Was The Church Built On Peter?

by Tom Wacaster

A misunderstanding of the role Peter would play in the establishment of the church has led to innumerable false doctrines, not the least of which is the entire system of so-called ‘Papal Authority.’ We pick up in Matthew 16 where I left off with the previous article. What is the “it” (Matthew 16:17) that Simon Peter had received by revelation, if not the fact that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Establishing what the “it” is in this passage, helps in understanding the force of Jesus promise in the next verse. “It” is a pronoun referring back to something (1) previous to this verse, (2) something that was “revealed” unto Peter, and (3) something that was either incapable of being received by “flesh and blood,” or that in some way did not derive from natural observation. The only thing that can possibly fit is the statement that Peter had made, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” of the previous verse.   Consider the following:

It should be noted in Matthew 16:17 that Peter’s acknowledgement that Jesus was the “Son of the living God” was NOT derived from “flesh and blood.” The fact that Jesus uses the word “revealed,” implies that Peter was not taught this by human wisdom or observation. The words “flesh and blood” are used in the New Testament to represent men (Gal. 1:16, Eph. 6:12, Heb. 2:14, etc). It should also be noted that this knowledge that Peter possessed WAS revealed by the “Father who is in heaven.” Peter had received the knowledge, and the conviction of what he had just stated, by divine revelation. The question remains, therefore, as to exactly WHEN or by what MEANS that revelation was made known. The only conclusion we can draw is that Jesus, by His actions and His words, told Peter, and the other apostles, this truth. Boles noted that “God had revealed this knowledge to them, not by any unusual or extraordinary communication, nor by any partial or arbitrary favor to them, but as a result of their faith and obedience” (Boles, Commentary on Matthew, page 344). God revealed it to them through Jesus Christ Himself. 

The very fact that Jesus came to this earth and walked among men, is incapable of being disputed. Critics attempt to discredit the accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. But the historical fact is beyond dispute. As Foster noted:

It is a historic fact that Christ left heaven, came to earth, was born of a virgin, revealed Himself to men as the incarnate Son of God, and died and was raised from the dead for man’s redemption. It is a historic fact that the leaders of the Jewish nation understood immediately that Jesus was claiming to be God as well as man, charged Him repeatedly with blasphemy, and condemned Him to death on this charge because He claimed to be the Son of God.  It is a historic fact that the disciples of Jesus accepted the teaching of Jesus, believed His claims, and repeatedly declared they believed Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God; that Peter at Caesarea Philippi gave a decisive, dramatic declaration of the faith of the disciples; that the predictions of the death of Christ became a hard obstacle to the maintenance of their faith, and that the actual death on the cross dealt a deadly blow to their faith, but that the resurrection of Christ brought them to fullness of faith in His deity.  It is a historic fact that the disciples repeatedly worshiped Jesus and He accepted their worship...The gospel of Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God, is not based on current messianic ideas but upon historic facts established by the testimony of reliable eyewitnesses (Foster, 707-708).

Now we are ready to take a closer look at Matthew 16:18 - “And I also say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” There are diverse opinions as to what, or to whom, Jesus referred when He said, “upon this rock I will build my church.” There are only three opinions that have been set forth that are even worthy of examination, namely whether the “rock” is (1) Peter, (2) Christ, or  (3) the truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus sets forth an imagery of a city, a builder, and a gate-keeper, who has the keys to the city. Even a casual look at the image portrays a city of Whom Jesus is the Builder and Peter the gate-keeper. McGarvey points out that “it is impossible, without throwing this imagery into confusion, to make either Jesus or Peter the rock; for Jesus assigns to himself the position of the builder, or chief architect, and he assigns to Peter that of gate-keeper, or holder of the keys” (McGarvey, 144).  The “rock” then must represent something other than either the builder or the gate keeper. The only thing that is left is the truth expressed by Peter that Jesus is the Son of Godthe “it” of verse 17. This conclusion is supported by carefully noting the nouns and pronouns in verses 17 and 18. Jesus had plainly said in verse 17 that something was revealed to Peter, that something being “it.” But that which was revealed to Peter was the truth that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. In verse 18 Jesus says that upon “this rock,” which if we allow grammatical rules to be fairly applied, can only refer to the “it” of the previous verse, and thusly the stated truth by Peter that Jesus is the “Son of the living God.” It might be objected, however, that the name Peter in the Greek means a “stone,” and that when Jesus called Simon “Peter,” He was identifying Peter as that “rock” upon which He would build the church. Their argument equates “stone” and “rock.” But there are at least two obstacles to this line of reasoning. First of all there is the choice of words which our Lord uses. To Peter, He says, “Thou art petros, a masculine word which means stone, or pebble. But the word “rock” is petra, a feminine gender, which means an immovable slab, a bed rock foundation. Second, had Jesus intended to refer to Peter as the “rock,” He would likely have said, “Thou art Peter, and upon ‘thee I will build my church.” But the question is raised, Why did Jesus say “Thou art Peter,” unless He had intended that Peter be the “rock” upon which the church was to be built. Keep in mind that Peter had addressed the Lord, “Thou art the Christ,” referring to the Lord’s official title (“Christ”), and His deity (“Son of the living God”). As Peter had used the words, “Thou art,” it was only natural that Jesus would respond, “Thou art Peter.” So, Jesus answers, ‘Simon, son of Jonah...Thou art Peter’ - the symbolical name which had long since been given him (John 1:42), and which referred to the solidity of character he was yet to acquire though he showed very little promise of it at present.

Occasionally it is argued that the ‘average man’ would not see these truths. While that may be said of the ‘average man’ who neither studies nor is concerned, it is true that he may not see these things. But to the man who searches out the truth of God’s word, the truth is quite obvious and easily understood.

I had occasion many years ago to study this very passage with a woman who was a member of the Russian Orthodox Church in Barnaul, Russia. Upon realizing the truth regarding Peter, she immediately arose from her desk, rushed into the hall of the school where we were studying, and grabbed the arm of one of her fellow students, and told her to come learn what she had now realized was the truth. Then she commented to me (through an interpreter), “That is so simple, why did I not see that before?” It was, no doubt, because the veil of false doctrine had clouded her vision. The truth of the matter is that Peter played no more prominent a role in the establishment of the church than any of the other apostles. It is the divine nature of our Lord, and the fact that He is the “Christ” upon which the church was built. Any other position is simply false!

I Will Build My Church

by Tom Wacaster
The title of this week’s article contains the words of Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 16:18. The verse, in its entirety, reads: “And I also say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” This is the first time that the word “church” appears in our English translations. There are a number of things to note in these words which, if carefully observed and faithfully applied by all professing to be of the Christian faith, would have an immediate and dramatic impact on the spiritual landscape of our country. Taking the verse, with all of its constituent parts, we can break it down into at least four significant phrases, with each phrase setting forth an important truth relative to the church that Jesus promised to build.
“I” - Jesus is the builder. Jesus knew what it meant to build things, for His earthly step-father was a carpenter. I have no doubt that Joseph taught Jesus the fundamentals of carpentry. We have no record of Jesus having ever built a physical house, a piece of furniture, or a structure of any kind. Had He done so, men might have turned any structure He made into some kind of shrine. That is not to say that Jesus never built anything prior to the establishment of His church. Consider the words of John: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that hath been made” (John 1:1-3).  The Hebrews writer tells us that Jesus upholds “all things by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3). I sometimes muse regarding the beauty and quality of work our Lord has demonstrated in the making of the universe. No doubt He was a master builder, the beauty and design of the work of His hands manifesting His wisdom and power. So, when Jesus said He would build His church, I can be confident that every facet of that divine institution is of the highest quality, meeting the spiritual needs of those who make up His body. Since Jesus is the builder of His church, then any religious group that was not built by Jesus Christ cannot be the church of my Lord. That may sound simplistic to those who are members of the one body, but to a world caught up in denominational mentality, it is a truth that is not only strange to their hearing, but confusing to their minds.
“Will Build” - The entire work, from laying the foundation on the solid ‘rock,’ to the completion of the superstructure, was yet in the future at the time Jesus spoke these words. There is an element of predictive prophecy contained in the words of Jesus. We have the benefit of almost 2,000 years of history by which we can measure the sheer magnitude of the promise of Jesus. This kingdom, as prophesied by Daniel, has truly broken in pieces and consumed the kingdoms of the world (Dan. 2:44). Who, living at the time Jesus made this promise, would have ever imagined that the gospel would, within the lifetime of those apostles, be “preached in all creation under heaven” (Col. 1:23)? Consider this quote from Harry Rimmer, in his book, The Evidences for Immortality:
In the day when Christ died, Rome was utterly pagan. From one end of her empire to the other, from center to circumference, idolatry and paganism reigned supreme. The single exception was the monotheism of Judea. It is, therefore, a startling discovery to find that fifty years after Jesus died on the gallows of Rome there was a church reared to His memory and for His worship in every principle city of the Roman Empire!  Two hundred and fifty years after Christ died for the sins of man, half the Roman Empire had accepted the gospel of redemption through His shed blood.
At the time Jesus spoke those words contained in Matthew 16:18, there was nothing, from a human point of view, that would even suggest that the kingdom Jesus would establish would bring Rome to its knees. When the Lord made that promise near Caesarea Philippi, many of His would-be followers had already turned away. The inner circle of disciples, those who would be appointed as apostles, had doubts and questions, not to mention that one of them would soon betray the Lord. He had no army, no funds, no political power, and a diminishing following. Yet still Jesus promised, “I will build my church.”
“My” - This two letter pronoun is packed with significance. Not only is Jesus the builder of the church; He also possesses the church. It is His by right of origination to the same extent that an earthly business is owned by its builder. That two letter pronoun, “my,” implies preeminence, as pronounced by the apostle Paul: “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence” (Col. 1:18). Let men learn the meaning of that one word, “preeminence,” and then let them apply it in all aspects of Christian living, and forever gone would be the multitude of denominational terms and titles so revered by men. How anyone, in his right mind, with any degree of reason or common sense, can read that two letter pronoun, and then conclude that it makes no difference what church one belongs to, remains a mystery to me. The signs that appear on the edifices erected to one’s personal preferences in religion are as multitudinous as the buildings themselves. Yet the simple designations penned by the Holy Spirit always pay tribute to the One Who built and purchased the church with His blood (Acts 20:28). I cannot think of a term more concise, more compact, while at the same time showing respect and honor to Jesus Christ, than the inspired words used by Paul: “The churches of Christ salute you” (Rom. 16:16).
“Church” - The word church means “the called out.” When Jesus said He would build His church, He was not talking about a physical structure. He was going to build a “spiritual house,” consisting of “living stones,” to be a “holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2:5). This He has accomplished in a most remarkable fashion. It is important to notice that the word “church” is singular. Jesus said He would build His church; not churches. Why is this so difficult for men to grasp? Paul tells us, “There is one body, and one spirit, even as also ye were called in one hope of your calling” (Eph. 4:4). Earlier Paul had identified that body as the church: “And he put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:22-23). There is one body, and the body is the church! That there is, therefore, only one church, is as clear as night follows day. Yet men still deny it.
The verse does not end with the five words or phrases we have examined. Our Lord added these encouraging words: “And the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”  I have no doubt that McGarvey was correct when he made the following comment on these words:
Hades is contemplated as a walled city waging war against the Church. Its gates are made the symbols of its power, because the military forces of an ancient city always issued forth from its gates, and the gates may be considered as sending them out. All the powers by which hades, the place of disembodied spirits, assails the Church, are included in the figure, the powers of demons, of Satan, and of death. The text is a pledge that the Church would never be tempted into total apostasy, nor be depopulated by the death of all its members (McGarvey, Fourfold Gospel).
Next time you read those familiar words in Matthew 16:18, take a moment to pause and consider the words; all the words, and each of the words. And then pause and give thanks to our Father in heaven for His divine wisdom in seeing to it that the church became, and remains a reality even to this day.
Brother Alexander has informed me that the first volume of my two volume commentary on John will be ready to pick up this week. I’ll still make these available at the prepublication price for those who desire a copy. You can purchase both volumes for $30, plus $2.02 tax (and shipping where applicable). Volume 2 will be ready this fall. To order your copy go to my website: click here

Upon This Rock

By Tom Wacaster

Most of us are very familiar with our Lord’s promise in Matthew 16:18 to build His church.  The immediate context begins in verse 13 and extends through verse 20. Unfortunately most people focus on verse 18 and neglect both the context and other passages that help the student come to a proper understanding of the precise meaning of verse 18. The consequence is a warped view of the church, a twisted view of the role of  Peter as the “rock,” and the nature of the church Jesus promised to build. I want to use a couple of my weekly columns to take a closer look at Matthew 16:13-120 in hopes of giving us a better understanding, and providing some tools that might help you to teach others the truth contained therein.

The paragraph is beautiful in its structure and powerful in its impact. G. Campbell Morgan had this tribute to the passage now before us: “This is one of the most remarkable passages in the whole of this Gospel of the King. Here we are at the center of our story; here we find light which flashes backward and forward, illuminating the path we have already travelled, and casting its light upon what remains to us of the study of this book.” Some consider this event as the climax in Jesus’ training of the disciples, for it is at this important junction in their association with Jesus that public confession is made concerning our Lord’s deity.

“Now when Jesus came into the parts of Caesarea Philippi.” The place is significant. This city is rich in its history, and beautiful in its surroundings. Holman’s Dictionary provides the following information:

About 1,150 feet above sea level, Caesarea Philippi is located on a triangular plain in the upper Jordan Valley along the southwestern slopes of Mt. Hermon. Behind it rise bluffs and rugged mountain peaks. The area is one of the most lush and beautiful in Palestine, with groves of trees and grassy fields abounding. Water is in abundance, for the city is near the spot where the spring Nahr Baniyas, one of the sources of the Jordan, gushes from a cave in the bluffs. The city is also in a strategic location, guarding the plains in the area. The extent of its ruins indicate that it was a city of considerable size. Caesarea Philippi seems to have been a religious center from its earliest days. The Canaanite god Baal-gad, the god of good fortune, was worshiped here in Old Testament times. Later, in the Greek period, a shrine was dedicated to the god Pan. When Herod the Great was king of the Jews, he built a temple out of white marble near the same spot and dedicated it to Emperor Augustus. The city also has an important place in the history of the area. Paneas, as it was called before its name was changed, was the site of a famous battle (198 B.C.) in which Antiochus the Great defeated the Egyptians and thereby took control of Palestine for the Seleucids. In 20 B.C., the Romans under Augustus, who then controlled the area, gave the territory to Herod the Great. After Herod’s death, it passed to his son Philip who ruled there from 4 B.C. until his death in A.D. 34. Philip rebuilt the city into a beautiful place and renamed it Caesarea Philippi in honor of Tiberias Caesar and himself. When Herod Agrippa II (grandson of Herod the Great) inherited the city, he renamed it Neronias in honor of the emperor Nero. But, after Nero’s death the name was dropped. During the Jewish-Roman War of A.D. 66-70, the Roman general Vespasian rested his army here. After the war, Titus, who succeeded his father as general of the Roman armies, held gladiatorial shows here during which a number of Jewish prisoners were put to death. After subduing the Jews, the Romans changed its name back to Paneas.

Standing at the foot of that massive rock ledge where Herod had erected a temple in honor of Caesar Augustus, the Lord was about to announce that He would build His church on a rock more firm, more solid, and more lasting than any monument to men.

“Who do men say that the Son of man is?” Jesus was eliciting an answer that, if correctly provided by His disciples, would demonstrate their spiritual development. Having already called upon them to follow Him, He tested their loyalty by giving commands for them to follow. Now He would test them to see if they had fully accepted Him as Lord; as the Messiah promised from of old. Jesus began with an open discussion as to what “men” thought of Jesus. There were some who said that Jesus was John the Baptist risen from the dead. It is generally believed, based on Matthew 14:1-3, that Herod may have started this report, a report that was evidently accepted by a large number of the populace. Such a false concept of Jesus would immediately be embraced by the enemies of Christ for the simple reason that the miracles could then be explained without having to acknowledge that Jesus was the Messiah. Others thought that Jesus must have been Elijah. The Jews had a tradition that Elijah would come back to earth, and upon that return he would do great miracles and works. This would be another way of accounting for the miracles of Jesus without acknowledging Him to be the Son of God. Finally there were those who claimed that Jesus was “Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” Why some would draw this conclusion is not clear. It is notable that every attempt had been made to exhaust the possibilities of exactly who Jesus was without any clear affirmation that He was the Messiah promised in the Old Testament. All such opinions were without merit. While a great number evidently recognized Jesus as a “great one,” they had not advanced far enough in their faith to proclaim Him as the Messiah, the Son of God.  Had Jesus failed to bring His disciples to the point where they believed that Jesus was more than a prophet, He would have failed in His earthly ministry. As you can see, the question our Lord asked was most important and one designed to test whether or not this little band of apostles had been influenced by the “leaven” of the Pharisees, or whether they were ready to acknowledge Him as the Christ. The question the Lord asked of them must be considered by all men, for if Jesus is no more than a prophet, then in actuality He is an imposter and a deceiver. As Foster noted, “All these popular views were like the modern rejections of Jesus as ‘a good man,’ ‘the greatest of teachers,’ or ‘one of the prophets.’ They seem to praise, but they actually defame Jesus as a deceiver. There is no such middle ground which may be occupied. If the claims of Jesus to deity are denied, then He was not a good man, nor the great teacher, nor a prophet. It is all or nothing” (Foster, 702). 

If not John the Baptist, or one of the prophets, then exactly who is this Jesus? “He saith unto them, But who say ye that I am?” They had walked with Jesus for a little more than two years, witnessed His miracles, listened to and embraced His teachings. Based on that, who did they think He is? In less than a dozen words (ten in our English), Peter takes the lead and proclaims one of the most earth shattering truths that will ever grace the lips of men. “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” As Foster noted: “One of the amazing things about Peter’s confession is that it is so brief, so precise, so entirely adequate that even though he did not at the time comprehend the divine content of the word Christ, yet at Pentecost, when he was fully inspired to proclaim the full gospel, the good confession did not have to be revised.”  The “son of man” is put in contrast with the “Son of the living God.” His answer contains two propositions: first, that Jesus was the Christ; second, that He was the Son of the living God. The former identified Him as the long-expected deliverer of whom the prophets had written; and the latter declared Him, what the Jews had not expected their Messiah to be, the Son of God.

Any attempt to examine our Lord’s promise to build His church separate and apart from the confession of Peter and the apostles is poor hermeneutics, and has led to a fundamental flaw in Catholicism—namely the doctrine of the Popery.  Let’s continue this next week.

“Mahershalalhashbaz: God’s Sign To A Sinful Nation”

by Tom Wacaster

Don’t let the name scare you. Punctuation marks help us get the right pronunciation: “Ma-her-shal-al-hash-baz.” But the name meant something: “Hastens to the prey.” Here is the setting. When Tiglath-pileser III took control of Assyria, he immediately made his bid for world domination. His westward movement struck fear in Syria and Israel [keep in mind that this was during the time of the divided kingdom, hence Israel, the Northern Kingdom]. With a common enemy in mind, Israel and Syria sought alliance, and then sought to bring Judah into that alliance. Ahaz is on the throne in Judah and Pekah in Israel. Ahaz feigns piety and loyalty to God, but despite the warning from the prophet Isaiah, this weak and wavering king sets his sight, not on God, but on worldly alliance with the apostate Israel and the heathen nation of Syria. Apparently the people loved Ahaz’s intentions, and so Isaiah gives the people a sign in two parts. Before his son is ever born, the prophet posts the words in a public location, leaving the people to read and study for themselves. When Isaiah’s son is born, he is instructed to give him this most significant name: “Mahershalalhashbaz.” Syria and Israel would be destroyed, and Assyria would turn toward Judah, and the people of God would suffer utter defeat. Assyria was “hastening to the prey.” 

This brings us to Isaiah 8:11, where God speaks to the prophet with a “strong hand,” and warns the prophet not to walk in the way of the people. Don’t make a confederacy (8:12), don’t be afraid of their fear, sanctify God, and let Him be your fear and dread (8:13). Herein lay the fault of the people and their king. They would not listen to the prophets. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Elijah, faithful proclaimers of God’s word, were treated as traitors and trouble makers. Some of these faithful prophets of old paid dearly for their faithful proclamation of God’s word. But alas, their message fell on deaf ears. Rather than fear God, Judah feared the nation of Assyria. Rather than trust God, they placed their trust in a heathen nation, and followed in the footsteps of their apostate brethren in the Northern Kingdom. The result was defeat at the hands of the enemy, and the beginning of a journey into spiritual apostasy that would eventually lead to their being carried into Babylonian captivity.  There are two applications I want to make for your consideration.

First, this Old Testament example teaches a truth that is clearly set forth in God’s word, and is applicable to every nation, in any generation: “Righteousness exalteth a nation; But sin is a reproach to any people” (Pro. 14:34). “Blessed is the nation whose God is Jehovah” (Psa. 33:12). “The wicked shall be turned back unto Sheol, Even all the nations that forget God” (Psa. 9:17). Solomon’s admonition to “trust in the Lord thy God” (Prov. 3:5) is as applicable to nations as it is to individuals. While Judah of old may have received a miraculous sign, it does not take a miracle to awaken the discerning mind to the danger that confronts our nation. The simple fact is, America no longer trusts in God. “In God We Trust” may still be engraved on our coins, but it takes more than a stamp by the United States Mint on our coinage to demonstrate a nation’s trust in God. What this nation needs is another Mahershalalhashbaz; a clear and concise warning that should American not repent, God will raise up a nation that will hasten to the prey! America desperately needs to recapture the culture of a bygone era; a culture where men and women trusted in God and demanded that the leaders they sent to Washington do the same. America needs to return to a time when those who clung to their Bibles and their faith in God were a majority, and not considered the “radical right”! Unfortunately, like Israel of old, our electorate clamors for smooth words from her so-called prophets, and a religion that is non-judgmental and palatable to the moral whims of every new vice that might come down the pike. The speed with which America is casting off her trust in God is dizzying. The present generation seems to be intent on destroying themselves by placing their trust in government, science, humanism, or any institution that can meet their physical needs, lessen dependence on God, and provide for their self indulgence with little or no restrictions when it comes to deviant behavior. The problem is compounded by a lack of knowledge of God’s word. The Bible has been banned from our schools, while Islam is received with open arms. It has become politically incorrect to question the doctrine of Islam, but politically correct to bash God, the Bible, and Christianity. Oh yes, beloved, America needs to repent, remember, and return to her first love!

Second, there is a spiritual application as well. Lest we think the lesson of Mahershalalhashbaz applies only to nations, consider the following. The Lord’s kingdom is splintered and divided. Rather than trust in God and His Word, some have abandoned the old paths for an alliance with the denominations. Hand in hand with spiritual heathens, they march forward toward a presumed victory that shall only end in utter defeat. Those who still preach the old Jerusalem gospel are pressured on every side to join them in their unholy alliance with other religious groups to defeat the onslaught of Satan. Sadly some, under the leadership of weak and wavering elders, capitulate. Thanks be to our God, there are still faithful preachers and proclaimers of God’s word. But as in the days of old, the divine instructions have not been heeded, and God’s people once again find themselves in the throws of a major apostasy. Rather than listen to the word, too many capitulate. Those who call for the old paths, are despised and labeled as traitors and trouble makers. Edward Young has noted, “Throughout the history of the church, those who have sought to call the church back to her God-given mission and away from her man-made ‘programs’ have been treated as trouble makers.” But the message is still, “Mahershalalhashbaz”!! There is a judgment coming, and God’s wrath is “hastening to the prey.”

Living And Dying

by Tom Wacaster

I never cease to be amazed at the beauty of God’s word.  Like the physical creation with its harmonious blend of colors on a beautiful sunrise or sunset, God’s word bespeaks the wonderful wisdom and majesty of the One Who gave that word to His creation. Who is there among men who has not, on at least one occasion, admired the coordination of colors that make up God’s creation, manifested in the dusk or dawn of each new day?  Like an artist who casts his colors upon the canvas, our God has stretched forth His hand and provided us with a world that is so full of beauty, with color coordination and design that defies the imagination. This author has never witnessed any natural landscape that clashes in color, or suggests anything but design from the Great Designer of this universe. And while the world about us speaks of the majesty of He Who made it all, the great wisdom of God is demonstrated even more in the beauty of His word. Let me share with you two passages that provide us with rich nuggets of truth, each individually a rich storehouse of spiritual wealth, but when considered together give great encouragement.

The first of these passages is located in Psalms 116:9. There the Psalmist wrote, “I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living.”  There are three points I want to notice in this verse.

First, the Psalmist speaks of a “walk.” All men, spiritually speaking, walk one of only two possible walks.  Some walk in darkness, in the vanity of their mind (Eph. 4:17). Their walk is according to “the course of this world, according to the prince of the powers of the air, of the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2). They mind the things of the flesh (Rom. 8:5), walking in darkness rather than light (1 John 1:6).  A man’s walk demonstrates his way of life: some men live as if this world were all there is, as if human opinion is all that matters, and human glory is all that is desired. But the truly gracious man considers the presence of God, and acts under the influence of His all-observing eye. “Thou God seest me” is a far better influence than “My master sees me.”

Second, the Psalmist vows to “walk before the Lord.” He determined to walk under the Lord’s careful eye, before His presence, with the sole intent of pleasing his God. His would be a walk in the light (1 John 1:6-8), a walk in wisdom (Eph. 5:15), and a walk in love (Eph. 5:2). The majesty of God is ever before him, and the realization of God’s presence helps him stay on the straight and narrow path.

Third, the Psalmist’s walk would be “in the land of the living.”  There are two possible explanations to the Psalmist’s vow that he would walk before God “in the land of the living.”   The language suggests that he had determined to set the proper example before others so long as he was allowed to live – as long as he was permitted to walk among the living.  He might also be making reference to those who were alive spiritually.  If that is the meaning, then he is telling us that he would be careful as to the company he would keep, making sure that he walked with others of like mind. He had determined that he would, by his example, encourage others of like precious faith, to walk in the same path. The child of God seeks not to live among the spiritually dead, but with those who are alive, and he draws strength from companions who will encourage and uplift. 

The second passage is perhaps a little more familiar to the Bible student. It is located in Numbers 23:10.  The verse is a portion of Balaam’s parable that began in verse 7 and ends with the verse under consideration. It is the second half of the tenth verse that we now consider: “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end by like his.”  Why is it that so much of humanity thinks they can pass through life, giving little attention to the “lamp” and “light” of God’s word, and then expect somehow to be ushered into that heavenly realm where the righteous will spend eternity? Some evidently think they can “walk in the land of the sinful,” “run with the unrighteous,” and stroll through life without so much as a care or a concern to the kind of life they are living, and then, when they come to the end of life’s journey think that somehow they will be allowed to now pass into the “land of the living” for all eternity. The fact is, my friend, the land that  you walk in between your birth and your death is precisely the kind of land where you will spend all eternity, time without end. A person cannot live the life of the unrighteous and expect to die the death of the righteous.

Personally, I am grateful that God has provided us with His beautiful word; a word that provides hope for the hopeless, life for those who are dead in sin, peace for the troubled heart, and a promise of life in the hereafter when once we lay our heads to rest this side of eternity.

I’ll close with a poem that expresses the wonderful hope that is ours in Christ Jesus.

Thank God for the Bible
Author unknown

Thank God for the Bible, whose clear shining ray
Has lighted our path, and turned night into day;
Its wondrous treasures have never been told,
More precious than rubles set around with pure gold.

Thank God for the Bible: in sickness or health,
It brings richer comforts than honor or wealth;
Its blessings are boundless, an infinite store;
We may drink at its fountain, and thirst nevermore.

Thank God for the Bible, sent down from above,
Revealing to mortals God's infinite love;
A fathomless sea with its bright, shining shore
Where the glorified dwell and are safe evermore.

Thank God for the Bible  - rich treasures untold
Are laid up in store in its city of gold,
That beautiful home of the saved and the blest
Where no sorrow can come, where the weary find rest.

Thank God for the Bible! How dark is the night
Where no ray from its pages sheds forth its pure light.
No Jesus, no Bible, no Heaven of rest -
Oh, how could we live, were our lives so unblest!

There are millions who wander in darkness today --
No Jesus, no Bible, no knowledge to pray;
God help us to feel, and to act, in His sight,
To render our thanks, now, by giving them light.

Gospel Digest, January, 1959