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Editorial: Follow Me

John’s gospel opens and closes about words.  The profound and majestic opening words of the gospel declare in clear and unmistakable terms, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’ 1   The bold, declarative statement leaves us in no doubt that the living Word is none other than the eternal Son of God. The statement demolishes the twisted notion of cults and false teachers that deny or dethrone our Lord Jesus Christ.

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The Seven Churches

This is the second of four articles examining the Seven churches expositionally and practically. The Lord Jesus, the One in the midst of the seven lamp stands, is seen in all His glory. The lamp stands are interpreted for us in 1:20 as the seven churches. The Lord Jesus is in the central place, the place of concern, cognizance and control.

He views the various churches and sees them as they really are from heaven’s perspective. He looks to commend what can be commended and also adds words of condemnation and correction where needed. The Lord gives a call to hear and also offers compensation to those who belong to Him.

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Editorial: Young Men Arise!

In designing the local church the Lord provided for the care and protection of the flock through elders. These men are also referred to as overseers (poorly translated in the KJV and NKJV as bishops) or shepherds. Overseers, elders and shepherds refer to the same person but each word emphasizes a different aspect of his work.

Elders are part of a mature fellowship of believers and was an important part of the establishing of local churches in apostolic times.1 We take this New Testament example to be our binding authority in the present day and make every effort to copy this.

It is important to notice that elders were always in a plurality in the New Testament. Wm. Hoste writes: ‘In apostolic times one church had several bishops. In Christendom one bishop has several Churches.’2 This can be substantiated by noticing the plural reference every time elders are mentioned in the New Testament.

The plurality of overseers has proven to be a blessing to the local church. The variety of age, temperament, personality, maturity and experience combine to give the flock a rich resource in the function of shepherding.  The shared responsibility enables men to continue to function year after year and avoid the mental, emotional and spiritual exhaustion that may overtake one man responsible for everything.

The flock is not at risk when one elder is no longer able to carry out his work as others are already in place. There is safety and security in a ‘multitude of counsellors’ (Pro. 11:14). “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.” (Pro. 15:22). “Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established.” (Pro. 24:6). “For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in multitude of counsellors there is safety.”

Today however we notice that in many assemblies few seem willing to rise to challenge of oversight work.  The reasons for this are not easy to identify but some of these might be the explanation.

It could be that some, particularly younger men, feel inadequate or unqualified for the task at hand. The qualifications of oversight are not light. A review of those qualifications given in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 are enough to set any man back.  No serious minded candidate for shepherd work would easily rate himself as meeting the qualifications. But those qualifications, while a necessity, were not given to potential elders to assess themselves, but to others who would identify elders. No man doing oversight work that I ever met boldly claims himself to be qualified, he leaves that for others to assess.

Perhaps another reason some are not willing to rise to the occasion of elder work is a feeling of not having sufficient time to do the work. It is a good sign when a young man thinking of oversight work has a sober assessment of the fact that it will take time and work. In the present time in Western economies the working world places big demands on working men. The technology that promises saving of time and labour seems to be running us more and more. The work day seems to be operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with constant work contact. A young man considering oversight work has to make some hard decisions in perhaps foregoing big opportunities in business or career. This is not an easy decision to make and limiting one’s time in earning income is not as simple as working less hours. But accepting big responsibilities, promotions and advancements may have to be curtailed if God’s people are going to be cared for. To gain in this world and to lose out on God’s calling is the height of folly.

It is possible that in some cases assemblies have suffered with a dysfunctional group of elders. This may prevent a young man from joining such a group. In such cases the potential shepherd must be in prayer and seek the counsel of wiser believers. It may be the assembly needs some additional shepherds to correct the dysfunctional nature of the present oversight.  It will not be easy, but it may be necessary to endure some difficulties until things can be put right.

I have always tried to point out to candidates for oversight work that elders are made by the Holy Spirit. (Acts 20:28) “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, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”  In other words, if God has made a man an elder, he really has no choice in the matter. It is not a question of deciding whether I want to be an elder, it is a question of am I going to be obedient to the call of God upon my life. This making of shepherds by the Holy Spirit is as significant as God calling a man or women to full time missionary or other service.

Young men, arise!

Endnotes

1 Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5

2 Wm. Hoste, Bishops, Priests and Deacons, John Ritchie Limited, pg. 29

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The Sabbath: For Christians To Keep?

The word Sabbath is from the Hebrew root “to cease” or “to desist.” It is the holy day of the week for Jews when they stop work, rest and go to the synagogue. It was given to the Jews, along with circumcision, as a sign of the covenant that God had made with them. Orthodox Jews are still very conscientious about observing this day.

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Isaiah 53:7-9 God’s Servant Will Be Submissive Part 4 of 5

The Ethiopian eunuch was reading the fourth stanza of this servant song when Philip met him. He admitted that he didn’t understand what he was reading and “Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him” (Acts 8:35). This is a prophecy about the Lord Jesus and more specifically about His attitude to His sufferings. In one sense, men were responsible for those sufferings: He was despised and rejected (v3), wounded and bruised (v5), oppressed and afflicted (v7) at the hands of men. In another sense God did it: “the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (v6). But the focus in this stanza is that through it all the Lord Jesus submitted to what was happening without any resistance or retaliation.

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How To Study The Scriptures: Reprinted from Short Papers, Volume 1

It is a very difficult thing for any one to attempt to prescribe for another the proper method of studying scripture. The infinite depths of holy scripture, like the exhaustless resources that are in God, and the moral glories of the Person of Christ, are only unfolded to faith and need.

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The Glories of Christ: His Eternal Glories

We have previously considered the Pre-Incarnate and Incarnate Glories of Christ, and we now come to consider His Eternal Glories. Needless to say such is the brilliance and the extent of these glories, that here as before, we find ourselves overwhelmed, and feeling that the only possible response is to cast ourselves prostrate at His feet. In John 17, the Lord says to His Father, “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” (John 17:5 AV) However, in that same prayer, the Lord went on to say, “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 lovest me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24 AV) Note the two statements “…the Glory which I had with thee,” and ..”my Glory which Thou hast given me.” We learn from these statements, that there are two aspects of the Lord’s eternal glory: First, the recovery of His pre-incarnate Glory, but now in addition – those glories which the Father has given Him upon the completion of the work He had given Him to do at Calvary. We could call them the “acquired” glories of the Lord Jesus. Let us consider some of these glories together:

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The Ministry Of Priests And Prophets

As we read through the Old Testament we discover that God used various channels through which he conveyed His mind to His people Israel, the most prominent of these channels being the priests and the prophets.

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Heaven

People often mention the word ‘Heaven’ in their conversation, but it is usually in connection with expressions of surprise or exclamations of disbelief as in, for example, Heavens above’, ‘Good heavens’, ‘Heaven forbid’, ‘For heaven’s sake’, or ‘Heaven knows’. Again, it may be used as an adjective to describe something excellent or wonderful like, ‘That piece of cake was heavenly’. But ask them to tell you something about Heaven and it is unlikely they will be able to do so without lapsing into fantasy. Even Christians have difficulty in articulating their thoughts! Their idea of Heaven is perhaps rather vague.

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Isaiah 53:4-6 – God’s Servant Will Be Smitten – Part 3 of 5

In a coming day the Lord will gather the people of Israel to Himself, the scales will be removed from their eyes, they will look upon Him Whom they pierced, and then, God says, “You shall know that I am the Lord, when I have dealt with you for My name’s sake, not according to your wicked ways nor according to your corrupt doings, O house of Israel” (Ezekiel 20:44). The language of this third stanza in Isaiah 53 no doubt expresses what they will feel in that day. But it describes the attitude of all believers in the Lord Jesus towards Him.

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