"... 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. 8, No. 1, Jan. - Feb. 1979 EDITOR: Mr. Harry Foster

A Revolution Of Love 1
Pilgrim Songs Of God's People (1) 4
Learning From Leviticus (3) 8
The Husbandman And Builder 10
Chapter By Chapter Through Romans (15) 13
A Matter Of Urgency (3) 16
A Pilgrim's Prayer (3) 18
Inspired Parentheses (17) ibc



George Verwer

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?

An Illustration

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 close behind.

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 life together.

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 words.

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 of love.



(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 safe.

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:

i. Prayer

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.

ii. Acceptance

"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.

iii. Peace

"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 Himself.

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)


Arthur E. Gove


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 Offering.

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)


Clifford Ogden

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 own.

Let us consider the first part -- "Ye are God's husbandry" -- God's tilled field.

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".


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 it".

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.


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.


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;


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 Him.


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 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. [12/13]


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 His Son.

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.



Poul Madsen

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 in.

"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 upon ours.

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)


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

John H. Paterson


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 a go-between!

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 was baffling.

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)


Harry Foster


"For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven."
Psalm 119:89

"Let thine hand be ready to help me; for I have chosen thy statutes. "
Psalm 119:173

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" (140).

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 way.

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)

Editor's Note

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 Son. [20/ibc]


[Inside back cover]


"(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 such statements.

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 eyes.

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 in man.

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.


[Back cover]

1 John 2:28

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