Friday, August 17, 2007

Questions and Answers by Ern Baxter

It was common practice for the New Wine Magazine to carry a Question and Answer session for some years while the magazine was brought out. This was a unique opportunity for the five brothers to bring unique teaching in a more spontaneous setting. This particular edition featured Ern Baxter answering questions alone and he deals with some interesting material.

From New Wine Magazine - January 1976

Question: What quality do you feel God was trying to produce in Job's life by allowing him to experience suffering and hardship?

Ern Baxter: God declared Job to be a righteous man walking in "His lights" (Job 1:1-8, Ezekiel 14:14, 20). "God is light and in Him is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5). God is absolute light while His children are "walking in the light" (1 John 1:7). "God is forever and unchangably in perfect light". We walk, advancing in the light and by means of the light to more light. (Word Studies in the New Testament, Vincent, Vol 2, p41).

The New Testament contains one reference to Job, and twice quotes the book bearing his name. These references suggest some of the things God taught Job in and through his suffering. In Romans 11:35, Paul quotes Job 41:11 to show God's sovereign right to do what He will with His creation, including "the righteous". In 1 Corinthians 3:19 Paul refers Job 5:13 in support of his affirmation that human wisdom is unable to understand God or His ways. James uses Job as an example of endurance through God's dealing and seeing "what the Lord brought out of it" (Goodspeed).

The "brighter" light of the New Testament shows that the full purpose of God's dealings may not always be realized in this life. "The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18). Job's sufferings taught him that God was sovereign, inscrutable and ultimately good and according to James the "quality" produced was "patience".

Question: Are there specific reasons or definite circumstances for footwashing, and should this be regularly practiced in a fellowship?

Ern Baxter: Washing of the feet as a special act is first referred to in the Bible in Genesis and recurs throughout the whole of Scripture. In Oriental countries where sandals were commonly worn, feet became soiled with the dust and dirt of the road. Upon entering a tent or house, one of the first things done by the traveller was to wash his feet or have them washed by the host or his host's servant.

Not to offer water for the feet indicated a low regard for the foot-weary visitor. This is shown by our Lord's remark to Simon the Pharisee. Jesus was sitting in Simon's house when a woman "of the street" came in and "began to wash his feet with tears". Simon and his fellow Pharisees were shocked that Jesus "if He were a prophet" would not know the kind of woman who was washing His feet, and forbid her. Jesus, knowing what they were thinking spoke to Simon about forgiveness, and described the woman's actas one of love and respect. He then comared the act of the weeping penitent with the discourteous treatment He had received from Simon. One of the things our Lord mentioned was - "Thou gavest me no water for my feet".

During the Last Supper our Lord took off His robe, girded Himself with the towel of a servant and washed the feet of His disciples (John 13:1-17). It appears that they had been arguing as to which of them was "the greatest". No servant being available to wash their feet, each disciple took his place at the table with unwashed feet. Not one of them felt that he ought to be the servant. In their minds such an act would detract from their "greatness". It seems from all of the material in the Gospels relating to this event, that it was while they were arguing about "who was the greatest" that Jesus rose from the table and "took the place of a servant" and washed their feet.

Jesus approached Peter first. Peter protested against Jesus' actions feeling it was beneath the Lord's "greatness" to do this thing. Jesus however insisted and when He had finished washing the feet of all the disciples He said, "If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye ought also to wash one anothers feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you ... the servant is not greater than his Lord ... if ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them" (verses 14-16). On another occasion He said to them, "He that is greatest among you shall be your servant" (Matthew 23:11).

There are many ways we can wash one another's feet in acts of loving service. Washing of feet as a regular religious practice or ordinance has been the custom of some small bodies of Christians. I have personally seen occasions where this has been done as a sincere expression of a desire to make oneself available to serve his brother. These have been very moving and meaningful times. However I do not see sufficient biblical grounds to indicate that it should be a regular practice in a fellowship.

Question: What do you think is meant in 1 Corinthians 7:14 by an unbelieving husband or wife being "sanctified" by a mate who believes?

Ern Baxter: The word "sanctified" in this verse is obviously not the same as "saved". In verse 16 of this chapter, Paul encourages the believing husband or wife to remain with the unbelieving spouse, "for what knowest thou O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? Or how knowest thou O man whether thou shalt save thy wife?". How then can an unbelieving mate be "sanctified" by a believing partner and yet not be "saved"?

I think Paul is using "sanctified" in one of its several possible meanings. In this case, it is in the sense of "being set apart to a holy use or situation". Jesus spoke of the "temple that sanctifies the gift" (Matthew 23:17) and the "altar that sanctifies the gift" (Matthew 23:19). By being married to a "saved wife" and being "pleased to dwell with her", an unbelieving husband is "set apart" to her "pure and reverent behaviour ... the unfading loveliness of a calm and gentle spirit" (1 Peter 3:2, 4). Living in this atmosphere, there is hope for the "salvation" of the unbelieving husband or wife.

Question: When a Christian loved one passes away, isn't there a place for true sorrow and grief, even in the midst of the joy of knowing the person is with the Lord?

Ern Baxter: To "sorrow" and "manifest" grief at such a time as this is not un-Christian. Paul reported to the Philippians that "Epaphroditus my brother and companion in labour and fellow-soldier" had been "sick nigh unto death". "But" wrote Paul "God had mercy on him and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow ('the sorrow of losing him to add to my suffering' - JBP). (Phil 2:25-27).

Writing to the Thessalonians Christians concerning those of their number who had died, Paul exhorts them to "sorrow not even as othes who have had no hope" (1 Thess 4:13). Paul did not say "sorrow not" - He said "sorrow not, even as others which have no hope". The heathen saw death as the end of existance and the irreparable loss of loved ones and sorrowed in a manner that expressed hopelessness. Christians believe in "the resurrection of the body and life everlasting" (The Apostles Creed), and while they sorrow their sorrow is tempered by the Christian hope.

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