Have you ever arrived at a Bible conference hoping
for a blessing, but left feeling discouraged, disheartened, and
spiritually unfulfilled? This is a criticism which once was unheard of,
but which today is voiced far more frequently than most conference
planners would ever imagine. What can you do about it? Is it your fault?
Are other influences at work that are beyond your power to affect?
Believers who attend Bible conferences because they
want to see their friends or to get away from home for a short vacation,
needn't expect the Lord's blessing to approve their personal willfulness.
If you fit into this category, ask yourself, "Why do I go to Bible
Conferences? Is my local study group fulfilling my spiritual needs? Am I
attending good conferences for the wrong reasons?"
Believers who attend conferences and spend their time
talking about retirement plans or the camping trip enroute to the
conference, also need not expect the Lord's blessing. If you sometimes
fall into this category ask yourself, "Didn't the previous speaker
have anything stimulating to say? After listening for an hour, is this all
that I have to talk about?" If you look hard within you and find
yourself spirituality disappointed at the message(s), maybe you would be
better off going off into a quiet comer for a private season of prayer.
Ask God to open your heart further to receive his bounty. Ask him to
nourish you according to your longings. Ask him to stir the next
speaker's lips to speak more directly to your heart. Then go back in among
the crowd of believers and find someone to talk to whom you know will
help you focus your attention on spiritual things. If your heart is dull,
seek out someone who can help you heighten your spiritual appetite.
Believers who skip out on the sessions of a
conference, preferring instead the cafeteria or the lobby where they can
catch up on events in the lives of their friends, ought also to evaluate
just why they expected God to bless them when they elude his presence. If
you find yourself doing this ask, "Do I really expect God to be
there? Or am I so out of tune with his presence so that he can be present
and I not recognize it?" Maybe it's time to pray, if friends mean
more to you than the presence of your Creator.
How does Jehovah bless his children? Isn't it
through his spirit and his abiding presence and that of Jesus Christ! As
we enter the Lord's Memorial season we all do well to reevaluate what
example we set for others. A conference, a Bible study, or a witness
opportunity are all occasions at which we can either reflect the glory
of God and the character of Jesus or we can reveal our own darkness,
impenitence, and religiosity.
Making your way through this issue we hope that you
will find the encouragement to take "The Cup Which My Father Hath
Given Me." It was the cup which Jesus bore, and the cup he gave
to us. He did not hesitate to rebuke by word or by action those who
missed the glory of God.
Some people find it easy to accept that they need
Jesus, but cannot find themselves satisfied with him. If you are satisfied
it is in part because you know that Jesus cleanses you from all sin. But
there's a problem there, isn't there. Sometimes we forget the pit from
which Jesus raised us. We start acting like we are righteous,
instead of as though Jesus were our righteousness. Maybe it's time to Act
Like a Sinner! -- to behave with contrition and the willingness to
be corrected that befits forgiven sinners.
You may be well known or you
may be a little speck of anonymity in a vast world. God loves you anyway.
Paul, Peter, James, and John are famous, but the apostle Paul tells us
about some little known brethren who may encourage many of us. Take a good
look at the article, Among Those Mentioned
The Christian walk can be a pretty daunting thing.
What should we do? How should we do it? Two articles
in this issue offer some practical answers. Made Partakers of His
Holiness and Steps in Christian Knowledge point us first to
God's role in our Christian example and then to our own role. We hope the
balance between them will
serve as a reminder to us all.
Two short features in this issue we find worthy of
special attention. "It is Written Again" reminds us that
it is easy, but dangerous, to try to build teachings upon minimal
scriptural foundations. The Pathway of Suffering may not strike
you as an encouraging title, but in this world of comfort and the
avoidance of responsibility it is a stark reminder that some changes
cannot take place in us if we only walk paths of idyllic ease.
The issue closes with a challenge. Spiritual
Presence, Spiritual Life takes a present tense view of what is often
considered to be a future tense promise. Let us know
cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?"
18:11 by: George A. Ford
The disciples were leaving Gethsemane with Jesus.
Peter carried a sword. Seeing the soldiers approaching, he drew it. Peter
struck the High Priest's servant, Malchus, cutting off his right ear. What
did Jesus do? Jesus said, "Put up thy
sword into the sheath: the cup which my father hath given me, shall / not
drink it?" He simply taught them that this was an experience he
must endure. The "cup" was figurative. Numerous Scriptures use
the word this way and believers see their "cup" as their
willingness to accept certain experiences as Christians.
Diverse Uses of "Cup"
The cup figuratively applies to nations and to the
wicked. "In the hand of the
Lord there is a cup,... the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth
shall wring them out and drink them" (Psa. 75:8). The Psalmist
spoke prophetically of the Lord, saying that he would "...take the cup of salvation" or
redemption (Psa. 116:13, 17), offering the sacrifice of praise.
Jesus asks the sons of Zebedee, "Are ye able to drink of it?" They
reply, "We are able." Jesus
says, "Ye shall indeed
drink of my cup," -- that is, they would taste inward
affliction and desertions, and have their share of outward afflictions.
During the Passover Supper, Jesus said: This cup is
the New Covenant in my blood.
Significance of the Cup
At Christmas, we commemorate the Lord's birth. In
this pre -- Memorial season, it is fitting for us to consider those
experiences Jesus encountered which constituted the "cup" that
he drank which culminated in his crucifixion. Jesus brought the shadow of
the cross into the upper room with him, he owned it as God's will for him,
and he warned his disciples of the blood which would be shed for their
If you want to appreciate what Jesus endured for you,
read the preludes to those events. For instance, he had steadfastly set
his face to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51), and his brethren suggested that
he go up publicly with them. The public was excited at his entry into the
city. He rode in upon an ass and the multitudes shouted Hosanna. Later,
Peter denied him. The washing of the disciples' feet was a lesson. He
clarified as much as possible about his coming sufferings so that his
followers would be prepared for the worst. One can feel some of his
anguish and share in his exceeding
sorrow. 'Then he said to them, 'My soul is overwhelmed with
sorrow to the point of death. Stay and keep watch with me' (Matt.
In the upper room, he brought together all the
details of the coming sufferings into one picture for his disciples. He
pictured what he was doing for them as a "cup." Taking a cup in
his hand he thanked God for it, and gave it to them. The wine represented
what he was giving to them. They were invited to participate in his
experiences -- his cup. "The cup of blessing
which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ" (1 Cor. 10:16)?
Life of the Vine in the Cup
Think about the wine contained in that cup for a
moment. Into the cup Jesus held in his hand had gone all his past
experiences. His life was the vine. The kind of soil upon which the vine
grew, the pruning and storms it endured, as well as the crushing of the
grapes: all these conditions determined the quality of the grapes. The
fruit of Jesus' life, too, was determined by what he endured. Jesus gave
the disciples a history, an example, as he handed them that chalice.
Change that past, and the wine is different. All his experience was poured
into that cup.
Jesus put to their lips the figurative cup of
suffering and prayer. They had accepted his invitation to follow him; now
he was inviting them to a new privilege. Would they accept it and once
again own him as their Lord? How solemnly impressive must have been his
words as they walked together through the vineyards to Gethsemane:
"I am the true vine,
my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he
taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it
may bring forth more fruit. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself,
except it abide in the vine no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am
the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the
same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. Herein
is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit" (John 15:1,2,4,5, 8).
All Life Experiences Mingle in the Cup
Let us trace some of the experiences that made up his
cup. In the silent years at Nazareth, the young lad Jesus lived in
obscurity at a carpenter's bench. His hands were rough with
toil. He may have known the hardship of poverty, which was typical of the
dull, narrow life of a country village and, too, the responsibility of
helping to support a family after its father had died. All the while, an
unspoken vision carried him beyond the commonplace. He conquered the
routine of life, and so all these things, both the battle and the victory,
go into the cup.
Many of us live similar lives in the same dull
obscurity. We too battle with the business of making a living; we too deal
with the sordid and the scarring. All the while, there is a vision of
something better and nobler held in the heart. Jesus put the chalice to
our lips, and we drink his victory over the commonplace and pass it along,
realizing that this is only the beginning of our "all" placed
upon the altar with him.
Jesus laid aside the carpenter's tools and went out
to proclaim his message. "Then cometh
Jesus, "we read, "from Galilee to Jordan unto
John" (Matt. 3:13). He had been baptized into the world's toil
(Heb. 4:15). Now -- he would be baptized into the world's sin (Isa. 53:4,
John the Baptist was calling a nation to repentance.
His throbbing words smote the heart of the Jewish people, and they came to
his stream for the baptism of repentance. Jesus, too, entered the stream.
He, with conscience unstained and with character untarnished; he who
needed no repentance, who was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from
sinners; he, the sinless, enters that line for baptism. It may be a harlot
standing ahead of him in that line and a publican behind. He became one
of them and was baptized into a baptism of repentance. The
identification is complete -- he took the sinner's place. "He hath
to be sin
for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God
in him" (2
Cor. 5:21). All this was part of the cup.
Then came a reaction against this identification.
Jesus left men and continued his struggle in the isolation of the
wilderness. Was this the way to complete -- absolute -- identification?
Yes. This was the poured cup that the Father handed. "He
was led of the spirit. "Being full of the
holy spirit, he went from Jordan (Luke 4:1) and faced the issues of his
coming work for forty days, and then he hungered. He must go back to men
You need not go back, the voice came to him. You are
the Son of God. That is enough, stay, out here, feed yourself by
miracle, and live as the miraculous Son of God. The Tempter's voice
clearly urged him into a path God had not given. The temptation to live
apart and to live on spiritual miracles is one of the strongest
temptations of spiritual living. Jesus brushed it aside. He would not be
content with being the Son of God. He would be the Son of man. He would
live by every word that proceeded out of the mouth of the Father. To him,
that meant he must identify with men and redeem them. The deep cost to
him was the cup he must drink.
Then the Tempter suggested other means of proving his
authority. If you must go back, why stand with the people? Rise to a
pinnacle! Your way is too costly. Worship me, and take possession of
this, world now. Jesus replied: "It is written, thou shaft worship the Lord thy God, and him only shaft
thou serve." Jesus again brushed these suggestions
aside; though he knew that his choice of identifying with men would
finally mean crucifixion. Days before he had been baptized between two
sinners; now this choice meant that he would one day be crucified
between two thieves. He would be the Son of man and bear all that man bore
-- and more.
Jesus' popularity increased. Multitudes hung on his
words as though they were dew falling on thirsty souls. The healed went
everywhere telling of the compassionate prophet. People found in him new
authority, the authority of reality, and when they found him breaking
bread to the multitudes in the wilderness they forcibly tried to make him
king (John 6:15). Jesus perceived their intention and withdrew, alone, to
the hills. Here he would pray, reaffirming God's high purpose for him,
even though it meant crucifixion.
Jesus went to the synagogue at Nazareth and
announced his program (Luke 4:16-21). This was the Son of man speaking,
and the program he explained surprised and delighted his townsmen, until
he told them how extensive his program was. It was as wide as the human
race, and they must know that God cares as much for the Jew as for the
Gentile (Luke 4:26-27). There were many lepers and widows in Israel, but
prophets were also sent beyond Israel's borders to the Gentiles.
When they heard this, their attitude changed. People
will gladly listen to truth provided it does not cross the lines of their
prejudices. They had no room for this dreamer. They arose angrily and
led him to the crest of the hill, intending to throw him down headlong.
He, passing through the midst of them, went his way (Luke 24:29-30).
That beautiful act of healing an enemy who had come
to put him to death also goes into the cup. "Bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you," he
said (Matt. 5:44). Even when his hands were impaled to the cross he would
still say, "Father, forgive
them, they do not know what they are doing" (Luke
All this too went into the cup. When prejudice closes
in on you, attempting to quench your spirit, drink deeply of his calm and
his courage. Pass through the midst, and go on your way towards the
heavenly vision that has captured your heart. Like Paul, press forward
towards the mark (Phil. 3:14).
The easy, dazzling way to power was put away. He
would take the long way to his Calvary. The same decisiveness and
consecration that characterized his refusal of the throne now went into
the cup. These moments come to us too, brethren. When we see the shining,
easy, dazzling way, let us drink of the chalice into which this trial has
gone. Choose instead the struggling, demanding way of the cross. By his
grace, we will find ourselves ready for any further trials with him.
Think of Jesus on another occasion. Beholding the
city before him, he paused on the side of the Mount of Olives and wept
over the city (Luke 19:41). Think again of his courage in that hour when
he commanded men to "...take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of
and drove them from the temple grounds (John 2:16). After the cleansing
had taken place, after his anger had subsided, he was back in the Temple.
There he was, teaching and healing the blind and the lame, welcoming the
children that came to him (Matt. 19:14). All this went into the cup.
There have been those who object to the stormy sides
of Jesus' nature. The woes he pronounced upon the Pharisees, the doom he
predicted upon the city of Jerusalem, the cleansing of the temple: all
these do not seem to fit with the spiritual calm and poise which marked
the perfect man. However, no one can question that what he said about the
Pharisees was true. What alternatives were there?
Suppose that Jesus ignored the blindness and
ignorance, without offering reproof or cleansing -- cleansing storms
though they were. Spiritual indignation for wrong is sometimes necessary
to cleanse physical and spiritual atmospheres. Brethren, we must assure
that Christlikeness is always maintained.
Jesus used the force of authoritative personality to
cleanse the Temple. His was, after all, his Father's house.
"Make not my Father's
house a house of merchandise." The same
characteristic proceeds from the pen of Paul. He reproved the
Corinthians. The Galatians astonished him at how quickly they fell from
faith. He denounced the Cretians (Titus 1:12).
True Christians need stout hearts and gentility for
we are told to be bold as lions and meek as lambs. We may yet be called
upon to reprove evil and misrepresentations of God and of Christ. Drink
deeply of these qualities and be strong in the Lord.
Majesty of Soul / Lowly Service
Sitting with his disciples in the upper room, Jesus
knew that the Father had given him all things. He knew he had come from
God, and also that he was returning to God. There, rising from supper, he
laid aside his garments and took a towel and wrapped it around himself.
The master began washing the feet of the disciples (John 13:4-15). He was
so great that he dared to be humble! He poured the majesty of his soul
into the cup. Was he afraid to die? Hardly. He came to die. He laid down
his life for you and for me. He came to save men from sin. Yet, on the
next day he would inspire men to even greater sin, for they would put to
death the Son of God.
Shortly he was to ask that, if possible, that cup
might pass, nevertheless he did not want his will done but God's. There
was no other way. This was the cup God had poured. The tragedy and the
triumph of Jesus life do not lie in his agony. Instead, they reside in the
result which the agony made possible. Calm and collected through his
fellowship with God, Jesus said, "Arise, let us be
going [to meet tomorrow and its Calvary]; behold, he that betrayeth me is at hand" (Mark
14:42, ASB). It all went into the cup.
Whoever has drunk of that chalice into which the
richness of that hour had gone can say, "Arise my soul, let us be
going to meet our cross." Having drunk, let us meet it with the rest
of faith and confidence in our heavenly Father's grace.
Then they came to take him. Peter, the aroused
disciple, rushes forward with sword in hand and strikes off the ear of the
High Priest's servant. Jesus rebukes him. "'Put
your sword back into its place ... and reaching forth his hand, touches
the ear of Malchus, and says, 'No more of that!' and cured him"
26:51 & Luke 22:51, Moffatt).
When we see spite and hatred we should drink of his
cup and put aside the resentment which otherwise would flow over us. His
love persists, and nothing can turn it aside. He will not allow our mercy
to be quenched for he would have us say, as did he, "Father
forgive...,"and as did Stephen, "...Lord, lay not this sin to
There stood Jesus before Pilate, clothed in mock
royal garb. The Romans had heard that this was the king of the Jews.
Always contemptuous of the Jews, the soldiers used this as their
opportunity to show their contempt for these Jews. So they braided a
thorny crown and put it on his head. They put a stick in his hand as a
mock scepter and clothed him in purple, the color of royalty. Then they
taunted him, crying aloud, "Hail, king of the Jews." They spat
in his face. The racial contempt directed at Israel fell upon Jesus. He
bore it for the men who cried for his blood. All that also went into the
As he stood before Pilate, the accusations against
him were many. He listened to his words being twisted and to their meaning
being tortured. He said, "I will destroy this temple that is made
with hands and in three days I will build another without hands,"
they cried. His life hung in the balance, and misquotations were being
laid in the pan, yet he showed no eagerness to explain. He put up with
their inaccuracies and their bias. He could wait. Every lie would one
day be broken by truth, so he did not offer a word in protest.
The governor marveled. Here was a greatness that
could wait for the final verdict; All this went into the cup.
Have your words been misquoted? Have your actions
been misunderstood? Your best motives, have they been misinterpreted? If
you have suffered, then drink deeply of his cup, the cup into which Jesus'
patience was poured. He was tested and triumphed. Share with him his poise
and resignation to the Father's will. Say with him, "Am I not to
drink of the cup my Father has handed me?"
Lies and hate, prevail. He is nailed to a tree, his
good name stolen. He is a criminal. His disciples flee. Alone in his
agony, he has been beaten back into the dark until it seems that God too
has left him. From his lips the agonized cry is heard, "My God, My
God, Why hast thou forsaken me?"
All is gone -- or is it? Two words remain, "My
God." Man could not snatch from his lips these words of quiet
confirmation. As life slipped from him he confidently let it go.
"Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit."
No more bitter potion could be poured into the cup.
Forsaken by God and man! The sum of his life has been poured into the cup.
When we feel ourselves forsaken or the sum of our life ruined, we can
drink of his chalice.
we realize that all we thought lost remains, because God remains.
Assured of his faithfulness, we can surrender as did our Lord. 'Though he
were a son, yet learned [acquired] he obedience by the things which he
Jesus tasted death for every man and the tomb held
him tight in its grip, but not for long. The most glorious fact of human
history was about to be poured into the cup. Out of the tomb he arose. He
laid aside his grave clothes and came forth triumphant! He is risen!
Into his cup had gone everything that life could
possibly bring. He committed to God life's commonness, its labor, its
obscurity, and its temptations. Along with this, he added the prejudice,
the lonely determination, its bids for compromise, life's Gethsemanes, the
hours spent before unjust judgment seats, and its mockery and racial
wrongs. Having surrendered all these things, he rose to triumph
Nothing else matters if God's last word is
resurrection. Let life bring its worst or best, yet this saving fact
remains for all who share the cup of Jesus. The life of our Savior raises
every question about life to its most poignant form. The "Why?"
upon the dying Jesus' lips epitomizes all questions that ever tremble upon
the lips of humankind, and the resurrection answers them all.
God's last word is resurrection, and it too is in the
cup. When Jesus had drunk of the cup, he thanked God for it. He took it
all as from the Father's hand, and thanked him for it. In thanksgiving,
his seeming failure revealed itself as the sublimest success.
We all bear our own cross.
Let us do so thankfully. Only those who have learned to triumph by
thanking God for everything can turn life from suffering into sacrament.
you really behave as if you stand convicted of sin before God?
don't murder, you're not an adulterer, you don't lie, cheat, or steal, but
God says you are a sinner. Who's right?
need to accept our status as sinners even if we don't see the sin in us.
Actually, we are in good company if we feel this way about ourselves.
Paul said the same thing. "I am
conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but
the one who examines me is the Lord" (1 Cor. 4:4, NASB).
is as crucial to accepting our sins as it is to accepting the indwelling
of God. We believe that we are sinners because only too often we don't
think of ourselves as sinners. Often we are not even conscious of our
sins. Faith tells us that when God calls us sinners he must be correct,
because God cannot lie. Faith is the evidence of the things that are
unseen (Heb. 11:1) and our faith rests content with God's words that we
are sinners. Faith spoke out in the psalmists words: "Acquit me from
hidden faults" (Psa. 19:12);
"Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions"
Me a Sinner?
is not a trivial matter, even for serious believers in Jesus. It is
insufficient to say that you are sinful, unrighteous, untruthful or
foolish. If your confession is any good you must feel that way in your
heart and behave that way. No wonder so few of us accept ourselves as
you be a repentant sinner if you cannot tolerate criticism? If someone
catches you in a sin, why should your anger flare? Why should you refuse
to admit that you said the words of which you are accused, or did what you
did? Why make excuses? Why insist that all you ever did was truthful and
well intentioned? Why think others are mean, or out to get you? No one
accuses us falsely if we really are sinners... No, refusal to see ourself
as a sinner is infuriating and all we accomplish is wearying everyone
with our stories of life's injustices.
behavior is hypocrisy. You cannot sincerely say you are a sinner if you
refuse to bear a sinner's reputation. If you select for yourself the lot
of the righteous and holy man you say that you think yourself such. If you
admit yourself to be a sinner you must suffer the punishment, the injury,
and the insult as if you had it coming. That was what Jesus did.
next time you are insulted or blamed, or if you develop some disease,
don't say "I don't deserve this -- why has God done this to me? This
isn't fair." If you do that you are denying that you are a sinner. If
you do, you are resisting God and your own words condemn you. Why
protest against God, contending with him as if he had done something
foolish or evil?
about what you suffer. The penalty upon men is that by dying we die (Gen.
3:17-19). God has not mistaken you or me for some other sinner. No. We
experience the results of sin. Say to God, You are true! You are
righteous! You are justified in all your actions! You show me to be what I
am, a sinner!
"Against thee, thee
only, I have sinned, and done what is evil in thy sight, so that thou art
justified when thou dost speak, and blameless when thou dost judge" (Psa.
"...the Lord our God
is righteous with respect to all his deeds which he has done, but we have
not obeyed his voice..."(Dan. 9:14).
yourself next time you argue with someone? Will you tell him, "I am
ready to give in so that you can be right and true. I want to have been
wrong so that you may be right in what you say and feel"? If you can
accept your sins won't the other person be more likely to say, "I
too have been wrong. You are the one who is right.." If you both are
exercised by the spirit of God you will reconcile with each other. "Do
not be wise in your own estimation" (Rom. 12:16).
is why it is unusual and difficult to become a sinner. Sinners act like
sinners. If we think we are righteous we are offended if someone
contradicts us. If we saw ourselves for what we are, we would be willing
to be shown how to improve.
much happier we would be if we were willing to say, "tell me what I
must do and I will do it." The Apostle Paul did (Acts 9:1-19). How
much happier we would be if we didn't take sides, but were willing to be
persuaded by godly words.
Pride of life (1 John 2:16) is deep seated and is
not easily displaced. No one is free from this trait -- especially when
things go against us. But if we believe God, truly believe, he can help us
to live according to our profession.
vaunteth not itself" - 1 Corinthians 13:4
Many people go through life without ever "making
the first page," a fact that is often to their credit. Unhappily,
headlines are usually not reserved for incidents
of great merit. Too frequently, they are accorded for those whose deeds
are shameful. There is some consolation, then, to never making the
What wins publicity? That which departs from the
normal course of life. Prominence is given to those items which shock
and horrify; they are "news makers." A thousand acts of
kindness and fidelity can probably be counted for every act of cruelty
and betrayal about which we hear. Smiles, however, are less dramatic than
tears. We may pass a hundred children in the street whose cheery faces
warm our heart, but it is most likely the crying child who will stop us in
Surely, there are occasional stories about unselfish
heroism, fidelity, or love which rise to the heights of thrilling
drama. Some even find their way into the media. Such nice stories are
disproportionate in number to others. Why is this? "Love is not
boastful." Love doesn't put on airs nor is it rude. Love
goes quietly about its business. Hatred, malice, envy and passion are
strident, bold and violent. They disregard courtesy and break the rules of
It is a shame that we never hear more about little
kindnesses and braveries. Though often disregarded, they, in truth, are
the saving element in this world's life -- its salt. Should they not at
least receive mention?
One of the beauties of St. Paul was his self-effacing
love. He frequently found occasion to speak of others while remaining
silent about himself. These persons he freely praised -- giving us
They were not written about for their news -- making
achievements. No. Their quiet, friendly, faithful service is written to
encourage us, who ourselves may be serving the Lord as inconspicuously as
they. We also begin to appreciate the standard by which Paul measured
his life -- the standard of Christlike conduct. These people are "...among
There was, for example, Ampliatus. About him, we know
only that he lived in Rome and was probably a Roman citizen. Paul calls
him "my dear
friend in the Lord" (Rom. 16:8, NJB). How suggestive that phrase
is. Here was a man who had impressed himself upon the great
Apostle Paul by his sympathy, his consideration, and
his kindness! His name is inscribed upon an honor roll because of a
friendly attitude towards a man who was frequently in sore need of
There were Tryphena
and Tryphosa, manifestly sisters, possibly twins. Paul mentions them
because they were 'hard workers for the
Lord's cause. "Not brilliant workers,
mind you, just hard workers! There are many Tryphenas and Tryphosas today.
They keep Bible study groups going,
performing the drudgery of religious service, and they deserve a place
among those mentioned.
The mother of Rufus is mentioned. Her name is
unknown, but Paul calls her son an eminent Christian. He says of her
that she had been a mother' to Paul. All the mothering hearts, whether
they have eminent sons or not, deserve a place on this roll alongside
Gains is more
than once referred to. Paul names him as his host and host to the whole
church. He was a hospitable man, his doors were open. Any follower of
the master was welcome to stay with him, and thus he wins his honorable
In Philippi, there lived Euodias and Syntyche. They
were a human pair, sisters in faith if not by blood. They did not always
pull together, however. Because they were faithful workers, Paul writes
concerning them so that their minor discords would not affect their
teamwork. Paul's "true comrade" could do a quiet, worthwhile
service by helping them agree as Christians. There are ample
opportunities to do the same today, and such true comrades will likewise
receive their reward.
There was only one Paul,
but there are many people like those whom Paul delighted to mention in his
letters. They may never make the first page, but they are doing something
far better. They are making life endurable for the rest of us. They weave
beauty and love and hope and joy into the fabric of our days. When we are
weary of waving the banner of Christ and the blare of the brass band on
crowded streets, they are players of chamber music which steals
into our soul with its softer harmonies. They are
help and comfort and peace. They live by unseen realities, and in their
presence faith in God and goodness strengthens (1 Cor. 13:4,5; Rom. 16:8,
12, 13, 23; Phil. 4:2).
therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from
all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of
2 Corinthians 7:1
Jesus' lips we learn that the work of the holy Spirit in the life of the
believer is (among other things) to "convince" a person of sin,
of righteousness, and of judgment (John 16:9-11). He made this statement
in a way that seems to say that the world, rather than the believer, is
reproved or convinced. This is, of course, the primary meaning.
would be equally correct, however, to say that in a special way the
Spirit continuously works in the same way in the mind of believers. This
is necessarily true. Why? No "babe" in Christ is sufficiently
conversant with the facts of sin's eradication (facts to be found in
the Word of God). These facts unfold when believers partake of the
strong meat of the Scripture (Heb. 5:12-14).
beginning Christian can have a clear conception of God's attitude towards
sin. Indeed, they must have! The act of repentance, which precedes a
person's consecration to God, is a proof of some knowledge concerning
God's hatred of sin. To realize sin's effect in themselves and to
understand how grace works forgiveness and cleansing requires time. This
is when the Spirit fulfills the words of the Master, guiding men into all
is progressive. his is observable. For example, in the early days of one's
spiritual life there is often a positive attitude toward the eradication
of gross forms of evil. One thinks the job relatively easy. As the
believer grows (2 Peter 3:18), a growing body of evidence demonstrates
what it means to be cleansed from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit
(2 Cor. 7:1). One progressively finds the reality of cleansing from sin to
be a more difficult task than first realized.
begins with a knowledge that the blood of Christ cleanses from all sin (1
John 1:7), thereby securing freedom from adamic guilt and forgiveness
for daily trespasses. In time, one learns that there is more forgiveness
of sins to be expected. It is learned that cleansing from all
unrighteousness and from all filthiness is both retrospective and
prospective. God not only forgives the sinner but he progressively
accomplishes an eradication of the effects of sin. The faithful saint
walks a path of increasing victory (never forgetting that at best all
men are unprofitable servants -- Luke 17:10). God is ready to forgive.
He is "faithful and just
to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness"
(1 John 1:9) as the work of sanctification progresses.
is good that a person recognize the need of divine forgiveness for their
sins -- through accepting the atonement available through the blood of
Jesus and turning their back on the past and its sin. To see no further
than that they are delivered from condemnation because of the blood is to
miss all possibility -- of progressive cleansing. It is this continuous
cleansing that our theme text urges to our attention.
God Works In You
statement here does not contradict other Scripture. He suggests that we
cleanse ourselves. Elsewhere we are taught that God works in us, both to
will and to do. Can these ideas agree? Paul cannot have forgotten that the
only power to overcome lies outside self. This is the power which raised
Jesus from the grave, and it must operate in us to accomplish our
But if the Spirit of him
that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ
from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that
dwelleth in you (Rom. 8:11).
how he urges the same thought found in our theme text. Search for
holiness! Holiness can affect both flesh and spirit. To the Roman, he
sets forth the fullness of cleansing and transformation which lay open to
them (and ourselves). It is God's will that we do more than merely
renounce sin in our minds (1 Thess. 4:3). He wants us to give him our
heart so that we may learn to desire his fellowship. In his presence,
his spirit imbues us with an opposition to sin so that as new creatures
(2 Cor. 5:17) we will fight the good fight of faith (1 Tim. 6:12) against
the adversary and the worldly spirit of selfishness. Similarly, we will be
empowered to engage in the battle against self: against personal
weaknesses, filthiness, blemishes, and tendencies toward sin in our
How does God work in men? Can his
work coexist with our cleansing ourselves? God works in us to develop
our "will" or "desire" to change. As elsewhere, the
miracles and work of God are proportionate to the faith of the recipient.
Thus, to believe that a change is attainable by the power of God is to
make that change attainable. We can never rise to triumph over self and
sin as long as we believe triumph unattainable. By laying hold on the
promises of God which have created in us a desire for perfect holiness, we
will discover that he is abundantly able to work in them to victory. God
gives strength to overcome proportionate to the completeness of one's
devotion to him. That will is, above all else, our sanctification. The
work which began in forgiveness and begettal continues through the
Spirit until a holiness is perfected in the fear of the Lord, culminating
in the First Resurrection.
Is Anything Impossible For God?
Look at an illustration. Imagine a mother who sends
her daughter to school one morning dressed in clean clothes. Mother says,
"Be careful to stay clean." The girl promises to do so -- in all
sincerity. When she comes home the dress is soiled. The child wasn't
intentionally wayward; she was simply inexperienced in keeping clean!
Suppose that the mother could put some of her own experience into the
child, some of her own hard acquired knowledge about how to avoid
getting dirty. What a difference that would make. Yet, that is
impossible. Or is it? By shaping the youthful experiences of the
child, the mother does the next best thing. She gives the child its own
This is what the Lord does. He asks for the freedom
to work in the heart freely offered up to him. He promises, on such
conditions, much more than a life of continual defeat. When he works in
the life of one who trusts him, the human's garments will be kept "unspotted from the world" (Jas.
1:27), and those easily besetting sins (Heb. 12:1) will be laid aside
(overcome). Thus does the believer who is indwelt by the Spirit of God
pass into experiential knowledge of God's power to keep, strengthen, and
enable them to triumph over their infirmities.
What a blessing lies in store for many. If they would
but learn to rely upon simple faith and a heart hungering for the Lord,
then they might lay open their Bibles before the Lord in prayer and
believingly beg him to make its statements true in their lives. What
miracles transpire when we ask God to translate such a text as this into
our daily life: "Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the
flesh," or as the Diaglott has it "and fulfill not the desire of the flesh" (Gal.
5:16). Such faith and longing desires would never go unanswered, of this
we have God's testimony. God will never turn a deaf ear to one crying for
emancipation, not only from guilt but from the power of fleshly desires,
appetites, and weaknesses. Our text indicates that these results are
possible. To succeed is to rise above all our innate self pity and
indulgent excuses for the weakness of our flesh. It will destroy false
standards and set our determination against making provisions for the
flesh (Rom. 13:14).
To believe that walking in the Spirit and being
filled by the Spirit will fortify us against the desires of the flesh, is
to confidently seek and expect an increasing perfecting in holiness. This
expectation is not based in self. It is founded in what God can do in us.
From Paul's standpoint, it is not a question of our ability but of the
power of God imparted to us through the indwelling of his Spirit.
How God communicates this power through the holy
Spirit is an invisible transaction. Nevertheless, it is so effective that
it is visibly manifest in our life. This power is so great that it has
been called the "greatest of miracles." The miracle is made
plain to those who discover that it is all a matter of contact with divine
resources, a new contact, as it were, with the inner and eternal
movements of redeeming goodness and power.
The Spirit Quickens
"For if ye live after
the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the
deeds of the body, ye shall live" (Rom. 8:13). Once again
comes the reminder that victory in subduing the flesh is traceable to the
work of the Spirit. This is not a self-deadening or mortification.
Self is not powerful enough to conquer self (that is,
the human spirit) to get the victory over human flesh. That would be
like a drowning man who grabs his right hand with his own left hand so
that both may sink beneath the waves. The Spirit of God overcomes our
fleshly nature by his indwelling life, on which we depend. Our principal
care therefore must be to 'walk in the Spirit" (Gal
5:16) and "be filled with the
Spirit" (Eph. 5:18). All the rest will come spontaneously and
inevitably. As the ascending sap in the tree crowds off the dead leaves,
which in spite of storm and frost cling to the branches all winter long,
so does the holy Spirit within us, when allowed full sway, subdue and
expel the remnants of our sinful nature.
We are to "put
off the old man with his deeds" (Col.
3:9). How? By "putting on the new man who is renewed
in knowledge after the image of him that created
him" (Col. 3:10). "For the law of
the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin
and death" (Rom. 8:2), writes Paul. It is a pointed
statement of the case made by describing the
transition from the old to the new in one's own experience:
from the former life of perpetual defeat to the present victorious life
through Christ. Once life was a constant breaking off, now it is a daily
bringing in. Formerly we fought to be rid of the habits
and evil tendencies of the old nature -- its selfishness, its pride,
its lust, and its vanity. Now our effort is to bring in the Spirit, to
drink in the divine presence, to breath a holy atmosphere,
his supernatural life. Only the indwelling of the Spirit can bring about
the exclusion of sin from a person's life. The truth of this will appear
consider what has been called the "expulsive" power of a new
affection. "Love not the world, neither the things that are
t the wed" (1 John 2:15). Christian
experience proves that godlike love is not enabled through randomly
developing worldly love. Godly love is not the same
as the world's. More importantly, worldly affection can
be overcome by the heavenly.
Acquiring Christ Likeness
This method is exhibited in the Word. The love of the
Spirit (Rom. 15:30) is our tool to overcome the world. The divine life is
the source of the divine love. Therefore '...hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed
abroad in our hearts by the holy Spirit which is given
unto us" (Rom. 5:5). Because we are by nature wholly without
heavenly affection, God, through his indwelling power, gives us his own
love with which to love him. Herein is the highest credential of
discipleship: "By this shall all men know that ye are my
disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John
13:35). Christ manifested to the world the
love of the Father and we are to manifest the love of
Christ. This is only possible if we share a common life. As one has said
concerning our Savior's command to his disciples to love one another.
It is a command which would be utterly Idle and
futile were it not that he, the ever loving one, is willing to put his own
love within me. The command is really no more than to be a branch of the
true Vine. I am to cease from my own living and loving, and yield myself
to the expression of Christ's love.
What is true of the love of Christ is true of the
likeness of Christ How is this likeness acquired? Through contemplation
and meditation? Some have so suggested. Such would be true if the
indwelling Spirit is behind all, beneath all, and effectually operative
in all. It is not.
"But we all, with
unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are
transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord
the Spirit" (2 Cor. 3:18, RSV).
Only the Lord's spirit dwelling within us can fashion
us into his image. Who, by imitation of Christ, can become conformed to
the likeness of Christ? Imagine one without genius and devoid of an
artist's training sitting down before Raphael's painting of the
Transfiguration and attempting to reproduce it. How crude and mechanical
his work would be! Yet, if the spirit of Raphael could enter the man and
obtain the mastery of his hand and eye and mind it would be possible to
recreate the masterpiece. Then it would be Raphael reproducing
Figuratively, this is what
happens to Christian disciples filled with the Spirit. Christ, the image
of the invisible God (Col. 1:15), is perceived as their pattern.
Christ, by the Spirit, dwells within the believer
and brings forth that image from within the believer Such a one begins
to manifest Christ in them outwardly.
Likeness' to Christ is another
name for holiness. When at the resurrection, we awake with his likeness
(Psa. 17:15), we shall be perfected in holiness. Sanctification is
progressive and not, like conversion, instantaneous.
If a Christian looks at himself as a tree planted by
the rivers of water, bringing forth fruit in his season (Psa. 1:3), he
judges correctly. To conclude that such growth will be irresistible,
like that of a tree, which results from time and proximity to water and
nutrients, would be a grave mistake. Christlikeness is more than being
planted in Christ by regeneration. The disciple must be discipled: there
need be a conscious, intelligent activity in one's own growth. A tree need
not give all diligence to make its calling and election sure, but the
Christian is so admonished (2 Peter 1:10).
By saying that the Christian must be active in their
own growth, we do not mean self-active. "Which
of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto the measure of his
6:27, RSV), Jesus asked. We must
surrender to God's will by living in the Spirit and praying in the Spirit
and walking in the Spirit. These conditions are as essential to our
development in holiness as the rain and the sunshine are to the growth
of the oak. It is possible through neglect and grieving the Spirit that a
Christian may be of smaller stature in his age than he was in his
spiritual infancy. It is possible to regress rather than to advance.
Therefore, in saying that sanctification is progressive let us beware of
concluding that it is inevitable.
These words of our Savior, addressed to the tempter,
suggest an important lesson to all Christians.
The Adversary, in assaulting Jesus, had quoted from
Scripture, saying, "It is written..." Very well, replied Jesus,
suppose it is written just as you say, "It is written again..."
The importance, of course, is that the Scriptures contain more than the
tempter had quoted. From these words of our Lord, "It is written
again," we find a principle which can govern our doctrinal use of
cannot safely build either doctrine or practice upon an isolated passage
One passage cannot be interpreted independently of
other Scriptures. Here lies our only safety from the grossest of errors.
We must not go to solitary scriptures to learn what the will of God is, we
must go to the entire record. There is a unity in the Bible like the unity
of the human body. One part balances the other. One part requires another
to complete its own work. So also Scripture. One portion is explained by
other portions. When a man quotes an isolated passage as the basis of
some absurd doctrine or practice we need only reply, "It is written
again..." There are other verses in the Bible beside the one which
may have been quoted, and your interpretation must accord with them all.
You have taken this single passage out of its connection and have
distorted it while claiming that you have God's truth.
That is the way Satan uses Scripture. He gladly
acknowledged the words of Holy Writ if he can use or abuse them to his
own advantage without rebuke. Most errors which the church of Christ has
branded as heresy are merely one sided truths. They are torn out of
connection with the counter truths which balance them
shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord." - Hosea 6:3
The Apostle Paul was in Athens, that great seat of
learning, awaiting Silas and Timothy. They were to rejoin him there after
the disturbance in Berea, and he was much stirred in spirit seeing the
city given to the worship of idols (Acts 17). History suggests that the
Athenians wasted a lot of time listening to any new thing that came along.
To Paul's advantage, his message was new to them -- for among other
things he spoke of the resurrection of the dead.
Admittedly, the Athenians did not know the true God.
Yet, by erecting an altar "To the Unknown God" they admitted to
a characteristic to which Paul could appeal. As limited as they might have
been in some respects, they possessed a worthy quality. The Athenians were
inclined to worship, misdirected as they might have been. Worship seems to
be innate in humans. Can the message of truth appeal to anyone who has
no sense of worship? If one senses that there is a Supreme Being to whom
all must heed, there is in that person the possibility that he will
respond to the gospel upon hearing it.
In that possibility Paul declared to the Athenians
the way of truth. Paul saw their worship, but in effect they did not know
what it was they were worshiping. So he preached to them the one God who
made the world and who did not dwell in temples made by hands. This God,
he told them, was not worshiped with human hands, as though he needed
something from man. Indeed, nothing man could erect or perform was
adequate worship of the God in whom we live, and move, and have our being.
Reverence Expressed by Worship
Paul caught the people's attention, and he proceeded
to preach important doctrines of Scripture -- repentance, judgment,
and resurrection. Soon the Athenians fell back into their habitual
practice of disputing about matters, and few listened any longer.
The Bible distinguishes between head knowledge and
heart knowledge. These Athenians, reasoning for the sake of the first,
declined Paul's offer of the second. Nevertheless, upon that one good
quality which they possessed, worship, Paul laid hold. He was restating
the Old Testament axiom, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of
knowledge" (Prov. 1:7).
This is the first step in Christian knowledge --
reverence expressed in worship. Some may reason: How can man worship One
of whom he has no knowledge? The truth is that worship and knowledge go
hand in hand and cannot be separated. Their close link will be noted when
we remember that knowledge is often synonymous with appreciation;
appreciation means valuing; and praise is, a part of, worship. Reversing
the order -- worship finds expression, in praise; praise means
appreciation; and appreciation shows that knowledge is in the heart as
well as in the head.
Reverence Begets Spiritual Knowledge
Another incident associating worship with knowledge
occurs in the story of the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4). The
keen-minded woman (an outsider of the Jewish faith) had a better sense of
worship than had the intellectuals on Mars Hill, and her willingness to
talk to the Jewish stranger was rewarded. The stranger began the
conversation by asking for water. That conversation about "living
water" may have been beyond her but she listened and, when the
conversation turned to her personal life, she perceived that the stranger
was a prophet. Immediately, she questioned whether Jerusalem was the
true center of worship. In reply, our Lord spoke of a coming change when
acceptable worship would not be restricted to any place but would be
"in spirit and in truth."
Jesus added these words: "Ye worship ye know
not what we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews" (John
4:22). Here is the next step in Christian knowledge -- one which all must
know in head and in heart. Salvation had not entered the mind of the
Athenians; the Samaritan woman was nearer to that knowledge for she wished
to appropriately worship the one true God. Her knowledge was limited.
She did not know the gift of God (John 4:10) or the identity of the
stranger who asked for water. But, she professed knowledge of one thing
(John 4:25): that when Messiah came he would tell them all things. This
earned her further knowledge. What knowledge that was! She received a
revelation that the stranger was indeed Christ. Our Lord did not answer
the casual or unworthy inquirer who asked whether he was the Christ, but
this woman received that affirmation
without asking just because her little knowledge was coupled with
worship. Let us not pass by this story without noticing that in verses
10 and 14 (John 4:10, 14), knowledge leads to eternal life.
Knowledge Begets Fellowship With God
These examples show that additional knowledge of God
accompanies a closer relationship to him and a higher worship of him.
That being so, what knowledge and relationship is the portion of
Christians? Does the New Testament reveal God in closer relationship to
the Christian than to all others? Indeed, yes! There is almost no
reference in the Old Testament to God as Father, but with the coming of
his Son, this knowledge and the relationship of being sons of God was
initiated and later confirmed in the writings of the Apostles.
With such a standing before God, with such knowledge,
more acceptable worship will surely follow. True, our worship, praise,
and thankfulness are never adequate, considering the honor bestowed
upon us. Nevertheless, they increase as we see sonship as a blessed truth
rather than a doctrinal fact. Thus, we shall proceed to that pinnacle of
knowledge when we experience in Paul's words (Eph. 1:18), "The
eyes of your heart being enlightened, that ye may know..." We
cannot pass on without noticing the word "enlightened" --
knowledge by illumination.
Reflect upon the Lord's teachings in chapters 14 to
17 of John's Gospel. Jesus' life drew to its climax, but the central
figure in that small community was perfectly calm. He abode in peace
while his companions groped in uncertainty. Was it because of his perfect
knowledge and the worship of his Father -- during the hours that he
remained unshaken? He knew the Father's plans. He knew that he had to seal
the divine purpose of redemption by his own death. He knew that he would
be raised from the dead when the great work was finished. Most of all, he
knew his father. It was his full knowledge (a higher knowledge than all
the others we have considered) that enabled him to stand.
What of the chosen disciples? He gives to them in
these four chapters certainties of knowledge which he himself possessed.
If he could implant in their hearts the knowledge and the love of God,
they would survive the coming ordeal and triumph. The position of the
disciples at that time was so critical that an experiential knowledge of
the love of God would probably be of greater help and comfort than factual
knowledge of his purpose. This has often been true of later Christians,
for it is another way of trusting God where lie cannot be traced.
Eternal Life / The Fruit of True Knowledge
The disciples asked many questions that evening (John
14:5,8,22; 16:17,18). Should we assume by these that their knowledge of
the Father and of his purpose was meager? Or should we assume that
Jesus' summing up of their faith (John 16:31,32) showed their weakness? We
suggest instead that their Lord knew them better than they knew
themselves. In John 15:15, he tells them that their knowledge of God's
workings had raised them to the position of friends with the Father. He
is clearly pleased with them in spite of their doubts and uncertainty.
The Lord's personal prayer (chapter 17) tells us
how much of the truth concerning Jesus' truth and ministry they had
accepted. He details his First Advent work in these words:
I have glorified thee on
the earth: I have finished the work ...I have manifested thy name unto the
men which thou gayest me ... and ...I have given unto them the words which
thou gayest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that 1
came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. I pray
for them (John 17:4-9).
For all their seeming doubts, the disciples were
growing in Christian knowledge far surpassing their Jewish brethren.
When the Spirit of Truth came to them at Pentecost (following the
resurrection of their Lord), it fulfilled one of its functions: leading
them into all truth; showing them things to come. Further knowledge,
with the satisfaction that it brought, awaited them which would result in
a sweeter fellowship and greater incentive to worship him who in grace had
done so much for them by bringing them out of darkness into marvelous
A year or two later, the Apostle Paul arrived on the
scene. His knowledge has been a great stimulus to those who have since
believed. Much of his knowledge was gained by revelation, and he soon
appeared as the great champion of the truth in Christ Jesus. He was
instrumental in spreading that knowledge throughout the then known
world, and he was ever thankful for the knowledge granted him. His
prominence notwithstanding, Paul continually sought to know more. His
aspiration for understanding is summed up in these words: "That I may
know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his
sufferings, being made conformable to his death" (Phil. 3:10). Yes, the knowledge
he sought was that learned by experience, the kind that would produce a
thankfulness and worship of him who has so richly blessed us all.
Fullness awaits the time when we shall know even as we are known.
The world does not yet know God (John 17:25), but
when the world has been sanctified by God's truth they will be made
perfect in God (John 17:23). One might ask, To what end? Jesus tells us
clearly: "That they might know thee the only true God,
and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3).
With that knowledge comes eternal life. Knowledge,
worship, eternal life: the three move together. Of what purpose is life to
man without knowledge of God to accompany it?
Of what purpose is knowledge with life through which
to express it in worship? With the knowledge of him who gave his son and
the knowledge of the son who gave his life, there must come worship and
thankfulness. They cannot be separated: the goal of knowledge will be
reached, and then the Samaritan woman and others will fully understand the
answer of Jesus to her question:
If thou knewest the gift
of God, and who it is that saith to thee, "Give me to drink";
thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water
Most oyster shells are pearly in the interior. Pearls
are merely the animal's reaction to irritation, all oysters can produce
pearls of varying quality. An irritant, like grains of sand between the
oyster's mantle and shell, causes the creature to bathe the obnoxious
object with layers of pearl. Generally, this material attaches the foreign
object to the interior of the shell. Man made pearls are produced by
placing such substances in the oyster's shell.
Pearls are annoyances made beautiful. The oyster is
not valuable. But the result of the oyster's reaction to its treatment,
the irritation -- the pearl is something of great value. Apart from
monetary value, the pearl is morally significant. It suggests that human
troubles may be made beautiful in the same manner as the oyster
manufactures a pearl. Some martyrs are better' remembered for the glory
with which they endured sorrow than for their beliefs. Biographies offer
us moral pearls that are treasured long after the creatures of them have
perished, just as the pearl remains of value long after the oyster is
I may know ... the fellowship of his sufferings." - Philippians 3:10
What strange ambitions are here expressed! What a
peculiar passion moved Paul! Anyone could understand Paul's seeking the
fellowship of Christ's power, or his eager longing for the communion of
Christ's joy and the longing for the Master's love. This yearning to
share in Christ's sufferings, however, seems to carry us beyond the range
of human passions.
Though that may be, this is the spirit of the soul
that truly loves Jesus Christ. The willingness to share the Lord's
sufferings is born out of passionate devotion to him.
O the rapture of surrender
To the claims of love divine!
This desperate desire to participate in Christ's
reproach is necessary to a life of close prayer and communion with God.
The finer one's sensitivity to God's thoughts and standards, the more one
becomes acquainted with grief and suffering. Others who choose to live on
the fringe of things may escape the administration of discipline, but life
for them will be absent its sweetest fruit and will miss its highest and
Friendship and fellowship always seem to reach their
noblest expression when two hearts are welded together in the furnace of
affliction. It is the hammer of suffering that releases the most fragrant
spiritual influences, and it makes hearts flow together in ultimate
harmony. No music is so rich as that which pain provokes; the deeper the
waters through which we pass, the sweeter the songs we sing.
Show me, blessed Master, that it is as I suffer with
thee that your image shall be perfected in me! Show me that the vessel
that is shaped according to God's design must pass through the fire, just
as you did. Make me understand that it is in the fellowship of thy
passion that I shall be initiated into the mystery of your love. The
splendor of your cross will be seen (and known) to its greatest
advantage as I view it from Gethsemane.. The heaviest burdens shall add
most to the happiness of my
heart. The sharpest thorn shall strengthen my tender spirit. The hardness
of the pathway will promote holiness in my life. Even the hammer blows of
life will serve only to bind me closer to thee. The wounds that I win on
the battlefield of temptation will be marks of my oneness with you.
-- Linda Beck, 1934
a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the
Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you." - John
startled his disciples with these words shortly after Judas left the
Passover dinner. It must have been distressing to learn that they would
not be able to follow him. "Whither I go, ye
cannot come," was an expression Jesus had applied to the Jews (those who opposed
Jesus). Here he also applied the idea to them!
quickly asked, "Whither goest thou?"
-- Jesus responded, "Whither I go, thou
canst not follow me now;
but thou shalt follow me afterwards."
therefore asked, "Why cannot I
follow thee now" (John 13:36, 37)? Jesus response was immediate and clear. Peter was not
ready to lay down his life for his Master. Jesus even predicted that, very
soon, Peter would deny his Master three times.
knew what extremely troubling times were coming for his disciples.
Peter and the others would need special encouragement if their faith was
to survive those events. So it was that he assured them saying:
"Let not your heart
be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house
are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to
prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will
come again, and receive you unto Myself, that where I am, there ye may be
also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know" (John
and Philip spoke up and then the Master added these words:
"Because I live, ye
shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye
in Me, and I in you. He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he
it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father,
and I will love Him, and will manifest Myself to him ... Ye have heard
how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. I go unto the
Father. And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is
come to pass, ye might believe" (c.f., John 13:36-38;
John 14:19-21, 28-29).
promises suggest a series of questions. Where was Jesus going? What was
"the way" he said "they knew"? Where and when would
"they live"? Why did Jesus forewarn the disciples so that they
would "believe" then -- if he intended these words to be
interpreted as a promise that they would "live" in resurrection
Our Master was a careful teacher who cared for his disciples. He formed his
encouragement as the pieces a puzzle; one that the disciples would
assemble as they reasoned on his words.
would shortly go to the Father. This he would do because he would
faithfully endure every test of denial and suffering. Every earthly right,
including life itself, was surrendered. He was completely loyal to God's
"Lord, why can I not
follow you right now? I will lay down my life for you" (John
13:37). Peter thought he understood his Master. He understood that
complete dedication [consecration] was required in exchange for
fellowship with the Creator. What Peter claimed to know he was in
reality unprepared to do. Peter soon would be ready, however. Jesus
encouragement and his prayers would sustain the impetuous one and soon he
would emulate Jesus in faithful service. That began after our Savior
ascended on high for our justification and sent the gift of the Holy
Spirit. "He who was delivered up because of our
transgressions, and was raised because of our justification" (Rom.
faithful believers began to "live" at Pentecost. Jesus and the
Father there came to us, and made their abode with us. "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word; and
my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our abode with him"
14:23). His prior promise anticipated that those present when he spoke
would be present also when he came again in this manner. There would be
doubts. What was to occur at Pentecost, and what did occur, would trouble
them and they would question how it had happened. Our Lord assured them
so, saying "when it is come to pass, ye [you same
disciples] might believe" (John
promises were made to encourage and maintain their faith and belief --
particularly so at a time when they would be sorely tested. Those words
applied to the disciples then.
taught that he would go and that they would remain. He also taught them a
new commandment and that they were disciples who should love one another.
He taught them about his comfort to, and spiritual fellowship with, them. "in My Father's house are many abodes" (Marshall
Interlinear). "I go
to prepare a place for you. I will come again and receive you unto
Myself: that where I am, there ye may be also." What an assurance!
He would then receive them because their faith would spur them on to
action. They would lay down their lives for his sake. This act would show
them to be God's children.
He came unto His own, and
His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He
power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name (John
Sonship with God depended upon Jesus' interceding
with God on behalf of believers. He must and did "appear in the presence of God for us" (Heb.
9:24). He prepared a place for all his disciples. There they would receive
nourishment and protection. There they would develop spiritually. There
they abide in peace and joy. We, along with all believers, have been
seated 'together with Him in the heavenlies"
(Eph. 2:6). He has been with us, and we are with Him. It has been thus
since Pentecost, and will be so until the end of the age. "Lo,
I am with you always, even
to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:20).
someone tells me he has never had a moment of probing religious doubt I
find myself wondering whether he ever had a moment of vital religious
Harold A. Bosley
l grow older, I care less and less what people think about me and more and
more about what God thinks of me. l expect to be with him much longer than
What is hazardous in my life is my work as a
day I put faith on the line. I have never
seen God. In a world where nearly everything can be weed, explained,
quantified, subjected to psych cal analysis and scientific control I
making the center of my life a God whom
no eye hath seen, nor ear heard, whose will no one can
probe. mars a
will be done.' No greater words than these Can pass from human lips, than
these which rent Their way through agony and blood and sweat, And broke
the silence of Gethsemane, To save the world from sin.
Never try to explain God until you have obeyed him.
The only bit of God we understand is the bit we have obeyed.
-- Oswald Chambers
Envy, hatred, jealousy, animosity, bitterness, and
all manner of uncharitableness, are the mental deficiencies of a
disordered mind (Gal. 5:9:21). Love, generosity, kindliness, goodwill,
forbearance, are the mental vitamins necessary to bring about a proper
mental balance, and spiritual adjustment, scripturally termed "The
spirit of a sound mind" (Eph. 4:23, 5:9-11; 2 Tim. 1:7; Gal.