Proverbs & Short Articles


Updates

The Lord had no ‘Me time’ for His life was the Father’s will. He is our model. 

No time to pray? Daniel was a busy man in public office and yet he managed to set aside three times in the day for prayer (see Dan. 6: 10). 

If there is a lack of mutuality before ‘formal’ fellowship, then the basis for fellowship is not really present.

Mountains can only be climbed with knees bent.

God is just as righteous in justifying a sinner as He is in condemning a sinner.

We know how the Lord has the place of honour in heaven, but do we understand that “even as he is, we also are in this world” (1 John 4: 17)?

Grace is not just love but involves what love has done.

How do we know Stephen had a heavenly face? Surely Luke obtained that testimony from one who was there (see Acts 6: 15; 7: 58).

“When thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness” (Is. 26: 9).

Raised in Christ

It has been alleged that only Christians will be raised from the dead when the Lord descends from heaven, while OT saints will be raised at some later point. This idea is based upon the apostle’s phraseology in 1 Thess. 4: 16 where he refers to how “the dead in Christ shall rise first” (my emphasis)—“in Christ” elsewhere being descriptive of our unique place of blessings as Christians (see Eph. 1: 3 etc.). However, this simplistic analysis of 1 Thess. 4 does not hold up to closer scrutiny. If we turn to 1 Cor. 15: 22 we read that “as in the Adam all die, thus also in the Christ all shall be made alive”. All men are subject to death because they are ‘in Adam’. As children of Adam they are sinners—therefore they die. The contrast is resurrection: “in the Christ all shall be made alive”. Such are ‘in Christ’—therefore they shall be made alive. In what sense will those believers who do not form part of the Assembly be made alive? Surely it will be as ‘in Christ’! Only two positions of men are described—“in the Adam” and “in the Christ”—and the clear implication is that in the context of resurrection there are not any others. The “assembling shout” (1 Thess. 4: 16) as being personal from the Lord, raises the believing dead of the Assembly, while the “trump of God” (v16) may be a more universal idea, encompassing OT Gentile believers. Since Scripture only speaks of one archangel, “Michael … the great prince who standeth for the children of thy people” (Dan. 12: 1), it would seem that the “archangel’s voice” (1 Thess. 4: 16) is for the believing dead of Israel.  

Collective Names

The English word church is from the Old English word cirice, which in turn is derived from the old German kirika (hence ‘kirk’ in northern Britain). Kirika has origins in the Greek word for Lord (kurioV), and church essentially means house of the Lord. Thus, when the Bible was translated into English the word church was already in common use and could be appropriated to refer to what was established on the day of Pentecost.  There is, however, no direct connection to the Greek text, and ‘house of the Lord’ lends itself too readily to the erroneous idea of ‘church’ as referring to a building rather than people. The Greek word employed by the Holy Spirit in the New Testament is ekklhsia or ‘assembly’. This word (which has no spiritual connotations in itself) means a called-out company, from ek (‘out of’) and klhsiV (‘a calling’). On the face of it then, Christians would seem to be more Scriptural calling their gatherings ‘assemblies’ rather than ‘churches’. However, this does not take account of the peculiar character of the present moment when outward unity among Christians has been lost. Some have referred, for example, to ‘the assembly’ in a town familiar to the writer—and the use of the definite article in association with the locality leaves no room to doubt the exclusive claim being made upon the title. There are other Christians in that town, but the terminology clearly excludes them. Indeed, there are surely many believers there we do not know about, and it seems very presumptuous to relegate them in our minds to some inferior place. Yes, Scripture infers that some towns (for practical reasons) had more than one meeting place and that these were called ‘assemblies’ (see Col. 4: 15; Philemon v2 etc.), but there were no Christians outside these, and all were united together. In a day of confusion and breakdown of practical fellowship it is much better to simply call our gatherings ‘meetings’ and, while seeking to walk in the truth of the assembly as far as is practically possible, to claim nothing about our position.

Recovery

Abram responded to a famine in the land of promise by acting in unbelief and going down into Egypt (see Gen. 12: 10). In essence, he abandoned what was heavenly for what was worldly. So how do we react to a spiritual famine? We may not actually descend into the world itself, but is there not a temptation to adopt lower principles, principles that are not in keeping with our calling? There is, for example, widespread pressure for Christian gatherings to adopt certain practices in order to be more ‘relevant’ to those around us, often on the grounds that ‘other churches’ are doing it. We have been called by God, but it can be seen at once that His Word is no longer our standard but contemporary culture.

   Now Abram’s recovery is marked by the fact that he came back to “the place where his tent had been at the beginning” (Gen. 13: 3). This is worth pondering. Whether individually or collectively (as a company of Christians), there may be an acknowledgement of a history of drifting away from God and a positive move back in the direction where we once were. Have we, however, got back to the point of departure? If we have not got back to that point, then we are not truly recovered. It was a great thing when Abram “went up out of Egypt” (v1), but while the journey was essential, it was arriving at the place of departure that counted. Only then was his relationship with God properly restored, and only at the altar “that he had made there at the first” (v4) was Abram again found calling “on the name of Jehovah” (v4; comp. Gen 12: 8).  

The Twelfth Apostle

The twelve apostles are to “sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” during the “regeneration”—the kingdom in power, when “the Son of man shall sit down upon his throne of glory” (Matt. 19: 28). Judas Iscariot forfeited his place among the twelve forever by his betrayal, and this necessitated his replacement by Matthias in Acts 1: 15-26. The fact that James, the brother of John was murdered by Herod and not replaced (see Acts 12: 2) is a quite different case to that of Judas. James will sit on his throne of judgment—when the kingdom is restored to Israel.  

Balance

All Christians, because of what they are naturally, are liable to get waylaid into extremes of attitude, doctrine or behaviour. It may be that one of the reasons that God has set us together in one body is to counteract this tendency. It is a healthy thing when, in the spirit of grace, one questions what another is saying and doing. It is also unhealthy if an individual views himself as ‘always right’ and resists the godly influence of his brethren. One effect of the divided state of the Christian testimony is that people gravitate to those who think, sound, act and even look like themselves, with the result that any moderating influence from elsewhere that could be available is lost. We need to recognise that the divisions that exist among saints, even where justified, have a deleterious effect on all involved.