People of The Living God

Psalms 150

 

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June 2016



 

 

 

 

 

WATCHMEN ON THE WALLS

POLITCAL CORRECTNESS

Alfred King

        In a world that has become obsessed with being politically correct even at the expense of truth being cast into the street (Isa. 59:14), political correctness is not something new.  It has been one of the harbingers of a nation headed for its demise.  When a nation, a culture or civilization sets aside truth for the sake of a people who cannot face truth and substitutes in its place “political correctness”, it has started down a path of no return, one in which destruction will inevitably be found at its end.  One of the odd things about ‘political correctness’ is, that when applied to those who profess to be “Christian,” it is no longer applicable.  Instead, the Biblical command to love is brought into the equation as though those who know nothing about the love of God are suddenly experts in defining it.  Love is twisted and distorted in order to convince Christians that they must show grace and mercy at the expense of God’s divine truth and, unfortunately, Satan’s lie has convinced many Christians that they must remain silent while political correctness destroys not only our nations but our religion.  God’s truth is “The soul that sinneth shall die” (Ezek. 4:18, 20).  When the serpent came to our mother Eve, he became the first promoter of “political correctness.”  He attacked God by questioning His word.  “Ye shalt not surely die,” although a glaring lie, were the politically correct words for Adam and Eve.  Surely God, Who is a God of love, would not slay those whom He created and loved.  The direct command given by God to Adam and Eve might be offensive and damage their self-esteem.  God forbid that their self-esteem be damaged.  “God is a God of love, and grace, and mercy, and would not send anyone to hell for such a minor infraction of His word.”  Love is so distorted in today’s world that genuine love is as foreign to the average American as water is in the Sahara Desert, and those who know least about God’s love are those who attempt to define it while having never experienced it.

        Recently, I heard of an elderly woman whose son had been on drugs since he was a teenager.  She, not being a wealthy woman, was lamenting the fact that she had spent over $100,000 on her son over the years, either bailing him out of some crisis he had brought upon himself or in aiding his recovery, yet he continued on in his addition, with no evidence of a desire to change.  She did this because she loved him.  Every loving parent who has had a son or daughter enslaved by drugs, knows the anguish of soul and mind and the grief inflicted upon their hearts over their addicted child.  But that parent must determine whether they are helping their child find deliverance, or are they enabling them to continue in their path to destruction.  In the parable of the Prodigal son, it appears the father did not attempt to bail his son out; he allowed him to hit bottom.  He let him become destitute and stoop to things to which no human wants to be subjected.  It was there that scripture says, “he came to himself” (Luke 15:17).  If his father had continued to support him, he may have never come to see the necessity to change.  This is genuine love, not the mushy, sloppy and slobbery love so common in today’s world.  The modern philosophy is that love trumps truth, therefore love can sweep truth under the rug.  This is a lie, for those who truly love will also walk in truth.  If I love my wife, I will be truthful to her even though sometimes it may hurt.  Proverbs 23:23 reads, “Buy the truth, and sell it not.”  Truth will expose sentimental puppy love while producing genuine, Godly love.  It is not that the woman mentioned above did not love her son, but that her love was not coupled with truth or the knowledge of what was really needed for this man to be set free from his bondage.  The only sure answer is in Jesus Christ.

        “Political correctness” is a path that never reaches an end.  When will prisoners begin to say it is not political correct for them to be imprisoned because the acts they committed against society were the product of genetics, how they were raised, because their parents were divorced or they were abused as a child?  With our Supreme Court’s recent decision to redefine marriage, they have stated that Psychology trumps Biology.  They made a clear statement that political correctness trumps truth.  Facts are discarded at the shrine of political correctness.  Biology declares a person’s gender not Psychology, and the fact that one may think he is of the opposite gender does not make it so.  If a thief thinks he is not a thief when he steals, is he not a thief?  If a pedophile feels he is in the minority and his sin is justified because he has a “natural” (actually unnatural) lust for children, should we not bury the truth and accept him as he is just as we are being forced by our government to accept those who have this so-called “same sex attraction”?  Political correctness will, in time, destroy what’s left of the American moral society.

        In II Kings 22 we read of Josiah, a very godly king who strove to restore the law of God to Judah.  He destroyed the idols of Baal and sought to restore the true worship in the temple as Israel was instructed by Moses and the prophets.  In the process of the restoration Hilkiah, the high priest, found a book in the temple which contained the law of God with both the blessings and cursings God had given to Moses.  The blessings promised and the curses determined were contingent upon Israel’s obedience to God’s laws and precepts.  As this book of the law was read before King Josiah, he realized that God’s judgment was determined upon Israel because of their transgressions.  He rent his garments and repented for his sins and the sins of the people.  Josiah then sent Hilkiah to inquire of the Lord concerning the situation in which he and Judah found themselves.  They went to the prophetess Huldah for a word from the Lord.  In verses 16,17 we have God’s response to King Josiah. “Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the words of the book which the king of Judah hath read; Because they have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore my wrath shall be kindled against this place, and shall not be quenched.”  If we continue reading we find that God held back His judgment until after Josiah passed because he had humbled himself before God and repented.  However, the judgment was determined and could not be diminished or removed from God’s courtroom of justice.

        Judgment lies at the door of America.  Can it be turned away?  Very doubtful.  Can it be delayed?  Possibly, if God’s people will do as is written in II Chron. 7:14.  Will they?  Again, very doubtful.  The recent display of our republican candidates has exposed their party as a bunch of children acting out.  Calling each other names, attacking people’s looks (as though looks has anything to do with one’s personal character or the ability or credibility to become the next president of the USA).  Instead of addressing the critical issues facing our nation, they have behaved as school children on the playground.  If they were on the elementary school playground, we would expect to see what we have seen, but on the stage seeking the most powerful position in our modern world, we must be concerned that God is setting up whom He will to be one who will lead this country to its final destruction.

        On the democratic platform, we find Bernie Sanders acquiring far beyond the votes we would expect, primarily from our younger generation.  It reveals to those who are watching that our higher educators have done their job well and have produced a generation who no longer understands our constitution nor the liberty it offers.  They have been brain washed into thinking that socialism is a better path to take.  They seem to forget or are ignorant of what socialism has always produced, poverty for the average citizen and tyranny by the elite.  Take a look at Venezuela.  Food lines where people stand in line for hours just to get a few loaves of bread or other necessities of life.  And how has this happened to a nation who has a tremendous supply of oil which is shipped around the world?  Because tyrants have raped the people and left them in poverty, while they lived the “good life”.  Such is socialism.

        It is time for God’s people to begin seriously seeking the Lord.  God has always promised to care for His own.  The call is to come out of Babylon.  How is this done?  Do we begin to store food in hopes that it will carry us through rough times?  It is not our place to instruct others in things like this.  However, God knows those who are faithful and those who cry and sigh for the abominations which cover our land.  He has promised in His word that He will gather His people together in the latter days.  God still has a great work to do in the earth, and He will not return until it is accomplished.  God will protect his people.  Read Isaiah 4.  In this chapter, God declares that “in that day (the days just prior to His return) shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious.”  That beauty and glory will be for those escaped, those who have fled for refuge in God.  Those who find their refuge in God will be purged and refined, and those that endure the refining fire will find themselves protected by God’s glory.  Verse 5b, “upon all the glory shall be a defense.”  The glory of God will be their defense and protection in the time of trouble.  It will not be those that have tried to “save their life” by storing up guns and ammunition, but for those who have laid down their lives in service to Jesus Christ.  The time of judgment is coming fast upon us, and it is time for God’s people to seek God and get in tune with what God is doing in these latter days.  May God be glorified through His church.

 

 

 

 

THE RESTITUTION

Randall Walton

        In these days of increasing turmoil and chaos, it is very common to hear people loudly proclaiming that Jesus may return at any moment to catch away His bride in order that she will escape the woes of the great tribulation and enjoy a wedding-feast in heaven with Him.  This popular teaching has encouraged many people to begin attending a church of their choice; they are “joining up,” not because they’ve been born again, but because they hope that their religious affiliation will somehow ensure their participation in this “ultimate trip.”

        It is very evident that these folks have not spent enough time in the word of God, for it declares plainly that there are some very definite signs which will herald the Second Advent of our Lord, two of which we want to consider in this writing.  These two important events are closely related to each other and involve all of God’s people who will be living at the time of their fulfillment.

        The first of these is found in Acts 3:20,21: “And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.”

        The second event is mentioned in Ephesians 5:25b,26,27: “even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”

        Here, then, are set forth two outstanding happenings which must occur before Jesus returns: there must be a restoration according to God’s plan, and the church of Jesus Christ must attain to a glorious state, that is, be restored to its former glory.

        It should be obvious to every honest observer that the Church today does not meet the standards mentioned above, and Jesus will not come back until the Church measures up to those specifications.  We, as People of the Living God, make no such claims as having attained that state.  We openly confess that there are many spots, wrinkles and blemishes in our ranks, and we firmly believe that these same conditions exist and prevail in the Church universally.

The Early Church

        For corroboration of the above statement, we need only to observe the Church as is described in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles (or more correctly – the Acts of the Holy Spirit), and make a comparison of that body with the present-day professing church.  There are many dominant characteristics which are immediately evident upon our reading of the sacred pages:

          1. There was unanimity.

          2. There was abounding love.

          3. Community of goods and property was practiced.

          4. The saints were ALL filled with the Holy Spirit.

          5. There was God-ordained order and government.

          6. Signs, wonders and miracles were commonplace.

          7. Ministers were called of God.

          8. Judgment fell upon the transgressors.

          9. The gospel of the Kingdom was declared fearlessly.

        10. Jesus Christ was exalted (as Lord and King).

        11. Men were led and taught by God through dreams, visions, trances and other revelations.

        12. High moral and spiritual standards were demonstrated.

        We do not know of any group of people, anywhere, among whom all of these qualities and standards are evident.  In fact, it is generally believed and taught that the first church was not meant to be an example or pattern for the body of Christ thereafter!  It is argued over and over that those conditions existed only for the purpose of founding the organization; once it had become established, there was no more need for all the God-ordained ministries and functions which were an integral part of that pristine company.

        Our view is that so long as these divine qualities are missing from any assembly of believers, just so long is that assembly a victim of apostasy and does not qualify to call itself THE CHURCH!  For this reason, we choose to be known merely as People of God, rather than the Church, for the designation of Church carries with it the claim (stated or not) of authenticity and adherence to the standard as shown in the Book.

        We are thankful for the promise that the Church will be restored, but in all honesty we are obliged to admit that the present-day situation has little resemblance to the glorious, apostolic gathering which was called-out and established by Jesus Christ on the day of Pentecost and is graphically illustrated in the book of Acts.

A Closer Look

        In order that we may have fuller understanding of the original church as the archetype or example for successive generations, we will consider the twelve points which were made earlier:

        1.  There was unanimity.

        “They were all with one accord in one place” (Acts 2:1).  This unity does not presuppose oneness of doctrinal belief, but rather: “the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and one soul” (Acts 4:32).  They were bound together with singleness of purpose, and object of devotion.  Jesus was the focal point of their lives corporately, and this blessed figure had drawn them together as a magnet attracts particles of steel.  The outpouring of the Holy Spirit was an adhesive which superseded their individuality so that they “continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship” (Acts 2:42).

        Modern Christianity is a hodge-podge of separate, competing, autonomous denominations, each of which is tailored to meet the desires of the people along doctrinal lines according to each respective organization.  Unity not only does not exist among the many denominations, it is not to be found in any single group.  In too many cases, an organization’s functions revolve around a minister, usually a dynamic personality who is adept at mesmerizing his congregation and holding them en masse.  Pastors are necessary, but a true shepherd will remind his flock often that he is fallible, subject to error, and is completely reliable only as long as he follows Jesus Christ.

        Jesus prayed thus: “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:21).  This condition of unanimity must be restored to God’s people before Jesus returns.

        2.  There was unbounding love.

        The evidence of love was shown in many ways among the early saints.  Selfishness was given a death blow as the people “sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need” (Acts 2:45).  The motivating force behind this movement to share with others was pure love – love for God and for each other.

        Their love for the brethren sustained them through persecution and hard times.  Love was manifested by Peter and John when they approached the lame man at the temple and Peter ministered to him: “Silver and gold have I none,” Peter said, “but such as I have give I thee” (Acts 3:6).

        “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John15:13).  That greater love was demonstrated in their renunciation of their own personal goods for the welfare of others.  It was shown by Stephen, the deacon who, being “full of faith and power” (Acts 6:8), suffered death at the hands of the Sanhedrin.

        All through the book of Acts, testimony is given of the great love which was shown by these early disciples, both for God, for each other, and for the unsaved masses of mankind.  They certainly proved their discipleship by their love (John 13:35).

        3.  Community of goods and property.

        Their having all things common was a spontaneous response to their being “filled with the Holy Ghost.”  In both the second and fourth chapters of Acts we are told that they were all “filled with the Holy Ghost,” and immediately following this they inaugurated common ownership and use of their resources.

        It is argued by many today that this was merely an emergency measure to aid the great influx of travelers who were passing through Jerusalem or were there for the observance of Pentecost.

        While it is probably true that some of those who were involved in this plan of sharing were visitors from other places, the context of these accounts does not lend itself to the assumption that this was a temporary housing and relief provision!  Rather, it appears to have been the model for the Church, designed and blessed by the Lord Himself, for it is written of them, “and great grace was upon them all”! (Acts 4:33)

        This mode of living will undoubtedly be restored to God’s people before Jesus Christ returns.  Along with unity and love it stands as a testimony to the world that God’s people are a family (“whose house are we” [Heb. 3:6], “fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God” [Eph. 2:19]).

        4.  The saints were all filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4; 4:8,31; 9:17; 13:9; 13:52).

        This condition seems to have been the norm in the days of the early assembly.  What a glorious gathering of saints it will be when it can once again be said, “They were ALL filled.”

        Paul told the assembly at Ephesus that they should not be filled with wine, “but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18).  The implication is plain – God’s people are to be Spirit-filled.  Much modern theology rules out the necessity of this vital ingredient in the lives of Christians, but without the Spirit of God filling these earthly temples, a true witness and message of reconciliation is difficult, if not impossible, to deliver.

        The religious world is in dire need of an earth-shaking revival – a revival that is not a mere drive to add more members to an already dead religious structure, but a turning to God with body, soul and spirit, with the mighty power of the Holy Ghost inundating and flooding and overwhelming our entire beings.

        We believe this kind of revival is coming.  We believe that every child of God will be permitted to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and we pray that it will come soon.

        5.  There was God-ordained order and government.

        “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God” (Acts 20:28).  An overseer, as used here, is a superintendent or bishop, and as such he was given the divine credentials to rule over the house of God under the direct administration of the Holy Spirit.  Lest every person do that “which is right in his own eyes,” and confusion reign, God set these “checks” in the body.  In I Cor. 12:28, government is one of the ministries which Paul listed as being given to the church.

        Let us not suppose that these offices were filled by election, nor even by rotation.  God knew the hearts and qualifications of each person, and He set them in their positions after the counsel of His own will.

        Paul set forth some very distinct rules in I Cor. 14 which are to be followed in a Spirit-filled assembly.  Prophets and others were directed to follow those rules in order to avoid confusion.  Whenever those guidelines are ignored, confusion and pandemonium are the result.  Paul’s orders in no way quenched the Spirit, but they do give assent to the truth that God intends all things to be done decently and in order.  Every Spirit-filled believer should acquaint himself with chapters 12, 13, & 14 of I Corinthians.

        6.  Signs, wonders and miracles were commonplace.

        The book of Acts is a testimony of power!  There were seemingly no diseases which were incurable.  Even death itself was defied by these followers of Jesus.

        Sick folks were lined along the streets and thoroughfares so that as the Galilean fisherman walked by, his shadow would pass over them and they would be healed.  As you read the accounts in this book, you are impressed with the lack of sensationalism and surprise at the power of the living God through His servants!  It is as if people KNEW that these men had been with Jesus, and the same works He did, they would do also.

        Even aprons and handkerchiefs which had been prayed over, were efficacious for the healing of those who could not be present at a meeting.

        7.  Ministers were called of God.

        “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them” (Acts 13:2).

        These men did not choose this vocation after sifting through a long list of available professions and then deciding that this one afforded security and respectability.  No, the Holy Ghost said!  How wonderful it would be if today the same could be said for every minister of the gospel!

        There were many ministries in the body besides preaching.  “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers” (Eph. 4:11).  Since it was He who gave these offices and administrations, it was He who called certain persons to fill those respective places.

        Prophesying and preaching, by the way, are not the same office.  A prophet may preach, and a preacher may prophesy, but prophecy is 100% supernatural, while preaching may be boresome or anointed.  “The prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (II Peter 1:21).  For anyone to think that he or she can produce prophecy through practice is a sign of gross ignorance, desire for showmanship, or outright contempt.

        Please don’t misunderstand.  The church desperately needs prophecy today.  If ever there was a time when God’s people need to hear directly from the throne, that time is now!  But we do not need hot air!  We need those who, when they speak, speak not the will of man, but are given their messages verbatim from the Holy Spirit.

        The church needs men and women who are qualified by God and are chosen to do certain specific ministries in the body by the Holy Spirit.  This can never come about through legislation nor by issuing questionnaires and asking for a resumé of past experiences.  Only God qualifies a person for a God-called ministry, and only He knows the qualifications of each person.

        Peter and Paul would probably both have been set aside as misfits according today’s ministerial standards.  But God knew them and He placed them in the body according to His knowledge.

        It may well be that when restoration comes, many of us will find that we have not been serving in the place God intended for us, and change will certainly be necessary.  Remember, it is the Lord’s house, and we who are members of His household must be in the place He desires for us.

        8.  Judgment fell upon the transgressors.

        This is perhaps one of the most misunderstood facets of the early church.  It is difficult for many people to reconcile “love” with judgment, but they overlook one most important fact: The glory and power of God was upon that assembly of saints.  That was not a mere religious club; the Holy Ghost was in charge, and therefore sin was dealt with promptly and decisively, because the Holy Spirit will not tolerate it.

        Ananias and his wife were slain by the Spirit because they “lied to the Holy Ghost” (Acts 5:1-11).  Lying doesn’t seem to be that serious a sin, but they lied to God!  The severity of their punishment attests to the grossness of their crime.

        Paul caused blindness to come upon Elymas the sorcerer who had withstood Barnabas and himself (Acts 13:4-12).  We would probably call this cruel and unusual punishment today!

        Paul also declared that he had determined to deliver a certain sinner unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh (I Cor. 5:3-5).  Powerful works for a man of God in this day of grace?

        We conclude that this judgment is lacking from the body today because the glory and power are missing.  But the cleansing and purifying of the church will be accelerated as the glory and power are restored.

        9.  The gospel of the Kingdom was declared fearlessly.

        The early saints were not ashamed of the Good News.  They declared it openly wherever they were.  And even in the face of persecution, prisoning and threats they continued relentlessly preaching and teaching the truth.

        Since there is only one gospel and Jesus said the “gospel of the kingdom must be preached” we can only believe that this was the message they declared.  When Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom He said, “The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:14,15).  Not only did He preach the kingdom, He demonstrated the POWER, for “The kingdom of God is not in word, but in power” (I Cor. 4:20)!  The Acts of power performed by the disciples after Pentecost were also confirmation of the kingdom of God message.  Salvation, deliverance, freedom, healing, righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost (Rom. 14:17) were but some of the blessings offered to mankind through the kingdom.

        Even as a prisoner in Rome, Paul was still preaching the Good News: “And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus…And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence” (Acts 28:23,30,31).

        The preaching of the kingdom of God must be confirmed by the authority and power of that Kingdom (Mark16:20).  Not until the power of the Holy Spirit is restored to the Church will the Gospel of the Kingdom be preached in all the power and demonstration of the Spirit.  This message and this power must be brought back to the Church in due season.

        10. Jesus Christ was exalted as Lord and King.

        This is shown in Peter’s first sermon after Pentecost.  Never did he suggest that Jesus had come as Savior for this era and that He would return later as King to set up an earthly throne.  He speaks very plainly that God’s promise to David, that He would raise up Christ to sit on his throne, was fulfilled when Jesus was resurrected from the dead (Acts 2:22-36)!  He identifies the earthly throne of David with the heavenly throne of God (It was a symbol or type).

        Paul confirmed this belief in the rulership of Jesus: “Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church” (Eph. 1:21,22).

        This stately position is one which Jesus holds now!  This took place when He was raised from the dead.  Oh, that men would give the Lord the glory that is due unto Him.

        Because the church has rejected Jesus as king now, they refuse to accept His commandments also, declaring that only when He returns will they be required to obey Him.  Only when the Church repudiates this lie and proclaims Jesus Christ as Saviour, Lord, Master and King, will the Church begin to see the majestic qualities of the King of glory returned into its ranks.

        This is more than a doctrinal issue; this embraces the recognition of Jesus in His proper and rightful position.  When men attempt to dethrone Him by saying He is not King, that He does not rule or reign, they are guilty of insulting His majesty and belittling the mighty accomplishments of Calvary.

        It is time for the saints of God to return to the truth, declare Jesus the Lord of their lives, and believe the gospel, for He proclaimed, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matt. 28:18).

        11. Men were led and taught by God through dreams, visions, trances and other revelations.

        The book of Acts is replete with instances of supernatural communications between the throne and the servants of the Lord.  Since Jesus was the Head, there was of necessity some means for the Head to direct its orders to the members of the body.

        First, it is necessary to point out that in the first church every gift of the Holy Ghost was in operation.  The assembly was actuated and animated by the power and motivation of the Spirit, as Paul said, “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3).  Theirs was a Spirit-filled, anointed, blessed, and directed congregation.

        Consider the ministry of the angels with those early Christians: an angel freed the apostles from a prison (5:19); an angel spoke to Philip telling him to go to the desert (8:26); Cornelius conversed with an angel and was given instructions (10:3-8,22); an angel delivered Peter from a prison (12:7); Herod was smitten by an angel and died (12:23); an angel encouraged Paul after his shipwreck (27:23).

        Concerning visions we find the following: Paul saw a vision of Ananias, a man he did not know (9:10-12); Ananias also had a vision of Paul (Saul) in which the Lord told him to go minister to Paul.  It is noteworthy that this man, Ananias, actually conversed with the Lord and tried to persuade the Lord not to send him (9:10-17); Paul saw a vision of a man in Macedonia (16:9); the Lord encouraged Paul in a night vision (dream) (18:9).

        Peter was taught of the Lord while in the state of the trance (10:10).  This unusual phenomenon is entirely different from visions and dreams, even though the account states that Peter “thought upon the vision.”  It was in this state of ecstasy the Lord taught Peter two astonishing truths: (1) that no animal was to be considered common or unclean, (2) no race or nationality of people was to be considered unclean or inferior.

        Paul also testified to having experienced this trance state (22:17).  It is remarkable that in both of these accounts of trances, the men conversed with the Lord, and He instructed them in regard to their lives.

        These are all different means by which the Head (Jesus) chose to govern His body (the church).  Many people declaim that since we have the written word, we no longer need to be fed by the Spirit!  While it is true that the Holy Scriptures are invaluable, and we greatly stress the importance of following the Word, we also recognize the fact that the written words command us to walk in the Spirit, live in the Spirit, be led by the Spirit, and be filled with the Spirit.

        12. High moral and spiritual standards were demonstrated.

        We have seen earlier how sin was dealt with in certain cases.  These principles of righteousness were a part of the message which the disciples gave.  Listen to these words of Peter in Acts 5:32: “And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.”

        The message was clear and to the point: God expects obedience from mankind, and obedience means respect for His word, His law and His will.

        Again, in chapter 10:35 Peter said, “But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.”

        Paul reaffirmed this standard in many of his letters.  He pulled no punches in his upholding of righteousness: “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?  Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God”(I Cor. 6:9,10).

        This was no namby-pamby gospel which he declared – no do-it-my-way-religion.  As he told the idolatrous Athenians in Acts 17:30: “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent.”

        God’s standards have never changed.  It was a sad day when the church dropped hers!

The Divine Pattern

        We also hold that the book of Acts is more than a mere history of events following the resurrection and ascension of Jesus.  We see here a Divine Pattern.  God’s stamp of approval was upon that first assembly, and had apostasy and spiritual decline not set in, the church triumphant and victorious could have held back the evil clouds of the Dark Ages and have stood as a bulwark against the gates of Hell.

        Thank God, all is not lost!  Before Jesus breaks through the clouds of heaven with all His hosts of mighty angels, the body of Jesus Christ will be restored to her former estate.  She will be truly as a city upon a hill which will be seen, recognized, and hated of men, but honored of God.  We believe that that day is drawing close, for God’s hand is working mightily in all the earth, to break down barriers of division between and among God’s people, that Christ may once again be the focus of saints’ lives, that there may be a great revival in the earth, with the people of God being baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit, the fruits and the gifts of the Spirit growing, functioning, and operating in the body, and the whole assembly one which can be called a “glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but holy and without blemish.”

        “God is moving by His Spirit,
        Moving through all the Earth,
        Signs and wonders, with God’s moving,
        Move, O Lord in me.”

 

 

 

 

THE CALLED? – THE CHOSEN?

Marjorie Hidley

        “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handiwork.  Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.  There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard” (Psalm 19:1-3).

        “The Lord hath made known His salvation: His righteousness hath He openly shewed in the sight of the heathen.  He hath remembered His mercy and His truth toward the house of Israel: All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God” (Psalm 98:2,3).

        “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20).

        “God hath dealt to EVERY MAN the measure of faith” (Rom. 12:3).

        “In Him (Jesus) was life; and the life was the light of men.  That was the true Light, which lighteth EVERY MAN that cometh into the world” (John 1:4,9).

        Friends, God has given a mighty testimony, a universal witness, to every man.  We are without excuse in the sight of heaven.  God’s Spirit is faithful.  He draws; He woos; He convicts; He calls.  Man’s response is determined within the chambers of his own heart; for He has created a free moral agent with a will to do as he sees fit; and in his hands lies the dreadful power to choose his own destiny.

        To be called by the Spirit of God is a great honor.  For the Great Sovereign of the universe to send His Spirit to earth and call men of the dust is a most glorious revelation of His compassion and mercy.  Now, for man to rebel and turn a deaf ear to the voice of the Almighty is a great dishonor.  We honor God by responding in obedience to His voice.  “If a man love me, he will keep my word: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23).  “If any man serve me…him will my Father honour” (John 12:26).

        Jesus, in teaching certain parables concerning the kingdom of heaven, tells us that “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14).  Who are these people?  Who are the many, and who are the few?  If many are called, why do they not continue on with God?  Why are only a few chosen?  And for what are they chosen?

        In considering the MANY, we see in Luke 13:24-27 that this class of people seek to enter in at the strait gate and are not able.  The door has been shut, and Jesus declares He does not know them.  When they claim to have been in His presence, He commands them, “Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity” (lawlessness). And in Matthew 7:22, 23, MANY who have prophesied in His name, have cast out devils, and have done many wonderful works, will hear the tragic words, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (lawlessness).  Again in Matthew 22:2-14 we read of the kingdom parable of the marriage feast.  Those who were bidden refused the invitation, made light of it, and went their own ways.  They were not worthy, so the King sent his servants out into the highways, and they gathered all that they found.  MANY are called, but FEW are chosen.

        What is the distinguishing mark of difference that identifies these two classes of people?  The MANY have been called “workers of iniquity.”  These are lawless ones who hear Christ’s sayings and do them not.  They are the foolish ones whose house will fall, for its foundation is only sand (Matt. 7:26,27).

        “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father” (Matt. 7:21).  Someone inquired of our Lord, “Are there few that be saved?”  And He answered with “Strive to enter in at the strait gate” (Luke 13:23,24).  Many would seek to do this and would be unable, for they were workers of iniquity.  “Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt. 7:14).  “Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and DOETH THEM,” is likened to a wise man whose house did not fall when the storm hit, for it was built upon a rock (Matt. 7:24,25).  The difference, then, between the many and the few is that the few have become DOERS of Christ’s words.

        Oh, friends, if it were only possible to put into words the utter importance of this great truth!  But words will not suffice: they are not enough to convey the message and drive it home within our hearts.  The Holy Spirit will quicken these things to the honest and hungry souls.  The Lord’s sheep will respond, because they love the Shepherd and want to do His will.

        “If any man serve Me, let him FOLLOW ME” (John 12:26).  Follow Jesus in these times?  Yes!  Exactly!  Do as He says.  The result will be an upheaval, as your very life will be transformed; and you will be counted part of the CHOSEN FEW who are yielded enough to do the Father’s will.

        “Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have CHOSEN” (Isa. 43:10).

        Blessed are “the people whom He hath CHOSEN for His own inheritance” (Psalm 33:12).

        “Ye are a CHOSEN generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises (virtues) of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (I Peter 2:9).

        “He hath CHOSEN us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (Eph. 1:4).

        The FEW who will follow Jesus have been chosen for a very high and holy calling.  As they cooperate with the Spirit of God, and walk in obedience to the words of our Lord, their lives are being transformed.  While following Christ’s words, they are able to see and understand more of His ways.  It is by beholding that we become changed.  Our spirits, little by little, are being conformed to the image of God’s Son.  It is these CHOSEN ones who are making the preparation that the wise virgins (Matt. 25) made, which enabled them to enter the Holy place with their Lord.

        For “They that are with Him are CALLED, and CHOSEN, and FAITHFUL” (Rev. 17:14).

 

 

 

 

SECTARIANISM SUMMARIZED

Harry Miller

        Comparatively few people today have occasion to give much thought to the modern trend of multiplicity of religious sects, or to consider the real gravity of the situation; yet as a matter of fact, sectarianism is a vile sin against the body of Christ, and those who knowingly indulge in its practice “shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:21).

        Organization is not sectism.  However, it is possible for organization to be so misused that it can easily become the foundation upon which a sectarian structure may be built.  In actuality, it does often serve as a powerful factor in holding large sectarian groups together.  Yet it is possible to have sectism without any organization whatever.

        A denomination is nothing but a name for a society or fellowship which, if called Christian, claims to follow Christ.  This in itself is not sectism; although it is true that sectarian groups often use a denominational name as a means of identification to set them apart from other professing Christian groups.

        Sectarianism isn’t necessarily the sin of a group or a society.  There are many individuals who are absolutely incompatible with any association, and refuse to “join” anything because they are incorrigible individualists who have accepted the idea that they are absolutely right and could not be otherwise.

        But organized sectarianism, when it has developed into a powerful denomination, is a devastating thing.  It looks so respectable: impressive numbers give it the illusion of being an “authority,” and it becomes a domineering tyrant to both ministry and laity.  Teachers and ministers often tremble in fear before some of these ridiculous religious giants which are actually only the creation of sinful men.

        Under the shadow of such suave caricatures of respectability, hypocritical Pharisees are brought forth, nurtured and developed.  Here it is that many people pay large sums of money to be drugged by professional clerics who gradually embalm their poor souls in unbelief, skepticism, and spiritual ignorance. Even some of the best people, with the highest of ethical standards, at times become victims of some of these sectarian spiritual mortuaries because they have judged the church of Christ by their own standards of measure.  In looking for order, solemnity, and a dignity befitting the house of God, they have become victims of a high grade of sectism, for the simple reason that they have failed to realize that sectism can be found in any strata of society.

        The “high jumpers,” “holy rollers,” and many other disgusting religious fanatics are often just as sectarian as any of the so-called “big” churches.

        Sectism lends itself to all people, and can take possession of a person or a group, no matter what the structure of their faith or belief.  And it matters not whether the group be organized, unorganized, or disorganized!

        Sectism might really be defined as a form of idolatry since it is almost always undue adoration or adulation of people, conditions, or things that is the basic cause which brings about exclusive divisional relationships among Christian brethren.

        The Corinthian church even in Paul’s day began to split up under the impact of sectarian spirits: “I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ” (I Cor. 1:12).  They were all wrong in making a choice, forming a party, and bringing about a split.  Even the group that claimed to be of Christ was off on the wrong foot.  If they had declared that we all are of Christ it would have helped the situation, but since they were using this testimony to differentiate themselves from the other Christian brethren they were being just as sectarian as the others!  Appalling as it may seem, it is entirely possible for a Christian church to have a New Testament name; operate under New Testament order or organization; have only proper New Testament moral discipline; remain absolutely scriptural in doctrine; and yet be sectarian in exclusive, divisional relationships with the rest of the body of Christ!

        The apostle John, seeing a certain man casting out devils, forbade him to do it, as he later told the Lord, “because he followeth not with us” (Luke 9:49).  But Jesus said, “Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.”  John was moved by the sectarian spirit to make a breach between disciples of the same faith!  He should have thanked God that even strangers were against the powers of hell.  Great deference for certain persons, or undue esteem for a society or denomination can actually become idolatrous, and such idolatry will blind the mind and demoralize the judgment.

        Even the apostle Peter, and also Barnabas, were tainted with sectarianism many years after Pentecost, for which Paul soundly rebuked Peter.  “He (Peter) withdrew and separated himself…and other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation” (Gal. 2:12,13).  Here the sectarian spirit used old religious practices which had always been considered as part of the ethical religious conduct.

        The most powerful weapon wielded by modern sectarianism is doctrinal belief.  Satan, having split and divided the body of Christ into multitudinous little sects, has made a perfect platform for the tyranny of little pulpit autocrats who try, single-handedly, to rule God’s heritage.  A sermon, or pulpit essay, delivered as a creditable and complete “package” to the people is not a scriptural or apostolic method of Biblical instruction.  The very fact that Christ sent out His messengers by twos, or by groups, tends to disprove this modern innovation of man.

        A meeting held in the ancient church or synagogue was congress where all men were given an opportunity to take the floor and fearlessly present their doctrinal views for consideration.  There was no creed that dictated to these brethren what was fundamental.  No ministerial committee selected “accredited” speakers.  No human agency directed “the theme” for the church’s ear – such devices were unknown.  The early church had cast off the tyranny of Rabbinism, and free speech was desired in every religious gathering of God’s people.

        According to Acts 3:21 we are to expect “the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.”  Such a restitution must surely include the restoration of the apostolic order in the church service; for in that order, only, can the complete Holy Ghost ministry be exercised.  “Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.  If anything be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.  For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted” (I Cor. 14:29-31).

 

 

 

 

THE SEVEN LETTERS TO THE SEVEN CHURCHES

Alfred King

        It would be wise for all of us and our 21st century churches to consider the words Jesus sent to the seven churches in Asia through John the beloved while he was on the isle of Patmos.  The record of these letters is found in Revelation chapters two and three, and they were given to John while he was on the isle of Patmos by the Lord Jesus Christ.  We can only conclude that John did write these letters down as Jesus gave them to him and that he sent them on to the seven churches.  As an overview, we find that there were two churches which were walking in righteousness, and Jesus had nothing which He needed to address that needed to change.  There was one church to which He had nothing good to say.  There was another which He does not commend in any specific way; He only refers to a few good things that remained and warns that they are ready to die.  He then acknowledges that there are a few in Sardis that had not defiled their garments.  While Jesus did not innumerate specific sins, it appears that the church at Sardis was heading in the wrong direction.  All seven churches were admonished to be overcomers.  By considering the things of which Jesus approved in each church as well as those things which He found not in keeping with His expectations, we can compare our own spiritual condition to those of the churches in Asia.  Examining those commendations can tremendously aid the 21st century church which truly desires to please God.

Commendations

        Examining the characteristics which Jesus commends in each church can give us a better insight into what God desires His church to emulate.  Beginning with the church at Ephesus and continuing through the seven letters, we find these godly qualities:

        (Ephesus) 1. Labor; 2. Patience; 3. Cannot bear them which are evil; 4. Tried them which say they are apostles and found them liars; 5. Have borne; 6. Not fainted; 7. Hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans (which God also hates);

        (Smyrna) 8. Tribulations; 9. Poverty;

        (Pergamos) 10. Holdest fast to Christ’s name; 11. Have not denied Christ’s name;

        (Thyratira) 12. Charity (love); 13. Service; 14. Faith; 15. Patience; 16. The last to be more than the first;

        (Sardis)  17. Few who had not defiled their garments;

        (Philadelphia) 18. Kept God’s word; 19. Not denied Christ’s name; 20. Kept the word of God’s patience.

        (Laodicea) Nothing good was said of this church.

        In examining these qualities which God commends, we should hope to find them in our church today.  Let’s define these attributes so we can better understand what God seeks among His people.

        1.  “Labor”: to toil, it implies to toil in adverse conditions.  In Rev. 2:3 it reads, “for my name sake hast labored and not fainted”.  (Not fainted is point six)  In very adverse conditions and trying times, even under persecutions, the church God commends is found to be steadfast and persistent.  Jesus said in Matthew 10:22b, “He that endureth unto the end shall be saved.”  To gain a serious walk with God, especially in the latter days, is not a “walk through the park” but rather a warfare and yet a labor that will please God.

        2 & 15.  “Patience”: longsuffering, endurance, involves waiting on God and trusting Him through difficult times.  It involves being steadfast.  Even though the time of God’s deliverance seems long in coming, he remains committed and dedicated.

        3.  “Cannot bear them which are evil”: There is evil all around the church today and it grieves the spiritual man who understands the truth of the Gospel.  It doesn’t take great spiritual discernment to see much of the sin that permeates our society and to hate some of it, but the call here is not just to hate the more gross and destructive sins but to hate all sin.  Even those sins which we find in our churches and in our own lives must be grievous to us.  In an article in the September issue of The Testimony of Truth entitled “The Sin Question” by Brother James Sanderson, he gave the results of a research study by Ellison in which we find that only 46% felt it was sin to swear.  Only 45% understood that premarital sex is sin and only 30% felt gambling is wrong.  (For the whole list, read Brother James’ article in the September issue.)  These are all sin and are grievous to the church of God because they lead to destruction.

        4.  “Tried them which say they are apostles and hast found them liars”: Today’s church is filled with many false prophets, of whom Jesus and the apostles frequently gave warning.  They warned those who live in the latter times, that false prophets and false teachers would multiply like rats in a grain bin.  To examine prophets one must check two things.  One is that what they speak must line up with the Word of God, and prophecies must not contradict God’s written word.  Second, Jesus told us that we can know them by their fruits.  An evil tree cannot bear good fruit and a good tree cannot bear evil fruit.  We must look not only for the good but also for the evil.  I have heard it preached many times that we must only look for good and not evil.  That’s not scriptural, because Jesus said to search for both.  All ministries have some good fruit, or noble deeds, by human observation and reasoning, but if evil fruit exists there, then we must be careful.  While it’s true that there are no perfect churches, it does not negate the warning and we must search to see what is cooking in the kitchen of each church and understand the forces at work which make up its foundation.

        5.  “Hath borne”: To carry a burden or a heavy load.  The labors this congregation took upon themselves were heavy, but they bore the burden and heat of the day without complaint and were consistent and faithful to fulfill all that the Gospel required.

        6.  “Hath not fainted”: This has been already covered, as it is to remain constant and steady in every aspect of their service to God.  It involves endurance.

        7.  “Hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans”: There is some controversy as to who this Nicolas was, but the thing that is certain is that what he introduced into the church was ungodly.  It appears that some of the sins promoted by this enemy of God were the following: the community of wives, adultery, and a teaching that fornication was indifferent to the gospel, as was eating things sacrificed to idols, and certain other pagan practices.  He is credited with turning Paul’s message of grace into licentiousness, adulterating God’s call to righteousness and producing an immoral and sinful church, in a similar manner to that which Balaam did, causing Israel to commit fornication and idolatry, and bringing God’s judgment upon His people.  Surely this spirit of the Nicolaitans permeates our American society today and is found even our churches.

        8.  “Tribulations”: Smyrna was a persecuted church from the religious Jews, pagans, and the Gentiles.  There were some in the church of Smyrna who were imprisoned for their service to God (verse 10), yet God saw their stand for His word and commended them for their faithfulness.

        9.  “Poverty”: While this church was deprived of worldly possessions and lived in great need of material amenities, yet God honored them with these words, “but thou are rich”.  They had treasure in heaven that contained eternal wealth and eternal life which no man could take away.  Material goods and worldly treasures, or the lack thereof, have nothing to do with one’s standing before God.  One’s true and lasting treasures are laid up in heaven where they cannot be stolen nor can they spoil.

        10, 11 & 19.  Held fast to Christ’s name and not denied His name: This involves not only claiming the name of Christ but living according to His teachings faithfully every day in the midst of persecution, opposition and tribulation.  Not sidetracked or diverted even under most difficult persecution.  They publically proclaimed their loyalty to Jesus Christ even at the cost of their lives.  Jesus commends this church, for they were men like Antipas who faithfully stood firm even unto death.

        12.  “Charity” (Love): What greater compliment could be given than for Jesus Christ to commend love filling the hearts of believers in one’s church?  This love motivated them to reach out to the poor and needy in providing their necessities but, also, to offer them the words of eternal life.  This love not only reached out to others but, also, formed a bond among themselves that was of high regard.  Yet in this same church in Thyatira where love abounded, was permitted the teachings of Jezebel, which deceived them to serve other gods.  This is truly amazing!  While love is so important and essential in a godly church, if that love is not first set upon Jesus Christ and His righteousness, it can easily become tolerant of things brought into the church by people spiritually immature or even by Satan’s “ministers…transformed as the ministers of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:14).  These “ministers” masquerade as believers, but in reality their design is to bring the world into their services thereby tearing down what God is erecting.  When this occurs Satan has gained a foothold in the church.  So often ministers, in an effort to enlarge their congregation, will permit the world to slip through the doors through immature Christians rather than teaching those babes the necessity of separating themselves from certain things of this world in order that they may become spiritually mature Christians.

        13.  “Service”: The love which existed in Thyatira produced an attitude and atmosphere of servanthood, which manifested itself in ministering to the needs of others.  It manifested itself in selflessness with concern more for others than for oneself.  Such is the nature of the gospel.

        14.  “Faith”: Faith in God without which “it is impossible to please Him” (Heb. 11:6) was another clearly manifest attribute of this church in Thyatira.  They trusted God.  They were not moved from Him by other things or things for which the world grapples.  Their faith in God caused them to rise above the “care(s) of this world and the deceitfulness of riches” that choke so many (Matt. 13:22).

        16.  “The last to be more than the first”: It appears that the church of Thyatira, at least at this time, saw the importance and value of not only receiving Christ by being born again but going on to perfection.  They were not content to rest and bask in their initial salvation but desired to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ.  This involved taking up their cross daily, crucifying their own carnal desires, and living their lives according to God’s word and God’s will.  Their desire was that Jesus would truly be not only their Savior but also their Lord and King.  What a tremendous church of which to be a part.

        17.  “Few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments”: There is nothing commendable in this church with the exception of those few who had maintained their personal walk with God in spite of the path the church at large had taken.  So easy it is to go along with the crowd, not to be different, to accept the teachings of the pastor or other “respected” members of the congregation instead of searching the scriptures for oneself and living as the Word teaches.  Such is true today that there are still those few who refuse to bow down to Baal but walk righteously and keep their garments clean.

        18 & 19.  “Kept my word and not denied my name”: How important we find God’s word is as we read through these letters to the seven churches in Asia.  It is also important that we keep Christ as the center of our lives.  To attempt to live a moral life in the midst of a corrupt society without Jesus Christ as the center and focus of all we do is to strive in the flesh.  While we may make some apparent progress with our efforts, they will in the end prove superficial.  Paul in Colossians 2:23 writes of those who attempt to keep the laws and commandments of men, “Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh” (KJV).  I would like to give two other versions of this verse which seem to bring out the essential issue.   First the NIV: “Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.”   And second the Amplified: “Such [practices] have indeed the outward appearance [that popularly passes] for wisdom, in promoting self-imposed rigor of devotion and delight in self-humiliation and severity of discipline of the body, but they are of no value in checking the indulgence of the flesh (the lower nature).  [Instead, they do not honor God but serve only to indulge the flesh.]”  To strive for obedience apart from Christ as center is to labor in one’s own strength and will produce self-righteousness and spiritual pride.

        20.  “Kept the word of my patience”: Jesus here speaks of the Gospel, that teaching which brings upon those who truly adhere to it and proclaims its truth, sure persecution.  Men will not hear the full gospel.  They only want part of the Gospel, the part that saves, that excites, that they think will prosper their carnal agenda.  This church in Philadelphia accepted the whole of what God’s word teaches and with it whatever the consequences were, be it blessings or persecutions.

        All these commendations given by our Lord concerning these seven churches are things He desires to see in His church today.  We must not, in our reading of these two chapters of Revelation, miss those things for which each church was honored by concentrating only on the things lacking in each church.  Yet we must also diligently address those issues with which Jesus was so dissatisfied and for which He gave serious ultimatums to each one.  God is preparing Himself a glorious church to be His bride and it will possess all these wonderful characteristics along with those which He demanded of these churches in order to be accepted.  Let us strive to enter in by living holy and righteously with Jesus Christ being the center of our lives. 

 

 

 

 

MIRACLES OF GOD IN THE TRAVELS OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL

 

(Study No. 4)

        Not a dog should move his tongue against Israel, against man or beast, for the Lord was putting a difference between His people and the Egyptians.  In this last day, there is a great need for a mark of demarcation to differentiate between the people of God and the people of the world.  Too many churches today have tried to keep their sin-sick members by bringing the world into the church.  Church suppers and parties have taken the place of earnest prayer meetings.  Go into any church in the country today and take it's spiritual pulse by seeing how many people come out to their prayer meetings; you will be surprised to find but a very small percentage interested in prayer.

        God has promised that a day shall soon come when men will be able to “discern between him that serveth God and him that serveth Him not.”

        The Exodus is a type of conversion.  God dates everything from that time.  The old life with all of its corruption and bondage is gone.  If any man be in Christ Jesus he is a new creature.  Every one who has had an experience with God has had a conversion.  Not every one is knocked down under the power, neither do many see a great light as Paul did on his way to Damascus, but each and every one of us know definitely that there was a time when we “passed from death unto life.”  This is the “born again” experience.

        On the night of the Passover in Egypt, every man was required to have faith and exercise it in his God.  They killed a lamb, as instructed, and the blood was applied to the door posts and the lintel of each house.  All these things were typical of the work of Christ.  It is quite unlikely that these people knew the meaning of all of these things that they were required to do in regard to the Passover.  Twenty-one different things were required, according to Exodus, the twelfth chapter.  All of these things were for “signs.”  Later they would speak, and we are told in 1 Corinthians 10:11, “All these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for OUR admonition.”  The signs that the Lord has given His people should never be minimized nor neglected, for they are given for the protection of the believer and for the honor of the Creator.

        The Lord has often called for His people to do odd things that they may be a sign to other men.  These oddities make a difference between the believer and the unbeliever.  The “modern” church, in order to please men and gain more members, has removed the true signs of Christianity in order to avoid the reproach.  We see in the history of Israel that every ordinance the Lord gave them, they modified and changed in order to suit the pleasures of men, and as they failed God in these changes, we see the glory and the power ebbing from their midst and the enemy taking over.

        We wonder how many of those stubborn, disobedient Hebrews did all that the Lord commanded by Moses, the night of the Exodus, as Israel ate their lamb.  They were told to “stand” as they ate, with their loins “girded,” their staff “in their hand.”  An odd way to eat, but God had commanded it to be done that way.  Some may have placed their staff at the door so they could get it as they went out.  Others might have put their snadals at the customary place at the door instead of having them “on their feet” as instructed.

        Men were not destroyed that night for any failure to comply with these instructions.  The one commandment essential to life was that the blood be over the door: therefore the BLOOD was the only essential to salvation AT THAT HOUR.  BUT it is not merely he that is converted that is finally saved, it is he “that endureth unto the end.”  Had these Israelites been obedient to EVERY commandment of the Lord, they would have rapidly gained faith in His ability to care for them and to preserve them in every time of trouble.  “Man shall live by EVERY WORD that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord” (Matt. 4:1-4).

        These Hebrews had a long way to travel from Egypt to Canaan land, and there was many an enemy and conflict along the way.  Faith and obedience were to be very definitely TRIED in the fire of affliction, and only those who stood the test would reach the promise land.  In His wrath, He swore that the others who had sinned should not enter into His rest, but their “carcasses” should fall in the wilderness (Heb. 3:18).

        As the death angel swept over the land of Egypt, the firstborn of every house was cut down with the sweep of death.  The only exception made was where there was the SIGN of faith and obedience; that sign was the blood on the door.

        All the former proclamations of the king were forgotten as this great tragedy fell upon every household.  It was only a matter of a few hours and every man in that great nation knew that the judgment of the Most High had fallen upon them because of the disregard of the God of the Hebrews; at once, the whole country rose up to see that Israel left immediately, and that they were well supplied with everything needed for the service of their God.

        They demanded gold and much wealth that night for the service of their God, and the Egyptians gave very freely.  It was only a matter of hours until all was gathered together and the whole company of about two and a half million people were on the move toward the land of promise.  Many of the Egyptians who believed the work and signs of the Hebrew God went with them.

        “The children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt;” that is, they went up in troops, as soldiers would march.  There was order in the moving of so vast a company.  Not only were there many children and infants as well as aged people, but there were many head of cattle and many wagons.

        Such a body of people on the move would cover a space of ground about one-half mile wide and ten miles long.  Many days they were to travel when the rear guard of the camp would arrive at night where the front guard had started in the morning.  As a rule, they would travel about ten miles in a day, but there were a few days when they traveled fifteen, on a forced drive, due to circumstances.

        Many miles of very arid desert lay ahead, and only leaders with faith and obedience would have tackled such a great task of moving such a large company of people through the desert.  The land of Goshen and the Nile valley were places of abundant verdure.  Grass was plentiful all the year, and the gardens were abundantly fruitful.  But as soon as Israel left the Nile valley, they were in a desert of barren sand; water had to be drawn from wells until they reached the Red Sea, a possible ten days' travel through the route they were led.

        At the time of the year they left Egypt, the nights were quite warm and the days were hot.  Marching men and cattle were soon covered with the grime of sweat and fine dust, and night-fall offered no place where they could bathe, for all available water supplies were direly needed for drinking.

        Privation, testing, and trial started work on these believers as soon as they left their old haunts in the land of Egypt.  Every man whose love for God was not greater than his love of the comforts of life was headed for great trial, and his feelings were to go through the mill of affliction, and his patience was to be sorely tried.  He was going to be made or broken in the process.  Time would tell who was worthy of the call of the Lord.