W Threadgold, Purley
The wide scope and variety of subjects dealt with in the New Testament may be realized when we attempt to collect some of these together under some comprehensive scheme of study. The purpose of this article is to direct attention to some groups of ‘things’ mentioned which, it is suggested, might be stepping-off places for more detailed consideration.
We could hardly begin at a better place than Luke 24. 27 where we are told that the risen Lord expounded to His two disciples from Moses and all the prophets ‘the things concerning himself. How many commentators on this passage expressed the wish to have been present and to have heard this exposition of Scripture? But we should remind ourselves that the Lord’s method on this occasion is a challenge and a key. We have ‘Moses and all the prophets’ in our hands when We take the Bible and we are able to search for ‘the things concerning himself there. Moreover, according to the Lord’s promise we may have the guidance and aid of the Holy Spirit by whose inspiration these writings were made and in addition we are given a clue as to the nature of the things disclosed by Christ in their answer to His question, ‘What things?’. Read verse 18 in conjunction with verses 19 to 21 and you will discover the line of approach. If we cannot match His penetrating wisdom, we may at least give up wishful thinking and give ourselves to the task of careful study in order to discover some of these precious things for ourselves. In type and shadow, in prophecy, and in direct statement there are things to discover which will make our hearts burn within us as did the hearts of the two friends on that memorable journey. It is alas, often true of us as it was of some in Paul’s day, who sought ‘their own things’ and not ‘the things of Christ’!, Phil. 2. 21. received ... the spirit ... of God; that we might know the things that are freely given us of God’. ‘The natural man (i.e., the man of mind - the word used here is the root of our word psychological) receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: . . . they are foolishness unto him’. To give an exposition of this second chapter would need much more space than can be claimed for this paper. Suffice it to say that the context gives careful explanation that the ‘things’ in question are revealed; they are deep; and they are prepared for those that love God, w. 9, 10. There is no doubt that some of these ‘things’ concern the power, glory, wisdom, truth, purpose, and love of God, and they can be discovered by the earnest seeker in the holy Scriptures as be is guided and taught by the Holy Spirit, John 16. 13, 14.
When writing to the Roman Christians, Paul warns them of the danger of being carnally minded and being concerned too much with the ‘things of the flesh’, ch. 8. 5-9. In contrast he refers to those who are spiritually minded, and the difference between the ‘things of the flesh’ and those of the Spirit can be realized vividly by reading carefully Galatians 5. 17 to the end. The beauty of the ‘things of the Spirit of God’ is emphasized by the study of the two lists here given.
When Paul wrote his second letter to Corinth, he told them a little about the permanence of the ‘things that are not seen’ as against the transitoriness of the ‘things that are seen’. The true realities are hidden with God and have to be sought diligently. The context of this passage is of absorbing interest for it deals with suffering (note ch. 4. 10 and 17). The ‘things’ which seem hard and difficult when they are endured are shown to be temporary and fleeting but they can be made to work in us power, joy, glory, and fortitude. The ‘light affliction, which is but for a moment’, is able to be endured in view of the ‘far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory’ because the Christian has before his mind not ‘the things that are seen’, but those ‘that are unseen’.
We are thus led into chapter 5 of this letter where the subject of the new creation is touched upon. Here we learn that there is a realm of which Christ is the centre and God is the source. It is a realm in which ‘old things’ have come to an end and ‘all things have become new’. The man who is in Christ is in this realm now. He does not wait until he reaches the glory-land to enjoy the fruits of the new creation. The epistle to the Ephesian Christians shows emphatically that it is the Christian’s privilege and duty to enjoy now the ‘heavenly places’. He is seated there, he wars to maintain his ground. He shares them with Christ. Read this short letter through, it will take you about half an hour, just noting the references to the heavenly places, you will be greatly blessed.
Paul told the Colossian believers that they should set their minds on the ‘things that are above’ not on ‘things on the earth’, for above is where Christ is and He is the pivot of all Christian thinking and living (sec ch. 3. 1-4). Alas! it is to be feared that in these days the apostle would have to remind us of his words to the Philippians, ‘many walk, of whom I have told you . . . weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ’. What awful and heinous sin did these folk commit that Paul should so describe them? They were slaves to their carnal appetites, they minded ‘earthly things’. With what contempt and disgust Paul seems to refer to an evil which in these days seems to be completely overlooked. Remember John’s words, ‘If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him’.
Paul was a progressive! He did not stagnate nor rest on his laurels. His attitude of mind to ‘things’ is clearly stated in this same letter to the Philippians in this very chapter. ‘This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.’ To Paul there was a whole world of things which he envisaged but was not yet enjoying, and this could be true of us all. Shall we seek to appropriate more and more of the ‘things that are before’.
Finally may we notice the great concern of the writer of Hebrews for the spiritual condition of those to whom he wrote, ch. 5. 12. He has been dealing with great truths concerning the priesthood of Christ and seems to be conscious of the inability of his friends to make real progress. In fact he says that they should by now be teachers, but they had not progressed beyond the ABC yet! They were still on a milk diet. Spiritually they were mere babes! Hence his admonition in chapter 6 urging them to go ahead, for failure to do so means going back. See then his words of appeal and encouragement, ‘But beloved we are persuaded better things of you and things that accompany salvation) though we thus speak’.
Becoming a Christian is not an end in itself. Salvation is the working out of the new life which begins in us at new birth. The hymn writer says, ‘Have you on the Lord believed? Still there’s more to follow!’. We have to ‘go on unto maturity’. Glance at the end of chapter 12 of this epistle and note the reference to ‘things which cannot be shaken’. Consider what those things are. Notice too the accompanying exhortation, ‘Let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire’.