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The Christadelphian | May 2009

In the magazine this month:

  • Editorial Fellowship in the Gospel: 9 –The Ecclesia and the ecclesias
  • Letters to the Editor
  • Sunday morning “Ministering spirits” | Bruce Gurd
  • In the image of God 15 – A glorious ecclesia | Michael Edgecombe, Rebecca Lines, Russell Taylor
  • “Give your life a new perspective” | Pershore Preaching Committee
  • What's remarkable about that? | Barry Lambsdown
  • Rising up early | Dudley Fifield
  • The fulness of iniquity | I.T. Rees
  • Acts of the Apostles 27 – Acts 25:1-27 – Paul before Festus and Agrippa | Paul Cresswell
  • Pause and ponder 28 – Married in the Lord, part 11: Our roles in the spiritual family | Stephen Whitehouse
  • The soles of your feet | Liz Robinson
  • The Letter to the Philippians 5 – “The form of a servant” (2:1-11) | Mark Allfree
  • Signs of the times America and Old Europe
  • Israel and their land Durban II walk-out
  • The brotherhood near and far

A sample article from this edition:

The fulness of iniquity

GOD’S unique claim to changelessness is demonstrated in His dealings with humanity. There is remarkable consistency in divine intervention, regulated by His immutable character. It is written, He is “slow to anger and plenteous in mercy”. The question therefore arises, Why, and when, does God bring His judgement upon nations? There is evidently a point at which God cannot withhold His anger. The record shows that this occurs when the behaviour of people has reached fulness of iniquity. It is apparent also that divine action applies both to people who know and to those who do not know God.

A merciful, changeless God

This is demonstrated when God promised Abraham and his seed the land of Canaan. It was declared to Abraham:

“Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years … but in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” (Genesis 15:13,16)

This is a revealing statement by the Almighty. The seed of Abraham were unable to take up the inheritance in Canaan because the wicked occupants had not reached the ultimate state. Thus the merciful, changeless God withheld His anger. Meantime the people of God were detained in servitude. There may be other reasons as well for God’s wondrous workings. However, when the nation of Israel ultimately occupied the promised land they were warned about their own defilement: “… for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you” (Leviticus 18:24). Ironically, this later happened to Israel.

It is inevitable that we think of the days of Noah when considering the saturation point of iniquity. The degree of depravity of all antediluvian people is graphically described in Genesis 6:

“The wickedness of man was great in the earth, and every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (verse 5)

An important lesson which emerges for us in these last days is the corrupting effect upon the children of God. It appears that the “sons of God” had become extinct, except for the family of Noah who were saved.

There is a similar situation in the days of Lot. The record reveals the complete lawlessness of the cities of the plain. Inevitably, God’s tolerance had reached its limit, and the cities were destroyed. Even Abraham’s appeals were of no avail, unless we think they were influential in the salvation of Lot.

A faithless nation

This next example is different in some ways from those already considered. This concerns a people specially chosen by God to be recipients of His law, and to be influential in the world. As a result they found themselves in a more responsible situation. This they acknowledged when they said, “All that the LORD hath said will we do”. We have a detailed record of their disobedience in the promised land for many centuries. This persistent disregard of God’s commands was compounded by the idolatrous influence of neighbouring peoples. God’s mercy and tolerance are apparent over a long period of time. In addition, He sent His servants the prophets to instruct and warn them. Finally, the prophet Jeremiah was instructed to cease praying for the nation; there was no further reprieve. In three stages they were carried away to Babylon. Although this was God’s judgement upon His own people, it also served as chastisement. God limited their exile to seventy years and it appears they profited from the experience. When they returned to their land there is no evidence of their idols, having had their fill in Babylon!

Here was another opportunity to restore themselves to favour with their God. The record shows that they failed to do so. The message of Malachi reveals God’s displeasure, and the voice of the prophets became silent for about four centuries. Then, John the Baptist comes on the scene. The people regarded him as a true prophet and responded to his message. John also performed another important function: he identified and introduced Messiah to the nation in such an impressive manner that no one could be under any misapprehension.

“The depth of the riches …”

The ministry of Jesus of Nazareth is well documented. He came preaching the kingdom of God and continued the message of repentance, like previous prophets. However, there was another important factor. His preaching was constantly supported by unmistakable supernatural works, which also proved his divine origin. This was God’s final appeal to a disobedient nation by sending His only begotten Son. The favourable response of the ordinary people was due to the mighty works and the physical benefits they received. The leaders were envious and hostile to Messiah throughout. Finally, they were instrumental in bringing about his crucifixion. The nation had decided its own fate, and God’s tolerance had reached its limit. This was the ultimate iniquity, and final judgement came upon His people.

It is at this point that the infinite wisdom and love of God shines through the dark cloud of the nation’s ignominy. What was a dreadful act of rejection and crucifixion was mercifully transformed into a sacrifice for the sins of humanity. We are deeply moved, and join with the Apostle Paul in exclaiming:

“O! the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33)

We are beneficiaries of this wondrous grace of God in these last days of the Gentiles. How appreciative are we of this inestimable gift? It is of the utmost importance that we make this a matter of priority. An acceptable appreciation is estimated according to our sincere efforts to conform to the Lord’s commands. This is a serious test of our dedication to spiritual standards.

“Who is on the Lord’s side?”

Living in the last days, there is a greater threat than ever to our standing before God. This applies to each one of us because of the contaminating influence of a decadent society, especially as we see it accelerating at such a pace. It is sad but needful to ask, Are there already signs that this insidious influence is affecting the household of faith? A depraved world has invaded the home by the press of a button. Has it captured not only our precious leisure time, but also our interest? Let us earnestly take the Apostle’s advice:

“Brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

How soon will the world reach the saturation point of wickedness? The rapidity of decadence is startling. This will mark the end of the present civilization, when God pours out His judgements, consistent with divine action in the past. The declining state which we witness was predicted rhetorically by our Lord:

“When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8)

In turn, let us ask, “Who is on the Lord’s side?”

I. T. Rees

 

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