Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Unsearchable and Unspeakable

“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33)
Scientists and philosophers have been able to learn many wonderful things about the universe when they have attempted reverently to think God’s thoughts after Him, but His majesty and purposes are still far beyond human words and understanding—unspeakable and unsearchable. He “doeth great things and unsearchable; marvelous things without number” (Job 5:9).
Not only are His judgments unsearchable and His ways past finding out, but so are His resources. The apostle Paul spoke about “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8), and he once had the unique experience of being caught up somehow into the very paradise of God, where he “heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (2 Corinthians 12:4).
We shall learn more, in the ages to come, of “the exceeding riches of his grace” (Ephesians 2:7), as well as the depth of “the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19).
We can have a good measure of peace and joy right now in Christ, but there is much more yet to learn. In the new earth some day we shall really experience “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) and be able to “rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8).
His great gift of salvation and eternal life we comprehend only faintly now, but we know it is indeed a gift of love and grace and peace and joy! Although we cannot begin to describe it now, we can simply say in gratitude, “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15). 

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Church Leadership

“The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed.” (1 Peter 5:1)
The leaders of the early churches were critical not only to the ministry of each church but also to its survival. Correspondingly, numerous New Testament passages deal with their qualifications and function. In our text, Peter exhorts these men to proper leadership through service and informs them of a reward waiting for them.
First, we notice that Peter addresses a group of elders, not a single individual in sole authority. No example is given in the New Testament of any church that has grown past infancy that has not incorporated the wisdom of a group of spiritually mature men into its leadership, although there may need to be one who presides among this group.
The primary function of such godly leaders is to “feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof” (1 Peter 5:2). Note especially that the flock they shepherd is God’s flock among them, not their own flock. A true flock leader takes strong and careful “oversight” but does not usurp ownership.
These leaders are to serve “willingly,” not under “constraint.” Their motive should be “of a ready mind” and “not for filthy lucre,” or financial gain (1 Peter 5:2). Moreover, these leaders must not be “lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3). They should lead by serving, thereby establishing a mindset of service in the rest.
Finally, Peter reminds the leaders that faithful, sacrificial service will be rewarded, for “when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away” (1 Peter 5:4). May God continue to grant willing, faithful, sacrificial servants to lead each local flock. 

Monday, 14 August 2017

A Non-Citizen's Role in Society

“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” (Ephesians 2:19)
Speaking primarily to new Gentile believers, Paul welcomes them into the body of Christ, made up of all true believers, either Jew or Gentile. Each new member enjoys full privileges and benefits given to all “saints,” those “of the household of God.” “For our conversation [literally ‘citizenship,’ same root word as in our text] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).
Regarding our former state, Christ declared: “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do” (John 8:44). However, we have broken with this former alliance and transferred our allegiance to “God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:18). “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Our function as non-citizens still living to a degree in our prior realm is revealed, for “God . . . hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation” (v. 18). God is in the business of reconciling others who are now estranged back to Himself, and even though He could do it all Himself, without any help from His feeble creation, He has in His grace given us a part in this blessed work. The work will involve a struggle, for our warfare is against the ruler of this world and his henchmen, but we will, through God’s enablement, be victorious (Ephesians 6:10-18).
“Now then [since] we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). Let us be about this blessed business.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Position and Condition

“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.” (Colossians 3:1)
Christians have a glorious position before God. As our text indicates, God has in effect already “raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6). Yet, our actual spiritual condition here on Earth often seems to belie our exalted position in heaven, so we repeatedly need to be exhorted not only to believe the truth but also to live the truth. Theoretically, we are dead to the world, and our “life is hid with Christ in God,” yet we must continually be exhorted to “mortify [that is, put to death] therefore your members which are upon the earth” (Colossians 3:3,5). We “have put on the new man” but nevertheless must repeatedly be “renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Colossians 3:10).
While in doctrine we are “complete in him,” in practice we must “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation,” yet each believer is commanded to “follow after righteousness” and to “work out your own salvation” (Romans 10:10; 1 Timothy 6:11; Philippians 2:12). We are “all the children of light” (1 Thessalonians 5:5), and we are to “walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8). Paul prays that “Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith” (Ephesians 3:17), yet already we have “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).
These truths are not contradictions, of course, but exhortations. “If” (and the Greek word actually means “since”) we are “risen with Christ,” then by all means we ought to live as those that are alive unto God! 

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Christians and the World

“I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.” (John 17:6)
In the wonderful intercessory prayer of Christ for His disciples just before His death, there are several important references dealing with the relation of the Christian believer to the world around him. In the first place, according to our text, they have been called out of the world and thus are not really a part of its system any more once they belong to Christ.
Yet, they necessarily must still live in the world. “These are in the world. . . . I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil” (John 17:11, 15). They are not of the world, however, for they have been separated from the world and unto Christ, whom the world continues to crucify daily. “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:14). Like Christ, they are bound to be hated by the world.
Nevertheless, Christ has sent them into the world as His witnesses. “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world . . . that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. . . . I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me” (John 17:18,21,23).
And the most wonderful thing about all these relationships to the world we live in is that God planned them even before He created the world! “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).

Friday, 11 August 2017

All the Fountains of the Deep

“In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.” (Genesis 7:11)
Our text describes the primary physical causes for the Flood of Noah’s day, as well as the primary sources for the vast waters which covered the earth. The first source is very interesting from a geological point of view, and to grasp some semblance of its meaning is necessary if we would understand the Flood.
As the “deep” in Scripture usually refers to the ocean (i.e., Genesis 1:2), so the “great deep” that was “broken up” evidently speaks of great subterranean reservoirs or chambers deep inside the earth, all of which spewed forth their contents at the same time. This breakup continued all over the earth for 150 days (see Genesis 7:11;7:24;8:2).
The reference to “broken up” merits attention, for it implies a wrenching of the earth’s crust, a great tectonic event. The same word is used in Numbers 16:30-33 to describe the supernatural opening up of a great pit into which the rebellious Korah and his followers and their families fell, thereby squelching their mutiny against Moses’ leadership.
Any such breaching of the earth’s crust results in earthquakes, and if occurring under water results in devastating tsunamis (sometimes called tidal waves) traveling through the water at speeds approaching the speed of sound. Continued pulsation of these fountains all over the earth for 150 days would totally restructure the surface of the earth, demonstrating God’s hatred for the sin of the antediluvian world. Coupled with the other factors involved in the Flood, it is no wonder that “the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished” (2 Peter 3:6). 

Thursday, 10 August 2017

What Shall We Do?

“Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” (John 6:28)
This question is often asked by people who try to work their way into heaven. It was also asked in various ways by men in the New Testament, and it is vitally important to get the correct answer to such questions there and nowhere else.
For example, a rich young ruler once asked Jesus, “What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered, “Go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor . . . and come, take up the cross, and follow me” (Mark 10:17, 21). That is, there is nothing of his own that one can bring to Christ to earn salvation; one must simply be willing to yield himself fully to Christ.
A lawyer had asked Jesus the same question, “tempting him.” This time, His answer was, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself” (Luke 10:27). But this standard is humanly unattainable by any child of Adam, so in effect, the lawyer was told it was impossible for him to do anything himself to inherit eternal life.
When the crowd asked Peter on the day of Pentecost, “pricked in their heart” because they had crucified Christ, “What shall we do?” Peter answered, “Repent, and be baptized . . . in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:37-38). What they had to “do” was an inward act of repentance and faith toward Christ and an outward public testimony demonstrating the reality of that inward change of heart and mind.
Years later at Philippi, a jailer asked Paul the apostle one night, “What must I do to be saved?” The answer was simply, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:30-31).