FFF 9:2 (Feb 1963)
To Have and to Hold
As part of a letter to the family of God, the Apostle John was inspired by the Holy Spirit to pen the following words, wherein is revealed one of the several reasons why he wrote his First Epistle: “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:11-12).
The most wonderful thing in all the world is to be a Christian, that is, to have been “born again” (John 3:3, 7), to have truly believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. Having thus become rightly related to Christ, the Word of God clearly and emphatically reveals that we have life, life that is from above, divine life, eternal life. This is so because we have CHRIST who is THE LIFE — its Source, its Secret, its Supply.
Facing death, Samuel Rutherford said: “I am in the happiest pass to which man ever came. Christ is mine, and I am His; and there is nothing now between me and resurrection, except — Paradise.” As a rule, young people are not facing death but life, and the great, all-important issue is simply this. Can you say, as Samuel Rutherford could say, in life as well as in death, “Christ is mine, and I am His?”
If, then, Christ is mine, and I am His, we need to take to heart the words of the Apostle Paul to his young colleague Timothy, “… lay hold on eternal life” (1 Tim. 6:12). What did Paul mean? Timothy, who already had eternal life, was commanded here and now to get a grip on his never-ending life in Christ, to enter into that life from a practical standpoint, that life which alone is rich, real, radiant, running over and rewarding. And this command has its application to all true believers.
Now, if we have Christ as our Lord and Saviour, we have eternal life. In view of this, we have a definite charge to lay hold of that life in Him as something to be practically appropriated here and now. If we are going to fulfill our God-given charge, then certain basic responsibilities must be carried out, and we suggest three such responsibilities which we must put into practice day by day, the first one being:
In the midst of “the good warfare” (1 Tim. 1:18, J.N.D.), in which he participated as a young soldier of Jesus Christ, Timothy was exhorted by Paul as follows: “Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck (1 Tim. 1:19). Some, like Hymenaeus and Alexander, had made shipwreck of their faith because of a failure to hold faith and a good conscience. They are not unlike many today. Nevertheless, two things would help Timothy in his warfare and enable him to avoid the pitfall of his erring and wayward brethren. First of all, he was to take a firm hold of faith in the Captain of his salvation, an unshakeable trust in his Commanding Officer, the Lord Jesus Christ. Secondly, he was to hold a good conscience. As Guy H. King has said:… a seeing that he has no consciousness of having played fast and loose with King’s Regulations.”
Unfortunately, many people today have a seared conscience, a conscience that is like branded flesh —dead (1 Tim. 4:2); some have a defiled conscience (Tit. 1:5); while still others have an evil conscience (Heb. 10:22). May we be as those who hold faith and a good conscience day by day, holding a conscience which is truly under the control of the Holy Spirit and sensitive to His voice.
Our second suggested basic responsibility is:
While Paul’s words to Titus have to do with one of the required qualities of an elder, they nonetheless have their application to all believers: “Holding fast the faithful Word …” (Tit. 1:9). If we are going to really hold faith and a good conscience, then we must be in the Word of God as a daily habit, clinging to it, holding one’s self face to face with it, and this, with a view to meeting oppositions of the enemy. The Scriptures are described here as “the faithful Word,” and this is so because their Author is infinitely faithful. The Holy Bible is the Book to live by, that is, to continually read, believe, obey and hold fast to along life’s pilgrim pathway.
It was George Mueller, one of the truly great men of faith and prayer in more recent times, who said: “The vigour of our spiritual life will be in proportion to the place held by the Word in our life and thoughts.” Out of his long and fruitful experience, he has given six suggestions on “How to Read the Bible,” and they are briefly presented as follows: Read the Scriptures regularly through. Read with prayer. Read with meditation. Read with reference to yourself. Read with faith. Read in order to carry into practice.
When I graduated from university, the commencement speaker for that memorable day was the brave and famous defender of Corregidor, General Jonathon M. Wainwright. Ultimately forced by the Japanese to surrender the small, fortified island guarding the entrance to Manila Bay in the Philippines, the general and his men were imprisoned until the end of World War II. In the course of his address, General Wainwright said that upon their imprisonment all Bibles were confiscated. However, one of the men had been able to smuggle in a copy of the New Testament. Secretly they read it and it was this, the humble general said, that “held body and soul together” during those dark and difficult days, months and even years of suffering. He, with others of his men, held fast to the Word of God, and it held them fast. Later that same day, June 5th, 1950, I had the pleasure of meeting General Wainwright personally, but the pressure of time and circumstance forbade anything more than a formal greeting. Some day, however, when time is no more, I look forward to meeting him again in the Celestial City, for on the basis of what he said in his commencement address he not only loved the Word of God, but he loved its Author as well.
We come now to our third and final suggested basic responsibility, and that is:
Writing to the Philippian Christians, the Apostle Paul said: “Holding forth the Word of Life …” (2:16). In the previous verse we are reminded of our position and purpose to “shine as lights in the world,” a world that is “crooked and perverted” (J.N.D.) because of sin. With untainted life and untinged light we each one should be shining (no whining, please!) for our Lord and His glory, showing forth His life and shining forth His light (John 8:12; Matt. 5:14-16; Eph. 5:8).
If we are really shining for the Lord Jesus Christ, it follows quite supernaturally that we shall be found “Holding forth the Word of Life,” and we may also say, “Holding forth the Word of Light” (see Ps. 119:105). “Holding forth” literally means “offering” or “presenting,” and as followers of the very Lord of Life and Glory we should be willing to spend and be spent, even to the point of exhaustion, in presenting and proclaiming the Word of Life and Light midst a spiritually dark world.
Many years ago the Light of Life, the Lord Jesus Christ, flooded and filled the heart and life of a brilliant Cambridge student named Henry Martyn, setting him ablaze for God. Answering God’s call to go forth as a missionary, he said on the eve of his departure for India, “I go to burn out for God.” And he did!
Within the scope of the Philippian letter we have three splendid examples of those who, in their day, faithfully held forth the Word of Life — namely, Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus. How faithfully are we fulfilling this glad yet great responsibility today?
It has been rightly said: “Don’t expect God to use you as a lighthouse somewhere else, if He can’t use you as a candle where you are!”
In Paul’s day some were not “holding the Head” (Col. 2:19). If we have Christ, then we have life. And as those who have life in Him it should be our delight, even as it is our duty, to diligently lay hold of that life, seeing to it that we continually hold the Head. After all, the real secret of HOLDING FAITH, HOLDING FAST and HOLDING FORTH is HOLDING THE HEAD, that is, seeing to it that from a practical standpoint the Lord Jesus Christ is given that which alone is rightfully His — the pre-eminence in all things! Let us, then, keep our eyes fixed upon Him in these “last days” and be found diligently fulfilling these blessed and basic responsibilities until our Saviour returns for His own.