God’s Illuminating Light

By Stephen Campbell

Scientists and philosophers have long examined the nature of light and vision. In the 4th century B.C. Plato wrote that vision occurred because rays of light came from people’s eyes and took hold of the objects they saw. Although not everyone subscribed to that theory, variations on the idea continued to be proposed as late as the 1400’s by scholars as eminent as Leonardo da Vinci.1 Of course, it is well understood now that the eye receives light by means of a complex, elegantly designed system of components, and the resulting images are interpreted by the brain.

The debate about vision is more than just a historical curiosity, however. It symbolizes two ways that people evaluate the meaning of life itself. To some, “man is the measure of all things.”2 We look at the details of life, assign meaning to what we see, and proceed according to our best evaluation of the situation. In other words, figuratively speaking, rays of light come from our minds, and by that light we interpret what is in front of us. This is a very common view. In fact, all our training as children and adults is essentially designed to strengthen our powers of discernment and interpretation so we can reach effective conclusions about life.

To Bible readers, though, there is another view: Just as light is something external and objective that enters our eyes, the illumination of life’s meaning is external too. It enters our hearts and minds from an objective source and reveals the true nature of what we see. That objective Declarer of Meaning is God Himself, who shines upon our lives. As the great Illuminator, He provides all the light we need for understanding life’s meaning and purpose.

God Is Light
When examining the theme of light in the Bible we must start with this declaration: “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 Jn. 1:5 NKJV). Light and darkness are obviously exact opposites. Where there is one, by definition there cannot be the other. Light makes things plain, exposes what is dirty, helps someone find what is lost, repels what is evil. The statement that “God is light” implies that all these characteristics reside within His very nature. The declaration that “in Him is no darkness at all” means that no deceit or flaw can exist in God, and it implies that nothing unrighteous will be allowed to have a place in His presence. As the Father of lights, there is not even a shadow of variation in His care (Jas. 1:17); as the sovereign Lord, He dwells in unapproachable light, for no creature can ever fully comprehend His character (1 Tim. 6:15-16).

Therefore it is not surprising that, in creation, light was His first provision for the Earth. He could not allow darkness to rule an empty, formless world. “Let there be light!” He declared (Gen. 1:3). In fact, on that first day of creation, light was the only thing God brought into existence. This is not because it was hard for Him to do; rather, light is so significant that God gave it its own day, for it represents the nature of Himself. Later, on the fourth day of creation, specific celestial bodies – the sun, moon and stars – were formed to produce or reflect light, but light itself was brought out of darkness from the very beginning.

God Gives Light
These facts indicate that God does not want us to live in darkness. Our own experiences show how little we can do without light. When we walk in the dark, we stumble; when it is night, we cannot work; and with these statements the Scriptures agree (Jn. 9:4, 11:9-10). Naturally speaking, various forms of artificial light have allowed humanity to conduct business 24 hours a day, and it has been argued that the electric light is one of the most significant inventions in history. This reality simply underscores the truth that we are not made to live in darkness.

Just as we depend on physical light, our souls require spiritual light, which God provides for us through the life of Jesus Christ and the teachings of the Holy Scriptures. First of all, we are told that Jesus is the Light of the World. Although John’s gospel uses a number of metaphors to explain who the Lord is (the Door, the Vine, and so on), perhaps the apostle John most appreciated Jesus as the Light. In four different chapters (1, 8, 9 and 12) he explicitly presented Christ in that manner. He is the “true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world” (1:9). The life and perfections of Jesus shine upon every human being (consider Jn. 1:3), illuminating our lives by displaying the glories of the one in whom God found all His delight. This is even true for unbelievers who reject that light. If someone turns away from the sun, does that cause it to become dim? No, the light simply shines upon that person’s back. All who read these words must determine a response to God’s light that shines through Christ Jesus.

We who trust Jesus and follow Him find that we have been brought out of darkness into God’s marvelous light. We now possess the light of life and become children of light (1 Pet. 2:9; Jn. 8:12, 12:36,46). The same divine, irresistible power by which light overcame darkness at creation is the prevailing force which God applies to our salvation: “It is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). The Christian faith is transformative! It is not a series of good ideas by which we can gradually improve ourselves, but a complete change of circumstances.

This change comes with a responsibility. Christians are light in the Lord, but we are exhorted to live as children of light (Eph. 5:8). Thankfully, God has provided for this need as well. The Word of God shines as a lamp for our feet and a light for our path (Ps. 119:105). Not only does the Bible show us where our feet are walking, but it also reveals where God’s pathway is if we have strayed from it. The psalmist added, “The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” (v.130). The apostle Peter agreed, saying that the Bible’s words of instruction and prophecy are like “a light that shines in a dark place” (2 Pet. 1:19). Sometimes homes are lighted with elaborate, decorative displays that are pretty but not very functional. The Bible is not like that. Far from being merely ornamental, God’s Word is bright and effective as a source of understanding and wisdom. By its power we will live up to our character as children of light if we allow the Bible to illuminate us in the activities of life.

Christians Are Lights
Certain chemical compounds have the property of phosphorescence, which produces the “glow in the dark” effect found in various toys and other items. These compounds store light energy and then release it slowly over time. In a much more significant way, Christians shine as lights in this world – not only because we have been exposed to God’s light, but also because we have been made children of light. Yet we do not produce our own light; God and His Word remain our only sources of light, and we carry that light into our daily circumstances.

The experience of Moses helps us understand this reality. After spending an extended period of time with the Lord on Mount Sinai, his face took on a radiant, shining appearance that was noticeable to everyone. For the people of Israel this was distracting and even a bit frightening, so Moses veiled his face. This evidently happened with regularity, because after this occasion the text says, “Whenever the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of his face shone, then Moses would put the veil on his face again” (Ex. 34:35). The veil of Moses symbolizes the temporary nature of God’s covenant with Israel, because that veil is taken away in Christ, and today we can see God’s glory clearly (2 Cor. 3:7-18).

The main point for our subject is that the light which shone from Moses’ face was caused by his time in God’s presence. Our own light for God becomes brighter in the same way. As we look upon the glory of the Lord, we are transformed into the same image with ever-increasing glory. This proves the deep importance of spending time with the Lord in Bible reading and prayer if there will ever be brightness in our testimony for Him.

Our light has particular characteristics that are helpful to notice. First, the Lord said, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Mt. 5:14-16). This passage emphasizes that light must be visible to be effective. A city on a hill is constructed with the knowledge that everyone will see it at night. In a house, an oil lamp is placed on a stand so its light can shine upon anyone who enters the room. Is this how our lights shine for the Lord? Just as the life of Christ shines upon every human being, so our light should shine equally upon everyone who knows us. Furthermore, we won’t simply be known as a “nice person,” because those who see our light will be directed to our Father in heaven. They will not only notice our good works but will also understand that the source of our light is God Himself – and this will require our verbal testimony about His work in our lives.

The apostle Paul added that we are “children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15). A light is not troubled by darkness! In fact, a dark room is where light does its best work, for there even the smallest light is noticed and appreciated. As we observe the surrounding darkness, let us not become distressed but determined! Does your world seem increasingly crooked and perverse? Those are perfect conditions for God’s light to shine through you. The next verse connects this light with “the word of life.” As we tell others what the Bible means and why its message is true, our lives will draw them from darkness and into God’s magnificent light.

A Burning, Shining Light
The Lord Jesus described the effectiveness of such a witness. The people of His day had listened with interest to John the Baptist: “You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth … He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light” (Jn. 5:33,35). “Burning” means he had been lit for the Lord, and “shining” means he gave light to everyone who saw him. John was no miracle worker and he did not travel great distances. He simply served the Lord at the Jordan River, preaching God’s message. Yet people heard him, and afterwards they said, “All the things that John spoke about this Man [Jesus] were true” (10:41). What a grand summary of his life!

“The LORD is my light,” wrote David in Psalm 27:1. By Him we receive light, and through Him we give light. The Christian songwriter Chris Rice captured these details this way:

Carry your candle, run to the darkness;
Seek out the hopeless, confused and torn.
Hold out your candle for all to see it;
Take your candle, and go light your world.

As we carry the character of Christ, we will shine for Him.

1. Source.
2. The philosopher Protagoras stated this view in the 5th century B.C. He is widely credited with the beginning of relativism, a philosophy which holds that there are no absolute truths about human experiences but only perceptions that are true for each individual. Source.

The Lord’s Character As Light

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” — Genesis 1:1-2 NKJV

By Alfred Bouter

Years ago, I read a story about how the Lord used a missionary to convince a high-ranking army officer of his need to turn from darkness to light just by reading Genesis 1:1-3. The missionary first read Genesis 1:1-2 and then left him alone – very abruptly. This caused the officer to reflect on what he had just heard, especially after the same thing happened again the next day. On the third day the missionary returned. He saw a change in the officer and then read to him the same passage once more, but included verse 3: “Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” Through a work of God’s Spirit, this man had begun to see his lost condition of darkness and turned to God’s light, our Lord Jesus Christ. What about you, dear reader, have you turned to Him, confessing your sins with true repentance? Have you turned from darkness to light?

This true story illustrates God’s wisdom and power. He used the biblical account of the creation of physical light to bring spiritual light into a realm of darkness, producing life and a new birth. This is what happened to Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:3-18), as he later wrote, “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).

How about us who believe? When He called and drew us to this marvelous light (1 Pet. 2:9), we learned how it is needed also for our daily walk: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps. 119:105). “Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart” (97:11). Furthermore, walking in the light implies having fellowship with each other as believers (1 Jn. 1:7) and with God, even though we are surrounded by the darkness of this world. David prayed therefore, “That I may walk before God in the light of the living” (Ps. 56:13).

The Arrival Of The True Light
When the Lord Jesus came to His people Israel about 500 years after their return from the Babylonian captivity, He found them living in darkness. “The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned” (Mt. 4:16 ESV). After three and a half years of His public ministry, the Lord Jesus said, “While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light … These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them” (Jn. 12:36 NKJV). Why? The true Light gave light to every man when the Messiah came into the world, but His people did not see or recognize this light (1:9-11) – except for a few who believed (v.12). The Lord, who knows the hearts (Acts 1:24), was not able to have true fellowship with the rest of the people even though they believed in the miracles He performed (Jn. 2:24-25). Believers today also belong to a remnant, just as a few believed in those days. Do you truly believe?

Most professing Christians – those who say they are Christians – are attracted to all kinds of outward things but are not really born again, for they do not believe with the heart. However, those who truly believe have become lights themselves, as the Lord Jesus told His disciples, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden … In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 5:14,16 esv). “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men … the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it … That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world” (Jn. 1:4-5,9 NKJV). Matthew, quoting from Isaiah 9:1-2, summarized this as “The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned” (Mt. 4:16 ESV).

However, they rejected it, as they rejected the Messiah despite the irrefutable, or undeniable, signs He gave showing that He was the Messiah. Many years later John wrote, “This is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil” (Jn. 3:19, also read vv.20-21). Later we read that John the Baptist had functioned as a light, of whom the Lord said, “He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light” (5:35). But the Lord continued, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (9:5 NKJV). His declaration referred to His earthly ministry, whereas now He shines from heaven.

Shining Lights To Represent The Lord Jesus Christ
When Jesus sent His disciples on a mission He said, “You are the light of the world” (Mt. 5:14). He then compared them to a city on a hill that “cannot be hidden.” In the same way, disciples today are to shine for Him to the glory of God the Father (v.16). Is this not a great privilege? For sure it is, but it comes with great responsibilities for which He provides the resources.

“I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in Me may not remain in darkness” (Jn. 12:46 ESV). Nevertheless, He was rejected while on earth, but now He is shining from heaven, as Saul of Tarsus experienced. Furthermore, the Lord in glory uses the believers on earth to shine as lights for Him. Of the many Scriptures about this topic, let’s look at a few in Ephesians.

“You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Eph. 5:8 NKJV). The apostle described the tremendous blessings that the believers have received (see Eph. 1-3), and through these Scriptures he exhorted us all to walk in a manner worthy of the heavenly calling with which we have been called (4:1-6). To put his teachings into practice, we need the right attitude and spiritual maturity, as well as the willingness to hold the truth in love (v.15). God’s plan is that Christ may shine in and be reflected through all the believers who together form “the new man” (v.24) – to display Christ. Each believer has one or more gifts, but all need to grow to reflect the beauties of Christ who is now in heaven (4:7-32). If we don’t grow we will remain vulnerable just as children, tossed to and fro, carried away and deceived (v.14).

Furthermore, Paul explained that all believers individually are children of God and should walk together in love to represent God who is love (5:1-7). Therefore being light in the Lord, we must function as lights and walk as children of light (v.8), honoring the rights of Christ and of God in this world that rejects both.

Light is separated from darkness, and believers are to shine as lights in this dark world to reflect Him. This goes together with walking in wisdom (v.15) and doing His will (v.17). Love, light and wisdom are inseparable, and God wants us to represent Him as His children. What a privilege and challenge this is for us!

Help From John’s Gospel
We may study John’s gospel in several ways, but for now we just want to see some links between it and what we have already considered.

This gospel describes the Lord’s excellence in various ways, especially in the seven great “I am” statements. His preeminence also comes out in His seven discourses, as well as in the seven miracles He performed during His earthly ministry – as distinct from the great miracle of His death and resurrection and those in His post-resurrection ministry. Showing that these elements are inseparable, the gospel written by John links life in chapters 3-7 with light (Jn. 8-12) and love (Jn. 13-17). What we saw earlier about love, light and wisdom cannot be realized without life (see 1:4), which is essential, as the Lord explained to Nicodemus (3:3-5).

We became followers of the Lord Jesus when we came to Him to be saved and accept the life He offers. Taking His yoke upon us (Mt. 11:29), we became His disciples and servants, walking in His light to represent Him in the darkness of this world. We cannot do this without true love to Him and His own, which also extends towards the lost (see Romans 9:1-5 for an example in Paul).

Seven Signs And Other Sevens
Various words in John’s gospel highlight the Lord’s public ministry. The signs He worked clearly signified who He was: the promised Messiah. Jesus worked remarkable acts of power, often called miracles. He operated with special energy while drawing people’s attention through these exploits, or wonders. Of these, John selected seven (see Jn. 21:25) that occurred during Christ’s ministry before His sufferings. His light shone, His love worked, and true life was manifested. They are listed in John’s gospel as follows:

  1. Changing water into wine in Cana, Galilee (2:1-11);
  2. Healing an official’s son in Capernaum, Galilee (4:46-54);
  3. Healing a paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda, Jerusalem (5:1-18);
  4. Feeding the 5,000 near the Sea of Galilee (6:5-14);
  5. Walking on the water of the Sea of Galilee (6:16-21);
  6. Healing a blind man in Jerusalem (9:1-7); and
  7. Raising dead Lazarus in Bethany, near Jerusalem (11:1-45).

The seven “I am” statements show that the Lord Jesus Himself is Yahweh, the LORD.1 They are:

  1. “I am the Bread of life” (6:35);
  2. “I am the Light of the world” (8:12);
  3. “I am the Door for the sheep” (10:7,9);
  4. “I am the good Shepherd” (10:11,14);
  5. “I am the Resurrection and the Life” (11:25);
  6. “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life” (14:6); and
  7. “I am the true Vine” (15:1,5).

In addition to the seven signs and the seven “I am” statements, John recorded the discussions the Lord had and the discourses He gave. The other gospels emphasize more what He did than what He said, whereas the special focus of John is on what the Lord Jesus spoke, because He is the Word (Jn. 1:1-5,14). Therefore, we find the:

  1. Discourse on the Father and the Son (5:19-47);
  2. Discourse on the Bread of God (6:26-40);
  3. Discourse during the Feast of Booths (Jn. 7);
  4. Discourse on the Light of the world (Jn. 8);
  5. Discourse on the Good Shepherd (10:1-18);
  6. Discourse on the Grain of Wheat (Jn. 12:20-36); and
  7. The Upper-room Discourse (Jn. 14-16).

Much more could be said about the Light of the world. John’s gospel often mentions great contrasts, for we learn much through such comparisons, as in Hebrews and other Scriptures. Some examples are old against new, light against darkness, love against hatred, and life against death. All of this is in relation to our Beloved, the Son of God, who loved us and gave Himself for us!

While this article is mainly about the Lord Jesus as light, we have seen that this point cannot be separated from who He is in His love or as the Giver and Sustainer of life. The topic of light is also important in Revelation, especially in relation to the new creation, where the adjective “new”2 is another keyword with “light.” How wonderful this will be!

1. When Judas was going to betray the Lord, Jesus identified Himself before the band of officers and soldiers who had come to arrest Him, by saying “I am” (Jn. 18:3-6). The power of God’s presence for Jesus is God caused all to go backwards and fall down before Him. Soon, every knee will bow (Phil. 2:10).
2. This word (Greek: kainos) occurs 14 (2×7) times in John’s writings (gospel, epistles, Revelation) and in total 42 (6×7) times in the New Testament.

Nothing cuts so deeply as the truth; nothing heals so thoroughly as grace. What a comfort it is that we can go to God and welcome all the searching light of His presence, all its exposure of us down to the bottom of our nature and over all the story of our sin and wretchedness. We are assured that He only probes for our own good. He does this probing so that the resources of His grace may be brought out in all their comprehensive fullness.
Light and warmth reach us from one sun in the heavens; grace and truth subsist by Jesus Christ. They shine, if we may so say, in one face – that of the One who has come from the purity of God’s heaven and is the Healer of man’s disease. His is the hand that was once pierced for our sin that now removes its guilt and defilement from us, and the heart that bled for our transgressions and now reveals to us the heart of God.

—W. H. Westcott (adapted)

The Savior Of The World

I cannot tell why He whom angels worship
Should set His love upon the sons of men,

Or why, as Shepherd, He should seek the wanderers,
To bring them back, they know not how or when:

But this I know, that He was born of Mary,
When Bethlehem’s manger was His only home,

And that He lived at Nazareth and labored,
And so the Savior, Savior of the world is come.

I cannot tell how silently He suffered,
As with His peace He graced this place of tears,

Or how His heart upon the cross was broken,
The crown of pain to three and thirty years:

But this I know, He heals the brokenhearted,
And stays our sin, and calms our lurking fear,

And lifts the burden from the heavy-laden,
For yet the Savior, Savior of the world, is here.

I cannot tell how He will win the nations,
How He will claim His earthly heritage,

How satisfy the needs and aspirations
Of East and West, of sinner and of sage;

But this I know, all flesh shall see His glory,
And He shall reap the harvest He has sown,

And some glad day His sun shall shine in splendor
When He the Savior, Savior of the world, is known.

I cannot tell how all the lands shall worship,
When, at His bidding, every storm is stilled,

Or who can say how great the jubilation
When all the hearts of men with love are filled:

But this I know, the skies will thrill with gladness,
And myriad, myriad human voices sing,

And earth to heaven, and heaven to earth will answer;
At last the Savior, Savior of the world is King!
— William Y. Fullerton (1857-1932)

Is This Child Special To You?

By Paul Alberts

There are many kinds of darkness in the world. Spiritual darkness is associated with unbelievers, wickedness and Satan. “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers … what communion has light with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14 NKJV). “The way of the wicked is like darkness” (Prov. 4:19). When Paul spoke of his conversion, he quoted the Lord: “… To turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God” (Acts 26:18).

Because we are still in the world, we are not yet free from darkness. We give “thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Col 1:12-14). However, we find that we “wrestle … against the rulers of the darkness of this age” (Eph. 6:12). We may struggle in our walk personally too, as noted by John: “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:6-9). Our behavior impacts our relationship with other believers as well as with God Himself. Therefore, we are strongly encouraged to “walk as children of light” (Eph. 5:8).

God is light (1 Jn. 1:5), and He is its only source. His light dispels every kind of darkness; and we know it through the Lord Jesus. Simeon, as we read in Luke 2, took the Child Jesus “up in his arms and blessed God and said: ‘Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel’” (vv.28-32). This Child was very special to Simeon; is He – the One who is the Light – special to you?

The Coming Of The Lord

By R. K. Campbell

Over 2,000 years ago Jesus Christ came from heaven to this earth to die on the cross for sinners. He was then raised from the dead and went back to heaven.

A Promise Given
Before He returned to heaven Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (Jn. 14:2-3 NKJV).

What a wonderful promise! Jesus returned to heaven to prepare a place for all who believe on Him as their Savior. He will come again to take them back to heaven with Him. How wonderful for us who know Him as Savior and Lord!

Concerning this event, the apostle Paul told us that “the Lord [Jesus Christ] Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Th. 4:16-17).

Only Real Christians
Jesus will come from heaven with a shout heard only by those who belong to Him – those who have been “born of God” (Jn. 1:13) by faith. All believers who have already died will be raised, and together with living believers will be changed (1 Cor. 15:51-52) and caught up to meet the Lord in the air. But only those who have received Him as their Savior will go. All those who have not personally accepted Christ as Savior will be left behind for judgment.

How About You?
Are you ready for the coming of the Lord? When He comes again will you be taken up or will you be left behind? Do you look forward for Christ’s coming, or is the thought distasteful to you?

Get Ready Now!
Jesus could come at any time! If you are not already saved from your sins, wouldn’t you like to be so you will be ready to go to heaven with Him? Confess to Him that you are a sinner, repent of your sins, and receive Christ as your Savior. After Jesus comes again it will be too late, and the door of heaven will be closed to you forever! Read more.


I wish to inform you that “Resolving Family Conflicts” (J/A ’16 – May ’17) was a good one for our monthly couple retreats. –  Nigeria

Your magazine is good and very spiritual. God uses your articles to bless many Christians and give me direction to understand the Bible. – Pakistan

I truly love this magazine and am learning a lot from it. The facility where I live discourages anyone from receiving Christian literature. Please pray for this place as no one comes for church services or Bible studies. – USA

I read each issue page by page then pass the magazine to others in our prayer group! We all liked the October 2017 edition. I particularly liked “Testing Every Man’s Work” and “Running The Christian Race.” – USA

Is dancing in worship for the Church?

We are reprinting this answer from the June 1998 Grace & Truth Magazine for the blessing of the Lord’s people today, particularly those who recently asked this question.

The New Testament mentions dancing on only three occasions: the men-pleasing dancing of Herodias that cost John the Baptist his head (Mt. 14:6-11; Mk. 6:21-28), the dancing of little children at play (Mt. 11:16-17; Lk. 7:32), and the dancing the older son heard after his younger brother – the prodigal – had returned home from life in a far country (Lk. 15:25).

Nowhere in the New Testament is dancing associated with Christian worship or referred to as an activity of the Church. Singing and praying are both mentioned with approval in 1 Corinthians 14. Blessing is equated with giving thanks in verse 16. Speaking in tongues and prophesying are mentioned here too, although 1 Corinthians 13:8 makes plain that tongues would cease and prophecies should be done away. A psalm, a teaching, a revelation and an interpretation are added to these activities in 1 Corinthians 14:26, but dancing is never mentioned. Apparently it is not something for the edification of God’s heavenly people, nor is it referred to in other instructions for the church (Eph. 5:18-20; Col. 3:16). Not once in the historical record in the Acts do we find believers dancing in worship or testimony.

The worship of God’s earthly people in the Old Testament was to be in holy splendor, in the beauty of holiness (1 Chr. 16:29; Ps. 96.9). Its components were outward – a geographic center, a gorgeous, well-furnished building, tangible sacrifices, priests with vestments, musical instruments, choirs, incense and much more. Dancing fits right into this pattern, a pattern set aside in the New Testament until we come to Revelation, which is written in symbolic terms and describes worship in heaven rather than on earth. Today the Father seeks worshipers who worship in spirit and in truth (Jn. 4:23). May our hearts, appreciative of His Son’s finished work, overflow in worship and adoration before Him!

1 Timothy

“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory.” — 1 Timothy 3:16 NKJV

By Leslie M. Grant

First Timothy (Timothy means “honoring God”) was written to an individual, a young man for whom Paul had deep affection. Being of a timid, retiring nature, and yet gifted by God, Timothy needed to be stirred up to a sense of responsibility as to proper behavior “in the house of God, which is the Church of the living God” (v.15).

Timothy’s ministry was given not for its independent exercise but for the sake of the welfare of the Assembly, the body of Christ. He was called upon also to see that sound doctrine is maintained in the local assembly and order is kept by the actions and service of faithful elders and deacons.

The assembly was to be a place of prayer (1 Tim. 2). In chapter 3 the assembly is stated to be “the pillar and ground of the truth” (v.15) – a witness of God being made manifest in flesh in true, blessed Manhood and the Spirit of God publicly justifying Him in His descent in the form of a dove on the Lord at His baptism (Mt. 3:16). The power of this anointing was seen in His life. In Christ, God had appeared to angels, who had never before seen Him. And He has been preached to Gentiles: the person and work of the Lord Jesus provides a world-wide gospel, meaning “good news,” for all mankind. He is “believed on in the world.” Whether by many or few, faith has responded to such a revelation. “Received up in glory” completes this list of blessed facts to which the Assembly, or Church, bears witness.

Thanksgiving At Meals

By E. J. T.

Who Is The Giver?
Why have so many Christians, on sitting down to meals, begun by praying? The appropriate response to accepting a gift is to give thanks. The Christian recognizes God as the giver of his food, and therefore should render thanks to Him. This indeed is consistent with Scripture: “Meats … God has created to be received with thanksgiving of them who are faithful and know the truth” (1 Tim. 4:3 JND).

The man of the world regards his food as the product of a machine or institution, which he calls “Nature.” The Christian goes behind this and recognizes the Creator of the entire system of nature. Furthermore, he not only believes that there is such a Creator, but he knows Him and is actually in communion with Him “by the word of God and prayer” (v.5 KJV). The Darby translation of this phrase is: “By God’s word and freely addressing [Him].” In an illuminative note of the whole subject, Mr. Darby wrote: “This I believe to be the sense here: enteuxis implies interaction with a person, then petitions and intercession; one person speaking personally to another … I believe the creature, fallen through Adam, belongs to the faithful and those who know the truth, by God’s speaking to us and our freely speaking to Him. This has set all on a new footing, because we have met God again, the Word of God having put us into communication by grace. The faithful and those who know the truth, who have availed themselves of it, come and enter into an interaction. It is no longer by nature, but by the Word of God.”

A Prayer For The Meal?
Scripture says, “Every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (vv.4-5). The current idea is that each meal needs to be prayed about before it can be properly partaken. But the contrary is the truth. It is sanctified, or set apart, by the fact of the new position in which the Christian stands: “the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come, all are yours” (1 Cor. 3:22). Scripture directs with authority that the action on our part should be not prayer but thanksgiving:

  • “If it be received with thanksgiving …” (1 Tim. 4:4).
  • It is “created to be received with thanksgiving” (v.3).

Thus the Christian’s meal table becomes an altar of praise; the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name.

Using A Prayer Formula?
How different from the dead formula which some of us have had to listen to with pain: “Sanctify, we beseech thee, O Lord, this food to our use, and us to Thy service, for Christ’s sake. Amen.” Not a word here of thanks to the Giver of all good for His bounties spread on the table before us. This oft repeated prayer is out of place, seeking that God would do something which He has already done, and for which He expects thanksgiving or praise from loving hearts which know Him.

Even where formulas have long been laid aside, one often hears what is really only an expansion of the gloomy one just quoted. We hear a prayer about our food, ourselves and our service, but never a note of praise to our God for His creature-gifts! Prayer is very, very blessed, but also in its place is praise. Not only does it react upon ourselves, but it glorifies God. “Whoso offereth praise [or, “thanksgiving,” margin] glorifieth Me” (Ps. 50:23). At a meal table it is sometimes said, “Will you ask a blessing?” The appropriate reply would be, “No; the food is already blessed; it is sanctified to our use; but for this food, which is already blessed, I will cheerfully give thanks.”

What Is The Basis Of Giving Thanks?
A precious thought in connection with the meal table is that the thanksgiving is on the basis of redemption. We do not receive God’s gifts on the original ground of creation, but because of the cross of Christ. God could not, being righteous, bestow the smallest benefit upon a sinner unless His righteousness in doing so was satisfied. Therefore it is on account of the propitiation of Christ, or the satisfaction God has in Christ, that our daily mercies come to us and, indeed, to the world. This is the basis on which God “maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Mt. 5:45).

The man of the world little dreams that he owes his food, clothing and every good that he enjoys to the despised atonement of Christ; but God would be exhibiting indulgence to sin if it were otherwise. It is in this regard that “Christ … is the propitiation … for the whole world” (1 Jn. 2:2). Men continue to live on the earth and are afforded the free use of God’s magnificent – though marred – creation because of the propitiation of Christ. It is in this sense that God is Savior and Preserver of all men, especially of those who believe (1 Tim. 4:10). Let us carefully note that this text refers to temporal salvation from day to day, not eternal salvation.

Should I Give Thanks In Public?
If we understand now that the offering of thanksgiving glorifies God, should we refrain from this when we are in public, say at a restaurant? No doubt this is often a trial to the flesh. It is an open confession of Christ, which the natural heart would willingly evade. However, we need to recall to our minds the Lord’s precious words: “Whosoever shall confess Me before men, him shall the Son of Man also confess before the angels of God” (Lk. 12:8) and, “Them that honor Me, I will honor” (1 Sam. 2:30). Paul, on board a ship, “took bread and gave thanks to God, in presence of them all” (Acts 27:35). Daniel kneeled and prayed at his open window as he had done previously, three times a day, at the penalty of death (Dan. 6).

Thus this slight matter of thanksgiving at meals may afford to us a test of where we really are as to the power of God in our souls. “I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will,” Paul said, “and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power” (1 Cor. 4:19-20).