Our Commission

“God is the LORD, which hath showed us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar.” —Psalm 118:27

ONE OF THE symbolisms used in the Scriptures to illustrate the condition of the world of mankind in its alienation from God through sin, is that of ‘darkness’. The whole period of the reign of sin and death is pictured as a nighttime, when “darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people.” (Isa. 60:2) The Scriptures also reveal that this nighttime of sorrow is to terminate in a morning of joy. The psalmist declares, for example, that while “weeping may endure for a night,” “joy cometh in the morning.”—Ps. 30:5

The new day of righteousness and joy will come as a result of the rising of the “Sun of Righteousness” (Mal. 4:2), and in that daytime of peace and joy, all mankind will be enlightened concerning God and his laws: for the knowledge of his glory will then fill the whole earth as the waters cover the sea. No one then will need to say, “Know the Lord:” for all shall know him “from the least of them unto the greatest.”—Jer. 31:31-34

But we have not yet reached that time of universal knowledge. True, there are signs all around us that the new day is soon to dawn, but the meaning of these signs can as yet be appreciated only by those who can view world developments through the prophetic telescope of God’s Word. For the world in general, the darkness of the long night of sin and alienation from God is even more dense right now than ever before, causing countless millions to lose all faith in God and in his promises.

However, throughout the nighttime experience of the human race there have always been a few to whom the Lord has revealed the light of truth concerning his will for them and his plan for the blessing of all mankind. This has been a highly favored class. Of those who were thus blessed in Jesus’ day, he said, “Blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. (Matt. 13:16) Also, “It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.”—Matt. 13:11

While many important features of the divine plan were not brought to light until the coming of Jesus at his First Advent, prior to that time, beginning with Abel, the Lord revealed the truth to his special servants to the extent that it was necessary in order that they might be able intelligently to cooperate with him in the outworking of his plans and purposes. To each in his turn God showed the ‘light’, and those who appreciated this great favor recognized the responsibility thus imposed, and met those responsibilities even at the cost of sacrifice. They all bound their sacrifice with cords ‘even unto the horns of the altar’.—Ps. 118.27

In our relationship with God, it is fundamentally important always to remember that he has not favored us with the light of truth simply to satisfy our curiosity, or that we might have a feeling of well-being because of enjoying a better understanding of the Bible than some of our neighbors. Being in the truth must mean more to us, much more, than the fact that we have the best religion in the world, or that our doubts have all been cleared up, and our fears set aside. If the eyes of our understanding have been enlightened with present truth, it is because God has called us into his service, and has something important for us to do.


Abel was the first of God’s servants to lose his life because of faithfulness to the truth as it was revealed to him. Paul explains that it was Abel’s faith that enabled him to offer a sacrifice that was more acceptable to God than was Cain’s. (Heb. 11:4) Faith comes by hearing the word of God, so it is evident that God made known to Abel the nature of the sacrifice which would be acceptable. And the reason for this is apparent, for in the outworking of his plan, even at that early date, God was beginning to point forward by symbol to the fact that without the shedding of blood there can be no remission of sin. Abel might not have understood this point, but the important consideration was that the Lord had indicated what kind of sacrifice he wanted, and Abel was faithful to the truth as it was revealed to him.

It was important information to Noah that a flood was coming, and that there would be an opportunity for some to be saved from the destruction to be wrought by the Deluge. Truly he was honored. But there was a purpose in it. God gave Noah this information because there was something to be done. There was an ark to be built, and a witness that needed to be given to the people of that day, and Noah was the one selected by the Lord to be his coworker in doing these things. Neither of these tasks was an easy one. Together they imposed a load of responsibility upon Noah that could be carried out faithfully only with the Lord’s daily help. But he accepted the responsibility. God showed him the light, and he bound his sacrifice even unto the horns of the altar.

At the burning bush the Lord revealed the light to Moses, not merely to reassure him concerning his love for the Hebrew children, but because the time had come when they were to be delivered from Egyptian bondage, and Moses was chosen by the Lord for the great task of leading them forth to liberty. After making sure of the Lord’s will in the matter, and that divine grace would supply all his needs, Moses accepted the responsibility, and for forty long years carried its weight. It was a glorious vision of truth which the Lord gave to Moses at the burning bush, but a very costly one. The truth is costly to all who are faithful to it.


God’s dealings with all his holy prophets were along the same general line as we have noted in connection with Abel, Noah, and Moses. He took them into his confidence with respect to the special features of truth which were pertinent to their times, not merely as a favor, but because there was something he wanted them to do. Isaiah, for example, was given a vision of the Lord “high and lifted up.” The sight of such glory and perfection caused the prophet to exclaim, “I am a man of unclean lips”; that is, he was made to feel his own unworthiness, and his inability properly to speak for the Lord.—Isa. 6:1-5

But in the vision, the prophet’s lips were made clean by a coal from off the altar. Then he heard the Lord inquire, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” (Isa. 6:8) To Isaiah this was the real import of the vision. To him, this was the means the Lord was employing to call him into service. He had been shown the light, not merely that he might rejoice in the Lord’s glory, but because the Lord had a mission for him to perform. Isaiah was quick to catch this meaning of the vision, and responded, “Here am I; send me.

Of Jeremiah, the Lord asked, “What seest thou?” In response, the prophet described a vision which had to do with the destruction of Israel and the Babylonian captivity. Pet. 1:11,13) This was a vision of present truth to Jeremiah, and the purpose of it was that he should bear testimony to Israel concerning it. “I have put my words in thy mouth,” said the Lord to the prophet. Per. 1:9) What an honor was thus bestowed upon him, but how costly; for it imposed upon the prophet the responsibility of testifying to the people a message that was unpopular, and for which he was caused to suffer and eventually die. But he was faithful. He bound his sacrifice to the altar.

In the experience of the Prophet Ezekiel we have a similar lesson emphasized. To him also the Lord gave a vision of his glory. Writing about it, the prophet explained that “the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.” (Ezek. 1:1) In the next chapter of his prophecy, Ezekiel writes, “He said unto me, Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee. And the spirit entered into me when he spake unto me, and set me upon my feet, that I heard him that spake unto me. And he said unto me, Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me.”—Ezek. 2:1-3

Thus again we have the same sequence in God’s dealings with his servants. First, they receive the vision of his glory, and then the directive to go and tell the message. God uses various methods by which to reveal his glory to his servants, but the general results are always the same, for thereby he enlightens his co-workers with a knowledge of himself, and of his plans and purposes as they relate to the time and people involved. The tasks assigned to Noah, Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel differed only in detail, for they all were given a message to declare. Noah was to preach righteousness to “the world that then was” (II Pet. 3:6); Moses was to appear before Pharaoh and demand the release of the Israelites, and was also to acquaint the Hebrews themselves with God’s plan to deliver them; all the prophets were given a message to Israel—a message costly to deliver. Of all these it was true that God showed them the light, and in response they bound their sacrifice to the altar by faithfully performing the mission assigned to them.


We have in Jesus, our Redeemer and Head, the most outstanding example of the principle outlined in our text, for not only did Jehovah reveal the light to him in a marvelous manner, but he was faithful to the obligations the truth exacted of him. To Jesus, even as to Ezekiel, the heavens were opened and in a still more outstanding manner. Jesus, unlike the prophets, anticipated the privilege of service, and was alert to ascertain the Father’s will. “Lo, I come,” wrote the psalmist concerning him, “to do thy will O my God.”—Ps. 40:6-8; Heb. 10:5-10

In these words we have expressed the true spirit of consecration. While no one is called into divine service without being shown the necessary light by which he is enabled to serve acceptably, it is also true that the beauties of the divine plan are revealed only to those who indicate their willingness to do the will of God. True consecration is not making a bargain with the Lord, but is a wholehearted expression of our desire and determination to do his will, ever and always, regardless of what that will might be, and what our faithfulness in doing it might cost.

This is the thought expressed in the words. “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God.” (Heb. 10:9) In a general way Jesus knew considerable, even before this, concerning the plan of God. He realized that he had come into the world to perform a special mission, and at the age of twelve was concerned about his “Father’s business.” (Luke 2:49) But not until the proper time came, and he demonstrated his willingness to do the Father’s will, were the heavens opened so he could behold the glory of God and learn the details of the divine mission which had been assigned to him.

And how wonderfully faithful was Jesus in meeting the responsibilities imposed upon him! Peter epitomized the Master’s life in the one short statement that he “went about doing good.” (Acts 10:38) We cannot imagine the Master doing anything else but good. He was a reflection of his Father, God, and God has always been doing good to his creatures. He is the Giver of every good and perfect gift. (James 1:17) The greatest good the Creator had purposed to do for the human race was to be accomplished through Jesus, and it was inevitable that every detail of Jesus’ life of faithfulness should exemplify the spirit of benevolence, and together add up to make that one great sacrifice which was consummated at Calvary—that good deed which was meritorious to redeem the whole world from sin and death.

When on the cross Jesus cried, “It is finished,” he had reached the end of a life of sacrifice to which he had been inspired by the light which had been shown him when the heavens were opened. He had seen the meaning of that vision, and forthwith bound his sacrifice to the altar until it was wholly consumed. While it is true that the completion of his sacrifice at Calvary was a wonderful event, and somewhat spectacular when compared with the lesser deeds of love which made up his everyday life, nevertheless it was these that helped to prove his faithfulness, and they led up to that glorious consummation which made him the Redeemer of the world.

As we join that little band of disciples which followed so closely to Jesus and observed the details of his life, we note his untiring zeal and devotion to God and to the service which had been given into his hands. “I must work the works of him that sent me,” we hear him say, “while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.” (John 9:4) In the first instance, Jesus used these words with reference to his own earthly ministry. His ‘night’ came when he was arrested and crucified. To him the night had settled down only when it was impossible to say anything further concerning the plan of God. Even while hanging on the cross, Jesus preached a wonderful sermon on restitution to the thief when he said to him, “Thou shalt be with me in paradise.”—Luke 23:43

The ‘works’ of the Father which Jesus was commissioned to do were the preaching of the kingdom message—illustrating it by his miracles—preparing the disciples to be his ambassadors after he returned to his Father; and giving his flesh for the life of the world. In carrying out this mission he was never guided by his own preferences. He was glad to toil and suffer as the Heavenly Father indicated it to be his will. He did not purposely expose himself to danger before the due time. He did not court persecution just to be a martyr.

Jesus loved all mankind and would have gladly preached the kingdom message to Gentiles and Jews alike, but he recognized the chronological features of the divine plan and was guided by them. Hence, Jesus said to his disciples, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”—Matt. 10:5,6

In all these ways we can with spiritual profit follow the example of Jesus. Like him, we should work while it is called day, for we also know that the night cometh wherein no man can work. For some of us this might well be when we have reached the end of the way. For the church as a whole, it will be when it will no longer be possible to bear witness to the truth. In either case, we are not to cease telling the glad tidings of the kingdom as long as it is physically possible to do it.

Time prophecies of the divine plan served to guide the Master with respect to the need of withholding the Gospel from the Gentiles until the full end of the seventieth prophetic week. (Dan. 9:24-27) But when he told his disciples that they were to go into all the world to preach the Gospel it was the divine intention that this commission was to remain in effect until the last member of the body of Christ passed beyond the veil. There is no time prophecy that is intended to set aside this inspired commission.

The preaching of the Gospel accomplishes the same result now as it did in the beginning of the age. In the divine providence, the kingdom message does an additional sowing work today, as well as a reaping work. Besides, the Gospel today includes dispensational truths which were not due to be understood earlier in the age, and would have been untimely to preach even if known. But these slight variations in the message, and the different results of our labors, do not change the commission to let our light shine before men by holding forth the Word of life in the midst of this crooked and perverse generation.


In the experience of Saul of Tarsus we have another example of one to whom the Lord revealed the light of truth, and who, in turn, bound his sacrifice to the altar. It was a glorious vision that was given to Saul. He saw a light shining above the brightness of the sun at noonday. He heard a voice speaking to him—the voice of Jesus of Nazareth whom Saul was persecuting. He even caught a glimpse of the glorified Jesus, seeing him as “one born before the due time.”—I Cor. 15:8, Margin

Saul was quick to grasp the meaning of this wonderful experience. He was doubtless well acquainted with the manner in which God dealt with the ancient prophets, and he knew that an experience of this kind could mean only that he was being called into a special divine service. Realizing this, he inquired, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6) This is the meaning of revealed truth. Are you rejoicing that the eyes of your understanding have been opened to behold the beauties of the divine plan, and through the truth, to discern the glory of God? Continue to rejoice, but remember that this blessing is yours because God has something for you to do—not a mission as great as that assigned to Saul, but one, nevertheless, that will become great in the Lord’s sight as you prove faithful to it. It is a mission that will require the remainder of your life to perform.

From the day that Paul accepted the responsibility imposed upon him by the light from heaven, he was a bond-servant of Jesus Christ. He had no other mission in life but to “seek first the kingdom of God.” (Matt. 6:33) How true were his words, This one thing I do”! (Phil. 3:13) Whatever of material needs confronted the apostle, he treated them as mere incidentals upon which as little as possible of time and attention should be spent, his chief concern ever and always being the ‘one thing’ to and for which he had been called of God. This is why he could testify to King Agrippa, “I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision.”—Acts 26:19

Paul knew that the heavenly vision was not given to him merely for his own benefit, for he realized clearly that he was called to be an ambassador for Christ. The Lord told Ananias what great things Paul was to suffer for the cause of Christ, and in order for this to be true it was essential for him to make known the Gospel of Christ. It was Jesus’ faithfulness in letting his light shine that led him to Calvary, and Paul’s faithfulness along the same line led him to a Roman prison and death. Any Christian can escape the privilege of suffering with Christ simply by neglecting to hold forth the Word of life. And it is well to remember that it is only those who suffer with Christ who will reign with him.


The progress of truth throughout the ages has not been gradual, but rather it has been intermittent and dispensational, and as the Lord has revealed it to faithful servants of his own choosing. Thus God used the prophets, and to each of them he gave a special message that was due and needed at the time. Isaac and Jacob, for example, did not, through their own studies, increase the light that was given to Abraham. The privilege of the children of Israel was to be faithful to the light as God gave it to them through Moses, not to change or add to it. They failed because they were unfaithful to that light.

There was a marvelous revelation of truth through Jesus, and from Pentecost on, through the apostles. This was by special revelation, and in keeping with important time features of the divine plan. It was not to be expected that following the death of the apostles the light would increase through the efforts of the church as a whole to delve into the mysteries of God. The responsibility of the church, on the other hand, was to hold fast to what had been revealed to them through God’s specially chosen servants. It was because the church failed in this that a great apostasy developed.

While God’s rich blessing was upon the faithful members of the church throughout all the age, no further outstanding revelation of the truth occurred until the harvest at the end of the age. It was a case of holding fast, rather than making progress. Church history reveals that there were individuals in every part of the Gospel Age who held to the great kingdom Gospel as taught by Jesus and the apostles, despite the errors with which they were surrounded. These were the wheat which, according to Jesus’ parable, were to grow together with the tares.

But in the end of the age another special revelation of truth was due. It was foretold by Jesus in one of his prophecies concerning the time of his Second Presence. He said that he would come forth and serve the household of faith with “meat in due season.” (Luke 12:37; Matt. 24:45) One of the great truths which was due to be understood now was the hope of restitution blessings for the world. The Early Church understood this, but it was measurably lost sight of throughout the age by all except a few followers of Christ. In the end of the age, however, it was important that the church have this doctrine restored. In keeping with the divine plan, it was essential that an announcement of it be made to the world in advance.

The promised ‘meat in due season’ included a clearer understanding of all the great fundamentals of the divine plan. This heavenly vision which has been given to the church in this end of the age through that “faithful” and wise “steward” embraces all the precious items of truth as they were known to the various servants of God in the past. (Luke 12:42; Matt. 24:45) It has given us an enhanced appreciation of the Abrahamic Covenant. We understand the purpose of the Law Covenant, and why it was added to the original covenant made with Abraham. We now understand the real purpose of the First Advent of Jesus and why his kingdom was not established in power and great glory at that time. We understand that the purpose of the Gospel Age was not to convert the world, but merely to select a people to be the bride of Christ, and to share the glory of his kingdom.

And how glad we are to have so clearly established the fundamental fact of truth that the “wages of sin is death” and not eternal torment! (Rom. 6:23) The Early Church understood this, but during the Dark Ages it became buried in the rubbish of human tradition.

How satisfying is the truth pertaining to the manner of our Lord’s return, and that he is even now present as a ‘thief in the night’, leading his people as Chief Reaper in the prophetic harvest which is the end of the age! The harmony of these great truths—all of them—and the special beauty with which they have been made to shine in this due time of the harvest has not been the result of the laborious study of all the Lord’s people, but by a special dispensation of divine grace reaching us through the returned Lord who used “that servant” (Matt. 24:45,46) to minister this rich portion of spiritual food to the household of faith.

Let us rejoice in this ‘heavenly vision’, but let us remember that if our eyes have been blessed to see the truth, if we are among the favored few to whom the Lord has shown the light, it is because he wants us to sacrifice our all In his service, to bind our sacrifice with cords even to the horns of the altar. It is just as true of us now as it was of Noah, Moses, the prophets, Jesus, and the apostles, that God has revealed his plan because he wants us to cooperate in it; so let us endeavor not to be disobedient to the heavenly vision.

And what, some may ask, are we to do? First, we should see to it that our own lives conform to the high standards of righteousness set forth In the Word of God. We should add to our faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge self-control, and to self-control patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. If these things be in us, and abound, we will not, according to the Greek text, be “idle” in the knowledge that has been given to us; that is, we will be using it in keeping with the divine will, and that will is that we proclaim the truth to all the world as a witness.—II Pet. 1:4-8

Let us make no mistake in this. Let us not be misguided by human philosophy which seeks a method of getting into the kingdom without sacrifice and suffering, and decides that it is no longer the Lord’s will for his people to let their light shine for the blessing of others. Let us realize that Satan, the prince of darkness, is behind all such philosophy. He confuses the truth in our minds if he can, and when he gets us to believe error, he is quite satisfied that we proclaim it far and wide. But when he finds that we are determined to hold to the purity of the truth, his next effort is to make us believe that it is wrong to preach it to others. If Satan can keep the truth shut up in our hearts, he is almost as pleased as though he had induced us to discard the truth and accept error instead.

Paul said of himself, “Woe is unto me, if I preach not the Gospel!” and that is just as true of every one of us today. (I Cor. 9:16) The opportunity is still ours to let our light shine. To Ezekiel the Lord said, “Whether they will hear, or whether they will forebear,” and that is true of us also. (Ezek. 2:5) We are not to judge the Lord’s will in this matter by the results secured. The only result may be the proving of our own faithfulness to the heavenly vision. There are sure, of course, to be other results, whether we see them or not.

At times, and for our encouragement, the Lord may give us the privilege of seeing some results from our efforts. But whether he does or not, let us continue to be faithful in binding the sacrifice even to the horns of the altar. Surely, the Lord has shown us the light, so let us be faithful to it even unto death, and thus receive the “crown of life.”—Rev. 2:10

Dawn Bible Students Association
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