Paul A Gray
1 Timothy 2: 1-4
2 John: 1-4
2 Thessalonians 2: 7-14
3 John: 8
I would like, by the help of the Holy Spirit, to say something about the truth. It was a word that I heard often as a child. What did the brethren mean when they spoke about “the truth”? Was it just something that was true? I had the sense there more to it than that. What led me to this was the fact that yesterday in Aberdeen we were at the burial of a brother who I think was characterised by love of the truth. As we gathered with the saints in Aberdeen and others from many places, it seemed to me that what the Lord was indicating was that the understanding of the truth was important, particularly at the present time. We have read in 2 Thessalonians of Paul saying, “the mystery of lawlessness already works”. We can see lawlessness all around, but what is to be said then about the truth?
Well, the first thing we should say about it is that it is exemplified in a Person and that Person is Jesus; so the scripture in Ephesians 4 says, “as the truth is in Jesus”, v 21. So everything that is to be known can be known in Him. It says, “For in him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily”, Col 2: 9. Now if truth is the expression of the mind of God, then it is complete, and it is completely expressed in Jesus. But then it has to be worked out because it has many aspects.
Where we read in 1 Timothy 2, what was in mind particularly was the reference to “our Saviour God, who desires that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth”. So that is the first thing, “the knowledge of the truth”. Well, of course, there is something before that, and that is being saved. Now, what does it mean to be saved? You see, that is part of the truth. It means that you understand that you are a sinner and that you need a Saviour, and you know that that Saviour is Jesus, and that you confess your sins and that you understand that God has forgiven your sins if you confess them, because He laid them on Jesus. Now, there is truth about that. It says in the Bible that “without blood-shedding there is no remission” for sins, (Heb 9: 22), but it says as to the Lord Jesus that after He bowed His head and delivered up His spirit, “one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and immediately there came out blood and water. So the truth is that without the shedding of blood there is no remission for sins, but the truth also is that Jesus shed His blood; that blood was given. He says, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you”: “for you”, Luke 22: 20. You see, that is part of the truth as well, “for you”. What Jesus did is “for you”, and “God ... desires that all men should be saved”.
Now, if I might just take up this matter of a believer's life and how the truth relates to it, first of all we were baptised on the basis of the faith of our parents in the household. Now, that may not be true of everyone here, but if you have been baptised, however it was done and wherever it happened, God accepts that, but we would recognise generally that we here were baptised in the household on the basis of the faith of the parents. Remember that the parents of Moses took him and put him in an ark of reeds in the sedge on the bank of the river. In that way they show that this child needed to go out of the sight of the world in order that he might be put into the hands of God. So when we baptise our children, we baptise them “to the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt 28: 19), and “to the name of the Lord Jesus”, Acts 19: 5. Why do we do that? Well, we do it first of all because Scripture gives warrant for it. But then we do it in faith because we recognise that in this present evil world we alone cannot protect our children, but by naming that great Name over them we recognise that we are putting them into the hands of God. It does not bring them to personal salvation, but it puts them in the precincts of the house and the environment of blessing; so that when our children go to school or to further education or out to work, we remember that we baptised them. We hold them on that line and we hold our houses in the light of baptism, each house in Israel having to have a parapet on its roof to be a safe place, Deut 22: 8. Then each of us has to come into the good of baptism for ourselves; so we have to recognise that as our parents put us out of sight of the world, so too ought we to put ourselves out of sight of the world and recognise that by passing through this exercise we come out on resurrection ground. We were referring to the eunuch in Acts 8; when he heard that the Lord's life “is taken from the earth” he says, “Behold water; what hinders my being baptised?”, Acts 8: 33, 36. So we recognise that the truth of baptism has to apply to us. This world that rejected Christ is no place for the believer, but we have a better place. Paul says, “our commonwealth has its existence in the heavens” (Phil 3: 20), but the whole world system has to go. You get that in Romans 6; “the body of sin” (v 6) relates to a whole system of things that is marked by sin. We need to recognise that we must have no part in that before we can walk in newness of life. Then we come in Romans 7 to “this body of death”, v 24. So there is what is around, “the body of sin”, and there is what is within, “this body of death”.
If we consider that baptism frees us from “the body of sin”, then deliverance is what frees us from “this body of death”, and deliverance is to be found in Christ and Christ alone. So baptism is, you might say, the beginning of the journey to be worked out practically in the soul of the believer. But between baptism in the household and its practical working out in the soul of the believer there must come new birth, which is the work of the Holy Spirit and prepares the ground into which the seed can fall in order that there might be a response in life. So the Lord says, “Except any one be born of water and of Spirit ...”, John 3: 5. What is that but a recognition that in the water of baptism there is a way out, and in the power of the Spirit there is a way in? Because God does not take us out just to leave us in a place of uncertainty, but He would have us come out of the world so that we should come into blessing. The Holy Spirit prepares the ground into which good seed can fall. But there has to be an answer to that new birth. So in John 3 you get that well known verse, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes on him may not perish, but have life eternal”, v 16. God “desires that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth”. That is how we start as believers in Jesus.
Then there is much to be opened up; if you turn to Romans 12 you are finding your place in the body. You realise you are not alone in this but there is a place for you, and you find your place in the body, you work things out with believers around you, and if anyone here is unsure as to what their place is, remember that the Lord is your Head. Firstly, in Romans He becomes Head to you on moral grounds. We referred in the previous meeting to chapter 5, “by the obedience of the one” (v 19), that is the One who becomes Head to you on moral grounds. In Colossians He becomes Head to you on personal grounds; that is to say, His personal greatness comes before you, “that he might have the first place in all things” (Col 1: 18); and then in Ephesians He becomes Head on official grounds because it is God who “gave him to be head over all things to the assembly”, chap 1: 22. You go through that moral process in your soul, that you recognise that there is One who has authority over you. One thing that struck me particularly in a recent occasion was the importance of not only knowing Jesus as Saviour but knowing Him as Lord. That means that you recognise that He has rights over you, and that is all part of the knowledge of the truth. You find your place in the body. One thing is important: we have been helped to see that you find your company through the Lord; that is, the Lord will lead you to the place that He has for you. You do not simply look for a company; you find right company through the Lord. The Lord leads you to the place that He has for you, and if He sets you in that place He has in mind to keep you there, He has in mind to preserve you there.
So we come to the working out of the truth of the assembly and all that pertains to that, the recognition that there is a Head in heaven and His body is here, and then at the end of a believer's life, you come to the reality of the truth of resurrection. “Thanks to God”, Paul says, “who gives us the victory by our Lord Jesus Christ”, 1 Cor 15: 57. The truth of resurrection is that a Man has been into death, has broken Satan's power and has come out again in triumph, and that Man is Jesus, and that is the Man who has now ascended, and that is the Man who will come out to take His own to be with Himself, and to say to death, “Where, O death, is thy sting?, where, O death, thy victory?”, v 55. Those who lie in death will be raised. They will be given bodies of glory, and in resurrection they will stand in victory on this earth in which they have been buried, “then we, the living who remain, shall be caught up together with them … and thus we shall be always with the Lord”. Well can Paul say, “So encourage one another with these words”, 1 Thess 4: 18. These matters in a believer's life are all part of the truth. They are not disconnected. They are all part of the truth you can always find in Scripture.
We come in 2 Thessalonians to “the love of the truth”. Now it is presented negatively, I know; it says, “they have not received the love of the truth”, but the love of the truth is important. The knowledge of the truth is one thing, it provides a framework. Paul writes to Timothy, “Have an outline of sound words” (2 Tim 1: 13), but the love of the truth is another thing, and it means that we recognise what Paul says, “as the truth is in Jesus”, that we love the One in whom the truth is presented to us, and we love the truth because we see it is the expression of God's mind. Colossians 1 speaks about “growing by the true knowledge of God”, v 10. It does not say growing in the true knowledge of God, it says, “growing by the true knowledge of God”. Why is that? Because we grow as we appreciate the manifold glories of divine Persons, and the knowledge of God, I believe, comes to us through the practical working out of the truth. So our affections are involved. The love of the truth would mean that we understand that what God is presenting here has its own spring in His love for us. He has presented to us a means whereby He may be known and understood. He does it in Christ and He does it by the Spirit, because if the Lord is the truth objectively, that is everything is demonstrated in Him, the Spirit is the truth subjectively, that is, the Spirit is the power whereby I work out the truth and it forms me. You get an interesting expression of that in Psalm 16 and Psalm 17. In Psalm 16 the writer says, “Thou wilt make known to me the path of life: thy countenance is fulness of joy; at thy right hand are pleasures for evermore”, v 11. That is like John's gospel; that is, the truth objectively, “thy countenance is fulness of joy”. Then there is Psalm 17, “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness”, v 15. That is like John's epistles; that is, the truth subjectively as worked out in us. So we see it objectively in the Gospel, and in the Epistles it is worked out subjectively, and where it is worked out subjectively the Spirit is the truth.
So as God presents Himself to us, He does it in a way that is calculated to draw out our affections. Then Paul says as to those believers in Thessalonica, “But we ought to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, that God has chosen you from the beginning to salvation in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth”. What I want to say about belief of the truth is that the truth works. You have knowledge of the truth, and affection is involved, but does it really work? Think of the circumstances in which we are, a few brethren, some very scattered, brethren in Barbados, for example, very few, scattered saints in Australia and so on. Some brethren have hundreds, and indeed thousands, of miles to travel in order to have fellowship one with another. Does it really work? It works. Why? Well, “as the truth is in Jesus”, and the Spirit is here. It is in divine Persons, who are not bounded by time or distance. How is it that we can pray for brethren that we have not met, that we do not know? That is because the body is functioning; that is because the truth as to the body is actually functioning in reality. The Lord will see to it that the testimony is maintained until the very day when He comes to take His own. How can the scripture otherwise say, “we, the living who remain”, 1 Thess 4: 17? There will be what remains until the Lord comes. God grant that you and I may be in it! That is the desire of the divine heart that we should be in things livingly right to the end, right to that very moment when we hear that voice and we go, because it glorifies God, in a scene of adversity where “the mystery of lawlessness already works”, that the truth is being worked out practically in persons' lives and localities. “... Brethren, beloved of the Lord, that God has chosen you from the beginning to salvation in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: whereto he has called you by our glad tidings”, Paul's glad tidings. We speak of Paul having two ministries, the ministry of the glad tidings and the ministry of the assembly. In one sense it is one ministry because what would be the point of the glad tidings if the assembly was not in view, and how would the assembly exist if the glad tidings did not go out? We do not separate one from the other. There was conflict many, many years ago over whether some were evangelists or assembly men. Well, you cannot really be one or the other. Of course there are some evangelists, and we recognise the gifts, but they are given in view of the assembly, and it all has in view that assembly material should be secured, Eph 4: 11. The outgoing of the glad tidings is in view of God securing a response for Himself, and where does that response come from? It comes from individuals, of course, but “to him be glory in the assembly in Christ Jesus unto all generations of the age of ages” (Eph 3: 21) is in view; but do not forget that while that comes into Ephesians 3, at the end of chapter 2 of Ephesians we have a reference to “a habitation of God in the Spirit”, v 22. That is the house of God, and that is where the gospel goes out from. Why does the gospel go out from the house of God? So that there should be glory to God “in the assembly in Christ Jesus unto all generation of the age of ages. Amen.” Belief of the truth tells us that the truth is workable.
I go on to John's second epistle. Here John is writing of himself as “the elder”. He was an old man by this stage, and he writes to “The elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not I only but also all who have known the truth, for the truth's sake which abides in us and shall be with us to eternity”. The truth is our bond. You might say, 'Surely love is our bond', because the scripture says, “And to all these add love, which is the bond of perfectness”, Col 3: 14. Love is a bond, and “the bond of perfectness” means that without love things would be incomplete, but our bond is the truth: “The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not I only but also all who have known the truth”. Why is the truth our bond? Because the truth is the divine standard. When Moses got instruction as to the tabernacle system he was told, “see that thou make them according to the pattern”, Exodus 25: 40. You could say in the tabernacle system there were outstanding expressions of the love of God, such as the mercy-seat; He says, “And there will I meet with thee, and will speak with thee”, v 22. You can see that in the great day of atonement the blood was sprinkled once on the mercy-seat and seven times before it, God showing in the type that He would be approached through the power and value of the blood of Christ, Lev 16: 14. It is an expression of the love of God that He desired to be approached, and He would provide the means in righteousness whereby He could be approached. The truth expresses the love of God, but the truth is our bond because it is the divine standard and it preserves us therefore from sentiment in dealing with matters, but we can never forget, “holding the truth in love”, Eph 4: 15. That is how it can be worked out, as we hold it in love. You can never hold the truth apart from love, but the truth is our bond, “for the truth's sake which abides in us and shall be with us to eternity”. Think of that: what God is presenting of His mind in the present time will form eternal results and He will not have to change a single thing. He will not have to change any of it, it “shall be with us to eternity”. Think of that. Has anyone ever seen a plan that never had to be changed? If you plan to build a house, then you find there is some problem and you have to change it a little. I do not know much about these things, but I do not think I have ever seen a plan in man's arranging that does not need to be adjusted in some way to take account of something unforeseen, or a change of circumstances. God's plan has never had to be changed. If you go right back to the beginning in Genesis, in the first four days in Genesis conditions are established, light in the first day, atmosphere on the second, food on the third and rule on the fourth; and light, atmosphere, food and rule have always been, and always will be, the basis of conditions in which life can exist, because on the fifth day you get the variety of life and on the sixth day you get man. God set up the conditions in which life could exist. He has never had to change that. On the very first day God said, “Let there be light. And there was light” (Gen 1: 3), and in John's first epistle, “But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another”, chap 1: 7. God has never had to change that. God is in the light and remains always true, and “if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another”. He has never had to change that either. God never has to change or alter what He is doing, or be expedient. All that He does is consistent with who He is, because He is God. Then He says, 'I know you will need help'; so John goes on to say, “Grace shall be with you, mercy, peace from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love”. He says, 'I will give you the resources to work this out'; then John says, “I rejoiced greatly that I have found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received commandment from the Father”. Is that not interesting? It says, “commandment from the Father”; there is authority and there is affection in order that we might work these things out practically.
I just wanted to speak about that, “walking in truth”, 3 John 4. That is to say, our walk is regulated by the truth, “walking in truth”. What will I do? Well, what does the Scripture say? What does the Lord say? Where will I go? What subjects should I take at school? Ask the Lord; He will help you. These things are simple and practical. You know, the expression “walking in truth”, was written when John was an old man, with departure from the truth already evident, no doubt, but he says it is possible to walk in truth and it is possible for each generation to walk in truth, “thy children walking in truth”. You say, 'Well, that is what the older brethren do'. No, it is for us all, “walking in truth”. You say, 'Things are different now'. I can remember, when I was young, older brethren using expressions about things that I thought, 'Well, that just shows how old-fashioned they are'. I remember a brother using an old fashioned expression in relation to some electronic equipment, but what the brother was saying in reality was that he was concerned if you bring something into your house that is not suitable for a baptised household. So I am not going to tell you a list of things you should have in your house and a list of things you should not. What I am going to say to you is this, if it is a baptised household, is everything you have in it suitable for that house? That is all I will say to you, “walking in truth”, because what was a problem a hundred and twenty years ago is different from fifty years ago, is different from thirty years ago, and the pace of things is such that there are changes every year. But I will tell you something simple, if you can commit something to the Lord and ask Him to bless it with a clear conscience, then that I think would be a good guide. “Walking in truth”; it means much more than this: it means walking according to the regulation of assembly principles and it means that the Lord can approve of what you are doing, whatever it is and wherever it is.
Then, in verse 8 of the third epistle, “We therefore ought to receive such, that we may be fellow-workers with the truth”. The truth has to be worked out. It does not just happen; it has to be worked out. So “fellow-workers with the truth” are those who are willing to put effort and energy into working it out. The truth is not a set of different coloured books on a bookshelf. If you think of ministry as a set of dusty volumes, the fastest way to knock the dust off them is to read them - put energy into it. “Fellow-workers with the truth” means we are willing to ask the Spirit's help to work it out, to speak about it in our times of enquiry together, to read about it, to read the Scriptures, to be before the Lord as to it, and if we do not understand something, bring it to the meeting. The Spirit is here and active. If there is something you do not understand, bring it to the meeting and you will get an answer. I assure you that you will. If there is something in your heart and it is a true exercise, you will get an answer amongst the saints. Ask a brother or a sister who has more experience than you do; they will help you. Sisters, ask at home, ask your husbands. If you do not know the answer, then ask the Lord to help you to find it. If you go in for something in divine things, I say without hesitation, you will get ten times, a hundred times more than you put in, because that is the God we have to do with. The Lord says, “Give, and it shall be given to you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall be given into your bosom: for with the same measure with which ye mete is shall be measured to you again”, Luke 6: 38. God's measure is not our measure. You think of the Lord emphasising over and over again the desires of the divine heart to give, “good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over shall be given into your bosom”. How often have you picked up the Scriptures to look at them? Maybe you are tired or running out of time, and all of a sudden a light dawns and the whole day has changed just by a few words. I can remember the day my life was changed by Psalm 24, “Who is this King of glory?”, v 8. It was a dark day in my experience, and all of a sudden the darkness fled and the Man in the glory came into my view and the whole day was transformed and all the difficulties I had been so worried about just took their place in the distance, and Christ was the Man of the heart. That is what happens, “good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over”. Oh, beloved brethren, the truth which holds us together is a thing of infinite value because it centres in a Man in the glory and it is made true in our souls by the present service of the Holy Spirit, and it is eternal in its results and its value, and the end will be glory to God.
Well, may the Lord help us for His Name's sake.
28th June 2014