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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

INTRO TO THE THIRD TEMPTATION

INTRO TO THE THIRD TEMPTATION


Twice repelled, the enemy returned for the third and last time. His attack upon the physical side had resulted in the demonstration of the possibility of righteousness to a Man Whose conception of life was that bread sustenance is secondary, and the spiritual relation preeminent. Thus foiled, he had proceeded to attempt the ruin of Jesus on the spiritual side of His nature, by endeavoring to interfere with the simplicity of His trust in God. Here again he was utterly defeated, and the truth demonstrated, that trust which refuses to make any un-ordained experiments, is proof against all opposition.
Now against this human being, in Whom the relation be­tween body and spirit is perfectly balanced, because the whole life is lived in right relation to God, the enemy comes with A NEW ATTACK, in which he attempts to work the ruin of Jesus in the sphere of His specific mis­sion.
This is in many ways the boldest and most daring adven­ture of the devil. For this last attempt he casts off all dis­guise, and presuming upon the awful victories he has won in the history of the human race, he definitely asks the worship of Christ. Never up to that moment, in the his­tory of the race, had any individual soul proved strong enough to finally resist this terrible foe. Through thirty years of lonely conflict, and forty days of special testing, and two fierce and fearful attacks, the Man Jesus has re­mained the Victor. There remains but one chance. Hav­ing failed to ruin Him in His essential manhood, it may yet be possible to lure the perfect Servant from the pathway of per­fect service. Through the previous conflicts, the Victor has stripped the vanquished of his disguise, and again and again revealed the true motive and awful malice of evil, though it had been skillfully hidden behind arguments the most plaus­ible.
Now the enemy strips himself of all disguise, ceases to make use of secondary causes, and definitely asks the worship of Christ. It is his last and most daring bid for pos­session of the citadel hitherto successfully held against him.


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

THE DEVIL IS A POOR SWORDSMAN

THE DEVIL IS A POOR SWORDSMAN

“Again it is written."


We turn now to consider the victory of Jesus, and in doing so note first of all the weapon He used. Again the flash of the sword is seen as He says, “It is written." It is as though He first replies to the very subtlety of the enemy's attack by revealing the fact that He is still living upon the Word of God, and that as His physical being was content to be conditioned by the law of God, so also it is that law which defines His spiritual responsibility. He no more attempted to live outside the realm of His Father's will in spiritual life than in physical; and was no more pre­pared to trespass upon the limits God set upon His spiritual liberty, than He was to trespass upon the limits set upon His physical being. And yet notice the slight variation in the form of His use of the weapon. In the first tempta­tion He said, “It is written." In the second He said, “Again it is written." In the use of the word “again" is a revelation of our Lord's perfect mastery of the weapon. In comparison with Christ THE DEVIL WAS A POOR SWORDSMAN, when he attempted to use the sword of the Spirit, and MANY follow his lead. It would seem as though with quiet and yet mighty move­ment of His strong arm Jesus wrested THE SWORD from Satan. The force of the “again” lies in the fact that it is an answer to Satan's, “it is written." He does not deny the correctness of the satanic quotation, but He replies to it by saying, "Again it is written." That is to say, there must be proper use made of the words of God. No one statement wrested from its context is a sufficient warrant for actions that plainly controvert other commands. "It is written," but "Again it is written," and for the proper definition of life, no one isolated text is sufficient. It is necessary that there should be acquaintance with the whole scheme of the Divine will, and the true balance and pro­portion of life is only discovered in this way.
What infinite value there is in that word "again." How excellent a thing it would be if the whole Church of Christ had learned that no law of life may be based upon an isolated text. It is forever necessary to discover the varied sides of truth, for these limit each other in operation, and create the impregnable stronghold of safety for the soul of man.
In a study of the heresies of the Church--not a very profitable one, be it said—it will be seen that all these have been based upon Scripture used as the devil uses it—SCRIPTURE TAKEN OUT OF ITS CONTEXT, and out of its relation to the whole of the revelation. Every false teacher who has divided the Church, has had an "it is written" on which to hang his doctrine. If only against the isolated passage there had been the recognition of the fact that "again it is written,” how much the Church would have been saved.
To pass, however, to the actual Scripture with which Christ resisted the attack, "Thou shalt not make trial of the Lord thy God." (Matt 4:7) It has been somewhat commonly understood that here Christ was addressing Himself to the devil as though He should say to him, Thou art not to make trial of Me. That, however, is surely to miss the highest value of the words. In these words, as in those with which He defeated the enemy in the first temptation, He was defining His own position. The command, "Thou shalt not make trial of the Lord thy God," WAS ADDRESSED TO MAN, and in this quotation the Lord gave His reason for refusing to cast Himself from the wing of the temple.
Here, then, is the exposure of the deepest meaning of this subtle attack. What could be more excellent to all outward seeming than that this perfect Man should trust in God? What more fitting than that He should prove His trust by daring something, by taking some great risk? In a sentence the Master strips the whole hypocrisy of its speciousness, and reveals the murderous intent. To have cast Himself from the wind of the temple into the abyss that yawned below would have been to tempt God, and in THE LAST AND FINAL ANALYSIS WOULD HAVE DEMONSTRATED NOT TRUST, BUT LACK OF CONFIDENCE. It is when we doubt a per­son that we make experiments to discover how far they are to be trusted. To make experiments of any kind with God, is to reveal the fact that one is not quite sure of Him. Trust never desires to tempt, to test, to trifle. It calmly, quietly abides in sure confidence. With what matchless skill this perfect Man has revealed at once the strength and weakness of the satanic onslaught. The true territory of trust is revealed by the Lord's answer. That territory is again the will of God. In effect the Master declared that He could trust God perfectly so long as He remained within the sphere of His revealed will but that if He passed out of that sphere, then He had no right to trust, and could not trust.
What infinite value for all men is there in this unfolding of the true nature of faith in God. The devil is perpet­ually saying, Do something adventurous, do something magnificent, do something out of the ordinary, and thus demonstrate your confidence. The Master is always reply­ing: Trust is not evidenced by such action. That would be to tempt God, and to tempt Him is to reveal the death of trust. Trust never makes experiments outside the divinely marked pathway. Such experiments are evi­dences of timidity rather than of trust. How many in the false religious realm perform this on stages.
Thus again the citadel is held, and the foe is vanquished. Jesus refusing to tempt God, demonstrated His perfect con­fidence in Him, and thus revealed for all time the fact that man, so devoid of selfish interest as to be willing not to ap­pear heroic, in confidence may dare all hell, and issue from the conflict more than conqueror.
In these first two temptations the twofold nature of the sec­ond Man has been subjected to severest testing, and the last Adam, Head of the new race, has been proved invulnerable to the assaults of evil. Weakness in the physical realm was tested. Strength in the spiritual realm was attacked. Physical weakness, abiding in the will of God, proved stronger than the mightiest force of evil; and spiritual strength, calmly content with what seemed to be the commonplace of life, was demonstrated mightier than all the subtlety of spiritual wickedness. The Man Jesus is victo­rious over evil in both departments of His nature. Be­hold Him, God's perfect Man, standing still erect, not merely in the perfection of created and untried humanity, but having passed through trial and testing still triumphant. He has chosen hunger, rather than bread which God does not provide. He has selected to appear to lack daring, rather than to demonstrate His fear by testing God. When the alternative of hunger in the will of God, or food outside, was presented to Him there was not one moment's hesitation; and yet again He elected the commonplace of patient waiting, rather than the brilliant magnificence of an act, which would have revealed fear rather than faith.
In what clear shining the deepest facts of human life are revealed in these hours of the temptation of the Son of Man. Perhaps nowhere is life seen to be simpler. Man in his fall has rendered it complex by endeavoring to act upon a thousand different principles, and with complexity has come confusion. This Man had but one principle, and that the will of God, and whether the enemy approached along the line of PHYSICAL NECESSITY, or of SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY, it mattered not, he was foiled and driven backward. It is for man to remember that by the mystery of His Cross and passion, and the triumph of His resurrection, this victo­rious One now dwells in him. In proportion as man is loyal to Him, as He was to God, his loyalty is also loyalty towards God, and as He conquered the subtlest temptations of the evil one, so also may all be “more than conquerors through Him that loved us." (Rom. 8:37).


Monday, January 29, 2018

THE DEVILS TACTICS NEVER CHANGE

THE DEVILS TACTICS NEVER CHANGE


In this renewal of temptation the enemy passes to that which lies behind the sanctuary already unsuccessfully assailed. Having endeavored to seduce Jesus from His position of unswerving loyalty to the will of God, he now flings all the force of his subtle art against that which was the strength of His abiding in the will of God, namely, His perfect confidence in God, just as with the first Adam. There can be no question that the adhesive of strength in Christ’s resolute steadfastness in the will of God was that of His absolute confidence in His Father, His quiet and perfect trust. It was this trust which made Him deliberately choose to suffer hunger which lay within the Divine will, rather than to satisfy that necessity of His life by deviation from the Divinely-marked pathway by a hair's breadth. The enemy, having failed to persuade Him to turn aside from that pathway, now directed his forces against the principle of strength which was the secret of the previous triumph of Jesus.
Too much emphasis can hardly be laid on this introduc­tory thought. God's perfect Man was perfectly victorious, and that because His trust in His Father was so complete that His relation to the will of God was something infi­nitely beyond that of resignation or merely of determined submission. It was that of delighting in whatever was the will of One Whom He so absolutely trusted. He knew that He was safer, hungry, in the will of God, than He could have been, satisfied, outside that will.
This being the objective point, now carefully mark the terrible subtlety of the approach. "Then the devil taketh Him into the holy city; and he set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto Him, If Thou art the Son of God, cast Thyself down: for it is written,—
"He shall give His angels charge concerning Thee:" and, "On their hands they shall bear Thee up, Lest haply Thou dash Thy foot against a stone." (Matt 4:5-6)
The choosing of the place is first evidence of the sub­tlety of the foe. “The holy city," and in the holy city “the temple," and in the temple "the pinnacle." How largely the mind is often influenced by surroundings. Changes that are no less than marvelous are brought about in the attitude of the mind by the change of bodily situation. Location constantly stirs the pulses of patriotism. All the nature is made tender in the neighborhood of the old homestead, and some of the deepest springs of religious feeling well forth into new power in some place where long ago the streams of living water refreshed the thirsty spirit. It is always impossible to revisit any place of tender, sacred, or holy associations without being pro­foundly influenced.
How much this place meant to Jesus we are hardly in a position to understand. Every sentence in the account is descriptive, and has its own peculiar value: "The holy city." It is doubtful whether we are able to appreciate just what that meant to a Hebrew. In order in any measure to do so, we have to go back to Hebrew poetry, and read some of the sentences which throb with such devotion as we know little of, in these days of many cities and constant travelling. "Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, the city of the great King,” (Psa. 48:2) “whither the tribes go up," (Psa. 122:4) "as the mountains are round about Jerusalem." (Psa. 125:2) These and all such sentences minister to our understand­ing. Jerusalem was the very center of the deepest life of the nation, and all the aspirations of the people centered therein. The devout child of Abraham, in what­ever part of the earth he found himself, turned his face to­wards the city, as his heart went out to the God of his Fathers in prayer; and concerning it thousands would join in the prayer of the Psalmist of old:
“If I forget Thee, O Jerusalem,
Let my right hand forget her skill." (Psa. 137:5)
Jesus of Nazareth was no exception to the rule. How He loved the city. He came to it again and again, and when at last it had finally rejected Him, as He knew, and it was necessary that He should pronounce its doom, He did so in a voice choked with emotion, so that the very curse pronounced was wet with the tears of His pity.
To this city the devil conducted Him. Into the midst of all that reminded Him of God's past dealings with His people, and of that city which was the center of the prom­ises, Satan brought the Master when he would attack His trust in God.
If the city was dear to the heart of the Jew, the temple was much more so. It was the center of the city; indeed, the city was only great because it contained, and was gathered around, the temple. The Hebrew nation was theocracy. They were under the immediate government of Jehovah, and His place of revelation was the temple. That temple was therefore the peculiar glory of Jerusalem. Even when spiritual values were at a discount, there still remained in the heart of the people veneration for the temple, and devout members of the nation ever associated with that temple all that was highest and best in their his­tory, experience, and hope. It was indeed the very house of God.
How dear it was to the heart of Christ is proven in many ways, but most especially, perhaps, by the fact that at the beginning and close of His ministry He cleansed it from the traffickers. How often He stood in its courts, and walked in its porches, and addressed Himself to the multi­tudes, or held conversation with the smaller groups. To that center of the national life, the point at which the re­ligion of the Hebrew had its highest manifestation and expression, the splendid symbol of that principle of faith in God, upon which the whole nation had been created, the enemy conveyed the Christ.
And yet once more note the particular place in the temple where the devil set Him. The word “pinnacle" conveys a false idea. As a matter of fact there were no pinnacles on that temple. The marginal reading suggests the word “wing," and in all probability the point referred to was that of the southern wing of the temple made mag­nificent by Herod's royal portico. Josephus tells us that standing on the eastern extremity of that portico, "anyone looking down would be dizzy, while his sight could not reach to such an immense depth." This was the one point in the temple which might be described as of a great height. It was the most magnificent, the most strategic point that point to which any one would be taken whom it was desired to impress with the solemnity and splendor of the city and its temple.
Thus to the heart of the nation, the city; to the heart of the city, the temple; to the most awe-inspiring situation of the temple, the devil brought Jesus. How well and subtly chosen, with what awful cunning and malice. Everything in the surroundings was calculated to appeal to the sense of trust in God. It would seem as though this were the last place in which to attack the principle of trust, and yet considering the enemy's suggestion, the ma­licious cunning of the foe will be seen in making such se­lection of situation.
Now hear the suggestion. Notice, first, the palpable and actual proposal of the enemy. "Cast Thyself down." (Matt 4:6) It is a direct attempt to force Jesus to act upon that prin­ciple of trust, which has been ministered to by the selec­tion of this particular place. In the city of the great King, in the house devoted to His worship, at its most awe-in­spiring point, exercise trust in Him by casting Thyself from this great height. Behind this palpable suggestion lay one inferred and indirect. It was the suggestion that trust most perfectly expresses itself in daring something unusual, out of the common, heroic. It was as if the enemy had said to Jesus, There is no necessity for Thee to cast Thyself down. It does not come in the ordinary line of duty, but so much the greater opportunity for a venture of faith,—trust in God most perfectly expresses itself in the doing of extraordinary things for God. This was the enemies suggestion that the trust of Jesus should be put to the test and proven by being placed outside the realm of the commonplace, the attitude of many false religionists today. Jesus had repulsed the first attack of the enemy in the strength of His trust, and while the sense of that victory based on trust is fresh in His soul, the enemy suggests the unusual exercise thereof. "Cast Thyself down." Could anything be conceived more full of subtleness, more likely to entrap the unwary, and bring about the overthrow of what had seemed to be an impregnable life?
The plausibility and force of the temptation is even more vividly seen in the argument which the devil makes use of, "If Thou art the Son of God." (Matt 4:6) This is the same argument used in the previous temptation, but almost cer­tainly with a different emphasis. In the first in all prob­ability it lay upon the word "art," "If Thou art the Son of God." (Matt 4:3) Here it seems as though it must have been upon the word "God," "If Thou art the Son of God." The emphasis would be upon the nature of God. In the first temptation He has proved the fact of His relationship. Now the appeal is to that relationship. He is prepared to enlarge upon the goodness of God, and the care He be­stows upon such as put their trust in Him.
Foiled and wounded at the first by the Master's use of the weapon of the Word, he now makes use of the self-same weapon. Behold the very sword of Christ in the hands of the devil. Its flash is seen as he says, "It is written." THE DEVILS TACTICS NEVER CHANGE.
In endeavoring to appeal to the principle of trust, he made use of Scripture. Jesus had declared that man lived not by bread alone, but by words proceeding from the mouth of God, and in an attempt to urge Him to a new exercise of trust, the devil quotes the Word of God. He now accepts Christ's definition of human life as something more than animal. He acknowledges that it is the spirit­ual life that needs to be strong for the exercise of trust; and moreover, that spiritual life is only strong as it feeds upon the Word; so he attempts to minister to Him in the realm of that very spiritual nature. It is a startling and an appalling picture. "It is written,"—. He shall give His angels charge concerning Thee:”and, On their hands they shall bear Thee up, Lest haply Thou dash Thy foot against a stone." (Matt 4:6)
That is the very acme of subtlety. The psalm from which the quotation is made, opens with the words,—"He that dwells in the secret place of the Most High, Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty." (Psa. 91:1)
This is a description of the perfect safety of the trusting soul. Its rhythm, its music, and its sweetness have cheered the heart of such as put their trust in God through all the centuries; and as the enemy now attempts to press the Master towards some new exercise of trust, from that great psalm of confidence he quotes these words.
So far something has been seen of the subtlety and force of the attack, and yet the final revelation of that only comes when our Lord's answer lays bare its inner meaning.


Sunday, January 28, 2018

INTRO TO THE SECOND TEMPTATION

INTRO TO THE SECOND TEMPTATION

"Then the devil taketh Him into the holy city." Matt 4:5

There is no definite data for determining the length of time clasping between these several attacks. In all proba­bility they followed each other in quick succession. This seems to be suggested by the word with which Matthew introduces the account of the second attack. "Then the devil taketh Him into the holy city." (Matt 4:5) This would sug­gest immediateness, that directly he was repulsed at the one point, he commenced the attack from some new vantage ground. He had attempted the overthrow of obedience through AN ATTACK UPON THE PHYSICAL NATURE. In renewing the attack he no longer appeals to the element of weakness created by hunger, but to that which was the very strength of spiritual life, namely, THE MASTER'S TRUST IN GOD.
Following the order of the previous consideration in the first temptation, first consider THE ATTACK; and secondly, THE REPULSE.


Saturday, January 27, 2018

WEAPONS OF A MASTERFUL MAN

WEAPONS OF A MASTERFUL MAN


Turning to THE REJECTION OF THE ENEMY attempt, notice first, the WEAPON which the Master used. His first words reveal it. “It is written." These words He addressed to Satan in answer to the suggestion. He was not, however, by any means entering into an argument with the devil. There is nothing of the nature of argument through the whole process. It is rather that Jesus defined, in the hearing of the enemy, His own position. By the very first words He declared His submission to law. As against the enemy's sug­gestion that He should use the privileges of Sonship, He declared the binding nature of its responsibilities. "It is written," is a declaration of the fact that He stood within the circle of the will of God, and what that will permitted, He willed to do; and what that will made no provision for, He willed to do without.
That which was written was part of the law of God as given to Moses, and recognizing the Divinity of this law, He at once revealed that He lived by words proceeding out of the mouth of God. Thus the opening words reveal THE WEAPON OF HIS DEFENSE, and DEFINE THE POSITION OF HIS SAFETY.
His citation of the Mosaic Law serves to refute the argu­ment made use of by the enemy. That argument had been suggested by the words, “If Thou be the Son of God." Let it be particularly noted that in the first word of the quotation Christ made answer to the false suggestion of that argument. That first word was the word "man," "man shall not live by bread alone." The devil said, "If Thou be the Son of God." Jesus said, "man." Thus to put the emphasis on the first word is to discover the phi­losophy of Christ's answer to this particular temptation, a declaration of position rather than an argument, and yet in the declaration a great argument is involved. It is as though Jesus had said to the enemy, I am here as Man, and as Man I meet thy temptation. That temptation had been to over-emphasize the privileges of a Son, and to minimize the responsibilities of humanity. Christ's answer restored the true balance, and with magnificent courage inferentially declared that His presence in the wilderness was a challenge to the devil on the part of a representative Man. In all probability in the temptation of the devil (devil being tempted by Christ to do right and the devil failed miserably) there had also been a recognition of the larger thought of the Divine pro­nouncement, namely, a recognition of the Deity of Christ as indicated in the title "Son of God," and therefore the craft of the attack was even yet more marked, in that he may have suggested that the weakness of humanity should be strengthened by the exercise of Deity. If that was in­deed so, then all the more forceful and remarkable was Christ's answer. He declined to use the prerogatives or powers of Deity in any other way than was possible to every other man. He did not face temptation nor overcome it in the realm of His Deity, but in the magnificence of His pure, strong Manhood, Manhood tested for thirty years in ordinary private life, and for forty days in the loneliness of the wilderness. "Man" is the first word and the forceful word. Jesus has been in the wilderness as man's represent­ative, and that He declared when, repulsing the attack of the enemy, He did so by defining thus clearly HIS POSITION.
And yet consider still more closely. "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God." (Matt 4:4) Weak from the hunger follow­ing upon forty days of fasting, the devil suggested that He should strengthen Himself with bread. His reply, "It is written," is a revelation of the true sources of strength. The strength of manhood does not lie in the assertion of rights, but in submission to the will of God. Mark well how that answer of the perfect One drags into light the false philosophy which the fallen race has uni­versally accepted, The most applauded position that man takes is that in which he declares, I prove my manhood by the assertion of my rights; but this perfect Man declares that the strength of manhood lies in the absolute abandon­ment of His will to the will of God, that being the only right He possesses.
In the last analysis the argument of the devil had been a presupposition that all man needed for his sustenance was food for his physical life. That unwarrantable assumption Christ answered by declaring that no man's whole life can be fed by bread that perishes. He needs more, that his spirit shall be fed, and its strength sustained by feeding upon the word proceeding from the mouth of God, and its safety ensured by abiding within the will of God.
This answer was given out of the midst of hunger, and consequently the force of the argument is increased by the attitude, that attitude plainly declaring not only that man cannot live by bread alone, but that the life sustained by bread is not of first importance. If there must be a choice between the sustenance of the spiritual and the feeding of the physical, the latter must make room for the former.
Thus the citadel is held against the first attack,—and how magnificently! Reverently declaring the thought of Jesus by paraphrasing His actual words, it is as though He had said: I am hungry, but as that, lies within the will of God for Me, I choose the hunger in that will rather than to find any satisfaction outside it. What a glorious vindi­cation of the essential greatness of THE SPIRITUAL MAN! Even though hunger should be so long continued that the physical, that which is sustained by bread alone, should cease to exist, even then man, fed to all fullness by the Word of God, would live. In every man in this probationary life there coexist the physical and the spiritual, and in all the ordinary dealings of God, both of these will be fed where the whole man is abandoned to His will. Where, how­ever, for some purpose homed in His perfect love, the physical must suffer hunger, by the suffering of that hun­ger, because it is the will of God, the spiritual is strength­ened and sustained. In that philosophy of life the perfect Man Jesus won His victory in the wilderness, continued through three years, and at last emphasized and vindicated it by passing with kingly majesty to the death of the Cross. If, on the other hand, man seeks to satisfy his physical need by disregarding the Word of God, which is the food of the spiritual, then the spiritual destroyed, the physical, also, at last shall perish, and the whole man be lost. Jesus, living ever and only according to the Divine plan, at last laid down His life and took it again, and lives forever as the deathless One, at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
Thus in the first temptation it is a startling revelation of THE PURPOSE AND THE METHOD OF SATAN, and of THE TRUE SOURCES OF MAN'S STRENGTH. As to the purpose and method of Satan, first his purpose is to lure man into some position outside the will of God. His method is that of appealing to something perfectly lawful in itself, but suggesting that it should be satisfied by an unlawful method. As to the sources of man's strength, the Lord's answer and attitude reveal that man is not merely a fed animal. He is essentially spirit, and spirit depends for its sustenance upon its true corre­spondence to God. This correspondence can only be se­cured by the knowledge of God, and submission to the will of God, as revealed in the Word of God. He abode in the will of God, with which He was familiar in the Word of God, and choosing the hunger that resulted from dwelling in that will, rather than the passing satisfaction obtainable at the cost of disobedience, He repulsed the foe. As Rep­resentative Man, He hurled back the attack which was directed towards the spoiling of the beauty and perfection of the life which had so often been tried in the thirty years and forty days preceding, and yet had always conquered.
Thus the first attack of the foe is seen as being directed against God's Man, and the first victory of Jesus is seen as been gained by Man, as He quietly remained within the sphere of Divine government. The Man of Nazareth, the second Man, the last Adam, stands erect at the close of the first attack, because He has resolutely refused to be enticed by any argument from His simple and unquestion­ing allegiance to His God. MAN WITH GOD IS EQUAL TO ALL STRAIN, AND SUPERIOR TO ALL TEMPTATION.


Friday, January 26, 2018

UNWAVERING LOYALTY TO THE WILL OF GOD

UNWAVERING LOYALTY TO THE WILL OF GOD


In the first attack of Satan upon Christ, the objective point is His loyalty to the will of God. This does not appear on the surface, and in that fact there is marked THE METHOD OF THE ENEMY. He never pre-announces the point against which his attack is to be directed, but an examination of the whole situation will reveal the truth of the position. As has been already emphasized, Jesus was led by the Spirit, driven by the Spirit, to and in the wilderness, and in that fact there was great significance. In the life of every being wholly devoted to the will of God, there is nothing accidental. Every detail of arrangement is in the Divine plan, and cannot be interfered with without chang­ing the result, and interfering with the purpose. The circumstance of hunger was not only within the Divine knowledge; it was part of the Divine plan. The circum­stance of hunger WAS INCIDENTAL, but not accidental. It was not an unexpected contingency. It was part of the Divine program. Led by the Spirit into the wilderness He was taken to physical hunger, and that hunger was a necessary process in the economy of God, a circumstance within His will.
This is emphasized by the very fact of His being taken to the wilderness. If there had been no necessity for hunger, the temptation might have taken place in quite other surroundings; or, to put the matter from the other side, the very fact of His being led to and through forty days in a place desolate of sustenance for physical life, indi­cates the need for hunger, and at last suggests its meaning, the suggested meaning being, that man even in his weak­ness, leaning wholly upon God is stronger than man in strength standing alone, stronger  moreover than the forces at are against him. When God leads a man, every last detail is always taken into account. This fact should come in comfort as well as in searching power to everyone. There are no accidents to those who abide wholly within the will of God. There may be events which men outside will look upon as accidents, but when life is lived in the center of the circle of the Divine will, nothing can approach it except those things which are foreordained, and which are therefore integral parts of the Divine plan, and the Divine program.
The hunger of Jesus therefore was within the purpose of God for Him. Now if He might be persuaded to cancel this circumstance, small and unimportant though it appear, He would nevertheless throw out of perfect working order, that whole Divine plan. If He could only be per­suaded to minister to His physical need by the use of a Divinely-bestowed power, outside the Divinely-indicated line, and so satisfy His hunger, while yet in the place where God had put Him, and intended that He should suffer it, then that act of personal choice against the choice of God would invalidate the whole plan, and the citadel towards which the enemy moves, His loyalty to the will of God, would be taken.
Thus it is seen that the point towards which this first temptation was directed was the quiet, peaceful strength of Jesus as He rested in the will of God in triumph over all circumstances. That is the objective point.
Now consider THE AVENUE OF APPROACH. The enemy appealed to the sense of hunger. Hunger was natural, and therefore sinless. Perhaps that statement needs some word of explanation. In evangelical teaching and think­ing to speak of a thing as natural, is often to associate with the idea of depravity. For instance, to speak of the natural man is to think of that which is in opposition to the spiritual man. This is due to the fact that Paul uses the term "natural" invariably in reference to man in his fallen nature. It must however never be forgotten that behind the fallen is the unfallen. God's archetypal Man is the truly natural man. This is not to quarrel with the apostle's use of the word, but to indicate the meaning when it is said that hunger was natural. If man had never sinned he would still have grown hungry. Hunger is not a result of sin. It is a consciousness divinely implanted, which suggests the need for food. It is a part of the won­derful economy of God for the sustenance of the physical need of man. In the use of the body, there is a waste of tissue, and for its reconstruction there must be a reception of food. Whenever that food is necessary, there is a sense of need, that sense being hunger. Hunger, then, is within God's gracious economy in the creation of man.
Notice carefully that it was after the lapse of the forty days that Jesus was hungry. It would seem as though during their passing, He was unconscious of His physical need. His thoughts had been of things within the spirit­ual realm, and the demands of the physical had been unrecognized. At the close of forty days the sense of need swept over Him. He was hungry. That sense of hunger was perfectly sinless. To satisfy it is the natural action of a perfect Man. The hunger is a God-created sense. To feed it, to satisfy it, is to fall in with the Divine purpose.
Now mark the SUBTLENESS OF THE ENEMY. God had created the need, but there was no provision there for its satisfac­tion. The temptation proceeded along this avenue, and virtually may be stated in this form. Thou art hungry, according to Divine arrangement, but in the Divine ar­rangement of this moment there is no provision for the satisfaction of Thy hunger. It is now competent for Thee to act upon Thine own initiative, “command that these stones become bread."
Long centuries before, the devil had asked a question in the Divine presence. A servant of God, a perfect and up­right man was living in such conditions that all the neces­sities of his life seemed to be met, and the enemy coming before God, said, "Doth Job serve God for naught?" (Job 1:9) Around that question and insinuation of evil, the magnifi­cent book of Job circles. The suggestion made was, that Job's loyalty to God was ensured by the satisfaction of all physical need. Job was full and wealthy through the benefi­cence of heaven. Let him be emptied and impoverished, and the strain put upon his loyalty would break down. To put it in the more vulgar language of the street, Job feared God for what he could get. Thus the devil's estimate of human life is, that the only reason for man's loyalty to God is that God meets every demand of his need as it arises; and, moreover, that man's happiness consists in the satisfaction of his material nature, in a word, that he lives by bread alone.
That same thought underlay THE TEMPTATION OF THE MASTER. It is as though he had said to Him, Thou art hungry. That sense of hunger is a part of the Divine arrangement. Therefore it must be right to satisfy it. If God has made no provision for the satisfaction of a need which He has created, then act independently, command that the stones be made bread.
The subtleness of the temptation lies within the fact that the devil suggested to Christ that He should satisfy a per­fectly legitimate craving. The evil of the temptation lies within the fact that he suggested that a legitimate craving should be satisfied in an illegitimate way.
Thus Christ, impoverished and hungry, faced the old-time lie, by meeting temptation, not when filled with the plentitude of Divine gifts, but when needing that which God provides for all His creatures. So much for the avenue of approach.
Now notice the argument the enemy used, "If Thou be the Son of God," marking carefully the meaning of the "If," and the reason of its use at this particular crisis. The temptation closely followed upon the baptism. But forty days ago the silence of the long thirty years had been spoken, and the Divine voice had said, "This is My be­loved Son in Whom I am well pleased." (Matt 3:17) Thus the seal of God was set not merely in approval upon the perfec­tion of the life, but in identification of the personality of Jesus. “This is My beloved Son." Now hear the enemy's “if." “If Thou art the Son of God." (Matt 4:3) If that experi­ence of forty days ago was really anything more than a phantasy, a vision; if what the voice declared be true, why remain hungry? What is the use, said the enemy in effect, of a position without its privileges? What value is there in being the Son of God unless Thou shalt make use of all that the name implies? Mark well that the devil's idea of the privileges of sonship is that of selfish gratification.
This temptation moved wholly in the physical realm. The Man Jesus was hungry, and the enemy took advantage of this fact, and, moving along the avenue of His hunger, and using the argument of His Sonship, he suggested that He should exercise His Sonship for the satisfaction of His hunger, without reference to the fact that His hunger at the moment was a part of the will of His Father.
To sum up. The objective point was THE LOYALTY OF JESUS TO THE WILL OF GOD. The avenue of approach was the perfectly natural and sinless hunger of His manhood. The argument used was that if He were the Son of God, He might use that privilege to minister to His necessity, without consulting the will of His Father.
There was nothing in that temptation which had the slightest suspicion of vulgarity. The devil did not suggest that He should minister to any craving of life that was not in itself right. Indeed such suggestion would have been utterly useless, for there was no such craving in Him. It was so, even then, as He said afterwards, that the devil "cometh: and he hath nothing in Me." (John 14:30) The enemy asked Him to do a right thing in a wrong way, to satisfy a lawful appetite in an illegal fashion, to make use of the privileges of Sonship for violating its responsibilities. The temptation was an attempt to pervert the will. This was done by a subtle suggestion OF THE UNKINDNESS OF GOD, in order to quench love towards God. This suggestion was of the nature of an attempt to cloud the intelligence, by mixing the privileges and responsibilities of Sonship. Same attempt as with Adam and Eve.


Thursday, January 25, 2018

INTRO TO THE FIRST TEMPTATION

INTRO TO THE FIRST TEMPTATION


The order of the temptations is different in Matthew and Luke. In both the suggestion that stones be turned into bread is first. Matthew then records the experience on the pinnacle of the temple, and lastly the invitation to worship Satan for the possession of the kingdoms of the world. Luke reverses the order of the last two. It is almost certain that the order in Matthew was the actual order, for Christ's word at the close of the last of the temptations as there recorded marks the end of the process. "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth Him; and behold, angels came and ministered unto Him." (Matt 4:10-11)
There is no detailed account of the forty days spent in the wilderness prior to the temptations which are now to be considered in detail. Mark and Luke record the fact that through that period He was the subject of temptation. He moreover declares that it was a period of fasting, “He did eat nothing in those days." (Luke 4:2) It is most likely that the temptation of the forty days was presented by the foe un­revealed to human sight. Having been foiled through the thirty years and the forty days, at last he took shape, and as Matthew puts it, "The tempter came and said unto Him." (Matt 4:3)
In examining the first temptation, as also in the remaining two, consider first THE ATTACK; and secondly, THE REPULSE: And yet further, under each of these divisions the same method will be followed. In considering the attack of the enemy notice, first, the objective point; second, the avenue of approach; and third, the argument used. In considering the repulse notice, first, the WEAPON EMPLOYED; second, the ARGUMENT REBUTTED; and third, the CITADEL HELD.


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE FIRST AND THE LAST

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE FIRST AND THE LAST


With regard to THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE TEMPTATION, again refer to the three narratives. Matthew writes, "Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit;" (Matt 4:1) Mark expresses it, "The Spirit driveth Him," (Mark 1:12) while Luke declares He "was led by the Spirit." (Luke 4:1) Jesus as the Man was led by God. This was not Jesus idea or Satan’s but God’s. The one fact announced in these varied ways is of utmost importance to keep in mind, if the true significance of this temptation is to be understood. A Divine plan was being wrought out. It did not—to use a common expression—"happen" that Jesus met Satan and was tried. Neither is it true to say that the devil arranged the temptation. Temptation here is in the Divine plan and purpose (one part and an important one of His trip to earth). Jesus went into the wilderness under the guidance of the God the Holy Spirit to find the devil. My own conviction is that if the devil could have escaped that day, he would have done so. It is a very popular fallacy that the enemy drove Christ into a corner and tempted Him. But the whole Divine story reveals that the facts were quite otherwise. God's perfect Man, led by the Spirit, of as Mark in his own characteristic and forceful way ex­presses it, driven by the Spirit, passes down into the wilder­ness, and compels the adversary to stand out clear from all secondary causes, and to enter into direct combat. Use all of your methods Satan, but in the open; this was not the devils method. He ever puts something between himself and the man he would tempt. He hides his own personality wherever possible. To our first parents he did not suggest that they should serve him, but that they should please themselves, and all the while a servant of his. Jesus dragged him from behind everything, and put him in front, that for once, not through the subtlety of a second cause, but directly, he might do his worst against a pure soul.
Nothing can be clearer than the simple and full statement. Matthew does not assert that being led of the Spirit into the wilderness He was tempted of the devil; but that He was "led up into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil." Mark adds some further light, by declaring, He was "in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan;” (Mark 1:13) while Luke declares the same thing with even greater de­tail, "He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness during forty days, being tempted of the devil." (Luke 4:1-2) Let all these details enrichen and enlighten our minds and hearts.
To gather up these different side lights, the case thus be stated. Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. He was tempted of the devil during forty days, during the whole of which period He was still led by the Spirit. The Spirit took Him to the place of temptation, and was with Him through the process of temptation. Not in His Deity did He resist, but in His perfect Manhood. Manhood is however never able to successfully resist temptations of the devil except when fulfilling a first Divine intention, that, namely, of depending upon God, and thus being guided by the Spirit of God. Here let us take note. Thus the Man Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilder­ness, and was led by the Spirit through all the process of temptation.
Herein lay the deep significance of this temptation. The second Man, acting under the guidance of the Spirit (letting God determine His next task for His will to accomplish), passes into the wilderness, and by His coming challenged evil, and, acting simply under the guidance of that Spirit, overcame.
In conclusion, the significance of the temptation may be seen by placing the whole of the facts in contrast with the account of the temptation of Adam. The devil challenged the first man. The second Man challenged the devil. The devil ruined the first Adam. The last Adam spoiled the devil. The first Adam involved the race in his defeat. The last Adam included the race in His victory. The first Adam stood as the head of the race, and falling, dragged the race down with him. The last Adam stood as the Head of the new race, and being victorious, lifted that race with Him.
This is not a picture of the last Adam doing merely what the first Adam did, going into the place of passive life, and then when temptation came, and resisting it. The second Man had not only to resist temptation when it assailed Him for His own sake, but He had to lay hold of the tempter, and defeat him and punish him for the wrong he did in the ruin of the first man.


Tuesday, January 23, 2018

THE AGENT OF TEMPTATION

THE AGENT OF TEMPTATION

"To be tempted of the devil" Matt 4:1


Next as to THE AGENT OF THE TEMPTATION. Matthew says, "To be tempted of the devil"; (Matt 4:1) Mark, "Tempted of Satan"; (Mark 1:13) Luke, "Tempted of the devil." (Luke 4:2) The emphasis here is upon the fact that in the wilderness expe­rience Jesus came face to face with the prince of the power of the air, with the god of this world, with Lucifer, son of the morning, fallen from his high estate of the first rank of heaven, and now leader of the hosts of darkness.
There have been many attempts to account for the temptation in other ways. It has been suggested that some man or company of men visited Him in the wilderness, and voiced the suggestions of evil; some even holding that the tempter was a member of His own family, who followed Him into the wilderness, and, with motives not unmixed with concern for Him, yet became the voice of evil. As all this is pure imagination, and has not the slightest war­rant in Scripture, it must be dismissed at once as false.
The more serious error is that the temptation arose from the natural operations of the mind of Christ. This is as unwarranted as is the other. As evil was presented to the first man from without, so also was it to the second. But no time need be taken with these futile attempts to discount the actual accuracy of the scripture narrative. One of the chief values of this account of the temptation lies in the fact that Jesus here dragged Satan into the light, and re­vealed to all His followers the fact of his personality, and the method of his operations.
TO DENY THE PERSONALITY OF SATAN IS TO DENY SCRIPTURE. It is moreover to reflect upon humanity in a way that is unwarranted by the whole scheme of revelation. If there be no personal devil, then all the evil things that blot the page of human history are the outcome of human nature. This is not possible of belief. Evil is not a natural product of God's humanity. It is not a process of evolu­tion. To hold that, in the last analysis, is to make God the Author of sin. It is evident therefore that to deny the personality of Satan is not to escape the problem of evil. If the Bible account of the fall of man is not correct, there yet remains the unsolved problem. While freely granting the mystery, man refuses to believe that the genesis of evil lies within the fact of human nature, accepting the teaching of Scripture that the problem lies further back, evil having originated prior to the creation of man. Revelation takes man no further back than the fall of the angels, which is declared and not explained. From that fall came the first movement of evil in human life, and the ruin of a race. The Head of the new race goes back to the point of the origin of evil in man, and confronts the personality, who is the head and front of the offending.


Monday, January 22, 2018

LAST ADAM IN THE WILDERNESS

LAST ADAM IN THE WILDERNESS


Then as to THE PLACE OF THE TEMPTATION, again notice the threefold description. Matthew says, "Into the wilder­ness;" (Matt 4:1) Mark, "forth into the wilderness;" (Mark 1:12) Luke says, "In the wilderness." (Luke 4:2) The common thought is that the temptation was experienced in the wilderness. The mean­ing of this in relation to the mission of Christ deserves special attention. Jesus now stands as the second Man, the last Adam. Here let this Scriptural statement be specially noted and remembered. Too often He is spoken of as the second Adam. Scripture does not use the expression. It speaks of the "last Adam." (1 Cor. 15:45) The first Adam was the head of a race. The last Adam is the Head of a race, and He is the last, because there will be no new departure, no other federal headship, and no other race. The last Adam, then, passing into temptation, went to the wilder­ness, into single and lonely combat with the enemy. No foe other than the captain of the hosts of evil is opposed to Him there, and no friend other than the God in Whose hand His breath is, and Whose are all His ways, is with Him. The wilderness is the place of immediate dealing with evil. All secondary things are swept aside.
It is interesting to contrast the circumstances under which the second Man, the last Adam, meets temptation, with those under which the first man and first Adam met them. Jesus stood among circumstances far more disad­vantageous than did Adam. In each case there was a per­fect man,—in Eden a man God-made; in the wilderness a Man God-begotten. The first, however, was in Eden, amid circumstances of beauty and plenty, a place where there was no lack, and all man's God-made nature was satisfied. The second Perfect Man was in the wilderness, in surround­ings of barrenness, and poverty, and hunger for the bread that perishes.
And yet note one graphic touch of Mark, "He was with the wild beasts." (Mark 1:13) There are those who seem to think that the statement reveals the horror of the situation, that the prowling wild beasts in the neighborhood made the situation still more fearful. But the word "with” suggests not that they were in His neighborhood or He in theirs merely, but that there was companionship between them. The fact is that even these wild beasts recognized God's millennial Man, and lost their ferocity, as has been already seen in a previous articles. Thus in the very place of con­flict was a glorious shadowing forth of the day when the—lamb shall lie down with the lion (Isa. 11:6), and when all the won­derful prophecies that foretell man's communion with, and dominion over, the lower forms of creation shall be realized. He made even the wilderness to blossom with millennial glory.


Sunday, January 21, 2018

THE TIMING OF SATAN

THE TIMING OF THE TEMPTATIONS

"Then," "Straight­way," "And "



In dealing with THE TIME OF THE TEMPTATIONS there are three significant words. Matthew opens the story with the word "then." (Matt 4:1) Mark uses in this connection a charac­teristic word of the Gospel, "straightway." (Mark 1:12) Luke opens with the word "and." (Luke 4:1) These words "Then," "Straight­way," "And " show the connection of the temptation with what had preceded it, and thus mark with great distinct­ness its time. "Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit." When? Immediately after the baptism, with its Divine attestation of satisfaction. "And straightway the Spirit driveth Him forth." (Mark 1:12) Here the emphasis is yet greater upon the fact that the temptation followed immediately upon the baptism. "And Jesus . . . was led by the Spirit in the wilderness during forty days." (Luke 4:1) The "and” here marks continuity. Thus the first act of the new phase of service was that of the testing of the Servant, and His perfect victory over the foe. God had sealed, as ap­proved, the FIRST PHASE OF THE WORK. The anointing Spirit had indicated His preparedness for the future. His fore­runner had recognized in Him the King, of Whose coming he had spoken to the gathered crowds, on the banks of the river. The whole circumstances of the baptism must have been full of satisfaction to the heart of Christ, and now in the conscious strength of victory already achieved, He passes into the gloom and loneliness of the wilderness, that He may be tested, and through the testing prove His strength.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

THE METHODS OF SATAN

THE METHODS OF SATAN DON’T CHANGE

“Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.”
2 Cor. 2:11
  


Satan can be defined as Christ as being the same yesterday, today, and forever. The third crisis in the mission of Christ followed the second almost immediately. On the threshold of the second period in His work—the three years of public ministry—He met in conflict the arch-enemy of the race. Not that this was by any means the first encounter. All the thirty years had been years of conflict. There is no room for doubt that questions intended to cast reflections upon the motives of God had been asked in Nazareth, similar to those asked in the Garden of Eden. The last Adam was familiar by the experience of the years with the METHOD OF ATTACK which had issued in the ruin of the first Adam. The suggestion had certainly been made to Him that the will of God was capricious and unkind. No day had passed in which He had not been subject to temptation. To think of the tempting of Jesus as be­ginning and being exhausted in that special season in the wilderness which is the subject of present consideration, is to misunderstand utterly the years at Nazareth, and the full meaning of the wilderness experience. During those thirty years He had been unceasingly victorious. At His bap­tism, the opened heavens, the descending Dove, the Divine voice are each and all significant of the perfections of the thirty years, that is, of the absolute victory Jesus had won over all the attacks of the enemy. The Master had met and triumphed over the entire temptations incidental to private life.
He is now entering upon the three years of public ministry, and He meets the foe of the race in the highest conflict of all His testing,—ultimate, that is, in the fact that now evil appears before Him in all its tremendous strength and naked horror in the personality of the devil. In all likelihood never had there been such an attack be­fore, and certain it is that it never occurred again. After this experience His attitude towards Satan and all his emissaries is that of the VICTOR TOWARDS THE VANQUISHED. Never again is He seen in the place of temptation in the same specific way. Suggestions which as to their inner meaning are identical are made to Him by Satan through Peter, and yet once more in the Garden of Gethsemane, but the victory won in the wilderness is most evidently the source of strength in subsequent experiences.
The attack of the foe is directed against Him in view of HIS COMING WORK. Its subtlety is manifest in that it is directed against THREE ASPECTS OF TRIUMPHANT SERVICE. 1. To serve God there must be manhood strong in the realiza­tion of Divine ideals. Against this the first attack was made. 2. There must also be such implicit trust in God as expresses itself in contentment with the Divine arrange­ment, and refusal to tempt God by false heroics. The second temptation was craftily aimed at the breaking down of this confidence. 3. And yet again, the servant of God must accept the methods of God at whatever cost to him­self. The final temptation was a suggestion that a Divine end should be reached by other than the Divine method.
In this preliminary article the subject is that of the set­ting of the temptation, reserving for future articles the temptations themselves. In thus viewing the temptation in its relation to the whole mission of Christ, there are four matters to be considered,—1. The time of the temptation; 2. the place of the temptation; 3. the agent of the temptation; 4. the significance of the temptation. For the purpose of this article, reference will have to be made to the three accounts by Matthew, Mark, and Luke. John has no chronicle of the temptation, his Gospel being essen­tially that of the Deity of Jesus, and God cannot be tempted.


Friday, January 19, 2018

THE 3 DAYS OF VISION

THE 3 DAYS OF THE VISION OF JOHN



It is probable that John had never seen Jesus, or if they had known each other in boyhood's days, long years had elapsed since their last meeting. John having turned his back upon the priesthood, had gone to the splendid isolation of the wilderness in preparation for the great work that lay before him; while Jesus had remained in the midst of the commonplaces of every-day life, in the carpenter's shop at Nazareth. At last the moment came when the forerunner was to look upon the face of the King, and it was a wonderful vision that broke upon this stern and burdened soul, when for the first time he looked into the face of Him, Whose advent he had so magnificently fore­told.
The story is recorded in detail by the apostle John, and in eleven verses are the doings of three distinct days, the vision of the first day; (John 1:26-28) that of the second, beginning with the words, "On the morrow," (John 1:29-34) and that of the third commencing "Again on the morrow." (John 1:35-36)
On the first day there is the speech of John declaring the presence of Christ in the crowd, but in all probability he did not point Him out to the people. Said he, "In the midst of you standeth One Whom ye know not." (John 1:26) The emphasis is on the "ye," for John certainly knew Him. Let it be kept in mind that about six weeks had passed since the day of the baptism of Jesus. He had been hidden in the wilderness, passing through the forty days of temptation, and had now returned, and was mingling with the crowds just upon the eve of commencing His own public ministry. (A careful study of the context will prove that this statement of John was made after the baptism, for immediately after the three days' events here recorded, Jesus began the gathering of His disciples, and His public work. It would seem therefore as if this study of the vision of John should come after the chapters on the temptation. It is taken here, however, as the pronouncement which John made, as the one direct outcome of the vision of Christ, which he had received on the occasion of the bap­tism, as he himself distinctly declared (John 1:33-34)).
Mark the prophet's sense of the dignity of the One Who as yet had not chosen to manifest Himself openly to men. “He that cometh after me is become before me: for He was before me . . . the latchet of Whose shoe I am not worthy to unloose." (John 1:15, 27) That was the state­ment of the first day.
It would appear as though on the second day Jesus no longer merely stood among the crowd as a spectator, but approached John. As He approached, John made his greatest pronouncement, "Behold, the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world." (John 1:29) First his vision of the Person; secondly, a declaration concerning His work. The phrase which describes the Person as John saw Him, at once arrests attention. It declares the character of the Christ, and suggests, moreover, the character of His work. "The Lamb of God" indicates meekness, gentleness, for­bearance. May it not have been that John was surprised, when first he looked into the face of Him Whose coming he had foretold. All the language in which he had pre­dicted the advent of the Deliverer suggested strength, force, authority and administration, "One mightier than I, Whose shoes I am not worthy to bear . . . Whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly cleanse His threshing floor; and He will gather the wheat, but shall burn the chaff." This Man was of quiet demeanor, and restful eyes, and calm countenance, with no lurking suspi­cion of vindictiveness, nothing of the lion in His fair face. Purity even to innocence was the impression produced by the presence of the King, "Behold, the Lamb of God."
And yet there was more than this in the phrase as it fell from the lips of John, and that which was more, was em­phasized by this first impression. "The Lamb of God” suggests the thought of sacrifice, and this very meekness of demeanor, and purity of impression, but adds weight to this conception of the meaning of the phrase. Had John, look­ing into the face of Jesus had to say, "Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah," no thought of sacrifice could have been connected therewith, but the very submissive beauty, so evident in the personality of Christ, merged the thought of the forerunner from the majesty of the work soon to be accomplished, into the mercy of the method.
We are in great danger today of losing sight of that second suggestion of the great phrase. To interpret Scrip­ture correctly, it is necessary to find the way back into the temper and tone, into the habit of thought of the people to whom the words were addressed. To the Jewish mind there was no other meaning in this phrase than that of sacrifice. The season at which these words were spoken lent weight to this view of the meaning. The Passover was approaching, and along that very highway droves of sheep and cattle were in all probability being driven towards Jerusalem for sacrifice. The thought of sacrifice was sub­consciously present amid the crowds, and the prophet, who had seen the sin of the people, now looking into the face of this strange new King, beholds in Him God's perfect Lamb, the One final Sacrifice for sin. The first time in the Bible where the word "Lamb" occurs is in connection with the sacrifice of Isaac. Coming up from the long gone centuries is heard the plaintive cry of the lad, about to be bound upon the altar, "My father . . . behold, the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" (Gen 22:7) The first time that the word occurs in the New Testament, is where the last messenger of the great nation that had sprung from the loins of Abraham through Isaac, announced to the multitudes of the children of Abraham, "Behold, the Lamb of God." (John 1:29) This is no mere accident. It is a part of the great proof of the unity of the Book. The Old Testament asks the question, "Where is the lamb?" The New Testament answers "Behold the Lamb  of God." The old economy was able to produce the fire and the wood, symbols of judgment, but nothing more. The new produces the perfect sacrifice by the offering of which Isaac and his seed in faith might go free.
No one will dispute that the question asked by Isaac concerning the lamb, is a question having reference to sacrifice. All through the Old Testament, the lamb is distinctly connected with the thought of sacrifice,—the lamb of the atonement, and the morning and evening lambs of sacrifice. John, knowing the meaning that gathered around the word in the mind of the people he addressed, declared that here at last had appeared upon the scene of human action the Lamb of God, that is, One Who should fulfill all the promises and suggestions concerning sacrifice in the old economy.
To dwell for a moment longer upon this aspect, let it be remembered that the word "lamb" only occurs four times in the New Testament, until the book of Revelation is reached, twice in the passage now under consideration, once in the Acts, where Philip reads from the prophecy of Isaiah, "He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; And as a lamb before his shearer is dumb," (Acts 8:32) and once in the first epistle of Peter, where the apostle speaks of "the precious blood, as of a lamb without blem­ish and without spot, even the blood of Christ." (1 Pet 1:19) These are the only occasions where the word "lamb" is used, and they all refer to Christ. The last two most evidently have reference to His sacrificial and atoning work, and so also without any doubt have the statements of John. The language of Scripture is not contradictory, but unified in its symbolism, in both these cases, as it ever is.
The words following place this beyond the possibility of contradiction, "the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world." The meaning of the phrase "taketh away” is that of bearing or carrying. That is to say, the prophet declared that there stood before them the Lamb of God Who had become responsible for the sin of the world.
He taketh it away, He carries it, He bears it, He has made it His own, He has become responsible for it. What a radiant vision of love ineffable was this that broke upon the soul of John, and what a vision for the world! The spotless Lamb of God laden with the sin of the race. Men had been asking for Him from the days of Isaac. Behold Him! He stands before the crowds in quiet, sub­missive splendor, and yet He is burdened, as man was never burdened. He carries the sin of the world. Not the sins, but the principle of sin. He has gathered into His own perfect personality, and has made Himself re­sponsible for all that sin means as to guilt and penalty. That is the very heart of the atonement, "Behold the Lamb of God."
Thus John who had been heavily burdened with a sense of sin, and out of that sense had spoken words that had scorched the consciences of the listening multitudes, at last found the burden lifted from his shoulders, and carried in a way he never could have carried it, by the meek and gentle Lamb of God.
He then proceeded to tell the crowds that his knowledge of Jesus was the result of the Divine sign, of which he had received previous notice, the sign of the descending Spirit; ending his whole declaration with the words, "I have seen, and have borne witness that this is the Son of God." (John 1:34) What a thrill of satisfaction there seems to be in the words “I have seen." The eyes of men had wearied looking, and the hearts of a few faithful souls had almost sickened with hope deferred; but at last the prophet had seen.
And then notice how carefully he announces another fact concerning this Person, this Lamb of God. He is the Son of God. John recognized the mystery of the per­sonality of Jesus. He was the God-man, the Lamb of God, the Son of God. Two facts in one personality and in the union of these two facts, in the one Person lay the pos­sibility of His doing the mighty work of bearing away the sin of the world.
Now lastly, there is the account of the vision of the third day. Jesus is leaving John and the crowds. He is going to His work, and as He leaves, John points his disciples towards Him, and cries, "Behold, the Lamb of God!" (John 1:36) These were in reality the final words of John's message. They have in them the tone of a great conviction. It is the crowning climax of his entire marvelous message. The herald of the King, the forerunner of the Christ, one of the greatest born of women outside the Kingdom of God, had carried on his heart, as perhaps no other man apart from Jesus, the burden of human sin. This is proven by the force and solemnity of his preach­ing. But at last he has looked into the face of the Savior, and when at the moment men came to him, and told him of the successful preaching of Jesus, and of His growing fame, this great soul was able to say, "This my joy therefore is made full. He must increase, but I must decrease." (John 3:29-30) Mark well the quiet calm dignity of the satisfied heart, able to say with perfect acquiescence, “He must increase, but I must decrease."


Thursday, January 18, 2018

JOHN’S PRELIMINARY VISION

JOHN’S PRELIMINARY VISION FROM GOD

 "Ye offspring of vipers." (Luke 3:7)


The preliminary vision was a twofold one. First a great consciousness of the sin of the people, and secondly an overwhelming sense of an approaching crisis. These were the two great facts that made the ministry of John powerful, his sense of sin, and his sense of the imminence of Divine departure. His vision of the people as they really were, instead of as they thought they were, and his understanding of the signs of the times were so perfect, that he knew that he stood on the eve of a new departure.
His consciousness of the sin of the people is evidenced first by the words addressed to them, especially by that stinging and terrible description, "Ye offspring of vipers." (Luke 3:7) Perhaps the best way to have any correct idea of how these words sounded in the ears of the listeners is to imagine that a prophet today should use them in addressing a promiscu­ous congregation. John looked into the faces of the multi­tudes and deliberately called them "offspring of vipers." These multitudes were not made up exclusively of one class of people. All Judea went out to hear him. Among the rest there is very little doubt that Herod at times was an attentive listener. Royalty mingled with the masses, all sorts and conditions of men stood together, and listened to the burning words that fell from the lips of the prophet; and looking out over the sea of upturned faces, and know­ing their true moral condition, he called them "offspring of vipers." Matthew says that these words were specially addressed to the Pharisees and Sadducees. Luke tells us that they were spoken to the whole of the multitudes, and undoubtedly both are correct. Luke gives his declamation against the nation, while Matthew records the special ad­dress of John, in which he puts his finger upon the heart of the sore, showing that he understood the process of the nation's corruption. Said he to the Pharisees and Sadducees, "Ye offspring of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" (Matt 3:7) These men were the ritualists and the rationalists of the day, the men under whose influence re­ligion was evaporating in mere outward form and ceremony, and men who were sapping the very life essence of religion by denying the spiritual realm. The Pharisees were ritual­ists, having form without power. The Sadducees were rationalists, denying power, and holding even the form in contempt. Between them, they had undermined the whole religious fabric, which still stood, a vast and gaudy pile, covering untold corruption, and liable at any moment to fall in utter ruin.
John looking at these men and at the people whom they had influenced said, "Ye offspring of vipers." It was forceful and terrible language, indicative of the prophet's righteous indignation, born of his keen understanding of the true condition of affairs.
His sense of sin is also proved by the varied answers he gave to different people who questioned him. To the common multitudes he cried, "Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within your­selves, We have Abraham to our father." (Luke 3:8) In these last words he indicated the characteristic sin of the people, that namely, of satisfaction in blood relationship to Abraham, despite the fact that the material corruption of their life contradicted the first essential greatness of Abraham that of his faith in God and obedience to the Divine will.
When the publicans came to him, and asked him what they were to do, he replied, "Extort no more than that which is appointed you." (Luke 3:13) From this answer is seen how accurately he understood the dishonesty of these men, who under the protection of their influential position were robbing the people, and enriching themselves.
When the soldiers came to him and asked, What are we to do, he replied, "Extort from no man by violence, neither accuse any one wrongfully; and be content with your wages." (Luke 3:14)
Here again is seen how keen was his consciousness of the sin of the alien armies, the tyranny of the conquerors. These men were exacting that which was not their due and this by violence, creating false charges against men, in order that they might enrich themselves by the fines im­posed. All these replies show how accurate a knowledge the prophet had of the true condition of affairs, and that was the first part of his burden.
This SENSE OF SIN had given birth to another, that of AN APPROACHING CRISIS. Listen to his words, "And even now the axe also lieth at the root of the trees: every tree there­fore that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire." (Luke 3:9) The axe is laid at the root of the trees. That is a figure of coming and swift destruction, not the pruning of the knife, but the destruction of the axe. It is not an occasional branch in which the signs of decay are manifest. The tree is diseased, and the axe is laid at its root. Outwardly fair, but inwardly decayed, the tree is doomed to an immediate destruction.
But the vision was clearer than this alone would indi­cate. It was not an undefined crisis that was approaching, but the definite coming of One, for hear his language,
"He that cometh after me is mightier than I, Whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: He shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire." (Matt 3:11) This One was to be active, and mark well the characteristics of His activity as John foresaw them, "Whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly cleanse His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the garner, but the chaff He will burn up with unquenchable fire." (Matt 3:12) Note the twofold fact, the de­structive side as symbolized by the fan and the fire; and the constructive aspect, as seen in the cleansing by fire and the gathering into the garner of precious things.
John had a sense of the sin of the people, a conscious­ness of a coming crisis, a clear vision of the Deliverer, Whose work was to be destructive and constructive. With this double consciousness, he preached with overwhelming force to the vast multitudes that flocked to the valley of the Jordan to hear him.


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

THE GREATEST PROPHET

THE GREATEST PROPHET


One of the utmost glories of the Hebrew nation was its long line of prophets. The function of the prophet may be gathered from the varied names by which these men were called. One or two instances will suffice. The prophet was called “a seer," (1 Sam 9:9) that is, simply, one who sees. He was also called “man of God," (1 Sam 9:6) that is, a man wholly devoted to God, and therefore speaking with authority the messages of God. And yet again, he was called “man of the Spirit," (Hosea 9:7) that is, one through whom the Spirit declared the will and purpose of Jehovah. The prophetical order commenced with Samuel, and in the marvelous succession were such men as Elijah, and Elisha, Isaiah, and Ezekiel. Splendid as was this succession, none among them was greater than the last of the long line, John the Baptist, who was also the immediate forerunner of Jesus.
In common with all his predecessors in the prophetic office, John's message resulted from his vision. He saw clearly, and therefore spoke with authority. The message which aroused the whole nation was the outcome of the clear seeing of this man, wholly devoted to the will of God. Undeceived by the accidental and external in the condition of his nation, HIS VISION WAS OF THE TRUE MORAL CONDITION, and gave birth to his message. When his work was approaching its termination, A NEW VISION, that of the Savior, was granted to him, and his last and mightiest utterances were concerning the sent Christ. It is of deep in­terest and undoubted value to consider his view of Christ, at this crisis in his work.
How important this vision is, may be argued from the manner in which Luke introduces him. "Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Iturxa and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, in the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came unto John." (Luke 3:1-2) One Roman emperor, one Roman governor, three tetrarchs, and two high priests are all made use of, to mark the hour in which the word came to John.
Incidentally this is an illuminative illustration of the Divine perspective in human history. To the men of the day, any one of the great men named would have counted for far more than the man of the wilderness; but in the economy of God, they are simply used to mark the hour in which the most important event of the period hap­pened, that namely of the coming to a man of the word of God, which announced the advent of His Son. The greatness of John in the estimate of heaven, is revealed by the fact that the word of God passed emperor, governor, tetrarchs, and high priests, and came to him; and the men­tion of these facts proves how important was the message of this man, to whom was given the high honor of utter­ing the word which announced the fulfillment of the aspira­tions of the past, and the merging of one dispensation of government into a new and a better.