Fishers of Men

“And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’ They immediately left their nets and followed Him” (Mark 1:16-18).

This phrase, “fishers of men,” occurs only here and in Matthew 4:19. A similar statement is found in Luke 5:10, “And Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.'”  These are the only references in the New Testament about “fishing” for men, and we note that here Simon is assured, “You will catch men.”

Those who once were real “fishermen” were met by the Master, and He effectually said to them, “Follow me.” Isn’t it extremely noteworthy that our Lord did not go to the halls of learning or to the seats of government to get His disciples, but to the seashore? Does this not tell us that Christ’s mission was different? He even prayed to His Father, saying, “As you sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (John 17:18). How glorious! Christ had come to do “the will” of His Father (John 6:38), and true believers have as their mission to proclaim the Son of God in His glory, just as the Son was “sent” by the Father to “glorify” Himself (John 17:1-4).

The task of evangelism is to point sinners away from dead, fleshly religion, including all self-righteousness, to Christ the Lord. Using the metaphor of fishing, the heaven-sent Servant teaches His learners to become “fishers of men.” This does not mean that we can actually “save” people from sin or hell, or “save” them for heaven. The way we are “fishers of men” is to do as Paul did at Antioch, saying, “And we declare to you glad tidings, that promise which was made to the fathers; God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus.” Yes, we proclaim the crucified but risen Lord! Then Paul quotes Isaiah’s prophecy as fulfilled in Christ: “I will give you the sure mercies of David” (Acts 13:32-34). This is true evangelism, when we tell sinners that the “mercies” of God are “sure” to an elect people!

The apostle Paul taught God’s electing grace and His absolute sovereignty (Romans 8:28-35), the Father accomplishing salvation for all of His people through the Savior’s intercession: “Christ Jesuscame into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15); “For Christ also suffered once for us, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Christ Jesus does bring us to God, as Him being substituted in our place is totally effectual. “Fishers of men” means that we are following Christ, telling His story, saying with John the Baptist, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The “world” of “God’s elect” is thus redeemed, justified, called, and kept because of the manifold grace of God shown to poor, unworthy sinners in Christ Jesus. Our being “fishers of men” is always successful, the Lord powerfully “drawing” all of His elect into the great net of His sovereign, distinguishing grace!

Jesus, lover of my soul,
Let me to Thy bosom fly….
Other refuge have I none;
Hangs my helpless soul on Thee.
~Charles Wesley

wfb
A Scripture Meditation by W. F. Bell (1948-2018)

New Every Morning

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23

“Lamentations” is a book of sorrow, pain, anguish, and judgment. But Jeremiah, despite his depression and being brought very low (v. 18), still exults in Jehovah’s faithful love and mercy. Are these contradictions? They seem to be, but of course are not. When we “recall to mind” (v. 21) the great faithfulness of our God, we see clearly that his mercies are “new every morning.” How encouraging this is! The Lord’s daily love and compassion call for daily praise and daily worship!

“Great is your faithfulness.” We must often repeat these four great words to ourselves and to others. Yes, men wrong us, and there is much evil in the world. But we must not allow sin and wrong to overcome us with such anxiety that we forget how indebted we are to the “rich mercy” of God in our Lord Jesus Christ. Note verse 26:“It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.” This holy “salvation” is all wrapped up in the one, precious Savior of sinners, “Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Those who know and love Christ are the recipients of abounding grace and measureless mercy. Believers can truly say with much rejoicing, “Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13).

God’s love is steadfast, and his love never ceases; Yahweh’s great mercies will never come to an end; every single morning we can be assured that God will be faithful to us. Is not this great cause for praise to Christ Jesus? Yes, and we are glad to read this: “It shall be well with them that fear God” (Ecclesiastes 8:12). “Well” means no wrath, no judgment, no rejection, but acceptance, love, favor, and mercy through the finished work of Calvary’s bloody cross. When we camp around Calvary our personal depression seems so small and insignificant compared to the Lord of life dying as our Substitute. His death and resurrection assure us of real victory over all sin, all depression, and all the fretting of this life. Let’s praise our Savior anew every morning! “To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever” (Romans 16:27).

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A Scripture Meditation by W. F. Bell (1948-2018)

Heaven A World of Love

“For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” 1 Corinthians 13:9-10

No writer, in my estimation, exudes the fragrance of Christ more than Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758). Anyone who reads him will attest to this fact. It was Martyn Lloyd-Jones who said of Edwards, “He was a mighty theologian and a great evangelist at the same time.” This cannot be refuted. It is sad, however, that Edwards has been neglected among the “lesser lights” in the church. May we all be stirred to read him anew! The blessings will be inestimable! Nothing ever written on 1 Corinthians 13 could possibly exceed what Edwards wrote in Charity and Its Fruits, from which these extracts are taken:

The apostle speaks, in the text, of a state of the church when it is perfect in heaven, and therefore a state in which the Holy Spirit shall be more perfectly and abundantly given to the church than it is now on earth. And it is also a state in which this holy love or charity shall be, as it were, the only gift or fruit of the Spirit, as being the most perfect and glorious of all, and which, being brought to perfection, renders all other gifts that God was wont to bestow on his church on earth, needless.

I would consider, first, the great cause and fountain of love that is in heaven. Here I remark that the God of love himself dwells in heaven. Heaven is the palace or presence-chamber of the high and holy One, whose name is love, and who is both the cause and source of all holy love. And this renders heaven a world of love; for God is the fountain of love, as the sun is the fountain of light. The apostle tells us that “God is love” (1 John 4:8), and therefore, seeing he is an infinite being, it follows that he is an infinite fountain of love.

There dwells Christ, the Lamb of God, the prince of peace and of love, who so loved the world that he shed his blood, and poured out his soul unto death for men. There dwells the great Mediator, through whom all the divine love is expressed toward men. There dwells Christ in both his natures, the human and the divine, sitting on the same throne with the Father. And there this glorious fountain forever flows forth in streams, yea, in rivers of love and delight, and these rivers swell, as it were, to an ocean of love, in which the souls of the ransomed may bathe with the sweetest enjoyment, and their hearts, as it were, be deluged with love!

Second, I would consider the objects of love that heaven contains. There are none but lovely objects in heaven. No odious, or unlovely, or polluted person or thing is to be seen there. There is nothing that is wicked or unholy. “There shall in no wise enter into it anything that defiles, neither whatsoever works abomination” (Revelation 21:27).  There are many things in this world that in the general are lovely, but yet are not perfectly free from that which is the contrary. But it is not so in heaven. That blessed world shall be perfectly bright, without any darkness; perfectly fair, without any spot; perfectly clear, without any cloud. No moral or natural defect shall ever enter there; and there nothing will be seen that is sinful or weak or foolish.

The Son of God, who is the brightness of the Father’s glory, appears there in the fullness of his glory, without that garb of outward meanness in which he appeared in this world. The whole church, ransomed and purified, shall there be presented to Christ, as a bride, clothed in fine linen, clean and white, “without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing”(Ephesians 5:27). Wherever the inhabitants of that blessed world shall turn their eyes, they shall see nothing but dignity, and beauty, and glory. “And the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundations were of all kinds of precious stones. The twelve gates were twelve pearls”(Revelation 21:18-21). And all these are but faint emblems of the purity and perfectness of those that dwell therein. And there, above all, we shall enjoy and dwell with Jesus Christ, our beloved Savior, who has always been to us “the chief among ten thousands, and altogether lovely” (Song of Solomon 5:10,16).

~Adapted from Jonathan Edwards, “Heaven a World of Love,” Charity and Its Fruits, pages 325-332

Note: Surely we cannot read the above precious lines from Edwards without tears of joy! And let us all sing anew very loudly, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!”

wfb (October 24, 2016)
A Scripture Meditation by W. F. Bell (1948-2018)

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