The Corner Stone
The subject of the Stone or rock will be a familiar one to many of the readers of this magazine. It oftentimes speaks directly of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in circumstances of pressure and crisis. For example, in Genesis 49, in Jacob's prophetic outline of the chequered history of Israel's responsible course, we learn of the Divine intervention in Joseph and we have the promise of “the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel” (Gen. 49:24). In the New Testament we have the precious words of the Lord Jesus Himself when He said, “And upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell (hades) shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). The rock is Christ, the Son of the living God, not Peter as one of the popular modern versions assures us. Another Scripture that can be selected from the long list of references is Isaiah 26:4. “Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength” (Mr. Darby gives “the rock of ages” for “everlasting strength”). What substantial steadying comfort in a topsy-turvy world!
The present enquiry relates to the Corner Stone which, for many years, was a difficulty to the present writer. Where exactly in the building is this corner stone? Enquiries to builders and architects brought various replies and even the brethren and books which were consulted brought differing answers. The best I could get was from Morrish's New and Concise Bible Dictionary as “that which binds all together,” without stating how or where. In recent years I came across the remarks of a Hebrew Christian of my acquaintance and his observations are offered for those who have shared my difficulty. The Scripture passages in question are as follows: (all these quotations are taken from Mr Darby's Translation)
“Therefore (the context has to be read) thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I lay for foundation in Zion a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure foundation: he that trusteth shall not make haste” (Isaiah 28:16).
“For behold, the stone that I have laid before Joshua — upon one stone are seven eyes; behold, I will engrave the graving thereof, saith Jehovah of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of this land in one day” (Zechariah 3:9).
“Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou dost become a plain; and he shall bring forth the headstone with shoutings: Grace, grace unto it!” (Zechariah 4:7).
“The stone which the builders rejected hath become the head of the corner (i.e. the corner stone). This is of Jehovah; it is wonderful in our eyes” (Psalm 118:22 and 23).
“Jesus says to them, Have ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which they that builded rejected, this has become the corner-stone (lit. “Head of Corner”): this is of the Lord, and it is wonderful in our eyes? Therefore I say to you, that the kingdom of God shall be taken from you and shall be given to a nation producing the fruits of it. And he that falls on this stone shall be broken, but on whomsoever it shall fall, it shall grind him to powder.”
“It is contained in the scripture: Behold, I lay in Zion a corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believes1 on him shall not be put to shame. To you therefore who believe is the preciousness; but to the disobedient, the stone which the builders cast away as worthless, this is become head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling and rock of offence; who stumble at the word, being disobedient, to which also they have been appointed.”
(1 Peter 2:6-8).
Here are my friends remarks:
“In Isaiah the scornful rulers of Jerusalem with their self-chosen and self-confident policy are confronted with a stone laid by Jehovah in Zion. Their building is swept away by the coming storm but the stone will abide. It is called an 'ebhen bochan, which is rendered a “tried stone” (AV, RV and J.N.D. Trans.). But Delitzsch points out that bochan is active and means testing. Brown, Driver and Biggs agree in their lexicon, but in spite of this give it a passive meaning. The fact is that it is a testing stone. Isaiah never speaks of its being built on. It is a pledge of safety to those who believe in the day that “the shelter of lies” will be swept away.
1There is a footnote by J.N.D. on “believed” — trust in it, that is, the Stone, Christ. On (epi) implies reliance on; confidence in; the mind looking to another with trust. It occurs in this form only in Luke 24:25 and in the passages where Isaiah 28:6 is quoted in the New Testament — Romans 9:33; Romans 10:11 and here.
This stone, rejected by the builders, the rulers of the people, appears again in Zechariah, after the exile caused by the false building of the pre-exilic rulers. We now find that it is a head-stone or topstone. This is a stone cut beforehand by the architect which not only as the last stone to be dropped into place, bonds the building together, but also, by whether it fits or not, tests whether the architects plans have been truly followed. We are not called on to judge how truly Zerubbabel built for his day and generation, because in Psalm 118 we find the fulfilment expressed in the prophetic perfect, but none the less future, because this Psalm is clearly Messianic.
Even so it is with the Lord Jesus Christ. The various forms of Messianic prophecy knit together divergent lines of Old Testament thought and mould them in a pattern whose final form may not be clear but which can be inferred. Bring in the fulfilment in Christ and drop it into place as the top-stone and the house is complete in all its portions and proportions.
For the one who will work or expound without the thought of God's Messiah, the testing stone has been laid by God in Zion. He will not be able to avoid it. “Whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken.” There is however a worse fate foretold for the man who in theory accepts the testing stone, but in practice works and expounds led by his own wisdom and will. When the top stone is hoisted to its place on the summit of his building, it will come crashing down and “on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder” (Matt. 21:44).”
These remarks have been a help to the present writer, both architecturally and in giving a more precise exegesis of the passages. The Jewish background of the author inevitably leads him to give emphasis to the Messiah. For us, I trust, the preciousness of Christ will appear in new lustre. The testing searching value of the Word and of Christ the corner stone seems particularly relevant for this day when there is so much shoddy building.
Having Loved His Own Which Were In The World
The disciples had followed the Lord faithfully in all His journeys. They had left all to follow Him. But His hour had now come and He was to take His last journey and depart out of this world to His God and Father from whom He had come. This journey He had to take alone and leave His faithful followers behind.
They had followed Him because they loved Him. He was everything to them. But this chapter records that He deeply loved them and looked upon them as “His own.” Though He was leaving them He was not forsaking them. He would endear Himself even more to them before he departed and seek to draw each one closer to Himself.
The will, the purpose and the work of God were committed to Him to complete. All things had been given into His hands. And even though there was one present who valued Him only for gain, yet such was the love and grace that filled His heart that He would not make him to be different from the rest of the disciples when He undertook His service.
He rose up from supper and having put aside his garments, girded Himself with a towel. In doing this He put aside His place as their Lord and Teacher and became a servant to each one. For one so revered by them to stoop down and perform so menial a task as washing their dirty feet was, indeed, a proof in itself of the love and tender feeling He had towards them. There was also demonstrated His willingness to go right down to the lowest level in order to meet their needs.
There was something else to be learned in the selfless act of the Lord. If the water He poured out and used removed the dirt and defilement, it also, together with the towel, set “His own” clean and at ease in His presence. There was to be no distracting element upon them. He would have them know comfort and rest.
How considerate, how caring, how understanding the Lord was, for they knew not the reason for this lowly service. In answer to Peter's protest they learned that what the Lord did was necessary to the end He had in view — “Part with Me” (He does not here enlarge on these words). Peter learned that this washing was for the constant defilement caused by moving through this world.
Having taken His garments and His place again he spoke to them of the example He had given. Because He had done this service He had imparted to it a virtue, a beauty, a value, it never had before. It now expressed the deep love that He had for “His own” and this would draw them to Himself. If he was about to leave them He would attach them firmly to Himself. So much so that in heart, mind, soul and spirit He might take them with Him. His part would be their part for he would that they should have part with Him. Here, indeed, we have true love. Love, they would learn hereafter, that would cause Him to stoop lower than their feet when He would go into death, in order to make them His own by His blood. But at this moment He would cleanse them that they may know His present love for them. He also would have them happily following His example and wash one another's feet, that the love expressed in care to them might fill them with love and care for one another. If His desire in so lowly a service was that they should have part with Himself, then they also, for their Lord and Teacher, should seek each others welfare in love that they might ever remain in the constant enjoyment of “Part with Me.” Truly it is written: “Having loved his own which were in the world He loved them to the end.”
How wonderful that we also, bought by His precious blood, belong to Him and also have part in that unique company that He calls “His own.” He has placed us there and being there we are objects of His love and care as were those gathered in the upper room that night. If the spiritual significance of feet washing was necessary for them, how much more for us today? If they could know the living experience of “Part with Him,” then that is the desire of the Lord for us today. May we desire for ourselves and for our brethren that each one of us may know a closer, richer part in having “Part with Me.”
(The author of this article wishes to remain anonymous)
If the Lord will, the next parts of the series on Christ's Greatness
in the Epistle to Laodicea and Psalm 119 will appear
in the next issue.
(Continued from page 132)
2. God makes those who are His holy
I want to speak now of the sanctification of believers. God has set us apart for Himself and has put us in a position which we were never in before that we might serve Him. When we examine Scripture we find that everything that is for the glory of God and the honour of the Lord Jesus, and everything that is for our blessing, is attributed distinctly and severally to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. The Godhead is seen to be completely at one in everything that it does and this is as true of sanctification as it is of anything else. The opening verse of the epistle of Jude tells us that we are sanctified by the Father. And as well as being sanctified by the Father we are set apart to God by the work of the Son. The salutation to the Corinthians in the first epistle says we are “sanctified in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:2) and in verse 30 of the same chapter we read that He “is made unto us … sanctification.” We are sanctified in Him. Chapter 6 underlines this when it says: “ye are sanctified … in the Name of the Lord Jesus.”
The statements made in every teaching epistle take account of the background situation and the moral and spiritual history of those to whom the letters were addressed. The people of Corinth were so sophisticated in the world's eyes, so clever, so cultured, but morally in the sight of God it was a dirty, polluted city. And it is to them that Paul says in chapter 6, after giving a long list of what they used to be, “but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus … ” (1 Cor 6:11). Whenever statements are made showing the immensity of the blessing that has accrued to us there is always somewhere in the immediate context consideration of the infinite price that has been paid that the blessing should be ours. So it is with sanctification. “Wherefore Jesus … that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate” (Heb. 13:12). The verses quoted relating our sanctification to the work of the Lord Jesus show that it is a work done for us and not a work done by us; an important distinction. We are sanctified by the Son as a result of a work that He has done for us. But then we come to sanctification by the Spirit. “That the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 15:16). “Ye are sanctified … by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11). 2 Thess-alonians and 1 Peter again speak of the sanctification of the Spirit, distinguishing between the work of Christ for us and the work of the Spirit in us (2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2). The work that has been done for us at Calvary was an objective work by the Son and it is made good in us by the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, very often with blessing the agent that is used is the Word of God. We are not surprised then to find that the Lord Jesus praying to His Holy Father that they might be sanctified, prays, “Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth” (John 17:17). Elsewhere we read, sanctified “with the washing of water by the word” (Eph. 5:26). We find that even the things that are provided for the sustenance of our bodies are set apart for our use, “sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (1 Tim. 4:5). In every case there is that which is done specifically and deliberately, setting it apart for the service of God, even if it is for the maintenance of our bodies. This puts a great dignity even on the ordinary meal time. God has set the food apart for our use that we might be strengthened, we whom He has sanctified, set apart for His own service.
3. God expects and requires those who are His to be holy
Let us now consider a few verses that direct us to a principal purpose of sanctification. The major epistles like Ephesians and Colossians all speak of this truth, that God has set us apart to present us to Himself unblameable and unreproveable according to His own absolute standard. That is something He has done for us that we could never do for ourselves — a tremendous consideration. We are intended to be and God has set us apart for the purpose of being a holy nation, that we might be available to Him to tell forth His praises to those who have never been brought into touch with Him.
We now come to the important consequence that if God has set us apart to be committed to His service, if the Lord Jesus has undertaken the work to make it possible, and if the power of the Holy Spirit is available within us that it might be so, we cannot escape the conclusion that it is incumbent upon us to give due answer in our practical lives. Here we come to our problem. We live in an unclean world and as we get nearer to the Lord's coming it is even more true for our generation than it has ever been before. Is this not why we fear for children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren? How can holy, sanctified lives be lived in such an unclean world? Peter, who speaks about the last days, tells us we live in a murky, a squalid world (2 Peter 1:19). The last few verses of 2 Corinthians 6 and the opening of chapter 7 tell us, “touch not the unclean thing; … let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” Notice that in that verse there is not just the negative matter of avoiding blatant, outward sinning and filth, but living lives devoted to the service of God in purity and holiness before Him — a very positive matter. “Put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:24). Deliverance from the world is the lead into living pure lives before God. Those young believers in Thessalonica were told, “this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication” (1 Thess. 4:3). 2 Timothy 2:15 to 22, are more words for the last days, our days in the 1990's. There are statements such as: “shun profane and vain babblings.” The profane is the opposite to the holy and the sanctified. We have to avoid the common, the profane. We have to depart from iniquity. We read in verse 21: “If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified,” set apart for God, “and meet for the Master's use … ” Verse 22: “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” What is inside governs the way that we act outside — calling on the Name out of a pure heart. “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). 1 Peter is marked by two key words. It includes the term “suffer” or “suffering” more than any other book of comparable size and at the same time it uses the term “holy” as much or more than any epistle of comparable size. Paul said to Timothy, borne out by Peter's epistles, “all that will,” he that sets himself to “live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). Holiness will lead to suffering but because it is done under the eye of God the Lord Himself gives the strength to endure it. Peter says, “as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation” (1 Peter 1:15). Is it required of us? Scripture says, “yes.” If God has set us apart for Himself our lives have to be set apart. They have to be different from what they were before and they certainly have to be different from those whom God has not set apart for Himself. The sanctified ones have to act in a sanctified way. Is it possible? Can it be done? How can we do it? First of all we need to accept the statement of Scripture. “Every man that hath this hope in Him (Christ) purifieth himself, even as He (Christ) is pure” (1 John 3:3). That is not an exhortation but a statement of fact that the measure of practical sanctification and purity in my life is the practical witness of the measure to which my hope is centred in Christ on high.
Now, we need to be encouraged. The bearing of that verse in 1 Corinthians 6:11, “ye are sanctified … in the Name of the Lord Jesus,” is that we have this on His authority. And we have the power, for the same verse says, “ye are sanctified … by the Spirit of our God.” There is the authority of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit available to us that the purity that is inherently coursing through our spiritual veins might be seen in the lives that we live. As ever, the agent is the Word of God.
Scripture holds out a blessing on any occasion where the Word of God is read aloud in public. “Blessed is he that readeth,” the one who reads it aloud, “and they that hear,” the congregation, and in particular they that “keep those things,” that is the reader and the congregation who do so (Rev. 1:3). There is a blessing where Scripture is read and in particular where it is obeyed. This is an old principle which comes out early in Scripture. “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to Thy word” (Psalm 119:9). “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105). We have considered the Son of God's words in John 17:17, “Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth.” We say to the little ones, we need to say it to each other, “read your Bible, pray every day.” Now we can say there is a purifying effect from the reading of Holy Scripture. As far back as Ezekiel 44:23 we get the words “they (the priests) shall teach My people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.” And what the priests did was to present the Word of God to the people. Paul writing to Timothy said words of almost universal application, “Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all” (1 Tim. 4:15). There is great gain in considering what Scripture says and in bowing the knees before the Lord Jesus that the Scriptures might be opened to us and that we might display the positive, practical reflection in life of what we have seen in the Word.
Now I would like you to turn to 1 Peter 3:15. This is something of a climax in the teaching as to practical sanctification: “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.” God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have set us apart for the service of God. We have read that in order that we might be set apart, the work of Christ on the cross was necessary, and the power of the indwelling Spirit. But there comes the point where in responsibility we have to indicate whether or not we value what God has done on our behalf. 1 Peter 3:15 uses the very words that give us the only proper response. The Word says as it were, “It is now up to you. Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.” By the time we get to this Scripture we are without excuse. We know that sanctification is all about being set apart and this verse, when it puts the sanctifying work to our account, is saying: “Set a special place apart in your heart, the best place, the chief place, the first place, and give that to the Lord. Don't give it to anybody else: not to yourself, not to your spouse, not to your children, not to your work, not to your leisure. There is a place that is reserved for Him which is paramount to you in your existence.”
1 Peter 3:15 is the object of sanctification. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 gives us the encouragement that we need to carry it out, “the very God of peace sanctify you.” What comfort and composure to take account of all the sanctifying work of the blessed God for us and towards us and in us by the Spirit. And this comfort and composure are produced by the God of peace. This is a prayer that the very God of peace would sanctify in a practical way, “sanctify you wholly,” through and through. He says, “I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body,” and this is a descriptive term of what is involved in the entire person, the intelligent thoughts, the feelings, even the actions of the body, might “be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” There is a sense, Ephesians and Colossians show this, in which it is a certainty that we are to be presented blameless in the sight of God because of the work of Christ and the work of the Spirit originating in the heart of God. (This is what is involved in positional sanctification). But as to our practical sanctification the apostle here says to them fitting words that we do well to pray for ourselves at the end of any day, “the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
From Our Archive
The Revelation of the Father (4b)
(Continued from page 152)
Now I must take you to verse 11 because the concept of the Father's Name comes very strongly here. “And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to Thee.” The disciples are going to be in the world and the Lord Jesus Christ is leaving the world and going to the Father. If you were to make a concordance of John 17 you would find the next most frequent concept to that of “the Father” is that of “the world.”
We all know that the world stands over against the Father. We have it in this chapter again and again. The world hated Him because He came on the part of the Father. According to the second chapter of John's first epistle: “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” If the love of the Father is not in the one who loves the world then we are given these instructions and these revelations for the express purpose that we may not love the world but that the love of the Father may be in us.
In this setting they are still in a hostile world and the Lord Jesus Christ prays saying, “Holy Father.” He is thinking of the uncleanness, the impurity of the world in which the disciples were going to be left, the world in which we live. “Holy Father, keep through Thine own Name those whom Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, as We are.” In the Proverbs the writer says, “the Name of Jehovah is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.” Now for Israel the Name of Jehovah, the God of Israel, was like a refuge for them. When they were in it they were kept: they were guarded and they were safe. This prayer of the Lord Jesus Christ is bound to be answered and it is answered in our salvation. In the next verse it is put in contrast with being lost: “Those that Thou gavest Me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.” If the Name of Jehovah is a strong tower and the Israelite fled into it and was safe, how wonderful that the Lord Jesus Christ says that the Name of the Father might be for us that which keeps us in circumstances where we are always open to the influence of the evil and impurity of the world that is around us. The Name of the Father, which is the Name of the One that has made us His children, is the Name whereby the believer is kept and will not be lost. This is because the oneness that is prayed for in this particular verse is the oneness that is the inward life and unity of the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The place the believer occupies in the world is the place that the Lord Jesus occupied in the world relative to His Father. “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” and in verse 18, “As Thou hast sent Me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.” Now one of the things about the concept of their being sent is evidently, although there are two words in the original tongue used for being sent, there is evidently something about it of the ambassadorial quality. The ambassador of another country should be given the precedence of the head of state of the country from which he comes as the sent one. That the glory should have been given to the Lord Jesus Christ as the Father's Sent One is revealed in this idea.
As the Father sent Him into the world so, He says, have I also sent them into the world. This is one of the few explicit requests that we have from the Son to the Father regarding the men who had been given Him. “Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth.” What can the word “sanctify” mean? I am not speaking about its use elsewhere. It obviously has a very special meaning in this place because in verse 19 we read, “For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.” In what conceivable sense could the Lord Jesus Christ say that He sanctified Himself? The basic idea of sanctification is “to set apart.” The only way in which we could possibly understand it is that the Lord Jesus Christ set Himself apart from the world by His bodily presence in heaven. “For their sakes I sanctify Myself” — I am taking a position so that I can be the object upon which their whole heart is set. “I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.” The more that we learn of our oneness with Him in that place, the more we learn of the fact that we are in one bundle of life with the Father and the Son, the more we in heart, mind and spirit will be set apart also from that evil world in which we live.
“Sanctify them through Thy truth.” That is a very special thing — the Father's truth. “As Thou hast sent Me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified through the truth.” So these two statements: “Sanctify them through Thy truth” (verse 17), and “that they also might be sanctified through the truth” (verse 19) are the means whereby the hearts of the disciples may be taken away out of this world and founded on better and brighter things above and this will lead to a real sanctification.
Verse 20 is really the beginning of a new paragraph and the Lord Jesus explicitly extends His request from the eleven men who are before Him to all those down the ages who should believe on Him. What a mercy of God that these words occur in this prayer. We are unquestionably amongst those who afterwards have believed on Him through the words of these disciples and therefore, wonder of wonders, you and I explicitly find a place in these communications from the Son to the Father.
Now I must pass by the second request for unity in verse 21, “That they also may be one in Us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me.” I suppose this is the unity manifested in the beginning of the Acts when brethren were together as one.
Then in verse 22: “The glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as We are one: I in them, and Thou in Me.” I am not quite sure to what extent we ought to carry over this statement of the Gospel of John to the circumstances of the Revelation of John, but we all know how exactly this statement of unity is exemplified in the holy city, the new Jerusalem. Just as you have the statement here in verse 23 about the future glory concerning which the Lord Jesus Christ is now speaking, “That they may be one, even as We are one: I in them, and Thou in Me.” The Father and the Son, and the Son and the saints, that the world may know. Now that is exactly parallel with what we have in the holy city, the New Jerusalem, in Revelation 21. God is the light of that city. There is no need of the sun or moon and there is no temple there. God is the light and the Lamb is the lamp thereof and the saints themselves compose that holy city that is illuminated by the eternal light of God shining in the Lamb. How close that is and how well it illustrates what the Lord Jesus Christ means here. The Father in the Son, and the Son in the saints, “that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me.”
Coming to the end of this chapter we can see that it moves on beyond the thoughts of that glory to which these verses undoubtedly take us. Verse 24, “Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me: for Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world.” There we have absolutely explicitly what there was in that inaccessible, eternal world. A world that would never have been reached by human power or understanding at all, except the Son who knows that love came to make it known. He came from that eternal home, the place where there was love between the Father and the Son before the foundation of the world and, in the earlier verse, where there was glory that the Son shared with the Father before the foundation of the world. In the earlier part of the Gospel we trace the love that the Father had for the Son, but it becomes absolutely clear here that the Lord Jesus Christ is thinking above all things of the fact that: “Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world.” All crowns and kingdoms are conferred upon Jesus but they are all as nothing compared with the fact of His Father's love. And in such a prayer as this that explicitly gets to the root of the matter, He desired nothing but to be again in that unclouded home where the Father loved Him before the foundation of the world.
We can well imagine someone saying: “But surely that love wherewith the Father loves the Son cannot be the same wherewith He loves me.” Yet, just as though to exclude any other possibility, that is precisely what the Scripture says. The last words of verse 26: “that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” Our measure is limited. How many an earthborne cloud arises to hide Him from our eyes! But we are told that the love is the same. The love wherewith the Father loved the Son is the love wherewith He loves the saints.
“O righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee.” Now there you see the world with all its pride and achievement, and it has had some achievements in the physical and mental sense. When you compare what has been achieved in the world with the Bible days one is absolutely staggered at what there is in man. But that world, with all its triumph, with all its frightful sin and cruelty and with all its darkness, that world is just passed by as a phrase in the sentence, “the world hath not known Thee.” Written over all the exhibits of history with all its kings and conquerors and empires, it just comes to this that the world is nothing in this setting. “The world hath not known Thee: but I have known Thee, and these have known that I am Thy sent One.” The world is a mere episode in the history of the real things that we are speaking about and we are brought to rest in the place where that love wherewith the Father loved the Son may be in us and He in us.
J. S. Blackburn.
2 Corinthians 3:5-18
(A Bible Reading at the Kilkeel conference in May 1995)
The setting of these verses in 2 Corinthians is very important. In the first epistle the apostle had to deal with moral breakdown and disorder and many things had to be corrected. When he wrote the second epistle he was writing to an assembly that was repentant and self-judged and many of the matters referred to in 1 Corinthians had been dealt with. Nevertheless, there did remain an outstanding difficulty which is going to come to light in chapter 10. His authority was being challenged. Against this background the matter of letters of commendation really set his own position clearly before the Corinthians and others, in contrast with these opposing judaising teachers. I think it is important to see how he dealt with these opposers because it is the Spirit's way at all times. He is able to speak positively of the blessings that belong to his ministry. He is able to speak of all the promises of God which are in Christ, yea and Amen (ch. 1), of the ministry of the New Covenant (ch. 3), and of the ministry of reconciliation (ch. 5). But all the time he is proceeding on positive lines to show what is real in contrast to what was brought in by these opposers. This helps in understanding the contrasts between the Old and the New Covenants which come out so powerfully in the parenthesis.
Liberty comes in at the end of the chapter and judaising teachers or teaching would tend to lead them into bondage. We should keep in mind that the giving of the law which is referred to in this chapter was the second occasion on which the tables were given. They came in with mention of God's mercy to thousands, not clearing the guilty, but with mercy for those that love God (Ex. 34:4-7). We might think of it as a mixture of grace and law and there are countless thousands of believers who really think it is right to have this mixture. They have started all right with Christ but they want the law to help them along a little. Now in spite of that the apostle still speaks about it as a ministration of death and a ministration of condemnation. There is no liberty along that line and I think this chapter has that relevance today with regard to those that would teach an admixture of the two things.
The second epistle to the Corinthians is much more difficult to grasp in its contents and bearing than the first. The first deals more with outward questions whereas the second epistle acknowledges that the aim of the first has in a measure been reached. But there was this problem of the non-acknowledgement of the authority of Paul still lingering among the Corinthians. That is why the first seven chapters of this epistle deal with the ministry of Paul. He explains it and strives by any means to touch the hearts of his beloved Corinthians to bring them to acknowledge that he was a loving servant for them and not a hard patron. All the chapters, from one to seven, approach this subject from different angles and one of them is to set forth the difference between the Old Covenant, the law, and the ministry, as he calls himself and others ministers, of the New Covenant. He names the New Covenant in verse 6, and the Old Covenant or Old Testament in verse 14. The reading of the Old Testament means, in the first place, not the whole of the Old Testament as we understand it today, but in the first place it exclusively means the law, the five books of Moses, and that is what the Jew understood by it. New Testament ministry is in contrast with what was presented in the law. He says this in the short statements of verse 6, that He has made us competent as ministers of the New Covenant, not of the letter (and the letter is the law) but of Spirit. This verse has been widely misunderstood as if adhering to the letter of the Bible would bring death while adhering to the spirit of what the Bible says would be life giving. But that is very contrary to what is said here because the letter in this verse is the law. The law was these letters engraven in stone whereas the spirit is the dispensation of grace which is characterised by the Spirit. It is not the sense here that by following the letter there would be a negative consequence but just the opposite.
The Old Covenant was introduced in glory. This refers to the introduction of the law at Sinai. God put His seal upon that which is holy, just and good.
The question might arise, “Is the New Covenant in regard to Christians because it is mentioned in the Christian writings in the New Testament?” A covenant is a contract which puts responsibilities on the two parties who make this contract, and the Old Covenant was a contract that God made with His people Israel. “If you follow My commandments I will bless you,” were the stipulations of this covenant. It was a covenant given by God and therefore it was, in itself, perfect. But the imperfection came in because of the sinfulness of the people who were unable to fulfil their part of the covenant, so that God in turn could not fulfil His part. That is why God will make a New Covenant with the same people. I don't think that we can draw any other conclusion from the Bible than that the New Covenant will be made with the same people, with Israel. There it is a covenant where there are the same stipulations to be fulfilled by one party and blessing by another, only now the perfect Man has already fulfilled all the stipulations God could put on man. The Lord Jesus has done this on the cross of Calvary and therefore He says, “This is My blood, that of the New Covenant.” The stipulations have been fulfilled by the Lord so that only God's side remains: blessing in abundance. The question then arises, “Why is the New Covenant mentioned with regard to Christians who do not belong to the people of Israel?” The answer is that the foundation work which is at the basis of the New Covenant, namely the work of Calvary, the same work, the same blood, was given for us. And although the covenant will not be concluded with Christians, we are in a much closer relationship with God, nevertheless the basis of our relationship is the same. That is why the New Covenant can be mentioned here. They were ministers of the New Covenant and this is a very special expression. Paul and others ministered the truth of this New Covenant without being members of this covenant. The pivotal point is the work and the Person of the Lord.
There are those that read Jeremiah 31 and they say that the New Covenant is made with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. Then they read 2 Corinthians 3 and they say, Paul is speaking to Christians here so therefore Christians, the church, must be a continuation of Israel today. We know from Ephesians 3 that that cannot be true because we see there that the church is founded upon entirely different principles. We come into the blessings of the New Covenant in a spiritual way but it will be fulfilled in a literal sense at a future day. Lower down it says that “When it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away” so that there is a future for Israel even seen in this chapter. Those same people that make the church a continuation of Israel see the New Covenant as the sum and substance of all our spiritual blessings. Our blessings are of New Covenant character, based on the blood of Christ, but there are other aspects of Paul's doctrine.
When he says, “Not of the letter, but of the spirit,” I take it he is referring to Christ. He is the spirit of it. He says lower down, “Now the Lord is that spirit.” I am reminded of the verse which says, “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
Looking again at verse 17 the King James and Mr. Darby's translations put a capital “S.” Mr. Kelly puts a small “s” and if you read his ministry and that of Mr. Darby you find that they confirm what has been said, that the spirit of the New Covenant is Christ. In other words Christ is seen in all that Old Testament system and if you read a small “s” in verse 17 I think it overcomes a great number of difficulties.
The word “Spirit” comes into verse 8 and Mr. Darby has there a capital “S” and I would say that is right, “the ministration of the Spirit.” One of the essential features and characteristics of what we have today is that there has been a ministration of the Spirit. Not what the Spirit ministers but there has been the Spirit ministered to us. The Spirit of God is ministered to us as power.
Could we summarise by saying:
verse 6, “not of the letter, but of the spirit … (small “s”),”
“for the letter killeth, but the Spirit … (capital “S”),”
verse 8, “How shall not the ministration of the Spirit … (capital “S”),”
verse 17, “the Lord is that spirit … (small “s”)”,
“and where the Spirit (capital “S”) of the Lord is there is liberty.”
It is wonderful to see that this Old Covenant, the law, which was from the beginning destined to end in failure, nevertheless began in glory, as it came from God. Paul calls it here “the ministry of death.” The people to whom it was given could not fulfil the laws of God and therefore the end was death and judgment upon everybody. That is why it is called “the ministry of death, in letters.” The letter is always here the commandment written or engraved in stone. I think that even in verse 6 in both cases it is meant that the letter is the commandment. We read about the light and holiness of God which so encompassed the mountain that not even an animal was allowed to approach when the law was given. It all began in glory by God's presence yet still it was a ministry of death, not from God's side but because man failed. Moses, when he was in the presence of God, was so influenced by this glory that his face shone, and he had to put on a covering because the children of Israel could not fix their eyes on his face. But this was something which was not lasting. It was only in the beginning of this Old Covenant that this glory of God shone in the face of Moses and we don't read of any other servant whose face shone. We know that later on in Ezekiel this glory, even the presence of God, withdrew from the temple, and that ultimately everything ended in death. But it began in glory because it came from God. Then Paul says that if this covenant which ended in death, in misery and in failure, began in glory, “how shall not rather the ministry of the Spirit subsist in glory?” His argument is from the lesser to the greater. If we look to Calvary I dare say for the human eye there was no glory but still He was glorified on the cross more than in any other occasion on this earth. And this glory will continue and we will end, not in death, but on the contrary, we will end up in glory in the presence of God and in the presence of the Lord Jesus. It is in Him the glory of God shines, as he says later on in chapter 4 verse 6, “Because it is the God who spoke that out of darkness light should shine who has shone in our hearts for the shining forth of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
So in our parenthesis we have these contrasts and I think this is the thrust of our reading today. There is death (verse 7) and condemnation (verse 9). That is one side of the picture. Then there is life (verse 6) and righteousness (verse 9). I think that gives an introduction to the contrasts between the two covenants.
This section suggests that we are the recipients of four principal New Covenant blessings. There is life, power to accomplish God's will, righteousness and lastly the glory that excelleth. The glory that excelleth is the knowledge of God in its fulness Then we might even get a fifth blessing which is liberty or freedom and which includes the thought of deliverance.
Four times we get the word 'annulled' or 'done away' in this section (verses 7, 11, 13, 14. In verse 13 the K.J.V. has 'abolished') and that system of things has been put away. But what remains not only subsists in glory but it is surpassing in glory and it all shines in the face of the Lord Jesus. I think it helps to fasten on the word 'hope' in verse 12 where the apostle says, “Having therefore such hope, we use much boldness … ” This hope looks forward to the day when the New Covenant will be implemented for Israel and when what is good to faith inwardly now will come into manifestation. The verse really crystallises the position of the Christian who looks forward to that final moment when this glory will be manifested.
That was exactly my thought. We find here that a certain glory was ascribed to the law system. It was from the beginning meant to have an end yet we have to do with something which is eternal. The logical consequence is, if the ending thing began with glory and had a certain glory, how much more this eternal thing with which we are connected. But this glory is not yet visible. We possess it only in faith and therefore hope is introduced here. “Having therefore such hope, we use much boldness: and not according as Moses … ” Why did Moses cover his face? He didn't cover it when he came into the presence of God but when he came into the presence of the people. The people found the glory too overwhelming. But now Paul turns it round and says we do not cover our faces when we enter into the presence of God because we can look on the glory of God with unveiled face. The fact that the people did not want to see the glory of God reflected in the face of Moses was something which judged themselves. That is why God said as it were, “Now I will judge you and will take from you the possibility of seeing any of the glory because you did not want to see it.” Israel did not want to see the glory in the Old Covenant and that is why God says, “You cannot see it in the New Covenant.”
That is what he says in verse 13. Paul was able to use great plainness of speech, and not as Moses. The children of Israel could not steadfastly look to what was the real end of the law, which is Christ. I connect this with the expression in Romans 10:4, “For Christ is the end (in view) of the law for righteousness … ” Israel will discern the end in that day when the New Covenant takes effect.
Meanwhile there is a transformation going on in the saints so that we are being formed for His presence already. This is accomplished by occupation with Christ in glory in the power of the Spirit.
The word “changed” is the same word as in the account of the transfiguration and in the 12th of Romans: “transfigured.” In our case it is a real inward moral change that is seen outwardly.
There is a sequence of change for the believer that begins with the work of the Spirit of God when new birth and quickening are effected. That is the initial work. Then there is the change that will take place in relation to the body at the coming of the Lord and that will be the final change. But in between there is this on-going change, a change from glory to glory.
Could one say that by gazing at the glory of the Lord at the right hand of God we, as still on earth, are not being transformed into His glorious image but into His image as He was here on earth.
Is not Stephen an example of that? He was gazing steadfastly up into heaven and as a result when he was stoned he manifested attributes of the Lord Jesus in His death.
Young people might ask, “What do you mean by gazing upon Christ and looking upon Him. How do I arrive at that in day by day experience?” You have to come back to the matters of reading the Word and dependence upon the Lord and communion. Those are the things that really get right down to the basic matter of looking upon the glory of the Lord.
The Sin of Miriam, and her Restoration (2)
(Continued from page 136)
We see Moses here as a type of Christ. He prayed for His enemies, even for those who stood up against Him and mocked Him: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Just as Miriam was restored on the basis of Moses' intercession, so the people of Israel were shown mercy because of Christ's prayer on the cross. In the book of Acts we see how the way of salvation and restoration was shown to Israel (cf. Acts 3:17).
But there are more prophetic lessons in the story of Numbers 12. Moses is a clear type of Christ as the great Prophet, Apostle and Teacher of His people (Deut. 18:15; John 5:46; Acts 3:22; Heb. 3:1-6). Well then, if Moses is a type of Christ what does his marriage to a foreign woman have to say to us? The answer is obvious: Christ took a Gentile bride. Moses' Ethiopian wife was a stranger — she did not belong to the people of God. Yet this Gentile woman became the bride of Moses. Likewise, the church, which is now the bride of Christ, is made up mostly of believers from the Gentiles. We can also see Zipporah as such a type of the church (and similarly Asenath, the Egyptian wife of Joseph). The grace and love of God that have been revealed in Christ could not be limited to the Jews. The core of the gospel is that all men are equal before God. They are all sinners but God wants to bestow His grace on all. Jews and Gentiles are alike “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). God has made us alive together with Christ and has created one new man from the two. That is the church, which is the body and the bride of Christ, the habitation of God in the Spirit.
This grace shown to the Gentiles, however, resulted in a breach with the people of Israel, just as Moses' love for his Gentile bride (temporarily) broke off his ties with Miriam. Christ was rejected by His own, His kinsmen according to the flesh (John 1:11). He had to endure such hostility from sinners against Himself (Heb. 12:3), but He endured it in a patient and gentle way. He acted just like Moses, who resigned himself to the opposition from his relatives and left it in the Lord's hands. Israel's rejection of the Servant of the Lord, however, resulted in the Nation being set aside, just as Miriam's rebellion against Moses (who was God's servant, v. 8) resulted in her being shut out of the camp. Because of their rejection of the Messiah, God has (temporarily) rejected Israel as His people. He has now stretched out His hands towards the nations and the Lord Jesus is joined with bonds of love to His Gentile bride.
In this matter between Miriam and Moses, God Himself pronounced the verdict. Because of her sin she was put out for a certain period of time. Likewise, Israel has become Lo-ammi, Not-My-People (Hosea 1:9). Just as the cloud of God's presence departed from above the tabernacle when He had spoken to Aaron and Miriam (vv. 9-10), so God has now withdrawn from His people. The glory of the Lord has left the people of Israel and it will only return at the beginning of the kingdom of peace (Ezek. 43). Miriam was shut out of the camp, outside the place of blessing in the presence of God. Similarly, wrath has come upon Israel as a rebellious people and the blessing of God's presence is now found in the midst of the church.
But there is a glorious and gracious “until.” Israel's rejection is not final. The story of Numbers 12 did not end with the sad message of Miriam's exclusion but with her restoration. God's wrath may have come upon Israel to the uttermost (i.e., fully), yet He is gracious and even in His wrath He remembers mercy (1 Thess. 2:16; Hab. 3:2). He determines the extent and measure of Israel's suffering, as He also determined the period of “seven days” of Miriam's exclusion. He will be merciful to Israel and comfort His people when her warfare is ended and her iniquity is pardoned (Isa. 40:1-2). This serious story thus has a happy ending. As Miriam was received again (v. 14) and was cleansed from her leprosy, so also Israel will be received again as God's people (after the rapture of the church) and be cleansed from all ungodliness.
It was the apostle Paul, who suffered so much opposition from the Jews as he preached the gospel of God's grace to the nations, who revealed to us the divine mystery of Israel's restoration (“that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” Rom. 11:25-27). In this passage we find the gracious “until,” the announcement of a time determined by God in which He will restore the fortunes of His people.
Just as the Lord (as the One who heals His people) acted in favour of Miriam and healed her, so He will save His earthly people in a coming day. And He will save them not only from their enemies that oppress them from outside but also from their sins that accuse them inwardly. He took away the leprosy from Miriam and likewise He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob and will accept His people. They will be raised spiritually from death to life. Israel's rejection meant the reconciling of the world, for God stretched out His hands to all mankind and extended the word of reconciliation to both Jews and Gentiles. So what will their acceptance be but life from the dead (Rom. 11:15)? Just as Miriam as a cleansed person was received again in the camp, so Israel will be received again by God as a nation that has been raised from its death sleep and has been cleansed from the sickness which branded it “as one dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed” (v. 12).
Some translations read that Miriam was to be “brought back,” or “brought in again” (v. 14). The original meaning of the word seems to be “to gather,” or “to collect.” That is also the meaning of the word “receiving” in Romans 11:15. God will gather the people to Himself again, the Nation from which He had to hide His face for a certain period of time. He will bring them back to the place of blessing in His presence. That will mean a new beginning, a spiritual revival: life from the dead (cf. Ezek. 37).
Let us meanwhile, as part of the church, be on our guard that we do not fall into the same error and rebel against Christ, our great Moses. Resistance against His authority, against His Word and Spirit, are characteristic features of the last days and will inevitably bring about God's judgment (cf. the epistle of Jude).
“The Sermon on the Mount” (13)
Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:19-20)
CONTEMPT FOR THE WORD OF GOD
The Lord Jesus had explained His own relationship to the law and the prophets in verses 17-18. The word He uses here, “Whosoever,” now introduces a general and very serious appeal.
The meaning of this verse is not easy to grasp. What are the “least commandments”? Does the Lord here differentiate between the moral law (the ten commandments) and the ceremonial law, or does he refer to the iota (A.V. — jot) and the tittle of the law (v. 18)? And lastly, does He teach here that the law of Sinai is still valid for the Christian? Before we try to find answers to these questions we have to remember that the Lord Jesus here speaks to His own people and had not yet been rejected by them. When He said in verse 17 that He was not come to make void the law or the prophets but to fulfil, this must have consequences for His audience and the Jewish nation. But while the Lord Jesus said of Himself that He had come to fulfil the law and the prophets, He now speaks of practising the commandments.
Among the Jews there were teachers of the law who considered their own traditions more important than the commandments of God. He later said to them, the scribes and Pharisees, “Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition” (Matt. 15:6). Just as He adds there: “Every plant which My heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up” (v. 13), He says to the Jews here that everyone who thinks he can do away with any of the law, which then was still valid, would be called the least in His kingdom. Comparing the two Scriptures we see that He speaks of mere professors who outwardly take a place in the kingdom of the heavens but have not really “entered in” (v. 20). At His appearing in glory these will be removed from His kingdom through judgment (Matt. 13:41). As long as the law was valid according to God's will, i.e. until Christ's death (cf. Rom. 10:4; Gal. 3:24; Eph. 2:15; Col. 2:14), it had to be observed by the Jews, as Deuteronomy 27:26 says: “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them.”
The scribes, who counted altogether 613 commandments in the Old Testament, distinguished between what in their opinion were important and less important laws. The Lord also points out a difference when He calls the commandment to love God the great and first commandment, although He immediately puts the commandment to love one's neighbour on the same level (Matt. 22:36-40). In Matthew 23:23 He accuses the scribes and Pharisees of leaving the more important matters of the law aside — judgment and mercy and faith — while putting great emphasis on applying the law of the tithes to such little things as garden herbs.
The scribes and Pharisees thus, on the one hand set their human traditions above the laws of God, and on the other insisted on outward observance of the smallest details of the law. But the Lord distinguishes between the mere outward observance of the law and the attitude of the heart towards the commandments of God, which is far more important. It is the ordinances which commanded love towards God and one's neighbour which especially show that it is impossible for natural man to lead a life that is pleasing to God and that not the law but faith is the only way to God.
We who are not under law but under grace and the leading of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 6:14; Gal. 5:18) can receive spiritual exhortations from the Old Testament laws of God. “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning” (Rom. 15:4). But it is also possible that the Lord, when speaking here about “commandments,” was not thinking of the Sinaitic law but of His own new commandments which He was just about to announce in the “sermon on the mount.” Later, in Matthew 28:20, He told His disciples to teach what He had commanded them. Here in Matthew 5:19-20 He no longer speaks of the “law,” as in verses 17-18, but of “these … commandments.” They might still have seemed “least” to His audience, yet they were the guidelines for the behaviour of the disciples of Christ in the kingdom of the heavens. This explanation is supported by the words of the Lord in Matthew 24:35: “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away.” The law may pass away with the end of the present creation (v. 18) but the words of the Lord shall never pass away.
The end of verse 19 again shows the contrast with the scribes and Pharisees. The Lord later says of them: “All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not” (Matt. 23:3). In Matthew 5:19 He links His promise to the agreement between actions and doctrine.
“For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20). Since the time of the Babylonian captivity a large collection of interpretations and ordinances has been added by the Talmud, in addition to the law. In the New Testament these are called “the tradition of the elders.” The scribes were those best acquainted with the law and these human ordinances, whereas the Pharisees were their strictest observers. In Matthew 23 the Lord Jesus utters a sevenfold “woe” over these men and their behaviour which was marked by egoism and emphasising outward appearance (Matt. 23:5-7, 25-28. Verse 14 is omitted in the J.N.D. Trans.). They might appear pious and righteous before men but before God their attitude could not stand.
This is why the Lord says here: “except your righteousness shall exceed … ” Obviously He does not mean the righteousness of God which is imputed to those believing on Him. The Lord Jesus, in the “sermon on the mount,” does not preach the gospel to the lost, but speaks to His disciples. “Your righteousness” therefore is the practical righteousness shown in the lives of those who have been justified by faith in Him and who follow Him by doing God's will (Matt. 7:21). This is practical righteousness and the only one that surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees.
For the real, born again believer, to enter into the kingdom of the heavens means to be united with the Lord as a true disciple and to be owned by Him as such. The New Testament speaks at least 14 times of entering into the kingdom.1 Some of these Scriptures clearly indicate that this is something in the future, while others are not clear as to the time. But all of them show that entering into the kingdom is reserved for the true disciples of Jesus. Unrighteous persons shall not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9).
1 Matt. 5:20; Matt. 7:21; Matt. 18:3; Matt. 19:23; Matt. 21:31; Matt. 23:13; Mark 9:47; Mark 10:23-24; Luke 16:16; Luke 18:24; John 3:5; Acts 14:22; 2 Peter 1:11.
A mere religious profession and the doing of certain “good works,” even if they leave a deep impression on other people, are not sufficient to be able to stand before God. But he who feels sincere sorrow for his sins and repents, who believes that the Lord Jesus has suffered for him and his sins the righteous punishment of God on the cross of Calvary, who then leads a new life in faith, following the Lord and being obedient to the Scriptures, he will be one of the righteous that shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of the Father (Matt. 13:43).
The Life of David (12)
The Gospel According to David
“God's glad tidings,” said Paul, is “concerning His Son (come of David's seed according to flesh, marked out Son of God in power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by resurrection of the dead)” (Rom. 1:1-4). Wonderful honour for David to find himself mentioned in such august company: God, His Son and the Holy Spirit. These are glad tidings indeed that present the operations of the Trinity for the blessing of mankind. Paul, in 2 Timothy 2:8, refers to his glad tidings. They too were concerning Jesus Christ, God's Son (Eph. 3:8). He exhorted Timothy to remember Jesus Christ of the seed of David who was raised from the dead. Paul was reminding his young brother in Christ, and his fellow-servant, that the power of God that raised Christ from the dead was available for all who were suffering for the truth of the glad tidings. It is important to remember that it was to a son of David that an angel of the Lord disclosed the wonderful news that the babe that was to be born to the virgin Mary was none other than Jesus, Jehovah the Saviour, who would save Israel from their sins. David is very much connected with the glad tidings.
David, being a prophet, was inspired to write about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus (Ps. 16:8-11). Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, used David's words when he preached to thousands of Jews on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem, David's city. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus constitutes the body and soul of the gospel message. The spotless and sinless life of Jesus was necessary for the presenting Himself as an offering to God. His abandonment and death on the cross at Golgotha was necessary to deal with sin and sins, the root and fruit. The resurrection was God's vindication of all that Jesus had accomplished for Him and others. Paul preached this bondage-breaking message (Acts 13:23-39). Note how he testified that Jesus was of David's seed. The death and resurrection of Jesus were central in Paul's preaching to the Corinthians and to the Athenians (1 Cor. 15:1-4; Acts 17:31-32). Peter, in his preaching in the home of Cornelius, presented the same fundamental features of the glad tidings (Acts 10:36-43). Any preaching that omits or ignores these features is not the glad tidings of God (See Gal. 1:6-9).
What is the result of believing in God's glad tidings? Let David tell us. “Blessed (happy) they whose lawlessnesses have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered: blessed (happy) the man to whom the Lord shall not at all reckon sin” (Psalm 32:1-2 quoted by Paul in Romans 4:6-8). For those who believe in Jesus regarding the truth of His death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins happiness is the positive result. Happiness is an elusive thing in modern society. It is like a will-o'-the-wisp and sought for in fame, wealth, materialism, sport, the arts, and sad to say in disgusting and depraved pursuits. Whatever pleasure and happiness is found in these things is temporary (Heb. 11:25; Rom. 1:32). The forgiveness of sins through believing in the Person and work of Jesus brings lasting peace and happiness to the believer. There is no other provision for the forgiveness of sins. The Ethiopian eunuch went on his way rejoicing when he received forgiveness through the work of Jesus (Acts 8:27-39). He immediately showed his gratitude for his blessing by being baptised to the Name of Jesus. The Philippian jailer received the testimony concerning Jesus. He was saved and rejoiced with all his house (Acts 16:25-34). True and lasting happiness is found when there is repentance toward God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
David's glad tidings bring a warning to the careless and disobedient. Israel refused salvation in the Person of Jesus, the Messiah, and also the testimony of His servant Stephen (Acts 7:51-60). Consequently, God's just government operated towards them. In Romans 11:7-10 Paul quotes from Psalm 69:22-23 and shows how David invokes God's judgment on those who persecute His Servant and reject His offers of blessing. See verses 19-21 which refer to the sorrows and persecution of Jesus. Those who refuse God's offer of salvation through Jesus suffer the inevitable consequences of their folly. In 3:7-12 and Hebrews 4:7 Paul uses David's words in Psalm 95:7-11 to remind the Hebrew believers in Jesus that Israel refused to enter into the promised land because they hardened their heart against God and His promise. They were afraid of the powerful inhabitants of Canaan entrenched in their walled cities. Those who left Egypt and refused to enter Canaan perished in the wilderness journey of forty years. All perished except Joshua and Caleb because they wholly followed the Lord. A new generation arose that entered into the land under Joshua's leadership. The Hebrew believers to whom Paul wrote were in danger of turning away from their faith in Christ and being led back to Judaism. The spiritual approach to God was in danger of being superseded by the old ceremonial and material approach. Paul gives them David's warning. “But harden not your heart. There will be serious consequences.” The Lord Jesus in the parable of the sower warns His hearers about the danger of a hard heart. It is resistant to the seed of the Word and is open to the power of Satan and circumstances (Matt. 13:19-20. See also Acts 19:9 and Rom. 2:5).
The last appeal to the unconverted in the New Testament is in Revelation 22:16-17, where Jesus, the root and offspring of David, says, “And let him that is athirst come; he that will, let him take the water of life freely.” Many people are thirsting after the putrid and stagnant waters of this temporary life. Oh that there might be a revival of interest in the living water that only Jesus can give (John 4:13-14). Israel forsook God, the fountain of living waters and hewed for themselves broken cisterns that could not contain water (Jer. 2:12-13). These ancient evils abound today but, praise God, the invitation to come and drink the living water is still available.
David's glad tidings can be summed up in the following features:
God the source;
Jesus Christ the substance;
Happiness the result of acceptance;
Judgement the consequence of refusal;
An abundant supply of living water available for all who
will come to Jesus.
(This concludes the series on the life of David)
Hendrik L. Heijkoop. 1906-1995
Brother Hendrik Heijkoop was taken home to be with the Lord on Thursday 31st August. His body was buried on Wednesday, 6th. September in Winschoten, Holland. He was born in the Netherlands in 1906, the tenth child of a Godfearing family. In his teens he found peace with God after long and deep exercise. He early desired to serve the Lord full time in preaching and teaching the Word of God. The study of the Word was from then on his principle occupation and delight. He had a keen sense of what it was to be a steward of the wonderful truths relating to the assembly of God.
He became a successful accountant but used his free time to minister the Word of God among believers in the Netherlands and Germany. It was then the Lord used him for the eternal blessing of many, including my grandmother. My atheistic grandfather was also converted under his preaching and my mother and aunt likewise came to trust the Saviour through his ministry. My mother was baptised by him in a baker's dough trough. He told me once that at that time the Lord worked wonderfully for the conversion of very many in the North of Holland. Among my memories of him is his delight when a simple brother with an upright heart gave thanks to the Lord at the Supper. If he was present at a meeting he didn't take the lead but always waited on the Lord. Brethren expected him always to speak because of his gift but if the Lord had not given him a word he would say so and remain silent. I always found his contribution at the Winschoten conference rich and full of Christ and the prospect of the Saviour's near return. He was sometimes hard to translate but never short of spiritual and moral power in what he said. Hearers (and translators) could be easily moved to tears when he was setting before us the riches of God's grace and mercy.
Before and during the 1939-45 war years he exhorted the German brethren to retain their separation from German political life and to have no part in the persecution of Jews. His caring for a Jewish client during the early war years brought him into conflict with the Nazis. For this he was sent to one of the notorious concentration camps. He was in the Vught labour camp, near Eindhoven. Within days brother Heijkoop became gravely ill with a stomach complaint. He needed all his strength in such a place and cried to the Lord for help. He could not understand why he was suffering so much. His health gradually came back and he was put to work. The Lord granted him favour in the eyes of his captors and he became responsible for the production of Phillips electrical products (whose factory had been made the centre for slave labour). After some 18 months he came to the attention of an officer who recalled that he could not be found shortly after he had been incarcerated. Their plan had been that Heijkoop was to be liquidated (perhaps in Auschwitz, Poland). Again the Lord intervened and because of a strong appeal from Mr Phillips this death sentence was not carried out. Following this, one of Mr Heijkoop's clients from before the war asked his daughter's boyfriend, a young German officer, to try to secure the release of his accountant Mr Heijkoop. The young officer foolishly forged his senior officer's signature and secured the release of our brother. The young man paid for this with his life but the situation in German occupied Holland was such that brother Heijkoop was not rearrested.
It was in his first days of freedom, when he had nothing but the clothes he stood up in, that he distinctly heard the Lord indicate to him that now was the time to go forth in faith into the work. In due time the Lord provided not only for our brother, that he might be financially independent, but also that a vast literature work could be undertaken with wide ranging effect and blessing to many. The Lord gave him many opportunities to minister outside Holland, in North America (especially Canada), Spain, Switzerland and Germany. He also visited Britain in the 1950's. He relied much on the Spirit's guidance and would go about as directed by the Lord serving an itinerant ministry for the nourishment of Christ's own. He will be principally remembered for his service among the brethren as a teacher of the Word of God.
On one occasion he told me that sometimes German brethren would come to him and apologise for the treatment he had received at the hands of the Nazis. His reply would be that they had nothing to apologise for. If they walked in the path of strangership, separated from the world and its politics, then there had not been a participation in the wickedness of the government of the day. But if any had supported the Hitlerite regime in any way they were certainly responsible and should confess it to the Lord at once. This to me was a clear illustration of why a good soldier of Jesus Christ should not get entangled with the affairs of this life. To participate in politics in any way brings responsibility of participation in another's sins.
He edited a Dutch periodical, 'Uit Het Woord der Waarheid' (Out of the Word of Truth) for over forty years and was the author of a number of books, perhaps the most well known title being “Beginning with Christ” (in other languages titled “Letters to Young Believers”). These books have been printed in up to 458,000 copies each and have been published or translated into Albanian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Dutch, English, French, German, Hindi Maiayalam, Norwegian, Punjabi, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian (9,000 circulated in the USSR before Glasnost), Spanish, Tagalog, Tamil, Telegu etc. He laboured to promote the broadest possible dissemination of Bibles (especially the excellent Translation by Mr Darby) and sound expository literature everywhere. When sectarians forbade the sale of their edition of Darby's collected writings to all but their own coterie, Mr Heijkoop arranged to have sufficient printed for all who might desire a set at a modest price. At one time very few in Europe possessed a set but by the early 1980's most who were active in assembly life had one, as well as a copy of the Bible Treasury edited by William Kelly. The Eastern (then chiefly communist countries) and third world mission lands were so upon his heart that thousands upon thousands of books were poured in to them. He rejoiced to see the gospel of God's grace spread far and wide. Today very many are walking according to the truths which his books expound from Scripture. Alas, in some quarters some are turning aside from the truth. I recall how he had said to me that where the light had shone the brightest we now see the greatest departure and darkness. He was referring to Britain then but alas these words could now be applied to the Netherlands too.
The last few years of his life were troubled with extremely poor health and his memory finally failed. He lived with his wife in the old peoples home run by brethren in Bonn, Germany. They had no children. His departure from this scene is accompanied by thanksgiving to the Lord for raising up such a gift and for releasing him from his worn and weak frame to be in Paradise.
This is the briefest biographical sketch which shows only a little of what the Lord has given in this servant. May we be granted grace to follow the Lord in faithful obedience until His return for us all on the clouds. “Remember your leaders who have spoken to you the word of God; and considering the issue of their conversation, imitate their faith” (Hebrews 13:7). E.N.C.