Christian Friend vol. 14, 1887.
Note 1 — 2 Cor. 1:21-22|
Note 2 — Joel 2:28-29
Note 3 — Isaiah 14 - 24
Note 4 — Numbers 1 - 6
Note 5 — 1 Peter 2:2
Note 6 — Jeremiah 23:9-12; 2 Cor. 5:10-11
Note 7 — Luke 17:5-6
Note 8 — Isaiah 45:23
Note 9 — 2 Timothy 4:8
Note 10 — Matthew 20:1-16
Note 11 — Luke 9:50; Luke 11:23
Note 12 — Heb. 9:11-12
Note 13 — Micah 7:6; Matthew 10:35-36
Note 14 — 2 Timothy 4:7-8
Note 15 — 2 John 10, 11
Note 16 — Matt, 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; Luke 7:37-50; John 12:1-8
Note 17 — John 2:17
Note 18 — John 17:20-24
Note 19 — Luke 24:29; John 1:38-39
Note 20 — 1 Chr. 21:13; Heb. 10:31
Note 21 — Zechariah 3:7-9
Note 22 — Heb. 13:22
Note 23 — Zechariah 3:9; 2 Timothy 2:19
Note 24 — Zechariah 4:7; Matthew 21:21
Note 25 — Phil. 1:6-10; 2 Tim. 1:12-15
Note 26 — Genesis 14:18-20; Heb. 7:1-3
Note 27 — Phil. 2:7; Heb. 10:6-7
Note 28 — 1 John 1:1
Note 29 — Romans 6:6
Note 30 — Zechariah 9:9
Note 31 — Numbers 32:29
Note 32 — Luke 7:40-43
2 Cor. 1:21-22.
This is in many ways a remarkable scripture. Everything, as is the case in this epistle, is traced up to God. (Compare 2 Cor. 5:18.) It is "He who establisheth us with you in Christ" (βεβαιῶν εἰς, "attaches firmly to," "connects firmly with" — see note in New Translation); and He who "hath anointed us is God; who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts." We have thus three characters of the Holy Spirit as dwelling in the believer. First, as the anointing. The sons of Aaron were anointed, after being sprinkled with the blood, in association with Aaron, who, as type of Christ, had been anointed, without blood, alone. So our blessed Lord was anointed at His baptism. (Matt. 3; compare Acts 10:38.) Then, after His death, resurrection, and ascension," having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost," He "shed forth" the Spirit on His own on the day of Pentecost. (Acts 2:33.) The precious ointment on the Head ran down to the skirts of His garments (Ps. 133:2); and thus His followers were anointed of God. The effect of the anointing is to give intelligence (1 Cor. 2:12; 1 John 2:20, 27) and power. (Acts 10:38.) The very name which God has permitted to be attached to believers — that of Christians — indicates this character of the Holy Spirit. The meaning of "Christ" is "the Anointed One," and hence that of "Christians" is "anointed ones;" and it also points clearly to their association (not to say union) with Christ in the anointing, explaining doubtless the reason of our being reminded in this scripture that God has connected us with Christ.
We are also sealed by God. It should be borne in mind that, whether as anointing or sealing, it is the same Spirit, and takes place at the same time, though the character is different. When God seals the believer - and He seals every believer who has the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38, 10:43, 44; Eph. 1:13, etc.) — He marks them out as belonging to Christ (Rom. 8:9), and He secures them until the day of redemption. (Eph. 4:30.) The Spirit as the seal thus points to ownership and security, God in His grace impressing His stamp upon us, and making it at the same time inviolable. The Holy Spirit as dwelling in us is likewise the earnest; that is, He is the pledge and guarantee that we shall be put into possession of all that God has promised, the bestowment of a part which ensures the whole. In Ephesians He is "the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory" (Eph. 1:14); in this epistle (2 Cor.) He is the earnest rather of our resurrection bodies, of our being "clothed upon with our house which is from heaven … that mortality might be swallowed up of life." (2 Cor. 5:1-5.)
What a field of research then is opened up to us in such a scripture as this! And how few of us have comprehended, in any measure, our priceless possession in the gift of the Holy Ghost! E. D.
These two verses are a short, independent prophecy, and so are the verses from thirty to the end of the chapter. Verses 28, 29 promise the outpouring of the Holy Spirit consequent on the repentance of the nation, which will be also accompanied by temporal blessings. The repentance is the point of departure for both. So the partial fulfilment of Acts 2 was on those who repented, though the temporal blessings could not come on the nation. Thus, though there was that which was analogous in the destruction of Jerusalem already accomplished, signs and wonders will come before the great and notable day of Jehovah yet to come. The blood of the new covenant was shed, and all things ready; but the nation would not repent, and could not get the blessing. The remnant got the spiritual part of it with "all flesh;" the Jews will all have it when they say, Blessed be He that cometh in the name of Jehovah. The Holy Spirit, who foresaw all this, has ordered accordingly the structure of the prophecy.
J. N. D.
Isaiah 14 - 24.
Let us retrace the objects of these judgments in their moral order. We have Babylon, the power of organized corruption, when the people of God are captive; the public open enemy of God and His people - the Assyrian; the inward enemy — the Philistine; then Moab, the pride of man. Damascus is that which has been the enemy of God's people; but allied with the apostate part of that people against the faithful part. From all these the people are delivered. Afterwards we find, under judgment, Egypt, or the world in its state of nature, the wisdom of which is lost in confusion; Babylon, now desert in the midst of the nations; Dumah, the liberty, the independence of man; Jerusalem, the professing people; Tyre, the glory of the world; and, finally, all that is on the earth, and, to sum up all power, spiritual wickedness in the heavenly places, and the kings of the earth upon the earth. J. N. D.
Numbers 1 - 6.
The order of these chapters is exceedingly beautiful. In Numbers 1 the people, save the tribe of Levi who were to be appointed over the tabernacle of testimony, are numbered, brought thus individually under the eye of God, and recognized after their families by the house of their fathers. In Numbers 2 the encampments and order of march, together with their respective captains, are prescribed. All was divinely ordered, and ordered in relation to the tabernacle in which Jehovah dwelt. We read in Psalm 80:2, "Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh stir up thy strength, and come and save us" — a prayer clearly explained by Numbers 2:17-24. In Numbers 3 we find that the Levites were taken by the Lord instead of the first-born of Israel, whom He hallowed for Himself on the day He smote the first-born of Egypt (v. 13); and they (the Levites) were to be presented before Aaron the priest, that they may minister unto him — typical of the church being given to Christ for service. (vv. 5-10.) Each of the three families, into which the Levites were divided, had both their position and service assigned to them according to the sovereign grace of God. Not one could choose for himself where he should encamp or what he should undertake. There were "distinctions of service," but the same Lord. He commanded, and they obeyed. Numbers 4 gives the provision for the transport of the sacred vessels of the tabernacle through the wilderness. (Note that the laver is not mentioned, not being a manifestation of God in Christ.) The various coverings are all typical, and prefigure the walk of Christ through the world, and hence, too, that of His people, inasmuch as He is our example. The account in detail of the burdens of the Levites follows. In Numbers 5 God requires discipline to be administered according to His own nature. Holiness must be insisted upon if He dwells in their midst. Sins between brother and brother, and the sins of Israel against Jehovah (for He in His grace had married Israel), are then dealt with. Lastly, in Numbers 6, we have the law of the Nazarite, concluding with the full divine blessing, administered by the priest, resting on the people. Thus the whole camp had been numbered and arranged according to God. Corporately and individually all were in the positions to which they had been assigned. Holiness was secured by godly discipline, and they were (typically) in a state of Nazarite separation; and the consequence was that God was able to bless His people according to the thoughts of His own heart. The lesson for ourselves is obvious.
1 Peter 2:2.
This scripture means, we apprehend, that just as new-born babes desire their suited nourishment, milk, believers should desire theirs, i.e. the word of God. The word translated "milk of the word" is admittedly difficult, but the sense is, doubtless, that which we have given. The addition is made in most versions, and rightly, "up to salvation" — whereby ye may grow up to salvation. The Word is thus pointed out as the means of our sustenance and growth while passing through the wilderness, and until the coming of the Lord; and it is a simple consequence that the more we feed upon it the more we grow. E. D.
Jeremiah 23:9-12; 2 Cor. 5:10-11.
These scriptures bring before us in a most striking manner the contrast between the ministry of law and that of grace. Jeremiah was continually confronted, in his service, with false prophets, who contradicted his message, and denied that he was sent of the Lord. This was his perpetual difficulty, and one which he felt most of all, because of the state of heart which they thereby displayed. He accordingly says, "My heart within me is broken because of the prophets." Moreover, he says, "All my bones shake." And let the reader carefully note that it was because he thought of the coming judgment. He thus proceeds, "I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine hath overcome, because of the Lord, and because of the words of His holiness. For the land is full of adulterers … both prophet and priest are profane," etc. He mourned over their condition, and he saw no escape for them, because of Jehovah and the words of His holiness. In other words, under a ministry of law the message he had to proclaim for these sinners was necessarily one of unmitigated judgment. (See vv. 12-40.) Turning now to the apostle Paul, we shall see that he also has the influence of the holiness of God upon his soul. "We must all appear," he says, "before the judgment-seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." And what is the effect upon him of the prospect of standing face to face with God's holiness? (for that will be the standard of that judgment-seat). For himself, as for other believers, he knew that there would be there no question of sin or guilt; for by the one offering of Christ he and they alike had been perfected for ever as to the conscience. But he also knew that there were those who were ignorant, through unbelief, of the efficacy of the blood of Christ. It is of them he thinks, as he remembers, even as Jeremiah did, how utterly unable they were to stand such a test. But instead of denouncing judgment, as the prophet did according to his dispensation, he writes as being in the day of grace — "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men." The prospect of the application of holiness in the judgment of sinners in the future becomes an urgent motive in his soul for the proclamation of grace, for busying himself with that blessed "ministry of reconciliation" with which he had been entrusted. He sought thus to persuade men, as he cried, "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech by us: we pray [men] in Christ's stead, Be ye reconciled to God. For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." God is perfect in all His ways; but we can praise Him that our lot has fallen upon this accepted time, and this day of salvation.
The connection and meaning of this passage are very interesting. The Lord had just been teaching the solemnity of being a cause of stumbling to one of His "little ones," and that, to avoid this, we must take heed to ourselves, so that we may never be weary of forgiving our brother if he trespass against us. Rebuke him we may, and should; but if he repent, he is instantly to be forgiven; and if he trespass against us seven times a day, and says on each occasion, "I repent," forgiveness is never to be wanting. This is grace. God never wearies in forgiving us when we confess our sins, and we, as exponents of His heart, are to exhibit the same readiness to forgive the sins of our brother. (Compare Matt. 18:21-22.) The apostles evidently failed to comprehend the far-reaching character of this instruction, and yet as evidently felt their need of something more than they had hitherto received if they were to carry it out in practice. They thus interposed with the prayer, "Lord, increase our faith." In answer to this, the Lord, while graciously recognizing the need that turned to Him, reminds them that it is not so much a question of the increase of their faith, as the exercise of what they already possessed.* "If," He says, "ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you." Now a mustard seed is the "least of all seeds" (Matt. 13:32); and consequently our Lord teaches that all the power of God is linked with the exercise of the smallest degree of faith; that faith, be it small or be it great, takes hold upon omnipotent power; and hence it is that "all things are possible to him that believeth." The father, for example, who cried, "Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief," received the answer in the healing of his child, equally with the centurion whose faith surpassed that of any in Israel. (Mark 9:24; Luke 7:7-9.) E. D.
*The corrected reading, as given by the Revised Version, is, "If ye have [not had] faith," etc.
The light thrown upon this scripture by its citation in the New Testament is remarkable. But before we proceed to this, a glance at the context will be both interesting and profitable. In verse 22, following upon the assertion that, in contrast with idols, Jehovah alone is God, that "there is no God beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me," we have the universal invitation of grace, "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth." Then comes the solemn asseveration, enforced by a divine oath, "That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear;" that is, Jehovah, the Creator — God, has thus decreed. Turning now to Philippians 2, we find that these words are applied to the One who humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. There are, moreover, two notable explanations added — explanations which never could have been discovered, had they not thus been divinely given. The first is, that "every knee" applies to all in heaven, to all in earth, and to all under the earth; i.e. to all intelligences, whether in heaven, or in earth, or in hell; all demons, as well as all angels, saints, and men. Secondly, "every tongue shall swear" is seen to mean the confession to the glory of God the Father that Jesus is Lord, all alike owning the exaltation and the given name, which is above every name, of Jesus as Lord, in virtue of His death on the cross. What an unfolding, both of the glory of the person of our blessed Lord, as well as of God's appreciation of the life and death of Him who was known on earth as Jesus of Nazareth! In Romans 14:10 we find another application. Why, says the apostle, dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.* For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. (vv. 10-12.) In this scripture bowing the knee is referred to our accountability to God in judgment; and we are exhorted, because all alike have before them theprospect of the judgment-seat, to desist from judging one another. (Compare 1 Cor. 4:3-5.) We know from another scripture that the Father hath committed all judgment to the Son; and this fact, taken in connection with the statement of the apostle, brings out again the essential and personal glories of Him who will be the Judge of all. These several scriptures, when combined, contain a remarkable revelation of the purpose of God as to the absolute supremacy of His beloved Son, and also of His will to have that supremacy universally owned. Jesus of Nazareth is already, and one day shall be confessed to be, Lord of all, to the glory of God the Father.
*The judgment-seat of "God" is now generally accepted as the more accurate reading.
2 Timothy 4:8.
It is often asked, in reference to this scripture, whether the crown of righteousness is a reward for a special class; whether, that is, the words they "that love His appearing" describe those only who are really looking for and loving the appearing of our Lord and Saviour. The truth is rather that we have here the Holy Spirit's estimate of all believers. The question is therefore not so much whether all Christians answer to this description, as the fact that this is the light, because their true and proper attitude, in which they are regarded by God. Take another similar passage, "Unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation." (Hebrews 9:28.) Now it would be a great mistake to suppose, as some have contended, that those who look for Him designate a class — those only who are actually expecting Christ. If this were accepted, the false doctrine, rife in some quarters, would follow, that only those who are waiting for Christ will be blessed with full salvation on His return. Once again, it is the characteristic of all believers before God, showing that their only proper attitude is looking for the return of their Lord and Saviour. These scriptures thus give us a standard by which we may ascertain whether we are in any measure answering to God's thoughts of His people.
It is essential to observe that this parable relates to service, for the labourers are sent into the vineyard. There is also no doubt that it sprang out of Peter's question: "Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed Thee; what shall we have therefore?" In reply the Lord graciously told His disciples that they should have a special place in the kingdom, should sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel; and, 'moreover, that everyone who had forsaken anything for His Name's sake should be abundantly recompensed. He then added the significant warning, that many who were first should be last, and the last first; and this He proceeded to explain in the parable: "For," He says, "the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard." We have, in the next place, a description of the several labourers, with the different hours at which they were hired. But, in fact, there are but two classes, those who agreed upon the amount they were to receive, and those who left themselves in the hands of the Master to give what he deemed right; the former, we apprehend, being the "first," and the latter the "last" of Matthew 19:30. The former too represent, we doubt not, the spirit of Peter, as expressed in his question, "What shall we have therefore?" The Lord thus brings before us the right and wrong spirit of service; the latter finding its motive in expected reward, whereas the former draws the spring of its activity from the will of the Master, and is content to leave every other question to the grace which has called. The one thinks of the value of the labour rendered, the other of the Master for whom the service is done. Those who agreed for their penny were, in a word, legal servants; whereas those who left themselves to the One who had called them were under the power of grace. To the first, the labour was a means of recompense; to the last, it was a privilege, and hence they prize it in and for itself, knowing something of the grace that had bestowed it. All this is brought out when the steward settles with the labourers. In obedience to his lord he begins with the last, and everyone received a penny. This excited the anger of the first; for if the last had a penny, surely they were entitled to more. The answer was that they had received what they bargained for, that the master had the right to do what he would with his own, and that their eye was not to be evil because he was good. The exhibition of grace, with all its sovereign rights, only excited the envy of the natural heart. Hence the enmity of the Jew when the gospel was proclaimed to the Gentile, and thus though the "first," he also became the "last." So with these labourers; those who went to labour last in the vineyard left the master's presence satisfied with his goodness, and so became "first;" while those who were first in their labours left his presence with murmurs in their hearts and on their lips, strangers still to grace. Hence the conclusion: So the last shall be first (referring to Matt. 19:30), and the first last; for many be called (as all these labourers had been), but few chosen. E. D.
* * *
IF in the meditative reading of every passage of Scripture the imaginative tendency of some minds is to be watched, so likewise is the literal or exact method of others. It was an error of too much exactness of interpretation to say, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" because Jesus had been speaking of eating His flesh and drinking His blood; and it was an error of too much liberty in interpretation to say, "That disciple should not die," because Jesus had said, "If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?" J. G. B.
Luke 9:50; Luke 11:23.
An examination of these scriptures will show at once that not only is there no contradiction between them, but also that they are in perfect harmony. In the first case John had told the Lord that when they saw a man casting out devils in His name, they had forbidden him, because, as he said, "he followeth not with us." The answer was, "Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us." That is, in the Lord's conflict with Satan every one, though not taking the ground of being His disciple, who was working with the same end in view (for the man in question was casting out demons in the Lord's name) was really on the Lord's side. He might be defective as to confession and walk, but as long as he was not against the Lord in His warfare with the power of the enemy, he was really for Him. An illustration may be drawn from the attitude of Paul, when in prison, towards those who, from different motives, were preaching the gospel. (Phil. 1.) In every way, the apostle said, Christ was preached, and hence he rejoiced. In like manner John and the disciples should have rejoiced when they saw this man casting out demons in the name of Christ, for though in a wrong place, he was really doing Christ's work, and was thus, whatever his own state, "for Christ." The second case is very different. Here the enemies of Christ charge Him with casting out devils through Beelzebub, the prince of the devils. The Lord convicted His adversaries of their wickedness, and warned them of the consequences of their attitude; and then it was that He said, "He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth." When it was a question — and this was the question raised — between Christ and Satan, no neutrality could be permitted. To stand aloof then was to side with the enemy; and not to gather, not to gather positively to Him, was to scatter. So now, whenever Satan appears on the scene in opposition to Christ, whatever the way in which he may show himself, if there be not an open confession of Christ, if any even remain silent, the work of the enemy is done, and such are against Christ, because they are not with Him. Take one example from Scripture. When Moses confronted the golden calf in the camp of Israel, and cried, "Who is on the Lord's side?" all who did not respond to his challenge, even though they had not fallen into idolatry, were against Jehovah. (Compare Judges 5:23.) E. D.
Attention to the context, as all confess, is necessary in order to determine the exact force and significance of many scriptures. This is especially the case with the one before us; and we cannot but think, in view of recent discussions, that had this been remembered much confusion and error of statement would have been avoided. In many quarters, in former as well as in later controversies, it has been assumed that this scripture states that Christ "entered" by His own blood into the heavenly sanctuary; and thereon the question has been raised, Did He make propitiation in heaven? or did He present His blood there before God? It is needful therefore to ascertain whether this assumption is correct. Let the reader carefully note the language employed: "But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle … neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, He entered in once into the holy place," etc. The point is whether the words "by His own blood" are connected with "being come" in verse 11, or with "entered," in verse 12. A careful examination shows, in our judgment, that "being come," and not "entered," governs the words "by His own blood." Another, referring to the phrase, says, "δια [that is, "by"] here is, I doubt not at all, characteristic of His coming. He came in that way, His coming being in the power of and characterized by these things; not the place through or the means by which," that is, the greater and more perfect tabernacle is not the place through which, nor His blood the means by which, He came, but His coming, according to the quotation made, was characterized by these things. This interpretation is entirely supported by another scripture: "This is He that cane by water and blood." (1 John 5:6.) And the addition the apostle makes goes far to explain it; for he proceeds, "Not by water only, but by water and blood" — the "by" in this case being another preposition signifying oftentimes "in the power of." The truth then is, and this is the important point, that Christ came as having to do with the heavenly sanctuary and with His own blood; and keeping this in mind, it will be at once perceived that the passage cannot be used in any way to support the theory of propitiation after death. On the other hand, the teaching of the whole epistle is entirely opposed to any such thought. Again and again everything is made to depend upon the offering up of Himself (Heb. 7:27), the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once (Heb. 10:10), one offering (Heb. 10:14), etc., expressions which relate, and are confined to, what was done on the cross, and which teach unmistakably that it was there the work of atonement was for ever completed. In every age Satan has assailed the cross of Christ, not only by open antagonism, but also by the subtle pretext of explaining more fully the work of Christ. It behoves us therefore to be watchful, and to maintain the simple teaching of the word of God, that it was on the cross alone the work of atonement was wrought out; for it was there that God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, and it was there that Christ suffered for sin, the Just for the unjust, to bring us to God, as well as there that His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree. It is only a consequence of these remarks to add, that the translation, "He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption," must be insisted upon and maintained.
* * *
NOTHING but knowing the place Christ had in the world will enable me to overcome the world in my heart. There is no possibility of getting on with God, unless the world is given up, and the heart is satisfied with Christ. Christ must be everything.
* * *
UNTIL I have learned that Christ is everything, and that I am nothing, I never know my true place, whether in the world or in the assembly.
Micah 7:6; Matthew 10:35-36.
The connection of these two scriptures is very interesting. The prophet Micah, in depicting the moral corruption that prevailed in his day (vv. 2-4), declares that all confidence between friends, and even between husband and wife, had utterly vanished, and that in this state of things the most sacred ties of relationship were openly violated, so that a man's enemies were the men of his own house. It is a dark though true picture of the dominance of the power of evil in the prophet's day. In the gospel of Matthew the same state of things is seen, but as a consequence of the presentation of Christ. "Think not," says our blessed Lord, "that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household." When Christ is presented to men, He is either received or rejected, and He thus brings, not peace, but a sword; for it draws forth from those who refuse Him all the enmity, all the latent corruption, of the human heart, both against Christ and against His followers. He thus warned His disciples that the time would come when those who killed them would think they were doing God service. In such circumstances sons have betrayed their fathers, daughters their mother, and parents their children, and in this way the Lord's words have often been fulfilled in the history of the Church — that "a man's foes shall be they of his own household." The solemn thing is, that Satan triumphs just as much in the animosity of the heart against Christ and against His people as in the godlessness of moral licentiousness. Truly the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, and none can know it.
2 Timothy 4:7-8.
Having referred to this scripture a few months back, it becomes necessary, through a misconception, to add a few words. Our former remarks were confined to the expression — "all them also that love His appearing," which we regarded, and still regard, as characteristic of all believers. Together with this, it is undoubtedly true that the passage treats of reward for labour, for fidelity in service. This is evident from the context, and hence it is not to be inferred that all who love the Lord's appearing will receive the same crown of righteousness. Such a thought is forbidden by the words, "The righteous Judge." He will discriminate between one and another, and will decide upon the service of each with unerring accuracy, and will, in His grace, assign to each a crown of righteousness according to His righteous estimate of the work of each — work produced by grace, and then by grace rewarded. As another has written, "The work of the Spirit through us is rewarded by the crown of righteousness, and every one will have a reward according to his labour. Christ brings us all, according to the grace of God, into the enjoyment of His own glory, to be with Him and like Him. This is our common portion according to the eternal counsels of God; but a place is prepared by the Father, and given by the Son, according to the work wrought by the power of the Spirit in each believer in his particular position. It is not Paul only who will receive this crown from the righteous Judge; all who love the Lord's appearing will appear with Him in the glory that is personally destined to each, and that is adjudged to him when the Lord appears." It will thus be seen that to maintain that "all who love His appearing" applies to all believers is in no way inconsistent with the teaching of the doctrine of rewards in this scripture.
2 John 10, 11.
The application of this scripture is primarily to teachers, to all such who did not bring "the doctrine of Christ;" i.e., the truth concerning His person, if not also concerning His work. It was the former rather than the latter that was in question in the apostles' days. (See v. 7; 1 John 4:3, etc.) It is, however, sometimes asked whether those who hold erroneous doctrines on this subject should in like manner be refused. Other scriptures deal with this point, but here the apostle is evidently concerned with those who move about from place to place in order to teach. But then, "if there come any to you," and take the place of teachers in seeking to propagate their errors, they are to be treated as the apostle enjoins. As faithful to Christ, it is the responsibility of every head of a household to maintain the truth, and thus to exclude from his house that which would really undermine the foundations of Christianity. Christ must be first; and it would be impossible to maintain fellowship with Him and at the same time to be a "partaker of the evil deeds" of those who denied the full truth of His person and work.
Matt, 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; Luke 7:37-50; John 12:1-8.
That there are certain correspondencies in the above narratives lies on the surface; but the differences between that in Matthew, Mark, and John, from the incident recorded by Luke, are of such a character as to forbid the identification of the woman "who was a sinner" with the Mary the sister of Lazarus. The object the woman in Luke had in view in approaching the Lord is essentially different from that of Mary. Attracted by the grace of Christ, she found in His heart, and in His heart alone, that which met the deep need of her soul in all her sense of guiltiness before God. Her action therefore, in washing and anointing the feet of Jesus, was the expression of her gratitude to, and love for, the One whose heart had become her resting-place amid all the weariness of her sins; for though she was ignorant of it, she had really found the heart of the God of all grace in the heart of Jesus. Hence it was that the Lord sheltered and justified her, as well as spoke peace to her soul. The object of Mary was wholly different. She alone, as it would seem, had entered into the truth of the death of Christ, and thus came aforehand, as the Lord said, to anoint His body for the burying. She was thus in communion with the mind of her Lord; and (may we not add?) that, as a consequence, she is not found at the sepulchre on the morning of the resurrection. She did not seek the living One among the dead. Her action therefore in anointing the Lord (she did not wash His feet with her tears, remark) was the expression of the homage, the worship of her heart. It was adoration. As we read in the Song of Solomon, "While the King sitteth at His table, my [Mary's] spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof." (Cant. 1:12.) There are differences, moreover, between the narratives in Matthew and Mark and that of John. In the two former the head of Christ is anointed, in the latter it is His feet. This will be seen to be in accordance with the character of the presentation of Christ in the several gospels. In Matthew, exhibited as the Messiah, He is anointed as such on the head, and so in Mark as the Servant Prophet, but in John, where He is presented as the Eternal Son, the feet are anointed — the only suitable place for the worshipper. It is the feet also in Luke, because there it is the action of a penitent sinner. As a final remark it may be said, that the mind of the Spirit of God in the gospels is to be discovered rather in noting characteristic distinctions than in seeking to harmonize their differences. E. D.
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IF the God of heaven be occupied with us, how many thoughts ought not we to have of that God! It is only as occupied with God and with Christ that we can be unworldly.
This scripture, as the reader will perceive, is cited from Psalm 69, where we read, "I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother's children. For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me." (vv. 8, 9.) Tracing out its meaning, both in the psalm, and also in the gospel, we learn, first, that our blessed Lord was so devoted to the glory of God, in the interests of His house, that it lifted Him above every natural claim that might have been alleged against Him. Hence it was that, when Mary, finding Him in the temple, said, "Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing," He replied, "How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" (Luke 2:48-49.) The claim of the Father, whose will He had come to do, was absolute in His soul, excluding every other claim, and in the constant acknowledgment of this He found His incessant delight. It was His daily food. (Ps. 40:8; John 4:34.) This led, secondly, to His complete identification with God and His interests on the earth, so that He felt everything according to God, and for God. He thus said, "The reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me." He received everything, not as it related to Himself, but as it affected God and His glory. A reproach uttered against God wounded His heart, because He was here not for Himself, but for God. What might be said against Him could be borne, but a reproach against God was to Him an intolerable sorrow. How little do we know, as being here for Christ, what it is to be more wounded by any dishonour done to the name of Christ than by a wrong done to ourselves! This indeed could only be when we have lost sight of ourselves in His interests; when the aim and object of all we are and do, as well as the motive, is Christ. (Compare Phil. 1:12-26.) Coming now to John's gospel, we find that, under the constraint of His consuming zeal, our Lord was intolerant of any corruption in His Father's house. Thus it was that He purged the temple when He went up to Jerusalem at this feast of the passover. And what were the evils that evoked this display of His zeal? He found in the temple those that sold oxen, and sheep, and doves, and the changers of money sitting. All this had commenced for the convenience of the people. It was easier to buy an animal for sacrifice on the spot than to bring one up to Jerusalem, and it saved much trouble to be able to purchase the sacred shekel when it was wanted; and in this way a regular traffic had sprung up within the holy precincts of the temple buildings. In other words, man's convenience had shut out all thought of what was due to God, and in this way man had usurped the place of God. Is there no warning voice in all this for the present day? Do not the convenience of the saints and other things often set aside the Lord's authority as Son over the house of God? The antidote to all corruption in the assembly is this self-same consuming zeal which animated our blessed Lord - a zeal which will be always directed to the maintenance of. His rights and the holiness of the house of God. (Compare Ps. 101.)
Three distinct periods are embraced in these few verses. The first (vv. 20, 21) is that of the Church from Pentecost until the Lord's return; and the prayer of our Lord is, that all His people might be one; "as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us;" and He desires this exhibition of oneness as a. testimony to the world; nay, as a means of convincing the world that the Father had sent Him. The second period is that of the display of the saints in glory with Christ, sharing with Him, by His grace, the glory which the Father had given Him, "that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one;" and thus to certify to the world, as they behold this wondrous display, that the Father had sent the Son, and that He had loved the saints, whom the world had despised, in the same way as He had loved the Son when He was upon the earth. We know this now; and the world will know it when the Lord Jesus comes to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that have believed. (2 Thess. 1.) The twenty-fourth verse embraces eternity; and what a precious unfolding of grace and truth it contains! The saints have been given to Christ by the Father; the Lord wills that they shall be with Him where He is, that they may behold His glory — the glory given to Him of the Father (see v. 5), because He had been the object of the Father's heart from all eternity. What blessed fields of meditation! And what an anticipation of eternity is permitted us as we traverse them with reverent adoration! And what abounding grace that has admitted us to listen to these intimate communings of the Son with the Father! E. D.
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POSITION without power, principles beyond practice, jealousy about orthodoxy and truth and mysteries, with little personal communion with the Lord — all these the soul stands in constant fear of, and in equal judgment and refusal.
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TRUTH does not become ours until we act upon it.
Luke 24:29; John 1:38-39.
In the address to Laodicea the Lord, standing at the door and knocking, says, "If any man hear my voice; and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." (Rev. 3:20.) In the incidents recorded in the above scriptures we have an illustration of the fulfilment of this promise. The two disciples on the journey to Emmaus, though they had not recognised their Companion, had been drawn to wards Him, for their hearts had burned within them while He talked with them by the way, and while He had opened to them the Scriptures. When, therefore, arriving at their destination, He made as though He would have gone further, they constrained Him to abide with them; for, they said, "it is towards evening, and the day is far spent." They had, in fact, heard His voice, and opened the door, and He joyfully entered and supped with them. And while He in His tender grace was seated at table with them, their eyes were opened, and they knew Him. It was the first time they had ever truly seen and known Him (compare 1 John 1:1-3), for it is only in such intimate communings that the Lord really discloses Himself to His people. How much then they would have lost, had they not constrained Him to enter! It is different with the two disciples of John. It is, in fact, the other side of the promise; for they "supped" with Christ. They had heard the heart-utterance of their master when, filled with the beauty of the One on whom he gazed, he said, "Behold the Lamb of God." This unconscious testimony (for he was rather expressing the admiration of his own heart than bearing witness) went home to their souls in such power, that they left their master, and followed Jesus. The attractions of "the Lamb of God" overmastered them, and drew them away from their beloved master in the intense desire, thus begotten, to know more of the One who had been pointed out to them. The feelings of John had been transferred to their hearts (and this is alway the characteristic of a testimony in the power of the Spirit), and now they only desired to "behold the beauty of the Lord, and to dwell in His temple." Jesus turned and saw them following, and saith unto them, "What seek ye?" He knew their hearts. He had watched the effect of the words of His servant; and now, by this question, He was but seeking to elicit their desire, that He might satisfy them beyond all their expectations. They thus replied, "Master, where dwellest thou?" for already they had been taught that Christ could only be fully known in His own home. Like the Queen of Sheba, they were not satisfied with the report that had reached their ears, but they would see His beauty, and hear His wisdom for themselves, in the only place where He could fully display what He was, where He dwelt. They could not have given greater delight to the heart of Christ than by this question; and hence He instantly responded, "Come and see." And "they came and saw where He dwelt, and abode with Him that day: for it was about the tenth hour." They went, and entered at his invitation, and they "supped" with Him; for they feasted on Him, and on His things. That they were abundantly satisfied we know, for they went forth from that secret place of communion, entranced with the beauty they had witnessed, to testify of the One they had seen and heard. And sure we are that they would have also said with the Queen of Sheba, "It was a true report which I heard … of thine acts and thy wisdom. Howbeit I believed not their words, until I came, and mine eyes had seen it: and, behold, the one half of the greatness of thy wisdom was not told me: for thou exceedest the fame that I heard." If then we lose much when we do not constrain the Lord to enter and abide with us, we lose much more if we do not press on to the place where He dwells, where alone we can fully know Him, and where alone we can behold His glory. Nothing less than this will satisfy His heart; and if we desire to be in communion with Him, nothing less will satisfy ours.
1 Chr. 21:13; Heb. 10:31.
The difference between these two scriptures is immense. David had fallen into sin in yielding to the temptation of Satan to number Israel; and, governed by will and pride, he had forgotten the ordinance that every man was to give a ransom for his soul when they were numbered, "that there be no plague among them, when thou numberest them." (Exodus 30:12.) God, therefore, was displeased, but He loved His servant David, and He sent Gad, after the king had confessed his iniquity, to offer him one of three methods of chastisement — three years' famine, three months to be destroyed before his foes, or three days the sword of the Lord, even the pestilence, in the land. God could accept the confession of His servant's sin, and restore his soul, but governmentally He must deal with this flagrant transgression. It was to the offer, Gad was commissioned to make, that David replied, "I am in a great strait: let me fall now into the hand of the Lord; for very great are His mercies: but let me not fall into the hands of man." It is evident from these words that, if the Lord knew David, David also knew the Lord, apprehended the nature of the stroke about to fall upon him, and could count on "His mercies" in using the rod. In other words he accepted the chastisement, and preferred to receive it directly from the Lord's hand; and he thus could say, "Let me fall now into the hand of the Lord." But when we come to the epistle to the Hebrews, it is not a saint falling into temptation, but apostates, that were before the mind of the writer, those who had once been with the people of God, professors of Christianity, who had "sinned wilfully" after having received the knowledge of the truth for whom there remained no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation which should devour the adversaries. (vv. 26, 27.) It is such the writer warns that vengeance belongs to the Lord, that He will judge His people — all who profess to be such — and that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God; for to fall into the hands of God in this way would involve irremediable destruction. It is one thing, therefore, to fall into the hands of the Lord, like David, for chastening, for governmental dealing, and another thing to fall into the hands of the living God for unmitigated judgment as His adversaries — and this is the difference between these two scriptures. E. D.
Verse 7 puts Joshua, as the representative of the people, under responsibility for the time being. If faithful, he should have a place in the presence of Jehovah of hosts. Verse 8 treats him as a type of Christ, having the nation of priests associated with himself in the blessing that shall be accomplished in the last days. The foundation-stone that was laid before the eyes of Joshua was but a feeble image of that true stone, the immovable foundation of all the blessing of Israel, of all the government of God in the earth. Jehovah Himself stamps it with its true character. It should represent the thoughts of Jehovah Himself in His government. It should have, or rather it should be, the signet of God; and the iniquity of the earth should be definitely taken away by the absolute, efficacious, and positive act of God. In this stone shall be seen also the perfect intelligence of God. The seven eyes shall be there. I would add a few words on this expression. In 2 Chr. 16 we find the eyes of Jehovah represented as running to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong in behalf of those whose heart is perfect towards Him. This is the faithfulness of God in taking cognizance of all things in His ways of government. In Zechariah the eyes are found upon the stone that is laid in Zion. It is there that the seat of that government is placed, which sees everything and everywhere. In verse 10 of the next chapter these eyes, which behold all things, which run through the whole earth, are said to rejoice when they see the plummet in the hands of Zerubbabel; that is to say, the house of Jehovah's habitation entirely finished. In this case, they are not presented as established in the seat of government upon earth, but in their character of universal and active oversight; and in this providential activity never resting until Jehovah's counsels of grace towards Jerusalem are accomplished, and then they shall rejoice. The active intelligence of Providence finds its full delight there in the accomplishment of the unchangeable purpose of the will of God. Finally, these eyes are again seen, in Rev. 5, in the Lamb exalted to the right hand of God, who is about to take possession of His inheritance of the earth. Here it is the seven spirits of God sent forth into all the earth; for the government is in the hands of the Lamb, although He has not yet exercised it in the earth, of which He is about to be put in possession. J. N. D.
The primary application of these words is, of course, to the Hebrew believers to whom the epistle was sent. But the word of God is also addressed to all; and constantly needing, as we all do, the teaching of this chapter, as, indeed, of the whole epistle, this admonition is suited to us all. We never, indeed, read such scriptures with profit unless we read them in their application to ourselves. To read them for others is to lose all edification and blessing. This understood, the tenderness of the writer of these words may well be noted. He fully identifies himself with his readers, as is seen in his saying, "Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach. For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come. By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name." (vv. 13-15) Then after certain other instructions, counting upon their fellowship and prayers, and what may be termed the doxology (vv. 20, 21), avoiding the assumption of any place of authority, he adds, by way of entreaty, "I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation." Surely the grace of the Spirit, in seeking the welfare of the saints, is inimitable. E. D.
Zechariah 3:9; 2 Timothy 2:19.
There is an evident connection between these two scriptures, widely different as they are in the instruction they afford. "The stone" laid before Joshua, in Zechariah, is the foundation-stone of the temple which was being built by the children of the captivity. The seven eyes — the perfect wisdom or "intelligence" of God should rest upon it; for that foundation-stone was a type of that which God would lay in Zion (1 Peter 2:6), as the foundation on which He would act to secure the full blessing of His people; in other words, it set forth Christ as "the living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious," on which the Church is now being built, and on which Israel will be built, and the government of God in the earth secured, in the coming age. Hence the Lord of hosts would engrave the graving thereof, "stamp it with its true character," and it would thus be the expression of His own perfect thoughts. And, moreover, Jehovah would remove the iniquity of the land in one day; for on the foundation of the death of Christ He is able righteously, consistently with all that He is, and therefore with His ways in government, inasmuch as Christ died for the nation, to cleanse His people and their land from all the guilt of their transgressions. The apostle Paul, as led of the Holy Spirit, has doubtless this scripture in his mind when he writes to Timothy of the foundation of God. He had been speaking of sad departures from the truth, mentioning Hymenaeus and Philetus, "who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some. Nevertheless," he adds — and this is his consolation, and ours in like circumstances — "the foundation of God standeth sure." That is immovable, and, whatever the actings of men, or the apparent success of the enemy in perverting souls, cannot be shaken or touched. It has, moreover, been engraved with a graving. It has the writing of God Himself upon it, and the apostle is commissioned to interpret it. It reads, first, "The Lord knoweth them that are His." We may often be deceived as to whether those claiming to be teachers and Christians are His or not. He knows; and though such may delude themselves and others, He is never deceived. We are not called upon to decide the question, and we may therefore leave it to Him whose eyes, whose perfect knowledge, penetrate into the secrets of all hearts. But while this is true, there is another inscription — "Let every one that nameth the name of Christ ["the Lord," it should read] depart from iniquity." It is not here, as in Zechariah, a question of God's removing the guilt of His people, but of the responsibility of His people removing themselves from iniquity, this responsibility springing from the fact of their professing to own the Lordship of Christ. If therefore we do not know, on the one hand, who in all cases are really the Lord's, we do know, on the other, that it is incumbent upon all who profess to be His people to depart from iniquity. He knows who are His; but we know what is suitable in the walk and ways of those who confess Christ as their Lord.
Zechariah 4:7; Matthew 21:21.
As in the above scriptures, so also in these there is doubtless a connection. The prophet says, "Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain." The "great mountain" is clearly a figure to express the totality of all the obstacles and hindrances that lay in the way of building the temple. The difficulties were so many and so great that it seemed impossible that the builders could ever accomplish their design. But all things are possible with God, and all things are possible to him that believeth; and Jehovah, in this message through the prophet, encourages the faith of His people with the assurance that the "great mountain" should become a plain, and that the hands of Zerubbabel, having laid the foundation, should also finish the house. In our Lord's words to His disciples also the mountain is without doubt a symbol of some great hindrance to their work. He had just pronounced the sentence on the fig-tree — "Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever." Then we are told, "And presently the fig-tree withered away. And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig-tree withered away! Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig-tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea, it shall be done." Now it is in the context that the key to the meaning of the "mountain" is found. The fig-tree is admittedly the Jewish nation. The Lord had been for three years seeking fruit from it, and had found none. (Luke 13:6-9.) The time of its probation was now ended, and the irreversible sentence was uttered, that it should bear no fruit henceforward for ever; for indeed man in the flesh, although possessing every advantage and under divine culture, could not produce fruit for God. But it was precisely this truth that the Jewish nation would not accept; and in their violent opposition to it, and to the proclamation of grace, as connected with it through the death of Christ, they became the chief adversaries of the gospel. (See 1 Thess. 2:14-16.) Everywhere, and on all occasions, they sought to destroy the first preachers of Christianity. The Lord foresaw this "mountain" in the way of His disciples, and, as in Zechariah, He ministers encouragement to their hearts by telling them that it would utterly disappear before faith in God. They had marvelled at His display of power upon the fig-tree; but if they had faith in the prosecution of the mission on which they should be sent, and doubted not, they should do a greater work than this (see John 14:12), for before the irresistible command of faith this Jewish nation, seemingly a huge mountain of difficulty, should disappear in the sea of the nations; and this, whatever the failure of the apostles, was accomplished. The Lord then added, showing that this pathway of power in service is open to all believers in all ages, "And all things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive." Happy are they who have in any measure learnt the lesson.
Phil. 1:6-10; 2 Tim. 1:12-15.
It is only in Philippians that the expression, "The day of Jesus Christ," or the "day of Christ," is found. The nearest to it is "the day of our Lord Jesus Christ," in 1 Cor, 1:8. The period referred to is without doubt the same, the difference in the form of the expression being traceable either to the character of the epistle, or to the context in which it is found. Thus in Philippians — the book of experience, as it has been aptly called — where the whole of the Christian life is summed up in the words, "To me to live is Christ," the term in Phil. 1:10 is, "The day of Christ," whereas in Corinthians, where the exercise of gift in responsibility is brought in, we read, "The day of our Lord Jesus Christ." But whatever the variations, and some of these are very instructive, all alike point onward to the period introduced by the appearing of our Lord. His coming is the hope of the Church, as stated in 1 Thess. 4; but uniformly, when the saints are regarded as under responsibility in service or suffering, or indeed as strangers and pilgrims, the appearing of Christ is always the goal; for inasmuch as earth has been the place of service and testing, it shall be also the scene of the displayed recompense. (See 2 Thess. 1:6-7; 1 Timothy 6:13-14; 2 Timothy 4:7-8; 1 Peter 1:6-7, etc.) This will explain the expressions in 2 Timothy 1. The apostle says, "For which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day." (v. 12.) As another has beautifully said, "His happiness, in the glory of that new life, he had committed to Jesus. He laboured meanwhile in affliction, sure of finding again, without being deceived, that which he had committed to the Lord, in the day when he should see Him and all his sorrows ended. It was in the expectation of that day, in order to find it again at that day, that he had committed to Him his happiness and his joy." So in the apostle's prayer for Onesiphorus, he looks onward to the same blessed moment, desiring that the one who, in the midst of general unfaithfulness, and turning away from God's chosen vessel of the truth (v. 15), had often refreshed the weary heart of this devoted servant, was not ashamed of his chain (compare verse 8), and in Rome had sought him out very diligently and found him, might find mercy of the Lord, might then meet with the recompense of his service in the full fruition of "the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." (Jude 21.) For the mercy here spoken of is not the mercy shown to a sinner in the forgiveness of his sins, but mercy's fruit and crown, entered upon by the saint at the coming of the Lord, and exhibited at His appearing. There may be also a reference in the use of the word to the conduct of Onesiphorus. He had, in the tenderness of his heart, fruit of the Spirit of God, shown mercy, as it were, to the apostle. He had "compassion upon him in his bonds;" and the apostle prays that this may, as it will, be publicly owned "in that day." E. D.
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CHRIST glorified is the measure of our practical purification.
Genesis 14:18-20; Heb. 7:1-3.
While Melchizedek is confessedly a mysterious personage, his typical significance is clear from the inspired explanation in the epistle to the Hebrews. In Genesis we learn that he was king of Salem (undoubtedly Jerusalem, see Psalm 76) and priest of the most High God, and that, bringing forth bread and wine, he blessed Abraham on returning from the slaughter of the kings. This is all the information the history affords. When we come to the Hebrews, the apostle tells us how, and in what manner, he was a figure of the priesthood of Christ. First, his name, Melchizedek, means king of righteousness, and then king of Salem, which is, king of peace. Now these are the two characters in which Christ will reign in the kingdom; first as David, and then as Solomon, though He will ever combine the two; for He will reign throughout the thousand years in righteousness, and the effect of this will be peace, according to that word, "The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness." (Psalm 72:3; compare Isaiah 32:17.) But Melchizedek was also a priest, and it is of Christ, as the royal priest, that he is specially the shadow, even as we read in the Psalm, "The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek." (Psalm 110:4.) It is this of which the apostle writes in Heb. 7, where he is showing the superiority of the priesthood of our Lord to that of Aaron; and in doing this he tells us that Melchizedek was "without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but, made like unto the Son of God, abideth a priest continually." Some, pressing the literal meaning of these expressions, have raised difficulties; but the term "without descent," or without genealogy, makes all plain. It simply means that Melchizedek has no recorded genealogy in the Scriptures; that in this sense he is without father or mother, and that his birth and death are left unnoticed, to the end that he might be a type of the everlasting priesthood of Christ. In this way he is "made like the Son of God," he appears on the scene as God's priest, and, inasmuch as there is no account of his having ever passed away, he is regarded as being a priest continually, and he is so regarded that he might be a more perfect type of the glorious and unchangeable priesthood of our Lord and Saviour. He was not, as some have ventured to assert, the Son of God, but only a figure of Him in the character of His priesthood. It may be added, that the present service of Christ as the Priest is after the pattern of that of Aaron; but when He comes forth in His robes of glory and beauty, He will assume the Melchizedek character; for He will then be a Priest on His throne. But if He is king and priest, all believers, through virtue of association with Him in the grace of God, will also be kings and priests (See Rev. 1:5-6); and hence the twenty-four elders are seen seated on thrones, robed with priestly garments, and with crowns of gold on their heads." (Rev. 4.)
Phil. 2:7; Heb. 10:6-7.
There is no more interesting subject in the Bible (for it opens up the whole truth of redemption) than the servantship of Christ. It began with incarnation; for the words in Philippians, "And took upon Him the form of a servant," are not prior in time, as some have supposed, to the succeeding clause, "but was made in the likeness of men." It is, indeed, "taking upon Him the form of a servant, becoming in the likeness of men," both clauses referring to the same time. The passage in Hebrews is undoubtedly anterior to the appearance of our Lord in this world: it unfolds to us a transaction in eternity, revealing the Eternal Son presenting Himself to God, in view of the sacrifices all failing to answer His mind, saying, "Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God." And it was for the accomplishment in this world of this His desire for the glory of God, that a body was prepared for Him, that holy human body in which He glorified God on the earth, and finished the work which was given Him to do. In Psalm 40, whence the passage in Hebrews is a citation, we read, "Mine ears hast Thou opened" — opened, surely, to hear for obedience to the will of God. (Compare Isaiah 50:4.) This was translated in the Greek version of the Old Testament Scriptures, "A body hast Thou prepared me," and the Spirit of God in the Hebrews adopts this translation as the true sense of the words in the psalm. This explains clearly for us, that it was in incarnation the Lord commenced His servantship, coming down from heaven as He did, not to do His own will, but the will of Him that sent Him. (John 6:38.) His whole life therefore was one of service: every act and every word alike, yea, every thought, being in obedience to His Father's will. And as His life so also His death; for, speaking of His death, He says, "This commandment I received of My Father." (John 10:18.) There are two other scriptures, amongst many others, which may be cited. Rebuking His disciples for their self-seeking, He says, "Even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Matt. 20:28.) And again, on a similar occasion, He said, "I am among you as he that serveth." (Luke 22:27.) Thus He was the servant in all His pathway; in life and in death; but, blessed be His name, His service did not end even at the cross. He might have gone out free, but He loved His Master, His wife, and His children, and became a servant for ever. (See Exodus 21:2-6.) He is thus in His grace a servant now on behalf of His people: He serves for them in His priesthood with God, in His advocacy with the Father, and in all that He has undertaken as their Representative in heaven; and when the saints are for ever with Him in the glory He will still retain His servantship, as He Himself teaches when He says, "Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when He cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them." (Luke 12:37.) Who can penetrate into all the depths of the grace and love of Him, who at such a cost has thus devoted Himself to the glory of God and the service of His saints?
1 John 1:1.
The expression, "Which … our hands have handled," is very remarkable. Our Lord uses the same word when, to remove the doubts of His disciples as to the reality of His resurrection, He said, "Handle Me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see Me have." (Luke 24:39.) It is possible that the Spirit of God recalled this scene to the mind of the apostle, and thus led him to use the word. If so, the reference would be to the Lord's resurrection body; but it is not permitted to us, as to this, to speak with certainty. "That which is from the beginning" dates from the incarnation, and was "that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us." And John testifies to the reality, of this manifestation, and certifies it to his readers on the ground that he had heard, seen, attentively examined, and handled it. Thus the eternal life, "that eternal life," was manifested in a holy human body, and the object of the apostle's testimony concerning it was, "that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ." Everyone therefore who received the testimony of the apostle received with it (for therein he received Christ) eternal life, and by it was brought into fellowship with all who also possessed eternal life; yea, with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. This marvellous possibility of grace is offered to all who hear the gospel message; and hence we wonder not that the apostle adds, "These things write we unto you, that your joy may be full." E. D.
Much has been lately said on this verse, and stress has been laid on the word "our." The inference drawn therefrom is that the phrase, "our old man," refers solely to the evil nature in us. Accompanying this is an effort to separate the nature from the man in whom the nature is. A few words as to the bearing of this verse may be helpful to souls.
The Holy Spirit is dealing with the question of sin, that evil nature which is inherent in the whole race of Adam. Now it is not in part that we are affected by sin, but "the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it." (Isa. 1:5-6.) This has been fully brought to light in the cross. Before the cross the Lord could give the law its full moral force as forbidding certain acts, and say that if either of the members became a cause of stumbling, it were better that it should perish than the whole body be cast into hell (Matt. 5); but the cross has demonstrated the entirely sinful condition of man. Who can read such words as, "Away with this Man!" "Crucify Him!" "Crucify Him!" and not feel that the true character of sin was developed as law could not do. "Now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father." Consequently it is not now the question of this member or that being affected, but of the whole man. Hence Christians can say, "Our old man has been crucified with Him." It is the man — what they were, looked at as of Adam's race — which has been crucified with Christ; that the body of sin, not sin in this member or in that, but as a whole "the body of sin might be annulled, that henceforth we should not serve sin." Note, it is the person ("we") who does not serve sin. The members can now be presented as instruments of righteousness, and no longer of sin, to God. The old man — what we were as of the first Adam — is put off with his deeds, the fruit of deceitful lusts. It is not this deed or that which is put off, but the man; and the new man is put on, that is, Christ. To use the words of a beloved servant of God, "I acknowledge Him alone as my 'I,' and as this new 'I' I reckon myself dead to the old 'I' (Christian Friend, 1885, p. 60.) This leads to one more point of great importance — that practical freedom from sin is by our having the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 8:2.) It is only as we live the life of this new "I" (Gal. 2:20) that we see the hatefulness of the old "I," and approve God's sentence of condemnation upon it, executed as it has been in the cross. For believers there is no condemnation. Delivered from the old "I," they are in Christ, and in the power of His life they live to God. It is Christ in them. The pulses of His life in us must beat towards His God and Father, and delight in His righteousness and holy love, to enjoy which unhinderedly will be our eternal portion. Nothing of the old "I" could ever be there. Thank God, our old man has been crucified with Christ! T. H. R.
Every one has read this beautiful scripture, and noted its striking fulfilment in the gospels, but not all have remarked the characteristic differences in its citation in Matthew and John. Turning first to Matthew, we read, "Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass." (Matt. 21:5.) Passing by the expressive change from "Rejoice greatly" to "Tell ye the daughter of Sion," we ask the reader to notice the omission of the words, "just, and having salvation." Why are they not quoted? Because they would not apply to the Saviour's then circumstances. He was going to certain and known rejection, and thus while it was ever true that He had salvation for them that put their trust in Him, He was not at that time going to bring salvation to the daughter of Zion. Nor did He present Himself to her then as the "just," or righteous One; for had He at that time entered her gates in righteousness (as He will do when He establishes the kingdom), it would have been for her destruction. The Holy Spirit therefore led the evangelist to omit these words, and to retain "meek" or "lowly," because it was descriptive of the spirit (although it is His abiding character) in which He was about to present Himself for the last time, before the cross, to His beloved people. Taking now the citation, as it appears in John, it runs, "Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass's colt." (John 12:15.) Here, in addition to the omissions of Matthew, the word "meek," or "lowly," is also wanting. The reason of this is to be found in the character of John's Gospel. He exhibits Jesus as the Son of God, and thus, consistently with this presentation of our blessed Lord, he does not use the word "meek." What perfect wisdom is displayed in these differences in the scriptures! And differences so profound, that the devout reader cannot fail to discern their divine origin. But a remark may be added on the fulfilment of Zechariah's prediction. One part of it has been accomplished. Zion's King did come, lowly, and sitting upon an ass; the rest will be fulfilled when He returns to Zion in glory. Then He will be seen as "just, and having salvation," and then, too, the daughter of Zion will "rejoice greatly," and the daughter of Jerusalem will "shout." The whole church period therefore must be interposed between these two parts of the prophecy. Both would have been fulfilled at His first coming had He been received by the Jewish nation as their Messiah; and this teaches that His lowliness or meekness is expressive of moral character, and therefore abiding; not a feature merely of His earthly sojourn, when He was a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, but a trait of His perfect nature as Man; and hence He is as much the meek or lowly One, now that He sits at the right hand of God in the glory, as when down here He had not where to lay His head. Blessed Lord, how the knowledge of this endears Thee to the hearts of Thine own while waiting for Thy return! E. D.
In these words of Moses concerning the two and a half tribes, he lays down the three indispensable conditions of conflict with Satan's power. First, they must pass over Jordan; i.e., applying it to believers now, they must accept for themselves the truth of death and resurrection with Christ; for it is this which Jordan typifies. The Red Sea is Christ's death and resurrection for us, but the Jordan is our death and resurrection with Christ. Now this is true, as both Colossians and Ephesians show, of every Christian; only there are many who never enter into it, who rather, as to their experience, take up the ground of being in the flesh — a standing like that of the Jew under the law. The exact words of Moses, though he understood not their typical significance, are therefore to be noted. He says that these tribes must "pass over" Jordan if they are to have part in the Lord's wars; and, in like manner, all who would engage in true Christian conflict must take up for themselves (only to be done, of course, in the power of the Holy Ghost) their association with Christ in death and resurrection, as also their being seated in Him in the heavenlies. This involves, it need hardly be said, the total and practical setting aside of the flesh in every shape and form; the truth of Gilgal, which is, according to Colossians 3:5, to mortify our members which are upon the earth, etc.; the acceptance of death upon all that we are as children of Adam, that only Christ may be displayed in our walk and ways. Furthermore, Moses says that they must be armed; and the apostle likewise exhorts us to take unto us "the whole armour of God, that we may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." (Eph. 6:13.) It were nothing but folly to expose ourselves to the attacks of Satan, his wiles, and his fiery darts, unless we were clothed in the divine panoply. Finally, he says, they must pass over Jordan, every man armed to battle, "before the Lord." This is the secret of all courage in conflict, to know that we are before the Lord, that we are underneath His eye. These conditions fulfilled, Moses promises that the land shall be subdued before them, for victory then would be assured. If the reader will now turn to Joshua 6, and read it carefully, he will discover that the children of Israel, when they encompassed Jericho, answered to these conditions (see vv. 7, 9, 13), and that therefore the city was subdued by the mighty power of God.
It would be a great mistake to suppose that the Lord, under the figure of the two debtors, sets forth the moral condition of Simon and of the woman who was a sinner. It could not be that Simon owed only fifty pence, while the woman owed five hundred, inasmuch as before God, according to the teaching of the apostle, there is no difference; "for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23.) The Lord indeed takes up Simon on his own ground, who in his ignorance of grace in the person of Christ, and of the attracting power of grace, had judged that if the Lord had been only a prophet He would have detected the character of the woman, and refused to permit her presence. In this comparison therefore of the two debtors He convicts Simon first of his mistake, and then He exposes his condition of soul. For granting, according to his own thoughts, that the woman who had anointed the feet of the Lord was a great sinner, that she owed five hundred pence (and how much more besides!), these lavish expressions of her love did but testify her gratitude to Him who had met her need. Hence the Lord says of her, "Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much." But what of Simon? He had shown no affection to the Lord; nay, he had failed to exhibit towards Him the ordinary courtesies of a host towards his guest, and thus proved that he "loved little," and that therefore he was, not one who owed only fifty pence, but one to whom little was forgiven. Altogether it is a wonderful scene, containing as it does a revelation of the heart of God in the person of Christ — of the heart of this penitent woman and the heart of Simon. Divine light floods the scene, and everything is exposed. The heart of the woman, sinner as she had been, does not shrink from the action of the light, because divine love was also there, flowing out in the blessed activities of grace to meet the inexpressible need of her weary and burdened soul. But though the Light was there, it shone in darkness, as far as Simon was concerned, and the darkness (Simon's soul) comprehended it not; and he showed that not a single ray had entered into his darkened thoughts (compare 2 Cor. 4:4) when he judged that the One who was reclining at his table, although He was in truth God manifest in flesh, was not even a prophet! E. D.