SJB These Scriptures speak in different ways about the way, and I thought that we might get help in considering these various aspects of the way. If we have come to the Lord, we are in the way. That is how the early believers were described – as being “of the way” (Acts 9:2).
In the first passage we read, the disciples, who had been with the Lord Jesus for three years, had not fully understood what He was saying. The Lord had told them He was going away, and they must have had some idea, but perhaps did not understand what was going to happen to Him, and instead of them comforting Him about what lay before Him, He comforted them. He told them that their hearts should not be troubled, and He went on to speak of the way – the way to the Father. The Lord Jesus revealed to them this wonderful relationship, and wonderful way to be able to come to the Father. It is easy for us, I suppose, to look and say, ‘Well, they should have understood what He was saying.’ Thomas and Philip had listened to, and seen, the Lord for three years. My earnest concern is that – whilst we might know about the Lord Jesus, and we might be familiar with the Scriptures – we do need to come back to Him personally as the One Who is the Way. “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life” – Jesus personally. He is the Way – the way, here, to the Father. It is a wonderful passage, because it shows us Who Jesus actually is. The wonderful revelation of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit – we learn that in this passage as well.
My thought really was about the way. Thomas said, ‘We do not know the way.’ But we do – we know the way. The way is Jesus, and He is everything. If we have found Him, we have found the way. We need to be assured about that, because being a Christian is increasingly difficult; even in this country in which we live, lots of things are given up and attacked, so we need to be sure about what we believe. And we find that in Jesus Himself.
Philip, perhaps, did not understand either, but the Lord Jesus told him, and through him He has told us, this wonderful thing about the Person of the Lord Jesus. He is God Himself – Emmanuel – “God with us” (Matt 1:23).
I thought that we might consider the aspects of the way, and then that brings us to the truth and the life. And in what you read about the events that took place fifty days or so later, you can see that there is no doubt in any of these men’s minds about Whom they believed, or about the way, or about Jesus. They were sure, because the Spirit had come; the Lord had been crucified, but He had risen again, and they were convinced. There was no doubt. We do not read about Thomas again after the end of John’s Gospel, probably because he was going on well. The Spirit was with him, and he could be among those that continued, as we read in the passage in Acts 2, in the teaching and the fellowship of the apostles – he and Philip were then able to teach others, and speak well of Jesus. It does not actually say, at this point, that they were “of the way,” but we know that they were, and we see features here of what it was like to be in the way.
There was this oneness. We live in a broken day – just driving here, we probably came past a place or two where there were Christians that meet together in a different way – but we must always come back to the Scripture, how things started out. God’s thought was that His people should be together, and be one. And it is very wonderful, really, that among the other features found – fellowship of the apostles, breaking of bread and prayers – there was a oneness, there was a unity, and a love amongst the Lord’s people. Now, some things we cannot sustain in the present day because Christians are scattered – great scattering came in even in the pages of Scripture. But we are set together in companies, we can be united, and we can hold our possessions, in a sense, for one another, and be a blessing to one another. And out of it came joy, gladness, and simplicity of heart.
And then, in the latter part of Acts, I asked for this to be read because the attack that was being made here on the way was over the matter of resurrection (v21). Paul ended up being arrested and brought before the authorities to explain himself, and it was because of his hope (ch23:6) – if the Resurrection has not happened, Paul says, vain is your faith (1 Cor 15:14). The Resurrection is the core of what I believe, and what we should all believe as trusting in the Lord Jesus.
And the other aspect of this Scripture is the fact that Felix knew about the way (v22). He knew about Christianity. There are perhaps people like Felix in power today – they know all about Christianity. But he did not know the One Who was the centre of the way, the One Who is the Way. He knew about it – he knew what Christians practised – but he did not know the Lord for himself. And he passes off the pages of Scripture. It is a solemn warning about knowing about the way, but not knowing the Lord Jesus for yourself.
The section in Hebrews is a familiar Scripture to many, but what was written here by the writer of Hebrews must have been the most marvellous insight to a Jew, that they could actually enter into the holy of holies – they could approach God. I suppose Jews must have been terrified, in a sense, of approaching God. The holiness of God is defended through Scripture, and in Exodus 40, and Leviticus, we read about all the things that someone had to go through to approach God, and everything was ordered and laid out. And yet, in this new and living way – the death and Resurrection of Jesus, His precious blood – it was open for them to go in. And, of course, the result of that was practical – there is a reality about their life. The way had been opened up, and then they could provoke one another to love, and encourage one another, and so on. And it must have been the most marvellous insight, and marvellous thing, to think that they could actually approach God. Well, that is open to us, that way, through the Lord Jesus, His precious work and His precious blood. It should cause tremendous joy to us, that this is proof that we can enter in to the holy of holies.
I wondered whether we could get some help with this.
KJP I am sure we can. We are very indebted, in one sense, to Thomas asking this question. We get this wonderful revelation of the Lord – “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.” But that we might be fully in the way, and fully conversant with the greatness of the Person, and have that personal link with Him – as you have rightly said – is so vital and necessary for us, is it not?
SJB Yes. It is easy to look at the disciples and think, ‘Why did they not know better?’ They had listened to Jesus; they had seen His acts of power; they had been immensely privileged, but they were not quite clear. The Lord graciously tells them. And if we are not quite clear about Who He is, or aspects of His teaching, the Lord would help us as well. We do not want to continue in ignorance, or lack of understanding. The Lord wants to enlighten us, and help us understand Who He is. We shall never exhaust Who He is, shall we?
KJP No, we never can, and those three words that the Lord uses, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life,” will take us all eternity to understand, I think.
SJB Yes, that is right. We think of all the wonderful titles of the Lord Jesus in Scripture, and, as the hymn writer says,
All are too mean to speak His worth,
Too mean to set the Saviour forth.
Everything that has ever been said, wonderful as it is – the Lord is greater than that.
PJC If we are on a way, it is always good to have a destination. And the Lord begins by speaking about where He is going, and the fact that we are going to be there too. Is that something to have always in our hearts, the prospect of being with Him?
SJB The thought of the way is that there is movement. I suppose until there was sin, there was no need for a way. Adam, in innocence, had no need of a way. But since sin came in, God has shown a way. It is in the Lord Jesus, and it is provided so that one day we should be with Him. And we should keep that always in front of us, should we not? Otherwise we can become static, or we can go backward. We do not want to fall away like Demas (2 Tim 4:10), we want to be going forward, and have that hope before us.
KJP There is a reference in the Old Testament where one says, “This is the way, walk ye in it” (Isa 30:21). But this revelation is so much greater, because it concerns the Person of the Lord Jesus Himself as the Way, which is the most beautiful and wonderful thought, is it not?
SJB Yes. Much of Scripture speaks of what we can say is doctrine, teaching, for us to understand Who the Lord is, and how we should live our life, and how we should be pleasing to God by trusting in Him. But we have to remember that it is in a Person – a wonderful Man, and He is the same. It is the same Jesus that we speak about today. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to-day, and to the ages to come” (Heb 13:8).
TRP What have you in mind as to the Lord being the way to the Father, please?
SJB I think this was a wonderful revelation to these disciples. They had only ever known about God through the history of the children of Israel and the former way of approaching God. And this gave a wonderful revelation of the Father and the Son, and the Lord also spoke of the Holy Spirit in John’s Gospel. So we think about the Father, and God as Father, it brings in some wonderful things – the Father’s care for us, and love for us, and compassion, and the fact that He spared not His Son because He loved us so much. What was your thought about it?
TRP So, being in the presence of our Lord, we are in the presence of the revelation of the Father, are we not?
SJB The revelation of God is something which is wonderful, but, in a sense, is beyond us. But through it we can understand what God is like, we can understand His love through His Son. We have all got a father, or had a father, and we all know something of a father’s care. It is a wonderful revelation. But I cannot say, in a sense, that I can explain it or understand it – and I do not think any Christian can: it is beyond us, in a sense, is it not?
SML It is not just a way into heaven, is it? It is a way for down here, is it not?
SJB Yes, very much. With a way, as our brother was speaking, once we have reached the destination, there is no more journey, is there? There is no more need for faith – 1 Corinthians 13 implies that faith and hope finish when we are for ever in the presence of the Lord (v13) – but faith is for here, is it not? For now. Of course, these disciples were with the Lord at this point, but the Lord was leaving, and the Spirit was coming, and they needed these words for now, to sustain them through the rest of their life here. And we need to know that way here, now. What was your thought?
SML Well, I think just that; it is rather a wonderful thing, is it not, that the moment I believe this way to the Father is opened up, I know God as Father, I can rely on Him, I can talk to Him about things, I can appeal to Him – and a whole range of other things. But that is the character of the way that the Lord has given to each one today.
SJB Yes. When we think of the Father, it is relationship, is it not? On the one hand, we know that God is eternal, and infinitely beyond us. But on the other, He has drawn close to us in the Person of the Son and revealed Himself as Father. And that is an immense privilege, but anyone can grasp it. We do not have to be on the way for thirty years to come into the blessing of knowing God as Father. You can know it right away, in that sense.
PJW He gave them credit for knowing something, but there was a further revelation in “I am.”
SJB There were certain things that, it is clear, the disciples did know. But what is wonderful, and an illustration of the power of the Holy Spirit of God, is that, just fifty days or so later, at Pentecost, there was no doubt about anything, was there? Peter stood up, and he was with the eleven; they did not say, ‘Well, we are not sure, Peter, you are on your own;’ they were with him – ‘with’ him in the sense of the fellowship of the glad tidings: they were absolutely alongside him, and with him in everything he said. And he described the Lord in a wonderful way in his preachings, did he not?
PKL It would appear from the passage that the Lord answers only Thomas’s question as to “How can we know the way?” But Thomas had also said, “We know not where Thou goest,” and I wondered whether the Lord went on to answer that when He said, “No one comes to the Father unless by Me.” I wonder whether the Father is the destination the Lord is leading us, linking on with what our brother said.
SJB It is easy just to look at the few things that Thomas said in Scripture, and think, ‘Well, he was someone who was marked by doubt and uncertainty.’ But through Thomas we learn certain things, do we not? When the Lord revealed Himself to him in resurrection, he said, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). There was no doubt, no uncertainty. And who of us can say that we have not been uncertain at times in our lives? And because of his witness, we can rely on it as well, and we see him in the Acts when he is alongside the others. He does not say any more, but he is alongside the others – the apostles are together. But as for this way, and where the Lord was going, they saw the Lord here, and wanted to hold onto Him here, did they not? And the Spirit had to reveal to them later how the Lord was going into death, and He was rising again.
PKL It says of the Lord in the beginning of the previous chapter, “Knowing that His hour had come that He should depart out of this world to the Father” (John 13:1).
SJB The Lord had spoken about the Father, but they needed to be told, perhaps, several times, and perhaps we do. We might be very familiar with the words in Scripture, and then one day they become light to us, they become real to us, and for the rest of our life we will not let go of it, because it is true.
MJC How then do we know the Father’s house?
SJB There are one or two Scriptures that help us about that. We often think of Luke 15, and the aspects of the Father’s house there. It is a place of great affection and joy and peace. Things are settled there. And I think momentarily, even while we are here, we can know something of the Father’s house, do you not think?
MJC Do you think it is really in the power of the blessed Holy Spirit? And this is something we should touch. We touch it, maybe briefly, on a Lord’s day morning. But if we are going on a journey and we are in the way, and we are going to the Father’s house, the Lord wants us to know something of it, does He not?
SJB It should be our hope, should it not? If you hope to go somewhere, you might like to know something about the place. And the Scripture tells us, but I think, as you say, the Spirit can abstract you so that you can have a sense of the infinite love of the Father. We perhaps speak of the prodigal son as someone that went away, but think of the longings of the father in greeting him. Now, sometimes, I think, we might approach the presence of God and be all anxious about our state. But that Scripture helps us: it is all dealt with in the blood of Jesus, and so we can approach in reverent fear but with joy and peace, can we not?
MJC I think that that is very much in view here, but there is no question in the Lord’s mind of their state. He is saying that that is the objective, that is the goal. He is going there. A place is to be prepared, and He wants us to be with Him where He is.
SJB Yes. The Lord has loved us and given Himself for us, and surely the desire of the Christian is to be with Him, one day to see the Saviour face to face, and be in His presence. Sometimes we think about preparation in terms of putting things straight, but it is not really that sense at all here (vv2, 3), is it? God’s house is wonderful, the Father’s house is wonderful, is it not? Everything is perfect.
KH The children of Israel had the promise of a land flowing with milk and honey. But to go over the Jordan they had to keep their eye on the Ark, did they not? “Remove from your place, and go after it” (Josh 3:3). It is just like us, we have to follow the One Who is the Way, to know something of the presence of God and the wonderful blessings that are in heaven.
SJB Yes. I am concerned for myself that I might know about the Lord, but not get into His company personally, in prayer, and reading about Him, that I might know Him. That was Paul’s desire, that they might “know Him” (Phil 3:10). Not know about Him, but “know Him.”
TRP In knowing Him, we see the Father. Scripture speaks of the Lord being “moved with compassion.” That was the Father’s compassion expressed in Him, was it not? He wept at the tomb of Lazarus (John 11:35). I think the Father was weeping too, do you not? As He felt the awful effect of sin on those two sisters in their brother’s death.
SJB Yes, I think if we want to know what the Father is like, we have to look at the life and words and actions of Jesus, as you say. His longings, His compassions, His desire that people might be close, that we might be drawn close to Him. There is a brother in our meeting who is often quoting Jacob about the sons of Joseph: that they might be brought near, that they might be blessed (Gen 48:9). We think of the Father wanting to draw us close so that we might be blessed. These are real things, are they not? They are not theory. All Christians can have the warmth of the Father’s love in their hearts.
KHW Do you think the Lord is bringing before them the attractiveness of the Father’s heart as He presents His own relationship with the Father? Christianity is centred in the enjoyment of relationships, is it not? And the Lord would attract our hearts to this place while we are on the way, because we can see how precious it is to Him.
SJB And, going with what you say about relationships, we are loved with the same love. It is perhaps difficult to describe it without saying something that is not right, but it is the same wonderful quality of love. It is not a sort of secondary love for us, it is the same love.
AND John 17:3 says, “This is the eternal life, that they should know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent.” I wondered if you could say whether there is a link there. You mentioned your concern about knowing the Lord, and is that the eternal life, that we should know Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life?
SJB People think of eternal life as what is future, but the Scripture helps us to know that it is now as well, that we can know the Lord Jesus for ourselves, and through Him we can know the Father. And that brings life with it, and it is a life that is never going to end. It is unlike a lot of things here, which are going to pass away. Even certain things that we have as set together with one another will pass away. But that will not. I think it is very attractive to know that life now, that will go on right into eternity – the things that will pass from time into eternity.
TF Is the Lord really saying to Thomas here, ‘I can be absolutely everything to you?’ Thomas asked that question about the way, and what the way would lead to, and Jesus said, “I am the Way” – “I.” It is in a Person. “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life” – ‘and I can be absolutely everything all along that way, in order to lead into the Father’s house.’
SJB Yes; you know, we can speak of it, and then we have to prove it, do we not? There are many times the Lord says “I am” in John’s Gospel. And then we have to prove it, through experience, do we not? And Thomas did that. I think as he saw the Lord in resurrection, He was convinced. And then he passes off the pages of Scripture. I suspect it is because he was doing well. The Holy Spirit was with him, he was convinced, and he was alongside the other apostles in speaking well of Jesus.
DJB In John 20 the Lord said, “I ascend to My Father and your Father” (v17). So the Father Who is revealed in chapter 14 is Father to us as well as to the Lord Jesus. What do you understand by God being our Father?
SJB A number of Scriptures help me to understand that I am brought into a relationship with Him as a son. I am no longer just wandering around, but I am set in relationship with Him. And that is a relationship of love, and care, and affection. And God so wanted me in that relationship that He was prepared to give His own Son. Colossians speaks of “the Son of His love” (ch 1:13). The Father was prepared to give His Son that I might be in that relationship with Him, that I might be safe and secure, and be in His presence for ever, and rejoice in that relationship. But what were you thinking?
DJB Well, when Paul speaks of these things, he speaks of us being sons by adoption (Rom 8:15, Eph 1:5), and that is true. But at the beginning of John’s Gospel the evangelist speaks of being “born … of God” (ch 1:13), which seems to be an even more intimate relationship, that we are actually of God’s family. I am not sure that I understand it, but I would like to!
SJB One can understand why Nicodemus found it such a puzzle, because it was so infinitely beyond his understanding of what God was like. And the Lord revealed such a marvellous relationship to him, that he would be born anew – a completely new life, not an improved old life, but a new life and a new relationship, something that could never be taken away.
I wondered if we could briefly look at Acts chapter 2. It just strikes me here that they persevered, they were set together, and there was a practical expression of what it meant. Other people could take account of it. When the Lord spoke about having “love amongst yourselves,” and being known as “disciples of Mine” (John 13:35), this was it practically, was it not? It was something different.
KJP So the fact that we are in the way is to be demonstrated in our lives. And what we have in Acts 2 is such a demonstration, is it? That we gather happily for fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayers.
SJB Yes. The thought of fellowship is what is shared, is it not? If I have got some joy in the Lord, I want to share it with others, and encourage them. There is no thought in Christianity of selfishness. The Lord lived a life that was devoted to others. Even in extremity on the Cross, He thought of His mother (John 19:26‑27). No thought of self, we often are told, ever entered into His life. And here were the disciples, they wanted to share this wonderful blessing with each other. And you think about the famine that arose (ch 11:28‑30): they gave to people they had never seen. Well, what motivates someone to give to someone they have never seen, or perhaps will ever see? You know, that is the love of God in their heart, is it not?
PJC I was thinking that the Christians in this early day were truly one. And it is a wonderful answer, really, to the Lord’s prayer to His Father in John 17, because He prayed “that they may be one, as We are one” (vv20‑22). And we have been reading about the Father and the Lord Jesus being one. And you see something of the oneness emerging here, do you not?
SJB Well, it is a good thing that we have got the word. The thing that will bind us together is looking at the Lord Jesus, personally, is it not? That is what unites all Christians together, in the power of the Holy Spirit. But it is looking at Him. We can look at one another and get very concerned about this and that – there were differences between the disciples when the Lord was here, and they got cross with one another – but then after He was raised and the Holy Spirit came, there was a unity in their outreach in the gospel and their work together, was there not?
CPB It is interesting, this word “persevered.” Do you have any thought about that?
SJB Quite a lot is said by the apostles in their writings, Paul and Peter, about endurance, and perseverance, and not flagging. Paul speaks in Galatians about not fainting (Gal 6:9). It is easy to get overcome by problems and difficulties. In the early Church there was outward oppression. In our day, in Britain, we may not right now have oppression – that may come – but we do have indifference, and corruption. So we need to persevere and look to the Lord. His words do not change, His Person has not changed, and the power has not changed, has it?
CPB I was thinking, as we have been speaking, that you have presented the way very attractively. And it is attractive, but it also requires some commitment and faithfulness, does it not? In Matthew you have the two ways presented; there is the narrow way; it says, “Narrow the gate, and straitened the way that leads to life” (Matt 7:14). So it is an attractive way, but it does require that we commit ourselves to it, does it not?
SJB Yes, and they worked together, but there was difficulty around. And sometimes that will bring the Lord’s people together. Think of Laodicea: everything was very comfortable, and they just carried on. The Lord was not there, was He? We should be exercised and concerned in our day, in our own country, that the light might be sustained under attack, that we might be able to shine out in some way for the Lord, however feebly, and that we might cling to what we know, and persevere, and not despair.
PJW Is it significant in that respect that it says “every day” (v46)? If we are persevering, it is a daily matter. To follow in the way is not to be just when I think about it or when I feel like it – it is a daily matter.
SJB Yes, and the Lord spoke about His ear being opened morning by morning (Isa 50:4), and we know about Daniel and his window being opened towards Jerusalem (Dan 6:10). So much in Scripture is about what is daily, is it not? We know that if we do not commune with the Lord, we become unhappy and we start to drift and we wonder why everything goes wrong. It is not that, for a Christian, everything will go right, even if you are praying every day. There will be difficulties and tests, but we can be helped in them in the company of the Lord, and that is what He promised His disciples. He said at the end of Matthew, “Behold, I am with you all the days, until the completion of the age” (Matt 28:20).
MSB Have you got something in mind about these four things here – what they persevered in?
SJB I think the apostles had a unique perspective: as we know from John’s epistle, they had had fellowship with the Lord (1 John 1:3), they had eaten with Him and listened to Him, and they had been immensely privileged, and John wrote that they would share these things with the brethren. And then the apostles’ teaching is something that we should cling to, is it not? It is what was given later through Paul, but also what John and Peter spoke of in their letters. And then there was the breaking of bread and prayers, and all of those things are bound together. When we think of breaking of bread, it is very precious – to me – and it should be to everyone, should it not? It should be precious to every believer – constantly to be reminded of what the Lord has done. I always worry that I might become like the butler, you know – it went well with him, and he did not remember Joseph, he forgot him (Gen 40:14, 23). We always want to remember what the Lord has done, and have it before us. What did you think?
MSB There seems to be a moral order here, does there not, that the teaching comes before the fellowship, and the breaking of bread and prayers? You spoke about the wonderful unity that is arrived at. It seems that that is a result of commitment to this.
SJB The teaching that the apostles brought out – well, we all want to hold on to that, do we not? There are lots of things that are under attack, and we need to hold fast to them. The Person of the Lord Jesus, what He has done, His uniqueness, His precious blood, where He is now, the thought of the Church, how the Lord looks on it as the fullness of Him Who fills all in all (Eph 1:23) – we need to keep those things before us, do we not?
TRP The teaching of the apostles would preserve us in maintaining the holiness of the fellowship into which we have been called, would it not? Because we are in an age where so-called Church fellowship is being degraded on every hand.
SJB Yes, and you know, the problem that I see is that the world’s values creep up on Christians, do they not? They become regarded as so normal, then they creep in a certain sense into Christian life as well, and you see that in relation to marriage at the present time. And we need to hold fast the Lord – the standard that the Lord has set out in Scripture has not changed, and the teaching of the apostles has not changed. People might not like it, and I might find it a challenge because I am a sinner. But it has not changed, the standard remains, does it not?
TRP The teachings of the apostles are the Lord’s teachings.
SJB That is right. They are not the thoughts of man. The Scripture is indited by the Holy Spirit. It was given to Paul to complete the word of God (Col 1:25) – there is nothing to be added, is there? I spent an hour with a local brother outside our meeting-room talking to two Mormons, and we went round and round in circles, because they thought there was something more to be added to the word. There is not! We have got that, the living word of God.
MJC Do you not find it very wonderful that a little window has been given for us to see the unity and the state of the Church at the beginning for our encouragement?
SJB Yes, it is, when you think of what came in that spoiled that. We know about Ananias and Sapphira, trying to claim credit for what they had not done (ch 5:1‑10) – we need to be open-hearted and in simplicity. They were trying to be complicated, they were trying to do something that was wrong, they just lied, it was a most serious thing. And then we see that there were those who were overlooked (ch 6:1). Well, we do not want to overlook one another, do we – not consider for one another? And this is the standard, is it not? The standard is here: simplicity of heart.
MJC I think that is very, very good, because we cannot get back to things as they were at the beginning, but we can get onto this line through 2 Timothy 2. This is the only way we can enjoy these practical things, really.
SJB Yes, and if we are on the right ground, we shall be happy, and we will be simple about our faith and our affection, and it will result in us praising God.
I wonder if we could just quickly touch on this matter of resurrection in Acts 24. How central it is! It was the issue for those who were of the way, in the Acts; it is what was attacked. When Paul preached in Athens, they laughed at him for it, they said he was a chatterer (Acts 17:18, 32). But here they were violent about it.
KJP Paul’s testimony was such that he held onto this tenaciously. It says later on in Acts, “Concerning a certain Jesus Who is dead, Whom Paul affirmed to be living” (ch 25:19). And that is the crux of Christianity, is it not? We know a living Lord, One Who has been into death, and has risen again.
SJB It appealed to me that in the Revelation John, who had known the Lord, and was an old man by then, was reminded by the Lord, “I am the First and the Last, and the living One” (Rev 1:17). And central to our faith is that Jesus is alive, and He has broken the power of death. It says in Scripture it is the last enemy that will be annulled (1 Cor 15:26). “Annulled” does not mean that it is put to one side, but it is as if it had never existed. It is an amazing thing that death is dealt with. The power of the resurrection – to know its power is a wonderful thing!
TJP Is that then one of the strengths of the way? That it is a way through life, but it is not bounded by life.
SJB No, that is right, we are linked with what is eternal, are we not? Our faith is for now, but it will take us into eternity. The Lord Jesus is living – He has come through death and broken its power, and I need to believe that absolutely in my heart, and lay hold of it, because it will be attacked by Satan throughout my life. People say, ‘Maybe not,’ and I will get doubts about it – but I need to be certain about it, because it will change my outlook. If I believe that He is living and He has broken the power of death, it will change the way I see life and the way I see the issues of life.
KJP “To know Him, and the power of His Resurrection” (Phil 3:10).
SJB Yes – and it is power, is it not? To know that new life: having gone into death, He is raised, and He has ascended, and He is at God’s right hand. It will sustain us, will it not? There is certainty about that. Everything in the world is bounded, is it not? And it is going to die, the world is going to pass away.
DJB If we go back to verse 16, the prospect of the resurrection had an effect on Paul’s life: “For this cause I also exercise myself to have in everything a conscience without offence towards God and men.” It gives a perspective to our way of life down here, do you think?
SJB Yes, and the Jews were offended because they were suggesting he had brought gentiles into the temple and so on. But he was not going to keep the wonderful joy of the resurrection to himself, was he? He was going to share it with others. And if we know Jesus as living, we shall want to tell others about it, and give a testimony to them. And Paul did so with Felix. I think Felix is one of the most sobering people in Scripture, because he was privileged to hear what, we might simply say, was one of the greatest evangelists in the Scripture, for two years, and yet there was no change in him. He knew about the way; he knew, we might say, the terms of the gospel; he had heard about Jesus; he could not possibly have not, because Paul says later, it was not done in a corner (Acts 26:26): the whole of Jerusalem knew about what had happened to the Lord. And yet Felix was not changed.
DJB It says in verse 24 that Felix “heard him concerning the faith in Christ.” But it was when Paul began to apply the word that the resistance came: “righteousness, and temperance, and the judgment about to come” (v25). Those all have a part in the gospel.
SJB They do, and we think specially of the work of John the Baptist, because of the things that he brought out: the axe is laid to the root of the tree, and the crooked paths are to be made straight, and there are to be fruits worthy of repentance (Luke 3:9,5; Matt 3:8): there had to be a change. And Peter, when he preached, said, “Repent … and be converted” (Acts 3:19). There had to be repentance, and then a change of life that came following that.
MJC Does this not indicate to us that we are totally cast on God? We speak to people and we would love them to come into blessing, but unless God works in their souls, it will never happen.
SJB That is right, and the Lord told Nicodemus about that, about the work of the Holy Spirit (John 3:5, 8). And you think of the wind: when you look outside today, you cannot see the wind, but you can see the effect of it. And I might think, ‘Well, if there were some great evangelist, someone might be saved.’ But it is not like that, it is God’s work, is it not?
MJC I was thinking about John 3, because, again, we are totally cast on God and His Spirit moving. That is not to say that we should not be urgent in season and out of season, like Paul when he was here (2 Tim 4:2).
SJB Yes, and there are two sides to it. There is our responsibility to speak well of Jesus to others, and to speak about the Lord where He is, and His wonderful work. And God may use what is said, however feebly. And I would encourage everyone not to think that speaking about the Lord requires great gift, to speak in a nice way, an attractive way. Whatever is said can be used by God for blessing, however feebly spoken; if it is from the heart, with sincerity, God can use it ‘from faith to faith.’
Well, just to finish by briefly looking at Hebrews, it is a very deep Scripture of course, and we could not possibly cover it in just a few minutes. It just strikes me that it is a wonderful thing: a Jew, who knew about the holy of holies, knew about all the things that were set out – we read about them in Exodus 40 and so on – regarding the approach to God. Holiness had to be maintained, and the priest had to approach in a certain way. We know about Nadab and Abihu, people who brought strange fire, approaching in the wrong way (Lev 10:1‑2). But we can have assurance of faith, because the Lord Jesus has made the way, has He not?
SGP I was thinking how distant the children of Israel were. God says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Isa 55:8), and I was thinking how remarkable it is that we have come to know His way through the Christ.
SJB That is right, and we have to remember, do we not, that we can look on the blood and see that God looks on the blood and He is satisfied? The hymn writer says,
God is satisfied with Jesus,
We are satisfied as well.
God is satisfied with the work and the precious blood of the Lord Jesus. And that then gives me the – it is an amazing word – boldness to approach, not through anything I have done, surely not in any confidence in myself, but as looking to the wonderful work of Jesus.
BED So it is not just a new way, it is a living way. What is your impression as to that? “New and living.”
SJB Well, of course, it was new as distinct from what had gone before, was it not? And it is living – two thousand years later, it is still living, is it not? It is a way for us, all of us can enter into the presence of God through the work of Christ. It is wonderful, is it not? What was your thought about it?
BED The Lord praised the Father when here, and He secures through His Resurrection a living company praising God, having favour with the people, and being effective in evangelism (Acts 2:47).
SJB Yes. Well, they were set together with joy, were they not? The matter of conscience is dealt with – but then there is a consequence, this provoking to love and good works. The joy of being able to come into the presence of God as a result! What an immense privilege we have as believers in Jesus! Well, it is easy to know this as doctrine, and know it as truth, but forget the marvellous grace behind it.
PJC In your first Scripture we had the Father’s house. Here it is the house of God (v21) – the same house, perhaps, but is there a fullness of understanding here of Whom we are before? God, known as Father, Son and Holy Spirit – it really draws out our worship, does it not?
SJB Yes, and it makes me reflect on the greatness of the work of the Lord on the cross, and that it is finished, it is complete. We do not have to do something new; the work is complete, and the power of the blood. You think of what went on before – there was all that bloodshed, there was all that way of approach laid out – and yet that is all now set aside. It looked forward to the work of Jesus, but that work is now complete, is it not? We can enter into the presence of God Himself. It is an amazing thing to me! I do not grasp it really, I have to say.
PJC I think we can rest assured in the fact that the Lord is there. He allows us to share with Him in that great and glorious place.
SJB That is right. The Scripture says here, “Let us approach with a true heart, in full assurance of faith.” I think the matter of a true heart would reflect the word to the woman by the well in John 4, “God is a spirit; and they who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth” (v24). I should not be afraid of approaching God, but I must do it from a true heart. I might have very mixed thoughts in my mind, but if I love the Lord Jesus and I have trusted in His precious work, I want to approach God and rejoice in His wonderful grace and giving, do I not?
KJP It says there, “In spirit and truth.” Those two things should mark every one of us as we enjoy this favour of entering with boldness. It is, as you said, because of the work of Christ, that precious blood that has been shed, Jesus being the great Priest over the house of God.
SJB Yes. We have to be constantly reminded about the precious blood of Jesus. Peter says it is “precious” (1 Pet 1:19). It was precious to him, it is surely precious in the sight of God, and it should be precious to us.
SML It helps us to see that a dedicated way can never be shut, because of the One Who has opened it up. As long as it is needed, it is open for me to come into this place of favour.
SJB Yes, and if we have a wicked conscience, then we can get right about it, can we not? And John tells us how to get right about the matter of sin and guilt (1 John 1:7). The precious blood of Jesus deals with it all, does it not?
SML Our conscience is not to keep us away in these things, is it? We need to remember that God is towards us, towards us righteously, so we can approach Him and seek His help about the things that we have done, and the things that we may not understand and that trouble us; this way is open all the time.
SJB It is, and it is most important to remember that God longs for our company. I cannot understand it. We can look on ourselves and become very miserable about how feeble we are, but God longs for the company of His people, does He not? Think of how He came walking in the garden to commune with Adam and Eve (Gen 3:8). God longs for it, and so we should take this privilege and approach by this way, which, as you say, is open there for the rest of our time here. Of course, in heaven there will not be anything to hinder, will there? We shall be in His presence for ever. But at present we need to be sure about this way, and know that we can approach, the precious blood of Jesus having been sprinkled.
TRP The character of the holy of holies has not changed, has it?
SJB No. I think the holiness of God is a wonderful subject, is it not? As I grasp a little more about this holiness, I think I have a greater appreciation of His love, because I realise how much He has moved to bless me. If I appreciate the brilliance of the light of heaven and the brilliance of His holiness, and the purity of His love, I realise how much He had to give to save me.
DJB In the Old Testament the holy of holies was an obscure place. The high priest could go in only once a year. This Scripture conveys that there is now room for every believer to enter in. What does the holy of holies convey to us?
SJB Well, for those who went before and the children of Israel, it may have been marvellous, but it may have been frightening as well. I think, for those who have trusted in the work of the Lord Jesus, it is a place of wonderful love. Wonderful light, but wonderful love! I do not think that those who went before really had the sense of that in approaching. But that is what I thought for the Hebrews, that this must have been an amazing thing that they were told, an astounding thing, that they could approach, and that they were welcomed there. What was your thought?
DJB I thought very much the same. The holy of holies was a very distinctive place, but it was quite a small one. But here there seems to be room for every believer with a true heart to come in, and all to come in together.
SJB Yes. And it is not something we have to work up to, or wait until we are older and more knowledgeable. It is open to everyone, is it not?
TRP And it is our home.
SJB I think God has revealed Himself so that we might in a small way understand what He is like. The thought of the house, and the home – we can understand that to a degree, can we not? We can understand through the work of the power of the Holy Spirit what is holy. The Spirit brings conviction of sin and helps me to understand what is holy, what God’s standard is. And there are other ways we can understand the home, but for sure, at the centre of it is the love of God, is it not?
JMW Is it striking that, in the old dispensation, the sprinkling was before the mercy-seat, and on the mercy-seat (Lev 16:14‑15), but in this chapter the sprinkling is in our hearts? How very comforting! One must precede the other, of course, as God’s rights are involved, but for Christians the heart is sprinkled.
SJB Yes, it is. That is where our affections are. The Christian’s heart is right in relation to God, is it not? You think of the time before the flood: the affections of people were all wrong, were they not? The thoughts of men’s hearts were only evil continually (Gen 6:5), but our hearts can be right in relation to God. Our affection, or our love, towards Him can be right.
17 March 2012