Introduction 

ABOUT MYSELF

I was brought up in a keen Methodist family – attending church and Sunday School until about 18.  I do not recall ever having heard the Gospel clearly explained in all this time, but I did learn much that was useful. 

When my father was on military service, during the Second World War, he ostensibly disappeared for almost a year – as he had warned us.   Aged ten, I was praying The Lord’s Prayer, and a childhood prayer for my family, when I became aware of a person in the room, and saw a bright column of light – in spite of the thick Blackout curtains.   Although I was working on a copy of a Burne-Jones type of drawing of an angel, this was simply a column of light – not what I might have imagined.  I heard a voice saying that on the following day we would receive a letter from my Dad.   At half-past nine, I went outside to see my mother’s joy as she showed the letter to a neighbour.   My limited knowledge of probability reckoned that there was only one chance in about three hundred of the message coming true that day.   It prevented me from ever becoming “an honest atheist”.

As a student, I was waiting at a bus stop, thinking about the main issues of life.  Would my ambitions really satisfy: to be top in my sport, as a fighter pilot, and a famous artist?  Someone would do better.  Has anyone proved there is a Heaven or a Hell – life after death?  Is there certain victory in temptation – my record was not good, and could land me being killed, or put in prison – there was one just two miles down the road.  Has anyone proved to me there is a God?  To be wrong on this would be life’s greatest mistake.  I remembered the text: 

Matthew 7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”  So I prayed along these lines: “If there is a God up there, and you said this; I am giving you a fortnight to prove your existence!”  Within the day, I had indications; but the real proof was the vision of the angel.

Trying Theosophy and Séances etc offered very ungodly guidance, and at the former, the leader said: “We do not know the way to God – that is why we come here.”  Talking to a lady as I left, the words of Jesus came to mind: “I am the way, the Truth, and the Life.”

Compulsory military service brought much spare time – to read the Bible and pray, in the station church.  One morning, I saw a clear picture of myself falling down a deep shaft – a true portrait of myself deserving Hell for my sins.  On a ledge was Jesus holding out His arms to save me: I grasped His hands, but it was His strength which held me!  I heard the Holy Spirit saying: “You are prepared to trust Jesus as Lord and Teacher, but you need Him as Saviour!”

One day, I read The Acts of the Apostles chapter 10.  How the Holy Spirit fell on the household of a senior non-commissioned officer, and they spoke in tongues (unlearn foreign languages).  I thought: “I would like that;” and it happened to me, just briefly.

I have found following Christ exciting and thoroughly resolved, as to the true meaning of life and existence.

Many kind people helped me: two Christians at RAF Square-bashing at Hednesford, UK, who argued with me, the pale girl via Hull Art College, who greeted me at an evangelistic rally “Nice to see you. Are you saved?” the chaplain, who let me use the station Church and his vestry, John Isherwood, who explained Justification by Faith from Romans, my Squadron Leader, who worried about me; and many more, over the years.

Out-takes

A Christmas Party game with an Ouija Board gave an answer: DBWNO.  My friends said it was not working and stopped, but these were my initials followed by “no”.

In 1952, a large open air communion service in Wednesford, drew my attention to the words: “The Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the World”.

I tried Meditating – the subject from a book I was reading led me to see that Jesus’s death on the Cross could influence my life today.

An official military Moral Leadership Course run by a fine team of Royal Air Force Chaplains, found me in a discussion group looking at “God’s Grace”.  Many Scriptures were listed, and I was volunteered to give the report – even though not a Christian.  A Sergeant said I could not be a Christian and an Artist.  I was willing to give up my Art College training; but noticed that the Bible actually condemned “bowing down and worshiping” idols.

The process leading to conversion was quite a long one.

 

Letter to the Romans 10:9-11 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 

For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 

As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”

My good friends have made me much richer.

 

LIST OF BLOGS: other titles appear at the head of Blogs.  Viewed on Microsoft Edge there is a right click menu which includes a voice reading the essays….  Other Browsers have the of use of translations….  It may help to print this detailed list.

HOLY SPIRIT – HIS SOVEREIGN GIFTS TO THE CHURCH – PART ONE

BIBLE STUDIES: GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT – PART TWO

HOLY SPIRIT BIBLE STUDY: GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT – PART THREE

A great prison Revival in Colombia    2 pages

Tongues – and what we need to know 13 pages

Art Work – about one hundred pieces

Compassion – Bowels of Mercy  4 pages

Submission and Authorities for Christians  27 pages

Chart of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit   1 page

God of judgement, God of grace  4 pages

Healing from God  27 pages

Miracles by God’s Grace  10 pages

Yes, there should be apostles today!  27 pages

Prophecy: a key part of Church Life  12 pages

***Good News 

Teaching in Christian Churches  12 pages

Encouraging – the godly gift  2 pages

Leadership in Christ’s Church, as He would like it – Pastors and Church Leaders  9 pages

Mysteries of the Jewish Bible   19 pages

Angels  15 pages

2012 September

The Bible – its Authority for Today   [403 MB] 99 pages

Jaimeson J. Wilkinson   2 pages

End of the World Chart  1 page

KENOSIS: Christ the willing Slave of Yahweh; Christians willing slaves of Christ  10 pages

Power of the NAME in prayer   15 pages

Enemies, Suffering, Oneness, Victory and Thanksgiving   19 pages

The Names of God – in the Old Testament   4 pages

JESUS, and Judgments in The Book of Revelation   5 pages

Heaven, and how to get there; the uses of various terms in Scripture   42 pages

Hell: meaning the Grave, or Eternal Judgement; and how to avoid the latter   34 pages

Guidance: Divine Guidance – the great privilege and adventure   6 pages

Bread and Wine – the Body and Blood of Jesus    15 pages

Brazil Football shirt   2 pages

European Art History – Key figures from a Christian point of view    [90.5 KB] 17 pages

The Menorah Fragment, a novel. [Both novels were written for a friend and family member.   [439 KB]   90 pages

Corinthian Slave – a novel look at the two Corinthian letters of the New Testament   [434 KB]   139 pages

John Wesley preaching at Robin Hood’s Bay, Some Strange Phenomena, and views on Revival   3 pages

Archaeology and the Bible – an eclectic study    [90 KB]   34 pages

****************************************************************

“For by grace you are saved, through faith—and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Ephesians 2:8-9

As long as there is life, there is hope of mercy and a new life.

A senior Judge was asked if he hoped to go to heaven: “I would plead guilty, and throw myself on the mercy of the Court.”

We are all faced with the colossal issue of the huge significance of Salvation, and the terrifying nature of Eternity in Hell Fire. 

Thank you for visiting this Blog Site. 

Please pray for me and my work here, pass the word around – to your family, friends, church, neighbours, and enemies. Thanks to those who have already done so. I need all the help I can get – please be free to advise me! You are also free to translate into other languages.  Please recommend these articles to people in other countries.

 

It would help, if you Bookmark the Blog Site on your Browser, print out this shortlist; and save the longer Blogs into your own Document Files. To search for a word, use the box which appears when you hold down the Ctrl key, and press the letter f .   Please make responsible use of the information in these pages: I am your servant for Christ’s sake.  

My aim is to address issues which inhibit the Church Spiritual of the Lord Jesus Christ – Worldwide, National, and Local.  My acronym for BLOG is: Biblical Literacy Offering Good-news.

 

ALL OUR NEEDS ARE MET IN THE LORD JESUS CHRIST: HE SUFFERED DEATH THAT HE MIGHT OBTAIN SALVATION FROM ETERNAL HELL FIRE FOR ALL MANKIND.  FRIGHTENINGLY, WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO ACCEPT, OR REFUSE THAT SALVATION (EVEN BY NEGLECT).  PLEASE, PRAY TO RECEIVE HIS SALVATION, NOW.

‘And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ Acts 2:21

John 6:37 ‘All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.’

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, salvation is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.  (Ephesians 2:8,9 NIV, Amplified)

SAVING GRACE:

GOD’S 

REMEDY 

A

CHRIST’S 

EXPENSE

 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8)


SUSTAINING GRACE,TO LIVE BY:

GOD’S 

RESOURCES 

AND 

CHRIST’S 

ENABLING

 

We are saved by grace, and we serve by grace.

God’s love for you is more than you can ever measure (God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).

CURRENT AFFAIRS AND INTERESTING NOTES

May I recommend a brilliant book by my good friend Rev Dr Daniel Mathano Mwailu.

“To Be Like Jesus” An Appraisal of Biblical Theology in Practice of Personal and Ministerial Spiritual Formation, WestBow Press, USA, 2019

Its 384 pages give an academic well researched approach to this important area, but at the same time illustrate the important points with fascinating anecdotes from his life and wide experience in Kenya, America, and Britain.  On finishing the last page, my disappointment was that I had come to the end of this gripping page-turner.  I had been challenged and taught.

 

Note, 23:July:2019  On the subject of the Easter terrorist attack on a church in Sri Lanka, Ex President Barack Obama, and Ex Foreign Secretary Hilary Clinton, both declined to use the word “Christian” – simply calling it the Easter atrocity. 

1 The Incarnation, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ constitute a greater series of events, than the Creation of the Cosmos and Life.

God would not have started Creation without the assurance of that Christ would suffer for our sins.

We should not overlook God’s passionate approach to: His love for us, and righteous judgement. 

A Member of the House of Lords was asked if he hoped to go to heaven: “I would plead guilty, and throw myself on the mercy of the Court.”

You may not like God’s Rules, but He has not asked your opinion.  If the understanding of who God is – Creator of the Galaxies, and the complexities of DNA, we are wise to submit to His rule and Word.

God is far more interested in you, than you are.

2 The LGBTQI+ Lobby/Movement now seems to dominate Government, parts of the Church, Judiciary, and Education at all levels.  These notes are a voice crying in the Wilderness, the opinion of Christian orthodoxy, for the Church – Scripture, the Reformation Martyrs, even, at times, of Judaism and Islam.  I believe young children are being given misleading, distressing, and unscientific information, in the name of LGBTQI+.  I would be please to have a warm drink and a chat with any LGBTQI+ person.

One of the saddest books in the Bible is Judges. Here is Israel at its most decadent – a warning to the degenerate parts of the Church of today.  The final words of Judges: “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”  Try reading Amos 2:4-5, and Deuteronomy 28.

Again, it is a sad thing when some people in the Church, call evil, good: and righteousness evil.

It is GOD’S duty and right to set moral rules for HIS Creation.  Also, He is all-knowing and all-wise: we humans are ignorant and infantile compared with Eternity.

There have been difficult Synods and deliberations about Same-Sex Marriage – in the UK, the Anglican Church of Canada, and the United Reform Church – it is strange that the LGBTQI+ lobby wants understanding and freedom of expression, but does not appear to allow it to the other parties, at times. Civilization requires freedoms of thought, speech and believe – as long as hurt is not the main intention, which we must question.   Is this Ortho-phobia?  There can be no real belief in God here: popular opinion is given greater authority than God’s Word.

Same Sex Attraction is not of itself a sin in Scripture, but its practice, and fantasizing are.  Adultery and fornication, receive most attention, but Same Sex Practice is nevertheless mentioned, as I list following.  My estimation is that for one Homosexual Act, there may be about 50 Adulterous, and about 1,000 Fornicatory, in today’s society; what do you think?

God loves every human, and we should aim to do the same – loving the sinner, but hating the sin – God’s second love is Justice.  We are all sinners: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)  The LGBT lobby are on the crest of the wave – to hurt their feelings could result in arrest and punishment.  We should pray that public opinion will not turn violently against them, as it might indeed.

To encourage others to sin is most evil: murder, burglary, mugging, extortion, blackmail, kidnap, under-age grooming, adultery, fornication, same sex practice; some will also be criminal.

The Old Testament Prophets, Our Lord, and His Apostles did not follow common, popular, thinking – Zeitgeist: they were Counter Cultural.  Where are many of our Church Leaders today?  In the context of Church History, Same-Sex relationships within the Kirk would be seen as serious heresy; imagine it had been found in the first century church.

Matthew 7:15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” [These wolves appear like members of the flock – of the Kirk.]

a) In February 2017, a group of retired Bishops in the UK joined in an open letter to say that the LGBTQI+ guys are not being listened to: when are Church Leaders going to say that God the Almighty is not being listened to.

Practising male homosexuals are being advised by the British Medical Association, to have the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccination to reduce the risk of anal cancer.  In a letter from the BMA to the Health Minister: “The increasing incidence of HPV and development of anal lesions in gay men, particularly HIV positive gay men, is alarming.” (Viewed 24 January 2013, Christian Concern)

A Consultant in this field took early retirement, because he was so shocked by the situation with same sex practice in men, as are GP’s.

b) Some argue that Jesus never gave detailed prohibitions – but He did by endorsing the Law (of Moses, in the Old Testament), which powerfully condemns sexual deviations.  On the whole, Jesus only amended parts which require redefinition.  In a stricter sense, some evil practices were linked by Jesus to sinful thoughts (Matthew 5:17-20; Leviticus 18:22-25; 20:13; Romans 1:24-27: 1 Corinthians 6:9).   It is my opinion, that those who teach, encourage, or practise, such sexual deviations as are condemned in the Law of the Old Testament, and endorsed by our Messiah, should not take the Eucharist.

Matthew 5:17-19  “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.  Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

Leviticus 18:22-29 “ ‘Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.

“ ‘Do not have sexual relations with an animal and defile yourself with it. A woman must not present herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it; that is a perversion.

“ ‘Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled.

Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants.

But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the aliens living among you must not do any of these detestable things, for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you.

“ ‘Everyone who does any of these detestable things—such persons must be cut off from their people.’ “

Isaiah 8:20 To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.

Mark 7:20-23 Jesus said: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’  For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.  All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’ ”  [“sexual immorality” is the Greek word porneia, which was any form of sexual activity outside marriage, and would be understood to forbid homosexuality]

Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Galatians 1:10 Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.

Romans 1:18-end of chapter addresses this apostasy.

Psalm 119:53 Indignation grips me because of the wicked,
who have forsaken your law.

Psalm 119:138 The statutes you have laid down are righteous;
they are fully trustworthy.  [How can we truly offer this Psalm, or sing hymns extolling the Word of God?]

Genesis 2:24 portrays true marriage: leaving, cleaving and plumbing!  The implication is clear: Same Sex practice cannot fulfill this design as God gave it, and is not in any sense marriage.  What is the cost to our Health Services?  Some evil folk have asked this question about Down’s Syndrome people – quite a different concern!

Leviticus 18:1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘I am the LORD your God. 3 You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. 4 You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the LORD your God. 5 Keep my decrees and laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them. I am the LORD.

Deuteronomy 22:5 A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this.

Leviticus 18:22 Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.

Leviticus 20:13 If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

Ephesians 5:5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

Joshua 1:8 Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

Matthew 15:8-9 “ ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’

Matthew 28:20 “… teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Jesus’s Command

John 10:35 b to whom the word of God came—and the Scripture cannot be broken—

Romans 3:4 Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written:

“So that you may be proved right when you speak

and prevail when you judge.”

How can such a supporter of LGBT+ read the high view of God’s word in Psalm 19, and still renounce it?

See also: Jeremiah 2:8, 31; 3:25; 5:31; 6:10.16; 7:13; 8:5, 7-9; 9:13

Zechariah 7:13 When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says the LORD Almighty.

Romans 16:17-18 I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.  For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people

Philippians 3:16-21 Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.  For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.  But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

2 Timothy 4:3-5 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.  But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

Hebrews 13:4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.

[That is immoral according to God’s revealed definition: not Man’s.]

2 Peter 3:2 I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.

c) Both sides need to be allowed to follow conscience openhandedly.  If the “Bible Adherents” are not allowed to follow conscience; they will have to split away.

d) If it is fear of public opinion, we should take heed of:

Revelation 21:8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

Dead fish go with the stream

Do not let the side down!

Jude 4, 7, and 10

4 For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. 

7 In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.

10 Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals—these are the very things that destroy them.

Revelation 22:18-19 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book.

And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

[How do we fair in the light of this Apostolic teaching?]

e) In a survey c 2016, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual people between the ages of 16 and 24 had seen increased openness, but still represented only 3.5%.

2015 statistics from the Office of National Statistics (UK) show that 1.7% of the population are LGBT.  Why do they have such an influence on society – even the Church of Christ?

A national survey in the UK (Com. Res) found 64% for, and 32% against, allowing Politicians to state that Gay Sex is sin. (Christian Institute, May 2017)

1967 Sexual Offences Act, UK –  decriminalised private homosexual acts between men; before it had been a crime, which could result in imprisonment.  In many nations it is still a crime.

f) ARGUMENTS

“The New Testament condoned Slavery”

Which kind of slavery?  There were several ways in which people became slaves in ancient times, and even today: prisoners of war, poverty – rather than the work house or debtors’ prison, born in slavery, KIDNAP.  This last kind required the Death Penalty in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 24:7) – and was the kind Wilberforce and the Evangelicals protested against.  Freedom was condoned (manumission).

1 Timothy 1:9-11 NIV We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.  (The NLT has ‘homosexuals’ for ‘perverts’; and a margin alternative translation for ‘slave traders’ namely, ‘kidnappers’.)

“Don’t throw stones!”  This links with John 8:1-11 – the lady taken in adultery.  Jewish society and Jesus, saw this sexual deviation as sin; but within the context of sin generally – some far worse.  Throwing stones today in the Church is here referred to arguing against LGBTQI+ – a metaphorical use of the term ‘stones’.  However, Jesus saw adultery as sin; He said to the lady: “Go and sin no more.”  He did not support adulterers in their ways; He was offering compassion, forgiveness, mercy, and sanctification, as we should.

In the true sense, we should not throw stones by having a cruel attitude.  We must love all, and seek to be truly helpful.  One dark winter’s night in the city, following open air preaching in Cross Street, a gentleman spoke to me saying that he had just finished a prison sentence for murder.  Quite a conversation stopper.  I told him that I had committed a worse sin – much to his amazement.  The Ten Commandments have a descending order of seriousness – though all constitute God’s Law (a small crack makes a window to be broken): I had totally failed to love God with all my heart, soul, and spirit; and still do fail in this most seriousness of sins.

There are many other dimensions to character besides our sexuality.  Are we approachable, loving, kind, seeking God, tolerant of others, long-suffering, gracious, humble, well-informed: or are we unapproachable, hurting God, intolerant, impatient towards others, abrasive, rude, arrogant, ill-informed?

“Leave it.  Let God judge!”  Really, are you happy with that?  Jesus would have us warn the sinful, and offer them the Good News.  He did not leave it to the Father: He advised her.  In AD 70, Jerusalem was left to the Father!  Then there was the Holocaust.

“Get up-to-date, and drop the ancient out-of-date religious texts”  

The city of Sodom gave its name to Gay behaviour: Near Eastern Bronze Age (3150-1200 BC), Genesis 19 – actions before being written down.  They threatened GBH to Lot for standing against them.  Rome, in the First Century, saw a kind of LGBTQI society. Paul, writing towards the end of this century, stood against its ways, as led by the Holy Spirit in the writing of Scripture.  Advocates in the Church should be prepared to see members of their own families suffer the consequences and upheavals – sons, daughters, wives, husbands, and parents.

2 Chronicles 19:10 In every case that comes before you from your fellow countrymen who live in the cities—whether bloodshed or other concerns of the law, commands, decrees or ordinances—you are to warn them not to sin against the  LORD, otherwise his wrath will come on you and your brothers. Do this, and you will not sin.

What about the love of David and Jonathan?  The Church today should be a place overwhelmed by love.  In the New Testament time there were FOUR types of love: family, friends, sexual, and sacrificial.  Only one involved sexual attraction.

g) BOOK REVIEW

Same Sex Attraction (SSA), and same sex practice, have been known for many centuries; but only recently have they threatened to totally divide the Church of Christ worldwide.  The writers of these two small books have experienced SSA, individually, and both hold highly influential positions in the University City of Oxford (UK).  Their books are clear on definitions, and the powerful love of the Christian Gospel.

“Is God anti-gay?” (Revised and Expanded edition), Sam Allberry, Staff Member of the Ravi Zacharias International Ministries

“Transgender”, Vaughan Roberts, Rector St Ebbe’s Church

Together, both books cost £10 (post paid) from “Our Daily Bread”, Box 1, Carnforth, LA5 9ES, UK.   Telephone:  01539 564 149  Published by “thegoodbook company, and you could try Church Bookshops, and Amazon

h) A challenge to obey God

1 Corinthians 5:11-13 I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother (or sister) but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. 12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked from among you.”

2 Corinthians 11:4 For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.

James 3:17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. NIV  The longer quotation: James 3:13-4:10 is applicable.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. New RSV

[Here is a litmus test of true wisdom.  We should notice the antagonism against the orthodox Believers – such as the shouting down of Andrea Williams by the LGBT lobby at the York Synod of the Church of England in 2017, or the campaign to remove a Christian Mayor in County Durham (UK), even by the local press.]

i) At the 2018 Commonwealth Games, it was stated that LGBT people could, thankfully, be open.This was contrasted with some Commonwealth nations which hold such practices to be illegal – may even carry the Death Penalty.  To be fair: other views should be tolerated – each side of the fence has a right to an opinion.

j) If the New York Giants are playing the Philadelphia Eagles, or India is playing Pakistan at cricket, the refereeing and umpiring is expected to be unbiased.  This is so often not the case in Western Nations today.

k) BOOK REVIEW

“Gay Girl, Good God”, Jackie Hill Perry, B&H, Nashville

Each month the Church Society recommends a book, via its Podcast site – in this case with the highest praise. Her work has appeared in the “Washington Post”, and on “The 700 Club” – a writer, poet, and artist. This is in fact an autobiography proving that fact is stranger than fiction; truth more romantic than artistry. Its heat is not of the potato kind: but of the heart variety.

Written with great talent; the book must be read slowly, to appreciate its skillful use of words. Rather than spoil the experience of reading Jackie’s book, perhaps you can unlock its theme from the title, to some extent. The final section is a brilliant Bible Study.

Church Society Podcast, Episode 70, on the Internet

Cost of the book: £9.31, $16.99

3  When reading from the Gospels, try to imagine yourself in the crowd – watching, joining in, and listening.

4  WAS PONTIUS PILATE SCOTTISH?

Research of Pilate’s early life is difficult; but the least unlikely, suggests that the Roman Procurator – who sentenced the Lord Jesus, King of All Kings, to die – was born of a Pict mother and a Roman Ambassador father.  Fortingall village, in Perthshire, Scotland, is famous for its ancient yew tree – 5,000 years old, and one of the oldest living organisms in Europe.  Nearby is a ruined house known as Pilate’s home.  He is associated with playing under this ancient tree, as a boy.  The name Pilate could be related to the word Pict. (A sermon by Bill Crowder of “Our Daily Bread”, and Google/Wikipedia)

However brilliant human ideas are, they can always be improved upon.

Never lend what you are not prepared to say good-bye to.

7 Imagine you are in Heaven – saved to be there by the Sacrifice of Christ for you on the Cross.  As you look back to your life as it is today: what would you think about God’s love and power towards you?  You will be overwhelmed by the huge dimensions of both.

8 When Cardinal Basil Hume was diagnosed as having terminal cancer, he rang his friend Timothy Wright, Abbot of Ampleford, who replied, “Congratulations! That’s brilliant news. I wish I was coming with you.”  The Cardinal said, “Thank you Timothy.  Everyone else has burst into tears.”

9 A particularly kind lady taking my order and debit card details over the phone, asked: “What is your expiry date?”  My reply: “I’ve no idea; but I’m looking forward to it.”

10 Matthew 12:18 “Behold my servant whom I have chosen,
the one I love, in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations.”

This is a quotation of Isaiah 42:1.  In both the New Testament, and the Old Testament Septuagint translation, the Greek word for “Servant” is “pais”, which can also mean “child”.

11 “Reform/Church Society” is a network of individuals and churches promoting the gospel of Jesus Christ by reforming the Church of England – we are committed to growing a nation of healthy, local, Anglican churches and believe that the Bible clearly teaches that this is best done when men take self-sacrificial responsibility for the spiritual oversight of the domestic and church family.

Churches in the Reform network are 30% larger than average, and a third have planted new congregations or churches in the past ten years.  In the five years leading to 2018, this group, now called The Church Society, has seen an increase of 25% in membership within their congregations.  Cf. RENew Conference 2018 recordings of talks.

12 Oscillation seen in the natural world – geology, water, reeds, clouds, etc, would be an interesting study – waves, regular patterns, etc.  Firstly there are the innate qualities of the subject, and additionally, the effects influencing externally: currents of water, air streams, geological forces, which are not constant, but variable.

The interaction of air pressure, and water finding its own level, is seen in pouring from a narrow spout.  Water is poured until the drop in air pressure, stops the flow, to allow air enter the container – causing a kind of series of hiccups to pulsate.

13 On September 17th, 2017, the British Broadcasting Corporation made two significant points: in the Sunday Morning Service from a Church in Oxford, there was the Celebration of one hundred years since the ordination of the first lady theologian; secondly, 25% of British schools are breaking Statutory Government Law, by not teaching Religious Studies to all scholars – a contributing factor  being the shortage of RS teachers.

The New Testament teaches that ladies are not to teach Doctrine to the whole Church – they are responsible for teaching children, and fellow women.

15 GOD’S love for the World is not “unconditional”:

John 15:10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.

GOD’S love for all people is “free” and “undeserved”.

16 Evolutionary art? Creation.com

A fly with insects painted on its wings!

CMI website  How do you answer this?

17 May I recommend an interesting set of Church History lectures; a good place to start would be >www.Bruce W. Gore/John Huss<

18 The old preacher was an Arminian when preaching the Gospel: a Calvinist when teaching Christians.

19 The complexity of living organisms, and the huge size of our Milky Way Galaxy, point to the greatness of God and the Messiah.  In 1929, the discovery was commenced that there are billions of galaxies containing billions of stars, having distances measured in light travelling for billions of light years.  Why this huge extravagance?  The answer is found in the last two words of Colossians chapter 1, verse 18: For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and FOR HIM.

The majesty of Creation illustrates the colossal greatness of THE CHRIST for whom the Cosmos exists.

20 It is often claimed that the age-old scientific and mathematical achievements are the work of Muslim scholars; but research indicates that these were appropriated from the work of earlier Disciples of Christ in the Middle East.  “They say we are infidels”, Mindy Belz, p 177; “Christianity in Iraq”, Suha Rassam, pp 80-81.

21 MY ISLAMIC FRIENDS

Although Muslims do not accept three paramount beliefs of the Church – that the Messiah is the Son of God, that Jesus (Isa) died on the Cross, and rose from the Dead to Ascend into Glory – they do believe three things in common: there is a Devil, and Shariah Law teaches that Christ Jesus can be prayed to for healing, and God can be invited to reveal truth by visions.  The God of Islam is clearly not the Yahweh God – Father , Son, and Holy Spirit of the Christian Faith, as revealed in the whole Bible – they could not be further apart. The Christian Godhead is an intimate, knowable, and loving Divinity.

22 When Jesus returns, it will be like a trillion wonderful holidays, all rolled into one.

23 “The Economist”, January 6th 2018, ran a “Technological Quarterly” on neuron activities and Brain-Computer Interfaces, BCI.  It is impossible to believe that this incredibly complex machine, was brought about by random activity of basic elements.  I mean the Brain, not the Computer ….

24  The next article in “The Economist”, “Escalators to Heaven” p 35 ff, The Chinese of South-East Asia are turning to Evangelical and Pentecostal Christianity.  In Singapore, the New Creation Church: “The 30,000 worshipers there have to book online on a Wednesday to reserve a seat for the Sunday service.” Some of the fellowships use shopping malls – hence the escalators.

25 “The excellent acclaimed film ‘The Darkest Hour’ describing the days leading up to the rescue of Dunkirk [BUT] never mentioned the people’s overwhelming response to the King’s call for a National Day of Prayer at that time!”  Lyndon Bowring, CARE [ About Sir Winston Churchill’s leadership during World War Two.]

26 A strange photo; a little girl, in our family, had been playing with my watch – she put it back on, upside-down.  I use to live and work in Leeds

27 WHEN WE PRAY, WE CAN BE CERTAIN GOD WANTS TO HEAR, AND ANSWER IN CERTAIN AREAS

He desires to receive thanksgiving, praise, and worship, from His people, for everything!

He wants to:

Glorify Jesus, our Lord

Build the Church

Unify the Church as one, so that the World may know the truth of Christ’s message

Fill Believers with the Holy Spirit

Increase our knowledge of Christ

Resolve the problems in the Church, either by giving us wisdom and understanding, or by His own intervention

Cleanse us from sin, and bring us to holiness

Equip us with the spiritual gifts the church needs

Give grace to help us in all things, to abound to every good work

Bless the preaching of the Joyful News

Have all people to hear that Good News

Work attracting miracles

“What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him?

Deuteronomy 4:7

28. Here are replies to my inquiry to the scientists at CMI,  April 2018

Dear Douglas,

Yes, I saw this fascinating video last week on the BBC. It’s not an April Fool’s joke. They’ve been working on a way to store digitally encoded information within DNA for years, precisely because it is such dense information storage medium. E.g. a pinhead volume of DNA has the information capacity equivalent to a 50 mile high pile of 1 terabyte hard discs (or a pile of paperback books stretching from here to the moon 500 times, a distance of some 125 million miles).

As you probably know, in computing terms, the code is binary (stored as a series of zeroes and ones). The DNA code uses just four letters. The researchers found a way of converting the digital coding (in this case, of a section of video) into the digital code of DNA, writing that information into DNA, then re-acquiring and converting it back into binary code. It’s impressive. All the more impressive is the incredible structure of DNA that allows such compact information capacity. It is believed that the world’s entire information (all that in books, computers, etc. globally) could fit into a shoe-box sized quantity of DNA. It is a case of thinking God’s thoughts after Him—He deserves the ultimate credit!

Yours sincerely,

Philip Bell

CEO
Creation Ministries International (UK/Europe)
Mail: 15 Station Street, Whetstone, Leicestershire, LE8 6JS Ph: 0116 284 8999
Email for general enquiries: mailto:ukinfo@creation.com

Douglas,

Yes, this is a real, workable technology. The retrieval of the information might be very slow, but the basic idea is sound. Take a string of binary bits, encode it into multiple strings of Quaternary bits, and tag each of those strings with a “header” with enough metadata to help you reassemble them in order later, write that information into DNA with a DNA synthesizer, and store it all in a freezer. There are issues of DNA decaying over time, but the rate is slow, and since the decay is random, and since you have multiple copies of each short message, it can be detected when you “read” the information back into a computer.

Have you heard of “The Digital Dark Age”? Basically, anything stored on magnetic media is doomed to decay. Not only will future generations struggle to maintain the equipment needed to read yesterday’s data storage (think 8″ floppies or, ten years later, ZipDisks), but the material on which the data is stored will decay. The organic substrate for rewritable DVDs was a really bad choice for long-term storage. Etc.

The sad thing about this new idea is that people have re-purposed one of the most amazing, expertly engineered, and ultra-complex systems in the universe (DNA and its storage and retrieval mechanisms) and failed to give glory to the One who created it.

29.  That Divinity should assume a human body, in order to die for our sins, and some of us despise and ignore this, is truly unspeakable.

30. UFO’s

A good friend, who has two Doctorates in Chemistry, noticed strange lights above him – he thought UFO’s.  When one of them crashed near by, he realized they were celebratory Chinese Lanterns, with candles burning inside, giving them lift.

What should we say to people who say they have met Aliens, even been “abducted”, have had anti-Christian “revelations”, and received physical injuries, which they show?

Sometimes there have been explanations – military secrets for instance (I have signed the Official Secrets Act and worked at the MOD).  There are constant modifications of the appearances of these suppose “aliens”: relating to the scientific understanding of the Universe – no longer from Planets, but from Galaxies, or following popular Science Fiction images.  In past ages they may well have been: hobgoblins, fairies, deceptive angels, or Lancashire boggarts.  Today, there are sightings on avionic instruments such as radar, which show incredible speeds and impossible changes in direction.

The Christian, highly qualified CMI scientists, have looked at the subject thoroughly from both Theological/Doctrinal and scientific viewpoints.  Gary Bates of the said Creation Ministries International, with many contacts around the World, has become a World authority on these phenomena.  Gary’s Conclusion, in his writing and films: the serious, and unexplained, are understood to be evil satanic spirits, best dealt with by exorcism. Devout believers with power and authority see complete success in being rescued from evil and dangerous effects. Unbelievers, who try their hand at exorcism, meet with disastrous consequences, for example (Acts 19:13-17 the seven sons of Sceva.  In contrast we see the apostle Paul (Acts 16:16-18) delivering a girl with a Python fortunetelling spirit. (See CMI papers [creation.com. alienintrusion.com], books, programmes, and DVDs).


31. THE CHURCH QUESTION 

If your Church is thought of as a BOAT, what kind would it be?

BATTLESHIP – all on board are active serving crew – there are no passengers, under the Rules of War. Concerned with other parts of the World

SUBMARINE – almost invisible, but all the crew are active and serving – no passengers – often very successful in hostile areas

ROWING BOAT

Poor attendance, expected to work hard – like the condition of the seats; not advancing anywhere, no concern with Missions

YACHT

Hard work, not massively serious.  Mainly given to leisure and competition with others.   It requires the effect of the keel, and wind in the sails – Scripture and the Holy Spirit.

FERRY

Limited progress, and difficult to settle down for any length of time; full of passengers and their gear – always achieving its two objectives, however.

THREE MASTED SCHOONER

Rather behind the times – making good progress with hard work – few passengers – not always serious.

HOVERCRAFT

Too liberal with secular World View not a true Church (ship) – heavy on compromise with the zeitgeist

LIFEBOAT

The crew work in life-threatening conditions, saving those at risk and in great need of saving – often a para-church organisation. A dedicated brave crew.

PLEASURE BOAT

Gives much pleasure and happiness; but just a Darby and Joan club, in effect.

TUG

A dedicated, specialist group for helping guide other fellowships – often para-church.

TRAWLER

No passengers, all working in sometimes dangerous conditions – geared to evangelism – often in a para-church mode like Youth With A Mission.

FIRE TENDER

A very dedicated Kirk, focusing on saving congregations and individuals in great need.

A MODEL CHURCH

A small imitation of the real thing – grossly under-powered: a fake in effect.

ISLAND FERRY

Essential to everyday life in the community – passengers soon leave; reaching all its destinations – brilliant and efficient crew.

MALTESE FISHING BOATS

Churches in different locations may have their own special devout worship, and be equally be committed to evangelism.

CONTAINER SHIPS

Very dedicated to the Digital Age, with courses such as Alpha, Christianity Explored, and The Bible in One Year – online fellowship and communication.

CARGO SHIP

Delivering accurate well-presented Doctrine to many congregations, worldwide, besides its own.

NAMED BOATS

With wide economic and ethnicity – often concentrating on the named Doctrines of the Faith: Resurrection, and Biblical Wisdom.

BARGES

Always moving slowly.  Mainly effective in times past.  Today, only a few are operative – many are converted to other uses: leisure, housing, commercial entertainment.

CRUISE SHIP

Between 50% and 5% may be serious, hard working responsible crew.  Massive attendance and affluence; but the danger of shallow spirituality and commitment, among the passengers.

32. JESUS AND QUESTIONS

It is claimed that Jesus was asked 307 questions – He only answered three, but asked 183: often by way of response.

A joke: The faithful Synagogue member asked his Rabbi, “Why do you always respond to a question by asking one yourself?”  He replied, “Why shouldn’t I?”

33. The words of CT Studd, the renowned missionary to China who gave up his promising career in cricket as well as his sizable fortune.
‘Only one life, t’will soon be past. Only what’s done for Jesus will last.’

34. SING A HYMN A DAY

In your daily devotions – which I hope we all have as a habit (morning is best, but whenever suits you) – may I suggest singing a hymn.  This may mean buying a hymn book, or borrowing one from Church, or collecting the Service Sheets, unless you are blessed with a great memory.

At Holy Trinity we used the white copy of “Mission Praise”.  At a book shop they had a new addition: black, but with the usual design of coloured lines.  This cost a pound extra, but had a hundred more items.  As a Yorkshire man, at a penny a hymn, this seemed a good bargain.

What if you cannot remember the tune?  Now there is a challenge – make one up!

Keswick Praise recordings on CD’s are among the best.

I have met eight composers: Phil Potter, Karen Lafferty, Richard Hudson Pope, Mike Wood, Jami Owen, Leith Samuel, Dave Matthews, and Keith White.  The first four visited the secondary school where I worked at one time or another.  Several others I have heard ministering in person, which gives added interest, perhaps you can say the same: Graham Kendrick, Andrae Crouch, Marilyn Baker, Lara Martin, and Dave Bilbrough.

35. RESEARCH?

When we humans, both inside and outside the Kirk, research our opponents, there is the tendency to limit that study to just the amount to bring about a conviction.  In other words, there is a lack of thoroughness, which is dishonest and lacking integrity.

eg An eminent Christian was guilty, with his associates, of a bad doctrinal error and practice.  He was rightly criticized, but his more recent repentance and public confession, were not mentioned – through lack of research, or dishonesty, or both. 

36 Atheism

Atheists pride themselves in believing that there is no God – negatives are very difficult to prove….  I would like to show that atheistic evolutionists do have a religious faith (there are theistic evolutionists).

It is pointed out that in Evolutionism there is often anthropomorphic thinking: attributing human or godlike qualities to Nature: to the Cosmos, plants and animals.  BBC’s “Gardeners’ Question Time” suggested that my orchids stay in bloom for long periods so that they are available for pollination; this attributes an intelligence, will, and power to organise themselves: better than human beings – more like deities.  This is Polytheism.  Ethics is also in evidence: they do not like criminal harm to be done to themselves, family, or property.  They do not want to be slandered, cheated, betrayed, discriminated against, unkindly treated, or deceived.  Then there is the belief in miracles: something from nothing, complex genetic schemes, without an intelligent designer.

Belief in a creating, loving, holy, and just, Almighty God, who has revealed Himself, and communicate with us, is far more sensible.

37 THE FRUIT OF THE GOSPEL IN THE LOCAL CHURCH

Rev George Crowder (Church Society) made a study in the New Testament book of The Acts of the Apostles chapter 14 – which describes part of the First Missionary Journey of Paul and Barnabas.

This indicates what we can expect by way of success:

Staying for a long time in a toxic situation is gospel fruit, v.3. 

Preaching [witnessing] boldly is gospel fruit, v.3. 

Teaching against false religion is gospel fruit, v.15. 

Faithfulness under fire is gospel fruit, vv.19-20. 

Winning a large number of disciples is gospel fruit, v.21. 

A strengthened church is gospel fruit, v.22. 

Patient, hopeful endurance is gospel fruit, v.22. 

Rising up leaders is gospel fruit, v.23. 

God’s grace is active in all of these things.

The Disciples were called “Church” when Leadership was established.

The Miraculous was apparent. 

38. To Election Candidates:

May I have some idea of your views on Religious Issues, please?

a)      Toward faiths such as Jewish, Islam, Christian, Hindu, Atheism

b)      A Secular Government can have two interpretations at least: 1. Non-religious (not imposing any particular religion, by whatever means) 

2. Anti-religion (not really Secular, but aggressively Humanism, by any and perhaps every means).  What do you think?  [There are the eminent moral issues also]

39. Abortion, and the Beginning of Life

A quotation from my letter to some friends:

In the brilliant and professional article on Human Genetic Engineering, you state, “The only place to draw the line between life and non-life is at conception.”   Luke 1:41 ff has the remarkable sign of the child in Elizabeth’s womb leaping for joy at Mary’s presence: not at Jesus’s….

There is the thought in the Church that first mentions [of important doctrines and concerns] in the Bible are in fact definitive, as in current styles of writing, when abbreviations are about to be used.  One would look at the creation of Adam: becoming a living creature, when God breathed into Him the breath of life. (Genesis 2:7, ESV)  I would think that breathing announced the beginning of a human: not conception.  A midwifery trained Christian member of my family is of the same opinion, having seen that impressive moment when a slight and sudden shock, provokes the first breath.  Also in my family, there was a still born foetus (about five inches long).  The obstetrician called for a kitchen basin, and threw the sad object onto the open fire. 

There is a problem of a child being kept alive on a life support system [in my understanding – which is the first breath?] – from delivery.  Also there is the issue of naming a still born, and at what point should there be a funeral?

The obstetrician took a secular view, as a paradigm, that “Nature” performed a “natural abortion” because of some serious deformity, or malfunction.

My friends, who are Theologians and Scientists, strongly rebuffed my interpretations, piece by piece; but not to convince me.  I will keep their reply to my letter, so as to give it further thought.

You might like to consider the following aspects of Abortion:

  1. Where there is serious danger to the life of the mother
  2. Where the father would be the criminal abuser in a case of rape, and the mother would be incredibly unhappy in bringing up a child with this kind of hereditary
  3. Abortion, today, is so often the common social way of ending an unwanted, inconvenient,  pregnancy – or ending what is in fact the result of adultery, or fornication – ending the product of what God has defined as sin
  4. Medical consequences can follow termination

There are passages in the Jewish Bible/Old Testament which mention this subject; but Exodus 21:22-25 is by far the most important. 

Exodus 21:22-25 “If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows.

23 But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life,

24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,

25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.

Both Pro Abortionists and Pro Life people try to use it; but the English Versions confuse the issue.  Two Internet sites are scholarly and helpful: Injury to women in the Old Testament (by Professor Ron du Preez, D. Min., and Greg Koukl).  Here is a telling quotation included by the latter:

Gleason Archer, Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, concludes:

“There is no ambiguity here, whatever. What is required is that if there should be an injury either to the mother or to her children, the injury shall be avenged by a like injury to the assailant. If it involves the life (nepes) of the premature baby, then the assailant shall pay for it with his life. There is no second-class status attached to the fetus/foetus under this rule; he is avenged just as if he were a normally delivered child or an older person: life for life. Or if the injury is less, but not serious enough to involve inflicting a like injury on the offender, then he may offer compensation in monetary damages…”[10]

Imposed abortion – by a fight, or any other means, accidental or planned – is a serious crime/sin, requiring capital punishment for murder in the Old Testament Theocracy; similarly, injury should be punished appropriately.  The New Testament does not impose these in the Church era; but the seriousness remains: abortion of the foetus is seen as MURDER.

The second consideration, having seen that the unborn foetus is viewed as potentially a human, is the question mentioned in the following notes.  I cannot imagine worshipping Jesus as a ten centimetre long foetus in the womb of His mother Mary. 

I AM INTENDING TO ADD PASSAGES OF SCRIPTURE, WHICH HELP US TO DISCUSS: AT WHAT TIME IN A PREGNANCY, A FEOTUS/NEWLY DELIVERED CHILD BECOMES HUMAN:  WHEN DID JESUS BECOME INCARNATE?  PERHAPS GOD DOES NOT TELL US.

Job 3:11-19 “Why did I not perish at birth,

and die as I came from the womb?

12 Why were there knees to receive me

and breasts that I might be nursed?

13 For now I would be lying down in peace;

I would be asleep and at rest

14 with kings and counselors of the earth,

who built for themselves places now lying in ruins,

15 with rulers who had gold,

who filled their houses with silver.

16 Or why was I not hidden in the ground like a stillborn child,

like an infant who never saw the light of day?

17 There the wicked cease from turmoil,

and there the weary are at rest.

18 Captives also enjoy their ease;

they no longer hear the slave driver’s shout.

19 The small and the great are there,

and the slave is freed from his master.

[Here the child deceased at birth is seen as passing into Sheol – the Grave.]

Job 10:9-12 Remember that you molded me like clay.

Will you now turn me to dust again?

10 Did you not pour me out like milk

and curdle me like cheese,

11 clothe me with skin and flesh

and knit me together with bones and sinews?

12 You gave me life and showed me kindness,

and in your providence watched over my spirit.

Job 33:4 The Spirit of God has made me;

the breath of the Almighty gives me life.

Jeremiah 20:17

Hosea 9:14 Give them, O LORD—

what will you give them?

Give them wombs that miscarry

and breasts that are dry.

Matthew 1:25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

[Birth, and then named.]

Matthew 2:11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.

[Worshipped after delivery.]

Luke 1:13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John.

[Named after birth – see context in Luke 1:57 ff]

Luke 1:15 [John] will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth.

Luke 1:31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.

[Here are three stages: be with child, give birth, and name Him – not named until delivery. ]

Luke 1:41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

[An unusual sign – not typical]

Luke 2:21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived.

[Actually named at circumcision]

Acts 17:25 And God is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.

40. Current Moral Decline in the West has resulted in a culture of dishonesty, and therefore distrust.  Millions of hours, and their cost, are lost because of this and the perceived need to question every detail of work and expenditure – which will not always result in success.

SELECTIONS OF MY ART WORK

 

Press Photo

The Art Department, when I was a teenager at school, had an annual exhibition; Brian Stott, who later played cricket for Yorkshire, commented that it was virtually my exhibition – I had so many works on show.

My paintings need some comments.

My Auntie did one art homework for me, and was given 10 out of 10; but this did show me what could be achieved.

The media used include watercolor, oil, acrylic, pen and ink, mixed, and there are two lithographs.

Printing this page may help

LIST

KEY:

CH Coach House Exhibition

SH Swing House

RAG Rochdale Art Gallery

MB Sally Brown Gallery, Marple Bridge

16 Littleborough ARTS

Art Galleries: Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield, Halifax

NFS not for sale

pc/Private – in private collections

The first, a small oil of my Dad (who was an extremely good cricketer … and Dad. In Italy, as the front-line moved northwards, a group of England and County players arranged a match, inviting him to play; he scored 111 – sending me the scorecard.  Sadly, his friend Hedley Verity was killed in the battle for Monte Casino.) NFS

Methodist Chapel in Beverley, near Hull (where I studied whilst in the RAF) £180

Lithograph of a Meteor Jet Fighter  £100

Lithograph of Barabbas was shown at The Young Contemporaries, in London; and illustrates a poem by my friend John Isherwood.  Barabbas is seen enjoying release; but sees Jesus going to die on the cross, which should have been his….  £150

(A few years earlier, I had an oil painting in this national exhibition – this is one of the greatest honors for an art student.)

Abraham NFS

Abraham   Private Collection

Moses and the Serpent of Bronze  £400

Two abstract paintings of the Cross – Professor H. R. Rookmaaker (Free University of Amsterdam) saw this as “iconic” in style – 1974,  Coloured, Private Collection, Black and white £70

An abstract of the Resurrection: indicating the ten main appearances – this currently hangs in my study  £300

Pen Lettering £20

Oil on board, American Custom’s Cutter, pc

Watercolours of Greek locations: Market Place  £120

Market Place Athens  £100

Quite out of place: My Aunt and Uncle (Mr and Mrs Dowlman) – The Bakers   Private Collection

My first painting in oil after using poster paints at school and college – a charming girlfriend of the time, Miss King, held my palette for me at Low Hall Farm.  John Wesley preached in the barn here at the beginning of an awakening in the village of Horsforth.  Nothing like it has happened again yet, in this village  £200

Early oil, not a Dutch backyard, from a school playground, off kirkstall road, Leeds, UK

Two watercolours of Robin Hood’s Bay slipway    Private Collection

From the walls of Berwick-upon-Tweed – the Rope Walk   Private Collection

The old lane to Syke  £50

Porlock Weir, Somerset (large version)  Private Collection

Canal at Marple Bridge  £55

Canal at Castleton  £70

Cloud Burst from the Library  £70

The stonemason’s brilliant carving of my design: the memorial plaque in St Mary’s, Cusop, a mile SE above Hay-on-Wye, Wales.  William Seward was the first Methodist martyr

Leeds-Liverpool Canal at Rodley – my second oil painting, 1951  £150

Reconstruction of the view from the Mountain looking over Corinth and the Isthmus, based on a 19th century engraving  £150

Two early commissions   Private Collections

***************************************************************

Here are watercolours from a painting trip to Galway, in Eire [Old Canal Basin £200; Old Canal Basin Sketch £50; Derry Clare Fishermen £105; Derry Clare mother and child £70]

The Magi – for Christmas decorations at St Martin’s! I was not asked again.  Destroyed

Inishmore, Aran Islands, The Buren in the distance  Private Collection

Aran Cottage,  £200

St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall  £95

A friend in the Art Club  Private Collection

Albion Street, Castleton  Private Collection

A spoof architect’s communication: exploring the moral failings of the 1960’s  £150

Jack the Art Club Boss  Private Collection

Another friend in the Art Club  Private Collection

Two book illustrations  £50

Kylemore Abbey, Eire  £80

St Paul’s Bay, Malta, Acts 27:27ff  £70 each

Axmouth, several versions: £150 to £250, two in pc

Far end of Sidmouth  £50  

Illustrations for Rev D. A. Tipper’s books – one encouraged by Lady Betjeman

*******************************************************************

The “Bonfire” Church, Malta – the site where Paul the Apostle helped to build a fire, Acts 28:1ff  £150

Semi-abstracts of Deganwy, North Wales  £300 each

Sketch prior to the above

A print of a pen drawing: Hall-inth’-Wood, Bolton, I have illustrated several books, and tried for the Royal College, in this area, but was thankful not to be accepted.  Originals £150, prints £1

An abstract of the Gospel Message, a diagram I have drawn more simply for several thousand people to show: how our lives begin (the red line), but must continue forever – in either Heaven, or Hell.  The dark is to indicate that we are all sinful – guilty, and cannot enter the narrow gate of Heaven, which requires perfection, on Judgement Day.  However, there are the Cross, and the Resurrection to offer hope – we can accept God’s loving mercy by repenting of our sinfulness (admitting our failing, and accepting God’s help to become a new creation)  If you like, praying to Jesus to save us: “Lord Jesus, please save me!”   Heaven satisfies God, and will certainly be glorious for us.  £150

Tenby, in Wales  Private Collection

Axemouth (Devon) several versions [one Private Collection, £150 to £250]

Godshill  £300

Yarmouth, on the Isle of Wight  £200

Here is the style mentioned elsewhere: of portraying a present-day scene, with the meaning of an historical drama: the lady artist selling her prints, becomes the prophetess Huldah giving copies of her prophecies; three men on the jetty become Jesus calling James and John the sons of Zebedee to be disciples

The beginning of a series of Hollingworth Lake, this one in the style of Corot  £150 each, if not Private Collection

Syke Farm  £350

Bonfire Night, from a house across Back Lane  £60

Exam piece – Gold and Silversmithing

Design for a Church Ewer in silver and wood

Kirkstall Abbey from the west  £80

Uncle Eric Pearman’s fishing spot  Private Collection

Abersoch, Pwllheli, and Snowdon, Wales  £400

Yorkshire houses, blocks made by the Yorkshire Post, printed by a helpful Jewish printer  Originals £50, prints £1

A Lancashire house Original £60, prints £1

The view from the Jam Pot, Llanbedrog  £150

A tribute to five famous people, Warwick Castle c 1750  £200 [large – 175 cm x 56 cm, hung on two plugged screws]

Detail of the above, showing Rev John Wesley

Detail: St Paul’s Head, tribute to Hogarth

****************************************************************

A funeral passing through a cornfield in which the first sheaf has been harvested – signifying the resurrection of Christ, which is the beginning of the harvest for the Resurrection of Christians. The body is being taken to the Church burial ground – at the far end of the harvest field.   A black and white reproduction – from which this is taken – hung in the Rectory study of Van Gogh’s father, and was a considerable influence.   £60

Several scenes in Malta: Buildings near St George’s Bay, Marshashlok, Marina near Valletta £200 each

Hollingworth Lake, Open Air Service, same scene as a landscape  £70 each

A depiction of The Ascension in the genre mentioned earlier   Private Collection

Vision I saw of an angel with a drawn sword over the village of Littleborough, Lancashire, England     Private Collection

View from Wayside Farm – Island Farm                            Private Collection

May at September Cottage, in August (work this out!)   Private Collection

Sid’s Patch, a market garden, Wayside Farm, near Scarborough    £80

Robin Hood’s Bay  [several – Private Collection and £80]

Grange in Borrowdale, the Lake District, UK , Bull Rock, Grange in Borrowdale (a version of each was stolen from a gallery in Hebden Bridge),  Private Collection, and £80

Lettering – John chapter 4

Semi abstract of a motor cyclist – omitting the adverts   £60

Four watercolours – whilst little Eve played on the beach at Scarborough  NFS

Poster for an exhibition

*********************************************************************

Chiggia Venice, Oil on board – as a tutorial for my art class (one of my students did a better one, and won an award with it)  Private Collection

Llanbedrog beach, acrylic on board     Private Collection

Aberdovey, watercolour – my little Granddaughter Eve did seven or eight (aged 7), whilst I painted this   £60

The Lake – acrylic on canvas, semi-abstract, c 1975   £170  [78 cm x 62 cm]

A most beautiful clump of trees   £70

How Cezanne may have painted the Lake by coffee break   £70

The end of Abstract Art – respect for Mondrian   £80

Horsforth Hall, c 1951   £200

Turton Tower, Bolton, Lancashire, UK   Original £80, prints £1

Topsham, on the River Exe – the genre mentioned earlier, the home of Peter’s Mother-in-law   £80

A page from my sketchbook, c 1953   NFS

By the Lake – Mary and Joseph on the way to Egypt   £50

Sketch of Upper Bank House, Horsforth – the final oil painting was exhibited at The Young Contemporaries, London  NFS

St Mary’s Church, Beverley   Private Collection

Saxon tower of Barton-upon-Humber church c 1953   £70

Barwick in Elmet, pastel, pen and ink   £70

Conwy bridges and castle – 1951, to please my family – with an accessible picture; based on a sepia photo given to my parents by Leonard Bussy – a dear friend of my family, and an artist who helped me so very much in my early days as a landscape painter.  £20

Guardsmen’s Band  £70

Old Piccadilly 2 Timothy looking for Paul (can you spot him?)  Private Collection

Old Piccadilly 1  Phoebe starting out for Rome with Paul’s letter  £100

Willaston Village, UK  Private Collection

Illustrations for a fine book by Rev Daniel Mathano Mwailu PhD, “To Be Like Jesus”, An Appraisal of Biblical Theology in Practice of Personal and Ministerial Spiritual Formation, Westbow Press, USA, 2019

Thoughts on Portrait Drawing

THE PICTURES

Dad

Methodist,Bev

Meteor Jet

Barabas,litho.Young Contemporaries

Abraham

Brazen

Cross 1

Cross 2Resurrection

Neither is there

Agora, Corinth

Agora, Athens

Dowlmans

img098

   

img070

img071

img072

img073

img074

img076

img075

img119

img124

View, Acrocorinthos

img015

img016

Galway 1

Galway 2

Derryclare 1

Derryclare 2

img078

4 Kings

Straw Island-Aran

St Michael's

Art Class

Albion Street

img162

img079

img080

img085

img086

img087

img088

img089

img095

img090

img131

img092

Bonfire Church

Deganwy

img102

img103

Hall-inth-Wood

Kerugma

Tenby

Axemouth

Godshill

Lake 1

Lake 3 Syke

img097

img099

img100

img101

img104

img105

img106

img107

img108

img109

img110

IMG_0101

img_0113

img082

Marshashlok

St George's Bay

Malta

Service

Lake

Lake 4 Ascension

Egypt

Angel - Hollingworth Lake

September Cottage

Market Garden

Grange

Bull Rock

Robin Hood's Bay

John 4

img111

img112

Poster

Chiggia -Venice

Llanbedrog

Aberdovey

Semi-abstract

Trees-Lake

Cezanne coffee break

End of Abstract

Horsforth Hall

Turton Tower, Bolton

Topsham-Exe

Page from sketchbook c1953

Flight into Egypt - Mary and Joseph

Upper Bank House

St.Mary's Bev.

img146

Barwick in Elmet

img144

Guardsmen

 

Portraiture – some thoughts on the subject

Holbein usually painted from an angle between profile and full face.

A good portrait has something of a caricature about it.

 Not by Holbein – but by my daughter, in a rich seam in the LVI at Bury Girls Grammar School

 Hans Holbein the Younger, (1497-1543): Anne Cresacre, 1528

Hans Holbein the Younger (1497-1543: Georg Gisze, a German Merchant in London, 1532

Decide on the general shape of the head

       Draw a very faint line half way between the top of the head, and the chin, for the placing of the eyes

  • Half way below for the shadow at the base of the nose

     

     Half way again for the centreline of the mouth

     

    Start to draw the features

    Slight variations in these proportions give faces their character

    Ears come behind the cheekbones – the tops level with the eyes

    Observe and draw the eyes – almond shaped, with the space between, about the width of the eye

    Look carefully and draw the details

    The eyebrows give much of the character.

    The nose from the front has only the nostrils showing lines – the rest is degrees of shading

    Be prepared to draw every strand of hair.

     

    In a class, I reckoned I could always recognize the scholar: because we all draw rather like the face we show most interest in.

    Clothing gives time for relaxing work, and the background may be used to show associations with the life of the sitter.

     

My portraits were made using photographs – open air, diffused light (to avoid sharp shadows), telephoto lens (to avoid the distortion of closeness)

 

My son: “Howard Wilkinson Photography” – took this excellent portrait of me at Harewood (February 2019)

My daughter’s illustration of the Four Beasts of the Book of Daniel – whilst at Bury Girls Grammar School, prior to entering Art College

Our Granddaughter’s painting for Nana, whilst in Sixth Form College prior to University, to study Digital Arts for 3D Games and Media

 

Image result for Drawing of the tablets of the Ten Commandments

GOD, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.  1 Timothy 6:16

As the Cosmos/heavens are higher than the earth,so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:9

(A synagogue symbol of the Ten Commandments, Wikipedia

To find hope in the Ten Commandments may seem a vain one. But God is described as being a jealous God: which implies that as your Creator He is passionate in His love for you, and strongly desires you to be a member of His family. There are two terribly frightening things about being Human: being made in the image of God, we have been given the right to choose to respond to God’s love –  or not, and we are eternal beings. What is often called the Bible in one verse has this from the Lord Jesus Christ:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Gospel according to John, chapter 3, verse 16

WE SHOULD, FIRST OF ALL, BE SURE THAT WE ARE SAVED BY THE LORD JESUS CHRIST THROUGH HIS DEATH ON THE CROSS.

WE SHOULD THEN BE BAPTIZED IN WATER, RECEIVE THE LORD THE HOLY SPIRIT, AND THEN SEEK TO KNOW WHICH GIFTS GOD HAS GIVEN TO US, SO FAR.

 

My detailed notes follow the diagram.

This is a long Blog – 160 pages at the last count.  You may wish to save it: Click on Edit, Select All, COPY, Open a new My Documents file, Paste, and Save.  The Browser “Microsoft Edge” offers a right click menu with a voice reading of all my Blogs.

Please pray for this mission on the Internet, critique items via my email address – found on Profile, and introduce others to my current Blogs – I do long to reach more people: perhaps you could recommend my Blogs to others.

SUGGESTIONS FOR STUDY/HOUSE GROUPS

1. Each member to have printed copy of the notes – suitable for the first meeting or so

2. Members to be asked for their own thoughts on the subject to be studied, and to read Bible references, and the next part of the notes  

3. Ask for any interesting experiences, which are related to the subject

4. Encourage any quiet participants to take part, if appropriate

5. The Leader should try to retire into the background

6 Announce the title in advance of the meeting, if possible 

 

The Gideons International can provide a free New Testament ….

Here is a selection of the various subjects I have looked at, in sequence: Holy Spirit Gifts, Guidance, European Art: some key aspects, two novels, Revival and John Wesley, Archaeology and the Bible, Heaven, Hell, Enemies, Kenosis, Angels, The Communion Service.

At the end or start, of a particular Blog, there are other titles to be immediately accessed.

Control/Ctrl button and f key, may bring up a search rectangle at the foot of the screen to help you find words and subjects in the Blog.  The full sequence will load slowly, and you can scroll through, as you wish.  “Return to the top” gives further subjects of my Blogs.  Left click on small pictures, and diagrams, enlarges them.  A particular subject title can be added to the Blog address, after a forward slash (/Menorah Fragment).  Please be free to print copies, and use for Bible Studies, House Groups, sermons, and personal study.  You will be able to advise and improve on my work.

The Holy Spirit – His gifts to the Church

img130The chart of the Gifts has been widely circulated over many years, and it should be possible to enlarge and clarify it by left clicking.

INTRODUCTION

The Tucano T1 turboprop training aircraft were coming in to land, one by one – the single powerful headlights sharp in the gloom.  The low cloud base would mean the end of flying for the day, for both students and instructors.  Suddenly came the roaring crackle of an engine that turned back the pages of history.  At a height of just a few hundred feet came a World War II Spitfire fighter aircraft – on its way to a commemorative event.  Here was an apt illustration for me: in warfare against modern combat planes, with complete avionics, precision attack and defence systems – the old Spitfire would have been history, in both senses.  So for the Christian: the Holy Spirit has brought to the New Testament Church a set of gifts, which today give us supreme tactical advantages.

The curtain is raised

The Church, as a whole, struggles to come to terms with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.   The different understandings, throughout the Church’s history, would prove a fascinating study in itself; it has never been totally without the gifts.   There is much more to the spiritual life besides the gifts – we must try to keep them in perspective; but we are ill equipped for our spiritual warfare, if we ignore them.   Even at the beginning of the so-called Pentecostal Movement, there was talk of only “the nine gifts of the Spirit”, and not the twenty listed in the Scriptures.   In the following pages I hope you will look at the full range of the ‘Charismata’, and some of the related problems, which face us in the church, because of them!  Of course, they are intended to be of help to us, both personally and corporately; but essentially to bring glory to God.  Canon David White sees 27: which include Martyrdom, and I think Celibacy.  What are the other five?  Answers in an email!

The illustrations are from my own limited collection.  Main biblical passages are referred to; but numerous vignettes are found throughout the New Testament – especially for the Charisms, and the Kerugma (the Gospel Message).

2 Corinthians 2:9-13:6 The reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything.

8:8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.

13:5 Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?

13:6 And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test.

2Timothy 2:5 Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules.

1 Chronicles 13 tells how King David attempted to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem; but because the details were not followed correctly there was great anger from God!

“Isaac reopened the wells that had been dug in the time of his father Abraham, which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham died, and he gave them the same names his father had given them.”  (Genesis 26:18)

This verse has stood-out for me, over many years apropos this subject.  We need to watch, and examine, our use of terms and attitudes in our Christian walk: to see that they conform to the Apostles’ Doctrine and New Testament usage.

1 Chronicles 13:9 ff; 15:13-15  Keep to the instructions apropos carrying the Ark of the Covenant.

In my Blog work I will show how the current church use of terms and formulae, does not follow Scripture close enough!

Rev John Wesley wrote in his published ‘Journal’, for Wednesday August 15th 1750:

“By reflecting on an odd book which I had read in this journey, ‘The General Delusion of Christians with regard to Prophecy”, I was fully convinced of what I had long suspected, ….  That the grand reason why the miraculous gifts were so soon withdrawn, was not only that faith and holiness were well nigh lost; but that dry, formal, orthodox men began even then to ridicule whatever gifts they had not themselves, and to decry them all as either madness or imposture.”

No member of our congregations will be perfect – without fault, however great their gifts.

There is a good current usage for many of the terms employed for the gifts, but in the other instances, I have attempted to project, into the language of our time, the meaning of the original word.   To do this, I have born in mind the context, the relationship and possible differences with similar words, and a personal selection of the possibilities suggested by scholars of New Testament Greek.   For this, I obviously must take responsibility.   If history runs true to form, research can only provide a stepping-stone for others.

In particular, I long respected and have enjoyed the writing of The Rev Canon, Professor Leon Morris, one time Principal of Ridley College Melbourne.   He has written admirably, and with great foresight on the subject – especially considering the date of publication (1964), in his book “Ministers of God”, presumably long out of print.   He writes:

“But some things are clear.   First, we can certainly say that there is no evidence that Jesus ever instituted an official priesthood.   There is no record of any ordination conducted by Him.   There is no occasion on which He is said to have set up an official ministry to which His followers must give due honour.   On the contrary He said specifically ‘All of you are brothers’, and He forbade His followers to call one another ‘father’ or ‘master’ Matthew 23:8-10.   The implication of these instructions seems clearly to be that the Christian Church was to be a society of equals, a fellowship in which all are brothers and none has special privileges.   But the story does not end there” (p.18).

He looks squarely, and at some length, at apostles; and also devotes a chapter to “The ‘Gifts’ of Ministry”.   A truly remarkable theological survey of “Offices” and “Gifts” in the Church; two terms which should be considered definitive.

The producer speaks.

Jesus taught us that the spectacular nature of the gifts, should not hide from us something far more important:

“However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”  Luke 10 v20

Similarly, we are reminded in 1 Corinthians 13, that without love, the gifts amount to nothing, and that at best they are transient.

The Giver is always more important than the gift.

The popular modern chorus gives a fine perspective:

“Thank you, O my Father,

For giving us Your Son,

And leaving Your Spirit –

‘Till the work on earth is done.”

“And God verified the message by signs and wonders and various miracles and by giving gifts of the Holy Spirit whenever he chose to do so.” (Hebrews 2:4)

We need Character as well as Charisms (Gifts); Fruit as well as Fullness of the Holy Spirit.

As I pointed out, the early Pentecostal Movement, in its books and sermons, listed nine gifts of the Holy Spirit; a careful study shows that there are twenty.   The original nine were taken from the list in 1 Corinthians 12:8-11.    Other lists are found in 1 Corinthians 12:27-31 – there are two lists within the same chapter; Romans 12:6-8; and Ephesians 4:11 and 12.  We find a general summary in Peter’s First Letter:

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.   If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.   If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 4:10 and 11)   Here the main purpose of the grace of God is underlined: to glorify Him.   The range of gifts is divided into speaking, and serving.  See also: (2 Thessalonians 2:17) “…in every good deed and word,”  “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed” (Colossians 3:17).

There is a curious ‘triangular’ connection between the letters that deal with the gifts: 1 Corinthians was written from Ephesus, Romans was written from Korinthos, and Ephesians from Rome – in that order.

The following list is obtained by adding gifts, as they appear sequentially in the four New Testament passages, listed above.   The second numbering reveals something of the order suggested for the first three at least, in 1 Corinthians 12:27-31.   The letters of the alphabet indicate the order, in which we shall look at them.

[Consideration order – word search can be roughly employed, using square brackets  and the capital letter]    Textual Appearances:

The last two are widely recognized and accepted today: to the point, sometimes, of using them as titles for people!

As I hinted earlier, we have the problem that, because translators and commentators have rarely had a knowledgeable experience of the gifts, there are limitations within the English translations of the Bible, and certainly in theological books and commentaries.

For instance, one influential professor of a northern university in the UK, explained Old Testament prophecy in terms of raving Arabic “holy men”.   Presumably, this was all he had encountered in his travels and reading.

The “Theological Dictionary of the New Testament”, edited by Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, translated from the German by Geoffrey W. Bromiley, proves a useful asset – either in the full ten volumes, or as the abridged single volume.   Well-worn copies of the full version may be best found in a university or college library.   It is affectionately known as ‘Kittel’.   Apropos Professor F. F. Bruce: he gave “valuable suggestions and corrections in the course of laborious proof reading… there is some consolation that Dr Bruce in particular has been able to correct not a few errors in the original German”[page x, Vol 1, Editor’s Preface].

The ten volume set was available to me for 100 GBP: but I preferred trips to the local university library.

Because we are returning to ground rarely studied openly, since the birth of the Church, let us make it our aim to be patient with those of differing opinions and ideas.   It is inevitable that some members of the Church Family will have varying views from our own, and travel along different paths; pray that we may listen to what they say, and be willing to change – which is the essential mark of true wisdom (James chapter 3).

There is the question of supporting Christians financially in their work: we need to be quite clear about whom we are funding, and why; and who we are appointing, and why.   To call people “pastors”, “vicars”, or whatever, and expect them to be apostles, teachers, prophets, and evangelists – in fact with all the gifts times ten to the power of six – and expecting them do all the work, is hardly sensible.   I understand our Lord’s remarks on this subject to imply that there must be no titles, that is, other than Elders, Deacons, and Saints (this latter, being the word for every believer, see: Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 2 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 Timothy 5:10; Hebrews 6:10, 13:24; Jude verses 3 and 14; Revelation 13:7; Paul is not impressed with the Galatian Church, and does not use the term ‘saints’ – sanctified).

Our Lord’s words on the use of titles: “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi’, for you have only one Master and you are all brothers.   And do not call anyone on earth ‘father’, for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.  Nor are you to be called ‘teacher’, for you have one Teacher, the Christ.”  Matthew 23:8-10 (NIV)

To require people to address us with titles could well be asking them to act against the Messiah’s teaching: in other words to sin.  Secular, academic, or courtesy address, such as: Doctor, Sir, Ma’am, or Professor, are not being referred to by our LORD.

For this reason, in my opinion, none of the gifts should give people a title; indeed, in some situations of outreach, they are a hindrance, both within a friendly country – with religious freedom, but even more so in a hostile nation of another faith (I am thinking of the use of the terms ‘evangelist’ if used in schools’ work, and ‘Pastor’, which makes a person vulnerable to persecution, and a Fellowship easily made leaderless by its enemies).

Answers to Questions

Just as the gifts are used as outward signs of the presence of the Holy Spirit – particularly tongues and prophecy, as we see in The Book of Acts – so they are not normally given, until we have first been born again of the Spirit (converted, made a new person in Christ, had our eyes opened, been turned from the power of Satan to the power of God, turned from darkness to the kingdom of light, received forgiveness of sins, and been sanctified by faith in Christ – to use a few of the many terms found in the New Testament).

When King David prayed:

Psalm 51:11 Do not …take your Holy Spirit from me.

This implies that the Holy Spirit can be given.  Jesus is concerned here also: on the Cross He prayed:

Psalm 22:1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

For Jesus, God would be Father and Spirit; hence we have a separation of the Persons of the Divinity: a rupture of the Godhead at Calvary.

We are well advised to know what gifts the Holy Spirit has given to us: and what have not been given.   In part: what are our responsibilities; and what we need to rely on others for!    We should be concerned, as was Paul the apostle, about how we shall need the help of others for the blessing of their gifts upon our lives and work (1 Corinthians 3:5-17; Romans 1:11, 12).   Believers may have several gifts – but not all the gifts of course.   All believers have gifts: Ephesians 4:7 (GNB), “Each one of us has received a special gift in proportion to what Christ has given.”

Some charismata are given with prophecies and the laying on of hands, others with personal experiences, such as visions or dreams, and many without any kind of announcement – other than a growing awareness.    At any time, God may sovereignly choose to give a new gift.   Dr Billy Graham, when asked why God had used him so greatly, replied: “Shear sovereignty!”   Hebrews 2:4: “…gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to His will.”

He will never take them away: “For God’s gifts and call are irrevocable,” (Romans 11:29).   This explains the following kind of situation: I heard a fine, accurate and polished teaching sermon given by a man who, although he lived a middle-class lifestyle and served God travelling widely, had failed to repay a loan of many thousands of pounds lent to him by an old man now living in penury – originally to be repaid over ten years.   “A man can preach like an angel and live like a devil; and that is the most dangerous kind of man to have around.” (Derek Prince, in a sermon on: “Appoint Elders in every place”)   Men and women of questionable moral character may still find that God blesses their work.   Of course, it is the duty of the Church to discipline them, for their own good, and for the general good of the Ekklesia.   King Saul still prophesied even when far from God (1 Samuel 18:10-12).

There may also be “seasons” of the soul: when times of great activity are followed by quieter harbours of rest (Psalm 1).

Holiness is closely linked with strong leadership.   One only has to look at passages such as Leviticus chapters 19, 20 and 21.   This was the great theme of the Methodist Revival.   We must not be partakers in people’s sins, by being accessories – in not trying to make them face up to reality.   The Paraclete is called the ‘Holy’ Spirit.

The Elders may identify a gift; it is in fact one of the duties of their position.   They must instruct about, and encourage, their use.   The gifts of one may be employed in making another aware of their anointing.   We must talk to God Himself regarding our gifts.   His peace in our hearts may make things clear.   Paul, even, had to argue fiercely that he did indeed have the calling of an apostle.

With every recognition of a gift, there is the important issue of Dimension.   One Believer will serve millions of people, globally: others will minister to one person, individually.   When both these men were nearing the end of their lives, I wrote this observation: “Evangelists are a good example of dimension: Dr William Franklin Graham has preached to a crowd of a million at one event in Seoul, and to millions at one time via satellite.   William Thomason has been a dedicated personal worker, talking to small groups of teenagers in Rochdale and Heywood – mill towns in Lancashire.   Both men have been evangelists aiming to use their gift from God, to the full.”

To pastor, may be caring for a third former in the school Christian Union, or serving a senior executive in the House of Commons or in Industry.   Such variation may fit almost all the gifts; and of course we should expect to grow, within our limits.

The dimension of our experience of gifts, may relate to our innate, or inborn abilities – not quite the same as our Education – some extremely clever people have never been to university; and it is nevertheless true that “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise” (NIV).   The variety of ways a gift may be used is also brought out in the passage: 1 Corinthians 12:4-5.   This implies that there will be quite different individual and cultural styles and applications; some loud and flamboyant, others quiet and personal.   It may be true to say that no limits are set.   In the realm of miracles, for example, we may sometimes be greatly surprised by new realms of greatness, and the New Testament is merely indicative.   The miracles from Peter’s shadow, or Paul’s sweatbands, are not limiting precedents.   As I suggested a few lines earlier, our innate ability will relate to the dimension and our use of the gifts.   We are not given an anointing beyond our physical, intellectual, or personality capabilities – of a scale, which would break us.   Something rather the converse is true: even if we have been to university to obtain degrees in Theology, there is no guarantee of any particular gift of the Spirit.

As Paul points out that there are not only varied services, but different kinds of “working”: we might think of people who use their gifts in academic circles, in flamboyant television programmes, an isolated primitive village community, a dilapidated urban parish, or in the atmosphere of the upper class and the diplomatic corps.   One Brethren Elder always travelled First Class: that was the Evangelist’s calling he had received.

The gifts are not given so that we can show off to our friends, or hammer people we do not like, or even embarrass the Congregation: they are given to help those around us.   All charisms are given for the service of others – other people are dependent on our gifts.   Paul uses the analogy, in the first Corinthian letter, of the Church being like a human body: to show that each part is vital to the rest.   He may have had in mind two features of Korinthos at the time.   On the north side of the city, against the inner wall, was the large open area of the Gymnasium, where the city’s finest athletes could be seen each day developing their prowess.   Immediately to its east, was the Asklepieion (the Medical Centre).   Here there was the curious practice of votive offerings: as a form of prayer, or of thanksgiving, remarkable accurately sculptured models of the sickly parts were hung in the portico – some rather frank and embarrassing.   Today they are displayed in a special room in the Main Museum at Ancient Korinthos.   What a contrast between the lifeless dismembered parts in the Asklepieion: and the highly developed living bodies in the Gymnasium!

Numerous gifts have common areas, for example: the anointings for healing, miracles and faith.   Unless you had additional information, you would not necessarily know which the Lord had employed in the healing of a sick person.   Counselling could mean the use of almost any one, of the twenty!

With our gift, or gifts, we will need educating, through study of the Scriptures, experience, and teaching.  A rather angry lady once told a Bible Study group, that with her gifts she had received full instructions; fortunately, she was quick to correct herself and apologize, from home over the phone.   It is our duty to learn through the careful study of the whole Bible, and available teaching – within the local Church, study books, or attending further education.   All members should have access to constant in-service training and instruction; so that there is no such thing as a separation between trained and un-trained Christians.

A close walk with God is vital; in order to know His sovereign will in the using of our anointing.   However wonderful the power may be, God is still Sovereign.   In conjunction with this, we can always rely on His faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-24).

Each of us must know how to seek God’s will in everything.   The primary guidance is Scripture, common sense is often the obvious – but not worldly wisdom, or we may be required to turn to the gifts themselves.   When all else fails, there is the importance of His peace ruling in your heart: “Let the peace of Christ rule [umpire] in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”(NIV)   It was appropriate for me that his truth was taught by Wing Commander Anderson of the Royal Air Force, and the Officers Christian Union, in Wimbledon – the home of Lawn Tennis, with its umpires and line judges (my boss played in the opening round of the Championships, each year).   God’s peace in our hearts being a means of guidance relates quite closely to the Urim and Thummim of the High Priest’s equipment – in the times of the Tabernacle and the Temple.   A small pouch, carried by the High Priest over the heart, probably contained two stones: one meaning “Yes”, the other standing for “No”.   Even the King would seek the will of God, through the High Priest, using this method.   Questions had to be asked to obtain “Yes” or “No” answers – unless, for some good reason, no answer was given at all.  It was a binary system, if you like.   The first enquiry in this “binary logic” would seem to be: “May I ask for guidance?” It is amazing to find quite mature Christians who are sometimes quite at sea regarding God’s will for their lives. (Colossians 3:15; 1 Samuel, 30:3-8; 2 Samuel, 2:1, 5:19)

Natural ability, or occupation, may confuse us slightly.  Two men I knew, who certainly did not have the gift of “pastor”, were skilled sheep rearers.   A bank manager may not have the anointing of administration; a schoolteacher may not be called to teach doctrine within the Congregation.

Spiritual callings should, however, be used in all aspects of life: including secular occupation (if there is such a thing for a Believer, because all is done for God), as well as in the special life of the Ekklesia.   Notice how the gifts of the Spirit are used in Paul’s journey to Rome as a prisoner, in the closing chapters of Acts.

There are those in the Church today who believe, on the basis of an unlikely interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13:8-13, that the gifts are now finished with – apart from a few, such as evangelist and pastor, which they still, with a show of irrationality, happen to believe in.   Firstly, the passage portrays two states of human experience, one imperfect and the other perfect: clearly referring to this present life, and then to the perfection of the Kingdom of Heaven in its fulfillment – at the Lord’s Coming in Glory.  Surely there can be no misunderstanding: this life has the sub-standard prophetic witness, tongues, and knowledge of this present world; we look, however, for the perfect: when “we shall see face to face” and “I shall know fully, even as I am known (by God)”.   This false argument suggests, however, that the Scriptures – about to be completed within a few years of 1 Corinthians being written – are the “perfection”; but we can hardly claim to “know fully, even as I am known”, yet.

Romans 8:24-26 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?

25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.

Secondly, there is a self-destructing argument here.   If the Bible is seen as “that which is perfect”, and prophecy, tongues and knowledge will immediately become obsolete, huge passages of the New Testament would also be rendered obsolete, and by definition imperfect: because they deal in considerable detail with these three aspects of Church life!

Several passages in Revelation make it quite clear that more is still to be made known at Christ’s return.

In the year 55 AD – or sometime in the period 53-56AD, when Paul wrote to the Corinthians from Ephesus, the Old Testament had been written for over four hundred years: four fifths of the Scriptures were available to Paul and the Church.

Finally, there is a misunderstanding of the legal nature of Scripture.   Scripture is called “the Law of God”, “statutes”, and “the precepts” (Deuteronomy 8v11); as I understand this, only God Himself can amend these Laws, and only in the most formal, overt and obvious way.   At one time, I worked in an office, which was responsible for placing amendments to military law.   There were deletions and additions, but all changes were clearly announced.   The Bible is no less important.   We see the solemnity of our Lord’s amendments to the Law, in the Sermon on the Mount.   This leaves no place for those who want abrogations in the NT like the two hundred or so found in the Qur’an during its mere twenty years of production.   Some scholars attempt to create a complex matrix of an evolving theology, built on the time of writing along the lines: that because Paul wrote Romans after Thessalonians, we can therefore expect some kind of hidden amendment.   This style of argument is an insult to the Mind of God: as though He were slowly thinking out The Truth, during the sixty years of New Testament production.   The point of chronology is never a major issue in the Letters of the New Testament – it only vaguely becomes apparent after careful study, and is useful only in apologetics, and not as a basis for changing Doctrine.

A person’s calling may be limited for rather understandable reasons: Paul was not to baptize converts (even though he believed in the correctness of it), Philip did not pray for the Holy spirit to fall on the new believers at Samaria (1 Corinthians 1:13-17, Acts 8:14-25).

THE MOST ACCEPTABLE GIFTS

Most of us, who are Christians, have been helped, and brought to faith, in some way, by an evangelist: speaking to us, or in reading an evangelistic book.   Sometimes there are several links in the chain.   A friend of long ago, said that leading someone to faith made obtaining an Honours Degree in the subject he loved, seem “like gravel in his mouth”.   Evangelical is sometimes used as a derogatory term: the Head of Faculty in a local Secondary School, stung me with the question: “You’re not one of those Evangelicals, are you?”  A lady who prided herself, I am certain, in not being in any way prejudiced!

[A] EVANGELIST, 19

[2099 Strong, euaggelistes, yoo-ang-ghel-is-tace, a preacher of the gospel – an evangelist; euangelizomai, to proclaim the good news; euangelion, the good news; proeuanglizomai, to proclaim the good news beforehand.]  Double gamma in Greek is sounded as ng.

The English Language word “evangelist”, as can be seen from the above note, is a transliteration of a Greek word.   The Greek word for “the good news/the gospel” is “euangelion” – its beautiful sound being most appropriate for the great Message of Christ.   If the early English translators had been pedantic, we would actually read: “proclaiming the good news”, “the good news”, or “the announcer of the good news”.   The two words “good news” would appear on almost every page of the New Testament.   It would then have been crystal clear how frequently these related words appear in the Gospels, Acts, and, especially, in the Letters of Paul.   In fact, in the early days of the Church, the Four Gospels and the Letters were called, collectively: The Gospel.

The equivalent word in the Old Testament carried the thought of an announcement bringing the promise, powerfully into being: the creative Word of Yahweh.   Sometimes it spoke of bringing good news of the birth of a son, or of victory from a battlefield, but it came to include the bearing of bad news.   Its firm roots in the Old Testament are linked with the Davidic Messiah, and the Suffering Servant of Yahweh, who brings salvation to both God’s Israel, and to the Gentiles.   God commands it to be published.   (Cf Gerhard Friedrich in Kittel, Volume II, pp 707 ff, 1 Kings 1:42, Jeremiah 20:15, 1 Samuel 31:9, Isaiah 40 – 66, Psalms 40:10, 68:11, 86:5, Isaiah 40:9, 41:27, 52:7, and 61:1 – read by Jesus in the Synagogue at Nazareth, but omitted in the synagogues of today!)   The New Testament entered the new dimension of having the Holy Spirit initiate, and empower the giving of the message – with attestations, as we shall see.

What is the relationship between the preachers of the Evangel, and the Four Evangelists of the Gospels?    We can say of the writing evangelists that: Matthew was an apostle, Mark wrote as an evangelist – giving us, in actual fact, Peter’s apostolic preaching of the Message, Luke writes as an evangelist and most able first century historian, and John as an apostle.   The richly detailed Message of the Four Written Gospels covers the same ground as the Apostolic Preaching in Acts.  The Old Testament teaches that multiple witnesses are required in any serious case (how this contrasts with the Qur’an).

The noun “evangelist” occurs three times in the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament: Philip, whose work is described in Acts 8 (cf Samaria and Acts 1:8), is specifically called an evangelist in Acts 21:8; Paul told Timothy to do the work of an evangelist (2 Timothy 4:5); and the calling is mentioned in the fourth list of gifts (Ephesians 4:11).   The preaching of the apostles in Acts is definitive of the Message of the Good News, and, today, every evangelist preparing for service should include a close study of these sermons; which are covered in the following analytical list:

Acts 2, Peter on the Day of Pentecost, to Jews

Acts 3, Peter at the Gate Beautiful, to Jews

Acts 10, Peter at the home of a Senior NCO, Cornelius, a Gentile

Acts 13, Paul in the Synagogue at Pisidian Antioch, to Jews

Acts 14, Paul and Barnabas at Lystra, to Gentiles

Acts 17, Paul in the Thessalonian Synagogue, Jews and God Fearers – three Sabbaths founded a lively church

Acts 17, Paul in the Athenian Areopagus Court

[Other speeches in Acts:

Peter, and other apostles in Court, to Jews (4:8-17, 5:29-32);

Stephen in Court, to Jews (6:8-7:60);

Peter and James to the Congregation (15:6-21);

Paul to the Elders of Ephesus (20:17-35);

Paul’s testimony-defence (22, 23:1-11, 24:10-23, 26:1-29);

Paul to the Jews in Rome (28:17-31).]

Paul’s formal summary of the Good News is found in this passage:

“I passed on to you what I received, which is of the greatest importance: that Christ died for our sins, as written in the Scriptures; that he was buried and that he was raised to life three days later, as written in the Scriptures; that he appeared to Peter and then to all twelve apostles.   Then he appeared to more than five hundred of his followers at once, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.   Then he appeared to James, and afterwards to all the apostles. Last of all he appeared to me … So then, whether it came from me or from them, this is what we all preach, and this is what you believe.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-11, GNB)

See also Romans 10:8-13; 2 Timothy 2:8; and Hebrews 6:1-2.

Elements found in the evangelistic addresses, are as follows – as part of your study, you might like to write down which topics come in which sermons (forming a grid layout, with the occasions along the top and the sermon points down the side).   A selection was usually given: and not necessarily the full compliment of gospel topics.   When closing an open-air witness, I would usually check that the various speakers had covered the main points of the Kerygma.

THE FIRST PART OF THE MESSAGE:

  1. The point of departure – common ground, a recent event before the crowd, an issue for debate, etc
  2. God in Nature

THE MESSAGE:

  1. John the Baptist
  2. Jesus’s earthly ministry
  3. Selected Old Testament proof texts
  4. The indictment for the Crucifixion
  5. The Crucifixion
  6. The Resurrection
  7. A call to baptism in water
  8. Eschatology – the Return of Jesus
  9. Personal Judgment

THE TWO ACTS OF RESPONSE:

  1. Repentance: by God’s grace, a turning from sin, as a result of godly grief for trespasses.  A good answer to the question asked at the Belper Grammar School Christian Union: What is repentance?   The Army Cadets outside on the yard were immediately commanded: “About turn!”
  2. Belief in the Lord Jesus Christ

THE RESULT OF RESPONDING:

  1. Forgiveness, Righteousness, Acquittal – Gospel Justification, Eternal Life, New Birth

WHAT IF PEOPLE REJECT THE MESSAGE:

  1. Christ is Judge There is some discussion about whether judgment on sin: as defined in the Ten Commandments, should precede the preaching of the Gospel proper.  Romans 2:15, Acts 10:17, and 17:31 refer to judgment.  For me personally, it was certainly true that when shown a vision of falling into Hell, I pleaded guilty – I knew this was what I deserved.  The Holy Spirit will certainly convince the World of sin, righteousness and judgment.

    AFTER DEATH, JUDGMENT 

    Hebrews 9:27 Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,

AFTER RESPONDING:

  1. Warning about suffering for Christ – it is sad when Christians are not aware of this.  Suffering for our Faith may range from discrimination at work, and hostility from family, neighbours, law enforcement, judiciary, media and the arts, to Martyrdom.  Martyrs are to expect special grace, and great joy – as has been observed.  The moment after death, there is rapturous entry into Heaven, and the Martyr is the envy of all the faithful in Glory.
  2. An experience of the Holy Spirit – sealing, down payment, baptism in the Spirit, accompanied by some outward and obvious sign.  This is not an optional extra!
  3. Water baptism by immersion

[20. Summary of the result of the preaching.]

This defines real Christianity.

One may like to consider two related issues at this point: election – that the Father has chosen people for the Kingdom (John 6:37, 44; Acts 13:48)  The sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, which must precede belief and acceptance of the gospel, is stressed in these two quotations – one from Paul and the other from Peter: “But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief of the truth.   He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (2 Thessalonians 2:13, 14)

“…who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling of his Blood …”  (1 Peter 1:2)  I certainly experienced the setting apart – so that I would be witnessed to, read the Bible, and seek for Truth.  This explains, I think, the puzzle of 1 Corinthians 7:14, and the sanctifying in the family.

Canon David White (cf St Andrew’s Chorleywood, Archive) stresses the main meaning of Sanctification: the continuing work of the Holy Spirit after Conversion; but there is, I think, this special setting apart as the Spirit vitally leads us to faith in the Saviour.

Ladies are particularly mentioned apropos this gift: Psalm 68:11 The Lord gives the word [of power]; the women who bear and publish [the news] are a great host. (Amplified Bible)

Here is a simple diagram, which can be enlarged and printed.  It forms an exercise to be completed by you!

 

Christians are not saved because they are good: they are good because they are first saved.

Scholars like to use the Greek word “Kerugma” (or the more common Anglicised form, “Kerygma”) for the evangelists’ Message.   Preaching to unbelievers to convert them is “Kerugma”; by contrast, teaching Christians is called “Didache”.   As I said, the apostolic preaching of the Gospel in the Book of Acts is found in the Four Gospels, in amplified form.   Evangelists are the heralds of this Message throughout this current era.

Let us consider the Evangel again.   We should find common ground for a starting point, such as: the moment after a miracle, the faithfulness of God in the cycle of the year, or the prophecies of the Jewish Scriptures.   Approaches will differ for Jews, Gentiles or Believers.   The theme is the life of our Lord: perhaps beginning with John the Baptist, the Lord’s teaching and miracles, His Death, Burial and Resurrection, perhaps the Ascension, and lastly His coming again.   Human response is demanded: repentance – turning away from a sinful life, in sorrow, and with God’s assistance and grace; and believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, to receive imputed righteousness – the forgiveness of sins.   Judgment is the corollary of not believing.  The sermon often leads to immediate water baptism – by immersion.   The Message closes with teaching about suffering for Christ, and the promise of the Holy Spirit: as a Comforter, Teacher, bestower of gifts for service, and as a seal of God’s acceptance.

Our Lord gave this summary just before the Ascension:

Luke 24:44-49 “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”  Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.  He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.  I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

 

John 4:36-38 Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.  37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true.  38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

Here are two parts to evangelism: Sowing and Reaping.  I have sown the Gospel to many people, but it is a great sadness, when someone Reaps: with arrogance and thoughtlessness.

A good evangelist can introduce his theme in a minute, or enjoy the freedom of taking several months!

Kerugma

img164

It is good to have a simple formula, such as my diagram – for serviette, painting, or blackboard.  Hundreds of people have been introduced to the Gospel Message using versions of this diagram.

  1. Our lives have a beginning: but we are made in the image of God and existence can have no end.
  2. Guilt is added to by sin, once we become responsible for our actions, words and thoughts.
  3. The Gate into Heaven only allows perfect, sinless people in.
  4. Christ died and rose again, so that we can be perfectly forgiven.
  5. Our response: R and B – repent and believe.
  6. We take the consequences of ignoring or refusing, God’s offer of mercy and grace.

Gerhard Friedrich writes of Jesus: “His whole life was proclamation of the gospel.”   Paul is the main user of the term “good news”.   It is “absolute”: the only good news, and an observation with which his readers would be so familiar, as to require no further definition.

“Euangelizesthai is not just speaking and preaching; it is proclamation with full authority and power.   Signs and wonders accompany the evangelical message.   They belong together, for the Word is powerful and effective.   The proclamation of the age of grace, of the rule of God, creates a healthy state in every respect.   Bodily disorders are healed and man’s relation to God is set right.” (p 720, Vol 2, Kittel)

It is the World’s most important proclamation.

Do you want to see the baleful look in the eyes of a relative, friend, neighbour, or enemy, as they are condemned to eternity in Hell: “Why didn’t you tell me?!”

“The imperial cult [Emperor worship in the Roman Empire] and the Bible share the view that accession to the throne, which introduces a new era and brings peace to the world, is a gospel for men.” (p 725, Vol 2, Kittel)   In the New Testament the Lord Jesus is the content of the message, elsewhere this would only be found in the imperial cult.

Another definitive comment in Kittel states that “euangelistes originally denotes a function rather than an office (cf Professor Leon Morris on Offices and Gifts, where the same point is made), and there can have been little difference between an apostle and an evangelist, all the apostles being evangelists.   On the other hand, not all evangelists were apostles, for the direct calling by the risen Lord was an essential aspect of the apostolate.   In all three NT passages the evangelists are subordinate to the apostles.” (p 737, Vol 2, Kittel)

In 1 Corinthians chapter 9:14, Paul wrote this about Gospel preachers: “In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the good news should receive their living from the gospel.”   He was quoting the teaching of Jesus that we have today in such passages as Luke chapter 10:7, and clearly accepting their role.

2 Corinthians 5:19-21 (19) For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others. (20) We are Christ’s ambassadors, and God is using us to speak to you. We urge you, as though Christ himself were here pleading with you, “Be reconciled to God!” (21) For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

 

Professor J. I. Packer has a fuller definition of Christianity, as a whole, (Church Society/Reform Conference 2002)

Six Propositions from Colossians, my simple summary:

 

  1. God – the truth about Him, His Nature as Triune, Work and Plan
  2. Ourselves – related to God as lost sinners, or saved saints
  3. Kingdom – Salvation History – Jesus as LORD and Judge
  4. Salvation – Jesus redeems – we must repent and believe in the Cross and the Resurrection
  5. Fellowship – we are then baptised into the Worldwide Church – the Bride and Body of Christ
  6. Heaven – walking in this holy hope in the power of the Spirit

We may imagine the emergence of the written accounts, in the following way.   At first the evangelists were obviously believers who knew the Twelve Apostles, or had seen the Lord Jesus and heard Him teaching.  Later they were those trained by the first followers to tell the Evangel.   Paul carried various documents with him – cared for by Silas and Timothy.  These would include a valued scroll or two of the Jewish Scriptures, and his own notes written on small sheets of parchment or papyrus (Egyptian paper).  The evangelists, also, were probably careful to keep written notes about the life and teaching of our Lord.  My own opinion is that people made notes about what Jesus taught, perhaps before turning in for the night.   In any case, the memory of those living in a society of mainly non-literary people can be phenomenal.   Elizabeth Elliot, in describing her life among the Auca Indians of Ecuador, tells how, years after hearing her speak, they could reproduce and mimic her exact words.

The copies of the Gospels would at first be simple collections, but eventually more informed evangelists would come to the fore.   For a variety of reasons, the time would soon come when the “Gospels” would become quite “finished” and authoritative: so that scribes could be employed to copy them out, for wider circulation.  There was the need for the early evangelists to be accurately briefed, to avoid legend, or fiction creeping in.   It was crucial that the evangelists did not become too inventive in telling the history of the Lord Jesus.   Also the first disciples would grow old and “scarce”.   People, who could read, wanted the opportunity to borrow, or own, a “Gospel”, others to listen to them being read.   The Holy Spirit selected the best of the Gospels to become Scripture: just as important as the Books of Kings, Chronicles, and Exodus, in the Jewish Sacred Scrolls.   Like several great works in the history of literature, Luke’s Gospel and Acts were penned for a friend.  It is interesting that although Luke is the only non-Jewish writer in the Bible, he uses a Septuagint-style of Greek, and is thought to have been closer to the Aramaic which Jesus spoke, that the other Evangelists.  As the Septuagint was associated with Alexandria, so it is possible that this city was where he received his medical training, in the eminent Medical School.

The evangelists, then, are an exciting group of men and women.  Evidence of the Spirit’s grace will soon show in their ability.  This may be with a huge crowd, or speaking quietly to a little child.   The integrity of the evangelist of the large crowds will always be seen in his giving of himself to the individual, in witness [Billy Graham visited a prison to speak to a huge crowd, but later he was sitting down by the grill of a cell door, talking to an inmate; a student buying a meal in a golf club, found himself at a table, in a spiritual conversation with Billy].   To the unbelievers, they portray the life and teaching of the Lord, in order to bring them to repentance and faith.

Among the Believers, their desire is to draw us to worship, and an informed assurance.   They keep our eyes on the Lord.   The nature of the written Evangels, and their place in human experience, compel us to see this two-fold use.

There may be special aspects of an evangelist’s calling, and personality, which win them an audience.   Although the content of their Message is uniform and unchanging, they will have a multitude of styles, which compel attention – there will hopefully be creativity; but the content is sacrosanct.   It may be unique abilities, attainment, background, appearance, or way of speaking.   A preacher I met at Machynlleth had his lower-left-two tooth missing, which gave him a most distinctive diction; he could speak of his fearlessness in walking round the exposed platforms of the British Telecom Tower in Birmingham – most men are going to listen to someone who can talk in those terms.   In his testimony Harry Ramsden, a famous boxer, used to say,” When they took the Lonsdale Belt from Turpin, and put it on me.”   James Irwin arrives in a Northrop jet fighter, and talks about his flight to the Moon, in his film, “The Moon and Beyond”.   Some almost act the Evangel as they present it; others give powerful explanations and applications of the Master’s teaching.   Paul said that he, metaphorically, “placarded” the Gospel, in making it clear to the Galatians (Galatians 3:1).   The exemplary evangelism in Samaria by Philip indicates that miracles may well be part of the evangelist’s service – God’s “Hall Mark” of attestation (Acts 8).   In the end, it is a gift of the Holy Spirit, in His sovereign will, which makes any of us what we are in God’s service.

The person who has the gift of evangelist in their heart will “go out weeping” to sow the Gospel seed (Psalm 126), and return rejoicing.   I would say two things about healing in evangelism: if you have not yet seen any evidence of a healing element in your work, be prepared to pray for ailing people, perhaps privately at first, and be willing to see God witnessing to the authenticity of the Good News; and, secondly, do accept that with any of the gifts there may be a limit set by God – as mentioned earlier, Paul believed in Baptism, but he was limited to allowing others to baptize at Corinth, for good reasons – those baptized by him might have been tempted to become an elite.

All of us, like the apostles and evangelists, possess that most valuable item: our testimony.   The barristers in a law court are dependent on reliable witnesses; similarly the Holy Spirit relies on our confession of Christ.   This is something that no one can take from us; and there are people waiting to hear.   Testimony was always the final appeal of Paul, in the Book of Acts, when all else had failed, as mentioned above.  Think about this: Leviticus 5:1 If a person sins because he does not speak up when he hears a public charge to testify regarding something he has seen or learned about, he will be held responsible.

Jesus metaphorically referred to evangelising as fishing.   This leads me to think of the fact that anglers use maggots; in evangelism we may need to introduce elements quite foreign to our personal interests, in order to communicate with those who are far from God.   The Church is unique as an organization that exists for the benefit of non-members – but for this duty, we could all go to Heaven now.   All kinds of activities have been used under the guidance of the Spirit, to introduce the Message: Beach Missions, Adventure Camps, Rock Concerts, Christmas Parties, Impressive-Guest Services, Sports Fixtures, Men’s Breakfasts, Ladies’ Coffee Mornings, Dining Facilities, Patchwork and Craft Classes, Double Decker Bus Meeting Place, Puppet Shows, Bible Classes, House Groups, Sunday Schools, Postal Sunday School, City-wide Missions, Counselling, Correspondence Courses, Telephone Contact, Internet Sites, Television Presentations, Video Wall, Local Radio Programmes, Hospital Radio Slots, Personal Work, Survey Interviews, House to House Visiting, Open Air Preaching, Drama, Sketch Board, Escapology, Tracts, and hundreds more.   Neville Knox, an eminent Anglican evangelist, felt it vital to be well informed about the Sports Pages, if he was to reach other men through conversations.   The founder of the YMCA movement was brought to hear the Gospel, through a specially arranged supper of whelks – his favourite meal!   This illustrates the variety of the usage of the one gift: but the content of the Message is unchangeable.

This is a good place to return to the “opening” theme – the common ground, point of contact, or of departure, for our witness.   Earlier I mentioned the biblical examples: “the moment after a miracle, the faithfulness of God in the cycle of the year, or the prophecies of the Jewish Scriptures”.   In our own culture we may have to use other themes that are relevant.   Generally, the area known as “Apologetics” may be apposite: explaining the reasonableness of the Gospel, to those who hold the opinion that society has no need of Divinity, that science has disproved the Scriptures – Evolution versus Creation (Genesis 1-11), that all religion leads to God, or that religion is out-dated and the root cause of wars and disputes.   So we may be required to address such issues, before we start to deliver the Message proper.

A good exercise is to list the points of departure, or common ground, in Scripture (mainly in Acts), and in our own and contemporary experience.

Contrasting the false beliefs of heresies and other religions, may clarify the truths of the Kerygma:

“The Jehovah’s Witnesses were round yesterday: why do you think they are wrong?”

“They do not believe in the eternal deity of Christ; they believe that salvation is by our own obedience to the Law, and not by faith in Christ’s atonement; they cause the deaths of children, and their own members by refusing blood transfusions!”   Paul appears to see the use of heresies in this way (1 Corinthians 11:18-19).   The common ground is the idea that a certain faith is wrong – we are discussing the issue from the same side.

Other gifts may work alongside the evangelist.   Virtually every gift may be found assisting the witness; it may help to look at the list again to see how this would apply – caring, helping, miracles, tongues.

There are two aspects of evangelism, which we must never lose sight of: the sowing and the reaping mentioned by Jesus in John 4:34-38 – “that the sower and the reaper may be glad TOGETHER”.   It is so easy for the “reaper” to forget the hard work of sowing which has often preceded his work.   It is sad indeed, when we fail each other in this.   A small boy sat next to me at a friend’s home.   His parents had obviously explained the Gospel to him many times.   When I suggested he might like to pray and ask Jesus to save him, he readily agreed.   The parents had done the hard work.

The Gospel is called the power of God unto salvation; here is a story contained in a Prayer Letter from India, which illustrates this, so well:

“Later that day, Sunil and Paul travelled to a nearby village to hold a memorial service for Banabai who died at the age of 75.   This dear lady became a Christian through a one-time visit of missionaries in 1929 when she was only 9 years old [64 Years before].   Except for one Christian song, she went until 1993 without any spiritual guidance or teaching from any human source.   Sunil met her two years ago, and in that short span of time Banabai made an incredible impact on our lives!   Last year when she requested a desire for baptism, our ministry team was honoured.   Her amazing life in the spirit spoke volumes to us about ministry.   The Holy Spirit, our true teacher, gave her all she needed to sustain her in life.   Because of her beautiful testimony, 32 people from her village gave their lives to Christ during her memorial service.”

(Christian Discipleship Ministries, Sardar Newsletter, Christmas 1995, Sunil and Pam Sardar, Yavatmal, India.)

A relevant prayer: “… enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.”  (Acts 4:29 b)

The calling of an evangelist: “Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach.   Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” 1 Corinthians 9:16 (NIV)

“But in your hearts set Christ apart as Lord.   Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have.   But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience…” 1 Peter 3:15-16 (NIV).  In our criminal courts today, not all are highly trained and competent Barristers, but anybody can find himself, or herself, called as a WITNESS: under oath.  Similarly we are not all given the Gift of Evangelist: but we must all be ready and equipped to witness!

Five verses before the end of the Bible are these words:

“The Spirit and the Bride say, ’Come!’   And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’   Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.”  (NIV)

You may not be clever enough to answer all the hard questions that are thrown at you: but you can care for people, and you can find a wise Christian, or some reference source, to help.   You may carry some helpful literature, and certainly a New Testament.   There are many books to assist us in witness.   Practise what you might say to a person –  a Muslim for instance, or other special groups.   Know key Scriptures by heart, and where they come in the Bible – so you can turn to them.

There is a huge list of biblical references on this subject, but perhaps the simplest study is to read the New Testament again, with these words and topic in mind.

The following, incomplete, list of references may be studied – but at the very least they illustrate how the New Testament is really a book explaining the Evangel.

(Proverbs 24:11)

Matthew: 4:23-25, 11:5, 9:35-38, 11:5, 28:18-20

Mark: 1:14-15, 19,  2:10, 8:35, 14:9, 9:1-6, 16:15-16, 19-20

Luke: 4:18, 43,  5:31-32,  10:1-2,  16:16,  24:19-52

John: 4:1-42,  21:24-25

Acts: 1:8,  2,  3,  4:2,8-14,18-24,29-30,  5:12-16,29-32,41-42,  6:8-10,  7:1-8:3,  8:4-25, 26-40,  9:1-22,32-35,42,  10,  11:14,19-21,23,  12:24,  13:6-12,15-52,  14,  15:35, 16:13-34,  17:1-34,  18:4-11,24-28,  19:1-20,  20:17-35,  22:1-22,  23:6-11,  24:10-21,  26:1-29,  28:17-31.

Romans: 1:1-4,9,14-32,  2:16,  10:5-17,  11:28,  15:15-24, 29,  16:25-27

1 Corinthians: 1:17-31,  2:4, 5,  3:6-11,  4:1-5,15,20,  9:12-14,16-23,  14:24,25,  15:1-11

2 Corinthians: 1:16-22,  2:12,15-17,  4:1-6,13-15,  5:14,15,17-21,

8:18,  9:13,  10:14,16,  11:4-7,  12:12,  13:3

Galatians: 1:3-23,  2:1-21,  3:1-29,  4:13,  6:14,15

Ephesians: 1:13,14,  2:1-22,  3:1-12,  4:11,21-24,  5:16,  6:15,19-20

Philippians: 1:7,12-18,27-30,  2:6-11,22,  3:9,  4:3,15

Colossians: 1:5-7,12-29,  2:6,12-15,  4:3-6

1 Thessalonians: 1:4-10,  2:1-16,  3:2-4,  4:9,10

2 Thessalonians: 1:8,9,  2:13,14,  3:1

1 Timothy: 1:8-17,  2:1-7

2 Timothy: 1:8-13,  2:8-13,  4:5

Titus: 1:1-3,  3:3-8

Philemon: verses 6, 10,13,19

Hebrews: 2:1-4,  4:2,6,  6:1-3,  8:7-12,  10:1-7,32-34,  12:22-29,  13:8,11-16

James: 1:18,  2:5,23

1 Peter: 1:2-12,17-25,  2:21-25,  3:15-22,  4:11,17,  5:10

2 Peter: 1:1-4

1 John: 1:1-10,  2:1,2,  3:1-5,8,9,14,23,  4:9,10,14-16,  5:1,9-13,20

Jude: verses 3 b-7

Revelation: 1:5,6,9,  3:20,  7:9-17,  14:6,7,  21:6-8,  22:17

GO TO IT!

END NOTES ON EVANGELIST

There are several fine and most successful courses, with their inbuilt variations: Alpha Course – based at Holy Trinity Brompton; Christianity Explained – based at All Souls Langham Place; and Life in the Spirit Seminars – Roman Catholic. 

I have experience of evangelism with various organisations: Church of England, Methodist, Baptist, Elim, Assemblies of God (British and American), URC, Salvation Army, Brethren, YMCA, Quakers, Scripture Union, ISCF, SASRA, UCCF, Beach Missions, National Young Life Campaign, Youth for Christ, Open Air Mission, Pilgrim Preachers, Operation Mobilization, Youth With A Mission, to name most.

[1]   A MISSION VENTURE

I first of all request permission to ask the four questions of a church survey.  If the person agrees, here are the questions:

Are you over 21?  [I skip this one, if the answer is obvious!]

Did you have Religious Education lessons at school?  [Surprisingly, most East Europeans and Albanians did.]

Do you have a Bible, which you can read easily?  [If not, I have bought £200’s worth of Good News Bibles from the Bible Society – on condition that I give them away.  An Albanian New Testament for an ice cream man was rather expensive – you can guess his token of thanks.]

Do you have any questions about religion?  [The idea here is to leave the door open for further discussions.

“No, but what are denominations?”  There followed my half-hour lecture.

“No! I’m an atheist! I’m not interested in religion.”  Atheism is a religious belief, of course.  The lady hurried away to attend to her work.  Interestingly: behind her was the ornately painted sign at Matthew Wallis’s ‘Amusement Arcade and Rock Emporium’.  This could not have made itself – it is the work of a skilled sign writer and the designer; human life is far more complex!

“No thank you, I have been born again.  I was brought-up Eastern Orthodox, but became a Christian in a Pentecostal church. …  British Christians are lazy! …  I just love telling others about Jesus.”  This has been one of the best responses; and we have had several fascinating conversations since.]

 

IN SCHOOL TEACHING, MEETING REBELLIOUS TEENAGERS, OCCASIONALLY, I DEVISED THIS SET OF QUESTIONS – WITH A BARB AT THE END.

A QUESTIONNAIRE

Draw a circle round your replies – there may be more than one for each question.

  1. Do you believe there is a GOD? Yes/ No/ Sometimes . . .
  2. Do you believe IN God? No/ Would like to/ Uncertain/Yes
  3. What has put you off, if that is the case? No evidence/ Religious people/ Evolutionary Theory/ It would mean giving up too much/ Would need more help than is available
  4. What is your opinion of the Bible? Ancient Mythology/ Good Literature/ I have no idea/ God Speaking/The most important book in the world/Good in parts, but I need to edit it
  5. Do you go to church? Never/ Occasionally/ Weekly/Several times a week
  6. Do you read the Bible? Regularly/Never/ Sometimes/ Often/Right through, each year
  7. What do you think about Jesus Christ? Deceiver/ Deceived/ Trickster/ Good Man/ Prophet/ God in Human Form/ Great Teacher/ A Legend who never really existed/An historical figure only/ Something else . . .

——————————————————————————————————————–

CHALLENGING QUESTIONS

  1. What is your belief about God?
  2. What do you mean by the word “God”, when you use it?
  3. What evidence do you have for your beliefs?
  4. How do you explain the complexity of the Universe and of living things such as the Human Body?
  5. If you do not admit there is a God; is Chance the good enough alternative explanation of living things in the world about-us? ­ [Even beings from outer-space require some convincing explanation of their origin.]
  6. Do you think death is the end?
  7. What positive evidence can you offer for this belief?
  8. What would you say to convert a person to your beliefs?
  9. Do you think your ideas will make the World a better, or a worse place to live in?

********************************************

In the days when I had the health to walk round the Country Park, it was a pleasure to listen to Mike Kellogg, a broadcaster of the Moody Bible Institute, reading the New Living Translation of the Bible.  On one particular day, it was the Book of Judges.  A Park Warden stopped and asked me what I was listening to.

“Stand firmly, because you will be shocked!  I’m listening to the Bible – and it’s about a lady killing a man by driving a tent peg through his skull!”

Not the best start to speaking about the Christian Faith.

 

A longstanding friend was challenged by a member of his congregation to enter a church team in the local pub-quizzes.  This led to many interesting chats over the meals which always followed.  Eventually he was able to enter numerous television and radio competitions, and show clergy in a more favourable light than many TV plays.  He is an Oxford MA, with a special interest in History and Archaeology.

[2]  In my recent travels the following experience transpired.

I walked into a church charity shop. The two managers invited comments.  After a chat, I asked what they would say, if someone came in and asked them: “How do I become a Christian?”  To help, I went out of the shop and came in again – to act the part.

“This is a nice charity shop; it’s a church one, isn’t it?  Could you tell me how I can become a Christian?”

“Yes.  What do you already know about Jesus?”

“I have read the Gospels: about His life and teaching; and parts of the Old Testament.”

“You need to realise that Jesus died for your sins, on the cross, and rose from the dead.  You then need to pray – giving your life to God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  And ask for forgiveness.”

“I’m doing that, and I am starting to feel better, already!”

“You must learn more about the holy life, by reading the Bible.”

“Do I have to start going to Church?”

“It does help.”

“Oh dear!  But someone once said: ‘Don’t judge the Star, by the Fan Club.’”

 

CAUGHT OUT

My friend John Isherwood knew that I valued the book:”The Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul”, so he kindly presented me with his copy.  The author, James Smith FRS, was an accomplish yachtsman, who lived at the end of the time when merchant ships were powered by sail – he held conversations with sea captains before writing his book. 

 

And so I found myself on a flight to Malta.  The leader of our foursome believed in arriving at checkout at the last moment – hence, we were spread out down the aircraft.  I was by the aisle of the Boeing 737, next to a tall young chap, whose wife had the window seat.  In our conversation I explained to him the research of James Smith into Paul the apostle’s shipwreck on Malta, fully supporting Luke’s description in the Book of Acts.  There is a large bay named after the apostle, a huge statue, a church on the site of the famous bonfire, and an impressive annual celebration of the event – which we attended. 

“You must have a high regard for the Bible,” came at the end of my “lecture”.

“Yes, it’s like the Instrument Panel of an aircraft, in a way.”

“What sort of work do you do?”

“I’m a Junior Officer on the Irish Ferries;” so much for my chat about a sea voyage!

[On the return flight, similarly, the gentleman in the next seat told me: The last time I flew over Trieste (as we were doing) I was in the rear gun turret of an air force Halifax heavy bomber.] 

 

[3]  BLAISE PASCAL’S WAGER

Pascal (1623-62), a brilliant philosopher and mathematician, who worked out how his father could win most of his bets, and invented the first calculating machine – often mentioned in the history of computers; proposed a challenge to all of us to place a bet.

If we live and believe that there is a God, and then find that we were wrong, and there is no God or afterlife: we have lost nothing!  If, on the other hand, we argue that there is no God, and find out that we were wrong – then this is the greatest possible mistake, with horrendous everlasting consequences!  Place your bet!

If there is truly a Divinity, then He is greater than the Cosmos and the complexity of Genetics.  We are wise to respect such a Person, and find out what He has communicated to us in the Scriptures of Jews and Christians.  To believe that the Big Bang and Evolution created all from nothing – all the energy, matter and information, is to believe in convenient fairy tales. 

 

[4]  USEFUL PARABLES

I was most disappointed that some of my friendly neighbours declined to accept a free Bible for their young children.  They would probably say that, although they do not believe in God (which they did say), they do not wish to influence their kids; but let them think and chose for themselves.  The Bible Society sells boxes of about £100 worth, on condition that there is no charge, in giving them out.

“I do not like the Nat West Bank – their cash machine ate my debit card!  I wish my children to have a free choice of banks when they are old enough to decide: so I give them literature from: Barclays, RBS, HSBC, Lloyds, Santander, Halifax, Nationwide, Yorkshire, and TSB.  My friends point out that I am shamefully intellectually dishonest by omitting Nat West!”

The Story of a Toy Yacht  

In a fishing town, a small boy built a fine model yacht, with a little help from his Dad.  He sailed it on the sea: from the sands, or from the steps of the harbour: using a ball of strong cord, to prevent its loss.  One sad day, however, it somehow came loose,, and he lost his prized possession.  Three months later he saw it being offered for sale, in a second hand shop in the high street.  The shopkeeper told him it would cost him £25 (GBP), but he would reserve it until the boy had found enough money.

When eventually he regained his boat, he reflected: “Its mine, because I made it, and also because I paid the price for it.”

The two factors governing the sailing of yachts are: the keel (stopping the vessel from keeling over), and the action of the wind in the sails: giving momentum.  In the Believer’s life, we have the power of the Holy Spirit, and the stabilizing effect of the Word of God.

[5]  MOST PEOPLE HAVE A NOSE, A MOUTH, AND A LETTERBOX 

Leaflets can reach an awful lot of folk: a whole street, parish, town or city CAN BE REACHED IN THIS WAY.  Reinhard Bonnke attempted to cover the whole of the British Isles with a Gospel booklet, using the Post Office.

On delivering leaflets personally, there are many opportunities to meet people and hold conversations about spiritual issues: in businesses, front gardens, washing cars, passing in the street, etc

Just think of all the letterboxes in your area awaiting a gospel leaflet.  Please cover your district with leaflets!

Have you evangelized your street/family, village, town, state/county, yet?

“Day One” organisation has a set of 33 well-written and varied leaflets.  They are all available for extensive printing and use, via a CD-ROM, which costs GBP/£15.  www.DayOne.co.uk or phone UK : 01568 613740

One of the best tracts in English is Roger Carswell’s: “God’s unfolding plan for you”.

Order from:  chris@printbridge.co.uk    Prices are reasonable, but postage to other countries may be charged.  www.tell-me-more.org  He has many communications and books: “Grill a Christian”, Answers to tough questions, is a brave and very readable production, by 10Publishing, UK.  Meet him on the Internet, including YouTube.

I beg of you to consider this challenge.  Ask God to call you, or someone else, or your church, to dedicate time and effort to evangelise a particular area in your locality, and post a gospel leaflet through every door.  To produce your own, with an attractive picture on the front, can be relatively cheap with modern technology.  For the sake of Christ, and the lost!

On a more regular basis could be distributing the suitable church magazine to local homes.  Evangelistic papers such as “New Life” can be purchased and given on a monthly basis – to established customers, and in new areas.  http://www.newlife.co.uk

Some Fellowships produce their own using computer publishing; as for example “Lives Transformed” by Milnrow Evangelical Church in Lancashire, UK. This is one of the best I have seen.

A fine set of varied tracts/leaflets are published by http://www.10ofthose.com – based at Leyland, UK

You can lead a horse to water; but you cannot make it drink!  True, but you can put salt in its oats.  [The attractive testimony of our lives in Christ]

[6] In the last few years, two books have come into my hands containing bookmarks, both of which have been meaningful.  Here is a means of evangelism – buy some bookmarks with helpful Gospel texts or thoughts, and leave them in library books or those going to a charity shop.

[7]  Tim Tebow is a famous Quarterback in professional American Football – seen by millions on sports programmes around the World.  When he wore “John 3:16” on his eye black during the 2009 Championship Game, over 92 million people looked-up the verse of Scripture on Google (Internet).  Eye black consists of small patches of mat black colouring, high on the cheek bones, which reduces the glare of the floodlights.

Many people in sport witness by pointing to Heaven in gratitude, or crossing themselves.

We thank God for the life of former England footballer and Christians in Sport Trustee Cyrille Regis, who died yesterday at the age of 59.

Cyrille was a legend of West Midlands football and best known as a centre forward for West Bromwich Albion and Coventry City.

Christians in Sport General Director Graham Daniels said:

“Cyrille was an outstanding footballer but much more importantly an outstanding man. His courage as one of the first famous high profile black footballers meant that he became a role model which has changed the canvass of professional football. His faith in Jesus Christ, which he arrived at after the death of his close friend Laurie Cunningham, became a fantastic encouragement to many elite sportspeople to consider their relationship with the God who gave them their talents. The man was a giant in his generation.”

Just the third black player to be capped by England, Cyrille was a pioneer in the fight against racism in football. He played 614 matches and scored 158 goals in a 19-year professional career, which also saw him make five appearances for England. Cyrille’s career highlights included winning the FA Cup with Coventry City in 1987 and scoring the goal of the season, while playing for West Brom in 1981-2. He also had spells with Aston Villa and Wolves, which cemented his popularity in the region.

It was the death in a car crash of his best friend and former teammate Laurie Cunningham in 1989 that prompted Cyrille to ask questions about faith. His search for answers ultimately led to him becoming a Christian after what he described as “a real encounter with Jesus”.

After Laurie’s death, Cyrille started attending church and soon a local baptist minister sent him a book called A New Dimension by Michael Green,

Cyrille said: “As I’m reading this book, the penny drops. It really sinks in that Christ loves me. He died for me and He rose again from the dead and this awesome sense of peace comes over me.”

Cyrille soon became involved with and supported by Christians in Sport as he looked to live out his faith as a professional footballer. Following his retirement in 1996, he became a sports agent and remained passionate about sharing his story of faith.

He said: “I meet people all the time, some famous, some not who are all looking for hope and peace. I have learned that money cannot buy peace of mind so I simply tell people how I found hope and peace in God. The great thing about it is that anyone can have the peace that I have, you just need to know God.”

A member of Renewal Christian Centre in Solihull, Cyrille was a keen advocate of Christians in Sport and joined our Board of Trustees in 2011. Cyrille was also the first interviewee when we launched the Christians in Sport podcast in 2016. On it he shared his story of faith and football with General Director Graham Daniels.

Christians in Sport prayer Letter

Reggie White, of the Green Bay Packers in the NFL, had a similar dramatic effect – BOTH CHRISTIANS.

Kirk Cameron is an American actor best known for his role as teen Mike Seaver in the US television sitcom Growing Pains (1985–1992), a role for which he won two People’s Choice awards and was nominated for two Golden Globe awards. Kirk’s acting career has included many subsequent TV roles and movies, including faith-based films such as the Left Behind series (2000–2005) and Fireproof (2008). To many, he is better known for his overt public stance on his Christian faith. See http://www.creation.com

[8]  My friend FPW gave a critique of a popular tract – along these lines: the Apostolic Preaching did not start with the question of sin and guilt.  In addressing Zaccheus (Luke 19:1ff), Jesus did not talk about the Mafia Tax Collector’s sin.  The fact that this local dignitary climbed a tree indicates that he wanted to relate to Jesus in a serious way.  Apart from this Jesus would have a total Spirit-led access to Words of Knowledge, as required – as we might have.  Zaccheus was well on the way to grasping the Kerugma, and the mealtime would give time to explain.  Jesus’s ministry was to seek and to save the lost – those who were “sick – sinners” (Mark 2:17).

Dear Douglas                    Thanks for the comments; it is interesting that you are looking at evangelism as I am speaking on the subject next week with our group. In 2009 when I was in Thailand I saw the fruit of what we missionaries had taught the people. When a group goes out to take a children’s meeting in the villages the songs they sing and the emphasis is on ‘you are a sinner’ needing to be saved. I did not like this and saw this culture not as truly biblical or the way that Jesus dealt with people. We were helping them to use puppets and one story they told was of Zacchaeus – at one point Jesus told Zacchaeus to repent and trust in Jesus – this is not the way that Jesus acted. In fact there is no example of his saying to any individual ‘you are a sinner needing to be saved’. The four spiritual laws and formularisation of the message comes under the same hammer. Jesus dealt relationally with people at the point they were at. He did not condemn the woman with the alabaster box who anointed him even though the evidence is that she was a prostitute. Even the woman at the well though he pointed out her lifestyle, he did it in a loving way that brought here to repentance. Jesus never gave people too many things to think about but emphasised often just one point such as ‘I am the bread of life’ ‘I am the loving water’ in the context of festivals that were involved with eating and drinking. We seem to want people to know ‘the whole gospel’ at once which Jesus never did.  Anyway, I will be interested in the way that you approach the subject.

Perhaps my friend’s concern was with the point of contact: common ground, the starting places in our presentation of the Kerugma.  Some of his leaflets have been simply aimed at making people think about their own life, and offer church times, and a website or two.

Some of his later tracts have briefly referred to topical events – like the high transfer fee of a famous soccer player – and followed this with a succinct statement of the Gospel.  This was in the style of the golden age of the Victory Tract Club, in the late 1950’s – when Billy Graham, our minister O. G. Miles, and T. O. Chisholm, were writing.

[9]  A most unusual method of evangelism is through novels, and the biographies of Christians

We must note the Amish community novels; such as those by Jerry S. Eicher, E. J. Hoff, Mary Ellis, and several non-fiction works about the denomination.

And what about Professor C. S. Lewis’s Narnia books, and his science fiction!

Or, the “Miss Read” novels, which gently portray English village life, including the part occupied by the church and missionary interest.  (Dora Saint, MBE, was a prolific writer.)

“JANE EYRE”, BY Charlotte Bronte

Probably the most famous clergyman to serve at our Parish Church was William Grimshaw – although he only worked here as Curate for less than a year, before exchanging the position with a friend from St Mary’s, Todmorden. His real calling was to St Michael and All Angels, Haworth.

In fact the famous Rev Patrick Bronte (of the three daughters) was attracted to Haworth because of its association with Grimshaw fifty years earlier.

I started to read “Jane Eyre” because Canon David White of St Andrew’s Chorleywood pointed out, in a sermon, that it is most concerned with Mission, and the Return of Christ. As a daughter of the Rectory, Charlotte shows a sophisticated level of education, and an astute knowledge of the Bible. However, although the characters of Helen Burns, a fellow scholar in the charity school, along with the senior teacher Miss Temple, demonstrate the Christian life, never is it explained that entrance to the Kingdom of God is through the grace of Christ’s death on the Cross. What theologians call the Kerygma – The Apostolic preaching of the Cross – found in the Book of Acts. It is like describing the beautiful rooms of a palace, but never giving the password to take one passed the guards on duty at the entrance.

As you will know, the novel explores the nature of true love, and the meaning of life.

(There is displeasure apropos Calvinism – by default, supporting the Arminianism of John Wesley.)

Dorothy L. Sayers is famous for detection novels; but her Christian comments are weighty.  Her play: “The Man Born to be King”, was read to us at school by our Form Teacher

Joel C. Rosenberg is an eminent writer, his political spy novels have been prophetic, at times.

 

A SHORT STORY

The Man in the Chippy (a deep fried fish, and potato chips takeaway)

He came in after me, and obviously ordered a large helping of chips, but no fish – salt but no vinegar.  His appearance was interesting.  I was curious to know what kind of business he did.  He was average height; light grey hair, slightly curly, and thinning.  He wore a dark suit, but his shoes were a discordant light brown.  His glasses were expensive gold framed.  All rather a mystery.  After he had left, I went to the door to view his car, to see if it gave any clues.  It was a black Range Rover (valuable), but I could not read the registration details to assess its age.  So that was that: a conundrum.

It was ten years later that I saw him again: on the X47 bus in Heckmontwistle,  Lancashire, UK.  Like me, he was an OAP (Old Age Pensioner), who had given up driving, and started using his free bus pass.

The town had a special significance for me: years ago I knew the Vicar of the Parish Church.  He had been a Sixth Form Prefect, wearing the regulation black gown, at the Royal Grammar School.  I was a student on teaching practice.  The Head Master insisted that I had to put on a gown to teach Religious Studies, so he had lent me his – ten sizes too big!  I remember, there was a loquacious boy in one class called Abraham.  When I chided him: “If you don’t be quiet, you will have had your lot,” the class saw the joke (in the Old Testament of the Bible, Abraham had a nephew called Lot). Not many school children today would understand the quip.  When the Professor came to hear me teaching, he observed: “You cannot teach on being Born Again, in John chapter three, in only one lesson.”  I had to agree: the school’s syllabus allocated three lessons – this was the third.  Our Professor said, that the main point in teaching Religious Studies was to bring boys and girls to a personal knowledge of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.  The Prefect would pray for me as he passed the classroom.  At that time the school saw a spiritual awakening.  Fifteen boys returned to the school, having been converted on a day trip into the countryside, organise by a local teacher.  The programme had included several testimonies by scholars, a short but clear presentation of the Christian Good News, and many conversations on the return journey. These fifteen boys told there their stories in the Christian Group, and fifteen more were added to their number.

Back to the man in the Chippy: on the bus, he turned in his seat to converse.  “Nobody talks to you these days.”  Earlier on a bus, everybody had their mobile phones switched on, the only person who didn’t was a young woman next to him – with her head in a book.  We were both happy to chat.  He was a retired businessman: children’s clothing and toys, which he dealt with wholesale throughout the region.  Yes, he knew the local churches; but then all churchmen are not necessarily saved disciples, who know Jesus as Lord and Saviour.  With this in mind, I offered him my business card – designed for such people.  In twenty minutes, we reached his village, and parted company….

 

ANOTHER SHORT STORY

Gold Rush Double Jar

Australia c 1884

We are looking westward in an area little better than desert scrub.  There is a long, decrepit wooden and stone building, left by long-gone gold prospectors.  The wind-etched boards rattle in the wind, and the roofing flaps and groans.

From behind us appears the main character: Double Jar.  He ties his horse to a wooden bar – intended for that purpose.  He is a muscular man, untidy, in reddish face and hair.  There are two theories apropos his strange name – both probably correct….  He walks to the west, along the south side of the semi-ruin, assessing the possibilities of its usefulness to him; he knows that Troopers are tracking him.  Although the sun is high, it still casts a shallow shadow.  The first part of the ruin was probably a general store; the far end, which he approaches, a schoolroom.

As he disappears from view, a second horse is tied-up.  The owner is most unusual: tall for a woman, her slimness accentuated by her long black dress.  For these parts her complexion is remarkably clear.  Her long attractive face is enhanced by her dark eyes.  Why such gifted women link themselves with criminals is a great mystery.  Her choice could have been the largest house in a hundred square miles, seek a position In Service there, and in two decades be the Lady of the House.  The barrel of her rifle matches her dress; other features are more chestnut: the rifle’s stock, her horse, and her riding boots.  Her name is Abigail, which can be shortened to Abby or Gail; her late drunken father made the choice – rejecting Alice, a popular name at the time….  Her mother liked the ecclesiastical sound.

With an effusion of sound, the Troopers arrive.  The sound was not only of the animals, but also the crackle of random shots from all parties.  They ride fast, and close to the sides of the ruin: one on the north, two on the south.  They secure the horses in the shelter of the western end.  For an hour the men search tentatively among the silent rooms.  Abby holds her post at the eastern wall; a stray bullet has inflicted a flesh wound in her upper left arm – the material of her sleeve is torn but she manages to stem the flow of blood from her slender arm.

The Troopers are not known in the town by their personal names, only as Trooper One, Two and Three.

Suddenly, many events take place within the period of a minute.  Trooper Three has climbed onto the roof and has Jug in his sights; but before he can fire, Abby’s rifle, held courageously, crackles, and he falls in a curious cartwheel to the side of the north wall.  In fact, he slithers a few yards: to first planks of a solid wooden bridge over the dry creek which is parallel to the building.  He lies still – with his feet to the north – as a pool of blood both congeals in large dark red lumps, and soaks into the timber.  Jug has stepped out of cover to stand behind Number Two – ten yards from his back.

“Raise your arms to the side and drop your weapon!”

“Move towards your horse and ride away!”

He did, and shortly, a distant cloud of dust showed the location of the fortunate man.  Fortunate, because it was reckoned that Jug had killed seven men, in the pursuit of easy gold, and it was not sensible, or easy, to argue with his reputation.

Abby had concealed herself at the eastern end.  Trooper One foolishly stood outside of the north wall.  Jug slid off the roof like an agile cat, and stood behind him.

“March with your arms spread sideways, and drop your gun!”

Slowly the two shuffled towards the west end.  As they drew level with the bridge, there was the slightest of movements.  Number Three was not quite into the future life.  With a last brave effort, he brought a successful end to his current duty.  Steadily he aimed at Jug’s neck; and fired.  The bullet brought relocation to the base of Double Jug’s skull, upper vertebra, soul, and spirit.  His next appointment would not be with a Circuit Judge, but with The Judge of all.

 

The mother’s cottage and garden were remarkably attractive for the area.  Abigail was told to rest and nurse her well-dressed wound.  Her parent spoke musically with a gentle but authoritative voice.  Several months of recovery had passed, and Abby was talking to her mother: “What was that favourite verse, which meant so much to you?”

The senior lady went for the old family Bible – although she knew the verse by heart.  The book was the size of a small suit case, too heavy for small children to lift.  In the front was a place for family records, which showed that her father had originated from Worcestershire in England.  Some of the engravings were of paintings by John Martin.  Unlike many examples of this kind of book, it was worn out, and ready to be made into firelighters.  Her mother read the passage of two verses: “For by grace are ye saved through faith: and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works lest any man should boast.”

 

Much later, when Abby was in her eighties, she remembered that day well.  In spite of her considerable sins, she had felt herself washed deeply, and thoroughly clean.  It was as if a great gate had opened to a wonderful new life of hope; full of good, kind, and meaningful adventures.

 

Inspired and influenced by the anonymous ballad, “The Old Bark Hut”, and other works in “Classic Australian Verse”, Collected by Maggie Pinkney, The Five Mile Press, 2007, Australia

 

[10]  As Santa Claus: explaining the Christmas History and its meaning

ON STANDING IN FOR SANTA CLAUS

There have been many interesting experiences in playing the part of Santa: in school, church Fayre, Public Library, and Prison.

“That’s not Santa, its Dougie,” my neighbour’s daughter in Castleton.

“Why do you want a Magician’s Set for Christmas?”  “So I can make my brother disappear.”

My family pulled my leg about being Father Christmas, so I didn’t always tell them when I was on duty.  At St Martin’s Fayre, one of my family came to enjoy the Vicar’s wife’s brilliant lunches.  On returning home: “Where have you been – I didn’t see you at the Fayre?”  “Well I was in my Grotto, wasn’t I?”  To prove it, the “Observer” had my photo in the Wednesday edition.

 

At the local prison, the Chaplain was remarkably talented at selecting presents at the warehouse, for particular offspring.  With a certain girl in mind, he bought a lavender coloured toilet/bathroom set.  Unfortunately a boy chose it; gently – “Why did you pick that?” “So I can give my Mum a Christmas present.”

One little boy picked the large fire engine, as planned – he played with it all afternoon sending it across the floor to his Dad.

Acting the part, I could be quite outrageous: to a Governor – “What do you want for Christmas?” A voice from the back: “Early retirement!”

To the Roman Catholic Priest: “You do realize I am one of your Bishops.”  “Yes, quite.” Santa was originally the Bishop of Myra.

 

“Whose Birthday do we celebrate at Christmas?”  “Well its no-one in our family.”

 

“How do you cope with our gas fired central heating, and no chimney?”  “I rely on Quantum Theory.”

“How are the reindeer, and where are they now?”  “They are fine, thank you; and at twenty thousand feet, playing football.”

I always looked for chances to explain the true reason for the season; and that Jesus taught that giving brings more happiness than receiving. (Acts 20:35)

img063

[11]  Until recently, when using UK currency, the five, and ten pound notes, could start a conversation: Elizabeth Fry – the great Quaker prison reformer; Charles Darwin – the figurehead behind Evolution and Theistic Evolution: in contrast with Creationism.

Rather like this, at Easter Time, to start a discussion of the Gospel when buying Hot Cross Buns.

[12]  Chaplaincies in many of the following, and some of their supports are listed

Hospitals, which must recognise their vital role in comfort and recovery: Gideon Bibles, Visitors.  In the UK the road sign for a hospital used to be a Cross, and Sisters always started the day with kneeling to pray in the centre of the ward.

Schools: Sometimes official policies, Scripture Union, Gideon New Testaments, Visiting Speakers, various organisations such as Message Trust

Universities: several groups such as Agape and the Christian Unions, etc have a marked effect

Prisons – many are godly, some are not, Muslim Coordinators are found in some: Proclaim Trust with copies of Barry Woodward’s book “Once and Addict”, Visitors, local churches helping with services – some have seen conversions and baptisms, Alpha in Prisons has seen remarkably low re-offending rates

Armed Forces: David Pawson served as an Airforce Chaplain – publications, courses, visitors to on-camp meetings, externally financed visitors such as SASRA – Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Scripture Readers Association, Officers Christian Union, high ranking officers have been known to run Bible Studies in their homes

Sports Clubs: one clergy friend, within just a few years, saw 23 conversions among semi-professional players and staff, “Christians in Sport” run many schemes in schools, universities, and clubs in many disciplines, “New Life” Paper has sports pages at the back

“Chaplaincy brings a personal touch – people feel they can be listened to as individuals. If chaplaincy was established in every club, I believe it would be of huge benefit to the game as a whole”

Sir Ian McGeechan, OBE
Scottish Rugby Union, Former Head Coach
British and Irish Lions

Ian was an ‘A’ Level scholar, in my early days in Leeds, UK

Among Royal Families, Leaders of Nations, and Local Leaders, there are some which have godly chaplains

[13] Personal Testimony, it is a good idea to write out your story – how you became a Believer is not the same as why you believe.

I was brought up in a keen Methodist family – attending church and Sunday School until about 19.  I do not recall having clearly heard the Gospel in all this time.

When my father was on military service, during the Second World War, he ostensibly disappeared for a large part of a year – as he had warned us.   Aged ten, I was praying a childhood prayer for him, when I became aware or a person in the room, and saw a bright column of light – in spite of the thick Blackout curtains.   Although I was working on a copy of a Burne-Jones type of drawing of an angel, this was simply a column of light – not what I might have imagined.  I heard a voice saying that on the following day we would receive a letter.   At half-past nine, I went outside to see my mother’s joy as she showed the letter to a neighbour.   My limited knowledge of probability reckoned that there was only one chance in about three hundred of the message coming true that day.   It prevented me ever becoming “an honest atheist”.

As a student, I was standing at a bus stop thinking about the main issues of life.  Would my ambitions really satisfy: to be top in sport, as a military pilot, and an artist?  Someone would do better.  Has anyone proved there is a Heaven or a Hell – life after death?  Is there certain victory in temptation – my record was not good, and could land me being killed, or put in prison – there was one just two miles down the road.  Has anyone proved to me there is a God?  To be wrong on this would be life’s greatest mistake.  I remembered the text: Matthew; 7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”  So I prayed along these lines: “If there is a God up there, and you said this; I am giving you a fortnight to prove your existence!”  Within the day, I had indications; but the real proof was the vision of the angel.

Trying Theosophy and Séances etc offered ungodly guidance, and at the former, the leader said: “We do not know the way to God – that is why we come here.”  Talking to a lady as I left, the words of Jesus came to mind: “I am the way, the Truth, and the Life.”

Compulsory military service brought much spare time – to read the Bible and pray, in the station church.  One morning, I saw a clear picture of myself falling down a deep shaft – a true portrait of myself deserving Hell for my sins.  But on a ledge was Jesus holding out His arms to save me: I grasped His hands, but it was His strength which held me!  I heard the Holy Spirit saying: “You are prepared to trust Jesus as Lord and Teacher, but you need Him to save you!”

I have found following Christ exciting and thoroughly resolved, as to the true meaning of life and existence.

Many kind people helped me: two Christians on RAF Square-bashing, who argued with me, the pale girl via Hull Art College, who greeted me at an evangelistic rally “Nice to see you. Are you saved?” the chaplain, who let me use the station Church and his vestry, John Isherwood, who explained Justification by Faith from Romans, my Squadron Leader, who worried about me, and many more, over the years.

Years ago I lived near a picturesque Lake, I would take an early morning warm drink and sit by the shore.  On one occasion, a youngish Asian couple walked out along the jetty in the distance and engaged in a romantic Hollywood embrace.  When they returned, the lady went to sit in their car, and the fellow came up to me.  “You look religious, what is your story?”

I had been well prepared to have my religious story ready at any time; so I told him about how I became a true Christian.

He had degrees in History and Islam; his wife’s father had been a confident of the old King of Jordan.

[14] Stories

It is always good to have a few stories ready, when starting a conversation.

The story goes that a man opened the local paper and read his obituary.  In distress he phoned his close friend, who replied: “Yes I have seen it … Where are you ringing from?”

To make the point that I am a Church Member – what do you think of the Church?  Trolley Token – I put mine in the collection, by mistake.  Someone pinned it with a note, on the Church Notice Board.

To raise the question of the next life

I was placing an order by phone, using a Debit Card: the lady was attempting to be friendly, and instead of asking for the Expiry Date, asked “What is your Expiry Date?”  My reply: “I have no idea; but I am looking forward to it!”

THE STRANGE DEATH OF SOMERSET MAUGHAN

Somerset Maughan was one of this country’s most successful writers. He led an exotic life: he was a spy without people knowing, he was married, but was ferociously gay … , he was fabulously wealthy – he famously ate off silver plates, with eleven servants waiting on him hand and foot (how unlike the home-life of a Vicar). He wrote: “I am content that with my last breath, my soul, with its aspirations and weaknesses, will dissolve into nothingness.”

The reality, however, was far from that. In 1965, at the age of 81, he died. His nephew describes what happened at his death.

“That evening, in the Drawing Room after dinner, Willie (Somerset Maughan) flung himself down on the sofa. ‘Oh, Robin,’ he said, ‘I am tired.’ He gulped, and buried his head in his hands. Suddenly, Willie looked up, and his grip tightened on my hands. He was staring at the floor, his face contorted with fear, and he was trembling violently. His face was ashen as he stared in horror ahead of him. He began to shriek: ‘Go away! I’m not ready! ‘I’m not dead yet; I’m not dead yet, I tell you!’ And his high-pitched terror-struck voice seemed to echo from wall to wall. And he died.”

Canon David White, in a sermon (Chorleywood,2011)

Queens Park Rangers Football Club was in the top division of the English professional game, in the 1990’s.  Dennis Bailey was one of the few people to score a hat-trick against Manchester United at Old Trafford.  One Christmas, the Chairman of the Club invited the Players and Staff, with their partners, to a black tie banquet.  After the meal he gave a speech, and then invited the Captain to say a few words – he was a man with little to say, on such occasions.  But then Dennis Bailey, aged 17, and very quiet and nervous, asked if he could say something.  The Chairman gave him permission.  Dennis explained that no-one had talked about the significance of Christmas.  The team members were in hysterics.  He was not a good speaker, but said he could sing a song.  He sang four verses of: “Thank you Jesus.”  The Chairman said a second rendering was not necessary.

This story was told to Christians in Sport by an ex-player, who is now the Manager of a well-known team.  He had woken four times on that Christmas night, rocking with laughter at Dennis’s exploit.  However, when he thought it over, he came to admire the boy’s courage and commitment to his Faith.  In fact, it brought him to ask Jesus to be his Lord and Saviour.

(Taken from a talk by Graham Daniels for “Christians in Sport”)

There is quite a bit on Google about Dennis Bailey.

THE TYPING POOL

I was in the Typing Pool handing in some work.  My job encouraged a discussion about all the evil in the World.  Yes, I said, God would punish the wicked: Hell is for bad people and good people.  Heaven is for perfect folk, like me!  There were roars of laughter all round – perfectly forgiven through Jesus’s death on the Cross.

I worked with a man who was a famous rugby player and became a Head Teacher in a boys school in Batley, Yorkshire. He insisted on using the cane – in fact the boys called him: Instant Whipp.  My friend Roger taught there.  On one occasion he was faced with a case of caning a naughty fellow.  “I will do a deal with you, if you will agree to it.  I will take your place, and you can cane me.”  The boy relished the idea, and made the most of it!  “Now, that is what Jesus did for all of us, when he died on the Cross of Calvary!”

The teacher in Pudsey had a chatterbox called Rodney Sugden.  A second caning was going to be too much for him.  His friend Arthur Milner said “I spoke, Sir!”

“No you didn’t; but will you take the cane for your friend?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Rodney, will you let him?”

“Oh, yes, Sir!”

The teacher explained that Jesus took the “cane” for all our sins.

Mr Prideaux was a Sunday School teacher, and a fine preacher. He would hold his hands a few centimetres apart, and say, “I love you so much.” Then holding his arms outstretched, like Jesus on the Cross, would add, “Jesus loves you so much!” One day he stood at the top of a steep street, and recognised one of his scholars two hundred metres away at the foot of the street – too far away to speak to him. He simply made the two enactments: hands only a short distance apart; and then outstretched.

 

A village clergyman was holding Bible studies with a reluctant reserved man who had started attending services.  After some time the fellow became slightly excited, saying, “You know I believe this is all true – am I now a Christian?”

The Vicar asked him several questions: “Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God? …Do you know you are a sinner needing saving? …that Jesus died for you on the Cross, and rose again for your salvation?”

The chap replied in the affirmative to all these questions.  “Then you are a Christian!” The man had great joy.  Over the years he became a faithful, active, supportive, and trusted member of the congregation.

 

The story is told of a retreating SS Nazis Army Officer escaping from the Russian Red Army, towards the end of the Second World War: whilst hiding, he realised that the tattoo of his blood group in his armpit would make him a target for torture and a cruel death.  He took a pocketknife and carved away the tissue with its dangerous tattoo.

So we must urgently be rid of our condemning guilt of our sins!

When the Rev Pat Ash was Vicar of Otley (featured in the soap “Emmerdale” as Hotten), he had a metre high banner along the railings of the church, in the main street: “This Church is for sinners only”.

I was travelling into town by bus, when I realized that the tall elderly man sitting behind me was a “Jehovah’s Witness”.  I spoke: “Excuse me asking, but you aren’t you a Jehovah’s Witness? May I ask you a question? … What must I do to be saved?”  He hesitated for quite some time.  In the end he could not answer.  “But the apostle Paul, in Acts 16, had a clear answer, when asked that question: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!”

A gentleman was selling raffle tickets for the British Heart Foundation in our local shopping mall.  At best, my £2 might win me £1,000.  I explained that my current investment earned me a return of capital plus 10,000%.  This is Jesus’s promise and was guaranteed.  His reply was that you couldn’t take it with you when you die.  My retort: “No, but you can send it on ahead!”

A low-key type of witness to people who may have internet Access:

My name is Douglas Wilkinson.  When I Googled my name, there were 13 million of us – an All-in Wrestler, and a supplier of agricultural fertilizer, to name two!  Fortunately I have a middle name: Barrett.  When I use this, there are only five hits; and they are all me.

 

A STRANGE YARN

I had returned from Military Service to complete the final Art College year.  As a new Believer, I joined with others in starting a teatime Christian Group.  On this particular day, we had a young Curate from Guiseley to speak – he was saying that as Followers of Jesus, who had found salvation and forgiveness through the Cross, everything would change – like if you fall for a new girlfriend, you might start parting your hair, and behaving differently.  David Hockney, a most talented student, had arrived late, and ostentatiously sat beside the speaker and opened his packet of strawberry jam sandwiches.  We all knew that Hockney had done just that: she was a very smart Commercial Art student – gone was his Stanley Spencer fringe, and obvious was a neat parting.  Hearing the Curate’s words brought smiles to the group, and blushes to David’s face.

[15] Acts 1:8 encourages us to start where we are.  Before supporting missionary work abroad, we should put money and effort, into reaching our own family.

Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Mark 5:18-20 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him.

19 Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”

20 So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.

[16] The heresy of: “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words”

“Jared Cornutt is a graduate of the University of Alabama where he earned a BA in Political Science and a BA in history. He is currently pursing a Master’s of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has worked for LifeWay’s FUGE Camps for 3 summers and recently served as camp director. He enjoys discipleship, studying the Word and working Disciple Now’s with a little Alabama football on the side.

(Viewed 06FEB2014; email: “Feel free to use it! Jared”)

I am submitting Jared’s article from the Internet for consideration.  It is an important issue, which needs to be looked at:

Context:

This quoted is credited by most people to St. Francis of Assisi, Founder of the Franciscan Order. The quote is essentially saying live you life in such a way that it just screams out Jesus. The truth of the matter is we have no way in proving St. Francis actually ever said this. None of disciples, early, or late biographers have this written down from his sayings. It also is not found anywhere in any of his personal writings. So when people quote St. Francis with this, they are flat-out wrong. There is zero historical evidence to support that St. Francis ever said this. The closest he came to saying anything like this would be:

“No brother should preach contrary to the form and regulations of the holy Church nor unless he has been permitted by his minister .  . All the Friars should preach by their deeds.”

Simply put, practice what you preach. If you look at his disciples, biographers, and his writings the credited quote to him is in no way how he lived his life. This quote does not line up in any way in the thinking and theology of St. Francis. So the first thing we must realize is St. Francis never said this to our knowledge.

Why it is wrong:

  1. The quote is wrong for many reasons, one way is that it spews arrogance. I live my life in such a way that people see Christ through my actions. Now, I do believe we should live worthy of the calling we have received as Paul put it in Ephesians. We must remember though that our righteous works are like filthy rags.
  2. It can be used as a cop-out sadly. People will use this justify not evangelizing. That the way they live tells people about Jesus. This simply not what the Bible teaches.
  3. If someone has not idea who Jesus, how will they gather who he is just by how you live your life? Duane Liftin said it best:

“It’s simply impossible to preach the Gospel without words. The Gospel is inherently verbal, and preaching the Gospel is inherently verbal behavior.”

Also, Paul has a good word in Romans 10:14;

“How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?”

  1. Romans 10:17 “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Simple enough.
  2. The gospel is the declaration of something that actually happened. That is why Jesus commanded us to go to the nations and tell them. He did not command us to go live among them in a holy way, and let our actions preach. And since the gospel is the saving work of Jesus, it isn’t something we can do, but it is something we must announce. We do live out its implications, but if we are to make the gospel known, we will do so through words. I can appreciate the heart and intent of why people post that quote, but let us not live our lives that way. Let the Gospel come out of our mouths truthfully and constantly. (credit Ed Stetzer to much of this point)

The gospel requires, demands even, words. So, let’s preach the gospel, and let’s use words, since they’re necessary. May they be clear and bold words that call those inside and outside the church to follow Jesus. I’ll leave you with this quote from Mark Galli:

“‘Preach the gospel; use words if necessary’ goes hand in hand with a postmodern assumption that words are finally empty of meaning. It subtly denigrates the high value that the prophets, Jesus, and Paul put on preaching. Of course, we want our actions to match our words as much as possible. But the gospel is a message, news about an event and a person upon which the history of the planet turns.”

[17] Wearing a badge

This should be done with care.  Folk will recognise you to be a Christian, without you being aware of it; and they will watch your behaviour!  A churchman was standing, on a crowded commuter train, when a personable lady asked him about the cross he was wearing.  He was most pleased to explain the meaning of the Crucifixion to her.  When they stepped out onto the platform, she said, “Actually I am a nun, but I wanted the other passengers to hear your explanation of the Gospel!”  Take the famous “Fish Badge”: the Greek word for fish (ichthus/ixthus), can stand as an acronym for “Jesus Christ God’s Son Saviour”.

Without being aware of our witness, reminds me of my wife Florence’s experience.  As a little girl, she was taken to the home of old deaf Grandpa Farrar, a Sunday School teacher.  He sat by the fire, reading his Bible aloud, quite unaware of the little girl curled-up, hiding under the drapes of the dining table.  This was so impressed on her memory.  Later she became a trained Methodist Local Preacher, at the age of seventeen.  She subsequently preached from the pulpit where Smith Wigglesworth and the Jeffreys Brothers had ministered.

[18] Starting a conversation – jokes can help

Among the millions of ways, the placing of a quotation is one.

a.

The Professor Stephen Hawkins quotation:

Here is a quotation from one of the chief, and most admired proponents of this idea, Professor Stephen Hawkins:

“Our universe and its laws appear to have a design that both is tailor-made to support us and, if we are to exist, leaves little room for alteration That is not easily explained and raises the natural question of why it is that way … The discovery relatively recently of the extreme fine-tuning of so many of the laws of nature could lead at least some of us back to the old idea that this grand design is the work of some grand designer … That is not the answer of modern science     … our universe seems to be one of many, each with different laws.

Here is recognition of the evidence; but a denial of its implications: because of an already accepted World View.

(Professor Hawkins quoted by Professor John Lennox from “The Grand Design”, pp162, 164; “God and Stephen Hawking – whose design is it anyway?” p47, Lion

Hudson, Oxford, 2010, ISBN 978-0-7459-5549-0, £4.99)

The Gravestone quotation, initially humorous

In a graveyard south of Dublin:

Oh stranger pause as you go by;

As you are, so once was I,

As I am, so will you be,

So be prepared to follow me.

Someone had written below:

To follow you, I’d be content.

But hanged if I know which way you went.

On opening the morning paper, a man found himself reading his own obituary.  He quickly phoned a friend to see if he had seen it.  “Yes – where are you phoning from?”

d.

Ask a person to read Isaiah 53, and ask them what they think to it – I carry a printed page, as I am learning it by heart.

e.  HOT-CROSS BUNS  When paying for a packet: The Cross means everything to me (explain).  “The Cross” was shorthand in the New Testament for Atonement and Salvation.

[19] A Challenge

The Two Lepers

2 Kings 7: 1-11 NLT

(1) Elisha replied, “Hear this message from the LORD! This is what the LORD says: By this time tomorrow in the markets of Samaria, five quarts of fine flour will cost only half an ounce of silver, and ten quarts of barley grain will cost only half an ounce of silver. “

(2) The officer assisting the king said to the man of God, “That couldn’t happen even if the LORD opened the windows of heaven!”

But Elisha replied, “You will see it happen, but you won’t be able to eat any of it!”

(3) Now there were four men with leprosy sitting at the entrance of the city gates. “Why should we sit here waiting to die?” they asked each other. (4) “We will starve if we stay here, and we will starve if we go back into the city. So we might as well go out and surrender to the Aramean army. If they let us live, so much the better. But if they kill us, we would have died anyway.”

(5) So that evening they went out to the camp of the Arameans, but no one was there! (6) For the Lord had caused the whole army of Aram to hear the clatter of speeding chariots and the galloping of horses and the sounds of a great army approaching. “The king of Israel has hired the Hittites and Egyptians to attack us!” they cried out. (7) So they panicked and fled into the night, abandoning their tents, horses, donkeys, and everything else, and they fled for their lives.

(8) When the lepers arrived at the edge of the camp, they went into one tent after another, eating, drinking wine, and carrying out silver and gold and clothing and hiding it. (9) Finally, they said to each other, “This is not right. This is wonderful news, and we aren’t sharing it with anyone! If we wait until morning, some terrible calamity will certainly fall upon us. Come on, let’s go back and tell the people at the palace.”

(10) So they went back to the city and told the gatekeepers what had happened–that they had gone out to the Aramean camp and no one was there! The horses and donkeys were tethered and the tents were all in order, but there was not a single person around. (11) Then the gatekeepers shouted the news to the people in the palace.

[20] Try talking to others about Jesus, as though you had just discovered Him yourself.

[21] In my view, every Believer should carry a Bible or New Testament, and be ready to read it in public places – as you would a novel or a newspaper; and be ready to give it away to someone who does not have a copy, and will read it.

Cancelled Train

Ten minutes gave me ample time to change platforms… but no need: the express out of Victoria had been cancelled.

The slow train would take me part of the way, and give a pleasant place to continue my reading: a charming gilt-edged edition of the RSV, New Testament and Psalms.  I was at 1 and 2 Timothy.

The carriage filled just prior to departure, and, at the last moment, a tall young lady in a long black overcoat took the seat by me.

“Hello!” she said.

“Do I know you?”

“No.”

“It’s very kind of you to say Hello.”

For the next few minutes she was talking on her mobile.   I deduced that both her mother and father were caring people, and that she had come towards the end of a long journey.

“Mobiles can be a mixed blessing,” she said.   “Are you reading an interesting book?   Well, you wouldn’t be reading it, if it wasn’t interesting!”

“It is the most interesting book in the World!”

“I believe that book; but I don’t like the Church.”

“I’m reading One and Two Timothy – and the Holy Spirit doesn’t think much to the Church either.”  [He does love it, and has committed Himself to it, however.]

We talked about judgement and Heaven, the death of Christ for our sins, and resurrection.   She wondered if Jesus was really the Archangel Michael [That is a Jehovah’s Witness heresy – like believing that conscience is the Holy Spirit].

I deduced that the positioning of her head indicated a hearing limitation – so I had to talk louder than normal….   An eminent Oxbridge retired vicar, who had been sitting further down the train, gave us an encouraging smile, as he left.

Cancelled trains, are not always disasters.

[22] Paul’s openings of the Galatian and Roman Letters

The importance of the Good News is made abundantly clear in this passage.

Firstly we have the use of the word euangelion – good news and its pronoun.

15 times 1:6 – 4:13

Then we have references to the content of the Message – the Kerugma.

1:6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—

1:7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.

1:8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!

1:9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

1:11 I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up.

1:12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

2:2 I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain.

2:5 We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.

2:7 On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter (the Gospel – original Greek) had been to the Jews.

2:14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?

3:8 The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”

4:13 As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you.

Romans 1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes:

KERUGMA CONTENT

1:1; 1:4; 1:6; 1:15-16; 1:23; 2:6 (NIV); 2:16; 2:21; 3:5; 3:8; 3:13; 3:22; 3:24-26; 3:29; 6:14.

Romans 5:1-11 is similar.  In this short passage I counted seven references to contents of the Gospel Message.

[23] Make the most of every opportunity

As far as we know, there will be no evangelism post our resurrection – in Heaven.  The time may come in this life when evangelism is limited – by age or infirmity.

[24] Use of Heresies

As I said earlier, we can make use of local heresies.

A neighbour might ask: “The Jehovah’s Witnesses were round yesterday: why do you think they are wrong?”

“They do not believe in the eternal deity of Christ; they believe that salvation is by our own obedience to the Law, and not by faith in Christ’s atonement; they cause the deaths of children, and their own members by refusing blood transfusions!”   Paul appears to see the use of heresies in this way (1 Corinthians 11:18-19).   The common ground is the idea that a certain faith is wrong – we are discussing the issue from the same side.

Or this account of a meeting with Mormons: On the bus, I spotted two Mormon missionaries; one was witnessing to a lady sitting in front of us.  (Shame on real Christians for not sharing their faith.)  When the lady left the bus, the young fellow turned and started on me.    Before he had spoken many words, I observed,

“Your religion is utter rubbish!   The Bible tells us not to add to it; and you do!”

“Oh no we do not!” came his reply.

“Every time you go to Church on a Sunday, you carry two books: the Bible and the ‘Book of Mormon’.    And another thing: you must have an uncaused, first cause!”   (Mormons believe that God was originally a man).   We had reached his stop….

A day or so later, the doorbell rang.   There was a tall young fellow in a white shirt, dark tie, wearing a name badge, and carrying a black satchel.   I laid into him: “I’ve told you that you must have an uncaused First Cause, you must not add to the Word ….”

“Who do you think I am, and why am I here? He asked.

“You’re a Mormon!” I stated.

“No… I’m promoting ‘n-Power’….”

We both had a good story to tell!

How do Muslims differ from Christians, they both have caused harm in the World, and both have a holy book?  Currently it is the Islamists who are creating widespread murder and havoc in the name of their religion.  The Qur’an is not an orderly book.  The Medina and the Mecca halves are quite different in their ethos.  It is quite a short book, and claims to have originated in Heaven; and yet there are about two hundred abrogations, or internal corrections.  Whereas the Bible contains hundreds of precise literary cross-references between writers: the Qur’an has only vague uses of recollections of stories and characters – hearsay: as Arab peoples would not have access to the text of the Jewish Bible, not being able to visit synagogues where copies were kept.  There is the cheap trick of claiming that Christians and Jews degrading the text cause any differences – quite the opposite will become apparent on careful study.  Much of Islamic practice does not come from the writings of the Prophet, but from the Hadith – parts of which were written 200 years after the Qur’an.

I was travelling into town by bus, when I realized that the tall elderly man sitting behind me was a “Jehovah’s Witness”.  I spoke: “You are a Jehovah’s Witness aren’t you? … May I ask you a question? … What must I do to be saved?”  He hesitated for quite some time.  In the end he could not answer.  I pointed out: “But the apostle Paul, in Acts 16, had a clear answer, when asked that question: ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!’”  How can serious Bible Students not know the answer to this question?

A JW gentleman called at our house, we had a sympathetic chat, and he left me their current “Watchtower” magazine.  It was well produced, with promising arguments on finding “Truth”.  They still use the obsolete translation of the Divine Name YHWH, instead of the better “Yahweh”.  The article on God and Christ is blasphemous.  Their age-old promise of a glorious Kingdom is misleading, damming, incomplete in Doctrine: with no discussion of Judgment, the Millennium, Salvation, Grace, Forgiveness and Atonement.

Those with weak or bad arguments will resort to attacking the character of their opponent, and perhaps using physical force.  The accusation that Religions have caused wars may be dealt with by pointing out that Stalin and Hitler, etc have also caused wars and atrocities.  Claiming to be personally against all religions, even counting Communism as a religion, needs to be addressing: philosophies, World Views, and Ideologies.

A neighbour, who is not yet a Christian, makes the point that God is Love; but overlooks the fact that He loves the World, and He loves Justice.

[25] Philemon 1:6 I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.

Through tentative, nervous, unsure witnessing, we will find the Holy Spirit helping us miraculously; and our own understanding, faith and assurance, will develop.  With hard objections, we can refer to Christians with experience in that field: “I do not know the answer to that, but I will ask around, and let you know ….”.  Creation Ministries International has thousands of scientific papers on specialist areas, for instance.

[26] Witnessing can make enemies, and you may face danger!

[27] Giving or lending DVD’s or books

This impressive DVD programme can be investigated at www.Vision of World Translation and The Story Behind God’s Story.  This Web Site give exciting details, including the 300 languages it has been adapted to – my contact is Info@word.org.uk

img186

Bridge Builders encourage and assist people to carry copies of the Gospels to give to those we witness to, and long to help.  www.bridge-builders.net   UK.

[28] RUNNING SPECIALIST COURSES FOR SCHOLARS AND STUDENTS

This ancient photo serves to illustrate.  Six Form students booked for a holiday in Holland, to visit many of the iconic Dutch galleries.  They lodged at a Catholic facility (opposite a military airfield, and near the Royal Palace), the leaders were Christian Art Teachers and two Oxbridge students, under Branse Burbridge (DSO, DFC and Bar, MA[Oxon] – a WWII night fighter pilot), and the Principal of a Dutch Bible College.  Professor Rookmaker gave Art History lectures, and the whole excellent course had a strong Christian content – organised by Scripture Union in Schools.

[29] A powerful argument against the Gospel is the false idea that Evolution has disproved the Bible; I feel this in witnessing.  Much of serious science is based on the assumption of an ordered Universe; many of the West’s great scientists were Christians.

Here are two items offered to our Church Magazine:

“In Six Days” Why fifty scientists choose to believe in Creation, Edited by John F. Ashton, PhD, Master Books, 2012, USA

Perhaps not a good idea to allow it to become my Book at Bedtime – in some parts I was reminded of the most difficult Six Form Lessons in Physics and Chemistry, of schooldays.  On average the articles are 7.68 pages in length, including references.  I found it more gripping than a detective novel, and far more important.  All the contributors are PhD’s, many are professors, and they write from a background of study, research, lecturing, and writing.  With fifty of them, areas range from ecology to cosmology, medicine to microbiotics.

Professor Richard Dawkins, called the Apostle of Atheism and the Prophet of Evolution, complained recently about children being told fairy stories – because they were unscientific.  Amazingly he quoted the example of the Princess, who kissed a frog, and it became a Prince Charming; and yet he believes that all the Princes in the History of the World came from nothing!

I offer a few examples from the essays.

Professor Andy McIntosh has retired from Leeds University, and worships at a church in Milnrow (UK).  He lectures all over the World on the Christian view of Creation, and preaches in Yorkshire Street, Rochdale, UK, occasionally.

In Ecology: living systems are incredibly dependent on each other to be sustained.  Similarly living cells resemble cities in the complexity of their arrangement.  This gives rise to the concept of Irreducible Complexity – nothing could exist without all parts in place.

The basic First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics will not allow for evolution in our Universe.  Great Intelligence must have written the complexity of Information in Genetic Coding.  The ink and paper cannot write an essay by themselves.

Professor Baumgardner works in the area of Catastrophic Plate Tectonics, and like so many, finds his research in possible harmony with biblical creation and Noah’s Flood.

Explanation

There are only two real options.  Godless evolution from Zero to Zoro: for which there is a stack of evidence against, and a paucity of evidence for.  Secondly, Creation by the power of an Almighty, All Knowing God – for which the evidence is stacked up in favour for.  Neither is strictly science, but are philosophies – beliefs.

A third possibility is Theistic Evolution – God created all by evolution over billions of years.  This is tantamount to demythologising the Bible, rather like the Sadducees.  Saying that “The Feeding of the 5000” was achieved by Jesus arranging the delivery of flour, and hard working bakers, over several weeks – clearly not true!

RELEVANT

It would be wonderful if young people were able to “evaluate scientific evidence”. Unfortunately the modern dumbed-down school science syllabus makes this unlikely; there is little scope for actual understanding.

On the contrary, I doubt if many professional biologists have actually evaluated the evidence for evolution. When they do, they may develop concerns about it, but dismiss these on the grounds that everyone else believes it so it must be true. The herd instinct is quite strong in science, and any biologist publicly expressing doubts about evolution would find it difficult to get a job. That means that serious research into alternatives has to be carried out by amateurs or academics in other disciplines.

There are good scientific reasons to doubt evolution, quite apart from what the Bible teaches. The apparently spontaneous creation of information, in flat contradiction to thermodynamics and information theory, is one of them. To get round this most biologists either ignore it or claim that life is not fully subject to the laws of physics (thus agreeing with creationists!). It suits atheists to pretend there are ‘God vs. science’ debates. These are usually actually ‘science vs. science’ debates. There can be no conflict between true science and Christian belief.

Dr Dave Kimber, via email

“In Your Words”, p 36, IDEA, The Magazine of the Evangelical Alliance; March/April 2014 [Adapted]

[30] ABBA

When as a child my father held me close, a common sensation was the rough stubble on his cheek.  I had his full attention – his ear.

Abba is an Aramaic word, drawn from the everyday language of Palestine – often heard on the streets, its Hebrew base is often used in the Old Testament, but rarely of God. It is also a title for rabbis and a proper name. As the first word a child might learn, it is equivalent to our word Daddy [or Papa] and is laden with a warm sense of intimacy. The word is found in our Bibles in a combined form, “Abba, Father,” which links the Aramaic word with the Greek word for father (abba, ho pater). It may be that the Greek word is added to explain the unfamiliar abba to believers beyond Palestine. But even in Palestine in NT times, the combined formula was used in prayer and as a way family members addressed the head of the household. No slave or servant in the household had the privilege of using this personal formula to address his master.

This fact underlies the argument in Ro 8:15 and Gal 4:6, two of the three NT occurrences of abba. Paul wants us to grasp the dramatic change of relationship that comes with being a Christian. We believers no longer address God as would a servant or a slave. We come to the Lord in the full assurance that we are family.

The full intimacy of our relationship is sensed in the only other biblical use of the phrase. “Abba, Father” was the anguished cry of Jesus in Gethsemane, anticipating the agony of Calvary (Mk 14:36). When we hurt, we too can call on a God who welcomes us into his arms as dearly loved children.  This closeness with our Father is indicated in two words: “Hesed” (the Hebrew word presented hardship for the early translators – “mercy” later becomes “loving kindness”); and “agape” – the overwhelming love of God!

Gerhard Kittel: “Jesus probably used abba for God not only in Mark 14:36 but also whenever the Gk pater occurs. It denotes childlike intimacy and trust, not disrespect. In Paul … it may be a liturgical reminiscence, possibly the opening of the Lord’s Prayer. It undoubtedly expresses the new relationship with God proclaimed and lived out by Jesus and then experienced by believers in him.”

Mark 14:36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Romans 8:15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

Galatians 4:6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”

It is an indication that the child exists here, quite soon after birth

Our weakness and immaturity is being confessed

His supremacy is being acknowledged

It indicates closeness, intimacy, and dependency

We are greatly honoured to have this privileged position

God wishes us to use this word, because it gives Him pleasure

Jesus and the Holy Spirit use it

[31] STREET PASTORS

BOOK REVIEW

“STREET PASTORS” and “FAITH ON THE STREETS”

Les Isaac with Rosalind Davies

ISBN 978-1-84291-419-9 and ISBN 978 1 444 75009 6

These two books tell the history of STREET PASTORS, the first in the early days, the second to 2014.  The work is honouring to all involved in its establishment in Britain: Church, Home Office, Parliament, the Metropolitan Police, and national Police Forces.  It is effective in moving in to help the weekend clubbers and drinkers who land in trouble on our streets.  Crime is noticeably reduced, and the witness of the Church in supporting society is made visible  “ … an inter-denominational Church response to urban problems, engaging with people on the streets to care, listen and dialogue.  It was pioneered in London” (January 2003), following work done in Jamaica.

Les Isaac reckons that 75% of people will ask him to pray with them: from business managers, bouncers, and lads and lasses.

Besides the lengthy negotiations, there are marvellous testimonies of the work done by Street Pastors.  There are nine groups working in the Greater Manchester area, in the UK – particularly in violent town centres on weekend nights and into the early mornings.  Potential volunteers should try the Internet for more information; but please include them in your prayers!

The disrespect shown to Christians by a secular society is ignorant of the huge success of work such as this, and Alpha in Prisons – in reducing crime and re-offending.

[32] POSTERS  Many church buildings are by main roads or thoroughfares, and so have a first class opportunity to hold forth the Word of God in poster form – often to thousands of people a day.  Posters come in many forms: some quite basic, others picturesque and innovative.

What a terrible disgrace it is that many of us fail to witness through posters.

Philippians 2 verses 15-16 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.

Trinitarian

[33] Born Again    A commonly misused expression.  First used in the New Testament by the Lord Jesus Christ in a conversation with a Jewish Leader (John chapter 3).  Also implied in the writings of Paul and Peter.

If there is a family where one member is particularly wayward and evil, how we might wish that they could be born afresh with a totally new DNA!  Metaphorically and spiritually, they are when saved by Jesus.

You may find this farfetched, but here is one of millions of similar accounts.

From a sermon by Rev Miles Toulmin, Holy Trinity Brompton, London, UK

“TOM TARRANCE is a mentor to a friend of mine – they meet about twice a year; but he was not always the good guy.  He was hunted and tracked down by the American intelligence agencies.  In fact he was on Edgar Hoover’s list of the top ten most wanted men in America – for acts of terrorism.  Eventually they tracked Tom down, and they decided they were going to take him, and arrest him.  And a whole squad of the team were in place.  They went to a gate with him, but he resisted.  And in the darkness, at point-blank range, twenty-six snipers opened fire on him.  They shot 367 rounds of ammunition at him.  Amazingly Tom survived.  They rushed him to hospital – he recovered, was prosecuted, and put in jail.  Now being the sort of chap he is – he rapidly escaped from jail; so they had to do it all over again.  And they put him, this time, in solitary confinement in a cell 9 foot by six foot.  He was allowed out once a week for twenty minutes.

“Whilst in that cell, one day he noticed graffitied on the wall: the words from Matthew (’s Gospel), “What does it profit a man, to gain the whole World, yet lose his own soul.”  There and then, Tom asked Jesus into his life.  And he was filled with the Spirit.  The agent who had orchestrated and the capture of Tom went to the prison to interview him.  He said that in the first 60 seconds he knew that something had happened – such was the change in this man.  He felt uneasy, and couldn’t work it out, and left.  Within 2 weeks, that agent had become a Christian.  Eventually Tom was let out early, and he tracked down 22 of the 26 snipers who had shot him.  He tracked them down, to go and say to them personally, face-to-face, “I am sorry!”  Such was the change in this man’s character that 21 of the 22 snipers came to faith in Jesus Christ.  This life is there for us – not just when we get to Glory; but now!”

[34] ANGELS, DREAMS, AND VISIONS    There are many accounts, from around the World, of God revealing Himself in these miraculous ways.  These are seen in my own experience also.  One Christian, who has worked in the Middle East and North Africa for thirty years, knows of hundreds who have been converted through a vision of the Lord Jesus.

I was sitting by myself in the corner of a railway carriage, reading my morning portions of Scripture. Half way through the journey, a lady with two teenagers came and sat down opposite me. She was rather agitated, and asked “Are you psychic?” I most certainly am not! But I wanted to understand more about her, and the question. The night before, staying in a YWCA, she had dreamed of entering a railway compartment, in which a man was sitting in the corner reading a Bible. We discussed religion – her sister annoyed her by asking: “Are you born again?” “Do you know Jesus in a personal way?” I explained that recently my sermon at a Baptist Church, near the route of the train, had been on Spiritual Regeneration – Being Born Again. She was a Baptist, and a schoolteacher. My friends think she had had a nightmare.

[35] The Engels Scale was devised by missionaries working in a South American country, as a means of identifying the process of evangelism.

No awareness of God

Some awareness of God

Awareness of Christians

Contact with Christians

Interest in Jesus Christ

Investigate Jesus

Grasp the truth about Jesus

Accept Christian truth

Awareness of personal need

Become a Christian

Quoted in the reverse order by Rev Rob Frost. “Sharing Jesus in a New Millennium”.  SU.  UK. 2000.

[36]Old Age or incapacity

It is said that Smith Wigglesworth, in his aged years, used to visit a seat at a local bowling green in order to engage folk in spiritual conversation. A dear local lady witnessed to fellow residents in the Residential Home, and led several to salvation in Christ. An elderly businessman, Donald Daisley, in Leeds, always travelled First Class, because he saw a need to have a witness there.

Psalm 92:14 They will still bear fruit in old age…

[37] Bible read by David Suchet – GB£39.99 from church bookshops, or Amazon.

Internet Daily Bible Readings by Nicky Gumble of Holy Trinity Brompton (the home of “Alpha”).

EPSON scanner image

img016

New Living Translation – early edition, Moody Bible Institute

[38] CHRISTIAN CHARITIES AND ALTRUISTIC WORK

These show the love of God in practical ways:

World Vision and the similar TEAR Fund [The Evangelical Alliance Relief Fund – both widely supported, and used, helping of the poor; including supporting individual needy children],

The Barnabas Fund, and Open Doors [two fine organisations which inform and stand-up for the Persecuted Church],

Dr Barnardo’s, Salvation Army,

Mission Aviation Fellowship – provides air transport to isolated places, for church workers – even the Archbishop of Canterbury!

Christian Blind Mission, Book Aid,

Pilgrims’ Friend Society [gives advice and support relative to the pains of growing old], The Leprosy Mission, Mercy Ships, Christian Aid, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Victory Outreach UK,

Christians Against Poverty [a widely admired source of counsel and practical help for those trapped in poverty], Christian Action Research and Education (CARE) [presenting advocacy from grass-roots to Government],

The Hospice Movement [one of the glowing developments of recent decades, mainly initiated by church members], Samaritan’s Purse International, Sisters of Jesus Way (Wirrel, UK),

Redeeming Our Communities [based in Manchester UK, working together, particularly with the Police towards, safer kinder communities].

CitizenGO is a community of active citizens that seek to defend life, the family, and fundamental rights worldwide

Most of these have Web Sites and approachable offices.

39] PARA-CHURCH GROUPS 

Spreading the teaching and good news of the Lord Jesus Christ:

Missionary Ventures – personnel, short-term mission teams, and offices in sending nations.

Church Army, Bible Societies – we must offer the Scriptures to our own country-people, and financially support the worldwide distribution,  Byd Mary Jones World exhibition centre – near Lake Bala, North Wales, UK, Scripture Union [encouraging private Devotional Reading, working with youngsters in schools, and Summer Camps – which are often based on specialist interests],

Church Pastoral Aid Society – publishing support material for churches,

TEE Tools to Equip and Empower – International teaching courses to train church members to be informed and competent (Interserve)

Christian Television Association and others have joined for marketing as: the brilliant AOvision,

Premier Radio, Baptist Missionary Society etc, Christian Endeavour, Regents Theological College – and similar training facilities,

True Freedom Trust, Reachout Trust [dedicated to warnings against heresies], Reelife Recordings, United Christian Broadcasters etc, Evangelical Alliance [standing for Church Unity and church development and Mission], The Mission to Seafarers, Operation Mobilization [the huge and influential mission], Evangelism Explosion, Children’s Ministry, Language Recordings UK, Spring Harvest and similar conferences, Far Eastern Broadcasting Association, Bible Reading Fellowship, Torch Trust for the Blind, Crusade for World Revival, World Evangelisation Crusade, Church Mission Society, Alpha [the massively influential and successful international outreach working from Holy Trinity Brompton, London, UK), Word of Life (to other faiths), Bridge Builders (distributing the Scriptures), Scripture Gift Mission/Lifewords, Christian Enquiry Agency, Deo Gloria Trust, Release International, Christian Publicity Organisation – fine art work, Agape – work amongst students, Prison Fellowship International [started by Charles Colson – Special Council to US President Richard Nixon, and caught-up in the Watergate Scandal], Min-y-don, Christian Adventure Centre etc, Youth For Christ, Youth With A Mission, National Young Life Campaign – Beach Missions, The Message Trust (The Eden Project), Urban Saints (Youth Bible Teaching groups), Soul Survivor – a wonderful young people’s outreach, Creation Ministries International (critiquing Evolutionary hypotheses: a vital field), Open-Air Mission, Open Air Campaigners, Faith Mission, Agape Arabic Christian Centre, Asian Christian Books, Boys Brigade, Day One Publications – brilliant work, Our Daily Bread (Radio Bible Class, Day of Discovery TV), Sat-7 (TV to North Africa and Middle East), Far Eastern Broadcasting Association (FEBA), Fellowship of Christian Motorcyclists,  Christian Motorcylists Association, “Friends and Heroes” children’s TV cartoon films, God TV, Gospel for Asia, City Missions, British Pakistani Christian Association, Canal Ministries, Bethlehem Bible College, Cliff College etc, Christian Medical Fellowship, Christian Police Association, Christian Resources Exhibitions, Catholic Charismatic Renewal, Conservative (Party) Christian Fellowship, The JESUS film Project, Christians in Library and Information Services, Creation Research, Cross Rhythms, CLC Bookshops, Christian Dental Fellowship, Christian Endeavour, Crusade for World Revival (CWR), Hillsong London and Sydney etc., Keswick Conventions – UK and International – Clayton TV Keswick – for the Bible Studies, London School of Theology, Leeds Trinity University, Lee Abbey Fellowship, Maranatha Community – Charismatic/interdenominational, Moorlands College, Messianic Testimony, Reach Beyond (radio), Riding Lights Theatre Company, Soon Ministries – teaching on the Return of Jesus, Steve Legg (escapologist), SASRA (Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Scripture Readers Association, Storykeepers, The Pais Project – training during active youth work, Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship (UCCF), Trans World Radio, Veggie Tales, Wycliffe Bible Translators, Hatikvah – Jewish and Christian concerns, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (Apologetics work based  in Oxford, UK), evangelismideas.com 70 organisations including Trans World Radio, Jews for Jesus (and similar organisations – they offer 365 Messianic Prophecies [there are more]), Billy Graham on Youtube, Jay Smith on YouTube, Derek Prince Ministries – including YouTube. William Federer – “True Islam”,  Most of the above have Web Sites, material to download, and approachable offices.  BGEA – Billy Graham Evangelistic Association on the Internet – “Searching for Jesus” 200 finding salvation every hour.

Counties UK, and their Neighbourhood Chaplains

Kensington Temple (Elim)

HOPE publishing

Bridge Builders – PTL.org.uk – handing out the Scriptures

United Beach Missions, Llandudno

Ffald-y-brenin This remarkable visitation of God and spiritual work in west Wales,UK, is worth looking into. http://www.ffald-y-brenin.org 

Links to Azusa Street Mission, where the worldwide Holy Spirit Revival started; and Smith Wigglesworth – again people who were close to both, and an incisive ancient recording of George Jeffreys preaching in the great Pentecostal Revival (YouTube etc)

Most of the above have Web Sites and helpful Office Staff.

RECOMMENDED SOURCES GIVING TALKS AND SERMONS FOR DOWNLOADING: St Helen’s Bishopsgate, St Andrew’s Chorleywood, Holy Trinity Brompton, Christ Church Fulford, Sheffield, Simply Put, Talking Theology Cranmer Hall Durham University, Church Society Free Listening Sound Cloud,

Steve Clifford General Director of the Evangelical Alliance came recently to a momentous conclusion. “… it wasn’t the great Christian music that attracted me, or indeed stunning preaching or the amazing church I was to join. It was Jesus. Someone introduced me to Jesus. I heard about his life, his death, his history-shattering resurrection and deep down at the core of my being I just knew it was true, and because it was true it was to have a profound impact on every area of my life. At 17 years of age I became a follower of Jesus, the most amazing person who has ever walked the earth.” [Idea Magazine, September/October, 2015, page 34]

 

 

[40] HOSTILE WITNESS FROM ANOTHER RELIGION

In a medical waiting room, a forceful, hostile and frightening Muslim, in a bullying demeanor started a discussion.  I made the point that until he had firstly read the Qur’an in a language he could read and write in, and similarly, read the Bible – I could not talk to him about these things.  Many Muslims are disenchanted on actually reading the Qur’an in their Mother Tongue.

“IN THE LAND OF THE BLUE BURQAS” by “Kate McCord”

‘I lived in Afghanistan for five years, I learned the rules – I had to.’

All the names in the book have been changed for security reasons. Though in the midst of a high-powered career, the talented American writer left all, sold everything, and went to Afghanistan to start a non- government organisation (NGO) with the goal of helping Afghan women. She taught herself the local language and served there for more than five years; only leaving when it became too dangerous to stay. She wishes us to know the Afghan men and women she has come to love in Jesus’s name. The great chasm between Islam and the teaching of the Honourable Jesus Messiah was immense. This is one of the best, most significant books I have read for a long time.

Moody Press, Chicago, USA, 2012, £10

Purchased from Coopers Christian Bookshop, Church Street, Oldham. OL1 3AN. Phone: 0161 626 3547 (for those in the NW of the UK).

A STRANGE WAY TO WITNESS

The kind of honor shown to a man who decorated various locations with this word, in chalk, in his inimical style.  A word which troubles the lost – making them think of the seriousness of their attitude to God. (Sydney Harbor Bridge, Australia)

 

OPEN AIR MEETINGS

 These can range from the great rallies numbering a million or so: held by the famous Evangelists, to the small village green, city centre, or beach mission.

A fine personal evangelist called Julian will also stand listening to a street preacher to help in starting a crowd.

  It is good to stand at a short distance away, and hand leaflets to those who have decided to leave. Always be on the look-out for interested folk to chat to after the service.
Taking questions from the listeners draws people into the group.

 

ANOTHER STRANGE WAY TO TELL OTHERS

An Iranian, Christian husband and wife were driving through the central part of their country. They had committed themselves to witness to someone each day, and had a stack of Bible to give away, in the back of their car.

Towards the end of a day, they drove up to a petrol station to buy fuel and drinking water. A man leaning against the shop was obviously a Muslim extremist – he carried a gun. The husband said that he did not feel the Holy Spirit leading him to witness! The wife said that on Judgement Day, when this man was excluded from Heaven, she would tell Jesus that her husband had declined to witness to him. “If you want a martyr for a husband you can have it!” he shouted, as he slammed the car door.

After a fumbling start he started a conversation and offered the man a Bible. Whereupon, this tough looking fellow burst into tears. He told how he had been waiting for two days, after seeing a celestial being, in a dream, telling him to wait on this spot and someone would give him the book of life. He came to saving faith in Jesus.

Told by Amy Orr-Ewing, of All Saints Church Peckham, at the New Wine (South) Conference, 2007.

Here is an important article by David Garrison – taken from the highly respected Evangelical Alliance by-monthly magazine IDEA, July/August 2015, page 30

The greatest turning in history
Over the past three years, I travelled more than a quarter of a million miles into every corner of the ‘House of Islam’ – the name that Muslims have long given to an invisible spiritual empire that stretches across the Muslim world, from West Africa to the Indonesian archipelago – to investigate unprecedented reports of multiplying movements of Muslims who are turning to faith in Jesus. The House of Islam encompasses 1.6 billion Muslim men, women, and children. For nearly 14 centuries, Islam has been expanding, drawing into its orbit millions of followers. Today, for the first time in history, we’re seeing a change in this growing tide of Islamic advance.

My research revealed that we are living in the midst of the greatest turning of Muslims to Jesus Christ in history. Where is this occurring? How is it happening? And why is it happening today?

I interviewed Nadia, a 43-year-old Iranian widowed mother of three. She said: “From my childhood I have been very curious about Jesus. I felt there was an empty place inside of me. I learned that one of my cousins had become a Christian. I asked him for a New Testament and I read it. Inside I was in a revolution. So I prayed: ‘God, show me what is really true’. As I read it, I felt my heart open like an old door. From that time on, Jesus’ work started inside me. It was a strange happiness like nothing I’d ever known.”

Gathering interviews from more than a thousand Muslim-background followers of Jesus Christ like Nadia, I discovered that something historic, unprecedented, is happening. My core question to these Muslim-background followers was this: “What did God use to bring you to faith in Christ? “What I learned was that God is orchestrating something profound. God is using events and avenues that are unique to our day to bring about this turning. To understand the gravity of this historic moment, though, we need to look back over the past 14 centuries of Muslim-Christian interaction.

Since Muhammad first launched his monotheistic religion, tens of millions of Christians, as well as Buddhists, Hindus, and

Animists have been swept into the House of Islam. What I wanted to know was when the opposite occurred? When have we seen a movement of at least 1,000 Muslims from an Islamic community turned to faith in Jesus and been baptised? Baptism is important as an indicator of true faith; any Muslim will tell you that he or she loves Jesus. After all, the Qur’an exalts Jesus as a noble prophet. But to submit to baptism, an act that clearly indicates death to an old life and resurrection to a new life as a follower of Jesus Christ, one has to be firmly convinced. After all, conversion from Islam is a death sentence for Muslims. Apostasy is not an option if one wishes to continue to live with Muslim family and neighbours.

Perhaps this is why Muslim movements to Christ are so rare. My research revealed that the first hints of conversion did not occur until the year 982, which is 350 years after the death of the Prophet Muhammad. The next don’t appear until the 11th and 13th centuries, and these movements were short lived, as Islam continued to expand. Then we see another five centuries of drought without a single movement to Christ.

Finally, in the closing decades of the 19th century, two movements appear: one in Indonesia (1870-1924) and the second in northern Ethiopia (1890-1910). The 20th

century saw the West embroiled in its own turmoil with two world wars and a great economic depression. At the end of the 20th century, however, things begin to change. With social and political upheaval in Iran, Algeria, Bangladesh, and the collapsing Soviet Union, Christianity sees the addition of 11 new Muslim movements to Christ. Something was happening.

Then, in the opening years of the 21st century, the monolith of Islamic resistance to the gospel begins to crumble. In just the first 12 years of the 21st century, we can identify and document a surge of 69 additional movements of at least 1,000 Muslims coming to faith in Jesus Christ and believers’ baptisms. Behind the veil of violence and conflict that so plagues the Muslim world, thousands of Muslims are walking away from Islam and placing their trust in Jesus as the Son of God and unique pathway to salvation.

How is this happening? On the one hand, it is the ageless story of men and women encountering the living Lord in humble submission. On the other hand, it is the unique confluence of Bible translations, the prayers of God’s people, the rise in global interconnectedness through the Internet, satellite television and radio, and the faithful witness of God’s people. God is orchestrating all of these factors together in our lifetime to bring about the greatest turning of Muslims to faith in Jesus Christ in history.

David Garrison’s book, A Wind in the House of Islam, is available now, published by WIGTake Resources.

IDEA MAGAZINE / 30

The laws in some nations, even western ones, do not support Christians in their witness – quite the opposite.

A recommended book: “THE WORLD ON OUR DOORSTEP” Evangelical Mission and other Faiths, by Dewi Hughes, Evangelical Alliance, London 2016

This gives a compendium of wise insights and advice.

 

 

[41] Evangelists advise

 

Roger Carswell is an evangelist who works with churches to put on weeklong missions involving evening meetings, where impressive testimonies are shared along with a gospel message. He regularly takes part in street evangelism and Beach Missions, writes on the subject, and produces tracts relating to the Gospel message. Here are nine tips on how to evangelise and gain confidence.

[1] Every day, pray God will lead you to someone with whom to share the Gospel

[2] Just talk about anything and everything – be chatty and not reserved. If you are on a bus or at a supermarket checkout, sometimes the conversation can naturally turn to talking about God.

[3] Carry booklets and tracts to give out when appropriate.

[4] You can’t just get into conversations time after time, with people all around you – colleagues and friends. Pray for the right moment; normally that comes in a one-to-time. Share something without forcing it.

[5] It is hard work until someone asks a question. But even if it is just: “You don’t believe that do you?” It’s an invitation to talk to them. [Or ask them for their own views – which gives you the right to explain yours. A group of apologists, based in Oxford, advocate asking questions. An eminent Australian lady was asked why she would not become a Christian – it was fear of death and judgement on her dear friends. This gave the opportunity to explain the perspective of salvation and judgment, and she joined her husband in the Faith of Christ.]

[6] Get it on the agenda. Churches should be discussing evangelism at every prayer meeting, and church business meeting, asking how we can reach people who don’t come to us.

[7] Any time you have a birthday, invite someone to come and give a 20-minute talk and share his or her testimony. I have buffet suppers where friends and neighbours join us. Think creatively: what can I do to reach out?

[8] Have confidence in the Gospel:

Romans 1:16 “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”

It is not a philosophy to be debated – there is power to be unleashed. When we winsomely and lovingly share the Gospel, it is powerful.

[9] People I’m meeting are not my enemies! The aim is to love them into the Kingdom; it is very important that we don’t go into attack mode.

(“Christianity Magazine”, based on p45, c 2000)

Krish Kandiah, an enthusiast for evangelism – he has worked for various charities and is currently President of the London School of Theology (LST), the largest of its type in Europe:

“Courses like Alpha, Christianity Explored and Emmaus have been hugely helpful to the Church and have moved us on in a helpful way, but I don’t think there is a magic bullet when it comes to evangelism. I think one of the key things that the Church needs is a greater confidence in the gospel. Not as a formula, not as four bullet points, but the story of Jesus and who he was. The closer we are to him, the more likely we are to tell stories about him and the changes he is making in our lives and talk about the part of the scriptures that are really coming alive for us. If you have ever met someone who is passionate about an Apple product, they are amazing evangelists for those products and yet they have never had any training. They are not inviting you on a course to learn how to love the iPhone – they are just being incredibly enthusiastic and want you to have a go and experience it with them. I’m a big fan of courses, but I think we need courses plus a whole variety of different approaches.”

Pp20 ff, “Engage” Baptist World Mission magazine, Autumn 2015

Discussion on evangelism by Ben Francis (Associate Team Leader, and his team of Big Life Ministries, have planted over 13,000 churches in India in the last 15 years), and Chris Dunnett (former President of the Baptist Union of Great Britain) – they feel that people are well aware of their sinfulness and failure, and need to know that God is passionately loving towards them. Talk of repentance comes later. (Page 17ff Spring 2016: “Engage” magazine)

 

[42]  Be prepared for the Long Haul – have patience

(From Jews for Jesus)

Bringing Hope

Asaf, a 33-year-old drug addict had no interest in Jesus when he met Igal Vender during a street outreach. He accepted the invitation to a pop-up café for a free meal, but no sooner had he finished eating than he was ready to leave. “Wait, can I pray for you?” Igal asked. “You can do whatever you want,” Asaf shrugged, as he made his way back out to the street.

Igal kept an eye out for Asaf and gradually built a relationship with him. Asaf’s story was heartbreaking. He had immigrated to Israel with his father, leaving one of the poorest countries in Eastern Europe, hoping for a better life.

Those hopes were dashed when Asaf could not find a job that would cover rent and other basic needs. Getting high with some guys on the street seemed like the only way to escape the harshness of his new reality. Eventually, Asaf became a heroin addict. Petty theft to pay for his habit landed him a two-year prison sentence. He was back on the streets and using when Igal met him.

Asaf refused Igal’s many invitations to his congregation’s ministry rehab house, but gradually began to welcome offers of prayer. Slowly but surely, Asaf’s heart began to soften. He finally came to the rehab house—where it became obvious that God was doing something remarkable! Asaf had clearly come to the end of himself. He accepted a copy of the Scriptures from Igal, and they read and discussed John’s Gospel.

He also sat in on the daily study groups at the house, and eventually, he was able to smile.

Igal (right) serves with our Israel team in collaboration with Christian Witness for Israel
Igal (right) serves with our Israel team in collaboration with Christian Witness for Israel

About three months after Igal began meeting with Asaf, he reported, “Today, we studied Matthew 8:23–27, where Yeshua (Jesus) calmed the storms. Asaf told me that from the moment he entered the rehab house, he felt someone calming his raging spiritual storm. He told me that he wanted to ask God to forgive his sin. He wanted Yeshua in his life. I had the joy of leading him in a prayer of faith in Yeshua as his Messiah and Lord.”

Please pray for Asaf as he takes his first steps in faith, that he will grow and mature and remain drug free. Igal asks for prayer as he continues to study the Bible with Asaf and as he prepares him for baptism.

Names are changed to protect privacy.

Israeli London
  Star

 

Thank you for your
partnership in sharing
the Gospel with
Jewish people
in the UK!

STAY CONNECTED

Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 1264
HARROW HA2 2JS
England
Phone: +44 (0)207 267 5597
Email: enquiries@jewsforjesus.org.uk

 

Pray that God will call and equip Believers to be evangelists, and every Christian to be a witness; to open doors for us, and push us through.

 

 

[43] The Ascension

The Ascension is not always mentioned in the Apostolic Sermons, and the Four Apostolic Gospels. It is important to discuss, however. Muslim Apologists make the point that “the donkey”, in the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, has a bigger profile than the Ascension. In this there is the attempt to deceive both Muslims and Christians. To admit to these two issues would be too much for their rhetoric!   The misleading of hearers is a serious point against the Apologists’ case.

The Ascension was a most significant and awesome event.

Firstly: the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem has massive Messianic significance relative to fulfilled prophecy, and the Jewish expectation.

Secondly: the New Testament is peppered with teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ reigning in Glory: ASCENDED. The final achievement of the event is usually referred to: rather than the ten minute journey into Glory, we have the eternal residency in the Heavenly Glory.  The Ascension is woven into Christian doctrine throughout the NT

Psalm 110:1-2 The LORD says to my Lord:

“Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”

2 The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion;

you will rule in the midst of your enemies.

Psalms 47:5, 68:18,

Matthew 25:31-32 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.

32 All the nations will be gathered before him.

Matthew 26:64 “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Mark 16:19;  Luke 24:26;  John 1:18, 6:62, 7:33; 13:1-3, 14:28, 16:5,28, 17:13

John 7:39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

John 12:15-16 “Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him.  [This passage mentions both the donkey and the Glorification in Heaven.]

John 12:23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

John 14: 2-4  “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

John 16:5,7 “Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’

But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.

John 14: 12, 28; 16:12; 17:5

John 16:28 I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.”


John 17:11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one.


John 17:13 I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.


John 20:17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ 


Acts 1:1-2 I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.

Acts 1:9-11 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.  They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Acts 1:22  “Beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”

[Peter’s Sermon the Day of Pentecost]

Acts 2:28 You have made known to me the paths of life;

you will fill me with joy in your presence.’

Acts 2:33-36 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,

“ ‘The Lord said to my Lord:

“Sit at my right hand

35 until I make your enemies

a footstool for your feet.” ’

36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

[The sending of the Holy Spirit was proof that the Saviour had Ascended to the Throne of Heaven.]

[Peter’s Sermon at the Gate Beautiful]

Acts 3:20-23 and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.  21 He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.  22 For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you.  23 Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from among his people.’

[Stephen’s Defence to the Jewish Court]

Acts 5:31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.

Romans 8:34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. (and verses 26- end)

Ephesians 1:19-22 His incomparably great power for us who believe; that power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.  22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church.

Ephesians 4:8-11 This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.”  9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions?  10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, (and) some to be prophets.

Philippians 2:9-11 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Colossians 3:1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.

1 Timothy 3:16 Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great:

He appeared in a body,

was vindicated by the Spirit,

was seen by angels,

was preached among the nations,

was believed on in the world,

was taken up in glory.

1 Timothy 6:13…16 Christ Jesus …who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.

Titus 3:3-8 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

Hebrews 1:3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

Hebrews 4:14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.

Hebrews 7:24-26 Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood.  25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.  26 Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.

Also Hebrews 8:1 ff,

Hebrews 9:24 For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.

Hebrews 12:2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The whole Book of Revelation portrays Christ in Glory: ready to return to Earth at His Second Coming – which Muslims , incidentally, believe in.

For example:

Revelation 5:6 Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders.  [As slain – crucified, standing – resurrected, within the throne – ascended in Heaven, and standing – watching over His people and ready to return]

Revelation 12: 5 She [Israel] gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.

Revelation 19:11-16 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war.  His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself.  He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God.  The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.  Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.  On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:

KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS

[43] The Trinity

Although the word does not appear in the Scriptures, the revelation is clear in both Testaments.  One World Religion, at least, ridicules the Christian Faith because of the Trinity – even though their concept of Heaven is one of an eternal brothel. A man-made religion would readily go down these two avenues of thought. 

In reality, God is probably far more complex than this, but it is given as a concept to help humans.  Religions which have a simple and attractive understanding of God are suspect.

A clever diagram of the concept of the Trinity – for example: stained glass window, half way along the south wall of St Andrew’s Church, Dearnley, Rochdale, UK

Humans are made in the “image of God” and we are tripartite: “Let us make man in our image.” (Genesis 1:26) 1 Thessalonians 5:23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The word for God in Genesis 1:1 is Elohim – a plural noun signifying thee or more (there is a form for dual).

God appears to Abraham represented as three beings in Genesis 18:2 ff.

In the Great Commission, one Name includes the thee Divine Beings: Matthew 28:18-20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

In the spirit realm, one being can have a plural manifestation also: the unclean spirits in the demoniac: Matthew 5:9.

Titles of the Lord Jesus Christ: Second Adam, Advocate, Almighty, Alpha and Omega, Amen, Anointed, Apostle, Arm of the Lord, Atoning sacrifice, Author of life, Author of salvation, Author and perfecter of our faith, Banner for the peoples, Beginning and End, Blessed and only Ruler, The Branch, Bread of life. Bridegroom, Bright Morning Star, Capstone, Carpenter, Carpenter’s son, Chief Shepherd, Chosen  one, Chosen by God, Chosen and precious cornerstone, The Christ – Messiah, Christ Jesus, Christ Jesus our Lord, Christ of God, Christ of God, the Chosen One, Christ the Lord, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God, Christ, the Son of God, Christ, the Son of the Blessed One, Commander, Commander of the LORD’s army, Consolation of Israel, Cornerstone, Counselor, Covenant for the people, David, Deliverer, Desired of all nations, Doctor, Eternal life, Everlasting Father, Exact representation of God’s being, Faithful and True, Faithful witness, Faithful and true witness, The First and the Last, Firstborn, Firstborn from the dead, Foundation, Fountain, Friend of tax collectors and sinners, Gate, Gift of God, Glorious Lord Jesus Christ, Glory of Israel, God, God and Savior of Israel, God of all the earth, God over all – forever praised, God the One and Only, God with us, Good Shepherd, Good Teacher, Great God and Savior, Great high priest, Great Shepherd of the sheep, Guarantee, Head of every man, Head of the body – the church, Head of the church, Heir of all things, High priest, Holiness, Holy One, Holy One of God, Holy One of Israel, Holy and Righteous One, Holy servant Jesus, Our Hope, Horn of salvation, the I am, Immanuel, Indescribable gift, Innocent man, Israel, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ our Lord, Jesus Christ our Savior, Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus of Nazareth – King of the Jews, Jesus the Son of God, Jesus, the Son of Joseph, Judge, King, King of Israel, King of kings, King of glory, King of the ages, King over the whole earth, Lamb, Lamb of God, Lawgiver, Leader, Life, Light everlasting, Light of the world, Light for the Gentiles, Light – true,  Living bread, Living Stone, Lion of the tribe of Judah, Lord, Lord Almighty, Lord of all,  Lord of lords, LORD Our Righteousness, Lord God Almighty, Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Lord Christ, Lord Jesus, Lord Jesus Christ, LORD mighty in battle, Lord of the dead and the living, Lord of the Sabbath, Lord’s Christ, LORD – your holy one, LORD – your redeemer, the Man Christ Jesus, Man of sorrows, Man who is close to Me [the LORD], Master, Mediator, Messenger of the covenant, Mighty God, Mighty One of Israel, Mighty one of Jacob, Mighty to save, Morning star, Nazarene, Offspring of David, Offspring of the woman, The One and Only, One and only Son, One He [the Father] loves, Only God our Savior, Overseer, Passover -Pascal Lamb, Perfecter of faith, Power of God, Physician, Precious cornerstone, Priest, Prince, Prince of Peace, Prince of Life, Prophet, Rabbi, Rabboni, Radiance of God’s glory, Ransom. Redeemer, Resurrection and life, Redemption, Righteous Branch, Righteous Judge, Righteous One, Righteous Servant, Righteousness, Rising Sun, Rock, Rock that makes them fall, Root of David, Root of Jesse, Rose of Sharon, Ruler, Ruler of God’s creation, Ruler of the kings of the earth, Ruler over Israel, Sacrifice, Salvation, Sanctuary, Saviour, Saviour Christ Jesus, Saviour Jesus Christ, Saviour of the body, Saviour of the world, Scepter, Seed of Abraham, Suffering Servant, Servant of rulers, Serves in the sanctuary, Shepherd, Shepherd and Overseer of souls, Chief Shepherd, Good Shepherd, Great Shepherd,  Shepherd of Israel, Shiloh, Son God loves, Son of Abraham, Son of David, Son of God, Son of Man, Son of the Blessed One, Son of the Most High, Stone that causes men to stumble, Sun of righteousness, Sure foundation, Teacher, Throne above the Two Heavens – the Cosmos, True vine, Truth, Vine, Way, Who is, who was, and who is to come, Wisdom, Wisdom of God, Witness, Wonderful Counselor, Word, Word of God, Word of life, all the thousands of thousands of Angels worship Him.

CHRIST’S PRE-EXISTENT DIVINITY:

John 17:5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

Matthew 28:18-20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 

John 8:58 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”

 

Micah 5:2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,

though you are small among the clans of Judah,

out of you will come for me

one who will be ruler over Israel,

whose origins are from of old,

from ancient times.’”

 

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God (Elohim, three or more) created the heavens (two) and the earth (one).  (Looking at the Hebrew nouns)

 

Genesis 18:1-3 The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day.

 Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.

 He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by.

 

Philippians 2:9-11 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place

and gave him the name that is above every name,

 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father

 

Isaiah 45:22-25 “Turn to me and be saved,

all you ends of the earth;

for I am God, and there is no other.

 By myself I have sworn,

my mouth has uttered in all integrity

a word that will not be revoked:

Before me every knee will bow;

by me every tongue will swear.

 They will say of me, ‘In the LORD alone

are righteousness and strength.’ ”

All who have raged against him

will come to him and be put to shame.

 But in the LORD all the descendants of Israel

will be found righteous and will exult.

John 1:18 No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known. 

John 3:17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 

John 8:42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. 

Galatians 4:4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 

Tit 2:13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 

Hebrews 7:1-3 This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, his name means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.”  Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever.

 

Friend (Luke 12:4 f; John 15:14-15, 21:5)

Brother (Matthew 12:48, 25:40, 28:10; Mark 3:34; Luke 8:21; John 15:14-15, 20:17, 21:5)

Everything will be subjected to Him, Crowned with Glory and Honour, tasted death for everyone, brings many sons to Glory, perfected through suffering, rendered Satan’s power over death powerless, a merciful and faithful High Priest,

[Length of Genealogy shows importance: Jesus has 42 recorded in Matthew chapter 1; a typical family tree is of two or three generations.]

In Glory, our dear Lord will carry the marks of His Crucifixion.

John 20:19-20 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

Revelation 5:6 Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders.

The complexity of living organisms, and the huge size of our Milky Way Galaxy, point to the greatness of God and the Messiah.  In 1929, the discovery was commenced that there are billions of galaxies containing billions of stars, having distances measured in light travelling for billions of light years.  Why this huge extravagance?  The answer is found in the last two words of Colossians chapter 1, verse 18: For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and FOR HIM.

The majesty of Creation illustrates the colossal greatness of THE CHRIST for whom the Cosmos exists.

The Cosmos, which He fills (Ephesian 4:10)

Jesus is far more wonderful than you think!

We cannot pray that God will force people into the Kingdom: we must ask that they will hear the Gospel clearly.

 

THE CROSS
As an artist, I made the following observations: many “Crucifixion” paintings portray little of the real suffering: Christ Jesus is seen as uninjured, swooning figure, as in those by Sir Peter Paul Rubens (Painter and Ambassador), and El Greco, although Rembrandt did make studies in an abattoir before painting the Crucifixion.

Out of 127 reproductions of fine art, that I looked at: only ten showed Jesus injured seriously – 4 were actually on the Grunewald Altar Piece, and three were modern works; only 4 showed some sign of injury more than the five wounds of the Cross.

 

It is possible that when the Lord Jesus Christ had endured torture, and hung on the Cross, the following would be true of Him:

  • Scalp, badly scared
  • Beard torn-out, and would never grow fully again (Isaiah 50:6)
  • Eyesight severely damaged
  • Hearing now limited
  • Body permanently scared with serious abrasions, and lacerations
  • Horrendous disfigurement (Isaiah 52: 14b)
  • Severe vascular damage and resulting loss of blood
  • Jaw dislocated
  • All other joints dislocated – neck, shoulders, wrists and hands, hips, knees, ankles and feet (Psalm 22: 14)
  • Internal organs beyond healing
  • The wounds of Crucifixion: feet/ankles, hands/wrists 

Then there was the additional suffering: mental, emotional, and, above all, the spiritual – the bearing of sin and separation from the Father, which we cannot measure.

Isaiah 53:4-6 Surely he took up our infirmities

and carried our sorrows,

yet we considered him stricken by God,

smitten by him, and afflicted.

5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,

he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,

and by his wounds we are healed.

6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,

each of us has turned to his own way;

and the LORD has laid on him

the iniquity of us all.

Psalm 22:1

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Why are you so far from saving me,

so far from the words of my groaning?

 

The mention of the Cross in Scripture is a form of code: for all the countless blessings won for us by the Lord Jesus Christ, through His atoning death on Calvary.

1 Corinthians 1:17-18 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

 

Galatians 5:11, 6:12   Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished.

 

Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.

Ephesians 2:16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

 

Philippians 3:18 for, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.

 

Colossians 1:20, 2:14   and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

 

 Having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.

Hebrews 12:2 

Heb 12:2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

            Galatians 3:13  Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”

 

            1 Peter 2:24  He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

 

  1. When I survey the wond’rous Cross
    On which the Prince of Glory dy’d,
    My richest Gain I count but Loss,
    And pour Contempt on all my Pride.

    2. Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
    Save in the Death of Christ my God:
    All the vain things that charm me most,
    I sacrifice them to his Blood.

    3. See from his Head, his Hands, his Feet,
    Sorrow and Love flow mingled down!
    Did ever such Love and Sorrow meet?
    Or Thorns compose so rich a Crown?

    4. His dying Crimson, like a Robe,
    Spreads o’er his Body on the Tree;
    Then am I dead to all the Globe,
    And all the Globe is dead to me.

    5. Were the whole Realm of Nature mine,
    That were a Present far too small;
    Love so amazing, so divine,
    Demands my Soul, my Life, my All.

 Isaac Watts, 1674-1748

 

AN INTERESTING STUDY OF THE WORD OF THE LORD, IN ACTS

Acts 8:25 When they had testified and proclaimed the word of the Lord, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages. 

13:44 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 

13:48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed. 

13:49 The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. 

15:35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord. 

15:36 Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” 

16:32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 

19:10 This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord. 

19:20 In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power. 

[1 Peter 1:25 but the word of the Lord stands forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you.]

 

 

 

 

WHAT IS A PASTOR?

 

[B] PASTOR, 20

[4166 Strong, poimen, poy-main, literally a farm-shepherd, or figuratively: the spiritual gift of shepherd/pastor, within a group of Christians.

Within the first few years of my preaching experience, I travelled to a nearby northern wool town to take a communion service at the Baptist Church.   The apparent biblical terminology seemed most impressive: it had a Pastor in charge, and Deacons to help him.   The Deaconate, mainly spiritual ladies, help officiate at the Lord’s Table.   At first sight, the terms “Pastor” and “Deacons” looked correct, but the usage of the former was certainly not biblical.

“Shepherd/Pastor” is the Greek word “poimen”: 4 times it applies to the farming-shepherds of Bethlehem, 13 times to the Lord Jesus Christ – where it carries, among other connotations, the thought of Psalm 23, “The LORD is my Shepherd”; and only once to the gift in the Church, where the reference is a plural noun (Ephesians 4v11).    “Pastors” is preferred to “Shepherds”, at the discretion of the translators.   The infinitive of the verb is used in Acts 20v28; and second person plural in the aorist tense, is figuratively used, along with “flock”, in 1 Peter 5v2: this note is pivotal to the discussion which we are about to follow, because many English translations imply a noun, or title, when a verb is used in the original Greek.   In the New Testament, “Shepherd/Pastor” is NOT found as a title for an Office in the Church.   There are references, in which leaders are told, figuratively, to tend the sheep and feed the flock.   Even in the Old Testament the word is used of leaders in this figurative sense: “the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people”. (1 Chronicles 17v6c)

Different answers will be given to the question, “What is a Pastor?” by Christians of various backgrounds: some will say that every Minister or Clergyman is a Shepherd or Priest, to some it is the special title within the more progressive non-conformist denominations; but to others of us it is a designation which requires a totally new appraisal and definition.

Significantly then, a digression must be made, to clear the ground by looking at the teaching I am going to outline: that Elders are the correct form of Leadership in the Church.   All too familiar, in all kinds of congregations today, is the format of a single leader, often he, or she, is under intolerable stress, and the position is vestigial of the lowest point in the historical development of the Orthodox and Roman Churches.

In secular Classical History one sees the distinction between ruling by a single Despot – a Tyrant King; and, on the other hand, by a College of Governors – called an Oligarchy.   If one man, like a Despot, had ruled the Fellowship at Corinth, there might have been more order, but only at a price.   The New Testament clearly teaches the alternative to a Despot (not necessarily despotic): an Oligarchy, in fact – a group of leaders – a plurality of Elders!  I do want to say that we are ever grateful to hundreds of godly men who have carried these titles of Bishop, Reverend, Pastor, or Father, and been fine builders of the Church of Christ.  Sadly, however, some holders of these positions, by their fruits, are seen as not yet converted.

“Anglican Elders?”, by Rev Ed Moll, Lutterworth Press, a concept endorse by the Church Society in its Podcasts and Conference expositions.  This represents a strong stream within the Church of England: “Every Member Ministry”, Equipping God’s People to Live God’s Word, We are a Fellowship contending to Reform and Renew the Church of England in Biblical faith.

From the cover of the book: When John Stott wrote in 2007 that “There is no biblical warrant for the so-called one-man band, in which a single pastor, like a single musician, plays all the instruments,” he was not presenting a new idea; both he and David Watson had been saying this for decades. Is there an authentically Anglican and evangelical remedy to the unbiblical pattern of a solo pastorate?

 Anglican evangelicals seem to be caught in a dilemma: on the one hand our biblical convictions persuade us that the leadership of the local church is rightly plural. On the other hand we espouse a church polity in which the prime ordained leader is normally a sole pastor over a congregation. Is it possible to be both biblical and Anglican with respect to plural leadership? Can it be done, and if so, how?

 

We must establish the names given to this leadership team, the qualifications to be considered for it, and its duties.

“Proistemi” in 1 Thessalonians 5:12,13 refers to plural leadership.   When the word “hegeomai” stands for leaders in Hebrews 13:7, 17, and 24, it is plural in each case, or implied.  This chapter contains ten references to plural leadership.

But the following two important Greek words are normally used, and they are quite interchangeable – they are used synonymously:

  1. episcopos, ep-is-kop-os [Strong 1983, 1984, 1985], which is commonly translated in the English Versions as either “Bishop”, or “Overseer” – Acts 1:20,  20:28,   Philippians 1:1,   1 Timothy 3:1-2;   Titus 1:5-9;  1 Peter 2:25, and 5:2.
  2. presbuteros, pres-boo-ter-os [Strong 4245, 4850], which is translated as “Elder” (Presbyter) – 1 Timothy 5:1,17,19;  1 Peter 5:1,5;  2 John verse 1;  3 John verse 1;  Acts 14:23, 15:2-23, 16:4, 20:17, 21:18;   James 5:14, Revelation 4:4,10,  5:5-14,  7:11-13,  11:16, 14:3, and 19:4, and there are various references meaning the Sanhedrin, the Elders of the Jews (e.g. Luke 7:3).

Two mentions in which the terms are applied to the identical group of men are Acts 20:17-28, and Titus 1:5-9.   Synonyms are a key element in the Hebrew poetry of the Prophets, and the Aramaic poetic form used by the Lord Jesus.   This Old Testament poetic style is called Parallelism, which Luke, whose writing echoes the language of the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament into Greek, was obviously steeped in.   Paul also, would be familiar with this form of expression.   Indeed, all the Believers of a Jewish background, in the New Testament, would employ Parallelism in daily conversation – it would be part of their everyday speech….

Imagine, in connection with the James 5 reference: you are a first century Christian, living in a small Mediterranean township, and you are taken seriously ill. Your cousin kindly takes your message to a Church Elder, and quickly several Elders arrive at your home. They find some cooking oil in the kitchen, anoint and lay hands on you – praying for healing; and God graciously hears their prayer. This little story illustrates the set-up in the Early Church. A similar vignette is seen of local church life, in 1 Timothy 4:14.  What about your fellowship? There is no question here about the format of the Elders being plural.

Some writers and speakers on the subject see the three words: “Overseers”, “Elders”, and “Pastors”, as synonyms.   This is because the English Versions use the noun “Shepherd”, when the Greek text has the verb, as I have just demonstrated.   (Cf Acts 20:28, and 1 Peter 5:2) So one has to conclude that the term “Pastor” is not in any sense to be equated with Overseer, Elder, or church leader.

There are indeed, three passages which link Overseers, or Overseer, with shepherding/pastoring the flock.   The Elders in Acts 20:28, were told “to shepherd” the Church.   In a second passage, Peter commands the Overseers to “shepherd the flock of God” (1 Peter 5:1-4), again the verb; here also Christ is called “The Chief Shepherd”.   The third, also in 1 Peter (2:25), points to Christ: “For you were straying sheep, but now you are turned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”   A most serious thought indeed: Christ alone is called: “The Pastor/Shepherd” – any other individual taking authority would be an antichrist!   The idea of calling a Christian: “The Pastor”, is foreign to the Scriptures, and should be avoided at all cost.  Practically speaking, where one person is seen as leader, the organization of proper Elders, even if not in name, must share the burdens of piloting.

1 Timothy 4:14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecies spoken to you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you.  (Paul had also laid his hands on Timothy: 2 Timothy 1:6 This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you.)

In the Epistle to Titus (chapter 1:5 ff) we see the apostle being instructed to appoint Elders – plural, in each city – plural.  Today some would say: simply call all the church heads as the college of Elders for that town.  I think not: only some qualify to be Overseers in the New Testament terms, and the concept refers to individual congregations, not a group.

When we come to the topic of Prophet, I shall argue that someone who prophesies is, by definition, a prophet; because the term, even from antiquity, has always had a narrow and specific meaning – we use such expressions as: “The expert was asked to prophesy the outcome of the Cup Final/Super Bowl.”   We all know that “informed guess” is really intended.   “Shepherding”, on the other hand, is widely used in a metaphorical sense: “The teacher gently shepherded her class into the gym.”   No one would want to argue that she was therefore the pastor of a church, or that she should have used a sheepdog!   (In education, the much-used term “Pastoral” is a hated word by some, because it appears to come from the Church.)

So it is, then, that I think “Pastor” cannot be used as a title for Church Leadership.  Why is it used then?  Partly it has grown into a tradition – our Lord did not rate tradition highly, or, ignorance, a desire for power and self-glory, or even the “doctrines/teaching of demons”.

If we asked the congregation at Korinthos, “Who is your Shepherd?” they would have shouted back: “JESUS!”

We may sometimes note that lone leaders in society resort to evil ways for holding their authority.  They may use: cunning, temper, tantrum, moods, insult, innuendo, oppression, and all kinds of underhand manipulation, to bully those under them.  Some who are the sole church-leader would see their position as one to be defended at all cost.   There are Church Members, who so identify with their “Leader” and his authority, in an unhealthy basking-in-reflected-glory way, that they also would spill blood to keep his position in tact.   I have certainly seen plenty of these.

At Korinthos, Paul would have done his best to appoint a fine team of Elders who were to guide the Gathering (Ekklesia), but the spiritual qualities he required, probably left some formidable men, not to say women, outside the leadership team.   I refer to Corinth, because of the problems dealt with in the Letters to this City Church; they leave us asking: “Why did the Elders not do something about it?”

The word “Ekklesia”, is Greek for a gathering, or Assembly; its secular use is seen in Acts 19:32, 39, 40, 41.  There are a variety of combinations as it became the Assembly referring to the Church: of God, of the Lord, a local Church – or one Church in many places.  It is only common “Ordinance Survey”, to imply a building; originally it meant the Congregation – People.  It could be: Jewish, Gentile, or both.

K.L. Schmidt, writing in Kittel, is particularly detailed and spiritual.

Let us imagine a conversation in the Church at Korinthos – one of the older Jewish Believers in Jesus is gossiping at the end of the First Day meeting.  As they stand in the shade of the lime trees, and look northwards across the bay, to the far mountains near Delphi.  His thoughts about the Elders were, that they should only be married men with children:

“Children are the crucial test of a man’s ability to shepherd the flock of God.”

“Do you mean by shepherd, that he must have the gift of being a pastor?” asked his friend, of similar journeyings in life.

“No, I use of the verb, and not the noun.  You must always allow for the imperfections, and, limitations of human language; even God Himself has that problem.  If the noun was used, we would only have to identify the spiritual gift of pastor, and make all those people the team of Elders.   The position of Elder is for human appointment, under God, and we must know what calibre of individual to consider.”

“How many should we have?” his friend persisted with his questions, recognizing their virtue.

“As many as it would take to handle a revolt, of all the unpleasant Brothers and Sisters in the Congregation.”

“And how many is that?”

“You cannot have too many!”

Acts 15 shows the original apostles and Elders working together at the Council of Jerusalem.

Hermann W. Beyer, writes in Kittel: “It is significant … that there are several episkopa in one congregation, none of which takes precedence.”   Commenting on the criteria for appointing Overseers, Beyer wrote: “In this respect Roman Catholic celibacy stands in direct contradiction to the Bible.” (Kittel, vol 2, p 617)   We may note that there are many more inconsistencies in the Church leadership that need to be investigated!

Our Lord quotes from Isaiah, and adds His own comment: “‘For they replace God’s commands with their own man-made teachings.’

For you ignore God’s specific laws and substitute your own traditions.” (Mark 7:7-8, NLT, cf Matthew 15:3)

We ask the question: What constitutes this kind of tradition?  Certainly all doctrinal alterations, and changing practices which are laid down in Scripture.  Note that one step of reasoning can lead to heresy.

An order of helpers who alleviate the pressures on Elders, are the Deacons and Deaconesses.  I think the Scriptures do show that women were allowed into this strata of Official – Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:11, NIV margin/footnote; and Phoebe of Kenchreae (in Romans 16:1-2).   There is the possible thought (in 1 Timothy 3:8 ff) that they should be married people.   Presumably they might help in care for the poor, as in Acts 6:1 ff (the first mention of Deacons), with secretarial and accounting duties generally, and officiate in practical, logistical, and many other areas of responsibility.  Here also, God requires an unbelievably high standard of Christian life, and we see that even the secondary level of office holders in Church life, are in the hands of well-accredited people – not just side-lined to hangers-on, or that ever-present danger: the volunteer.

In the Early Church – and ideally in the Body of Christ today – there was a tension between the apostles and the Elders: between the primary gift and the appointed leadership of individual Congregations. This is not unlike what occurs in the life of many Western nations: between the Government and the Judiciary.   To over-simplify this: the Government writes the laws: the Judges make certain that everybody keeps them; even the Government members themselves!   Similarly, Elders will need to stand against false apostles: apostles will be on the lookout for failure among the Elders.

Acts 14:21-23 They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. 23 Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.  (Derek Prince pointed out that the disciples became a Church, when Elders were in position.)

Acts 15 shows the original apostles and Elders working together at the Council of Jerusalem.

Our current problem is that this century has seen the development of the usage of the term “Pastor” for the single, monolithic, Tyrant (in the Classical sense), Minister.   It does not take much imagination to see the march of change from: the Roman Catholic Priest, to the Anglican Parish Priest, Methodist Minister, Salvation Army Officer, to the Baptist or Pentecostal Pastor.  The obvious fact, that many spiritual and godly men have held such positions is not proof that this is the ideal; or that it is taught in the New Testament.   One of our local Baptist Church leaders identified the issue succinctly: “Can you tell me the name of the Pastor of the Church in Ephesus, or at Rome, or Philippi?”   Of course there was no such position!

The whole question is similar to the elitist Gnostic heresy countered in the New Testament Letters … do you have a title, have you been to a Theological College, do you wear special clothing?

The title “Father” is particularly hard for me to write about.  When it is used in Scripture it is either of the obvious biological relationship in genealogies, of God Himself, in His grace, or of specific relationships.  Joseph spoke of himself as being a father to Pharaoh, Paul of being a father to the Corinthian believers, and of Timothy: because he had brought them to faith in Christ, and mentored them. (Genesis 45:8; 1 Corinthians 4:15; Philippians 2:22; 1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2)   Here we see simile and metaphor.  This kind of usage refers to one group or individual, not to everybody, not as a over-arching title, as forbidden by our Lord.  At no point does anyone request to be called “Father”.  Who sins most: those who ask for the title to be used of an individual or rank, or those who use this form of address?  We will answer to God for this.  I think of other Christians as Brothers and Sisters; but I do not use Brother as a title in my correspondence.

Rev John Coles (a leader of New Wine Conferences) made these points: when discipling a group in his home he felt a different person to the vicar in his robes on a Sunday. World War Three almost irrupted when he dispensed with the robes; but he felt much more authentic and real. Similarly, he found the huge responsibility of a clergyman, being for a limited time frame only; until he developed a team of seven around him to share the burden together: the difference was incredible (a talk at a Fresh Expressions Conference, 2011).

Sadly, the only person in the Bible who resembles our use of the word Pastor, is an impostor named Diotrephes – who is mentioned in John’s short Third Letter.  Fortunately, only a few leaders are like this.

The characteristics of Diotrephes are that he:

  1. Gossiped maliciously,
  2. Wanted to be top dog,
  3. Refused to receive the itinerant preachers,
  4. Prevented hospitality being shown to them, and
  5. Excommunicated those who did,
  6. Hated the apostles,
  7. He did not lead by an exemplary life
  8. Noted as an evil person who had not “seen God”!

It was the apostle’s duty was to point him out by letter, and later in person – publicly.

SUMMARY: One of the most difficult, but essential, tasks facing the Church today is the re-establishing of the original leadership concept of the Early Church, given by the Holy Spirit – sadly, after only a few hundred years there had been the radical change.   Near Derbe, visited by Paul on his First Missionary Journey, an inscription was recently found, dating from the fourth or fifth century; it reads: “The most God-loving Michael, bishop of Derbe” – suggesting that a single bishop had come to rule the Church, at the city where Paul had appointed a college of Elders.   Today we have one Bishop over many churches: the first Christians appointed many Bishops (Overseers-episcopos) over one church.

1 Corinthians 9:22-23 “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”

Sadly, some in leadership try hard to be elite and DIFFERENT.  I turned to a television transmission of a seasonal service and thought the clergyman was part of a film about Robin Hood, because he was in pseudo medieval clothes.  We should all note this example of Paul: in dress, communication etc.

One of the saddest comments I heard on pastoring, was apropos a terribly sick lady: little help was on offer, and anger was shown to the family, when an outsider notified the church of a specific need.  The family’s comment was: “Out of sight: out of mind!”  There was a sequel: some church members put practical shoulders to the wheel.

The Manchester (UK) Diocese Budget for the year 2015 allocated 70.5% to “Clergy Stipends and Housing Costs (over 9 million GB pounds).  True the biblical Elders were to be paid something for their ministry – alongside their secular employment, presumably.  This balance would release considerable funds for the work of evangelism and care for the poor.

To continue this digression one logical stage further, here is a table of the required qualifications for Elders.  The giving of this guidance by the Holy Spirit, implies that He expects the Leaders to be appointed along these lines – by other office-holders, the Congregation, or apostles.

1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9;   1 Timothy 3:8-13.

“The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint Elders in every town, as I directed you (Titus).”

“If anyone sets his heart on being an elder, he desires a noble task.   Now an overseer must be …”    Kittel points out that the use of the singular is simply referring to the bishop as a calling, not that there was only one in each Church.

1 Timothy 3:1-7                    Titus 1:5-9;

  1. Above reproach                         *(Repeated in Titus)
  2. Husband of one wife               *

The unmarried are not suggested; but perhaps a widower, or divorcee (depending on how, why, and when), but with experience of his own children’s successful upbringing, and the running of his home.

  1. Temperate
  2. Self-controlled – sensible        *
  3. Respectable – modest
  4. Hospitable – lover of people   *
  5. Able to teach – to a greater or lesser degree
  6. Not given to much wine          *no drunkenness
  7. Not violent.                                *
  8. Gentle – not a striker of people
  9. Not quarrelsome
  10. Not a lover of money – greedy of gain  *no dishonest gain
  11. Must manage family well – an important reason is given
  12. Must see that children obey with respect   *

(The word for child indicates between a baby and a young person; older offspring may stray away, and they are not indicated here, I think.)

  1. Not a recent convert – remember Satan’s fall
  2. A good reputation outside the Church

Children are believers/ or faithful, trustworthy

Not overbearing

Not quick tempered

Lover of good

Upright

Holy

Disciplined

Holding to the orthodox teaching, able to encourage and refute.

TOTAL: 16.                         *TOTAL: 16.

It may be too pedantic to isolate the special qualities in the Titus list – several are not all that different: self-controlled and disciplined, for example.

Children are an important aspect [well-behaved, believers].  1 John 2:12 ff helps here.

Teknea = little children

Neanisoi = young men

Titus 1:6 and 1 Timothy 3:1 ff have Tekna = little children

DEACONS, 1 Timothy 3:8-13

  1. Husband of one wife – married people
  2. Worthy of respect
  3. Not indulging in much wine
  4. Not pursuing dishonest gain
  5. Must manage household well
  6. Must manage children well

Not double tongued – sincere

Holding the revealed mystery with a clear conscience

Tested first and found blameless – on probation

Wives/Deaconesses, must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, and faithful in everything.

It is defined as an Office, which, if done well, brings dignity and assurance.

There are several further rules apropos Elders:

“Let the Elders (plural) who take the lead well be counted worthy of double honour (commonly taken to mean financial reward), especially those labouring in word and teaching.   For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox treading out grain’ – and, ‘The labourer is worthy of his pay.’”

“Do not receive an accusation against an Elder unless on the testimony of two or three witnesses.   The one sinning, before all rebuke; that the rest also may have fear.” (1 Timothy 5:17-20, Green)  One would expect to find some of the Eldership Team who are evangelists, and some who are teachers of the Word.

This is a required practice in Judaism and Christianity, in any serious issue [hence Four Gospel writers.]

Deuteronomy 17:6 On the testimony of two or three witnesses a man shall be put to death, but no one shall be put to death on the testimony of only one witness.

Deuteronomy 19:15 One witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offense he may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.

 Matthew 18:16 But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’

 2 Corinthians 13:1 This will be my third visit to you. “Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”

Hebrews 10:28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.

“Obey your leaders and submit to their authority.   They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.   Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you … Greet your leaders [and all the saints].” (Hebrews 13:17-24)

“To the Elders … shepherd(s of) God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.   And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” (1 Peter 5:1-4, NIV)

All these points are relevant, and particularly so at certain times.   The plurality of the leadership is clear.   Finance is involved; but it must not be paramount.   The servant heart is vital, as is zeal for the calling.   Extreme lording over people must not be part of the picture – as sometimes happens; in the 1980’s the “Shepherding Movement” aimed to succeed where pastoral care in the traditional churches left much to be desired; but it went too far, and those who fell for it, had to repent.

The apostles made the initial appointments, but perhaps later it may have been by any suitable means – by the membership voting, or more likely by the existing body of Elders making new officers.   Leadership positions in university Christian Unions were filled by the votes of membership being made first, as a guide, but the final choice was by the outgoing leaders.

Does it seem unfair that only married men, with well behaved, believing, children can be considered for the post of Elder – and possibly, by implication, Deacons?   A second reason may be that single men, or those without children, are particularly valuable as people who can move about more easily in the service of Christ.  Perhaps Priscilla and Aquila, who moved about the Roman Empire in pivotal service, are an example of this: Rome (Acts 18:2), Korinthos (Acts 18:1-3), Ephesus (Acts 18:19), Rome again (Romans 16:3 ff), and back in Ephesus (2 Timothy 4:19).  When they are noted in greetings in Paul’s letters, there is no mention of children …Romans 16:3; 1 Corinthians 16:19; 2 Timothy 4:19. The premises they owned, perhaps for their businesses run by slaves, were most suitable as venues for the congregations.  Their practical aid was always in evidence.

How do the two gifts of deacon and pastor relate to the Offices of Deacon and Elder?   The two Offices fulfil for the larger congregation – but in a totally different sense, what the gifts do at a more individual level.   If the gifts were equated with the Office, there would be no need for the careful selection procedure; as I said earlier, we would simply have to identify the gifts!  There is a massive difference between the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the examination of character and life required of potential Elders.  We have developed traditions; it is quite clear from the Gospels that Jesus is not in favour of Tradition, but strongly against it – we do well to have this in mind.

In a climate of Church life where the Pastor, or individual leader, is the norm, it is difficult to break away from that pattern; and the way out will be different in each case.   But the problem must be carefully dealt with and the Congregation fully instructed.   One finds various sad inconsistencies, if not non-sequiturs, being employed: “First among Equals”, “All are equal, but some are more equal than others”, “Professional Elder”, “Paid Elder”, or “Leader of the Eldership Team” – simply to avoid grasping the nettle, and bringing about the necessary change.   Government laws on charitable status may create a problem to be overcome.  A person may take the title of Pastor to avoid the strict requirements of  being an “Elder”.  There is the obvious danger of a dynamic person being tempted to rule-the-roost – a leading businessman, a politician, a famous sportsperson.  Here is a test of his constant humility.

In any organisation of some size there will be delegation of authority, and various people must be free to work within their calling.   Finance must be found for some of them – Elders must clearly receive remuneration (1 Timothy 5:17,18).   However, all workers in a Church should be answerable to the Elders, who must take responsibility for all major decisions.   In the present climate, even churches that claim to have resolved the issue of Elders, must constantly review the state of affairs to see that there is no sliding back.   The denomination known as Christian Brethren, has successfully endured for well over a hundred years in the care of Elders – it probably started in Dublin, in 1829.   They do not eliminate all the problems, but the machinery is in place to handle them.  For most churches to develop a more biblical leadership, there will be the need for: teaching, time, humility, bravery, and wisdom.

As I said earlier: “To pastor, may be caring for a third former in the school Christian Union; or serving a senior executive in the House of Commons or in Industry.”   A definition of a pastor may be something like this: a Christian man, woman, or child, who has been given the ability by the Holy Spirit to help others grow in their spiritual life, by counsel and appropriate teaching.   Their service will usually be to individuals or small numbers.

On the positive side, everyone needs someone to pastor them.  If we ask the question: Who are the close friends we go to for advice?   Our answer will indicate those who are personal pastors to us.  For many years, mine have been: a senior family-friend, a medical doctor, and a college lecturer – only one has had academic theological training.

Proverbs 27:6 “Wounds from a friend can be trusted”/”faithful are the wounds of a friend” (AV)

“Secret” is the first part of the word “secretary”; similarly, the commitment of the counsellor to keeping secrets is vital!   The first three letters of the word “PASTOR” do not stand for Public Address System.   “PASTOR” could well stand for: Private and Secure, Trustworthy – Operating Responsibly.   Much of what we call counselling, is pastoring – certainly where teaching is included; if support and practical help is given, other charisms will be used.

The antique communities had their city, town or village Elders – as we see in the Old Testament.

The spiritual leaders and mentors of Israel, in Ezekiel’s day, are collectively and metaphorically referred to as Shepherds.   Here they are indicted for their failures: caring for themselves and neglecting their flock.   “You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not care for the flock.   You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured.   You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost.   You have ruled them harshly and brutally.   So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for the wild animals.   My sheep wondered over all the mountains and on every high hill.   They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.   “… For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them.   As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so I will look after my sheep.   I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness … I will bring them out [to safety] … I will pasture them … I will tend them in a good pasture … They will lie down in good grazing land, and they will feed in a rich pasture … I myself will tend my sheep and make them lie down, declares the Sovereign LORD.   I will search for the lost and bring back the strays.   I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and strong I will destroy.   I will shepherd the flock with justice.   I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them and be their shepherd   … You my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, my people, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign LORD.” (Ezekiel 34)

The metaphorical language of this chapter covers much more than human pastoring, there are also aspects of Divine Judgement, and of the Davidic Messiah.   It shows what caring does not mean, on the one hand; and many of the key facets of the true calling to pastor God’s people, on the other.   Like other gifts, it shows something of God’s nature, the Body of Christ, working for the maturation of the Ekklesia.

The Twenty-Third Psalm, also, has much to teach us.   The Divine Shepherd provides: all true needs, rest, food and drink, restoration at the deepest level, righteous guidance, his comforting presence in times of danger and threat, protection and rescue, his supply of provisions – unhindered by the presence of enemies, healing to the point of good health, the assurance of goodness and love, and a stable home.   We know that the eastern shepherd leads his sheep – they willing follow him to good pastures; but by far the stress here is on the Shepherd’s care and loving provision.   We can also consider Psalm 28:9, and Psalm 100:3.

The uniqueness of our Lord Jesus as the Good Shepherd, who is dedicated to serving the sheep to the point of death, is seen in John 10:1-15, 27-30; in contrast with the hireling shepherds, and thieves and robbers, who run away from danger, or climb up some other way into the fold – to steal, kill and destroy.   He talks of one flock and one shepherd!

We can often tell when the gift is clearly absent – where there is no searching for the straying ones, only dividing and scattering the flock of God.   There is the story of a farming-shepherd who aspired to be a spiritual pastor.   One day, five of his sheep escaped from his farm and ran down the village road.   The husband of a Christian lady ran out and stopped their mad exodus, she telephoned the farmer, and he held them up until the farmer arrived – within four minutes.   The lady attended the fellowship he pastored, but slipped away: he never visited her!

The pastoral gift means that we will always have time for the people we are given; there is always a cost – as with all the gifts, but also rewards.

The linking of “Pastors” and “Teachers” in Ephesians 4:11 should not be lost on us; the same thought is often present in other passages.   We have Jesus’s words to Peter in John 21:15-19: “Feed My lambs…Take care of My sheep…. Feed My sheep.”   Feeding obviously indicates teaching.

It is said that we cannot relate closely to more than ten or twelve people, or families, and there are commentators on the subject who apply this to leadership, and to pastoring relationships among Christian friends.

There is a curious little test of the picture I have given of Elders: Peter is the only apostle who is also called an Elder.   We do know that he was married – but there is no mention of any children.   Paul, Barnabas, Timothy, and Titus, are not spoken of as being married.  (Mark 1:29-31;  1 Corinthians 7:7, 9:5;   1 Peter 5:1).

How could we change?

In my travels, I attended an Anglican church, which was facing a huge decision that would affect its work for a good half century.  The vicar was under considerable pressure, so I encouraged him to allow the Church Council to share or even take the full responsibility – they would outlast the vicar’s term of office in any case.  There was a huge success.  This represents a gradual move away from monolithic leadership.

The term “Pastor” for a church leader should be stopped!

For example: we have moved into a new house, in a district that is strange to us, and select a promising church for worship and commitment.    We discover, it is run by quite a large group of Elders, assisted by Deacons and Deaconesses, who employ several full-time workers.   At the close of our first visit, someone who is slightly older than ourselves welcomes us, helps us to settle in, and over the weeks becomes our close friend and personal pastor.   Miracles like this still do happen I can assure you!

In nations where persecution is rampant, having a Pastor or Vicar is often a severe weakness: the extremists who attack can easily reduce the fellowship to impotence, by taking the single leader away.  A group of leaders is far more stable and practical, for many reasons.  In about the year 2000, I spoke on the phone to a representative of Open Doors UK about this issue.  Their attitude is to leave local doctrinal issues as they are.  What do you think?

A WISE LETTER SENT TO THE EDITOR OF THE BAPTIST MISSIONARY SOCIETY (BMS) MAGAZINE “ENGAGE”, IN SPRING 2015: IN ANSWER TO AN EARLIER ARTICLE ON THE IDEA OF LONE CHURCH LEADERS – “SUPER PASTOR, DO YOU HAVE TO BE A SUPERHERO TO BE AN EFFECTIVE CHURCH LEADER? ”.

Dear Editor,

The super hero theory of leadership comes from a discredited management theory of the 1930’s taken up by, among others, Adolf Hitler.

The most successful leaders are humble people drawn from within the organisation who work with a team for the benefit of the organisation and not for their own benefit.

Since leadership cannot be taught, in spite of what some management schools claim, and leaders only succeed if they have people who are prepared to be part of their team. BMS needs to look at developing people who may never be leaders themselves but could play a key role in a successful leadership team (like Andrew, Philip, Matthew etc).

John R Hudson

[I know a local Pastor who had a valued biography of Hitler on his bookshelf!  He was one who threatened to thump me.  An American influential churchman started his series on this subject with a biographical reference to Hitler; not a biblical exposition.]

The ministerial systems in many denominations are open to abuse.  Church Members of leadership abilities may have been in the congregations for decades – they know the congregation, the locality, and attributes well; and then a new Minister arrives to lead, and through lack of research and wise advice, imposes himself – often damaging God’s work irreparably.

Read Church History, if you are interested in seeing the sad degeneration of the Kirk in so many areas.  Whilst on a military (Royal Air Force) course on spiritual leadership, a Scottish Chaplain recommended a fine book published by The St Andrew’s Press.  My favourite, over many years, has been “The Story of the Church” by Professor A. M. Renwick, with additional material by A. M. Harman. [Inter-Varsity Press, ISBN 0-85111-590-X)

Mentoring has been discussed to frightening, complex proportions; far from the fine beautiful, trusting, simple, steel sharpening steel friendship, of the Holy Spirit’s Gift of the biblical pastor.  At one time I could draw on my four personal pastors for: high-level medical advice and Eschatology, insight into Church History and New Testament Greek, blunt Yorkshire tell-it-as-it-is, and a wise Centurion (non-commissioned officer).

 

 

SIX OF THE EIGHT SUPPORTING GIFTS

For many years I attended a large, city, Pentecostal church (Bridge Street Foursquare Gospel Church, Leeds – 250 in the morning, 500 in the evening service).   In earlier years, Smith Wigglesworth had often visited it – the older pastor knew him well – and I knew his great-grandson, Brian Wigglesworth, who finished his training as a doctor at the famous St James’s Hospital (“Saint Jimmies”).    In Derby, Mr. Parker, a travelling Bible teacher, laid hands on me and prayed for gifts of the Spirit.   At the time, I thought it might have helped me more, had he told me what gifts he was not confirming.   The first time I heard tongues was in 1952.   The experience of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit occurred in 1953: following the devotional reading of Acts chapter 10, in the quietness of the Royal Air Force Station Church at Driffield (North Yorkshire, UK).   I confess that it seemed best to keep quiet about this in many of the fellowships in which I worshipped, subsequently.

My own version of the well-worn joke: A man fell over a lonely cliff, and was left hanging on to a slender, ill-rooted, tiny silver birch sapling.   He called out for help, but as none seemed forthcoming, like many people when all hope is lost, he prayed!

Almost immediately, an air-sea rescue helicopter appeared, and a voice called over an amplifier offering help – which he declined.

He heard a second call: from a loudhailer on a RNLI lifeboat below him – this he also declined.

Thirdly, there came an offer from the cliff top: the mountain rescue team, who were willing to descend to his aid; he declined their help.

His grasp on the sapling failed – just as its roots pulled out of the thin soil.   He fainted as he fell – and so had little sensation of the horrific end, which befell him on the rocks below.

At the Gates of Heaven he challenged St Peter – the theology is not too good here: “Why did God not answer my prayer?”   St Peter turned to his computer terminal: “At 14.00 hours we sent you a helicopter; at 14.20 there was a lifeboat on station; and at 14.40 the full mountain rescue team were on the cliff above you; but you refused all our offers of mercy!”

SERVING GIFTS:

Administration,

Leadership-aid,

Helpers,

Servants,

Mercy acts, and

Contributions –

[In addition to Pastor, and

Encouraging – which will be looked at later].

We pray to God, but practical help often comes through people.

Stunning though it may be, the Church is like a body: where each person is a part that relies on all who make up the whole.   Look at any average Congregation, and you will see few who are speakers (10% say some Bible College lecturers): most are helpers.   As we have seen, Peter rounds off two main groups of gifts as: speaking and serving (1 Peter 4:7-11).   This chapter is in honour of those who serve!

At least half of the twenty Gifts of the Spirit are anointings to serve.   Characteristically they merge: when we look at the outside of a human body, it is difficult to see where the head finishes and the neck starts – or take the foot, and the ankle, however, if we note the structure of the skeleton, all becomes clear.   We have already looked at the gift of pastor; now we turn to: administration, leadership-aid, helpers, servants, mercy acts and contributors.

There is a problem that faces police forces, from time to time: should the officers in the headquarters, receive the same remuneration as those in the front line of danger?   The argument surfaced as early as 1000 BC – in 1 Samuel 30: the story of David’s troubles and their victorious outcome, at Ziklag.   When 200 men were weary and remained with the baggage, 400 went on to fight the battle.   David’s ruling was that all should share the spoils equally.   The serving gifts should take heart from this!

[C] ADMINISTRATION, 13   1 Corinthians 12

(2942 Strong, kubernetes, koo-ber-nay-tace.   The modern word cybernetics, the comparative analysis of management systems, stems from it – a tree or a transport system, can be analysed; analysis shows that Evolution as a system of Creation, will not work.)

The very idea of this gift, strikes terror into countless numbers of Christians – leaders and ordinary saints alike: how can we relate to people who are so remarkably efficient?   Indeed Paul writes of his team of apostles: “Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.   He made us competent as ministers of a new covenant … ” (2 Corinthians 3:5-6).   These people are not like a super, well-tried, program on a mainframe computer, they may be blundering fools, who have been redeemed by the grace of God, and who walk in the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit.

Throughout their days, they continually require the prompting of the Spirit – but the result is efficient planning and performance, in many areas of life.”

The Greek word could be rendered: “governings”, “administrations”, “steersman”, or “helmsman” – the sailor who is in control of driving the ship, for all practical purposes, but serving under the senior officers.   The non-figurative usage is seen in Acts 27:11 and Revelation 18:17 – “pilot”, “ship’s-pilot”.   Kittel points out that in Septuagint Greek, it is found three times in Proverbs – 1:5, 11:14, and 24:6: “right directing”, “clever direction”, and “wise counsel”.

The structure in the Greek text: “gifts of” (four words earlier), and the plural noun, obviously produces: “gifts of administrations” – singular gifts for special purposes, and much room for variety; the efficient running of a church coffee bar, does not mean we can run for Parliament in the next election.

So we would look for those in the Congregation, who are talented by God’s grace, in various departments of administration and leadership.   It will be seen both inside and outside the college of Elders: in those who have special gifts of “organizing” – the word used by J. B. Philips in his translation.

May I suggest a short list, for starters: church secretaries, magazine editors, treasurers, and specialist organisers – of the youth group, ladies meeting, book library, audio-visual library, music group, junior church, and church events, leaders of meetings, worship leaders, bursars, administrators of para-church organisations, and anything which requires thorough planning, legal issues.   It can be given to men or women, of course.

This is a most significant gift, which, if recognised and employed, will have great ramifications for today’s churches.   In my church work I have often encountered very talented people who are totally disorganised; how they need the ministry of an organiser.   The story is told of a most talented Bible College tutor who was so absent-minded, that a student was always delegated to carry a spare minibus key, because he was guaranteed to misplace it.   Ironically, one of the most inefficient people I have encountered was called “The Church Administrator”.   A successful executive was asked if he had an excellent memory, “On the contrary,” he pointed out, “I write everything down!

From the Elders, it will be a delegated leadership, based on an ability given by the Holy Spirit, and implying a fair degree of trust and freedom, but also accountability and subservience.   There will be applications outside Church life – many have found this gift has taken them ahead in secular employment – they should not be slow to acknowledge the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.   Training – through study, mentoring by a more experienced Christian, college courses, or in-service training of other kinds – should not be excluded.   Like the word “ministry” – “leadership” is a word lazily misused today.

“I … delight to see how orderly you are,” would be a good text for someone with this gift. (Colossians 2:5)

We may think of the great administrators in the Bible: the Lord Jesus, King David, Daniel, Joseph, Moses, Paul, Nehemiah and many others.

As with all the anointings, the continuum of our personal Bible reading will give us further insights.

If, on sitting down to eat the first course of a meal, you start planning what the second course will be, this could be the gift of Administration.

[D] LEADERSHIP-AID, 15   Romans 12.

(4291 Strong, proistemi, pro-is’-tay-mee.)

English translations may feature either of the two words: the RSV has zealous “aid”, which is set against, and as distinct from, “contributing” with liberality; the NIV has diligent governing “leadership”.   The confusion is caused by the Greek usage of the word being too complex to render simply.   Here are the shades of meaning attached to it: to preside, to put oneself at the head of, to go before, to go first, “I went on before you”; and figuratively: going ahead of someone – by way of protection, to join with sponsors, curators, to assist, to care for, to look after, to be concerned with the needs of others – perhaps in legal affairs, to represent, assist, support, to give protective leadership, rule, to handle the affairs of, and to look after a church or household.

So, to put it simply – and I can only make my own considered suggestion: it would seem that this enabling is to guide or pilot a person, or a group, through a particularly difficult time – to see people through a problem.   It means being engaged for a limited period only, in connection with one issue.   The Divine compassion of the Godhead is demonstrated by this anointing.   The problems dealt with might cover such a wide range, to include: illness, convalescence, poverty, oppression, times and circumstances of temptation, lack of instruction, unusual catastrophes, or loneliness: when life presents us with overwhelming odds and becomes too much for us to bear.   The picture could well be, of a person leading a blind man to his destination, or a port authority pilot boarding a ship in the roads, to bring it safely up the estuary to the docks.  On the one hand: it is close to administration, on the other, there is a pastoral care.   Because there is just a hint of the thought in the usage of the word, my suggestion that the service is for a limited time, is counter to the kind of help that imprisons a person in a state of permanent dependency on another.   I hold the concept that there is a coming out of the wood – out of “the valley of the shadow of death”: to a place of spiritual healthy confident maturity.   The word is used twice elsewhere, as I say: in connection with an Elder leading his own house admirably, and leading well in the Church, mainly in teaching (1 Timothy 3:4-5, 5:17).   It includes an area, which might be covered by the rather vague secular term “counselling”, but it, goes much further than words.

We might think of well-known Old Testament examples: Elijah and the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:7-24), and Elisha and the widow of a prophet (2 Kings 4:1-7).   Nehemiah, when he led the citizens of Jerusalem through their rebuilding, but then handed over the ruling of the city to his brother Hanani, and the control of the citadel to Hananiah. (Nehemiah generally and 7:2)   Queen Esther, as a member of the royal household, and along with her uncle Mordecai, led the Jews exiled in Media and Persia through the persecution envisaged by the wicked Haman, in the reign of King Xerxes (485-465 BC). (Cf. The Book of Esther)

We have no doubt thought of the gifts being employed by lesser mortals to help even the eminent in society, but here we have three members of the nobility experiencing the power of the Spirit of God to bring relief to national groups.

Perhaps we could include Ananias and Barnabas here – when they saw Saul of Tarsus through the difficult time of integration into the churches at Damascus and Jerusalem, following his conversion (Acts 9:10-28).

The word is used generally for any who are over us in the Church: perhaps in a way not limited to the Elders, but including apostles teachers, prophets, and others (1 Thessalonians 5:12).   Obviously, it is a gift, which has changed the course of history.

I have had two notable personal experiences of benefiting from this gift.   Several very close members of my family died within a decade – mother, father, grandmother and an aunt who lived with us.   I had a new, demanding job, had stood out against declining standards of honesty at Bible College, and was heavily committed to Church Work – round about 1960.   I started to collapse, with little warning: at which time, a most kind senior Christian (a Professor of Medicine) took me into his family for three months – until recovery was established.

In the early days of studying about this gift, I was viciously struck down with Menigococcal Bacterial Meningitis; within the team that helped to save my life, was a mature Christian nurse – who wore a Fish Badge – and who stood by me in a special kind of fellowship, until I was well through the journey to good health.

A Christian neighbour is helping a single mother to cope with her limited finances.

I have noticed some instances of the recipient falling out with the helper: as a way of releasing from what otherwise might have become an over-dependency.

We might think of those standing up for the rights of the under-privileged and exploited.

The admonition is to employ this gift “with diligence”!

  1. HELPERS, 12/6.   1 Corinthians 12

(484 Strong, antilepsis, or antilaimpsis (Kittel),

an-til’-ape-sis, relief, help, succour support.)

There is a great temptation for commentators to suggest that the serving gifts are not as miraculous as the rest, but the whole life of the Believer is caught up in the powerful working and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.   My personal view is that all the gifts have to be miraculous.

The AV has “helps”, the NIV: “those able to help others”; there is also the inference of relief, relating to succour and support, taking up a need, grasping hold of – to help, to input, keep to, a loyal commitment to, and taking up a cause.   Help in the general sense of loving actions (G. Delling, Kittel).   Practical help in any aspect of life, sometimes quite remarkable: home, Ekklesia, work, and elsewhere.   It has a close relationship with similar kinds of service: it is not as dominating and crucial as Leadership-Aid, and not limited to finance – perhaps quite separate from it.   The word is used of the Spirit’s help in our prayers (Romans 8:26).   Particularly in Psalms – as seen in the Septuagint – God is our help.   Fourteen times in the Greek Old Testament, it refers to helping one’s neighbour; to share a task with someone; to help someone in his or her work (Exodus 18:22, Numbers 11:17).

We have here yet another gift, which shows God’s practical compassion.    Its outworking might include: helping to care for a busy mother’s children; taking people on a needed holiday; collecting the older and infirm, and taking them to meetings; doctors, teachers, agriculturalists, and other “mission partners”, in poor countries – help in all areas of society.   It could be arriving in time to do some urgent typing for a Member of Parliament, or noticing that an invalid needs a wheel chair lifting into their home.   Our friend Mrs. Barbara Wood was led to visit a church family: just as the door opened, the lady collapsed into Barbara’s arms, seriously ill.

Without this gift, almost no Gospel work could be achieved – a footnote, which could follow every topic in this list!

Some possible examples:

Ziba, the steward of Mephibosheth, bringing food to King David (2 Samuel 16:1-4), Jonathan and Ahimaaz: two spies who brought information to King David, on his retreat from Jerusalem (2 Samuel 17:15-22).

The ladies who helped the Lord Jesus and his apostles: Martha and Mary; perhaps the support of Mary of Magdala, Joanna, Susanna and many others, was both fiscal and practical (Matthew 27:55-56;   Luke 10:38-42,  8:1-3).

There was the group of men, who, at various times, are seen helping Paul in the Book of Acts, and throughout the epistles, although their help might have been of the deeper commitment of the next anointing.   We should also consider the assistance given to the apostles in the writing of their New Testament letters – Tertius helped with Romans, Sosthenes joined Paul with 1 Corinthians, Silas assisted with 1 Peter – and in the delivering of them: Phoebe carried the letter to Rome, Tychichus took letters to Ephesus and Colossae, and perhaps to Titus (Romans 16:22;  1 Corinthians 1:1;  1 Peter 5:12;  Romans 16:1-2;   Ephesians 6:21-22;   Colossians 4:7;   Titus 3:12).   The Scriptures abound with people, from all ranks of life, who helped others in the name of God the Most Merciful.

These serving Gifts are quite beautiful; they see immediate results, and rewards, in that sense.  There is a danger that in enthusiasm they over-rule the individual, and take away their self-respect – something to be guarded against.

What about this?

THE CHRISTIAN WHO WAS “Q”

Fans of James Bond will know of “Q” – the ingenious Quartermaster, who supplied Bond with cunning devices.  Ian Flemming, the writer of the James Bond stories, served in Naval Intelligence during World War II; here he met the real Quartermaster: Charles Fraser-Smith.

In 1940 Fraser-Smith spoke at a Church in Leeds: telling of his inventiveness whilst farming in Morocco, and of the two orphanages he had founded there.   After the meeting, he was approached by two Government officials who wanted him in a secret post in London.   Here he worked for MI6, MI9, and SOE (Special Operations Executive).

There were: hair brushes which concealed maps; miniature saws hidden in bootlaces; fountain pens, cigarettes and false teeth, which contained magnetic compasses and telescopes.   Cigarette lighters hid cameras, and shaving brushes stored film – to help pinpoint key targets for Bomber Command.   Invisible ink maps for secret agents in Europe, and concentrated rations for resistance troops in Burma, were also his inventions.

He was a man of great missionary interest and a very active Christian (the Gideons and the Bible Society, etc) – right up to his 88th year.

(From an article by Richard Wilkins, of the Association of Christian Teachers [ACT].)

[F] SERVING, 18   Romans 12.

(1248 Strong, diakonian, dee-ak-on-ee-ah, service – of a servant.)

This must be very similar to “helping”, but, I think, more of an attitude which is manifested in a more dedicated and wide ranging service: like a servant to a person – perhaps to free them for more important service.   There is an Office of Deacons, the second, and last, in the Church structure.   This is the same name, but with the Office, appointed by the Congregation, will come the ability to serve the Assembly, in a similar way the primary Office of Elders includes gifts of healing and leading.

Quite separate from the Congregation’s appointment; here we are thinking of a gift found among ordinary church members.   Ideas contained in usage of the word are: attendance as a servant, wait upon, host, friend, and personal service rendered to another, prepare and serve food.  Many wives will have this gift – perhaps all brilliant ones do!   Good husbands also!   I have seen it as: acting as servant to another, especially helping practically to release them in their service of God.    There is a remote danger of being taken advantage of.   I visited an eminent and gifted friend, who was very busy for Christ; his household duties had fallen behind, and so I did ironing and various other chores.   When he called: “Come here my man!” I knew that the time for a reappraisal had arrived!

Jesus Himself came as a Servant (Isaiah 52:13-53:12;   Matthew 12:18;   Luke 22:27;   John 13:1-17,etc).   We are called, generally, to be servants of God and of each other (Matthew 20:27, 23:11;  Mark 9:37, 10:44;  Luke 2:29;  John 12:26;  Romans 1:1, etc).   John Mark (who later wrote the Gospel According to Mark) was aide to Paul and Barnabas, on the First Missionary Journey, and later in Rome (Acts 12:25, 15:37-39;  2 Timothy 4:11).  Timothy and Erastus had “ministered” to Paul, before being sent by him to work in Macedonia, in a far higher calling (Acts 19:22).   Onesimus was thought of as a minister to Paul, on behalf of Philemon (Philemon verse 13).   Phoebe of Cenchrea held the office, and obviously practiced the gift as well (Romans 16:1-2).

Onesiphorus ministered to Paul in Ephesus, he recalls (2 Timothy 1:18).

The Household of Stephanas ministered to the saints (1 Corinthians 16:15).

Paul and others ministered, in taking the financial gift from Achaia to Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 8:19).   Paul collected firewood, as a prisoner, on Malta.   Even here, there was a display of the remarkable and the miraculous (Acts 28:1-6).

One commentator notes that Paul may have been seen in the Greco-Roman world, as a man of substance and standing, because he had several men in attendance.

If we are tempted to react against being a servant, let us remember that, like our Lord and His apostles, we are called to be slaves!   Often, the word translated “servant” in the English Versions, is “slave” (doulos) in the original text.   However, this is much better than being a slave of sin – which we were before conversion (John 8:34, Romans 6).   In Roman society, do not forget, the slave of the Emperor was much higher than an ordinary freeman.

Ministry, or serving, in the Bible is usually something practical: where you put on your pinny, or roll your sleeves up.   1 John 3:18 reads, “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and truth.”  This is one of the grounds for assurance listed by John, and it is a gift, which brings us very close to the Lord Jesus.

[G] MERCY ACTS, 16   Romans 12

(1653 Strong, eleeo, el-eh-eh’-o; AV and NIV mercy.   Strong has: compassion, pity, showing mercy.)

Rudolf Bultmann, writing within the stricture of the Kittel brief – thankfully, thinks of: emotion roused by contact with suffering, concern for the welfare of others, pathos or phobia, a sense of awe, mercy, sympathy, relating to an area of justice, an attitude arising out of a mutual relationship of trust and loyalty – faithfulness, protection, security, faithfulness to a covenant – of a ruler protecting his dominion, obligation, love, grace, favour – coming undeservedly to another person to help them.

One would think of a specific and significant act of merciful assistance.

Stoic philosophy, thinking mainly of jurisprudence, saw mercy as a weakening of the law’s authority, and as a possible course of injustice.   Fortunately indeed, God has revealed Himself, in both Old and New Testaments, as a God of mercy, and we are encouraged to show mercy in our relationships with others, because of this divine quality.

The chapters, or Surah, of the Qur’an all begin with the words: “In the Name of Allah, the most Beneficent, the Most Merciful”; Islam has no revelation of that Mercy of God; indeed, He is seen as a capricious individual.   In the opinion of some who have studied Islam at firsthand: the Allah of the Qur’an is viewed as being Satan in reality.   One might say, in contrast, that the whole of the Bible is devoted to explaining the Mercy of God, one of His main attributes – fortunately for us!   God’s mercy is based on His specific promises, is not vague, and is the very opposite of His wrath in judgment.

“Seek the LORD while he may be found;

call on him while he is near.

Let the wicked forsake his way

and the evil man his thoughts.

Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him,

and to our God, for he will freely pardon.”

(Isaiah 55:6-7)

The importance of mercy in the Christian walk, is constantly underlined: “… because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful,” and ” the wisdom that comes from heaven is … full of mercy….”   (James 2:13, 3:17.   Cf Hosea 6:6;  Matthew 9:13, 12:7, 5:7)

Mercy is one of the three main aspects of the Law, along with justice and faithfulness (Matthew 23:23).   The utterly evil are “unmerciful” (Romans 1:31).

Most, if not all, of the gifts are expressions of parts of God’s Nature.   To act in mercy, is therefore one of the greatest callings for a Christian.   How marvelous when this great Mercy is seen conspicuously in Mercy Acts.

Our main text stresses the usage found in the Septuagint: that mercy must take a concrete form: in action.   “Almsgiving”, as it appears in the Authorized Version, is really “mercy acts”, and obviously it must be done in secrecy.   The requirement in Romans is: “with cheerfulness” – it is to be enjoyed.

Biblical examples might be:

Abigail bringing victuals to David in the Judean Desert (1 Samuel 25:14-35).

There were the various men who brought provisions and equipment for David’s army, on his retreat before Absalom. (2 Samuel 17:24-29)   The love of one’s neighbour is illustrated in the merciful actions of the “Good Samaritan” in the parable (Luke 10:37).

Exorcism is seen in Jesus’s service as a showing of Divine Mercy (Mark 5:19), as is healing, post Ascension (Philippians 2:27).

[H] CONTRIBUTING, 14   Romans 12

(3330 Strong, metadidomi, met-ad-id’-o-mee; AV – he that giveth; AV Newberry margin – imparteth; NIV – contributing to the needs of others; Green Interlinear – sharing.)

The injunction is: with liberality, generosity, and simplicity.

Acts 4:32-37, is one of two great examples in the Early Church.   Out of all the serving gifts, this deals uniquely with money.   Some people are gifted to earn or obtain legitimately, large or relatively large amounts of money, for helping God’s people.   We may recollect the ladies in Luke 8 again, Priscilla and Aquila in Acts – who gave hospitality to individuals, and indeed, to whole congregations, and the Great Collection of the Macedonian and Corinthian Churches, for famine relief in the Judean Believers (Luke 8:1-3;  Acts 18:1-3, 24-26;  Romans 16:3-5;  1 Corinthians 16:19;  Romans 16:1-4;  2 Corinthians 8:1-9:15).   Paul could say: “You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions.   In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak.”   This would imply a continuing fiscal help (Acts 20:34-35).

1 John 3:17  “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him.”

There must be no strings attached, and the applicable and associated adjective is: “generous”.

God’s work might well not progress without this gift; a vital ministry in America was given a great boost, with a donation from a millionaire Believer, of half a million American dollars to purchase a Headquarters Office building.

It amazes me, and is surely salutary, that the apostles saw that there were so many similar, but distinctively separate, supporting gifts in the Church; and we have the great need to develop our own understanding and experience of them.   They are all part of the Church’s anointing by the Holy Spirit, and, individually, of our being filled with the Spirit.

TITHING

Tithing was covered in Old Testament Law; but Jesus enforced it also.  It surprises me that even those with a legal background fail to see the implications of our Lord’s words.  It is for all Believers, quite separated from the special gift.

Matthew 23:23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.

Here is clear instruction on the correct perspective, but still requiring tithing to be retained.  A tithe is obviously a tenth.  In Balderstone, our Vicar had been an Accountant, and was a good person to discuss the subject with.  The church tithed its own income: giving to other worthy causes.  We decided that tithing should be before government taxation, but minus Superannuation  (for a Pension); this encouraged tithing of the Pension after Retirement.  A careful Account Book could be kept.  Tithing is a floor not a ceiling – a minimum, not a top amount.  There are other causes for giving: special thanksgiving, and Firstfruits from some new venture or “harvest”.

A local church had severe financial problems, so having in mind the cars in the car park and the fashion statements, I gave a short word on tithing, as part of my sermon.  And that was it; except for a lady who was at odds with my advice about keeping an account book, to redress withholding tithes in times of poverty.  The lady would tithe, even if it meant starving her children!  I disagreed.  The reverse can be true: in years of plenty we can give well in excess.

 If our giving is limited: a mere tip to God – as apposed to an investment for eternity, we will be embarrassed on reaching Glory!

A gentleman was selling raffle tickets for the British Heart Foundation in our local shopping mall.  At best, my £2 might win me £1,000.  I explained that my current investment earned me a return of capital plus 10,000%.  This is Jesus’s promise and was guaranteed.  His reply was that you couldn’t take it with you when you die.  My retort: “No, but you can send it on ahead!”.

Again: Tithing came before the Law, even before Abraham became a Jew – Genesis 14:18-20.

For every ten people, their average income, will become the church’s.

A very tragic story, if I understood it aright: a Believer, who had experienced prison and a disastrous life before his conversion, found himself blessed with this gift.  Sadly he started to spend on an affluent lifestyle of cars and property – much to the amazement of his ex-social worker, and his own excitement. This appeared to set a bad example, and indicated a lack of understanding – soon to be remedied, I hope.

FAILURE TO ENCOURAGE GIVING CAN ROB CHRISTIANS OF REWARDS IN THE NEXT LIFE.

WHERE FEELINGS RUN HIGH!

[I] APOSTLE, 10          1 Corinthians 12 (Second List), Ephesians 4

(652 Strong, apostolos, ap-os’-tol-os, a delegate, ambassador, messenger, a person who is sent)

Some readers will passionately hold to the view that apostles finished with the death of the last of the Twelve; others will attend fellowships, which are awash with apostles!   This is where we grasp the nettle: if all the charisms of the Epistles are for today, then how do we view the gift of apostle?   The story is told of an American Congressional Candidate who was asked a difficult question on the hustings.   He replied that some of his friends were of one opinion, some were of the other: “Personally, I’m for my friends.”   Some of my brothers and sisters would say that, apart from a figurative use of the word, apostles finished with the Twelve – to suggest otherwise, is to imply that the Bible is still being written; others say that they have apostles today in their denomination.   An airline pilot does not take a vote among the passengers as to what to do next: he concentrates on his instruments.   Similarly, the Christian must follow the Scriptures: not opinions.   Cockpit instruments do need regular checking, as I know from experience, similarly, we must research for precise and accurate translation and meaning.

In his most significant book, “Ministers of God”, Canon Principal Leon Morris seconds the words of Bishop J. B. Lightfoot (one time of Durham, and eminent New Testament scholar): that the term apostle “is not so used as to lend any countenance to the idea that it is in any way restricted to the Twelve” – the word is not confined to the Twelve and Paul, in the later parts of the New Testament (ibid p. 42).   Also of significance are the dates of the two books: “Ministers of God” 1964, “Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians”, by J. B. Lightfoot, 1902.   Professor C. K. Barrett, the Durham University, Methodist academic, says: “It is implied that there is a distinct group of persons known as apostles, which is not unlimited, so that anyone may claim, truly or falsely, to belong to it, and that this claim may be tested; it is implied too that false claims were in fact made” (“The Signs of an Apostle”, 1969).   On the question of false apostles, the argument is never offered, that there could only be The Twelve.   “It must have been well known throughout the Church that there was a class of apostles and that this class was considerably wider than the Twelve, else to affirm oneself to be an apostle would be immediately to discredit oneself.” (Leon Morris p. 45; 2 Corinthians 11:11-15, 12:11;  Revelation 2:2)

To admit to more apostles than The Twelve, is still a long march from accepting the concept that there are apostles in the Church today.

An Assistant Bishop in Manchester, a long time ago, observed that people, like himself, might be the apostles today!   In his case of extreme unorthodoxy, it was most appropriate to underline, that we must always be on guard against false apostles who bring a different Christology – such as denying the Virgin Birth, the Eternal Sonship (that Jesus was God come down from Heaven), and the Bodily Resurrection of Christ; and offer a salvation which is based on the works of the Law, as opposed to grace and faith.

Ancient Corinth is now simply a small tourist village, dominated by the ruins of the archaeological site.   In mid-September 1991, I visited the last shop on the right as one walks through the main street towards the museum – near to where Paul may have served in the workshops of the North Market.   The owner of this shop spends his time painting small modern vases and artifacts.   The ubiquitous radio amplified a most significant Greek Orthodox service – it was in fact celebrating the Festival of the True

Cross.   The eminent Bishop was preaching about the Church’s need for apostles today! I was told.

WORDS OF ASSURANCE AND COMFORT

  1. There can be no adding to, or changing of the Scriptures

This is why the Qur’an, the writing of Mohammed, cannot be of God.   There are Muslim theologians who recognise the problem of Revelation 22 :18, 19: that the pages of revelation from God, closed forever on earth, at this point.  Within the Qur’an there are abrogations without number, even though the work of one person and about the same length as the New Testament, and the Medina chapters are in opposition to those written in Mecca – peaceful, versus warlike.

The authority in the Congregation should always be the Elders

  1. Academic institutions, denominational hierarchies, and local-church leaders, cannot take upon themselves the sole distribution of any of the Gifts; the Spirit of Grace is sovereign.   This is not to say that during a course of training, the Spirit may not anoint, and there is always much to be learned about our gifts and their uses through study.   We have a duty, before God, to be fully educated for His service: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)   Similarly, some form of ordination” – the laying on of hands and commissioning, may be most valid.
  1. As with all gifts, there is the question of scale: from the minuscule, to the worldwide
  1. The Twelve Apostles are, and will always be, special (Matthew 10:2, 19:28;  John 20:24;  Acts 6:2;  1 Corinthians 15:5;  Revelation 21:14 – by way of examples).   J. W. Bowman noted: “Wherever our Lord would appear with His band of ‘twelve’, the number in itself would be proclaiming the Gospel message….   ‘Can’t you see’, it would be saying to Jewry, ‘this is the Remnant spoken of in the prophets.   Open your eyes and see; this is the Messiah and the new Israel!'” (Leon Morris gives this quotation in “Ministers of God”, p.15)   They were a critical part of the eschatological fulfilment of Israel.   The Twelve – and the inner Three – remind us of the Warriors of David: the Three and the Thirty. (2 Samuel 23:8-39)
  1. There has been little recent use of the term apostle, except in a metaphorical sense for special missionaries such as: Smith Wigglesworth, John Wesley, William Carey, David Livingstone, David Brainard – who did remarkable work among the Native Canadians, and others who hold our attention in the pages of Church History.

APOSTLES IN THE CHURCH ARE EQUATED WITH WITH THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL

Now I wish to establish an important point as a basis for our study: apostles are the equivalent of the Old Testament prophets.  Here are nine objective reasons why this is the case, looking at the text:

  1. Apostles were “The Generals Next To God”: the highest of Gifts to the Church – “in the Church God has appointed first of all apostles, secondly prophets…” (1 Corinthians 12:27-31): similarly, the Old Testament prophets were the highest rank in their day.
  1. The calling of an apostle covers that of the ancient prophets, as is demonstrated by the eschatological passages, and other prophetic elements, in the epistles – similar to those in the Major and Minor Prophets, and by the occasional promoting of prophets to be apostles: as in the case of Barnabas, Paul, and Silas.  (Acts 13:1-4, 14:4, 15:32)

The following list of the elements in Old Testament Prophecy demonstrates an affinity with the apostles’ writing and ministry, rather than with New Testament Prophecy:

  1. Revelation of God’s Character and will
  2. Indictment of wickedness, even among God’s People
  3. Judgment is spoken of as imminent
  4. Exile and Return – the course of future events
  5. The Messianic Hope
  6. The Golden Age – Eschatology, the Millennium
  7. Instruction, Strengthening, Comfort and Encouragement
  8. Everyday issues – such as 1 Samuel 9, “Where are my father’s donkeys?”    “This will happen if the king does not repent…”
  9. The New Testament prophets are clearly stated to be second in status to the apostles, and the evidence of their ministry indicates a role, which is distinctly less than that of their forebears under the Old Covenant.
  10. The Old Testament written revelation was mainly given through prophets; mainly apostles set down the words of the New Testament.
  11. Jesus taught: “… God in his wisdom said, I will send them prophets and apostles…” (Luke 11:49 in its context)
  12. Peter also makes it clear: “I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Saviour through your apostles” (2 Peter 3:2, 14-16).   Paul also: “… the Jews, killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us (apostles) out.” (1 Thessalonians 2:6,15)
  13. Jesus is both The Prophet, in the Old Testament sense, and The Apostle of the New Covenant.
  14. The call of the apostle, certainly in Paul’s case, resembled that of an ancient prophet – his initial reaction on the Damascus approach road, would have been to think that God was calling him to an Isaiah-like duty.   The Twelve had the impressive honour of a calling by God Incarnate during His earthly ministry.

Karl Rengstorf suggests this important line of thinking in the Kittel article on the “apostle” word group when he notes in a parenthesis: “It should be obvious that the NT “prophetai”  … do not correspond at all to those of the OT.   It should also be clear why they do not play a very prominent part, though they are highly respected in the time of the great Pauline Epistles.” (Kittel, Volume I, p 441)

THE PROPHETS OF THE OLD TESTAMENT

To learn several key lessons, we too must enter into a parenthesis on this subject, and look at the service of these ancient men of God.

Who were the prophets of the Old Testament?   There are twenty-eight, which most church goers, could probably reel off immediately: Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (Israel), Joseph, Moses, Aaron, Samuel, David, Elijah, Elisha; Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.

Only about nineteen of these twenty-eight are known as Writing Prophets – those who wrote part of the Scriptures.   Incidentally, Elijah wrote a letter: 2 Chronicles 21:12 ff.

(References: Genesis 15:1, 13-16, 20:7, 49:1, 50:24;   Exodus 7:1;  1 Samuel 3:20, 9:6-14;  2 Samuel 7:2;  Amos 7:14;  Habakkuk 1:1;  Haggai 1:1;  Ezra 5:1;  Zechariah 1:7;  1 Kings 18:36, 19:16.)

Now for some of the lesser-known Old Testament prophets and prophetesses:

Miriam (Exodus 15:20),

Eldad and Medad (Numbers 11:27),

Deborah (Judges 4:4),

An unnamed prophet (Judges 6:8),

A procession of prophets (1 Samuel 10:5),

King Saul (1 Samuel 10:6),

A group of prophets led by Samuel (1 Samuel 19:20),

Three groups of King Saul’s men (1 Samuel 19:20-21),

The prophet Gad (1 Samuel 22:5),

Ahijah the prophet of Shiloh (1 Kings 11:29, 14:2),

The man of God (1 Kings 13:1),

An old false prophet of Bethel (1 Kings 13:11),

Jehu son of Hanani (1 Kings 16:7),

The larger number of the Lord’s prophets (1 Kings 18:4 ff,

19:10 ff),

A hundred taken and hidden by Obadiah (1 Kings18:4 ff),

450 false prophets of Baal (1 Kings18:19),

400 false prophets of Asherah (1 Kings 18:19),

A prophet who came to King Ahab (1 Kings 20:13),

One of the sons of the prophets (1 Kings 20:35-36),

400 false prophets of Israel, including Zedekiah son of Kenaanah,

(1 Kings 22:6-28;  2 Chronicles 18),

Micaiah son of Imlah (1 Kings 22:7-8;  2 Chronicles 18),

The company of prophets (2 Kings 2:3-18, 4:1-41, 5:22, 6:1, 9:1),

[The prophets of King Joram’s father and mother (2 Kings 3:13)],

The false prophets of Baal in King Jehu’s time (2 Kings 10:18 ff),

Huldah the prophetess, wife of Shallum son of Tikvah son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe – she lived in Jerusalem, the second district: an upper class family   (2 Kings 22:14),

Some of the sons of Asaph[4], Heman [14], and Jeduthun [6] – who prophesied to music – 24 in total (1 Chronicles 25:1-5)

Shemaiah (2 Chronicles 12:5),

Iddo – who wrote annotations on King Abijah (2 Chronicles 12:5),

Azariah son of Oded the prophet (2 Chronicles 15:8),

Hanani the seer (2 Chronicles 16:7),

Jehu the seer, the son of Hanani (2 Chronicles 19:2 f) cf above,

Jahaziel son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite and descendant of Asaph

Eliezer son of Dodavahu of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat  (2 Chronicles 20:14,37)

A prophet sent to King Amaziah (2 Chronicles 25:15),

Oded (2 Chronicles 28:9),

Gad the King’s seer (2 Chronicles 29:25),

Nathan (2 Chronicles 29:25),

Prophets of God with Haggai, Zechariah, and Ezra (Ezra 5:1-2),

The false prophetess Noadiah (Nehemiah 6:14),

False prophets who tried to intimidate Nehemiah (Nehemiah 6:14),

False prophets of Baal in Israel’s history (Jeremiah 2:8,28),

Israel’s false prophets in Samaria were of Baal (Jeremiah 23:13),

Some prophets in Jerusalem, in Jeremiah’s time, were evil (Jeremiah 23:14),

In the reign of Zedekiah, there were false prophets (Jeremiah 27:14,15),

False prophet Hananiah son of Azzur, from Gibeon (Jeremiah 28),

[Anna a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher (Luke 2:36)]    

The full total must be well over a thousand!

So, to summarize: the OT prophets, did not all write notable letters and books like Isaiah and Jeremiah; nor did the prophets all perform spectacular miracles, such as those of Elijah and Elisha.    We find the “schools” of prophets, and a whole class of prophets in the background, of whom we hear very little in detail.

There were prophetesses, and when men failed to serve God in one period – in the days of The Judges – Deborah took the lead.

Have in mind the point already made, that most of the New Testament is the work of apostles, just as the OT is mainly the writing of prophets.

The significance is therefore: if we accept the premise that the post-ascension apostles equate with the prophets of the Old Covenant – that a similar pattern of lesser, ordinary, apostles will be seen in their background; and that there will also be an undesirable presence of false apostles.   The apostles of the Church will follow a similar pattern to the prophets of the Old Testament.

THE APOSTLES OF THE NEW TESTAMENT

JESUS IS CALLED “THE APOSTLE” (Hebrews 3:1).

There are the original Twelve:

Simon (Peter), and

Andrew (Peter’s brother),

James (son of Zebedee), and

John (the brother of James), Boanerges – Sons of Thunder,

Philip, and

Bartholomew,

Thomas, and

Matthew (the tax collector),

James (son of Alphaeus), and

Thaddaeus, or Judas son of James (Is this the same person, or a replacement of one   who had dropped out?),

Simon (the Zealot), and

Judas Iscariot (who betrayed him).

Matthew 10:2-4, (the synoptic parallels are Mark 3:13-19, and Luke 6:12-16)

What do we make of “The Seventy” (or 72): are they to be called apostles – (Luke 10:1-24)”apostello” (to send, verses 1-3 a related verb is used)

Two disciples who were present at Lake Galilee are included as apostles by some. (John 21:2)

Matthias was chosen by God to replace Judas Iscariot. (Acts 1:23-26)

James, the Lord’s brother, by implication (1 Corinthians 9:5, 15:7;  Galatians 1:19, 2:9-12)

Brothers of our Lord – at least two; possibly Jude and James, but there could be others. (1 Corinthians 9:5)

All the apostles – a sizable group, as contrasted with the Twelve, Paul, and James the Lord’s Brother, all of whom are already in the list. (1 Corinthians 15:5-7)

Paul (Acts 14:4,14;   1 Corinthians 9:1,5,6, 15:7;  Galatians 2:8 etc)

Barnabas (Acts 14:4,14;   1 Corinthians 9:5,6)

Apollos – some would see 1 Corinthians 4, as including this gifted lawyer from Alexandria.

Silas (1 Thessalonians 1:1, with 2:6)

Timothy (1 Thessalonians 1:1, with 2:6)

Titus (1 Thessalonians 1:1, with 2:6 – I can find no clearer reference in my notes, but the implications are clear in such passages as the letter to Titus, and in his work within the apostolic team)

Epaproditus, the Philippian messenger – “apostolos” (Philippians 2:25)

Two or more “apostoloi” of the Macedonian Churches, sent to Corinth with Titus. (2 Corinthians 8:23)   Were church apostles – Epaphroditus and these others – apostles who were commissioned by the Congregation to act on their behalf, commissioned by the

Congregation to Christ’s service, or sent to the Congregation, originally, by Jesus?   I think, not the first, as the word has a technical usage in the New Testament Church – meaning specifically “an apostle of Christ”.

Andronicus (Romans 16:7)

Junias (or feminine Junia)  (Romans 16:7)  These last two had the following commendation: they were relatives of Paul, had been in prison with him …, were outstanding among the apostles, and were converted before him.

Pseudo (false), super, apostles in Corinth (2 Corinthians 11:11-15, 12:11)

False apostles in Ephesus (Revelation 2:2)

In total, we must be thinking of an unknown figure, but in my opinion we might be thinking of about fifty New Testament apostles – 24 unequivocally named, some unnamed, several open-ended plural references, and the false ones.   The true calling is never proved by a reference to being in the original Twelve; there is clearly an understanding that there would be new post-ascension apostles.  Derek Prince, in his research, saw at least 28, in addition to the Twelve. (Recorded talk: “The New Testament Evangelists”)

The New Testament is quite clear that the calling of apostle did not end with the Twelve: as the eminent Christian theologians, noted earlier, stated.

What further can be learnt from the words and academic notes?

It is not my intention, even if I could, to present a theological summation.   Considerable surprise may be experienced, that university faculties and scholarly publications have seen such thorough consideration of the apostle’s calling: the fifty pages of Kittel, and the publications of Morris, Lightfoot and Barrett, serve only as a hint.

Karl Heinrich Rengstorf, of Tubingen University, is the writer who deals with this word group in Kittel. (Vol. I, pp 398-447 [50 pages])   He sees the verb as suggesting “the impartation of full religious and ethical power”; the commission and authorization link the sender, the person sent, and the recipient; rulers of provinces were sent “from Rome as an impressive concretion of the empire” – in secular and religious terms it was a mission.

In the Greek translation of the Old Testament it is found over 700 times as a “technical term for the sending of a messenger with a specific task”, as in the experience of Isaiah.  (Isaiah 6:8)   We should consider the subservience of the person sent: “Even in the consciousness of the bearer of the commission, the emphasis lies in its author, as we can see from such cases as Abraham (Genesis 12:1 ff), Eleizer (Genesis 24:1 ff), Moses and above all the prophets…” The Gospel According to John is especially rich in the concept of sending.   One verse obscured in English Versions is 13:16: “I tell you the truth, no slave is greater than his master, nor an apostle greater than the one who sent him.”

The remarkable fact is that, although the verb was commonly used in secular Greek: the noun had only a limited and specific use – for maritime commerce and military expeditions; that is, until its introduction as a calling, by our Lord.   Jesus and the early church uniquely use it!   There was no common Latin equivalent, hence the taking over of the Greek term as a loan word in translation.   Hebrew had a similar term in “sheluhin/shaliah” (agent), which they did not in any sense borrow.   Leon Morris rejects the idea found in Kittel, that “apostolos” relates to “shaliah”, of the Old Testament.

As a basis for “apostle”, Kittel settles for: “an encounter with the risen Lord and reception of the commission from Him”.    They are seen, not as officials in the Congregation, but messengers of Christ, through whom the Assemblies are formed, built up, instructed, guided and disciplined.   “It could not be hardened into an office.”   Nevertheless, one must note a clear possessive link with sending Congregations: apostles of specific churches.   The most likely inference being the question of accountability: the messengers had to report back to their sending Congregation, much as Paul did in Syrian Antioch, after his First and Second Missionary Journeys. (Acts 14:26-28, 18:22-23)   This relationship to Syrian Antioch rather defines against the profile of apostles belonging to individual churches as their private apostle, who ministers to them: as opposed to being sent out from them.   In this sense Paul was “the apostle of the Gentiles” and Peter the apostle “of the circumcision”, but he was also, like Peter, “an apostle of Jesus Christ”.  (Romans 11:13;  1 Corinthians 1:1;  2 Corinthians 1:1;  Galatians 1:1, 2:8 (AV);  Ephesians 1:1;  Colossians 1:1;  1 Timothy 1:1;  2 Timothy 1:1;  Titus 1:1;  1 Peter 1:1;  2 Peter 1:1)

The term “pseudo-apostle” is special to the New Testament, also.   “Whatever the debate about whether the apostles died off in the first century, it’s clear the ‘super apostles’ didn’t, Rob Warner notes somewhat wryly.” (“Christianity Magazine”, p 26, April 1998)

Although the ordination of apostles fell to the spiritual church, they were still very much “apostles of Christ”.   This method of appointment has its roots in Rabbinical Judaism, says Kittel.

New Testament teaching about the apostles’ work

A look at key passages

In Matthew 10:2-4, (the synoptic parallels are Mark 3:13-19, and Luke 6:12-16) there is a significant pairing of the names: notice that the brothers are sent out together – and what about the zealot and the patriot together!   If they could not work well together as brothers in the family business, they would hardly fare well as travelling preachers together; and similar ideals might oil the machinery of travelling evangelism.   Derek Prince has clearly shown in his lectures, that they moved about in teams, if possible.   Apart from practice established by Jesus in the original appointment, we have Peter and John at the Gate Beautiful, and in Samaria (Acts 3:1, 8:14-25, also Mark 11:1, 14:13), and Paul with his companions, as seen in Acts 13 ff and the epistles – note the plural pronouns in 2 Corinthians 10:3-18;  1 Thessalonians 1:1, 21-20;  Galatians 2:1, 9 (two teams).

Also for the Twelve there was the commission: to announce the Good News, to heal, exorcise, receive limited payment and hospitality, to move on in the face of expected persecution – persecution would come, but there was to be no macho heroics – and to bring blessing.   They were to herald (kerussein), rather than teach in depth, at this stage; but the whole of Jesus’ revelation was to be passed on, in the wider sense of the Good News, eventually.   Their commitment was to the death.

In Jesus’s original appointment there is the important feature of Limitation: in this case, they must not go outside the House of Israel. (Matthew 10:5-6)   Similarly Paul was restricted: from ‘following his instinct’ into Asia and Bithynia; from baptizing disciples in Corinth – even though it was very much part of his message; from straying outside his brief (as Apollos also, presumably, respected) and from entering the territory of other apostles.   “What, after all is Apollos?  And what is Paul?  Only servants, through whom you came to believe – as the Lord assigned to each his task.  I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.”   This is a marvelously clear picture of all Christian service.   In other words, he saw himself as integrated with the work of others, in God’s great plan.    To re-emphasize the point: there will be some significant limitations in the apostolic calling; they are not free agents with total authority, working in isolation, or without accountability.  (Acts 16:6-7;  1 Corinthians 1:14-17; 1 Corinthians 3:5-9;  2 Corinthians 10:13-18)

What is often called The Great Commission is found at the end of The Gospel According to Matthew: “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in Heaven and on Earth has been given to me.  Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything, which I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the Age.'”  (Matthew 28:18-20;  Mark 16:14-18)

There was no doubt that Judas had forfeited his place in the apostolate, and so, on the authority of Psalms 69:25 and 109:8, Peter organized the replacement with these words: “Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us.   For one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.”

Matthias was chosen by the archaic method of lots, and officially became the twelfth apostle.  (Acts 1:20-26)

The Twelve initiated the choosing of the Seven Deacons, but gave the actual choice to the full democratic gathering of the Disciples.   They were to devote themselves to prayer and the service of the Word.  (Acts 6:2-4)

Peter and John showed the seniority of their calling over that of the evangelist Philip, when they came to Samaria to literally put the seal on his activity there.   One might ask: “How can one tell an evangelist from an apostle?  They both preach the Gospel in fresh regions, often with miracles of authentication.   What is the difference between Philip, on the one hand, as an evangelist, and Peter and John, as apostles, on the other?”   By way of reply, we might say: “There is a point here.   Perhaps some evangelists are all too ready to claim a higher appointment than God had given.   Of course, to have a vision, to perform a miracle, or to claim a calling, is not necessarily the proof of a genuine call.

There is no piece of paper – although some may have carried letters, which were of little value, or obvious human badge of rank.  Timothy was an apostle, but he was nothing like Paul.   Perhaps only an apostle, really understands the calling, or needs to.”   (Acts 8:4-25;   2 Corinthians 3:1)

Paul, during his first days in Damascus, demonstrates the gift of evangelist; he is then seen as a teacher, and later as a prophet and teacher, before rising still further to the premier calling of apostle.   Here we might be meant to see a steady promotion.  (Acts 9:19 a-25, 11:26, 13:1, 14:4,14, 15:2)

Peter’s trilogy of visions at Joppa brings him guidance of pivotal significance (within the tradition of the Apocalyptic Vision, this indicates something of national or international importance, fixed in God’s purposes, and soon to be executed – Genesis 37:5-10, 41:32;   Daniel 4:24).

As an apostle, Peter had to defend his actions in Caesarea, in the face of general criticism from “the apostles and brothers throughout Judea”.   He was not granted infallibility!  (Acts 11:1-18)

When James “the brother of John” was martyred he was not replaced: he remained one of the Twelve – the first to reach Glory.  (Acts 12:2;   Revelation 21:14)

Paul and Barnabas were sent out by the prophets and teachers of Syrian Antioch, and sent by the Holy Spirit also (not “apostello” in either case, although the first word is a distant relative).   Does this constitute the Holy Spirit’s commissioning of the two apostles?   There is echo here of the words of David about the return of the Ark of God, “If it seems good to you and if it is the will of the LORD our God, let us send word far and wide.”  (Acts 13:1-4;  1 Chronicles 13:1-3)

Paul is very careful to stress that suffering is basic to the commission.   There are two key passages in his sensitive letters to the Corinthians – as contained in the New Testament.   The first (1 Corinthians 4:8-13) describes how apostles are like the prisoners at the end of a Roman Triumphal Procession: destined for extermination in the city theatre or arena.   Their suffering includes: being a spectacle to angels and men, being fools, weak, dishonoured, undernourished, ill-clothed, brutally treated, homeless, labourers, cursed by enemies of God, persecuted, wrongly spoken against, the scum of the earth, and refuse of society.   In the second passage (2 Corinthians 11:21-33) Paul details his personal suffering: he preached free of charge in Achaia, worked very hard, was frequently imprisoned, experienced severe flogging, faced death several times, five times he received the Jewish beating of 39 strokes, suffered three beatings with rods, was “stoned to death”, had three shipwrecks, was twenty-four hours lost at sea, lived an unsettled lifestyle, faced various dangers (from rivers, bandits, fellow countrymen, Gentiles, in cities, in the countryside, at sea, from false Brethren), endured the indignity of labouring exacerbated by sleepless nights, starvation, fasting, excessive chill, shortage of clothing, in the sealed city of Damascus he had to escape from the wall in a basket – perhaps it was through the sewage outflow that he “slipped” away.   Besides all this, he shared the constant heartaches of church members.   Jesus is still being persecuted in the suffering of His People.   Perhaps Paul and the Holy Spirit are stressing to us, that these are the true accreditation and signs of an apostle!

Most of the Twelve died for their testimony; indeed, the verb “to witness” (martyreo) gave us the term “martyrdom” (to die for one’s beliefs).   This is hardly a glamorous job description, which will produce queues at the town’s Job Centre.

There must also be a sense of being “sent” as the term implies.   This could be through some clear call, given personally or through the church with its Elders and prophets, or even a visionary sight of the risen Christ.   Some will say that an appearance of the Risen Lord, and a direct order from Him, is essential; others that the Church at prayer can be the instrument of the Divine commissioning.   Leon Morris limits it to the former: Derek Prince includes the latter.   Scripture certainly stresses the divine appointment.  (Acts 1:23-26;   1 Corinthians 1:1, 9:1, 12:28, 2 Corinthians 1:1, 11:5-13, 12:11;   Galatians 1:1,15-17;   1 Thessalonians 2:6;   Jude verse 17)

The holiness of life, doctrinal authority, and doctrinal orthodoxy, will also mark out the true calling.

The authority of apostles must be looked at with care.   Professor Morris deals incisively and extensively with variant academic opinions (ibid p 51 ff).   They could not claim automatic infallibility: Paul’s lost letter to the Corinthians contained a misleading statement (1 Corinthians 5:9-11), Peter and Barnabas were party to the Galatian heresy (Galatians 2:11-16), the Jerusalem Church, with its Elders and apostles, waited to hear Peter’s account for his fellowshipping with Gentiles (Acts 10 and 11).   Paul, whose life illustrates so much of the calling, has constantly to establish his authority – as in the Corinthian letters, although he sees it as being no less than that of the others, including the Twelve. (2 Corinthians 11:5 AV;   Galatians 2:6)   It would seem to me that the tension between the appointed Elders, and the called apostles, was a good safeguard of orthodoxy.

Paul’s reference to signs, wonders and miracles, may well be in the spirit of irony which he is employing in the letter. (2 Corinthians 12:12; with chapters 10, 11 and 12)   “To appeal to them is part of that folly in which Paul permits himself to indulge, in this chapter.”  (C. K. Barrett, note 80)   The Jewish Christian readers, and the rapidly informed Gentile Believers would be well aware that something more than the miraculous was required as credential: both in the Law, and in the Gospels (Deuteronomy 13:1-18;  Matthew 7:21-23 (GNB); see also Matthew 24:24).   In the Law, anyone who taught the worship of false gods, even though they worked wonders and signs, were to be put to death – close relatives were to show no quarter in reporting them, and be the first to stone them; whole communities were to be exterminated.   Our Lord taught: “Not everyone who calls me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only those who do what my Father in Heaven wants them to do.   When Judgment Day comes, many will say to me (a proof of Christ’s divinity), ‘Lord, Lord!   In your name we spoke God’s message, by your name we drove out many demons and performed many miracles!’   Then I will say to them, ‘I never knew you.   Get away from me, you wicked people!”   It is not miracles or even conservative preaching, but a personal acquaintance with Our Heavenly Father, which is the evidence of real Christian conversion, let alone of apostleship.

One of the finest summations of the apostolic ministry is found in the farewell speech to the Ephesian Elders.   Here may be seen the nearness to the Old Testament nabi (prophet – also found as a Muslim name): his relative innocence and integrity, because he has been faithful in declaring the Message, his charge to the spiritual rulers, the prophetic warning of imminent dangers, but in addition the quality of his own life and sacrifice, and a saying of Christ not found anywhere else.   (Acts 20:25-38)

To stir the Jews, Paul magnified his service; we may say he: felt a sense of honour and privilege, rejoiced in it, made it paramount, to the fore of his mind, developed a consuming passion, did not hide his gift from hourly use.   Paul could speak humbly of being the “least of the apostles”, but in defense as “not a whit behind the very senior apostles”.  (Romans 11:13;  1 Corinthians 15:9;  2 Corinthians 11:5) This sense of pride and honour is found in 2 Corinthians 10:8, For even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than pulling you down, I will not be ashamed of it.

In a sense, I believe, the calling is a conglomerate of all, or many of, the gifts; but there is still the interdependence on others who are prophets, others who have the gift of faith, and so on.   Apostles were never one-man-bands, self-sufficient.   The Twelve had the help of the godly ladies; Paul received much support: financial, secretarial, prophetic, etc.   There is also the humility of allowing others to find their leading from God.  (Acts 21:10-14;   1 Corinthians 16:12)

Paul wanted to retain a reasonable amount of freedom, as a Believer, when the Corinthian Church might want to impose its own rules on him.  (1 Corinthians 9:1 and 19)   Paul in Acts, and in his epistles, gives an exemplary portrait of the calling.

His relationship to God, and to his fellow Believers, was as their slave; indeed he saw in his scars, the brand marks of his slavery in Christ’s household.  (1 Corinthians 9:19;   Galatians 6:17 Moffatt)

The failure of the pseudo-apostles in three key areas, gives us a clear indication of the orthodoxy of the truly called: an accurate portrayal of Christ, genuinely walking in the indwelling Holy Spirit, and offering a true representation of the Good News.  (2 Corinthians 11:5)

The foundation of the Church is apostles and prophets; and the revelation of the mystery is to apostles and prophets also.   This has perplexed Bible students down the years: are the prophets Old or New?    “Since apostles are mentioned first, it is probable that Christian prophets, not Old Testament prophets are in mind”, writes C. K. Barrett (note 123), and he is not alone in this opinion.  (Ephesians 2:20, 3:5)

All that is said about the gift of evangelist is implicit in the apostolic call.   Timothy is reminded precisely: “Do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”  (2 Timothy 4:5)

They often carried the responsibility of appointing the Elders in new churches.   Peter was both an apostle and an Elder.  (Acts 14:23;   1 Timothy 3:1-13;   Titus 1:5-9;   2 Peter 1:1, and 5:1)

Jesus alone is perfect, and is the leading example given to us: “Therefore my holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.   He was faithful to the one who appointed Him…”  (Hebrews 3:1-2)

The prayer of our Lord to the Father, for the Twelve: “As you have sent me into the World, I have sent them into the World.”  (John 17:18)

A summary of the signs of an apostle

  1. They have seen the risen Lord, in reality, or in a visionary call.   This cannot imply that all who have “seen” the Lord are apostles, because we have the 500 witnesses of the resurrection.  (1 Corinthians 9:1, 15:6;   Acts 22:14)
  1. Called by Jesus to a specific area of high-ranking service, with limitations
  1. Orthodoxy of belief and doctrine, which they must responsibly defend
  1. God’s attestation by miraculous signs, at some time.   This is one of the weakest accreditations, and was obviously NOT paramount for all the Old Testament prophets – some were essentially Writing Prophets: though the miraculous was not far away (cf above).
  2. A willingness to suffer for Christ and His people
  1. Acceptance by those who are already apostles
  1. Acceptance by some Congregations.  (1 Corinthians 9:2)
  1. An inclusive endowment with several primary and secondary spiritual gifts for their work, such as prophecy, teaching, evangelism, administration, and so forth.
  1. A seal of approval in the lives of those they have built up.  (1 Corinthians 9:2)
  1. Commissioned by God through a Congregation, to which they are accountable.
  1. An inner conviction of being called by Christ to this work.
  1. They will most likely operate in a team – some will be younger in the Faith, and in process of training.  (Acts 15:4-16:6;   Galatians 1:2, etc)
  1. A pioneering spirit.  (C. K. Barrett p.40)
  1. Occasional loneliness: Paul’s stand against the church at Corinth, and other apostles at Antioch.  (Cf Jeremiah’s suffering of persecution as he stood against a nation – Jeremiah 13:17 b, etc)

It may be helpful to look again at the scope of Old Testament Prophecy in a way which makes it relate to the present work of an apostle:

  1. Teaching about God’s Character and will
  2. Indictment of sin among God’s people, and among pagans
  3. Judgment of God’s people, and those who are unbelievers
  4. Exile and Return – the course of future events, judgment and restoration of         sinners
  5. Messianic Teaching: the Good News about Jesus – evangelism
  6. Teaching about The Golden Age – Eschatology
  7. Instruction, Strengthening, Comfort and Encouragement
  8. Everyday issues – 1 Samuel 9.

There are most likely many people in the Church today doing the work of an apostle: many just recognised as preachers, as an international teacher and evangelist, with a message of discipline for the Church, a national influence, or even a local or specific anointing.   How do apostles come to know their calling?   We have noticed Paul graduating through being an evangelist, a teacher, and a prophet, before the call to an apostle.   Really the problem is the same as was found apropos prophets in the Old Testament: there is a fair mixture of true and pseudo; the Church has to make its decision!

THE CHURCH WAS NOT MEANT TO EXIST WITHOUT PROPHECY

[1 Samuel 9:1-10v2;  Numbers 12:6-8;  Acts 21:1-16;  1Corinthians 12:27-31]

Another stinging nettle!

[J] PROPHECY 6   All four passages

4394 in Strong: propheteia, prof-ay-ti’-ah, prophecy, prediction

1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 Do not treat prophecies with contempt.  Test everything.  [Within its context, this passage can only refer to the regular use of the gift in the congregations – not to the great books of the Old Testament figures.]

 

There is a story in the Bible, which you most people have never read, simply because it is hidden in two parts of the New Testament.   When Paul was in Lystra, on what we call the Second Missionary Journey, he chose Timothy to join his team.   The Elders of the church there, prayed for the young man and laid hands on him, by way of commissioning him, and committing him to God’s grace: as they did so, someone gave a significant prophecy concerning God’s gift for his coming service.   Paul and Timothy so felt the gravity of this word from God, by His Spirit, that they never forgot it, and considered it to be of the greatest importance – even though no one knows the words of it today. (Acts 16:1-3;  1 Timothy 1:18 and 4:14)

We in the Church have been reluctant to engage with the subject of prophecy: the very idea of further spiritual revelation is seen as a threat to the high, and correct, view of Scripture – in actual fact, to be without an active prophecy, is to live contrary to that very high view of Scripture.   Like all of the gifts it demands hard work: in this case, in particular, puts responsibility on the shoulders of the Elders and Congregation to test all examples.   Then there is the embarrassing problem of what to do about foretelling-prophecies, which do not materialise, and doctrinal elements, which are in error: what do we do with a seemingly “false” prophet?   As I first wrote these notes, in a church in our town there is a prophecy, written on a poster, hung on the wall after being given by an eminent local minister, which is eminently wrong, and did not come to pass.   It is probably seen as well meaning and charmingly innocent.

The world has no such problem: whereas the ancient pagans used the word openly, today it is hidden behind a plethora of terms.   To make a rhetorical observation: if people do not seek help from God in the Bible, they will search for guidance from all kinds of unsavory spiritual sources; it is suggested that virtually all in national leadership will either listen to God, or open their lives to satanic communication.   A recent American President (Ronald Regan) had his diary arranged by his wife’s spiritualist medium, according to Derek Prince.   A whole History Channel series was devoted to the Nazis and the Occult.   At best such revelation is fake, at worst it is very dangerous and damning.   Occult religion has always had its prophets and foretellers of the future; today; again, there are some television channels have almost continuous phone-in programmes allowing consultations with a medium, or fortuneteller – with tarot cards or runic tiles – they are the modern Delphic Oracle!  Is the Church challenging these with godly prophecy?

To attempt an investigation into “Prophecy” is virtually impossible in a talk or in the chapter of a book; the simplest approach is to read the Old Testament, followed by the New Testament, with the subject in mind.   Here we will see the scope of method, and content.   There were the prophetic groups or schools, the men who made models, or acted to illustrate their words to an unperceptive audience, those who prophesied to music, and those whose lives were prophecies – Hosea in particular.

On the question of acting I came across this curious story.   In the 1980’s, a committee of clergy in Rochdale was discussing Canon David Watson’s use of dramatic enactments: “Drama was never used in the Bible,” said one Pentecostal leader; “Neither are trousers,” said a Methodist leader, “but you still wear them!”  Of course both are found in the Old Testament, and it was the Levi tribe who had the trousers! (Exodus 28:42-43 (AV);  1 Kings 11:29 ff;  Isaiah 20:2 ff, Ezekiel 4:1 ff, 5:1 ff;  1 Chronicles 25:3;  Acts 21:10-14.)

Unlike “pastor/shepherd” (Greek: poimen [poymane]) – which normally means a keeper of sheep: the word “prophecy” is not used in the New Testament in a metaphorical sense – a sports commentator on television might ask the expert to “prophesy” the outcome of the tournament: this would be the metaphoric or poetic use – really meaning an inspired and entertaining guess.

The Old Testament period had both the true prophets of Yahweh, and the false prophets: alongside the true, there was always the presence of the pseudo.   In the previous notes, whilst laying the foundation for the study of the apostolic calling, I have shown the surprising picture of this wide scope of prophecy – no doubt unknown to the cursory readers of the Bible (I listed possible references to well over a thousand prophets of varying classifications – which could be noted on your next reading through the Old Testament).

There is plenty of instruction on the work of prophets, in the Jewish Bible then, but I have already suggested, at great length, that the Old Testament prophets find their equivalent in the apostles of the New Testament.    If you like: both are “Generals Next To God”; the apostle is now the senior gift, and prophets in the Church are subservient; but prophecy is still high in the list of gifts.   It is second only to apostle; so we should not retreat from the recognition of the high calling of prophecy in the present-day life of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.   The importance of this verse in the book of Revelation should be considered:

“At this I fell at the angel’s feet to worship him.   But he said to me, ‘Do not do it!   I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus.   Worship God!   For the testimony (witness) of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.'”    The whole message of the Lord Jesus equates with the whole revelation of Scripture; Scripture is Jesus’s expression to us.

I think we should now look at the prophet’s work under the Old

Covenant, and then see how there is a lesser scope under the New

Covenant.   Here again is the suggested scope of the OT prophets, as eight areas:

1.*  Revelation of God’s Character and will

2.* Indictment of the wicked

3. *Judgment promised

4.+  Exile and Return in the immediate future

5.*  The Messianic Promise

6.*  The Golden Age – Eschatology

7.* Instruction, Strengthening, Comfort and Encouragement (Psalms in particular)

8.* Everyday issues – 1 Samuel 9 and other passages:

“Where are my father’s donkeys?” and “This will happen if the king does not repent…” – in other words, the scope is from donkeys to dominions.   The last two – g. and h. – would most likely comprise the work of the main body of the very minor unknown prophets.

The high status of the Old Testament prophets of God is shown in this key verse: “Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing His plan to His servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7)

The Revelation of: God’s Immediate Will, Indictment, Judgment,

Comfort and Encouragement, and Everyday Issues, are the domain of the New Testament prophets.  The Revelation of the Greater Will and Character of God in Christ, and Eschatology: these are areas dealt with by the apostles, during the writing of the Church Scriptures (a, e, and f, marked with an *).

The Apocalyptic Vision – that most colourful style of prophecy found from Genesis to Revelation, and communicated in a language of strange symbols (e.g. the twelve stars representing Israel, and mis-applied to the European Union; and battles between preternatural animals) – is with the Writing Apostles: we might compare the threefold vision to Peter – which was pivotal to the opening of the gospel gateway to the Gentiles – with the twofold dreams of Joseph and the Pharaoh in Genesis, and consider the significance of the multiplicity. (Acts 10:9-23;  Genesis 37:5-11 and 41:1-40; cf passages in Daniel and Zechariah)

The main areas of prophecy are contained in the New Testament in the teaching of the Lord Jesus, and in the writings of His apostles – Paul, John, Peter and James, and we might add Jude and the unnamed author of Hebrews (d. Exile and Return in the immediate future – this is the equivalent of Jesus’s teaching on the imminent fall of Jerusalem to the Romans – but in the Church today it is an exception, really because there is only room now for the very Last Days of God’s fulfilment of Scripture Prophecy).

Eschatology still forms an important element – in the New Testament, and we do well to remember that prophecy is both forth-telling God’s word, and foretelling the future.

Both the old prophets and the new apostles can be divided into Writing and Non-writing.   The latter included the workers of miracles such as Elijah and Elisha, the Lord Jesus, and most of the listed apostles.   The Levitical Priests were the teachers of the Old Covenant, incidentally.   Perhaps all the writers of the Gospels and Letters should be thought of as apostles, because they correspond to the Writing Prophets.

Prophecy in the Church is mainly found to cover the areas:

  1. Indictment of the wicked;
  2. Judgment promised;
  3. Instruction, Strengthening, Comfort, and Encouragement; and
  4. Everyday issues.

What can be learnt from the Greek word group?

Within pagan or profane Greek, the noun is seen in writing from the fifth century BC onwards, and comes from the root “to say”.   The regular feminine form is similarly extant from the fifth century BC.   “To proclaim openly in public declaration” is behind the words, and is later linked with: “telling in advance”, “before”, and “to predict”.   In pagan Greek (outside the Testaments) the idea of false-prophet (pseudo-prophet) is not found – perhaps, as in modern New Age thinking, there was the lack of a critical framework.   In other words: anything goes!

(In contrast with this we have Jeremiah 14:14 speaking of “false prophet” or “prophet of lies”.)

The grand interest in pagan Greek was centred on the “Delphic Oracle”; this has had serious implications for biblical scholarship and translations of the text, by those who have little or no experience of real ecclesiastical prophecy, or speaking in tongues, and who therefore draw all their insights from pagan religion.   The Delphic cultus seems to have followed this pattern: Zeus transmitted his thoughts through the lesser god Apollo, who in turn spoke through the snake Python (Puthon) – long since killed by him, which communicated through a hole in the ground to one of the possessed ladies – often in an undignified position, she gave a confused utterance, which was proclaimed in its final sophisticated and philosophical, yet often obscure, form by officiating male prophets.   Another significant facet is that the process was only offered in response to an enquiry (most likely accompanied by silver).   Evidence suggests that often questions required a Yes or No answer: rather like the simple binary form of the Urim and Thummim of the Levitical priests.   Although one may assume that non-literary (primitive/ animistic) religion had oracle prophets before the fifth century BC, the Old Testament gives a wide and detailed literary picture of prophecy from a much earlier date.

The Delphic cultus probably came from Asia Minor.   Luke’s description of the casting out of a Pythonic spirit in Philippi uses two of the technical terms: for oracular spirit, and for divining fortunes – Python and mantis (Acts 16:16-18).   “Python” could mean: snake, soothsayer, or ventriloquist – perhaps because of the association of a strange voice.   In stressing the demonic influence, Werner Foester, writing in Kittel (Vol. VI, pp 917 ff), questions whether a ventriloquist could shout (Acts 16:17).   The title may have been used in Philippi, rather like “Gypsy Rose Smith” is used in fair grounds and sea fronts, today – claiming the authority of some original proponent.   The predictions may have been as accurate, at times, as they were expensive (remember that a broken analogue clock is correct on two occasions each day); but in the final analysis, they were spiders’ webs to trap the unwary.   When the Delphic Oracle was at its most popular, two women worked alternate shifts, with a third in reserve.   By the second century AD, one woman was sufficient; no doubt the Good News had taken effect in Achaia, and more people were turning to God for His faithful guidance.

In Greek culture, the poet offered himself to the Muse to be its prophet; there was also a close link with the past, and an endowed power of presentation.   Within the biblical tradition of prophecy, there is the use of poetry – the parallelism of the Old Covenant seers, and of Our Lord (in first century Aramaic).   (Highly recommended is Professor F. F. Bruce’s article: “The Poetry of the Old Testament”, pp 39-41, “The New Bible Commentary”, IVF/IVP, 1st and 2nd editions, etc.)   All biblical prophecy is highly conscious of its roots and its continuum: to the point of referring to previous revelations, and quoting from them in detail, and by name (e.g. Daniel 9:2;  Romans 9:14-33, 10:18-21).   Apart from Aaron’s assistance to Moses, and the various use of secretaries by Paul and Peter, all were quite capable of expressing God’s message unaided.   In comparison with these characteristics, we see The Qur’an as a poor attempt at a replacement.

(The pagan aspect of the word group, in Kittel is by Helmut Kramer, of Bethel University.)

Gerhard Friedrich, who also edited this volume (VI), is one of several contributors to Kittel on this subject.   The eighty-one pages illustrate his point that the subject, particularly in the Old Testament, defies definition.   “Nabi”, one of the Hebrew words for prophet, is also found in Akkadian and Arabic – as I say, it is a first name given to some Muslim boys today.   Stressed examples of uncontrollable or frenzied prophesying are mentioned in the Jewish Bible as exceptions – not typical of Yahwehistic prophecy, but quite likely the rule for pagan outbursts (1 Samuel 10:3-13, 19:18-24, where an overwhelming spirit of prophecy descends on Saul and his soldiers; 1 Kings 18:26-29, depicts false prophets praying and prophesying wildly).   Although many references are given by some theologians, ostensibly to support the thought of an ecstatic content in Yahwehistic revelation: there is absolutely no case, and this is clearly the influence of pagan practice on academic theology.   There are even texts from the archaeological site of Mari, in southeast Syria, which show no element of the ecstatic in native nabi.

The schools or groups of prophets working together in the Old Covenant era are reflected slightly in the group that came to Antioch from Jerusalem (Acts 11:27, 13:1).

Josephus, the 1st century Jewish historian, observed that the Essenes and Pharisees had seers and prophets; he saw himself as a prophet of Israel’s doom.   In the inter-testamental period, and in the days of the Zealots and first to second century revolts against the Romans, Judea was never lacking in prophets of some kind.

Important biblical teaching

The foundational teaching on prophecy is in Deuteronomy 13 and 18:20-22.   Even the coming true of predictions is no guarantee of the bona fide, although it is obviously the simplest test.   Sound doctrinal truth is of far greater consequence in a prophet.   Careful examination of prophecy was a sign of love for the Lord – including words given in the privacy of the home, or those risking the corrupting of a town.   Within Israel’s theocratic culture, false prophecy, which incited turning from God, received the death penalty – a clear sign of the seriousness with which God views heresy.   The ultimate penalty in Jewish law implied “the maximum fine” principle: King David and Bathsheba were not executed for adultery; but the penalty was always available if required – for a very wide range of sins and crimes.   This should make us think twice about being certain of the prophetic gift!

“But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or the prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death.” (Deuteronomy 18:20)

Biblically, the most serious sanctions of the Church are: “delivering to Satan” and “excommunication” – hopefully for only a brief time, in each case.   I think here of the man guilty of incest (1 Corinthians 5:1-5).   Paul’s judgment was that he be “put out of your fellowship”, and that the Elders, or an apostle should “hand this man over to Satan”.   The pleasanter sequel seems to be preserved for us in his welcome back (2 Corinthians 2:5-11).   Satan’s activity of introducing suffering is also seen in the life of the good man Job, although for the specific purpose of Job’s spiritual development.

In practice, the seriousness of each incident would be reviewed: in terms of the content, and the maturity, or otherwise, of the aspiring prophet.   No one should ever be allowed to prophesy, in the Church, who claims to be above the critical responsibility of the Elders and the Congregation.   Submission to this kind of examination is integral to the operation of the gift in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 14:29); Derek Prince is particularly emphatic about this.    There is the possibility that someone is always wrong.    Then again, no one is perfect in this life – all will be wrong at some time.   Paul, as an apostle, was not always clear in what he said. (1 Corinthians 5:9-11)   Mohammed, if the Islamic tradition of his life is true, does not manifest the orthodoxy required – the Qur’an may be poetical, but the doctrine is far from that of the Bible.   It also reveals incompleteness: in that the Hadith is also a body of expanding doctrine for Muslims, extra to the Qur’an.   Many people, perhaps not Muslims themselves, will see this as a collection of prophecies; with the provision of its being assessed against the Jewish-Christian background which is claimed for it in any case.   One cannot claim that Islam has true prophecy, without submitting it to the criteria of the established teaching of the two Testaments.

The Good News Bible has “preaching” for “prophecy”, which although not necessarily the complete meaning, it does remind us that within Preaching, there can often be an element of foretelling and forth telling.

Telling God’s message (the second aspect of prophecy) is today found in areas such as indictment, judgment, and more pleasantly, in building up, encouragement, exhortation, strengthening and comforting (1 Corinthians 14:3,24).   The evangelistic thrust of prophecy should not be overlooked!    Forth telling now, refers to non-doctrinal revelation: in the sense that the giving of the Word of God is complete in the Bible.   It must not, and cannot, be added to, or subtracted from: either by congregational prophecy, theological textbook, or the Qur’an (as some Muslim theologians recognise); church prophecy must always be tested by the measure of Scripture – so must academic theology, when it assumes the mantle of prophecy!  There are examples of heresy being introduced through unchecked prophetic utterances: The Secret Rapture, Separation from other Fellowships, etc.

With all the gifts, there is the need to develop.   Even after many years of front-line service, Timothy received this advice from Paul:  “Earnestly (study to) show yourself approved to God, a workman unashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth” (2 Timothy 2:15, Green).

   Isaiah 30:9-10 These are rebellious people, deceitful children,

children unwilling to listen to the LORD’S instruction.

They say to the seers,

“See no more visions !”

and to the prophets,

“Give us no more visions of what is right!

Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions.

New Testament examples of prophecy

  1. The Gospels show Jesus as truly The Prophet of the Old Testament genre, and The Apostle of the New. (Deuteronomy 18:15-19, which is quoted in Acts 3:22-26; and Hebrews 3:1)   The full calling of the prophet is perfectly shown in the life and teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ.   The entire range of prophecy is seen – although, strangely, he was not a “Writing Prophet”.   Note again: section 4. in my list: “Exile and Return in the immediate future”, this is replaced by the warning of the imminent destruction of Jerusalem, and a full return and spirituality, only when the Time of the Gentiles is fulfilled.   The incisive character of his words form a pinnacle to all that is fine in both Testaments.   The Aramaic origin shows that, at times, he spoke in the poetic form of his “predecessors”, made ample reference to them, and communicated with utter clarity and competence.   The very fact of his incarnate nature, takes prophecy into a unique realm.   He is the fulfilment and object of all prophecy.   He is the only prophet who can receive our worship.

References: Matthew 13:57, 14:5 (John the Baptizer), 21:11 and 46;  Mark 6:4 and 15;  Luke 1:76 (John the Baptizer), 4:24, 7:16 (a great prophet), 13:33, 24:19;  John 4:19 and 44, 9:17 – a Prophet and The Prophet.

  1. The New Testament begins with a group of godly people who are the culmination of prophecy in the Old Covenant sense: Mary, Elizabeth, Zechariah, John the Baptizer, Simeon and Anna in the Temple.  (Luke 1:46-55, 67-80, 2:28-38, 3:1-20), (John the Baptizer: Matthew 11:4-19, 21:26;  Mark 11:32;   Luke 7:24-30, 20:6)
  1. (Acts 22:12-16, the story is first told in 9:1-31) Ananias prophesied at Paul’s conversion: “The God of our fathers has chosen you to know His will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from His mouth.   You will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard.   And now what are you waiting for?   Get up, be baptised and wash your sins away, calling on His Name.”   Here is both foretelling and forth-telling.
  1. Acts 10; 11:10.   In the narrative of the conversion of Cornelius, the Roman and gentile centurion, the vision given to Peter – on the rooftop in Joppa – is truly in the tradition of what is known as “Apocalyptic Prophecy”.   The giving of the picture three times is indicative of its huge significance and immediacy: the opening of the Kingdom of God to the Gentiles.
  1. Agabus is one of the named prophets of the New Covenant, and serves as an exemplar – both his revelations tell of future events; and we also have the group of prophets who worked with him (reminiscent of the “schools” of the Old Testament), the whole group came from Jerusalem, to Syrian Antioch.   His foretelling of a famine about to strike the Empire, led the Believers to make, and send, a large relief collection for the Jerusalem Church – in the care of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 11:27-30).   This, according to Professor F. F. Bruce, was the famine of AD 46.   Notice the practical implications of his prophecy, for many years to come: about ten years later Paul was still raising money – from the Greek Churches.
  1. Next we have the important incident in the life of the Church: the sending out of Paul and Barnabas on the First Missionary Journey – as we like to call it.   The two apostles were appointed, in the ethos of prayer and fasting, from within the group of prophet-teachers (again in the tradition of the Old Testament “schools”) consisting of: Barnabas, Simeon Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (foster-brother to King Herod Antipas the son of Herod the Great), and last of all Saul – very much the junior at this time. (Acts 13:1-3)   The two missionaries were from among the most gifted people in the church!
  1. Judas and Silas were prophets, who “said much to encourage and strengthened the brothers”.   Notice two of the key aspects of the prophetic gift (Acts 15:30-35).
  1. The call to evangelise in Macedonia is a good example of a revelation in the form of a vision. (Acts 16:6-10)
  1. Prophesying sometimes accompanied tongues as a sign of the Holy Spirit’s arrival in a person’s life (Acts 19:6).
  1. Why did the four “prophesying”(Greek) teenage daughters of Philip the evangelist not give the message to Paul?   Is the adjective simply a synonym to vary the texture of the report, or is it a technical term – in a rather European sense – to mark them off, as less than fully active prophets of stature.   These young ladies will no-doubt have prognosticated within small groups of their family – perhaps even to the whole ecclessia.   The text does appear to contrast them with Agabus.   He is not only of the Second Rank of Gifts (as a prophet), but is of a senior grade, within that Rank – prophesying about a national disaster, and an issue of international missionary significance.

Acts 20:23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.  [Many messages from God about Paul’s immediate future.]

Agabus made the journey down from Judea, especially to bring this warning about Paul’s immediate future.   The account is vividly given: “Coming over to us” – we see him approaching Luke, Paul and perhaps others, with quite a presence.   In true tradition of the gift, he used acting to enforce his communication!   Unlike the “prophets”, or whatever, in verse 4, he did not draw the corollary that Paul ought not to continue into danger and give it under the guise of prophecy. (Acts 21:1-14)

There is an important lesson here: well-intentioned and kindly comments, as additions to a prophetic word, may be from our own spirit, and not the Holy Spirit – even a whole prophecy can be well-meant personal wishes.   This is the most common kind of false-prophecy: not evil, but ambitious, kindly, a positive response to our growing faith, but wrong.   Several Churches, near to where I live, are awash with such foretellings, which never materialise.   Rob Warner says: “… we have the spurious prophecies about revival.   I’m not saying that by definition every prophecy about revival is spurious, but I’m well aware that in the last year or so, at least four different Christian groupings have announced which month revival’s going to happen in.   Each of these months have come and gone without any marked difference in the spiritual temperature of the nation, or the church.   It seems to me that people have to be grown up about this and say that if prophecy is going to be taken seriously, the ones that are duff have got to be acknowledged as duff and dealt with accordingly.” (“Christianity Magazine”, p 26, April 1998.)

Although Paul had received the gift of prophecy early in his Christian life: as a member of the “Body of Christ”, he accepted a communication from God through another member of the “Body”.   We must never feel that we are totally self-sufficient: not needing the service of others.   Similarly King David, one of the greatest of the prophets, was addressed via Samuel, Nathan, and the ministering priests.

  1. As already noted, both Paul and Timothy respected the prophecies which had structured Timothy’s life: “I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight.” (1 Timothy 1:18)   “Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.” (1 Timothy 4:14)

Here is an insight into the life of the Church: the group of Elders commissioned Timothy by laying hands on him, and at the same time a prophecy of binding and strengthening significance was given about him.   The first Pentecostal Church I attended had a lady in the congregation who took down in shorthand, all spiritual messages.   These were printed and available for all members, on the following Sunday.   We do well to approach the gift with that kind of seriousness.

  1. Paul was willing to quote well-known pagan prophets (Titus 1:12 and Acts 17:26-28; “A Hymn to Zeus” by Callimachus, and Epimenides, or probably Aratus).   John even quotes the corrupt Caiaphas: when he prophesied about Jesus’s death. (John 11:49-53)

Specific New Testament teaching on prophecy

  1. The Lord Jesus warned that many deceiving false prophets would come: “By their fruits you will recognise them.” (Matthew 7:15-20; 24:11 and 24;  Luke 6:26;  1 John 4:1-3)
  1. Prophesying in Jesus’s name is no guarantee of being His.   He will say to some, on Judgment Day: “I never knew you.   Away from me, you evil doers.” (Matthew 7:21-23)
  1. The church at Thyatira was beset by the problems brought by the false prophetess Jezebel – the whole letter to this church is devoted to countering her evil influence; and no doubt the same threat will come throughout the history of the Church (Revelation 2:18-20).
  1. In the Last Days there will be The False Prophet, who will be thrown alive into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 16:12-14, 19:19-21, 20:10).
  1. More positively: both the Old Testament prophet Joel, and the apostles Peter and Paul, confirm that prophecy will continue in the last days – through both the young and the mature (Joel 2:28-29;  Acts 2:17-18;  1 Corinthians 14).
  1. 1 Corinthians 11:5.   Women should cover their heads when prophesying – and generally in the corporate life of the Church.   Conversely, a man should bare his head in the congregation – particularly when praying and prophesying.   George Bernard Shaw made a sarcastic reference to this: asking what kind of Father, would not allow His daughters to remove their hats in His presence.   They offer much more than this: they offer themselves as living sacrifices in His service.   It seems a shame that some ladies will gladly wear a Christian badge, but decline to wear a hat!   You have no idea how hard the command to men would be to Jewish males; ask a man who is not Jewish, to enter a synagogue today, and refrain from taking his hat off; I did!   I like to count in congregations I visit, how many are obedient.   Once, in a Keswick morning Bible Reading, a careless man wore the only hat – a naval style.  The size of the crown does not always indicate the domain of the Empress.  Even a Brigadier has a General above him….

There is also the teaching about ladies “remaining silent” in the congregation.   Professor Bruce seems right in reading the Greek text as referring only to the Jewish practice, still seen in synagogue worship today, of allowing women to chatter during the service.   Men do quite a bit as well.   Professor Leon Morris, along with Moffatt takes it to mean arguing or debating during the worship. (1 Corinthians 14:33-35)   It must be allowed that some will not agree with this more liberal understanding, in which case the prophetic ministry of ladies will exclude ministry to the Congregation; but still include: the family, small groups, individuals, large groups of children, and large gatherings of women.   One presumes that when the gift includes instruction, it is not doctrinal education.

  1. It is the only charism mentioned in all four lists.   The Romans 12:3-8 list, has a marginal reading: “If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith” – NIV margin: “in agreement with the faith”, which would show the massive importance of orthodoxy.   1 Corinthians 12:10 portrays it as one of the many manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the Church.   1 Corinthians 12:28 shows prophets to be second only to apostles.   Ephesians 4:9-13 indicates that Jesus gave prophets to the Church: so that it might be prepared for service, be built up to a unity in the faith – the unifying effect of prophecy – and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, “attaining to the full measure of the fulness of Christ”.   The implication being: without prophecy we will not mature fully, and so be vulnerable.
  1. 1 Corinthians 13:2 ff.   Prophecy must be given in love – it is nothing without love; it will cease one day, like knowledge – eschatologically.   It is incomplete – compared with our understanding when we reach heaven.
  1. 1 Corinthians 14.   We must read the whole of this classic passage on the use of the gift in the Church:

verses 1, 5 and 39, prophecy is something we should all desire to offer to the Church

verses 3-4 and 12, prophecy speaks clearly to people and is dedicated to three key      areas – well defined by Derek Prince in his talks on prophecy –

1)     Edifying (related to edifice – a building) which implies building up the spiritual life of the Congregation, strengthening, making more effective, and improving the mind

2) Encouraging: with the meaning of exhorting, stimulating, giving advice, admonishing – severe warning or rebuke, but never condemnation, confusion or discouragement (Derek Prince feels very strongly that these should never be part of prophecy to the Church)

3) Bringing real consolation and comfort in hard times.

The last two words are closely related to the title Comforter, given by Jesus to the Holy Spirit.   The general term “encouragement” refers also to a specific gift of the Holy Spirit verses 24-25, the unconverted will be impressed: “But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying [not that everybody should, says the context], he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare – the indictment element.   So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, God is really among you!”   Here is a higher gift than uninterpreted tongues, but, like tongues, can have a part in evangelism

verse 22,  normally, however, prophecy is for Believers

verse 26  the word “revelation” (Greek, apokalupsis), which implies “unveiling”, seems to be used here as a synonym for a prophecy

verse 29 ff  prophecy should be limited, in ordered worship, to two or three: the common practice in all the churches of the early years.  Others, and particularly the Elders, must “weigh carefully” – test, assess, measure – what is said.   It is a good idea to inform the Elders of all prophecies given, even those in private.   A prophet who will not submit to this scrutiny should be banned from exercising the Gift.   People may come to you with suspect “words from God” – to which you could reply: “I was speaking to Him this morning, and He never mentioned it!   But I will ask Him tonight … I am to thank you for your kindness and courage – but He has had second thoughts!”

verse 30, logistically, a first must give way to a second; the implication is that the congregations were seated, and that the speakers would stand – which may indicate something of the size of meetings, and the length of prophecies

verses 32-33, prophets are in control of themselves: because God is ordered and peaceful

verses 36-38, acceptance of this very piece of instruction (1 Corinthians 14) is insisted on by the Holy Spirit.   It is a third test of orthodoxy, and accreditation in the use of the  gift.

  1. Prophecy in the book of Revelation appears to be the whole scope of prophecy: Old Testament, Ecclesiastical, and the element in the apostolic gift.   The book of Revelation is called “Prophecy” (Revelation 1:3, 22:7, 10,18,19).   The two Witnesses/Prophets in Revelation 11 are very much miracle working prophets in the style of the Old Covenant; and there is a similar general reference in chapter 11:18.

Prophets hold an important place – second only to apostles, in the ranks of the Church – but submissive to the Elders.

I am not convinced that there is an office of prophet, different from the gift – as some argue.

That prophecy continues in the Church is a witness against Islamic teaching: that Mohammed was the last of the prophets.   When the mosques teach about the return of Jesus, they overlook the fact that he will then become the “last of the prophets”!

“Florence, my wife, is a prophetess!”

The logistics of the prophetic in the Church

  1. Preachers can easily combine some special word for today within their sermon; and it is not unknown for prophecy to be contained in prayers.
  2. In many churches part of the service is set apart for congregational participation: open for prayer, prophecy and tongues, and other gifts.   It is a sad fact that in many fellowships, which believe in this gift, no provision is made for its practise.
  3. There is the personal use, such as Agabus bringing the warning to Paul.
  4. The Prayer meeting may include the occasion of foretelling or forth telling.
  5. A House Group, our family, or circle of friends, would be a good place to start – rather like swimming in the shallows, to begin with.   Be ready to seek help, criticism, and encouragement from others.   It is not necessary to start: “Thus sayeth the Lord….”   The Elders may have to say: “No, He did not!”   “I feel that God may be saying to us….” might be better.
  6. Committee Meetings/the Elders at prayer are an excellent place to expect a word from God!
  1. a)     We need to find out whether, or not, we have this gift,
  2. b)     Then to develop our knowledge and practice of the anointing,
  3. c)      Be comfortable with its mature use, in our church life.

The often referred to passage, Colossians 3:15, teaches us about the peace of God umpiring in our hearts.   This is relevant to deciding whether we should give a word, and to assessing a message in the congregation.

We should never act on prophecy without testing it – either personally, or by the Elders.   Cf [“Thank you, I will seek the Lord in prayer about it,” is a good parry.   We need to discern between true prophecy and clairvoyance.   We always answer to GOD for our own actions.   The answer: “I was talking to God earlier,” or, “He has not shown me personally,” can be arrogance, because, in the Body of Christ, God will speak to us through others.]

How does the message come?   We may receive the words of the prophecy clearly in advance, or as we speak – sometimes even as a song (1 Chronicles 25:1); or there may be the need to interpret a vision or dream into an accessible form.   It may suddenly come, as a surprise to us – “Goodness me, I know what is going to happen!” or, “I know what God is saying, and I must speak!” – a calculated insight.   Sometimes, people who do not know they have the gift – perhaps do not even believe in it – will say something, and you just know it is a word from God.

Sub-sets of prophecy are: speaking in tongues, words of knowledge, words of wisdom, discernment (which may have a sub-set itself – discernment of spirits), and encouragement.

I was leading a House Group Bible Study, and wanted to test for any gift of prophecy.  I asked, “If God were here, what do you think He would wish to say to us?”  Immediately an older teenager gave a good reply.  This was probably the gift.

Cf [Fortunately, there are some people, who do not believe in the prophetic gift, who nevertheless unwittingly and wonderfully, give prophetic messages in their sermons and conversations with Believers.]

The Church was not meant to exist without prophecy!

ILLUSTRATIONS

Guidance on how to think:

26 JAN 2015 saw the dramatic, and widely covered by TV and Press, ordination of the first lady bishop in the Church of England.

That night I had three vivid, clearly remembered and significant dreams.

(1)   Some Americans had erected a huge mile-high pole, from which a mile-long jib extended.  At the extreme end, two men were conducting a television broadcast.  It was hair-raising; and I felt very much to be present with them.  A trolley returned everybody to the pole, and subsequently to the Earth.

[The two men were the two Archbishops of the C of E, of which I am part.  The structure remained as a liability open to dangerous uses by vandals.]

(2)  A couple had given birth to a deformed child: its head faced the wrong way; but this did not limit their love for the child!

(3)  Florence was again carrying shopping bags.  She did on the following day; and interestingly, workmen were attending to the lighting pole  in the village.

Ray Navotny, speaking at Rob, Glen, and Florence’s House Group, went round giving words of Prophecy etc to the people present.   He told Rob Moorfoot he would preach to thousands.   In June 2005 Rob walked the Coast to Coast (St Bee’s Head to Robin Hood’s Bay) to raise money for Smithy Bridge Methodist Church.   Before setting off, and on his return, the local newspaper ran articles; the second, in particular, gave a clear Christian witness, without being too pushy.

At St Mary’s, the Vicar’s wife was invited to read out to the congregations some thoughts she had about God’s care for the Church.   John confirmed to me, later, that it was indeed a prophecy – something the congregation would not have readily accepted.

A prophecy given to a people which were not Christian, at the time: the Karen People of Myanmar. “It involves three brothers and truth hidden within the pages of a golden book.  The prophecy states that the book will reach the Karen people in the hands of the youngest of three brothers. A white man.  It is said that through the book, the Karen people will know God.”  Their bondage to dark spirits was symbolized by the wrist bands they wore, and which would be cut off when deliverance reached them.  In the 1800’s a Baptist Missionary arrived with the Gospel Message, and carrying a Bible, with gilt edged pages glistening in the sun. (The Baptist World Mission magazine, Issue 43, 2018, page 12)

The article on Apostles has a detailed look at Old Testament Prophecy.

THIS IS THE END OF PART ONE.  PLEASE CONTINUE READING THE PAPER ON PART TWO

THE SIX SUB-PROPHETIC GIFTS

There are several gifts, which, in their effect, can also be seen within the ministry of prophecy.   They are: tongues with interpretation – which amounts to prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:5), words of knowledge and wisdom, discerning of spirits, and encouragement (which is dealt with separately, under the heading of Serving Gifts).

Glossalalia

[K] SPEAKING IN TONGUES, 8   Mark 16:17, 1 Corinthians 12:10 and 28

1100 Strong, glossa, gloce-sah’, language, tongue, not naturally acquired – by implication

2084 Strong, heteroglossos, het-er-og’-loce-sos, from 1100, other-tongued (1 Corinthians 14:21 only)

1258 Strong, dialektos, dee-al’-ek-tos, dialect, dialectic, language, tongue, used by the crowd in Acts 2:6

To read through Proverbs (and the Prophets, for that matter) noting the importance of the human tongue – both for immense blessing and for incredible evil – makes the obvious point that the submission of the tongue to the Holy Spirit, in this gift, is of huge significance.   It is suggested that James 3 is virtually a summary of Proverbs relative to this subject of the tongue.

Even in chapter 1, James is given these words: “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight reign on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.”

verse 26    “If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.”   With this verse, the Holy Spirit introduces thoughts on the power of the tongue, the difficulty in taming it, and the conflicting hypocritical use we make of it. (James 3:1-12)

Our Lord’s promise: “they shall speak in new languages”. (Mark 16:17)   It is a tragedy that two extremes exist in the Church, today: the belief that only a limited number of gifts are now available to Believers, and new languages is not one of them; the other is the abuse of the manifestation of the Spirit, by the misuse of tongues.   In the one, there is the audacity of criticising God’s infinite wisdom in bestowing this charisma – in ridiculing His gift, we scoff at God; in the other there is the lack of informed discipline.  I have seen one American television evangelist speaking in tongues, as a joke, and to no sensible purpose: only to show-off.  This wastes valuable transmission time and money given sacrificially by God’s people, who trust that their gifts will be used wisely.

“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.   Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.   They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.   All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them … each one heard them speaking in his own language (dialect).” (Acts 2:1-6)

Words often serve several usages: “glossa” is used for the “tongues of fire” and for the “speaking in tongues”. (Acts 2:3,4)   In verse 5, however, the word “dialectos” appears.   This is taken to mean a specific “dialect” of a language, but it is worth noting, that elsewhere in Acts it is translated as “dialectic”: reasoned statements, or discourses – Paul in synagogues at Thessalonica, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus; in the School of Tyrannus; the Troas Upper Room; and in the Jerusalem Temple, where he made a point of not arguing.  (Acts 17:2,17, 18:4,19, 19:8,9, 20:7,9, 24:12)   This association is quite the opposite of “the ecstatic”, which some theologians, and translators, have imagined, basing their thoughts on Arabic, and Classical Greek cultures.

We can note that this is called “being filled with the Spirit” and “the baptism of the Holy Spirit”, promised “not many days hence” (Acts 1:5 [AV]); elsewhere it is referred to as “the sealing”, “guarantee”, “deposit”, or “down payment”. (2 Corinthians 1:22, 5:5,  and Ephesians 1:13-14, below)

  1. Baptism in the Holy Spirit, reveals the unseen presence of the Spirit in a Christian: confirming our acceptance by God at conversion, in a subjective experience at the time, or soon afterwards (normally).   Perhaps other gifts may be used, such as prophecy, but tongues is the most common in the New Testament.   It is important as a means of assurance: that God has responded to our faith in his Son, by giving us this dramatic event – whether privately or publicly.   One X-ray technique requires a dye to be inserted into the spinal fluid, so that the otherwise invisible flow of the fluid can be observed.   In a similar way, the invisible Spirit of God reveals His presence by clear assuring evidence.  This is not an optional extra!

Just as with Baptism in water – we have all the blessings associated with Baptism, but God requires the obedience of the action: so with the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, there is the importance of formally inviting the Spirit into our life.  We have known the ministry of the Comforter before, during, and after conversion; but we need this special event.

Jesus’s promise of the Holy Spirit to His Disciples: John 16:7  But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.

[Some Muslim thinkers, apparently believe this part of the Bible.  Although Jesus was speaking to a group of His Apostles, with Him at that moment and place: the Muslims apply it to their Prophet coming 600 years later.  This is tragically dishonest and deceitful.]

On the Day of Pentecost, in Acts chapter 2, they also had tongues of flame and a violent wind.   We all need a personal “Pentecost” or sealing.  Ephesians 1:13-14 in Moffatt’s translation reads:

“You … have been stamped with the seal of the long-promised Holy Spirit, which is the pledge and instalment (first) of our …  heritage…”   God is placing His seal on our lives, and giving us the down payment of the greater glory, which will be ours at the resurrection.

We may look at the other, similar, occasions of this initial coming of the Spirit into the lives of new Christians, as recorded in the Book of Acts – it must be pointed out, that it is an inadequate preaching of the Gospel, that fails to minister this vital aspect of the work of God, and it is dishonest to the whole counsel of God.

The examples in Acts:

8:15-16, laying on of hands at Samaria, where no sign is described;

10:44-48, Cornelius and his household, experience tongues and praise, during the preaching of Peter;

11:15-17, the above event is reported by Peter, and called “baptism” in the Holy Spirit;

19:16, at Ephesus, with the laying on of hands, there was both tongues and prophecy.

The last two verses of a Charles Wesley hymn (280, The Methodist Hymn Book) are on this theme of sealing:

“Come, Holy Ghost my heart inspire!

Attest that I am born again;

Come and baptize me now with fire, Nor let the former gifts be vain:

I cannot rest in sins forgiven;

Where is the “earnest” of my heaven?

Where the indubitable “seal”

That ascertains the kingdom mine?

The powerful “stamp” I long to feel,

The signature of love divine:

O shed it in my heart abroad,

Fulness of love, of heaven, of God.”

(“Earnest” is another word for down payment: as when we secure an item in a store by paying a part, of the whole purchase price – agreeing to pay the full amount, later.   “Seal” and “stamp” are synonyms.   These represent some of the collection of words used in the English Versions – translations.)

I could well imagine that if Paul collected leather at the docks in Lechaion (the nearest of the two ports of Corinth).   It would have first been stamped to ensure it remained in the owner’s possession – everyone would know, who it belonged to.  Transport up the hill to the city would come later.

  1. A second use of the Tongues, is as a sign to the unbeliever, as the apostle describes in 1 Corinthians 14:22: a miracle which totally astounds the unconverted, as I will show in examples later.   The very opposite effect is seen, if everybody speaks in tongues – as in a very unruly meeting, which would do nothing but bring dishonour to our Lord’s name.   This was starting to happen in the Congregation at Korinthos.   Apart from a very special miracle of tongues, it is prophecy, which normally has more effect on the unconverted – certainly in cases approaching excess.   As I said, in a television transmission, a preacher used tongues almost as a form of entertainment and showmanship: a gross example of its misuse – wasting valuable time and opportunity.
  1. Tongues will be prophetic to the Assembly, and the individual, when combined with the gift of Interpretation. (1 Corinthians 14:5)
  1. When the gift is used privately, the spirit of a Believer is: built up – strengthened, speaks mysteries, and prays to God in the spirit, sings, gives thanks, and praises, but the mind receives nothing.   When I was engaged in a missionary maintenance course at Bible College, I overheard a fellow-student singing in tongues, in his quarters.   He did not believe in the gift – theologically, and yet he often enjoyed this experience.

Clearly it is desirable that the gift of interpretation is sought.   I have found that the two gifts bring clarity, and innovative perceptive thoughts and insights. (1 Corinthians 14:2,4,13-17)

  1. Singing in tongues in corporate worship sometimes sounds like the complex music of the 16th century composer Thomas Tallis; “Spem in alium” has 40 voices in eight choirs of five.   This would be impressive at any time in history.   I have felt, on occasions, that the sheer beauty of this manifestation of tongues is ample evidence of the Spirit’s presence.

NOTE: There are angelic languages, not known on Earth – 1 Corinthians 13:1.

When recovering in hospital from a life-threatening illness (bacterial meningitis), I received a gift of tongues which was quite unusual: it could only be sung.  I wondered at the time, if it might be an angelic language.

A key passage

Just as 1 Corinthians 14 deals extensively with prophecy in the Christian congregation, so this chapter gives parallel teaching on the part to be played by tongues in the corporate life of the Congregation:

verses 5-12,18,19, God the Spirit would have everybody speak in tongues, but would have its use kept firmly in place

verses 6, “But now brothers, if I come to you speaking in tongues, what will I profit you, except I speak to you either in revelation, or in knowledge, or in prophecy, or in teaching?” (Green’s Literal)   It could well be understood as a contrast of tongues with other gifts, which are of more profit for the Congregation, or it could be saying that interpreted tongues can be more illuminating

verses 13, We should pray to receive the gift of interpretation to add to the gift of tongues

verse 21, Two Old Testament prophecies understood, within our biblical culture (and rabbinic, says Kittel), to be about tongues: Isaiah 28:11, Deuteronomy 28:49

“Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues

God will speak to this people.”

“The LORD will bring a nation against you from far away, from the ends of the earth, like an eagle swooping down, a nation whose language you will not understand.”

“This people” and “you”, could be understood as referring to just Israel; but, within the New Testament context, this point is never made: quite the contrary, tongues is discussed within the atmosphere of the a “mainly” gentile church – as at Korinthos.

verses 22-25, Tongues and prophecy in excess, and the effect – referred to above

verses 27, Only two people should speak in tongues, in a given meeting – three at most

verses 28. If there is no one with the gift of interpretation, “the speaker should keep quiet in the congregation and speak to himself and to God”- in other words, appear virtually silent.   This is not an easy instruction for many to receive!   The sound of tongues should be heard: as a prophecy – awaiting interpretation, as a miracle for the unbeliever, or in corporate singing.

Practical thoughts

Teaching on the logistics of the gift in the Congregation is: singing in the Spirit, Messages in Tongues, and Private Devotions (Private meaning: not interfering with the experience of others in the meeting, or when alone).   The extensive, dominating, use of tongues by a speaker with a loud voice, or a microphone, is completely out of tune with the New Testament instruction: it is an unfortunate abuse, does damage to the cause of the Gospel, and requires counselling, pastoring, rebuke, guidance, and teaching.

Paul sums up the correct attitude to all potentially intrusive manifestations, with these words (RSV): “For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.” (“We are beside ourselves unto God: for your sake we are sober.”) 2 Corinthians 5:13

Again, time must be allowed in meetings for the gift; and there is nothing wrong with periods of silence – put to good use in private prayer, meditation and waiting on God.   When a message is given, there may be a wait: for someone to feel led by God to miraculously give the interpretation.   It is not a translation, and may take more or fewer words.   There are many human languages, Kittel suggests that “kinds” implies variety (sixteen is a rough count of dialects on the Day of Pentecost) – there is even the possibility of an extinct language, or a heavenly (1 Corinthians 13:1, 14:10-11).   As I said, when I was seriously ill in hospital, a very beautiful language, in song, was given to me; it certainly sounded heavenly to me.   Even though ill, I was able to worship and set my mind on heavenly things – psychosomatically contributing to my recovery, no doubt.   There are Assemblies where the messages are recorded, taken down in shorthand, and published; certainly great respect must rightfully be shown.   The Elders – as with prophecy – must carefully assess the messages.  Sad to say, in many churches, which subscribe to a belief in the gift; there is no provision made for the practice!

I was preaching at a Methodist Church, which aspired to be Charismatic, but gave little evidence of it. The text for my sermon was:

1 Corinthians 14:26 “What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.”

We had done most of the things listed.

“Nobody believes in speaking in Tongues today!”

“Oh yes we do!” answered the congregation.

“Put your hand up, if you have the gift of Interpretation.”

And so we had a time of waiting on God, to await a message in tongues, and its interpretation.

Why did God choose to give us such a strange gift?   We may note that it is: egalitarian, dramatic, miraculous, above and beyond intellect, and humbling – a surrender of a most powerful part of our physiognomy.   There can be the most wonderful creativity and revelation, when linked with interpretation – but it must always be compatible with the cannon of Scripture – as indeed I have found it to be.   Poetically it may be seen as a reversal of the curse at the Tower of Babel.   It is probably the only gift, which Christ did not use, although in his deity, he knows all languages.

To argue against God, or to present ridicule, is very foolish.   The Creator of the human mind has many hidden, and wise, reasons why this gift is beneficial to the human psyche.   The senior business executive, being driven home after an exhausting trip, can relax and lift his soul to God in tongues.   The aged man, finding it ever harder to waken up in a morning, enters the heavenly places with this gift.   The man or woman, boy or girl, in whatever situation of life, can rise above this world and its horrors, and reach God in heart to heart communication, and revelation.

Arguments used against the current offering of the gift

Some discount the giving of any of the anointings of the Spirit, in this sense, and the Scripture they use is:

“Love never fails.   But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.   For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.” (1 Corinthians 13:8-9)

As explained in the general introduction to the gifts, knowledge has not yet passed away; in fact libraries, the Internet, and computer information storage systems, are ample testimony that knowledge is increasing (Cf Daniel 12:4).   Christians who take this critical attitude also want the words: “when perfection comes”, to refer to the Bible.   It is strange irony, that the two chapters guarding the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians mention prophecy and tongues in some detail – when taken together.   (It is normal to find that these Christians, warm and dear though they are, are quite willing to accept two of the gifts, namely pastor and evangelist.)   Their argument requires that tongues and prophecy have been discontinued: thus making chapters 12 and 14 obsolete – and implying that the present Bible would therefore be imperfect, and not “perfection”.   Indeed, their long and devious arguments, which arrive at the opposite conclusions to the simple reading of Scripture, have a great resemblance to the cunning of the sects.   This interpretation, which requires part of a verse in chapter 13 to be taken out of context, is like the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ attempt to make the Lord Jesus, the Archangel whose voice is heard in the final moments of human history.   (There is equal justification, in this explanation, to make the Lord Jesus the “trumpet”, of the passage in 1 Thessalonians 4:16).

I took the trouble to read a book dedicated to the discontinuation of tongues.   On borrowing the book from a church library, my entry had to read: “I speak in tongues more than you all”, followed by my signature; this would certainly be my ambition, as it was Paul’s confession.   The title was malicious: because the author’s aim was to discourage the use of the gift; whereas Paul used the words: firstly to establish his authority to give rulings on the subject – to the Corinthian and to all Christians, and secondly to offer himself as a considered and guarded exemplar.

The book was characterised by ridicule; in my days of classroom and staff meeting debate, I came to suspect ridicule and personal insult, as the companions of weak  arguments.   Another suspicious aspect of the book was the lengthy and extremely involved theses: whereas most biblical doctrine is expressed in simple terms – so that ordinary people who are Christians, can start to understand something of the great and satisfying truths of God.

A major argument of the work is that tongues is singularly intended as a sign to Jews – that men and women of Israel were always present in the New Testament.   Whereas this may have been the case, because of the nature of first century fellowships, and his key verse from Isaiah is used by Paul in 1 Corinthians 14, this deduction is never made in Scripture (Isaiah 28:11-12;  1 Corinthians 14:21).   There need be no fear that the churches in Athens and Corinth might be exceptions, both contained Jewish converts – indeed Paul rarely, if ever, went to preach the Gospel in places where there was not a synagogue – to act as his starting point  (Acts 13:5,14,  14:1,  16:13,  17:1-4,17,  18:4,  19:8;   Romans 1:16).

The writer makes such complicated lines of discussion, that the direct meaning of the biblical text is totally lost.   The book is unfortunately characterised by: poor (even evil) exegesis, lack of logic, absurd arguments, additions to the actual words of the Bible, dismissiveness, diversionary quips, a subjective style, derogatory remarks, and complete non-sequiturs.

This particular book turns to the kind of anecdote often applied in the case against tongues: a person uses a known foreign language in a Pentecostal meeting, and then ridicules the inaccurate interpretation.   In this case, a Salvation Army Colonel spoke in Lingala, a West African dialect; the interpretation had nothing to do with the praise utterance of the Colonel.   One has to ask the question: What were Christians doing employing a foreign language skill, in the context of a time of speaking in tongues and interpretation?   Were they setting out to sinfully tempt God, and ridicule His servants?   Or take another case given in the book: where a tape recording was played to test two “interpreters”, and two different “interpretations” were given.   Jim Packer, the gentle and eminent evangelical theologian, told a similar story (in a talk recorded at Eden Chapel, Cambridge), in which an Ethiopian student attended a charismatic meeting in London.   But, in his case, he did not appreciate what was happening, and so, in a break in the worship, he recited the Twenty-third Psalm in Guji – the ancient language of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, only to be followed by an interpretation of different ontent.

Another form of discreditation is to find that 90% of tongues are valid languages, but are actually blasphemous statements – showing that the speakers have demons.   The statement in the above book is quoted from another writer, and no scientific details of methodology are given.   Assuming the percentage to be true, one must ask: what kind of sample group was examined, and, how were the tongues analysed and translated?   Certainly there is a cautionary element here for both sides.

My own examples of tongues, being understood as valid linguistic statements, offer evidence in support of the gift’s genuineness.

Some examples of the gift of tongues

  1. An English Elim Pastor was holding an open-air meeting in Belfast, at which a young lady in the support team spoke in tongues, but there was no interpretation: this concerned the Pastor, and he intended to speak to her about it.   As the meeting closed the attention of the lady was dominated by a Jewish man trying to talk to her in Yiddish – but she did not know the language intellectually, she had been given a miraculous tongue.   The gentleman became a Christian as a result.   (Described in a recorded sermon by Eric Gaudion.)
  1. The Reverend Dennis Bennett, Episcopalian Minister and author of “Nine O’clock in the Morning” recounts that when he spoke in tongues: a woman, who had lived in Japan for four years, complemented his good Japanese accent.   (Recorded sermon.)
  1. My own experience at Bridge Street Four Square Church, Leeds, in about 1959.   Another Christian had told Brian Dodsworth, an NSPCC Officer, at work, that his gift of tongues was “of the Devil”.   In the Sunday morning service, Brian sat behind me, and to my right – across an aisle.   When he stood to give a message in tongues, a cry came from the front of the congregation – rather as if a pin had been stuck in someone – as happens in the classroom sometimes!    An elderly lady, in the transept, at the front and to the right, gave a prophecy, along these lines: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, to preach the Gospel to the poor…” The Pastors took this to be of God, and preached an evangelistic sermon.

The man, who screamed, was an Hungarian businessman.   Leaving the main hotel in the city centre – The Queen’s’, he had asked the way to a Church for the morning service.   The language was Hungarian, and he knew God was speaking to him.  Although there had been no clear interpretation in the morning service – which worried Brian, the message had said: “I have spoken to you many times, but today is your last opportunity to respond.”   The man became a Believer.   At a fellowship, in his home city of Birmingham, he was later appointed an Elder.   When I told this story to my classes, over many years, I gave the telephone number of Pastor Moore: so that anyone could confirm the details.

  1. A graduate in Spanish attended the same Church, before taking up residence in Spain as a missionary.   Whilst in Barcelona, he heard a lady praying in English: so convincingly, that he wanted to meet this fellow English person, after the service.   To his surprise, he found it to be an uneducated peasant lady, complete with her black shawl. (Related to me by a mutual friend.)
  1. “The Pentecostals”, by Walter J. Hollenweger, published by the SCM Press Ltd, 1972, begins with the following story, which in turn is taken from John L. Sherrill’s book, “They Speak”, pp 89f.  For seventeen generations, Rabbi Jacob Rabinowitz’s ancestors had been rabbis.   He felt some fear at the conviction that Rabbi Jesus of Nazareth was the Truth.   As a secret disciple he accepted an invitation to a meeting in an Assemblies of God Church in Pasadena, Texas.   After a rich and noisy beginning, the service continued with a short address by an evangelist, who then invited members with problems, to kneel on the red carpet before the altar step, so that the congregation might pray for them specifically.

A few men left their places to lay hands on the Rabbi, as he knelt.   Behind them, others stood.   People were praying in English, and in tongues.

I quote from the book:

Suddenly Rabinowitz stood up and asked with tears in his eyes, “Which one of you is Jewish?”   No one answered.   “Which one of you knows me?   You’ll forgive me: I don’t recognize you.”   Still no answer.

Now the whole church became silent.   “It came from right here, behind me … Just exactly where you’re standing … Are you Jewish?”

“Me?”   The man smiled.   “My name’s John Gruver.   I’m Irish.”   “That’s the voice … but tell me where you learned to speak Hebrew so well.”

“I don’t know a word of it,” replied Gruver.   “That’s where you’re wrong,” retorted Rabinowitz, “because you were speaking Hebrew just now.   And how did you know my name and the name of my father?   You said in perfect Hebrew,   ‘I have dreamed a dream that you will go into big populated places and there you will preach.   The ones who have not heard will understand you, Jacob, son of Rabbi Ezekiel, come in the fullness of the blessing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.’”

  1. Jack Smith, a friend of mine, then quite recently converted knelt in a prayer meeting, at his local Assemblies of God Church, in North Manchester.   Feeling disconsolate, he hardly joined in, but prayed in tongues.  At the close of the meeting, a young Finnish lady with long dark hair, who had been sitting behind his chair – an au pair in fact, came straight to him and asked when had he been to Finland for his holidays.   The answer was, “Never” – how was it then that he had been praying in her mother tongue?
  1. At a church in the same Lancashire town, a well-travelled Christian lady graduate heard a message in the Basque language, which she herself knew.   The message was to the pastor: saying that if he did not repent, God would remove him within a few weeks.   The man who gave the interpretation said that God was pleased with the Pastor, and would bless him.   Within a short time the minister moved on.
  1. Kensington Temple, even in its early days, had many nationalities.   Eldin Corsie (a leader in the Church) was quietly praying in tongues.   There was a man listening, who immediately afterwards started talking to Eldin in the same tongue – it was Modern Greek.   After some explanation, the Greek gentleman told Eldin he had been praying: “Lord, when will you bring revival to this place?”

9 and 10.   Mike Stevens gave two interesting accounts in a recorded talk (on “Leaders and Elders”).

A lady in his fellowship was in discussion with a Rabbi who studied at the same university; he admitted to never having experienced a miracle, and challenged her to produce a message in tongues.   Reluctantly she did; and spoke in a rare Persian dialect, which he had researched for his MA thesis – dealing with some of its content.   He then argued that she had read his thesis and learnt the ancient language, in order to fool him!

A friend of Mike was working in Italy with Operation Mobilisation, selling Bibles.   He carried a card: “Stop me and buy one”, as he spoke no Italian.   First of all a large lady questioned his religion, and then struck him on the side of the head, knocking his stock of books and Bibles flying.   A crowd gathered to ridicule him, and he felt decidedly depressed.   In desperation he stood, and spoke out in tongues: mainly directed at a priest, who, by this time, had taken his place standing at the front.   He had no idea of the content of his speech, but the priest suddenly took to his heels, mounted his cycle, and fled before the crowd.   When the people returned they were delighted to purchase all his books.

  1. An eight year-old Caribbean girl spoke in tongues, in fluent French.   A gentleman, who did not have the normal gift of interpretation, simply translated using his knowledge of French.   (Joel Edwards, Evangelical Alliance Chairman, interviewed by Sir Melvyn Bragg on British television, 15.03.98.)
  1. David Pawson tells of a meeting in Bristol: a lady on the front-row miraculously spoke in Urdu.   A Pakistani man thought it was someone from his own village.
  1. Patricia St John is known and respected for her Christian children’s stories – two have been made into films.  She served as a missionary nurse, and Head Mistress.  Whilst travelling with her sister from the Levant to Tangier, a huge lorry, the driver of which had apparently dozed at the wheel, smashed into their car.  He was then observed changing the angle of the front wheels so that he could escape blame.

Miss St John continues: “It was here in that dingy office that I was given the gift of tongues.  I knew very little Spanish, but I suddenly found that I could ask for what I wanted and give a lucid account of all that had happened.  In spite of the lies told by the lorry driver, we were awarded full insurance costs six months later.”  (page 191, “Patricia St John tells her own story,” 1997, OM Publishing, UK)

  1. Canon David White’s wife, Ruth, has a friend who was also her Bridesmaid; this lady came from Malaysia, and was a Buddhist. At her first visit to a Christian church, in Liverpool (UK), she heard a person stand and give a message in tongues: in perfect Malaysian, a message from God’s heart for her. She gave her life to Christ. (sermon by the Canon, 31.May.2015, at St Andrew’s Chorleywood, UK)
  1. Derek Prince, the eminent Bible Teacher (see below), tells of a young man invited to a London church by his daughter.  Derek preached a Gospel Sermon, and was about to give a challenge to respond, when an elderly man spoke in tongues and spoiled the flow of the meeting.  The young fellow nudged the lady who had brought him.  “Why is that man telling everybody about my sins?”  The young fellow was Welsh speaking, and the Tongues message was Welsh.  He later became a Believer, and Derek’s son-in-law.
  2. Bill Adair told me how he prayed for a man in hospital.  The prayer was in tongues – Punjabi; the Asian man told Bill what he had prayed: it included Jesus’s words, “I am the water of life, him that cometh to me will have eternal life.”  The Asian pointed to a jug of water.

Many people in churches have this gift covertly – using it only privately, and not in public.

John Wesley heard someone saying that the gift was no longer for today, and he wrote a scorching letter proving that it was indeed still a gift for the present.  (“Wesley’s Works”, Volume V, page 744.   “Sir, your memory fails you again … It has been heard of more than once, no further off than the valleys of Dauphiny”.   Quoted by Carl Brumback.)

Derek Prince spends much time on Tongues (four hours of lecturing); similarly, David Pawson, and Canon David Watson.

Miraculous Languages is a strange gift, but it is there in the NT, and if we are disciples, we had better come to terms with it – we need the “whole council of God”, and not 99% of it.

There are two questions, which might well have introduced this topic: Are you using your gift of tongues on a daily basis, and, is your congregation making regular and frequent use of this channel of communication with God?

The companion of tongues

[L] INTERPRETATION, 9   1 Corinthians 12:10.

2058 Strong, hermeneia, her-may-ni’-ah, translation, interpretation.   This is quite a large word group – including various subtle differences and parts of speech.   Similarly there is wideness in meanings: to interpret, expound, explain, propound, indicate, express thoughts, to transfer from a foreign language, with the creative element being a possibility.   There is no real question of expecting a syllable-by-syllable translation, when the richness of meaning is observed.

In pagan Greece it was associated with the interpretation of revelation from the gods: in occult practices.   Indeed the word is derived from the name of the messenger of the Pantheon: Hermes  (or Mercury).   One should not be so foolish as to damn the spiritual gift, through “guilt by association” – that enemy of all justice and sound reason; but there will be those dishonest debaters who will be happy to cauterise their consciences.

The Greek version of the Old Testament has the “interpretation of dreams”: with Joseph and Daniel, both eminent heads of government who found the parallel gift, crucial to their service of God and man. (Genesis 40:8, 41:16  ff;  Daniel 2:27 ff)

There is also the sense of interpreting, in the post-exilic readings of the Law of the Old Testament, by the Levites, to the people of Jerusalem.   In its context, I feel that they did more than just read – they explained the meaning and paraphrased it, so that it was clearly understood.   Levite priests were the teachers in ancient Israel. (Nehemiah 8:8, chapters 8 and 9)

Because of the close link with the gift of tongues, the two anointings overlap: many comments apply to both and there is no need to repeat what has already been noted.

Practically speaking: the question of the lengths of the message in tongues, and the accompanying interpretation, is covered by the wide definitions already referred to.   Encouragement for several people in a congregation to develop confidence in interpreting should not be quenched by the dominance of one person.  They would be well advised to start in a small meeting – and then move on to larger gatherings.   The meaning may well come as a grasp of the message; it may be given sequentially as the person progresses with the revelation; or it may come as a vision – a “picture”.   I have found this particularly useful and enlightening.   It separates ones thinking from what has gone before; and there is less chance of an innuendo, if some strong opinions have been expressed.   A friend and I often have discussions on faith and practice.   If he then speaks a message in tongues, it would be all too easy for me to give an interpretation supporting my views; a vision prevents this danger.   It is not a case of describing the vision, but giving its meaning.   Occasionally, a separate prophecy may be confused with the intention to give an interpretation, and discernment is needed.   Interpretation can be very hard work, and I personally do not look forward to it.

ANOTHER SET OF TWINS

Here we continue what I called the sub-prophetic anointings: Words of Knowledge and Wisdom – which are like opposite sides of the same coin, followed by Discerning of Spirits (Encouragement, as a Helping Gift, is considered elsewhere.)

[N] WORD, MESSAGE OF WISDOM, 1

[M] WORD, MESSAGE, OR COMMUNICATION, OF KNOWLEDGE, 2     1 Corinthians 12:8.

Knowledge tells you that a tomato is a fruit; wisdom tells you not to mix it in a fruit salad.

4678 Strong, sophia, sof-ee’-ah, wisdom of various kinds.

1108 Strong, gnosis, gno’-sis, knowledge, science.   It appears in agnostic – without knowledge.

Eye catching: that “wisdom” follows Solomon in Kittel (Solomone – meaning ‘peaceful’, Sophia – wisdom).   In the development of the Greek language, the adjective came earlier than the abstract noun, and the implication was of quality, rather than practicality.   Wisdom was of great importance; there were the Sophists: wise teacher-philosophers.

The Old Testament has its “Wisdom Literature” – three fifths of the references are found here.   Job and Proverbs have much to say on the subject – the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.    There is sometimes a practical emphasis, especially in the Historical Books: “techne” occurs in the Greek translation, referring to artistic and technical skill, and is the term used to describe Jesus’s occupation in the Gospels, being wider than carpenter.   There is also practical wisdom, ethical and religious conduct, and the interpreting of dreams.   From the Hebrew there comes the thought of wise action, practice and conduct – in contrast to the typically Greek usage.

Our Lord grew in, and was filled with, wisdom – as a maturing child.   It was the wisdom of Jesus, along with his mighty acts, which impressed the people who saw and heard Him.   Jesus promised his followers: “For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.”   It is seen in the godly of the Early Church, in the Book of Acts, and linked with the Holy Spirit’s presence – “theologically informed and irresistible utterance” (Ulrich Wilckens, in Kittel).  (Luke 2:40,52,  21:15;  Mark 6:2;  Acts 6:3,10)

The rare qualities of true wisdom are given in James 3:13-18: a good life, deeds done in wise humility, purity, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, merciful, producing good fruit, impartial, sincere.   The opposites of heavenly wisdom are the satanic characteristics: bitter envy, selfish ambition, and denial of the truth, disorder and every evil practice.

Apropos “knowledge”, Rudolf Bultmann writes in Kittel, that in ordinary Greek the meaning is: intelligent comprehension of an object or issue, understanding, to come to know, to become aware of.   The Septuagint Old Testament uses a much wider meaning: come to know, detecting, feeling, and learning by experience, mere information, and contemplative perception.   In the New Testament a common inference is “to know – in the sense of awareness”, to detect, to note, to confirm, to perceive.

It is said that “… God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.”   Our Lord could say: “No-one knows the Father except the Son, and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”   John’s words are telling: “But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men.   He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in man.”   Here is ultimate knowledge: a clear token of Christ’s Divinity. (1 John 3:20;  Matthew 11:27 c;  John 2:24-25)

It is the common experience that conversion leads to a flourishing of both wisdom and knowledge, particularly in spiritual areas.   Indeed the whole Bible is about the godly of mankind being graciously bequeathed here. (1 Corinthians 1:5, 2:6 ff)

Because both these gifts – knowledge and wisdom – relate closely to the scope of several other gifts – Discernment of spirits, Apostleship, Prophecy, and, Tongues with Interpretation – there may be some difficulty in classifying any one of them from a single instance, and, indeed, the precise nature may only become apparent with the experience of several occurrences.   This is true of the whole subject of Gifts.   The list in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 contains nine gifts, six of which are in this close relationship.

Obviously, the Lord does not give access to all wisdom and all knowledge – God is notably discrete; and, once again, typically of all the gifts, a person may be limited to a particular area and style.

I noticed, and photographed, an elegant motor-launch, in the harbour of modern Corinth, which was well named: “Sophia” (wisdom).

  • This is a key word in 1 Corinthians chapters 1 and 2, where it is said that Paul gives the word a slightly different connotation each time he employs it.   “Gnosis” (knowledge), besides playing an important part in the New Testament, represents the element so much encouraged in the Book of Proverbs.   Indeed, a lack of knowledge is synonymous with being a fool!   These two supernatural gifts are no excuse for laziness or cultivated ignorance.   This would amount to tempting God, and irresponsibility.  A Christian leader, I know, is proud of being a greenhorn about how his car works – even after decades behind the wheel.   Hopefully the developing driving test will keep such dangers off the roads.

I will risk giving very simple definitions of the key terms:

Knowledge is information or understood data; wisdom, is the art of knowing how to use information!

Knowing that a tomato is a fruit; but having the sense not to include it in a fruit salad.

These are gifts, which may embrace visions and dreams, so a brief word about these methods of Divine communication is appropriate.   If, at this moment, you imagine a much loved beauty spot; then you have created a vision.   Some visions are more dominating and dramatic, no doubt: such as brightness obscuring our physical surroundings – as with Saul on the Damascus Road, in which others heard the sound of the voice.   But, for my own experience, they have been more like “day-dreams…” – even though they have dominated the mind at the time, and “filled the screen”, so to speak.   Would Peter’s vision in Acts chapter 10 have fitted into this quieter pattern?

In seeking the Truth, at the age of nineteen, I was spending many hours a day reading the Scriptures, meditating and praying, in the Church building on our Royal Air Force Station.   One morning, as I sat near the front of the room, there came a clear picture of an vertical shaft, down which I was falling: a picture I readily accepted as symbolising the just punishment for my sins – my being committed to Hell.   I then saw, on a shelf of rock in the side of the shaft, the Lord Jesus with his arms outstretched.   I clasped hold of his hands as I plummeted downwards: but it was only his own firm grip and stability that saved me.   I then heard a voice, in my mind, saying: “You are prepared to take Jesus Christ as your Lord, guide, teacher and leader in life; but you must also trust him as your Saviour!”   This, for me, was the Holy Spirit – this the moment of conversion – after many helpful discussions and experiences on the journey.

Sometimes in prayer, a clear picture comes to mind, which requires interpretation and application.

There is much about dreams in the Bible; not least that they come through the plethora of worry and work. (Ecclesiastes 5:3, EV)   Dreaming apparently is essential to the healthy mind, and the many creative dreams are mostly unremembered, when we wake.   Often they are the sweepings-up of the mind, or the influence of conditions, sounds and sensations whilst we are asleep.   Ecclesiastes makes it quite clear that dreams, in general, are meaningless (5:7).   When a dream is specially and clearly recollected, and we wonder if God was speaking to us, then the first check should be with the teaching of Scripture, then there is common sense, asking advice of senior Christians, and seeking the peace of God umpiring in our heart – a very important element before we act.   Generally, I have found dreams, and visions in prayer, to be confirmation, rather than instigators of action.   Do we hear God speaking to us?   In a sense, yes; but not in the way that the insane hear dominating voices.   All people think in terms of logical discussions – using voices more-or-less speaking sentences – in their minds.   Into this “wavelength” of thought come original personal ideas, satanic temptations, and the voice of the Holy Spirit.   The mature person can differentiate between each, and organise their life in accordance with their deeply held beliefs.

Colossians 3:15 let the peace of God umpire in our hearts.

Biblical examples:

Genesis 20:3, King Abimelech’s dream about Sarah; 28:12, Jacob at Bethel;

31:10-13,24, Jacob’s guidance, and Laban’s warning from God: 37:5-10; Joseph’s dreams, 40:5-23, the cup bearer and the baker’s dreams; 41:1-40, the Pharaoh’s dreams about Egypt’s future; 46:2-4, guidance for the aged Jacob, at Beersheba;

Numbers 12:5-8, the point is made that Moses did not receive God’s word through this common prophetic channel; Deuteronomy 13:1-5, the stabilising theology behind prophetic dreams; Judges 7:13, Gideon is encouraged by a Midianite’s story; 1 Samuel chapter 10 THE GREAT PASSAGE ON WORDS OF KNOWLEDGE,  28:6 and 15, there was not even help for Saul in this way; 1 Kings 3:4-15, the blessing of Solomon; Job 4:12-21, 20:8, 33:15-17, references by Job’s friends; Psalms 73:20, 126:1, Isaiah 29:7-8, as similes; Jeremiah 23:25-32, 27:9, 29:8, dreams of the false prophets; Daniel 1:17, 5:12, 2:4,7, Daniel’s ability, and dreams, and those of Nebuchadnezzar; Joel 2:28, the Pentecost Promise for old men; Zechariah 10:2, lying visions of diviners; Matthew 1:20-21, the angelic guidance for Joseph to marry Mary; 2:13, 19-22, guidance apropos the flight into Egypt; 27:19, Pilate’s wife’s distressing dream referred to in her note to Pilate; Acts 2:17, the Pentecost quotation from Joel’s prophecy; 9:10, Ananias’s vision regarding Saul; 10, Cornelius’s vision, and Peter’s trance; 22:17, the call to reach the Gentiles – in the Temple; 16:9, Paul’s vision of a man from Macedonia – missionary leading; Jude verse 8, a metaphor for the wicked.

A lady asked an eminent Pentecostal missionary about her dream: she had been riding down some steps on the handlebars of a bicycle, and ended up swinging from a gas lamppost.   “What did it signify?” she enquired.   “That you should refrain from eating pork pies for your supper!” he replied.

In open discussions, I have found no shortage of fascination and interest, among all ages; but I have made a point of warning people to think twice before telling others of their dreams – the inner workings of the human psyche are not always for the public domain.

The Hellenistic mystery religions knew supernatural words of knowledge; just as two ladies, in my town, recently, went to a clairvoyant for guidance – for a fee.   Truth and love in Christ Jesus are contrasted with the evil, cruelty, cunning and deception of the Occult.  Horoscopes, Ouija Boards, and the like, are Satan’s counterfeits, which offer information and guidance, at a dreadful price – far beyond coinage.

What about Deja vu – a dream which seems to come true, will always be a common talking point: a schoolboy riding on the handlebars of his friend’s bike, suddenly remembered a dream of the night before – when he had been doing just this very act, but a red car had come from one side, round a corner, putting their lives in danger.   He warned his friend just in time as it really did happen.   Perhaps not particularly a Christian in connotation; or was it?

I once made a rather mistaken train journey to Grange-over-Sands, in Morecambe Bay – I should have gone to Grange in Borrowdale.    At Skipton railway station, a Canadian lady settled in the compartment, and shortly enquired if I was “psychic”.   I am certainly not; but I knew there must be something more to the question.   She had dreamed the night before in the Leeds YWCA, of meeting a man in a railway carriage reading a Bible.    (My friends suggest it must have been a nightmare!)   We talked about Christianity: she was a Baptist and a schoolteacher; her sister was always annoying her by asking, “Do you know Jesus in a personal way?    Are you born again?”   Earlier the train had passed through Cononley, where I had just recently preached on the subject of “Spiritual Regeneration” (being born again), in the Baptist Church.   As a schoolteacher, it was even easier to witness to her.   Was this a word of knowledge to the lady, or a sign?

I must confess that many important decisions in my Christian life, have been preceded by a dream or a vision – which gave confirmation, as I say, rather than guidance.   There was no need to act; rather I gained assurance.

Some examples

On arriving in a new post, I met a Christian man with whom I was to work in a significant way.   I clearly heard the Holy Spirit tell me that this person was like a “walking refrigerator” – this conveyed to me various vital aspects of the man’s personality, which would cause me considerable hardship.   This did much to comfort me in the difficult, but blessed times ahead of us.

A few moments before an urgent after-hours conference at work, I prayed to be in God’s will, and immediately knew what unusual critical issue would be raised.   I wrote it down, and later showed it to one of my bosses.   This was similar to a warning I received of a vicious, verbal, demonic attack, which would take place in a staff meeting.   I was able to deal with the evil, and draw the sting from the onslaught, in advance.   It was still quite spectacular, but completely ineffective – even amusing.

The houses on one side of our street started having power cuts.  We had to ask for help for food stored in the freezer, from friends across the road.  There was much inconvenience.  Whilst walking up the drive next to my house, my attention fixed on a lowered section of the road, caused by frost heave.  I found the engineer working on the problem, and suggested he should come and have a look.  With both hands he took my hand: I had saved him hours of work and guaranteed success.  My atheist neighbours refused to be impressed.

A church worker, I was visiting had lost her back door key.  My attention was drawn to the dog’s basket: there was the key.

Ian Andrews thinks of it as asking God to switch on the television of the mind.   He once observed in a meeting: “Somebody here has kidney trouble,” but no one responded.   When he prayed he saw a person getting up, and a clock showing 3.20.   “You couldn’t sleep last night; you got up at twenty past three, and you had a drink of water.   You had a drink of water out of a pale blue enamel mug with a chip on it.”   Still no acknowledgement!   “Oh yes, and you have pale lemon curtains in your bedroom;” he also saw that the lady had a long flowing nightdress, and long brown curly hair …  A woman shot out of her seat saying, “Say no more you’ll be saying something…”

Canon David MacInnes told of an inter-change visitor from Nigeria, Bill I.S., working in a Birmingham inner-city parish.  He was a Professor of Haematology, with degrees from Oxford, Cambridge and Princeton, and the author of numerous papers, which received world acclaim.   Several years before, he had been converted through his mistress, who stopped the relationship at her own coming to faith.

Whilst in Nigeria, he started to transfer his time from medical work to Christian ministry.   One day, a man came for help; he told a pack of lies and wanted money, and could not tell the same story three times over – as his social worker agreed.   His claim apropos military service was a cover, to his wife and others, for a time spent in prison.   Bill I.S. prayed for help: to face the man with what was wrong with his life; and in a quite extraordinary way there came into his mind a street, a date, a time and an action.   The man had committed a murder at 3 o’clock in a particular street, on a certain day.   “This is what you did, isn’t it?”   But to his amazement the man said, “No, you’ve got it completely wrong!   I know you are a man of God, and I know you have great insight into people, but, no, you’re completely wrong here.   I didn’t do it…   I never saw it.”   Bill found himself praying, “What on earth do I do next?”   Suddenly he found himself, again, aware that God was saying something to him: “Read Acts chapter 5 to him.”   So he read aloud the story of God’s judgement falling on Ananias and Sapphira, and found himself saying – before he had time to weigh his words: “All right, off you go, but you’ll be dead before you get home, but I don’t want to see any more of you.”   The man went down on his knees, and confessed to that murder, and another one.   There started a marvellous work of God in his life.

Tony Fitzgerald tells about the knowledge and wisdom, which came to him whilst preaching in Argentina.   He announced that four women were suicidal and should come out for prayer: only three came.   Unusually, he shouted for the fourth: “Someone else who’s going to commit suicide, come forward!”   Shortly, a lady came in from the street, through the rear doors of the hall, walked to the front, opened her handbag, took out a pistol, and gave it to him – she had been passing in the street, looking for a suitable place to end her life, when she caught the sound of his voice.   (Recorded talk from “Cross Rhythms Festival” Devon, 1998.)

The point is well made here, that this gift is often in tandem with healings.

One has to admit the dangers of people naively claiming to have ‘words of knowledge’, and sowing untold harm.   In 1995 the Evangelical Alliance held a consultation to look into several widely reported cases – in the press and on television – of cavalier words of knowledge, which led to innocent people suffering horrendous anguish.   The main field had been accusations of ritual or sexual abuse: sometimes leading to police enquiries and court cases.   A phenomenon called “false and recovered memories” (“false memory syndrome” in American usage), is at the heart of the matter.   Forty-five professional people, including counsellors, legal experts and psychiatrists, attended the consultation.   Dr Andrew Ferguson, General Secretary of the Christian Medical Fellowship, who presented a paper, said that there was a need for cool heads, more research and clear guidelines; whilst the Evangelical Alliance suggested these would be along the lines of: advice on how to deal with abuse allegations; guidance on when ‘recovered’ memories may be false; training counsellors, with reference to words of knowledge. (As reported in “Alpha” magazine, March 1995.)   There is no doubt that abuse of the young takes place; but the courts are awash with the inability to handle evidence in these cases with certainty, and so obtain safe convictions against the guilty, whilst acquitting the falsely accused.

As I said earlier, it is a comforting fact to bear in mind, that God is discrete.   Peter asked, “Lord, what about him?”  “… What is that to you…” Jesus replied. (John 21:20-23)

Knowledge, then, is quite simply, information about the past, present or future; wisdom knows what to do, say, or think.

How does the communication come from God?  It may be a thought placed in the mind – which can be checked of course, by Scripture reference, because God will never act contrary to His revelation of Himself in the Bible; if it is not the kind of information which has doctrinal, or moral, dimensions, the communication can be checked using the peace of God ruling in our hearts.

As I said, we must remember that the words of the Holy Spirit, the Devil, and ourselves, may form in our minds.   A dream of the night, or a vision when awake, could bring the message.   We must always be on guard against cranks, who falsely claim that God has spoken to them – in the past, whole congregations have been led astray, because there has not been discernment and strong, balanced, informed leadership.   This is a reason for not having a single despotic leadership structure in a Church.   We should always be prepared to seek God’s will for ourselves, with the help of the Elders, and not be swayed by unbalanced or forceful characters in the fellowship.

Sometimes in healing, the communication may come in the form of a sensation of the sickness or condition.

A Christian “woman’s intuition” may be much more seriously “a word of knowledge”.   Both men and women often need encouragement to take note of words of guidance.   However, we also should be aware of the dangers in such areas as criminality, matters covered by law, psychological, and which are health threatening: the answer is to “proceed with caution”.   So far, in my experience, I have never totally and dangerously been reliant on a word of knowledge; and there is the peace of God ruling as confirmation, or not.

A selection of Old Testament references:

I find that, almost every time I read through the Bible, fresh examples come to notice.

The many references to dreams have already been listed.

Genesis 6-9   There was both knowledge and wisdom in Noah’s knowing about the future, and the building of the ark.   Here, as in most experiences of prophecy, both elements are seen.

Genesis 27   Here there is, surprisingly, no word of knowledge: when we might have expected old Isaac to know the truth about the deception.   He had his suspicion, and he followed the ruse with wisdom.   In our experience, we may be amazed at the absence of revelation – when Christians appear to walk in the dark.

Exodus 2:1-10   The actions of Moses’ sister and mother have a touch of humour – but wisdom, there certainly was.

1 Samuel 9 and 10   In these chapters, about the lost asses of Saul’s father, and the anointing of the first King of Israel, we have the spectacular and classic use of these gifts.   To summarise the text would be to spoil the unfolding of the events and the drama of the miraculous – please stop and read them.

2 Samuel 12   The words of the prophet Nathan to King David

1 Kings 3:16-28   The wisdom given to King Solomon to judge the famous case of the two women and their children

19:15-18   Elijah knew there were 7,000 true believers in Israel, and that Hazael, Jehu, and Elisha would fulfil God’s purposes

2 Kings 5:26-27   Elisha became aware of his servant Gahazi’s deception, and the divine judgement

8:10-15   Elisha’s insight into Hazael’s actions and King Ben-Hadad of Amram’s fate

A selection of New Testament references:

Luke 2:25-38   Simeon and Anna, in the Temple, had prophetic insights about the Holy Family

John 1:45-49   Our Lord knew the inner heart of Nathanael, and that he had been sitting under a fig tree, when Philip called him.  This was the typical mark of a prophet or seer.   Perhaps Jesus had “seen” a vision, or had a dream.

John 2:3-5   At the wedding in Cana, Mary had great wisdom to ask Jesus to intervene, and in guiding the actions of the servants.

John 4:13-19,21-24,29, and 39-42 Jesus was informed about the Samaritan lady’s private life, at the Well of Sychar.

Matthew 9:4, 12:25   Here are two examples of Jesus knowing people’s thoughts.

Luke 19:1-10   Jesus knew Zacchaeus’ name, and that He had to stay at his house, and the condition of his heart.

Mark 11: 27-33, 12: 18-27   The challenge on Jesus’s authority revealed His knowledge of the Pharisees’ ploy, and the wisdom to deal with their trick question.   Similarly, with the Sadducees’ question about the resurrection of the dead.

John 11:4,11,14,15,23   Examples from the raising of Lazarus

John 12:7-8   Two comments by Jesus at the anointing in Bethany

John 13v38   The prediction of Peter’s denial

This can be seen as part of the prophet’s capability, or even our Lord’s apostleship

Mark 14:42   Knowing of the betrayer’s approach, and the action to be taken

John 21:22   Jesus refused to give an insight about someone else’s future

Here is the Divine Discretion.

Acts 5:1-11   Peter knew about Ananias of Jerusalem and his wife Sapphira, and the judgement, which would fall on them

Acts 9:11-17   Ananias of Damascus, in being called to visit Saul with guidance for his future

Acts 10:6,19-21,  11:12   The detail of Peter’s address was given by the angel to Cornelius; and Peter’s information about the three men, and the wisdom of knowing what to do, in each case

Acts 14:8-10 Knowing that the man in the crowd had faith to be healed

Acts 20:25,29-31,  21:10-14   Two clear examples of Knowledge and Wisdom being sub-sets of apostleship and prophecy; Paul knew that the Elders of Ephesus would face certain troubles (cf Revelation 2: 1-7) and would not see him again; and the prophecies of Agabus – in each case there was wisdom for action

Words of knowledge are not an excuse for laziness in Bible study, or finding out secular information by hard research.

Some obvious uses:

In evangelism – revealing people’s sin, and their special needs; accompanying gifts of healing – a sign to help in creating faith; revealing sin, and special needs, in the Church, personal guidance in relationships, logistics and in a myriad of different ways; as a sign of God’s presence; in prayer: showing us the heart and mind of Christ.

As with all the gifts, we may do exploits in a limited field: a friend, who probably has numerous words of knowledge in public meetings, often interrupts in private conversations to tell me what I am about to say next – and he is invariably wrong!

More everyday examples

An American farmer, who was a school governor, went to hear the evangelist who had hired the school premises in the evenings.   He became extremely angry as the sermon developed: he thought someone had been telling the preacher about him.

A Methodist Minister had been trying to help a young lady overcome her fear of men.   A picture came to him of a traumatic threat to her.   He told her the details; she acknowledged them to be true, his counselling advised her to acknowledge Jesus’s presence at all times – including during the horrendous experience.   Restoration came to her.

Denise, who was our house group hostess, told of her painful ankle.   Chris the Curate arrived late.   In a time of quietness, he had a word of knowledge about someone with a sore ankle.   After much laughter, there was prayer for her healing.

A member of a visiting team from St Michael-Le-Belfry, York, preparing for a church mission, pointed out a church officer who was living in adultery.

I was told that a boy – whose father was a prison warden – would soon be in prison himself.   This was shortly to be the case.

Wisdom in open air preaching: “Can’t believe it!” said a man; “Don’t say can’t, say wont,” replied the preacher. At an open-air meeting, a drunken man came to the front, and shouted: “If there is a God up there, strike me dead!”   The wise preacher replied: “Now thank Him that he didn’t.”

The concept of the Church as being like a human body implies the interdependence of the parts: we will need others to bless us with their use of the very gift in which we excel.   There is humility in letting others be of service to us.

AN INCISIVE GIFT

[O] DISCERNMENT OF SPIRITS, 7   1 Corinthians 12:10.

1253 Strong, diakriseis, dee-ak’-ree-sis, judicial estimation, discern.

4151 Strong, pneuma, pnyoo’-mah, breath of air, spirit, mind.

diakriseis pneumaton.   An inner knowledge, an identifiable atmosphere, a feeling, or a vision, relating to this narrow field.

It is very close to having a Word of Knowledge, but a more specific area: a subset of the Word of Knowledge.

I would suggest that people are warned of demon activity, and are able to prepare by prayer and exorcism.   The ability also includes recognising the Holy Spirit, and information about human spirits.   Some see a vision, or sign, near people; others discern over many months what the truth is, behind the mask; others hear a word spoken into their mind by the Holy Spirit.

Deuteronomy 2:30   “But Sihon king of Heshbon refused to let us pass through.   For the LORD your God had made his spirit stubborn and his heart obstinate in order to give him into your hands, as he has now done.”

1 Kings 3:9-12    “‘So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.   For who is able to govern this great people of yours?’ … So God said to him, ‘ … discernment in administering justice … a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.’”

John 1:42, 47   The Lord Jesus knew the kind of men Simon Peter and Nathanael were: “ You are Simon son of John.   You will be called The Rock … Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is no Jacob.”

Acts 14:7   The occasion when Paul saw that a man in the crowd, had faith to be healed.

Acts 16:16-18.   At Philippi, Paul discerned an evil python spirit in a fortune-teller – the woman had screamed at them for several days!

Where words of knowledge have related to the Holy Spirit’s presence, the nature of a human spirit, or the working of an unclean spirit, we may well be seeing the gift of discernment of spirits.

There is a process of learning by experience – taking as much care as possible.   All the dunameis, or spiritual powers, are for the glory of Christ, the building of the Church, and the winning of the lost: the blessing of people loved by God.

THE MISSING LINK: TEACHING

The Church has some very fine teachers, but this still remains one of its great omissions.

[P] TEACHER, TEACHING, 11   1 Corinthians 12:28; Romans 12:7; Ephesians 4:11.

1320 Strong, didaskalos, did-as’-kal-os, instructor, master, doctor.

Implications behind the word group

“Teaching” is perhaps the easiest of the words, among the lists of Gifts, to understand, because it is in common daily use in its narrow sense – with no metaphorical connotations.   In Greek it is attested from the time of Homer – from a root “to teach”.    The obvious implications of the various nouns and verbs are: teaching, instructing, imparting information, the passing on of knowledge, the acquiring of skills, both practical and theoretical development, and it can mean to demonstrate – even to rehearse and act.   In dealing with the noun, Kittel suggests that the rational and technical element is always strong, there is a strong intellectual bias with the teaching of skills and the development of innate aptitudes; systematic instruction is central.    Within the Jewish and Christian faiths, it clearly means: interpreting, explaining, and applying the Scriptures.

One must never underestimate the power of teaching by example – “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put into practice”. (Philippians 4:9)

Karl Heinrich Rengstorf, in his contribution to Kittel, noted that the verb appears one hundred times in the Greek Old Testament, where it is concerned with training the whole person.

He also points out that “Teacher” occurs fifty-eight times in the New Testament, 48 are in the Four Gospels: 41 of which refer to the Lord Jesus – 29 are in direct address; once to the Baptist; once of Nicodemus (“you are Israel’s teacher”, John 3:10); and once to the teachers in the temple when Jesus was there as a boy.

In the New Testament the verb appears 95 times: two thirds in the Gospels and Acts, and ten times in the letters of Paul.

Some New Testament Teaching

Our Lord’s speaking is usually divided into Kerugma (Mark 1:14) and Didache: evangelism and teaching.   Of course, the unconvinced needs to see “into” the Kingdom, in the full proclaiming of the Gospel – what the teaching of Jesus will mean for him; and the disciple must ever seek a fuller understanding of the Good News.   Although we enter the Church through a gate named Kerugma – The Message; we continue to look more deeply into its meaning every step of our walk on Earth.   The very nature of the Four Gospels shows that we need a growing instruction in the foundation of our faith.   Incidentally, Hebrews 6:1-3 lists six basic areas of the Christian Faith, in this way:

* Repentance from the deeds which lead to death,

* Faith in God,

* Instruction about baptisms,

* Laying on of hands,

* Resurrection of the dead,

* Eternal judgment.

Teaching, obviously, formed a major part of the Lord’s work:

“Jesus went about all the cities and villages teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every weakness of the body among the people.” (Matthew 9:35, based on Green)   This is the first “cluster” which includes teaching: along with proclaiming and healing; here also there is the distinction between teaching (didache) and proclaiming (kerugma).

The first most striking characteristic of the Lord’s teaching was His authority; the second was His use of parables.   This was not something new; indeed the prophets employed them as in such famous examples as Nathan’s parable to King David, and Hosea’s life experience. (2 Samuel 12:1-25;  Hosea 1:1-4:1; further examples: Judges 9:7-15;  2 Samuel 14:1-21;  1 Kings 11:29-32 ff, 20:37-43;  2 Kings 14:9 ff;  Isaiah 5:1-7, 8:6-8,14,  27:2-3;  Jeremiah 13:12-14;  Ezekiel 15, 16:1 ff, 17:1-24, 19:1 ff, 23:1 ff, 24:3-5).

Classical Greek writers and the Palestinian rabbis favoured them – the latter in a style culturally close to the Jesus.   Professors Tasker and Marshall, writing on “Parables” in “The Illustrated Bible Dictionary”, point out that there are two kinds in the Gospels: the simile with a simple lesson, which could not be taught any other way, and the allegory with its illustrative details – the line between them being rather fluid.   The true disciple of the Saviour will follow His style and example by developing his own parables.   Many teachers of secular subjects will give parallel illustrations to explain a difficult concept: introducing electricity in terms of volume and pressure of water flow; or aerobatics in an aircraft as the force of a giant’s hand on one’s head, and the room moving round you.   “Parable” is used very loosely for a wide range of literary devices intended to make one think and decide about God and His ways.   Hyperbole (exaggeration) and the unexpected may have formed a humorous expression within Jesus’s culture – meaningful jokes certainly form a part of the preacher’s quiver today.   The Apocalyptic Prophecies may be thought of as a form of parable.   The schoolteachers’ famous definition: “A parable is an earthly story, with an heavenly meaning.”    A parable portrays the unportrayable.

TWO MODERN PARABLES

This is a story I have enjoyed telling to children (and the adults always listen).  It is based on a brilliant fiction called “I saw Gooly fly”, by Joseph Bayly, and adapted for my own use.

Once upon a time (all children know what that means) ….

John Gooley was a disaster area: the brakes failed on his bicycle in the Main Street – he crashed it into a shop window and the place was strewn with bodies – tailors’ dummies.  He shook his pen and splashed his teacher’s new white dress.  He nudged the swimming instructor who was chatting to his girlfriend by the pool, and she fell in – fully clothed!  It was about this time when everything changed for him.  We were good friends, but one day we had left it too late to walk the long distance from our classroom to the Dining Room.  The main school building was seven storeys high – on a still day, a cloud of chalk dust could be seen hanging around the fifth floor level.  Gooley opened the window, climbed onto the window ledge, and fell out of sight.  I ran down the stairs looking for help: there was no sign of Gooley, until I found him quietly eating his dinner in the Dining Room.

It slowly dawned on the school that Gooley could fly!  In the Chemistry Lab – on the top floor for obvious reasons, as we lined-up to leave when the bell went, the Master would allow him to open the window, climb onto the ledge and fly down to the ground.  He would purposely miss the school bus; and then fly about a metre above the ground until he caught it up at a road junction, and the driver would let him on with a grin.  A society formed called “The Anti-Gooley club”.  The President would harangue a small crowd standing on a wooden box – Gooley would fly by trying to knock him off.  In the evening you could hear children running along the streets, and then jumping: trying to fly like Gooley.  The President of the Anti-Gooley Club arrived at school with his leg in plaster; everybody knew why.

The Head Teacher, always ahead of things, arranged a visiting lecturer for the whole school: Professor Sikorsky.  The whole school watched: he left the platform using the steps – he could not fly!

In the libraries, all the books on flying had long waiting lists.  We were almost at the point of solving the problem, when the holidays came and we had to wait excitedly for the new term to begin.  But when we came back to school, Gooley was not there: he had left, and gone to a school where everybody could fly!

[This is a form of allegory; and one never gives the explanation!]

Here is the “script” of a parable used only to show how to go from the known to the unknown.

“Is there anyone here this morning who has done aerobatics in a modern military jet fighter trainer?  Very good!  I want you to imagine the experience using this room: the floor is the grey-green ground, the walls are the four horizons, and the ceiling is the bright blue sky!

Captain Neut, a Dutch Fleet Air Arm pilot was willing to let me join him in a test flight.  I was given a flying suit of silk, a May West (life jacket), an inflatable dingy, a parachute (with a reserve chute), and I was told not to touch the red handle of the ejection device above my seat (you might see a certain pessimism here).  We were strapped-in, the large cockpit cover lowered, and we taxied in ungainly fashion, to the end of the runway.  There were final checks, and then Air Traffic Control clearance to take-off.

The brakes were off, and the back of the seat pushes you with the full force of acceleration down the runway.  After a short distance, the floor (ground) falls to become the back wall – we are going straight up into the sky: the blue ceiling like a wall before us.

We level out at several thousand feet.  Firstly we perform several rolls.  There are no physical sensations.  The right hand wall moves to become the ceiling, and then the left hand wall, and finally the floor is back in place.  We make several similar manoeuvres.  (I am asked to make a 30-degree turn to port.)  Now comes the loop: the floor comes up to become the front wall, but there is no sense of it coming closer.  Then comes the painful bit: suddenly the floor in front, becomes the wall behind; and there is the strong sensation of a giant hand pressing down on your head, and your inside feels to be going through the floor!  The sky is in front, until we reach our height again.  You feel sick, tell Captain Neut, and we land quickly!

EPSON scanner image

(There is metaphor and simile, here; but not allegory.)

It is interesting to notice where people taught in the New Testament: in “their” synagogues (rather than in God’s) – implying a detachment from godliness perhaps, in Solomon’s Portico and courts at the Jerusalem Temple – known in Jesus’s boyhood and maturity and to the apostles, fields, the countryside, from a seat in a boat at the water’s edge, mountain plateau, mountainside, his house in Capernaum; and we have Paul in synagogues, market places, homes, school or lecture room – perhaps in the siesta time or evening, in a smoke-filled upper room, Athenian Government Hall, prison, and on board ship.   Jesus is seen as following the style of a rabbi: standing to read the Scriptures, and then sitting to expound and apply them.   As I say, Jesus had a unique authority, which impressed itself on His hearers.   Also in the established style – of the prophets, he used poetry and parable.

All this makes it abundantly clear that the Christian life is about being accurately taught, and passing on that teaching to others – as we shall see.

The first sending of the apostles concluded with the report of all they had “done and taught” – implying: demonstrating the power of the Gospel before teaching it, as in the life of their Lord. (Mark 6:30;  Acts 1:1)

The Great Commission was to pass on our Lord’s teaching; the apostles were soon conscious of a body of doctrine, or tradition of The Faith – not a Tradition added to the Faith.   Notice the two uses of this word: the Orthodox Teaching (Tradition) and the unorthodox additions – it was this false kind, in Judaism, which crucified Christ!

 Matthew 15:3 Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?

Matthew 15:6 he is not to ‘honor his father’’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.

Mark 7:3 The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders.

Mark 7:5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with ‘unclean’ hands?”

Mark 7:13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ

(Matthew 28:20;  Ephesians 4:21;  Colossians 2:7;  2 Thessalonians 2:15)

Teaching is often mentioned as part of the work of apostles, along with evangelism.   Within the writings of the New Testament it is invariably the apostles who are giving the instruction.

Teaching is set in a second cluster: Fellowship, Breaking of Bread, and Prayer. (Acts 2:42)   A London church, which was said to have the finest preaching in the country, but sadly, seemed to have little of the other three.

Five men in the Church in Antioch are called “prophets and teachers”. (Acts 13:1-3)

To be ignorant is to be worldly: like children who are unweaned and still requiring milk rather than solid food – such was the Corinthian Church! (1 Corinthians 3:1-4)

Paul is led to give a severe warning to any who harm the Church – one would think, by introducing immorality, or false teaching: “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.”   Just previously he had spoken of building (meaning teaching) carefully on the foundation, which is Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:10-17)

Near the beginning of his life of service, Paul wrote the two letters to Thessalonian Believers from Korinthos, within a year, or less, of their conversion; the maturity of thinking he expected from these young converts is a stunning feature.   The topics in these two letters are as follows: wide ranging service of Christ, sanctification, holy and worthy living, suffering, love for the Congregation – and everyone, the resurrection of Believers, the return of the Lord Jesus, the judgement of the lost, the Antichrist, counterfeit teaching, honest toil, Church discipline, and a myriad of practical details on Christian living. In each letter he asks them to pray for his work.    When we thing shortly about what should be taught, we might think of this syllabus for the newly converted – even for the children.

Leaving these two early epistles, we turn to The Pastoral Letters – amongst the last to be written, and see how they reveal the apostle’s great concern about teaching in the Church, in the present and in the future.

Timothy was to turn certain egotistical men from teaching false doctrines – which were based on myths and genealogies, and related more to the Old Testament Law.   Paul had a sense of the “sound teaching” which had been entrusted to him. (1 Timothy 1:3-11)

God dealt with Paul so that his life could be an example to Believers – a means of teaching. (1 Timothy 1:16)

In another cluster, Paul describes himself as “a herald and an apostle … and a teacher … to the Gentiles.” (1 Timothy 2:7)

Ladies are to learn in quietness: presumably not debating in the meetings or talking among themselves, as they did in the synagogues and at secular events!   Women teaching Christian Doctrine to the whole congregation are clearly forbidden to do this in Scripture: they are specifically ordered not to teach men, or to be in authority over men in the Church.   Conversely: men are not to receive teaching from ladies, or to sit under their authority.   It may be helpful to bear in mind that teaching is not the only kind of speaking found in church services: there is reporting, encouraging, testifying, a basically eclectic format, and evangelism.   Ladies are commissioned to give themselves to teaching children and other women: what one would think of as being about two-thirds of the church family!  Church Society has a special ministry called “Priscilla”, which develops this area.  What about the many skilled women theologians?   Much of theological communication is eclectic (bringing together and evaluating ideas of others), research data, provocation to doctrinal thinking, didactic of information, which is not doctrinal, and apologetic reasoning (which ultimately relates to proclaiming the evangel).   I would suggest that, in practice, men do find it difficult to accept doctrinal teaching from women: the Holy Spirit will not bless what amounts to disobedience and discord.   Men may go away and think it out for themselves afterwards, but the situation should not have arisen in the first place.   This is clearly not to say that ladies cannot teach men New Testament Greek, the finer points of guitar playing or any non-doctrinal subject – or hold secular executive positions.   Christian Doctrine and Church Government are the points in dispute. (1 Timothy 2:11-15 in context with 3:14-15, ignoring the chapter division)

“Able to teach” is a requirement of an Elder – although, by implication, some would do considerably more than others. (1 Timothy 3:2, 5:17)

The practically minded deacons had nevertheless to be well instructed in “the deep truths of the Faith”. (1 Timothy 3:9)

Just as there will be “super” apostles and pseudo-prophets, we must expect corrupting teachers: “The Spirit clearly says that in latter times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.   Such teaching comes through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been cauterised as with a hot iron,” strong terms indeed.   The Holy Spirit follows this with some examples of the kind of doctrines to expect from these unclean sources, and the suitable style of rebuttal.   “They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by believers who know the truth.   For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and by prayerful fellowship.” (1 Timothy 4:1-5, based on NIV and Green)   In this “forbidding” we also notice the danger of the imperative as opposed to the subjunctive.   Notice the sources of this iniquitous instruction: deceiving spirits, demons, and people who are hypocrites and liars.   We can see this phenomenon within the established churches, and in the heretical cults – those who have known the truth, but since abandoned it.   So we must constantly watch for these misleading teachers.

Also in chapter four, verses 6, 11, 13 and 16 point yet again to the importance of teaching – including by example of life and doctrine.

On numerous occasions, he directed Timothy, also an apostle, to teach; and to develop people who could in turn train other teachers. (1 Corinthians 4:17, 16:10;  1 Timothy 4:11, 6:2;   2 Timothy 2:2, 3:24)

“Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and to teaching.” (1 Timothy 4:13 cf. Green)   Timothy’s ministry, as seen in this fourth cluster, was to comprise of two types of helpful kinds of speaking: to Believers, and the “public reading”.   Four-fifths of the Bible was to hand – the Old Testament, plus the first New Testament documents – which were beginning to be recognised and circulated. (2 Peter 3:15-16)   We should note this place given to the reading of the Scriptures in meetings: it would not be a short passage; the context suggests an hour or so of reading from the scrolls – taking us through about a third of Isaiah or of a book of the Law, along with several of the Psalms – as in synagogue services today.   This concept requires a radical alteration in our present-day meetings: the kerugma and didache should be balanced by the reading of God’s Word!

Chapter five includes the synonyms: exhort or instruct, for teaching in verses 1, 11, and 16.   Verse 17 shows two areas of speaking – “labouring in the Word and teaching” – to be obvious parts of the Elders’ service, and that they should receive payment for service. (4: 18)

Seven mentions of teaching or synonyms appear in chapter six.   Here Paul explains the evils of false teaching, and its origins – including the desire for financial or social gain.   In nineteenth century Rochdale, there was the saying about some Ministers of religion: “more interested in the fleece than the flock!”

2 Timothy 1 contains another cluster: herald, apostle and teacher; and refers to the established “pattern of sound teaching” (1:11-13)

2 Timothy 2 finds the theme continued; including the need to counter the false doctrine that the Resurrection has passed. (2:2,15,17-18, 24 ff)

Counteracting heresy was an area of teaching to which Timothy was often directed: “Those who oppose him (the Lord’s servant) he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:25-26)   (Gentleness is very much the hallmark of the true Christian – as seen in the New Testament.)   We might have imagined that the Corinthian Congregation, with its many failings and excesses, might have been dismissed as hopeless by the Holy Spirit; or that the Galatian Church having fallen headlong into an idea of “salvation by works” (a heresy prevalent in the established denominations today), would be beyond redemption; but in each instance, as with the instruction to Timothy, the apostle is led to see hope through accurate teaching.   Indeed, as the very examples prove, heresy actually makes the truth stand out more clearly.   The Holy Spirit takes us carefully through the complex issues troubling Corinthian Believers; and the crucial doctrine of salvation by faith is made precise in the Galatian letter.   Even the apostles Peter and Barnabas had to be delivered from heresy!

Again we find a list, which includes our subject: teaching, way of life, purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, and sufferings. (3:10,11)

The use of the Scriptures is seen in a wide related array: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”   Here also is the purpose of teaching – in these last words. (3:14-16)

Chapter 4:2-4, gives a useful analysis of teaching: “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.”   Again it is against the onslaught of false doctrine, which perverse, or ill informed, congregations can encourage.

As already mentioned, the letters from the older Paul are dominated by a cry for teaching, this is an impressive aspect of this subject: he saw it as the prime need.   The fifteen verses of Titus chapter two contain 14 mentions in some form, or another.

Titus chapter 2:1 Titus is enjoined to be sound in his doctrine – highlighting the danger of straying into falsehood.   His life must be exemplary; his teaching must be with integrity, seriousness, well thought out in acceptable words (without affectation, and logical, suggests J. B. Phillips) – leaving his enemies ashamed and with nothing to throw against him. (2: 7-8)   The exemplary Albert Davies, at the Fenton Street Gospel Hall, would spend an hour thinking out his message, and an hour finding the best words to make it understood.

2:2 Specifically he is to guide the older men into godly living

2:3 ff Similarly, the older ladies are to be instructed in holiness.   Especially they are called to train the younger women in blameless living

2:6 ff Young men are singled out as needing teaching in self-control.   They must be encouraged and taught by example

2:9-10 Paul is concerned with the special needs of Christian slaves: that they might understand the outworking of holiness in their unique circumstances (we should transpose this teaching to employees, also)

2:12 ff The Grace of God teaches all to aspire to godliness.

A leading member of the church in Rwanda and Burundi said that a major factor in the horrendous genocide was the lack of open moral teaching in the Christian congregations.   Here, in this chapter, in virtually the last of Paul’s letters, we find this list of qualities encouraged: temperate balanced life-style, worthiness of respect, self-control, soundness in faith, love and patient endurance, reverent in behaviour, without slander, not addicted to much wine, teachers of the good, love of marriage partner and children, purity, busy in the home (wives), kindness, submission of wives to husbands, doing what is good, the qualities of a good teacher – integrity, seriousness, rationality and good presentation, submission to masters/bosses at work, aiming to please employers, not answering back or stealing (billions of pounds were lost in Britain, in 1997, through internal theft in industry and commerce), trustworthiness, commending the Christian teaching, saying no to ungodliness and worldly passions, uprightness, and godliness.   All this is built on the foundation of the Old Testament morality viewed in the light of Jesus’s instruction.   Thirty aspirations!

False teachers were not absent.   Jewish heretical teaching is one example, which created a problem in Crete. (Titus 1:10-16)

James 3:1-3, “Not many of you should be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.   We all stumble in many ways.   If anyone is never at fault in what they say, they are a perfect person, able to keep the whole body in check.”

Two dozen points to consider

A person with this gift will always add to our understanding.   Some who are misguided into teaching, will subtract from our grasp of doctrine – we go away feeling that we know less than when the experience started.

Some of the hardest tests for teachers are presented by the most difficult passages of the text.   I remember taking a group through the Knosis concept in Philippians 2, only to find that the Tyndale Commentary, which we then looked at, made me apply my mind more carefully.   Even Oskar Cullmann writing in Kittel on the “Petros” and “Petra” of Matthew 16:18, gives the two conflicting interpretations, and many so-called teachers will bring the same confusion.   The two words can be interchangeable, but also refer to a massif, and to a building stone, respectively; one is feminine, the other is masculine.   To trace the statement back to Aramaic/Hebrew parallelism would still require two synonyms.   Punning was very much the equipment of the Old Testament prophet (Micah 1:8-14 Moffatt).   To dramatise the conversation, and see the two separate subjects referred to – the nickname; and the Messianic Confession – is to make crystal clear that the intended pun is not making Peter the foundation of the Church.   Deuteronomy (32:4) and Isaiah (26:4, 44:8) call God the Rock, “the Rock eternal”.   The Post-Apostolic Fathers and the Apologists saw Christ, or God, as the Rock on which the Church was built.  (Kittel Vol VI, pp 95-99 and 100-112)

References to the finer points of the Greek and Hebrew texts are often necessary – to clarify a translation in the English Versions; but we need to be aware of our limitations and avoid unsound deductions based on limited skill and research.   We should use and quote respected textbooks, including commentaries – helping our congregations to use them also.

Heresy is only one step of human logic from sound doctrine.

One of the great sadnesses is that ranting and raving incoherence is tolerated as a substitute for clear biblical doctrinal teaching.   Uninformed passion is not enough.   Poor exegesis should have no place.

Another sadness is when teachers bend doctrine because of vested interest: ambition, concern over loss of income or status, personal circumstances, possible difficulties, or dogmatically held beliefs, which are truly in conflict with the whole tapestry of Scripture.   A close missionary friend of mine changed his doctrinal concepts – for the better.   This meant losing his total denominational support, at a critical time; but he had the courage to be open and honest.   God wonderfully provided for him – his new Fellowship gave him a house!

Virtually the same is compromise of biblical doctrine: in the university or school Common Room, in the work-place, or to popular thought, consensus of national feeling, or even within the local church.   Sometimes it becomes almost impossible to stand against a new and popular false teaching.   It is like the fairy tale: in which only the innocent little boy will tell the truth which reveals the cunningly fabricated myth about the Emperor’s new clothes!   Bringing every thought into subjection to Christ is the answer to all destructive forces – both satanic and earthly. (2 Corinthians 10:1-6)

Courage is required of every teacher.   With a touch of humour, one might think of David Pawson speaking to the Women’s Aglow in Belfast, on the subject of the subjection of women in the Church.   Or, more seriously, those who at times in history, have been called to present Jesus’s words to rulers, governments, leaders and monarchs.   Martyrdom is the price some have paid.

Even if he is not better equipped intellectually than his students, the teacher can give his heart, his affection, and himself to them.

All who speak in public are well advised to have voice training, or risk the early curtailing of their ministry.   The production of low notes from behind the lower teeth, rising to higher notes at the roof of the mouth and then back into the throat for still higher, can bring considerable enjoyment to both singing and speaking.   To hum a tune or two, each morning is a “sound” discipline.   Deep breathing, and holding breath for ten seconds, should also be developed.

A challenging exercise for all of us is to recollect how we learnt various truths – something to occupy our minds when unable to sleep at night.   Shortly before conversion, I recollected two vital passages of the Bible: Matthew 7:7 and John 14:6 – just the words, not the references.    Where had I learnt them: perhaps in Sunday school, or during a sermon?

Within his or her individual limits, a good teacher can teach something about anything to anybody.   Derek Prince, recollecting his days as a Teacher Training College Principal, said: “Nothing is taught until it is learnt.”   If a student, or listener, cannot understand the teacher, it is the instructor’s fault, not the student’s.

Generally, the Church is suffering from under-teaching.   There are obvious reasons for this in the persecuted Church, but the issue also requires our attention in the free world.   Each congregation must find its solution.   Does the Sunday morning service allow for an extended acceptable effective teaching period – of at least half an hour?   Are well-organised house groups the answer?   Para-church organisations can provide Saturday morning teaching programmes, and many other formats, which should be used to the full; and encouraged.   Specially constructed courses, a series on important topics, weekend events, holiday-time conferences (which have seen great success), audio-visual libraries, the Internet recordings and notes – which encourage people to learn in their own time and at their own speed, with a repeating of the course to bring a greater understanding (“understand” is a key word group in the New Testament), mid-week expositions (with refreshments); all these and more should be considered.   Each generation will be innovative.  Church study groups will probably generate their own syllabuses.

Designing a syllabus is a difficult task, because a church has many ability groups, and does not last for a mere three or four years – as a school or college process of tuition.   Here then is a suggested list for starters:

  1. An introduction to basics – such as a study of The Gospel According to Mark, the scope in Paul’s two letters to the Thessalonians, the list in Hebrews 6:1-3, or one of the numerous modern courses
  2. Over many years, an introduction to all the books of the Bible, and a detailed study of them
  3. Again over many years, an introduction to the major doctrines of the Church – the following list may give some ideas

Evidence for the existence of God

The nature and authority of the Scriptures: God’s opinion

The Nature of God as revealed in the Bible

The Divine Names

The Father, Son and Spirit relationship

God and His Creation

The Person and Work of Christ:

Divinity and Sonship

Messianic Old Testament Prophecy

The Incarnation

The Humanity of Christ

The Life of Christ

His Teaching: content and methods

His Signs, Wonders and Miracles

The Atoning Death

The Descent into the Place of the Dead

The Resurrection

The Ascension

Christ’s Present Work

His Coming Rule through Eschatology

The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit:

His Personality and Deity

His Titles in Scripture

His Work in the Sinner – in the World, before conversion

His Work in the Church

His Work in the Believer – Sealing, Fulness, Fruit, Gifts

The Nature of the Church:

The One Church – the Body of Christ

The Nature and Logistics of the Local Congregation

Our Place in the Church

The Kingdom of God

The Essential Nature of man:

The Fall

The Nature of Sin

Guilt and Punishment

The Wrath of God

God’s Eternal Purpose, Election, and human free will

The Kerugma/Kerygma – the Gospel Message:

Justification

Law and Grace

Predestination and Foreknowledge

Eternal security and perseverance

Baptism

Baptism in the Holy Spirit and Sealing

The history, nature, work and end of Satan

Our means of victory over him

The Last Things:

God’s plan for Human History in Prophecy

The Jews and the Church

The Gospel into all the World

The Antichrist

The Lord’s Return

The Millennium

The Last Battle

The Resurrections

Rewards

Judgments

The City of God – Heaven

Important Areas of Christian Living:

Worship

The Bible: reading, study, meditating, and memorising

The relation of the Old and New Testaments

Prayer

Witnessing – Telling others

Missiology

The Spirit-filled life

Fruit of the Spirit

Holiness and Sanctification

Obedience

Faith

Repentance

Forgiveness

Suffering

The Submissions: home, church, work, country

Guidance

Assurance

Angels and demons

Healing

Christian character

The Christian in the family

Money and rules for giving

Prosperity and Poverty

Work

Awakening and Revival

Fasting

Victory

Counselling

Founding a new fellowship

Loneliness

Bereavement

Old People in the Church

Conflict in the Church

Justice and social responsibility

Creationism versus Evolutionism

Christianity and Science

Current Apologetics

Christian morality

Christian morality against the current World Consensus

Christianity against heresies

Christianity against the occult

Christianity against World religions

Christianity against the World’s philosophies

Christianity and Academic Disciplines

Biblical Archaeology

The Church and the Media

The Church and the Creative Arts

The Church and Music

An introduction to Theology

An introduction to Church History

Famous preachers and their sermons

The art of preaching

Leading various kinds of services

Study in Greek and Hebrew

[About 115]

I have drawn on T. C. Hammond’s book: “In Understanding Be Men”, IVF/IVP, first published in 1936.   There are many similar publications, which give an idea of the scope of what is called Christian Doctrine.   The word “theology” infers different ideas to different people: sometimes it is a synonym for objective biblical doctrine – sometimes a very secular creative entertainment for academics.   This should be borne in mind when obtaining books for study – the reputation of the publishing house is usually a good guide.   Prospectuses of theological colleges, and like-minded organisations can give guidance.

There are books on virtually every current subject; including many in the form of a group or personal study.   “Search the Scriptures”, IVP, since 1949, has been widely employed for Bible studies (personal, and group).   The staffs in Christian bookshops are always ready to advise.

If your church leader thinks he or she can cover all the subjects, they are probably the wrong person for the task.   Other fellowships may be asked to supply experts in particular fields, theological colleges perhaps will have courses – on-site, or distance learning, or be able to suggest a lecturer who will visit and run a course.

“Theological Education by Extension” (the acronym is TEE), is a format, which takes Christians in other countries forward; but the British church seems blissfully left behind!   “Study by Extension for All Nations” (acronym SEAN) is one of several TEE agencies.   Believers of all abilities and at all stages of growth are provided with training facilities.   “TEE was one of the most significant missiological breakthroughs of recent decades.   The Western pattern of residential seminars and Bible colleges for training Christian workers was proving too costly, slow and not necessarily training those best fitted for ministry in the rapidly growing Church in other parts of the World.

“TEE started in Latin America as a means of training pastors while in the ministry.   It has rapidly spread round the World and diversified into distant learning courses at all levels from basic to degree-earning, often supplemented by travelling lecturers, cassettes, videos, web sites, and a wide range of relevant biblical, pastoral and social concern courses.   By 1980 there were 250 known evangelical TEE centres with over 27,000 students around the World” (p 607, “Operation World”, OM, 1993).   One of its advantages is that it operates for groups of people, not just for individual students.

The American, ICI University, linked with Regents (Elim) Theological College in Cheshire, UK, is designed for individual use only, but does range from the basic level to degree qualification.   ICI has offices in 127 countries and has 14,000 students on roll, and is often used by young American Christians living abroad.

Christians must be directed into serious personal Bible study at a suitable level.   Memorising passages of Scripture is crucial.  “Warner laments the lack of biblical literacy among British Christians today … ‘Evangelicals don’t know the Bible very well’.” (“Christianity Magazine”, pp 29 ff, April 1998)

Although the reading of instructive books is important, some perspective is obvious: if I were God, and I saw believers reading piles of Christian publications more than the Bible I would weep!   (How does God react when the Bible comes well down a reading list: below newspaper, novels, secular periodicals, professional textbooks and journals, and even horoscopes!)

Not every Christian leader is a teacher; full use must be made of those within a Congregation, and the wider church, who have this gift – with every encouragement given for their development.

The introduction of a common Lectionary (set readings covering much of the Bible over a period of time – three years, for example) among Methodists, Anglicans and Roman Catholics, is promising.   There are, however, several dangers inherent here.   The preacher may feel that on his sixth time through, he has an original and inspired insight: careful checking will reveal that the congregation are hearing the same sermon for the seventh time!   Lectionary readings will often need a concentrated introduction to give them any meaning and sense of context, but the enthusiasm for a greater reading of the Scriptures cannot be bad.   The editing of the biblical texts by certain versions of the Lectionary is insidious, and should be overruled.   Members can be encouraged to read the full chapter at home.   “The Bible Reading Record”, published by Scripture Gift Mission International, is a considerable help, and ensures that we wittingly read the whole counsel of God, as does “Our Daily Bread”, produced by The Radio Bible Class.   To meet Christians of some maturity, and positions of leadership in the Church, who have not knowingly read the whole Bible, is unbelievable – to have read the Scriptures through several times in the last decade, is more appropriate.   Some parts of the Bible require careful monitoring for public reading.   I remember phoning the vicar for assurance that he did indeed want the passage dealing with Abraham’s nightlife read at the evening service – he did.   There is the famous occasion when Ahmed Deedat, the cunning and sly Muslim debater, challenged an American evangelist to publicly read a sordid passage from Ezekiel – illustrative of Israel’s spiritual unfaithfulness.  Ahmed lost his bet and paid up.

This suggests then that in addition to an on-going programme of the Lectionary passages, which can be thought of as giving balance to a meeting: the congregation will in fact benefit from the kind of comprehensive syllabus already mentioned.   Such a scheme of teaching will cover: the exposition of most of the Bible (Chuck Smith suggests this is the major element for church growth), a systematic approach to the great themes of Christian doctrine, a serious look at morality, and important topics.   I was once invited to join a team of young preachers, under the leadership of an older man.   In committee it was decided to proceed through the Book of Acts in the morning services, and look at The Mountains of the Bible, in the evenings.   The latter filled me with mild horror, but the discipline of doing something not of my own choosing, was beneficial indeed.   At Bible College, students would ask: “What use is there in preaching this sermon to only a small student body?”   It was pointed out that through these students, we were influencing thousands who would in the future be served by them.

Also sad, is when the pressure of a teaching programme, requires us to only read the Scriptures to find our next message, as opposed to being part of our own devotions.

“Controversial” is often taken as a complement regarding a Bible teacher.   Here we should proceed with caution.   A speaker may use a style of address, which invites debate with the introduction of seemingly controversial questions – a most valid stimulation, indeed.   Others, quite correctly, may produce such a searing orthodoxy, that many of us are brought into line, somewhat painfully.   But others will teach their own thoughts, and ideas which are far from Scripture: such are courting heresy; and we must reject this – however compelling and eloquent.

Finally, six classical Jewish Proverbs and a verse from a Psalm:

“He who scorns instruction will pay for it,

but he who respects a command is rewarded.”

“Every prudent person acts out of knowledge,

but a fool exposes his folly.”

“The tongue of the wise commends knowledge,

but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.”

“The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge;

the ears of the wise seek it out.”

“It is not good to have zeal without knowledge,

nor to be hasty and miss the way.”

“Apply your heart to instruction

and your ears to words of knowledge.”

“I have hidden your word in my heart

that I might not sin against you.”

(Proverbs 13:13,16; 15:2; 18:15; 19:2; 23:12;   Psalm 119:11)

ENTER THE MIRACULOUS

First of all, we look at the gift of faith

Read the text with care!

[Q] FAITH, 3     1 Corinthians 12:9

4102 Strong, pis’-tis, conviction, assurance, belief, faith

Four examples:

Luke 8:22-25   Faith: The Calming of he Storm

Mark 5:36   Faith: The raising of the little girl

Mark 10:52   Faith: Blind Bartimaeus receives his sight

Matthew 21:18-22   Faith: The Withering of the Fig Tree

  1. Everybody has faith, and it is normal to use it in daily life.
  2. We become Christians by faith.
  3. Prayer is a normal exercise of faith for Christians.
  4. There is a special dimension of faith – a Gift of the Holy Spirit.

The three gifts: Faith, Healings, and Working of Miracles, are obviously closely related, and often difficult to tell apart.   A healing can be a miracle of power, or a prayer of faith.   We may view FAITH as the overall gift, with Working of Miracles as a sub-set, and Healings as a sub-set of both.   In the 1 Corinthians 12:27 ff list, there is a defined order for Apostle, Prophet, and Teacher; “workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healings”, follow these – which could imply a continuation of the order of importance: including the relationship between these two mentioned gifts.   Only careful observation, experience, and revelation, will importantly lead to recognition of which divinely given charisma is being employed.   It is important to identify precisely, because the “greater” gift may imply a wider ministry, and, therefore, a greater good.

For each person with this gift there will be a distinctive design: special areas, limitations, and, above all, the Sovereignty of God.   Within the Body of Christ’s people, there must be submission to the divinely ordained leaders; and the aim is always, the building-up of God’s people.

We serve a Higher Authority, Who requires us to deliver His blessings to others: like the Centurion (Luke 7:8-9) who recognised the chain of command.   We must always have God’s orders before us: both written, and through His Spirit.   The words of the centurion to Jesus: “‘For I also am a man subject to daily authority, with soldiers under me; I say to one, Go! and he goes; and to another, Come! and he comes; and to my slave Do this! And he does it.’   Now when Jesus heard this He marvelled at him, and turned and said to the crowd that followed Him: ‘I tell you, not even in [all] Israel have I found such faith [as this].’” (Based on the Amplified Version.)   The man understood that the orders he issued were required by a higher command.   So we are all required by the Father to bring healing, faith works, and miracles to people – in obedience to specific commands.   Do you agree, that we that we are like “the middle man” in commerce?

A yacht works because it has sails and a keel: with forces reacting together.   The keel tends to keep it upright; but with only a keel, it would go no-where.    With only sails, it would blow over.

The writers of Kittel are totally taken-up with the larger implications of general Faith, and rightly so.

A Note on Kittel

An American academic, no-doubt a fine Christian lady in other areas, has made a virulent attack on Kittel.   A recording of her talk has, in my opinion done no good, though its circulation in our town.   The lady recommends only the King James translation of the Bible, and appears not all that familiar with “The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament”.

The attempt to defame this ten-volume work is based on the fact that Gerhard Kittel was a Nazi sympathizer, and that after WWII he was placed under house arrest.   How far this might have influenced his editing of only the first four volumes, it is difficult to ascertain, if, indeed, any colouring does exist.   Professor F.F.Bruce, who carefully checked the work, in both German and English, was a member of an European Brethren Assembly, also attended by a Christian near relative of Adolf Hitler, and Bruce would have been better placed than most, to make such value judgments.   FFB would have been most sensitive to any fascist presence.

In any case, the details are important: Gerhard Kittel began the compilation in 1928.   Later, after arrest and banishment, he returned to his house in Tubingen.   He died in 1948, having brought together the large number of articles for the first four volumes.   In an almost patriarchal way, on his deathbed, he handed the baton to Gerhard Friedrich – who edited the last six books.   It should be understood that a large team of theologians actually undertook the research, and their names are placed after each article, or part of an article.   In the prefacing notes, it is requested that each writer is individually acknowledged, when a paper is referred to.   Even though Rudolf Bultmann is among the contributors, for instance, the discipline required of the studies is such that, his scholarship, and not his theology, is evident.

Certainly discernment must always be employed, but the politics of the editors are hardly an issue.

Destructive criticism is much easier to dispense than constructive assessment.   In logic, it is said that the argument of an “expert” will not always be, automatically, correct – only that they have a right to an opinion.   To prohibit this scholarly work is to limit a healthy study of the text of the New Testament; to forbid all translations except the King James is to place a stumbling block in people’s path.   A high percentage of Bible commentators, including Evangelicals, refer to Kittel.

A consideration of the word “Amen”

This is one of the most international of words, as Artur Weiser points out in TDNT.   In both English and Greek we have an imitation, or transliteration of the original Hebrew word.   Aw’mane

Statistically “Amen” is the fourth most used word for “faith” in the Old Testament.   “Taking God with unremitting seriousness,” is Weiser’s helpful note.   It is very much a confession of a relationship with God: “I believe and trust in God, totally.”   In Anglican liturgies: “I believe in God” is often used with exemplary correctness.   It is faith in God, on the basis of His clearly given promises – not in man’s invention of what God is like, or in promises we have foolishly made-up or assumed in carelessness or ignorance.   We have in reality: God’s ability to fulfil, linked with our worship and obedience.

In the New Testament and the LXX, the Greek word “pisteuein”, “to believe in”, is the equivalent of “amen”.   “Amen” is of far deeper significance than “I agree”, or “Yes” – a common usage.   Sometimes we reduce it merely to a form of punctuation.   The Hebrew root includes nuances of “amen” such as: build-up, support, to parent, to nurse, faithful, trust, believe, permanent, quiet, true, certain, assurance, establish, long continuance, steadfast, sure, truly, and verified.   The word is developed in Psalms, and Isaiah is the Prophet of Faith.   In the book of the prophet Jonah, the Ninevites “amened God”.   Artur Weiser writes: “We thus see an expansion … to embrace the relationship with God and the whole attitude of a life lived in faith (Habakkuk 2:4;  Jeremiah 7:28).   Also there is the idea of the absoluteness, and exclusiveness of true religion related to the true God.”

As mentioned earlier, human beings exercise faith continually – it is a vital part of life.   We trust buildings, vehicles, chairs, cooking, and even other people!   Faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, however, brings about the most momentous event yet known to humanity.   In this domain, Ephesians 2:8-9 is often read: “For by grace are you saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any one should boast.”

J.B.Phillips translates it as: “… it was God’s gift of grace which saved you.”   The same thought is stressed by Francis Foulkes (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries): “It seems better, however, especially in the light of parallelism [a carry-over from Hebrew poetry] between verse 8 and verse 9 (“not of yourselves … not of works”) to take all the qualifying clauses in contrast to salvation by grace.”

I have taken the time to look at the statement in Ephesians, because the concept of the Spirit’s gift of Faith is not being discussed in this verse.   Those who think it is, bring confusion to the question of Faith.   Looking at the First Century Church, it is clear that there is a faith, which all can exercise; and a special miraculous faith, given to certain Believers, as God decides in His Sovereignty.  In Jude the term, “the Faith”, refers to the Confessional Doctrine of Belief.

The Principal of Ridley College Melbourne, Canon Leon Morris, brings his rich understanding as a New Testament scholar, to the issue: (on 1 Corinthians 12:9) “The difficulty here is that whereas ‘faith’ is characteristic of all Christians (they may be spoken of simply as ‘believers’).   Paul is limiting it (in 1 Corinthians 12:9) to a certain group to whom it comes as a special gift.   There is no difficulty about the idea of faith being a gift: all faith must be reckoned as God’s good gift to men.   The difficulty is in seeing what this special faith is over against the common faith that all believers have.   Unfortunately there is little to guide us.   Paul proceeds to speak of things like healing and the working of miracles, so that that probably he has in mind a special faith which is associated with miraculous operations (cf. 13:2, ‘though I have all faith, so as to remove mountains’).”  (Tyndale Press New Testament Commentary on 1 Corinthians, 1958.)

We might see this gift of Faith in the ministry of Intercession, faith for miracles, faith for healings, believing for God to intervene in personal, church, or international areas.   It is being so assured of God’s will, that nothing can prevent it happening: it is a certainty, our prayer is irreversible, there is no alternative.   It is the knowledge that He wishes to hear our prayer – wants to answer in the affirmative, more that we long for it.

We should quickly learn to discern when God is committed to granting our request; and stop our pleading: replacing it with thanksgiving, praise and worship.   Ideally, prayer should not be an expression of worry or superstition.

Concern about how much faith we need is disastrous – our vision should be filled with the unlimited power of Yahweh.   Jesus told us that we do not need a Mount Hermon sized faith (a huge area like Wales), but only the minute dimension of a mustard seed.   Sometimes, God only needs a nod-and-a-wink, because His own desire to answer is so great.

One of the clearest examples happened in our church c. 1980.   One of the Elders was a businessman and his warehouse was burgled of a thousand pounds’ worth of stock.   A visiting Evangelist offered to pray for him, and there was a dynamic about the prayer: there was an inevitability that God would act.   A young man who worked for the firm – although he was under age – was drinking in a local public house, and overheard a local dealer selling cut-price material.   This led to a police raid on the criminal’s garage, from which most of the stolen items were recovered.

David Pawson tells of an orphanage near Tokyo, which needed to expand, but a steep impossible mountain stood in the way.   Whilst the staff members were away on a month’s holiday by the sea, the City Council took it away for landfill, to reclaim an area near the harbour.

The nineteenth century saw some great leaders in the realm of faith: C. T. Studd, Hudson Taylor of the China Inland Mission, and George Muller.

To give details of the latter: George Muller

This nineteenth century altruistic worker eventually ran five large orphanages in Bristol, without ever asking publicly for funds or help.   Within his lifetime he received one and a quarter million pounds, in answer to prayer.   It was known for him to say grace for a meal before scores children, with no food in hand.   Invariably, a deliveryman would be at the door, with an excuse for being late, and a large gift of suitable provisions.   When he died, the streets of the city were lined with mourners, in his honour.   He was travelling across the Atlantic, on a preaching tour, when the ship was delayed by fog off the coast.   He told the Captain, that if God wanted him there, the fog would be cleared; and it was.

The wonderful faith-gift of great missionaries led to some confusion in the next century.   Young people entering missionary work felt they should live by a similar dimension of faith.   Operation Mobilization had to formulate clear guidance on realistic support from the sending churches.

So then: knowing the mind of God – the Culture of the Kingdom – which comes with a commitment to reading the Scriptures, is essential.   I would recommend reading the Bible through each year: 3 chapters daily, with 5 on a Sunday, will just about do it!

[R] GIFTS OF HEALINGS, 4th and 5th in the two lists: 1 Corinthians 12:9 and 1 Corinthians 12:28

2386 Strong, iama, ee’-am-ah, cures, healings

5486 Strong, charisma, khar’-is-mah, gift

xarismata iama

I have not had a ministry of healing, and I appreciate the obvious reasons why this had to be so, having in mind the kind of evangelism I was called to.   Healings would have given me an unfair advantage in the environment, given me a great responsibility to devote time to the sick, and made my work impossible.   We attended Bridge Street Foursquare Gospel Church, a few years after Smith Wigglesworth’s frequent visits.   Members of his family were still in the congregation, and there were many “recollections of his activities”.   Indeed, the large fellowship (500 on a Sunday evening) had been founded during the heady days of healing revival in the 1920’s, which had been front-page news in the Leeds papers – 2,000 were converted in ten days.   In 2003 the church had four Ministers and two morning services.  It had acquired an adjacent building for offices, and has now moved to the large site of an old Comprehensive School (Bridge Street Pentecostal Church).   Obviously, I have known many people who have been miraculously healed by God, and on at least three occasions have experienced healing.

Note that there is no article and it is plural; some think this implies gifts to heal certain kinds of illnesses: such as a person with a gift to heal cancer, or blindness.   I met a Pastor of the Pentecostal Church at Caen, Normandy (1979-80) who was particularly blessed in healing blindness.   There is also the implication, that each healing – within this gift of the Spirit – is especially dedicated for just one healing at a time.   It is not standing outside a hospital, and calling, “Everybody out!”   Miracle Working and Faith have a wider scope of course.

It is not praying for sick people in the hope that they might suffer less, or recover “somehow”: it is bringing healing from God.

There will often be an element of MYSTERY.

Canon Professor Leon Morris writes in the Tyndale Press Commentary on 1 Corinthians (1958): “There is no article with ‘gifts of healing’ (nor with any other item in this list).   The effect is to fasten attention on the quality of the gift, rather than its individuality.   ‘Healing’ is plural in the Greek, which perhaps means there were ‘healings’ for various kinds of sickness and disease.” (p. 171)

Details of the words used, and the background of healing in the Greco-Roman era

In the “iaomai” (ee am’ah) group of words there is a wide range of associations: to wait on someone menially, to worship and adore God, but especially to relieve of disease, cure, heal, make whole, save, deliver, protect – there is an etymological link with “Iaso” (ee-aso), the healing daughter of the god of healing in mythology: Therapeia (which gives us “therapeutic”).   Here there is the implication of attendance, healing, and a household domestic.   “Soterion” implies: uncorrupted health, deliverance, that which is beneficial, a festive time, salvation, and a salvation offering.

Primitive man seems to have linked illness to some form of spiritual attack.   Before 2,000 BC there was an accumulation of medical knowledge in both Greece and Egypt: leading to the later establishment of the eminent medical schools.   Luke, the Gospel writer, may have studied in Alexandria (although his Alexandrian Greek may have come more directly from a saturation in the Septuagint Greek of the translation of the Old Testament, which was completed in the Alexandrian area, Third Century BC).   The period beginning 600 BC saw the recognition and organisation of doctors, which crystallized in the famous “Hippocratic Oath” (Hippocrates c. 420 BC).

The god of healing, in Greek culture was Aesculapius (or Asclepieios), which gave Aesculapieon (or Asclepieion) as the name of temple complex dedicated to healing: the Medical Centre of the time.   I find the second spellings, of the guidebooks, easier to say.    Cast, or carved models of the poorly parts, were hung in the temple and are now displayed in the archaeological museum in Ancient Corinth. (This excavated site is three and a half miles from the modern city.)   These are thought to be “thank” offerings for healings that have taken place; but my own theory is that they are prayer tokens to the god – for healing.   On the map of first century Korinthos, the Medical Centre can be seen next to the Athletics Complex – the Gymnasium, with the distinctive shape of the Running Track.   Paul the apostle may have visited this area frequently with leather goods – they were used in several sports: boxing – covering for the hands and punch bags, javelin throwing – wrapped round the staff to assist the throw, and armour in fighting.   It is not surprising that he illustrates his letters with several parallels between the spiritual life and the Games.   Indeed, the view from the Portico of the Medical Centre, with the models of the dismembered parts, towards the athletes on the track, may have contrasted for him, the living body of the balanced church, with the dysfunctional divided congregation.

Surgical instruments and remedies were developed, but the mystical ethos of the “Hospital” was utilised to the full.   There was the importance of the laying on of hands, and touching with spittle – certainly of an eminence such as the Emperor Vespasian, or the Emperor Hadrian.   Testimonies could be read whilst waiting, and humour was recognised as having a value, as in the Old Testament Book of Proverbs.   There may be similar material available in the waiting rooms today.   There were doctors in the ancient world who created a semi-divine mode, and no doubt secretaries who saw themselves as demi-gods!  (TDNT, Albrecht Oepke, wrote the main definitions used here.)

“In Palestinian Judaism of the time there were no workers of miracles, nor were there any who were honoured as such.”  Schlatter, TDNT, Vol. III, p. 129) In the following centuries there were surprisingly few instances on record of healings – in answer to prayer – in the synagogues. (ibid)

A friend returning from preaching in Ghana, observed: “It is expected that the ill are healed there, whereas, here in Britain it is the exception!”

A close friend, a fine evangelist, prayed for an elderly lady – only to find, to his surprise, that her back was healed.   In the Book of Acts, healing was often part of the evangelist’s gift.

There is a beautiful verse in John’s Third Epistle:

“Beloved I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.”  NKJV

“Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.”  NIV

Muslims are allowed to ask Jesus (Isa) for their healing.

I suggest FIVE LEADING QUESTIONS:

  1. Why do we suffer, initially?
  2. Why are we healed?
  3. How are we healed?
  4. Why are we not healed, when we pray?
  5. What about medical treatment?

It is impossible for a human to know all the answers about suffering in this life: no list can be encyclopaedic.   The old illustration of the tapestry is applicable: all loose ends for those working at the back, but finally we will see the finished work from the front.   No healing is forever; otherwise there would be people walking about 2,000 years old, who were healed in the Gospels.

The Scriptures, in particular the life of our Lord, abound with guidance on the practice of healing, and it is here that the person with the gift must learn to become skilled and informed.   In a congregation of a hundred, one would expect several to have the dedicated gift of healing – in addition to the Elders, evangelists, those with Faith, and the workers of miracles.

Why do we suffer?   Why are we ill in the first place?

I offer twenty-four possible reasons for illness – there are others, no doubt.

  1. Sickness and suffering are in the World, because of the fall of humans into sinfulness.   Atheistic Evolutionists will ask, “Why is the World not perfect, if made by a perfect God?”   They need to read the small print: about the Fall of Man and the Curse that followed.   We see a “once perfect World”, now spoiled by human sin.   There is the popular illustration of a child’s set off toy bricks.   The mother has spelled the words of a sentence; but later the child has carelessly walked across the floor and knocked a few letters out of place.   The damage was not sufficient to hide the meaning of the original sentence, but it is no longer perfect.   We experience a damaged World.

John chapter 9 verses 1-3 read: “As He went along, He saw a man blind from birth.   His disciples asked Him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’”   Here are two more reasons for illness: our own sin, and the sins of parents – the sins of others.   The first could not have applied to this man: he could not have sinned before he was born.

  1. Judgement on our own sin.

When Jesus healed an invalid at the Pool of Bethesda, He concluded the occasion with these words: “See, you are well again.   Stop sinning or something worse will happen to you.”  (John 5:9)

Abimelech, King of Gerar, and his people were under threat of death, because the King had taken Sarah, Abraham’s wife – albeit in innocence.   Here are the two reasons for illness again – personal sin, and the evil of others.  (Genesis 20:3, within the context of the whole chapter)

Health as a blessing, and the contrast of cursing, were promised to the Israelites, on the basis of their obedience to God’s Laws: “If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in His eyes, if you pay attention to His commands and keep His decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians….”  (Exodus 15:26;  Leviticus 26:14-16,39 ff; Deuteronomy 30:1 ff; Psalm 1)

Psalms 32, 38, 41:4, 51, 88 and 107:10-22 show the importance of confession of sin related to healing.  Psalm 38 speaks of King David’s illnesses – they are very harsh and extreme indeed – we may think ourselves fortunate.

Psalm 41:3-4  The LORD will sustain him on his sickbed
and restore him from his bed of illness.

I said, “O LORD, have mercy on me;
heal me, for I have sinned against you.”

Mark 2v9 indicates how Jesus forgave a person’s sin, in order to bring health.   In the time of the Antichrist, those who receive the mark, and worship his image, will receive “ugly and painful sores” from a righteous God.  (Revelation 16:2)

Practising male homosexuals are being advised by the British Medical Association, to have the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccination to reduce the risk of anal cancer.  In a letter from the BMA to the Health Minister: “The increasing incidence of HPV and development of anal lesions in gay men, particularly HIV positive gay men, is alarming.” (Viewed 24 January 2013, Christian Concern)

A Consultant in this field took early retirement, because he was so shocked by the situation with same sex practice in men.

  1. Illness can be the result of our parents’ or ancestors’ sins: their responsibility, and ours to future generations.   Put another way: we are warned to live carefully, otherwise future generations may suffer because of our waywardness.   The Decalogue stipulates that God will punish “the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me”.  (Exodus 20:4)   These are the rules of hereditary, genetics, and life.

The sin might be general, or identifiable; and the suffering may be widespread.   King David saw the death of his young son, because of his lawlessness: the slaying of Bathsheba’s child because he had committed adultery and murder.  (2 Samuel 12:15-19)

Elijah heard these words from the Widow of Zarephath: “What do you have against me, man of God?   Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?”  (1 Kings 17:18)

  1. National, or Cultural Wickedness.   70,000 people died as a punishment for corporate evil: “Again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel….”  (2 Samuel 24:1-17)   The Old Testament abounds with examples: Numbers 21:4-9;   1 Chronicles 21:1 ff, to mention just two more.
  1. Jesus’s reply to the question mentioned earlier: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”

These are the most beautiful words an ill person can hear: God is going to be honoured in your healing!

  1. To halt the unconverted in their tracks, and make them think about God.   C. S. Lewis called suffering “God’s megaphone” – this could also be true for Believers, who are not paying attention.

An old-time evangelist used to say: “Some people never look up, until they are laid flat on their backs.”

Cruel insanity came to King Nebuchadnezzar so that he would strive for a higher sanity, and be converted.  (Daniel 4:1 ff)

  1. As part of God’s discipline to refine our character: chastening and correcting (James 5:1 ff).   Deuteronomy 8:5 reads: “Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.”   Suffering is a way to maturity. Isaiah 30:26 c “when the LORD binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted.”  God may inflict illness, so that we turn to Him for restoration.

God wants to hear us give thanks: even in the hard times!

Ephesians 5:20 Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Even being delivered to Satan for the destruction of our flesh, that we might learn not to blaspheme, is ultimately for personal good and, hopefully, restoration.  (1 Corinthians 5:1-8;  2 Corinthians 2:5-11;   1 Timothy 1:20)

The aetiology of Job’s suffering is complex: God permitting Satan to afflict him virtually with every kind of ill, in order to prove Job’s integrity; but also to channel him into greater understanding and blessing.   The quality of Job’s godliness could still be developed.

Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible, may have been written by Daniel, and mentions the word of God in almost every verse, and has 5 telling statements about ailments.

“Before I was afflicted I went astray,

but now I obey your word.”  verse 67

“It was good for me to be afflicted

so that I might learn your decrees.” verse 71

“I know, O LORD, that your laws are righteous,

and in faithfulness you have afflicted me.” verse 75

“If your law had not been my delight,

I would have perished in my affliction.” verse 92

“I have suffered much:

preserve my life, O LORD, according to your word.” verse 107

  1. Here, with Job is a further use of hardship: to demonstrate the grace of God in our lives and the loyalty of His people: to men and to angels.  God trusted Job with suffering!
  1. To mercifully prepare us, and friends and relatives, for our death.
  1. To take us home: we must all die (apart from those alive at the Return of Christ).   Paul had the hope that he would die, perhaps as a martyr, so that he could experience the full power of the Resurrection.   In the Salvation Army it is called “Promoted to Glory”.   I sit next to a very simple fellow at Church (so does he), and I explain Heaven to him in these terms: “Death is like an all-expenses-paid holiday – the holiday of a lifetime, which lasts for ever, and it becomes our home.   The company is the best.   I’ll see you there!”

I am going to transfer my membership to the Church in Glory.

The process of dying will not be nice for most, but God gives special grace.  (1 Peter 1:13;  Jude verse 21)   Once, when I was dangerously ill, and very close to death, there was no grace to die, and I was confident that I would recover, because of this teaching.

AIR TRAVEL – COMING IN TO LAND [A Parable]

As the aircraft was returning from the Mediterranean, he felt that they were starting to lose height – just after crossing the English Channel and the South Coast.  The landscape below became clearer.  There was some discomfort: his ears hurt and then popped (because of the increase in air pressure), there were bumps and bangs as the flaps were adjusted and the undercarriage lowered.  If the approach to Manchester Airport was over the Cheshire Plain, it could be a smooth descent, but coming in over the Derbyshire hills and with strong winds it would be disconcerting for a short time.  Actually touching down might mean a sudden movement and a bump or two.  Even taxiing in is unnerving.

There are two things I have not told you.  This is a private aircraft: the Boss will meet him at a special place, with a chauffeur-driven car, and take him straight to his home.

Secondly, be warned, this is a parable.

“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.”  (Psalm 116:15)   Paul prayed: “…that Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.”  (Philippians 1:20)   It is not good for people to look for some judgemental reason for the death of a Christian, and it shows disrespect for the dead, that even the world frowns on.   The prime reason is the Glory of God.

  1. To warn everybody of the brevity of life.
  1. Illness can be a means of guidance.   The classic example is Paul’s sickness requiring him to stay in Galatia: “As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you.   Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn.   Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus Himself … if you could have done so, you would have torn out your own eyes and given them to me.”  (Galatians 4:12-15)
  1. To help us in the struggle for humility.   Paul, following his remarkable visionary experiences, required just such assistance – in the form of an illness.

“To keep me from becoming conceited because of my surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan (this could imply an angel of Satan), to torment me.   Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.   But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’   Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.   That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.   For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  (2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Paul mentions “weakness” three times in this short passage)

Here are two reasons for illness in the life of Paul, an apostle; a third would be the cost of discipleship – in persecution, or hard work and concern for the churches.   A Christian doctor has identified the eye complain as a common condition of the time and place; it may have caused his large handwriting, used in his signature of the Galatian Letter (6:11).

  1. The direct result of deep spiritual experiences: Daniel suffered from the visions he was given – lack of strength, helplessness, deathly paleness, and in a deep sleep with his face to the ground; his companions did not see the vision, but were overwhelmed, fled in terror, and hid.   John, the apostle suffered similarly, when he saw Christ in Glory: “I fell at his feet as though dead.”  (Daniel 10:7-11;  Revelation 1:17)
  1. Suffering for the work of God: like Paul, Epaphroditus “almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help” the Philippians could not give through absence.  (2:30)

“For it has been granted to you on the behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for Him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear I still have.  (Philippians 1:29,30)   Whatever the nature of this affliction, it would mean a diminution of health.

  1. Suffering comes as a direct result of persecution: Paul experience stoning (Acts 14:19,20) and imprisonment; there are long lists of suffering in 1 Corinthians 4:8-13 and 2 Corinthians :23-33.

“To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless, we are cursed … persecuted … slandered ….”

“… worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.   Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.   Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move.   I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers.   I have laboured and toiled and often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.   Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.”   In Damascus he escaped King Aretas by being lowered over the wall in a basket.

The Psalmist writes:

“Why must I go about mourning,

oppressed by the enemy?

My bones suffer mortal agony

as my foes taunt me,

saying to me all day long,

‘Where is your God?’”  (Psalm 42:9 a-10)

  1. Lack of preparation for taking the Bread and the Wine in the Communion Service can bring about illness and death.  (1 Corinthians 11:27-32)
  1. Our own carelessness, in not looking after ourselves, may cause ill health.   Two international experts writing in “The Economist”, pointed out: “No single change would save more lives than if people routinely washed their hands before touching food.”   “Winter may be the greatest public-health intervention in the world.”  (The Economist”, August 4th 1999, pp 11 and 17)   Hygiene was part of the loving Law given to Moses.
  1. Poverty is sadly the cause of malnutrition and its resultant illnesses, in an uncaring World.   There are two collections for the poor of other nations in the New Testament – Acts 11:27-30, and 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9.   In the first, the Charismatic Church in Antioch received a prophecy, which led them to help in averting suffering, brought about by famine, in Judea.   The second was the collection that occupies the two chapters of Paul’s second letter to Korinthos.  The Early Church was egalitarian: Acts 6:1-4 – “the daily distribution of food” to the poor, and Acts 4:32-37 – “No-one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had…. There were no needy persons among them.   From time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.”   Barnabas is a notable example.
  1. Some refused to be healed – they enjoy it too much.   For morbid reasons, they revel in the attention, and rely on Government support.   Jesus often asked if people wanted to be healed, He was not in the habit of thrusting a cure on them.   In 1992, there was an orchestration against the London healing campaign of Maurice Cerullo; here were disabled folk saying they did not want restoration.   What right did they have to speak for all invalids?   There is trauma in serious conditions, and also, to some extent, in miraculous deliverance.   True healing will cover the whole spectrum.   There will be the requirement to stop state invalidity pensions, and look for work!
  1. There may be a public demonstration of God’s judgement on evil.

Scripture abounds with examples:

Numbers 21:4-9  The plague of venomous snakes killed many of God’s people.

1 Corinthians refers to the Israelites, who died in the desert because of idolatry, pagan revelry, immorality, putting God to the test, or grumbling.

1 Kings 13:1 ff King Jeroboam’s hand was shrivelled

Acts 5:1-11, and 13:6-12 describes how Ananias and Sapphira, and Elymas were publicly punished

Acts 12:19-25 King Herod Agrippa the Elder was struck by an angel of God, so that he died eaten by worms.   Josephus, the First Century historian, tells of the events in even more detail – “Antiquities” Book 19, chapter 8, paragraph 2.

Acts 13:4 ff.  The temporary blinding of Elymus, who interrupted the preaching of the Gospel at Paphos, Cyprus

  1. The action of Satan: “whom Satan has kept bound”, Jesus “went about doing good, and healing all who were under the power of the Devil”.  (Luke 13:16, Acts 10:38)
  1. The real need, to which we are being drawn, is that of exorcism.
  1. One may further see the cause as the vicissitudes of life, accident, natural disaster, and many other origins.

The answer for some is to seek repentance and forgiveness in conversion to the Lord Jesus Christ, or even repentance within the Christian life.   It may be to seek the real will of God in our lives.   Church Leaders may be of assistance.  It could be that we must have a term of rest and recovery.   Such was the case of Elijah, who found rest, food, exercise, and finding a helper-successor.

Because suffering is often caused by Satan, it is right to say, “The Lord rebuke you Satan!”

How are people healed?

The remarkable quality of Human Tissue to self-heal; medical skill; the miraculous

The wisdom and love of our Creator is shown in the natural healing characteristics of human tissue – something often overlooked in modern medicine.   How delighted we would be if cars and televisions repaired themselves in a similar way.   God has also granted that we can find medical cures.   All this is summed up in the words of Psalm 103:3,

“He forgives all my sins

and heals all my diseases….”

A title of God in the Old Testament is “Yahweh Ropheca” – the Lord who heals you.  Exodus 15:26

Why is there miraculous healing in the Church, today?   The answer is that Jesus purchased healing for us in the Atonement.   The English word is At-one-ment; the Hebrew means covering, reconciliation.

Isaiah 53:5 gives the doctrinal statement of healing:

“But he was pierced for our transgressions,

he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,

and by his wounds we are healed.”

This passage is quoted in the New Testament as the basis for our Lord’s healing authority.  (Matthew 8:16 and 17)

There are those in the Church today who claim a divine law here: which God Himself must obey; two points must be realized.  The New Testament Believers never employed this technique, or argument; secondly the implication of the Hebrew text implies the past tense: “you were healed” – not “you will be”.  The past tense is clearly seen in the quotation of this passage in 1 Peter 2:24: “by his wounds you have been healed”.

The Messianic Promise contained the Gospel of wholeness, as seen in the words:

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,

because the LORD has anointed Me

to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent Me to bind up the broken-hearted,

to proclaim freedom to the captives

and release to the prisoners,

to proclaim the year of the LORD’S favour….”

(Isaiah 61:1 ff)

The German sixteenth century artist, Grunewald only painted religious subjects; over a third of his extant works depict the Passion.   In his commission for the Antonites, known as the Isenheim Altarpiece, now in Colmar, the work of this order influenced the depiction of Christ on the Cross, in both painting and film.   Their hospital cared for sufferers from St Anthony’s Fire, a skin disease related to the plague and reckoned incurable.   “Those disfigured worshippers would find consolation in a God whose torture had robbed Him also of all beauty and seemliness. … this … is common to all Grunewald’s Crucifixions…;  a reference to Isaiah[53].”   Here Christ is seen bearing our sicknesses: He is on the Cross, and covered with the ugly and fatal skin disease.  (Anthony Bertram, “Grunewald”, The World Masters – New Series, The Studio Publications, 1950)

The atonement sacrifices of the Tabernacle were a protection against illnesses.  (Numbers 8:19)

The plague of venomous snakes required that the sick and dying looked to the Bronze Snake: a model placed on a pole.   Our Lord Jesus referred to it in these words: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.”  (Numbers 21:4-9;  John 3:4)   In the holistic sense, the fullness of salvation and healing are linked to the Crucifixion, and its type – the Bronze Serpent on its pole.

Here is a striking statement, which needs some qualification: Jesus did not pray publicly for the sick – He brought healings to people with authority, I would suggest, from a secret life of prayer.

We might consider these words of King David:

“Morning by morning, O LORD,

you hear my voice;

morning by morning I lay

my requests before you

and wait in expectation.”

(Psalm 5:3)

At the raising of Lazarus, our Lord made a special point of praying before the crowd:

“Father I thank you that you have heard me.   I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”  (John 11:42)

Even on this special occasion, the prayer is actually thanksgiving, and not an intercession.   Jesus had already taught that supplication before a secular-public was unacceptable.  (John 11:41-42;   Matthew 6:5-8)   Incidentally, we should always be ready to hear God telling us He has answered; and turn to thanksgiving and worship.   Oepke writes: The most common means of healing is Jesus’s word of power, his command.”

Similarly, there is only one recorded occasion of Paul praying for a sick person, and then in relative privacy: Publius’s father on the island of Malta – tradition says that the main church in Mdina is on the site of the Chief Magistrate’s house.  (Acts 28:8)   True the “prayer of faith”, on the part of the Elders, will save the sick.   Here we imagine a formal ceremony of confession of sins, anointing with oil, and prayer.   Notice the initiation of the event by the sickly person, and the corporate gift of specifically the Elders – plural.  (James 5:13-16)

Most churches fail to provide this facility. It urgently needs to be attended to.

Ananias came to Saul of Tarsus, in Damascus, with a clear gift – even a command – of healing: “Placing his hands on Saul … ‘so that you may see again …Brother Saul, receive your sight!’” (Acts 9:17-18)

I am very conscious that some Christians embarrass the poorly, by very public demonstrations of praying, without true permission – even in hospital wards!   The tactful, quiet prayers of an official hospital visitor can, however, be most beneficial to a wide circle.   The contrast is obvious: our Master, well prepared in prayer and revelation, beforehand: the current Christian practice of “hedging our bets”, by praying in vague hope of healing.   The true spiritual gift of healing has a greater certainty than this.

So the cure may come through the Gifts of Faith, Working of Miracles, a Gift of Healing, as part of the Evangelist’s work, or the Elders using the authority of their office.

Restoration may also be ours through the Scriptures being specially illuminated to us by the Holy Spirit.   The preacher quotes the passage:

“Strengthen the weak hands,

And make firm the feeble knees.”  (Isaiah 35:3)

This was my experience, when rheumatism made walking very difficult.

Perhaps we read: “How long will you lie there you sluggard?

When will you get up from your sleep?”  (Proverbs 6:9)

The Spirit of God impresses this word upon us – this word is for us now!

Psalm 107:20: “He sent forth his word and healed them;

He rescued them from the grave.”  (Psalm 107:20)

This suggests more than the written word, it implies the sovereignty of God.

“My comfort in my suffering is this:

Your promise renews my life.”  (Psalm 119:50)

“I have suffered much;

renew my life, O LORD,

according to your word.”  (Psalm 119:107)

Psalm 6 is a prayer of King David, at a time of illness.

Psalm 30:2: “O LORD my God, I called to you for help

and you healed me.”

Jeremiah 17:14: “Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed;

save me and I shall be saved,

for you are the one I praise.”

The private prayers of Elijah brought life to the Widow of Zarephath’s son, and validated the prophet’s service for God: “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD from your mouth is true.”  (1 Kings 17:17-24)

Elisha brought the woman of Shunem’s son back to life.  (2 Kings 4:8-37)

In an Old Testament example, obedience is a condition: Naaman, the Aramite Army Commander in Chief, had to wash symbolically seven times in the River Jordan.  (2 Kings 5:1 ff)

The Book of Proverbs encourages a wise philosophy of life, which will protect us from several inroads of illness.

“Do not be wise in your own eyes;

fear the LORD and shun evil.

This will bring health to your body

and nourishment to your bones.”  3:7

“An anxious heart weighs a man down.

But a kind word cheers him up.”  12:27

“Hope deferred makes the heat sick,

but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”  13:12

“A cheerful heart is a good medicine,

but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”  17:22

Albrecht Oepke, of Leipzig University, also wrote, firstly about the Gospels: “Many of the accounts authenticate themselves by their vividness and simplicity (Mark 1:29 ff, 10:46 ff, etc).”   He also observes that “The Gospel of Thomas”, and an apocryphal “Book of Acts”, illustrate the entrance of literary imagination into these pseudo-Christian inventions.   John the Baptist required no such signs of attestation, and the first Believers did not have an avid and uncritical desire for the miraculous.  (Mark 9:38;   Acts 19:13)   The fact that the miracles and the accounts of them, are intended to lead to faith in Jesus as Lord and Saviour, is a conscious antithesis to the Greek healing cults, such as those of Aesculapius and Dionysus.   Oepke compares the miracles of Jesus with the records and accounts of the Epidauros healing sanctuary, where egotism, selfishness and fiscal gain, were the ethos – it was more of a luxury sanatorium.   Apropos the Aesculapieion (the hospital) at Cos: “In comparison, the mode of healing practised by Jesus is infinitely simple, externally unimpressive, but inwardly so much the more powerful.”  (pp 206-209, “Theological Dictionary of the New Testament”, vol. 3)

From his knowledge of contemporary attempts at healing, Oepke sees the ministry of Jesus as being on a totally higher plateau, in every sense.   Further, there was no dependence on location, as Jesus rarely offered grace in the Temple or synagogue: more often than not, it was in a home or in the open air.

There is such a thing, I think, as the pre-grace, mercy of God (as at the pool of Bethesda, where an angel stirred the waters, but only the first person to fall in the water was healed. (John 5:1-15)   There will be other examples of this in the world: but full information and discernment are vitally important: such as Acupuncture, and possible links with the occult.

How are people healed?

For the man who had been blind from birth – up to this point – Jesus anointed his eyes with mud, made up of dust and spittle.  (John 9:1 ff)   Spittle alone was sometimes used; it may have been that the traditional olive oil was not to hand. (Mark 7:33, 8:23, 6:13)   Saliva is amazingly, “miraculously”, active in oral hygiene, according to a poster seen in Dentists’ waiting rooms.   Within the Empire, the spit of the Caesar was credited with healing properties.   The laying-on of hands is the most common physical display of contact, in healing.   There are other, quite often remarkable, cases of powerful grace: the mere touching of Jesus’s cloak, Peter’s shadow passing over the sick, articles of Paul’s clothing being taken to the suffering, and compassion at a distance.  (Mark 5:25-34;  Luke 6:19;  Acts 5:15, 19:12; Matthew 8:5 ff, 15:21-28;  Luke 7:10;  John 4:46-54)

We must notice the deep feeling of our Lord Jesus’s “sighs” – in healing, compassion and prayer (see also Psalm 38:8-9).   Our Saviour, in His humility, healed because God was with Him.  (Acts 10:38)   Luke tells us that “the people all tried to touch Him, because power was coming from Him and healing them all”: implying that this was not always the case.  (Luke 6:19)

There is the need now for a digression.   The danger exists of counterfeit healing by the arch-confidence trickster himself – Satan.  The healing in Christ is real, and in love.   There are, unfortunately, perilous fringe healers, such as Reiki practitioners, who are knowingly or unwittingly, pawns of the Evil One, and who use occult forces.   They present a most confusing issue to all of us, and prayer, discernment, and sound teaching, are the order of the day.   Balaam is such a case, in the Jewish Bible.  (Numbers 22 and following chapters, Deuteronomy 23:4;  Joshua 13:22;  2 Peter 2:15-16;  Revelation 2:14 ff)

Another hazard is that of committing a crime in the name of curing: making false, unsubstantiated claims in advertising; or abusing children or the grievously sick, by neglect of the gift of healing; or using physical displays which result in harm to the sufferer – such as hitting or jumping on a person, or upsetting the mental state.   Occult New Age practitioners, and Christians have been taken to court – particularly where children have been put at risk.   On the other hand, there is the very common neglect of withholding the possibility of miraculous healing from adults, as well as children.   This is so widespread as to be overlooked by even the Church, and constitutes a more serious neglect.

One may also meet the common false exegesis of 2 Chronicles 16, which tells of King Asa’s gestures of keeping God out of his military and medical affairs.   The real warning is against seeking healing totally apart from God – in fact from those forces which are indirect opposition to God: as an act of rebellion.

“Chambers Dictionary” notes that in Hebrew, Asa means “Healer”.   In the early part of this reign he had led a reforming revival.

250 years later Jeremiah wrote:

“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,

who depends on the flesh for his strength

and whose heart turns away from the LORD.”  (17:5)

AN EXAMPLE OF DANGER

This is a true story – written as a book, and then produced as a film, and shown during the early hours, in the UK.    Larry Parker wrote this cautionary tale about his wife, little girl, and his son Wesley.   Wesley required regular doses of insulin.   The Minister of their Pentecostal Church had invited a healing evangelist to conduct key meetings that raised expectation of healings.   A house group persuaded the parents to demonstrate their faith for the healing of Wesley, by discarding his insulin – into the dustbin.   Although tests indicated that there was no cure, they persisted, and Wesley died within a short time (in 1973).

The Pastor had wisely advised seeing a Doctor at the crucial time.   Their faith for a resurrection was unanswered.   Neighbours trashed the home; the daughter was placed into social care, and the parents were taken to court charged with Criminal Neglect.   The Barristers were gentle, the Jury included people with experience of healing in the Church, and the atmosphere of the Court was sympathetic.   The United States Supreme Court ruled that children should not be denied essential medical care because of the guardians’ religious beliefs.   Sentencing was withheld, and the two parents were placed on five years’ probation.

The words and concepts, pressures and encouragements, to demonstrate faith, offered in the House Group, were of the kind heard in thousands of church groups worldwide.   Why were they wrong?   It was tempting God – trying to force His Sovereign Will – it was sinful.   When Satan tempted our Lord to jump from the Temple parapet, the rebuttal was: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”  (Matthew 4:7, quoting Deuteronomy 6:16)   The latter verse added: “As you did at Massah”.   This refers to the time when Moses brought water from the rock at Horeb by striking it, because the people had tested God by saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”  (Exodus 17:1 ff)   Questioning, or trying to place God in an untenable position, giving no option, asking God to prove Himself, is not for Humans.   It is setting an examination for God to sit, in an unsubmissive and rebellious spirit.   God may test us: but we must never sin by trying to test Him.   In the House Group one could hear the challenge: “If you really trust God, throw the medication away!”

Christ Jesus never forced people to place themselves at risk, before he would heal them.   He did ask for verification after the miracle.

(“Promised a Miracle”, and “We let our son die” – the book and the film)

Philip Yancey’s father had a similar disastrous experience.  As an athletic and talented young man, he had 3,000 supporters for his plans to be a missionary; but at the age of 24 he was struck with polio, and placed in an iron lung to take over his breathing.  The Christians around him, said they should act their faith and take him out of the medical equipment.  He died shortly afterwards.  Philip was one year old and never really knew his father. (An interview at HTB, 25 May 2014)

Another danger is that of Satanic Occult healing.  There is a Blog on the subject of Reiki healing, to name just one such danger, at http://www.evxp119.wordpress.com – using the November 2018 Archive.

In our Lord’s Temptations, He was directed by Satan to put his life in danger by leaping off the Pinnacle of the Temple – trusting the Father to honour His promise in Scripture.  Jesus refused because this was tempting God – forcing Him to act.  We should head this warning.

Why are people not healed?   Why is healing withheld?

John Wimber offered five points to be borne in mind in healing:

  1. Interview the sufferer, but always listen to God’s voice on the illness
  2. Look for reasons behind the sickness
  3. Select an appropriate prayer approach
  4. The act of faith: the laying-on of hands
  5. After care: protection from the Devil’s lies that healing is not actual, the       need to stop disability pensions, etc

We notice that Paul of Tarsus had a serious eye disorder.   Mrs Salter (daughter of Smith Wigglesworth, and wife of the famous missionary), was stone deaf, but greatly used in teaching; Joni was massively disabled yet wonderfully gifted; one of our greatest hymn writers was blind from an early age – there are many such examples.

  1. As mentioned, 2 Chronicles 16 describes the sin of King Asa of relying exclusively on human power, instead of God’s.   We should be prayerful and respectful, about medical treatment.   A doctor friend pointed out that excessive use of a particularly strong pain-killer could lead to blindness; the excellent Registrar in hospital, who had helped to save my life, forgot, for the moment, that it would be inadvisable to pinch my nose and blow hard – my eardrum was in the process of healing.
  1. It is not God’s time, in His sovereign will.   Perhaps we need to be disciplined by His love, first.   Jennifer Rees Larcomb was interviewed on television regarding her serious disabilities.   Months later, she was introduced in the same programme, at the identical location, totally healed.   What a wonderful testimony to the nation!
  1. There may be unbelief on the part of the ill person; or even more seriously, unbelief on the part of the community – Church or secular, where we need to see both compassion and faith.   In Jesus’s miracles there was often His own compassion, and a compassionate community.  (Example: Mark 6:6)
  1. Sin, not repented of, and therefore unforgiven, can hinder healing.   Psalm 32 takes us through the steps of repentance.

Psalm 103:3: “…Who forgives all your sins

and heals all your diseases….”   See also, Psalm 107:17-22.

Psalms 38 and 41 show that even a man of King David’s importance could be sick as a punishment for sin, and again, that healing comes through confession.   This theme of healing through confession is a major in the Jewish Bible, seen again James 5:16, in the New Testament.

  1. There is a price to pay for Christian service, and for the effects of suffering for Christ: from the enemies of Christ, both inside and outside the Church.   Once more to Psalms: enemies caused King David’s distress (Psalm 6).   There can be no victories without enemies and battles: no healing and grace, without sickness coming first. (Psalm 30:2)
  1. There is an illness for most, which is the one to take us home to Heaven.   There are several graces: the preparation of friends and relations, for the parting, which will soon take place, the special help we need in order to die. (1 Peter 1:13)
  1. Suffering may be required to help us with humility, or to take us somewhere in terms of guidance; as discussed elsewhere.

One of the hardest aspects of illness, is the victory of giving thanks.  God may occasionally wait for you to reach this point.  1 Thessalonians 5:18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

  1. What about Doctors and Hospitals?

We have already looked at 2 Chronicles 16, which tells of King Asa’s gesture in keeping God out of his military and medical affairs – something we should never be guilty of!

Jeremiah was to say later:

“Is there no balm in Gilead?

Is there no physician there?

Why then is there no healing for the wound

of my people?”  (8:22)

Our bodies have many remarkable capabilities of self-healing.   Human medical skill will always have its limitations, but we should prayerfully show respect, whilst walking within the Holy Spirit’s guidance.   Because we are a physical and mental unity, there are the effects of each on the other – we are a psychosomatic unit.   Miraculous healing is quite apart from all these.

Mark 5:26 notes: “She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.”   Luke, perhaps because he was a doctor (Colossians 4:14), omits this detail, along with Matthew.

  1. We need an accredited diagnosis and assessment of cure, if we are to glorify God intelligently.
  2. God may choose to employ medicine – just as we eat necessary foods, for health.   Here is a continuum which is well worth thinking about: firstly food of a good standard, with protection against allergies, nutrients, special foods, mild medicinal intake, serious medicine, hospital treatment, and even amputation.   Most of us have had dental surgery.   Luke is sympathetic to Jesus’s implications in The Parable of the Good Samaritan: oil, wine, bandages, expense, care and convalescence.   Paul advises the medical use of wine, in the case of Timothy’s “stomach and frequent illnesses” (1 Timothy 5:23).   Amusingly, an abstinence pamphlet in Liverpool suggested that the wine was for rubbing on his body!   Various Christians will draw the line in different places: Smith Wigglesworth refused all forms of surgery, whilst Derek Prince had several severe forms of treatment.   Many great healers of the recent centuries have respected doctors and nurses as God’s gift.   Kathryn Kuhlman had medics in attendance at her healing services, in order to observe integrity.
  3. When treatment fails – that is the time for a miracle.
  4. Remember, we must not put God to the test – as if Jesus had jumped from the Temple Pinnacle, as apposed to an accident.
  5. We must not be seen to have caused death by withholding treatment – as Jehovah’s Witnesses, wrongly named, often do by refusing blood transfusions.   “How many people has your religion killed today?”
  6. It is easy for some, in the euphoria of a healing meeting, to decry medical treatment, but not quite as easy, when a loved one is dying in front of you!   “I will acknowledge God’s healing, only when I know it!” should be our maxim; not, “I will throw my life supporting medicines away – to prove my faith.”   The latter is the sin of tempting God – as observed earlier.   The Bible is bereft of examples of this dangerous procedure – Jesus never did it.   He did send people home to find their loved ones healed, or to visit the Levitical priest for confirmation – like going to the medical consultant for corroboration.
  7. King Hezekiah’s heath returned by the grace of God, he was instructed to apply a poultice first, as a sensible means.  (Isaiah 38:21;  2 Kings 20:7)

Chart of degrees of faith in the NT

Faith is crucial, and increases with the reading of the Scriptures.

GREAT FAITH                                     LITTLE OR NONE

10      9       8       7       6       5       4       3       2       1        0

Resurrections

The Widow of Nain’s son, the whole village came out.       Nazareth –

Healing and Exorcisms at a distance                                      few helped.

Aids to faith: oil, saliva, etc

Laying-on of hands

Touching clothing

Sweatbands and aprons from

Paul: healings AND exorcisms

(Acts 19:11,12; but included in healings

Acts 5:16; cf. Luke 8:2, 6:18)

If healing does not take place, the cause may be an unclean spirit – requiring an exorcism.   The spiritual gift of discernment is most useful in such cases.

FAILURE TO HEAL IS RARE IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

Mark 6:4-6, Jesus in Nazareth.

Paul’s thorn in the flesh: 2 Corinthians 12:1-10;  Galatians 4:13-16 – his illness guided him to Galatia! 6:11, “See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!”

2 Timothy 4:20 b, “I left Trophimus sick in Miletus.”

Here is a question!

Your church has a lively healing ministry, including the several streams of healing mentioned below.  Paul the apostle arrives with you, and he is cursed with his disfiguring eye infection; so you offer to pray for him.  What will he say?

‘Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.

9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.’  2 Corinthians 12:8-9

David faced a bear and a lion, before facing the giant warrior, Goliath – God may prepare us in a similar way to use any of our gifts.

A FEW EXAMPLES OF HEALING IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

Moses and Miriam’s leprosy, Exodus 4:6,7;  Numbers 12:10-15

Healing by looking at the serpent made of brass, (a picture of Christ’s Atonement) Numbers 21:6-9

King Jeroboam’s hand restored, 1 Kings 13:3-6

Elijah raises the widow’s son, 1 Kings 17:17-24

Elisha raises a child, 2 Kings 4:18-37

Naaman cured of leprosy by Elisha, in a most casual way, with the refusal of any reward, 2 Kings 5:1-19

The list can be added to at your leisure.

HEALING IS A MAJOR AND CONSTANT THEME IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

Repentance, forgiveness, and willingness, must all be part of our preparation.    A waiter taking an order, going to the Chef and bringing back the order – Jean Darnall, a very gifted healer, used this analogy.   Quiet often there is humour in healing grace, and a special beauty, when God is at work.

John Wesley’s Journals are full of testimonies of healings, and there are hundreds in the history of the Pentecostal Movement.   Marvellous present-day testimonies can be found in books and recordings about: Kathryn Kuhlman, Ian Andrews (resurrection by mistake), Jean Darnall; and locally.

As with all the gifts, healing makes demands on our own strength, Mark 5v30.

It is worth mentioning again: there are legal and criminal dangers of withholding medical inspection, diagnosis, and treatment, in false triumphalist attitudes of “faith-at-all-cost”.   We are unfortunately reminded of this, from time-to-time, by cases coming before the courts – relating to Church as well as New Age practices.   Scientific honesty about healing is crucial; God is a Scientist, and certainly honest.   Divine healing will always be undisputable.   If there is an absence of healing, and we are certain the aetiology is not specifically demonic, then we should be open to what else God has in mind, and not be sadly blinkered.   There should be a very sincere seeking to know God’s will.

By way of summary: In “going to the doctor”, we must always walk in the Spirit, and be aware of three important factors: we will need a careful diagnosis first, before we can be certain of a healing from God; we must take all reasonable care before seeking a miracle (some healing comes through watching our eating habits, and discipline), and, thirdly, not all medicines and hospital treatments are safe – we must proceed prayerfully and wisely.   Doctors are human, and therefore prone to make mistakes sometimes – occasionally we can help.   When the lady in the baker’s gave me the wrong change, I joked: “I m glad you’re not an eye surgeon!”

Albrecht Oepke (Up’kai) wrote, within his comprehensive word study on healing: “But the true and only doctor is Yahweh.   To define the relationship between His creative power and human skill is more difficult than in the non-biblical world.   Yet the tendency is towards a both-and, rather than an either-or, with the accent on the ultimately omni causal power of Yahweh.”   (p 201, vol. III. TDNT)

The old Anglican matrix for Intercession has a time for remembering the sick “in body. MIND, and spirit”; which admits to the special problems of mental or emotional illness.   There will be those with a special gift for healing in this area.   Counselling is often done with the advantage of professional training; dabbling in pseudo-techniques is very dangerous, and can bring disastrous consequences.   At one level, depression can be treated like any other illness: it may take its course and cure naturally, but we may need to see the doctor, and even have a referral to a specialist.   Always, this kind of illness should be treated ­seriously.   Some conditions relate to a nutritional lack in our metabolism (which is hardly surprising, having in mind our chemical complexity).   Medical practitioners, being human (in spite of what some receptionists seem to think), approach their calling with some agenda.   On occasions this can mean an anti-Christian disposition, on others, a very sympathetic attitude.

For several years I suffered from a particular source of depression; until the revelation came, that only Satan, and some of my other enemies, wanted me to suffer: God wished me to know joy in large amounts; and, fortunately indeed, that was an end the unpleasant experiences!   So here the cure was a spiritual one, aided by knowledge of the Scriptures.

Serious physical illness, stress and tiredness, can bring a feeling of being “cast down” along with an unrealistic loss assurance.   King David, for all of his warrior prowess, is very honest, and therefore helpful, in several of his Psalms.   The King, like many creative geniuses, was somewhat vulnerable.

The learning and constant repetition of helpful Scriptures is invaluable:

Psalm 147:3:

“He heals the broken-hearted

and binds up their wounds.”

As Pilgrim nears the Holy City, in John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim ‘s Progress”, he suffers a lack of assurance, and experiences depression.   It may be that Bunyan is portraying something he had observed in human experience.

In closing: it is our personal and congregational duty to be filled with the Holy Spirit of God, the Scriptures, love, compassion, and faith; so that the ministry of healing in the Church, may have free course.

After listening to all this information on healing, perhaps the time has come for you to hear God say these words to you:  “Be healed.”   And for you to prepare yourself, in prayer and Bible study, to bring healing to others: in Jesus’s name.

If you have the gift of healing, it is a terrible thing not to use and develop it:

  1. people will suffer, and you will answer for it
  2. an aspect of Christ’s suffering in the Atonement is not implemented (Isaiah 53).

ILLUSTRATIONS

I was suffering from a severe chill in my gum following a multiple dental extraction – an operation under a full anaesthetic: the Treasurer of the Wiston Street AOG church, in Derby, laid hands on me, and prayed.   God did what aspirin could not do.

Trigeminal neuralgia: the facial nerve of this name has three branches covering the nose, eye, throat, and scalp.   My GP foolishly warned of the dire pain: “Most of my patients with this commit suicide.”   At work I was allowed to report sick, and immediately a substitute would be found, and a taxi called to take me home.   Between seeing the Consultant, and being called for the operation, I recollected on what should have been my stand on healing.   I phoned a local Baptist Minister with a ministry of healing, and asked if he would come with an Elder of the Church to anoint and pray for me.   The issue of Elders was a bone of contention between us, but he agreed to “find” one.   Two days after their visit, the pain left for good.   The Consultant said I could contact him, anywhere in the country, and he would operate.   The pain had been occurring with breaks of a month – so a wait was necessary to be assured of restoration.   The operation would require drilling at the rear of my cranium, halving the nerve, and severing one half – hopefully the correct one.   Some said it left the face sagging at one side.   I said on the first visit to the consultant that he could take my ear off: the pain was so bad.   That was thirty years ago.

Rheumatism in my knees: healed in a morning service, when a Psalm was read (as mentioned earlier).

Smith Wigglesworth and the man with two broken legs: Bridge Street Elim Church could hold about seven hundred, and had two aisles running from the foyer to a space fronting the platform.   Typical of Wigglesworth, he asked for the sickest person in the morning service.   This produced a man with two broken legs.  The preacher was a strong man, and had the man stand, before pushing him forward, with the command, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!”   The man fell on his face.   This happened twice, and the congregation were murmuring.   The third time, the man was healed, and ran round the auditorium, via the foyer.

Wigglesworth did the same in a meeting in Bradford, and having refused two people with common colds, he found a lady with a very painful eye condition.   She was wonderfully, and totally healed, when he prayed for her.

In his home he had the habit of punctuating his day by saying: “Let’s see what Father has to say!”

The 1920’s Revival in Leeds: Mr Harry Gregson was a notable cripple; he had fallen from the roofing girders of Kirkstall Forge, into the gears of a slewing crane – his body was so mangled that his colleagues were afraid to look at it.   He walked with crutches.   In the Healing Meetings, Principle George Jeffries, the evangelist liked the large Congregational Church at the bottom of Dewsbury Road (long since demolished) cleared of all but ushers, between services.   This group of helpers allowed Mr Gregson to stay, whilst they ate their sandwiches.   They were so enthused with the miracles they had seen, that they offered to pray for him.   He firstly staggered, and then walked “as straight as a soldier”.   As the people returned for the evening meeting, he was standing in the pulpit – crutches held aloft.   Miracles like these were front-page news in the city’s press, and testimony books.  In ten weeks, 2000 people were converted.

Miss Scarth suffered from tuberculosis of the spine; she like others was raised from a spinal carriage.   She served the church as a Deaconess for decades.  When she was away, my wife Florence would stand-in for her, taking Bible Studies for the ladies.

Harry Toft was an international Rugby player, playing for Wales, Swansea, and Hunslet.   He was healed of cancer, and toured Britain, testifying, and pointing many to Christ.

George Jeffries held meetings in London, which led to the formation of the present day Kensington Temple, a large influential Elim fellowship, which still sees miracles.  In later years, when clearing the basement, wheel chairs and crutches left behind after the old healing services, were found.

Margaret Simpson: I first met her at a Shared Prayer Meeting, in the William Street Convent – in a Roman Catholic charismatic group.   She wore trousers and slippers, to hide her condition, which made walking difficult.   As a Social Worker, and a lapsed Catholic, she had been invited back to Church to “hear the music”, by a nun who belonged to a local order founded by Alice Ingham – she had argued cruelly with this nun.

Her congenital lymphatic ailment caused swelling of her legs: giving a calf measurement of 34 inches.   She had suffered three thromboses, and when I met her in Rochdale Infirmary, waiting to see Mr Higham, an eminent Rochdale surgeon, she told me she had been healed!   Actually the appointment was to arrange to have a leg amputated; she was only 26, and the other leg would probably have to go, later.   Half her life was previously spent in a wheel chair or on crutches: she danced in to see Mr Higham!   “I’ve been healed at a charismatic prayer meeting,” she told him.   “How do you spell ‘charismatic’?” he asked, as he wrote his report.   A three-inch ulcer creator had completely vanished: there was not even scar tissue.   Her GP wrote: “This is a miracle,” in her records, underlined in red ink.   The healing had taken place at a large charismatic rally in Dublin.   Remarkably, the visitors from Rochdale came together in a street, and sang hymns.   It was then that Margaret felt the change to her legs taking place.   She went into a nearby bar (a very easy thing to do in Dublin), to remove the bandages.   Back outside she could jump and dance in worship and perfect health.

Kathryn Khulman had a mighty healing gift, during the latter half of the twentieth century.   I have a great regard for her, but no doubt there are critics of her work.   The numerous books, recordings and archive film give insights; she often had doctors, apparently, to examine sick folk both before, and after, the laying-on of hands; there was often humour associated with God’s work, through her.

An elderly man, who had been a professional clown, was confined to a chair, and racked with rheumatism.   A friendly family, the husband was a teacher of particularly talented children, offered to take him to a large healing service, to be held in a theatre.   They left the crippled man with the stage-door attendant, and took their seats in the auditorium.   To their disappointment, their friend never made it to the stage.   They returned, promising themselves to repeat the offer later.   The next day they called to comfort him, and found him languishing in his chair.   The truth was, however, he had been healed sitting by the stage door, but had wished to be certain of his experience.   He was sitting exhausted in his house; after a day of gardening!

Alex Tee conducted an evangelistic and healing campaign in Rochdale in about 1975: a lady who lived in Rooley Moor Road suffered from a heart condition that limited her mobility.   At the evangelistic services, she was healed, and the front page of the local paper recorded her newfound ability to run up stairs and do the “Highland Fling” – in honour of Alex.

Jean Darnall recounted several miracles from her own experience, in recorded sermons.

In her personal healing, as a child, she was suffering from a most serious kidney disorder.   A healing-evangelist said he could not do anything for her, but he would go to his Lord: like a waiter going to the chef with an order.   She understood this because of family connexions with restaurants, and she was miraculously healed, much to the disbelief of the medical experts.

Her first miracle was the healing of a tall country boy who was deaf.   To her surprise, this first case in the healing line was hurt by the noise of the piano – which had to be silenced.   Rather like a miracle which Cliff Allen, a personal acquaintance, was witness to, in Papua New Guinea: a deaf man who left a meeting unhealed; was suddenly overwhelmed by the songs of birds as he passed by a tree.

Francis McNutt tells the story of praying in a group, for a young person who suffered a shortened leg, the result of stepping on a rusty spike in a pond.   The group kept seeing some growth, but kept breaking-off for coffee, before the legs were of equal length.

Sir Harry Seycombe witnessed a dramatic miracle, whilst filming his Sunday evening religious programme: “Highway”.   He introduced Jennifer Rees Larcombe, sitting in a wheelchair, and showing great bravery in adversity.   A year later, she walked, perfectly well, from the same patch of woodland – having been healed by a fairly new, and rather nervous Christian convert.   Thousands of television viewers saw this transformation. (mentioned earlier)

T. L. Osborne saw many incredible miracles in his healing crusades in the 1940’s, 1950’s.  In his remarkable and influential book detailing missionary evangelism in the Caribbean, there is the story of Juan Santos: a man crippled in several ways – unable to use his deformed legs, spinal injury and a constant shaking.   He was unable to sit at table, but was confined to moving with a small stool and a short crutch.   He was desperate to die.   T. L. Osborn came to preach in his town, but the large crowds required that the services were constantly moved to larger venues.   In the process, Juan heard some of the messages coming through the night air.   Eventually, four relatives took him by car to the baseball stadium, where he was carried to a terrace and placed beside a blind lady, who leaned on him thinking he was a hummock of grass.    At the crucial moment of prayer for the sick, both were dramatically restored to full health.   When his daughter heard of his healing, and came to see for herself, she fainted – never having seen her father standing upright on his own feet.   He went home and quietly retired to bed.   In the morning there was not the usual thump of him tumbling out of bed; instead he walked into the kitchen.   His wife fainted: thinking he was an intruder.   When the maid arrived, she also passed out.   There were photographs and ample testimonies to the truth of this miracle.

Rev Dr Mark Stibbe recounted two remarkable miracles in his published recorded sermons.   An African lady requested four friends to carry her, on a two day journey, to a Christian healing meeting.   En route she died; but they thought it only right to continue.    The main doors were locked, but they found a rear entrance open, and walked onto the stage; the speaker did not take in the situation fully, and casually waved his hand and said, “Be healed.”   The woman slowly rose from the stretcher, and amazement fired the meeting.

A word of knowledge indicated a man with an injured ankle, but no one came forward.   After persistence, a sound engineer, who thought he was not included in the congregation, came for healing.   He was an athlete, and hospital treatment for an injury had been very damaging – he could hardly walk.   After prayer, he took to running again.

Daniel Ekechukwu, a young Nigerian Pastor had been killed when the brakes failed on his car, at the bottom of a hill near his home.   In the detailed video the full story is told, with film of some of the events included.   The doctor who pronounced him dead, the mortician who prepared his body for burial, the wife who claimed a Scripture promise prophetically, family members, and the ministers who prayed for him and massaged his hands, all offer their stories.   Although associated with a Reinhard Bonnke conference, a general prayer in the large auditorium upstairs was the evangelist’s only connexion.

Daniel also describes his after death experiences of Paradise and Hell.

From Canon David MacInnes we have this verbatim account.   A young lad in his congregation worked in a Birmingham Asda supermarket.   The fellow had often taken a stand against Management duplicity – for instance, trying to catch store-thieves; and yet substituting old groceries for new deliveries, and sending them back to the growers as supposed rejects.   For his stand, the Managers had threatened him with the sack.

One day, he was helping to keep his sense of the love of Christ alive – whilst working alone in a storage room – by singing in the Spirit at the top of his voice.   Suddenly he realized that one of his mates had come in, and was listening to him.   His voice trailed off.   He remembered that this chap had a painful chest infection of some kind, which he could not get rid of.   The Lord moved him to go straight over and place his hand on his shoulder, with the words: “In the name of Jesus, may this sickness be expelled from your body – may you be healed by His power.”    The chap looked slightly bewildered, but he straightened up and said, “You know, it’s funny – I feel better.   No, it can’t be … well let me test it out.”   He ran up and down some steps: “I’m not even out of breath!”

News went round the store, and, the following day, another fellow came into the storage area for healing from acne.   But the Lord gave the Christian a word for him: “Don’t think that God is there just to sort out your little personal problems: he is Lord.    But I would like to pray for you… if you will allow me.   I want to pray that Jesus will show you that He is Lord.”   The acne went, but he said, he ‘could not’ accept Jesus as Lord.   The Christian replied: “Never again say can’t: say wont!”

Canon David White tells of walking down a corridor with John Wimber.   Their path crossed and passed that of a blind gentleman.  Suddenly Wimber turned round and shouted: “Be healed!”   The man was cured, and they walked on.

The wife of a church leader working in Beirut among refugees – both Christian and Muslim – fleeing from the IS cruelties in Syria:  met a Muslim lady whose child was at the point of death.  She offered to anoint the child with oil and pray in the name of Jesus to the Father.  Within the day, the child was bouncingly fit and well; there was much rejoicing.

FINAL NOTES

The Temple was not normally a place for healing in Jesus’s time, but Matthew 21:14 records one time of grace.

Healing can come through the gifts of: faith, miracles, healings, evangelist, and the calling of Elders.

John Wimber’s “Five Points”, again:

  1. Interview – hear the sufferer, and hear God
  2. The Reason – find the cause or purpose of the illness
  3. Select the appropriate prayer approach
  4. Faith – the actual laying on of hands
  5. After care – beyond the healing.

Royal illnesses: Hezekiah, Nebuchadnezzar, and David.

In Church Discipline

A final resort is to deliver to Satan, for the destruction of the body, that people might learn not to blaspheme.

Showing to the Priests for confirmation of healing:

Leviticus 13 and 14

Matthew 8:2-4

Mark 1:44;

Luke 5:12-16

MENTAL ILLNESSES

I would like to have ducked out of this difficult area, which perplexes many of us.  The great and the good are not immune: Paul and Elijah, Martin Luther, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, and many of our acquaintances, no doubt.

Bi-polar condition is a kinder name.

[My inadequate notes on a lecture]

DR PABLO MARTINEZ

THE CHRISTIAN AND EMOTIONAL PROBLEMS: DEPRESSION

The Doctor has been a working psychiatrist in Barcelona, Spain, since 1979.   He has

also spoken in over twenty European countries.   He has served as an associate staff member of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, and as Chair of the Grupos Biblicos Universitarios – the Spanish equivalent of UCCF … to mention a few of his contributions to Christian and medical work.

He feels that depression is very much a twentieth century complaint: World War II produced anxiety; the development of society since, has led to depression as a common human experience.

Sadness, or disappointment, is the characteristic of our time.   [Note the long list of words starting with “psycho” in a modern dictionary.   Is depression an eschatological plague?]

Two thirds of patients visiting Family Doctors are suffering from psychosomatic causation – depression constitutes a large percentage of these.

Three Degrees:

  1. a) indifference to life, all is meaningless, not looking forward to anything
  2. b) it would be better to be dead, death would be release from life – that is apart from the Christian understanding. [Actually a Christian would do well to reconsider this: Paul does say that it is better to be at home with the Lord – 2 Corinthians 5:6-9;  Philippians 1:21-26.]
  3. c) suicidal thoughts, and intention – this should always be taken seriously; immediate medical help should be sought.

Three Symptoms:

  1. a) poor self image, I am a disaster, God is punishing me, unable to laugh, unable to love, irritable, staying in bed or sitting around all the time, cannot cope, poor memory, weak concentration, sorry mood, loss of interest, nothing to look forward to. There are two wrong kinds of guilt, here: others are at fault; I am generally guilty – both are neurotic.
  2. b) insomnia, physical effect, somatic:
  3. i)  difficulty in falling asleep – cannot turn the brain off; this may be anxiety rather than depression,
  4. ii) sleeps and wakes, nervous when sleeping, nightmares – this also is anxiety.

iii)  typical of depression: immediate falling asleep, but waking after 3 or 4 hours, and finding it impossible to sleep again, and unpleasant thoughts occur; this is very

serious.

  1. c) loss of appetite – in most severe depression.

The real depression usually includes: suicidal feelings, insomnia,

and anorexia.

Ups and downs of mood are not necessarily depression.

FOUR TYPES OF DEPRESSION.

Experts do not agree, but Pablo sees one, which is external, and three that are internal.

1   From outside: reactive depression.   This occurs rather like a common cold – three or four times a year.   It is the reaction of our human nature to trials and hardships: death of a loved one, change of environment, failing an exam, being let down badly, a failed relationship, betrayed, unemployment.   All are, in a sense, a form of bereavement – of blackness.   It amounts to a recognizable normal period of several months of “mourning”.   If the condition persists over a year or so, then the condition is depressive or psychotic.   It is usually a tunnel with a gleam of light at the end, which we approach slowly.

2   First of the three internalized depressions is the depressive personality, which is life-long.   Like living permanently in a dry, dark desert: it maintains a poor self-image, inferiority, sense of failure, “no-one loves me”, negative, seeing life darkly.   It is an inherited predisposition, but just because a forebear had depression, it does not automatically follow, that we will.

Contributory factors: the influences in our first five years of life, education, environment, home life, alcoholic parents, and being treated worse than the cat.   These are often lonely people.

3   The Psychotic, or Endogenous Depression is not a question of personality; but of bio-chemical imbalance.   This is clearly a physical illness, and early testing should lead to treatment with the correcting compounds.   It is acute, and can result in the patient remaining in bed, or sitting in a chair inactive, and with suicidal tendencies.   There can be swings of mood, from superman image to low depression – “I do not know why I am down”.   There is a good prognosis, with excellent response to pharmacological treatment.

4   Secondary Depression can be caused by circumstances: exhaustion, great stress, care of a sick person – in which the sadness comes when the strain is over, organic physical illnesses, high business pressure, and social responsibility – as with a Member of Parliament, or Town Councilor.    Those who have extra skill of serving others, often have great demands made on them.

Sometimes we place more burdens on ourselves, than God does.

Elijah suffered great stress: he wanted to die, he mis-represented the situation regarding the true prophets; God was gentle with him – giving him food, sleep, exercise, and then a quiet revelation, without rebuke or condemnation.

Seasons can affect people: Spring and Autumn – especially the endogenous aetiology.   There are stressful times such as adolescence, middle age (40 to 50 in men) and menopause, and retirement – not much time free!   Morning tends to be worst; with improvement during the day.   The Moon and stars have no effect.

CHRISTIANS AND DEPRESSION.

My own thoughts

Christians are no more immune from depression than they are from any other illness.

Prosperity Theology, Immunity Theology – health and wealth, name it and claim it – has no biblical basis; quite the opposite.   A poster announced: “Jesus Christ – (and then in small letters) eternal life, health and wealth”; the first Believers preached: eternal life and persecution! (1 Thessalonians 3:3-4)  It is quite generally said that this is a heresy, and certainly it has caused some to backslide and lose their faith.

Special Causes

A specific identifiable sin may bring a low feeling – but this is unusual; a vague sense of sin is often evidence of a psychological origin, and not genuine guilt.

The extra sensitivity of the Righteous may increase the sense of concern – Jeremiah, David and Paul are good examples of this.

On the positive side, there are the Means of Grace, and the glorious hopes of the Believer.

Even in harsh circumstances, a Christian can know joy and peace.

How can we help?

Never harm people.   Do not condemn; unless there is real sin.

Allow to folk to cry.   Be near, especially in the Reactive Depression, but not always talking.   God gives new eyes to see hope and freedom – a new self-image.   There may be occasions when a strong challenge is needed – firmness and stimulation – only in Character Depression, because there is self-pity (this is not apposite in cases needing medicinal remedies).   Emotion can be expressed with hope.   It helps to know how the problem has arisen.

Professional help may be needed; indeed is essential!

The unskilled can offer considerable help in the form of sympathy and compassion: “Cry with those who cry.”

The talk does not deal with the possibility of an amalgam of causes, the price of serving Christ, the means of maturation, or our own foolhardiness.

The joy and peace of the Holy Spirit can come in even the bleakest of times.   Only God can give the true rest of spirit, in a close relationship with Christ.   He gives his presence (Psalm 23), his faithfulness, right insights and attitudes, and he gives the hope of glory.   There is also the possibility of demon influence, and healing in answer to the prayer of Elders.

“God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of love, and power, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

After taking an ill-judged late walk, I noticed a Christian from our local fellowship sitting on a seat in a small park area.  As I delivered the question: “How are you?” I was conscious of the tears coursing down their face: they had come here to end their life!  We talked; particularly round the text saying: “YOU ARE NOT YOUR OWN, YOU ARE BOUGHT WITH A PRICE.”  We agreed never to mention this event to anyone (with names).  We agreed that further despair should lead to professional help, via a doctor.

We all use mental voices: as part of our reasoning, being tempted, or communications from the Holy Spirit, but serious cases of schizophrenia, probably require us to discern the evil, and say “The Lord rebuke you!”

The Devil and some enemies are the only ones who wish us ill.  Christian friends, the angels, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, all are for us!

As said earlier: working hard for the Kingdom can reduce us to weariness.

I occasionally meet a man who suffers from severe depression, he has a loud voice, and our conversation reaches a sizable audience.  I admire his wide witness, and how God uses him.

Notes from the William Wilberforce Trust, HTB, Focus 2013, Panel of Four Experts (may still be available on the Internet)

Signs of emotional illness and mental health:

Outbursts of anger

Extreme behaviour

Shyness – isolating themselves

Low mood expressed verbally or in body language

Conversation revealing low self-image

Lack of social boundaries

Appearance: unkept, lack of personal hygiene

Easily reduced to tears

Behind it are often fear, anxiety, and terror

Some can hide it very well

We do well to remember God’s help to Elijah, when he was downcast: He gave him food, exercise, and sleep!

Joshua 1:9  “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified;

do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

[S] WORKING MIRACLES, 4

There are two mentions in the four lists: 1 Corinthians 12:10 and 1 Corinthians 12:28.   Literally the term means “workings of powers” and “works of power”; notice the plurals.   (The NIV has “miraculous powers” and “workers of miracles”.)

In the second list, the first three gifts are numbered in order of importance, if there is any significance beyond these, then it would be high on the register, as it comes fourth.

1755 Strong, energema, en-erg’-ay-mah, an effect, operation, working

1411 Strong, dunamis, doo’-nam-is, force, power, miraculous, mighty, wonderful

There is the thought of: ability, abundance, force, power, miraculous power – usually implied by the context, mightily, mighty, mighty deeds, worker of miracles, strength, violence, mighty wonderful work, miracles; a name for God

In the Greek words, when used together – energemata dunameon ,  there is even the thought of “power powers”, as both words suggest POWER.

Energema    In classical writing this implied: activity, energy, a stress on activity, cosmic or physical forces at work in human nature, supernatural power, powers in the heavens, powerful working.

Georg Bertram points out that “ergon” originates from the same Indo-Germanic stem as the English noun “work”.   In Classical Greek usage, the word group is wide ranging: active zeal, action in contrast to idleness, useful, energy, cosmic or physical forces at work in human nature, supernatural power, powers in the heavens, powerful working, and is applied to agriculture, shipping, sculpture and poetry.   Biblical writers employ it particularly for supernatural activity. (Kittel, Volume II, pp 635-655)

Dunamis   Classical writers infer: ability, capacity, power.   In the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) there is the thought of: ability, power, and competence.   Walter Grundmann observes, “In Greek and Hellenistic reflection concerning the world and its mystery this led increasingly to the acceptance of “dunamis” as a cosmic principle….   When we turn from the Greek and Hellenistic world to that of the Old Testament, we enter a different atmosphere.   In place of the neutral idea of God we have the Personal God….   This difference, based upon the whole concept of God, is plainly expressed in the concept of power.” (Kittel, Volume II, pp 286-290)

The Scriptures are very much concerned with “power”.   There is the power of God in Creation; in the Messianic Prophecies, Incarnation, Ministry, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension and Present Rule of Christ in the midst of His enemies (Psalm 110:2); the equipping of Believers for the victory over Evil Spiritual Powers; and the Ultimate Reign of God, at the end of time.

The two words are often seen together in the New Testament: Galatians 3v5, Ephesians 3:7,20;   Colossians 1:29;   Mark 6:14;   and Luke 24:19.

Faith and Gifts of Healing would overlap this gift, or be contained in this charisma.   Miracles and Faith have a wider scope than healing, but could contain healings.

Three terms are used throughout Scripture: MIRACLES, SIGNS AND WONDERS.    They are all miraculous.   To define the three in simple terms:

Miracles are interventions of God for the obvious good of people.

Signs contain a strong element of revelation and doctrine – they are a statement about God’s Nature.   The Greek word “seemeion” [say’mion] may be translated in several ways: sign, indication, miracle, token, or wonder.   Translators have not been pedantic, and “miraculous signs” is typical of the NIV.

Wonders (Greek noun, “teras”) are perhaps not essential to human welfare, or of materialistic value, but are CELEBRATIONS OF GOD’S GLORY, which awaken awe.

These definitions are often forgotten by the Present Day Sadducees in the Church: who want a practical result, in spite of their generally negative outlook.

References containing these terms: Exodus 7:3;  Deuteronomy 4:34, 6:22, 26:8, 29:3;  Nehemiah 9:10;  Jeremiah 32:20, Daniel 4:2-3, 6:27;  Matthew 24:24 (evil instances);  John 4:48;  Acts 2:19,22,43, 4:10, 5:12, 6:8, 7:36, 8:13, 14:3, 15:12;  Romans 15:19 (this is well worth looking at in the Greek text: “Christ through me … in word and work, in power of signs and wonders, in power of the Spirit of God”), 2 Corinthians 12:12;  2 Thessalonians 2:9 (evil origins);  and Hebrews 2:4.

There are tensions between the Greek words and the English Language Versions.   At their weakest, the two words “energeemata” and “dunameon” could mean “working ability”; but in their context, in the New Testament and the Septuagint, there is the stronger feeling of: “mighty working of powers”.   Both are plural in 1 Corinthians 12:10; and each term can imply power.   Because “working of powers” does not translate meaningfully, translators have done their best, and we have become accustomed to “workers of miracles”, as a reasonable substitute.   The New Testament writers made the “dunamis” word group work particularly hard, and it is a good example of context defining the accurate meaning.   A sensible translation of “dunamis” might be “demonstrations of power”; and our two words becoming: “PERFORMING DEMONSTRATIONS OF POWER”.

One must ask the question, I think, to what extent does the Christian with this gift, actually demand, or require it to happen.   Or, does it happen because God is active in sovereign power, alongside the Believer.   In other words: there is often a sense of the uncontrollable, unpredictable, wait-and-see, and above all: the sovereignty of God.   The Believer may be aware with a certain kind of vagueness, in guidance and prayer.   As part of the miracle there may be a word of knowledge or wisdom, a prophecy, or a vision/dream, prior to the event, and together they constitute part the Wonder.   I feel there is much to be learnt about this.   This was written recently: With virtually all the gifts, we may receive guidance apropos the will of God; we then have the choice to obey, or not.   With Contributing, a person may feel led to donate £1,000 to a cause, but declines to reach into their Porsche for the chequebook.   The Teacher may be clearly guided to preach on “The Judgement of God in the Church”; but fearing there may be no more invitations from the Church, they extol “The Love of God”.

However, with the Miraculous, Signs and Wonders, perhaps it is that God knows our heart’s desire and acts in His sovereign will – not needing to give us a choice.   The gift is still associated with individuals, and on some occasions the Believer is required to introduce the miracle in some way: as can be seen in the biblical references.  Perhaps with the Signs and Wonders there is less human involvement, than with Miracles.

Here is a possible example: the church prays for revival and blessing, the person with the gift has a vision of an angel of God with a sword drawn in judgement – a prophetic experience; and the church is cleansed for revival by acts of judgement and discipline.   Eventually there is the awareness that the judgement has passed.

The balance of the “Divine Sovereignty, and human participation” is seen in Deuteronomy 34:10-end (NASBU, New American Standard Bible Update):

“Since that time no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, for all the signs and wonders which the LORD sent him to perform in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh, all his servants, and all his land, and for all the mighty power and for all the great terror which Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.”

I would suggest that Moses was fully aware of what Yahweh wanted to happen, but was party to the start, and finish, of each miracle.

Joshua, in the book of his name, chapter 10:12-14 (NASBU), similarly, takes an active, knowledgeable part in the event of the sun and moon, standing still in the battle against the Amorites:

“Then Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel,

‘O sun, stand still at Gibeon,

And O moon in the valley of Aijalon.’

So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped,

Until the nation avenged themselves of their enemies.

Is it not written in the book of Jashar? ‘And the sun stopped in the middle of the sky and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day.’

There was no day like that before it or after it, when the LORD listened to the voice of a man; for the LORD fought for Israel.”

Joshua’s prayer to God is linked to the command to the celestial objects.  We do well to observe this important area throughout Scripture.

Here is Samuel the Prophet taking a similar part in the ordering of a miracle:

1 Samuel 12:16-18 “Now then, stand still and see this great thing the LORD is about to do before your eyes! 17 Is it not wheat harvest now? I will call upon the LORD to send thunder and rain. And you will realize what an evil thing you did in the eyes of the LORD when you asked for a king.” 18 Then Samuel called upon the LORD, and that same day the LORD sent thunder and rain. So all the people stood in awe of the LORD and of Samuel.

The twentieth century missionary Willie Burton, who experienced the miraculous in the old Belgian Congo, felt that it was common when there was a new move of the Spirit, in a nation.   Perhaps, also, as suggested in Psalm 1, there are seasons of God’s sovereign work.   Of Jesus’s day, we read: “They were all filled with awe and praised God….   they said….   ‘God has come to help His people.’”   Revival is usually applied to a renewing of Church spirituality: Awakening to a new consciousness of a need for God in the unconverted.   Of great encouragement is the passage, 2 Chronicles 29:35-36, one of several portrayals of revival in this part of Judah’s history: “So the service of the Temple of the LORD was re-established.   King Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced at what God had brought about for His people, because it was done so quickly.” (based on NIV)

SOME OLD TESTAMENT EXAMPLES OF MIRACLES

Creation! The Flood, Destruction of the Tower of Babel and the Creating of Foreign Languages, Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the Increase of Jacob’s Flocks, Jacob wrestles with the Angel, the Burning Bush and associated signs, The Ten Plagues, Parting of the Reed Sea and the killing of the Egyptian Army, the giving of Manna, Water brought from the Rock, Giving the Law on Mount Sinai, Miriam’s leprosy, Parting of the River Jordan, Destruction of Jericho, David’s punishment for his census, the hand of King Jeroboam shrivelled and the altar was split , Jonah and the Big Fish, and hundreds more – the LORD is a GOD OF MIRACLES.  These all contain, in addition to the miraculous – statements about God, quite often containing judgement.

Wonders: The Shekinah Glory at the Tabernacle, the Pillar of Cloud/Fire, The Demonstration on Sinai, Moses’ face shining, and Ezekiel’s Visions, to name just a few!

SOME NEW TESTAMENT EXAMPLES OF MIRACLES

Jesus changing water into wine, John 2:1-11

Stilling of the Tempest, Matthew 8:23-27

Feeding the Five Thousand, Matthew 14:15-21

Walking on the Water, Matthew 14:22-33

The coin in the fish’s mouth, Matthew 17:24-end

Cursing the fig tree, Matthew 21:18-22

[Food, finance, weather, gravity, creatures, humans]

The death of Ananias and Sapphira, Acts 5:5-10

Deliverances from prison, Acts 5:19-23, and 12:6-11

Philip transported by the Spirit, Acts 8:39

Paul and Elymus struck blind, Acts 9:8, 13:11

Paul survives the Adder, Acts 28:5

Signs: The earthquake in Acts 16

Wonders:  The star at Jesus’s birth, the darkening of the sky and the resurrections at the time of the Crucifixion.

EXORCISM

If exorcism is beyond healing, and therefore the ability to work miracles, then the person who has a special gift in exorcism may look for even more to happen.   There is the thought among some fine Bible teachers, that every Believer, walking in the light, has power over unclean spirits.   The original text never said “possessed”, but “has” an unclean spirit.   “Demonised” is a common modern term.   The word “miracles” is used of healing and exorcism in Acts 19:11-12.   Non-Christian exorcism failed in Acts 19:13-17, with a great impact!

An Islamic attempt at “exorcism”, which came to my notice through an eyewitness, was a very inadequate negotiation, not an authoritative command – which constitutes a serious major flaw: A boy came to me, at the end of one afternoon, offering to tell this story, on condition that I would not reveal his name in class, if I retold it.  I have long-forgotten his name.  A girl from his community had returned to Pakistan, to stay with relatives.  Whilst living in a large house, she emerged from her room into a long corridor, in time to see her double come out of a door, some distance away, and walk in the opposite direction.  The effect of this was to disturb her mind.  Back in Britain, a group of young people were looking after a child of the family, and watching television.  Suddenly, this disturbed girl upset the full coffee table – hurling it towards the TV set.  Some took the little child to safety, whilst others called the Imam.  When he came to face the disturbed girl, the Imam approached her spitting.  Then speaking to the jinn in her, he had it promise to do her no further harm, on condition that it could remain in situ.  The dirty spirit agreed.  This, obviously, is the opposite of Christian expulsion!

Through the disgusting film, “The Exorcist”, which most people have probably seen, and a Believer should not see, the subject – along with that of Antichrist, fascinates all-and-sundry, and can be a good point of contact.

An unclean spirit does not necessarily cause epilepsy, in the Gospels and Acts, as a careful study will show.

If there is any challenge from an unclean spirit, in an exorcism, then it is good to remember that the authority standing at your right hand is the Lord Jesus Christ.   It is the authority of His Name, which you use  –  He is the commissioning power which sends you forth.

“Christ is the Head over every Power and Authority.”  Colossians 2:10.

We are warned that satanic miracles will characterise the last days:

Matthew 24:24, “’For false christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.’”

(Cf 2 Thessalonians 2:9)

It goes without saying that careful discernment is needed.   But not all last day miracles are evil, and have in mind that unforgivable blasphemy is the sin of wrongly attributing wonders of God, to Satan.

UFO’s

Gary Bates of Creation Ministries International has done a thorough investigation into these phenomena.  The full scope of exorcism: from devout believers with power and authority, to unbelievers with disastrous consequences (Acts 19:13-17 seven sons of Sceva, Acts 16:16-18 girl with Python spirit; see CMI papers, books and DVD).

A PRAYER:

“Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders, through the name of your holy Servant Jesus.”   Acts 4:30.

SOME POST-NEW TESTAMENT EXAMPLES

Just as a complete survey of biblical miracles is a huge task – and the simple answer is “read the Bible with the subject in mind”; so events in subsequent history would fill many volumes.   Even if we consider a short list, covered in publications and talks, it begins to impress: Awakenings connected with the Wesleys, Finney, Jonathan Edwards, Revivals in Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Congo, East Africa, Indonesia, China, Argentina, and European House Churches.   In our own culture names will continue to be added to the list which includes: Smith Wigglesworth, Kathryn Khulman, Jean Darnall, Canon David Watson, John Wimber, Reinhard Bonnke, and the many American Healing Evangelists.   There are countries, churches, and individuals, in whose daily experience the miraculous is common.

John Wesley discusses, in his Journal, the miracles seen by the Montanists, and the sad lack of the miraculous in his own day:

Wednesday, August 15th, 1750.   “By reflecting on an odd book which I had read in this journey, “The General Delusion of Christians with regard to Prophecy,” I was fully convinced of what I had long suspected, 1. That the Montanists, in the second and third centuries, were real, scriptural Christians; and, 2. That the grand reason why the miraculous gifts were so soon withdrawn, was not only that faith and holiness were well nigh lost; but that dry, formal, orthodox men began even then to ridicule whatever gifts they had not themselves, and to decry them all as either madness or imposture.”

Illustrations

[1]

Llanelli, South Wales, 21.JL.1914

This account was told to Dr Victor Pierce by George Jeffreys, the eminent evangelist, and also recorded in a biographical work.

Whilst his brother Stephen was preaching, he noticed the attention of the crowd was riveted on something behind him.   On leaving the platform, he saw, on the wall behind the platform, a clear vision of a Lamb.   After a few moments, the face of Christ replaced the Lamb, with tears flowing down His face.   The vision was of a living face, even the eyelids blinked.   The hair was partly white.   Jeffreys was preaching on the text, “That I may know Jesus, and the fellowship of His sufferings.”   When he pleaded with people to repent of sin, and receive forgiveness, the face in the vision, became enshrouded with glory.   A member of the congregation remembered the face as “most beautiful beyond description, kindly beyond words.   And the eyes!   They looked at you personally – those loving sad and glorious eyes which moved in the living face.”

The appearance lasted through the night and into the morning.   Hundreds of people came to see it, and heard yet another evangelistic message from the preacher.   Many attempts were made to examine it: a cloth was held in front of it, but the vision shone though it, the lights were switched off – it still shone, and even the windows were covered, but to no avail.   Many of the young men who came, would be killed in the World War, about to start.

[2]

The Battle of Mons, 26.AUG.1914

A Lieutenant Colonel told of his brigade’s orderly retreat from the powerful German advance and onslaught.   Many officers and men in the column saw a vision of a large army of horsemen, in the fields, on either side of the road.   There was a report that called them angels.   On one occasion the army horses refused to move: saving the soldiers from an enemy ambush.   Many had seen another vision: of an angel keeping the forces apart.   The enemy soldiers told of horses that refused to advance, but turned and fled, taking their riders with them.   Among the enemy was a report of an army led by an officer on a white horse, which no bullet could kill.   But for these signs, the British soldiers would have been annihilated.   Enemy troops claimed to have seen a large army supporting the British from behind.   In reality they had no such force, only a thinly spread line of defence – fifteen yards between each soldier, in the firing line.   There were scores of witnesses of these visions.

In the spring of 1918, a similar event happened at Bethune.   The enemy artillery pounded a deserted hill.   As the foe’s infantry were starting to advance, with total supremacy, they suddenly dropped all their military equipment and fled.   The adversaries had seen a huge cavalry brigade, in white uniforms, led by an officer in armour, with flowing fair hair like an aureole.   Machine gun fire, and shelling raked this force, but none fell: they advanced unconcerned.   The enemy troops, including the famous Prussian Guard, fled in disarray.   In the silence, which followed the occurrence, a single skylark rose singing into the sky.

[3]

The only National Day of Prayer of this war, ordered by Parliament and the U.S. Congress, was on August 4th 1918; it was followed in the November by the signing of the Armistice.

[4]

Many of the main acts of God, related to the Second World War, seemed to follow the seven National Days of Prayer.   Also, there were two notable signs: the figure of Christ on a white Calvary cross with six angels, appeared over Ipswich (August, 1940).   An angel was seen over Peckham during the extensive air raids by “flying bombs” (September, 1944).   The miracle of rescuing a third of a million soldiers from Dunkirk, followed the first Day of Prayer, called by King George VI.

After the Day of Prayer on September 8th, 1940, people saw angels in the sky, and the Battle of Britain was in process of being won.   Air Chief Marshall Dowding said: “I will say with absolute conviction that I can trace the intervention of God … Humanly speaking victory was impossible!”

Huge storms in the North Sea and the Channel blew away the invasion barges being prepared by the Nazis at Bremen.

March 23rd, 1941, was the Fourth National Day of Prayer.   Only later was it realised this was the proposed date for Hitler’s invasion.   A great earthquake caused waves and gales that blew the Nazi ships 80 miles off course.   Numerous significant events, on several war fronts, made this a turning point in the War.

The day following the fifth Day of Prayer, the entire Italian fleet was sunk at Palermo.   A month later, the Eighth Army saved Egypt and Israel, from the troops of Rommel.

On the night of the sixth Day of Prayer, Italy surrendered, and Mussolini was murdered.

[5]

A FAMILY EXPERIENCE

When my Daughter was in her early teenage years, she was sitting on her bed reflecting on philosophical and spiritual controversies.   She prayed: “God you’re a wimp: you never really do anything!”   It was only years after, that she connected the next few moments to that exclamation.

I was in the Hall of the house, when there was a blinding blue flash – as one would expect from the electricity fuse box exploding.   Both my children saw the flash – my son saw it as outside the house.   A quarter of a mile away, across the fields, a farmer acquaintance was thrown across his yard, by a blast.   The sky was only slightly hazy, but clear of clouds.   Only later did Claire recognise the reply to her outburst.

[6]

In my first year as a Christian I heard the story, via Billy Roper, of men on a building site who watched a Christian workmate fall from the scaffolding, and then miraculously return – confounding gravity. C 1953

[7]

Some years ago, Canon David MacInnes told the Cambridge Inter-Collegiate Christian Union this remarkable story:

“Recently, I came across a lad from Manchester … he’d been working in a goods yard.   He’d had no connexion with the Christian Church at all – he hadn’t been even for a baptism or a wedding.   But, he was working in this yard, and an accident took place: a truck, about twenty tons of weight somehow came loose … he wasn’t looking … it came behind him … knocked him over and he found it running up his right leg.   It was clearly going to run over his whole body – there was nothing stopping it.   When a Man stepped forward and put his hand up, and the truck was stopped.   His shouts for help brought workers running, and as they wrestled to try and release him, the truck again began to move.   And again, this Man stepped forward and stopped it!

“Well, two weeks later, he was in hospital … his leg amputated … recovering.   And a small group of young people came round and took a service: one lad, and three girls – they sang to a guitar.   A strange thing happened: as the lad was singing, he found himself singing along too.    He hadn’t heard the song, as far as he could remember, but the words seemed to come quite easily to his lips.   The lad in the group looked surprised too.   And then he noticed another Man with them; it was the same Man who had stopped the truck.   And so he called to the lad, and said: “Look, come here!   Who is that?    Oh, He’s not there.   Who is that Man with you?”

The group member said, ‘There are just four of us; there’s nobody else.’   And then the he said, ‘How do you know the words of that song?’   He said, ‘Well I don’t know; perhaps I just heard it somewhere and it came to mind.’   But the singer said. “You couldn’t have done, I just made it up yesterday – it’s the first time I’ve sung it.’   And before long they were talking about Jesus.   And that lad … that fellow’s now short of a leg; but he’s richer with a Saviour, convinced that God encountered him.”

[8]

There was an intense fire at the British Western Sovereign Base area, Paramah, on Cyprus.   Fourteen quarters were burned out, and many others damaged.   Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Cobbold and his wife Yvonne had always prayed for protection: theirs was the only house to escape damage of any kind to house or garden.   The fire stopped at the garden fence: halfway through the hedge [c 1990].

[9]

When my father was on military service, during the Second World War, he ostensibly disappeared for a large part of a year – as he had warned us.   Aged ten, I was praying a childhood prayer for him, when I became aware or a person in the room, and saw a bright column of light – in spite of the thick Blackout curtains.   Although I was working on a copy of a Burne-Jones type of drawing of an angel, this was simply a column of light – not what I might have imagined.  I heard a voice saying that on the following day we would receive a letter.   At half-past nine, I went outside to see my mother’s joy as she showed the letter to a neighbour.   My limited knowledge of probability reckoned that there was only one chance in three hundred of the message coming true that day.   It prevented me ever becoming “an honest atheist”.

[10]

Marie Monsen, the eminent Norwegian missionary to China recounts how remarkably tall angelic troops guarded their compound during a rebellion.

[11]

Brother Yun, in his autobiography “The Heavenly Man”, tells of many miraculous events: his remarkable escape from a prison, he and his cellmate were the only ones to escape a pernicious skin infection, people unharmed in winter baptisms in frozen water, having cut a hole in the ice, some did not feel the chill of the water – some felt it warm, and an escape from the police.   He fasted for 74 days.

[12]

At the Bella Vista Prison in Colombia, the White Flag Campaign brought to an end the killing culture.  Prisoners had played football with human sculls, and there had been murders almost every day.

Bella Vista Prison was unfortunately named – in Medellin, a city in the heart of the drug infestation; in Colombia, the most dangerous nation in the Western World.

An horrendous cauldron of brutality was brought to an end – not by military intervention – but by a spiritual awakening to the Gospel.   The breakthrough in 1990, which ended the riots, is referred to as The White Flag Campaign.   There is a Bible Institute within the prison now.   Prison authorities take their cue on moving Christian prisoners, when they have finished their training as evangelists and pastors in the Institute.

“Bella Vista Prison is a maximum-security prison that was often called ‘hell on earth’ where the murder rate often topped one per day. Through prayer and the bold witness of some anointed believers the prison has seen a remarkable turning of the most hardened criminals to Christ. Large numbers of the inmates are now believers, and round the clock prayer chains often function. The spirit of murder has all but disappeared, and the brutal conditions improved. Now, a Bible Institute has formed in the prison, training inmates for ministry once they are released.”

(Colombia, “Operation World”, an encyclopedic, reference book on World Missions)

Jeannine Brabon, OMS missionary, Professor of Old Testament at the Biblical Seminary of Colombia, and founder member of the Prison Fellowship of Antioquia.

This is an outline of her first, nervous, sermon in Bella Vista Prison.

“I wonder if you know what the word ‘mercy’ means?” she asked.   “To illustrate, I would like to tell you the story of King David of Israel.   The Bible describes him as ‘a man after God’s own heart’.   He was the finest ruler his country had ever known.   Nevertheless, he had his enemies.”

Jeannine told the story of David’s conflict with the jealous King Saul: of the many attempts on David’s life, by Saul; of the Saul’s son who was David’s best friend.

She recounted the tragic events of the Battle of Mount Gilboa: how Saul ended his life by falling on his sword, and the Philistine army wiped out the royal family.   All this opened the way for David to become King.

When he was firmly enthroned, to honour the memory of his friend Jonathan; he brought his lame and impoverished son Mephibosheth (meaning “man of shame”) to live freely in his court.   David found him in Lodebar (meaning “nowhere”).   Normally kings of the time annihilated their enemy’s family.   Jeannine saw nods of understanding, when she mentioned annihilating enemies.

But David had experienced the love of God.   Hebrew has a special word for it: “hesed”.   We translate it “loving-kindness”.   It is steadfast love that never ceases, no matter how badly we behave or how little we deserve it.”

The King showed ‘hesed’ to the poor man, and brought him into his palace in Jerusalem (meaning “City of Peace”).   This is a picture of God’s mercy.   “God loves every one of us in exactly the same way, no matter how badly we behave or how little we deserve it.”

Twenty-three professional assassins and terrorists had tears streaming down their faces, as they stood to show their desire to receive God’s love, and be prayed with.

(Taken from page 82 ff, “The Lord of Bellavista”, by David Miller, SPCK, 1998.)

[13]

In the missionary report film: “Vive Cristo Rey!”, the Roman Catholic and Pentecostal Believers, experienced several miracles on the Mexican-American border.   A small joint of meat at a Christmas outreach fed a large number of people.

[14]

The south transept of York Minster caught fire after the induction of an heretical Bishop of Durham.

[15]

An American man said he would believe if God gave him a sign: the minister of a Church rang the wrong number and the man’s record indicated that (the church of) “God the Almighty” had called him.

[16]

As you will know the Church in China is seeing phenomenal growth.   Observers say that they see four kinds of miracles:

  1. Being delivered miraculously from dangerous plights.   The Lamas caught an evangelist in Tibet.   He was taken to a high mountain used for “sky burials”: sewn into a tight yak skin and left to die, as the skin contracted in the sun.   Vultures would eat his remains.   The vultures came; but undid the stitching and he was able to crawl away.
  1. Endurance to keep going.   A typical example: beaten by bullies, over three years in a prison cell – yet survived against the odds.   There were many such instances – 10 for every deliverance marvel.
  1. Healing miracles.  50% of the converts in the house-churches came to faith in Christ because of physical healing.
  1. Spiritual Warfare.   In a village, dominated by 2.000 years of syncretistic folk religion, a couple were converted, and threw out the family gods, which were supposed to protect the rooms of their home.   The village felt threatened by this supposed weakening of their spiritual protection by an ancestral god.   At great expense a Taoist priest was brought in to pray for help outside their home.   There was the banging of gongs, and setting off of firecrackers, for about a week.   At the end of the week, the head priest received news that his son was wasting away with a mysterious illness.   He returned the 35 miles to his house. But his spells could make no difference.   The Christian couple asked permission to pray for the boy in the name of Jesus.   This caused the priest to be very angry; and he slammed the phone down.

After a month, the illness had advanced close to death.   In desperation the father called the Christians, and asked them to help.   They prayed through the night.   In the morning the boy woke-up recovered.   The priest wondered if his own spells and incantations had worked after all.   The boy, however, told how a man had visited him in the night and picked him up, saying: “Be well.   My name is Jesus!”   The story spread, to the glory of God: it was seen as warfare against the village gods.

[17]

A high class Muslim couple had often visited the home of two Christians for a meal and discussion, but to no effect.   They were able to perform the Hadj, and saw the thousands massing round the Kabah, in the centre of Mecca.   As they came in, a person stood before them: they said it was Isa – Jesus.   He said, “You know that I am the Son of God.   You know that I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: believe on me, and return to your home.”   No one else, but the two, saw the vision.  They obeyed, and became shining lights for the Lord Jesus.

[18] VHS “Viva Cristo Rey”, Long Live Christ the King

Revival involving RC’s and AOG on the Mexican US Border    58min Recommended by Rev David Pawson

The two groups of Christians met to give a celebratory meal, served from the back of a vehicle.  A larger than expected crowd turned up, and the supply of ham and bread amazingly miraculously multiplied

[T] Iraq, 2014, SAT-7 Prayer email Wazala

“Reverend Michael” shared a startling and miraculous testimony. He was driving the church bus alone after taking members home from worship service when, suddenly an assailant in another car pulled alongside him and detonated a bomb. The explosion sent burnt pieces of the bus flying.  Miraculously, the only part of the bus that survived was the driver’s seat where Revd Michael was seated. He had a few minor scratches, but was otherwise unharmed.

[20]

In the early nineteenth century a missionary couple found their home surrounded one night by shrieking roaring cannibals: the very people they had come to share the Gospel with.  The couple fell to their knees and prayed.  All night the cannibals intimidated them, and the Scottish couple waited for what would be their grizzly end.  Just before sunrise, to their amazement, they observed the natives slinking back into the forest; leaving them unharmed.  How they rejoiced!

About a year later, the missionaries had seen some fruit for their labours, and the Chief had become a Christian.  Recalling the horror of that terrible night: they asked the Chief why they had not been attacked.  The man asked, “Who were those men with you?”  The missionaries told that they had been alone.  “There were hundreds of tall men in shining garments, with drawn swords, circling about your house; so we could not attack you.”

Recorded by John G. Patten: missionary to the New Hebrides in the South Pacific, where they had seen a spiritual awakening.  (Told in a sermon by Canon David White, at St Andrew’s, Chorleywood, c 2014)

[T] ENCOURAGING, 17

3870 Strong, parakaleo, par-ak-al-eh’-o, to call near, to invite, invoke, comfort exhort, beseech

3871 Strong,  paraklesis. par-ak-lay-sis  entreaty, imploration solace,  comfort,  consolation,  exhortation,  encouragement

3875 Strong,  parakletos.  par-ak-1ay-yos: advocate, intercessor, comforter,  comforter

A verb and two noun forms

Kittel, vol V, pp 773-799 – Otto Schmitz and Gustav Stahlim

This is one of the most  “versatile” word groups in our study. It ranges through at least four main areas: a pedestrian use for a physical position, a term often used of people coming to Jesus and beseeching him for help, the spiritual/emotiona1 use – which is our concern, and a descriptive noun for God Himself.

The everyday use is seen in:  Esther 5:1 e, 2 b (LXX);  Acts 8:31, 9:38, 13:42, 16:9,15, 39, 19:31, 21:12, 27:33, 24:4, 28:14,20;   2 Corinthians 8:4,6,17, 9:5, 12:18

Use by people, and even unclean spirits, approaching or beseeching Jesus for help: Matthew 8:5, 14:36, 26:53;   Mark 1:40, 5:10,18,23, 6:56, 7:32, 8:22;   Luke 7:4, 8:41;   2 Corinthians 12:18

There is also a wide range of the word’s spiritual and emotional use, which is very much dependent on the context.

Can you spot the gift in these responses to my sermon on the subject?   “You certainly have a gift for teaching”: “Your thoughts really helped me”;   “We have heard all this before!”

Firstly there is the element of admonition:  a positive critique to encourage improvement – an expression of true caring; “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.”  (Proverbs 27:6)

Secondly we have:  to comfort and console, and to express sympathy. This may be from one human to another, or from God to a human.      In the LXX, comfort in bereavement is seen; there is the noting of misguided consolation, and the honour of being called to comfort: Genesis 5:29, 24:67, 37:35, 38:12;   2 Samuel 10:2 f, 12:24;   1 Chronicles 7:22, 19:2 f;   Job 2:11, 16:2, 29:25, 42:11;   Jeremiah 16:5-7;   Acts 20:12;   2 Corinthians 2:7;   1 Thessalonians 3:7, and 4:18.   Two names contain the thought of consolation: Noah, and Barnabas – which really means “prophet’s son”, but “encouragement” by implication. (Genesis 5:29; and Acts 4:36-37)   Barnabas was originally called Joseph, a Levite of Cyprus, was given this new name, “Son of Encouragement”, by the apostles.      He encouraged Paul, when others rejected him. (Acts 9:26-30)   He encouraged John Mark, when Paul sacked him.  (Acts 15:36-41)      Mark was strengthened, and had many years’ service ahead.

Kittel points out that in non-Christian Antiquity, there were the suggestions of: stop crying because it is pointless, think of your dignity, set an example.      Much thought, and a whole genre of literature were devoted to the different kinds of comfort, but little hope of success was anticipated.

The Scriptures show that some are in a comfortless position: Job 21:34;   Psalms 69:20, 77:2;   Ecclesiastes 4:1;   Lamentations 1:2,9,16,21,2:13;   Isaiah 22:4;   Nahum 3:7; and  Zechariah 10:2.

Perhaps the most wonderful of human experiences is the offer of God’s consolation and hope, to those previously under His wrath.   Kittel’s writers observe:  “Comforting is God’s proper work. He turns earlier desolation into perfect consolation both in individuals and also in the people of God.”

“God’s comfort, like the comfortlessness which he causes, is ultimately an eschatological reality …  In the absolute it is deliverance in judgement, just as perdition is absolute desolation”  (vol. V, pp 789-790).

The most effective comfort comes from God:  Psalms 18, 23:4, 71:21,  86:17,  94:19,   119:1-176;   Isaiah 28:29, 40:1 ff, 51:3,12,19 ff,  54:11 ff, Two Old Testament metaphors picture God as a shepherd and a mother (Isaiah 40:11,  66:13,11,12). His Servant  is a source of comfort:  Psalms 52, 76, 82,  Isaiah 61:2. Psalms, which contain the middle chapter and the middle verse of the whole Bible – its heart,  teach more than elsewhere the Character of God and also His care and consolation for the troubled.

Thirdly, a use found on many pages of the New Testament is that of encouraging:  the apostles were continually encouraging spiritual and moral development by helpful instruction:   (Luke 3:10-18);  Acts 2:40, 9:31, 11:23-24, 13:15  (to accept the Gospel) 14:22, 16:40, 20:1 f;  2 Corinthians 5:20, 6:1;  Philippians 2:1;  1 Thessalonians 2:3;  Hebrews 13:22.   In 1 Peter 5:12 and Jude verse 3: it is the purpose of the letters, and especially in the final sections of the epistles: Romans 12:1,8, 15:19,30;   1 Corinthians 1:10;  2 Corinthians 10:1;  Ephesians 4:1;  Philippians 2:1, 4:2;  1 Thessalonians 2:11 ff, 3:2, 4:1;  2 Thessalonians 3:12;  1 Timothy 2:1;   Hebrews 12:5, 6:18;  1 Peter 2:11, 5:1

The means of encouragement was: the written word, a personal visit or news (Romans 15:4;   Colossians 2:2, 4:8;  Ephesians 6:22;   2 Corinthians 1:3-11, 7:4,6,7,13;   1 Thessalonians 3:7;   Philemon verse 7)

Second Corinthians, chapter 1, is the great passage on the nature and purpose of suffering:  so that we can receive, and minister, comfort in God’s name.      The Church is to comfort the repentant sinner: and find comfort in the healing miraculous grace of God, but especially in the future hope of Christ’s return (2 Corinthians 2:7;   Acts 20:12;   1 Thessalonians 4:8;   Matthew 5:4).   The rich have their transient comfort now; the oppressed can look for future redress (Luke 6:24, 2:38, 16:25).   At the beginning of the Gospel, there were those who anticipated the “consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25,38 with Isaiah 40:1 f).

“Thus  …   (the word) is used for the wooing proclamation of salvation in the apostolic preaching.”   (Kittel, vol. V, p 795)

A footnote in Kittel has this helpful summary: “Apostolic exhortation is a concerned and urgent address to the brethren which combines supplication, comfort and admonition”  (note 174, p 796, vol, V).

Its use as a name for God is most moving:  both in the hope it gives to us, and in the linking of the spiritual gift with God’s own character: “The Father of Mercies and the God of All Comfort”; and the name for the Holy Spirit: “The Comforter”.  (2 Corinthians 2:3;  John 14:16,26, 15:26, 16:7)

This is a most beautiful of gifts – all the others improve with its use.   How splendid to minister this gift, how glorious to be uplifted through its benediction.

Hebrews 3:12-13: “See to it brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage each other daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

The gifts of the Spirit merge into each other, like the seven colours of the Rainbow.   So we can observe the close relationship of both teaching and prophecy, as well as among the caring gifts.

ENDNOTES

I think we need to look at the surprising question of FRUSTRATION.

On the one hand, there is the “new” awareness of callings, and on the other, the need to develop a NT Church Structure.   Thousands of Christians, in this country alone, must live in a state of total anguish: they have gifts, but the tradition of the Congregation, even in quite young denominations, stifles their operation.  Whereas women often feel this applies very much to them, rest assured, men have exactly the same problems.   To put things another way: some leadership patterns severely limit the proper use of Gifts.  In a list of 132 areas of service, only 7 are not always available to ladies, sometimes only three!

I have lived in Devon, Derby, Driffield, Newcastle upon Tyne, Leeds, Wimbledon and Ruislip, so my examples may not be easy to locate.

  1. Anglican Church: the first vicar asked the Bishop to allow me to help with the preaching.  The second also had me as leader of one of six house-groups.   The third gave me nothing to do – he kept two tape-recorded sermons (from my inter-church audio visual library of over four thousand items) for a year, and then returned them, saying, he had not had time to listen to them.   This Church virtually never prayed for my work of teaching Religious Studies to 400 scholars.
  1. A Pentecostal Church: women said it was hard to be a man in the fellowship, because the “Pastor” was such a difficult and domineering person.  I Preached thirteen times – with increasing rarity, asked why a year had passed without being asked (I never took any Bible Studies, the Pastor did all).   In my FINAL sermon, I took several points of the above study – the “Pastor” came into the pulpit, and said: “When I was a younger man I could use my fists!!!” he was leaning over me shaking with anger.

A SPECIAL LOOK AT THE OPERATION OF THE GIFTS AND WORK OF GOD IN THE CHURCH, RELATIVE TO MEN AND WOMEN

A LIST OF TASKS, GIFTS AND OFFICES

M  Men only

**  Normally men only, but exceptions

* Opinions in the Church differ regarding public speaking in Congregation.

+  Denominations differ officially

Capitals indicate larger divisions, or areas, which have often been overlooked.

M Elders – top leadership          Organise Missionary Support

M Teachers in Congregation      Organise Altruism Abroad

Organise Missionary Giving

Organise Altruistic Giving

Deacons, Deaconesses              Organise Mission Abroad

**Apostle                                      +5 people who help

*Prophet                                   Run Mums’ and Toddlers’

Workers of Miracles                  Help at Mums’ and Toddlers’

Healings                                    Organise Lifts

Helps                                        Help in giving lifts

ADMINISTRATORS               Church Bus Driver

Tongues*                                    COUNSELLING: unemployed

Interpretation*                              drug abusers

Word of Wisdom                          marriage

Word of Knowledge                     engagement

Faith                                             abused women

Discerning of spirits                       abused children:

Serving                                         abused sexually

Exhortation                                   abused generally

Contributing                                  families

LEADERSHIP-AID                     stress

Mercy Acts                                  financial

EVANGELISTS+                        legal

PASTOR+ – special NT usage!    career

Literature – shop                        Interior design – home, church, TV set

Personal Work                          ORGANISING:  church holiday

Instrumentalist                             Visits to events

Leader of Worship+                    Schools Outreach

Leader of Public Meetings+         Drama

Market Witness

SECRETARIES – ORGANISERS        Drop-in Centre

Treasurers – Bursars                    Conferences

Editor of Bulletin                         Youth Camps

Leader of Children’s Work+        Seaside Missions+

Leader of Women’s Teaching       Uniform Groups+

Leader of Women’s Outreach       House Groups

Teaching Children                         Home-Evangelism

Teaching Ladies                            Home Fund Raising

Organising Home Education         Assist with the above  +13

Help for Carers                            Librarian

Public Relations                            Leading at Communion+

Organise Audio-visuals                 Helping at Communion+

Maintenance                                 Printing and Reprographics

Environs – garden                         Organising Stewarding

Organise Catering                         Stewarding Meetings

Catering                                       TEACHING: Singing,

Organiser of Social Outings           Dance

Organiser of visitation                    Drama

Organiser of visiting the Elderly    Helping in above  +3

Organiser of visiting the ill             Producing Children’s Musicals

Visitation                                      WRITING: Children’s Books.

Visiting the elderly                         Ghost-writing

Visiting the ill                                 Biography

WRITING:    Devotional             Officiate at Weddings

Poetry                             Assist at Weddings

Journalism                       Officiate at Funerals

Drama…                          Help at Funerals

PRODUCE:    for local radio       Testimony

for TV                             Lead Meditation+

Assist with the above  +2             Lead Intercession+

MD Christian Firm                       Write Gospel Music

Head of Christian School             Conduct Christian Orchestra

Teach in a Christian School          Play in Christian Orchestra

Advisor in Christian Schools        Outreach to specialist groups

Inpector of Christian Schools

Organise a Credit Union               Lead Gospel Rock Group

Manage YP hostel                        Play in Gospel Rock Group

Manage Sheltered Homes             Publicity, posters etc

Manage Home for Children           Free Literature circulation

Run Church Help line                    Organise Home Helps

Outreach to Sport                         Manage Security: premises and homes

Supervise equipment                     Information Officer

Outreach to Industry                     Officiate at Baptisms+

Outreach to the Military                Help at Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals, O&A

1 TIMOTHY 2:11 ff,  “A woman must learn in quietness and full submission.   I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent…”  The passage goes on to delineate the qualities, which could bring men and women to hold office in the Assembly, (women as Deaconesses, in the NT sense).   “Authority over men” refers to within the Congregation – not in specialist areas, or secular fields.   Church Leadership must be male.

I take “authority” to be different from “organise”.   Authority being policy, decision making and direction, organise being delegated administration.

The above list pictures a healthy Congregation of about 200-500 members.   Estimated numbers within this fellowship: 5 plus Elders, 15-50 prophets of various calibres, 13-40 evangelists, 3-10 full-time workers, the Elders are not full-time, but receive some payment, as Scripture teaches in 1 Timothy 5:17.

Ladies must not teach Christian doctrine to men. This means that ladies may speak to the Congregation in certain areas of preaching: EVANGELISM, TESTIMONY, REPORTING, PROPHECY: ENCOURAGEMENT-STRENGTHENING-COMFORT-INDICTMENT-FORETELLING.   There are SEVEN areas here, but careful thought will add to the list, no doubt. By implication, men must not learn Christian Doctrine from ladies.

Sadly many ladies in Ministry are more influenced by Feminism than by God’s Word and its guidance to them: they have never made a dedicated study of the New Testament on this vital subject – as in the passage above.  I heard a fine young lady speaker address a large crowd (mainly Christians) – her teaching was first class; but how would she exegete 1 Timothy 2:11 ff?  Then again you ask: “Why does God give the teaching charism to ladies?”  Three quarters of a church will be women and children; this is the area in need of their instruction!  In schools I found “Jehovah’s Witnesses”, Muslims, and Jewish, scholars well versed in their faiths; but not Christian teenagers!

I wrote to the Evangelical Alliance in a similar vein to the above – four leaders had addressed the issue of : How do we address the male deficit in the Church?

Titus 2:3-5 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.  4 Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

If a woman is giving instruction on an academic subject, say in a college, in which a doctrinal insight is conveyed, the men in the class would take note, but initiate their own research into the issue – and not accept it from the lady lecturer.   This is a hard saying in a Feminist Society, along with Political Correctness; but we will be called to much braver stands for our Lord.

Prayer, prophecy, tongues and interpretation, are not being referred to in the injunction for women to be silent; the passage in its particular context seems to refer to chattering.   I think of a local synagogue where the ladies in the balcony chattered away, only the lady in the middle of the front row – wearing a large pink hat, and was most likely the Rabbi’s wife – sat in rapped in silent attention.   When women do teach the general congregation, the men may often feel that it “grates”, that the Holy Spirit is not speaking to them through the teaching – almost as if another language is being used.   True also in personal conversation, and in house Bible Studies.   It still remains one isolated area only.

With the coming of lady bishops in the Church of England (in fact lagging behind many Non-Conformists) the Church could not be further from the Pattern of Scripture.  We are a million miles away.  Here are Christians lacking the courage (a very serious fault – see Revelation 21:8) to say to the World, we are required of God to do things differently!  What can we do?  Place the authority, in the Church, in the hands of teams of men (clergy or laity is irrelevant) who fulfil the simple qualities required by the Holy Spirit in the New Testament.  Let Professionals fit in, wherever the Gifts of the Holy Spirit equip them – for some – if any.

We see, in the New Testament, that the Leaders of the Jewish Religion had become opposed to the Divine Will  – the Disciples of the Messiah had to disobey their (heretical) Leaders, and obey God!

The major question facing the Ekklesia, is not the ordination of ladies, but the ordination of the laity!

26 DEC 2014 Reform is a network of individuals and churches promoting the gospel of Jesus Christ by reforming the Church of England – we are committed to growing a nation of healthy, local, Anglican churches and believe that the Bible clearly teaches that this is best done when men take self-sacrificial responsibility for the spiritual oversight of the domestic and church family.

Churches in the Reform network are 30% larger than average and a third have planted new congregations or churches in the past ten years. Reform have consistently voted against the approach taken to appoint female bishops as it is divisive and has the potential to alienate the very churches which represent the future viability of the Church of England.

www.reform.org.uk

END ENDNOTES

[1] ANOTHER LOOK AT BUILDINGS AND CORPORATE WORSHIP

The early church tended to meet in homes.  Where a business with slaves was carried out, the premises could be quite large, and awnings were used in Greece to give shelter from extremes of weather at the theatre, and at homes, etc.  My landlady in Corinth, sheltered under a small awning, flats in Athens were equipped with them.  A sad feature, near Ancient Corinth, at its north facing port of Lechaion, is the ruin of a huge ornate church – 179 meters long: illustrating how, after a few centuries, buildings had become too important!  My home is typical of most homes: comfortable seating in the lounge, a good kitchen with adequate conditions for food preparation and serving; I think church buildings should be more like this, if possible: and not like hospital waiting rooms.

At a church, which had known the preaching of Smith Wigglesworth, and the Jeffrey brothers, the morning service set a mature and spiritual example.  Like all fellowships it had a repeated format – a kind of liturgy of its own.  There were hymns and choruses, Bible readings, and prayers, followed by a sermon and Holy Communion.  Importantly, there was time given for congregational participation: extemporary prayers, prophecy, speaking in tongues and interpretation.  Did these cause problems?  Yes, but the leaders were quite capable of telling the new Welsh Christian to keep his prayers shorter and quieter, and so on.   Many years after the revival which shook the city, and led to its formation, the church is still seeing miracles.

[2]

Currently, I see three areas of sinfulness, which could draw the wrath of an angry God – “our God is a consuming fire”.

  1. Where the LORD has given clear instruction, and we choose to do things differently – in our own way.  King David bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. (1 Chronicles 13)
  2. We perform extra-biblical deeds for worldly or selfish reasons.  King David taking a census, without God’s permission (1 Chronicles 21)
  3. The clear commandments of God are broken – as with murder or adultery, for instance.

Jesus said: “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to fulfill them. (18) I assure you, until heaven and earth disappear, even the smallest detail of God’s law will remain until its purpose is achieved. (19) So if you break the smallest commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be great in the Kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 5:17)

[3]

Canon Michael Green wrote that the Early Church was: urgent, compassionate, flexible, open to the Spirit, lay orientated, untroubled by buildings, mobile, dialectic, and communal. The Church today is:  dilatory, indifferent, rigid, man-centred, clerically dominated, building conscious, static, dogmatic, and individualistic.

We may also see the major denominations today, as being very broad – ranging from near total belief in the Scriptures and Apostolic Doctrine: to a secular view of faith and practice (where we have to question the reality and validity of their confession of Christ).

If we look at the time of the Lord Jesus Christ, as portrayed in the New Testament of the Bible:

 there are the:

 Pharisees (far too strict, adding Traditions, unorthodox, and not truly of God, but sincere);

Sadducees (demythologizing the Scriptures, belief in a reduced understanding of God and the spiritual, sometimes seeking status, and avoiding the challenge of the unbelieving World);

and,

Jesus, the Apostles, spiritually aware Jews, and true Believers (faced with persecution, orthodox in belief and practice, looking for the fulfillment of the biblical prophecies, and holding the whole of Scripture to be the true Word of God).

The enemies of all these tend to be: atheists, and other false religions.

[4]

Believers in the West have tended to lose the art of visiting each other’s homes: we need to regain this balanced habit of encouraging, and having Christian fellowship.

A Pakistani observes: “I gave up everything, including my family, for Christ, and all I got was meetings”

“Mohamad feels that genuine fellowship and practical support is lacking in churches describing stories of Christians from all walks of life who have experienced a lack of care. These include a single friend in Scotland who has never been invited to visit anyone from her church, and an elderly man who was not visited by his church leadership or house group members while in hospital. Rather than making excuses for our own inaction, he calls on us to treat each other as we would our own family.”

(January/February 2015  IDEA magazine p 25)

[5]

HOT TIPS FOR SINGING AND SPEAKING

  1. Rather than a sudden shock to our vocal cords, humming a favourite tune is a great way to warm up – every day.  You will have a much happier voice!
  2. Breath with your diaphragm: situated between the rib cage and the tummy.  Mentally count ten seconds as you breathe in, hold breath for another ten seconds, and release slowly over another ten.  The chest and shoulders should not move, and the diaphragm will be used, as it should be.
  3. Humming produces the notes from the right part of the mouth cavity.  Low notes from behind the lower teeth, high notes from the back of the throat – to really go high, and avoid screeching.  Producing at the top of the mouth cavity acts like a loudspeaker/megaphone, and gives the loudest noise – for shouting, and addressing deaf folk.
  4. Enunciation: pronouncing words clearly and carefully – often this means sounding the first and last letters precisely.
  5. Enjoy singing and speaking.

2 Timothy 1:14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

*************************************************************************

GUIDANCE THE GREAT ADVENTURE

[>www.howardwilkinsonphotography.co.uk<   Greater Manchester, UK ]

SUGGESTIONS FOR STUDY/HOUSE GROUPS

1. Each member to have printed copy of the notes – suitable for the first meeting or so

2. Members to be asked for their own thoughts on the subject to be studied, and to read Bible references, and the next part of the notes  

3. Ask for any interesting experiences, which are related to the subject

4. Encourage any quiet participants to take part, if appropriate

5. The Leader should try to retire into the background

6 Announce the title in advance of the meeting, if possible 

7 All to have a Bible – their own, hopefully

8. Each member to take a turn at reading the texts

GUIDANCE – THE GREAT ADVENTURE

As for God, his way is perfect;

the word of the LORD is flawless.

He is a shield

for all who take refuge in him.

It is God who arms me with strength

and makes my way perfect.

Psalm 18:30 and 32

John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

[I cannot even write a shopping list without Jesus’s help!]

A PRAYER

Colossians 1:9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.

A story circulates that a young fellow in the Air Force was asked out for tea and cakes after the evening service at church.   There were numerous eligible young ladies and he wondered about asking one to go out with him.   He noticed than when offered a second cup of tea, and he asked for “only half a cup”, it always came back full.   He prayed that God would give him a sign: he would one day be given his “half-cup”.

At one house, this happened, he liked the eligible daughter; asked her out; and eventually married her.   They talked and he explained how their friendship had started …. ” Yes, I’m so sorry: there was only a drop left in the teapot!”   Asking for signs and drawing lots are not really on offer today – apart from the selection of Matthias, nothing else appears to be heard in the New Testament of these two means.

Before we can think of serving God, we must be converted.   A young teenager who came for counselling after a Billy Graham film, wanted to be a Methodist Minister – he was at a Methodist boarding school – and I obviously had to explain to him the need for salvation first.

On compulsory Military Service, in the Royal Air Force, communication fascinated me.  There was helping to keep the 24/7 watch on the Mayday Frequency – for pilots flying in distress, and about to crash, or bale out.  At the scene of a crash, I had to fire half a dozen red Very Pistol flares, as a warning to all in the vicinity.  [RT Radio Transmission, Morse Code, Signal Lights, Painted signs and symbols on the Control Tower and runways, Flying past the Control Tower dipping alternate wings indicates RT not working, Mobile Phone, plus any more – even land line telephone ….  it did happen once.]

The EIGHT:

  1. The Holy Spirit directly,
  2. The Bible,
  3. Circumstances,
  4. Christian friends,
  5. Common sense/wisdom,
  6. Angels,
  7. Visions and dreams,
  8. God’s Peace ruling in our hearts.

The EIGHTEEN:

  1. All guidance is of the Holy Spirit then, but we may like to fit it into pigeonholes.   What He asks us to do as our LORD: He will always give us the grace and power to perform.   As Believers, we submit to the lordship of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We may hear Him speak to us personally. Luke 4:1, John 14:26, Acts 8: 29, Acts 8:39, Acts 10:13, Acts 10: 19, Acts 13:2, Acts 15:28, Acts 20:22, Acts 21: 4 with 11, Romans 8:14, Psalm 51:11, Psalm 143:10, Nehemiah 9:30, 1 Corinthians 12:4, 2 Corinthians 3:17, Galatians 5:25
  1. The Scriptures, given by the Holy Spirit: unequivocal commands (Standing Orders) – love God with the whole mind, spirit, soul and body, do not kill, do not steal, etc.  In some situations we need the Holy Spirit to interpret Scripture, and apply it for us: at work, at school, in the street – “The fear of man will prove to be a snare.”  Proverbs 29:25.   Or, “The wise man sees trouble afar off and takes evasive action.”   I saw a group of teenagers hanging about in my street – “Do not fear man,” came to mind – they were friendly old scholars, and we had a pleasant chat.  The Book of Proverbs, along with Ecclesiastes, is rich in teaching on guidance.

An example of the Spirit and the Word: Acts 16:6-10; Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15

The importance of Scripture: Psalm 138:2 b

The Commands of God in the Bible – an Internet page suggests there are 1050 in the New Testament; in the Five Books of Moses – Genesis to Deuteronomy, 613, but not all Old Testament Laws are binding on Believers.

Proverbs 16:1, 3, 9, 25

Proverbs 3:5-6

Proverbs 6:23

Implied Unity John 17:23

Love GOD, and one another, Luke 10:27 and John 15:12      ”Love won another”

John 16:24 Prayer

Attitudes to Old Age – Chronologically Threatened – Numbers 8:25-26 is interesting.   About the Levites: “…but at the age of 50, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer.   They may assist their brothers in performing their duties.”

Have a Bible that you can mark.

Learn passages by heart.

Remember the story of Balaam in Numbers 22:15-35 He did not like the first guidance so he asked for a second – this was sinful of him, and he was punished with the Angel blocking his way, and the miraculous sensible donkey.  He heard God’s message, but also dealt in the occult and evil ways; do you know anyone like that in the Church?  God took his life.

Asking for clarification is not necessarily wrong.

Guidance is only a small part of the Church’s teaching.

We can read the whole Bible in a year by reading three chapters a day, and five on a Sunday.

Example of a typical passage from the end of a NT letter: Hebrews 13:1-6

  1. Circumstances/Miraculous Intervention/God Overruling: during a talk at Allerton Grange School Christian Union the next classroom caught fire, and we had to evacuate; we picked up on the theme of guidance at the following meeting, a week later.   Paul came to Galatia to preach the Gospel, through illness.   A whale shipped Jonah!   Paul’s arrest took him to witness before rulers and the ship’s crew and passengers, to Malta, and Rome.  Martin Luther’s arrest by his friends, fearing for his safety, gave him time to make a German translation of the Bible, which helped to create the German language.
  1. Common Sense, Duty: jumping out of the path of an on-coming lorry!   Joseph’s visited to Bethlehem for the Ruler’s Census.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit

CONSIDERATION ORDER   APPEARANCE IN THE LISTS

1 Corinthians 12, 12, Romans 12, Ephesians 4

[N] Word of Knowledge

[M] Word of Wisdom

[Q] Faith

[R] Gifts of Healing

[S] Working Miracles

[J] Prophecy

[O] Discerning of Spirits

[K] Various Tongues

[L] Interpretation

[I] Apostles

[P] Teachers

[E] Helpers

[C] Administrators

[H] Contributing

[D] Leadership Aid

[G] Mercy Acts

[T] Encouraging

[F] Service

[A] Evangelists

[B] Teachers

See my Blogs on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, and a Chart.

There are two ways some of the gifts may help with Guidance: our own possession of a gift, and someone else’s, on whom we depend.  (Acts 21:10-11)

  1. A word of wisdom – knowing what to do with the knowledge.
  1. A word of knowledge – information.   [When introduced to a Christian leader, with whom I was going to work – a fact about his character clearly came to mind, and was invaluable in the greatly blessed, but difficult years ahead.]   Knowledge tells us that tomato is a fruit; wisdom tells you not to put it in a fruit salad.
  1. Discernment: insight into deeper, spiritual realities.
  1. Prophecy.   Some people are paranoid about prophecy in the Church today: thinking it is going to mean the re-writing of the Scriptures; but in the OT prophecy often concerned everyday events, like finding your lost donkeys.   King Saul and three groups of his soldiers prophesied, when they came to capture David at Naioth (1Samuel 19).  Only a few OT prophets wrote Scripture: there were whole Schools [thousands] of Prophets, Elijah and Elisha wrote little more than a letter between them.   Agabus is the NT example of guidance through  prophecy: to a Church, and to Paul.   Paul went to Jerusalem “in response to a revelation” [apokalypsis].

1 Thessalonians 5:20 and 21: “Do not treat prophecies with contempt.   Test everything.   Hold on to the good.”

  1. The gift of glossalalia and its interpretation amounts to the same as prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:5).
  1. Pastoral care – personal friends; not necessarily a person with the title.
  1. The gift of administration in the Church – organiser, leading.   Barnabas and Titus going to Jerusalem with Paul, was on the basis of God guiding him.
  1. Leadership-aid – helping individuals or a group, through a difficult time
  1. Mercy Acts: Practical Aid from another Believer can indicate what God wants you to do – the gift of finance to Paul at Corinth, meant he could give up working, and spend all his time in Christian service.  I arrived at Dawlish Train Station without enough money for my fare home, but a most kind fellow-student handed me the amount I needed.
  1. Teaching formulates our attitudes within the Christian Culture of the Kingdom.

ETC [In your own study consider all these gifts of the Spirit: either personal gifts, or charisms in other Christians.   God will guide through our fellow Christians, sometimes – this requires humility in us, and courage in them!]

  1. The Church Elders/Leaders. Paul’s initial guidance put him in prison. “In everything give thanks” 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

Two unusual ways:

16. An angel.   In the NT: Philip, Joseph, Peter and Paul on numerous occasions.   Balaam’s ass and the angel are a sad example. Usually in important concerns, or because someone is slow on the uptake.  See my Blog on Angels.

  1. Visions and dreams.   Joseph had guidance through three angels [two in dreams] and a dream by itself (Matthew 1 and 2).   In Acts 10, Peter had a most significant vision in triplicate, which changed the course of World History: the Gospel taken to Gentiles.  Acts 16 begins with a brilliant picture of guidance – notice the “we” passage here, as the wonderfully pedantic Luke, joined the party.  Shariah Law teaches Muslims that they may ask Allah to speak to them through visions.

Finally:

  1. The peace of God ruling (umpiring) in our heart (Colossians 3:15).   For everyday personal decisions: what to buy for dinner etc.   Yes or no answers – like the Urim and Thummim of the OT (over the heart of the priest).  Exodus 28:30; Numbers 27:21; 1 Samuel 28:6; Nehemiah 7:65 in contexts.  I was introduced to this teaching by Wing Commander Anderson (Ret), at the Wimbledon YMCA Bible Studies.  He was the Assistant Secretary of The Officers Christian Union, and arranged for Billy Graham to address the top brass of the British Armed Forces.  Our Senior Officer was a member of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Club, and she played in the first round of the famous championship.  All this meant that Line Judges and Umpires were very much in my thinking at the time.

You will often hear people say that something is too small to trouble God: like which biscuit should I choose, or which of several routes should I take to a destination.  I disagree; small things give us practice; King David had learned his fighting skills with a lion and a bear – before the duel with Goliath the giant warrior.

Romans 12:1-2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

THINGS WE WILL NOT BE LED TO DO, OR BE

Backslide, forsake Christian Fellowship, forsake the moral Law of the Old Testament, teach and approve of evils, have other gods (idolatry), worship images, use GOD’S Name in vain, decline Sabbath rests, show disrespect to parents, murder, adultery, steal, lie about others, covet, fail to seek nearness to GOD, drunkenness, jealousy, judgmental, treat with contempt, cause divisions, associate or eat with evil Christians (immoral, covetous, idolatrous, revilers, drunkards, swindlers, slanderers), judge non-Christians (leave it to GOD), take fellow Christians to civil court, cowards, charge interest on personal loans, give in to Satan, fail to testify for Christ, lukewarm, tax evasion, love the World (lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, pride of life), lose first love for GOD, forsake the Apostolics’ teaching (Scripture), unsanctified, blame GOD, show partiality in judgments, eschew suffering for Christ, walk in the counsel of the ungodly, stand in the place frequented by sinners, sit in the place of the scornful …Plus many finer points in context.

A selection of references related to the above list:

Exodus 20:1-17; 22:25; Leviticus 18:22-29;

Psalms 1:1-2; 133; 139 (GOD’S great occupation with us)

Proverbs generally

Matthew 5:17-19; 5:32; 28:18-20; John 17:23

Romans 1:21-32; 13:13; 14:10; 1 Corinthians 5:9-13; 6:11-8;  2 Corinthians 6:14-18; Galatians 3:11; 5:19-21; Colossians 3:5-10; 2 Thessalonians 3:10-15;  1 Timothy 1:9-11, 20; Titus 2:2; James 1:13; 1 Peter 2:2-3; 1 John 2:15-17; 3:4; 3 John v 9;

Revelation 2:4-5; 3:16; 21:8, 27

*Some of the Blogs are rather long.   It is possible to go through EDIT, to SELECT ALL, EDIT again: COPY; and then create your own WORD/MY DOCUMENTS file, PASTE, and SAVE: so you can read the longer items at leisure.

I believe an important aspect of guidance is connected with the Greek word “doulos”, and I need to prove to you, beyond doubt, that the word means, “SLAVE”.   In the New Testament, there is no concept of the “Upstairs Downstairs” kind of service – which many of the ladies in our families entered into on leaving school in the 1930’s and earlier….   The only meaning in the Bible is of an owned slave.   The early congregations of Christians would be made up of freemen, freedmen and slaves – possibly almost half would be slaves, outside Israel.   You can see this in the following verse:

“Were you a slave when you were called?   Don’t let it trouble you – although if you can gain your freedom, do so.   For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord’s freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ’s slave.”   That is from the NIV, and you will notice clearly there are three types of people: free men, slaves and freedmen (slaves released by their masters – the technical word is “manumission”).   Senior slaves of leading men obviously held high positions themselves, and if freedom came, at the death of their master – this was promising indeed.

Islamic forces in Sudan are still taking Christians and other non-Muslims into slavery: a US State Department Representative, Frank Wolf, confirms independent reports – the Sudanese government is rounding up non-Muslims and enslaving them in northern Sudan, Libya and other Arabic Islamic countries – massive numbers of Nubian and other African non-Muslim women and children have been forcibly removed from their homes in southern Kordofan Province.

Seven ways of obtaining slaves are associated with the days of the Roman Empire; only one is by abduction – which was the evil of the Western slave trade, and in the Old Testament carried the death penalty.

There is that moving ceremony in the OT of the willing slave, who has his ear pierced through into his master’s doorpost.   (Deuteronomy 15:16 and 17.)

The standard ten-volume NT wordbook, Kittel, leaves us in no doubt of the implications of the word.   An owner would, in most cases, value his own property, and see a slave as an investment.

Of the 151 uses of the words “servant” and “servants” in the AV, 123 are actually “doulos”, according to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.   So we need to accept the much deeper meaning of “doulos”.

Paul uses the word in passages which explain the social status and duties of Christian slaves, today we apply this teaching to the work place: Colossians 3:22 ff, Ephesians 6:8-9, 1 Timothy 6:1, and Titus 2:9.

There is the wonderful story of the runaway slave Onesimus, behind Paul’s letter to Philemon.

The apostles of the NT often started their letters with an acknowledgement of their position as slaves of Christ: Paul in Romans, Galatians, Philippians – in which he includes Timothy as a slave of Christ – and Titus; in Philemon he calls himself a prisoner of Christ, which is much worse!

In one letter Paul calls himself, a slave of the Church: “For we do not proclaim ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves your slaves for the sake of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:5)   Do we see ourselves in this light?

James, Peter and Jude all call themselves slaves of Christ.   John, in Revelation 1:1: “A revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave Him to show to His slaves … by sending His angel to His slave John.”  Revelation 22:9, the angel is called a fellow-slave.

Moses is called a slave of God – Revelation 15:3.

Paul is obviously thinking of the brand marks of slaves in this passage: “Finally let no-one cause me trouble, for I bear in my body the brand marks of Jesus.”  (Galatians 6:11)   He looked at his scars, and thought of them as his branding for Jesus.

Jesus also calls us his “friends”: as apposed to slaves; and we are God’s children with an inheritance in Christ.   Nevertheless, being God’s slave is one diamond-like facet of our relationship to God. (Galatians 4:7)

Twice in one letter we are reminded, “You are not your own; you were bought with a price.” (1 Corinthians 6:20, 7:23.)   In times of great depression this is often a great comfort, and can save your life – and the lives of others.

The simplest argument is that Jesus became a slave of God for our sakes, and for our example.