timothy, Paul speaks of himself as the chief of sinners. Anyone
of us would be ready to deny that claim, for we are only too conscious of
ourselves being chief of sinners. Paul was quite sincere, but he was making
a normative statement which applies to all who are cast in the New Testament
mould. So although it may not be literally true that at this moment people
are speaking defamatory things about me as described in Psalm 120, yet this
does set forth the normative relationship between the believer and the surrounding
pagan and unconverted world. We are dwelling in our version of Meshech and
Kedar and should therefore be ill at ease. We should recognise a basic incompatibility
with our situation which makes it impossible to put down roots here. We can
do no more than be 'bed and breakfast' guests in an alien world. See how the
psalmist reacts to this situation:
His first reaction is prayer. The outstanding mark of the people of God
in a hostile, incompatible world in which they are ill at ease must be prayer.
"In my distress I cried unto the Lord, and He answered me" (v.1). This is
a lovely verse. The English has not quite got the words in the order in which
they stand in the Hebrew, which literally says: "To the Lord in my distress
I cried ...". 'To the Lord!' In a hostile world the believer needs a primary
sense of God. The pilgrim's first sense is not of his difficulties but a
sense of God "To the Lord ... to the Lord ... in my distress." He makes the
Lord his immediate port of call in his trouble. Now this is far from being
a natural reaction, yet over and over again in the Psalms and in the Scriptures
we learn that this is the proper behaviour for the believer, and that we
should drill ourselves into it. "to the Lord in my distress ...". I did not
sink into despair and I did not collapse in a state of dumbness but I cried;
I verbalised my need. I made the whole thing plain to Him, and I found that
He answered me, as He always does.
"What shall be given unto thee, and what shall be done unto thee, thou
deceitful tongue? Sharp arrows of the mighty with coals of the broom tree"
(v.3). Notice that he does not ask, 'What shall I give' but in the
English, 'What shall be given thee' and literally, 'What shall
he give thee?' In this hostile world the believer deliberately puts
himself into a non-answering back, non-retaliatory spirit. He makes the prayer
and leaves the answer to God. This is in line with Biblical teaching at this
point, namely that when Christians find themselves victims of attack, their
resource is to God in prayer. 'What shall He give thee?' Our attitude must
be one of humble acceptance of what is thrown at us and reliance on the
Scripture which tells us to leave it to the wrath of God. "Vengeance is
mine, I will repay, says the Lord."
O my beloved, what an important lesson this is for us to learn! "What
shall He give unto thee? and what shall He do more unto thee?" Leave it to
God to take all the counter-action that is necessary, and trust in Him for
the outworking: "Sharpened arrows of the mighty and coals of the broom tree"
(v.4). The arrow is the instrument of individual retribution, and the "coals
of the broom tree represent the outworking of the holy fire of the divine
wrath. What a lesson this is for us. There is no place for vengeance in the
life of the Christian. There is no place for answering back. There is only
place for acceptance of all that the world throws at us and quiet confidence
in the action of the holy God.
"My soul has long had her dwelling with him who hates peace. I am peace"
(v.6). This is what he really said. The italics in your Bible are not meant
as emphasis but simply an honest disclosure that the word has no place in
the original Hebrew, so it is not really 'I am for peace', but just
'I am peace'. In this hostile and incompatible environment there is nothing
about me which cannot be described as peace. I am totally peace. I am
[5/6] unruffled peace. What a testimony! This is true even of my
speech: "I am peace ... when I speak" (v.7).
PSALM 121 -- The Believer is Found in God
We start with the pilgrim in his spiritual exile (120) and we see him
arriving at the gates of Zion (122); now in between we find him on his pilgrim
pathway (121). He fixes his eyes on the hills and sets out to climb them,
finding that God looks after him all the way. He is found in God. As he lifts
his eyes to the mountains, he has to exclaim: "From whence shall my help
come?" (v.1). Who will look after me through all the perilous days of my
arduous pilgrimage? He then goes on to give a three-fold answer to his own
question, "Whence shall my help come?"
i. It comes from God the Creator
"My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth" (v.2). There
is a lovely little emphasis in this verse for a double preposition is used
which is really 'from-with'. The force of this double preposition is that
the full meaning is: "My help is right out from the presence of the Lord".
It is as though the Lord had, stored up and ready to hand, absolutely everything
that every member of His pilgrim people will ever need, so that at any moment
of emergency we can be sure that the answer to our need which is with Him
will come down to us. The help is already there, stored up and waiting to
be released. The exact answer will come down to us just as we need it.
We have become very pauperised in our conception of God the Creator.
We must get back to the Scriptures to learn the fulness of truth embodied
in the words; "Who made heaven and earth". The controversies of science
have focussed attention on how everything began, and that is only
one quarter of the truth which the Bible teaches concerning the Creator.
The Bible tells us: First, that the Creator began all things. "In the beginning
God created the heaven and the earth". Secondly, that the Creator maintains
all things in existence. If at this moment He ceased, for one split second,
to hold everything in His hands, it would all go back to the nothingness from
which He brought it. The whole world hangs from the fingers of the Creator;
He maintains all things. Thirdly, that He governs all things in their operation.
This includes absolutely everything. He says: "I have created the destroyer
to destroy" (Isaiah 54:16). Beloved, if we had a God who was only operating
in good men and in good things we might well despair. He is not like that.
He governs all things in their operation. And fourthly, that He guides all
things to their appointed destiny. It is not as though He were like a man
who might push the boat from one side of the lake and hopefully rush round
to the other side in the chance that it might come there to meet him. No,
that is a totally inadequate idea of God the Creator. He guides all things
to their appointed destiny. You cannot fall out of the care and keeping of
such a God.
ii. It comes from God the Redeemer
"He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep" (4). Notice from
verse 3 to verse 4 the dramatic change from the individual to the collective.
It is all singular: "He will not suffer thy foot ... He that keepeth
thee ... Look, He keeps Israel." The change is to the total Israel,
the total people of God. Redemption is for the whole people of God, as is
made clear by His word to Pharaoh: "Israel is my son, my firstborn". The Passover
lamb was deliberately specified to be equivalent to the number and the needs
of God's people; its dying was to be equivalent to Israel, God's firstborn.
It was Israel who sheltered under the blood and came out on pilgrimage with
God. This mention of Israel seems to imply that it would be foolish to think
that the God who provided for our redemption would lose us on the way to
The New Testament parallel is the assurance that if God spared not His
only Son, He will freely give us all things with Him. It is the same truth
which Jesus expressed when He said: "Let not your heart be troubled. You
believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions
..." (John 14:1-2). The Saviour was pointing on to the great end of the redemptive
process, which is God's intention to bring many sons to glory. If our Redeemer
God has secured the end, He will not fail us on the way to it.
What is more, He caters for any sort of personal inadequacy or misjudgement:
"He will not suffer thy foot to be moved". He knows how unsure are our footsteps,
that we are not well-trained or reliable as to our footholds, but our Redeemer
will not allow our feet to slide. [6/7]
iii. It comes from God the Companion
"The Lord at your right hand is your shade" (v.5) -- that is the more
correct order. He is at your right hand; He comes to stand alongside. He
keeps you so that "the sun shall not smite you by day, nor the moon by night".
God the Companion takes up a position where He can cast His shadow over us
and protect us from the sun's hot rays. The threat from the moon is mysterious
and may even be imaginary. It doesn't matter. In both the mysterious dangers
which come inexplicably to us from our circumstances or those imaginary dangers
which would hinder our progress, there is One who casts His shadow over us,
standing between us and harm, whether to our body through the sun or to
our mind through the moon. This Companion takes full responsibility to keep
us from all danger.
This threefold mention of God as Creator, Redeemer and Companion is an
Old Testament pointer to the full doctrine of the Trinity which was revealed
in the New Testament by the Lord Jesus. So from this whole amazing indication
of the truth about God, the psalmist launches into a comprehensive assurance
that He will keep us from all evil. "He shall keep thy soul" (v.7), that
is the totality of the person, the whole person; "He shall keep thy going
out and thy coming in" (v.8), that is to say, in all circumstances of life;
and He will do it for all time. And when will it start? Well, says the psalmist,
"from this time forth" -- it begins right now!
PSALM 122 -- The Believer is Found in the Church
This psalm covers three activities. First of all the pilgrim rejoices
to be in Jerusalem: "Our feet are actually standing in thy gates, O Jerusalem"
(vv.1-2). Secondly he recognises the city for what it is: "Jerusalem thou
art builded as a city compact together ..." (vv.3-5), and thirdly, he prays
for its peace: "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem ... For my brethren and companions'
sake, I will now say Peace be within you" (vv.6-9). The clue to the understanding
of this psalm is found in the words: "But ye are come unto Mount Zion, and
unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, the general assembly
and church of the firstborn" (Hebrews 12:22-23). This is not a psalm about
what will be, but about what actually is. It does not tell us what it will
be like in heaven. One day we will reach the absolute consummated perfection
of all that heaven means, but this psalm does not so much deal with that
as with the pilgrim's immediate experience. The psalmist has found the solution
to all his problems in the present reality of his search. In Psalm 120 he
was beset with problems. In Psalm 121 he went on pilgrimage to find their
solution and in Psalm 122 he found what he had sought.
Look at some of the contrasts. In the world he finds hostility; in the
Church he finds peace. In the world he finds an alien environment; in the
Church he finds himself at home. In the world he finds dangers; in the Church
he finds security (within the gates). In the world he finds isolation, being
aware of his solitariness; in the Church he finds fellowship (he is among
brothers and sisters). Here we have a most important, attractive and challenging
truth. In the intention of God the Church is the place where problems are
solved, where insecurities are removed and where loneliness is brought to
an end. Psalm 122 is not to be equated with a future heaven but with the
actual Church to which we belong.
i. The importance of the Church
Attainment only comes by way of fellowship. This man was an isolated
believer in the world, but he banded himself together with a company of
like-minded people, rejoicing to be found among those who were going up
to the house of the Lord, and together they got there. Attainment comes in
fellowship. "... until we all attain unto the unity of the faith and the
knowledge of the Son of God to a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature
of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13). This is not an individual exercise:
it is something that happens to believers in fellowship.
ii. The unity of the Church
It is as a city which is 'compacted together'. The very word, 'compacted'
is used in the Exodus narrative of the building of the Tabernacle, and it
speaks of the bringing of many different parts and pieces into the structural
unity of the whole. The given unity of the Church is the intention and creation
of God, and is the product of redemption. As the individuals sheltered beneath
the blood of the lamb, they became integrated into the people of God.
iii. The testimony of the Church
"A testimony to the Lord" (v.4). Leave out the word 'for'; the Hebrew
simply says, 'A [7/8] testimony'. This coming together
and coming up of the tribes is a testimony. They came up not by personal
volition to seek God's house but in obedience to that which God has testified
concerning Himself. The law of God is His testimony regarding His own nature;
the people of God are those who live by revelation and who live as His testimony.
iv. The King of the Church
"There are set thrones for judgment" (v.5). These people live under an
appointed King. We must not equate the Old Testament word "judgment" with
condemnation, for it indicates the setting right of things, the making of
right decisions. In this city the will of God rules, it has a throne from
which right decisions proceed.
The final section of this psalm (vv.6-9) tells of the pilgrim's commitment
to this Church: "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem". We began with prayer (120:1)
and now we conclude with it. Do you think of the people of God in the world?
Then pray. Do you think of them in the Church? Once again, pray! We are
committed to prayer.
We are also committed to peace. "I will say, Peace be within thee". Peace
means harmony. It is a scandal when there is division in the local church.
It is a scandal when there is division between churches in a locality. In
fact the word means even more than harmony; it means completeness. This psalmist
found himself committed to the completeness of the Church, completeness in
all its proper members and also completeness in every aspect of its life,
until the Church on earth matches the total desire of God.
In this commitment to the Church the pilgrim finds three things. Firstly
he finds that it is the way of personal enrichment: "they shall prosper that
love thee" (v.6). If we love the Church and give ourselves in whole-hearted
commitment to its fellowship we will find that our own lives become richer.
Secondly, commitment to the Church is the means for a practical expression
of loving concern for others: "For my brethren and companions' sakes ..."
(v.8). We have brothers in the family of God who are equal in His estimation,
and we find deliverance from selfishness in our commitment to them. And thirdly,
commitment to the Church is the way to enjoy and preserve revealed truth.
"For the sake of the house of the Lord thy God I will seek thy good" (v.9).
The house of God is the place where He reveals and expresses Himself, the
place from which the benefits of redemption flow out to men; and committal
to the Church means working for the preservation of that divine revelation.
This, then, is how we are to meet the troubles of the Christian pilgrimage.
Psalm 120 -- we pray. Psalm 121 -- we trust. Psalm 122 -- we run into the
fellowship of the Church.
(To be continued)
LEARNING FROM LEVITICUS
Arthur E. Gove
3. THE PEACE OFFERING
Reading: Leviticus 3:1-5
NO one offering gives us a complete view of the work of Christ upon the
cross; the five together help us to understand something more of the value
of His death for us. In this article we hope to consider what is perhaps
the least known of the sweet savour offerings. It is called the Peace Offering,
and it speaks not so much of the manner of His death for us as of the effects
which that death has produced, stressing especially the matter of communion.
Firstly we notice that this is the only offering in which the sacrifice
was divided between three parties. In the Burnt Offering everything was for
God Himself; it was all consumed. In the Meal Offering the priests participated
with God in the sacrifice, but the offerer had nothing for himself. In the
case of this offering, however, there was a portion for God (3:3-5), a portion
for the priests (7:31-34) and also a share for the offerers (7:15-21). Those
who brought their peace offerings [8/9] were not merely
spectators of the sacrifice; they themselves were participators.
Here, then, is the precious truth that what has already refreshed the
heart of God and refreshed His priests is also intended to refresh and sustain
me. The very same Jesus who is the Object of heaven's delight is also the
spring of my joy, my strength and my comfort. And since all true believers
are now constituted priests through grace, and since the special portion allotted
to the priests was 'the wave breast and the heave shoulder', we all share
together the affection and strength of which these are the emblems. So it
is that there is harmonious communion between the offerer, the priests and
God Himself. The Father delights in the merits of His beloved Son and He
gives Him to us that we may share His joy and blessing. So here the emphasis
is upon our communion with the Lord which has been made possible by Christ's
death on the cross. What abounding grace this is! "Truly our fellowship is
with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:3).
Of course we cannot rise to the same sublime heights of appreciation
as God's thoughts about His Son. None of use can measure His estimation
of the life and death upon the cross of the Lord Jesus. What we can do,
though, is to be occupied with the same blessed One with whom God is occupied,
and find our hearts dwelling with God Himself upon the excellencies of the
sacrificial Saviour. He is the One who has made peace for us by the blood
of His cross, the One who Himself is our peace, and so it is through
Him that we have our happy, peaceful fellowship with the holy God. There
can be no jarring note, no discord, no strain or tension in relationships
when we share with God and share together the fullness of heart preoccupation
with the Lord Jesus.
THIS Peace Offering is presented to us in two aspects, it could be a
thanksgiving (7:12) or a vow (7:16). If we apply this to Christ we see that
He offered Himself for the glory of God (thanksgiving or praise) and that
He also offered Himself in God's service (vow). In both cases this sacrifice
had in common with the other two sweet savour offerings that it had to be
made by fire. This seems to speak of the sacrificial devotion accompanying
His praise and service; they were not in word or thought only, but in the
fiery experiences of His poured-out life. This explains the deep delight
of the Father and it draws us on to be ourselves ready to offer our service
in the same spirit of devotion. In all our service, the glory of God must
be our first consideration.
The Peace Offering teaches us important lessons regarding our approach
to God. The worshipper must never attempt to offer this sacrifice "having
his uncleanness upon him" (7:20). Now it is interesting that while in the
case of the Meal Offering no leaven (that which speaks of corruption) must
be present, in this offering it was allowed: "With cakes of leavened bread
he shall offer his oblation with the sacrifice of his peace offerings for
thanksgiving" (7:13). Was the leaven permitted because of the inevitable
corruption in the nature of the offerer, but the command concerning uncleanness
to teach that even so the worshipper must have no sin on his conscience?
There is at least a hint of the difference between 'sin' and 'sins'.
Mention is made of the sprinkling of the blood of the peace offering
(7:14). Since the blood has been sprinkled, then God has put our sin for
ever out of His sight. Even if sin be in us, it is not the object upon which
God looks when He looks at us as in Christ. He sees the blood, which has
put away all our sin. If, however there is 'uncleanness', that is actual
sins which have not been confessed and forgiven, then there must be cleansing
before we can be true worshippers or enjoy the peace which has been made
for us by the cross. What restored the fellowship between the prodigal and
his father? Not his riotous living, not the far country's husks and not even
the pitiful rags of his misery. No, there was nothing which the prodigal brought
or could bring to restore that fellowship. It was made possible by the father's
provision. So it is that God's grace alone can elevate us into fellowship
with Himself. We may know that He has done this. Christ, our Peace Offering,
assures us that "we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; through
whom also we have access into this grace wherein we stand" (Romans 5:1-2).
WE further notice the injunction that "the flesh of his peace offerings
for thanksgiving shall be eaten on the day of his oblation; he shall not
leave any of it until the morning" (7:15). God expects us to have ever fresh
appropriations of the sacrifice of His Son. We need to keep very close to
our Peace Offering. Far from seeing value in that which belongs only to the
past, God stigmatises such behaviour as "an [9/10]
abomination" (7:18). Strong words, surely meant to underline our need
to keep up-to-date in our dependence on the crucified Saviour.
This reminds us very forcibly of the communion which we have at the Lord's
Supper where the great emphasis is on thanksgiving. Nobody who is bowed down
with the weight of sin can intelligently or profitably share in that communion,
but the very purpose of the feast is to keep in mind the finished work of
Christ in His sacrifice on the cross. We do not only remember the Lord's
death, we proclaim it or show it forth, affirming that He has won the victory
over sin and condemnation and that we are more than conquerors through Him
that loved us. We do not deceive ourselves by thinking that there is no sin
in us, but nor do we fail to enjoy the assurance of God that through
the power of the blood there is no sin on us. As we walk in the light
and keep up-to-date in confessing our sins, then we can enjoy the sweet and
free communion with God and with His people that spring from our great Peace
Offering. If, however, we allow any question as to the establishment of peace
with God by the blood then we give the death blow to communion with Him.
As unusual feature of the law of the Peace Offering is that although
the actual offering comes third in the order given in Leviticus 3, the matter
comes last in this setting forth of the law of the offerings in chapter 7.
Is this a mistake? If not, then there must be some spiritual significance
in this change of order. I think that there is, and suggest that it may have
something to do with the emphasis on the communion of the worshipper. We
have already seen the Burnt Offering of Christ's giving of Himself to the
Father in perfect devotion, and we have observed in the Meal Offering how
perfect was the human life which He lived to the Father's glory. We have yet
to consider the Sin Offering and the Trespass Offering which together display
the perfection of Christ's sacrifice to put away all sin. We need to take
full note of all these aspects of His sacrificial work to be able in any
adequate way to worship Him. How else could we come into the presence of
a holy God if it were not for the full sufficiency of Christ's sacrifice?
This is the secret of true peace, and hence the final stress on Him as the
Peace! Is there any word which so expresses the real purpose of Christ's
mission? Peace from God, peace with God, the peace of
God. When we feed upon Christ in all His sufficiency, His character,
His person, His life, His work, His passion and His glory, then it is that
we live in the realm of God's perfect peace. When we are right in our relationship
and standing with God, when we know the power of the cross to remove all
obstacles between us and Him and when we enjoy the blessing of being 'reconciled',
then we are in a position to feast with God and with our fellow believers
on the gracious provision of the Peace Offering. Such peace in much more than
emotional tranquility; it is much more than a fatalistic acceptance of things
as they are; it is much more than a chance of escaping temporarily from life's
pressures; it is harmony with the will and purpose of Christ. The basic cause
of the loss of peace is sin. Full deliverance from sin comes always and only
through the blood of His cross.
(To be continued)
THE HUSBANDMAN AND BUILDER
IN the first letter to the Corinthians, chapter three the latter part
of verse 9, the Apostle Paul speaks of believers as being "God's husbandry;
God's building". There is a dual metaphor here; what the purist might object
to -- a mixed metaphor. Those who are able to study the original carefully
tell us that the Apostle was not always correct in his syntax. He would begin
a sentence and, carried away in spirit by the immensity of his subject, would
fail to complete it. Well, thank God for his marvellous deviations!
Here we have a very helpful mixing of metaphors, not a unique instance
with the Apostle. In the Ephesian and Colossian letters he has made use
of this bringing together of two quite [10/11] distinct
similes: Ephesians 3 verse 17 speaks of our being "rooted and grounded"
(we root a tree and ground, or found, a building), and Colossians speaks
of our being "rooted and built up in Him."
The Apostle Peter in his first letter makes use of the same double construction,
slightly varying the allusion. He speaks of our being "living stones"; not
stones separated by mortar, but stones integrated by a life that is not our
Let us consider the first part -- "Ye are God's husbandry" -- God's tilled
As a basis for our meditation, let us recall the content of the fifteenth
chapter of John's Gospel -- "I am the true Vine, and my Father is the husbandman".
FRUIT, MORE FRUIT, MUCH FRUIT
The husbandman's sole occupation and objective is fruit. The wood of
the vine, maybe alone among all trees, is useless for any other purpose
than to bear fruit.
Three times in the chapter we have the reference to the fruit -- verse
2 "fruit"; verse 2 "more fruit"; verse 5 and again in verse 8 "much fruit".
To progress from "fruit" to "much fruit" demands the intervention of
the Husbandman and His pruning knife, there is no other way. We should note
that the heavenly Vinedresser does not spend His energy on fruitless branches,
it is the branch that is already bearing fruit to which He directs His attention;
the fruitless branch is discarded. "Every branch that beareth fruit He purgeth
So let us take comfort. If we are in the hands of God; if we are suffering
the discipline of God, or have suffered it in times past; if in some future
day we are subjected to what Peter calls "the trial of our faith", let us
remember that it is sons whom the Father chastens; and to be without
chastening would be to bear the stigma of being bastards. The very fact that
God has turned His hand upon us is the sign of His interest, and the earnest
of the accomplishing of His purpose. He would have fruit and fruit in abundance.
"MY FATHER IS THE HUSBANDMAN"
Again, let us note that the heavenly husbandman is The Father:
"My Father is the Husbandman". This is not some cold business concern, occupied
only with profit, interested only in the proceeds, this is a family concern.
The Father's interest is not in the procedure, but in the "afterward" --
the much fruit (Hebrews 12:10-11). So, when we are going through the mill,
let us set our gaze where the Lord has His, on the "afterward" with its peaceable
fruit of righteousness. Let us remember that He says that it is His Father
with whom we have to do; and remember, too, that on the resurrection morning
He gave us the assurance that He is not only His Father, but our Father.
If this be true, what will not this Husbandman lavish upon His vineyard,
on this Vine upon which He has opened heaven and declared "This is my beloved
Son in whom is my delight"? What loving care will be lavished upon this Vine
and its branches. There is no limit to what the Father will do for us in
our abiding in His Son.
Nevertheless, He is a Father, and no father is worthy of the name if
he neglects his children in the matter of discipline -- child training.
We live in an age when the word discipline is a dirty word. But the age
is a sufficient commentary on the necessity of discipline.
"HE PURGETH IT"
Again, for our encouragement, let us notice that it is the Father who
does the pruning. He never allows the purging knife to pass into any other
hand than His own. "Every branch that beareth fruit, HE purgeth it".
The pruning knife is for the removing of that excess of life, unproductive
in itself, not necessarily bad, but unproductive. Left to themselves the
branches would run to an excess of leaf and wood growth, beautiful in itself,
but unproductive as to fruit, and therefore not justified.
In passing, let us be reminded that it is no part of any believer to
discipline his fellow believers. We must, of course, except the case of
the disciplining by elders, but here the responsibility is divinely bestowed,
and must be the discipline of God; according to His Word.
Many years ago, I visited the Grapevine at Hampton Court. Looking up
at that prolific fruit-bearing vine, I was impressed with the beautiful
[11/12] green of its leaves. Translucent in the
sunlight, they were a sight for an artist's eyes. But if they had been all,
how disappointed would the keeper of the vine have been; how grieved that
all that his labours had produced was beautiful green leaves. So the Father
desires not merely beautiful leaves but bunches of luscious life-giving,
life sustaining grapes -- He wants fruit, and He wants much fruit. What care
He will lavish upon His people to this end.
The Apostle, enlightened by heavenly wisdom and with long experience
was able to say "We glory in tribulation ... it worketh for us".
May we, too, be enabled to say 'Thank God for the pruning knife'.
The saintly Samuel Rutherford, in one of his letters, at a time when
he was undergoing trial such as few of us are called upon to know, said
"Why should I start at the plough of my Lord, that cutteth deep furrows
in my soul; I know He is no idle Husbandman. HE PURPOSETH A CROP".
Let us pass on to the second of the Apostle's similes;
"YE ARE GOD'S BUILDING"
Now the first part -- the husbandry, has to do with us individually;
it is the fruit borne upon each branch which is primarily in view. The tree
is something in itself, and is rooted for itself. But now we are told that
we are a building, and this refers to our life together. A building is a corporate
concept. A brick is not a building, a building is not a brick, but composed
of bricks. We are being built, says the New Testament, together .
As illustrating this feature, I want to turn to the first book of Kings,
the 5th and 6th chapters. Here we read that Solomon purposed to build a house
for the Lord, and since it was to be for the Lord it must be exceedingly
magnificent. He realised that with the best of his endeavours, the temple
he built would be inadequate, since "the heaven of heavens" could not contain
GREAT STONES, COSTLY STONES, HEWN STONES
We are told that the house was built of great stones, costly stones,
hewn stones (Chapter 5:17). Their greatness (reflecting the wisdom of the
heavenly Architect in their selection), their costliness (reflecting their
pricelessness because of their redemption) we will leave for the moment,
and consider that they were hewn stones.
In Chapter 6, verse 7 we read "the house when it was in building, was
built of stone made ready before it was brought thither; so that there was
neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it
was in building".
I used to read that J. N. Darby was criticised strongly for what was
referred to as 'his counsel of despair' when he stated that he had ceased
to expect the perfect church on earth. I begin to wonder whether he had
not ground for his decision.
Does not this picture of the House of God in the Book of Kings lead us
to the conviction that here and now is the preparation ground of the material
for the Church; that Church in its final perfection and glory is in the future.
The Book of the Revelation (Chapter 21:10-11) reveals the city descending
out of heaven, and may we not conclude therefore that where we are now --
in our present situation -- is the quarry. The material is prepared, formed,
hewn in the quarry, the completion of the building will be in the near future.
IN THE QUARRY
In our life together, more particularly perhaps, in our life together
in our assemblies, the stones are being wrought for that great day of assembly,
when, as silently as the breaking of the dawn, the glory of God in His church
will break upon a wondering universe.
But for the moment we are in the quarry. We are being fitly framed together
(Ephesians 2:21). I, with some exuberance of nature, am brought into contact
with another brother with his own particular exuberance, and we are being
fitly framed together. In the Colossian letter the Apostle speaks of being
"knit together"; that involves being entangled with one another, for knitting
is the entangling of the woollen yarn (more or less orderly). In our assembling
together, we have our times of joy and encouraging of one another, but there
is also this factor of being fashioned after His image.
"WHOSE BUILDER IS GOD"
In the second metaphor used by the Apostle, I would again stress the
fact that, as in His presentation of the Husbandman, so as the Builder,
there lies in the background this feature of His care.
The great Architect may put the hammer into other hands -- so often the
hand of our arch-enemy -- but never, never does He entrust the cutting instrument,
the iron tool or axe, into any other hand. Not even to His servants will
He entrust the responsibility of shaping and fashioning after the image of
Take the instance of the discipline of Job. The blows came all too swiftly,
one after the other, seemingly directed against him by Satan. But God determined
the direction of the blow, and placed the cutting instrument, so that the
final result would be the accomplishing of His purpose. Truly the hedge had
been placed around Job's faith. The enemy's objective was destruction; God's
end was constructive.
We are His husbandry; we are His building; we are His workmanship. He
has not given us up. We may be bearing but a little fruit, but He has not
despaired of us.
Finally, both in the case of the Vine, and of the House, the ultimate
end is the manifestation of the life of Christ.
In the case of the Vine, it is self-evident that the life is that of
the Vine stock, though the evidence of that life is on the branches. In
the case of the Temple we read that it was constructed of great, costly,
hewn stones, but at the end we read, when the house was finished (Chapter
6:18), "there was no stone seen". Overlaying the stone was the cedar wood,
(type of the perfect humanity of Christ); and overlaying the cedar wood
was the pure gold, speaking of the glory of God manifested in Christ.
So the Lord would have us, individually and corporately, so hidden in
Christ that only He is seen. Thus shall the whole house, the limit thereof
round about be most holy, and all within it say Glory. In that great, most
magnifical House, the Lamb will be all the glory!
My beloved brothers, and sisters, that is what God is doing with us.
He is working at it. May we be found workers together with Him, in fullest
submission, until the House is built.
CHAPTER BY CHAPTER THROUGH ROMANS
15. THE HOPE OF GLORY (Chapter 8:12-25)
THIS paragraph begins with "so then", which indicates that the apostle
is now summing up what he has already said. As earlier he had told them
that they were no longer under law, but under grace, and no longer the slaves
of sin, but of righteousness, so he now tells them the corresponding truth,
that they are not debtors to the flesh who are forced to live after the flesh.
He has said that they are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit. The good tidings
for them is that they are in Christ Jesus and thereby in the Spirit and
not in the flesh. They are under grace, not under law; under obedience, not
under sin; under righteousness and not under uncleanness; under God Himself,
and not under lawlessness. They owe nothing whatever to the flesh. They
are free to walk after the Spirit, that is, to walk with Christ. They owe
Him everything, so they think much about Him; He fills their consciousness
and even their subconsciousness.
Now we might expect that the time has come for Paul to exhort us in a
good evangelical manner. He has described salvation thoroughly, and might
now be expected to go over to practical exhortation. He does not do this yet,
though, but keeps us waiting until chapter 12. The only thing he does here
is to remind us: "If you live after the flesh, you must die; but if by the
Spirit you mortify the deeds of the body, you shall [13/14]
live" (v.13), which is not so much a practical exhortation as a guiding
line of a general character.
We must make sure that we understand him aright. He does not suggest
that we should mortify the body and treat it as 'brother ass', like Francis
of Assissi. Far from teaching us that our body is evil or of little worth,
the Bible tells us to take care of it and to enjoy everything that God has
created with thanksgiving (Ephesians 5:10 and 1 Timothy 4:3-4). Self-torture
and self-inflicted asceticism has no place in the gospel of God. It never
leads onwards but always downwards. It is the deeds of the body, that is,
the sinful deeds, which Paul is speaking about and even so he does not say
that we are to mortify those deeds. Such a statement would plunge
us once more in despair, entangling us in hopeless activities in which we
would be partly occupied with temptations and partly with ourselves. That
way lies disaster. His words are: "If by the Spirit you mortify the
deeds of the body, you shall live". It is of course possible for the legal
mind to misunderstand even this, regarding the Spirit as an instrument to
be used in order to triumph over temptation. Such might reason that when we
are tempted we must see to it that we get hold of the Spirit, so that by
this means we may conquer the temptation. This will not succeed, for before
we have "got hold" of the Spirit, the temptation already has the upper hand.
Paul's thought is more thoroughgoing in its liberating, evangelical aspect.
It corresponds to his words: "But I say, Walk by the Spirit, and ye shall
not fulfil the lust of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16). To walk in the Spirit
is to be filled with Christ, and so with all that is pure and good, positive
and loving. The one who is so filled will mortify the sinful deeds of the
body because there can be no place for them in his life. This is what characterises
the children of God; they are "led by the Spirit of God" (v.14). This means
that, freed from fear and slavery and a servile spirit, they walk through
life as upright people, free to do the will of God and to do it with joy.
They find pleasure in allowing themselves to be led by their Saviour and
Lord in things both great and small.
THEY are the sons of God. One can imagine no higher status than
this and expect no greater privileges, but should anyone think that being
led by the Spirit of God is an onerous obligation, he should pay special
attention to the following verse which tells us: "Ye received not the spirit
of bondage again unto fear; but ye received the spirit of adoption, whereby
we cry, Abba, Father" (v.15). Paul is not describing a group of cowed or
frightened people, but a household of free and happy children who are on
intimate terms with their father, so much so that they joyfully rush to meet
him, crying: "Abba, Father".
When Paul describes this happy encounter of confident children crying,
"Abba, Father", he does not forget that our adoption as sons was won for
us in the garden of Gethsemane by the One who, when His soul was exceedingly
sorrowful unto death used this expression, praying: "Abba, Father! all things
are possible to Thee; remove this cup from me: howbeit not what I will but
what Thou wilt" (Mark 14:36). We note, therefore, that the "Abba Father"
cry for sons in the Father's house is a combined expression of deepest joy
and fullest obedience, uttered by those who walk in the Spirit. Where such
a relationship governs, the sinful deeds of the body are of course mortified.
The light is so clear that there is no opportunity for the darkness to enter
"The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children
of God." When we cry, "Abba, Father!" it is wholly spontaneous and unaffected.
This is not the laboured effort of an artificial attempt to say the right
thing: it comes from a happy unison of the inward life where the Spirit of
God and our spirit agree about this matter of sonship. Paul goes on to tell
us that if we are children, then we are heirs: "Heirs of God, and joint-heirs
with Christ" (v.17). Such a destiny makes our minds reel, and yet we know
that it is true. In Galatians 4:7, the apostle expresses the same astounding
truth, telling each believer that if he is a son, then he is an heir through
God ("invested thereto by God" -- Danish). The whole thing
is God's work; it is His free gift from beginning to end. We may wonder if
the subsequent words imply a condition for receiving the inheritance in glory?
Is it something which we must fulfil? Paul seems rather to suggest that this
is an inevitable experience of true children of God in this present world.
It is unthinkable that anyone can really belong to Christ and not suffer
with [14/15] Him. Far from wishing to divert our attention
from glory in Christ to our personal sufferings and their importance, he
wants to keep our attention focussed on Christ, for so we shall not try to
avoid suffering with Him, but rather count it a privilege (Philippians 1:29).
We are wholly included in Christ (as we have already seen), and we are therefore
included in His sufferings as we wait to share His glory. Such, then, is
the incomprehensible grace of God towards us.
FROM verse 18 the apostle leads us up some of the highest peaks of revelation,
giving us a view which makes it impossible to be discontented or dissatisfied
because of our sufferings and trials. 5:12-21 was a similar peak point. From
it we looked on human history in the light of the first and the last Adam.
What the first Adam forfeited, the last Adam has more than regained. Now
it is as though this thought of Adam forms a background for Paul's presentation
of man's hope in Christ. The first Adam's fall had fatal consequences for
the whole creation. We ask now, what consequences for the whole creation
has the victory of the last Adam? Having spoken of the glory which is to be
revealed to usward, Paul declares that the creation is waiting for that glory
with earnest expectation. In other words, Christ's victory must have significance
for others beside us -- its effects must reach to the whole creation.
Evangelically, suffering and glorification belong together Since, then,
our glorification has a meaning for the whole creation, so must also our
sufferings, for they are inseparably associated with our being prepared for
glory. These sufferings are anything but meaningless, accidental occurrences:
they are as full of meaning as severe birth pangs before the great event of
joy and rejoicing. Suffering with Christ is part of God's grace toward us
and the creation, being truly a part of His perfect plan of salvation.
The creation is waiting in earnest expectation for the revealing of the
sons of God, that is, for their appearing in Christ's glory. It is as if
the creation were yearning for the new humanity whose Head is Christ and members
of the Church, with a vague realisation of the fact that when He appears,
then it will be delivered from the corruption to which it is at present in
bondage as a result of Adam's fall. This fall made the whole creation subject
to vanity, but the God who so ordained things has worked in such a way that
there is still certain ground for hope. Moved by this hope, the creation
sighs and longs with pains like travail until the hope is realised. The end
is sure. The Church has the Spirit as the first-fruits, that is the foretaste
of the coming harvest, but meanwhile joins in the groanings of the travail.
There is an extra urgency about the groanings of those who have received
the Spirit, for they long almost unbearingly for this full redemption, even
of the body, and for the perfect realisation of sonship in Christ.
The fact that we share the creation's groaning shows that we belong to
it. Suffering humanity, as well as the lower creation in its pains and fears,
are by no means irrelevant to us. As our own body is not in itself evil or
hateful, nor is the rest of creation. It is, after all, God's creation. It
is His work. He has not forgotten it nor left it to its fate. Nor do we
forget it, but we share its pains and sorrows, but even as we do so we are
able to rejoice that God has appointed the swallowing up of its vanity in
a future hope. We note that the creation's hope is connected with and dependent
THE word 'hope' in the Bible has nothing vague nor merely subjective
in it. It indicates that God has made a promise and in due time will fulfil
His word. He has promised to redeem our body, so that mortality can put on
immortality and corruption can put on incorruption, with a view to eternal
glory. We long for this, and our longing is intensified when we realise what
a bearing it will have on the whole of God's creation. Naturally, this prospect
cannot yet be seen, for when it is, it will no longer be a hope. At the moment
it rather looks as if things are getting worse and worse for this creation,
but this does not shake our hope, for God has promised not a gradual improvement
but a sensational transformation. Our hearts are at rest, trusting in God's
sure word and confident that He well knows how to fulfil His promises when
the time is ripe.
We are thus able to wait in patience -- not a passive patience but a
patience more like that of the importunate widow (Luke 18:1-8). One day
-- God alone knows when -- the promise will be fulfilled and the hope changed
into sight. Then God will give us the liberty which belongs to His children
when they are glorified. Since the creation's hope is bound up with ours,
that will [15/16] then be freed from the corruption
which now governs it. No eye has seen this, nor has any ear heard it described,
for it is quite beyond description. It is therefore wiser for us not to
try to imagine it, but simply to rejoice that it will surpass anything which
has been conceived by the human mind, and to press on in faith and hope towards
God's great goal.
(To be continued)
A MATTER OF URGENCY
(Studies in John's Gospel. Chapters 13-17)
John H. Paterson
3. THE GREAT CHANGE-OVER
IN these chapters we have the record of the words and actions of the
Lord Jesus during His final quiet moments with His disciples before His
arrest. In this all too brief time, He had to prepare them for the shock
of His departure -- and shock it was bound to be, for the Lord had become
the centre of their world and their indispensable point of access to the
knowledge of God and the realm of spiritual power. To announce calmly, as
He did, that He was going to leave them would be, at best, to bewilder them;
at worst to send them into a panic.
Nor was it simply that, without Him, they would not know what to do.
Without Him they would encounter the hostility of the world, as He very
frankly explained to them (15:18-21; 16:33). During His lifetime He had,
in a sense, drawn the fire of His opponents; it was against Himself that
the hostility was concentrated and the disciples could be, and no doubt were,
dismissed as mere dupes of a false teacher, dazzled by free meals and magic
powers. But once He was gone, all the opposition would be turned on them,
and they were all too human. His gentle encouragement to them not to be troubled
or afraid must be read against this background.
The essence of what the Lord Jesus had to explain to them was what I
called in the first of these studies a change in life-support systems. For
the past three years they had lived by and with a system which had worked
simply and, on the whole, well: they were linked with Jesus, the Man and
Master whom they could see, question, and rely on, and He was linked to God.
In this way they had learned about the Father, seen His power at work, and
even been able to invoke it themselves from time to time: "Lord, even the
devils are subject unto us through thy name" (Luke 10:17). Things were not,
of course, quite foolproof; there was the boy with the dumb spirit which
the disciples could not cast out (Mark 9:16). But all was well as soon as
He arrived on the scene.
Now there was going to be a different life-support system, one that worked
without Him. The principal change would be the replacement of the visible
link with the Father -- Himself -- by an invisible link -- the Spirit.
And He was asking them to believe that the new system would be not merely
as good as the old, but better.
The new system would have three advantages over the old one:
1. It would carry more power. After they had watched the Lord Jesus cast
out the evil spirit which had defeated them, the disciples asked Jesus: "Why
could not we cast him out?" (Mark 9:28). Implicit in the question
was the thought, 'If only we had the power that He has ...". And they had
to recognise that their use of the power was uncertain, limited and
spasmodic. So now He told them that they would not merely, under the new system,
be able to do what He did, but do more: "He that believeth on me, the works
that I do shall he do also; and greater work than these shall he do; because
I go unto he Father" (14:12).
2. It would be more flexible. So much always depended, for the disciples,
on Jesus being present and in charge: in fact even when He was present but
fell asleep (Mark 4:38), they felt it necessary to wake Him up -- to have
Him [16/17] visibly take charge. It was inevitably
limiting; He could only be in one place at once, even although sometimes
He moved from place to place by unorthodox methods like walking on water!
But this meant, of course, that if He was with one of them, He was absent
from the others; it was, after all, while He was up on the Mount of Transfiguration
with Peter, James and John that the other disciples got into difficulties
with the dumb spirit as Mark 9 explains.
The new system would introduce a true Universal into their lives: a substitute
for Himself who would be with each of them, all the time, wherever they went.
All the things which there had not been time, in three crowded years, for
Him to say or them to learn could be made clear to them by their new Companion
over the succeeding years. There were some truths which they simply could
not have grasped at this point in their lives (16:12). There were others
which, no doubt, they had forgotten in the way that we all forget as time
goes by, but of which the Comforter would remind them (14:26). And there
were the dimensions, the applications of what Jesus had told them which would
only emerge in real-life situations as they went out to represent Him, all
adding up to that greater reality of "all truth" (16:13) into which the Spirit
would guide them.
This was not an easy concept to grasp -- the change-over from the one
to the many. In the early days of the Church it seems clear that the disciples
still retained some vestiges of their earlier belief that the Spirit was
confined to one place, or one group -- themselves. Many of the problems in
the first years arose because of doubt whether the Spirit could really
be the same Spirit in Jerusalem and in Samaria, and in Caesarea. It makes
an interesting study on its own to go through the Acts of the Apostles and
trace this slowly-dawning consciousness of Universality; or, by contrast,
to see the resistance to it of those who still thought that only Jerusalem
had the real Spirit. From the disciples' point of view, the coming of the
Spirit may have looked like the surrender of the privilege. From the Church's
point of view, it was liberation.
3. It would provide a direct link with God. The old system, as we have
seen, depended wholly on the visible presence of Jesus, as go-between for
the disciples in their contact with the Father. There was something very
human and very familiar in this arrangement; they probably liked to have
it that way. Someone else took all the responsibility and all the risks,
just as the Children of Israel were keen to have Moses act as go-between
for them: "Speak thou with us and we will hear: but let not God speak with
us, lest we die (Exodus 20:19; cf. Hebrews 12:19).
The first effect of telling the disciples that they were now to be in
touch with God directly would be to alarm them; people who encountered God
in the Old Testament often died and invariably underwent traumatic experiences!
Far from being welcome news to them, this would make the future seem a nightmare.
We have all taken part in those discussions about who shall speak to the
figure of authority, which include phrases like 'No -- you ask him; I'd rather
not' or 'But what shall I say when I see him?' It seems as if we all welcome
The Lord Jesus asked them to see this as an advantage: "At that day ye
shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father
for you: for the Father himself loveth you" (16:26-7). The go-between is
not actually necessary; we can speak to God for ourselves!
* * * *
The explanation of these points which the Lord Jesus offered them was,
in John's account, interrupted by numerous questions and misunderstandings
on the part of His disciples, but I believe that this was, in essence, what
He was trying to 'get across' to them. They found it difficult to grasp,
and so may we. I wonder, therefore, whether there is not some analogy which
we might use to help our understanding. The good thing about analogies is
that nobody has to accept them, but sometimes they do help us think
clearly. So let me propose my analogy to you.
When I was a small boy, our house and our school were lit by gas. The
gaslight was pleasant enough (although I seem to recall that I was always
a little scared that it was going to blow up), and the visits of the lamplighter
marked the days -- along the street or, much better, interrupting for a few
moments a dull afternoon in winter at school. [17/18]
But inevitably there came a time when we all converted to electricity.
The new system had several advantages over the old. For one thing, it was
far more powerful; you could concentrate electric light to blinding intensity,
or use it to split the atom. For another -- and this at the more domestic
level -- it was far more flexible. You could run a wire -- which we called
a 'flex' -- to any place you wanted, such as underneath a car (where it would
have been exceedingly unwise to put a gas light) or beside the bed. This
kind of light was truly universal, whereas with the gas light you were limited
to the few places where the right gas pipe stuck out of the wall.
Best of all, you could operate the electric light yourself; you did not
need a lamplighter. You just flicked a switch and the light was on. Our old
friend the lamplighter was out of a job!
Some people found the new system confusing, nevertheless. In a sense,
it seemed too good to be true -- light anywhere, any time! -- and there were
some comical tales about users who thought that it was best to take their
new electric-light bulbs out of their sockets when they were not in use,
"so as not to waste any electricity". The very simplicity of the new system
Yet although the system was new, it did have something in common with
the old; it came ultimately from the same source. Whether you used electricity
or gas, the chances were that you were benefitting from the fact that, either
at the gasworks or at the power station, burning coal was providing you with
the energy that lit the lamps.
Can we see in these things some reflection of spiritual truth? The two
systems with the same purpose and the same ultimate power source; both giving
light, but light in different places, the new overcoming the limitations
of the old, transcending it in strength and in simplicity. The parallels
are at least suggestive!
And the Lamplighter? I forgot to say: He joined the electricity board
and provides the living Link between the two systems. He is there to see
that the customers do not suffer any power cuts or blackouts!
(To be continued)
A PILGRIM'S PRAYER
3. A PILGRIM WHOSE WILL IS FIXED
"For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven."
"Let thine hand be ready to help me; for I have chosen thy statutes.
WE have spoken of the pilgrim's heart and mind; we now focus our attention
on his will. He knows that the will of God is firm and settled: no difficulties
and no opposition will ever change it. He has come to love that will and
so he determines by God's grace that he will be governed by it: "I have sworn,
and have confirmed it, that I will observe thy righteous judgments" (106).
He is well aware of his own frailty: "I am small and despised" (141) but
he is deeply convinced that he has been called to a life of pilgrimage (19)
and so chooses to submit his own will to the will of God and to be single-minded
in his devotion: "The double-minded do I hate; but thy law do I love" (113).
The enlightened pilgrim feels that it would be a shameful thing for a
man so blessed as he to fail to stick to the Lord's testimonies (31 A.V.)
and prays to be delivered from such disgrace: "Let my heart be perfect in
thy statutes; that I be not ashamed" (80). His will, therefore is fixed,
even though he never ignores the possibility of his feet wandering. He well
knows that his own steadfast intentions, however sincere, can never be carried
through by human efforts; hence his constant recourse to prayer and the Word.
His will can only remain fixed as it binds him to the unchanging law of God.
So he prays: "Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep
it unto the end" (33). Bearing in mind what we have already considered as
to his humble willingness to be taught, we are impressed by his set determination
to follow the light as it is given to him. This is of supreme importance.
The Lord Jesus laid it down that the condition for receiving fresh light
is obedience to light already given: "If any man's will is to do his will,
he shall know ..." (John 7:17). [18/19]
He not only prays; he relies on the Word of God. "For ever, O LORD, thy
word is settled in heaven" (89). God's Word is the one stable element in
this uncertain universe. It is not only a lamp; it is also the sun. It would
be as useless to start out on the spiritual pilgrimage without complete trust
in that Word as it would be for any ordinary traveller on this planet to
try to manage without the sun. The psalmist does not make himself out to be
a man of iron will, but simply affirms his settled confidence in the reliability
of his heavenly Guide. The settled Word is the guarantee and evidence of
the fact that through every generation believing men have found him never
to fail: "Thy faithfulness is unto all generations of men" (90), and this
combination of power and love provide for a state of affairs as comforting
as it is amazing: "All things are thy servants" (91). No servant of God can
press determinedly along his pilgrim way unless he has become fully convinced
that for him everything -- yes, everything -- will be made to contribute to
his success. It is his absolute faith in the sovereignty of God's will which
makes him a man of fixed will himself.
"All things are thy servants". The fact that God makes use of every circumstance
and turns it to good account is only valid for the true lovers of His Word.
It is not a comment on human life in general, nor is it a pious pretence
that in themselves all things are good -- far from it! During the course of
this psalm mention is made of much that is bad -- evil men and harsh circumstances
-- so that the poor pilgrim's soul is continually at risk: "My soul is continually
in my hand" (109). In spite of this he goes singing on his way, for God's
ultimate goal is absolutely sure and there is another hand which holds his:
"Let thy hand be ready to help me; for I have chosen thy precepts" (173).
So long as we choose His will there can be no risk of failure.
"All things are thy servants." Was this the psalm which Paul had been
reading when he wrote to the Roman Christians that for those who love God
and have been called by Him, "all things work together for good" (Romans
8:28)? The apostle prefaced his dogmatic statement with the claim: "We know".
Our Old Testament pilgrim makes an equally confident assertion: "I know
, O LORD, that thy judgments are righteous, and that in faithfulness thou
has afflicted me" (75). All things -- including the afflictions -- were also
working together for his good. Such knowledge has a remarkably steadying effect
on a harassed pilgrim. It reminds him that in his case God is working to
a purpose, and it means that his determination to press on his way is not
merely a matter of human will but of the sovereign power of his God.
This does not mean that the believer is an automaton. Sovereign grace
does not have that effect. It is true that he is supported by the inflexible
will of God, but it is also true that he has to exercise his own will. It
is possible for him to 'swerve' but by grace he does not do so (157). Before
he came under the Father's loving discipline he did wander from the path (67).
On the whole, though, such deviations are rare for those who watch and pray.
In one great passage the psalmist declares: "Great peace have they which
love thy law; and they have none occasion of stumbling" (165).
In connection with the relationship between the human will and the divine,
it may be helpful to quote a further verse: "I will walk at liberty; for
I have sought thy precepts" (45). It is as though the pilgrim claims that
while 'all things' are forced to serve the will of God because they have no
option, he himself has liberty to choose whom he will serve, and gladly chooses
to serve the will of God. He chooses because he is free to do so. This is
the birthright of the redeemed; he can walk at liberty. The psalmist is proud
to call himself God's servant and does so no less than thirteen times. "I
will walk at liberty." The words point us on to the New Covenant with its
gloriously liberating power, and to Christ's words: "Ye shall know the truth,
and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). What does Christian liberty
really involve? What is meant by 'the liberty of the gospel' and 'the liberty
of the Spirit'? Here is the answer! It is liberty to walk wholeheartedly in
the way of God's precepts. This is the only kind of free will that the genuine
pilgrim desires: "Thy word is well tried; therefore thy servant loveth it"
It is no blind choice. God's pilgrim has been given discernment to assess
true values. He says much of his spiritual wealth, contrasting it with the
lesser values of this world's riches. At the beginning he appreciates the
gain of godliness: "I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much
as in all riches" (14), and as he proceeds, this appreciation grows, leading
him to exclaim: "The law of thy mouth is better unto me than
[19/20] thousands of gold and silver" (72). He passes from "
as much as" to "better than", for the man who is determined to
pursue fellowship with his God is constantly making new discoveries of the
riches of His grace.
"Better than thousands of gold and silver!" Would to God that more Christians
in our affluent society might have their conduct governed by such a sense
of true values. When the Lord Jesus made that unacceptable challenge to the
rich ruler He offered him the most wonderful alternative to his earthly possessions
-- spiritual treasure -- but the sad young man neither appreciated the prospect
of heavenly riches nor the present earthly privilege of following Christ.
No sacrifice of earthly advantage for Christ can really be a loss if it
brings a richer knowledge of Him. All the money in the world is unworthy
of comparison with the words which come from the Lord's own mouth. The pilgrim's
will is set firm because he is convinced that the course he is taking is
unsurpassed by anything this world can offer him. He proceeds to give us
an enthusiastic evaluation of his spiritual benefits: "Therefore I love thy
commandments above gold, yea, above fine gold" (127). Life is getting better
and richer for him as he maintains his set purpose to keep on his pilgrim
When a man has his priorities right then he will become a pilgrim of
a fixed will, determined to follow the way of life and of holiness right
through to its glorious end. The apostle of all pilgrims, Paul, declared
that: "Forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to
the things which are before I press on toward the goal unto the prize of
the high-calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13-14). It may well
be that in his private devotions he often used the words of the psalmist,
echoing in his own prayers his determination to keep right on to the end
of the spiritual road: "I have inclined my heart to perform thy statutes
for ever, even unto the end" (112). Like the psalmist, Paul was a pilgrim
whose will was fixed!
Whoso has felt the Spirit of the Highest
Cannot confound nor doubt Him nor deny;
Yes, with one voice, O world, for thou deniest,
Stand thou on that side, for on this am I.
(To be continued)
As readers will see, we are now asking that all correspondence shall
be directed to the Editor at 26A Lower Bristol Road, Weston-Super-Mare.
This is just a convenient office arrangement. We have also come to see that
it is wisest to send receipts for all gifts which are not made by cheque.
Those who send cheques may have receipts also if they so ask. Once again
we send our very sincere thanks to all whose generous and prayerful support
makes it possible for us to continue the work of the magazine. May we also
call your attention to the year's text on the back cover? It is our prayer
that the messages we are able to send out may contribute towards the Father's
purpose that His many children may grow daily in likeness to Christ, the pattern
[Inside back cover]
INSPIRED PARENTHESES (17)
"(I speak in foolishness)" 2 Corinthians 11:21
IN considering these New Testament parentheses I have omitted some which
did not appear to be very meaningful to us. Being about to pass over this
aside of Paul's in the same way, I was checked from doing so by the appearance
of a very similar parenthesis in verse 23 -- "(I speak as one beside himself)".
The words used are not the same, but they have the same thrust of meaning.
As repetitions in Scripture are always important and a divine method of emphasis,
I took another look at the apostle's interjection.
HE makes no secret of the fact that he considers indulgence in boasting
a crass folly amounting to feeble-mindedness. Everything he tells us about
his standing and sufferings is perfectly true, and much of it we would not
know of apart from these references, but still he would rather have avoided
the subject altogether. He feels impelled to break his silence about personal
affairs, but insists that it is a foolishness akin to madness which provokes
IN the book of Proverbs there are two adjacent verses which seem to be
mutually contradictory: "Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest
thou also be like unto him", and "Answer a fool according to his folly,
lest he be wise in his own conceit" (Proverbs 26:4 & 5). Quite clearly
the wise man gave these two balanced injunctions so that first of all we
might be careful to avoid the contagion of other men's foolishness, but at
the same time we must be ready to descend to a silly realm of reasoning if
by doing so we can deal with the conceit of those who are wise in their own
EVIDENTLY Paul felt that the occasion required him to follow the second
piece of advice. To use his own phrase, he "speaks as a fool" in order to
make evident the madness of this tendency to boast in men and their claims
to distinction. As he has already said, there is great unwisdom in measuring
ourselves by ourselves and comparing ourselves with ourselves (2 Corinthians
10:12). The only valid standard of measurement is the Lord Jesus Himself,
and the moment we begin to compare ourselves with Him we have to blush at
the enormity of our shortcomings.
THIS, then, seems to explain the apostle's motive in speaking so much
of himself and his doings, He openly admits to the mad folly of it all, praying
however that by it the foolish Corinthians will be shocked into turning
from their silly infatuation with men and their imagined cleverness in glorying
THERE is often the same strange tendency to make much of certain men
among Christians of our day, and too often a consequent denigration of other
faithful servants of God. We are appalled by the idea of the Corinthians'
regarding Paul as a fool. From our objective viewpoint it merely proves
their own utter folly. At the time, though, they felt themselves rather
clever and had to be told that it is always wrong to glory in men. "He that
glorieth, let him glory in the Lord" (10:17). That is true wisdom. All else,
whether glorying in ourselves or in others, is crazy foolishness.
"LITTLE CHILDREN, ABIDE IN HIM;
SO THAT WHEN HE APPEARS WE MAY HAVE CONFIDENCE
AND NOT BE ASHAMED BEFORE HIM AT HIS COMING."
1 John 2:28
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