Truth & Testimony Vol. 1 No. 8, 1992.

The Life of David (1) — David The Beloved
The Hiding Place
The Armour of God (1)
The Old in the New Explained
The Wisdom from Above
Principles in Reception
The Breaking of Bread in Days of Ruin
From Our Archive — The Morning Star
News from the Field

Quotations from Scripture are generally taken either from the King James translation or Mr. J.N. Darby's translation. Quotations taken from any other translation will be indicated in the course of the article, or in a footnote to the article.

The Life of David (1)

David The Beloved

"As his name is, so is he" said Abigail to David concerning her foolish husband, Nabal.* (1 Sam. 25:25). Abigail's judgment was correct. But David, the shepherd boy who became king of Israel, bore a name that was true of him. His name means "beloved", and he was beloved.

{*Nabal means foolish.}

That David was beloved of God there can be no doubt. He was described as a man after God's own heart. (1 Sam. 13:14). He was God's choice for kingship over the nation of Israel, God's people. (1 Sam. 16:6-13). God is always justified in His choosing and David was no exception. David's physical appearance indicated how attractive he was. 1 Samuel 16 verses 12 and 18 show that he was a young man with exceptional capabilities. Above all that he was naturally God was with him and the Holy Spirit had come upon him. He was greatly blessed.

In all these features David is an excellent type of God's Beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. When Christians are taught in Ephesians 1 verse 6 that they are accepted in the Beloved they are in no doubt as to who the Beloved is. He is the glorious Son of God. He was loved before worlds were made. (John 17:24). After a life of obscurity in Bethlehem, Egypt and Nazareth, His Father from heaven declared Him to be His well Beloved Son. (Matt. 3:17). Prior to His death on the cross again the Father's voice was heard claiming this lowly Man as His Beloved Son. This after a life of perfect obedience in service. (Matt. 17:5). Jehovah's perfect Servant was His Beloved Son. (Matt. 12:18). His Father loved Him when He laid down His life to accomplish His Father's will. (John 10:17). Peter, when preaching in the house of Cornelius, testified of Jesus that God was with Him and that He had been anointed with the Holy Spirit and power. (Acts 10:38). The life of Jesus, God's Beloved Son, as portrayed in the four gospel accounts, reveal Him as a most attractive and accessible Man and a Man with exceptional powers. He was great David's greater son.

A few persons are recorded in Scripture as lovers of David and an examination of their love is a profitable one.

Saul Loved David. 1 Samuel 16:21.

A Love That Turned To Hate.

Saul's first impression of David was favourable and he gave David a position of trust beside him. Saul became indebted to David as David's skilful playing of the harp was sweet comforting music to Saul's troubled spirit. When David triumphed over the Philistine champion Goliath, David was enhanced still more in Saul's esteem. Beauty, ability and power were valuable features in Saul's appraisal of David but his love for David was soon tested and found wanting. When David returned after killing Goliath women praised Saul for smiting thousands, but David tens of thousand. For Saul, who was head and shoulders above all the men of Israel, this meant one thing. He might be great, but David was greater. His love for David was forgotten; his indebtedness to David was forgotten. David became in his envious mind a dangerous enemy aspiring to his throne. What a change in this poor demented man! Instead of love to David he expressed himself towards David in anger, (1 Sam. 18:8), violence (1 Sam. 18:11), deceit (1 Sam. 18:21), and murder (1 Sam. 19:1, 10; 1 Sam. 20:33). David's experience was realised in a greater measure by Jesus, God's anointed Man. Prophetically it could be said of the Lord Jesus, "they have rewarded Me evil for good, and hatred for My love", and again "They that hate Me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head: they that would destroy Me, being mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty … " (Ps. 109:5; Ps. 69:4). The important lesson that we learn from this tragic episode in Saul's life is that the flesh has no appreciation of Christ. The Spirit of Jehovah had left Saul because of his unfaithfulness (1 Sam. 16:14). Jehovah had departed from him also (1 Sam. 18:12). He was left with his own resources and they failed him. Every true believer in Christ is indwelt by the Spirit of God. Because of this the believer is enabled to appreciate the glories of Christ and also the great blessings received through His death and resurrection. The Spirit's great service is to glorify Christ (John 16:14). Israel in the flesh could say "there is no beauty that we should desire Him" (Isa. 53:2). The Christian, indwelt by the Spirit, says "in all things He" must "have the preeminence" (Col. 1:18).

Michael Loved David. 1 Samuel 18:20, 28; 1 Samuel 19:11-17; 2 Samuel 6:16, 20-23.

A Natural Love That Was Limited.

The references in 1 Samuel 18:20, 28 are sufficient testimony that Michal, the daughter of Saul, really loved David. Her father, in his enmity towards David, thought to use her as a snare that would cause David's downfall. His efforts failed. Michal loved David and she proved her love for him by saving his life through a stratagem by which David eluded those sent by Saul to kill him. In New Testament language she cared for her husband's interests (1 Cor. 7:34). How sad that her natural love should have blinded her eyes when David danced with all his might before the ark of Jehovah. (2 Sam. 6:12-16). Her cutting and sarcastic remarks offended David. Perhaps she wasn't pleased because he wore a priestly ephod instead of the princely garment he received from Jonathan (1 Sam. 18:4). Whatever the reason for her defamatory remarks David pointed out to her that Jehovah and His people were his prime interest, and she, above all people, should have recognised it. The breach, created by her lack of appreciation of David's enthusiasm for the ark of Jehovah, apparently was never healed. While natural feelings and responsibilities have a place which is honoured by God, they should never take precedence over the spiritual. When God created Eve it was that she should be a helpmate to Adam (Gen. 2:18). Michal was prepared to help David on the natural level but not on the spiritual level. It is a happy situation when husband and wife are united in spirit on both levels, but especially in the things of the Lord. Zacharias and Elizabeth in Luke 1 verse 6 provide an excellent example as do Aquila and Priscilla in Romans 16 verses 3 and 4 and other passages. It is better for a wife to see her husband a humble but efficient servant and lover of Christ, than to encourage him to be a successful business man, or important in politics or the affairs of this doomed world, and yet without power or influence in divine things. Proverbs 31:12 is a good guideline for any Christian wife "She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life".

Jonathan Loved David. 1 Samuel 18:14; 1 Samuel 19:2; 1 Samuel 20:17; 2 Samuel 1:26

A Wonderful Love That Had A Sad Ending.

The mutual love that existed between David and Jonathan is one of the most tender episodes in the life of David. Jonathan, a formidable warrior in his own right, was captivated by the young victor over Goliath, the champion of the Philistines (1 Sam. 14:

1115). As David humbly spoke to Saul, Jonathan's father, with the head of Goliath dangling in his hand, Jonathan's love went out to David. Eventually a covenant was arranged between them. Jonathan stripped himself and presented David the shepherd with

a princely robe, dress fit for Saul's court, and instruments of war. Jonathan, the heir to the throne of Israel, saw in David one superior to himself in every way. (1 Sam. 18:14). Jonathan's love for David was soon put under stress and it was proved to be real. When Jonathan's father Saul, the king of Israel, gave ominous indications of his hatred towards David, Jonathan courageously and wisely spoke well about David to his father. When that didn't succeed Jonathan warned David of Saul's evil designs toward him. He was a loyal friend to David. The time came when it was too dangerous for David to remain in Saul's court and when Jonathan and he met secretly they covenanted together (1 Sam. 20:8, 16, 23 and 42). The last view we have of David and Jonathan together is in 1 Samuel 23:15-18. Jonathan confidently affirmed that David would eventually be the king of Israel, and hopefully he would be next to David in the kingdom. Then they separated. David to the wilderness, Jonathan to his father's court. It is at this point that we see a fatal flaw in Jonathan's undoubted love for David. He was not prepared to share in David's trials and sorrows but hoped to share in his eventual triumph. Instead of fighting for David he fought for his father's interests and perished with him. (1 Sam. 31). That David appreciated and highly valued Jonathan's love is seen in David's lamentation because of the death of Saul and Jonathan (2 Sam. 1:26). "Thy love to me was wonderful, passing women's love". It is to David's credit that he did not belittle Jonathan's love for him, but it has to be said that Jonathan did not share David's trials and support him to gain the throne that God had decreed he would fill. There is a solemn lesson in this for believers in the Lord Jesus. Our Lord is a rejected King. That one day, perhaps very soon, He will occupy the throne and administer the earth for the glory of God is what the Bible teaches. Are we anticipating the high honour of sharing in that administration and prepared to share actively in His rejection now? (Rom. 8:17; 1 Peter 4:12-14. See also Matt. 19:27-29). Is our love for Jesus, our Saviour, able to withstand the claims of nature and the allurements of this poor doomed world? Can we go through the probings of our consciences as Peter experienced and exclaim as he did "Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I am attached to Thee" (John 21:17). If we do we shall hear the Lord say to us "Prove your love to Me by caring for My sheep".

All Israel And Judah Loved David. 1 Samuel 18:16.

A Fluctuating Love.

David's victory over Goliath won the hearts of the tribes of Israel and Judah, but a long time elapsed before David was undisputed king over them. After the death of Saul and his sons on mount Gilboa a period of uncertainty prevailed in the nation of Israel. Judah was faithful to David and the other tribes of Israel were for the house of Saul. (2 Sam. 2:8-11). Eventually the house of Saul was defeated and all Israel and Judah gave their allegiance to David (2 Sam. 5:1-5). But Israel's love for David was a fluctuating love. They left David and followed David's rebellious son, Absalom (2 Sam. 15:16, 13). After Absalom's defeat and death they were restored to David. (2 Sam. 19:9-10). When Sheba, a Benjaminite, moved Israel to leave David they did so but again returned to David when this rebellion was defeated. (2 Sam. 20:1-22). Judah, although not without blame and failure, were in the main faithful to David. What does all this confusion and failure teach us today? If love for David should have unified the tribes, love for Christ and His interests should unify the believers in Him. Love for David should have refused the subtle wiles of Absalom. Love for Christ should enable believers in Him to refuse the claims of Satan and the world. Love for David should have enabled the tribes to avoid words and feelings that divided them. Love for Christ should help believers in Him to forgive each other and work together for Christ's glory. Let professed lovers of Christ heed Paul's last words to the Ephesians in his letter to them "Grace with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in incorruption" (Eph. 6:24).

Hiram Always Loved David. 1 Kings 5:1.

A Constant And Proved Love.

After David captured Jerusalem from the Jebusites he became greater and greater. Best of all, God was with him, which no doubt was the main reason for his continuing success. (2 Sam. 5:6-10). It is at this juncture that Hiram, the king of Tyre, is introduced. There is no record of David and Hiram meeting each other or why Hiram was so ready to give David workers and materials to build a palace for himself Perhaps Hiram, like many others,

was captivated by David's abilities and military prowess. It might be correct to say that David had become his hero. When this love and interest in David began we do not know, but we do know that Hiram proved his constant love for David in works and words.

Reference has been made to his works as recorded in 2 Samuel 5:11. These works were valuable and substantial. There is a reference to his words in 2 Chronicles 2:11-16. In verse 12 Hiram refers to David as "the king". He appreciated his royal dignity. In verse

14 he refers to David as "my lord". He acknowledged David's supremacy over him. By his works and his words Hiram gives evidence of a well balanced love. What a pleasing example Hiram sets before us. Most Christians would acknowledge that the dignity

and glory of Jesus is unique. There is no one like Him. As we sometimes sing "We love Thee for the glorious worth which in Thyself we see". But is our love so great for Jesus that we can say to Him as Hiram said about David "my Lord". True love will be seen in us when we acknowledge that the Lord Jesus has supreme authority over us, and we do the things He tells us to do. "If ye love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15). True love for the Lord Jesus will be seen in the way we use whatever possession we have. Hiram used his servants and his goods to supply David with a palace. Our true love will be seen in the way we love the Lord's people, the way we use our homes, the way we use our time and the way we use ourselves for Him. In this context it is not our speaking that is important, it is our doing. To sum up, it means that to have a constant love like Hiram's for David, we must have a worshipful, obedient and practical love for our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Hiram was always a lover of David. Among all David's lovers he stands out as the best. May we all covet to be Hiramites.

F. Wallace

The Hiding Place

Most of us, at some time or other, feel that things are getting on top of us. If only we could hide somewhere until the problems have been solved, or we have built up our courage to take over our responsibilities again! David knew this feeling only too well. When Saul was hunting him down, and later when his own rebellious son drove him from his throne, we find David sighing for a place where he could hide for a while, and revive his spirit. We know that he was courageous enough to slay a lion and a bear while he tended his father's sheep, but even for this brave man there were moments when he sighed for a hiding-place "until these calamities be overpast."

Happily David had learnt where to find the true hiding place. In Psalm 17, for example, he pleads with God: "Keep me as the apple of the eye; hide me under the shadow of Thy wings" (verse 8). There were enemies that compassed him about, but he had found One who was able to shelter him, as the mother bird hides her fledglings under her wing. In Psalm 27:5 he expresses his confidence in this God of his salvation: "In the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion: in the secret of His tabernacle shall

He hide me: He shall set me up upon a rock." Not only was he hidden, but he knew the security of that place of nearness to his Lord.

When we come to Psalm 31:19 we find him sharing this place of safety with others: "How great is Thy goodness, which Thou has laid up for them that fear Thee; which Thou hast wrought for them that trust in Thee!" He goes on to say: "Thou shalt hide them in the secret of Thy presence from the pride of man." No wonder he calls upon them to recognise the grace that has been shown to them: "Love the Lord, all ye His saints!" How can we do otherwise, since "the Lord preserveth the faithful"?

In the following Psalm David speaks of his own experience as one that had been forgiven, and also had communion with his Lord, to whom he says: "Thou art my hiding place; Thou shalt preserve me from trouble; Thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance."

"One string there is of sweetest tone,
Reserved for sinners saved by grace;
'Tis sacred to one class alone,
And touched by one peculiar race."
T. Kelly, 1769-1854.

Therefore he can encourage his fellow-believers: "Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye righteous."

Psalm 64 is a prayer for preservation. He appeals to God to save his life, and particularly "Hide me from the secret counsel of the wicked; from the insurrection of the workers of iniquity" (verse 2). This could well have been composed when Absalom had driven him from his throne. Happily he could cast himself upon the mercy of God, who would still be his hiding place. He could leave the future to Him, knowing that "the righteous shall be glad in the Lord, and shall trust in Him." We are reminded of Paul, writing from prison: "All men forsook me … notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me."

Psalm 143:9 is another appeal for deliverance, but this time he can positively say: "I flee unto Thee to hide me."

"Ah, whither could we flee for aid
When tempted, desolate, dismayed?
Or how the hosts of hell defeat,
Had suffering saints no mercy-seat?"
H Stowell, 1799-1865.

One more reference to the hiding place is found in Psalm 119 verse 114. The Psalmist (it could well have been David) says: "Thou art my hiding place and my shield: I hope in Thy word."

How grateful we must be that we now possess the entire Word of God. In prayer and meditation on this Word, we too may find hope and security in the One who is our hiding place. The Psalmist sets us also a good example in verse 11: "Thy Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee."


The Armour of God


Ephesians 6 may be called a topical Scripture. It speaks of "the evil day". In one sense it is always an evil day, but at times the enemy presses home his attack and we are made particularly conscious that it is so. It is then we are reminded of the need to withstand and having done all, to stand. And it is then moreover we marvel at the wondrous grace and provision of God that we should be able to do so and that provision is found in the whole armour of God. The present Scripture has "come alive" to the writer in putting it alongside a similar Scripture in Romans 13, as follows:

Ephesians 6: "Put on the whole armour of God" v.11. and

Romans 13: "Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ" v.14

The imperatives "Put on" and "Put ye on" are precisely the same in the original language and I think we shall see that our blessed Lord, in dependent manhood, perfectly exhibited the individual pieces of the armour and indeed will do so still in His abiding manhood in the coming day when His glory is manifested. As we are occupied with Him, delighting in Him, admiring Him, the same features in a small degree will be wrought out in us. In other words the details of the armour so blessedly manifested in Him objectively will be wrought out in us His people subjectively. And this is the way and the only way we shall be able to stand in this evil day.

Before embarking on our passage a few general observations are necessary. For example we must never forget that the instruction in relation to this armour comes at the close of Ephesians, an epistle which gives us the top note of Paul's ministry. It is in this letter that we have unfolded the whole counsel of God, the Divine purpose in relation to Christ and the church, reaching out to every family in heaven and upon earth. Doubtless in other Scriptures we have other high notes, John for example in regard to eternal relationships and the family, and Peter in regard to the kingdom etc., all areas which have been the subject of enemy attack. Indeed which of the foundations of the faith have not been assaulted? It does not require much discernment however to see that it is the ministry of Paul which is constantly under debate, e.g. the gospel as preached by Paul, the mystery of which he is the minister (Eph. 3:7), the truth of the rapture and the imminent return of the Lord Jesus (1 Thess. 4 and 1 Cor. 15) and the supper (1 Cor. 11). What need then there is to understand this clearly, otherwise we shall not even know what the conflict is about, let alone know what it is to stand. Judging from the commentaries written, as well as the comments made by devoted and godly men, this seems to be where the chief difficulty lies in seeking to answer to the pointed exhortations we find in this Scripture. Do we all grasp the lofty position taken by Paul? An illustration may help. The epistles of Paul by general consensus, represent a progression in his teaching. In Romans, where we have our identification with Christ's death, we are seen as crucified, dead and buried with Him (Rom. 6). In Ephesians rather, where our union is with Christ in glory, we are seen as quickened, raised and seated together with Him (Eph. 2). Romans takes us over the Red Sea into the wilderness, with a view to our living in newness of life. Colossians and Ephesians take us over Jordan into the promised land with a view to our setting forth the features of the new man. Colossians however only takes us to Gilgal, the place of circumcision, with a view to conquering the land. Ephesians however sees us in possession of the land. It will then readily be seen, if this progression is followed, how remarkable this Ephesian epistle is. Blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ, the Lord Jesus in highest glory (Eph. 1:20-22), the church as His body associated with Him now and shortly to be manifested in glory. Little wonder the apostle finds himself carried into the region of the Divine superlative (Eph. 3)-a world for God's pleasure as well as for our deep and lasting blessing. If this can be clearly seen and thoroughly grasped it makes the understanding of the armour comparatively easy. The armour in Ephesians 6 is DEFENSIVE armour. In Ephesians we are viewed as being in possession of the good land and the enemy of our souls seeks to dislodge us. But the armour of God is God's gracious provision to enable us to withstand the enemy and having done all to stand.

The next point to consider and seek to understand is the character of the opposing forces. If Ephesians sets before us God's blessings at their best, if we may so speak, the enemy of our souls brings against us his forces at their best. "We wrestle not", says the Scripture, "against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, and against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." By no means can we afford to underestimate this foe and his resources. Even Michael the archangel in a different situation durst bring no railing accusation but said "The Lord rebuke thee" (Jude 9). Other illustrations may help. In 2 Kings 6 the Syrians at Dothan surrounded Elisha, a great host both with horses and chariots. The prophet was at peace but his servant was not so. Elisha prayed and said "Lord, I pray Thee, open his eyes, that he may see". And when his eyes were opened "behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha". It is evident in this incident that divine illumination was needed to see the resources of faith. In Eph. 6 we need similar divine illumination to see what is ranged and set against the truth which Paul so clearly ministered. How often we underestimate the unseen forces of the evil one, "the universal lords of the darkness of this world" to quote a footnote from Mr J. N. Darby's translation. In very truth we need help from God and blessedly it is readily available. A well known Scripture comes to mind. "Give me a man", says Goliath (1 Sam 17:10). How glad we are to know that God has given both Goliath and us a Man, a blessed, loving, lowly, victorious Man! The Lord Himself speaks about it in Luke 11:21-22. "When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace." I need hardly tell you that this is a picture of the devil himself, and we his captives, in unconverted days. "But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, He taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth His spoils." This is exactly what our blessed Lord has done. We are set free and we notice in this Scripture the only other reference to this word for armour in the New Testament. The whole armour of the devil is taken away and we are now to take to ourselves the whole armour of God. If we are not to underestimate the power of the enemy neither are we to overestimate his power. The Lord Jesus Christ has met Satan in the wilderness, defeated him and Satan had to withdraw. The Lord Jesus also met him at the cross and He spoiled principalities and powers (Col. 2:15). In resurrection and glory He has led captivity captive (Eph. 4:8). He is coming again (Isa. 59:17) with breastplate and helmet and in Rev. 19 with a sharp sword. What pictures we have here of victory, power and might and what force these figures give to the Scripture "Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might". Bible students will know, but we should all understand, that the words that are used here (imperatives) are the very words which are used in Eph. 1:19-20 (verbs) in connection with the resurrection of the Lord Jesus working, mighty power, wrought in Christ. Briefly stated it is in resurrection power we can stand against what ever the enemy may throw against us, either individually or collectively. Wonderful thought indeed!

Just one more point must be made before we consider the armour in detail. It is this. Let none of us imagine that it is an "optional extra" as to whether we put on and take to ourselves the whole armour of God. It is a happy thing to encourage one another in the matter of victory, the victories of God. The devastating and bitterly sorrowful results of defeat however are frightful and frightening. In taking possession of Canaan, at Ai, Israel underestimated the power of the enemy; sin was found in their midst and the armies of Israel were put to flight (Joshua 7). Later, with the Gibeonites, they succumbed to the wiles of their enemies: they "asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord" (Joshua 9:14). These Gibeonites later brought a famine of three years on Israel and cost Saul his seven sons (2 Sam. 21). Other cases could be multiplied when Israel was in possession of the land, which is nearer to the truth of Ephesians. How our blessed Lord delights to see us in victory, even a patch of lentils defended against the Philistines (2 Sam. 23:11-12). D.W.P.

(To be continued, if the Lord will).

The Old in the New Explained

Deuteronomy 6:16; Matthew 4:7

"Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God".

In meeting the first of the devil's temptations recorded in Matthew 4 the Lord Jesus had shown how absolutely subject He was to the Word of God (Matt. 4:4). In the case of the temptation following the devil himself took up the words of Scripture, though his quotation from Psalm 91:11-12 was incomplete, as served his purpose. He had set the Lord

Jesus on a pinnacle of the temple at Jerusalem and proposed that He cast Himself down from it. If He was the Son of God, the Messiah of Israel, here was a Psalm that spoke of Him. "He shall give His angels charge concerning Thee: and in their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest at any time Thou dash Thy foot against a stone". But what word was there that He should cast Himself down or take Himself out of the hands of the One in whose secret place He dwelt, and under whose shadow He abode? (Ps. 91:1). His confidence was altogether in Another. "I say of Jehovah, My refuge and My fortress; My God, I will confide in Him" (Ps. 91:2). In fact, when the time came, He refused to call for such angelic aid, having a deeper work in view, by which He would "Tread upon the lion and adder; the young lion and the dragon shalt Thou trample under foot" (Ps. 91:13; Matt. 26:53-54).

In meeting the temptation the Lord Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 6:16 "Ye shall not tempt Jehovah your God, as ye tempted Him in Massah". The reference is to Exodus 17:17. In Exodus 16 the people had murmured in their hunger and now they murmured in their thirst (Ex. 16:23; Ex. 17:13). Yet it was specifically by saying "Is Jehovah among us, or not?" that they tempted Him (Ex. 17:7). How could they raise such a question? Had not the manna fallen around the camp that very morning, and could they not see the pillar of cloud that spoke of His presence? (Ex. 16:35; Num. 14:14; Ex. 14:24).

It was "an evil heart of unbelief" that made them so insensitive to the goodness and presence of their God (Heb. 3:7-12). Nevertheless "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound". (Rom. 5:20). The same "rod of God" that had turned the river and waters of Egypt to blood fell upon "the rock" so that the people might drink (Ex. 4:20; 7:17-21; 17:5-6). These things, of course, pointed on to Christ as the lowly one here (the manna), who as "the rock" was smitten by God upon the cross. As risen, ascended and glorified, the Holy Spirit has been given by Him, and all true believers made to drink into that one Spirit (John 6:30-59; 1 Cor. 10:14; John 7:37-39; 1 Cor. 12:13). The Lord Jesus had set His love upon the one who had sent Him, and did not need to put Him to any kind of test, since He was always conscious that the Father was with Him (Ps. 91:14; John 14:31; 8:29). The Psalmist had said "He shall cover Thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt Thou trust: His truth shall be Thy shield and buckler" (Ps. 91:4). So this temptation too was met and turned aside by the victorious Son of God.


The Wisdom From Above

"Who is wise and understanding among you; let him show out of a good conversation his works in meekness of wisdom … But the wisdom from above first is pure, then peaceful, gentle, yielding, full of mercy and good fruits, unquestioning, unfeigned." (James 3:13, 17)

"Heaven is our home" we sing in one of our hymns. If that is the case, this should be seen in our lives. That is why James presents to his readers the wisdom from above. We learn in this wonderful epistle how these two worlds, the one from above and the other from beneath, are placed opposite to one another. The challenge is: which world do we promote in our daily lives? Let us study together seven points with regard to this passage.


My first point is this: as believers we are in the school of God. Do we like being in the school of God? We read in James 1:2 "Count it all joy, my brethren, when ye fall into various temptations." Are we to be happy when difficulties, trials and afflictions come our way? Yes, they too are instruments for our education as we go through God's school. It is therefore not surprising when some say, "I don't like being in God's school, because of the trials which this involves." Of course, that depends on how we look at it. Being trained in God's school, we must understand that God will use various methods for our instruction, of which trials may be but one. There is a remarkable verse that supports this thought.

"But we do know that all things work together for good to those who love God", or to paraphrase it freely, "We know that God makes all things work together for the good of those who love Him" (Rom. 8:28).

When we consider the school of God, the idea is that there is a goal in view, and schooling is the means by which we are brought to that goal. This involves:

- teaching or instruction, in order to help the pupil make progress,

- discipline, so as to draw the student to conformity and

- rewards, for a task well done.

All these together are used to produce a well balanced, mature, and spiritually intelligent student (disciple), taught in all the principles of God's school and ready to practice what has been communicated.

As James expresses it: the school of God is for lovers of God. This may sound strange, especially if we want to go our own way, yet we are still in God's school and God will deal with us accordingly. Remember what we read about bit and bridle in Psalm 32? It speaks about discipline as being part of the school of God. I encourage you to study the wisdom psalms, of which Ps. 32 is the first. In God's school we start in the first form and progress onwards. We are all familiar with this principle. We don't begin in the sixth form. Likewise Ps. 32 lays down basic matters, like the forgiveness of our sins. It would seem that we enter the school of God the moment we are saved.

I would like to share another point related to this subject. In Isaiah 55:89 we read "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith Jehovah. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts". When we speak about the school of God we not only have to learn certain things, but we also have to "unlearn" other things, because we entered this school with our mind set on our own ways. Therefore God speaks about His thoughts as being higher than our thoughts and His ways as being different from our ways. That's what we find out in the school of God.

The school of God also implies discipline, even for lovers of God. Perhaps we don't like this word very much, because in our minds it has negative connotations. But really, discipline is positive. It is to draw us. In certain languages, like Dutch and German, we have a word for discipline and its root refers to this basic thought: to draw. Discipline actually is being drawn. Drawn to the Father of lights, drawn to the Lord of glory, drawn to the wisdom from above, drawn through the Holy Spirit who is in control (James 4). That is God's principle of discipline. Now if we follow our own ways, God sometimes has to deal with us in a harsh manner, in order to remove hindrances and obstacles. He has to stop us, sometimes to force us, although He doesn't like to do so. God acts according to the principle of attraction, but at times He has to correct us or to punish us in His governmental dealings (Gal. 6).

There was only one in the school of God (Isaiah 50 speaks about Him as being a disciple), who never needed correction. He was a true Son in God's school. He was a real student, a real disciple, but He never needed to be disciplined, unlike you and me who need correction, and I use this word discipline in a broad sense. On the one hand this suggests that we are disciples, that we are followers of the Lord Jesus, that we are drawn to a Divine Person. On the other hand it implies the thought of correction, when necessary. In Heb. 12 we see that He chastises or disciplines whom He loves. Discipline will be exercised by the hand of one who loves us. This also is part of the school of God.


The second point is "wisdom". In Job 28, Job speaks about the wisdom of God that can be learnt. He concludes: "Lo, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding". In James we read a lot more about wisdom, firstly in chapter 1:5. We all need wisdom and we can go without hesitation to Him who gives freely. If we ask our God, He will give to us without reproach. Does wisdom not speak of God's unlimited resources?

What then is wisdom? As we find in Proverbs, it means knowledge which is applied in the right way as well as at the right time. We may already have a certain understanding of God's principles, which is good, but how do we apply these principles? Putting into practice God's thoughts needs real dependence as expressed in a consistent prayer life. That's why we should go to the Lord and ask for wisdom to know what to do in specific cases, in certain circumstances and at the right time. This is wisdom. We could put the so called Sermon on the Mount alongside James. In Matthew 5-7 the Lord gives much teaching for disciples. This is not theoretical. Read these chapters and see how practical the teachings of the Lord are. Then also read the books of Proverbs and Psalms. In these wisdom books you'll learn very practical things. And that is what James wants to share with us: heavenly wisdom. Of course, there is an extra dimension to it, because James refers to what we see in the life of our Lord Jesus.

We could connect with this the need for discipleship. This is a way of life which responds practically to God's wisdom. In the school of God there are disciples, learners and pupils who put these teachings into practice, by following the Lord Jesus. A disciple is always a learner. This brings us to the third point which is:


Who is the teacher? It is our blessed Lord! Did we not notice earlier with regard to His life on earth, how He has been a learner? He was always at God's feet. When we think of Mary, we see her on several occasions at the feet of the Lord Jesus. But do we realize that the Lord Himself was found at God's feet? His Father would instruct Him morning by morning. Now let us examine this important point: the great Teacher was first the great Learner.

Don't we often think that after a prescribed period of training, we have learned enough? Then we stop learning and start to rely on ourselves, instead of listening to God's voice. We also think we can tell others what to do. Obviously, that is a great mistake. In God's school we are always learners. Therefore, we will go on learning, even if we live to be eighty-five or ninety years old. We will learn new lessons in the school of God. As long as we are on earth we will not be finished. Until the rapture we will continue to be learners in order to put into practice what we have learnt. This harmony between learning and doing would open the door to teach others. To the extent that we have learned our lessons, we can communicate what we have learned to others. Thus the Teacher would use us.

Another verse comes to mind, where the Lord says "Come unto me". Perhaps you think of this only as the message of the gospel. But it is also for us as believers to respond when He says "Come unto Me", whatever the circumstances in which we are found. Even if you forget all about my seven points, you should keep this thought before you: the Lord Jesus has said "come unto Me and you will receive what you need." Go to Him with all your burdens. Even little children and our young people sometimes have terrible burdens. The question is, to whom do you go? "Come unto Me," is really an invitation.

However, the Teacher adds something to it. "Take My yoke upon you." Are we willing to take His yoke upon our shoulders? That would mean identifying ourselves with a Master who is rejected in this world! Don't forget for one moment that we have associated ourselves with a rejected Lord, with a rejected Messiah, with a rejected Christ (see the context of Matt. 11 and 12). But how blessed it is when we can take His yoke.

What does it mean to take His yoke? It means that we are going to be subject to God's will in the same way that He was subject to God's will. Let us not think that this is for the sisters only, who are to be submissive to their husbands. It is up to all believers to be subject to God's will. We learn this in the school of God. There we have great privileges as well as responsibilities. It is there that we meet a wonderful Companion, even the One who says: "Take My yoke upon you." This implies that He carries that yoke thus. That is real companionship. When I am subject to the will of God He says: you are My brother and sister and mother(Matt 12:48 50). It is the one who does the will of God and who takes this yoke upon his shoulders, to whom the Teacher says: you are My friend. Then we will have the greatest of all friends as our companion.

What is the measure and standard in God's school? It is enough for a disciple to become as the teacher. It is enough for the bondman to become as his Lord, the teacher. Too High? This is what the Teacher and Lord has in mind for disciples, Matthew 10:24-25.

Then He adds: "Learn from Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart." This is the only right attitude: submissiveness, meekness. Do we not get easily offended? A brother or a sister says something which is perhaps not entirely right and we get offended, or we may do something and someone else gets offended. This is not meekness. Meekness does not give and does not take offence. This is what we learn in the school of God, in the company of this amazing teacher and companion. Because:


The Lord Jesus not only tells us what we should do. He is what we should be and do. He is what He says. In John 8:25 He says He is "Altogether that which I also say to you" and thus He is the living expression of His teachings. Here is where we fall short. In James 1 it is said: "be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only". This is our problem. We like to hear, we like to study, but what about our practice? The Lord Jesus put into practice the things He taught. Therefore, He is a perfect example. He attracts us so much. He not only says do this, do that and don't do that. He teaches in such a way that we love to follow Him. So He is our model.

We may link this with the beginning of James 3 where we find that the tongue leads in a certain direction, just as the rudder steers the ship or the animal is controlled by bit and bridle. Thus we see in the Lord Jesus an Example for us. He leads us in the right direction. I like to link this with James 3:11, where he mentions the fountain of water. When we are in the company of the Lord Jesus, we will be blessed. Learning from His example, we will be encouraged, we will be refreshed and like these fountains produce sweet water to drink. James also uses the example of a tree which produces fruits. When we are in His company we will produce the right fruit. Psalm 1 and Jeremiah 17 and many other passages show us how we can learn from His example. The fruit of righteousness (James 3:18), and the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23), link themselves with the fruit of holiness which we have seen earlier (Heb. 12).


This point is directly connected with what we have seen already. James' exercise was to help his brethren grow up to spiritual maturity. Many of our problems arise and develop because we are spiritually immature. Perhaps we have learnt a lot as "head" knowledge, but we do not put it into practice. That is a form of immaturity. Fights, conflicts and speaking against one another, are all different forms of spiritual immaturity. Our Lord, who is the divine Teacher, wants to take us through another class in His school. He takes us to His side and then teaches us, that we may grow towards maturity.

James puts two worlds opposite to one another. To which of these two worlds do we belong? Either we belong to God's world, to the Father of lights, to the Lord of Glory, to the wisdom from above, or we are subjects of Satan's world. In James 3 puts both wills beside one another and he shows

- firstly, the difference in origins,

- secondly, the difference in the methods used, and

- thirdly, on the positive side, the results in spiritual growth and maturity.

Growth can involve what is painful. Even in the natural realm, when children grow up and reach puberty, this time of growth may be a painful process. Those who are older will remember these painful experiences. This is another aspect we find in James 3, where growth will involve a purification process in God's school. Some other passages may help us to understand why this is so. In Luke 9, on the Mount of transfiguration, we read how the Lord's face was changed before His disciples. This is an illustration of how the disciple will change in the school of God. In Malachi 3 we find the Lord seated as a gold or silversmith. He would purify the precious metals to remove the unclean elements, till He can see His own face reflected in the gold and silver. That is what happens in the school of God. The Lord is there to deal with us. He wants to help us grow, but He has to remove the obstacles. He has to remove the elements mixed with the gold and the silver that are not good. This testing and purification process is part of God's school.

The testing in James 1 is to show that there is good material present but, at the same time, this is a painful process because the elements which are not good have to be removed. For example, self-will has to be judged and arrogance has to be dealt with. There has to be an attitude of true repentance. The Lord gradually removes these negative elements and He does it with divine wisdom and care, never forgetting the purpose He has in view: our "growth". This purifying and refining process is part of growing up. He uses trials and tribulations. Although it is not pleasant, the end is very positive. He will not be satisfied until this glorious result has been achieved. Thus it is that He leads us to maturity.


We have arrived at the sixth point: the final result of this formation and purification process. The objective is not only spiritual growth in itself, which is very important, but rather what we read in verse 17: "the wisdom from above is pure, peaceful, gentle." That is Christ Himself, but reproduced in you and me. Although "heaven is our home", heaven is also right here, seen in you and me. Christ wants to display Himself in you and me. The Lord is rejected in this world, but now He wants to use believers, that they may display Him. In this way we may be His witnesses, His disciples, showing Him forth as this heavenly wisdom in its seven beautiful features. These seven points concerning the heavenly wisdom are put over against seven points of the devilish wisdom. Comparing them, you can see the two different origins, the two different messages and the two different results. On the positive side the final result is that His character is reproduced in you and me. That is what God, the Father of lights, wants to obtain. You call yourself a Christian? Then God says: I want to see Christ in you and nothing else. And this is what the Holy Spirit would produce (Gal 5:23; Phil. 4:8). He will produce these fruits: Christ in you and me. Results towards God, results towards men and also a change as to ourselves. His features will be reproduced.


Why is this so important? Because we are living in the closing days of this dispensation and God is looking for wise men even at the very end. Think of Daniel and his friends, who were wise in days of great change and trial. Think of the future remnant among the Jews, who will have acquired special wisdom in God's school. But now it is for us to learn wisdom in God's school. There are four elements connected with this question, which we find in four different Scriptures.

1. Psalm 107:43; wisdom is based on redemption and is acquired in submission to God's ways (see the whole Psalm).

2. Jeremiah 9:12; wisdom understands God's dealings with His own people in judgment. The prophet Jeremiah was not only well taught, but he also submitted himself to God's thoughts.

3. Hosea 14:9; wisdom understands God's principles and the rightness of His ways in dealing with His people. Who is wise? Who will take these things at heart?

4. This fits in with James 3:14-17, where we are at the end of the Jewish "economy" (before the destruction of the temple), which is an illustration of the end of the present dispensation. Compare also Rev. 13:18 for those who will go through the Great Tribulation: "Here is wisdom."

It is because we are at the end of the present dispensation that we have the special privilege of learning more about the ways of God. James encourages his readers to become familiar with the wisdom of God, because this is much needed by those who are living in a mixed condition of things. Matters are becoming increasingly difficult to such an extent that often we have no idea what to do. So who is wise amongst us? Let us learn here in the school of God. We are living in very dark days, but the more we study in the school of God, the more we will be conformed to our blessed Lord and the better we will shine for Him.

We read about the Father of lights. He wants us to be shining as lights. Especially in our days it is very important to focus our attention on the Lord, who is the Sun of righteousness and we, believers, are like planets turning in orbit around Him. He is the very centre, the Lord Jesus, the Son of God. He is the Sun and we are attracted by His glory, so that we can reflect His light in various ways in the dark world where we live. May the Lord help us.

Alfred E. Bouter

Principles in Reception

No one would dare to suggest that reception is an easy matter, especially in days of laxity on one hand and legality on the other. But the question ought firstly to be asked, "To what are people received and on what basis?" If we say, "To the local assembly," we need to be clear as to what a local assembly is, and, further than that, what the assembly is.

It should be pointed out that both assembly and church are translations of the same Greek word "ekklesia". We cannot make a distinction between the two, except that assembly avoids the idea of a particular kind of building or a denomination (or it used to). The assembly of God has been purchased with the blood of His own (Son) (Acts 20:28). It was formed when the Holy Spirit was sent down from heaven (Acts 2) and will be on earth until the rapture (1 Thess. 4). It is seen in Scripture as a body into which all believers have been baptised, in the Spirit's power. (1 Cor. 12:13). And there is only one such body (Eph. 4:4) for the simple reason that there is only one Head, Christ risen and glorified (Eph. 1:22). The assembly of God is also the house of the living God (1 Tim. 3:15) because every believer indwelt by the Holy Spirit is a living stone in it (1 Peter 2:5) and God by His Spirit dwells in His house on earth (Eph. 2:21 & 22), just as the assembly as Christ's (mystical) body is united to Him in heaven (Eph. 2:6). There are not, however, two assemblies: it is one assembly seen in two aspects.

We may now take up the question of the local assembly. The apostle Paul, to whom was revealed the truth of God's assembly, indicates in 1 Cor. 12:27 that the saints in a place are (the) body of Christ there. That is, the assembly in Corinth was characteristically and representatively Christ's body in Corinth. They were members, not of a local assembly, but of the body of Christ as 1 Cor. 12 plainly shows. They were interdependently linked with all others in every place who called upon the Name of the Lord (1 Cor. 1:2). Thus, even as to local assemblies, the oneness of all believers, the unity of the body, is maintained. There is no such thing in the New Testament as independent local assemblies. That there are those who teach that local assemblies are independent shows that we need to be careful in receiving the ideas of men. The Bible is our final authority.

Again, as we speak of "assembly fellowship", we need to bear in mind that Scripture teaches that we are called of God "unto the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord." (1 Cor. 1:9) While fellowship may take on different aspects, nevertheless, there is only one true Christian fellowship to which all Christians are called. Whether all enjoy and appreciate it is another thing.

Having made the above remarks, it can be observed that it is not according to Scripture to speak of "receiving to God's assembly", for God has put all true born again believers into it (Acts 2:47), nor to talk of being in fellowship in a local assembly merely, when the fellowship is universal. Any thought of being added to another assembly than the body in which every saint has been placed by God as a member is not only superfluous, but contrary to the mind of God.

A Broken Church

Now, someone may ask, "Was not this in the days before men devised their own systems and denominations?" Indeed, this is so. But who suggests that God abandons His principles because saints divide themselves into sects? Has God given up the truth of the one body? Does Christ no longer care about His body and bride? It is assumed that all would agree that the answer to such questions is, "No." God still sees the assembly as one and the Scripture cannot be broken: "There is one body," still. Then the question have to be asked "How are we to act in the present outward break up of the church; what guidance have we in a day of apparent ruin in the church? Are we to start again and build another assembly?" Of course not. There is but one foundation, and that has been laid (1 Cor. 3:11). Neither do we leave the professing church, we cannot. But we can go outside the camp of men's systems, in simplicity of faith, unto Christ and seek to take up, perhaps in a small way, the truth of the assembly and act according to the grace of God on its principles. If 1 Timothy was written when God's house was in order, we have adequate guidance in 2 Timothy when the house is in disorder. We cannot leave the house, but we can first separate from vessels to dishonour in it, that is, impure things outside us. Then, having fled youthful lusts, that is, impure things within ourselves, pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart (2 Tim. 2:22). We can in effect return to "that which was from the beginning" as Matthew 18:20 still applies even in a day of ruin.

The present course, therefore, is to be gathered to the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ simply as members of His one body outside the denominations of men. At the same time we do not use His worthy Name as a party badge. We are not extra special Christians, but seek only to act according to the principles of the assembly of God, gathering to Him who is the true Centre for all (John 12-32). The basis on which to gather is that of the one body, owning even in a time of ruin the oneness of all saints on the face of the earth. And, if we were truly humbled, we would mourn the ruin as part of it (Ezra 9, Neh. 9, Dan. 9). We should nevertheless rejoice that we can still walk according to the light of assembly truth, though we would never dare to claim that we are THE assembly. We can, however, claim to be gathered on the ground of God's assembly, and in this sense as an assembly.

Having learnt what the assembly is, and having understood the ruin that we find all around us, but having seen that we can still gather to the Lord's Name as members of the one body of Christ, how are we to receive among us any who may arrive by chance or be brought by another? We have seen that it is not appropriate to speak of "receiving to God's assembly" as if we were it, but we may speak of "receiving to practical fellowship in assembly privileges", of which participation at the Lord's table is one. We must remember that all saints are members of the one body, the only membership known in Scripture, and therefore we cannot make members of an assembly. Indeed, the notion of a table which is only for some saints instead of embracing all the saints is pure sectarianism and contradicts the teaching of 1 Cor 10:17. This is why it is an evil for a company to act independently of the truth of the one body and then have the arrogance to claim that they are God's assembly.

Care in reception

Having considered the aspect of the assembly as the body of Christ, we must remember that it is also the house of God. Holiness is the "law of the house" (Ezek. 43:12). "Holiness becometh Thy house, O Lord, for ever." (Ps. 93:5). It follows that a company gathered to the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ is aware of the conditions appropriate to His worthy Name and the need for a true atmosphere of holiness in God's house. Hence it may well be that not all can be received into the practical fellowship of assembly privileges, which includes the gathering to break bread, since there are Scriptural reasons for exclusion. Some may not be sound in doctrine (1 Tim. 1:20), others may be disqualified on account of sinful conduct (1 Cor. 5), yet others may have to be refused because of association with evil (2 John 10; Haggai 2:11-14). Indeed, some could be under discipline elsewhere.

If someone is received in one place, however, because they are fit for fellowship in that place, they are fit for fellowship everywhere, since there is only one fellowship: that of God's Son. Since it is the Lord who is the bond of this fellowship, it could not be imagined that standards could vary in different localities. Although a person is received to enjoy fellowship practically in one place, nevertheless, the fellowship is not limited to the scope of a local assembly merely. The idea of receiving into fellowship in one place, or putting out from a company locally, should be done in the light of universal principles of the assembly of God (1 Cor. 1:2; 1 Cor. 4:17; 1 Cor. 7:17; etc.), and on behalf of the whole. The thought of the possibility of being free to break bread in one place but not in another is a denial that assemblies are all responsible to the same Lord (1 Cor. 8:6), and that all the members of the body, irrespective of locality, have the same Head.

We should receive someone who shows evidence of being genuinely saved, therefore, because they are a member of the only membership Scripture speaks of for Christians, and that is that they are a member of the body of Christ. If there is nothing that Scripture would indicate to refuse them from taking up fellowship practically among us, as having returned to God's true ground of gathering, reception in one locality should be on behalf of all who are in principle similarly gathered. A person excluded in one place is excluded from the whole until repentance has wrought the necessary adjustment that they may be received.

Letters of commendation should be carried by those who move from one locality to another (Rom. 16:1 & 2; 2 Cor. 3:1). Besides helping to reinforce practical fellowship between assemblies, they give confidence in principles of reception for "doorkeepers" who would otherwise be confronted with an apparent stranger. Fellowship can be immediately enjoyed when the bearer of a letter of commendation has the ready evidence that they are a true believer. Someone who arrives without a letter at the door the moment the meeting is about to begin can hardly expect to be received, for how in a short time can reality be proved?

M. B., Blackburn

The Breaking of Bread in Days of Ruin


The meeting for breaking of bread is in principle the meeting together of all Christians in the unity of the body of Christ. Every Christian, then, has a right to share in it.

But at the same time, in the present state of Christianity, we are called to maintain, scrupulously, faithfully, and with zeal, the holiness of the Lord's table (2 Tim. 2:22).

Now, the assembly is in no way a voluntary meeting of Christians who have chosen the assembly, for in that case it would be a sect. It is, so far as such a thing is possible now, the meeting of all the members of the body of Christ.

We must have sufficient evidence that those who desire to take part in it are true Christians, and that their walk is moral, Christian. Now, if they habitually meet with those who deny the truths of Christianity, they are defiled; and it is so also if they meet where immorality is allowed.

Difference in ecclesiastical views is not a sufficient reason for shutting out a soul. But if one wanted to be one day among the brethren, the next among the sects, I should not allow it, and would not receive such a person; for, instead of using the liberty which belongs to him to enjoy the spiritual communion of the children of God, he puts forward the pretension to change the order of the house of God, and to perpetuate the separation of Christians.

J.N.D. (1881)

From Our Archive

"The Morning Star"

Christ Our Hope

(Continued from page 176)

In connection with the apostle Peter's account of the transfiguration, we do well to notice that his second epistle is of a more general character than his first. It evidently embraces the whole church and thus falls into line with the wider application of the gospel, as it was committed to Paul. See Galations 2:6-10. To Peter had been committed "the gospel of the circumcision"; which means that Jews and proselytes were naturally first in his thoughts; and ministry to Gentiles, as in the case of Cornelius, was exceptional (Acts 10, 11). Paul, on the contrary, was sent definitely to the Gentiles, while not excluding the Jews whom he necessarily met, and had first to deal with in the synagogues. For his habit was to go there in order to find the copies of the Old Testament Scriptures from which he proved that Jesus of Nazareth was "the Christ" to whom those Scriptures everywhere bore witness (Acts 9:15; Acts 17:13; Acts 26:17-18).

Peter's first epistle was addressed more particularly to the converted Jews scattered over the provinces of Asia Minor, probably before or about the time that Jerusalem was destroyed by Titus. All who heeded the Lord's warning had then to leave the city (Luke 21:20-24). This extended to a period of forty years after the Lord had suffered on the cross. Terrible indeed were those "days of vengeance" on the unbelieving people, then weeping in vain for themselves and their children (Luke 23:27-31). We can thus understand better what reproach "for the Name of Christ" meant in those days (1 Peter 4:14). But in the second epistle, the apostle had good reason to feel that Jerusalem as a centre was blotted out from the earth, and that both Jew and Gentile must rally round the character of the gospel specially entrusted to Paul. It was no longer a question of Jews being blessed in a new way, that is with a full knowledge of accomplished redemption, and of the efficacy of the blood of Christ, but, notwithstanding that, on lines set forth in Abraham's history, who confessed that he was a stranger and pilgrim on the earth (Heb. 11:13). True as that must needs remain for Christians in all time, there was and is a still deeper truth at the basis of the church's standing, namely the personal knowledge of the SON OF GOD. The Jews naturally looked for blessing on earth; the Christian finds it already in the person of Christ.

Now Paul began with this in his preaching at Damascus. And in agreement with it, Peter's second epistle speaks of the precious things "that pertain unto life and godliness" through the knowledge of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ.* In that "knowledge" we have to grow and increase, learning not only the grace but also the "fulness" which is in the SON (John 1:14-16). That is the great theme of John's writings, both of Gospel and epistle.

Moreover, it is interesting to notice the humble place that Peter takes, putting "servant" before "apostle" in the opening verse of this second epistle, besides referring so definitely to "all" the epistles of "our beloved brother Paul", at the close. His conclusion is "Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." God takes up man as he is, without taking into account national distinctions of any kind; for there is "no difference" in this respect, that "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:22-23). But then again, "the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him"; and with this Peter's words agree.

His second epistle is addressed "to them that have obtained like precious faith with us." Do not these words recall what the blessed Lord said on the occasion of the coming of the Greeks who desired to see Him? Speaking of His suffering on the cross, so soon to come about, and of the consequent "judgment of this world," He added, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all unto Me" (John 12:32). See also John 11:52, and 3:16. The gospel cannot be shut up within narrow Jewish limits, in spite of their great privilege in possessing the Scriptures. All are naturally dead in trespasses and sins dead to God; and He comes in on their behalf with that quickening power, shown in raising up Christ from the dead (Eph. 1:19-23; Eph. 2:1-10). What a blessing it is for us to have this assurance from God Himself!

But if, on the one hand, nationalities are dropped, so that there is "neither Greek no Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all," there is also another kind of distinction more difficult to overcome, that of religious and class hatred, a distinction found often in the gospel history amongst the Jews themselves, and well illustrated by the parable of the Pharisee and the publican in Luke 18. That feeling was deep rooted in Saul of Tarsus when the Lord met him in grace. But even he had to come into blessing together with the thief on the cross, whose language he practically uses at the end of Galatians 2, when he says, "I am crucified with Christ." The cross is thus, so to speak, the birthplace of "the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him" (Col. 3:10).

{*We may usefully compare in this respect 2 Peter 1:2-3, 8; 2 Peter 2:20; 2 Peter 3:18; with Colossians 1:10, and Phillipians 3:8.}

And how infinitely precious is this knowledge of the Son of God! Paul's object in life was to "know Him." The excellency of that knowledge delivered him entirely from his own righteousness and enabled him to count those things which were, from a Jewish point of view, most advantageous to him, to be but loss for Christ (Phil. 3:3-11).

We may go even further in considering the account of his conversion and affirm that the practical apprehension of the "mystery," afterwards confided to his ministry, was in the persons of those whom he most hated on account of his religious zeal. This is a matter of the deepest importance for us all. And we may ask ourselves individually the question, what is the Person of the Christ to my own heart? Are all its hidden, ardent, inward longings expressed in those few words, "That I may know HIM"?

When the voice from heaven said, "Why persecutest thou ME?" who were they that, in the Lord's judgment, were signified and embraced in that word "ME"? Was it not the very ones that Saul was committing to prison and to death (Acts 22:4-5; Acts 26:10-11)? Are we accustomed to realise and enjoy in this way our position and privileges, as members of the body of Christ? That is to say, not so much by our own personal feelings as by what all His "members" are to Him, and by the love and care which He bestows upon His church? Do we enter practically into the meaning of that word, "to comprehend with all saints … the love of Christ" (1 Cor. 12:25-26; Eph. 3:18-19; Eph. 5:29)? If not, would it not suggest that, in our minds, there are lurking many of the thoughts and prejudices common to the Pharisees among the Jews? Surely this calls for much self-judgment.

When we begin to learn our own privileges by what is realised in the consciences of our brethren, "love in the Spirit" asserts itself, as in those to whom Epaphras ministered (Col. 1:7-8; Col. 4:12). That love is measured by the Lord's love to all His redeemed, and again by the Father's love to Him (John 15:9-13). May the apostle's earnest desires be more found in each one of us, as the fruit of the operation of the Holy Spirit, "To know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God" (Eph. 3:19)! The Holy Spirit's mission is to take of Christ's things and show them to us, and thus lead our souls into the practical enjoyment of the Father's love (John 16:13-15).

It is true that Paul does not actually refer to the "morning star" in so many words; but all his epistles set forth what it is to the heart occupied with Christ who is now hidden in the heavens. He is our "life," though not as yet in outward manifestation, for it is "hid" with Him in God; He Himself is also our "hope" (Col. 1:27; Col. 3:3-4; 1 Tim. 1:1). He it is to whom the Father bore witness on the mount of transfiguration, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him" (Matt. 17:5).

In keeping with this, Paul gives expression to what he learned on the road to Damascus in that remarkable word, "It pleased God … to reveal His SON IN ME, that I might preach Him," and, further on, "The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the SON OF GOD, who loved me, and gave Himself for me"; and again, "Ye are all God's sons by faith in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 1:16; Gal. 2:20; Gal. 3:26).

Christ glorified in the heavens is the source of all our present blessing now and occupation with Himself gives power in the soul to enjoy it. He it is who gives us that closing word, 'I AM … the bright and morning star."


The morning star has a heavenly character peculiar to itself as a "star," and is thus connected with the church in a twofold way, as we shall see, whether we consider it as the house of God now on earth, or as the body of Christ. The latter was the "mystery" specially confided to the apostle Paul (Eph. 3:24). All the truth about the church depends upon and flows from what Christ is in His own Person-THE SON OF GOD. And therefore sonship is a prominent feature in the passages which unfold it. This calls for serious attention.

The church is first mentioned in Matthew 16. At the close of His patient ministry in Galilee, the Lord asked His disciples, "Whom do men say that I, the Son of man*, am?" Various were the thoughts about Him, but as soon as He received from Peter the desired answer, He said, "Blessed art thou, Simon BarJona:-for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but MY FATHER which is in heaven." We are thus placed at once in the presence of THE FATHER and THE SON, which is the great theme of John's Gospel (John 1:18; John 20:17). Then Jesus added immediately, "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter (that is, a stone); and upon this rock I will build MY CHURCH." Peter was thus recognised by the Lord as a representative "stone" in the building; that is to say, that every one of those who thus form a part of it, are characterised by this confession made to the Lord Himself, "Thou art the Christ, the SON of the living God" (Matt. 16:13-18).

{*How simply and perfectly are the two sides of the Lord's Person set forth, without any human effort, in the second Psalm, verse 7! It is Messiah, the Anointed One, who says, "I will declare the decree: Jehovah hath said unto Me, Thou art My Son' this day have I begotten Thee." Born into this world, He is declared to be the 'SON OF GOD." Compare Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 9:6; Luke 1:35. The Father's voice confirmed this when, at His baptism, Jesus associated Himself outwardly with those who had confessed their sins under John the Baptist's preaching; the voice from heaven proclaimed, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3:16-17). the Lord will have the same confession from the heart and mouth of His disciples, as in the case of Peter (Rom. 1:4; Rom. 10:9)

The word "build" is an evident allusion to a well-known Old Testament figure of the dwelling-place of God in the midst of His redeemed people.* It will have its counterpart in the eternal state (Rev. 21:3). As an apostle, Peter had his place in the foundation (Eph. 2:20), the blessed Lord Himself being "the chief cornerstone," or, according to the passage in Matthew, "the rock" on which the church is built (see 1 Cor. 3:10-11). No other foundation can ever be laid. More than this, the fact of God's present dwelling in the midst of His saints involves personal responsibility on their side which is of the deepest moment (see Ps. 68:18; 2 Cor. 6:16). The apostle insists upon it after speaking of the church in its future completed glory, in Ephesians 2:20-21. Considered with reference to the future, it is growing "unto an holy temple in the Lord", but at the same time it is equally true that believers are now "builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit" (ver. 22).

{*See Zech. 2:10; Zech. 3:9; Zech. 4:6-10; Zech. 6:12-13, 15. It is true that the first form of God's dwelling-place in the midst of His redeemed people was necessarily a "tabernacle" or tent, as long as the people were in the wilderness, moving from place to place (Ex. 25; 8; 1 Chr. 17:56). When, after David's time, they were peacefully settled in the land of Canaan, the tabernacle was replaced by a temple built of stones. In this way Solomon's Temple, glorious as it was, but finally destroyed by the Chaldeans on account of the sins of the people, is still a figure of what is to be in a yet future day, when the millennial temple described in Ezekiel, will be built (Isa. 2:23, etc.). Here again there is a divine forecast of the spiritual or heavenly Jerusalem.}

The history of God's ancient people is full of instruction for us. We are told that, "Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope" (Rom. 15:4). Consequently we may observe in all these Old Testament passages that we have referred to, besides many others (such as Ezek. 37:26, etc.), a deeper spiritual signification addressed to the heart and conscience of believers at the present time. The Lord's answer to Peter involves this, and the epistles, especially Paul's, make it clear. We need, however, to remember that in the case of Israel their future establishment and blessing will be on earth and in the Holy Land, whereas in the case of the church in its future manifested glory, it is seen to come down from God, "out of heaven" (Rev. 21:10-11). This contrast between earth and heaven must be borne in mind.

No adequate estimate of the church, even in its most elementary character as a spiritual building, can be formed apart from its heavenly origin. That is to say that its final manifestation in heavenly glory is but a consequence of its heavenly start in connection with the Person of the Son of God, now seated "on the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Heb. 1:3; Heb. 8:1-2). That its very constitution is heavenly would appear from a comparison of Hebrews 8:1-2 with Exodus 15:17; and we may infer it from the Lord's words to Nicodemus (John 3:12-13). For He came to speak of "heavenly things." But the formation of the church was still future when the Lord spoke to Peter, for He said, "upon this rock I will build My church (Matt. 16:18).

William Joseph Lowe (1838-1927).

(To be continued, if the Lord will).

News from the Field

Dear Brother,

By God's grace and mercy Gloria, the boys and I were able to make the 22 day trip to Bhutan and Manipur via Calcutta. We returned to Bombay a few days ago totally exhausted because of the long hours of travel on the trains and buses, and in temperatures of up to 42°C. In spite of all the hardships and difficulties we had to face we are so thankful to the Lord that we made this trip because the saints were encouraged and we ourselves were blessed and challenged by the faith and love of the believers, especially of those in Bhutan.

We are always challenged by the faith and love of our dear brethren in Bhutan. In spite of their situation, they have such a cheerful disposition and love for the Lord and His people. We were able to visit Phuntsholing, Gaylegphug and Thimpu. It was a blessed experience to break bread in Phuntsholing and Thimpu.

The situation in Bhutan is very sad these days. Almost 100,000 Nepali Bhutanese have been expelled from Bhutan. They have lost everything houses, lands, jobs, and have been separated from loved ones and they are now in refugee camps on the Nepal border. Amongst these are more than 30 believer families. Brothers Jeremiah Dhakal and Som Bahadur visited the camps before we reached Bhutan and said the plight of all the refugees was very bad. They said that tears would come to our eyes if they told us everything. Actually, all the time we were in Bhutan, our hearts were heavy because we knew the brothers and sisters were thinking of their loved ones. They all kept saying to us that their own position was not secure as any day they too could be in the camps. None of them could guarantee that they would be in Bhutan in November. Many of the believers have good jobs in the Govt. services, but any day they may have to leave. What impressed us most was that in spite of this bleak future before them, all of them are strong in the faith, attend all the meetings, and are encouraging one another to press on.

We were able to have meetings with these dear saints and also to answer many of their questions. Those with whom they were in fellowship up to 3 years ago are seeking to cause discord and confusion amongst these simple believers. Many portions of Scripture are taken out of context and used to confuse the saints. The brethren requested us to come as often as we can because of this. My wife was able to spend much time amongst the sisters and to answer their questions. Many of the sisters had questions about women's place which we were able to clarify from the Scriptures.

Brother Jeremiah and others are in the refugee camps as I am writing this letter. We were able to give some funds for medicines, milk and food. We are planning to go to the refugee camps in July, and also to spend some more time with the saints in Bhutan.

From Bhutan we returned to Calcutta and then flew to Imphal. Here we were met by Bro. Bhumeshor Sharma who is in fellowship with us, but is at the present time all alone. We have a literature depot in Imphal which is looked after by Bro. Sharma. We hope to reach out with literature to all the North East states of Manipur, Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya. About 150 years ago most of the people in these states were head hunters, but the gospel came to them and their forefathers became Christians. The main denomination here is the Baptist Church, but sad to say, today, the lives of most of these people is very worldly and evil. Many are on drugs and there are many aids cases. What a bad testimony for the Lord Jesus Christ. Please pray for our literature work here. We can thank God that many can speak and read English, so we can use our English literature here. There is a great demand for Bibles, because the people like to own a Bible, even though they may not read it. There are so many tribal languages also, but we can get Bibles in these languages too. So, we have an open door here for the gospel and we also pray that there will be those who are interested in the assembly. God is able! We were able to speak to some young brothers about the ground of gathering.

We were able to spend one Lord's Day with the saints in the village of Bro. Sunil Ghosh, and were encouraged to see these simple poor believers living for the Lord amongst Hindu neighbours. It is not easy to be a Christian in an Indian village surrounded by Hindus and all the strange customs of village life. In India, people think that only low castes become Christians.

Three Brothers from Patna, Bihar, came along with us on the trip to Bhutan. They were much encouraged by the lives of the Bhutan saints. All the believers in Bhutan are from a Hindu background; there is not a single believer from a Christian background. This had a great impact on the three young men from Patna, because they also are from a Hindu background. They face much hardship as they stand for Christ, and may even have to literally give up all for Him. There are six young men now in Patna who want to remember the Lord, and we hope to visit them in July on our way to Bhutan. The little book room in Patna run by Bro. Anand Prasad and his five friends is being used to reach out to many in Bihar. All our Hindi literature contacts are handled from here. We have much to praise the Lord for as we labour for Him here in India. With almost 900 millions and a wide open door we have much to do.

We send love and greetings to all the saints who are praying for us, and the work in India.

Yours in Christ,

Ronny Fernandes, Bombay.