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THE WORLD BELONGS TO
GOD AND I AM HIS!
There follow two accounts of divine deliverances, which in turn related to Biblical promises and so come under this heading: BIBLICAL BLESSINGS.
A fuller account over the years is contained in the work,
1) The Victory is the Lord's but He is Good at Sharing
The Action Begins
Many years ago, indeed
nearly 45, there was a student for the Ministry in
The Old Testament had been systematically misinterpreted with the absurd follies of Welhausen, and although these were perhaps beginning to be seen as... inadequate, being increasingly obviously anti-historical as well as peremptory, arbitrary and inconsistent, those days were merely heralded a little in the rank attacks in the Classroom. We were told that in any case, one thing was sure (one might have hoped that this would be the word of God, as written, as Jesus indicated, but no!): that Moses as the author of the body of the Pentateuch, the first 5 books of the Bible would never be returned to.
(How cutting were Christ's
own words in sublime answer to such folly - John 5:43-47! Many honour each
other in the ecclesiastical ski-jumps of "inspiration" to follow
some new thing, like the case of the men at
Now this positive approach concerning the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) has in fact been returned to with a conspicuously large and impressive sway of scholarship, due to logic and history, and in some cases because of faith as well. Thus this seminary statement of disfaith, just cited, concerning Moses
a) is itself shown to be just as poor as a prophecy as, by contrast, the word of God is demonstrated on all sides to be acute and accurate: indeed, consistently authentic in all its forecasts.
b) appears in all its torrential passion. That, incidentally, was how it sounded, back in the Classroom at that time. Anger seemed to furnish no bounds to fact, and propositions without base appeared to flourish in this field, like unchecked weeds. Small wonder I was called on to attest the truth in the face of it all.
James Orr, Professor in
The Surging of the Waves
Meanwhile, exactly as a bacterial infection can follow a virus scourge, so a New Testament teacher came in to this blighted seminary, and to him, it seemed, the words of all four Gospels were mere symbols from which, shall we say, quasi-advanced scholarship could turn with confidence and with total power of reconstruction. When challenged as to the logical outcome of these desperate and unfounded surmises, these distant attempts at biography without the apostles, his answer was not apparent! The action of that institution, however, this would soon become very apparent: indeed, it was to occur on the next day.
Thus the seminary was inconvenienced. Challenge interfered with its blithe program. Christ Himself inconvenienced the priests who killed him, who found that the people might follow the Lord just because of His speech and miracles, His benign presence and His remorseless power. What a disaster, they felt, this would have been. Lazarus' resurrection from their viewpoint, was completely intolerable therefore. However, history has been replete with disaster flowing from His neglect, for the Jew first, but also for the Gentile. Moreover in Luke 19 you find Him predicting it with that exquisite combination of pathos, tenderness, lament and historical certainty which flowed from the grace of Christ.
they did it to Him, then, and the servant is not greater than His master, as
Christ put it, with delightful but realistic irony: one thing was clear. I had
Soon in a thrust of
irrational professorial fury, I had words put into my mouth: illicit logic at
the personal level was indulged in, and was as it were bound and trussed with
slander and libel, so that I, with the consent of the other teachers, was
removed. First it was from Class, then from seminary, and from the financial
support, and then from a good name as the libels mounted, again like the waves
on the Dutch lowlands when the waters enter, or if you will, like the
Now I say this for the
encouragement of other students; for after all, we HAD BEEN EXPRESSLY
CHALLENGED IN CLASS to resist and if we were able, falsify (*1A)
this sort of teaching.
For the doctrinal arena involved, and its total destruction as false teaching, in this case in the book of Daniel, see Ancient Words: Modern Deeds Ch. 10, and for its general place in the devil's warehouse, see Ch. 12. The unanswerable character of the answer to this doctrinal deviation at the seminary, was doubtless no small part of the thrust behind the assault on myself as student, accepting and overthrowing challenge to the book of Daniel's integrity. It stood as it always stands, since it is the word of God, and as to Him, He is alive (cf. Luke ). To praise Him is factual as well as fervent. The Lord is immensely and intensely praiseworthy, wholly faithful and of unlimited resource!
This sort of teaching; THAT was an explicit test given to us on pain of acknowledging we lacked intellectual integrity. One might have hoped that a response would receive better than this, foul play. However, in all fidelity to the Lord whom I know, I did respond to that public challenge made to the students: I did that as permitted. Indeed, it seems, I did it much too well, by the grace of the Lord whose promises have never failed, never do fail and never will fail.
What now! I had been
converted by the power of God to the Lord Jesus Christ, called most explicitly
by the wisdom and grace of God into the ministry of the word of God and the
proclamation of the Gospel, framed through Staff, betrayed by my fellow
students (consciously or not), and with the tempests of outlandish attacks
mounting against me, what hope was there for a continuance of that CALL to the
MINISTRY which GOD ALMIGHTY in the name of JESUS CHRIST had given me! It looked
grim, but my God lives for ever, has even conquered death, and He gave me a
most exquisite joy, ebullient and radiant (cf. I Peter 4:13-14).
As to the call to the Ministry which I had received before all this, because of which I was in seminary: it was a call which had been recognised by the Church before this confrontation, before this raising of a banner for the truth had been required of me. After all, it is required of a man that he be faithful, and Peter and John have made it perfectly clear, even to the High Priest himself, that we ought to obey God rather than man (Acts 4:18-20, 5:26-29), and I had done this! What then would THE LORD do, in His mercy, grace, favour and faithfulness? He did what was necessary. He did it in His own way: it is GOD who does it HIS way.
Then came deliverance, for God does deliver, has delivered and will deliver, and from every evil work to His heavenly kingdom (II Corinthians 1:10, II Timothy 4:17-18). I have believed that, do believe that, have preached that even in seminary and act on it, finding it true for He is faithful altogether.
At that time, a very old man was friendly to me, and he had a huge library which afterwards I believe he donated to an Anglican seminary. Amongst his books, which I found useful in my confrontation at the Presbyterian seminary in Christ's name, was one called The Infallible Word. In those days, such works of a contemporary and scholarly kind were not as common as undoubtedly they are today. This was rather a 'darkest hour' situation.
To that seminary I wrote, and from them eventually, after I had by the power and mercy of God continued my University studies in Sydney (and that involved a separate deliverance), received an invitation to come in order to finish my course for the Bachelor of Divinity in Philadelphia, so qualifying for licensing and ordination. This, in fact duly, but not without more drama from assailants and detractors, ensued.
The delightful, and indeed I feel deliciously off-hand way in which this whole train of events came to pass is edifying. By simply seeking where I could find scholarly materials to the point in my conflict with unbelief about the Bible, as defined in the Westminster Confession and indeed within the Bible itself (see SMR p. 1165 D and Ch.1 of the Confession), I had found the answer to the vocational question, following my expulsion. I did indeed meanwhile count it an honour to have been permitted to suffer, in name and in vocation, for so great a Person as that incarnation of the Godhead, Jesus Christ, who has in this neither predecessor nor successor, for there is no other name given among men under the whole heaven, by which we must be saved; and as to the Lord, He says: I am the Saviour, there is no other! (Acts -12, Isaiah 43:11).
It was for
God Himself I had been acting; and in His faithful graces He acted for me, for
He says, Those who honour Me, I shall honour. Hence when my cable went to
Westminster Theological Seminary concerning my academic results, back came the
thrifty deliverance: 'Westminster Acceptance Confirmed'. Soon on the aircraft
for scores of hours to Philadelphia, I was able to reflect also on the miracle
of the supply of the necessary US currency (for US dollars were governmentally
restricted in their supply to Australian citizens in those days, and I had to
make application, which in the circumstances was not easy, but I told the Bank
the facts, and they acted).
SO HE LED THEM
TO THE DESIRED HAVEN –
On arrival in what looked vaguely like a snow-bound castle - I believe it was on a Saturday, I found no Staff, but an English student and others who showed me to the basement with its huge pipes conducting steam throughout the 'castle'. Soon I found that with 2 others, one of whom later became a Professor in the seminary, I was housed below the surface of the earth. In that land, however, perhaps these things are routine. In my final year, I even had a room with a view, looking across the snowy gardens, and with much pleasantness.
One day I resolved to do a little athletics, so ran on the oval, only to find on return that there was something lacking: I did not seem to possess any arms in terms at least of feeling: the snowy clime had little use for this health regimen.
In many matters, however, I prized the seminary instruction, which came from men like John Murray and E.J. Young, also John Skilton, whose vision and power were noteworthy; and from Meredith Kline whose kindliness and courtesy were so pleasant; as indeed from Cornelius Van Til, whose delicate and sometimes blatant humour and ironic oddities were such a relief and pleasure, just as his boldness in Christian Apologetics was so welcome.
In some other things, not so Biblically founded, I could not agree, giving reason; and in the Old Testament field, both professors for their part, were impressive in their willingness to hear non-amillenial presentation: but much good was done in the rigorous student climate, with strong expectations. Once I sat an examination, using only the Hebrew Bible, quite unaware that the English Bible was permitted in it. One seemed to think this very scholarly of me, perhaps, but in fact I was painfully disadvantaged by it in that case.
However, all was passed,
and eventually the B.D. came, and the B.A. from
1963 ... Canadian Irony and Australian Cast Iron
Before we come to the great
preach in a country location, indeed in
include an acknowledgement that they held to the teaching of the Westminster Confession, I stated that I was glad to find a body who BELIEVED in the infallibility of the Holy Scriptures, the Bible (as stated in that Confession).
It is to be noted that this
was to acknowledge that the Committee members meant what they said
when they themselves were ordained. To an amazement which was rapidly learning to live with
actual facts, however comic or gravely seduced they might be, I heard the cry - 'Divisive!' It was
apparently divisive of me to note a fact, and to indicate that it was pleasant to have a result of it.
Such sincerity did not
leave me spellbound! It was perhaps as well that for this reason the matter
could proceed no further. (However in the following year*3,
there was resounding and perfectly miraculous deliverance in Australia, in the
very central assembly of the Presbyterians in that country! It is NEVER
necessary to temporise or compromise with flesh; and standing firm in both
nations, I was nevertheless able to proceed in 1964 to my M.A. and to victory
in Sydney in the
Church, by the very clear grace and marvellous interposition of the Lord.)
As to the Toronto
preliminary of 1963, and the committee members with their 'Divisive!" cry:
Perhaps chafing in their own position, they wanted no recruits who would hold what they
themselves were supposed to hold, and evidently in good part, did not!
Yet in all
this one sees the impact of the apostasy of the Age, precisely as predetermined
scripture, when itching ears will lead many astray, as if the ONE THING which is INTOLERABLE is
what is written (II Timothy 4:3, cf. II Peter 2). Actually, the Presbyterian Church in America has an
interesting formulation here, and one which is sound, if only they would keep it: in effect it indicates
that the Bible is infallible (separate question for affirmation), and the teaching, the system of
doctrine in the Westminster Confession is Biblical.
inadequate emphasis on love in that Confession is NOT a systematic failure,
system is sound with or without it; and it operates coherently. The Biblical system of teaching is
well handled by the Confession. Unfortunately, unlike the case of the Presbyterian Church of
Australia which at its advent in 1901, did better yet, this love of God was not adequately portrayed in the Westminster Confession. It is pre-systematic: God so loved the world THAT ... but its priority is vast. The PC of Australia emphasises separately this love and cites it as necessary in its so-called 'Declaratory Statement' from the time of its Union in this land; however even there, a 1991 General Assembly Statement ignores this and acts as if the Confession had it covered. (Cf. The Biblical Workman, Ch.8, and The Kingdom of Heaven, Ch.9, pp. 74-175-176.)
It is rather difficult so much as to find one reference to love in that Confession. It is excellent in system, but needs indeed what the PC of Australia (PCA) gave it, a boost beyond the system, to bring in another facet of Biblical teaching. The historic stress on this feature, in the 1901 Presbyterian Union is just, capable and good; its 1991 Assembly treatment in effect deletes the specific addition by indicating there is nothing there. This unhistoric departure from the historic PCA constitutional emphasis is to be deplored, for it limits the love of God to a system of man, instead of expanding it to the direct statements of the Bible, a truth found not only in II Peter 3:9, but I Timothy 2:1-5 and many such places (cf. Predestination and Freewill, The Kingdom of Heaven Ch.4, Biblical Blessings Ch.3, Repent or Perish Ch.1, esp. p. 18, SMR Appendix B, pp. 1163B). When scribal charms (cf. I Cor. 3) limit the word of God in its clear, unqualified and continual statements, there is trouble in the church, as Christ sharply witnessed to those so bound, in the recorded event of Mark 7:7.
As to the word of God, however, it is not bound (II Timothy 2:9).
What makes that Confession so fine however, not least is this (Chs.XXXI, Part IV with XX, Part II): that it insists that no church council is to be obeyed as such, for many have erred; and that the Bible is the final criterion. Such forms of authority are always subjectible, the word of God ALONE being definitive; and are subject to rejection FROM the Bible.
It is sad that now in Australia the Confessional humility is being lost in a repressive seeming word concerning it, as if the Union creators of the Constitution, in their Declaratory Statement, made quite unnecessary reference to the additional matters in the LIGHT of which the Confession was to be read, and quite unacceptable reference to the LIBERTY with which the Church was, according to this Statement, to operate in matters of conscience. In the 1991 debacle, however, it is as if ZERO liberty were an interpretation of ASSIGNED liberty. It is true that this liberty was not to be abused and the church was to safeguard this; but it would better seem it IS being abused by being equated with zero, the Confession itself coming to be REQUIRED UNLESS it could be shown from this man-made document, that this was not so! The Confession, if it could feel, would blush at this extravagance, for it excludes, as noted above, just such approaches!
does confessionalism seek to eat up the church,
even when an excellent Confession has to be mutilated, to do it!
Past all these reactions however, it is necessary,
as Presbyterianism rightly holds,
to put the Bible ABOVE all Confessions, and not to show FROM the Confession
that this or that is so, as the 1991 PC Australia required,
but FROM THE BIBLE.
These things are not small,
for soon the needs of one generation
in the warfare for Christ become the assumed totality for another,
so that the good work of one, being aggrandised, instead of being humbly used,
is improperly elevated to the detriment of the word of God.
Did not Christ say it: You make void the commandments by your traditions! (Mark 7:7).
It is the word of God which is to rule, and it rules
the rules - Luke 6:46,
And then too, there was one voice in the disastrous N.Z. Presbyterian Assembly of 1966, which demanded acknowledgment of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, registering dissent. Thank the Lord that He brought me there in timely fashion just months before, to challenge, expose and condemn this apostasy. It later enabled me to offer the people of the pastorate the Biblical option (see our second item, 2) to follow). The Lord did not lack a witness and a testimony, robustly given to that derelict body, as it proved itself to be, suffering for its part the denial of the very heart of the Christian faith. (See The Site of the Silent Sermon, No.1.) How good it was for me formally to challenge, even in their very midst, with an Overture from our Session, and to be able to proclaim there the truth in perhaps the most negative assembly of all time, in that land. Yes and it was necessary to condemn in the name of Jesus Christ, its subversion to its face, in 1966. It was apt in the end to shake off the dust of my feet, as biblically provided, as a cover up was made by some, even of what had just happened.
For all time and places,
which disavowed the
necessity of believing and proclaiming the body of Christ as not rotting,
was exposed and
condemned before hundreds of Assembly members,
via formal Overture and
its due presentation,
|the full report and presentation at considerable length also sent into the hands of the Clerk afterwards.|
Thus publicly and
ecclesiastically was their Resurrection Statement at length exposed as
anti-biblical, anti-Christian, thrusting against the reality of Christ, a denial
of the faith.
BECAUSE IT IS HIS DUE,
WHO IS WONDERFUL
In all these deliverances, we praise the name of the Lord, whose mercy prevails for ever for His people, whose reliability is matched with His passion for purity, His honour and His everlasting arms. This is told to encourage and to stimulate others: NEVER compromise with the word of the Lord, with the work of the Lord. Take diseased meat if you must; but never pollute the word of God, never disorder your relationship to it, never take your eyes off the road of your pilgrimage, and be thankful that a highway of holiness (Isaiah 35) is provided, right there, just for you! Blessing ?
The wayfarers on THAT highway, says the Lord, will not err - not though they be fools! In other words, it is NOT dependent on your astuteness on insight, valuable as these can be. Like birth, it is a gift, and it is to be given and received BY FAITH! What blessing is in this, that God who gives has the wisdom to present the gift from the undimmed splendour of His holy presence! It is for us to receive it, again, by faith.
If you are His, then follow Him: HE is your stay, and He is your exceedingly great reward, and HE will never leave you nor forsake you. WORK for the night is coming in which no man can work; WORK because He for whom you work is incomparably glorious in praises, fearful in action, wonderful in mercy, and the most delightful personality. It is in Him that love finds its author and base (I John 4:7), its action and redemption (Romans 5:1-11).
God in the flesh, Jesus Christ is literally worth anything; but to
be permitted to ACT *3 in His presence, and in His company,
and in His covenant and in His power, for His sake, and with His provision:
what more could you ask! except always to honour and worship Him to whom it is
due, that Holy Trinity of praise and blazing glory.
For the doctrinal arena involved, and its total destruction as false teaching, in this case in the book of Daniel, see Ancient Words: Modern Deeds Ch. 10. The unanswerable character of the answer to this doctrinal deviation at the seminary, was doubtless no small part of the thrust behind the assault on the author as student, accepting and overthrowing challenge to the book of Daniel's integrity. It stood as it always stands, since it is the word of God, and as to Him, He is alive (cf. Luke 21:15). To praise Him is factual as well as fervent. The Lord is immensely and intensely praiseworthy, wholly faithful and of unlimited resource!
In those days, the phases of philosophy held an almost fatal fascination for many. Books of small worth poured out of the Presbyterian Bookroom (along with better ones); fashion was intellectual dissidence, movement FROM the Bible to whomever and to whatever.
The storms of turbulent self-will, like a tempestuous whirlpool, allowed fancies without foundation, inconsistent with themselves and the facts, to draw spiritual flotsam and jetsam, and larger objects, unmoored too, into their raging tumult, dragged down to the depths without light and without air, to the bottom of mud or sand, without distinction, without discretion, with no meaning except defeat. It reminds one of Jude with his "raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame". The word of God is very categorical about the irrational fantasies which swell vainly (II Peter -19,3:4, Isaiah , Matthew -20), about their origin and, unless mercy intervene, their fate. Such movements ever old, ever new, appear like storms and subside... until the next, creating havoc for the unwary, the unsheltered and the wayward.
It is equally categorical about its tenor and truth, its precision and its divine pronouncement without disturbance, distortion of invention of man. (Cf. Appendix D, The Shadow of a Mighty Rock.) This fact is basic to many more. Thus some traditional denomination may, through the infestation of devilish doctrines and damnable heresies, decide to have a FORM of sound words, without adhering to the FACT of what they say.
It may resolve, with more or less duplicity and casuistry, to this. They first SAY the Bible is true, is God's word, and so on, depending on how much they wish to detract; and then in some sense of progressive or developmental theology, some evolution of receptors - you name it, the ‘result’, like a chef’s creation, will not be Biblical or true. Then will they proceed to say something quite different from what is written.
This, to take the obvious case of female elders (see A Question of Gifts, pp. 17, 101-112, A Spiritual Potpourri, Chapters 7 and 8, pp. 147-164), means practical business at once. Thus I Timothy 2 with Acts 20 make it crystal clear that to woman is not given in the church, the authority to rule over men; and that elders are to do just that, in the sense of being supervisory agents with a limited but real judicial role. Especially and explicitly for woman, does this apply to anything in the area, in the arena of teaching, which to the church, for them is excluded; while for all who are in fact elders, we find in Acts 20, the supervisory authority is notable; nor can duties in teaching be excluded from elders, whether or not they are outstanding in that category (Titus 1:5,7-9). Specialities may vary; all that oversight involves however is the liability and responsibility of every elder; while for woman, directive authority over man is excluded. Nor is an event in Eden made the ground of a woman not sinning; it is the stated ground of differentiation in the roles of men and women as defined.
IF a denomination BELIEVES the Bible in the sense of Matthew -21 and II Peter -21, what then ? Then they should reflect on the minute accuracy to which the author is committed, and on the fact that the REASON why the Bible is not of private origin or interpretation, is just this: that GOD MOVED men, as a wind moves ships, so that the "prophecy NEVER came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit."
Why is it not of
private origin or character ? What does the
Hence the whole clamant confusion on this very simple topic, which is culturally separated to the beginning in Eden, on explicitly in Timothy based on an episode which is by its nature unrepeatable (cf. Romans 5:1-4), is merely a reflection of an unbiblical view of the Bible; or, to put it differently, since as we have shown it is in fact what God has to say to mankind: it is based on the classic rebellion syndrome. It is therefore QUITE sufficient ground for leaving a denomination, and has NOTHING to do with the individual's private views on marriage, women or anything else, but on the word of God. It is to be believed and done, because God is rather more to be believed than any of us; infinitely more, because infinitely wiser, and incomparably good.
Blessing ? Yes this is our topic so note it here. Isaiah 66:2 -
For the blessing of the Lord, to be looked upon heard, considered, what a relief and what joy, what comfort and what privilege! The FEAR of the Lord is CLEAN, so that Peter directs, "Fear God!" But who loved Him more than Peter ? It was admittedly the subject of a very direct conversation between Peter and Christ (John 21), but of the answer there is little doubt.
We are not in
the business of categorising God's love, but God may do so if He wishes, and
one of the criteria is this, straight from the mouth of Christ: "He who has My
commands and keeps them, he it is who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be
loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him" - John
. Again He says in verse 23: "He who
does not love Me does not keep My words, and the word which you hear is not
Mine but the Father's who sent Me." Blessing ? Match that, if you love
God! If you do not, you love what is less, more than it deserves, and do not
love even your own soul. In fact, ALL WHO HATE ME LOVE DEATH! says the wisdom
of God (Proverbs ).
To remind of these things is not
only to contribute to the reduction of Aids, in all statistical probability,
but a realistic prelude to offering the mercy of Christ. By this, received in
repentance, these things and all offensive to God may be removed from the log,
and covered in the sacrificial death of Christ. Thus the beauty of holiness and
the life in Christ can proceed. NOT to remind is like the
watchman who ... didn't watch. It is simply not fair to the city to do that.
Popularity does not create morals, nor does parliamentary vote, when as so
often, it is God or Baal, the Author of man or that which is not god!
THE MANNER OF THE
LORD'S DELIVERANCE IS
OF HIS OWN CHOOSING: the SYDNEY OPERA
One fascinating study remains. On my return from America, after various trials and vicissitudes, including School Teaching, and a period in Canada to which I was invited to preach, eventually the time came when the exclusion which the princes of the church, with the professors, Jeremiah style, had visited on me, was to be challenged in the highest court of the Australian Presbyterian Church. It was Sydney, 1964.
In this interim, the Lord raised up a very fine man, whose sense of equity, of justice, as indeed he proclaimed in the Assembly meeting itself, was greater than his sense of friendship for those who were acting amiss against me. He with two Presbyteries were witnesses, directly or indirectly on behalf of my cause. On the other side was the liberal establishment, then reigning in a not unusual way, in the enforced absence of opposition, at least to some extent, and certainly to my extent!
Question after question was put to me, until one dear Minister announced to the Assembly, that this person under review, myself, was flesh and blood and the trial was going on too long! I thought: Then there is heart left in the Assembly after all! It was delightful to hear something other than sadducaic sounding sophistication and superficiality, mockery and contempt. Bucking the Establishment for Christ is a long-historied affair, and it tends to have certain norms, which were duly displayed.
One lawyer (literally so) asked if I still believed in the literal interpretation of all Scripture. I replied that this had never been the question. It was all about another point: whether or not the Bible was authoritative and infallible. THAT, I indicated, one would hope would be a view known to the elders, since it was, after all, to be found in the Westminster Confession, which was notable in their subordinate standard!
However, since he asked this question about interpretation, irrelevant to the point at issue though it was, yes, I would answer it.
teacher, I said, I had occasion to interpret many literary documents. Do you
know, I asked, that when I meet a metaphor, how I treat it ? Why, metaphorically!
And I proceeded to trace various figures of speech which we all use on
occasion, normally when it is perfectly clear to those whom we address, what is
figure and what is fact. In each case, I would interpret it according to its
kind. That is the nature of symbolism and imagery: you use it when it is clear
what it is, so there is no confusion. Such, I proceeded, is the richness of
Holy Writ, that sometimes one comes upon a case when several figures of speech
may be used simultaneously!
What then ? Then, I answered, one interprets each one, severally, after its kind! Again, often it is clear that the matter is to be taken literally: in that case, so is the interpretation, literal.
And may I, it continued, add this piece of advice. When you are interpreting what is written, USE YOUR COMMON SENSE!
Quite astonishingly, the Assembly with considerable force, applauded! It was quite an unusual experience in the rigours of 'the treatment'.
What had been given was an answer to a trifling and misguided question; and in that answer, perhaps an element of sardonism appeared. This, however, was a just response to the years of folly which had been visited upon me, and at last allowed some clarification of the issues. Now in fact, we had carefully prayed before this Assembly, believing all the promises of God, that God would give me what to say, for this clearly was just such a case as was envisaged in Luke 21:15 or kindred passages. Faithful is He who calls you who also will do it, says Paul; and faithful is His name! As He said, so He did! The answers came, on one occasion to my own amazement as if from nowhere; but they came. Glory be to the God of entire and utter faithfulness, as it was written for such a case, so it transpired. As always, He did what He said! This is a splendour of His simplicity for us redeemed sinners, that He does it.
Thus in one
imbroglio, a question was put: Are all Presbyterian Ministers ordained of God ?
Now if anything ever seemed like a replica in spirit, of the assaults on the Lord from the quarter of the scribes and Pharisees, as expressed in Luke 11:53-54, this to my experience, was just such a thing. Let us heed it:
There was a certain joy in His presence (I Peter 3:14, 4:14), in His sufficiency (II Cor. 4:1-3, 3:5): "our sufficiency is of God", who for my sake and for that of all who are, were and would be Christians, had in Christ suffered such things, and that not once or twice! The servant is not greater than his Lord! If they did it to Him, they would not spare the mere servants! And so it was done... This had started with Class-room slander from a Principal who could not answer the reply to his explicit challenge to his class, that they should defend the Bible in the case of the book of Daniel, or else be guilty of intellectual dishonesty. Now the matter continued on the par course of contrivance.
Are they ? Are they ALL ordained of God ? The question quivered like a leaf in a storm.
As two professors joined in the quarry hunt, pressing the point, two elders (they may or may not have been Ministers of the Gospel), towards the back of the hundreds in voting attendance, were in the romp. Bouncing literally up and down in their seats, they decried: "Yes, or no! Yes or no!"
Into my mind and
mouth almost if not entirely simultaneously came three little words.
"Jesus ordained Judas."
Luke 9:1-2 shows Judas with the rest being given "power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases." Moreover "He sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick." Further, He told them, "Take nothing for your journey ... and whatever house you enter into, there abide ... and whosoever will not receive you, when you go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them" (from Luke 9:2-4). If that is not ordination, when it is the Lord who sends, what is ? If being chosen with 12 (Mark 3:19) and assigned specialised authority and power to work in His (physical) absence by His will and naming, if this be not it, where is it to be found ? If the Lord cannot ordain, what can men do!
Those 3 words
stilled the chaotic seeming disturbance as if by a machine gun at the door.
The case ended. The Assembly was stilled. It was to the heart, rather like the "Be muzzled!" or Be still! (Mark 4:39), addressed to the wind and waves BY THE LORD! What do we learn from this then, or to what does it give illustration ? He has delivered, He does deliver and He will deliver (II Corinthians 1:10), as Paul so beautifully announces it, and gloriously confirmed it: "And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me to His heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen" - II Timothy 4:18.
One seems to
recall preaching on that at Westminster Seminary, in the midst of the
restoration in which they played their blessed part, and of which this Sydney
meeting was a culmination!
How can we adequately glorify such a Lord as this, who came and bore what we bear, and made a trail which we follow, and paid the price of entry, where we freely may come, to join with the martyrs and messengers of the covenant, in that glorious symphony of heart and spirit, the team of Christ! It is not necessary to be ordained, for that! However that was the question, and this was the answer. The three words fell and so did the noise.
If now, one had said: NO not all Presbyterian Ministers are ordained by God, that trap would have surely snapped. How dare you insult the body to which you seek entry! If it had been: Yes, assuredly they are all ordained of God! then the snap might well have been: Then why did not you not believe your sanctified Professor when he imparted wisdom in his assault on the integrity of the entire book of Daniel! Many things might have been done, and the truth had to be said, but the need for victory without embroilment was enabled by the Lord, for my poor mind did no more invent the three words than did it invent the wind! HE DID IT.
Oh that this might enhance the courage of every heart of the many in many lands who in many ways, often with bruises and blood, must stand firm in the midst of the sinking, indeed the cavernous waters of deadly whirl-pools of subtle shame and inglorious treachery, indeed of twisted endeavours to overthrow Christian testimony from faithless friends like Judas, or fierce opponents like Herod, coming to admire but seeking to overthrow! Down they go with wreckage of many a life, but the Lord enables in the midst of it all! The LORD IS OUR SUFFICIENCY (II Cor. 3:5), who are His!
· "Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to think anything of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God."
· NO GOOD THING does He withhold from those who walk uprightly, and indeed such is His mercy that we read this dual deliverance and provision:
· "What shall we say then, if God be for us, who shall be against us ? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things ? " (Romans 8:32).
Eventually it was over. The three of us on the platform, the eloquent orator who was at that time my pastor in Christ, the Presbytery representative from another State and myself, were there; and the 400 elders were on the floor; and the case was to be put.
Those in favour ... those against, came the call from the lace fronted and buckle-shoed Moderator, sitting on high, in the structure of the setting.
WOULD they allow me to resume the work of the ministry from which I had been cut off ? NO! said a loud-voiced segment. Yes! said some others. "DIVISION!" cried a number, and so it was arranged. The Assembly moved physically to two sides, and one colleague and supporter on the platform informed me that it looked about 3 to 1... in my favour! So the Lord enabled me to escape the false witness borne against me, and the failure of any witnesses to speak as necessary! Thus the LORD spoke Himself! After some time, and further adventures, and assaults, I was to go to New Zealand, to encounter a new opportunity to glorify the Lord in the midst of false doctrine and a falling church!
What a privilege it is to serve such a Lord as this; and how wonderful that the most powerful Being, and the most enthralling in the universe, is also the most glorious! How true is Isaiah 54:17:
" 'No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper,
And every tongue which rises against you in judgment,
You shall condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD,
And their righteousness is from Me,'
Says the Lord.' "
His vindication was wrought through many, in many places, several nations, and an international collaboration, wrought first by the Lord and then in people was orchestrated from above! If like Jeremiah, that tender pastor (Jeremiah , 9:1ff., Lamentations), one has to challenge, does not a doctor have to amputate in war, and to inject in peace, when plague comes! Is it some kind of superior thing to shut the eyes to disease, and profit by it! and this disease of unbelief within the church which names the Lord, it is spiritual and thus even more deadly than the physical. The Lord is the great Physician and His cures come from His word and the work of His Spirit, and the work of His pastors is shown most clearly in Ezekiel 34:4ff. (by implication from condemned omissions) and 34:14, directly. Blessed are they who follow Him.
To serve Him, what could compare, and that He is God is the
magnificent thing, God in 3 Persons, who sends, is sent and who imparts savour:
have I in heaven beside you, and there is none on earth desire beside
you!" (Psalm 73:25). This is the ultimate; and all human relationships
are merciful and often beautiful additions from that vast, grand and gracious
Again, we come
to something that actually happened.
Always it is fascinating, that IT HAPPENED!
You may think of Ministers of the faith as rather formal non-combatants in life. The truth is often far from this. We are invited to engage, all who are Christians (Ephesians 6) in what is no less than a spiritual warfare. In the heart is peace and love, but in the feet there may have to be agile movement, as the King commands His battalions, directed to enabling many to hear the Gospel and find a better life than that of turmoiled self-interest and international clash: more, to find God who made them, through Jesus Christ His express Saviour.
In 1966, one Minister, a Presbyterian of Australian citizenship, was in New Zealand. Two beautiful churches were to be the base, in Christ. An agreement was hammered out with the elders, as a condition of coming as pastor, that the Bible as defined in the Westminster Confession, would be in authority and rule. It is defined as "infallible truth" and "immediately inspired of God".
Time moved, as
it has a habit of doing. Circumstances growled. A Professor in the Presbyterian
Seminary had denied the power of God expressed categorically and essentially (I
Corinthians 15, Luke 24:26-27,38-43, John -30), in the resurrection of
the body of Jesus Christ. With anyone, hoax or holy is always crucial.
It is eminently so with Jesus the Christ.
To deny this
categorical Biblical truth is to invent a false Christ (II Cor. 11); for a
Christian assembly to say, in effect, believe this or not as you please, is to
disaffirm it as authoritative, God-given truth. Hence it is to reject the
apostolic testimony (I Cor. 15 esp. vv.1-3, Romans 10:9, Acts 2:22-32), to
contradict the doctrine given through them (Romans 16:17), and hence to become
in this respect, parasitic (cf. Jeremiah 7:8-11), living on the name of Christ,
contrary to specifications and permission, in violation of truth, in opposition
to the master builders of the church (I Cor.3:10, Eph. 2:20ff.): in novelty and
powerlessness, depriving the people of God of their heritage, and insulting the
making possible only what God makes certain, it is to dethrone God from
His word; and in the end, agreeing that this acceptance of mere possibility
is the doctrine of the church, is in line to reject the word of God as simply
and clearly as the Jewish nation did when He proclaimed against them
(Isaiah 30:8, cf. 8:20):
It is not a pleasant prospect, but for all that, some seem to prefer it to 'division' (cf. Matthew 10:33-37). Nevertheless, that prospect has worse in store, for those ashamed of Him, He notes in this very passage, of them He too will be ashamed. He is what He is and in no uncertain way did He correct Thomas' slowness (John 20:26-30 cf. 12:48-50).
What then was the result of this tension, this provocation, this innovation, this assault on the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3) ? It was myself who was that Presbyterian Minister. What transpired ?
The people split, the nation split, but most moved to be on the side decidedly not of the angels. Anti-faith roared. The Assembly took note, and the Session where I was occupied, took a stand: NOT this new philosophy, but the grand established creed of the church, of the Bible! That was the declaration, the challenge made. We did not, the Pastor with the Overture, declared, care for the words of prince or philosopher who knew not and did not obey the word of God.
No! Not that. NOT what you think, NOT what the Bible has, retorted the mood of the Assembly, but what we say... and that! It is that the body part doesn't matter. Believe, in this contest, whichever way you like! That certainly made being eaten by lions seem a little unnecessary, for early Christians. It was indeed a new way!
However, in the midst of seething Assembly and a ruling official’s rumbling challenge, 'Presbytery will deal with you!', which seemed to have rather a Mafia feeling at the time, I refused to agree, and when the crucial vote on whether or no the bodily resurrection would be adhered to (as if any Church assembly could change that! you might as well legislate the sun out of existence, a verbal folly), this Australian Minister in New Zealand, ordained indeed in that land, voted against the betrayal, and for the bodily resurrection. I gave an immediate, public, formal protest, duly registered by name in the Assembly; to which was to be added an extensive condemnation of the Assembly's betrayal of Jesus Christ, the Bible and the Church that is His. This was given to the powers that be, in the Church. Meanwhile, while the Assembly had not finished, the Assembly Clerk, confronted by complete refusal to apply their finding, advised as if the Mafia were seeking intimidation: "The Presbytery will take care of you."
The newspapers could not be made to include this fact, that just one Minister had formally at this vote, opposed the Assembly, REGISTERING HIS DISSENT BY NAME! ONE HAD CERTIFIABLY CONDEMNED ON THE FLOOR OF THE ASSEMBLY, THE POSITION IT HAD TAKEN, THE DENIAL OF THE BODILY RESURRECTION AS INTEGRAL TO CHRISTIANITY. Further, he refused to read to his church, the commanded new screed, outraging the Assembly official.
That was real action. It was as if the antichrist were here already; but in practice, it was only a trial run for his 'best', macabre presentation. TRUTH in a 'Christian' country ! or one of some Christian past, not even allowed to be printed in the papers! It seemed at least like the worst of Russia, or some other Communist country, in political reconstruction of facts. Later a magazine published the facts. One body in Australia chose to ignore the facts and while undertaking to remove the vicious lie, that no PCNZ Minister had opposed the reckless folly of the Assembly when it sat, does not appear to have done so. Lies, proclamation of error in the face of truth by wilfulness, do not become anyone, far less anyone claiming His name; but when they add guilt to guilt, dishonouring the Lord who has and used His own witness in that forsaken Assembly, it almost beggars description!
Still, it happened, and no propaganda can delete fact; and praise God that it happened, the solemn rejection of the Assembly's Statement on the Resurrection, formally made as stated dissent on the floor of that body, in its face, and supported in writing, so covering all further reference to it. But what happened following that Assembly ?
The Presbytery DID indeed then come, and it DID seek to condemn and remove the Minister, but the elders who were still a majority, appealed to the 1967 Assembly (since they met in two halves, each annually), while the Minister warned the people of the appalling horror committed by their Assembly.
Then one elder, appalled at a Presbyter who indicated that they would run by the Rule Book, and not by the Bible, as he understood the claim, decided it was time to leave so antichristian a situation as he deemed it. Indeed, to say it was unBiblical would be British understatement. With his departure, there went the majority of elders. It was by this lost; so the Minister, having offered to the people a church without buildings, without success, was left to the operation of those gracious hands which were pierced by nails around A.D.30. Jesus Christ on whose name we call and have called, is not only alive but lively; and He acts for those who wait for Him. What then? He acted for this Minister.
THIS! This is what happened. Within 3 days of departure, he was entered as an ordained Minister in another Presbyterian denomination in the United States. In view of the bodily resurrection in THREE DAYS, which Jesus repeatedly stressed in foretelling His movements, this was both ironic and triumphant.
It happened. I know that it happened, because I was that pastor, that Minister: it happened to me. These things I have seen and heard, and lived.
There was indeed a certain irony in this as well as a grand deliverance. In my deliverance, 3 days figured. In Christ's resurrection, 3 days figured. In the assault on the New Testament, irrationally perpetrated (when challenged, no rational answer was received from the Professor responsible), the 3 days were philosophically dismissed. What God allegedly COULD not do, then, in the way of prediction - as if to mock the scornful and reject the rebellious, according to the unbelief pattern, He DID do now. I was delivered once again from an erring church body.
It was quite a feat in this instance, for the organised persecution of ecclesiastical wheels, which often run like tank tracks over those who dare to be both reasonable and Biblical, did not succeed. It did succeed only in being overthrown: and that ? In 3 days. Blessed be the name of the Lord who, as Paul puts it in terms of BIBLICAL BLESSING: "delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust the He will still deliver us..." (II Corinthians 1:10).
It reminds of an equally delightful blessing in II Timothy: " But the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord will deliver me form every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!" - 3:17-18.
Further, the three days in which Christ's body was raised from the dead was not only as predicted, and performed, but was the very sort of thing which in the first persecution I suffered, at Ormond College, seminary in Melbourne, led to a professorial declaration that Christ in particular, and no mere man in general could know in advance such details. Only a general knowledge of God was possible (though how even this was known was not vouchsafed!).
Confronted with the fact that in that case, not only His verified prediction, but predictions of prophets such as Zechariah and others COULD not have been made, that indeed the whole revelatory thrust and precision of the Bible would have to be cancelled (although of course it had been verified - SMR Chs. 6, 8 - 9, what was predicted and what has happened being inseparable in all instances of trial), he had no rational answer, nor could there be any. I for my part, however, in similarly defending Daniel from irrational rejection by the Principal, this time, was almost at once cast out on false grounds, a not uncommon procedure. Thus the three day transfer from New Zealand to an ordained ministry in a Presbyterian denomination in the USA, was DOUBLY eloquent of the power of God in the face of inimical assault on His word, and attempted 'annulment' as far as the ministry was concerned, of His servant. It was a practical reproof both to Victorian and New Zealand assault on Christ, and action against me, simply at work as required of such, testifying biblically and evidentially.