by J.L. Ferguson, Barrhead
AN APPROACH TO BASIC BIBLE TRUTHS
SECTION 1 – THE INSPIRATION OF SCRIPTURE
1. The importance of the subject
This is a vital study. Were the books of the Bible as originally written the actual words of God? Have they retained their authenticity despite various translations and versions over the centuries?
2. What is meant by the term “Inspiration”?
The word has to do with breathing. It occurs twice in the A.V., once only in the R.V. These are:
Job 32:8 “the inspiration of the ALMIGHTY giveth them understanding.” This is rendered breath in the R.V. Gesenius says of the original Hebrew word “breath”, spirit – the Spirit of God imparting life and wisdom”,
2 Tim.3:16 “All scripture is given by inspiration of God”
2 Tim.3:16 “Every scripture inspired of God”.
The Greek word means “breathed”.
All Scripture is here viewed as (literally) “God-breathed”. This applies equally to the Old Testament writings (as viewed in this verse) or those of the New Testament (see reference to this in 2 Pet.3:16).
Note – Scripture speaks of the writings being inspired, not the writers.
3. How the Scriptures themselves regard Inspiration
A. As to them being God-breathed
Ex.24:4 “And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD (see also Ex.34:27 and Deut.31:9,24,26).
Num.7:89 Moses “heard the Voice speaking unto him” (see also Num.12:8)
Num.24:2 “The Spirit of God came upon him” (see also e.g. 2 Chron.15:1)
Josh.24:26 “Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God”,
2 Sam.23:1,2 David – “the Spirit of the LORD spake by me” (see also Acts 1:16; Acts 2:29-31).
Matt.1:22 “spoken by the Lord through the prophet”, quoting from Isa.7 (see also 2:5)
Matt.4:4 “Every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (see Deut.3:2)
Matt.19:4 “He which made them from the beginning said”, quoting Gen.2:24
Matt.22:31 “spoken unto you by God”, quoting from Ex.3:6. Mk.12:36 “David himself said in the Holy Spirit” – quoting from Ps.110.
Jn 14:26 “the Holy Spirit…shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you” (see also Jn 16:13,14).
Acts 3:21 “God spake by the mouth of His holy prophets which
have been since the world began”.
Acts 4:25 “Who by the Holy Ghost, by the mouth of our father David…didst say”, quoting from Ps.2.
Acts 28:25 “Well spake the Holy Spirit by Isaiah the prophet” quoting from Isa.6.
Rom.3:2 “they were entrusted with the oracles of God”
1 Cor.11:23 “I received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you.
Eph.3:4-5 “the mystery of Christ…hath now been revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit”.
Heb.1:1 “God, having of old time spoken unto the fathers in the prophets”.
Heb.3:7 “As the Holy Ghost saith”, quoting from Ps.85.
Heb.10:15 “the Holy Ghost hath said”, quoting from Jer.31.
1 Pet.1:11 “the Spirit of Christ…testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ”.
1 Pet.1:12 “preached the gospel unto you by the Holy Spirit”.
2 Pet. 1:21 “men spake from God being moved by the Holy Ghost”.
Rev.1:2 “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show unto His servants”.
Rev. 2:7 “What the Spirit saith to the Churches” (see also Rev.2:11,17,29; Rev.3:6,13,22).
These are selections only of the Bible’s own claim to inspiration. Finally, it has been reckoned that the expression “thus saith the Lord”, is used some 2,367 times in the Old Testament scriptures, evidence indeed that the writers regarded their work as divinely inspired. This expression can be applied to “all scripture” i.e. to both Testaments. It is as though all was originally “written with the finger of God” (Ex.31:18).
(b) For all time
Ps.119:89 “Forever, O LORD, Thy word is settled in heaven”.
Jn 10:35 “The Scripture cannot be broken”.
Acts 7:38 “Our father…received living oracles to give unto us”.
2 Tim.3:15 “the sacred writings which are able to make thee wise unto salvation”.
Heb.4:12,13 “the word of God is living and active…and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart”.
1 Pet.1:23 “Having been begotten again through the word of God, which liveth and abideth”.
Note: In 2 Tim.3:15 reference is made to “the sacred writings” or literally the sacred letters (see Jn 7:15, same word). From earliest days Timothy was taught his alphabet from the sacred letters of O.T. Scripture. The expression is wrongly presented in the A.V. as “the holy scriptures”.
B. As to how devout yet fallible men wrote unerringly God’s words, sometimes unaware of their full significance.
David was a man who on occasion sinned grievously against the Lord. Yet not only did God use him to write a considerable portion of the Scriptures but in doing so He let His thoughts flow through the channel of David’s training and experiences. And among his last words David expressed his appreciation of the fact that in all his writings, “the Spirit of the LORD spake by me and His word was upon my tongue” (2 Sam.23:2).
Similarly, one who had before been a blasphemer and a persecutor and injurious, proved to be a chosen vessel who could say “take knowledge of the things which I write unto you, that they are the commandment of the Lord” (1 Cor.14:37).
And so great was the breathing of God’s thoughts into the naturally impetuous Simon Peter that ho could express the general principle of inspiration in this way:
1 Pet.1:11 “searching what time or what manner of time the spirit of Christ which was in them did point unto, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glories…”
2 Pet.1:21 “No prophecy ever came by the will of man; but men spake from God being moved by the Holy Ghost”.
C. As to the nature of God-breathed Scripture.
Ps.12:6 “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver…purified seven times”.
Ps.19:7 “The law of the LORD is perfect”.
Prov.30:5 “Every word of God is tried”.
4. How the Lord Jesus and the New Testament writers accepted the veracity of the Old Testament Scriptures
(a) The Lord Jesus:
Matt.12:3,5 “Have ye not read…?” (see also Matt.21:16; Matt.22:31,32).
Matt.24:15 “Spoken of by Daniel the prophet”.
Matt.24:37 “As were the days of Noah”
Mk.10:6 “from the beginning; of the creation, male and female created He them”,
Mk.12:26 “Have ye’, not read in the book of Moses, in the place concerning the bush?”.
Lk.17:32 “Remember Lot’s wife”.
Lk.24:44 “All things must needs be fulfilled, which are written in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms, concerning Me”,
Jn 5:46 “Moses…he wrote of Me”.
Jn 12:49 “the Father which sent Me, He hath given me a commandment, what I should say and what I should speak”
The Lord Jesus accepted the historical accuracy of the Old Testament Scriptures, actually referring to the names of 20 persons recorded there. He also confirmed that His own sayings were the words of God.
(b) The Apostles
Gal.3:10 They accepted the law (see also 1 Cor.6:16).
Acts 7:42 They accepted the prophets (see also Heb.8:8-12).
Acts 1:20 They accepted the psalms (see also Acts 4:25).
Heb.7 They accepted the persons of Melchizedek, Abraham, Levi,
– and Moses (Rom.10:5) and Isaiah (Rom.10:19) and David (Rom.11:9)
Rom.9:7 Paul referred to God’s words as Scripture (see also Gal.3:8).
1 Cor.2:13 He claimed that his teaching was that of the Spirit of God. (see also 2 Pet.1:16-19).
The apostles too had absolute confidence on the God-given accuracy of the Old Testament Scriptures and that their own New Testament teaching was equally received from God. Therefore Paul wrote, “Let him take knowledge of the things which I write unto you, that they are the commandment of the Lord” (1 Cor.14:37).
5. Fulfilled prophecy as evidence of the divine origin of Scripture.
2 Pet. 1:19 The Old Testament writings contained much of prophecy which was fulfilled by the time the New Testament was written.
(a) Re the Messiah
Gen.3:15 The seed of the woman would bruise the serpent’s head – See Heb.2:14.
Isa.7:14 A virgin would conceive – see Matt.1:23.
Mic.5:2 The Ruler would be born in Bethlehem – See Matt.2:6
Hos.11:1 The Son would be called out of Egypt – See Matt.2:15
Jer.31:15 Weeping would be heard in Ramah – See Matt.2:18
Isa 9:1,2 The Light would rise in Galilee – See Matt.4:14-16
Zech.11:13 The price of thirty pieces of silver (see Matt.27:9)
Ps.22:16 The mode of Messiah’s death – See Luke 24:40
Isa.53:9 The manner of His burial – See Matt.27:57
Gen.15:13,14 See Ex.12:40,41
Gen.49:10 See 2 Sam.7:11-13
Isa.44:28 See Ezra 1:1-3
Jer.51:27-32 See Daniel 6:30,31
Isa.41:21-24 God challenges the idols
Isa.44:6-8 God encourages His people.
Isa.45:9,10 God’s sublime pronouncement.
Note: The foregoing in (a) to (c) are briefly selective. Scripture abounds with prophecy, in part fulfilled, in part shortly to be so.
6. The exactness of the inspired Word
Matt.22:31,32 The tense of a verb
Rom.4:9-13 The time of Abraham’s faith
Gal.3:16 The number of a noun.
Heb.12:27 The significance of an expression.
Every phrase, word, number of noun, tense of verb, or specific point in time is precise. This principle, demonstrated in the New Testament with reference to Old Testament, is applicable also to New Testament and justifies us in distinguishing between the plural “you” in Lk.22:31 and the singular “thee”, “thou” in verse 32. The case is definite when this rendering is in line with Greek text.
The principles may also be extended to the distinction between (Gk) PHILEO and AGAPAO, Jn 21:15-17.
It also helps solve some problems in Scripture e.g. the distinction between (Gk) AGROS (Matt.27:7,8) and CHORION (Acts 1:18) clears up an apparent contradiction.
7. God’s sovereign care of His inspired word at the hand of copyists, translations and versions.
(a) From what is noted above we believe in the verbal (sometimes called plenary) inspiration of scripture, i.e. that every word as originally written was dictated by the Spirit of God. The Book was dictated by the Spirit of God. The Book was written over a period of some 1600 years, by men of varying callings and standings in life, the whole being a composite revelation of accurately recorded history, spiritually and moral issues and precisely worded prophecy; Its inspiration was never doubted by its writers, by the nation of Israel, by the Lord Jesus and the New Testament apostles and prophets.
(b) The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, except for the occurrences of Aramaic in Ezra 4:8 to Ezra 6:18, Jer.10:11 and Dan.2:4 to Dan.7:28. At that time Hebrew writing was expressed in consonants only, no vowels, and no space between the words. Not only so, but some of the letters bore very great similarity to other letters.
The New Testament was written in Greek throughout.
(c) For long centuries there has not been extant in the world any one of the original manuscripts. Yet such has been the providence of God in the care of His word that there are in existence today hundreds of Hebrew and Greek manuscripts which were studiously and reverently copied by scribes from then existing documents.
Our English Bible is a miracle of preservation in translation, as in other ways besides. For a detailed study of this the student is referred to standard works on the subject. That there are obscure portions is evident, Verses where it may well be an error has crept in despite the vigilance of the copyist. But Dr. Hort, whose authority on the subject is profound, estimates that “the amount of what can in any sense be called substantial variation…can hardly form more than a thousandth part of the entire text”. (Introduction to The New Testament in the Original Greek, p.2). And the eminent Sir Frederick Kenyon in his erudite work “Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts” states on p.55 “No fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith rests on a disputed reading…It cannot be too strongly asserted that in substance the text of the Bible is certain”.
1. That the Spirit of God revealed to the minds of the original writers of scripture the matters they were to set down (see 2 Sam.23:2)
2. That it was not simply a matter of dictation on God’s part without understanding on the part of the writers. Rather they searched diligently in their consideration of the message, as to its immediate or other-day application (see 1 Pet.1:23-25).
3. That the choice of words used to convey the in-breathed message was also the work of the Spirit, so that the devout reader regarded them as weighed and meaningful words (see Heb.12:27).
4. That the God who Originally inspired the Scriptures caused them also to be age-long in their living power and effectiveness and in agreement with this has preserved their accuracy (as well as their existence) throughout the centuries, over-ruling in His sovereignty the work of the copyist and the translator.
SECTION 2 – THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD
Pope, the poet, wrote: “Man, know thyself, presume not God to scan; the proper study of mankind is man”. But the Lord Jesus Christ said: “This is life eternal, that they should know Thee the only true God…” (Jn 17:3)- Paul prayed for the Ephesian saints that they might be given “a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him” (Eph.1:17), and for the Colossian saints that they might be “increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col.1:10). Some in the assembly in Corinth were reproved because they had “no knowledge of God”. Normal Christian experience should therefore be: “Let us know, let us follow on to know the LORD” (Hos.6:13).
For the purpose of this study outline, our first consideration will be:
1. Belief in the existence of God
Before we can rest with assurance on the Word of God we must have a clear conviction as to the existence of God. This must ever be a matter of faith but faith which is firmly based on the evidence and authority of Scripture, supported by indisputable confirmations found in the natural world. Looked at briefly:
(a) The evidence of Scripture
We saw in our previous study, that the inspiration of Scripture is an accepted fact, not calling for proof (“Every scripture is inspired of God and profitable…” 2 Tim.3:16). So it is with the existence of God. Heb.11:6 says, “He that cometh to God must believe that He is”. In keeping with this the Bible opens with the words, “In the beginning God”…He is presented as the Creator and the First Cause of all, This is supported by many other scriptures as, e.g. Acts 17:24-28; Heb.11:3; Rev.4:11. There are still men who darken “counsel try words without knowledge” and God’s first demand of Job is still relevant, “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?” (Job 38:1-4). While therefore the existence of God is assumed in Scripture, it is nevertheless everywhere asserted by it, and no claim to Deity can be so relevant to the ordinary mind as that of His being First Cause and Creator of all.
(b) The evidence of the natural world
“Nature is only an effect, whose cause is God” (Cowper).
Ps.19:1,2 “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth His handiwork”.
Isa.40:12-26 “Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of His hand?…To whom then will ye liken Me, that I should be equal to him? saith the Holy One”.
Rom.1:20 “For the invisible things of Him since the creation of the world are clearly seen…even His ever¬lasting power and divinity”.
Reverently, and remembering “how small a whisper do we hear of Him” (Job 26:14), we now consider:
2. The Being of God
Although the term “Person” is not applied to God in Scripture,
His personality is everywhere in evidence. It is impossible for mortals to define the Divine Being, but Scripture enables us to have at least a limited understanding of Him, in the extent to which the Holy Spirit has revealed Him. The greatest revelation of God came through the Lord Jesus and in Jn 4:24 (Mg) He said, “God is spirit”, He is not a Spirit – He IS SPIRIT, entirely free from the limitations of time and space. However incomprehensible this is to our tiny minds, the fact of God being a spiritual Being excludes any thought of a physical body. It follows from this that He speaks figuratively when He refers to His hands, ears etc. He cannot be discerned by physical senses. In keeping with this Paul writes:
1 Tim.1:17 “Now unto the King eternal, incorruptible, invisible, the only God…” This refers to God the Father.
1 Tim.6:16 “Who only hath immortality, dwelling in light unapproachable, whom no man hath soon, nor can see…” This refers to God the Son.
To these, what we term for simplicity, characteristics, i.e. spirit, invisible, we may add:
Eternal – We let the Scriptures speak.
Ex.3:14 “And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM”.
Ps.90:2 “Even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God”.
Isa.40:28 “The everlasting God”.
Rom.1:20 “His everlasting power and divinity”.
Eph.3:21 “Unto Him be the glory….unto all generations forever and ever”.
– God lives in an eternal present.
Self-existent – The following scriptures are apposite:
Jn 5:26 He has life in Himself.
Rom.11:33-36 He is independent in all His ways.
Dan.4:35 He is sovereign in relation to all His creation.
Ps.115:3 He controls His universe.
– God is “before all things” and it is in Him “all things Consist”.
Unchangeable – The immutability, or the changeless character of God is taught in the following portions:
Ex.3:14 “I AM THAT I AM.
Ps.102:26,27 “They shall perish but Thou shalt endure…Thou art the same.
Mal.3:6 “I the LORD change not”
Rom.1:23 “The incorruptible God”.
Heb.6:17,18 “Two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie”.
Jas.1:17 “The Father of lights with whom can be no variation”.
– God is the living God (Josh.3:10; Jer.10:10), always in action yet never subject to change.
Omnipresent – Such is the immensity of the Divine Being that the Spirit testified as follows:
1 Kings 8:27 “Heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee”.
Ps.139:7 “Whither shall I flee from Thy presence?”
Isa.66:1 “The heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool”.
Jer.23:24 “Do not I fill heaven and earth?”
– God is Spirit and is everywhere, filling all things.
Omniscient – Again the Scriptures are our teachers:
Sam.2:3″ “The LORD is a God of knowledge, and by Him actions are weighed”.
Job 37:16 “The wondrous works of Him which is perfect in knowledge”.
Isa.40:28 “There is no searching of His understanding”.
He searches all hearts – 1 Chron.26:9
He hears and sees everything – Ps.94:9
He sees men’s ways – Job 31:4
He knows where men live – Acts 9:11
He knows the days of men’s lives – Ps.37:18
He knows and declares the future – Isa.42:9
Well may we echo, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God!” (Rom.11:33).
– God’s knowledge comprehends all.
Before leaving this section of the subject, a further word may be necessary as to God being invisible, to which reference was made earlier in the quotations from 1 Tim.1:17; 1 Tim.6:16. Two further relevant verses are:
– Jn 1:18 “No man hath seen God at any time”.
– Col.1:15 “The invisible God.”
It is clear, however, that there were manifestations of the Divine Being in Old Testament times. For example: Gen.18:2 to Abraham; Gen.32:30 to Jacob; Ex.24:9,10 to the nobles of Israel and Jdgs.6:14, to Gideon.
These saw God and lived, despite Ex.33:20. It is clear that on such occasions, however, God the Father did not appear to men in the transcendent glory which Moses desired to see in Ex.33:18. Indeed it may well be that He appeared in the Person of God the Son, in a body assumed at the time for the purpose (see Jn 1:18). But when we come to the New Testament the Father gave complete expression to Himself in the beloved Son in incarnation, as expressed e.g. in Jn 14:9, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father”, a reference to character and attributes and not in any sense to physical form.
We pass now to a consideration of what may be termed:
3. The Attributes of God
Howsoever many these may be, they must exist in perfect harmony, in superb balance the one with the other. It is by the impact of these on the human family that we gather in the main our very small understanding of the Divine Being as revealed in Scripture. Briefly, they include:
Love – 1 Jn 4:8 “God is love”. This is inherent in the Divine Being, therefore present in all His ways, hence such scriptures as:
Jn 3:16; Rom.5:8; 1 Jn 3:1.
Light – 1 Jn 1:5, “God is light”.
This verse shows the profound impact which the revelation of this truth had on the apostles when God was manifest in the flesh. To be in the company of the Lord Jesus was to sense the absolute purity and holiness of God.
Holiness – Ex.15:11, “Glorious in holiness”.
1 Sam.2:2 “There is none holy as the LORD”.
Isa.57:15 “The high and lofty One…whose name is Holy”.
(Note – Holy is here one of the names or titles of God, not simply a description).
John 17:11 “Holy Father”. 1 Peter 1:16 “I am holy”.
Rev.4:8 “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty”.
Wisdom – Rom.16:27 “The only wise God”.
Rom.11:33 “O the depths of the riches…of the wisdom of God”.
1 Cor.2:7 “God’s wisdom…that hath been hidden, which God foreordained before the worlds unto our glory”.
Eph.3:10 “The manifold wisdom of God’.
Veracity – Isa.65:16, “The God of truth”.
Ex.34:6 “The LORD…plenteous in…truth”.
Num.23:19 “Hath He said, and shall He not do it?”.
Ps.25:10 “All the paths of the LORD are…truth”.
Tit.1:2 “God, who cannot lie”.
Faithfulness – Deut.7:9, “The faithful God”.
Isa.49:7 “The LORD that is faithful”.
1 Cor.1:9 “God is faithful”.
1 Tim.2:13 “He abideth faithful”.
Goodness – Ps.145:9, “The LORD is good”.
Ps.31:19 “How great is Thy goodness”.
Mk.10:18 “None is good save One, even God”.
Grace – 1 Peter 5:10, “The God of all grace”.
Eph.1:6 “The glory of His grace”.
Eph.2:7 “The exceeding riches of His grace”.
Tit.2:11 Grace which brings salvation.
Rom.3:24 Grace which justifies.
2 Cor.8:9 Grace which enriches eternally
Jn 1:16 Grace which sustains.
Mercy – Deut.4:31, “A merciful God”.
Ex.34:6 “The LORD…plenteous in mercy”,
Ps.57:10 “Thy mercy is great unto the heavens”.
1 Chron.16:34 “His mercy endureth for ever”.
Ps.145:9 “His tender mercies are over all His works”.
Compassion and Longsuffering – Ex.31:6, “A God full of compassion”.
Rom.2:4 “The riches of His longsuffering”.
Rom.9:22 “God…endured with much longsuffering”.
1 Pet.3:20 “The longsuffering of God waited”.
2 Pet.3:15 “The longsuffering of our Lord is salvation”.
Righteousness – Ps.145:17, the LORD is righteous”.
Ezra 9:15 “O LORD… Thou art righteous”.
Ps.119:137 “Righteous art Thou, O LORD “.
Jn 17:25 “O righteous Father”.
Rev.16:5 “Righteous art Thou…Thou holy One”.
Sovereignty – Rom. 9:5, “Who is over all, God..”
Gen.14:19 He is Possessor of all things.
Ps.135:6 What He pleases He does.
Jer.32:17 There is nothing too hard for Him.
Dan.4:35 None’ can say to Him ‘What doest Thou?”
Acts 2:23 His purposes in grace stand.
Rom.11:29 His purposes in election stand.
Rom.15:32 His purposes in the believer’s life stand.
Finally we consider that aspect of the Divine Being which (although the term is not found in Scripture) is usually referred to as:
4. The Trinity
(a) The unity of God – This is basic in our study. God is not only set forth in Scripture as unique, incomparable and ineffable but He is also presented as one God in absolute unity. The heathen nations had, in their confusion, a multiplicity of gods. Moses said: “The LORD our God is one LORD” (Deut.6:4). In New Testament times the message was:
1 Cor.8:6 “To us there is one God”.
1 Tim.2:5 “For there is one God”.
That this one God was nevertheless a triune Being was revealed in part in the O.T. Gen.1:1 we are introduced to God in plural form (that is 3 or more – the Hebrew word, but later revelation confirms this to be 3) with a singular verb – not only a trinity but acting also in unity. This is further brought out in Gen.1:26, “Let us make man in our image”. Again, in Num.6:22-27, the one Name of God is in a threefold presentation.
In the N.T. the truth is fully revealed. The following references will suffice:
Matt.3:16,17 Where the Spirit of God descended on the Lord Jesus and the Voice from heaven said, “This is My beloved Son”. Father, Son and Spirit all present in harmony together.
Matt.28:19 “The Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. Here the “My Name” of Num.6 comes into full view.
2 Cor.13:14 “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit”. Note the variation in the sequence of the Names.
1 Cor.12:4-6 “The same Spirit…the same Lord…the same God”.
There is therefore presented to faith the incomprehensible truth of three Persons, each equal to (Jn 5:18) and indivisible from the other, each acting in unity with the other yet separately, according to His own function in the Deity. For example in the matter of our salvation, the Father chooses, the Son redeems, the Spirit seals. Each One is God, yet there are not three Gods but one only.
(b) God the Father – That the Father is God is expressed in, e.g.,
Phil.2:11 “To the glory of God the Father”.
1 Cor.8:6 “To us there is one God, the Father”.
In the equality of the Trinity, the eternal Father is nevertheless presented in Scripture as prominent, the eternal Son being begotten by Him and the eternal Spirit proceeding from Him, yet, each being eternal, one did not exist before the other. Creation is ascribed to the Father in 1 Cor.8:6 and redemption in Eph.1:3-14.
(c) God the Son – That the Son is God is expressed in, e.g.,
Heb.1:8 “But of the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever”.
1 Jn 4:9 “God hath Sent His only begotten Son into the world”
Rom.9:5 “Christ…who is over all, God blessed for ever”.
Phil.2:5,6 “Christ Jesus; who being in the form of God, counted it not a prize to be on an equality with God”.
The Son is a Person distinct from the Father and the Spirit, acting separately yet in complete unity and interdependence. For example, 1 Cor.8:6 explains that although all things are “of” the Father, as the great original Cause, they are “through” the Son, as the great Agent of Divine activity.
That the Lord Jesus was the Son of God before incarnation is sufficiently
emphasized by the frequent reference to the Father sending the Son _ that is, He was the Son before He came. John in gospel and epistle has delightful references to this. That He was the eternal Son before incarnation is evidenced by:
Mic.5:2 “Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting (or, literally from the days of eternity).
Isa.9:6 “His Name shall be called…Father of eternity”(R.V. margin – for through Him the Father made all
“the reaches of space and the eons of time”).
Jn 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word”.
Jn 17:5 “The glory which I had with Thee before the world was”.
The Son of God is spoken of as “the only begotten from the Father”, in Jn 1:14 and as His “only begotten Son” in Jn 3:16. Origen in the 4th century spoke of this as “eternal generation”, a “timeless act”. And there briefly, but reverently, we leave the subject.
(d) The Holy Spirit – That the Spirit is God is expressed in Acts 5:3,4 and elsewhere. In Jn 15:26 He is spoken of as proceeding from the Father. The Greek word here for “proceeding from” is found in the Sept. in Ex.25:32, where the branches of the lampstand are described as “going out” of its sides. These branches were of one piece with the centre shaft, for all was beaten from a talent of gold. The Spirit is one with the Father, eternally so (Heb.9:14).
He is found in close association with the Son in creation of (Gen.1:2) and in redemption (Jn 16:7). Indeed Rom.8:9 speaks of Him as the Spirit of Christ and Gal.4:6 as the Spirit of God’s Son. Although in considerable evidence in the O.T. He is only named as the Holy Spirit in Ps.51:11 and Isa.63:10,11. In the N.T. references to His Person and work abound, and His association with the members of the Church which is His Body is altogether unique. But a detailed consideration of His glorious Person would, as with the Father and the Son, call for separate examination.
Generally we leave this section of our studies echoing Solomon’s wise word, “If thou Seek…and search…then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and FIND THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD (Prov.2:4,5).
SECTION 3 – THE CREATION AND ENTRANCE OF SIN
As we have seen in earlier studies, there are certain matters which the Scriptures present to faith for acceptance and not for argument. That is because basically they are matters beyond human comprehension. One such is the fact of the Triune God, self-existent and, eternal, alone in counsel “before times eternal” (2 Tim.1:9) and in mutual love “before the foundation of the world” (Jn 17:24), while as yet there was no creation existent, matters which concerned the Godhead in eternal ages prior to the foundation of the world are among “the secret things” which “belong unto the LORD our God” and there faith leaves them. It is sufficient for us to explore “the things that are revealed” (Deut.29:29),
The universe had a beginning, though to us timeless and dateless. All created intelligence had a beginning. There is no specific evidence in Scripture that angels were created prior to the Gen.1:1 creation of the heavens and the earth so we must leave anything beyond that as surmise. We do know from Job 30:6,7 that they rejoiced when earth’s foundations were laid. That is as far as, with certainty, we can go, although we know that Satan had been active in divine service before his fall, which pre-dated the days of Adam.
We consider first:
1. The Creation of the Universe
We are concerned only in this Course with the teaching of Scripture on this subject, the inspired word of revelation judged by God to be adequate for human consideration. Some men darken “Counsel by words without knowledge” as they theorize on creation, to whom are applicable the words to Job, “Where wast thou when I laid the foundation of the earth?” (Job 38:4).
We take as a basic text Heb.11:3, “By faith we understand that the worlds have been framed by the word of God, so that what is seen hath not been made out of things which do appear”. In connection with the framing of the universe by the word of God the following are supporting verses:
Ps.33:6,9 “For He spake, and it was done; He commanded and it stood fast”.
Ps.148:5 “For He commanded and they were created”.
So the original creation of Gen.1:1 came into being by the spoken word of God, just as the detailed ordering of the universe was according to what “God said” in Gen.1:3,6,9,11,14,20,24,26. The immense outcome of the authoritative voice of God in this chapter is of greater interest to the Bible student than the nature of the days referred to. This spoken word brought about a creation in respect of which there was no pre-existing material. We do well to pause and marvel at the divine power and majesty involved.
Isa.40:26 “Lift up your eyes on high, and see who hath created these…He is strong in power”.
Isa.40:28 “The everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, there is no searching of His understanding”.
Isa.45:12 “I have made the earth, and created man upon it”.
Zech.12:1 “The LORD, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him”.
In His creation, God the Father is “over all, and through all, and in all” (1 Cor.8:6). He exists independently of it, is sovereign in relation to it, and permeates it completely. Also in, by and unto God the Son were all things created and in Him they continue to consist (Col.1:16,17). Further, by the Spirit of God the heavens were garnished (Job 26:13). The triune God was thus the Creator of all things, and such is His unity that the work itself is ascribed to each Person in the Godhead.
It is important to note the place which the divine will has in creation.
Rev.4:11 says, “Thou” didst create all things, and because of Thy will they were, and were created”. This is in accordance with the principle expressed in Eph.1:11, “according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His will”, a principle operating also in the field of grace, as seen in Jas.1:18.
It is evident from Rom.11:36, “For of Him, and through Him, and unto Him are all things. To Him be the glory for ever. Amen”, and 1 Cor.15:28, “that God may be all in all”, that the whole creation has in view the ultimate glory of God, and associated with this must be the eternal well-being also of all who obey Him. By reason of sin, this will not be brought to realisation until the old order gives place to the new, and in the new heaven and the new earth the new creation from the human family will dwell with God and the elect angels in eternal felicity.
2. The creation of the angels
That the angelic hosts are part of the creation of God is evident from such scriptures as:
Heb.9:6 “The LORD made…the heaven of heavens, with all their host”.
Ps.11:8:1-5 “Praise ye the LOPD…all His angels…for He commanded and they were created”.
Ezek.28:13 “In the day that thou wast created they were prepared”.
Col.1:16 “In Him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers”
As already noted, their creation dates at least from the foundation of the world. They are described as “spirits” in Heb.1:14, beings which have not “Flesh and bones” as in the resurrection body of the Lord (Lk.24:39). They were visible to men in vision (Isa.6;2; Ezek.1:5; Rev.5:11) and in visitation (Gen.19:1), and in the early centuries of the Christian era they were thought to have “fine ethereal bodies”. But beyond these brief comments we cannot go. They are finite beings who cannot be in two places at the one time. They do not marry (Matt.22:30). They are described as “the host of heaven” (e.g.1 Kgs.22:19) a term which Scripture also applies to the stars (e.g. Deut.4:19), and the vastness of their myriads is indicated in Rev.5:11.
The first recorded happening in the life of the angels is when “all the sons of God shouted for joy” when the foundations of the earth were laid. The use of “all” may indicate that at that moment their hosts were still in the state of perfection in which they were created (see Ezek.28:13). In that state, an uncountable host of angels continue until now and will ever there remain. They are spoken of as “the holy angels” (Mk.8:38) and if the description “the elect angels” (1 Tim.5:21) also applies, the matter of election within the angelic hosts would require consideration. Scripture provides a measure of information regarding the holy angels. For example:
Michael is described as the archangel (Jude 1:9), “the great prince” who stands for Israel (Dan.12:1), whose voice sounds out at the Rapture (1 Thess.4:16) and who leads victoriously the angels in the future war in heaven (Rev.l2:7), He is well named, by interpretation, “Who is like God?”
Gabriel is the only other holy angel to be named. He stands in the presence of God (Lk.1:19), and is supremely the messenger of God, entrusted with interpretations for Daniel (Dan.8:16; Dan.9:21) and the tidings to Zacharias and to Mary (Lk.1:11-38).
The Cherubim appear as actual guardians of divine arrangements (Gen.3:24) and-symbolic sentinels of divine holiness (Ex.25:18-22; Ex.26:1); as the chariot of the Almighty (Ps.18:10) and as the custodians of the divine glory (Ezek.10). They are seen below the throne of God in Ezek.1:26.
The Seraphim are referred to only in Isa.6, an unspecified number standing above the throne of God, engaged in a ministry of praise.
The holy angels themselves are spoken of as “ministering spirits sent forth to do service for the sake of them that shall inherit salvation” (Heb.1:14). The Greek word translated “ministering” is found nowhere else in the N.T. but occurs in the Sept. in e.g. Ex.31:10; Num.4:12 and 2 Chron.24:14, where a ministry Godward is indicated. This would lead to the thought which is not pressed that the angels minister Godward and are sent forth to do service manward. In their service Godward they worship (Neh.9:6), they “Fulfil His Word, hearkening unto the voice of His word…ministers that do His pleasure” (Ps.103:20,21). In their service manward they doubtless all share the cherubim characteristics, who “ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning” (Ezek.1:14). Their service to those in danger or weakness may be more real than visible (but see Matt.4:11; Matt.18:10; Lk.24:23; Acts 12:7,15). That they play an important part in the administration of God’s world-order is seen in Dan.4:17, and in relation to the kingdom of heaven in Matt.13:41. In their vast hosts are the invisible principalities and powers of Eph.3:10; Col.1:16.
But there were angels who sinned. Briefly we consider:
Satan meaning adversary (basically of God) or the Devil, described in Rev.9:11 as Apollyon (the Destroyer) because of his efforts to destroy all that pleases God. He is the Accuser of the brethren (Rev.12:10), the prince of the demons (Matt.12:24), the prince of the world (Jn 14:30), the prince of the power of the air (Eph.2:2), the god of this age (2 Cor.4:4). He is the great dragon, the old serpent, the deceiver of the whole world (Rev.12:9).
He was created by God and was perfect in his first estate. Ezek.28:11-19 is accepted by many as a lamentation in relation to Satan, for to whom else could the terms apply? The description is given of his dazzling appearance in his lofty service in the choice areas of God’s dwelling place. Then we read of the lifting up of his heart by reason of his beauty, and the corruption of his wisdom by reason of his brightness. So he sinned and was cast out of the heavenly mountain of God, He was apparently assigned a place “in the air” (Eph.2:2), a sphere within the area defined as heaven (Eph.6:12 and Rev.12:7). That he remains a spirit being in some way answerable to God for his actions, in respect of which there seems to be a divine control, is indicated in Job 1:6,12. The work of the Cross has determined his ultimate destruction (Heb2:14).
The angels that sinned are referred to as the devil’s angels in Matt.25:41 and as the dragon’s angels in Rev.12:7. When they sinned is nowhere referred to in Scripture, although most would doubtless view the fall of Satan as a rising up against the sovereignty of Deity which involved a vast section of the angels who sided with Satan, They form Satan’s kingdom (Matt.12:26), They are described as “principalities…powers, world-rulers of this darkness…spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places”(Eph.6:12). They are Satan’s hosts, serving him in all probability in a mimicry of the service from which he was cast out. They form his army, will in due course wage direct war with the hosts of the Lord, and be finally cast into the Lake of Fire provided for them and their diabolical leader.
Peter viewed sinning angels as cast into hell (Greek, Tartarus) committed to pits of darkness and there reserved for judgement (2 Pet.2:4). Jude viewed angels “which kept not their own principality”, as “kept in everlasting bonds under darkness to the judgement of the great day” (Jude 1:6). How the fallen angels at present active in heavenly places and one day to war in heaven can be viewed in the imprisoned state of these two verses is exceedingly difficult to comprehend. The alternative is to regard them as a separate group of sinning angels to whom a different and more severe present judgement has been meted out, but this provides other difficulties equally difficult to resolve.
3. The entrance of sin
Sin first manifested itself near the throne of God. The simple Bible statement is that unrighteousness was found in the covering cherub (Ezek.28:15). Sin originated in the heart of Satan. He was clearly a creature of mighty intelligence, Standing close to the counsels of Deity, possessed of complete freewill. He was not approached from without. The sin was conceived within his own being. There is a pattern of thought in Isa.14:12-14 as to the workings of his mind, lifted up in pride. For such sin in one so near the Divine Being there is no atonement, no forgiveness, but rather in due course the blackness of darkness for ever. This applies equally to the devil’s angels (Matt.25:41).
Lucifer (the shining one of Isa.14:12) took on from his fall the character of Satan, the adversary of God, and Apollyon, the destroyer of His purposes. In due course man appeared on the earth, a creation of God on the sixth day of Gen.1, formed of the dust of the ground. The excellence of his estate in relation to the earth is described in Ps.8:5-8. The partnership of Adam and Eve was blessed by God who commanded them to “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Gen.1:28). Here then was the fountain-head of all the purposes of God from the human standpoint. Here was man in the image of God, ready for procreation. So the adversary struck with all the cunning of his brilliant but now depraved mind. The human will was as free to choose as his had been. So he presented to Eve rebellion, wrapped up in the attractive disguise of what appealed to the flesh, the eye and the vainglory of life. Eve was beguiled and together with her husband they fell into trespass, at the hand of the old serpent, the deceiver, the father of lies, the murderer from the beginning (Jn 8:44).
It was as though Satan injected sin into our first parents, to be inexorably transmitted from ensuing parent to child so long as the human race exists on the original earth. Death passed that day “unto all men, for that all sinned” (Rom.5:12). Thereafter every person would be “born in sin”, all would be “by nature children of wrath”, (Eph.2:3).
From one point of view, Satan could have withdrawn there and then from the human family, for every person would thereafter be born alienated from the life of God. He could have retired with wicked glee to witness generation after generation of men come on to the stage of life, live and die in rebellion against God, and perish eternally. But he had started a fire which he determined to keep fanned in flame, the burnings of human revolt against the throne of God. Thus, he has ever since waged relentless war against God in maintaining assaults on the already depraved minds of men, and bombarding the redeemed life of those who by grace escape from his snares. This is well illustrated in e.g. 1 Chron.2:11; Zech.3:1; Lk.22:31; 2 Cor.2:11; Eph.6:11-16; 1 Pet.5:8; Rev.12:10.
A final word, indicating the confirmation of the Lord Jesus of the veracity of the foregoing by His acceptance of the O.T. record:
Re the creation of the world and of man
“But from the beginning of the creation, male and female made he them” (Mk.10:6).
Re the existence of the holy angels
“The Son of man…cometh in the glory of His Father with
the Holy angels” (Mk.8:38).
Re the existence of Satan and his angels
“Depart from Me…into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt.25:41).
Re the fallen nature of man
“For out of the heart cometh forth evil thoughts, murders…these are the things which defile the man (Matt.15:19,20).
SECTION 4 – THE PATRIARCHS AND PREPARATION OF ISRAEL
With the Fall came the promise of God that the Seed of the woman would ultimately triumph (Gen.3:15). Then followed the long centuries of individual patriarchal experience (the years of promise) and the national life of Israel (the years of law) till the Seed should come.
1. The Patriarchal Period
A river went out of Eden and became four heads. A guilty pair went out of Eden and became two separate1y traced generations of men. There was the Cain line, the beginnings of which are given in Gen.4:16-24. The men of this line produced the city, the farmer, the musician, the metal-worker – but in addition, the multiplier of wives and the murderer. The specific references to these points indicate men of the world, devoting their energies to material things. There was also the Seth line, given in Gen.5. In all probability this was a line in which the fear of God was in greater prominence, and significantly the only feature indicated is in the case of Enoch, who “walked with God”.
But the sin injected in Eden coursed through the whole human family with ever increasing strength, and after 1656 years of the recorded generations from Adam’s first dating in Gen.5, God brought the Flood on the world of the ungodly.
From the ark emerged Noah and his three sons, with all four wives. From these three sons the cleansed earth was to be freshly peopled (Gen.9:18,19), and geographically apportioned (see Gen.10 and Deut.32:8). This took place in the days of Peleg (Gen.10:25). It was the work of the Most High (Elyon, the Possessor of heaven and earth). He decided on the separation of the children of men and fixed their territorial boundaries. This He did in profound foresight “according to the number of the children of Israel”, long before Abraham was born (see Deut.32:8 and Gen.11:10-26).
The first eleven chapters of Genesis cover a period of some 2,000 years, whereas it takes the rest of the entire Old Testament to deal with the next 2,000 years. Such matters as Creation, Eden, the Fall, the Flood, Babel are all briefly touched upon and all the other happenings of two millennia ignored. But in Gen.11 the divine writer has reached Abram and from this point (practically central in the O.T.) the revelation of God and the spiritual education of the selected patriarchs and of the chosen nation opens up in detail.
In the separation of Abram from the idolatry of Babylon, God begins to form Israel, His glory. The account of the pilgrimage occupies fourteen chapters in Genesis 12—25. His response to the God of glory in Ur in Gen.12 finds full completion in Gen.15 where he is justified by faith. At that point he received the covenant of the seed and the land. This is the great chapter of promise to which Paul refers in Rom.4, and Gal.3. The covenant of circumcision followed in Gen.17. God was increasingly pledging Himself to Abraham in connection with his seed after him throughout their generations.
2. The beginnings of the nation
So from all the nations of the then world, God selected one man, Abram. Of all the sons of Abraham He chose Isaac. Of Isaac’s twin sons He chose Jacob in the final act of election. Thereafter the entire posterity of Jacob, generally known as the children cf Israel, became the people of God. In the day when God justified Abram by faith, He predicted the four hundred years servitude of his posterity (Gen.15). Part of this time would be spent in enemy land but in the fourth generation God would bring them back to Canaan’s land. Allowing 30 years to cover Gen.12 (Abram’s first connection with Egypt) to Gen.15, the 400 years becomes 430 and “it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, oven the self-same day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt” (Ex.l2:41). The man of faith from Ur had become the hosts of the LORD,
This great host (the names alone from twenty years old and upward numbered 603,550) came fresh from the redemption of the Passover lamb, through the waters of the Red Sea, to Mt. Sinai in the wilderness and there the great bi-lateral covenant was made. (This differs from the uni-lateral covenant of Gen.15, the terms of which are unalterable, being dependant on God alone for fulfilment). Israel avouched the LORD to be their God and pledged themselves to obedience. God took them to be His people – a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (see Ex.19 and 24). Then followed the covenant sprinkling of the blood of the oxen on the altar, the people and (so Heb.9:19) the book of the law. They were now united in testimony.
3. Education as to a coming Redeemer
Then began the long education of Israel in the ways of God. They were given a law of commandments, supported by many statutes, judgements and ordinances. This in no way disannulled the early promise to their father Abraham. Rather it was given to teach them the holiness of God, to make them aware of their own sinfulness, to show the need for atonement by substitution, to bring them into a state of faith in a coming Redeemer, and generally to enable them to appreciate the claims of the dwelling place of God in their midst.
There was thus a moral law, in the ten commandments, and a ceremonial law in the detailed statutes and ordinances. They were a nation encamped round the dwelling place of their God in the wilderness and later spread out in their tribal allotments in the land with the house of God in their midst. Their first instruction after completion of the Sinai covenant was the building of a Tabernacle for their God, and the details of priestly service in relation to it (see Ex.25-40). He had revealed Himself as a God “glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders” (Ex.15:11). He was prepared to be served by the hands of redeemed and sanctified men but only in His prescribed way. So Israel was taught the holiness of the God who dwelt in their midst.
As a nation they never drew nearer to God than the altar of burnt offering in the court. Beyond that only the priest could enter the first of the two holy places and even then, only at appointed times. But beyond the veil, only the high priest could enter, and that once in the year, and even then in a specific way. The deep significance of the claims of the altar, the restricted entrance into the holy place, the silence beyond the veil were all part of the profound education of Israel in the life of faith.
The consequent sense of indwelling and committed sin found full relief in the provisions of the next set of detailed instructions given by God (Lev.1-7). This covered the whole range of sacrifice and was followed in Lev.16 by the elaborate provisions of the day of atonement. In it all, the people of Israel were being taught the holiness of God, the sinfulness of the human heart, the non-acceptance by God in atonement of anything other than the blood of a without-blemish substitute. They were a nation being prepared for the coming of a Redeemer.
4. How Israel developed historically
In due course Moses and Aaron died in the borders of Canaan. The provo¬cation of a rebellious people had so caused them to transgress with their words that they forfeited entry into the land they had longed for.
(a) Joshua and Eleazar led the people into the land of promise after the forty disastrous years in the wilderness. They supervised the allotment of the land to the tribes and by their insistence the nation was in due course established in geographic areas of divine arrangement.
(b) Then the nation entered the sad era of the Judges, passing through recurring experiences of sin, servitude, supplication and salvation from the hand of the LORD. The periods of servitude and sequence of the judges was as follows:
|Servitude to:||No. of Years||Judge||Judges Ref:||Years of Rest:|
|Canaan (see next)||-||Shamgar||Jdgs.3:31||-|
|Abimilech the Usurper||3||-||Jdgs.9:1-57||-|
|Philistines||40||Samson (No deliverance)||Jdgs.14:1-16:31|
|Total:||114 Years||336 Years|
(c) Then followed the Monarchy. This period may be best brought into review by a table of the kings in their sequence, first during the period of the united rule over the twelve tribes and then in the sequence of the divided kingdom.
Saul 40 years
David 40 years
Solomon 40 years
|Forward from united monarchy, above:||120||120|
|Ahab||22||(Qu.) Athaliah ??||6??|
|Total:||31 wks.||361 yrs||6 mos.||513 yrs|
(1) In the 9th year of Hoshea the 10 tribes went into captivity to Assyria. The 9th year of Hoshea was the 6th year of Hezekiah (2 Kqs.18:10), but this does not tie in with a cross-reference in the table above, even though the years are as stated in the records.
There can be no inaccuracy. The difference may be due to two factors. Parts of a year may in certain cases be taken as a year (a common Hebrew method) and/or there may have been overlaps in the reigns as e.g. David and Solomon (1 Kgs.1:34,35) and Uzziah and Jotham (2 Kgs.15:5).
(2) The first carrying away of the two tribes was in the (4th year of Jehoiakim. (2 Chron.33:6; Jer.25:1)
(3) The table shows the Monarchy as covering a period of some 513 years, subject to Note (1). The 490 years in which the land had not enjoyed her 7th year sabbatic rest (2 Chron.36:21) covered for all practical purposes the entire period of the Monarchy.
(4) As to dates generally, there have been several ingenious efforts to reconcile the 594 years quoted in 1 Kgs.6:1 with the 450 years referred to in Acts 13:19 plus the period of the Judges, the reconciliation lying mainly in the elimination of the 114 years of servitude. But frankly there are too many imponderables in the computations to permit with any sense of confidence their introduction here, but the interested student may consult The Romance of Chronology by Martin Anstey. Reference is recommended to a most useful Table of the Kings in relation to the prophets in 1971 Bible Studies pg.4.
(d) The period of Judah’s captivity was seventy years, at the close of which a remnant of the two tribes returned. They returned a deeply heart-stirred people, to build again the house and city of God, A brief account is given of the early happenings in Ezra and Nehemiah, cross-section of their experiences is given in the prophecies of Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. Then the numerically growing remnant continued during the period of some 4OO years between the two Testaments, through the turbulent years of Grecian and Roman over-lordship.
5. How Israel degenerated spiritually
Among the last words of Moses to the elders of Israel were these, “I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you” (Deut.31:29). The leadership passed to Joshua, one of the two who “wholly followed the LORD”, and such was his restraining influence that “the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua” (Judges 2:7). But the foreigners in their midst, never driven out, the intermarriage of their sons and daughters with surrounding nations, the infiltration of the idols of other lands slowly but surely sapped the spiritual life of the nation and brought the angel of the LORD from Gilgal to Bochim with the dread, uncompromising message of Jdgs.2:1-5. The spiritual decline continued throughout the period of the judges, every man doing “that which was right in his own eyes” (Jdgs.21:25). In those days the children of Dan for example, set up an idolatrous arrangement “all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh”, which continued until “the day of the captivity of the land” (Jdgs.18:30,31).
In the day: of the last judge, Samuel, wicked priests and rebellious people actually entered the most holy place and removed the ark of the covenant to the field of battle. In that day God forsook the tabernacle which was in Shiloh and did not return to dwell again between the cherubim until the ark was restored to its place within the veil in the Temple of Solomon. This period, it could have been the best part of 80-100 years, must have been one of the darkest in Israel’s history.
The era of the Monarchy opened with King Saul. The spiritual state of the nation continued to decline and over his forty year reign could be written David’s words of condemnation in 1 Chron.15:3 (regarding the ark of the covenant) “we sought not unto it in the cays of Saul”.
The enthronement of David helped greatly to turn the hearts of the people back to the LORD again. His zeal for God, manifest in his choice psalms, was evidenced also in the restoration of the ark to the tent in Jerusalem and then in the massive preparation for the building of the temple with which Solomon was entrusted. Doubtless in David’s day, and in part in Solomon’s also, the spiritual condition of Israel was at one of its highest peaks.
Following the death of Solomon came the division of the Monarchy, and the expression “the congregation” ceased to be used in relation to Israel after 1 Kgs.12:20. It is a lamentable consideration that the twelve tribes only enjoyed the service of God together in Solomon’s temple for the few years of Solomon’s life. Under Jeroboam the ten tribes pursued a system of counterfeit worship centred on Bethel, fashioned in part on Jerusalem, but “which he had devised in his own heart” (1 Kgs.12:33) – It was the beginning of sectarianism among the people of God. Indeed “the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, wherewith he made Israel to sin” wove their wicked way through the reigns of all ensuing kings so that not one good king ever reigned over the ten tribes. They never recovered from the apostasy of Jeroboam and finally went into captivity to Assyria, in circumstances and under divine condemnation as set out graphically in 2 Kgs.17.
The two tribes which remained, although outwardly faithful to the temple service in Jerusalem, had a spiritual history which was chequered in the extreme. Unlike Israel, Judah enjoyed an unbroken continuity of kings from the house of David, son following father, and it was largely like king, like people. So there were times when the response of the two tribes stood at high water mark and at other tines it was at exceeding low ebb. But the overall trend was away from God into idolatry in the very streets of Jerusalem, where the children gathered wood, the father kindled the fire, the women baked the dough, and the end product was cakes for the queen of heaven ( see Jer.7 and Jer.44). So the two tribes were taken away into captivity, in three stages, to Babylon. The wrath of the LORD had risen against His people “till there was no remedy” (2 Chron.36:16)
After seventy years a remnant returned in great spiritual fervour. They rebuilt the altar, the house of God and the city. The service of God was reinstated but it was not long till the sense of revival began to ebb despite strong spiritual leadership. Finally, after some 1,100 years of immediate awareness of the holiness of God, of education in the requirements of the altar, of profound prophetic ministry, of the abundant providence of God, we leave ten tribes in a far-off land from which not even a remnant had returned, and the small portion of the other two tribes, which had come back from Babylon, in the depressed and depressing spiritual condition which Malachi portrays.
But even then there was a remnant according to the election of grace, and “they that feared the LORD spake one with another”. They were waiting expectantly “till Shiloh come”. Of whom were doubtless Zacharias and Elizabeth, Simeon and Anna, Joseph and Mary.
SECTION 5 – THE FULNESS OF THE TIME
“But when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son” (Gal.4:4). The fulness of the time was the completion of an appointed period.
1. At the close of the appointed period
We have already noted in summary form, the development of the purposes of God in Israel over the centuries. The period between the two Testaments is usually regarded as some 400 years (see e.g. Chronology of Malachi, 1973 Bible Studies pg.162).
The majority of the twelve tribes had settled in the lands of their captivity, from which they gradually migrated. The minority in Israel’s land passed from one over-lord to another. They returned from Babylon under Persian rule. Around 330 B.C. world power passed to the Grecian Empire of Alexander. When that Empire was divided as foreseen in Dan.8:8, the continual conflict between two of the emerging sections greatly affected Israel. First the Jews came under the control of the Syrian (or Seleucian) section in the north, and then under that of the Egyptian (or Ptolemaic) section in the south. These were the kings of the north and of the south of which Daniel wrote in Dan.11. Then the “little horn” of Dan.8:9 arose, Antiochus IV (or Epiphanes) of the Syrian kingdom and his cruelty to the Jews and profanity towards their God has become legendary. As a consequence, the revolt of the Maccabees followed. In 63 B.C. the armies of Rome conquered the land and Judaea became a Roman Province.
Rome was now “mistress of the world” but her civilisation retained much of the impress of Greece and Greek was the language which basically united her empire. The over-ruling sovereignty of God in the last few centuries before “the fulness of the time” is remarkable. During the Egyptian kingdom’s control of Judaea many Jews removed to North Africa, and in due course in Alexandria the Septuagint (LXX) translation of the O.T. was completed. Thus the Scriptures were ready for the nations in the tongue they understood.
Not only so, but Rome provided within her empire the great trade routes for which her road-conscious generals were to become famous. And along those routes the Most High destined that His evangelists would travel, far and wide, bearing the good news.
The education of Israel was over, the knowledge of their law of sacrifice had been communicated to many lands by a dispersed people, the writings of the prophets were available in the language of the nations, the great story of the sufferings and the glories of the world Redeemer, where He would be born and how, His flight into Egypt, the place of His service, the manner of His life, the nature and date of His death, the uniqueness of His burial – all available for the nations to read, although but few would understand. It was “the fulness of the time”.
2. The Incarnation
“God sent forth His Son”(Gal.4:4).
(a) The great stoop. A portion without parallel in a consideration of this subject is of course Phil.2:5-8. Here is viewed One who was not only in the form of God but was also on equality with God. The fulness of the Godhead was in Him. Being “in the form of God” indicates that “the whole nature and essence of Deity” was His. One day He “emptied Himself”. Bishop Lightfoot comments, ” ‘He divested Himself’, not of His divine nature, for this was impossible, but ‘of the glories, the prerogatives of Deity’, ’emptied, stripped Himself’ of the insignia of majesty”. He took the form of a servant, in its every essential nature. This He did by being made in the likeness of men, the Eternal in human form. Thus found in Manhood, He continued in the path of self-humiliation, and humbled Himself even to death, and that of a cross.
Additional relevant scriptures are:
Jn 1:14 “The Word became flesh”.
2 Cor.8:9 “Though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor”.
Jn 6:38 “I am came down from heaven”.
It was the Word becoming flesh. If we speak of God becoming Man we require to be specific for it was only God the Son who did so. Without ceasing to be God, He had become man – the perfect Son of Man.
(b) The means. The fact of the virgin birth was essential in the incarnation and is testified to in such scriptures as:
Isa.7:14 “A virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel”.
Matt.1:18-23 “Now all this is come to pass, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord” (then follows the Isa.7:14 quotation).
Lk.1:34,35 “And Mary said How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?”.
Jer.22:30 taken with Matt.1:11,16 precluded Joseph from paternity in the case of Immanuel. But even within the virgin Mary herself, everything associated with the Holy Child was alone due to the action of the Holy Spirit, so beautifully described in Luke 1:35. Although it was the Son of God who was being made flesh, the Father and the Spirit were deeply affected in the operation. So the Word became flesh, free from every taint of original sin.
(c) The need for manhood 2 Cor.5:21. Only One who “knew no sin”, yet was willing to be “made sin” on behalf of others, could bring them into the righteousness cf God. Heb.2:14,15. Only through the Eternal sharing in the blood and flesh of the human family, yet apart in His sinlessness, could He go into the death which would deliver. Heb.7:26. Only through the experience of Manhood could the Eternal become not only a once-for-all offering for sin, hut a Priest also for His people, perfected for evermore through an obedience learned by the things which He suffered (also Heb.5:7-10).
(d) The days of His flesh. The expression “the flesh” is sometimes used to describe the fallen nature of man as e.g. in 1 Cor.5:5; Gal.3:16. But as used of the Lord Jesus it simply refers to His being in human likeness. It was a very real experience. We let some scriptures speak:
1 Tim.3:16 “He who was manifested in the flesh”.
Rom.8:3 “God, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh”.
Col.l:22 “The body of His flesh”.
1 Jn 4:2 “Jesus Christ is come in the flesh”.
1 Tim.2:5 “Himself Man, Christ Jesus”.
1 Pet.3:18 “Put to death in the flesh”.
(e) Features of His Manhood
It was sinless in life – 1 Pet.2:22.
It was vicarious in death – 1 Pet.3:18.
It was subject to temptation from without – Lk.4:1-13.
It was subject to deep suffering – Heb.5:7-9.
It was a condition of dependence and obedience to the
Father- Jn 5:19; Jn 8:26-28.
It was in unbroken fellowship with the Father – Jn 17:4.
It was to be permanent – Col.1:19.
It was the divine nature united with the human in One Person- Rom.1:3,4; Gal.4:4; Phil.2:6-8.
We marvel at the mystery of godliness. The Lord did not divest Himself of Deity but to His Deity He acquired also permanent humanity. Nor did He indwell a body in the way in which the Holy Spirit indwells the believer. The Word BECAME flesh.
3. The Atonement
The Incarnation was brought about by the Lord’s coming into the world. The Atonement was by His death on the Cross. The incarnation was with a view to the Atonement. Both were in fulfilment of the long foretold divine intention to visit and redeem the sons of men.
Atonement is an O.T. word. It was effected in blood (first reference Ex.29:33), in silver (Ex. 30:12), in gold (Num.31:50), There were four words used in Hebrew to describe atonement, all of the kpr family.
The word is used once only in the N.T.(AV) in Rom.5:11, and even this is altered to be more accurate “reconciliation” in the RV. But the Greek equivalent in the Septuagint of the Hebrew kpr words are found in the N.T. in the words – be merciful (Lk.18:13), make propitiation (Heb.2:17), a propitiation (Rom.3:25), the mercy seat (Heb.9:5), the propitiation (1 Jn 2:2; 1 Jn 4:10), a ransom (Matt.20:28; Mk.10:15; 1 Tim.2:6).
It is evident that the “atonement” of the O.T., that covering of sin in the forbearance of God through an expiatory sacrifice, brought by an offerer in evidence of faith, is expressed and indeed fulfilled in the “propitiation” of the N.T. The Lord Jesus makes propitiation and is Himself the propitiation. His death is the great substitutionary ransom-price available to all, effective in the case of those who believe. All reconciliation is based on Him and His work.
(a) He is Himself the propitiation, the expiator, the ransom. This was one of the purposes of the ages (Rom.3:25), foreshadowed in the mercy-seat in the Tabernacle and Temple (Heb.9:5). He is this for the whole world, for all repentant sinners (1 Tim.2:6; 1 Jn 2:2), and for all God’s children (Matt.20:28; 1 Jn 2:2; 1 Jn 4:10) and in a unique sense for God’s people (Heb.2:17).
(b) His expiatory work was accomplished, the ransom-price was provided, by His sacrifice in death. “In whom we have our redemption, through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses (Eph.1:7). Redemption, forgiveness, reconciliation – these are all the fruits of the atonement, the propitiation.
But He also ever lives to administer the value of this atonement, whether it is in the initial reconciliation of the sinner, or in His advocacy for the repentant believer, or in the maintenance of a failing people in divine testimony.
We conclude with Peter’s tremendous statement: “And when they had fulfilled all things that were written of Him, they took Him down from the tree, and laid Him in a tomb”.
4. The Resurrection and Ascension
The atonement involved “the sufferings of Christ”. The resurrection and ascension led into “the glories that should follow them”. This was the golden cord of double strand which threaded through all the O.T. Scriptures. The resurrection was:
foreshadowed in the Law:
Gen.8:4 – “the resting of the ark.
Gen.22:5 – the return of Isaac.
Lev.11:7 – the flight of the living bird.
Lev.23:11 – the waving of the sheaf.
It was predicted in the Psalms:
Ps.16:8-11 – the path from Sheol.
Ps.69:15 – the un-shut mouth of the pit.
It was foreseen by the prophets:
Jon.1:17 – on the third day.
Zech.12:10 – looking on Him whom they pierced.
The majesty of the ascension was graphically portrayed in Ps.21:7-9; Ps.68:18. In the event, the resurrection was attested to by an abundance of reliable witnesses, described in 1 Cor.15:5-8; the ascension by the faithful apostles (Acts 1:9).
5. The Coming of the Spirit
There were two expediencies in relation to the Lord Jesus. One was, as Caiaphas saw it, that He should die so that Israel might be delivered from Roman judgement. The other was, that He might return to the Father so that the Spirit might come to the believers. The great dispensation of the Spirit continues from Pentecost till the Rapture. Throughout this period the Holy Spirit pursues His great work of conviction as set out in Jn 16:7-11, and many other works besides. These we propose examining in the next address.
SECTION 6 – THE PRESENT WORK OF THE SON AND THE SPIRIT OF GOD
We have already seen how that the Lord Jesus, having made one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God. This inaugurated the period of divine grace which will continue till the Rapture. During this era the Father waits to be gracious to the sinner, is available at all times to His children, and accepts the worship of His people. We shall now consider briefly the work of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, which is in complete fellowship with those objectives and carried out within the framework of divine unity.
The Lord told His disciples that it was expedient that He go away, otherwise the Spirit would not come (Jn 16:7). It is beyond us to comprehend the extent of the contribution to the divine purpose which each was to make during this dispensation. But this at least we can see. The Lord would return to heaven to maintain the great work of mediation on behalf of all men and conduct the essential ministry of intercession on behalf of all God’s children, and priestly service on behalf of His people. Concurrently the Spirit would indwell all the children of God on the earth in a profoundly manifold ministry and through them would convict the unsaved and point them to Christ for-salvation.
1. The present work of the Lord Jesus
Since so much more is written of the life and death of the Lord Jesus than of His present work in glory, some may be inclined to give the latter proportionately less consideration. Those who do so will lose thereby. There can be much profit from meditation on few scriptures.
(a) As mediator between God and man
By reason of the Atonement, the Lord Jesus is the Propitiation
for the whole world (1 Jn 2:2). The love of God sent Him into the world for this express purpose (1 Jn 4:10). This means that in the mercy of God there is provision made for the forgiveness of every sinner in Christ’s expiatory sacrifice. In His resurrection He returned to heaven so that He might make immediately effective to every penitent sinner the reconciliation which the Spirit was to announce. In agreement with this we have:
1 Tim.2:5,6 “There is one Mediator also between God and men, Himself Man, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all”. Note the ONE Mediator, totally contrary to the teaching of certain who proclaim Mary and others as acting in this way.
Jn 6:37 “All that which the Father giveth Me shall come unto Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out”.
Jn 17:2 “Thou gavest Him authority over all flesh, that whatsoever Thou hast given Him, to them He should give eternal life”.
Through this constant mediation the believing sinner-
Comes to the Father – Jn 14:6.
Finds access to the Father – Eph.2:18.
Secures justification and peace with God – Rom.5:1,2.
(b) As Mediator of the New Covenant
The Old Covenant was conditional, bi-lateral. It was written in the law and ordinances of Sinai. It was mediated by Moses (Gal.3:19), as he himself described it, “I stood between the LORD and you at that time” (Deut.5:5).
The New Covenant is uni-lateral, unconditional. It is eternal (Heb.13:20) and “enacted upon better promises.” (Heb.8:6). Made before times eternal (2 Tim.1:9; Tit.1:2), it was brought into operation with the Testator’s death (Heb.9:17). Now in resurrection life He is its Mediator (Heb.9:16) and its Surety (Heb.7:22). There is thus a unique sense of correspondence and indeed of continuity between the Lord’s work in death and in resurrection. He ratified the covenant in death and now guarantees it in resurrection, dispensing its benefits; just as in (a) above, the Pleader on the Cross (Lk.23:34) has become the Mediator on the Throne.
(c) As Advocate for all God’s children
The Greek word translated “advocate” indicates a person “called to one’s side i.e. to one’s aid”. It is basically a Law-court word, but indicates in a wider sense a succourer or comforter. It is translated Advocate in 1 Jn 2:1, and as Comforter in Jn 14:16,26; Jn 15:26; Jn 16:7. The former is applied to the Lord Jesus; the latter to the Holy Spirit. Both are Advocates, Comforters to the believer.
The work of the Lord Jesus is of immeasurable benefit in several ways:
(i) Specific pleading in relation to Satan, the adversary of the individual saint (Zech.3:1) or the accuser of the brethren generally (Rev.12:10). Day and night accusation calls for ceaseless advocacy. Unlike earthly court procedure, the believer’s Advocate does not plead the believer’s innocency, but rather confesses his guilt, and claims the forgiveness which flows from the great Propitiation (1 Jn 2:1,2). No wonder it was expedient for the Lord Jesus to return to heaven. Only His unceasing intercession could deal with the adversary’s unceasing accusation of His followers’ unceasing sin.
(ii) General intercession for all God’s children in their day-by-day contending with attacks from without and within. “The prayers of all the saints” reach the golden altar in heaven (Rev.8:3). It is there He “maketh intercession for us” (Rom.8:34). Despite the immediate application of the epistle to the Hebrews to the people of God, it would be in keeping with the foregoing texts to extend to all His children the incalculable benefits which flow from Christ’s intercession; succour for them that are tempted (Heb.2:18) and “grace to help us in time of need” (Heb.4:16). Indeed all forms of this glorious ministry of intercession on behalf of His own were foreshadowed in the upper room prayer, “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for those whom Thou hast given Me…Neither for these only but for them also that believe on Me through their word” (Jn 17:9,20), And the “I will” of Jn 17:21: reveals when the Son intercedes with the Father it is the communion of equals.
In all this, the Lord Jesus is the Propitiation for the sins of all believers (1 Jn 2:2).
Before passing on it may be well to note that because of the foregoing, all prayer or thanksgiving is offered to the Father in the sanctifying Name of the Son. Guidance regarding this will be found’, e.g. in Jn 15:16; Jn 16:23,24; Rom.1:8; Col.3:17
Little wonder the Scriptures claim that believers are “saved by His life” (Rom.5:10) and can be “more than conquerors through Him that loved us” (Rom.8:37).
(d) As Priest on behalf of the people of God
The priestly work of the Lord Jesus is only referred to in Hebrews in the N.T. His service on behalf of the N.T. people of God is contrasted with Aaron’s in relation to Israel and the order of His priesthood is compared with that of Melchizedek. In the R.V. He is described as:
A Priest in Heb.5:6; Heb.7:11,15,17,21; Heb.8:4.
A High Priest in Heb.3:1; Heb.4:15; Heb.5:5,10; Heb.6:20; Heb.7:26; Heb.8:1; Heb.9:11.
A merciful and faithful High Priest in Heb.2:17.
A Great Priest in Heb.10:21
A Great High Priest in Heb.4:14.
A high priest in Israel was “taken from among men…appointed for men in things pertaining to God” (Heb.5:1). The eminent suitability of Aaron has often been pointed out. He was a man of the people, disciplined in all the griefs of taskwork. But the surpassing suitability of the Lord Jesus for priestly work is found in Heb.4:14 where He is named as Jesus the Son of God (a Name nowhere else ascribed to Him in Scripture). Perfect Man, perfect God, able understandingly to act for men as man, equally effectively to God as God.
He makes “propitiation for the sins of the people (Heb.2:17). So when Aaron bore “the judgement of the children of Israel upon his heart before the LORD continually”, and when he bore “the iniquity of the holy things” (Ex.28:30,38) he was faintly foreshadowing in the earthly tabernacle the ministry of the Lord Jesus in the heavenly.
The death of the Lord Jesus cleansed the heavenly sanctuary
Into that sanctuary He has entered once for all
He has sat down by reason of His effective sacrifice
It was the entry of a priestly Forerunner on behalf of God’s people
Whose consciences He cleanses for divine service there
So the people of God are invited to draw near in prayer for grace to succour
And in worship to present praise
Their praise being offered in His Name
And made acceptable through Him 1 Pet.2:5
2. The present work of the Holy Spirit
As compared with the O.T., there is in the N.T. a very comprehensive presentation of the work of the Holy Spirit. Whereas in the O.T. He is only referred to in three verses, mention is made of Him in each of the N.T. books except 2 and 3 John. The references are relatively few in the four gospels until we reach John’s account of the upper room ministry. References abound in the Acts and the writings which follow. Luke refers to his gospel narrative as an account of the things which “Jesus began both to do and to teach” (Acts 1:1). The continuity of this glorious ministry was entrusted to the Holy Spirit and for the greater part the Acts are His acts. For that reason Luke emphasises what might appear to the casual reader to be the introduction of a somewhat unnecessary medium when he points out that it was “through the Holy Spirit” that the Lord Jesus instructed the chosen apostles just prior to leaving them. It was, spiritually, and we say reverently, like a great hand-over ceremony.
We consider briefly the present work of the Spirit:
The Lord Jesus revealed to His apostles the following features of the Spirit’s work:
“He shall teach you all things” (Jn 14:26).
“And bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you” (Jn 14:26).
“He shall bear witness of Me” (Jn 15:26).
“He, when He is come, will convict the world” (Jn 16:8).
“He shall guide you into all the truth” (Jn 16:13).
“What things soever He shall hear, these shall He speak” (Jn 16:13).
“He shall declare unto you the things that are to come” (Jn 16:13).
“He shall glorify Me” (Jn 16:14).
“He shall take of Mine, and shall declare it unto you (Jn 16:14).
Certain of these features were uniquely true in the experience of the apostles and by reason of the guidance and promptings of the Holy Spirit, the apostles’ teaching was in due course an accurate embodiment of the mind of the Lord for the dispensation.
B. In relation to the believer
At conversion the believer is “born of the Spirit” (Jn 3:6), saved through “the renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Tit.3:5), is baptized by the Lord Jesus “in one Spirit into one Body” (1 Cor.12:13), whereby the Holy Spirit is given to him (Rom.5:5), his body becomes a temple of the Holy Spirit who is now in him (1 Cor.6:19) – all as the Lord Jesus predicted in John 14:17, He “shall be in you”. A general study of the operation of the Divine Spirit in the believer as set out in Rom.8 is deeply instructive.
The coming of the Spirit to the believer is also referred to as his being “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph.1:13). Not only does this indicate a mark of divine ownership but He is also “an earnest of our inheritance” (verse 14), the pledge of our participation in the place which the Lord has gone to prepare. This experience is also described in 1 Jn 2:20 as “an anointing from the Holy One” whereby the believer may “know all things”. Indeed Paul brings the three matters together in 2 Cor.1:21,22, “He that stablisheth us…and anointed us, is God; who also sealed us, and gave us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts”.
Such is the impact on a believer of these tremendous experiences in relation to the Holy Spirit at conversion (i.e. regeneration, indwelling, sealing, anointing etc.) that they are spoken of as a baptism, a complete immersion, in the Holy Spirit. It is the work of the Lord Jesus as He places the believer in the Church, which is His Body.
After conversion the believer is never alone, for the Spirit is at all times with him and in him. Nor is He given by measure (Jn 3:34); the Holy Spirit comes in complete Person to indwell the believer. This places at his disposal the immense power of the Spirit for the following purposes:
For witnessing – as the Lord Jesus predicted in Acts 1:8, “Ye shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be My witnesses”. As a consequence, “with great power gave the apostles their witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 4:33); a facility in power available to all God’s children in relation to His purposes in them and their willingness to be used by Him.
For fruit-bearing – Rom.8 views the normal Christian life, empowered in its various phases by the indwelling Spirit. This divine enabling is contested by the flesh at every turn, in a conflict viewed (by many) in Rom.7 and by all in Gal.5. The normal Christian life is presented in the N.T. as one lived in the victorious, overcoming power of the Spirit, and in such a life the full nine-orbed “fruit of the Spirit” is produced (Gal.5:22,23). This may be similarly viewed in the good seed in the good ground of an honest and good heart bringing forth fruit with patience (Lk.8:15) or in the fruit and yet more fruit from the branches in the Vine of Jn 15.
For witness within – It is remarkable to think of the Holy Spirit witnessing with the spirit of the believer (Rom.8:16). There is so much to communicate. The things of God are very deep and only the Spirit knows them (1 Cor.2:9-16). The natural mind of the unsaved man cannot receive them. Yet things which are totally beyond human comprehension are communicated to the spirit of the believer by the Holy Spirit. It is by reason of this “anointing” that he may know all things. All things, that is, within the revealed will of God. The faith has been completely delivered. The Word of God is complete. It is that Word which is very deep. Yet the Spirit will freely open up its treasures to the searching mind of the lover of Scripture until he comes to the state of spiritual maturity to which the Word would beckon him (1 Cor.2:6).
For comfort and intercession – The Spirit came to the apostles as “another Comforter” (Jn l4:16); another, and of the same kind as the Lord Himself had been. In the Spirit they (and all God’s children) would find all the strength and comfort and inspiration they would require for the spiritual conflict.
Not only so, but the Spirit would also come to direct and develop their prayer-life. As a consequence they would learn the acceptable way of “praying in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 1:20), “at all seasons” (Eph.6:18); while the Spirit Himself would help them in this experience by Himself interceding on their behalf before the throne, according to His unerring understanding of “the will of God” (Rom.8:26,27).
In all this remarkable ministry of the Holy Spirit to and on behalf of the believer, He jealously guards the honour of the Son, graciously diverting all the glory to Him, as foreseen in Jn 16:13-15. This, however, in no way lessens the debt the believer owes to the Divine Spirit; hence the following challenges in Scripture:
(a) “Be filled with the Spirit” (Eph.5:18) – a command from the Lord, that we should allow Him to control our lives.
(b) “Walk by the Spirit…led by the Spirit…live by the Spirit” (Gal.5:16,18,25 – each being manifestations of the Spirit-filled life.
(c) “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God” (Eph.4:30) – the only place where the Spirit is so named. This supremely holy in-dweller is grieved, by conduct so much at variance with His nature as is referred to in Eph.4:25-31.
(d) “Quench not the Spirit” (1 Thess.5:19) – the terse instruction to the disciple not to hinder the urgings of the Spirit so as to need the warning to Archippus in Col.4:17.
(e) Acts 7:51 sounds an ominous warning to any who would be tempted to “resist the Holy Spirit”. His pleadings became ineffective in backsliding, stiff-necked Israel, so “let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor.10:12).
(f) Finally, “Know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, which is in you” (1 Cor.6:19). A constant remembrance that our bodies are a sacred inner sanctuary of the Spirit is calculated to make for personal purity and uprightness. And since the aim of the gracious In-dweller is to glorify the Lord Jesus, the plain word to us also is, “glorify God therefore in your body” (verse 20).
(C) In relation to the Church the Body
The Spirit distributes the gifts of the ascended Lord to each one in the Church the Body even as it pleases Him (1 Cor.12:1-11 describes this operation). He does it in two ways, First He distributes gifts, that is divine enablings whereby believers may, by the sanctified use of those gifts, be of help the one to the other as members of the Body, or in such wider purposes as God may have for them. The nature of these gifts is indicated in 1 Cor.12.
In addition, the Spirit endows certain men with the specific gifts of Eph.4:11, so that these men become themselves the gifts to the Body for its growth and extension.
The service of the Spirit in relation to individual members of the Body, we have already considered.
(D) In relation to the House of God
All spiritual energy and direction for the acceptable service of the people of God comes from the Holy Spirit.
(a) Each assembly is itself “builded together for a habitation of God in the Spirit” (Eph.2:22.) The assemblies themselves, fitly framed together, become “a spiritual house” (1 Pet.2:5). In these assemblies the gifts of the Spirit were intended to function.
(b) All acceptable worship is “by the Spirit of God” (Phil.3:3).
(c) All acceptable service is “in the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom.15:19).
(d) Guidance is given by the Spirit in such matters as:
The separation of Barnabus and Saul to the work – Acts 13:2.
The resolving of the problem of circumcision – Acts 15:28.
The fields of apostolic labour – Acts 16:6.
The making of overseers – Acts 20:28.
(E) In relation to the world
This is broadly defined in Jn 16:7-11, The Lord Jesus promised, regarding the Holy Spirit, “I will send Him unto you”. In His coming to the believers He was going to convict the world through them on three matters, i.e., sin, righteousness and judgement. As a consequence the Spirit must not be thought of as simply an influence in the world, an unseen force in a room, something nebulous albeit effectively at work. Rather He is presented as a Person indwelling all God’s children and through them doing God’s work of convicting human hearts. This integration of the believer into the Person of the Spirit in the pursuit of the work of God should call for deep exercise, for if there is failure in the going forth of the convicting word it must be on our part.
SECTION 7 – THE CHURCH WHICH IS HIS BODY
1. The word Church generally
In English, the word church has a wide connotation, including “the whole body of Christians” as well as “a house set apart for Christian worship”. It comes from an Anglo-Saxon word “circe” (hence the Scots Kirk or German Kirche) and derives basically from the Greek “Kuriakon“, meaning “belonging to the Lord”. Thus, no distinction is made between the people and the building, whereas in German the word Gemeinde is used for the former and kirche for the latter.
The word does not occur in our translation of the O.T., but the Hebrew word QAHAL, which occurs fully 120 times in the O.T. appears some 70 times in the Septuagint as EKKLESIA. This Greek word is found some 80 times in singular form in the M.T. (translated “church” in every instance except Acts 19:32,39,41 where it is “assembly”) and 34 times in the plural. The word derives from EK, out of, and KLESIS, a calling, and in its use indicates a called-out people, its nature indicated by the context.
The N.T. occurrences of EKKLESIA may be summarised as follows:
(a) Singular form
The Church which is His Body – Matt.16:18; Eph.1:22 etc.
The local Church of God – Matt.18:17; Acts 2:47; 1 Cor.1:2 etc.
The Church in the house (being a local or part of a local Church of God) – Col.4:15; Philemon 1:2.
The Church of the living God (i.e. the house of God) – 1 Tim.3:15.
The Church of the firstborn (a group of angels) – Heb.12:23 The Church in the Wilderness (Israel) – Acts 7:38
The assembly of craftsmen in Ephesus – Acts 19:32 etc.
(b) Plural form
In every instance the reference is to Churches of God, whether
The Churches of the Gentiles – Rom.16:4
The Churches of Christ – Rom.16:16.
The Churches of the saints – 1 Cor.14:33.
The Churches of God in general – 1 Cor.11:16.
The Churches of God in particular –
Galatia – 1 Cor.16:1
Asia – 1 Cor.16:19
Macedonia – 2 Cor. 8:1
Judaea – Gal.1:22
It has been suggested that these churches were “of God” as to constitution, “of Christ” as to character and “of the saints” as to composition. We read of the local Church of God (singular) and of groupings of Churches (plural), but the expression “Churches of Christ” is found in the plural only, and “the Church which is His Body” is in the singular only. We now come to cur main consideration,
2. The Church which is His Body
(a) References to this Church in the N.T.
Eph.1:22; Eph.3:10,21; Eph.5:23,24,25,27,29,32.
(Some may view Heb.2:12 as referring to this Church but the context would appear to indicate a declaration of His Name to all His brethren, i.e. to all believers, but the singing of God’s praise in a specific congregation, answering to the people of God).
(b) Viewed as an eternal purpose
The precious truth of the Church the Body was “kept in silence through times eternal” (Rom.16:25). It was planned in relation to an eternal purpose which God purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord (Eph.3:11). Doubtless in relation to this plan the Lord Jesus “was foreknown indeed before the foundation of the world” (1 Pet.1:20) as “the Lamb that hath been slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev.13:8). The Day is coming when what was hidden in God will be exhibited in all its brilliant glory to “the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places” (Eph.3:10), when the Lord Jesus will “come to be glorified in His saints, and to be marvelled at in all them that believed” (2 Thess.1:10).
(c) In shadowy outline in the O.T. Scriptures
When the mystery of the Church the Body, also referred to in Eph.3:4 as the mystery of Christ, came to be revealed, there is an indication in Rom.16:26 that in some way it had lain hidden in the O.T. Scriptures, doubtless in “the things concerning Himself” (Lk.24:27). Certainly when we consider the bridal aspect of the Church, as viewed e.g., in Eph.5:22,33, we can see foreshadowings of this in the bridal unions of:
Adam and Eve – with the significant “deep sleep” of Adam, and the “building” of Eve as a helper answering to him (Gen.2:22 R.V. margin).
Isaac and Rebecca – rich in its illustration of the servant who spoke well of his master’s son, of the maiden who as a consequence loved one she had never seen, and of the dramatic meeting in the evening at journey’s end (Gen.24).
Joseph and Asenath – the Gentile bride who came into all the love and wealth of Joseph, without sharing in the privations of his outcast days.
Boaz and Ruth – where the mighty man of wealth from Bethlehem became the kinsman-redeemer and purchased the young woman from the far country to be his wife.
(d) In the full light of N.T. revelation
(i) The builder of the Church
The Lord Jesus is the Builder of the Church the Body. He first disclosed His intention to build in Matt.16:18, “thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it”. The intimation was made:
In Caesarea Philippi, at the foot of Mt. Hermon, across the Jordan on the east bank, at the most northerly point of Israel’s land, bordering on the territory of the Gentile nations. What more suitable spot could have been selected to announce the building of a Church which would be composed of Jew and Gentile alike?
In conjunction with the first word of His suffering and death. The two profound truths were so interwoven that the Lord released them both at the same time (Matt. 16:21). There could be no Church without His death.
Privately to His disciples. It arose out of spokesman Peter’s heart-warming confession by revelation of the Father. Peter was (Greek) PETROS, i.e. “a detached stone or boulder or a stone that might be thrown or easily moved” (Vine). But the Lord indicated that He would build His Church on another rock (Greek) PETRA, i.e. “a mass of rock” (Vine). Certain versions give a misleading slant on this, e.g. Phillips – “Thou art Peter the rock, and it is on this rock that I am going to found My church”. N.E.B. – “You are Peter, the Rock; and on this rock I will build My church”. What this foundation rock was, is not defined so there must be freedom for reasonable interpretation. Some have considered it to be the Person of Christ Himself; others again, the living God; while some have viewed it as the testimony of Peter, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God”. There is scriptural support for the first two views and they are given in what would appear to be the order of general acceptance. Certainly the foundation rock was not failing Simon Peter.
The Church which the Lord Jesus builds is uniquely His own, “My Church”, after the likeness of the pearl of great price, which the merchant gave all that he had to purchase (Matt.13:45,46). “Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself up for it” (Eph.5:25).
(ii) The period of building
In Matt.16:18 the Lord indicated that the building of the Church was at that time still future. From this we learn that the O.T. righteous are not included in it, spiritually great though many of them were. Detailed information regarding the Church, and the name by which it was to be known, awaited the post-resurrection period. From 1 Cor.12:13 we learn that “in one Spirit were we all baptized into one Body, whether Jews or Greeks…and were all made to drink of one Spirit”. Entrance into the Church the Body is therefore by means of baptism by the Lord Jesus in the Holy Spirit at conversion. The Spirit was not given till the Lord was glorified (Jn 7:39). His resurrection word to the apostles was, “ye shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days hence” (Acts 1:5). On the day of Pentecost the Spirit came. The apostles and those that were with them were baptized that day in the Spirit into the Body, with the 3,000 converts following immediately. The Lord Jesus had begun to build His Church.
The first members were Jews (Acts 2). From Acts 11:18 we find that the apostles viewed Cornelius and his party as the first official admission of Gentiles. “The mystery of Christ” was unfolding itself, “to wit, that the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, and fellow-members of the Body” (Eph.3:4-6). The “middle wall of partition”, separating Jews from Gentiles, was broken down. The enmity between them was abolished. Christ was creating “in Himself of the twain one new man”. Both were being reconciled to God in one Body, i.e. the Church (Eph.2:14-16).
The building of the Church the Body is one of God’s distinctive works in the present period of divine grace. It will continue until the Rapture, when all “in Christ” will be gathered together to meet the Lord in the air. Thus the building period fills the gap, for all practical purposes, between Daniel’s 69th and 70th weeks.
(iii) The method of entrance
A person becomes a member of the Church the Body at conversion. That is, when he is sanctified and cleansed by the washing of water with the Word (Eph.5:26); “made nigh in the blood of Christ” (Eph.2:13); has that multiple experience of the indwelling, sealing and anointing of the Holy Spirit which is spoken of as baptism in the Spirit into the Body (1 Cor.12:13); is reconciled to God and is thereafter “in Christ…a new creature” (2 Cor.5:17).
(iv) A membership never to cease
The Lord Jesus is not only the Builder, He is also the Saviour of the Body (Eph.5:23). He sustains and preserves it. He has pledged Himself to present it one day to Himself in glory (v.27) and, as we have seen, the gates (or powers) of Hades will not prevail against it. Therefore those who are received into this Church are termed members, not of the Church, but of the Body (1 Cor.12:27), of Christ (1 Cor.6:15), of one another (Rom.l2:5; Eph.4:25). The membership is an unbreakable union. There can be no sin in the Body, for “whosoever is begotten of God sinneth not” (1 Jn 5:18). Membership of the Body of Christ although a spiritual and eternal union, embracing the whole person of the believer, affects his body in particular, so that 1 Cor.6:15 says, “Know ye not that your bodies are members of Christ?”. Adam said of Eve, “this is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh”. The A.V. says in Eph.5:30, “For we are members of His Body, of His flesh and of His bones”. The texts omit the reference to flesh and bones for the union is spiritual – yet our bodies are nevertheless involved.
(v) Relationship of members to the Lord Jesus
The Lord Jesus is the Head of the Church the Body, as the following verses show in their different settings:
Col.1:18 – “He is the Head of the Body, the Church. He is the Head of the old creation in Col.1:15-17, and the Head of the new in verse 18,
Eph.5:23 – “Christ also is the Head of the Church”, with the Church in corresponding subjection.
Eph.4:15 – “the Head, even Christ” is the One into when all the members are to grow in all things, and from whom all the Body derives its energy.
Col.2:19 – “the Head, from whom all the Body…”. The members of the Body are to hold fast to Christ, the Head, from whom all increase comes.
Thus the Headship of Christ in relation to the Body is indicative of authority, preservation and sustenance.
In another sense, God has made Him “to be Head over all things to the Church” (Eph.1:22). Christ in resurrection enjoys universal Headship over all persons, powers and things in all ages of time and eternity. In this supremacy He stands so closely related to the Church that it is actually termed “His body”, and though He fills “all in all”, this Church is actually described as His fulness (Eph.1:20-23). Thus, in amazing grace, the Church is His fulness in Ephesians and in Colossians He is its fulness-(Col.2:10).
It is, and will ever remain, a ceaseless wonder that the eternal Son of God should redeem and bring so close to Him, the lost of earth that they become His “brethren” (though He is not their Elder Brother), His “body”, in a union so indivisible that in all their afflictions He is afflicted, as we see in Acts 9:4; and that, the days of His flesh over, He now uses our feet to search out sinners, our hands to help them, our lips to speak to them.
(vi) Relationship of the members to one another
1 Cor.12:12-26 illustrates how perfectly the workings of the human body describe the inter-relationship of the members of the Church the Body. The whole body is in view, the head in v.21 is not Christ but simply the head of the human body. There is “no schism”. Every member, whether foot, hand, eye, head etc. all show the same spontaneous care the one for the other. Again, in Eph.4:16 the appropriate supply of each joint, “the working in due measure of each several part” ensures the development of the fitly framed and knit together body. With this agrees Col.2:10.
It is clear then that the Lord Jesus is viewed as the Head from whom basically the Church the Body is sustained and directed. To do this He enables the members themselves to contribute according to their own particular God-given function.
Although the members, who are many, form one Body in Christ, they are nevertheless members also the one of the other. Rom.12:5 states this, and Rom.12:9-21 give clear guidance as to conduct called for in relation to each other, and to others besides. Several scriptures deal with this, the principle generally being “that the members should have the same care one for another” (1 Cor.12:25).
(vii) Growth through the gifts
The Church the Body will not be numerically complete until the Rapture. Till then, there will always be departed members with Christ, living members on the earth, the remaining elect not yet reached. When the Scriptures speak of growth in the Body, they refer to the development of members alive on the earth at any one time. The divine ideal is that the living members should function for the benefit of each other. For this purpose the Head endows the members. Christ gives the gifts (Eph.4:7-11); the Holy Spirit distributes them (1 Cor.12:7-11); the Father sets them in the Church the Body (1 Cor.12:28). The gifts are presented in two ways.
First – there are the endowments themselves. Rom.12:6-8 lists seven examples of these. They are:
Showing of mercy.
Again 1 Cor.12:7-11 lists nine examples of Spirit-given gifts. They are:
The word of wisdom
The word of knowledge
Gifts of Healing
Workings of miracles
Discerning of spirits
Divers kinds of tongues
Interpretation of tongues.
These different gifts were distributed in the sovereignty of the Spirit, with a suitable measure of grace to each member to achieve their fulfilment.
Second – there are the persons to whom certain of the gifts are given and they themselves become gifts to the Church, 1 Cor.12:28 presents eight cases:
Miracles (i.e., those working them)
Gifts of healing (i.e. those performing them)
Divers kinds of tongues (i.e. those speaking them).
Eph.4:11 presents five cases:
The purpose of the gifts is that through their ministry, the members of the Body might be perfected, ministered to and built up with a view to spiritual maturity in the following:
The unity of the faith
The knowledge of the Son of God
General full growth
The measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ,
all as set out in Eph.4:12,13.
(viii) The functioning of the gifts.
The members of the Body could only exercise their gifts towards each other if they were known to each other. Hence Peter’s word, “According as each hath received a gifts, ministering it among yourselves, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Pet.4:10). It was therefore essential that the members be brought together in a known fellowship. Immediately following His resurrection the Lord Jesus laid down the principle in His own action of “being assembled together with them” (Acts 1:4). That was to characterise the dispensation of grace. The members of the Body were to gather on scriptural principles so that the Body could function in a visible, corporate form. Thus the pattern of the churches of God emerged early in the Acts and remains till the close of Scripture as the sphere in which the members of the Body are to function for the enjoyment of the Head and the profit of the members,
(ix) A glorious Church
In the day of “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto Him” (2 Thess.2:1), He will “present the Church to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing” (Eph.5:27). The distribution of rewards will follow at His Judgement Seat (Rev.22:12), then the marriage of the Lamb will take place (Rev.19:7). After this will be the great unveiling of the Lord Jesus to the wicked nations “when He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be marvelled at in all them that believed” (2 Thess.1:7-10). And the final view in Scripture of the Bride, the wife of the Lamb, is “the holy city Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God (Rev.21:10,11) and in that eternal city “His servants shall do Him service” (Rev.22:3).
The epitaph to Sir Christopher Wren (it appears on the plaque above his tomb in the crypt of St. Paul’s Cathedral) reads, SI MONUMENTUM REQUIRIS CIRCUMSPICE – “If you seek his monument look around”. And the myriads of the redeemed in the eternal city will be the everlasting tribute to the magnificent grace of the One who brought them there.
SECTION 8 – THE HOUSE OF GOD
Our final study in this series is that the house of God, a truth which is prominent in both Old and New Testaments. It is essentially a consideration of God dwelling in grace in the midst of a redeemed and gathered-out people. In the O.T. this was in association with a material building; in the N.T. a spiritual structure is in view. One main principle common to both is its conditional character. God will not dwell indefinitely in the midst of a people who do not recognise His rule.
The patriarchal period from Adam till the Exodus covered some 2,500 years. During that era, righteous men walked individually with God. There was not the slightest hint of a dwelling place for God, until very late in the period a very shadowy revelation in relation to it was given to the father of the nation to which in due course it was to be completely unfolded. If we proceed in orderly fashion from the beginning through its various stages of development, we find:
1. Jacob’s early vision
In a dream of the night (Gen.28:10-22) Jacob saw a ladder on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven. “Ladder” comes from a Hebrew root marking it out as a kind of terraced way cast up. The angels of God ascended and descended upon it. God stood related to it and spoke to Jacob, confirming the Abrahamic covenant of the land and the seed (see also Hos.12:4). When Jacob awoke, the combination of the things he had seen and heard brought him an awareness that this was a dreadful place, that it was both the house of God and the gate of heaven. We may note then as relevant to our study the following points:
(a) This all happened at (Heb.) “the place” (v.11 marg.). It was formerly known as Luz, which signifies departure or perversion (Strong). Jacob re¬named it Beth-El, that is “the house of God”. This was therefore the fore¬runner of “the place of the Name” e.g. Deut.12:9,11. Israel’s subsequent transgression at Bethel (see Amos 4:4) brought about the departure or perversion of 1 Kgs.12:28,29.
(b) Jacob’s thought of the house of God being associated with a way cast up to the gate of heaven is a truth brought into full view in the N.T. (see the connection between the house of God and the entrance in Heb.10:19-21).
(c) The connection between the stone set up as a pillar and God’s house (v22) is also a preview of N.T. truths (see 1 Tim.3:19; 1 Pet.2:4-8).
(d) The first recorded vow in Scripture accompanies the first reference to the house of God (Gen.28:17,20).
(e) Thus we see in this experience of Jacob the revelation of a long-hidden purpose of God.
2. The Tabernacle in the Wilderness
Some 270 years passed before the early revelation of the House of God reached its primal fulfilment in the momentous word of God to Moses, “Let them make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them” (Ex.29:8). The family of Jacob, through his twelve sons, had grown to nation proportions in the four generations of Gen.19:16; that is, for example, Jacob, Levi, Kohath, Amram, Moses (1 Chron.6:1-3). From the affliction of Egypt God redeemed them by blood and by power, took them through the Red Sea as through baptismal waters, and brought them to Himself at Sinai. There the terms of the conditional covenant were agreed and Israel became the people of God. It was a moment of tremendous meaning. God had at last a people, redeemed and gathered out from the nations, separated to Himself and covenanted to obedience. Among these He would now dwell.
By means of a willing people, instructed in the method of its construction by two deeply taught leaders, there was produced on the desert sands within exactly one year an exact counterpart of the pattern received by the faithful servant Moses on the mount. It was a copy “of the things in the heavens” (Heb.9:23), of “the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man” (Heb.8:2). The sevenfold expression of “as the LORD commanded Moses” in Ex.40 is vital. Moses built everything in meticulous compliance with the divine specification and because of this “the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle” (Ex.40:34). God came down to indwell it. There He spoke with Moses (Num.7:89), just as He had spoken to Jacob at Bethel (Hos.12:4). (Indeed, the most holy place in Solomon’s temple was known as “the oracle” – the place of the word).
There too Israel came with their offerings. In Saul’s initial experience with God there met him “three men going up to God to Bethel, one carrying three kids, and another carrying throe loaves of bread, and another carrying a bottle of wine”. These men were going up to God, to the house of God (Bethel). They were bringing their offerings, the fruit of the flock, of the tillage and of the vineyard. That was, or should have been, representative of the nation. At regular, stated intervals men were expected to go to meet with God at His house.
The Tabernacle abounds with teaching for the people of God today. When thinking of the details, the writer to the Hebrews says, “of which things we cannot now speak severally”. Doubtless he could have expounded to great profit the typical teaching of both the structure and its contents. Much too has been written on the subject. We would emphasise one point only, for it has proved a most illuminating illustration of N.T. teaching regarding the spiritual house of God. The Tabernacle was basically the ten curtains, two sets of five joined together. The student is referred to Dr. Luxmoore’s instructive articles on The coupling together of assemblies (NT 1899 pg.242) and The coupling of the Tabernacle (NT 1904 pg.121).
The Tabernacle and its arrangements were “a parable for the time now present”(Heb.9:9), yet deep in its significance lay the fact that in those days “the way into the holy place hath not yet been made manifest” (v.8).
3. The Tabernacle in the Land
When Israel entered the land of their inheritance, the Tabernacle was first set up in Shiloh (Josh.18:1). God spoke of it as “My place which was in Shiloh, whore I caused My Name to dwell at the first” (Jer.7:12). The truth of the place of the Name now found real expression. This was the final Great spiritual centre of Israel, to be later established in Zion. Here the provisions of Deut.12 etc. could operate.
No reference to the Tabernacle is found during the dark, spiritually precarious years of the Judges. It next appears in the days of Eli’s declension, when, by reason of priestly failure, the people abhorred the offering of the LORD. Knowing the low spiritual state of the nation, He predicted “the affliction of My habitation, in all the wealth which God shall give Israel” (1 Sam.2:32). In a few years’ time the ark of the covenant was delivered to the Philistines and God “forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent which He placed among men” (Ps.78:60).
Then followed one of the darkest eras of Israel’s history. The ark was brought back, not to Shiloh but to Kiriath-Jearim, to the house of Abinadab. There it remained for the long, weary years (could have been around eighty or so) till David brought it up to the tent at Zion. The ark was away from the house of God from 1 Sam.4 till it was brought into the temple of Solomon in 2 Chron.5:2. Meantime the Tabernacle was removed from Shiloh at a date not given in Scripture and was set up at Gibeon as in 1 Chron.16:39; in a divided service so unworthy of a God so gracious, with the ark in Zion and the altar etc., in Gibeon. Truly men saw “the affliction of My habitation”.
4. The Temple of Solomon
David sensed the affliction of God and shared it (Ps.132:1). Few vows were worthy of the house of God as that expressed in v.2. David’s resolve was uncompromisingly to “find out a place for the LORD ” (v.5). To this he bent all his energies and gathered all his spoils of war. Nothing but the best was worthy of God. It was to be “an house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the LORD”, “an house for the sanctuary”, “the place of the mercy-seat” (1 Chror.28:2,10,11). But though he might see the need and supply the material, the design must come from the LORD. So the One who gave Moses the pattern for the Tabernacle gave David to understand in writing for the Temple (v.19). So “they hewed out great stones, costly stones, to lay the foundation of the House” (1 Kgs.5:17). “And the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready at the quarry; and there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building” (1 Kgs.6:7).
On completion “the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD” (1 Kgs.8:11). It had been built to His requirements and He came to dwell in it, but condition¬ally, with this proviso, “But if ye turn away, and forsake…and shall go and serve other gods, this house, which I have hallowed for My Name, will I cast out of My sight (2 Chron.7:19,20). Sad to say, within thirty years it ceased to be the spiritual centre for the ten tribes who were given to Jeroboam. It retained its character as “the place of the Name” for Judah and Benjamin, but with a spiritual loyalty which fluctuated greatly from king to king, with an overall diminishing trend. In the dark days of Jeremiah, God said, “therefore will I do unto the house, which is called by My Name, as I have done to Shiloh (Jer.7:14). Finally, some four hundred years after it was dedicated, God withdrew His presence from the onetime beautiful Temple on Zion, the wreckers of Ps.74:3-8 roared in, and all that was left of Israel in the land trudged away into captivity. God had left His house.
5. The Temple of the Remnant
Seventy years later, a Remnant came back from Babylon, and in Jerusalem despite their fewness they built again as one man the altar of God “as it is written in the law of Moses” (Ezra 3:2). They alone had responded to the urgings of God in Babylon, and to Him they represented the nation and in acknowledgment of this He was prepared to make His dwelling among them. So the Temple was rebuilt, shorn of the glory that was Solomon’s, but destined to a glory which even Solomon’s never knew (Hag.2:9). There was no pillar of cloud to rest on it as the first Tabernacle had. No glory to dazzle the priests at dedication as Solomon’s Temple had. But nothing deterred the Remnant, for had not the LORD of hosts said, “Be strong for I am with you…according to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt” (Hag.2:4,5). They were in fellowship with the original, unalterable counsels of Sinai (see Mal.4:4) and that was all that mattered.
6. The Remnant Temple rebuilt by Herod
This was built during the four hundred silent years between the two Testaments hence (apart from being told how long it was in building) there is no reference to the work in Scripture. It was regarded as a rebuilding of Zerubbabel’s Temple and the worship was never interrupted. Therefore it was spoken of by the Lord as His Father’s house, and it was probably the coming of the Lord Jesus to it that constituted “the latter glory” of Hag.2:9) The building was undertaken by Herod as “an attempt to reconcile the Jews to their Idumean king rather than to glorify God”. Jewish tradition connected the construction with “the miserable crimes of his later years…a monument of penitence”.
But Israel, whose spiritual centre this Temple should have been, was further than ever away from God. Steeped in hypocritical formalism, their leaders failed to recognise their Creator-Saviour in their midst and the nation utterly rejected God’s last word to them. Therefore the Lord Jesus passed the melancholy sentence, “Your house (formerly God’s) is left unto you desolate” (Matt.23:38). The kingdom of God passed to the little flock (Lk.12:32). The nation of Israel ceased from collective testimony.
7. The Spiritual House of the New Testament
But again there was “a remnant according; to the election of grace” (Rom.11:5). Acting in fellowship with the Father, the Lord Jesus chose the twelve apostles, and commencing in Acts 1 built around them a new people of God, To the twelve He gave the pattern of the new house of God in “the things concerning the kingdom of God” (v.3). Just as Moses assimilated the pattern and David the writing and then communicated them to the willing builders, so the apostles assimilated the Faith and passed it on accurately to the growing nucleus. Early in the movement, the Lord brought in the brilliant mind and tireless energy of Paul to spread the influence of the new teaching. And before many years had passed, the Faith had gone abroad among several countries, and was finding expression in the baptized and separated disciples who were brought together in divine testimony in churches of God, all in fellowship the one with the other.
Just as willing-hearted Israel brought to Moses the heaps of material God had asked for and from this the Tabernacle was built; or again, “just as their descendants brought to Solomon the quarried stones, the cut-down trees and the wealth of material generally which David had called for, and from this the Temple was built, even so, believers, beginning from Jerusalem and reaching out to the lands of the nations, presented themselves as living stones to be built up a spiritual house of God. With the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, a new and nobler order in divine service had come. Henceforth His gathered people would constitute His house on earth, with a service Godward in the heavenly sanctuary and man-ward among the nations. Several points of detail arise:
(a) In 1 Pet.2:1-10 saints are viewed, not as unbelievers coming to Christ for salvation in terms of Matt.11:28, but rather as living stones, who have already tasted the grace of the Lord in salvation, now coming to Him to be built up a spiritual house. It is not un-gathered saints, but gathered together disciples which constitute the N.T. house of God.
(b) This house is the place of God’s rest (Acts 7:48,49). The “all things” of Matt.28:20 are to be enjoined on the disciples. The Faith once for all delivered to them is to be held fast by them, otherwise they will know in bitter experience that God’s house is still conditional upon the obedience of His people. Rejection of divine rule and authority can mean the cessation of an assembly (Rev.2:5) or of the house itself (Heb.3:6).
(c) The N.T. house is no longer a material building centrally placed in relation to one land and nation, but is capable of world-wide expression after a spiritual sort among a separated people. How then is the rule of God to be maintained throughout?
(d) We first note the local expression of the house of God. This is in churches of God. The first church of God was in Jerusalem (first RV reference Acts 8:1). Its nucleus was the twelve apostles and those like-minded, altogether the 120 on whom the Spirit fell on the day of Pentecost. That day saw the commencement of the two great movements which God wished to run parallel throughout the dispensation, i.e. the Church the Body, and what should have been its visible counterpart, the churches of God. To this group were added the 3,000 disciples converted the same day, and the pattern of this early formation in Acts 2:41,42 was to be to this dispensation what the guidance of the mount was to Moses or the writing to David. There was one church of God in Jerusalem, how many soever its companies may have been (Acts 4:23).
(e) Another such church is described as “the church of God which is at Corinth…called into the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor.1:2,9). The formation of this church is dealt with in Acts 18. Acts 18:8 shows that the Corinthians heard, believed and were baptized; Acts 18:11 shows that Paul remained with them to teach them the principles of the Faith. This was the outworking of Matt.28:19,21 Disciples had to be gathered together in church formation to be taught, and then they could live the Christian life in a fellowship of assemblies. Those churches were known as churches of God.
(f) The church in Corinth is viewed as a building in 1 Cor.3:9-12, Paul laid Jesus Christ as the foundation. Apollos continued the building operation and others followed.
(g) The church in Ephesus is also viewed as a building in Eph.2:20-22 – “a habitation of God in the Spirit”. This portion also views the spiritual house as a fitly-framed structure. The churches were integrated in a fellowship of assemblies, constituting the house of God (also spoken of here as His temple). The imagery is similar to (a) above – living stones were presenting themselves in different cities and countries, to be built up and together, the spiritual structure emerging being “buildings” in local areas, known as churches of God, and fitly-framed together world-wide as one united house of God.
(h) The churches were in the care of elders, overseers or bishops (two Greek words being used to describe the same office – as e.g., in Acts 20:17,18; and are seen in the N.T. grouped together in large areas (Roman Provinces). This facilitated the maintenance of divine rule throughout. E.g. the elders in the Province of Judaea are seen acting together in Acts 11:29,30. The grouping of churches in Roman Provinces is found in:
Judaea – Gal.1:22; 1 Thess.2:14.
Galatia – 1 Cor.16:1; Gal.1:2
Asia – 1 Cor.16:19; Rev.1:11.
Macedonia – 2 Cor.8:1
Achaia – 2 Cor.1:1
Further expressions of unity are evident in:
Acts 9:31 – “the church throughout all Judaea and Galilee and
1 Pet.1:1 – a letter addressed to five of these Provinces.
1 Cor.1:9 – where the fellowship of all the assemblies is in view.
In the language of the type, the curtains were joined together and the Tabernacle was one.
(i) 1 Tim.3:15 views the house of God as “the pillar and ground of the truth”. It stands for all the truth of God for the dispensation, i.e. the Faith of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is not maintaining one particular aspect of the truth. It is not Episcopal, Presbyterian or Baptist in this sense. It is a pillar on which is to be exhibited every aspect of the Faith.
(j) The house of God is “for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices” (1 Pet.2:6 margin). This is the collective responsibility of the people of God. At the gathering on the first day of the week there is not only the continual Remembrance of the Lord Jesus in the breaking of the bread, but there is also a “gate of heaven” experience in a way which Jacob never dreamed. It is described in Heb.10:19-22. On Lord’s day morning the Lord’s people go “up to God to Bethel”, taking with them their offerings; gifts of a spiritual sort — things which they “have made touching the king”, gifts also of a material sort from the abundance of God in the daily things of life.
The house is also a royal priesthood, and from the churches of God should be shown forth in all their attractiveness, the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvellous light (1 Pet.2:9).
Finally, in viewing the truth of the house of God in the New Testament one thing is particularly clear – the house is entirely different from the Church the Body. The house can be “marred” by unruly men in local assemblies (1 Cor.3:17) and, as we have seen, can cease locally (Rev.2:6) or altogether (Heb.3:6). The Church the Body is inviolate as we saw in Lesson 7. It can neither be marred by men nor cease to exist. The gates of Hades cannot prevail against it.
Actually, due to a general apostasy, the original churches of God, and thus the house of God, did cease to exist. This was due in part to the false teachers of e.g. 2 Pet.2:1, and in part also to the itching cars of wayward saints (see 2 Tim.4:3). For a brief account of the return of a remnant at the close of last century to build again the spiritual house, see “The Search for the Truth of God” and other literature, particularly the early volumes of Needed Truth. Fairly full notes were also issued to the Lanarkshire Bible Study Class in 1970 and copies of those may still be available. It is vital that we know our history as a spiritual movement.