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The Christadelphian | April 2010

In the magazine this month:

  • Editorial Opportunities for change
  • Letters to the Editor
  • Sunday morning “Jesus’ ministry through the eyes of John” | Ben Willey
  • Earthquake in Haiti – thirty-five seconds! | Donald Luff
  • Biblical rivers | Patricia Bartle
  • Sing to the gates of the kingdom | Sally Wright
  • Days at school | Trevor A. Pritchard
  • Ezekiel – prophet to the exiles 4 – The likeness of the glory of the Lord | Andrew E. Walker
  • Bringing the ark to Zion Part 1 | Dudley Fifield
  • The sons of Korah 2 – The rebellion of Korah | Jonathan Cope
  • Preaching in the New Testament | Malcolm Edwards
  • Signs of the times A Franco-Russian alliance
  • Israel and their land Growing isolation?
  • The brotherhood near and far

A sample article from this edition:

Days at school

LATE last year I had the privilege of talking to some forty nine-year-olds in a local primary school about what life was like at home before and during the Second World War (1939-45) in England. I was particularly pleased to see on the classroom wall an alphabet written in superfine copperplate handwriting for the children to copy. I was also reminded of children’s arithmetic excercise books where incorrect sums were marked with a cross, usually in red ink. In some present-day schools, the “three Rs” – “reading, ’riting and ’rithmetic” have been sidelined to some extent by more up to date studies, most of which involve the knowledge of computer keyboards.

There is, in fact, some good exhortation in thinking about both of these childhood memories – copying handwriting and the marking of simple sums in arithmetic.

In 1 Peter 2:21 we read the words, “leaving us an example”. I understand that the original Greek word literally means, “to write under”. The example below comes from the copybook of an eight-year-old little girl who has copied from the top line already printed in the book.

Our example

So the exhortation is clear enough. Jesus has left us an example to copy so that we might walk as he walked – and the next verses in 1 Peter 2 (verses 22-24) tell us just what that means. Throughout his life he fought a relentless battle against sin and was always victorious. He never allowed sin to gain a foothold in his heart or mind. He was never deceitful in his words so as merely to create an impression amongst his hearers. He never reviled others in return for the abuse hurled at him. He suffered without complaint and committed himself entirely to his Father. He bore our sins in his own body on that cross of shame, just as the prophet Isaiah said he would:

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4,5)

So we are dead to sins, the apostle tells us. Do we take as much care in our copying of the Lord’s example as that little girl did in striving to form the letters to match the example at the top of the page?

“Sins … blotted out”

Then we turn to a simple sum like the one below. The youngster has simply added up incorrectly in the 10s column and that is corrected by the teacher and the sum marked with a cross.

The origin of marking such a sum with a cross comes, so I understand, from the initial letter of another Greek word, chiazein. This means to cancel a written debt. The document would have the initial letter of this word, i.e., “X” written large across it. So we have our words “to cross out”, meaning to mark with a cross something that is incorrect and hence to draw a line through any incorrect words. All of this means that the error can still be seen and put right in a second attempt.

In our everyday lives we all make mistakes and we sometimes wish they could be “crossed out”. Yet the wonder of God’s mercy extended towards us is much greater even than that! We think back well over a hundred years to much earlier days at school when children used a slate with a slate pencil and then turn to Acts chapter 3: “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out” (verse 19). Mistakes on a slate can be wiped out using a damp piece of rag. It is just not possible to see what was written before. The mistake has gone; it has been wiped away. In New Testament times documents were written on papyrus. The ink was made from a blend of soot and gum mixed with water. If a mistake was made in a letter, a moist cloth could easily wipe out what had been written and the error corrected.

Here then is a picture of the difference. In God’s mercy our sins are not just crossed out, they are blotted out – they are wiped away. It is no wonder that John the Baptist announced, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Our Father’s loving mercy forgives and ‘forgets’. So it is good for us to remind ourselves that this is the way we should behave towards one another. Then we shall truly be copying the example of the Lord Jesus.

Trevor A. Pritchard


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