In the April/June, 2004 issue of the Slavic Gospel Association Newspaper, the following writing by William Smylie can be found:-


"Faithfulness, in its essence, must have something or someone to whom one is faithful.  In other words, faithfulness must have an object.  It has often been said that the Christian is not called to be successful, but to be faithful.


In missionary endeavour over the centuries, work has often been assessed as successful or unsuccessful by the number of converts produced.


Take for example two pioneer missionary servants of a past era - David Livingstone in Africa and Hudson Taylor in China.  Their ministries had very different short-term results: David Livingstone hardly saw a convert on Africa and Hudson Taylor had the privilege of seeing many Chinese come to Christ.  The hallmark of David Livingstone’s ministry could be summed up as "faithfulness without seeing" and in Hudson Taylor’s case, "faithfulness with the blessing of seeing".


Our faithfulness in service is based first of all on our faithfulness to the God Whom we serve.  God, on the other hand, does not need an object in order to show His faithfulness because He IS faithful (1 Cor. 1: 9).  It is one of His attributes.  God is reliable and faithful IN ALL HIS WORDS AND WAYS.  God always does what He promises to do and we can depend on Him never to be unfaithful.


Wayne Grudem says, "He can be relied upon and He will never prove unfaithful to those who trust what He has said.  Indeed the essence of true faith is taking God at His Word and relying on Him to do as He has promised."


The front cover of this issue reminds us of the faithful sowing of the seed in order to reap a harvest.  Coming from a farming background I understand the importance of sowing good seed if we want to reap a good harvest. "What we sow - we reap," is a clear biblical principle, there the servant who wants to sow good seed needs to be faithful to the principle of the inerrancy, sufficiency and sole authority of Scripture for faith and practice.


Heart searching words from the "the General Director’s Desk."  I wonder does Mr. Smylie realise the full implications of what he has written?











"I say then.  Did they [Israel] stumble that they might fall?  God forbid: but by their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.  Now if their fall is the riches of the world, and their loss the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?


But I speak to you that are Gentiles.  Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I glorify my ministry: if by any means I may provoke to jealousy them that are my flesh, and may save some of them.  15. For if the casting away of them is the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?  16. And if the firstfruit is holy, so is the lump: and if the root is holy, so are the branches.  17.  But if some of the branches were broken off, and thou, being a wild olive, wast grafted in among them, and didst become partaker with them of the root and of the fatness of the olive tree; glory not over the branches: but if thou gloriest, it is not thou that bearest the root, but the root thee.  Thou wilt say then, Branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in.  Well; by their unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith.  Be not highminded, but fear: for if God spared not the natural branches, neither will he spare thee.  Behold then the goodness and severity of God: toward them that fell, severity; but toward thee, God’s goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.  And they also, if they continue not in their unbelief, shall be grafted in again.  For if thou wast cut out of that which is by nature a wild olive tree, and was grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree; how much more shall these, which are the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? " - (Romans 11: 11-24, R.V.)



Romans 11: 16 is one of the many Scriptures which require a very exact following out of the figures of speech employed if a consistent sense is to be gained from it.  No interpretation which deals hardly, instead of naturally, with a figure can be correct.


In this place there is one point which is clear, that Israelites are the "branches," for some of those in the tree were broken off, and this is explained to be the failure of the more part of that nation to maintain their place in the favour of God.


It follows that the "root" must be that out of which Israel grew, and there appears no difficulty in the way of the view of the great majority of scholars that Abraham was that root.  Indeed, there seems no other person or thing that can correspond to the figure.


Out of Abraham, then, there grew up an "olive-tree," this picture of his descendants being chosen, we judge, for the reason that they were to be the witness on earth for God and His truth.  This is the use of the olive-trees in Zechariah 4. and its parallel passage, Revelation 9., in which latter they are called God’s witnesses.  The olive-trees poured oil out of themselves into the lamp-stand, a composite figure which being applied to Romans 11. will mean that the light of God for all men streamed through Israel as the vessel of the Holy Spirit.  It is as God said to them: "Ye are My witnesses, saith Jehovah" (Isa. 43: 10).


By natural birth an Israelite was born into relationship with Abraham, but it can be only in a small measure that this can be in view, because Gentiles are said to be grafted into the tree, and these bear no natural relationship, but only a spiritual, to Abraham.


When, therefore, natural sons of Abraham did not walk by the faith of their father, they were reckoned by God as un-circumcised; see Romans 2: 22-29.  And if this persisted those, persons were presently cut off from their standing as God’s Witnesses and experienced the "severity" of God.  After the rejection of the Son of God this took place in the majority of the people, and as a people they have ever since ceased to be God’s witnesses; rather His holy name is dishonoured among the nations by them bearing it.


But God will never leave Himself without some witness on earth, and so the remnant of Israel, who had believed in Christ, heard Him say to them, "Ye shall be My witnesses" (Acts 1: 8), and the "oil," the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, was granted to them in full measure, so that the light and the unction of the Spirit passed through them to all men, and the promise began to have some real fulfilment that through Abraham’s seed all the families of the earth were blessed in Christ.


They were all Jews, natural as well as spiritual sons of Abraham; but through their witness it resulted, as God ever designed, that so many Gentiles were brought into blessing and witness that soon these were a majority of the witnesses, and spiritual sons of Abraham.  But however many they became, and however great their numerical preponderance ever since, from the divine point of view they are simply brought into the place of sons of Abraham; as the figure here is, they are grafted into the olive-tree, they do not form a new tree.  This is a vital part of Paul’s argument to the Galatians: "that upon the Gentiles might come the blessing of Abraham in Christ Jesus; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith," the "we" meaning Jews, as Paul, and Gentiles alike; out of which "new man" (Eph. 2: 15) God is building up the true Israel, the heavenly seed of Abraham, to inherit with him that heavenly portion which was offered to him, in addition to the earthly, and which he eagerly embraced (Heb. 11: 13-16). "So then they who are of faith are blessed with the faithful Abraham. ... And if ye are Christ’s, then are ye Abraham's seed, heirs according to promise" (Gal. 3: 9, 29).


At this point it is vital to notice that Romans 11. is not discussing the matter of the final eternal destiny of any man, Jew or Gentile.  The "olive-tree" being a picture of witness in the power of the Spirit, the meaning and scope are limited to that communion with God by the Spirit which enables holy, powerful witness.  It is to such witnesses, to the life of discipleship to a rejected Saviour, to those who walk as strangers and pilgrims as did Abraham, because of the heavenly things they have embraced by faith, that God entrusts His testimony and gives the greatest of His precious promises. Their witness now and here costs them somewhat, sometimes life itself; but they shall be recompensed in the resurrection of the just.*


[* Take heed Christian, this resurrection (Luke 14: 14), is not a general resurrection of all who are regenerate, but one of reward for works of righteousness and faithful witness to all truth.  See also, Luke 20: 35; Phil. 3: 11; Heb. 11: 35; Rev. 20: 4-6.]


Now these privileges were open to all Abraham’s natural sons, but were used only by men of faith; others were from time to time cut out of this tree of privilege and testimony under the judgment of God.  So still these privileges are open to all who become Abraham’s spiritual sons, but they are attained only by men of like faith to his.  It is quite plain in the figure employed that the ingrafted branches are sufficiently of faith at the first to draw into themselves the life of the root, "the root beareth thee," "thou didst become partaker with them of the root of the fatness of the olive-tree" (18, 17).  They were not merely put into position as grafts, but never vitalized from the root; the picture will not admit of this, and it is just here that so much treatment of the passage, as of so many other passages, goes astray, and turns the keen edge of truth and warning away from the child of God to a mere professor.  Let it be asked, Who grafts-slips into this tree?  It is God.  Well, does He graft false professors into the tree in such wise that these partake of the fatness, of the inflowing life of His Spirit?  No answer is needed.  It is not here a matter of certain men joining themselves outwardly to a Christian community by public profession, but of an act of God inserting men into something that results in a vital union and participation.  The olive-tree has life, and these come to share that life.  The figure can mean nothing less.


There is no ground for the notion that the Gentiles as a whole, or characteristically, are in view: it is simply those individuals who have been actually and really ingrafted that are in view, and to such only can the promises apply, or the warnings.  So many speak much about "the professing church," and apply to it all these warnings.  I have never seen that church mentioned in the Word.  God knows only one church, His church.  The vast organizations that have grown up in the centuries, and which will prove ever more and more faithless and corrupt, are not known to God as a church or as churches, though they so style themselves.  I suppose that Jezebel (Rev. 2: 20) is a picture of this false thing as to its nature and doom; but Jezebel from God’s point of view is not a church, but is seen as in His church.  Historically she may be a vast majority as to numbers; but nevertheless she is only viewed as in the church.  God does not see things as man does.


Our chapter contemplates that some who did walk by faith, and did so enjoy the goodness of God, and did bear a blessed witness for the Lord and His truth, may forget that they stand in that goodness only by faith, and may cast away their boldness (Heb. 10: 35).  That final state is not in this picture is evident from the notice that branches that have been cut out because of former unbelief, may possibly return to faith and be regrafted into their place in the tree.  I need scarcely remind you of John 15., where the Lord teaches the same lessons from the vine, contemplating vital union, but ceasing to abide in the vine, becoming withered and fruitless, and losing one’s place in the vine.  But there, as here, [eternal] salvation from perdition in the lake of fire for ever is no part of His subject.  His warnings were addressed to His chosen and faithful apostles, and had to do with fruit-bearing, witnessing, by the energy of His inworking life by the [Holy] Spirit, in which conditions only regenerate souls have any share.  It is, then, to such that the warnings must apply, can alone apply.  And that such sorely need them let the sad history of backsliding bear its solemn testimony, and "let him who thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."  The standing of every [regenerate] believer in Christ as justified [by faith] is irreversible, indefectible, but all after privileges and progress are conditional on conduct through faith.  And the ingrafted [regenerate] believer is warned that the severity of God as seen with Israel will be equally exhibited in his case if he abide not in faith.  It is God’s people who are called to come forth from Babylon, lest by clinging to her comforts and prosperity they partake in her sins and so receive of her plagues. And not only the hateful Jezebel but those of God’s servants who are seduced into adultery with her must endure her great tribulation.  A searching word to-day, when this wicked system still contains many true Christians and is subtly entangling many more (Rev. 18: 4; 2: 20-22).  Thus is the principle enforced that standing in grace gives no license to unbelief, to worldliness of mind or ways, to the enjoyment of privilege and reward but neglect of responsibility.  The Master of all Christians is in heaven, and there is no respect of persons with Him (Eph. 6: 9).  He loves them all, loves them eternally, and therefore He reproves and chastens them (Rev. 3: 19).  It is "our God who is a consuming fire," which is the very reason why we should serve Him through grace with reverence and awe (Heb. 12: 28).


To recapitulate. The "soil," in which the "tree" is planted and from which, through the root, it draws its existence (compare the natural fact of the origin of trees: "out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree," (Gen. 2: 9) - the soil is the divine purpose and grace.  The "root" is Abraham, the one through whom God determined to cause His purposes of grace to develop on earth, and through whom alone blessing ever since has reached mankind, since Christ, the only meritorious cause of blessing to sinners, is a descendant of Abraham.  The "tree" is that abiding, expanding witness to the true and living God which grew up on earth through Abraham and, at first, his natural children, that is, such of them as shared his faith and so bore his witness to God as the Rewarder of faith.  But the more part of these proving at last unfaithful were set aside as witnesses, and other spiritual children of Abraham were raised up from the dead "stones" of the Gentile world, as John the Baptist figured it (Matt. 3: 9), or, as Paul figures it, shoots from a wild, fruitless olive-tree were grafted in among the faithful remnant of Abraham's seed to partake with them of the benefits of the purpose of God through Abraham.  But no one retains these privileges, even as no one gains them at first, save by that faith* working in them which maintained Abraham; and so those still who fail in practical faith in God are cut out of the "tree," while those who were formerly cut out through unbelief can be regrafted in upon a revival of faith.


[* That is, a living faith accompanied by ‘deeds’ and ‘action’ in obedience to the precepts of Christ, (James 2: 17, 21, 24, 26).]


From this last consideration it is clear that the matter of eternal life or eternal death is not in question, is not the subject, for it would not be eternal death if there were ultimate recovery, and it would not be eternal life if it could be gained and lost.  The life eternal, [eternal] salvation in its popular, limited sense, is the "free gift of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 6: 23). Justification [by faith alone] is granted "freely by God’s grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."  "Freely" means not only without purchase price, but without conditions attached; what the law knows as an absolute gift, and which is therefore irrevocable.  This is granted solely out of regard to the merit of Christ and His atoning death.  But further privileges to which this free gift, being accepted, opens the way are conditional, not absolute.  It is here that the "ifs" of Holy Scripture, addressed to the godly, come in; it is in this sphere that the rewards and penalties applied by the Word to the people of God operate; and in this realm the law is absolute and without exception that "whatsoever a man soweth, that (and nothing else) shall (there is no element of uncertainty here) he (there is no provision of a substitute) reap" (Gal. 6: 6-10).  It is upon this fixed principle that the exhortation is based to "work at that which is good," and any attempt to make void this law as not applicable to [regenerate] believers can only operate against them being "zealous to maintain good works" (Titus 2: 14; 3: 8).  It is therefore for us [who have accepted Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour] to heed well the exhortation "be not high minded, but fear," which is the deduction of the Word in the passage discussed; for this holy fear is verily the beginning of wisdom, and begets that humility which invariably must precede honour (Prov. 1: 7; 15: 33).


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The Millennium from the Old Testament*




George Barnett


(* This is part of a message given at an S.G.A.T meeting in January 1949)


If there is to be no millennium on this earth, then to me at least the Bible becomes a meaningless book.  So much is written of blessing to come to this earth as also to Israel restored and forgiven in their OWN land, that if I am to believe that none of this is true then I am afraid that I should have to close the book and confess it unreliable.


Psalm 110: 1 says, "Jehovah said unto My Lord, sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool."  In Isaiah 66: 1, we hear God saying, "Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool," therefore the gathering of the enemies of Israel and of Christ must be on the earth to become His footstool.  Zechariah 14:4 tells us that when that shall take place, "His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east."  The Mount of Olives and Jerusalem are both in Palestine, therefore on the earth.


As the coming again of Christ will be to save the spared remnant of Israel and to destroy their enemies, so it will also be to deliver creation from the bondage of corruption in which it now travails (Romans 8:21), hence Isaiah 11: 9, "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea"* - note the earth, not heaven; the earth has never yet been full of the knowledge of the Lord, therefore it must be future.  Still speaking of the earth, Isaiah 35:1 says: "The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them (Israel); and the desert shall ... blossom as the rose."  There are no wildernesses or solitary places or deserts in heaven therefore it must mean on this earth.


[* Nor can it possibly refer to ‘a new earth,’ after the Millennium, because we read: “There was no longer any sea,” (Rev. 21:1).]


Ezekiel 40 and 41 describe a Temple yet to be built, the details of which are so minutely and accurately given that it is said that an architect is able to sketch its plans and elevation.  Some have said that it was Ezekiel’s dream of an ideal temple, which was never realised.  But this cannot be, for the glory of the Lord is seen by the prophet coming into and filling the house (43: 1 -5; also specially note verse 7).*


[* "And he said unto me, Son of man, this is the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever: - (i.e., for as long as this earth remains,) - "and" – (at that time,) - "the house of Israel shall no more defile my holy name, neither they, nor their kings, by their whoredom, and by the carcases of their kings in their high places, (verse 7), R.V.]


Ezekiel 48 describes the future division of Palestine in strips from east to west.  The land has never been so divided, therefore it remains to be fulfilled in the millennium.  Moreover, Israel has never yet possessed the land in its fullest extent as promised to Abraham (see Genesis 15:18).  All our maps show Palestine as a very small country, no larger, it is said, than Wales; but God gave it to Abraham and to his seed from "the river of Egypt (which I believe to be the Nile) to the great river, the river Euphrates," which makes it a large land indeed.  It may be that much of it is now desert and wilderness, but it is to this that Isaiah 35:1 refers, then no longer desert, but blossoming as the rose.


Now we know that none of this has been fulfilled, therefore, as "the Scripture cannot be broken," all must have a literal fulfilment, and that in the millennium on this earth.  Finally, in Daniel's interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Daniel 2:36-45), we have a description of the four great world empires, and of the fifth, which is Christ's, like to a stone "cut out of the mountain without hands."  There are no stones or mountains in heaven, therefore it is an earthly figure, and it is said of the stone (verse 35) that it "became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth;" so when, as in Daniel 7:13, the Ancient of days shall sit, one like unto the Son of Man shall be brought before Him, and to Him will be given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all people, nations and languages shall serve Him.


Then, as in Revelation 11: 15, great voices in heaven will be heard saying, "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever." Zechariah 14:9: "And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day * there shall be one LORD, and His Name one."


[* "But forget not this one thing, beloved, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day, (2 Pet. 3: 8, R.V.)]


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The Plan For This Age*






[* This article is taken from 'Watching and Waiting,' April, 1936, some 10 years after Mr Baron was called home.]


Unbelieving men sometimes taunt us with the little that the gospel has accomplished, and maintain that Christianity has proved a failure; and truly if, as is supposed by some, the Scriptures held out the expectation that the gospel was to go on gradually extending, until the world was converted, there were some appearance of reason in the imputation.  For when we contemplate the condition of the world after eighteen centuries, how far are we from seeing these expectations realised!  Consider how small a proportion of the human race are even professedly believers in Jesus.*


[* If David Baron was alive today, he would be shocked at how many of regenerate believers disbelieve millennial truths and how seldom the prophetic scriptures are expounded.  Anti-Millennialists are blinded by Satan to the “gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Cor. 4: 4), and the majority of millennialists are unwilling to disclose responsibility truths and God’s conditional promises: their preaching is designed to please the majority and what they want listen to.  It is the fulfilment of Paul’s prophetic word to Timothy: “The time will come,” - (it has now arrived) - when men will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths,”(2 Tim. 4: 3, 4).]


In the wide wastes of heathen, Mohammedan, and Jewish ignorance that present themselves, how insignificant in point of extent and numbers is professing Christendom!  And then contemplate this favoured field of gospel culture itself, and what a spectacle does it present to the enlightened mind!  Alas! how few, comparatively, profess the truth, which truth is ‘in Jesus.’


Again, consider the condition of professing Protestantism; look at our own highly-favoured land, the most enlightened in the world, and ask, is this a Christian nation?  Does it even deserve the name?  Or does it show any signs of approximation to such a happy state?  My brethren, it is sufficient merely to glance at the state of things around us to feel persuaded that to whatever climax the world is progressing, it is not to one of righteousness and obedience to the gospel.


But if we look into the Scripture and around us, at the condition of the world, we see that the gospel has and does accomplish just that which God said it would accomplish in this present age.  "A remnant according to the election of grace" was to be saved out of Israel (Romans 11:5).  And the Gentiles, or the other nations of the earth, we read that God hath visited "to take out of them a people for His Name" (Acts 15:14).  These two reconciled in one body unto God through the cross was to form His Ecclesia - His Church - the Bride * or Body of Christ, "the fullness of Him that filleth all in all."


[* To group together, as the author has done above, ‘His Church,’  the Bride’ and the ‘Body of Christ’ is misleading.  The Bride’ consists of those who are taken out of ‘the Body’ of Christ, as Eve was a part only of the body of the ‘First Adam’ (Gen. 2: 22): the Bride is not all of Adam’s body.  The same principle is taught in Gen. ch. 24.  Isaac’s wife was taken from amongst Abraham’s ‘relatives’ (4).  She represents of a selection of regenerate believers who will rule with Christ in His millennial kingdom; and they are taken out from amongst those in His Church: a selection of regenerate believers taken out of a previous selection from the world; and described in scripture as those ‘arrayed in fine linen.  "The righteous acts of the saints" (Rev. 19:8), not the imputed righteousness of Christ, (which every regenerate believer presently has) is what the ‘fine linen’ represents.  Only those who are regenerate and have made themselves ready are described as the ‘Bride’. Rev. 19:7. 


Furthermore the Holy Spirit does not continue dwell in any disobedient regenerate believer: “We are witnesses of these things,” said Peter, “and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him” (Acts 5: 32; John 14: 23.).  See also Rev. 3: 1 and compare with Psa. 51: 11; Judges 16: 20.]


And as the Scriptures have foretold so it is: Israel as a nation still rejects Christ, but are there not thousands of Jews who receive Him and become sons of God through believing in His Name?  The nations of the earth still, for the most part, sit in darkness and under the shadow of death, but wherever the gospel is preached are there not some who are visited by God’s Spirit and ‘taken out’ to be His?


Nor does this truth of the elective character of this dispensation tend to slacken zeal or depreciate missionary labour as some suppose.  Oh, no, "this gospel of the kingdom must first be preached as a witness unto all nations," the whole of God’s great harvest-field consisting of all kindreds, peoples, and tongues, ‘must’ first be traversed for the gathering in of ‘the first ripe ears’ to constitute a glorious first-fruits, and then - "After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom My Name is called, saith the Lord, Who doeth all these things. Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world," (Acts 15:16-18).


Then, not only shall all in Israel know God, from the least unto the greatest of them, but all the nations shall walk in the light of Jehovah.


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[* Sermon preached at the 109th Annual meeting of the Bible Spreading Union.  The Bible Spreading Union (Registered Charity No 2808847)]


I count it a very great honour and privilege to be able, on this occasion, to bring the Word of God before you.  I have known of the Bible Spreading Union for a number of years, and it is always an encouragement to me to know that the Word of God is being spread abroad in these dark and difficult days in which we live, and that God has for 109 years sustained and maintained that work which He began.


I would like, by the Lord's help, to draw your attention to the Word of God, and in particular to Isaiah 55: 11, "So shall My word be that goeth forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it,"  I would simply seek to encourage you to go on with this great work of spreading the Word of God, and to remind ourselves of this great text.  I am sure this verse has been of great help to the Bible Spreading Union over the past 109 years, that God's Word, as it goes forth, will not return unto Him void.  May it be our encouragement in the days in which we live.


The Setting


First of all, and very briefly, I would like to look at the setting of this verse, to look at the verse in its context.  Isaiah has been regarded by some as one of the greatest of the Old Testament prophets.  Many of the passages that we find in this Book are amongst the finest in literature, but much more is this a great Book because it speaks to us so much of the Lord Jesus Christ, and of that great salvation that He has accomplished for His people.  Isaiah has been referred to as ‘the prophet of redemption,’ or ‘the evangelical prophet.’


We can divide this prophecy into two parts.  In chapters 1-39 we have a record of events that took place before the captivity; and then from chapters 40-66 we have predictions, warnings and promises that reach down the centuries to the coming of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.  That part of Isaiah's prophecy, as I am sure many of us will know, is so rich in Messianic promises and prophecies.  There is that glorious chapter 53 that speaks to us so graphically and so plainly of the work of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Servant of Jehovah, upon the cross of Calvary.  The New Testament reminds us that the Old Testament prophets, such as Isaiah, spoke of the Lord Jesus Christ and of that salvation that would come to us.  In Acts 3:24 we are told of Peter preaching, and he said, "Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and them that follow after, as many as have spoken, they also told of these days."  In 1 Peter 1: 10 we read, "Concerning which salvation the prophets sought and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you."


As we come to this 55th chapter of the Book of Isaiah we have these amazing gospel invitations - to those who are thirsty to come to the waters; to those who are poor and have no money to come and buy and eat, to buy wine and milk without money and without price. We have invitations to those who labour, to those who spend money for that which is not bread and labour for that which satisfieth not. We have gospel invitations to those who are dying, that they might incline their ear and come, and hear and their soul shall live. We have that call to repentance, "Let the wicked* forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and He will have mercy upon him."  Why should the wicked turn from their sin and unrighteousness?  Because the Lord will abundantly pardon; because He will have mercy upon them.  Why will He pardon? Because His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts.  His ways and His thoughts are as high above ours as the heavens are above the earth.  And then we have this wonderful promise concerning the Word of God, that that Word which goes forth from the mouth of the Lord, shall not return unto Him void, but it will accomplish that which He pleases, and prosper in the thing whereto He sends it.


[* The word ‘wicked’ is used in Scripture to describe some regenerate believers: "I wrote to you in my epistle to have no company with fornicators; not altogether with fornicators of this world, or with the covetous and extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world: but now I write unto you not to keep company, if any man THAT IS NAMED A BROTHER be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner: with such a one do not eat.  For what have I to do with judging them that are without?  Do not ye judge them that are within, whereas them that are without God judgeth?  Put away the WICKED man from among yourselves," (1 Cor. 9-13).  It is specifically to those of this category the text applies.  Who else can “return unto the Lord” but those who previously had fellowship with Him by walking in obedience to His commands?  They formerly, at the time and for some time after their conversion, “washed themselves” (R.V. margin) “were sanctified”, “were justified (by faith) in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 5: 11).  The apostle is describing what position they once held sometime previous to the warning against some of them in his epistle, and what inheritance they can lose if repentance is not forthcoming, (verse 9). ]


You will notice first of all in verse 11 that there is a comparison.  God says, "So shall My Word be."  What does He mean by that?  Well, He has said in verse 10 that "For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, and giveth seed to the sower, and bread to the eater; so shall My Word be."  The rain and the snow come down from heaven as God commands and appoints.  They come down that they might fulfil that purpose upon earth which God intends, that there might be a harvest, that there might be fruit, that there might be provision for all His creatures and that there might indeed be plenty.  They do not fall in vain.  They come at the command and the appointment of God, to fulfil His purposes.  And God says, "So shall My Word be."  As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, so My Word is from heaven, and it shall accomplish My sovereign purposes in this world, so that there will indeed be a spiritual harvest.  There will be fruit.  We have seen, then, the setting of this great text.


The Source


Secondly, and in more detail, I would like us to see the source of the Word.  God reminds us that this is His Word.  He says, "So shall My Word be that goeth forth out of My mouth."  When we take the Bible in our hands, we have the very Word of God. We are not reading the words of men; we are not reading the vain and empty philosophies of the people of this world, but we are reading the Word of the only Living and True God.  He is God Who has spoken.  He has revealed Himself in the sacred Scriptures.  As we take the Word of God, then, in our hands we take that which He has spoken, that which goes forth out of His mouth.  All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.  All of it has been breathed out by the Lord and it comes to us from heaven.


Some might say, 'Well, do we not read the words of men?  Are these not the words of Isaiah in this Book?  Do we not read those words which Moses wrote?  Do we not read the words of Paul, or Peter or John?'  Yes, they were the men whom God used to pen His Word, but the Bible tells us that holy men of God spake as they were moved, or, as they were borne along by the Holy Ghost (2 Peter 1: 21).  God the Holy Ghost so superintended what they wrote that these words are the words of God. It is quite true that they may have used their own style, their own vocabulary, but they were so moved by the Holy Spirit that what they penned is the Word of God.


Some will tell us that the Bible merely contains the Word of God, but it is not the Word of God in its entirety.  In other words, they tell us that some of it is the Word of God but some of it is just the words of men.  They are only the thoughts of Paul’ they might say.  We believe that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God.  In its entirety it is the Word of God.  We cannot pick and choose what we think God has breathed out or what has come forth from His mouth.  All of it is the inspired Word of God, and because this book is divine and comes forth from His mouth, then it stands supreme above every other book that we might find in this world.


Now I trust we are thankful for the wealth of sound Christian literature that is available to us, particularly in the English language.  There is much that can be very helpful to us in our understanding of the Word of God.  But those books, however good they may be, can never be compared with this Book which is divine in its origin.  They can only be helpful to us in so far as they are faithful to the Word of God.  They are only the words of men and they may contain error, they may even unwittingly lead us astray on some points, but when we come to the Bible we come to that which is divine, that which God has spoken, that which stands supreme.  It comes to us as the manna which was rained down from heaven of old for the children of Israel.  And the manna is a wonderful type of the Scriptures.  God’s Word, then, stands supreme above every other book, and is the best book to read.  I think it is a good thing that the Bible Spreading Union only distributes copies of the Word of God and not tracts or other books, because the Bible stands supreme.


As this is the Word of God that comes forth from His mouth, then there are certain things that must be true about it.  There are a number of things that we could say, but I would just like to mention three things that must be true about the Bible.


First of all, this book must be inerrant.  It must be without error because God cannot lie.  The God that cannot lie has spoken. We are told that in Titus 1:2.  The New International Version translates that verse by saying He is a "God who does not lie," but there is a difference between a God who cannot lie and a God who does not lie.  I trust it would be said of each one of us who are believers upon the Lord Jesus Christ, that we do not lie.  But we could do so.  It is quite possible for us to lie if we were in a corner and wanted to save face in some situation.  We may even tell a lie unwittingly, without knowing it, because we are not in possession of all the facts about a particular situation.  But our God is One Who cannot lie.  His Word that comes forth out of His mouth is truth.  It is not just one of many truths but the truth.  His Word is right.  His Word is reliable in all things, whether it be in history, in doctrine, or in that practice that it would exhort us to as the people of God.  In all things the Word of God is without error because it has come forth out of the mouth of Him that cannot lie.  The Psalmist said in Psalm 119:128, “Therefore I esteem all Thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way."  Because it is the Word of God, it is inerrant in every respect.


Secondly, the Word of God, because it is divine, is pure.  Again, the Psalmist says in Psalm 119:140, "Thy Word is very pure (or very refined): therefore Thy servant loveth it."  In this world of sin and degradation where there is so much filth around us, how favoured and privileged we are to have the Word of God which is pure.  We can so often turn our minds, or have our attention drawn, to those things which are impure.  When we pick up a newspaper, we can see things that would generate sinful thoughts in our minds.  We have to be so careful what we read.  But we can turn to the Word of God and it is pure, because the God Who gave it has the attribute of holiness.  The holy God has spoken and His Word is pure, and it leads us in ways of holiness.


Thirdly, the Word of God is unchanging, because God Himself is unchanging. He declares, "For I the LORD change not" (Malachi 3:6); therefore His Word does not change.  We live in a world where so many things change.  We ourselves change; we change physically as we grow older and the years begin to take their toll upon us.  We can change our views, our thoughts, our opinions of things.  Sometimes that can be a good thing if we come to a better understanding.  Sometimes it can be a bad thing.  We change, but the Word of God remains unchanging.  The laws of our land that were once based at least loosely upon this Book are now being changed.  We see things being overturned, but God’s Word, God’s moral law does not change for He is an unchanging God.  Standards in the church may change, but God’s Word does not change.  The Word of an unchanging God stands for ever settled in heaven, and that shall not pass away.  We cannot change the Word of God to accommodate the changing tastes and opinions and thoughts of men.  God says, "So shall my word be that goeth out of my mouth."


I would like us to notice too that this is the Word of Christ.  I believe Christ speaks here through the prophet, ‘So shall My Word be that goeth forth out of My mouth.'  In every town, village or hamlet in this country there is a road that will lead to London. In like manner, all the Scriptures lead to one Person - the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.  The Bible is His Word.  He said Himself that the Scriptures are "they which bear witness of me," (John 5:39). On that occasion when He walked with those two disciples on that Emmaus road: "Beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, he interpreted unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself" (Luke 24:27).  All points to Him, whether it be in type and shadow, whether it be in prophecy or promise.  The Old Testament prophets had the spirit* of Christ in them as they wrote these words that were given to them by inspiration of God.  So, the Bible in our hand is the Word of Christ.


[* Or ‘the Spirit of Christ’: the prophets who spoke divine truth in Old Testament times, (see 1 Kings 13: 18) and His Apostles who were  taught and inspired by the Holy Spirit.  Evil spirits can speak through false prophets and regenerate believers, as is evident today by what many of them are teaching!]


The apostle Paul wrote, "For this cause we also thank we God without ceasing, that, when ye received from us the word of the message, ye accepted it not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the Word of God" (1 Thessalonians 2:13).  It is a most remarkable thing - God has given to us His Word that goes forth out of His mouth, but He has ordained that that Word should be spread abroad by weak, sinful, fallible instruments, men and women such as ourselves.


Another picture that we have in the Scriptures of the Word of God is of a seed - that good seed, that precious seed, that incorruptible seed. The Word of God is to be sown, to be spread abroad; that glorious gospel* is to be made known.  I have often reminded our folk in the church at Daws Heath, where I minister, that the gospel is not like some embarrassing family secret.  Sometimes, in a family, we might have things happen that we do not like to talk about except, perhaps, amongst our families, or a very close selection of friends, but we do not like to talk about these things outside that circle because they are somewhat of an embarrassment to us.  The Word of God, the gospel, is not like that.  It is to be spread abroad.  It is to be published.  The seed is to be sown.  The Bible is to be spread far and wide.  We have a gospel that is to be preached to every creature.  So, the Bible Spreading Union cannot send a Bible to the wrong place, the wrong country, or the wrong person.  The churches or other organisations that receive Bibles from the Bible Spreading Union cannot pass them on to the wrong place or person, because this glorious Word is to be spread abroad.  The gospel is to be preached to every creature. "So shall my word be that goeth forth out of My mouth."


[* The A.V. translation in 2 Cor. 4: 4 is misleading here; the correct translation is: "The gospel of the glory of Christ".]


The Success


I would like us to see also from this text the success of the Word. God says, 'It shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it."  Negatively, it will not return to God void; that is, it will not return to God empty, without fruit, without a harvest from that seed that has been sown.  Positively, it will perform the good pleasure of God.  It will accomplish those things which He has pleased, and it will prosper in the thing whereto He sends it.  I think this promise is so vital and so valuable at this time, for we live in dark days and desperate days, in a day of small things.  We find apathy within the church.  There are professing believers today who have no interest whatsoever in spreading the Word of God.  We live in a world where so many people are careless about their souls.  A dear soul in our own church fellowship came to me a few weeks ago on a Lord’s Day.  On the Saturday morning, she had been seeking to distribute some  Trinitarian Bible Society tracts in Southend High Street.  She had given one of these tracts to a gentleman and he had screwed it up and thrown it to one side.  She brought this tract to me and said, ‘That is what people think of the gospel of salvation.’  We live in days when so many are careless about their souls.


We can easily think, as it says in Haggai 1:6, that we "have sown much, and bring in little."  We can labour sowing the good seed of the Word of God, and yet we seem to see so very little result for our labours, certainly as we perceive the situation.  The Word ofttimes does not seem to us to be having any great effect.  Gospel work does not seem to be prospering in our own land at this present time, as we see things, but we need to remember that God has said that His Word will not return unto Him void, but it shall accomplish that which He pleases, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto He sent it.  That is what God has said and His word is absolutely sure.  If the seed is sown then there must be a harvest. Psalm 126:5, 6 tells us, "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.  Though he goeth on his way weeping, bearing forth the seed; he shall come again with joy, bringing his sheaves with him."  There will be a harvest.  God has declared that it must be so, and He says, "In due season we shall reap, if we faint not" (Galatians 6:9).  Sometimes we have to wait patiently for that harvest to come.  It may be the case that one will sow and another may reap.  A Bible that we give away today may perhaps be put to one side by somebody, but it may be rediscovered and taken out in many years to come and bring forth fruit even unto the salvation of a soul.


Let me read an extract which I came across, words that were spoken by Mr. James Crook, who was the president of this Union and he spoke these words at the annual meeting in the year 1895: 'As a boy, when I left home, I did not possess a Bible.  I did not at that time want it.  Like other people I had read it at school, but after leaving home neglected to continue the reading of it, until the Lord met with me.  Then I found the worth of it.  I was presented with a Bible by my wife, but merely put it into my box.  Yet in the time of need I found it, and the first few months of my experience in soul-trouble found me, in my distress, sitting up all night reading the Psalms.’  The Word of God had been passed to him by his wife and he had put it into his box, but then, some time later, he found that Word and was brought to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.  We cannot tell when the harvest will appear.


We need to remember too that God’s ways and thoughts are higher than our ways and thoughts, as the heaven is higher than the earth.  We need to remember too that for some the Word of God will be a savour of life unto life, but for others it will be a savour of death unto death.  There will be those who reject the Word of God.  Matthew Henry said, and it is a solemn thought, 'If the Word of God do not ripen for heaven it will ripen for hell.'  It will leave men without excuse.  As we read in Isaiah 6, some will hear and not understand, some will see and not perceive.  In the parable of the sower* there were of a number of responses to the Word of God.  Some of the seed fell by the wayside, and it was devoured.  Some fell upon the stony places where there was no depth of earth.  Some fell among thorns, and some fell upon the good ground, but all in the purposes of God.  In all these instances, the Word of God is accomplishing that which is pleasing to God, and it is prospering in the thing whereto He sends it.  God decrees into what ground the seed shall fall, and in the final analysis He accomplishes what He pleases.  He is the great sovereign God.  He says, "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure" (Isaiah 46:10) - not always what we would desire, but what God is pleased to accomplish, and that great work of the Word of God is that sinners might come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.


[* The Parable of the Sower (Matt. 13.), has to do with “the message about the kingdom” (verse 19).  Only one out of four examples “produces a crop yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown” (23).  A glance at the context should indicate that the gospel of the grace of God is not the subject here: it is all about bringing forth fruit in one’s life after one’s initial salvation.]


This Book, the Bible, tells us of the Creator and of the creation.  This precious Book tells us of the fall.  It tells us exactly why the world is in the condition that it is today.  This Book tells us the Law of God, and that Law reveals to us our sin. This Book speaks to us of a day of judgment, when every one of us shall give an account of our lives to God.  This Book speaks of a place called hell [Hades], but also speaks of a place called heaven and this Book alone tells us the one way to get there.  It is "the sacred writings which are able to make ... wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 3:15).  The great purpose of this precious book is that sinners might come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Why do we seek to spread the Word of God?  That sinners might be converted.  John Wesley said on one occasion, 'I want to know one thing: the way to heaven.  God Himself hath condescended to teach the way.  He hath written it down in a book.  Oh, give me that book at any price.  Give me the Book of God.'  It is the Book of God that shows us the way to heaven, the way to life eternal.


This prophecy of Isaiah, in chapter 53, speaks to us of the great success of the work of the Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross of Calvary.  It says, "He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied" (verse 11).  He accomplished on the cross of Calvary, by the shedding of His precious Blood, the eternal redemption of all His elect, and all His elect ones shall indeed be saved.  All these, whom He predestined unto life eternal, shall be effectually called.  How are they called?  Through the Word of God applied by the [Holy] Spirit of God.  They shall see their sin; they shall see their need of a Saviour.  The entrance of God’s Word giveth light.  All God’s elect shall be called, and they are called through the going forth of this Word, called by the gospel and by the Spirit of God.  "Belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Romans 10: 17).


The apostle Paul reminded the church at Ephesus of their election, their having been chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, and how that in time "ye also, having heard the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation" (Ephesians 1:13). They came to repentance and faith through the Word.  Every elect sinner for whom Christ died shall be called by grace through the Scriptures - through the gospel that is the power of God unto salvation.  We do not know who or where the elect of God are, but God knows.  He knows where they are, and He will send His Word to them, albeit through weak human instruments. His Word will not return unto Him void.  It will indeed be the means of the conversion of sinners, all whom He is pleased to save.


It will also be the means of the sanctification of His saints, of His people in this world.  The Lord Jesus Christ prayed concerning His people, "Sanctify them in the truth: thy word is truth" (John 17:17).  He will have His people to be holy, even as He is holy.  How are we made holy?  Surely as we read the Word of God and it is applied to our lives by the Holy Spirit of God.  God’s Word will not return to Him void, it will accomplish that which He pleases, and it will prosper in the thing whereto He sends it.  For some [of the regenerate], it will be for the hardening of their hearts, but for others, it will be for the salvation of their souls* and the sanctification of their lives.  That Word which is "able to make ... wise unto salvation ... is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness: that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work" (2 Timothy 3:15-17).  We have, then, a very sure promise of God, that His Word will not return unto Him void.  He will accomplish all His purposes in this world concerning the redemption of His people through the going forth of His Word.  He will build His Church and the gates of hell [Hades] shall not prevail against it.**


[* ‘The salvation of your souls found in 1 Pet. ch. 1.  It is a future salvation, which has nothing whatsoever to do with the eternal salvation which every regenerate believer receives by grace through faith in Christ Jesus.


** “The gates of hell”, A.V. [Gk. ‘Hades’ = Heb. ‘Sheol’] is a place “in the heart of the earth” where the souls of the dead are held between the time of their Death to the time of their Resurrection.  The doctrine of the Resurrection of the Dead is one of the fundamental teachings of Christ and Scripture: and that there is more than one general Resurrection of the dead (to immorality) is evident from Paul’s earnest desire to attain the former, which will occur “a thousand years” before the last, when Christ descends to establish His Millennial Kingdom.]


I do not know exactly how many copies of the Word of God the Bible Spreading Union has been able to spread abroad under the hand of God.  I do know that up to 1994, which was the centenary year, 66,210 Bibles had gone forth.  Surely only eternity will reveal all that God has been pleased to accomplish through the sending forth of those many copies of the Word of God.




As we draw our thoughts to a conclusion, there are one or two things by way of application.  First of all, do we know this great salvation of which the Scriptures speak?  This is surely the most important, the first and foremost thing, that we might know the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Do we know what it is to seek the Lord?  Do we know what it is to call upon Him to the salvation of our soul?  Have we all turned from our sins to the Lord?  We need first of all to challenge our hearts with the great question, do we know this so great salvation?*


[* The question: "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation," (Heb. 2: 3), is addressed to, "them that shall inherit salvation", (1: 14). It is a future inherited salvation, which the saints are warned not to neglect: and it has to do with "the world [‘inhabited earth’] to come" (2: 5; cf. 6: 5); that is, it points forward to the time of the Millennial Kingdom of Messiah/Christ.]


But then, do we tremble at the Word of God?  Do we seek to come under the authority of this inerrant, inspired Word of God?  Do we seek to order our conduct according to the ways of God as He has revealed in His Word?  Do we seek to be doers of the Word of God?


I would seek to encourage you, as a Union, to go on spreading the Word of God, knowing that it will not return unto Him void.  And may God accomplish that which is pleasing to Him, and may He prosper the going forth of His Word to His glory and to the extension of His [Millennial and Eternal] kingdom in these dark and needy days.