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  • Popular Contributors

  • Sermon Entries

    • By Jim_Alaska in Jim_Alaska's Sermons & Devotionals
         14
      Closed Communion
      James Foley
       
      I Corinthians 11:17-34: "Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's Supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not. For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come."

      INTRODUCTION

      Historic Baptists, true Baptists, have believed in and still believe in closed communion. Baptists impose upon themselves the same restrictions that they impose on others concerning the Lord’s Supper. Baptists have always insisted that it is the Lord’s Table, not theirs; and He alone has the right to say who shall sit at His table. No amount of so called brotherly love, or ecumenical spirit, should cause us to invite to His table those who have not complied with the requirements laid down plainly in His inspired Word. With respect to Bible doctrines we must always use the scripture as our guide and practice. For Baptists, two of the most important doctrines are Baptism and The Lord’s Supper. These are the only two doctrines we recognize as Church Ordinances. The Bible is very clear in teaching how these doctrines are to be practiced and by whom.

      We only have two ordinances that we must never compromise or we risk our very existence, they are Baptism and The Lord’s Supper.

      The moment we deviate from the precise method God has prescribed we have started down the slippery slope of error. True Baptists have held fast to the original doctrine of The Lord’s Supper from the time of Christ and the Apostles.

      Unfortunately, in this day of what the Bible describes as the age of luke warmness, Baptists are becoming careless in regard to strictly following the pattern laid out for us in Scripture. Many of our Bible colleges are graduating otherwise sincere, Godly and dedicated pastors and teachers who have not been taught the very strict, biblical requirements that surround the Lord’s Supper. Any Bible college that neglects to teach its students the differences surrounding Closed Communion, Close Communion and Open Communion is not simply short changing its students; it is also not equipping their students to carry on sound Bible traditions. The result is men of God and churches that fall into error. And as we will see, this is serious error.

      Should we as Baptists ignore the restrictions made by our Lord and Master? NO! When we hold to the restrictions placed upon the Lord’s Supper by our Master, we are defending the "faith which was once delivered to the saints" Jude 3.

      The Lord’s Supper is rigidly restricted and I will show this in the following facts:

      IT IS RESTRICTED AS TO PLACE

      A. I Corinthians 11:18 says, "When ye come together in the church." This does not mean the church building; they had none. In other words, when the church assembles. The supper is to be observed by the church, in church capacity. Again this does not mean the church house. Ekklesia, the Greek word for church, means assembly. "When ye come together in the church," is when the church assembles.

      B. When we say church we mean an assembly of properly baptized believers. Acts 2:41-42: "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers."

      The church is made up of saved people who are baptized by immersion. In the Bible, belief precedes baptism. That’s the Bible way.

      Acts 8:12-13, "But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done."

      When we say properly baptized, we mean immersed. No unbeliever should take the Lord’s supper, and no non-immersed believer should take the supper. Those who are sprinkled are not baptized and cannot receive the supper. The Greek word for baptize is baptizo, and it always means to immerse.

      "In every case where communion is referred to, or where it may possibly have been administered, the believers had been baptized Acts 2:42; 8:12; 8:38; 10:47; 6:14-15; 18:8; 20:7. Baptism comes before communion, just as repentance and faith precede baptism".

      C. The Lord’s Supper is for baptized believers in church capacity: "When ye come together in the church," again not a building, but the assembly of the properly baptized believers.

      D. The fact that the Lord’s Supper is a church ordinance, to be observed in church capacity, is pointed out by the fact that it is for those who have been immersed and added to the fellowship of the church.

      E. The Lord’s Supper is never spoken of in connection with individuals. When it is referred to, it is only referred to in reference to baptized believers in local church capacity I Cor. 11:20-26).

      I want to quote Dr. W.W. Hamilton,

      "The individual administration of the ordinance has no Bible warrant and is a relic of Romanism. The Lord’s Supper is a church ordinance, and anything which goes beyond or comes short of this fails for want of scriptural example or command".

      “The practice of taking a little communion kit to hospitals, nursing homes, etc. is unscriptural and does not follow the scriptural example.”

      IT IS RESTRICTED TO A UNITED CHURCH

      A. The Bible in I Cor. 11:18 is very strong in condemning divisions around the Lord’s table. For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.
      19 For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.
      20 When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper.

      There were no less than four divisions in the Corinthian church.
      I Cor. 1:12: "Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ."

      Because of these divisions, it was impossible for them to scripturally eat the Lord’s Supper. Division in the local church is reason to hold off observing the Lord’s Supper. But there are also other reasons to forego taking the Lord’s Supper. If there is gross sin in the membership we do not take it. Here is scriptural evidence for this: 1Co 5:7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us:
      8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 9 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:
      10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. 11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.

      B. At this point, I want to ask these questions: Are there not doctrinal divisions among the many denominations? Is it not our doctrinal differences that cause us to be separate religious bodies?

      IT IS RESTRICTED BY DOCTRINE

      A. Those in the early church at Jerusalem who partook "continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine" Acts 2:42. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

      B. Those that do not hold to apostolic truth are not to partake. This means there is to be discipline in the local body. How can you discipline those who do not belong to the local body? You can’t. The clear command of scripture is to withdraw fellowship from those who are not doctrinally sound.

      II Thes 3:6: "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us."
      Rom. 16:17: "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them."
      To commune together means to have the same doctrine.
      II Thes. 2:15: "Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle."
      II John 10-11: "If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds."

      C. Some Baptists in our day have watered down this doctrine by practicing what they call “Close Communion.” By this they mean that they believe that members of another Baptist church may take communion with us because they are of the same beliefs. Once again, this is unscriptural.

      The welcome to the Lord's Table should not be extended beyond the discipline of the local church. When we take the Lord’s Supper there is supposed to be no gross sin among us and no divisions among us. We have no idea of the spiritual condition of another church’s members. If there is sin or division in the case of this other church’s members, we have no way of knowing it. We cannot discipline them because they are not members of our church. This is why we practice “Closed” communion, meaning it is restricted solely to our church membership. 
      So then, in closing I would like to reiterate the three different ideas concerning the Lord’s Supper and who is to take it. 
      Closed Communion = Only members of a single local church. 
      Close Communion = Members of like faith and order may partake. 
      Open Communion = If you claim to be a Christian, or simply attending the service, you may partake. 
      It is no small thing to attempt to change that which was implemented by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 
      Mt. 28:20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. 
      Many of our Baptist churches have a real need to consider the gravity of the act of observing The Lord’s Supper. It is not a light thing that is to be taken casually or without regard to the spiritual condition of ourselves or our church.
      1Co. 11:27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

       28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.

       29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.

       30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.

    • By pastormitchell in Pastor Mitchell
         0
      https://youtu.be/l4X-b73E-Qo
    • By 1Timothy115 in Devotionals
         11
      Psalms 119:1-8                                         Sep. 5 - Oct. 2, 2019
      1 ALEPH. Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD.
      2 Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart.
      3 They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways.
      4 Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently.
      5 O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!
      6 Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments.
      7 I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments.
      8 I will keep thy statutes: O forsake me not utterly.
      The following verse stood out to me...
      5 O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!
      At first glance it seemed to me this person’s soul is poured out with intense desire to have God’s direction in keeping His Word.
      I made a small wood fire in our backyard for my granddaughter, Julia, since she would be staying overnight with us. My wife and Julia stayed outside at the fire for about half an hour. Then, I found myself alone to watch the fire die out on a particularly lovely evening. So I took my verse from above and began to repeat it for memorization. As I repeated the verse, I tried to contemplate the words and apply them to what I was seeing around me. 
      The moon and stars were out now peering through the scattered clouds above.
      [Genesis 1:16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. Genesis 1:17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, Genesis 1:18 And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.]
      Thought 1         
      The moon has stayed his course since the day God created him, also the stars, obeying the statutes directed by God from the first day they were created. Can you imagine God’s direction to the Moon and stars, “moon you will have a path through the sky above the earth, stars you will occupy the firmament above the moon and be clearly visible in the cloudless night sky.”
      Then, the trees, grass, even the air we breathe obey the statues God gave them from the beginning. None of these creations have souls, none have hearts, none have intelligence, but they all observe God’s statutes, His instructions for their limited time on earth.
      Thought 2
      What if we were like the moon, stars, trees, grass, or the other creations which have no soul? We would be directed to keep God’s statutes without choosing to keep them. This is not the image of God, there would be no dominion over other creatures, or over the earth. We would not be capable of experiencing the joy and peace of learning the love of God
      Genesis 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
      Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
      Thought 3 (October 2, 2019)
      Is the psalmist pleading God to force God’s statutes to become the man’s ways? No, he is speaking of his own failure in keeping God’s statutes and his desire to keep them, very much like Paul in Romans 7:14-25.
      God doesn’t work through force to turn men from their ways that they would desire His statutes or desire God Himself. Men must reject (repent) put aside his own ways and voluntarily seek God and His statutes.
    • By Jerry in Jerry Bouey
         1
      The Companion Of The Way
      00 - Foreward & Introduction The Companion of the Way
      by
      H.C. Hewlett
      1962
      Moody Press
      Chicago, Illinois
      ~ Out of print and in the public domain ~

      Chapter 1 - FRIEND WITH FRIEND - Genesis 18 - Abraham
      Chapter 2 - THE PATIENT WRESTLER - Genesis 32 - Jacob
      Chapter 3 - THE DWELLER IN THE THORNBUSH - Exodus 3 - Moses
      Chapter 4 - THE SUPREME COMMANDER - Joshua 5 - Joshua
      Chapter 5 - THE BREAD OF THE WEARY - 1 Kings 19 - Elijah
      Chapter 6 - THE HOLY SOVEREIGN - Isaiah 6 - Isaiah
      Chapter 7 - THE SANCTUARY OF THE EXILE - Ezekiel 1 - Ezekiel
      Chapter 8 - THE COMPANION IN THE FIRE - Daniel 3 - Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah
      Chapter 9 - THE LIGHT OF EVENING - Daniel 10 - Daniel
      Chapter 10 - THE FACE THAT WELCOMED - Acts 7 - Stephen
      Chapter 11 - THE STRENGTH OF THE TOILER - Acts 26 - Paul
      Chapter 12 - THE STEWARD OF GOD'S HOUSE - Revelation 1 - John
      FOREWORD
      "Companion of the Way!" Scarcely could a more apt title be found for this book. It is an enriching study of the constant companionship, all-sufficient grace and unfailing faithfulness of Him whose presence ennobled men of God in olden times as it does men of like spirit today.
      Man is a social being: he cannot find fulfillment in isolation. He must have companionship. Deep and true friendship is one of life's richest experiences. And if this be so on the human level, what shall we say of the higher plane? The life that is life indeed is found only in the divine Companion. Without Him, life has no abiding significance.
      Would we learn how Abraham became the friend of God? Or how Moses experienced the goodwill of Him who dwelt in the bush? Or how Joshua was led to victory by the with the drawn sword? This book points the way. The breath of the sanctuary is in every chapter. The thoughtful reader, drinking in its message, will be led inevitably into deeper fellowship with the Companion of the Way.
      John Smart
      Editor, "The Fields"
      INTRODUCTION
      THE PERPETUAL PRESENCE
      The ultimate longing of the redeemed soul is for God Himself. Nothing less than the experience of the divine presence can ever satisfy the heart that has tasted of His grace. God did not create man to be independent of Him, but to need Him always. He did not endow him with that mysterious gift which we call personality, and with faculties spiritual, moral, and mental, that he should tread life's highway alone. It was His design that the personality should find its purpose in the fellowship of the giver, and the faculties their utmost meaning in the carrying out of His benign will.
      Though sin has challenged this relationship of Creator and creature and has spread its pollution throughout the centuries of man's history, yet whenever the heart has known the divine forgiveness, the basic need of God's presence has reasserted itself. The longing of the soul has found its expression in many a cry recorded in the Scriptures. We listen to some of these, as psalmist, lawgiver, and disciples speak with words whose intensity betokens the stirring of the depths of need and of desire.
      "My soul thirsteth for thee" (Psalms 63:1).
      "My heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God" (Psalms 84:2).
      "If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence" (Exodus 33:15).
      "Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent" (Luke 24:29).
      In these we recognize far more than the urgency of the immediate circumstances which brought them to utterance. Those whose lips framed the petitions spoke -- though unknown to themselves -- for all God's people at all times. In their words we have our share, even as in their emotion we feel the throbbing of our own heart. But they were more than spokesmen; they are our kinsman in the family of God. Their language is ours, though it is the speech of heart rather than of lip.
      In spite of the different scenes attendant upon different eras of history, the answer to all such longing, as far as our mortal condition can receive answer, is in the sublime fact of the perpetual presence of God with His people. As we read and reread the books of Scripture, we become deeply conscious that through sunshine and through shadow, through storm and through calm, there has stood with His own, and walked with them, One whose faithfulness has never faltered and whose love has never waned. "Behold, I am with thee . . . I will not leave thee" was his word to Jacob at Bethel (Genesis 28:15), and the promise was repeated to Joshua: "Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee" (Deuteronomy 31:6) and "Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them" (Joshua 1:6), and to Solomon: "And David said to Solomon his son, Be strong and of good courage, and do it: fear not, nor be dismayed: for the LORD God, even my God, will be with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, until thou hast finished all the work for the service of the house of the LORD" (1 Chronicles 28:20). It has been given to us also who have been drawn by the surpassing attraction of our adorable Saviour to press on to the city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
      At times the divine presence has been made visible to the eyes of men. In varying circumstances of place, of age, and of need, men subject to like passions as we are have had the all-transcending experience of seeing God. They have seen Him not in the full blaze of the light of Deity -- that vision of His face which no mortal can bear -- but in guise suited alike their frailty and to His ways of grace and government with them, and with us too, for whom these things are recorded in the Word. While these appearances differ in their setting, they are one in their purpose to life the gaze of the soul from the temporal to the eternal, and from the vanities of earth to that ultimate reality which is God Himself.
      Looking back on the Old Testament in the light of the New, we find that the theophanies of the ancient Scriptures were all Christophanies, i.e., it was always in the Son that God revealed Himself to men. In certain cases, the New Testament gives express confirmation of this, as, e.g., in the appearing of the "I AM" to Moses in the burning bush and in that to Isaiah when the prophet listened to the homage of the seraphim. Beyond this, the general truth may be learned from the teaching of the New Testament concerning the uniqueness of the place of the Son in the Trinity of God. He is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15), the One in whom that which is otherwise invisible in God becomes visible to the creature, not indeed as a result of the Incarnation, but because of the essential relationships in the Godhead. Again, that which is made known of God in the theophanies is ever consonant with that which is taught directly concerning the Son. The One who appeared in Old Testament days spoke and acted as being personally God, even to the acceptance of worship; nevertheless He appeared in relation to another who was called God. This is illustrated in the use of the title "Angel of the LORD." These things find their harmony in Christ, the only begotten Son, Himself the Word of God, the brightness of God's glory, and the express image of His person.
      The appearance of the Lord described in the Scriptures are not to be considered merely as things isolated and as events entirely apart from the normal course of the path of faith, but as illustrative to us of the wealth of that sacred companionship which every believer is called to know. The appearances are recorded to show who it is that abides with us, and what His power is to sustain, to encourage, to deliver, and to transform.
      Though today we see not our Lord save as He is known to the eye of faith, His presence is none the less real. He has not forgotten His beloved people, nor failed to be with them. He has companied with them, not generally, but even individually, so that each one has had reason to count the promises made good to him. Throughout the centuries he has stood with His redeemed ones, ever loving, ever patient, ever true. They have all proved it -- the martyr in the fiery flame; the ill person with fevered brow, restless and weary; the widow bereft in one hour of husband and of stay; and the tired servant, witnessing in some foreign land. They, too, have proved His presence who on the dizzy heights of prosperity and success have been preserved from false steps, and they also who have found the happiest relationships of earth enriched and ennobled by the unseen presence. And have they not proved it also, who have known the horrors of modern warfare and the long, long hours of the nerve-racking blitz?
      Christ reveals Himself supremely to hearts that count Him precious. He yearns to show them His face and to light up their lives with His constant smile. He is not reluctant to bless, but desires His people to be blessed. When the soul with set purpose puts Christ before all else, the sense of His presence deepens through life. Memories of His grace and faithfulness recur with their encouragement and with their rich incentive to lean more fully upon Him and to count upon His nearness in every trying hour. Thus the perpetual presence, known and enjoyed, will manifest itself as an abiding Christ-consciousness.
      The first moments of thought that begin each new morning will be: "When I awake, I am still with thee" (Psalms 139:18). Though the burden of the day challenge the soul with temptation and with care, it will do so only to find the soul ensheathed with an invisible mantle, even Him who has become the soul's retreat and hiding place. The joys of life will be doubled because shared with Another who will add His own portion to the feast spread for Him. Prayer will be no wearisome routine, but such free and intermittent conversation -- though reverent and holy -- as only true friends know. The hour of retiring to rest will be serene with the knowledge that even though the thoughts be hushed in sleep, the Presence will not be withdrawn. Then, should it please God that the gates of death should open, the soul will prove that when companions of the pilgrimage can journey with it no longer, He will still be near, and dearer than ever, till the veil be passed, and the soul catch its first wondering sight of His blessed face.
      In the following pages there are selected for meditation nine glimpses of the sacred presence given in the Old Testament, together with the three instances in the New Testament where the Lord Jesus Christ was seen by men on earth in His post-ascension glory. Taken together, they show something of what He has been to His saints throughout their history, but all that He has been He remains today, and shall remain forever. Moreover, because it is the same Person whom they display, and the same deep interest in the welfare of man's soul, they add their clear witness to the unity of Scripture and the continuity of its narrative. One face looks out upon us from its pages; one heart yearns over us with indescribable longing.
      When at last we are at home with Him, we shall see Him to be the One who, unseen, often communed with us, as He did with Abraham His friend, who wrestled with us as with Jacob -- and with like ennobling touch, and who sought not to consume but to irradiate with His beauty, as in the bush which Moses saw.
      We shall see Him as the One who gave victory over the foe, as He gave it to Joshua, and who succored us in depths of discouragement, as He succored Elijah under the juniper tree.
      We shall see Him as the One who prepared us for service, revealing and purging our iniquity, as He did with Isaiah, and who strengthened us in that service in the loneliest day, as He did Ezekiel.
      We shall know Him as the One who walked with us in our fiercest trial, as He did with the three Hebrews, and whose revelation was the consummation of life, as it was with Daniel.
      Then we will find that it was no mirage of earth that comforted us but the sight of "Jesus standing at the right hand of God," as Stephen saw Him; that it was "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" which was the treasure we carried in earthen vessels, as in Paul's experience. Then we will find that behind all the mystery of life, sufficient for every care and for every toil, there stood the First and the Last, the Chief Steward, as He stood with John in Patmos.
      With such realization and such company we shall be wonderfully at home in heaven. Events of earth that once seemed so strange will be understood then as truly preparatory to that bliss. No longer through a glass darkly, but face to face, we shall behold Him in whose presence we have ever been in our pilgrimage, God's glorious Son, in whom God will be fully known.
      There no stranger - God shall meet thee --
      Stranger thou in courts above --
      He who to His rest shall greet thee,
      Greets thee with a well-known love.
      It is our purpose to consider each of these records (save that of Paul's experience, which was fivefold) from three aspects. We must notice
      (1) The setting in which the appearance was vouchsafed,
      (2) The revelation of the Person and ways of the heavenly Companion, and
      (3) The blessing that followed in the life.
      Thus may we perceive for our comfort and our cheer precious lessons of His grace to us, with whom He still walks unseen. Shall not our hearts fill with richer praise as we remember His faithfulness and lovingkindness, yesterday, today and forever?
      AN APPRECIATION
      I am twice grateful to my dear friend, Mr. Hewlett, first, for allowing me to read his book and next for giving me the privilege of writing a few words of appreciation and introduction.
      The author is like a skillful musician, sitting at his keyboard and pouring out his melodies; he has only one subject - Christ - and one desire - to know Him for himself and then to spread His fame to others. Through this travail his book is born.
      A Greek sage wrote, "The proper study of mankind is man." But, in fact, not one of us knows himself until he knows God. If we had focused our attention on the closing line of the first commandment, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me," and kept it, we should never have needed the other nine in the Decalogue nor the other 612 in the Pentateuch.
      So, since Christ is the Way to God, my friend has done well to describe twelve of the highways of light along which the feet of the saints have traveled in distant ages. The saints have never walked alone; it has always been true that "Jesus himself drew near, and went with them."
      I think that I have especially enjoyed "The Face that Welcomed"; its analysis of Stephen's experience is choice.
      I must congratulate my friend on his chapter titles; they read like a wedding march or an Attic chorus.
      May the Head of the Church carry this volume far and wide in blessing and give the author something for himself.
      Harold St. John
    • By Jerry in Jerry Bouey
         0
      The Companion Of The Way
      10 - The Face That Welcomed - Stephen (Acts 7)

      I. THE SETTING -- THE FELLOWSHIP OF HIS SUFFERING

      The triumph of Stephen was the first great crisis in the history of the Church. For Israel, too, it was a crisis, for in the death of the first Christian martyr the nation's probation ceased. Even after the cry of apostasy, "We have no king but Caesar," and that bitter taunt, "He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him," the Divine patience waited long. The Messiah had been scorned in the days of His flesh. When he was by the witness of the Spirit presented to the nation as the ascended One, who had been made both Lord and Christ, whom God had exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel and remission of sins, the witness of the Spirit was likewise scorned. The man who spoke to the Jewish council with "face as it had been the face of an angel" was hurried to death by men convicted but unrepentant. Then God began to display His secret purpose to bring Gentiles along with Jews into the Church. The Gospel was carried far and wide -- to Samaria, to Antioch, and to the ends of the earth, and the guilty nation was given over to the judgment that resulted in the destruction of the city and the temple in A.D. 70.

      But the martyrdom of Stephen was a crisis for the Church, for the heavenly outcalling acquired a deeper fellowship with Christ. In the stoning of Stephen, the Church tasted of the cup of its Lord's suffering unto death, and was despised and rejected of men as He had been. The Lord Jesus suffered "without the gate," in the place of reproach and dishonor; Stephen was "cast... out of the city," and stoned. Thus began the long procession of witnesses that has continued unto this day. Some of its faces are in a measure familiar to us. We know of Stephen and Paul, of Polycarp, or Perpetua and Felicitas, of Tyndale, of Ridley and Latimer, of Huss, of John and Betty Stam, and of others whose sufferings and death have been inscribed in the annals of men. But for the most part the witnesses are unknown to us. Yet every life laid down for Christ's sake was precious in the eyes of the Lord, and every name is written with honor in the Book of Life. By and by we shall meet these dear brethren and sisters in the family of God, and with them we shall extol the grace that was sufficient for all. The Lord who succored Stephen was their Lord, too. Not one of them was forsaken of Him, but His presence was with them all, where the stones fell, or the sword descended, or the fire burned, or in the Colosseum, or amid Alpine snows, or in Siberian wastes.

      We can scarcely read the account of Stephen's experience before the council without seeing afresh the Lord Jesus Himself standing before that same tribunal. The martyr was accused by false witnesses of violent words against the holy place. "We have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us" (Acts 6:14). The Lord was charged by lying lips, "This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days" (Matthew 26:61). To this charge the Lord answered nothing, even as the prophet had predicted: "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth" (Isaiah 53:7). But to the words of the high priest, "I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God," He gave answer, "Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven."

      In Stephen's case there was reply at considerable length to the question of the high priest, "Are these things so?" (Acts 7:1), for it was his task finally to arraign Israel's leaders with their crime in the murder of the Messiah. When their rage exceeded all restraint, he likewise bore testimony to the glory of the Son of man. To the Lord's answer the high priest gave the terrible response, "He hath spoken blasphemy," and the council said, "He is guilty of death." The fatal decision was made; they would listen to no further word from His lips. At Stephen's proclamation concerning the Son of man, "they... stopped their ears." Cut to the heart by his defense, they could not bear to hear that which reminded them of the solemn declaration by the Lord Jesus.

      Strange it was that the council should be concerned about the reports that Stephen had said that "this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place," if He were, as they claimed, still in death. The very words of the charge betrayed the uneasiness of the Jews touching the preaching by the followers of Jesus that He was alive from the dead. The chief priests knew full well the report of the guards who had fled from the tomb. They knew also that the explanation that the guards had slept was a lie. Unable to account for the empty tomb and the courage of the disciples, they silenced their doubts by renewed action against the preachers of the Gospel.
      II. THE REVELATION -- THE HEAVENLY VISION

      "When they heard these things, they were cut to their heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God" (Acts 7:54-56). Then, as always when He dwells ungrieved in the believer, the Holy Spirit so ministered the compensations of God to Stephen that he, too, was more than conqueror. The fury of earth was met by the opening of Heaven, and the loneliness of his position by vision of his Lord. To Stephen, as to Paul and to John, it was given to see the glorified Lord with mortal eyes. To all others it has been given to see Him only by faith, but such is the Spirit's delight to reveal Christ to His people that though they are at times in heaviness through manifold temptations, yet they love the One whom they have not seen and, believing in Him, they rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.

      In that hour Stephen's gaze was turned upward to Heaven and home, and was not disappointed. Since the ascension of the Lord Jesus, Heaven had been more than ever home to the people of God. In all ages they had desired "a better country, that is, an heavenly," but now the One who had lived on earth those thirty-three years of purity and grace, had endured for their sakes the shameful Cross, and had risen again from the dead, had passed "within the veil." In its love He dwelt, and He had taken their hearts with Him. His home was forever theirs. Before He died, He had assured them, "I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." They looked for Him, and could be satisfied only with Him. Even if they were called to pass through death, it was only "to be with Christ; which is far better."

      And now the heavens were opened, as they had been to the Lord Jesus at His baptism at Jordan. The realms of light disclosed their approval of that which met their gaze on earth, first (for His is ever the pre-eminence) of the Beloved Son and then of the servant who confessed Him so faithfully. Only in Him and in His people can Heaven delight, but its delight is real, pure, and unashamed.

      Looking stedfastly into those bright scenes, Stephen saw the glory of God. He had commenced his defense before the council by reminding his hearers that the God of glory had appeared to their father Abraham. This was the true meaning of their history, and it was this that made them a separate people on earth. The gods of the nations were vanity; the God of Abraham was the God of glory. Whenever the children of Abraham had been true to their calling and their heritage, they had rejoiced in His majesty. None of them knew Him better than did Moses. He had seen His glory in the burning bush, in the deliverance from Egypt, and upon Sinai, but still his prayer rose up: "I beseech thee, shew me thy glory" (Exodus 33:18). David spoke of the God of glory (Psalms 29:3) and looked to the day when the everlasting doors should be lifted up that the King of glory might enter in (Psalms 24:7). Moses had come down from the mount with rays of that glory lingering on his face, and even Stephen's judges saw his face as it had been the face of an angel. Gazing into the source of the light that lit his face, Stephen saw the glory that Abraham had seen and, moreover, in the heart of its radiance at the right hand of God he saw "Jesus standing."

      Ere the Lord had gone to the throne, He had spoken His sure word of promise, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world" (Matthew 28:20). "Alway," i.e., "though all the days" -- what could more clearly set forth the perpetual presence? But Stephen was given even more than the token of the presence. He learned its climax, that the One who companied with His saints and with him would bring their path to its triumphant goal with a vision of His face and a welcome to His side. Upon the martyr the vision was bestowed before his eyes closed on scenes here, that he might tell us what waits the gaze of all who die in faith. Surely that face of light was bent down upon him and poured its love upon him, for it was to the Lord Jesus that he addressed his dying words and, confident in Him, he fell asleep.

      "Jesus standing." That is not to be read as contradiction of the statement that "He . . . sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Hebrews 1:3). Both positions picture profound truths, and both give aspects of His ascension life which exist concurrently. In relation to His finished work on earth and to the exercise of His sovereignty, He is viewed as seated. In relation to His unfinished work in Heaven, that gracious ministry which He undertakes for us now, He is viewed as standing. He remained "this same Jesus." The glory of the throne had not changed His heart toward His own. As He had ever been to them -- tender, compassionate, understanding, and true, so He was still. As in love He had toiled for them on earth, so in Heaven would He minister to their need in the same love.

      With his eyes fixed on Jesus, Stephen bore testimony to that which he saw and named his Lord by that title which Christ's own lips had so often used. "I see... the Son of man standing on the right hand of God." The reference was obviously Messianic, for, as we have noted, it was in accord with the Lord's own words, "the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power." It testified that the despised Jesus was actually the Son of Man of Daniel's vision, who would come with the clouds of heaven (Daniel 7:13), that He had reached the height of absolute power, and that nought could hinder the fulfillment of his prediction to the council. Stephen's own need was fully met in that he saw Jesus at God's right hand, even as today by faith "we see Jesus . . . crowned with glory and honour." The doom of the leaders of Israel, the guiltiest of the guilty, was sealed in that the martyr saw the Son of Man in that place of power.
      III. THE BLESSING -- CHRIST'S FRUIT IN HIS MEMBERS

      "Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul" (Acts 7:57-58). Their fury knew no bounds. Driven on by their hatred of the name of Jesus and by the knowledge that they were impotent to mar His glory or frustrate His will, they undertook summary judgment on His confessor. With frenzied cry and utter refusal to hear another word, they laid violent hands on Stephen and cast him out to his death. Denying him even the pretense of justice and of trial, they cut off his life with the cruel stones. It was the death which was decreed by the law of Moses for the blasphemer, it was meted out to one of the noblest of the long line of faith. According to the law, as given in Deuteronomy 17:7, the witnesses were required to be foremost in the execution of the death penalty. They had brought the evidence; they must be first to cast the stones. Not content with falsehood, Stephen's accusers added to their infamy by sustaining their witness in the place of stoning. In those solemn moments wherein they strained their lives with innocent blood, they left their garments in the care of a young man called Saul. It is the first time that we hear of this man, who figures so much on the page of Scripture, but whose story is forever woven with that of Stephen.

      "And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep. And Saul was consenting unto his death" (Acts 7:59-8:1). In this passage the word "God" is in italics. There is no object stated for the very "calling upon," and the reference is most naturally to the following words. As Paul showed in his greeting to Corinth -- "with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours" (1 Corinthians 1:2). -- calling upon the name of the Lord Jesus was the mark of the New Testament Christian. His name was honored, as the name of Jehovah in the Old Testament was honored. "Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord [Jehovah] shall be saved" (Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13; Joel 2:32). The conviction of the early church was unmistakable, and attested by Stephen, that in the naming of the Lord Jesus they owned Him as Jehovah. That Pharisees, such as Saul, brought up in the strictest monotheism, should come to adore a once-crucified man as being eternally in the Godhead is evidence that to them His credentials of deity were beyond dispute.

      Stephen's words recall those spoken last by the Lord upon the Cross. In unshaken trust, the Lord had commended His spirit to the Father; so did the martyr commit his spirit to the Lord. This again was witness to the deity of Jesus. Then kneeling, Stephen "cried with a loud voice." (This expression, in which the energy of the speaker is gathered up, is used of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 27:50.) The Lord had prayed for those that crucified Him: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). Imbued with the same spirit of forgiveness that revealed how truly he was in the mind of Christ, Stephen likewise prayed for his murderers. How precious must this have been to the Lord Jesus, and what fruitage for Him in the life of His saint! Thus with eyes and heart alike occupied with his Lord, Stephen "fell asleep." It was not death, but victory. The Lord Jesus had said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death" (John 8:51), and so it was with the martyr. So it is with all who trust Him.

      In his vision of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the fragrance of his character, and in his suffering for His sake, Stephen became the pattern believer of this age. His name (Stephan, i.e., crown [stephanos], or garland of victory) pointed to the heavenly destiny held out to all his brethren, including to the measure of their devotion to Him, the crown of glory and honor. Stephen's interpreter was the man whose conversion was the firstfruits of the divine response to his dying prayer. What was concentrated in the last moments of the one was spread out in the years of experience of the other, so that the latter wrote, "Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body"; and again, "So then death worketh in us, but life in you"; and again, "We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:10,12,18).

      What shall meet our gaze as we thus look to the things "not seen?" First, and supremely, we shall behold the glory of our Lord, His unfading triumphs, His exaltation in manhood at God's right hand, His infinite depths of holiness and of love, and the unutterable wonder of His blessed face. We shall see our Father's home, with its many mansions -- all forever open to the children of His love; we shall see the "far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" wrought for us by the "light affliction" of this present time. Again, we shall behold "the inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away." Then there is the reward which hands once pierced by cruel nails shall bestow upon lonely toilers from the harvest fields of earth. Moreover, we shall feast our gaze upon the joy of unclouded fellowship with Christ and with the redeemed of the ages. Then there is the occupation of the blest, the holy service wherewith "his servants shall serve him."

      To see the face which Stephen saw is to be enabled to live a heavenly life amid earthly care. It is ours with him and with Paul to behold "the glory of God in the face of Christ," and soon the joy of faith shall be swallowed up in the joy of seeing Him as He is.

      Present with Thee, oh, Lord Jesus,
      Some day this rapture I'll know;
      Sweeter than aught of earth's visions,
      Passing all bliss here below.

      Present with Thee, in Thy glory,
      Days of my pilgrimage past;
      Down at Thy feet I shall worship,
      Prostate before Thee at last.

      Present with Thee, my Redeemer,
      Because my load Thou didst bear;
      I shall adoring behold Thee
      Glory ineffable wear.

      Present with Thee, in Thy likeness,
      Clothed in Thy fitness, not mine;
      Gladly Thy loveliness telling,
      Owning Thy glory divine.

      Present with Thee -- not a shadow
      Casting its gloom o'er my heart --
      Calmly I'll dwell in love's sunshine,
      Nor from Thee ever shall part.

      Present with Thee, my Beloved,
      This Thy desire toward me,
      Even that ever and ever
      I should be present with Thee.

      --H. C. H.--
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