Many readers will be aware of the trends of the day, both in the world and among those that “nameth the Name of Christ”. It is a day of departure from God and from the Word of God. These trends tend to be invasive and can affect those who desire to be true to the Lord. Where convictions are not deep and grounded on Scripture, we may be drawn out of the path of faith. What can keep us in a day when lawlessness abounds in the world and in the church so many do that which is right in their own eyes? The truth of God does not change and the power of the truth known in the soul (the power of God by the Spirit) can keep those who are subject to it (1 Peter 1:5). Christ is the perfect expression of the truth and its presentation to us in Him is more than enough, “the mind and heart to fill”. While we wait for that “salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time”, may we be content to be marked by the obedience of faith and to bear the reproach of Christ.
With the beginning of another year not far away it is necessary to remind existing subscribers and others who receive Truth & Testimony that subscriptions for 1995 are now due. There has been no increase in the charge for four years but there will be an increase for next year. The subscription will be £6.00 for those living in the UK and EU and £7.50 for those living elsewhere. Any who would like to receive the magazine but cannot afford the subscription charge should write indicating this. There is a subscription form on page 353a, which also gives details of discounts for those who receive more than one copy. Readers living in Canada and the USA should note that their subscriptions will be handled by Mr J. A. Pickering of Bourbonnais, Illinois, USA. They should use the subscription form on the opposite page (page 353b).
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We value prayer that the Lord's help may be experienced in this work, and that this magazine may be used to “strengthen the things which remain” (Rev. 3:2).
From Our Archive: Justification
How Can a Sinner be Justified?
With men this is clearly impossible. Man, with all his boasted wisdom, could not devise any plan of effecting this. For instance, a prisoner stands at the bar, really guilty of the crime charged upon him; the judge may forgive, but can he say to that guilty man, you go away from this bar justified; from this time no person can lay anything to your charge? God alone can justify the guilty, and be righteous in doing it.
Romans chapters one to eight shows God's wondrous plan of justifying the guilty. All are guilty, Jews or Gentiles, religious or profane. There is no difference, all have sinned. God says so. Conscience says so. You know and I know that it is so. Guilty! Guilty! “Yes”, you say, “that is what perplexes me. I know I am a sinner; how then can I be justified, so that no charge can be laid to me?”
Let us see first how this cannot be done, how you cannot be justified, and then see what God's only plan is of justifying the sinner. “By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight” (Rom. 3:20). In the sight of men the believer is justified by works, as in James 2:24. But in the sight of God it is absolutely impossible to be justified by works of law. “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” “For if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Gal. 2:16, 21). “For as many as are of the works of the law, are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law … is evident”, etc (Gal. 3:10-11). We have broken the law; it can only curse us. We cannot even have forgiveness by all our efforts to keep the law, much less be justified. Do you say, “We must do our best to love God and keep His commandments, and then hope He will forgive us and justify us”? Where does He say if we do our best? Or where is the man that does his best? No, on the doing plan no man shall be justified. God has said it, and it is hard to fight against God.
Let us now look at God's only way of justifying the ungodly. It is Christ that died! Oh, wondrous answer to all my sins! “Being justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood”, etc. “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is God that justifies (Rom. 3:19-28; Rom. 5:1; Rom. 8:31-34).
My reader, let your thoughts dwell on the cross of Christ. Blessed are the eyes that see and the ears that hear God's testimony about the death of Jesus, the propitiation for sin. “God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Rom. 5:8-9). What man could never do, God has done. He has laid our sins on Jesus; they are put away by His atoning blood. God has raised Him from the dead. He that believeth is justified from all things. And God thus not only is just in forgiving the believer, but is righteous in justifying the believer. Though once guilty, yet justified, so justified by the death of Jesus that not one charge can be laid to him that believeth. Oh, think of it my fellow-believer! God has so justified you by the blood of Jesus, that nothing can be laid to your charge — all, all has been borne by Jesus. Is not this enough to give you peace? Yea, the peace of God is yours. Yes, yours for ever.
How Does the Believer Know that He is Justified?
Certainly not by looking at his feelings. His feelings are as changeable as the wind. Nor yet by looking at his prayers, or his good works: all that he does is mixed with sin. If he looks at himself in any way, he can find nothing that will afford a sure ground of certainty that he is justified; that is, that he is so clear of sin that nothing can be laid to his charge for ever. Can you, my reader, say that you are clear of all sin, so clear that nothing can be laid to your charge? Are you not ready to say, “How can any sinful man in this world know that he is thus clear of all sin?” You will be astonished at the believer's simple, yet certain answer. It is this — Christ is risen.
But you will ask, “What has that to do with a believer's justification?” It has everything to do with it. “If Christ be not raised, … ye are yet in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17). A saved sinner knows and believes the love of God in sending Jesus to be his surety and representative. His eyes have been opened to see Jesus, bearing his sins in His own body on the tree. He knows that the blood of Jesus, his surety, has met every claim of Divine holiness to the uttermost. What love and mercy to lost sinners! Now the believer can say, “As surely as Jesus was condemned for me, was delivered to death for my offences; as certainly as God dealt with Him on the cross as my surety for my sins, so assuredly did God raise Him from the prison-house of death for my justification”. Now if a surety is cast into prison for the person's debt he is bound for, when that surety comes out of prison, having paid the full demand, is not the person for whom he paid it as clear of the debt as the very person who was his surety, and paid it? And he knows he is clear of every claim. Why? Because his surety is now out of prison. Just in the same way does the believer look outside himself to Christ, his adorable surety. Oh, ponder this well: it was an awful engagement, when Jesus became the surety of all who through grace should believe on Him. Look how He felt in the garden; and then on the cross, when all our sins and guilt were upon Him. Yet still He trusted God. He knew that God would justify Him from all these sins and guilt, as He says, “Thou wilt not leave My soul in hell; neither wilt Thou suffer Thine holy One to see corruption” (Ps. 16:10). He did not leave His soul in hell; He raised Him from the dead, completely cleared from all our sins, no more to be forsaken, but to be received up to the highest glory. Now Christ had no sin to die for of His own, therefore His death was entirely for us. Just so He had no sin to be justified from of His own, therefore His resurrection also was entirely for us: He died as our surety, He rose from the dead as our representative, so that whatever God did to Christ on the cross is reckoned unto the believer: and whatever God did to Christ at His resurrection, He did to us in Him as our representative. Christ is risen.
Is He perfectly and for ever clear of all sin? Even so does God justify every believer (see Rom. 8:29-34; Heb. 10:14; 1 John 4:17). It is God that justifies.
My reader, if you are looking at yourself in any way, you are far from knowing that you are justified. If the Holy Spirit shall give you faith in Jesus, looking entirely away from yourself at Christ, you will not ask for anything to make you more certain that you are justified from all sin, than this one triumphant answer — Christ is risen, who is even at the right hand of God.
How to Draw Near to God
“So They Saw God”, (Exodus 24:11)
A people brought to God
On Mount Sinai God manifested Himself in majesty to His people. He had delivered them from the land of Egypt by His mighty arm and had borne them on eagles' wings to Himself (Ex. 19:4). The appearance of the glory of the Lord was accompanied by thunderings and lightnings, the sound of a trumpet, and by smoke and devouring fire (Ex. 19:16-20; Ex. 20:18; Ex. 24:17). The Israelites could not come near to God. They did not dare to at all, and they had been forbidden to climb the mountain. Trembling with fear, they stood far away at the foot of the mountain (Ex. 19:12ff; Ex. 20:18; Ex. 24:2).
The people had been delivered and brought to God in an outward and national sense, but they could only take a position of nearness to God in a very limited way. Although 2 Corinthians 3 teaches us that the ministry of the law had a certain glory, it was nevertheless a ministry of death and condemnation. The people of Israel, who at Mount Sinai placed themselves under the law by committing themselves to doing everything the Lord had commanded, also put themselves under the curse of the law. So we see that under the old covenant man was unable to approach God freely, as the way to God had not yet been made manifest (Heb. 9:8).
God dwelt in darkness, hidden in the sanctuary. The Father's heart remained unknown until the coming of His Son, who declared the Father in the fulness of His grace, love and truth (John 1:14, 18). Only Christ's coming and His finished work on the cross of Calvary could make it possible for man to draw near to God with a true heart in full assurance of faith. Therefore the hour has now come to worship the Father in spirit and truth, and to have boldness to enter the Holiest by a new and living way, through the veil (John 4:23-24; Heb. 10:19ff).
The people stood afar off
Although it was in God's heart to bless the Israelites and to have them in His presence as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, they were largely unable to take up this position since the people as a whole stood afar off (Ex. 20:18, 21).
Some of them could come closer to God than the others, for there was a separate class of priests who drew near to God. But in Exodus 19 even they were not allowed to come up to the LORD on Mount Sinai. An exception was made, however, for Aaron and Moses (Ex. 19:24).
In Exodus 24 we find others who could approach God: seventy of the elders of Israel and also Nadab and Abihu, the two sons of Aaron, who were killed later when they offered strange (profane) fire before the Lord (Lev. 10). Together with Moses and Aaron they were allowed to come up to the Lord (Ex. 24:1, 9). But according to the instructions given to them they had to worship Him afar off (v. 1).
The position of the mediator
Moses was really the only one who could draw near to God. He went up into the mountain, accompanied by his assistant Joshua (Ex. 24:13; cf. Ex. 32:17). But Moses alone went up higher to meet God and to speak with Him (Ex. 24:2, 12ff). We even read that after six days of waiting, Moses went into the midst of the cloud in which God dwelt (Ex. 24:18). It is striking that in the New Testament he occupies the same position, for when Jesus was transfigured on the mount, Moses and Elijah also entered the cloud (Luke 9:34).
Moses alone was allowed to come very close to God and to be in His presence. This remained true even after Israel's sin with the golden calf. When Moses entered the tent (tabernacle) of meeting he had pitched outside the camp, the pillar of cloud descended and stood at the door of the tent. So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend (Ex. 33:11).
This was also the case later on. The cloud of the Divine presence rested upon the tabernacle and as soon as Moses entered it to speak with God, he heard the voice of One speaking to him from above the mercy seat (Num. 7:89; 12:5ff). Therefore we also have in Moses a beautiful type of our own position as Christians. Through the finished work of the Lord Jesus we have really been brought to God (1 Peter 3:18). God has called us into His marvellous light and He speaks to us through His Word by the Holy Spirit. We can come before Him as a holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:5, 9). We can reflect the glory of God, which has now been fully revealed “in the face of Jesus Christ”, in a greater measure than it could be seen in the shining face of Moses (Ex. 34:29ff, 2 Cor. 3:12ff; 4:6).
Three characteristic positions
Exodus 24 shows us three different levels on which man can be in relationship with God, three distinctive positions:
1. The people stood at a distance from God, at the foot of the mountain where the covenant was sealed with blood (v. 4ff.). This position is typical of Israel as being under law. As such they were under the curse of the law, i.e. the judgment of death, and they came to know God as a consuming fire (v. 17; cf. Heb. 12:29).
2. A select company of the children of Israel went up to God (v. 9). Having arrived on a somewhat higher level, they saw the God of Israel on His throne (cf. Ezek. 1:26) and had a meal in His presence. This position could only be taken by a chosen company of representatives of the Nation, who knew God mainly as the righteous King.
3. Moses went up to God even higher, together with his servant Joshua. But Moses was the only one to enter the cloud of God's presence on the top of the mountain (vv. 12ff). So only the mediator of the people obtained more intimate knowledge of God.
Our position as Christians
This third position comes close to our position under grace, although the general contrast of Exodus 24 with our position as Christians is quite obvious. The believer no longer stands at a greater or smaller distance from God, for he has been made nigh by the blood of Christ. He does not just know Him as God Most High, seated on His throne, but has access to Him as Father and rests in the Father's heart (Eph. 1:3ff; Eph. 2:13ff; cf. Luke 15:20).
However, the events in this chapter still show some types of our privileges as Christians. In the first place we see that God entered into a relationship with His people. He made His thoughts known to them and made a covenant with them affirmed by blood. Similarly, we have been brought to God by the death of Christ, by the blood of the new covenant (Luke 22:20). This does not bring us under law, for the blood of Christ is the basis of entirely new relations with God. When we partake of the Lord's supper (the centre of Christian worship) we are always reminded of this (1 Cor. 11:23-26).
Our worship as Christians
Here in Exodus 24 we also see a service taking place at the foot of the mountain around an altar with twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. Here burnt offerings and peace offerings were sacrificed to the Lord (vv. 4-5). The parallel with our worship is clear:
We, too, have an “altar” which is the centre for all God's people, namely the Person of Christ;
By Him we offer spiritual sacrifices, namely sacrifices of praise to God (Heb. 13:10, 15).
The similarity becomes even more obvious in verses 10-11, where we read that the nobles of the children of Israel saw God and ate and drank in His presence. This can surely be linked with the Lord's supper, as it is our privilege then to draw near to God and to eat and drink in His presence. It is a great privilege indeed to approach God and to have a meal of mutual fellowship with Him and His people. Just as the elders of Israel, we should draw near with reverence and holy fear. They saw God and yet they lived. They had fellowship with Him in peace and quiet. They ate and drank, presumably of the meat of the peace or fellowship offerings (v. 5) and of the wine of the accompanying drink offerings.
What a beautiful picture this is of the Lord's supper, when we eat and drink in the presence of our God and Father and our Lord and Saviour! Gathered around the Lord's table we have the symbols of His dying love before us. The bread and the wine remind us of His body and His blood. We think of the preciousness of His Person and His sacrifice. It is a meal of fellowship with an exalted character. We are the guests at a meal prepared by our heavenly Host and He makes Himself known to us. We rest in His presence and worship at His feet.
Is it not a special privilege “to eat bread … before God” in this way (Ex. 18:12)? I refer to this verse because it points to a similar situation, where the flesh of peace offerings was eaten in God's presence. During the meal mentioned in Exodus 24 the elders of the people saw the God of Israel. Similarly, in our worship we meet God and see His glory in the face of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God fully revealed in Christ
The elders saw God on His throne. In fact, they did not see much more than the foundation of the throne. For we read that there was under His feet as it were a paved work of (blue) sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity (v. 10). Ezekiel goes much further and describes something of the appearance of the One who was seated on the throne (Ezek. 1:26ff). In short, the elders of Israel saw God as the God of heaven in its clarity and purity.
This reminds us of the words of the apostle John: “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). The elders of the children of Israel had to do with God in His holiness and righteousness; they knew Him as the righteous Ruler over Israel. Of course, they also proved God's mercy and infinite goodness in His ways with His people but they did not know His love. The words “God is love” remained hidden from them (1 John 4:8, 16). God's love could only be revealed in the Son of His love and His atoning death, but it is our privilege as Christians to know this deep and divine love as it has been fully revealed now in Christ. We have come face to face with the glory of God as it shines in the face, in the Person, of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 3:18; 4:6).
But Moses could come closer to God than the elders of the people. He went into the midst of the cloud and was allowed to speak with God face to face. As Numbers 12:8 puts it: “With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold”. But in spite of this very privileged position, God remained hidden in the sanctuary and to some extent He was still an “unknown God” even to Moses. Although he saw the form (or similitude) of God, this did not imply full knowledge of God. This is obvious from the well known passage in Exodus 33, where Moses asked to see God's glory. The Divine answer was: “Thou canst not see My face; for there shall no man see Me, and live” (v. 20).
When God's glory passed by, Moses was put in the cleft of the rock and covered with God's own hand. Then he was allowed to see Him from behind, after He had passed by. God can be known and seen only insofar as He is pleased to reveal Himself. But we know that He has revealed Himself fully in His Son. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. In Christ He revealed the fulness of His glory and now it is our privilege to behold the glory of the Lord with unveiled face. We see it exclusively in Christ Jesus, for in Him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily (Col. 1:19; Col. 2:9). “But we see Jesus … crowned with glory and honour” (Heb. 2:9). This marks our position and indicates our privilege as Christians. The Lord Jesus came full of grace and truth and in Him we have seen the Father (John 1:18; John 14:6ff).
When we partake of the Lord's supper we see Him in a special way. We are in His presence, and He is in our midst. It is the risen Christ whom we meet on the first day of the week, but He reminds us of His sufferings, just as He showed His pierced hands and His wounded side to His disciples. And we too are glad and rejoice when we see the Lord (John 20:20). Through Him we have access by one Spirit to the Father (Eph. 2:18; Eph. 3:12). We have boldness to enter the Holiest and to draw near to God in full assurance of faith (Heb. 10:19, 22).
Circumcision Made Without Hands (Colossians 2:11)
Continued from page 326
The Teaching of Circumcision in Paul's Epistles
Turning now to the epistles, further light is given on this subject. The main passages, all from the pen of the apostle Paul, are Romans 2:28-29, Colossians 2:11-12 and Philippians 3:3.
Wherever we look, Old Testament or New, it is evident that God looks for “truth in the inward parts”. “But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God” (Rom. 2:29). In the Epistle to the Colossians the words, “circumcision made without hands” are interesting. Here, in the light of Christianity, we turn away completely from what is physical and tangible to what is spiritual. Looking again at verse 11, the part we need to understand is: “the circumcision of Christ”. To what does this refer? In the previous part of this article a little was said about the circumcision of the Lord Jesus at eight days old. In no way do the words in Colossians 2:11 refer to those in Luke 2:21. The expression, “circumcision of Christ” could also be rendered, “cutting off of Christ”; words which remind us of familiar verses found in Old Testament prophecy. “For He was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was He stricken” (Isa. 53:8). “And after the sixty-two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, and shall have nothing” (Dan. 9:26, J.N.D. Trans.). Considering these two Scriptures it becomes clear that the words of Paul, “circumcision of Christ”, point to the Lord's death on the cross — the place of judgment, where He was cut off. Careful attention is needed in reading this verse. I quote it in full as it reads in Mr. Darby's Translation: “in whom also ye have been circumcised with circumcision not done by hand, in the putting off of the body of the flesh, in the circumcision of the Christ” (Col. 2:11). The cross of Christ is not only the means by which our guilt has been dealt with and our sins forgiven, but it is also the means by which the flesh has been judged fully. In referring to the teaching of circumcision as we have it here, let us never forget the cost to Him that it might be so.
This then is the real circumcision, reckoned to the believer from the moment of faith when he is united to Christ where He now is. This has been described as a positional circumcision which is true of every Christian.
In verse 12 of Colossians 2 the apostle speaks of the believer being “Buried with Him” and being “risen with Him”. Later on in the chapter, verse 20, it says “dead with Christ”. The thought may occur to us that we have never been buried, or been raised actually, neither have we died, but He has! What is true of Christ is put to our account. These things will never be grasped by any intellectual capacity, but only by faith. The closing portion of Colossians 2:12 says: “through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead”.
The teaching of positional circumcision is also found in Philippians 3:3: “For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God, and boast in Christ Jesus, and do not trust in flesh” (J.N.D. Trans.). As this chapter goes on it is evident that Paul had learned in his experience to have no confidence in the flesh. He concludes that only Christ is gain.
In Colossians chapter 3 we have a clear outline of practical circumcision; for example, “Put to death” (v. 5 — J.N.D. Trans.), and “put off” (v. 8 — J.N.D. Trans.). These words are reminiscent of Joshua 5:2-3: “Make thee sharp knives, and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time”. Having crossed over Jordan, this new generation of Israelites was to be circumcised and this was to be carried out at Gilgal in view of the conquest of Canaan. It is interesting that after each victory gained there was to be a return to Gilgal. While it is true that these expressions, “put to death” and “put off”, are viewed as actions having been done, there is always the need of exercise and renewal. This brings to light an aspect of Christian responsibility often forgotten. The flesh is ever ready to rear up its ugly head and needs to be kept in the place of death. The Lord's words in the Gospels are very clear: “And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee” (Matt. 5:30 etc.). How severe they sound. No one would think that He was referring to the literal hand, but His words illustrate the self-judgment so often needed in our lives. This is practical circumcision. Here in Colossians 3:5 it is clearly described, “Put to death therefore your members which are upon the earth, fornication, uncleanness, vile passions, evil lust, and unbridled desire, which is idolatry” (J.N.D. Trans.). In Colossians believers are seen in possession of a new life. Other Scriptures assure us of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, enabling us to live in a godly way. Along with this “putting to death” there is the happier exercise of “putting on”: “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another” (Col. 3:12, J.N.D. Trans.). This is the character of Christ, seen in us. His life was the subject of our meditations in the first part of this article and we considered His lips, heart, how in His life everything was “to the Lord”, His ears, and His separate walk when here. These features are now to be seen in us who are the true circumcision. Perusing this third chapter of Colossians these five features are in evidence.
“Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds” (Col. 3:9). “Teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col. 3:16). In both of these verses fellowship is the object. Lying and deceit are marks of the old man. In verse 9 the Christian has put off the old man with his deeds and therefore honesty in our dealings with one another makes for brotherly confidence. The second verse is to do with teaching one another, in a spirit of joyfulness and thanksgiving to the Lord. This does not point to public teaching, but rather to that happy intercourse together where all have as their object suitable worship to the Giver of all.
“And above all these things put on charity (love), which is the bond of perfectness” (Col. 3:14). Love is the feature that binds all together. The writer, having considered those beautiful features of Christ in verses 12 and 13 which we are to put on, concludes that love is over all. The verse previously alluded to in Deuteronomy 30:6 connected the circumcised heart with whole-hearted love to God. With ourselves today our love to one another will be according to our love to God. The flesh has no part in this. If love binds together, the activity of the flesh does the opposite: it will bring in difficulties but love removes them.
Circumcised to the Lord
“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Col. 3:23). These words were written to those who, in Paul's day, were slaves. A slave's life in those days could be hard, depending on the disposition of the master. Whatever the case was, they were exhorted to work heartily. Although they had an earthly master they were to look above to their Master in heaven. They were to please Him. A remarkable dignity was put upon these slaves when Paul writes, “for … ye serve the Lord Christ”. Although slavery, as known in Paul's day, may no longer exist, there is still an obligation on the part of the Christian employee to render service heartily as to the Lord.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom” (Col. 3:16). The ear is to be opened to the Word; from this springs obedience. When the Word dwells in the believer it is no burden to obey it. There are similar words used about the young men in 1 John 2:14, “I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the Word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one”. We overcome in conflict by the Word, and hearkening to it. There is commitment involved here, for the parallel passage in Ephesians is, “be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). This also brings in the power available for overcoming. Quoting again from Jeremiah 6:10, “their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken”. In our passage in Colossians there is envisaged the circumcised ear and consequent obedience.
“In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them” (Col. 3:7). This is a striking verse, showing the distinct change that had come into the lives of the Colossian believers since conversion. The characteristics described in verse 5 were at one time their manner of life, but they were finished with them now. Those around them, no doubt, still lived in this way, but for them there was a separation; they lived differently.
In conclusion, turning to Paul's Epistle to the Galatians, we learn of the attempts made by false teachers to put the Gentile believers under the law, saying that they should be circumcised. We are all aware of the vehemence of the apostle in dealing with the matter. “Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law” (Gal. 5:2-3). The rite of circumcision had become tied-up with the law of Moses and the Galatians were in serious danger of becoming entangled in a yoke of bondage. They had started well but were being hindered. The law would only rob them of their liberty and draw their attention away from the source of their freedom, the Son of God, who loved them and had given Himself for them. Twice in Galatians and once in 1 Corinthians a very similar expression is used by the apostle. I quote from Galatians 5:6: “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love”. How vital this is. The two other references are in Galatians 6:15 and 1 Corinthians 7:19.
The conclusions formed from these Scriptures are outlined as follows:
Galatians 6:15: “but new creation” (J.N.D. Trans.);
1 Corinthians 7:19: “but the keeping of the commandments of God”; and,
Galatians 5:6: “but faith which worketh by love”.
These three telling statements give us the features vital to the Christian, that is, to the “true circumcision”. Needless to say, the commandments in 1 Corinthians 7:19 are not those of Sinai, but represent the manner of life springing from the new nature.
“The Sermon on the Mount” (8)
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for their's is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:10)
In this eighth beatitude the Lord Jesus gives the same promise as in the first one: “theirs is the kingdom of the heavens” (J.N.D. Trans.). Righteousness had also been referred to previously, in the fourth beatitude, but while the subject there is hungering and thirsting after righteousness, the Lord speaks here of those who are persecuted on account of righteousness.
There is one distinguishing feature about this verse compared with the seven previous beatitudes. They deal with the characteristics and conduct of true disciples of the Lord Jesus, whereas here the Lord speaks about the consequences of their righteous behaviour. As long as He does not reign as King of righteousness, those living according to God's principles and thoughts will be persecuted and suffer. This shows that from the very beginning the Lord had His rejection by Israel before His eyes, as well as the contrast between those who would receive His own in the time of His rejection and the world in its hostile attitude towards Him and them.
The fact that people hunger and thirst after righteousness proves that unrighteousness still reigns in this world. This is one of the lessons of the sixth verse. Here we are one step further on. Those who want to live righteously have to expect that they will be persecuted. Peter, one of the twelve disciples who listened to these words of the Lord, later used similar words in his first epistle which speaks so much about the sufferings of the children of God. “But if also ye should suffer for righteousness sake, blessed are ye” (1 Peter 3:14, J.N.D. Trans.).
The practical righteousness which is mentioned here is a feature of the new nature of the believer. The Word of God had already said of Noah that he was just and perfect and walked with God (Gen. 6:9). Practical righteousness, i.e. owning and maintaining the authority and all the rights of Christ as King, is therefore also a pre-condition for entering the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:20). This was the mark of all true disciples of the Lord then, and will be their mark in the future time of tribulation. He, the perfectly righteous One, also wants to instruct us today, that, “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (1 Peter 3:18; Titus 2:12).
This righteousness does not only mean that we give everyone what is due to them. Practical righteousness means to live according to the Word of God and His principles. Love of the truth, honesty, faithfulness and respect towards other people are features which are appreciated in the world too. For this reason men like Joseph and Daniel in the Old Testament, and the first Christians in the New Testament era, found favour with their contemporaries. Even an unbelieving employer is normally pleased when he has a faithful and honest employee that he can rely on. But suppose he asked his Christian employee to hush up the truth in a situation that was awkward for the employer, and instead to tell a lie or co-operate in a fraudulent transaction. What will happen when the employee now says: “I can't do this because it is inconsistent with the Word of God”? When his own honour or money are at stake, the previous friendliness of the employer can easily turn to anger. Many a believer has lost his job because he was unwilling to take part in the unrighteousness of this world.
If we own the rights of our Lord over every area of our lives, obey Him in all things and do His will, in our families, at work, in our leisure time and in all situations of our lives, we won't always be accepted by the world. Our experience may not be exactly that of others, such as the Christian trainee nurse threatened with dismissal without notice because she refused to assist at an abortion (cf. Gen. 9:6; Ex. 20:13). Or like the young sister who is mocked by her fellow pupils because, in contrast to the “uniform of emancipation” worn by others — jeans and short hair — she wears a skirt and has long hair. (This mockery is also a form of persecution. The Old Testament says of Ishmael, the son of Hagar, that he mocked or laughed, but the New Testament says that he persecuted Isaac — Genesis 21:9; Galatians 4:29). But take what form it may, we will come to know persecution if we own the Lord's rights over us.
How good it is in such situations not to look at the persecutors and mockers, but to Him for whose sake we experience these things. He has said to His disciples, “The bondman is not greater than his Master. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept My word, they will keep also yours” (John 15:20, J.N.D. Trans.). When we too have to suffer on account of righteousness, let us remember whose rights and honour are being attacked. Then we will not be filled with disappointment and discouragement but with the consciousness of this “Blessed” which He Himself has promised. The words, “through sufferings to glory”, apply to our Lord and also to ourselves (1 Peter 1:11; 1 Peter 4:13; 1 Peter 5:1). Paul encouraged the Thessalonians who were suffering persecution, by saying that the persecutions and tribulations they were experiencing were proof that they had been counted worthy of the kingdom of God. When the Lord Jesus comes again with His saints, God will make known His righteousness by recompensing tribulation to those who troubled them when they were on earth, and giving rest to those who had been troubled (2 Thess. 1:4-10).
Psalm 119 (10)
(Continued from page 352)
7. ZAIN — WEAPON
This letter in the Syriac language means “weapon”. The root idea of the letter is from “zakar”, meaning “to remember” (compare the name Zachariah, in which Zachar means “remembered” and iah means “of Jehovah”). The Hebrew letter “tsaddi” is very close in pronunciation and is the first letter in the word for rock (“zur”) in Exodus 17:6. There it has the meaning of sharpness, like the weapon we are discussing in connection with the letter zain.
It is interesting that in Numbers 20:8 the word for rock in Hebrew is “sehlag” and this comes from the root meaning “elevation” (or “height”). In Numbers 20 it is typical of Christ as raised from among the dead and exalted.
The numerical value of this letter is seven. What then does this letter suggest to us? That we must remember our immense spiritual riches!
Verses 49-56: “The Word of God shows us our Spiritual Possessions”
Verse 49: ZA-KAR … “Remember (this) … ”
It is the Psalmist who asks the Lord to remember His Word! The Lord has given precious promises. Some one has tried to count all the promises given in the Bible and has found more than 30,000 of them!
We have this interesting word in Isaiah 62:6, “ … ye that put Jehovah in remembrance, keep not silence … ” (J.N.D. Trans.). The best basis for prayer is the solid promises of God. Remind God of what He has said! “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Rom. 11:29). “According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises; that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature … ” (2 Peter 1:3-4). The Psalmist is saying in effect, “This is the word and these are the promises upon which Thou hast caused me to hope … ”. How wonderful that the Bible gives us hope in afflictions (v. 49), and comfort (v. 50), even in troubles (v. 51-53), and it gives joy (v. 54-56). God is always faithful to His promises!
Possessing our possessions
Verse 50: ZA-AT … “This … (is my comfort)”
The question is whether we have appropriated and do appropriate these exceeding great and precious promises! This appropriating is by faith: we thank the Lord for every promise the Holy Spirit brings before us in our daily reading. We see something similar in Romans 6:11 where Paul says, “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead … ”. It is not the reckoning that makes the fact, but I am to reckon in view of the fact. I appropriate in view of the fact that every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ is put to my account by the Father. It is therefore in the appropriating that we experience the “ … comfort in my affliction … ”. It is when we thank the Lord for His promises that we experience what the Psalmist affirms: “ … for Thy Word hath quickened me”. Notice, there is no prayer for deliverance from the affliction! But although the affliction remains, the comfort is there so that we may be able to bear it, and be victorious in it.
No promises for the proud
Verse 51: ZEHDEM … “The proud … ”
By the proud are meant the unbelievers! They cannot understand the quiet confidence of the believer and ridicule him. Ridicule is often a powerful weapon Satan uses against believers to make them doubt the promises of God. But we should not be surprised by this ridicule. The apostle Paul tells us: “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). The natural man receiveth not, cannot understand, the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him (1 Cor. 2:14).
So let us arm ourselves! If the enemy seeks to make us doubt the promises of God, let us not give him one inch! It is the purpose of the enemy to decline us “ … from Thy law (the Word of God), but with the Lord's help his efforts will only strengthen us, and make us more determined to trust the Lord and realise His promises.
Verse 52: ZA-KARATI … “I remember … ”
We forget so quickly! It is like saying: “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom … ” (Col. 3:16). There is no victory possible without that Word abiding in us. We must constantly use the “sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Eph. 6:17).
We should learn practical lessons from Jehovah's “ … judgments of old … ”, when He dealt with His people Israel. “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1 Cor. 10:11). In Romans 15:4 we read: “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope”. This then is the comfort we read of in our verse!
Pity the perishing without promises
Verse 53: ZALGAHPAH … “Hot zeal (Horror) … ”
No true believer can remain unmoved when he sees the crowds in the streets and cities of this world, “ … having no hope, and without God in the world … ” (Eph. 2:12). Can we be so indulgent with our own safety and the blessings we have received that we remain indifferent to the end of those who deliberately “ … forsake Thy law … ”? The word for “horror” is better translated “hot zeal”. As Christians should we not be marked by “hot zeal” of compassion for these lost souls?
Believers have reason to sing
Verse 54: ZAHMERT … “ … songs … ”
We do not have to wait till we get to heaven in order to sing! This verse speaks of our pilgrimage. He has put a new song into our mouths, even praise unto our God (Ps. 40:3). We have indeed many reasons to be joyful and to sing on the way to the Father's House.
Happy the heart that finds its joy in the “statutes” of God. Remember that “statute” means a divine direction given for our obedience. What joy there is in obeying Him!
Verse 55: ZA-KARATI … “I remembered … ”
We have probably all known periods in our spiritual experience which are comparable to “nights”, when things are dark and we are restless and long for the “morning” to dawn. Whether they are literal nights and we suffer from real insomnia, or other kinds of “nights”, let us remember the Lord's Name.
The Name stands for the Person! How many wonderful Names does our Father have, and our blessed Lord and Master Jesus Christ! Books have been written about the significance of these Names! And every Name brings comfort and encouragement. “And they that know Thy Name will put their trust in Thee” (Ps. 9:10). “The Name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it, and is safe” (Prov. 18:10).
So the pilgrim is enabled by the Holy Spirit to sing in his pilgrim path day by day, and even in the night he can sing when he remembers what the Lord is to him.
Let us not lose what we have:
Verse 56: ZA-AT … “This … ”.
The literal translation is: “This was done to me because”. What he had was no doubt the comfort he had spoken of in the previous verses. Is he looking back now and saying: “I had this once, but now … ”!! Is he speaking of a past experience? “This I had, because I kept Thy precepts”! But here is a warning for us. Let us not lose what we have. We can have this sense of His presence daily, this comfort of His companionship in our pilgrim pathway, this joy in Him and in obeying Him. Let us not grieve the Lord or the Holy Spirit, but seek His fellowship. Then we shall discover our immense spiritual possessions!
The Life of David (9)
David, Having Died, He Yet Speaks
(Continued from page 335)
David's Influence in Days of Revival.
Ezra 3:10-11; Ezra 8:20; Nehemiah 7:39-46 (See 1 Chronicles chapters 23-26)
When Jerusalem was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, as allowed by God in His governmental ways, and Zedekiah, the last representative of the house of David to sit upon his throne, was blinded, it appeared as if the lamp of David had been finally extinguished (Dan. 1:1-2; 2 Chron. 21:7 — the lamp of David). The royal seed was taken captive into Babylon (Dan. 1:3). No one of the house of David reigned in Jerusalem. After the seventy year period of chastisement on Judah and Benjamin had expired, God instigated the return of a remnant to Jerusalem. He used the Gentile kings Cyrus and Artaxerxes to accomplish His will in relation to the remnant1. The remnant got busy on their return. They repaired the broken down walls and rebuilt the temple. The prophecies of Zechariah, Haggai and Malachi are interesting in connection with this recovery. When it began it would have been easy for the remnant to have said, “Let's make some new arrangements. The old ones did not bring us any blessing”. But they didn't. The real cause of their captivity in Babylon was their disobedience to God's commandments.
1Daniel 9 should be read in this context to see that the return of the remnant to Jerusalem had in view the entry of Jesus, the Son of David, the Messiah of Israel, into Jerusalem. The Lord Jesus was refused and crucified, but the day is not far distant when the holy city will again see the Messiah, this time not riding upon an ass, but riding upon a white horse. Read Zechariah 12-14 and Revelation 19:11-16.
Ezra confessed this and Nehemiah too (Ezra 9:5-15; Neh. 9:32-38). It was when the temple was being built that David's influence began to be felt again. No new arrangements were made. The instructions of David, the man of God, were followed accurately and the two great features of praise and service were secured as a consequence. The foundations of the house of God were laid with praises and thanksgiving according to the “old paths” and the service of the house was maintained by observing the wise arrangements of David (Compare Ezra 8:20 and Nehemiah 7:39-46 with 1 Chronicles 23-26).
When there are conditions of weakness they are not improved by innovation. The basic cause of all failure is disobedience to God's revealed will and consequently a lack of devotion and exercise. When believers adjust themselves to the will of God the testimony is strengthened. The Word of God is suitable for all circumstances and ages. It is never out-of-date and it is always in opposition to new ideas which promise much but give nothing but froth and bubble which quickly disappear.
The Psalms of David. An Undying Influence for All Time
The inspired writings of David enshrined for ever in his Psalms have been, and always will be, a source of encouragement and blessing for those who read them. Although they are not strictly speaking Christian in their teaching (they contain imprecatory statements. Jesus said, “Love your enemies … pray for those who insult you and persecute you … ”; Matt. 5:44), they are calculated to meet the varied needs of Christians as they pass through trying circumstances. They can also be used by Christians to express their praise and thanksgiving to God. David's Psalms were of great value in his own day and after he died. They are still of value today and will be for the persecuted and triumphant remnant of Israel in a future day. Who can possibly assess the value of Psalm 23? In times of trial, bereavement and difficulty it has brought peace and calm to unnumbered people. Then there are the Maschil Psalms, thirteen of them, and six were written by David (Psalms 32, 52, 53, 54, 55 and 142). These Psalms are psalms of instruction and what a wealth of godly and lasting influence is found in them. Psalm 32 — an instruction for sinners to freely confess their guilt and realise the joy of forgiveness from God. David's own failure with Bathsheba is turned to good account in giving instruction for others. Psalm 52 — an instruction for enemies of God. They will not prosper. The righteous shall eventually triumph. Psalm 53 — an instruction for those who mock God's people who are in adversity. Their foolishness will be manifest when God delivers His beloved people. Psalm 54 — an instruction to help those who are apparently about to be defeated. God is their helper. Psalm 55 — an instruction for those in deep despair. They are to cast their burden upon the Lord. Psalm 142 — an instruction for those who feel alone and deserted. God is their refuge. These instructions were not theoretical compositions. They were the fruit of David's own varied experience. That is why they are so powerful in their application to others (See 2 Corinthians 1:4).
It is in the Messianic Psalms that David reaches heights of glory and majesty. These refer to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of David, Son of God, Son of Man. It would require volumes to expound them. However, the references in the New Testament will suffice to indicate the tremendous influence they have as used by the Holy Spirit in relation to Jesus.
John 1:49. Referred to by Nathaniel — Son of God, King of Israel.
Acts 4:25. Quoted in the prayer of the disciples — Why have the nations raged etc.
Acts 13:33. Quoted by Paul in his preaching — Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee.
Hebrews 1:5. 5:5. Quoted by Paul — Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee.
Matthew 21:16. Quoted by the Lord Jesus — Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings etc.
1 Corinthians 15:27. Quoted by Paul — all things under his feet.
Ephesians 1:22. Quoted by Paul — all things under his feet.
Hebrews 2:6-8. Quoted by Paul — What is man etc.
Acts 2:25-28. Quoted by Peter in his preaching on the day of Pentecost — The life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
Acts 13:35. Quoted by Paul in his preaching — Thou shalt not suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption — the resurrection of Jesus.
Romans 15:9. Quoted by Paul — confession among the nations and singing to Thy name — The blessing of the Gentile nations.
Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34. The cry of Jesus when He was the sin-bearer — My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?
John 19:24. Quoted by John the Gospel writer — They parted My garments etc.
Hebrews 2:12. Quoted by Paul — I will declare Thy Name unto My brethren.
Hebrews 10:5-9. The words of the Lord Jesus, the Son of God — Lo, I come … to do Thy will, O God.
Matthew 22:44; Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42; Acts 2:34; Hebrews 1:13. Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool — The exaltation of Jesus, the Son of Man. The references to Jesus at the right hand of God are many and must be studied in their context to ascertain what is the Spirit's mind when they are quoted. For a fruitful study the other references to the right hand are given here: Matthew 26:64; Mark 16:19-20; Luke 22:69; Acts 5:31; Acts 7:55; Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Hebrews 1:13; Hebrews 8:1; Hebrews 10:12-13; Hebrews 12:2; 1 Peter 3:22.
There is a tremendous scope of truth in relation to God and to Christ in David's Messianic Psalms as quoted in the New Testament. Briefly, they are as follows — Son of God and King of Israel — the confederacy of evil against God and His Anointed — Jesus praised by young children — All things made subject to Christ, the Son of Man — the life, death and resurrection of Jesus — Gentiles thanking God and confessing His Name — Christ forsaken by God — Christ's garments parted among the soldiers when they had crucified Him — Christ praising God in the midst of His brethren — Christ coming into the world to do the will of God — judgment upon Judas Iscariot and God's enemies — Christ bearing reproach — Christ's ascension to the right hand of God.
Was it these Psalms that the Lord Jesus quoted and to which He gave impact when as the risen Saviour He appeared to the disciples? (Luke 24:44). It seems likely that it was. David's Greater Son was able to use the Psalms which David had written to great effect and no doubt His exposition of them was carried forward in the apostles' teaching when the church was formed on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:42).
The prophetic content of David's Messianic Psalms has been accurately fulfilled in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus. This is one of the proofs that David was inspired by the Spirit to write his Psalms and is an internal proof of the inspiration of Scripture.
David's influence through his Psalms has a prominent place in New Testament teaching. Prior to the day of Pentecost they were read with anticipation and hope. From Pentecost to the present time they are read with a sense of their (at the present time sometimes partial) realisation in Christ, and with wonder and awe. What a man David was and what influence he continues to have!
The Root of Jesse. Isaiah 11:1-16; Romans 15:8-12
There cannot be any doubt that the root of Jesse referred to in Isaiah 11 is none other than Jesus, the Son of David. The words of the Lord Jesus are sufficient to confirm this. “I am the root … of David” (Rev. 22:16). David calls himself the son of Jesse (2 Sam. 23:1). Amasai calls him the son of Jesse in 1 Chronicles 12:18, as does Paul in Acts 13:22. However, it is not David that is referred to in Isaiah 11, but his illustrious son, Jesus the Son of God. As David's influence after his death is our consideration, it is no surprise to find that features which were prominent in David's rule are seen in perfection, power and glory in the government of the Lord Jesus Christ.
(1) Just as David was helped by the Spirit to gain the throne of Israel, and while on it to rule with wisdom and power, so the Messiah (the Anointed) of Israel, the Lord Jesus Christ, will rule in the Spirit's wisdom and power (Isa. 61:1-3).
(2) David was in no doubt that a ruler was responsible to rule in the fear of God (2 Sam. 23:3). To fear God is to reverence Him and to do His will. David did this in spite of his mistakes (Acts 13:36). The Lord Jesus will do the will of God in perfection in the world to come, the thousand years reign (Matt. 12:17-21).
(3) David united Judah and Israel and reigned over the whole Nation (2 Sam. 5:1; 2 Sam. 8:15; 1 Chr. 29:26). The hostility and brokenness was put right under his astute leadership. His Greater Son will gather the scattered ones of Israel and bring Judah and Israel together as one, never to be disunited again (Isa. 11:11-13).
(4) When David the warrior king subdued all Israel's enemies he secured peace and prosperity for the Nation. 1 Kings 4:20, 24-25, gives a beautiful picture of the kingdom that David had passed on to Solomon, his son. Regrettably that peace and prosperity, like the unity of the Nation, was lost because of unfaithfulness. But the peace and prosperity of the coming kingdom of David's son, the Messiah, will never, never be lost. Many glowing prophecies in the Old Testament portray that future glory of Jesus (In this connection read Ps. 72. See also Jer. 23:5-8; Jer. 30:7-11; Jer. 33:14-18).
In Romans 15:12 Paul uses the quotation from Isaiah 11 to show that God has the Gentile nations in mind for blessing. This is abundantly evident at the moment and will be so in a future day. Consider the following Scriptures in relation to the present expression of this: Acts 15:7-19 — a people from among the Gentiles; Romans 11:15 — the fulness of the Gentiles. As to the future expression, see Revelation 7:9-17 — out of every nation etc.
The Sure Mercies of David. Isaiah 55:3; Acts 13:34
What are the sure mercies of David? Perhaps Psalm 89:3-4 provides the answer. God is speaking: “I have made a covenant with Mine elect, I have sworn unto David My servant: Thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne from generation to generation. Selah”. God's promise to David was that his seed would continue and his rule in His Name would also continue. The prophet Isaiah's appeal to Israel invited the Nation to turn away from unfruitful pursuits and partake of the rich bounty of God's grace. God said, “come unto Me; hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, the sure mercies of David”. When God sought to impress His people with the offer of stable and satisfying blessing He reminds them of His irrevocable covenant with David. Well might the Nation revere the memory of David.
How is the statement in Isaiah 55:3 verified in Paul's statement in Acts 13:34? Jesus, the Son of God, the Son of David, died on the cross at Golgotha. He was placed in a tomb and the tomb was sealed. If it had been possible for Jesus to have lain in the tomb without being raised from it, God's promise to David would never have been implemented. But it was impossible that death could hold the Son of God (Acts 2:24). God raised Him from among the dead. The promise made to David will be fulfilled in the Son of God in the future reign of righteousness. The resurrection of Jesus was necessary for the covenant made with David. Paul perhaps had this in mind when he wrote to Timothy with these words, “Remember Jesus Christ raised from among the dead, of the seed of David” (2 Tim. 2:8). In this context the covenant made by God with David was a guarantee that Jesus could not be kept in the tomb in which He was laid. There are many other reasons for the resurrection of the Son of God but this is an interesting one as it brings into focus the importance of God's covenant with David.
The Christian position is not based on the covenant made with David. All believers in Christ Jesus, the glorified Man at God's right hand, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, are in a position of unutterable blessing. The Second Man is the guarantee of their present and eternal blessing.
(To be continued, if the Lord will)
News from the Field
Area 28,250 sq. km inc. occupied territories.
Population 5,438,000. 82% Jews, 16% Arab, 2% other.
Official languages Hebrew, Arabic.
Israel and its neighbours are at the heart of the narrative in the Scriptures. The first Christian assembly was at Jerusalem and the testimony soon spread through Judaea and Samaria. The decline of the testimony from its pristine condition brought with it ritualism and a formal religion quite unlike apostolic times. Consequently all assembly character was lost. In the last century the Spirit of God worked to bring in a recovery of New Testament principles and hope. The Middle East also saw this blessing. An American Presbyterian Missionary B F Pinkerton saw that his religious associations were all wrong and began work in simple dependence upon the Lord. The influence of his work spread to Syria and Egypt but only after long endurance in difficult circumstances. Today there are testimonies to the Lord's assembly in most of the countries in the region where brother Pinkerton worked. Others who laboured with him were Ludwig Schlotthauer and Otto Blaedel from Germany. An Egyptian brother, Moussa Saleh, was also much used of the Lord. These brethren contributed much in oral and written ministry from the 1870's onwards. Brother Schlottauer lived for a time at Ramleh not far from Jerusalem. In the 1940's Matta Behnam visited Haifa and other places, his magazine, “Green Pastures”, having a wide circulation in Israel. Assemblies existed then in Ramleh Acre, Lydda and after troubled years at Kfar Yasif and Kfar Sumeia. The following letter has been received from two Dutch brothers, Karel Rouw and Hilvert Wijnholds, following their visit to the brethren in Israel:
It is always a special joy to meet God's children in another country and to study the Word of God with them. During our 12 day visit to Israel we enjoyed the fellowship of the saints and their great hospitality. Since 1949 the Lord has been using brother Novel (82 years old) from Kfar Yasif both in the ministry of the gospel and in the ministry of the assembly (Col. 1:23, 25), so that the brethren now gather together unto the Name of the Lord, according to the Scriptures, in four places. In Haifa this struck us where two verses were on the walls of the meeting room. One verse relates to the ministry of the gospel, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). The other one has to do with the ministry of the assembly, “holiness becometh Thine house” (Ps. 93:5). Brother Nofel is still active and rejoices in the activities of other (younger) brothers who distribute tracts and pamphlets in Arabic and Hebrew at market places and in the streets. There are also brothers who teach the Word of God in Bible study groups in nearby villages, one of these being Nazareth. We also had the opportunity to preach the Word of God and visit the homes in the four localities where brethren gather together to the Name of the Lord Jesus.
On our arrival brother Elia Nofel picked us up at Tel Aviv and we were brought to brother Raja Giryes in Kfar Yasif. After having spent several days in the pleasant apartment above the meeting hall there, brother Nasser Shawky from Kfar Sumeia took us to Reini near Nazareth from where we drove to Kfar Sumeia. Two days later we used a bus that was hired by the brethren to go to Haifa to attend a three day conference. The conference began on the Thursday evening and continued until Lord's day afternoon and took place in a Christian hotel on mount Carmel.
At the suggestion of the brethren we studied the Epistle to the Colossians in the mornings and the Second Epistle of Peter in the evenings. The Lord directed our minds to the glory of “the mystery of God” (Col. 2:2) as well as to the decline at the “close of the days” (2 Peter 3:3). With reference to Colossians 3 the emphasis was laid on the connection between a good family life and a good assembly life. In personal conversations we talked about this connection more and we discovered how important this is irrespective of country or culture. It was quite an experience to preach the Word together with several Arabic brothers and to experience the fellowship in this with them.
On the Lord's day evening we partook in the breaking of bread in Haifa and the next day we left together with brother Makram Mesherky for Kfar Yasif. In the afternoon brother Samis Giryes who lives there drove with us to Capernaum and the sea of Tiberias so that we could visit some of Galilee. The brothers and sisters we have met greet you affectionately in the Lord,
Karel Rouw Hilvert Wijnholds
In the Beginning, by Hugo Bouter, published by Chapter Two, price £2.95.
An instructive commentary on the first eleven chapters of Genesis dealing with the Creation, the Fall of Man leading to judgment and mercy, Cain and Abel, the lines of Cain and Seth, the Flood and the Ark, Noah's failure, the curse on Canaan (not Ham), Nimrod and the Tower of Babel.
There are appendices outlining the dispensational applications of Genesis chapter one, and the New Testament references to Genesis 1-11; a surprisingly large number.
W. R. Dronsfield.
Modern Mystical Teaching and the Word of God, by F. B. Hole, price £1.50.
This very useful work has been republished by Chapter Two. It is an exposure of a system which developed in a certain section of the “Brethren Movement”, by an author whose acute discernment enabled him to compare and contrast these doctrines with Scripture. Although many of the errors dealt with are subtle, F. B. Hole has demonstrated their nature clearly so that the average reader can easily grasp the issues involved.
The book is a timely warning in the present day, so that all can recognise such tendencies when or if they occur. Also it will help those who have been forced out of this system by its later excesses, to discern the root of the matter, and consequently judge and separate from every remnant of it.
W. R. Dronsfield.
Unity and Authority, by W. R. Dronsfield, published by Chapter Two, price £1.30.
This booklet is a short, concise and yet comprehensive account of the principles of Unity and Authority of Scripture; simple truths stated clearly, the value of which should become apparent to every reader.
The booklet is only 24 pages and can easily be read in one go or over two or three coffee breaks. The booklet is encouraging and even when touching upon a couple of sad events in the Christian testimony during the past two hundred years, does not dwell on the sad details as found in more weighty tomes. It is divided into a number of sections as follows:
(1). The Holy Spirit Gathers; outlines the work of the Holy Spirit in awakening an interest in the Authority of Scripture as the sole guide for believers.
(2). The Enemy Scatters; provides a simple synopsis of the rise of independency amongst the gatherings in the last century. This was one of the early attacks of Satan against the truths of Unity and the Authority of Scripture.
(3). The Body of Christ and the Unity of the Spirit; outlines the truth of the assembly as the body of Christ; that Christ is the head of the One body and that all living saints are members of that One body. Our responsibility is to live and act according to that truth as we gather together locally. The unity of the body is maintained by the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of Truth and Holiness) and our part is to keep what is established.
(4). Authority in the assembly; covers the issues of apostles, their delegates, the fact that it is the Holy Spirit who appoints elders and the establishment of elders today. Appointment is not by man!
(5). The house of God; covers its scope, the believer's position and the resultant implication for a holy walk.
(6). Ecclesiasticism Develops; covers the rise of this error during the late 1800's amongst some brethren, but clearly differentiates from valid individual or collective exercise which endeavours to serve and not lord over the saints of God.
(7). Conclusion; reminds saints of the current outward weakness; our responsibility to gather with those that hold the principles found in Scripture — not where we can necessarily have a good and easy time, to be found obedient even when the going gets tough and to value the privilege of meeting to remember our Lord week by week.
This booklet is certainly a challenge to everyone who seeks to be true to the Lord.
D. P. Pulman.