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Perfecting Holiness

People who are elderly believers often wonder, “Why is the Lord leaving me here? I want to go home.” Why indeed, when we are qualified for heaven at the moment of conversion (Col. 1:12). Why has he left us here, some living to old age?

“Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord” (2 Cor. 7:1 NKJ).

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The Grace of God in Salvation

The boundless grace of God is one of the great themes that permeate scripture. When we speak about ‘grace’ in this context, we refer to the lavish, unlimited, unmerited favour that God has been pleased to bestow upon sinful man. This is something that will never cease to fill us with wonder and worship whilst here in this world, and it is the theme that will be song for all of eternity. As is found in the well-known hymn ‘Amazing grace’ of the onetime slave-trader JOHN NEWTON,’

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,

Bright shining as the sun,

We’ve no less days to sing his praise,

Than when we first begun.

In our day, one feels that we are in grave danger of losing sight of the grace of God in relation to the salvation. Perhaps this is due to an over-emphasis on the sovereign purposes of God, to the exclusion of the grace of God in the matter of a truly universal offer, or opportunity. This has created a deep divide among the Lord’s people, where the issue is seen to be one of sovereignty versus grace. This is unfortunate, because each has its place in the matter of salvation. One has no desire to acerbate the divided that exists, but one feels compelled to emphasise the involvement of the grace of God in relation to salvation, to protect the integrity of the gospel.

THE SOURCE OF GRACE:

The grace of God in relation to the salvation of man, finds its source in the eternal counsels of God. Scripture gives us to understand that even before the universe had been created, God, anticipating the Fall, conceived the plan of salvation for ruined man through the giving of His only begotten Son to the Cross of Calvary. Not only so, but ever since the first man sinned, it is God in His grace who has reached out to man with a view to restoring fellowship with Him. Man in his unregenerate condition has no thought of God, nor does he seek after him. It is God who takes the initiative to reach out to man in salvation. The hymn writer JOHN KENT put it well when he wrote:

A monument of grace,

A sinner saved by blood,

The streams of love I trace,

Back to the fountain God,

And in His sovereign counsels see,

Eternal thoughts of love to me.

THE SCOPE OF GRACE:

Such is the love of God for His benighted creature man, that He has placed the possibility of accepting His grace within the reach of all, without exception. Scripture abounds with insights to the will of God in relation to man’s salvation. We read “The Lord… is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Again, “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.’ Again, “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,” Perhaps one of the most eloquent statements regarding the grace of God in salvation is contained in the statement of the Lord Jesus when He said “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” In this latter verse, two words emphasise the limitlessness of the grace of God. We learn that it embraces the ‘world,’ and that the offer is made to the ‘whosoever believeth.’ These few statements regarding the grace of God must dispel any idea that any human being on the face of the earth is excluded from receiving God’s grace in salvation. SIR ROBERT ANDERSON has written “There is no shuffling of the cards; There is no deception in it; If forgiveness is preached to all, it is because all may share it.” And again he writes “He so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son – and he adds, not as a cold formula which the initiated know to be overshadowed by the doctrine of election – ‘ that WHOSOVER believeth in Him should not perish by have everlasting life.”

THE RECEIVING OF GRACE:

We have already shown that the will of God is that all men should be saved, and we have shown the work that God has done in order that the ‘whosevers’ can have eternal life through believing in Him.

In other words, such is the grace of God, that He has done all that He can do to bring men salvation, and now man is responsible to believe, to accept, to receive, the terms of the Gospel. The New Testament abounds with exhortations to men to do so. Indeed the exhortation to ‘believe’ is predominant in the evangelical gospel of John. From this we learn that while it is the will of God that all should be saved, man must now bend His will to the will of God in order to be saved. Unfortunately, man can, and does, resist the will of God, and the same freedom given Adam to cede to, or resist the will of God in the garden of Eden, is still in vogue today. Men, like Adam, have been given freedom of choice, and the ability to accept or reject the grace of God in Salvation.

A word must be said about the role of the Holy Spirit in the matter of salvation. Scripture makes it clear that no one can be saved apart from the convicting work of the Holy Spirit leading to conversion, and those of us who have been saved can testify to this fact. However, we must avoid the notion that the Spirit of God is selective in His dealings with men, thus giving opportunity to some, whilst denying it to others. This would be a reprehensible thing. One can testify from personal experience in evangelizing, that we have seen some come under the conviction of the Spirit, yielding to it, and being saved. We have also seen others come under the deep conviction of the Spirit, and then sadly turn away from it, and to be lost.

PRAYER AND THE RECEIVING OF GRACE:

One of the important factors in relation to the salvation of the lost is to engage in prayer for them. In doing so we are in harmony with the will of God who desires that all men should be saved, and our prayers must be offered with this in mind. The apostle Paul could say “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.” We remember the story about the paralytic whom the Lord Jesus healed. His friends made valiant efforts to bring him before the Lord, to the extent of letting him down through the roof. We then read, “And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.”   So also we must make valiant efforts to bring the lost before the Lord, and to do so with the confidence the Lord will respond. One recollects hearing the late HARRY BELL of Jarrow, UK telling how that he prayed for his sister’s salvation for over 40 years. Upon receiving news that she was dying he hastened to her bedside, only to be told that she had passed away just minutes before he arrived. His heart sank upon hearing this. However, those present told him, that just before she died she made a clear confession of Christ as Saviour. Prayer had been answered. Brother Bell told this story as an encouragement to the saints to continue in prayer for the lost.

In concluding, the mysteries relating to the interaction between sovereignty and grace may only be fully understood when we have the capacity to do so upon reaching heaven. But in the meantime, we must never limit the scope of the Gospel nor flag in our efforts in both preaching and prayer on the understanding that both of these are an essential part of our responsibility before God, and to the lost around us, and to do so with the understanding that the ‘whosoever’ may come.

The grand word, whosoever,

Is ringing through my soul,

Whosoever will may come.            W.H.BURNETT, Oakville, Ontario

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The Blessed Secret: Philippians 4:11

I have learned the blessed secret

Of the soul that’s satisfied,

Since the Saviour dwells within me,

And in Him I now abide.

I have learned the joy of trusting

In the sureness of His Word,

Knowing that each promise spoken,

Will be honoured by my Lord.

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The Glories of Christ: His Incarnate Glories

In our previous study we considered the pre-incarnate glories of Christ. Those glories that He had with the Father before the world was. Little is revealed to us of this glory, but even as we looked “through a glass darkly,” we felt provoked to worship and praise. In this study, we will consider the glories of Christ associated with His humanity.

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Too Busy

Forgive me, Lord, that I allow
My days and hours to be
So filled with trifling tasks, that oft
I find no time for Thee.

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He Faileth Not

Each happy morn when I awake,
This promise for the day I take,
“I’ll never leave thee, nor forsake,”
He faileth not.

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Editorial: A Call For Moderation and Temperance

“Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Phil. 4:5. Wuest states that the word moderation is the translation of a Greek word that means “not being unduly rigorous, being satisfied with less than one’s own due, sweet reasonableness, forbearance”. The thought here is that we ought
to show to all our sweet reasonableness in light of the imminent coming of the Lord for His Church.

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God’s Plan of Salvation

But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” Galatians 4:4-5

I cannot think of any where else in the sacred Text where there is such a comprehensive yet concise exposition of the Gospel of God concerning His Son and its ultimate outcome as outlined in the six short unambiguous statements recorded by an inspired apostle Paul. The following Meditation deals in summary form with each of these, trusting that it will lead to a greater appreciation of Whose we are and Whom we serve.

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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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A Song of Compassion

With a soul blood bought and a heart aglow.

Redeemed of the Lord and free,

I ask as I pass down the busy street,

Is it only a crowd I see;

Do I lift my eyes with a careless gaze,

That pieces no deep down woe,

Have I naught to give to the teeming throng

Of the wealth of the love I know?

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