“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17)
A major subject that the apostle Paul teaches in Romans 8 is the Holy Spirit’s work in every Christian’s life. The Holy Spirit is mentioned nearly twenty times in chapter 8 of Romans. Therein, Paul explained certain important works of the Spirit in every Christian’s life. Thus, it provides us with a treasure trove of theological, spiritual and practical truths concerning the Spirit’s work in a Christian’s life. It is amazingly enriching and inspiring to all who seek their spiritual growth.
In a Christian’s life, the Spirit’s influence is essential to all that he ought to be as a godly person to glorify God. He is the Source, Enabler and Securer of our spiritual life. True believers serve God, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts” (Zech. 4:6). It is the Holy Spirit, who ultimately will bring every believer to eternal glory in the presence of God.
In Romans 8:1-4, Paul wrote, “1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
Everyone in Christ Jesus has been liberated from the divine condemnation and the subjugating power of the carnal passions of the flesh. He is now characterised by a new life that is “after the Spirit”. The spiritual freedom from sin and condemnation sets him forward to live according to the direction of the Holy Spirit, who now dwells in him. Such an individual’s life is no more anchored on his fleshly or carnal desires. His passion for living is as the Holy Spirit guides him. So, it is said in verses 1 and 4, that Christians “walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit”. In fact, a Christian’s life is a life in the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit!
Paul testified concerning his own Christian life in verse 2, that it is a life directed by the Spirit – “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” Here, Paul uses the term “law” in the sense of “governing operation” or “effectual working”, and not the Mosaic Law or other divine commandments. The effectual working of the Holy Spirit (“the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus”) grants to every Christian the power to break free from the bondage of sin, guilt and condemnation (“the law of sin and death”). When a person experiences the saving work of Christ through the Holy Spirit, he is endued with a newness under the powerful influence of the Holy Spirit.
Paul also said that such a renewed spiritual life was “what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh” (v. 3a). In verse 3, “the law” refers to the Moral Law of God (i.e. the Ten Commandments). In other words, a godly life, as taught by the Law of God, was not possible because he was kept weak by his carnal nature (“flesh”). Man’s sinful corruption made the Law powerless to save him. The Law could only condemn man for all his sins. But God worked out the sinful man’s deliverance from the miserable bondage of sin and condemnation by “sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh”. By Jesus’ death on the cross, our sin and its condemnation had been removed. Jesus bore the fury of God’s wrath that was against our sin, and thus He broke sin’s power over all those who would come to Him with faith. Jesus’ death was “for sin” and it “condemned sin in the flesh”. Whereas sin once condemned the believer, now Christ condemns sin, delivering the believer from sin’s power and penalty!
The freedom from sin and condemnation which Jesus has secured for the believer results in a life of righteousness. So Paul said in verse 4, “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Once a person trusts in Jesus for deliverance from sin and judgment, he is freed from the slavery of sin and empowered through the Holy Spirit to live a life of sanctification. Every true Christian is under the influence of the Holy Spirit, and hence will possess the divinely imparted ability to live righteously. It does not mean he will be utterly free from temptations of the flesh and its influence. But he will be empowered to overcome such attempts of the flesh by the working of the Holy Spirit. God does not redeem men in order that they may continue sinning, but in order that they may begin to live righteously by having the requirement of the Law fulfilled in them.
God has made available the Holy Spirit and His empowerment to all Christians so that they “walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit”. Without exception, every Christian can walk in the power of the Holy Spirit to live a righteous life. The word “walk” is used figuratively to refer to a habitual way of life or a lifestyle. A Christian’s habit is to walk in the Spirit and not after the sinful passions of his flesh. Because every true believer is indwelt by the Spirit, every true believer will produce the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). A true believer, whether young or old, immature or mature, has the influence and the enablement of the Spirit to live a biblical, righteous life.
The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts” (Jeremiah 15:16).
“Thy words were found…” Have you found God’s Word? It is the wisdom and truth of God’s Word. Every soul that discovers the immense value and power of God’s Word would have great joy in all His words. Therein, he will find the Gospel of salvation, sanctifying truths, exceedingly great and precious promises, perfect guidance, blessed hope, etc. The written Word of God is all about Christ, the Living Word. It reveals to us His greatness and His truths, by which we may be ushered into His salvation and all spiritual blessings. It is the sacred treasure trove of Christ to His people.
“…and I did eat them…” He, who has found God’s Word for what it really is, would quickly consecrate himself to enjoy its dainties. By looking at good food and merely analyzing it mentally, no one can enjoy it. Everyone must eat the food to be nourished up by it, and so it is with God’s Word. It is the soul’s food – wholesome, savoury, saving and nourishing. Looking at it with an intellectual understanding of its contents would not suffice for our enjoyment of it. But everyone should consume it by making it the principle of his life. It will delight his soul and excite him to pursue all its truths and counsels with an irrepressible passion.
“…and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart”. When God’s Word is consumed through the reading and studying of its contents, one will be encouraged to apply its truth, wisdom and counsels in his life. Thus, God’s Word will provide a delightful experience of spiritual joy and rejoicing to one who savours it. He would then be fully assured of the gracious calling of God to His wonderful and glorious salvation and all the eternal blessings, as Jeremiah said: “for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts”.
The following testimony by Bro. Tan Eng Huat, who has been diligently studying God’s Word through the courses offered by GBI-Online, will cheer you to pursue the joy that comes through the study and application of His Word.
Jesus said, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matt 5:6).
I have been puzzled by the Beatitudes, including this verse in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 5, after becoming a believer in my early 20’s. Thanks to God for faithful preachers and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who illumines, I have a progressively better understanding of this verse and passage. God knows the need for His children to be instructed in His ways, for He “gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph 4: 11-12). For when the Spirit puts in my heart the sense of poverty of spirit, and the grief over my sins and failures (Matt 5:3-4), He also puts in my heart a strong desire to seek wisdom and understanding through the Scriptures. I was struck by the apostle Paul’s zeal and love for Christ. Though he was an apostle and endued with deep understanding through special revelation (2 Cor 12:4), he expressed the need to continue to pursue after the “excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord”, that he “may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death” (Phil 3: 8, 10).
I am grateful that God has put in place excellent teachers and preachers in Singapore to enable me to have clearer understanding and interpretation of His Word. The FEBC courses that I have attended for quite a number of years have blessed me greatly in my spiritual growth. I learnt of the GBI online courses when I came to Gethsemane BP Church for worship last year. Since starting on the GBI online courses in January 2020, I have come to appreciate the limitless immensity of the knowledge of God. Though incomprehensible, yet God allows Himself to be known of His children, that we may rejoice in this knowledge and render a deeper worship in greater awe and understanding of His presence. I am also more conscious of my need to learn more about the Triune God and how much I need Him to help me in my earthly sojourn, that I may always bring gladness to Him in the way I live my life, as well as how I may be a blessing to the people around me and how I may edify the brethren of the body of Christ.
Through the course of Bibliology, I can better appreciate God’s goodness towards us in not forsaking man even after Adam failed Him in the garden of Eden. He left us not without witness (Acts 14:7), but put in each and every one of us an awareness of His presence in our conscience, that we may seek and find Him (Acts 17:27). For this reason, my heart is filled with thanksgiving and gratitude to God for revealing Christ to me and providing me the faith and the way to embrace Him as my Saviour. I also thank Him for the priceless gift of the Holy Spirit that indwells me to help me understand His Word. For all His mercy and grace, and His gifts and providence, I am made more aware of the need to diligently seek Him through the study of His Word. And I realise that I can only seek by His power and enabling to obey Him, that my life may be consecrated to my Saviour. As I grow in the faith, I am also more and more conscious of my weaknesses and my proneness to pride and carnal desires. But God is gracious and full of tender mercies in that He has not left me without help. The Holy Spirit is also my Teacher and my Comforter. He impresses upon me the imputed righteousness of Christ, which is perfect. He also comforts and encourages me when I feel disheartened and helpless.
The GBI online courses are a treasure trove for believers and lovers of His Word. The Bible which has been preserved faithfully through the ages is the only treasure worthy of my time and effort to study, understand and live by (Matt 13:44-46), for the Book is true, totally reliable, and a Light in my earthly sojourn. Knowing His Word is the only way for the carnal self to decrease and Christ to increase in my life. Just as Paul has set his heart upon Christ as his righteousness, so must I (Phil 3:9). Just as Paul has set his heart on the ultimate prize of resurrection to that of a glorified presence with Christ, so must I, that I might not be ensnared by worldly things (Phil 3:11). Just as Paul continues to crave for more of God’s grace to be manifest in his life (Phil 3:12-14), so must I never cease to use every opportunity to revel in the knowledge and experience of God’s grace through the study of His Word.
I am thankful for the extra time given by God due to the Covid-19 pandemic to study His Word through the GBI online courses. I am also reminded that the study of God’s Word is not merely for knowledge acquisition, but that I may be sanctified and be fit for His use. May God’s name be praised and magnified through His people.
In the past few weeks, we were enabled by the Lord to extend help to needy brethren in our mission stations. We were able to send timely help because of the quick response from our members and friends to the dire needs of brethren in the mission fields.
Last Tuesday night, immediately after the live-streaming of the prayer meeting, I received the following message from a participant: “Thank God for the blessed message from the praying meeting which just ended. Can you advise me on the amount needed by the GBI students in India, which you mentioned in the meeting? Will send you a cheque. Thank God for your faithful preaching of His Word… My dad died when I was 10, left $10 for my mum to feed a family of 4. As what you have preached just now, God had taken me through a childhood of poverty with much hardship and now has blessed me with abundance, so as to be His channel of blessings. Thank God for His providence.”
As we learned last Tuesday night, it is the grateful acknowledgment of the abundant grace of God extended to us that makes us generous givers. Even though we are unworthy of His goodness, the Lord has sustained us daily by His grace and also blessed us with savings for the future. When God gives us abundantly, God wants us to be gracious helpers to those in need. That is what the Lord taught the Israelites – “If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother: but thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth” (Deuteronomy 15:7-8).
Similarly, the New Testament reminds us, Christ “gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14). Therefore, let us “do good, that [we] be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate” (1 Timothy 6:18).
Following are the notes of acknowledgment and thanksgiving from our missionaries.
Dear Rev. Koshy,
Greetings in the blessed name of Jesus Christ!
Praise God for hiding you, your family and the whole church under the shadow of His wings.
I have come back safely from visiting my relatives. We had a good time encouraging one another and discussing family matters.
Although we could not do God’s work in full force, like before, due to the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, we are trying to do everything in our power to further the cause of Christ. Please keep us in your daily prayers.
May God bless Gethsemane BPC leaders for their love and support. Once again, thank you for the love gifts sent from the church brethren to the families of all our full-time workers in God’s vineyard.
May the Lord protect you, your family, and all Gethsemaneans in this trying time. Please convey my regards to all. Please pass my regards to your family and the whole church.
(Pastor’s note: Our missionaries Pr Engida Tefera and Pr Imane Dola had called me to acknowledge and express their thanks to all the brethren in GBPC, Singapore, for their prayers and support. Our Board of Elders have also decided to extend support for the two graduates of GBI, Ethiopia, who are assisting the work in Alem Gena. They are Bro. Bayera and Bro. Bedada.)
Greetings to you in our Lord’s most blessed Name!
I checked my personal bank account (ATM) and there was PHP 45,000.00 added to the standing balance which I presumed is the peso equivalent of the gift for the church that you mentioned during our phone conversation. On behalf of the church, please receive our sincere thanksgiving.
With regards to the “cash gifts” that you have advised, here are the names of brethren and the proposed amount that would be given. For easy distribution, we thought of having the amount rounded off to the nearest hundreds.
Total amount distributed is PHP 24,500.00. The remaining balance (PHP 20,500.00) will be used to buy sacks of rice and foodstuffs that we would be giving out to every family and household. The said amount will be sufficient for us to do 2 rounds of distribution.
For transparency purposes, I have cc. this email to the Church Session (Cebu).
Praise God from Whom all blessings flow! Pastor, thank you very much!
Dear Pastor Koshy,
Greetings in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ!
Praise the Lord for His gracious provision. Thank God for the gift that the mother church sent through the church account, amounting to 16,771.00 pesos for the brethren of Bogo and San Antonio churches. Our heartfelt thanksgiving for the gift received.
We will use this said amount to buy rice and food provisions for the brethren of Bogo and San Antonio for the duration of the quarantine. Likewise, we would give cash aids to those who are in maintenance medication.
Praise the Lord for His goodness.
Dear Pastor Koshy,
We thank God for His provisions. I distributed the love-gift from GBPC, Singapore, to the brethren here last Sunday, after the worship service. For the brethren in Anda, I sent it to Bro. Hansel, who distributed it to the brethren there, and the brethren would sign to acknowledge their gifts received.
Thank you, Pastor, for your prayers and care for the brethren in Bohol.
In total, we have distributed PHP 33,900.00. I’m sending to you the list of the brethren from Tagbilaran, Bohol, and Anda, Bohol, who received the love gifts from Gethsemane BP Church, Singapore according to their needs. They are: Archie & Taelma Galigaw, Eutiquiano Bucio, Leah Bucio Rebuyon, Nestor Israel, Michelle Coquila, Angelcito Mendez, and Paterna Locot.
The gifts (SGD 2,000 & SGD 500) transferred to my bank account have been received. Thank you for sending this support for the needy GBI students and worshippers.
I will give to those who are really in need, and will send to you the list of recipients and the amounts I distributed to them. Please know that I would like to give some special help to Bro. Murali, who is awaiting a leg surgery. He had a motorbike accident, and was planning for it in February. But because of lack of funds, he didn’t go for the surgery. Soon came the coronavirus and the lockdown. Now, the surgery can only be in May or June. Since the accident, he could not come for GBI classes. He has pain, and experiences great difficulty in walking. He is on medication for pain management. Another student who has not been well is Pastor Timothy, who is suffering from sickle cell anaemia. He also dropped out of study this semester as he needs to go for blood transfusion on occasions. His brother and mother are helping him, so his financial situation is not so bad.
Lockdown in India is extended for another two weeks. Some of the brethren would join the GYAF seminar – some from Vizag and some from other places. Please plan for an online youth seminar for the youths here. Several youths, who had planned to attend the Youth Seminar that we wanted to hold in March, are interested to join the online seminar, if there will be one.
Report by Samson Hutagalung
“I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips, O LORD, thou knowest. I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation” (Psalm 40:9-10).
David’s commitment to declare God’s greatness and His truth among all the people of God reflects our prayer and passion behind the GBI-Online ministry. “God shall send forth his mercy and his truth” (Psalm 57:3), and for that purpose, God has appointed “the church of the living God” as “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).
Hence, it is with much thanksgiving to our God that I write this brief report on Gethsemane Bible Institute (online) or GBI-Online. Six years have passed since we made our first humble efforts to start this ministry. His grace has enabled us through this ministry to extend the teaching of God’s Word in our church to God’s people all around the world. Our hearts are thrilled to see how the Lord has used GBI-Online to educate and edify God’s people everywhere.
I am glad to report to you that the Lord has used GBI-Online to spread the Gospel everywhere. We have now 155 active students, learning God’s Word from different countries. These students came from different backgrounds and countries, such as Singapore, Malaysia, The Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, India, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Zambia.
GBI-Online now offers several courses, including the following: (1) Systematic Theology 1 – Theism; (2) Systematic Theology 2 – Bibliology; (3) Systematic Theology 3 – Anthropology; (4) Systematic Theology 4 – Soteriology; (5) Systematic Theology 5 – Ecclesiology; (6) Systematic Theology 6 – Eschatology; (7) The Book of Jonah; (8) The Names of God; (9) Theology of Prayer; (10) Divine Adoption; (11) The Book of Revelation. In addition, we currently have two ongoing courses that Pastor Koshy is still teaching off-line, namely (1) The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah (which quite a number of you are taking online, due to the current situation), and (2) The Book of Isaiah (which Pastor Koshy teaches during every Wednesday Lunch-Hour Bible Study).
We are glad to know that some of you desire to study the Book of Isaiah. Thus, we shall try to make it available in GBI-Online as soon as possible. Since the Book of Isaiah is still ongoing offline, we shall offer this course gradually. We shall make available the study of the first nine chapters of the Book of Isaiah, and we shall add more lessons as we go along. You may remember Pastor in prayer as he labours to teach these two subjects.
Currently, we can access 12 courses at GBI-Online. Let us make use of the time and opportunities that we have now to learn God’s Word in-depth. Visit http://www.gbi-online.com and sign up for any course from those made available for your learning. Blessed be the LORD God who hath not left us destitute of His mercy and His truth.
Apart from the courses mentioned above, we are also working on another two set of courses which Pastor had taught before for Wednesday Lunch-Hour Bible Study, namely (1) The Book of Zechariah, and (2) The Book of Job. We are working on the technical issues; when ready, they will also be offered as part of GBI-Online.
During this period of global pandemic, how good it is that we spend more time with the Lord in the study of His Word. As the apostle Peter wrote in 2 Peter 3:18, “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.” As the Lord commands us to know His Word, let us hunger and thirst for its knowledge and blessings. Without His truth that edifies us, we cannot live a life that is pleasing to the Lord.
May we continue to pray for Pastor Koshy, as he labours day and night to teach God’s Word and makes it available through GBI-Online. Please also pray for our GMC media staff (Arnold Diaz, Matthew Peh and Melissa Mah) and me, as well as all who labour daily to record, edit and make available the teaching of God’s Word.
We also thankfully remember all those who have assisted us, from time to time, in many different ways. Continue to cheerfully give as the Lord leads you, that this ministry may be well-maintained and become profitable to God’s people – not only in Gethsemane BPC, but also all around the world. May the Lord make Gethsemane BPC a blessing to God’s people everywhere.
In recent times, it has been asked repeatedly, “Can I take Holy Communion at home by myself? Can Holy Communion be observed with my family at home, or in private?” These questions are raised because some famous charismatic pastors encourage the private partaking of Holy Communion at home by individuals.
Baptism and Holy Communion are two ordinances that Christ has instituted. When He first instituted those ordinances, it was the apostles (and not all the believers) whom Christ commissioned to administer them. According to Matt 28:16-20, Jesus commissioned the apostles to baptise. While Christ called people to baptism, it was the disciples whom the Lord designated to baptise (see John 4:2); not all who believed on Him were given the prerogative to baptise themselves or one another. Likewise, He instituted the Holy Communion when only the apostles were with Him in the upper room (Matt. 26:20-30; Mk. 14:16-26; Lk. 22:14-20). Upon Christ’s ascension, the apostles were the chief leaders of the church who led in the ministry of the Word and sacraments. The Lord also gave the church evangelists and pastors to work along with the apostles, as the ministers of the Word and sacraments in the churches. (This is evident from the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles – cf. Ephesians 4:11.)
After the Lord Jesus called Paul to be an apostle (to the Gentiles), he received instruction concerning the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Concerning which he wrote, “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread…” (1 Cor. 11:23). Now, Paul’s words regarding baptism, “For Christ sent me not to baptise, but to preach the gospel” (1 Cor. 1:17a), should not be thought of as dismissive of his ministerial duty concerning baptism. Instead, he was emphasising that when he was in Corinth, preaching the Gospel was his primary duty, and then baptising. Paul did baptise those who turn to Christ with their household (cf. Acts 16:28-33; 1 Cor. 1:14-16). So, even Paul who joined the apostolic team, as “one born out of due time” (1 Cor. 15:8), was involved in the administering of the sacraments in the early church.
The New Testament shows that baptism and the Lord’s Supper were done in the presence of the apostles or by men appointed as leaders of the churches by the apostles. (Acts 2:42; Acts 20:7, 10-11). In all those records of Lord’s Supper, the presence of the apostles is mentioned.
Even when it is recorded in Acts 2:46 concerning the Jerusalem church “breaking bread from house to house,” when taken in its context, it is not a reference to individual families or individuals breaking bread on their own, but the believers coming together in houses and, as a church, breaking bread. Moreover, the immediate context of this record (v. 42 – “they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship”) demands that we should recognise those ’house to house’ gatherings as including the apostles. So, if need be, believers may get together with their ministers of the Word in their homes and break bread.
But there is no evidence that believers were permitted in the New Testament era to take Holy Communion on their own in their homes. The practice of the New Testament churches was to come together to break bread, and not breaking bread at home by each family or each individual. Consider the following biblical evidence.
Acts 20:7 – “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.” The norm was for believers to come together on the Lord’s day (the first day of the week) to break bread. The apostle Paul was in their midst, ministering to them the Word. (See also Acts 20:11). The record of Acts 20 is an emphatic witness against the private breaking of bread in one’s home!
The church in Corinth, according to the apostle Paul, gathered together in one place to break bread. However, Paul severely rebuked them when each of the church members started to eat on his own (ignoring the order that was instituted by the apostles and practised by the early church). While admonishing them for such frivolous conduct, he said, “When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken” (1 Corinthians 11:20-21). In Corinth, the issue of the private partaking of Lord’s supper was further worsened due to their selfishness, insubordination, divisions, lack of forbearance and love for one another.
So Paul continued his rebuke in 1 Corinthians 11:22, “What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.” These words of the apostle show that he certainly did not regard eating at home individually as the proper manner of partaking in the Lord’s Supper. Later, he insisted that the coming together in Christian unity and in love for one another is the way to participate in the Holy Communion. Otherwise, he advised that “if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come” (1 Corinthians 11:34). Eating at home as an individual family or as individuals – and not as part of a fellowship of the church, as well as without a minister of the Word – was not regarded as manner worthy of the Lord’s Supper. In other words, the partaking of Holy Communion by oneself or by families was against the divinely taught pattern of its practice in the early church.
The exhortation that the apostle gave to the church in 1 Corinthians 11:33 – “Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another” – is instructive. Earlier in 1 Corinthians 10:16, Paul had reminded the Corinthian church of the partaking of the Lord’s Supper as a communion of the body of Christ (not an individual affair) – “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” Undoubtedly, the fellowship of the brethren as a church was an essential part of the Lord’s Supper.
The clear teaching of the New Testament is that the Lord’s Supper ought to be administered when believers gather together as a group, with their ordained minister of the Word – for the singing of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, for worship, for the teaching of the Word of God, for prayer, for fellowship. It was never practised, according to the Scriptures, individually at home. Holy Communion is to be observed with the church family.
That’s not all. The Bible also warns us of the great dangers of partaking the Lord’s Supper against the definite counsels of the Word.
Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians clearly show that the individual partaking of Holy Communion, apart from the communion of the church, was against the order, discipline and unity that the Lord expects within His church. Such individualistic partaking of the Lord’s Supper will destroy the church’s cohesion, submission to the divine order concerning worship and ordinances.
Another danger is that careless and unbiblical partaking of the holy ordinances would provoke God to wrath. According to 1 Corinthians 11:27-32, such behaviour invites His chastisement, even sickness and death – “27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.”
Moreover, the private partaking of the Holy Communion is a dangerous trend that will lead to more flippant and irreverent practices which are unbiblical. For instance, if fathers and families will serve Holy Communion at home on their own, what would prevent them from baptising themselves or other family members? Since the Bible does not warrant commemorating the Holy Communion at home on one’s own or observing it with one’s family at home, or in private, such self-appointed role speaks of careless and presumptuous behaviour. Partaking of Holy Communion at home without the fellowship and the oversight of the ministers of God ignores the clear Biblical records and instruction on this matter. It not only portrays ignorance of and irreverence to the biblical guidelines, it also breaches biblical unity and order within the church. Such is not the practice of the ordinances that we see in the Bible.
It is also crucial for us to note that such private partaking of Holy Communion has not been the practice of Reformed, Presbyterian churches. Westminster Confession of Faith (Chapter 27 – Of the Sacraments – Section 4) states, “There be only two sacraments ordained by Christ our Lord in the Gospel; that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord: neither of which may be dispensed by any, but by a minister of the Word lawfully ordained” (cf. Matt 28:19; 1 Cor 4:1; 1 Cor 11:20, 23; Heb 5:4).
Well, things are changing for the worse in these days of apostates, self-lovers, insubordinate people who infiltrate the church, even persuading some of the very elect, who have not been thorough in their study of the Scriptures. Lamentably, more and more churchgoers want to do things their way! In these days, many so-called Christians prefer the ease of turning on the television/you-tube to watch a preacher and commemorate the Lord’s Supper. Such a practice is irresponsible as it flouts the biblical instructions on the matters of administration of sacraments (baptism and Lord’s Supper), church unity, and submission and accountability to the leadership of the church (cf. Hebrews 13:7, 17).
In situations when a believer is sick at home and unable to attend church, the minister of the Word, together with some of the leaders and members, may visit the sick for fellowship and break bread. But can the believers take Holy Communion on their own in times of national crisis (like war and pandemic) or natural calamities that prevent them from gathering together as a church? The Scriptural examples show that believers should wait in prayer for the Lord to change the circumstances that prevent them from gathering together and partaking the Holy Communion. When the God-ordained sacraments were precluded during the 70 years of exile in Babylon, the saints of the Old Testament waited in prayer until God once again made them possible. During their captivity, they offered no sacrifices or sacraments like the Patriarchal times (before Moses). Hence, in rare times when the sacraments are disrupted, we should not hurry to practise them in ways not prescribed in the Scriptures. Instead, we should humbly search our lives, repent of our ungodly attitude and actions, and pray for God’s merciful restoration of church fellowship gatherings (whether it be in the church building or homes of believers) and the biblical practice of sacraments.
1 Corinthians 15:20-23 declares, “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.”
Among the many wonderful benefits of Christ’s resurrection, one timely benefit for us to remember in these days of disease and death is that His resurrection is a sure pledge and guarantee concerning our own resurrection. This passage above reveals to us various truths about this assurance that the risen Christ provides to all His people.
Firstly, it is said concerning Christ who is risen from the dead, that He is “the firstfruits of them that slept” (v. 20, cf. v. 23). Paul’s usage of this agricultural metaphor in the said text was meant to affirm the believers of their own bodily resurrection. Now, before the ancient Israelites began the full harvest of their crops, they were to bring the first crops that farmers had gathered – called the firstfruits – to the priests as an offering to the LORD (Lev 23:10). The significance of the firstfruits was that they not only preceded the harvest, but were also a pledge of the harvest. Thus, the firstfruits served as a foretaste and an assurance of the full harvest to come. When Christ rose from the dead, he became “the firstfruits” of all who die in the Lord concerning their bodily resurrection. By pointing to Jesus’ resurrection as “the firstfruits”, Paul was affirming that like Him, all believers who die will also rise from their graves. The believers’ resurrection will be of the same kind as our Lord’s. That is to say, the fact of the bodily resurrection of Christ, the “firstfruits”, also guarantees the believers’ bodily resurrections in the final harvest of their resurrection. Like Jesus, believers will rise with a glorified body. Like Jesus, they will live in their resurrected bodies eternally.
While affirming that believers have the assurance of their own resurrection in Christ’s resurrection, Paul also said that “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (v. 22). Though Adam, the first man, brought death upon this earth through his disobedience, through Jesus who became a man and died, we have the blessed hope of resurrection. Jesus’ humanity was inextricably linked to His resurrection as well as ours. It was because Jesus died, was buried, and was raised as a man, that He could become the firstfruits of all His people who would be raised to glory.
John Calvin wrote, “As … Adam did not die for himself alone, but for us all, it follows, that Christ in like manner, who is the antitype, did not rise for himself alone; for he came, that he might restore everything that had been ruined in Adam.” Redemption involves the rescue and renewal of our souls, as well as our bodies. Our hope for eternity is anchored on our Redeemer’s resurrection. Our hope of a blessed, celestial life begins with His resurrection and consummates, at His coming, with the resurrection of all who died in Christ.
Because Christ’s resurrection is firmly connected to His people’s resurrection, we must not think of Christ’s resurrection in isolation from ours. As we remember that our Lord has arisen from His grave, let us rejoice that His resurrection also promises our own bodily resurrection and our eternal dwelling in heaven with our great Redeemer-King.
Upon our death, our bodies dissolve in the grave and return to dust, but our souls shall be with Christ in heaven. The apostle Paul speaks of this in 2 Corinthians 5:8 – “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” When Jesus returns and calls our bodies out of the graves, our souls will be united with our glorified physical bodies, and we shall be with the Lord forever! 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 affirm this glorious truth: “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (cf. Dan. 12:1-2; Rev. 21:1-4).
Written by J.C. Ryle
(Today we publish an article by John Charles Ryle (1816 –1900), the first Anglican bishop of Liverpool, who was a faithful witness to the Gospel of Christ to the end.)
“In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came unto him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live. 2 Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the LORD, 3 And said, Remember now, O LORD, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore” (Isaiah 38:1-3).
Sickness, disease, decay, and death are the common lot of all mankind without exception.
You have a striking proof of this in the chapter from which my text is taken. The Holy Spirit shows us a king and ruler of men, a dweller in palaces, a possessor of all that money can obtain, a good man, a holy man, a friend of God — laid low by disease, like the poorest man in the kingdom. Hear what the Holy Spirit says, “In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death”!
This is the old story. It is the history of every child of Adam for the last 6,000 years — except for Enoch and Elijah. It is as true of the infant who only lives a few hours as it is true of Methuselah who lived 969 years. The story of every patriarch in the fifth chapter of Genesis concludes with the simple words, “and he died”.
There is no discharge in this war.
Sooner or later, all die. There is no exemption for any rank or class or condition. High and low, rich and poor, gentle and simple, learned and unlearned, kings and their subjects, saints and sinners — all alike are liable to disease and all must submit to the “king” of terrors. The admirals and generals who have left behind a world-wide reputation, the statesmen who have swayed senates and made indelible marks on the history of their own time — are all carried, one after another, to the grave. Rich men, in spite of all their privileges, enjoy no immunity from sickness and death.
No medical skill can prevent death.
Our physicians and surgeons are unwearied in their efforts to find new remedies and modes of treatment. They compass sea and land in order to prevent disease, discover remedies, diminish pain, and lengthen life. But in spite of all that medicine and surgery can do, there is something which the ablest doctors find beyond their reach. When the time appointed by God comes, they cannot keep men and women alive.
After all, there is nothing amazing in this. The tent in which our soul lives — the human body — is a most frail and complicated machine. From the sole of the foot to the crown of the head, there is not a part of us which is not liable to disease. When I think of the variety of ailments which may assail our frame, I do not so much wonder that we die at last — as that we live so long.
But whence comes this liability to sickness, disease, and death?
How are we to account for it? This is a question which will arise in many minds — and it is one which ought to be answered. Perfection is the ordinary mark of all God’s handiwork — perfection in the heavens above us, and the earth beneath us, perfection in the movements of the planets, and perfection in a fly’s wing, or a blade of grass. Look through a telescope or microscope at anything which God created — and you find nothing defective. How then can we account for the power of disease, decay, and death over the body of man?
There is only one book which supplies an answer to this question. That book is the Bible. The fall of man at the beginning, has brought sin into the world — and sin has brought with it the curse of sickness, suffering, pain, and death. These are not things which God created at the beginning. They are the consequences of man’s transgression. To suppose that a perfect God would deliberately create imperfection, is a supposition too monstrous to be believed. It is man who is to blame — and not God. The countless bodily sufferings that we see, are the just consequence of man’s original disobedience.
Here, to my mind, lies one among many proofs that the Bible is given by inspiration of God. It accounts for many things which the atheist cannot explain. When I see a little infant convulsed with bodily pain and hovering between life and death in a weeping mother’s arms, I would be utterly puzzled and confounded, if I did not believe the Bible. But when I turn to the Book, the mysterious problem is solved. I learn that suffering is the result of Adam’s fall. That infant would not have suffered — if Adam had not sinned!
I ask you to learn from this chapter of Isaiah, that:
Sickness is not an unmixed evil.
That King Hezekiah received spiritual benefit from his illness — I think there can be no doubt. The good man saw things in his sickness, which he had never seen clearly and fully in the days of health.
I do not say that sickness always does good. Alas! We ministers know to our sorrow, that it frequently does no good at all. Too often we see men and women, after recovering from a long and dangerous illness — more hardened and impious than they were before. Too often they return to the world, if not to overt sin — with more eagerness and zest than ever. The impressions made on their conscience in the hour of sickness, are swept away like children’s writing on the sand of the sea-shore when the tide flows in.
But I do say that sickness ought to do us good. And I do say that God sends it in order to do us good. Affliction is a friendly letter from Heaven. It is a knock at the door of conscience. It is the voice of the Savior knocking at the heart’s door. Happy is he who opens the letter and reads it, who hears the knock and opens the door, who welcomes Christ to the sick room. Come now, and let me show you a few of the lessons which He by sickness would teach us:
Brethren, when your time comes to be ill, I beseech you not to forget what the illness means. Beware of fretting and murmuring and complaining, and giving way to an impatient spirit. Regard your sickness as a blessing in disguise; a good — and not an evil; a friend — and not an enemy.
No doubt we would all prefer to learn spiritual lessons in the school of ease — and not under the rod. But rest assured that God knows, better than we do, how to teach us. The light of the last day will show you that there was a meaning and a “needs-be” in all your bodily ailments. The lessons that we learn on a sick-bed, when we are shut out from the world — are often lessons which we would never learn elsewhere. Settle it down in your minds that, however much you may dislike it, sickness is not an unmixed evil.
The Sunday worship services have been pivotal in the spiritual nurture of our members and the ministries of our church. Those solemn assemblies of our church have provided us with many marvellous blessings of His presence, truth, love and communion. During our gatherings, the brethren have been channels of His gracious work towards one another. How blessed were those times of singing, praying, and hearing of God’s Word as a church!
The worship of God is the most sincere and passionate expression of our hearts’ love for God. The public worship of our God is to be maintained as much as possible, for it is our highest and foremost duty. King David has said, “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD” (Psalm 122:1). Likewise, Psalm 84:1-2 express the deepest desire of a child of God for the public worship of God: “How amiable are thy tabernacles, O LORD of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.” It is also declared in the same psalm that “a day in thy courts is better than a thousand” (Psalm 84:10a).
Lack of public worship, prayer meeting, Bible study and fellowship gathering can lead to spiritual deterioration of the people.
That is why Scripture commands us: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).
The live streaming of Sunday worship services (10 am & 6 pm respectively), and Tuesday prayer meeting (8 pm) are temporary measures that the BOE has put in place, with the prayer that the Lord will help us to resume our regular gatherings soon. In the coming weeks, the preachers and I will do our best to be in touch with you and minister to you, whenever it is
The words of Psalm 42:4-5 are the thoughts of a godly man who was prevented from going to the house of God for public worship. He was kept away from the LORD’s house by the hostility of his enemies. From far, he fondly remembered his previous participation of the worship in God’s house, and prepared himself to worship God with great devoutness. He wrote, “When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday. Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.”
Likewise, we, with reverence and love for our God, must eagerly prepare to worship God in our present situation. Let us be ready in our homes (or other convenient locations) and, like the psalmist, be stirred with joyful memories of worshipping with other believers in the church.
Let us heed the exhortation of Psalm 96:9 – “O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.” May we draw nigh to God with hearts that are prepared and guided by His Word and Spirit.
Like all the world around us, we too face a very difficult time which adversely affects our regular assembling for worship, prayer and fellowship. Though we are eager to continue with our regular programmes, we are constrained to make changes because of the instructions from:
Therefore the Board of Elders has decided to rearrange our programmes – from 23rd of March until further notice – as follows:
There will be five smaller gatherings, namely (i) 8.30am–9.30am, (ii) 10.00am–11.00am, (iii) 11.30am–12.30pm [Mandarin Service], (iv) 4.00pm–5.00pm, (v) 6.00pm–7.00pm.
We would advise members and friends to follow the timing suggested to you. Please refer to the groupings placed at the reception area, and note the suggested timing for your participation of worship.
God willing, the recordings of the sermons will be made available through our church’s website and YouTube account (from next week onwards).
Prayer meeting will be incorporated in the various fellowship gatherings. Tuesday night’s prayer meeting will not be held in SingPost.
We would advise that more stringent measures may be implemented to ensure our physical well-being owing to the fast-changing circumstances.
We are looking forward to the restoration of our usual Sunday worship services and various fellowship group activities. While we wait for the resumption of all these regular events, our preachers, elders, deacons and I are committed to ministering to you. Our church office will remain open Monday–Friday during the regular hours of 9.30am–5.30pm. We encourage you to call us if you have any spiritual need.
Bible Witness Media Ministry and Gethsemane Bible Institute will continue to provide you with more spiritually edifying contents through their websites and web-radio. Sunday sermons will be available in our church’s websites.
Make every effort in your homes along with your family, friends, and neighbours, to make full use of the edifying materials available through the internet. Feed on God’s Word and pray together.
Please attend weekend ministries – but only if you are in good health – and stay in touch with our church and fellowship leaders. Let’s remember the words of Hebrews 10:24, 25 – “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
The present uncertain times provide us with opportunities to encourage and strengthen the people of God, as well as to spread the Gospel in our community. So, render yourselves continually to minister to others according to the Lord’s leading. Be not anxious, but be strong in the knowledge of the Lord’s presence and His love for you, and serve Him diligently.
Finally, remember the words of the apostle Jude: “And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen” (Jude 22-25).
The epidemic COVID-19 is spreading fear across the globe. Only a few places on earth are unaffected by this scourge. In Singapore, though our government has been taking appropriate measures to control its spreading, fear is a real factor that is unsettling many of her citizens. Even Christians are not spared from panic.
God has warned in His Word that when He would scourge the earth for its wickedness, the hearts of people would melt and be troubled with anguish and dismay. He might use various means, such as war and pestilences, to strike the hearts of men with terror (cf. Leviticus 26:18-29). The punishments included sudden terror, resulting from calamities of a biological nature like contagious and infectious diseases. To the children of Israel, He said that when they would rebel against Him, He would “send a faintness into their hearts” (Leviticus 26:36) and that He would give them “a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind” (Deuteronomy 28:65).
When Jesus spoke about the terrifying end-time events, He referred to them as “the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:8). Luke records Christ as saying, “…upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity… men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth…” (Luke 21:25-26). These words of Christ forewarn us that in the days prior to His second coming, people will experience severe emotional stress that overwhelms and overpowers their senses. Acute, unrelieved fear and torment will plague people’s hearts everywhere. The end-time situation will be a lot worse than what is experienced today. No effort of man would alleviate such fear. People will be scared to death because of what is happening around them. The events during the end-times will be calamitous, and there is no escape from such terrifying times as described by Christ.
Concerning humanity of the last days, Isaiah 13:8 says that “they shall be afraid: pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them; they shall be in pain as a woman that travaileth: they shall be amazed one at another; their faces shall be as flames.” People will writhe in fear, and with astonishment they will look at one another, with their faces “aflame” (cf. Revelation 6:15-17; 9:6; 16:11; 18:8-23). Undoubtedly, the catastrophic end of human history will shock and terrorise the unbelieving world!
On the other side of the coin, “fear not” is an oft-repeated exhortation in the Scriptures. It is mentioned about 60 times throughout the Bible. God wants His people not to be consumed by fear which adverse circumstances will attempt to instil in them. He wants all His people to know that they do not need to be anxious and fearful. Rather, they must teach themselves that it is their Heavenly Father’s desire concerning them that they will not give in to fear. To ignore God’s will concerning us is a sin. So, we as God’s people must encourage ourselves in His love, care, protection and the glorious hope He promises to all who have trusted Christ as their Saviour and Lord.
Jesus has taught us how God, our Father, cares for us: “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:6-7). If God knows and cares for a tiny, cheap bird which would probably be eaten by the poor, how much more will He care for His children, whom He counts very precious to Him. He even knows the number of hairs on every one of His children’s heads. Such is the meticulous care that God gives to His people. If He takes notice of such an insignificant thing as a strand of hair of His children, which we seldom pay attention to, how comforted and consoled we should be even when adverse and frightening situations arise!
When turmoil and tragic scenarios arise in the public and personal realms of our lives, we must know that these things are already foretold by the LORD – “In the world ye shall have tribulation”; to comfort and strengthen us, He also added, “but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). We may find ourselves having no ability to control our circumstances. Our best efforts may not prevent catastrophic events. Deadly situations may suddenly fall upon us. But our Lord wants us to know that He will never leave us and will always be with us.
We should never despair of trials and death. The apostle Paul teaches us to rhetorically ask in times of tribulation, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Romans 8:35). He then assures us, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). Note that Paul begins his list with death, which is the last adversity that we will experience in our earthy life. Even that final trial will not separate us from our God, because through Christ whom we have trusted, we shall enter eternal glory that He has prepared for us!
Therefore we can testify with David that “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). Indeed, with Paul, all the believers can say about their final trial – even death – that “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).
Whether we be in life with many of its trials or in death, we should courageously say, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Romans 8:37). The knowledge of God’s loving care of our soul should cast all fear out of our hearts – “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). Because His love has removed our judgment and made us His children and heirs of His eternal kingdom, we fear not even our last enemy, death.
So, let all fear be far from us. “For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living” (Romans 14:8-9).
As mortal beings, our life is fragile and fleeting. Ours is a perilous journey through time. This life on earth will not last long; it consists only “of few days” (Job 14:1; cf. Gen 47:9a). The strength of our bodies will decline sooner than many of us realise or imagine. Even those of us who might live seven decades or more will face death someday soon.
Since the time of the first parents’ disobedience, there was never a hope of living forever here on earth. God had unequivocally proclaimed that death would ensue if they would sin (Genesis 2:17). Just as God warned, death (both physical and spiritual) entered the world the day Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit.
The first parents died, and all their descendants too, with just a couple of exceptions, namely Enoch and Elijah. We too will die, if Jesus would tarry further. Every life that is born into the world faces the reality of its demise shortly or later. Death is inevitable.
Even the longest life is very short, especially in comparison to eternity, for which our souls are created! Moses graphically spoke of the brevity of life – “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10).
Consider Scripture’s sombre biblical depictions of finite man’s weakness and the shortness of his life:
Our life on earth is like an arrow that is sent forth from the bow of an archer – it moves forward with great speed without any chance of retreating or returning to the beginning of its flight. Life only goes forward, never backward!
You may be a young man or a young adult, and you may be thinking that you have many more years to live. But, do not forget that you are closer to your grave than yesterday. Consider also how much of your life has already elapsed.
Moses prayed, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). That prayer does not mean that we should know the day and hour of our death; rather, it urges us to have a practical impression that life is brief and the opportunities to live for God’s glory and for the blessings of God’s people are rather limited. Man has a set time to live and do the will of God. God has set our lives’ bounds, which no man can pass. Note that we are asked to number our days, and not our years or months or weeks! We must live a day at a time.
If you live a few more decades, your present youthful days will become a distant memory. The vigour and vitality of youthfulness will be replaced by the fear and feebleness of old age. We do well to ponder how well we have traded the talents, gifts and opportunities bestowed upon us. Such reflection should lead us to repentance within us for time misspent, gifts neglected, and opportunities squandered. It should also lead us to reconsecration of our lives to be faithful stewards of our limited opportunities.
Let us not misspend our time nor waste our talents. Put your God-given gifts to full use. Solomon the wise king advises us, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
Our Lord Jesus Christ provides us with the perfect example of making full use of one’s short life and its limited opportunities. He said in John 9:4 – “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.”
Our time on earth can end soon, either by our death or by Christ’s return. With such thoughts fixed firmly in our minds, we must be determined not to indulge in sin or lethargy, nor to waste precious moments of our limited life. As Paul said, “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation” (1 Thess. 5:6-8). Much can be accomplished in the meantime for Christ’s glory and praise, by yielding ourselves wholeheartedly to do His purposes. This means that we seriously consider the shortness and limitation of our life, and commit ourselves to making the most of what remains.
Life is like a race. We, like runners approaching the finish-line, will soon come to our life’s end. It shall not go on and on.
How true are the words of Isaac Watts:
Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly forgotten as a dream
Dies at the opening day.
My younger brother’s sudden death last Monday, at the age of 53, left my aged parents, his family and many of us who have known him shocked and devastated. We were dumbfounded that his life ended so fast. But we were grateful that the Lord has called him by the Gospel and prepared him through his short life on earth for heaven’s glory.
We may say that life is uncertain, but life will certainly end very soon, and it shall never again return to this earth. So Job said,
7 For there is hope of a tree,
if it be cut down, that it will sprout again,
and that the tender branch thereof will not cease.
8 Though the root thereof wax old in the earth,
and the stock thereof die in the ground;
9 Yet through the scent of water it will bud,
and bring forth boughs like a plant.
10 But man dieth, and wasteth away:
yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he?
The realisation that our life is extremely brief has a very sobering effect on us. It leaves with us many hard questions about the purpose of our existence on earth. Why do we work so hard for this transient life on earth? Why should we take pride in our accomplishments, our wealth, our fame, etc.? Certainly, life does not revolve around its luxuries and pleasures.
If life would end soon, then why be fretful that it is full of troubles and disappointments? After all, it shall soon end, and believers shall enter the glory that God has prepared for them!
As I considered my brother’s sudden death, I have learned that the inescapable fact of life is that it revolves around God! He is the Giver and Taker of our life! He alone is eternal – without beginning or end. In view of His eternity, the duration of our earthly sojourn pales into insignificance. Moses said,
1 Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.
2 Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world,
even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.
3 Thou turnest man to destruction;
and sayest, Return, ye children of men.
4 For a thousand years in thy sight are
but as yesterday when it is past,
and as a watch in the night.”
Life, then, is like a race. When the whole race is over, if we had run well, we shall soon hear the commendation: ‘Well done! Well done!’
The Christian life is a race in which God’s child is focused on Christ, from the beginning to the end. Christians are exhorted to “run with patience the race that is set before us” by “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
The Greek word for “looking” (aphoráō) literally means looking away from one thing to some other thing in a steadfast or intent manner. It has been used to denote the fixing of the mind upon something. It expresses the mental posture that all Christians should maintain in relation to Jesus, as they run their Christian race. It should be a holy habit of our souls to keep the Lord Jesus in our view.
Looking at Jesus at the beginning of the race and then totally keeping Him out of view, is not the right kind of faith that Scripture teaches us. We should never lose focus of Christ in our Christian race. The reality is, some of the people who started the race with us may drop out of the race altogether while some others may be distracted and refuse to keep up, thus leaving us disappointed and troubled. But we must not let our minds be affected by their quitting. We must look away and fix our thoughts upon Christ. Even if all around us are a constant encouragement to us in our Christian race, it could well be our own lethargy and lust that hinder our race. Only when our minds are steadfastly fixed on Christ can we then overcome all distractions and obstacles, and complete our Christian race.
We look away from all else to Jesus only, for He is “the author and finisher of our faith”. The Greek word for “author” was translated earlier as “captain” in chapter 2, verse 10. There it was said of Christ, “For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” Christ has set the path and He calls us to follow Him. It is Him, not the crowd, that we follow. The course of our race is shown by Him. He leads and we follow. His is our Guide, Strength and Motivation in our Christian race.
Jesus, the Author of our faith, has entered the heavenly sanctuary as our Forerunner (Hebrews 6:19-20), and has opened “a new and living way” for us that leads to this sanctuary (Hebrews 10:20). He is the “Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end” (Rev. 21:6; cf. 1:17; 22:13). He is our perfect Saviour and Captain, who is able to perfect all who have placed their trust in Him.