A Scriptural Study Newsletter edited by Elder Vernon Johnson

How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

 

 

 

Unity - One

As most inquiring bible readers know there are numerous correlations between numbers, colors, metals, etc. and various subjects found in the scriptures. Accordingly there is a correlation between the subject of "unity" and the number "one."

Our God is a great unifier. He brings to unity. Of course most serious bible students know of the unity of the Godhead as declared in 1 John 5:7, "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one." The Godhead is a great mystery to mortal man for "how can three be one?" The scriptures plainly tell us that there are not three Gods, but only one, yet a plurality in the Godhead (Father, Son, Holy Ghost). Jesus told Phillip, "if you have seen me you have seen the Father." It is also said of Jesus "in him dwelleth all the fullness of the godhead bodily."  I do not profess to have the godhead figured out, but I do know that the essence, character, nature, and purpose of the godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost) are one or unified.

As we noted before, God is a great unifier. When He created Adam and made Eve from the rib of Adam, he gave the covenant of marriage and said, "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they twain shall be one flesh." When a man and woman are married, they are to become united (one) in purpose, goals, action, and legal unit. Also they are to be one in direction and authority in the raising of children. It is when a man loses sight of this that a marriage gets in trouble. Thus marriage is a unifier of two who often have different backgrounds and different qualities and characteristics into a unit.

As a witness of the grace, mercy and love of God in the salvation of his people, God gave us a three fold witness that agreed in one: "And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one."

First, we see this three fold witness manifest in the person and work of Jesus in saving his people from their sins. We see Jesus conceived in the womb of the virgin by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit and this was manifest when the angel declared to Joseph saying, "fear not to take unto thee, Mary, thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shall call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins."

Second we see the baptism of Jesus when he went down into the water and came up out of the water, showing forth his subsequent death, burial, and resurrection, and the Spirit descending as a dove upon him, and the voice of the Father, saying, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased."

Third, we have the witness of Jesus death and resurrection when he gave his life blood to wash us from our sins. Thus the spirit, the water, and the blood agreed in one (Jesus).

In addition, we see the spirit, water, and blood agreed in the new birth of God's elect. When someone is born of the Spirit, spiritual life is imparted into that one who before was dead in trespasses and sins.

Secondly, when someone is born of the Spirit a washing takes place according to Tit. 3:4, 5, "But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost." Thirdly, in the new birth we are sprinkled with the blood of Jesus as we read in Heb. 10:22, "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water," and in 1 Pet. 1:2, "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ."

Finally, we see the agreed witness of the Spirit, water, and blood in the ordinances of the church. First, a person must bear evidence of the spiritual birth before they can gain entrance unto the church thru water baptism. John told the Pharisees, "Who hath warned you to flee the wrath to come, bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance. It is when someone brings forth fruit meet for repentance and believing the gospel report that he manifest that he has been born of the spirit.  Then the subject enters into the church thru water baptism, which shows forth in ordinance the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Finally the communion service testifies of the body and blood of Jesus in redemption of his people.

Next, we read in Eph. 2:13 17 of how Jesus thru his atoning sacrifice brought together into one his two flocks (Jews and Gentiles): "But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace: and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: and came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh."

Another of the great works of God is how that he brings together people of different races, backgrounds, cultures, economic standing, educational background, personalities, vocations, etc. in the unity of the faith. I have thought as I looked at the congregation that I currently attempt to pastor and notice the manifest love and unity of Spirit this congregation demonstrates to one another, that if it weren't for the unity of the faith this body of people probably wouldn't have much to do with one another. Yet, we are a unified body with several members. The scriptures tell us concerning the church, "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above al, and through all, and in you all."

Finally, we read in Ps. 133:1, "Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity." It is in the unity of the Spirit and faith that we can enjoy the goodness and pleasantness of one another's fellowship. May we all strive together that we may be unified in the faith that was once delivered to the saints.


Two  - Witness

The bible number "two" is often closely associated in the scriptures with the bible subject of "witness." For instance two witnesses were often required before a person could be condemned in judgment:

1. Num. 35:30, "Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die."

2. Deut. 17:6, "At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death, but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death."

3. Deut. 19:15, "One witness shall not rise against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses or the mouth of three witnesses shall the matter be established.

4. Matt. 18:16, "But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established."

5. I Tim. 5:19, "Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses."

6. Heb. 10:28, 29, "He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses; of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trod under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace."

As can be seen from the above this requirement for two or more witnesses has important consequences for the church. Whether it be a personal offense, an accusation against an elder or against any other member of the church one witness is insufficient to bring forth judgment. The requirement for two witnesses is a protection for the church and its members.

When Jesus sent forth the seventy disciples to testify of the kingdom of God we read in Lk. 10:1, "After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come." Often we see in the scriptures where the preachers went in pairs such as Paul and Barnabas, and later Barnabas and John Mark, and Paul and Silas. As a point of expediency in the church Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 14:29, "Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge." I, personally, have felt that to have four or more preachers to speak at one preaching session is both difficult for the preachers because of the time restrictions and hard on the congregation because of extensive sitting time.

Next, we read of the two witnesses in Rev. 11:3, "And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth." The subsequent verses in this chapter reference events that took place in connection with Moses and Elijah, who are representative of the law and the prophets.

Furthermore, who do we see with Jesus on the mount of transfiguration, but Moses and Elijah (law and prophets).

In the old testament when God illustrated great truths, He often brought two men in contrast to one another. For instance, he illustrated the following truths:

a. True vs. false worship Cain & Abel.
b. Fleshly vs. spiritual birth Ishmael & Isaac.
c. Doctrine of election Esau & Jacob.
d. The two covenants of worship Hagar and Sarah.
e. Obedient vs disobedient children of God Abraham and Lot.

Furthermore, we see pairs testifying concerning the mock trial, crucifixion, death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ. We see two false witnesses testifying at the mock trial. We see two malefactors who were crucified with Jesus. We see two men (Joseph and Nicodemus) claim the body of Jesus to bury him. We see two angels in the tomb testifying of the resurrection of Jesus and we see two men in white apparel testifying of the ascension of Jesus that he would come in like manner as he ascended to heaven.

Additionally, we have testimony of the apostolic authority after the ascension of Jesus as two persons were raised from the dead by two apostles (Peter and Paul). This was foreshadowed in the old testament by two prophets, Elijah and Elisha, raising two young men from the dead. (Of course, God did the raising, he used the apostles and prophets as instruments to raise the dead).

Finally, we have the two cherubim witnessing the ark of the covenant and the mercy seat in the inner sanctuary of the tabernacle. How similar this is to the old testament and the new testament bearing witness to the covenant work of Christ and God's mercy to his elect. In our next essay we will look at the "favored second."
 


Favored Second

We live in a society that pressures people to be number one or to be first. This society thinks little of those who are second. In contrast, we find a theme running throughout the scriptures that I call the "favored second." To be honored in the eyes of man you must be first, but not so in God's eyes.

Let us look at some of those who were second yet favored in the eyes of God. The first pair we will consider is Cain and Abel. When Cain, the firstborn, was born, Eve said, "I have gotten a man from the Lord."

Thus, beginning with Eve, society honors the firstborn. When Abel the second child was born there was no such proclamations. In God's eyes, however, things were reversed as we read, "And the Lord had respect unto Abel and his offering: but unto Cain and his offering he had not respect. First God had respect unto Abel and not Cain. Next God had respect unto Abel's offering and not to Cain's offering. According to the scriptures God has respect of persons only based on his covenant. Thus we see God's eternal covenant embracing Abel, but not embracing Cain. God favored the second born and then God favored the offering of the second born as it gave glory to God for his salvation, whereas God had no respect to the offering of the firstborn as Cain sought praise for man's works.

Second, we compare the two sons of Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac.  Ishmael's birth was the design of Sarah and Abraham as they thought God needed help fulfilling his promise to Abraham that he would make him a father of many nations for Sarah was old and had conceived no child.   Sarah and Abraham schemed that the handmaid Hagar would be given to Abraham for a second wife and she would bear a son to fulfill the promise. However, God had another plan for Abraham and Sarah. When both were well past the time to be able to have children God told Abraham that he would restore them to the time of life and that Sarah would bear him a son at the set time in the next year. The name of this second son of Abraham was called Isaac. Isaac, the second born, was a child of promise whereas Ishmael was the child of fleshly design. God favored Isaac over Ishmael. Isaac's birth was a figure or type of the new or spiritual birth. Gal. 4:28 reads, "Now we brethren as Isaac was are children of promise." Isaac was born according to God's promise and at God's appointed time. Isaacs birth also was contrary to fleshly ability. Similarly, when we were born of the Spirit it was according to God's covenant promise, at God's appointed time, and contrary to our natural abilities.

Third, we compare the two sons of Isaac, Esau and Jacob. For twenty years after they were married Rebekah was barren. Isaac entreated the Lord on her behalf and she conceived with twins in her womb who struggled together within her. For this she inquired of the Lord who said unto her, "Two nations are in thy womb and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels: and the one people will be stronger than the other people: and the elder shall serve the younger."

In Rom. 9:11 13 we read, "For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth; It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." Thus God chose the second born and loved him, but passed by the first born and hated him. The pair of sons illustrate God's sovereignty in election for according to Eph. 1:4 God chose a people in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and without blame before him in love. This choice was not based on any works either done or foreseen, but rather according to the divine will and sovereignty of God.

Fourth, we read in Gal. 4:22 31 of the two covenants of worship that God has established for man to worship him. He used the story of Hagar and Sarah and their births of Ishmael and Isaac to allegorize these two covenants. He says of the first covenant, "the one from mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children." However, of the second he says, "But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all." Also we read, "Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free." Thus we see that God has designed the second covenant of worship (new testament) to be far better than the first covenant of worship (old testament).

Finally, we read of the first Adam and the second Adam in 1 Cor. 15:45 49, "And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening Spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also which are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." Obviously the favored here is the "second Adam" or "second man" which is the Lord. In addition the promise is that as we have been like the first man or first Adam, we shall also be like the second man or second Adam!!
 

Primitive Baptist