Scripture Notes.


Hebrews 4:12-13.

Altogether this is a very remarkable scripture, as setting forth the all-searching character of the word of God, when it is applied to us in the power of the Holy Ghost. It is necessary to observe that it is its action on Christians which the apostle has in view. He has been pointing out that there remaineth a rest for the people of God, that it is not therefore to be looked for here in the wilderness, but that it is future, that God's rest, in fact, into which He is bringing His people, is in heaven. Joined to this is the exhortation, "Let us labour [use diligence] therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example [as shown out in the case of the children of Israel] of unbelief." Thereupon he proceeds to speak of the provision God has made to search our hearts by the living action of His Word upon our souls, which, penetrating into all the secret recesses of our being, detects every tendency to unbelief and departure from God, and reveals everything cherished there unsuitable to Him. Nothing whatever can escape it, when once it finds entrance into our hearts and consciences. It is, indeed, the light which makes everything manifest, as well as that which, sharper than any two-edged sword, cuts down between the most hidden parts of our nature, and exposes everything to view. Then it is that the words follow: "Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight," etc. The reader will observe this striking connection between God Himself and the Word. We might have expected "its sight"; but no, it is "His sight." The reason is, God and His word cannot be disjoined. When He speaks, when His word comes home to us, it is Himself we hear speaking; we are brought into His presence, and it is only as being consciously there, that we can judge everything in the thoughts and intents revealed by the Word as contrary to Him, according to His holy nature. Even God's own word remains a dead letter until it comes to us as a revelation of Himself and of His mind. This at once explains to us why we read, in verse 13, "His sight," and also that "all things are naked and opened [laid bare] unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do." Truly we are, in this sense also, in the light as God is in the light, and we can, His name, be there in perfect peace and liberty, when we remember that "the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin."


Romans 5:2-3, 11.

It is well known that the words "rejoice," "glory," and "joy," in these verses represent the same word in the original; and that the true rendering is to "boast." The beautiful connection in the apostle's argument is, to say the least, disturbed by the needless change which our translators have made. Thus, after showing that, "being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ;" that through Him "also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand," the apostle adds, "and 'boast' in the hope of the glory of God." We are not in it yet, but having the sure and certain hope of its possession, we can boast of it as in prospect. But what of the persecutions and trials by the way? The answer is: "We 'boast' in tribulations also"; knowing that God takes them up, and uses them for our needful discipline and blessing. Moreover, during this process, "the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." The proof, as well as the measure of this love, is seen in the death of Christ, and in the death of Christ for us as "without strength," "ungodly," "sinners," and "enemies." This leads the apostle to show what God will yet do, on the ground of what He has already done. A legal person argues, that God's attitude depends upon what he is for God; but grace concludes, as in this scripture, what God will be, and do, from what He has manifested Himself to be, and from what He has done, in the death of His beloved Son. Hence we read, "If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life." The close of the argument is now reached: "And not only so, but we also 'boast' in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the reconciliation." We "boast" thus in hope of the glory of God; we "boast" in the tribulations that beset us on our journey to this consummation of our hope; and finally we "boast" in God Himself, who is the blessed fount and source of all the blessing we have received, or shall receive, and who, in the display of all that He is as already revealed in Christ, will be the blessed Object of our "boast" throughout eternity.


Galatians 5:17.

The translation of the last clause of this verse, as may be seen from the Revised Version, is altogether faulty. Taking it as it stands, it would teach that both the Spirit and the flesh are equally impotent, or rather that the result for the believer of their mutual antagonism is that he cannot do anything, that, whatever his desires, the desires of the new nature, even though indwelt by the Holy Ghost, he is utterly helpless, cannot do the things he would. An examination of the context (v. 16, for example) shows at once that such a thought is wholly alien from the mind of God; and, in fact, the words should be rendered, "that ye should not do those things which ye desire." This at once clears away the difficulty. The Galatian saints were not walking according to the character of their calling. Losing the sense of grace, they had put themselves back, through the influence of Judaizing teachers, under law; and the consequence was, that the flesh assumed its old dominant place in their lives. (v. 15.) The only remedy for this, as the apostle points out, was to "walk in the Spirit." (Compare Rom. 8:13.) Thereupon he takes occasion to bring before them the abiding character of the flesh, and its irreconcilable contrariety with the Spirit. "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other." The two are, and must ever be, opposed. The flesh will always be evil, and cannot be ameliorated, improved, or changed; and the Spirit, blessed be God, is holy; and it is impossible therefore that the two can be in agreement. The flesh "lusteth" against the Spirit, ever antagonizing, and ever seeking, in opposition to the Spirit, to gratify its own inclinations. The Spirit, on the other hand, is ever in opposition to the flesh, and seeks to repress its activities, and thus to lead the believer according to God. The question then is, To which shall the believer yield? If by grace he walks in the power of the Spirit, he will not fulfil the lusts of the flesh (v. 16); but if, on the other hand, he surrenders himself to the dominion of the flesh, there is then, as verses 19-21 indicate, no sin, however abominable, into which he may not fall. Give the Spirit His place in our souls, He will produce the beauteous fruit mentioned in verses 22, 23. But then, as the apostle warns these saints, it is a characteristic of those "that are Christ's," that they "have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts." If, therefore, any were allowing the sway of the flesh, let them take heed lest, after all, they had but deceived themselves with a vain profession, and did not really belong to Christ. If we live in the Spirit, let it be seen - for this is the force of the exhortation - by our also walking in the Spirit. E. D.