LV. July/August 1972 No. 4
"If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." - John 8:36.
FREE indeed! Jesus intimated that some who think they are free are really imprisoned, confined, restrained from liberty; and he implied that there are degrees in the attainment of the freedom which he had to offer. In fact, this freedom of Jesus, as it applies to his Church in the Gospel Age, may also be divided into four stages or degrees, to be attained before its beneficiaries finally become "free indeed."
THE FIRST FREEDOM
Paul, the great attorney of Christ, writing to the Ephesians, declares: " ... Ye were dead through your trespasses and sins, wherein ye once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience. . . . Ye were at that time separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world" (Eph. 2:1, 2, 12). Truly a condition of condemnation, confinement, and misery.
Thus it is seen, from the standpoint of the truly free, that all men who have not known Jesus Christ as their Savior are "carnal, sold under sin"; clad in the "filthy rags" of their own righteousness; "captives" of death, "hid in prison houses" of disease, of poverty, mental and physical; preyed upon by "that corruption that is in the world through lust." Miserable prisoners in a filthy dungeon!
And as for many generations most men have been born in this dark and dismal dungeon, they do not realize their condition; and in all sincerity reply to Him who speaks to them of possible freedom as did the Jews of old: "We have never yet been in bondage to any man; how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?"
Nevertheless, some of "the people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwelt in the earth, in the deep darkness of death, upon them bath the light shined" (Isaiah 9:2). A ray of sunshine has pierced into the dungeon.
"He is the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world," declared John the Baptist of Jesus. Those who have come to this Light, and have heard the proclamation of "release to the captives," and have qualified by faith for its benefits, feel that they have been made "free, indeed."
THE SECOND FREEDOM
But sooner or later, some of those who have been justified by faith, and so experienced the First Freedom of Jesus, realize that they are not yet entirely free. Though released from the dungeon, they are still confined to the house! Their condition is described by the Apostle in his letter to the Galatians. He has been writing mainly to Jewish Christians, but in the fourth chapter of the Epistle he seems to broaden his theme to embrace all those who show by their conduct that they are still laboring under a certain restraint. He writes: "I say that so long as the heir is a child, he differeth nothing from a slave, though he is lord of all; but is under guardians and stewards until the day appointed of the father. So we also, when we were children, were held in bondage under the rudiments of the world." To do justice to the Apostle's very idiomatic Greek, the word rendered "rudiments" might be more freely translated "goose-stepping." The Jewish converts were still ostentatiously and foolishly trying to keep in step with the Jewish law and traditions; the Gentile converts were still marching along to the "hep, hep" of their Gentile associates. The Apostle continues: "Howbeit, at that time, not knowing God [well], ye were in bondage to them that by nature are no gods: but now that ye have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how turn ye back again to the weak and beggarly [cringing] 'goose-stepping,' whereunto ye desire to be in bondage over again?" This marching along with the world is not freedom for the Christian. It is bondage.
The Apostle James also has something to say of Christians who are still in bondage. "Whence wars and fighting among you?" he demands. "Come they not from your pleasures that war [with your consciences] in your members? . . . Ye adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?" This inward fighting is not freedom.
"Ye were called for freedom," continues Paul to the Galatians, "But ... the flesh lusteth against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary the one to the other; that ye may not do the things that ye would:'
So both the world and the flesh crack the whip over us, and we continue on our "weak and beggarly" course until our partially freed spirits get tired of the miserable performance and we turn again unto Jesus to hear him say: "Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
The word "yoke" used by Jesus in this passage is not the same Greek word he used in the parable in which he referred to "five yoke of oxen." It is the word used in Acts 15:10: "A yoke upon the neck of the disciples"; in Galatians 5:1: "Be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage"; in 1 Timothy 6:1: "As many servants as are under the yoke of bondage"; and none of these suggest a partnership yoke. It carries the same thought as the "yoke" of Jeremiah 27:6, 11: "The nation that shall bring their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him.... " Jesus invites the justified believer to submit to him - to his rule. And he intimates: "Compared to the servitude you are under, my rule is freedom. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
Some of the dungeon-freed earthlings accept this further freedom; and of them Paul writes to the Colossians (Col. 1:12, 13): "Giving thanks unto the Father, who made us meet to be partakers of the [present] inheritance of the saints in light [by releasing us from the dark dungeon of condemnation], and [further] translated us into the Kingdom [sovereignty] of the Son of his love." These have now been released from the house -- the house of Adam -- the house of human mindedness.
No longer citizens of the world, their "citizenship is in heaven"; while properly described as "aliens and strangers," they have been appointed "ambassadors for Christ," hence are assured exterritorial privileges and protection in "this present evil world." "For the sceptre of wickedness shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous, that the righteous [be not forced to] put forth their hands unto iniquity." Thus the Psalmist explains the matter in the 125th Psalm; and he counsels those who have received the freedom of God's out-of-doors: "Forget thine own people and thy father's [Adam's] house" (Psalm 45:10).
Truly these doubly freed ones may say with the Psalmist (Psa. 18:17,19): "He delivered me from my strong enemy [death, the dungeon] ... He brought me forth also into a large place" -- out of the house, into the condition of the consecrated, the spirit-begotten.
A glorious freedom - but is their freedom yet complete?
THE THIRD FREEDOM
No! The Apostle writes in the seventh chapter of Romans a vivid description of a condition of mind experienced by every freedman who, released from the dungeon of the Adamic condemnation and from the house of human-mindedness, has received a new mind, "which after God hath been created in righteousness and holiness of truth." The Apostle reminds us that we are still obliged to carry around with us a "body of death" -- it is the only body "we," the New Creatures, have -- a body that in many of the laws of its being is contrary to the New Mind -- the will to serve God. "For I delight," says Paul, "in the law of God after the inward man: but I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity under the law of sin which is in my members."
Thus even in the open air of God's outdoors the freedman finds that he is still infested with some of the crawling things of his former prison cell: the habits, desires, appetites, passions, entrenched in his fallen flesh -- reckoned dead, indeed, but still actually alive and in torment.
The Apostle is very sensitive to this condition. The "law" in his mind and the "law" in his members are "warring" against each other, and he feels himself a victim of this internal strife. He is "brought into captivity" - he uses a word meaning a prisoner of war, literally, "spear-hedged" --and is pricked on every side by his tormentors as he seeks to escape. "O wretched [literally, trial-enduring] man that I am," he cries; "who shall deliver me out of this dead body? I thank God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord."
Eagerly we inquire: When, O Paul, shall this deliverance come? Is there some formula of immediate escape that you have discovered, and of which we also may avail ourselves? Answer, we pray; for we, too, long to be free indeed!
Not here does the Apostle directly answer this question; elsewhere he is explicit. "We wait for a Savior," he writes the Philippians, "who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of his glory" -- his risen, spirit body. And to the Corinthians he writes: "We know that, if the earthly house of our tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For verily in this we groan, ... being burdened." Thus, to the Romans, the Philippians, the Corinthians, the Great Apostle writes the same message: "Indeed, we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened; not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be clothed upon; that what is mortal may be swallowed up of life" (Rom. 7:22-25; Phil. 3:20, 21; 2 Cor. 5:1-4).
So those who may be said to have been successively released from the dungeon and the house, are still traveling and travailing in an alien country; they are still "groaning" and "seeking another country, even a better."
But meanwhile shall we be content with merely "groaning"? Is there nothing that we can do about the "body of humiliation" with which we are still hampered? Cannot we get rid of some, at least, of the dungeon soil and crawling things?
Yes, indeed! There is the cleansing by "washing of water by the Word" to be done, and we all find plenty of scrubbing needed in the corners! The Apostle's exhortation is: "Beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilements of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." It is not difficult to define the defilements of the flesh, but what of the defilements of spirit which we must seek to wash away? What are they?
The English word "spirit" and the Greek word so rendered, both have the significance of unseen power or force, ("like the wind," as Jesus explained) whether personal or impersonal. The mind is the unseen power that controls the body; the motives and intentions, often deeply hidden and disguised even from our own consciousness, constitute the unseen power that dominates our minds. These motives and intentions are often tainted with "spiritual" pride, or ambition, or vainglory, or insincerity. These are defilements of the spirit.
In Hebrews 4:12 it is written: "The word of God is living, and active .. . and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart." The Word both discerns and cleanses, even the defilements of the spirit. But the process must be continuous. The fleshly "tabernacle" is inherently weak, fundamentally unsound, persistently vicious. Its reactions powerfully influence the deepest functions of the mind. The Prophet Jeremiah realized this when he declared (Jer. 17:9): "The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt: who can know it?" Even our motives, at best, are obscure and mixed!
However, the longer the cleansing process through "washing by the word" continues, and the greater the degree of freedom from defilements of flesh and spirit attained, the more keenly conscious of the dead body still on his back, does the freedman in Christ become. Often his voice is heard raised in plaintive song:
The gyves, the fetters, that bind the free spirit, must still be struck off by the Great Armorer, before the liberated prisoner is free indeed!
THE FOURTH FREEDOM
So one who has conceived a passionate desire for the ultimate and complete freedom of which Jesus spoke can never be satisfied as long as his thoughts and actions are in any degree "subjected to vanity," to that "corruption that is in the world through lust." This "corruption of blood" affects every man of Adam's condemned race. So long as the judicially justified freedman's thoughts or actions ever wander, even for a moment, from the objective of serving God to which he has pledged himself, he is to that extent "subject to vanity" and to the corruption of carnal desire or "lust," however innocent he may be of offense according to the standards of the present evil world. So he increasingly longs for that new sphere of life to which he has been invited by his Lord; but the desirability of the vast "change" which this involves is purely a matter of faith. For, if he is a realist, or if he has learned sufficient humility, he cannot feel that he is prepared, fitted, competent for the new status and environment to which he aspires. He cannot with confidence assure himself that mentally, morally, and physically he is ready to meet so profound and sweeping a change.
What can the seeker after the ultimate freedom of Jesus do to complete his preparation for the great Change -- a metamorphosis vastly greater than would be the instantaneous transformation of an ant into a man? As a matter of fact -- nothing, but trust. This the Apostles intimate. "Having done all [that you can do, or that is commanded], stand. God's spirit is working in the freedman candidate. The trials and difficulties of his experience are producing qualities in him suitable to his future sphere. He has "need of patience, that having done the will of God, [he] may receive the promise" (Heb. 10:36). Yet patience is not a deliberate or voluntary acquisition. James says (James 1:3, 4) that "the trial of our faith" produces patience, and that it is our part to "let patience have her perfect [complete] work, that ye may be perfect [complete] and entire, lacking nothing." Does this mean perfection in the flesh, mental, moral, and physical? Ah, no! It means that Christ's freedman must have certain educational and preparatory experiences; and if he draw back, the process will not be complete, the education unfinished.
But since it is admitted that perfection in the flesh is not to be expected nor attainable, there yet remains a tremendous work to be accomplished to prepare the freedman for his ultimate destiny. This work requires the energies of the divine Creator himself. "Wherefore," says Peter, "let them also that suffer according to the will of God, commit their souls [beings, conscious existence] in well-doing, to a faithful Creator." This is the only place in the New Testament that God is called the "Creator." It is indeed a sovereign act of creation that is now to be accomplished.
In the fourth and fifth chapters of Peter's First Epistle, the fact, conditions, and certain details of this creative work are set forth. He says:
"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial among you, which cometh upon you to prove you . . . but inasmuch as ye are partakers of [the] Christ's sufferings, rejoice; that at the revelation of his glory ye may rejoice with exceeding joy. . And the God of all grace [giving], who hath called you unto his eternal glory in [the] Christ, after that ye have suffered a little while, himself to complete you, he will establish [adjust to surroundings, integrate], he will strengthen [mightily empower] you."
This, be it noted, is to take place "after that ye have suffered a little while"-- after the "light afflictions, which are but for a moment," are ended. This "establishing" and "strengthening" by our God himself, is just what, and all that is then needed. The work that we had begun, but never could finish to our satisfaction, is now to be completed, finished. Adjustments made easy for us, to our new and strange surroundings; integrated in the position to which we are assigned, so that we shall harmonize and cooperate with our surroundings as completely - aye, far more completely -than we did with our earthly circumstances; finally, empowered for all requirements of space, time, wisdom, position.
Does this mean that the final and complete freedom will be miraculously given to those who truly suffer with Christ? Yes; such is the declaration of that Peter to whom were entrusted the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. His was the commission to first declare the Sovereignty open to the Jews, which he discharged at Pentecost; and later to similarly open the door to the Gentiles, when he received Cornelius into the Church. It is particularly fitting, therefore, that he should be the one to conduct, in anticipation, both Jew and Gentile overcomer through that open Door to full entry in the miracle of the First Resurrection, into the Kingdom. So he adds a seal, as it were, to his declaration quoted above: "This is the true grace [gift] of God. Stand ye fast therein."
- H. E. Hollister.
"For I reckon that the
sufferings of this present time are not worthy
As noted on the second page of our last issue, just as we were going to press, the news reached us that Brother Alec L. Muir ended his earthly pilgrimage March 27, 1972, in his seventy-seventh year.
Brother Alec had served the brethren, as a full-time Pilgrim for the previous twelve years, not only in the United States and Canada, but also in the British Isles. Additionally he was an occasional contributor to our Herald. One of his best known contributions was an article, published in four installments, under the caption "Lights and Shadows in Christian Experience." Commencing with this issue, we are republishing that series as a special tribute to his memory. --Directors and Editors
THE Christian life is light and shadow, cloud and sunshine; tears in the evening, joy in the morning. In sickness of body we have sanctification of heart; in pain in the outer man, we have great peace in the inner man. Thus our sufferings in the present life, even when greatest, have interwoven in their texture, and intermingled with their current, and ever bubbling up from their depth, constant compensatory joys; but in the life to come, our joy will have nothing to interfere with it. It will be undiluted, unmingled ecstasy, perpetual happiness, unclouded joy. Moreover our present sufferings, even the worst, never exceed the strength of our powers of endurance. In the glory of the Kingdom our capacities will be infinitely enlarged, our susceptibilities of bliss made infinitely sensitive, and the joy that we shall experience will rise to the measure of the great capacities that our Father will give us. And in that wonderful Kingdom what delight it will afford to renew the sweet counsel we have taken together, to recount the toils of the combat, the labor of the way, and to approach, not the house, but the throne of God, in company, there to join in the symphonies of heavenly voices in the hallelujah chorus.
One of the most beautiful and touching scenes in the Bible on this subject is to be found in Bethany, the home of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. There are many sacred memories associated with our dear Redeemer in his earthly sojourn: Bethlehem, the scene of the nativity; Nazareth, where Jesus grew to manhood; the river Jordan, where he was baptized; Tiberias, an area he frequented much; the Mount on which he uttered the beatitudes and announced the principles of his Kingdom, -- the place where he spent whole nights in prayer; Calvary, where he poured out his soul in death for us. However, wonderful and blessed though these and many other associations may be to us, there is yet one other place where love fondly dwells in sanctified thought -- the home and village of Bethany.
It is only a memory now, and yet the place is fragrant with his presence, the echoes of his voice, the kindliness of his manner, his sharing of the burdens and anxieties of others for their encouragement. If the story of Joseph and his brethren in the Old Testament is invested with surpassing interest, here is a Gospel home scene in the New, of still deeper and tenderer pathos, a sweet oasis in the toil-worn pilgrimage of the Master. We follow him to Bethany from the courts of the Temple -- the busy crowd, the lengthened journey, the miracles of mercy, the hours of vain and ineffectual pleading with obdurate hearts, and see him in the midst of a peaceful family, spirit blending with spirit in sanctified communion.
Doubtless many incidents of the Lord's sojournings at Bethany have been left unrecorded, because more than once the inspired narrative makes the simple statement that Jesus retired to the village of his friend Lazarus. We certainly can be grateful for what is recorded, giving a comprehensive intermingling of doctrine, consolation, comfort, and instruction in righteousness. At first glance it may seem strange that the story of Bethany and the resurrection of Lazarus, forming so noble and important a phase in our Lord's life, should have been recorded only by the Evangelist John. Two reasons have been suggested: (1) that John narrates the work of Christ in Judea and especially in Jerusalem, while the other evangelists restrict themselves to his Galilean ministry; and (2) that John was the best qualified to do justice to this matchless picture. Baptized himself with the spirit of love, his inspired pen could best portray the lights and shadows in this lovely household. Here for a brief moment he lifts the veil which enshrouds the private life of our Lord to exhibit him in the character of a true and loving friend.
MARTHA, MARY, AND LAZARUS
Let us visit the home in Bethany and be introduced to the members of the family that we may better understand' the lessons as they unfold. It is thought by some that the head of the family was Simon the leper, the husband of Martha, and now deceased (Matt. 26:6). Martha has been accurately represented as a type of activity; bustling, energetic, impulsive, well-qualified to be the head of the household, and to grapple with the stern realities and routine of actual life; quick in apprehension, strong and vigorous in intellect, anxious to give a reason for all she did, and requiring a reason for the conduct of others; one who combined diligence in business with fervency in spirit.
Mary was a type of reflection; calm, meek, devotional, contemplative, sensitive in feeling, ill-suited to battle with the cares and sorrows, the strifes and griefs of an engrossing and encumbering world. Her position was at her Lord's feet, drinking in those living waters which came welling up fresh from the Fountain of life; asking no questions, declining all arguments, gentle and submissive, the picture of a childlike faith which "beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things."
Of Lazarus we have fewer details to guide us in giving individuality to his character. Some think he was the rich young ruler who came to Jesus to inquire what he should do to inherit everlasting life. However, while he did not then possess the spirit of sacrifice necessary to, enable him to carry out the instructions of Jesus, the Lord nevertheless loved him for his many excellent qualities. Whether or not he was that young ruler, we may think of Lazarus as being gentle, retiring, amiable, forgiving -- a very fine member of a closely knit family.
And then, most wonderful of all, we find Jesus personifying true friendship. While he loved the world and gave himself a ransom for all, yet he had sinless. partialities for individuals whose spirits and minds were more congenial and kindred with his own. Thus he had an ardent affection for all of his disciples, but even among them there was an inner circle of holier attachments -- Peter, James, and John. And even of these three, there was one preeminently beloved (John 13:23). Do we not find it true that there are some heart sanctuaries where we can more readily rush to bury the tale of our sorrows or unburden our perplexities, that in communion together there might be found peace! What was it but a noble and touching tribute to the longings and susceptibilities of his own heart for human friendship that, on entering Gethsemane, he thus sought strength in his hour of need -- "Tarry ye here and watch with me!" (Matt. 26:38).
JESUS IN THE MIDST
But to return. Such was the home and its members about whom we love to think. Perhaps the Lord had Bethany in mind when he said: "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matt. 18:20). We can fancy, but no more, these oft happy meetings, when the Lord, weary and worn, was seen descending the rocky footpath of Olivet --Lazarus, or his sisters, from the flat roof of their dwelling, or under the spreading fig tree, eager to catch the first glimpse of his approach. Standing back in the shadows we watch and listen with deep interest to the conversation, unchronicled by the inspired penmen, dealing, we may be sure, not with the sordid details of Jewish enmity toward the Savior, but with sublime and heavenly truths which sank deep into the hearts of his listeners, preparing them for a time of unexpected sorrow. If we find pleasure and comfort in fellowship one with another, what must it have been to be seated in his presence drinking in the wonderful words of life!
May we pause here to ask ourselves the nature of our own fellowship when we meet together. Do we ourselves come together conscious of the need to get away from the bustling affairs of the world that we might refresh our spirits with the sublime promises of the Kingdom? Alas, are not our meetings spoiled sometimes by the introduction of the things of the world, the things that we have done or said; sometimes, indeed, by an argumentative spirit which turns the searching for truth into a debating society?
Not so at Bethany. There would be no interruption of the Savior there as he discoursed on his Father's plans and purposes; as he explained the need for the Ransomer and Redeemer; as he underlined the certainty of Messiah's Kingdom with its wealth of blessing for the Jew and also for all men everywhere. That we cannot all grasp the truth to the same extent or depth is shown as the story unfolds. The principle enunciated by Jesus still holds good: "According to your faith be it unto you." It is, therefore, as we grow in grace and understanding, and as the ripened character of the Christian develops, that the depths of the Lord's teachings become understood and we "lean not unto our own understanding, but in all our ways acknowledge him" trusting him to direct our paths (Prov. 3:5, 6). In this modern, materialistic day, we need the more to "enter our closets" (Matt. 6:6) and "open our window toward Jerusalem," as did Daniel (Dan. 2:10), and commune more and more with our Father and our dear Redeemer. From such communion we derive strength and grace to fit us for the burdens of life, and to enable us to do what St. Paul urges us to do: "having done all, to stand" -- (Eph. 6:13). Let us remember that the Lord can be served in the lowliest as well as in the most exalted stations, and we can become a center of holy influences to all around us.
AT THE MASTER'S FEET
One of these hallowed seasons of the Lord's presence is referred to in Luke 10:38-42, where Martha and Mary are first brought to our attention. It was natural that the presence of the Lord would cause some stir in the little household, and Martha, the busy, eager-hearted hostess, hurried to and fro with excited energy to prepare for his proper entertainment. Mary, likewise, intent on welcoming the Lord, and knowing that her sister was only too happy in attending to his material comforts, sat at his feet and listened to his words. Martha enjoyed the task which she had chosen and was quite able, without any assistance, to do everything required. She was not to blame for her active service, but a little touch of jealousy disturbed her peace of mind, when she saw Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus. It seemed to her that there was a certain amount of injustice in the situation, although we can be sure that if Martha had appealed to Mary for help, the help would have been forthcoming immediately. Being vexed in spirit, Martha, somewhat impatiently and not quite reverently, hurried in to ask Jesus if he really thought it all right for Mary to sit before him while she, herself, was taking care of all the work, and would he please tell Mary to give some help with the evening meal. How true is this picture of the Lord's people down through the Gospel Age even to our own times! The little petty jealousies which have plagued the household of faith and brought discouragement to so many! Yet, as we more nearly attain the measure of the stature of the perfect man in Christ, there grows a calmer and gentler view of these weaknesses and more patience and understanding in reproving them.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
The answer of Jesus -- "Martha, Martha" -- makes us imagine the half-sad, half-playful, but wholly kind and healing smile which lightened his face -- "Thou art careful and troubled about many things; but one thing is needful; and Mary bath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her." In saying this, Jesus did not mean to exalt the contemplative life over the active life. Either may be necessary-both must be combined. Jesus was reproving the spirit of fret and fuss--the lack of repose and calm in his follower, and he wanted Martha to understand that at the time of his visits to their home she should provide only for their simplest needs, so that the remaining time could be devoted to higher things. In this sense Mary had "chosen" the better part. It was the decision she made in putting first things first that brought the Lord's approval. Martha, on the other hand, while properly filled with the true spirit of hospitality, was nevertheless overdoing the part, and thus her mind was troubled and she would be unable to enjoy the evening's fellowship.
Has not this same thing been true in our experiences? Can we not think back over the years to the occasions when greater preparations seem to have been made for the "natural" man to the detriment of the "spiritual" man? In our meetings from week to week we are but reproducing the Bethany scene over and over again. Do we find Christ drawing us to the meeting? Is he the center of our thoughts, the object of our devotions, the altogether lovely One? And when. we leave our "upper rooms," do we carry with us the fragrance of the Lord's presence and the blessings he has left with us? Are we growing in that gentler, kindlier spirit, and thus increasingly becoming what St. Paul once said - "fellow-helpers" of the truth? Here is the measuring rod to indicate our progress in the way of the Lord, an activity working from within and reaching outward into the everyday affairs of life. As St. Peter would say: "If ye do these things ye shall never fall." This is the true test of character and something we each can watch and pray about day by day.
"OUR FRIEND LAZARUS SLEEPETH"
Our next scene is to be found in John, chapter 11. In verse one we are told of the sickness of Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and Martha. It is instructive to note, in verse 5, that although Jesus had previously approved of Mary sitting at his feet, John here records that "Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus." Thus does the noble Apostle beautifully show the impartiality of Jesus; his appreciation of the sincerity, of those who serve him and seek to please him.
This experience with sickness and sorrow was evidently anticipated by the Lord and in an effort to strengthen the members of the family, he had visited them as discussed previously, lifting their thoughts to the true and eternal verities. And is not this always the way of the Lord toward his people? As we look back over our Christian experience, do we not find that the Lord prepared us for each heavy trial, by first bringing us a great blessing. Sometimes this came through the medium of a gathering of his people. Perhaps at other times as the result of a personal visit in our home by a fellow-saint, or some other rich Christian experience was sent us which buoyed us up and gave the silver lining to the clouds of trouble. Hence the couplet:
(Continued in next issue)
"And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, . . . " - Acts 2:1.
Here we conclude our consideration of The Typical Significance of Pentecost (begun in our last issue).
It will be recalled that, according to Leviticus 23:15-18, the offering at Pentecost consisted of two wave loaves, and we examined two explanations of the duplicate character of the emblems.
*For many of the thoughts and suggestions presented in this article, we gratefully acknowledge our indebtedness to David Baron. His able work, "Types, Psalms, and Prophecies," has been at our elbow throughout its preparation.
"THEY SHALL BE BAKED WITH LEAVEN"
The second peculiarity we wish to notice in connection with the presentation of the loaves at Pentecost is that expressed in the words, "They shall be baked with leaven." This is remarkable, especially in the light of the express injunction given to Israel to exclude leaven from their sacrifices (Ex. 34:25), but it only supplies us with another instance of the minuteness with which these types are regulated, because of their rich symbolic significance.
Leaven, as we have already observed, signifies sin, or corruption. From every sacrifice, therefore, which set forth the perfect Servant of Jehovah, the true Lamb of God, leaven was rigidly excluded. Thus with the Omer, or Sheaf offered on the 16th of Nisan, which represented Christ Jesus in resurrection, the true firstfruits and meal offering, there was no leaven, for nothing even suggestive of corruption could be associated with the only sinless One, in whom was no guile, or deceit. But it is otherwise with his people. The Church is indeed "elect through sanctification of the spirit unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ." We are, as consecrated believers, possessed of a new life, are now washed and sanctified and justified in the name of our Lord Jesus, and by the spirit of our God, and are "clean every whit" in his sight. Yet well aware are we that "if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us," and the more we seek by his grace to follow him wholly, and in the power of his spirit to keep our hearts pure and our hands clean, the more conscious we become of our daily need of cleansing (1 Pet. 1:2; 1 Cor. 6:11; John 13:10; 1 John 1:8).
For the same reason also there is no sin offering connected with the Sheaf which prefigured our Lord Jesus (Nisan 16); but with the two loaves there is the express command that apart from the other accompanying offerings there should be one he-goat for a sin offering (Lev. 23:19, 20), which again teaches us that the Church, though called and qualified by the power of the holy spirit to serve, does, nevertheless, need at every moment of its service, the protection of the "precious blood," even of that one sacrifice in which the virtue and efficacy of all the offerings here enumerated, were combined, and under the shelter of which, the Church, presented as the new meal offering in the earth, abides. In the one sacrifice of the Cross, the Savior provided for his Church a fragrance and acceptableness, which it could never find in its own leavened self.
That which is typified by the Feast of Pentecost, looked at from one aspect, is spread over the whole of this Gospel Age, though a striking fulfillment took place at the inauguration of the Christian dispensation fifty days after our Lord's resurrection, when the Pentecostal season for that year "was fully come;" But perhaps that which is specially set forth by the actual presentation and waving of the loaves is yet to be fulfilled at the close of this dispensation, when all the firstfruits from among men being gathered, and the number of the elect being completed, Christ Jesus shall present to himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but holy and without blemish (Eph. 5:26, 27); but even then it will be so, not because he found her so, or because of her absolute purity while on earth, but because, having first bought her with his own precious blood, he sanctified and cleansed her with the washing of water by the Word, and made her perfect in the beauty and comeliness which he did put upon her (Eph. 5:26; Isa. 61:3).
There is another feature of this "Feast of Pentecost" too important to escape mention even in so brief a space as remains to us. It is this Just as the Omer presented on the morrow after the Passover; setting forth Christ Jesus as "the firstfruits of them that slept," was a pledge and earnest of the two loaves presented on Pentecost, which prefigured the Church in its elective character as the firstfruits from among men, so also the second firstfruits are themselves a prophecy and pledge of the fuller harvest yet to be gathered in the coming Age, of which in the Scriptures, all God's holy Prophets have spoken since the world began (Acts 3:19). The blessing which came to the world at the first advent of our Redeemer, wonderful though it was, has thus far been only partial in degree and extent.
Indeed, unbelieving men sometimes taunt us with the little that the Gospel has accomplished, and maintain that Christianity has been a failure, and truly if, as is supposed by some, God had purposed the conversion of the world during this Gospel Age, it must be admitted that his plans have thus far been frustrated. For when we contemplate the condition of the world after more than nineteen centuries of Gospel witnessing, what do we see? How far are we from seeing a believing world! Consider how small a proportion of the human race are even professedly believers in Jesus. And of these who mentally assent to the truth as it is in Jesus, how few are governed by it!
But a better acquaintance with our Father's Word reveals the fact that the conversion of the world in the present Age was not expected of the Church. Indeed the very fact that the world has not yet been converted, far from confirming the unbeliever's view that God's plans have failed, is merely a convincing proof to the consecrated child of God that God has not even attempted the world's conversion yet. The Scriptures declare that all God's purposes shall be accomplished, that his Word shall not return unto him void, but shall prosper in the thing whereunto he sends it (Isa. 55:11). And as we look into the Scriptures and then around us at the condition of the world in which we live, we see that the Gospel has accomplished just that which God said it would accomplish in this Age now closing. First, a remnant according to the election of grace was to be saved out of Israel (Isa. 10:22; Rom. 9:27; 11:5). And the Gentiles, we read, God hath visited, to take out of them a people for his name (Acts 15:14). These two, reconciled in one body unto God, through the Cross of Christ, were to unitedly form his Ecclesia, his Church, the Bride or Body of Christ, the fullness of him that filleth all in all. And as the Scriptures foretold, so it is: Israel as a nation still rejects Christ, but have there not been thousands who received him and became sons of God thereby? The other nations of the earth, the Gentiles, still, for the most part sit in darkness, and under the shadow of death, but wherever the Gospel has been preached as a witness, some have heard the call, and have joined the company of taken out ones, "called out" ones, as the very word "ecclesia" means.
But an election is never an end in itself; it is rather a means and preparation for some vastly larger accomplishment. And the very fact that the Church is spoken of as a kind of "first-fruits" implies "after-fruits." The Gospel of the Kingdom must first be preached as a witness unto all nations, for the gathering in of the first ripe ears, to constitute a glorious firstfruits, and then:
Let us now review the ground covered foregoing. First, we noted that Israel had seven "feasts" or "appointed seasons" or "holy convocations," three of them occurring in the month Nisan, the first month of their ecclesiastical year, the fourth, that of Pentecost, sometimes called the "Feast of Conclusion," came in the third month, and marked the conclusion of the Passover Season. The remaining three feasts did not take place until later, all three occurring in the seventh month.
The four we have considered have received their fulfillment already, in this Gospel Age; Christ our Passover, to whom the paschal lamb had so long pointed, has already been slain for us; the Omer Sheaf, which was both a type and a prophecy, that he should be the first that should rise from the dead (Acts 26:23), received its glorious fulfillment when on the third day he rose again, and became the firstfruits of them that slept; and with the day of Pentecost there commenced the gathering out of the firstfruits from among men of all nations, who by one spirit are formed into one new body in which there is neither Jew nor Gentile, and who, in the power of a new life, are called into fellowship with God, and to keep the feast with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
It is also interesting to observe that insofar as this series of prophetic types has run its course, not only do type and antitype answer to one another in a most striking manner and in a variety of ways which preclude the possibility of their fulfillment being brought about by anything but design, but they also synchronize in point of time. Was it mere chance that when the hour was at last come for the Lamb of God to be offered for the sin of the world that it should have fallen on the Jewish Passover? And when he whom the pains of death could not hold was raised from the grave, victorious over death, to be the beginning of a new, spiritual harvest unto God from among men, was it a mere coincidence that it should have been at the time that the priests and leaders of Israel were busying themselves in preparing and presenting in their Temple the Omer of Firstfruits?
And again, was it mere chance that it was not until the day of Pentecost was fully come (Acts 2:1) that there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing, mighty wind to inaugurate the new dispensation and the spirit of God was poured out in such abundance that about three thousand souls were added to the company of apostles and disciples to form a new meal. offering unto Jehovah, a kind of firstfruits of his creatures? The Christian cannot but perceive in all this not only the prophetic character of Israel's types and ceremonies, and therefore that they could not have been designed by man, but must have originated in the mind of God; the Christian cannot but perceive also, that Christ is all, and that the very election and call of Israel was typical, and that all their divinely ordained ritual and services had Christ and the great redemption which he was to accomplish, for their center and goal.
Finally, brethren, let us not conclude our meditation without making a very personal and practical application of the lesson of Pentecost. When the Sheaf of Barley representing our Lord Jesus, was waved before the altar by the officiating priest, it was composed of the very finest ears they could find. So also, at the Feast of Pentecost, fifty days later, the wheat harvest having now been gathered in, the two loaves which were waved before the altar were made of the new flour which, in turn, had come from the very finest of the wheat. That is to say, such should have been the case. But in the case of natural Israel the Prophet Malachi reminds us that instead of coming to the Lord with their best, they were inclined to perform the letter of the law and to avoid its spirit; apparently they were ready to bring sacrifices and offerings, but the selfishness of their hearts and their lack of true appreciation of the Lord led them to proffer him the weak and the lame and the poor, while they kept the better for their own use. Through the Prophet Malachi the Lord urged them that they test him, prove him, and see whether or not he would grant them great blessings if they would but enter into the spirit of their consecration and offer unto the Lord the best of what they possessed.
We, as spiritual Israelites, may gain a profitable lesson from these sharp criticisms of natural Israel. How is it with us? We have vowed unto the Lord the firstfruits, the very best, the very finest, the most valuable of all that we have and all that we are -- of time, influence, talents, money, all. To what extent are we rendering unto the Lord our offerings and sacrifices in harmony with this our covenant? It will not be long before our trials will be over, but until that little while is past, we are in the trial time, and it is proving us either worthy or unworthy of the glorious favor which we seek -- the chief blessing, joint-heirship with our dear Redeemer. If we really appreciate this favor, we shall seek to what extent there are yet other opportunities of spending and being spent in his service. Of natural Israel the Lord required a tenth -- a tithe. Of spiritual Israelites he makes no specific requirement, but leaves it to us each, that by the degree of our sacrifices, according to our abilities, we may demonstrate the measure of our love.
The Lord's words to natural Israel come to us spiritual Israelites with still greater force: "Prove me now herewith," saith the Lord. If any feel themselves poor, spiritually, if any feel that they are spiritually lean, that they are not enjoying such fellowship with the Lord as they would desire, that they are unable to draw as closely to him as they would like, to all such the Lord says: Bring ye the whole tithe into the storehouse, fulfill your vow of consecration and thus prove me now herewith, and see if I will not do my part; I will do for you exceeding abundantly above all that you have asked or thought. Those who accept the Lord's proposition heartily, without reservations, find their spiritual leanness departing, their joy of heart increasing more and more.
Thus may it be with each one of us, for Jesus' sake. Amen.
- P. L. Read
The time is short, seek little here below:
- Poems of Dawn
What Is Man? What Is the
It will be found convenient to consider the matter under nine main headings, which may first be stated, and then discussed, in the following order:
(1) THE TERMS "MORTALITY" AND "IMMORTALITY" EXAMINED
Immortality signifies a state or condition in which death is an impossibility. Most people limit the word to mean everlasting life. Immortality, however, means inherent life, a condition in which death could not occur. This point will be more fully developed later in these notes.
To the word mortality, however, more often than not, an entirely false meaning is assigned. The common idea is that it signifies a condition in which death is unavoidable. This understanding is erroneous. The word signifies a state in which death is a possibility, but by no means a certainty.
With these points recognized we are prepared to consider the creation of Adam. Adam was created mortal; created in a condition in which death was a possibility or everlasting life was a possibility; according as he pleased or displeased his wise, just, and loving Creator. Had he remained obedient, he would have continued living until now -- and forever -- and yet all the time he would have remained mortal, liable to death if disobedient. Nor would such a condition be one of uncertainty; for God, with whom he had to do, is unchangeable; hence Adam would have had full assurance of everlasting life so long as he continued loyal and obedient to the Creator. More than this could not reasonably be asked.
Previous to his disobedience Adam enjoyed life in full measure, but not inherent life -- not immortality. His was a life sustained by "every tree of the garden" save the one tree forbidden; and so long as he continued in obedience and in harmony with his Maker, his life was secure - the sustaining elements would not be denied. Thus seen, Adam had life; and death was entirely avoidable; yet he was in such a condition that death was possible -- he was mortal.
(2) THE TERMS