PSALM 23 – # 02 – The Commencement the Journey Makes

PSALM 23 – # 02 – The COMMENCEMENT the Journey Makes

Pblished 11-02-2015

The web site – shepherdsinisrael.com – comments on a recent discovery of pictures 100 years old. These amazing pictures are available for purchase from the website listed below. We will make further reference to this website later in this series of blogs:

The photographs in this rare collection come from a series of photos taken about one hundred years ago in the Ain Farah area, just northeast of Jerusalem. This is the region where David was thought to have tended his sheep. The life of a Shepherd at the time these photos were taken was probably similar to that of a Shepherd in Israel during the time when the Twenty-third Psalm was penned. http://www.shepherdsinisrael.com/

Somewhere in my mixture of books and pamphlets, which I will be trying to sift through before the Lord calls me home, I have a record of an early 20th Century traveller sitting at dawn overlooking the city of Jerusalem. He describes the scene of scores of shepherds and a multitude of sheep and goats emerging from their sheep and goat folds as the sun rises over the city. There is a cacophony of sounds and a medley of sights as the shepherds stride out for the day’s journey. The mixture of animals is too great and the sheepfolds from which they emerge too various to ever hope that they can be sorted by each shepherd selecting his sheep or goats. They would be there all day trying to identify which sheep or goat belongs to which shepherd. Then the traveller witnesses an amazing spectacle which fills him with awe. Each shepherd ignoring the animals behind him, sets out in a chosen direction whistling, calling or singing, or striking the ground with his staff. Amazingly the “cattle” sort themselves out, and, forming winding lines behind their own shepherd follow him on his journey.

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” – JOHN 10:27.

Obviously, while the analogy of sheep and shepherds abounds throughout this most well known of Psalms there must be distinct differences between sheep of the animal kingdom and human sheep within the Kingdom of God.

Firstly animal sheep rely on instinct and habitual conduct in order to identify and follow their shepherd. They do not consciously confess the ID of their true shepherd, yet they follow the “voice” (sound) that they recognise out of instinct and habit. With us as, “sheep of God’s pasture” (Psalms 95:7 and 100:3) there must be a conscious acknowledgement and an open confession of the One who is “the Shepherd and Bishop” (1 Peter 2:25) of our soul. This is what I call a valid biblical FAITH CONFESSION, which we initiate and should repeat throughout the journey. It is a safe guard from being led astray by false pastors/elders/shepherds or by men who are hirelings.

This recently came to me with force when someone referred to an elder of a church as being the shepherd of a person’s soul. I immediately corrected the concept, which was probably only a slip of the tongue. The “elder” in question is indeed a good and faithful man, but ONLY the Lord Jesus Christ is the Shepherd of a person’s soul. All others are “under shepherds” who should always point away from themselves to the CHIEF SHEPHERD – 1 Peter 5:4.

The Second distinguishing point is seen in the truism that sheep in the animal kingdom never progress to being shepherds and shepherds, in the human kingdom, never cease to be sheep. It is very important that this is recognised. We can see and draw analogies from the animal kingdom, but we must not take the illustration too far. While it is deplorable when shepherds in God’s Kingdom fail morally or fall spiritually, it is possible. Leaders are not immune from temptation and they like the sheep they have been set to lead and guard can only be recovered by the same method and process that apply to their “flock” – repentance and confession and in the case of a leader in a church public rebuke – “Those who sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear” – 1st Timothy 5:20 cf. 2nd Timothy 4:2; Titus 1:13; 2:15; Revelation 3:19. “Shepherds” are sheep with an added commitment and responsibility for which they will be judged more severely cf. James 3:1 – “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” New English Version (NEV). In all other regards “shepherds” in God’s Kingdom remain sheep and should be treated as such, without partiality.

We do great despite to God and to His Kingdom when a leader’s sin is covered up, usually by other leaders. It should be exposed and repented of by open confession and a resolute turning from the sin. In this connection there is great confusion that results from a wrong view of Psalm 32:1 – “Blessed (Happy) is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” and more particularly of Romans 4:7 – “Blessed (Happy) are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered”. People use these statements to mistakenly hide people’s sins, especially those of leaders or colleagues. This is a form of cronyism and nepotism, which abounds within denominational settings. Clearly both of the above verses teach that forgiveness by God must precede the “covering”, but even more than that the Greek word used in the latter reference “sins are covered” (STRONG 1943 επικαλυπτω epikalupto = “to cover over”) is very different from another Greek word (STRONG 2572 καλυπτω kalupto) which has the connotation of “to hide or veil” i.e. “to hinder the knowledge of a thing”. God’s method is always to expose not “cover up”. Honest, open confession of sin cannot be covered up, but THANK GOD it can be “covered over” by what the Bible calls “the Mercy Seat”. The New Testament alludes to this three times by the use of our English word “propitiation”, which is a fancy theological word for “covering over”.

“Whom God has set forth to be a propitiation <STRONG 2435 ιλαστηριον hilasterion rendered “mercy-seat” in Hebrews 9:5) through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God – Romans 3:25.
“He (JESUS) is the propitiation (STRONG 2434 ιλασμος hilasmos the root word) for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world – 1st John 2:2.
“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation <2434> for our sins – 1st John 4:10.

In a sense all of this is embodied in the COMMENCING CONFESSION of “the sheep of God’s pasture”, who effectively pays tribute to the character, nature and ability of the One whom he follows – “The LORD is MY Shepherd” and as a result of that fact “I shall Not WANT …”

Millionaires may want but the sheep of God’s pasture will NOT want – “For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly” – Psalm 84:11 cf. Psalm 34:10 – “The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing.”

As a young man struggling with my calling in life and what profession I would pursue, I read of Jay Gould a multimillionaire of the time who confessed that in spite of his millions he was “the most miserable devil in the world.” Jean Paul Getty, said to be the richest man in the world of his day confessed, “I would willingly trade my millions for marital success.” One of our neighbours in Bristol Square, Lower Hutt where I, as a teenager, lived with my parents and siblings, was a Bank Manager. He tried to persuade me to go into banking. I chose to enter the ministry because of my sense of the call of God upon my life turning my back on the call of money. MY Shepherd has guaranteed my support. King David wrote – “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread” – Psalm 37:25.
The faith confession at the COMMENCEMENT OF THE JOURNEY is vital, but it is not everything. Now at the age of 76 I can look back and confess with the hymn writer Francis J. Crosby:

1. All the way my Saviour leads me,
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my Guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well;
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.

2. All the way my Saviour leads me,
Cheers each winding path I tread,
Gives me grace for every trial,
Feeds me with the living Bread.
Though my weary steps may falter
And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see;
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see.

3. All the way my Saviour leads me,
Oh, the fullness of His love!
Perfect rest to me is promised
In my Father’s house above.
When my spirit, clothed immortal,
Wings its flight to realms of day
This my song through endless ages:
Jesus led me all the way;
This my song through endless ages:
Jesus led me all the way.
Published 1875 – Copyright – Public Domain

NEXT – PSALM 23 – # 03 – THE COURSE THE JOURNEY TAKES
Posted February 12, 2015.

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PSALM 23 – # 01 – Introduction and Outline

A Psalm of Life – By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 1807–1882

What The Heart Of The Young Man Said To The Psalmist.

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,  Life is but an empty dream!

For the soul is dead that slumbers,  And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!  And the grave is not its goal;

Dust thou art, to dust returnest, Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow, Is our destined end or way;

But to act, that each to-morrow  Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,  And our hearts, though stout and brave,

Still, like muffled drums, are beating  Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,  In the bivouac of Life,

Be not like dumb, driven cattle!  Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!  Let the dead Past bury its dead!

Act,— act in the living Present!  Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us We can make our lives sublime,

And, departing, leave behind us  Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,  Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,

A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,  Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,  With a heart for any fate;

Still achieving, still pursuing,  Learn to labour and to wait.

See Wikipedia for information on HWB a famous USA Clergyman whose court trial for adultery ended in a hung jury – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Ward_Beecher

It is alleged that CH Spurgeon wrote of Psalm 23 that it is both a Psalm to live by and to die on. I cannot find the actual statement but recall it well, and of course it’s true whoever coined the expression.

Some years ago I saw this most well known of Bible passages as A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A SHEEP of God’s pasture. The number of GRACE prevails in the Psalm. In the English rendition of the first verse we are faced with FIVE words of CONFESSION, each of which should be emphasised

THE Lord is my shepherd – Positive – Note the definite article – not a lord;

The LORD is my shepherd – Powerful – Jehovah/YHWH – the sacred name of God;

The Lord IS my shepherd – Perpetual – It is now and ongoing – not in the past;

The Lord is MY shepherd – Personal – He is mine and willing to share that privilege;

The Lord is my SHEPHERD – Possessive – All other shepherds are unlike HIM.

In effect I began to see THE HAND of the GOOD SHEPHERD – cf. John 10:11 & 14 – in this Psalm. Like the human four fingers and one thumb, five the number of Grace, resonates throughout. Of course in the Hebrew it was two separate words – “Jehovah (YHWH) Ra”, which is best rendered by our five English words all of which have the significance listed above. In fact the four letters of the sacred YHYH plus the suffix “ra” also emphasise my thought.

As we have implied above by the expression “A Psalm to live by and to die on”, this Psalm is not just one day in the life of a sheep. It is the LIFE of the sheep after he has made THE LORD his SHEPHERD. So we can see this confession as being valid at the start of the spiritual life. It has been my confession now for almost 70 years as I asked the GOOD SHEPHERD to take charge and care of me at the age of six. That is why though there have been huge disappointments, at times with myself but mostly as I observe others departing from the true faith, I am never disillusioned for I keep my eyes on and ears open to THE SHEPHERD.

Five the number of GRACE also shines through as we analyse Psalm 23 into the various main headings which are suggested by the words of the psalmist in his description of his journey following the GOOD SHEPHERD:

  • The COMMENCEMENT the Journey Makes – verse 1;
  • The COURSE the Journey Takes – verses 2 and 3;
  • The CRISIS the Journey Produces – verse 4;
  • The CLIMAX the Journey Reaches – verse 5; and
  • The CONCLUSION the Journey teaches – verse 6.

As we continue with this series making that journey, my prayer is that our meditation of Him will be sweet (Psalm 104:34) and that the journey of Psalm 23 will be our journey through life and on through death, which really is no death at all.

In HIM who is the SHEPHERD and BISHOP of MY SOUL by HIS Grace.

Philip L. Powell

February 4, 2015.

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APOSTLES AND PROPHETS -07 – SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS

APOSTLES AND PROPHETS – 07 – SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS

Doctrine and duty go hand in hand in scripture. If you don’t believe the right things you won’t practice the right things and vice versa.

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APOSTLES AND PROPHETS – 01

Paul and John true apostles wrote:

Take heed to yourself, and to the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this you will both save yourself, and them that hear you 1st Timothy 4:16. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness 2nd Timothy 3:16.

Whoever transgresses, and abides not in the doctrine of Christ, has not God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you, and brings not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed 2nd John 1:9-10.

I have a few things against you, because you have those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication. So also do you have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate; To you I say, and to others in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and who have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put no other burden on you Revelation 2:14-15 & 24.

In the first of this series we presented a word study, which showed that the term “apostle” means one who is sent as a representative or ambassador of someone else. In the case of “the twelve” they were representatives of Christ. The authority which Christ gave to them was clearly delegated authority for a fixed “test period of time” and to a restricted group of people – “Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat (provision)” Matthew 10:9-10. “These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans do not enter: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” Matt. 10:5-6. “You shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man come” Matt. 10:23.

Mark 3:13-19, Luke 6:12-16, and Matthew chapter 10 reveal that the original “twelve” (called “disciples” cf. Matthew 10:1 & Luke 9:1; called “apostles” Matthew 10:2 & Luke 22:14) did not magnify in any way their appointment and did not consider it an office. They were simply “disciples of Jesus” who had been invited to follow Him (Matthew 4:18-22) and had subsequently been appointed (ordained) “to be with Him” and to be sent forth by Him (Mark 3:14).There was nothing authoritarian, ostentatious or grandiose projected by them. This is a far cry from the modern self appointed and self seeking so called “apostles” of our time. The fact that these “moderns” in the main fail to display the humility of the ONE whom they claim to represent is a sure sign that their claims and projections are false.

When those early “apostles” (sent ones i.e. “errand boys”) of the Lord Jesus showed the slightest attempt to glory in their power and achievement, Jesus cut them short in a mild rebuke – Notwithstanding in this do not rejoice that the spirits are subject to you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven Luke 10:20.

In this first study we also saw that it is erroneous to claim that there is any foundation other than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. The apostles of the New Testament and the Prophets of the Old Testament were the master builders who laid the foundation by giving us the canon of scripture. So Christ and His Word form the foundation of the Church. To claim that modern day apostles and prophets are the foundation of the Church in the 21st century or any era is an error and an heresy.

For MORE see APOSTLES AND PROPHETS 01 with its various links.

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APOSTLES AND PROPHETS 02 – CALLING, EQUIPING AND TESTING APOSTLES

One of the major errors of our time is a failure to test the claims and actions by the Word of God, which is a requirement of both Testaments –“To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to THIS WORD, it is because there is no light (truth) in them” – Isaiah 8:20; “These (the Bereans) were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” – Acts 17:11.

For MORE see – http://www.cwmfellowship.org/sermons.html – FOUR PDF files at the bottom of the page –

Who Is The Foundation of the Church – CHRIST or Modern Day Apostles?
When is a Prophet NO Profit? Is Cindy Jacobs Really A Prophet to the Nations?
Serving God or Mammon? Can a Gospel that is Free be Sold For Money?
BINDING & LOOSING:
What Does The Bible Teach About Territorial Spirits & Spiritual Mapping?

Paul had a diminishing view of his own importance and standing in the Christian community of his time. In A.D 48 he wrote that he was an apostle Galatians 1.1. In A.D 55 he declared that he was “the least of the apostles” – 1st Corinthians 15.9. In A.D 62 he states that he was “less than the least of all saints”Ephesians 3.8. Later he described himself as the chief of sinners – 1st Timothy 1.15. Our prayer should be “Bend me lower
Lower down at Jesus feet.”

For more see – APOSTLES AND PROPHETS – 02

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APOSTLES AND PROPHETS – 03 – MODERN – SO CALLED PROPHETS

The Bible portrays three sorts of human prophets in both Testaments:

  • True prophets who hear from God and faithfully declare the message that He has given, without fear or favour;
  • Euphoric prophets who are influenced by the atmosphere and setting of the occasion. These speak out of their imagination and often for their own self-interest. The classic example in the Old Testament is Saul the first king of Israel basically by popular recognition. He prophesied lying naked on the ground on one occasion – 1st Samuel 19:18-24 cf. 1st Samuel 10:10-13. While there is no clear example in the New Testament of euphoric prophets per se the warning to judge prophets and prophecy implies that possibility. So called “words of knowledge” are the bane of the charismatic, neo-Pentecostal movement. One of these “euphoric prophets” visited the church that I pastored in Kyabram, Northern Victoria during my pastorate. In hindsight he made monstrously false “predictions” attempting to cover his tracts with an hypothetical “if” – i.e. “if you press in God will perform”;
  • False prophets who speak to mislead and/or who are not exercised or influenced by the Word of God. Essentially euphoric prophets are false prophets.

The clearest warning is given in the Old Testament, and strongly inferred in the New Testament as the following Scripture texts reveal:

If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spoke, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods, which you have not known, and let us serve them; you shall not hearken to the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God is proving you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear Him, and keep His commandments, and obey His voice, and you shall serve Him, and cleave to HimDeuteronomy 13:1-4.

I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto you, and will put MY words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command Him. And it shall come to pass, that whoever will not hearken unto MY words which HE shall speak in my name, I will require it of him. But the prophet, who shall presume to speak a word in MY name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’ When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken, but the prophet has spoken it presumptuously: you shall not be afraid of him Deuteronomy 18:18-22.

Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge 1st Corinthians 14:29.

As we have shown elsewhere in this series – cf. https://philiplpowell.wordpress.com/ there were “true prophets” in New Testament times, but their function generally was not the same as “The Prophets” of the Old Testament, who together with “The Apostles” of the New Testament gave us the canon of scripture, which together with the Lord Jesus Himself form the foundation of the Church.

Shortly after my resignation from my position as National General Secretary with AoG-Australia (1992), after we moved to New Zealand and were living in Hamilton, unsavoury things started to surface relating to some of my former colleagues. One of them called me on the telephone with a veiled threat, claiming that the Lord had told him that He (God) was going to “cut me off”. I listened and then responded to the effect that he had already proved himself to be a false prophet in my estimation and that my Bible told me not to fear him. He calmed down. Shortly after that things surfaced which eventually featured to some degree in the ongoing “Royal Commission investigation into child abuse” – see http://www.cwm.org.au/latest-cetf/360-6801 page 3 – The Australian Royal Commission into Sexual Abuse of Children. The complete CETF (80 A4 pages) can be downloaded at http://www.cwm.org.au/downloads

In my 03 blog I also present the fact that good Bible hermeneutics is essential to interpreting Scripture. Comparatively recently a new idea has surfaced claiming that MIDRASH is a form of Bible hermeneutics and is simply an extension of typology. However this is NOT so as I hope to prove in a subsequent series on my blog under the heading “MIDRASH” – see https://philiplpowell.wordpress.com/

MODERN HERESY – “If it’s NEW it’s not TRUE; if it’s TRUE it’s not NEW.” For more read APOSTLES AND PROPHETS – 03, where, among other things, I name some of the false prophets of our time………… —————————————

DISCERNING FALSE APOSTLES & FALSE PROPHETS – 04

The dominant sign regarding Christ’s Return and the end of the world is DECEPTION through the proliferation of “false christs” (Matthew 24:5 cf. v. 23) and “false prophets” (Matthew 24:11; 23-26). Transliterated from the Greek our English equivalent for false prophets is “pseudo-prophets”, who we are told are like “ravening wolves” (Matt. 7:15). Similarly false apostles are “pseudo- apostles” and false teachers are “pseudo teachers” (Greek STRONG 5572 ψευδοδιδασκαλος pseudodidaskalos) 2nd Peter 2:1. The New Testament abounds with warning about the false, including false christs, (see my final blog – antichrists – 07) false prophets (teachers) and false apostles cf. 2nd Corinthians 11:13.

FOR MORE see Apostles and Prophets – 04.

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LOOKING UNTO JESUS AUTHOR & FINISHER OF OUR FAITH – 05.

We are called to consider the Lord Jesus Christ and not other humans, living or dead. He is truly the “author and finisher”, (Hebrews 12:2) and the “alpha and omega” (Revelation 1:8 & 11; 21:6 & 22:13) of our faith. Christ is everything, including “the Apostle and High Priest of our profession” Hebrews 3:1. He is “the Shepherd and Bishop” of our soul and is also called “the chief Shepherd”1st Peter 2:25 cf. 1st Peter 5:4.

For this reason and in this sense Paul wrote:

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me Galatians 2:20.

It is an obsession with Jesus and with His death and resurrection that will keep us sane and focused in service (ministry) – “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith …” Hebrews 12:2. That will carry us safely through the “valley of the shadow of death”. Paul wrote, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” Philippians 1:21. This is a far cry from another modern heresy which claims that those who die and go to heaven can observe us as we run the race of faith and that some who have preceded us have received a standing ovation as they entered the ranks of heaven. FOR MORE – see APOSTLES AND PROPHETS – 05.

We used to sing a chorus, which I recall from the age of twelve:

There’s going to be a meeting in the air, In the sweet, sweet by and by.

And I’m going to meet you, meet you over there, In my home beyond the sky.

Such singing there will be, Never heard by mortal ear,

Twill be glorious I do declare, And Christ will be the leading ONE,

In that meeting in the air.

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APOSTLES AND PROPHETS – 06 – ANTICHRISTS AND THE ANTICHRIST

John the writer of the three epistles that carry his name tells us that one of the signs relating to the end time and the return of Christ is the proliferation of “antichrists”. He also says that these “antichrists” were around in his time, which was evidence that it was the “last hour” – 1st John 2:18.

The danger with trying to identify “THE ANTICHRIST” is at least twofold:

  • The tendency to confuse the “many antichrists” with the final ANTICHRIST;

An understanding of the term “antichrist” will help. We have provided definitions in my blog 06. Please read and digest the full blog. An “antichrist” is both an opponent of and a substitute for Christ. The pope of Rome is clearly an “antichrist”. Some have mistakenly called him “THE ANTICHRIST”. The final pope may indeed be The ANTICHRIST but this is conjectural.

  • The human inclination to extend the scriptures beyond their clear intent.

A serious error has recently emerged that claims the faithful remnant must be able to identify the ANTICHRIST before Christ can or will return. This, in my opinion, is a heresy as serious as the false teaching of “The Kingdom Now” people, who assert that the Church must Christianise the world in order to hand it over to Christ when He returns. Both ideas are heretical on account of the fact that they humanise the Rapture and Return of Christ away from the sovereignty of God. It makes His Return contingent upon human action in the one case and human rationale in the other. It effectively denies the scripture which asserts that the timing is known only to God and is in His hands alone. It also denies the important doctrine of imminence viz. that Christ may return at any time and it redirects our focus away from Christ and onto the ANTICHRIST.

Those who receive this on FACE BOOK will find benefit by accessing my blog at – https://philiplpowell.wordpress.com/ under DOCTRINE – Apostles and Prophets.

Conclusion – I trust this series will prove helpful. God bless you. Philip L. Powell – www.cwm.org.au and www.cwmfellowsip.org

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APOSTLES AND PROPHETS – 06

APOSTLES AND PROPHETS – 06

ANTICHRISTS AND THE ANTICHRIST

There are five references to antichrist(s) in the New Testament all made by John in his epistles, 4 in the singular and one in the plural. They derive from the Greek αντιχριστος antichristos (STRONG 500):

Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour1st John 2:18 (NEV).

The following definition presents us with two interrelated ideas:

The word ‘antichrist’ in the New Testament Greek language means ‘an opponent of the Messiah.’ The dictionary also gives us the meaning of the two words ‘anti’ and ‘christos.’ The word ‘anti’ means an opponent and substitute while the word ‘christos’ means the ‘messiah’ or one anointed to religious office. Putting these definitions together we find that the antichrist, while being opposed to Christ, is not openly opposed, but rather a deceiver and substitute for Christ who acts as if he is serving Christ. In other words, the antichrist is one who tries to take the place of Christ and overrule His authority in religious matters, while claiming to be His servant[1].

The consummate example of the antichrist spirit, and possibly of the manifestation of the antichrist himself ultimately, is revealed within Roman Catholicism through the pope who claims to be the Vicar of Christ. (The word “vicar” comes from the English “vicarious”, meaning to serve in the place of someone else; assuming the position, place, or office of another person). Here is the official Roman Catholic claim which of course we at CWM totally reject:

The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter’s successor ‘is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful.’

‘For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise.[Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition (Washington, DC: US Catholic Conference, 1994, 1997) #882.] [2]

John says that there are many “antichrists” and that this is an evidence of the “last hour”. So biblically no matter what you think about the pope being the antichrist, he is not the ONLY one. Biblically there are many others. Could it be that those whom we have referred to as “false apostles and prophets” are in fact antichrists? After all they tacitly claim to represent Christ to the point of replacing Him as the foundation of the Church as we have seen in my previous blogs on this topic. This is precisely what the Roman Catholic Church does and teaches through the papacy. Paul, a true apostle, clearly tells us that no one can lay a foundation that is NOT Jesus Christ, who is the true and only foundation of the Church which comprises the individual members of His Body –  cf. 1st Corinthians 3:6.

To repeat, John tells us in his first reference to “antichrist(s)” that he was living then in “the last (STRONG 2078 εσχατως eschatos) time (hour – STRONG 5610 ωρα hora), and that the proliferation of antichrists was an evidence of that fact. There are those who then rationalise that the presence of antichrists is a sign of the imminent return of Christ and that the ultimate indicator is the appearance of THE ANTICHRIST whom the Church – the faithful remnant – must be able to identify before Christ can or will return. This in our view is “a bridge too far” and actually counters the biblical position in two regards:

  • It makes man intellectually responsible for the timing of Christ’s Return; and
  • It refocuses our attention off Christ and onto the antichrist.

The Return of Christ and the Rapture of the Church are presented in Scripture in such a way that they may occur at any time. This is known as IMMINENCY (not immanency, which is a false doctrine that God and Christ exist in everything). When we speak of the imminent return of Christ we are simply enunciating the truth that He may return at anytime to rapture the Church. Based on a misunderstanding of this important doctrine many have fallen into the error of trying to calculate the time frame for His Second Coming, notwithstanding our Lord’s clear warning that His followers ought not to do this – “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power (area of authority)Acts 1:7. To assert that Christ cannot or will not return, unless and until the faithful remnant identify the antichrist, is a heresy as serious as the error of those who teach the Kingdom Now ideas viz. that we the Church have to Christianise the world and then Christ will return to take up His Kingdom. In effect this teaching asserts that we have to do the job and then hand over the results of our work or efforts. It is a works based gospel, whereas the necessity to know the ID of the antichrist before Christ can return is based on intellectual achievement. Both are serious errors – heresies.

The following are all of the other references to “antichrist(s)” in the Bible, and interestingly all of them by John in his epistles and all, in one way or another, relate to doctrine (teaching):

Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son 1st John 2:22.

…. every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already 1st John 4:3.

For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist 2nd John 1:7.

THE ANTICHRIST

In an attempt to establish the ID of the antichrist, conclusions and projections, many of which, in hindsight, are laughable, have been made by sincere Christians throughout history. I recall some of these through my own life time (I was born in 1939 and am now in my 76th year). It was suggested that Mussolini and later that Hitler was the antichrist. Some nominated Henry Kissinger and so the list goes on. While the claimants may have been sincere and some of them otherwise good Bible teachers, they fell at the hurdle of the ID of the antichrist, who, they asserted, had to be identified. In my opinion, based on Scripture this is a biblically “no go area”, that we should assiduously avoid so we do not mislead others as well as ourselves. Why do we need to identify the antichrist seeing John tells us there are many who fit the bill? That is NOT to say that there will NOT be one who is the epitome of evil and who will tick all the boxes. The Bible calls him the “son of perdition” cf. 2nd Thessalonians 2:3 – “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.” It appears that this “son of perdition” will come in the “spirit” (attitude and action) of Judas Iscariot, the ultimate traitor – cf. John 17:12“those whom you gave Me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition (STRONG 684 απωλεια apoleia) that the scripture might be fulfilled.” The “son of perdition” literally signifies the son of a “loser”. Satan always loses ultimately as did Judas Iscariot and as will the antichrist, so why focus on him to the point of being able to identify him? What’s the point? We are told to keep “looking to Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2) as we run the race of life and to “look for Him” in regard to His Second coming (Hebrews 9:28). The idea of focusing on the antichrist is itself antichrist. The antichrist is also called “that man of sin” 2 Thess. 2:3, which is another good reason to focus on Christ and not on the antichrist.

Next: APOSTLES AND PROPHETS – 07 – SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS

[1] http://www.bibleprophecytruth.com/the-antichrist/meaning-of-the-antichrist

[2] ibid

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APOSTLES AND PROPHETS – 05

APOSTLES AND PROPHETS – 05

LOOKING TO JESUS – THE AUTHOR AND FINISHER OF OUR FAITH

Wherefore, holy brothers, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus, who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house Hebrews 3:1.

Interestingly, of the 19 times that the word “apostle” (Greek – STRONG 652 αποστολος apostolos) appears in the singular in the New Testament (KJV) this is the ONLY time when it is rightfully capitalised. When applied to our Lord it is indeed a title, but not when applied to anyone else. Nowhere in the New Testament is there any reference to, for example “the Apostle Paul” or “Peter” or anyone else. It is always “Paul” or “Peter” et al “an apostle of Jesus Christ” etc. It is much like the word “shepherd”, which is capitalised in the KJV only when it is applied to Christ – 2ce by Peter also known as Cephas:

For you were as sheep going astray; but are now returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls1st Peter 2:25.

… when the chief Shepherd shall appear, you shall receive a crown of glory that does not fade away 1st Peter 5:4.

No man is “the shepherd and bishop” of another person’s soul, or for that matter of his own soul. Christ has earned that exclusive right as a result of His life, death and resurrection:

As the Father knows ME, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheepJohn 10:15.

The next devotional series on my blog, God willing, will be based on Psalm 23 – “The Lord is My Shepherd, I shall not Want.”

The fact that our Lord Jesus Christ is called “The Apostle of our Profession (faith)sets the tone and provides us with a basis of examination for those who are called or who call themselves apostles. He who said, “Follow ME and I will make (shape and form) you …” (Matthew 4:19) had previously “made Himself of no reputation” (Philippians 2:7). This is in complete contrast to the so called “apostles” and “prophets” of our time. They are biblically disqualified by this fact alone. Their entire modus operandi is to appeal to reputation and perceived success to the point of adopting self serving secular titles, like “Chief Executive Officer” (CEO). In contrast the biblical position is clear. Paul referred to himself, not in terms of esteem and recognition, but as one, who like his Lord, was “despised and rejected” (Isaiah 53:3) as the following makes clear:

I am the least of the apostles, that am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God 1st Corinthians 15:9.

To me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ Ephesians 3:8.

For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ Galatians 1:10.

For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men 1st Corinthians 4:9.

There is nothing arrogant or self assertive about Paul. He, like his Master, cared nothing for the plaudits of men, and for this reason both are at times misunderstood in their expressions. For example when Paul writes:

… from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do Galatians 2: 6-10 (NEV).

He does not do so with any sense of superiority or in a boastful manner. He did not seek to be influential. Had there been at that time organisations called Influencers or Planet Shakers neither Paul nor his Lord would have joined them. Both Paul and Jesus were supremely committed to their message – the Gospel, which alone is “the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16). That is why Paul could write to the Corinthians:

I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified 1st Corinthians 2:2.

That is not to say that Paul is here enunciating his sole topic of preaching and teaching as the Acts of the Apostles and Paul’s Epistles make clear. His teaching and preaching were comprehensive, but always dominated and controlled by the message of the Cross and its impact upon his life.

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me Galatians 2:20.

It is an obsession with Jesus that is the essential element in true service (ministry) – “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith …” Hebrews 12:2.

Before concluding this short meditation I need to say something about my leading text, within the context of Paul’s teaching. In Hebrews chapter 11, the so called catalogue of the great men and women of faith, the writer who, in my opinion was Paul the apostle, arrays the “great cloud of witnesses (Greek – STRONG 3144 μαρτυς martus)” from the Old Testament, Hebrews 12:2, applauding the faith manifested through their lives. He then instructs his readers to LOOK away from them and focus on JESUS, who initiates and completes our faith. Some have wrongly interpreted the men and women of faith as spectators observing us as we run the race of life and fight the fight of faith. That clearly is a false notion that is never taught in the Bible. Those who have finished their course do not observe or participate in any way in the life and experience of those who remain on this earth.

I have heard a number of strange claims based on this idea to the effect that people who have died are watching us from heaven. Some have gone so far as to say that some of these people are cheering us on from heaven’s balconies. I heard an even more incredible claim that all heaven stood to welcome a person who died. This is idolatry carried to an extreme. After death all will await judgement, either the Great White Throne Judgment of God Almighty (Revelation 20:11-12) or the Judgment Seat of Christ (Romans 14:10 cf. 2nd Corinthians 5:10). There are no exceptions. Those who love and serve Jesus will NOT face the Great White Throne Judgment, but they will face the Judgment (Bema) Seat of Christ. Until then those who die in Christ are at REST with their Lord. Paul wrote:

I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better Philippians 1:23.

NEXT – APOSTLES AND PROPHETS – 06

ANTICHRIST OR THE ANTICHRIST

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APOSTLES AND PROPHETS – 04

APOSTLES AND PROPHETS – 04

 FALSE PROPHETS AND APOSTLES

The expression “false prophet(s)” (STRONG 5578 ψευδοπροφητης pseudoprophetes) appears 11 times throughout the Bible – x 7 in the plural plus x 4 in the singular – and refers to the activities and/or words of falsely inspired men in both Testaments. It is very significant that when asked for the signs associated with His return and the end of the world, Jesus nominated deception as the principal thing to guard against, referring to the proliferation of “false christs” (Matthew 24:5 cf. v. 23) and “false prophets” (Matthew 24:11; 23-26). The sign of the FALSE is the most dominate sign that Christ mentions, warning that it will prevail in the “end times”. The following is the comprehensive list of texts referring to false prophets throughout the Bible, all in the New Testament:

Matthew 7:15Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

Matthew 24:11And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.

Matthew 24:24For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.

Mark 13:22 – For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall show signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect.

Luke 6:26 – Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.

2nd Peter 2:1 – But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privately shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

1st John 4:1 – Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

Acts 13:6And when they had gone through the isle to Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus:

Revelation 16:13 – And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.

Revelation 19:20 – And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.

Revelation 20:10 – And the devil who deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever.

The Greek “pseudoprophetes” (STRONG 5578) is suggestive of the anglicised “pseudo-prophet” i.e. someone who masquerades as being a genuine prophet when he’s not. As followers of Jesus it is incumbent upon us to take ALL of Christ’s promises and warnings seriously. We dare not cherry pick. He repeats His warnings and cautions about false prophets far too frequently for us to be excused as having missed it. His early “apostles” issue similar warnings.

FALSE APOSTLES

 2nd Corinthians 11:13 For such are false apostles (STRONG 5570 ψευδαποστολος pseudapostolos), deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.

This is the only usage of the term “false apostle(s)” in the Bible. Like the term “false prophet” = pseudo prophet so “false apostle” is a pseudo apostle, who according to the On-Line Bible is “one who falsely claims to be an ambassador of Christ”. The fact that the actual term is used so sparsely in the Bible does not minimise the significance or the danger of being deceived. For example the glorified Christ commends the Church at Ephesus, based on this very thing despite their failures, see Revelation 2:1-7:

I know your works, and your labour, and your patience, and how you cannot bear them who are evil: and you have tried them who say they are apostles, and are not, and have found them liars Revelation 2:2.

Clearly there were both false apostles and false prophets in New Testament times just as they are with us now and probably more extensively in accordance with Christ’s predictions in Matthew chapter 24 etc. So the question really is, “What is the basis of our examination and the grounds for our conclusions?”

CHARACTER – It has been rightly said that the ONLY internal possession we can take to heaven with us is OUR CHARACTER. Paul warns, “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him” Romans 8:9. Albert Barnes in his Notes on the Bible observes, “The word “spirit” is often used to denote the temper, disposition; thus we say, a man of a generous spirit, or of a revengeful spirit, etc. It may possibly have this meaning here, and denotes that he who has not the temper or disposition of Christ is not His, or has no evidence of piety.”

  • DOCTRINE = TEACHING – … they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” Acts 2:42; Now I beseech you, brothers, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which you have learned; and avoid them Romans 16:17; Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine 1st Timothy 4:13; To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them Isaiah 8:20; My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass Deuteronomy 32:2.

The answer to our question then is: “The basis of our examination must be:

  1. The character of the teacher; and
  2. The doctrine (teaching) that he brings.

Both are important. We should not excuse a serious weakness in one based on a strength in the other. We are all aware of the old adage – “I can’t hear what you say because of what you do.” The Bible condemns this as hypocrisy.

NEXT – Apostles and Prophets – 05

 

LOOKING UNTO JESUS

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APOSTLES AND PROPHETS 03

APOSTLES AND PROPHETS – 03

 MODERN – SO CALLED PROPHETS

Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together grows unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom you also are built together for an habitation of God through the Spirit Ephesians 2:19 -22.

The English word “prophet” (STRONG 4396 προφητης prophetes) appears 68 times in the singular plus 88 times in the plural in the New Testament. Most of these are direct references to Old Testament prophets. John the Baptist, (see Matt. 11:9 etc) whom we may call the “intra-testament” prophet, Jesus Christ Himself (Matt. 21:11 cf. Deut. 8:15 & Acts 3:22), Agabus (Acts 21:10), Judas and Silas (Acts 15:32) are all clearly identified by the New Testament writers in New Testament times as prophets. Acts 13:1 names Barnabas, and Simeon (Niger), Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen as “prophets and teachers”. There are some other generic statements which indicate that there were more than these.

BIBLE HERMENEUTICS – Good Bible hermeneutics insists that we take into account terms used and that we compare scripture with scripture in making conclusions in our teaching. This is the only safe way to arrive at the truth of a text or a context. An understanding of the precise meaning of words – including words in the original languages, Hebrew and Greek – is very important and most helpful, but that is not enough on its own. Scripture interprets itself. No language, including Hebrew and Greek, is absolute. There is always an immediate context – the passage in which the text is set, plus a wider context – the entire tenor of scripture, which provide the true meaning of biblical words, texts, terms (phrases) and passages.

According to the grace of God which is given to me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another builds thereon. But let every man take heed how he builds thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ 1st Corinthians 3:10-11. COMPARE

Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together grows unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom you also are built together for an habitation of God through the Spirit Ephesians 2:19 -22.

Comparing the above definitive statement that JESUS CHRIST alone is the foundation (1 Cor. 3:11) with the statement that the Church is built “upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Ephesians 2:20) calls for some reconciliation.

 AN ANOMILY – Superficially there appears to be a disparity between two claims in the above texts of Scripture. However a careful examination shows that the disparity is NOT there for the following reasons:

USE OF THE DEFINITE ARTICLE – understood in Ephesians 2: 20 i.e. “the apostles and the prophets”. Throughout scripture the term “THE prophets” (x 149 throughout the Bible; x 55 in the New Testament) refers either to a specific group of men or to their writings. A particularly important passage to note in this connection is Luke 24 – especially the following verses: – Luke 24:25Then He (Jesus) said to them, ‘O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken’; Luke 24:27“And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded to them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself”.

REFERENCE TO SCRIPTURE – The Bible was conveyed to us through the PROPHETS of the Old Testament and the APOSTLES of the New Testament. The only way that Ephesians 2:20 can be reconciled with 1st Corinthians 3:11 is by interpreting the former to mean that the “the apostles” and “the prophets” laid the foundation, which is Jesus Christ and His Word, NOT that the apostles and prophets constitute the foundation. The idea that “apostles and prophets” are the foundation of the Church is much like saying that Peter is the ROCK upon which Christ promised to build His Church, which is a Roman Catholic doctrine, based on TRADITION that is opposed by Protestant teaching based on Scripture Alone – sola scriptura.

A MODERN HERESY – if it’s NEW it’s not TRUE; if it’s TRUE it’s not NEW.

The orthodox Church has always accepted the idea that either “apostles and prophets” are the foundation of the Church or that, as I have tried to present above, that they actually laid the foundation by virtue of the scriptures which they brought to us. It is a completely novel idea that modern so called apostles and prophets actually form the foundation of the present day Church. While I accept the idea of New Testament apostles and prophets inclusive of and additional to “the twelve”, I contend that there is no biblical basis that they actually constituted in any way the FOUNDATION of the Church. Christ alone is the FOUNDATION. If the New Testament “prophets”, of which there was a limited number were not part of the foundation of the first century Church, and they weren’t, then there is no basis for suggesting that modern so called “apostles and prophets” form the foundation of the present day Church.

There is an additional reason for our assertion that the idea projected by Peter Wagner, Ben Gray, John Lewis, the late David Cartledge et al[1] is a serious heresy that undermines the teaching of scripture. This is seen by the fact that if you embrace their ideas then you end up with a variation in the foundation, both on account of the teaching and those who bring it. We are commanded to – “…earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints” Jude 1:3. It is a delivered FAITH not a developing FAITH. It has been delivered ONCE and it won’t be delivered again. If anyone adds to it, he undermines it by that act. IT IS DELIVERED ONCE AND FOR ALL TIME.

Next – DISCERNING FALSE APOSTLES & FALSE PROPHETS

How Firm a Foundation by John Keith

First published 1787 – Public Domain.

  1. How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
    Is laid for your faith in His excellent word!
    What more can He say than to you He hath said—
    To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?
  2. Fear not, I am with thee, oh, be not dismayed,
    For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
    I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
    Upheld by My gracious, omnipotent hand.
  3. When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
    The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
    For I will be with thee thy trouble to bless,
    And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
  4. When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
    My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply;
    The flame shall not harm thee; I only design
    Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.
  5. The soul that on Jesus doth lean for repose,
    I will not, I will not, desert to his foes;
    That soul, though all hell should endeavour to shake,
    I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

[1] http://www.cwmfellowship.org/sermons.html – refer end of page.

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