Scripture Notes.


Isaiah 45:23.

The light thrown upon this scripture by its citation in the New Testament is remarkable. But before we proceed to this, a glance at the context will be both interesting and profitable. In verse 22, following upon the assertion that, in contrast with idols, Jehovah alone is God, that "there is no God beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me," we have the universal invitation of grace, "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth." Then comes the solemn asseveration, enforced by a divine oath, "That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear;" that is, Jehovah, the Creator - God, has thus decreed. Turning now to Philippians 2, we find that these words are applied to the One who humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. There are, moreover, two notable explanations added - explanations which never could have been discovered, had they not thus been divinely given. The first is, that "every knee" applies to all in heaven, to all in earth, and to all under the earth; i.e. to all intelligences, whether in heaven, or in earth, or in hell; all demons, as well as all angels, saints, and men. Secondly, "every tongue shall swear" is seen to mean the confession to the glory of God the Father that Jesus is Lord, all alike owning the exaltation and the given name, which is above every name, of Jesus as Lord, in virtue of His death on the cross. What an unfolding, both of the glory of the person of our blessed Lord, as well as of God's appreciation of the life and death of Him who was known on earth as Jesus of Nazareth! In Romans 14:10 we find another application. Why, says the apostle, dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.* For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. (vv. 10-12.) In this scripture bowing the knee is referred to our accountability to God in judgment; and we are exhorted, because all alike have before them theprospect of the judgment-seat, to desist from judging one another. (Compare 1 Cor. 4:3-5.) We know from another scripture that the Father hath committed all judgment to the Son; and this fact, taken in connection with the statement of the apostle, brings out again the essential and personal glories of Him who will be the Judge of all. These several scriptures, when combined, contain a remarkable revelation of the purpose of God as to the absolute supremacy of His beloved Son, and also of His will to have that supremacy universally owned. Jesus of Nazareth is already, and one day shall be confessed to be, Lord of all, to the glory of God the Father.

*The judgment-seat of "God" is now generally accepted as the more accurate reading.


2 Timothy 4:8.

It is often asked, in reference to this scripture, whether the crown of righteousness is a reward for a special class; whether, that is, the words they "that love His appearing" describe those only who are really looking for and loving the appearing of our Lord and Saviour. The truth is rather that we have here the Holy Spirit's estimate of all believers. The question is therefore not so much whether all Christians answer to this description, as the fact that this is the light, because their true and proper attitude, in which they are regarded by God. Take another similar passage, "Unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation." (Hebrews 9:28.) Now it would be a great mistake to suppose, as some have contended, that those who look for Him designate a class - those only who are actually expecting Christ. If this were accepted, the false doctrine, rife in some quarters, would follow, that only those who are waiting for Christ will be blessed with full salvation on His return. Once again, it is the characteristic of all believers before God, showing that their only proper attitude is looking for the return of their Lord and Saviour. These scriptures thus give us a standard by which we may ascertain whether we are in any measure answering to God's thoughts of His people.


Matthew 20:1-16.

It is essential to observe that this parable relates to service, for the labourers are sent into the vineyard. There is also no doubt that it sprang out of Peter's question: "Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed Thee; what shall we have therefore?" In reply the Lord graciously told His disciples that they should have a special place in the kingdom, should sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel; and, 'moreover, that everyone who had forsaken anything for His Name's sake should be abundantly recompensed. He then added the significant warning, that many who were first should be last, and the last first; and this He proceeded to explain in the parable: "For," He says, "the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard." We have, in the next place, a description of the several labourers, with the different hours at which they were hired. But, in fact, there are but two classes, those who agreed upon the amount they were to receive, and those who left themselves in the hands of the Master to give what he deemed right; the former, we apprehend, being the "first," and the latter the "last" of Matthew 19:30. The former too represent, we doubt not, the spirit of Peter, as expressed in his question, "What shall we have therefore?" The Lord thus brings before us the right and wrong spirit of service; the latter finding its motive in expected reward, whereas the former draws the spring of its activity from the will of the Master, and is content to leave every other question to the grace which has called. The one thinks of the value of the labour rendered, the other of the Master for whom the service is done. Those who agreed for their penny were, in a word, legal servants; whereas those who left themselves to the One who had called them were under the power of grace. To the first, the labour was a means of recompense; to the last, it was a privilege, and hence they prize it in and for itself, knowing something of the grace that had bestowed it. All this is brought out when the steward settles with the labourers. In obedience to his lord he begins with the last, and everyone received a penny. This excited the anger of the first; for if the last had a penny, surely they were entitled to more. The answer was that they had received what they bargained for, that the master had the right to do what he would with his own, and that their eye was not to be evil because he was good. The exhibition of grace, with all its sovereign rights, only excited the envy of the natural heart. Hence the enmity of the Jew when the gospel was proclaimed to the Gentile, and thus though the "first," he also became the "last." So with these labourers; those who went to labour last in the vineyard left the master's presence satisfied with his goodness, and so became "first;" while those who were first in their labours left his presence with murmurs in their hearts and on their lips, strangers still to grace. Hence the conclusion: So the last shall be first (referring to Matt. 19:30), and the first last; for many be called (as all these labourers had been), but few chosen. E. D.