Monthly Archives: July 2020

Waiting With Christ

This is quite lengthy; as I was writing it I had wondered if it should be two separate entries. Eventually I decided to keep it all together. But there is much to meditate on and pray about, so some of my readers may wish to divide their reading into two parts about halfway through, perhaps at the heading “So now we come to this.”

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Before we start please pray with me. Dear Father, may our minds be renewed with truth as we open our hearts to hear and receive what You are revealing to us in what follows here. Amen.

…Let us open now with this verse:

The LORD said unto my Lord, sit Thou at My right hand until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool [literally, the footstool of Thy feet]. (Ps. 110:1)

This prophetic psalm of David is quoted or referred to in the New Testament more than any other Old Testament passage. It is full to overflowing with truth, of which we will consider only a little here. Jesus confirmed a thousand years after this was written that “my Lord” is prophetic of the Messiah, the Christ (Mt. 22:42). A reminder—upper case LORD in the Old Testament always refers to Jehovah (Yahweh), lower case Lord to Adonai (meaning lord, master).

Now this from the writer of Hebrews, who has Psalm 110:1 in mind:

But this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool. (Heb.10:12,13).

Expecting is “waiting expectantly.” The New King James Version, the American Standard Version, the Revised Version, and Young’s Literal Translation have expecting. The highly respected Newberry’s Interlinear has awaiting. J.N. Darby’s New Translation, the English Standard Version, the International Standard Version, the English Majority Text Version, the Modern Literal Version and others have waiting. “From henceforth waiting till…” Put together, then, we have “waiting expectantly.” The same word is used in Hebrews 11:10. “For he looked for a city…” That is, Abraham the sojourner anticipated the city; he waited expectantly for it; he had no doubt he would one day walk within its gates and at last be home. Also in James 5:7. “Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth…” That is, waiteth expectantly. He is certain he will have his harvest.

What, then, is the Christ doing at the right hand of God? He is waiting. He is waiting expectantly for something. He is seated at the right hand of God waiting expectantly till all His enemies be made the footstool of His feet. He has no doubt whatever that He will see this. He is the King of kings seated on the throne of David in the heavenlies—there is no higher throne in the universe—being at the same time our great High Priest after the order of Melchizedek (Ps. 110:4). He is seated because, unlike the Levitical priest who “standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices which can never take away sins,” He has accomplished the taking away. He has offered “one sacrifice for sins forever.” Having done so, He “sat down on the right hand of God,” the place of all authority in Heaven and earth. He is seated there to this day and shall be forever. He will not abdicate and cannot be deposed. He is seated, waiting, expecting the day when all His enemies, each and every one of them, are under His feet. He is not waiting to reign after they are under His feet. He reigns now.

Wonderful truth. Even while all His enemies are not yet under His feet, He reigns, He rules in the midst of His enemies.” Let this lay hold of us.

The LORD shall send the rod of Thy strength out of Zion: rule Thou in the midst of Thine enemies. (Ps. 110:2)

Who are His enemies?

We can’t go into this at length just now, but they are all who have ever set themselves against the throne and kingdom of God, primarily Satan and his principalities and powers in the rebellion in the heavenlies, for whom God has provided no redemption, and whose fate is sealed—and also all those of the race of Adam, whom Satan succeeded in drawing into his rebellion. Yet these, even while we were enemies, the God of immeasurable love and grace determined to reconcile to Himself. “For if, when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Rom. 5:10). It is thus that throughout history many of those among men who were His enemies, and received His reconciliation, became His friends.

It is by the sending of the rod (the sceptre) of His strength out of Zion—I believe this is speaking of the word of the Gospel of the kingdom in the power of the Spirit—that His rule in the midst of His enemies is manifested. We have seen this often throughout history. Time and again in the midst of raging enemies the Gospel has gone forth in power. Christ’s enemies have never been able, nor yet are they now able, to put Him under their feet. For He reigns in the midst of His enemies, sending forth the Sceptre of His strength from His throne in Zion, all the while anticipating the day when His enemies are completely subdued under His feet. “Then cometh the end when He shall have put down all rule [principality] and all authority and power.” There it is, the cause of all the trouble in the universe, the one thing that constitutes either angels or men His enemies—their determined conspiracy to have to themselves some other rule, some other throne, than the throne of God. He has determined otherwise for them—their subjugation under His feet. “For He [Christ] must reign,” Paul continues, “till…” (not after, but till) “all enemies are subdued under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:25,26). Wonderful and certain hope—all things, all enemies, and finally death too is under His feet. “For He hath put all things under His feet,” cites Paul, quoting a prophecy from Psalm 8:6 now.

And who are His feet?

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus… (Eph. 2:4-6)

Quickened us together, raised us up together, seated us together… these are one word in the Greek. Thomas Newberry (The Newberry Bible) strings them together like this: He “quickened-us-together-with Christ… and raised-us-up-together, and made-us-sit-together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus…”

Astonishing truth in all of these; it’s the last one we are dwelling on here. “He seated-us-together-with Him” in His throne. That is just too much to take in, isn’t it. Too much. Except for faith. It is not too much for faith.

Paul is writing to “the saints who are at Ephesus, and the faithful in Christ Jesus…” He is not writing to two groups, but one: “the saints, even the faithful in Christ Jesus.” He says they are seated together with Christ in His throne in the heavenlies. Amazing. How did they get there? By being in Christ Jesus. For that is where He is—on the throne of God. And how did they get into Christ Jesus? There is only one way, the same way you and I came to be in Christ Jesus. We were baptized into Christ Jesus. No, not by water baptism, it is baptism in Holy Spirit by which we are baptized into Christ. Do you recall Paul’s words to the Romans, that those baptized into Christ were baptized into His death, and into His life? “Therefore we were buried together with Him by the baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Rom. 6:4). It is the Spirit baptism Paul has in mind here—water baptism, important as it is, cannot do this. It is baptism in Holy Spirit that baptizes into Christ, and constitutes one a saint.

And so Paul, writing to the saints, includes himself, and says, “But God, who is rich in mercy for His great love wherewith He loved us, quickened-us-together-with Christ (by grace ye are saved), and raised-us-up-together, and seated-us-together in the heavenlies in Christ…” Paul had earlier written to the Romans reminding them that baptism into Christ had made them one with His death and resurrection. Here to the saints in Ephesus he unfolds this further revelation—that when they were baptized into Christ, not only were they quickened together with Him, and raised up together with Him, but, since they were in Christ Jesus, they were also seated together with Him in His throne in the heavenlies.

What a wonder. What a wonder. What then are we doing there, saints of God? We are doing just what He is doing. And what is He doing? Again, He is seated on the throne of God, reigning, waiting patiently, expectantly, till His enemies are made the footstool of His feet. Since He is reigning, we too are reigning. Since He is waiting, we to are waiting, waiting with Him. This is our expectation. We wait accordingly. And since He is ruling in the midst of His enemies while He waits, we rule with Him in the midst of His enemies and ours as we wait with Him.

So now we come to this:

And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient-waiting for Christ. (2 Thes. 3:5)

That’s the King James Version. Most of our English versions have “the patience of Christ.” Young’s Literal Translation has “the endurance of Christ.” So, what did Paul have in mind? Patient waiting for Christ, or the patience of Christ? Love for God, or God’s love? Apparently in the Greek these are grammatically correct both ways. (Please see end note.) It is also true both ways. Why not embrace both, then, instead of either/or? “And the Lord direct your hearts into the love for God (and the love of God) and into the patient-waiting for Christ (and the patience of Christ).”

I wish we had a better English word to give us the fuller meaning of the Greek word translated patience. We would have one if we blended patience and endurance together into one. In the passage we are considering, Strong’s Concordance says that patience is the Greek hupomone (pronounced hoop-om-on-ay’), adding that it means “cheerful (or hopeful) endurance, constancy—enduring, patience, patient continuance (waiting).” Greek scholar W.E. Vine says it means “literally, an abiding under (hupo, under, meno, to abide), it is almost invariably rendered patience” [in the KJV].

Certainly the Lord must direct our hearts, and our steps, into His love, the love of God, and for God. For, as Charles Wesley gave us to sing, “God only knows the love of God…” So we are utterly dependent upon Him to direct us into this love, the “more excellent way” of love. But since to walk in this more excellent way of love brings us, as we know, into trial and difficulty in which we are often completely out of our depth, it requires of us patient endurance far beyond our own capacity. So our Lord must also direct our hearts into the accompanying patience of Christ, and into patient waiting for Christ. In 1 Thessalonians Paul had earlier related how they “had turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven…” (1 Thes. 1:9,10). So there is that vitally important truth about waiting for Christ. But beloved, as I have said, if we are called to wait for Him, we can be sure it’s because Christ Himself has been waiting, and is still waiting, and we must wait patiently with Him.

Reigning patience  

And when all is said and done, it is only Christ’s own patience that will enable us, provision us, as the trials grow greater, to wait with Him and be faithful to the end. Do we not know this by now? How often have you and I been in a situation in which we were seeking to draw on a fund of patience within us, only to discover we were very short of funds? In fact all too often we consider patience the unpleasant task of a hard taskmaster, and the sooner we are done with it the better. Oh, the patience of Christ is far, far above and beyond that. There is an element of immoveable sovereignty in His patience; He reigns in patience, reigns over all, reigns in the midst of all circumstances, reigns in the midst of His enemies, waiting expectantly till they are all the footstool of His feet. Accordingly, those in Him are partakers of His own reigning patience in whatever they are “in the midst of.” And—open our eyes, dear Lord—do we recognize You Yourself with us in that kind of patience? Patience is the expression of the reigning Christ in our own lives and difficult circumstances, is the expression of the waiting Christ, and our participation in His waiting. Patience is not something we reluctantly have to have under the circumstances; in His patience we are not under but above  the circumstances, reigning in our waiting even as He reigns.

How then may we avail ourselves of His patience in the trial of this life? Only by being in Him where He is, He being also in us. Do we recognize we are in Him, having been baptized into Him, and He in us? What a revelation this is to the heart! “Hereby know we that we dwell [abide] in Him, and He in us, because He hath given us of His Spirit” (1 Jn. 4:13). Let us ever reckon it so; faith reckons it so. By being in Him, being seated together with Him in His throne, abiding in Him, and He in us, His reigning patience is our patience. As Andrew Murray has said, the fruit that grows in the branches of the Vine is the fruit of the Vine and the branches in the Vine. And so Paul writes, “the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.

Patient in tribulation…

In closing let us consider two passages from The Revelation. First this one:

I John, who also am your brother, and companion in the tribulation and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ (Rev. 1:9).

Notice how John phrases that. Notice how he links those two together. “The kingdom and patience…” Do you and I have that kind of patience—kingdom patience, reigning patience? And where is it to be found? “In the tribulation…” What a wonderful place to find this! “In the tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ.” Are we in any trouble? Are we in His trouble? Then we have in the midst of it our Lord’s own kingdom patience. And we discover some precious companions right there too.

And finally this one—Jesus’ words to the church of Philadelphia (among the seven churches, one of the two for which He had no reproof):

Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I also will keep thee from [out from] the hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world to try them that dwell upon the earth (Rev. 3:10).

By “the word of My patience” Jesus means, in my view, the word of the truth of the Gospel, which, in order to be kept, He enjoins patience upon them, patience apart from which the word He had committed to them would be lost to them. He is referring back to what He has just commended them for—that even though they had but little strength, “thou hast… kept My word, and hast not denied My name” (vs 8). The word He had given them they had patiently, steadfastly kept—guarded faithfully with diligent watchcare; now they would discover Him keeping them “from the hour of the temptation” (as the Greek has it) a trial singularly beyond others in its severity. Vincent’s Word Studies says, “The preposition [ek, from] implies, not a keeping from temptation, but a keeping in temptation, as the result of which they shall be delivered out of its power.” So He is not saying that, because He is now going to keep them, they will no longer need enduring patience. He is saying that as always, but especially now, they are going to know His faithful commitment to them—that in their patience He Himself would be involved, keeping them in the power of His own enduring patience.

Later in The Revelation we are given what I suspect is the account of this temptation (trial), when “all that dwell upon the earth shall worship”—they know not what (Rev. 13:8). Over the centuries there has been no scarcity of interpretations as to what this is all about by those who were sure they knew. There are many today who are sure they know. I am not so sure. This I do know, that all those “whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” fail the trial. This also I know, that for those who do have their names written therein, this is no cakewalk; they need to the uttermost a certain keeping power enabling them to continue faithful. John in reference to this great trial writes, “Here is the patience and the faith of the saints” (Rev. 13:10). Not faith alone, but faith girded, armoured, with patience. He brings up this same trial further on, again urging, “Here is the patience of the saints,” immediately adding, “Here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus” (Rev. 14:12). The context of both verses (13:10 and 14:12), is that “the hour of His judgment is come” (14:7). It’s the anticipation of this that the Spirit intends to inspire the saints to enduring patience. Only a little longer, saints! For those whose very worship is sacrilege, for those who are persecuting the saints, taking them into captivity or killing them (13:10), their hour is come—they have the same to look forward to themselves; if they refuse to worship “Him that made heaven and earth and the sea and the fountains of waters,” instead worshipping “the beast and his image” (whatever this cryptic imagery means) what is left for them but “the wine of the wrath of God,” and “torment with fire and brimstone,” and “no rest day nor night” (14:10,11).

And so these two strong exhortations are an assurance to the saints that the hour of judgment is nigh, their patience and faithful waiting will surely be rewarded, as will the folly of all the earth. Be not partakers with them, dear saints, John is urging by the Spirit, continue faithful, though it take the utmost commitment and patient endurance to continue to obey God and keep faith in Jesus Christ without caving to what all the world has sold out to…

…Just as the three Hebrew children prevailed in their day, remaining faithful to their God, though it meant the fire for them, when all the world was worshipping Nebuchadnezzar’s idol. The three endured in the trial, in the fire, because—wonderful visitation—One was with them, reigning with them “in the midst” of it. Even so, prophesies John, it’s this enduring patience, the keeping power of His patience, that you’ll need now, saints, as never before, and in this you’ll prevail in the trial that is about to come upon all the world. This is the provision that will keep you through the trial—not by the skin of your teeth but triumphantly—the patience of Christ. Or rather, the Christ of enduring patience. Seated with Him in the heavenlies even while here upon the earth in the midst of great conflict, reigning with Him in His enduring patience, waiting expectantly for Him and with Him—this has has been your continual practice day upon day, day in and day out, and so you are ready for this great trial, confident now as always that in due time all His enemies will be subdued under His feet.

Yes, under His feet. That day surely comes, just as it came for Israel of old whom Joshua called to “come near, and put your feet upon the necks of these kings. And they came near, and put their feet upon the necks of them. And Joshua said unto them, Fear not, nor be dismayed, be strong and of a good courage; for thus shall the LORD do to all your enemies against whom ye fight” (Josh. 10:24,25).

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Endnote from Robertson’s Word Pictures in the Greek New Testament

Into the love of God (eis tēn agapēn tou theou). Either subjective or objective genitive makes sense and Lightfoot pleads for both, “not only as an objective attribute of deity, but as a ruling principle in our hearts,” holding that it is “seldom possible to separate the one from the other.” Most scholars take it here as subjective, the characteristic of God.

Into the patience of Christ (eis tēn hupomonēn tou Christou). There is the same ambiguity here, though the subjective idea, the patience shown by Christ, is the one usually accepted rather than “the patient waiting for Christ” (objective genitive).

 

 

Yielding Fruit A Hundredfold

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Trusting that you, dear brother, dear sister, are familiar with Jesus’ parable of the sower (Mt. 13:3-23), let me ask a question. Are you good ground? You’ll remember that the ground by the wayside brought forth no fruit of the seed that was sown. Neither did the stony ground. Neither did the ground full of choking thorns. Only the good ground brought forth “fruit unto perfection”—fully developed fruit.

But some even of the good ground did not bring forth its full potential. The good ground brought forth “some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold ” (Mt. 13:8).

Why this? Why didn’t all the good ground bring forth an hundredfold? Even though it was good deep soil weed free, some brought forth only sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. Why? We are not told why in so many words, but if you’ll read the parable in Matthew Chapter 13 you’ll see how consistently Jesus refers to the hearing of those who receive the seed of the Word. And in Luke’s gospel account, which mentions only the hundredfold, he records that “when He [Jesus] had said these things, He cried, he that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Lk. 8:8). Do you see Jesus in that moment, deeply impassioned and crying out? The bringing forth of a hundredfold harvest apparently depends on the state of our hearing. How good is our faculty of hearing? Are we actually hearing what the living Word is sowing into our hearts?

Let us hear His words as sown by His apostle Paul. There is a key for us here; if we are hearing, we are sure of bringing forth to our joy and the joy of the Sower the hundredfold harvest. So let’s listen in on a prayer of the apostle on behalf of the saints in Philippi.

 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all judgment [discernment]; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; Being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God. (Phil. 1:9-11)

Notice this. Paul writes of their love. “This I pray, that your love…” They walked in love, their lives were characterized by love. That surely constitutes them good ground. Why then not leave it at that, Paul? But no, he prays that their love may “abound yet more and more…” In what way? “In knowledge and all discernment.” Abounding love, then, would awaken their hearts and minds to “knowledge and all discernment,” or perception; this would enable them to “approve things that are excellent.” A course of action might be good, no question. But love, abounding love, would give them the perception to see, to hear, to know what to the God of love is excellent. This would result in lives filled with fruit unto the praise and glory of God.

Abounding love, says Paul, is as it were the ear, the eye, of knowledge, greater, deeper knowledge, full knowledge, as the Greek word epignosis implies. The greater the love, the more perceptive the knowledge as to what pleases God. This reminds me of Paul’s words to the Corinthians, who were “puffed up” with their knowledge. And they had a lot of knowledge; Paul at the outset of his epistle to them testified that they had been by God’s grace “enriched by Him in all utterance and all knowledge…” (1 Cor. 1:5). But as Paul continues his epistle we are sorry to find that with all their knowledge they had a kind of blindness, numbness, deafness, about them. Something was missing in their knowledge; they were really not hearing from God as they ought to be hearing. (I am in 1 Corinthians Chapter 8.) What was missing? Love. Sure, they knew that meat offered to idols was just meat like any other; that’s pretty good discernment. But what about something more excellent? Where was the sensitivity of love that would have made them feeling toward their weak brother who was really troubled by anyone eating meat offered to idols? And so Paul told them:

If anyone thinks he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. But if anyone love God, the same is known of him. (1 Cor. 8:3)

Some of our English translations capitalize the last pronoun in order to interpret this as, God knows the one who loves Him. That is certainly true. But according to Greek scholar A.T. Robertson, this can be interpreted the other way as well—the one who loves God knows God. There is a kind of knowledge that is actually love; love is a kind of knowledge, the knowledge of God, “the love of Christ that passeth (surpasseth) knowledge.” To know as we ought to know… is love; it is the one who loves God who knows God. Personally I like that interpretation, and it accords with other Scriptures in the epistles of Paul (1 Cor. 13:2,8-13; Eph. 3:18,19) as well as 1 John 4:7 (“…and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God”) along with 2 Peter 1:5-8, where Peter says that “if these things [that culminate in love] be in you and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren [idle] nor unfruitful in the knowledge [epignosis, full knowledge] of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Back to the Philippians to enlarge a bit further on the faculty of discernment that accompanies this knowledge. “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all judgment…” The word judgment is better translated discernment or perception. The margin of my old King James Version has “sense.” In the Greek it is aisthesis, and is from the same root as “having their senses (aistheterion) exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb. 5:14). Abounding love, then, as it opens the heart and mind to a deeper knowledge of the God who is love, hones the spiritual senses of discernment—hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, touching—resulting in a fine-tuned sensitivity that enables the decision and approval of what in God’s sight is excellent, that the saints might be “sincere and without offence till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God.” That sounds like a hundredfold crop to me.

Now to the Thessalonians. Paul commended the Thessalonians for their “work of faith and labour of love and patience of hope…” (1 Thes. 1:3). He writes that “when ye received the word of God which ye heard from us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (1 Thes. 2:13).

That too sounds like very good ground. The word of God they had received was bringing forth fruit—faith, love, hope. There can be nothing critical said about that, not a word. But sure enough, knowing Paul, there is something further that can be said.

 And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love… (1 Thes. 3:12)

This, I begin to gather—the passion for abounding love—is Paul’s consuming desire for the saints here or elsewhere. Again he writes:

Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. (1 Thes. 4:1).

But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more… (1 Thes.4:9,10)

It’s very encouraging to discover that the Thessalonians took to heart Paul’s exhortation. He writes to them later on a second time:

We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth… (2 Thes. 1:3).

How precious that they had hearkened! Selah!

Abounding love, then. It is Paul’s constraining passion, an insatiable all-consuming fire in him. “Abound yet more and more… increase more and more…” Are we hearing his cry? I believe it is the key to why some ground brings forth a hundredfold, others only sixty or thirty. Are we content to bring forth only thirtyfold or sixtyfold, brother, sister? Surely that is good, and warrants not a word of criticism. But… how good, how keen, is our hearing? How great is our love? Is it increasing, growing, abounding? Intent on pleasing our dearly beloved Lord Jesus, and impassioned like Paul to know with a knowledge that only love can show us, are we hearing from Him what delights the heart of God, what is excellent in His sight, enabling us to yield to Him a hundredfold the fruit He longs for?

“He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”

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