Two Testimonies from John the Baptist

In Matthew chapter 3 we are often drawn to the closing verses of the chapter. In these verses we have the remarkable baptism of Jesus of Nazareth and the testimony that He received from the Father – “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” This portion is very precious and profound.

Before this closing portion we read of the ministry of John the Baptist. Suddenly he appears ‘preaching in the wilderness of Judea.’ What a strange place to preach. His message is not that which is naturally pleasing to man – “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”- yet, in the providence of God many resort to him and ‘were baptised of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.’ The Lord blessed his ministry. He was a prophet and the forerunner of the Christ of God. This reminds us that it is the blessing of God we need, not modern ideas on how to please man and ‘grow the church.’

One interesting feature of Matthew 3 is the contrast between what John the Baptist says to the Pharisees and Sadducees, and what he says to Jesus. To the former he speaks most strongly. He denounces them as a generation of vipers. He warns them they are exposed to the wrath to come. He calls them to repent. He really indicates they cannot in their present condition be baptised of him. Contrast this with what he says to the Lord Jesus. He simply says, “I have need to be baptised of thee, and comest thou to me?” In other words, John felt so unworthy in the presence of Jesus that he hesitated to baptise him, till he was told that it was needful, for, as Jesus says, “…thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.” When taken together with the witness of God the Father at the baptism of Jesus, we have a strong witness to the Person of Christ and His purity.

What a stark contrast. John’s language to the leaders of the Jewish Church, and his language to the true Head of the Church.

How we should respect the authority with which John spoke, and remember what he said elsewhere about Jesus of Nazareth – “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29).

G B Macdonald





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Sydney Communion – March 2018

This month we were pleased to have the assistance of Rev George Hutton (Grafton) at our communion. A communion is always a very precious and special time in the congregation, when the scripture is preached and the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is administered.

On Thursday morning the solemn subject of confession of sin was before us. The minister directed us to consider a sin that lies at the root of many other sins – the sin of pride. The text was from Proverbs 29:23 ‘A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit.’ One point noted was that it is most strange that man should be proud. He is by nature a sinner – here is no cause for pride but rather shame. How very strange it is though that the Christian should be proud, when it is by grace such are saved. The sin of pride must be confessed and forsaken.

On Thursday evening we were encouraged to consider the solemn words of the exalted Christ to Ephesus – one of the seven Churches of Asia. In Revelation 2:4 we read: “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.” Such words of rebuke remind us of the careful and continued interest of the Saviour in His Church upon earth. He has a profound knowledge of each and every congregation of His Church and by this rebuke teaches us to examine ourselves as individuals and congregations.

On Friday morning we looked at the words in Galatians 2:20 ‘…the life which I now live in the flesh…’ The minister directed us to consider the Christian life Paul now lived. The nature of it, the source of it and the evidence for it. The apostle Paul had been dead in trespasses and sins, but now he was spiritually alive. In self examination we must ask ourselves such questions as: “What is my relationship to Christ?” and “Is the life I now live consistent with the gospel?”

A fellowship meeting was held on the Friday evening. The portion selected for the purpose of self-examination was Psalm 27:1 ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?‘ God is the light of His people, He it is by His Word and Spirit who first enlightens them. Only the One who said at the first “Let there be light…” can enlighten the darkness of a sinner’s heart. The Lord is the salvation of His people. Such could in no wise save themselves. The Lord’s people are taught this, as well as being persuaded and enabled to trust in the One who is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God through Him. The Lord is the strength of His people. The Christian receives strength from Christ through His own appointed means of grace.

On Saturday further preparation for the Lord’s Supper was encouraged by a consideration of Matthew 5:14-16. The disciples of Jesus are the light of the world. As well as being saved by Him who calls Himself the Light of the World, they are to shine as witnesses for Christ. The Christian is not to hide his or her light but let that light shine by open profession of Christ.

The Sabbath morning service and the administration of the sacrament was taken by Rev Hutton. Our attention was directed by him to the words in John 10:17 “…I lay down my life…” These words and similar in the context reveal to us something of the weight and importance Jesus placed on His saving work. He was conscious of what was required of Him by the Father. The Saviour willingly and lovingly laid down His life for the sheep as the Good Shepherd. A most perfect sin-atoning sacrifice.

On Sabbath evening we were directed to consider a birth of vital importance – the new birth. In John 3:3 Jesus stressed to a religious man the absolute necessity of being born again. Such is the lost and ruined condition of man by nature that he needs to be born from above. This is the work of God.

On Monday we were encouraged to hear of the reviving work of God as that is set forth in Ezekiel’s vision in chapter 37 of his prophecy. The bones in the valley were very dry, all spoke of death and helplessness so far as man was concerned. So too was the case of Israel in captivity, but God could change that desolate scene and did so. So the New Testament Church can be revived.

Thanks are due to Rev Hutton for his willing assistance, and we hope and pray that the Lord would be pleased to bless the communion season and the fellowship enjoyed around the Word and Sacrament.

G B Macdonald




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The Mercy of God – A Quote from Thomas Watson

“As God’s mercy makes the saints happy, so it should make them humble. Mercy is not the fruit of our goodness, but the fruit of God’s goodness. Mercy is an alms that God bestows. They have no cause to be proud that live upon the alms of God’s mercy. ‘If I be righteous, yet will I not lift up my head,’ Job x 15: all my righteousness is the effect of God’s mercy, therefore I will be humble and will not lift up my head.”

(Thomas Watson – Body of Divinity p.94 Banner or Truth Trust 1978)

G B Macdonald


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Wise Advice for a New Year

The Book of Proverbs furnishes us with wise advice. This wise advice is as useful in this New Year of 2018 as in the past year.

In Proverbs 3:5-6 we have such advice. We are exhorted by the inspired writer, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

In these words we have wise advice, coupled with a precious promise.

The wise advice comes to us in three statements. Firstly, we are to trust in the LORD with all our heart. How ready we should be to do this. The God of the Bible is One who is eminently worthy of our trust. His faithfulness is very great. Secondly, we are cautioned not to lean upon our own understanding. This we are prone to do, in spite of often having but limited understanding of this or that. This can lead to us misjudging people or events. Thirdly, we are encouraged to acknowledge Him in all our ways. The believer does so through the grace of prayer. We have a wonderful example of the blessing of such acknowledging of God in the case of Nehemiah. He asked the LORD help time and again and had wonderful answers to his prayers.

Might we not reflect that in a past year, many of our difficulties and problems were the consequence of our failure to trust in the LORD with all our heart, a tendency at the same time to lean too much on our own understanding and, as a result, not to acknowledge Him in all our ways?

We see that a very precious promise is given to encourage us to heed this wise advice. “…and he shall direct your paths.” He, who is able to keep us from the paths of sin, He who is mighty to lead His people like a shepherd, even He shall direct the paths of such as by faith and in prayer do humbly seek His help.

G B Macdonald


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The Promise of Everlasting Life

There are many very precious saying of Jesus in the Bible, and there are a number found in John chapter 6. We read there for example, Jesus saying, ‘I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” We also read the wonderful assurance in verse 37 “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

At a recent prayer meeting we looked at verse 47. What a glorious promise we have in that verse: Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. A simple, but precious promise. So very precious because it fell from the lips of the Lord Jesus Christ. He, being God as well as man, cannot lie. He cannot deceive and in this statement He does not.

Those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ have everlasting life. How do we know? Because He said so. He is trustworthy and thus worthy of our trust, elsewhere He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)

As this year draws to an end do you believe on Him?

Consider well that precious promise:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.

G B Macdonald

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David’s Refuge from the Wicked

Psalm 86 is titled, ‘A Prayer of David’. Many of the psalms of David are prayers, and David was clearly a man of prayer, as well as one who was divinely lead to write psalms of praise. Thus we have, in the Psalms, as in so many other places of Scripture, a reminder of how important prayer is in the life of the Christian.

In verses 14-16 of Psalm 86, David writes, “O God, the proud are risen against me, and the assemblies of violent men have sought after my soul; and have not set thee before them. But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth. O turn unto me, and have mercy upon me; give thy strength unto thy servant, and save the son of thine handmaid.”

Here we have, in the first place, the complaint that David made to God. He does not complain of God’s dealings with him, but of men’s dealings with him. He prayerfully spreads these before God. Such wicked persons are described as proud, and in the same breath, they are termed as having risen against him. Thus, Matthew Henry, makes the point, ‘Many are made persecutors by their pride…’ David goes on to speak of violent men who have sought after his soul, and Matthew Henry writes, ‘the design is not only to depose but to destroy.’ Why are they doing these things against David? What could be one reason why they are so disposed? David himself makes it clear when he writes, “…and have not set thee before them.” They were not walking in the fear of God.

From such sad complaint and from such painful experience of the malice of the wicked, David turns by faith to God. He pens a very beautiful reflection upon the character of the God who cares for him. “But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.” As C H Spurgeon writes, What a contrast! We get away from the hectorings and blusterings of proud but puny men to the glory and goodness of the Lord.’ Perhaps David has considered that which we read in Exodus 34:6, where God reveals Himself to Moses, ‘And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth…’ If so, ought not we, in our day, to reflect on such a wonderful revelation of the character of God?

This consideration of the care of so great a God for him, led David to cry in prayer to the Almighty. “O turn unto me, and have mercy upon me; give thy strength unto thy servant, and save the son of thine handmaid.” As the commentator W S Plumer observes, ‘The strength sought would effect deliverance and impart courage.’

If David, is to go on, in spite of his enemies, then He pleads for the help of God. So we see, how very suitable this prayer of David is for the Lord’s dear people in this day too.

G B Macdonald

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Sydney Communion – Aug/Sept. 2017

At our recent Communion Season, I was privileged to have the help of Rev Jett Smith, the minister of our Auckland congregation. My thanks are due to him for his help and ministry among us.

As usual, the communion season began with a service on Thursday morning. The text was from Exodus 5:2 ‘And Pharaoh said, Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go.’ Here we have another king of Egypt, who knew not Joseph, nor regarded the God of Joseph. His ignorance of God was great, yet he was not ashamed to own that. Sadly, many in our day are not ashamed of their ignorance of the God of the Bible. Coupled with his ignorance, was disobedience to the will of God. The Lord’s servants expressed that will to him, yet he would not yield. Lastly, we noted his stubbornness in continuing in sinful rebellion. We could see lessons here for ourselves in this spiritually dark day.

On Thursday evening, the minister preached from Genesis 6:5 on the wickedness that God saw in the days of Noah. His three points were, The Demonstration of Sin, The Depth of Sin and the Dreadfulness of Sin. The question for ourselves being – do we view sin as a dreadful evil? In due time the judgment of God came, and only those in the Ark survived the fearful overthrow, so must we be in Christ, the Saviour of sinners, and such as by faith are found in Him shall be saved.

On Friday evening the subject was that of self-examination. This is of course, a most needful duty for all who prepare to sit at the Lord’s Table. We were led to consider Romans 7 especially verse 16 ‘If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.’ The Apostle Paul found a struggle with sin. The Old Man would not give way with ease. But in all his struggles against sin, Paul was acknowledging that God’s just demands were right and proper – the law was good.

On Saturday morning we considered a ‘Loyal Profession of Love to King David.’ A gentile believer, Ittai the Gittite, made this profession. The text was found in 2 Samuel 15:21. Here we find David fleeing from his rebellious son Absalom. What a dark day! At such a time as this Ittai, a Philistine by birth and nation, was challenged. He had begun to follow David, but would he continue, even when David and his cause seemed low? By the grace of God, this man made confession of David as his king even at this time! He raised a God-honouring witness on the side of the King. So too, the Christian is called to follow his Master. And Jesus would have His people to partake of His Supper.

On the Communion Sabbath morning, Rev Smith encouraged us to consider the suitability of the Great High Priest – the Lord Jesus Christ. In Hebrews 5:5-10 we see, The Appointment of Christ, The Obedience of Christ and the Perfection of Christ. The One appointed, did the work. He cried from the Cross –“It is finished.” One word in the Greek – Finished! Following the Fencing of the Lord’s Table, where more particular guidance was given as to the marks of those who should come to the Lord’s Table, as well as those who ought not, the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was again held in our congregation. A witness was again raised on the side of Christ in Riverstone, NSW.

In the evening we looked at the very wonderful case of the healing of the noblemen’s son – John 4:46-54. Here was a particular and pressing request made by the nobleman to Jesus. His son was at the point of death – would Jesus come down and heal him? The Saviour responded with a general caution, “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.” How many are indeed looking for some remarkable religious experience of this sort or that, but neglecting the simple words of Christ? This man did believe the word of Jesus, and as he returned so believing, he was met with the wonderful news – “Thy son liveth.” His son was whole again. Best of all – ‘Himself believed, and his whole house.’ As an old missionary on Skye is reported as having said – “Faith is the emptiness of the soul coming to the fullness of Christ.” As with the nobleman – it shall not be disappointed!

On Monday a service of thanksgiving was held. We had much to be thankful for, given the Lord’s kindness in giving us His Word and Sacrament. Rev Smith preached from the encouraging words in Isaiah 60:22 ‘A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I the LORD will hasten it in his time.’ This is one of the texts of Scripture that point to days of gospel blessing yet to be seen on the earth. The cause of God may go very low, as it did in Noah’s day, but He is able to revive His own work and grant great increase. May we never limit the Lord.

So, we had an encouraging and spiritually profitable communion. Such a time upon the earth is a precious foretaste of heaven to the Lord’s people. ‘And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.’ (Isaiah 35:10)

G B Macdonald


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