Long before The Standard Bearer came into existence, long before the New Testament dispensation began, God Himself spoke of “a standardbearer.”
It was in the day of shadows, that is, in the day before Christ, Who cast His shadow upon the whole Old. Testament dispensation, was seen on earth by man, that God, through the prophet Isaiah, spoke those words which for fifty years have served as the name of the magazine that publishes these lines today.
God spoke these words in connection with the pronouncement of judgment and destruction upon Assyria as one of the enemies of the Church of God. The text in Isaiah 10:16-18 in full reads thus, “Therefore shall the Lord, the Lord of hosts, send among his fat ones leanness; and under his glory he shall kindle a burning like the burning of a fire. And shall consume the glory of his forest, and of his fruitful field: and it shall bum and devour his thorns and his briers in one day; And shall consume the glory of his forest, and of his fruitful field, both soul and body: and they shall be as when a standardbearer fainteth.”
Although God speaks here of a standardbearer fainting, there is not only instruction but also comfort for us in this use of the word. This ought to be plain from the fact that it is the plight of the enemy of the Church of God that is here presented as suffering the disaster which strikes an army and nation, and causes the standardbearer to faint. For this means, then, that the standardbearer of the Church remains steadfast, and that the army to whom he belongs has the victory.
Then, too, there are other and earlier references to such standards and standardbearers in God’s Church. Turn to Numbers 2/2 and you will find these words which Moses and Aaron were to speak unto the Israelites. “Every man of the children of Israel shall pitch by his own standard, with the ensign of their father’s house: far off about (better translated — over against) the tabernacle of the congregation shall they pitch.” Then in verse 3 we read of, “the standard of the tribe of Judah” which must be seen on the east side of the tabernacle. Verse 10 speaks of the standard of the tribe of Reuben being on the south side of that tabernacle. And in verses 18 and 25 we are informed that the standard of the tribe of Ephraim shall be found on the west side, and the standard of the tribe of Dan shall be situated on the north side of the tabernacle.
Each standard, we may be sure, differed from the other to represent a distinct group of people. And we are not to think of a flag of cloth whipping in the wind, but rather of some design wrought in iron or brass in the form of a square, triangle or circle, and of combinations of these, placed on long poles and lifted up above the heads of the people.
They had no doctrinal significance, that is, they did not designate the separate tribes of Israel as standing for some doctrinal position that varied from tribe to tribe.Numbers 2:2 clearly declares that they were standards or ensigns of “their father’s house.” Each tribe had a separate symbol. They could, you know, have designed a symbol using the first letters of their names; and since Joseph is represented by Ephraim and Mannaseh here in Numbers 2, there would be no duplication of letter or symbol on that standard or ensign. And that only four standards are mentioned is due to the fact that the twelve tribes were divided into four groups of three. These tribes were situated in their tents in such a way that three tribes were on the east of it, three on the south, three on the west, and three on the north of it. And only the tribe that was closest to the tabernacle is mentioned together with its standard. You may find the other two tribes of each group inNumbers 2 and observe how God grouped them.
But surely in the New Testament dispensation, and especially today, the Church needs a standard. “No creed but Christ” reveals a church whose standardbearer is going to faint (if he has not already), for that church is on the way to being taken over by the forces of the Antichrist. “No creed but Christ” (the war-cry of all so-called undenominational movements) means that the Christ of Scripture is not maintained. Each member may vision Christ as his flesh desires without being molested by the rest. What you have in such a group (if they practice what they preach) is that you have a “Christ” of many faces, a tailor-made Christ, one that is adaptable to every whim of man, and not one designed by God. That is no Christ at all. The Saviour is called Christ because He is ordained by God and qualified by His Spirit to be our Redeemer, our Prophet, Priest and King. The God of the undenominational movement is one picked out by man, in fact picked out by as many men as there are members of that group. Some may agree on certain points about him, but others will disagree. And they both worship and believe in the same Christ? How two-faced do you think He can be? He Who said, “I am the way the TRUTH and the life,” can He be what you think He is, and at the same time what others with divergent opinions think Him to be? This lack of a standard and this confession of a Christ Who is all things men want Him to be, instead of What God has ordained and qualified Him to be, is also in all this so-called ecumenical movement that changes the confessions to get a common ground upon which all churches can unite and agree about this Christ.
For years the so-called Apostolic Creed was the standard of the Christian Church with its twelve articles. But as heresies arose and false teachers made inroads into the church, the Church had to make a more elaborate standard and ensign to define more specifically the teaching of God’s Word on several points. For the heretic always claims to hold fast to the truth and to the creeds, even while he seeks to undermine these. He wants to be the standardbearer in order to have it in his possession to alter it! He will subscribe, so he says, to the truth of “God the Father, Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.” And yet he will deny His almighty power and preach a God Who would like to save all but is unable (Imagine that! An almighty God Who is unable!) because man does not let Him do so, refusing to accept His kind offer. He will preach a Creator, but not one who calls into being. He will claim to “believe in Jesus Christ His only begotten Son, our Lord.” Yet he will proceed to explain that He is Son in name only, denying the divinity of Christ, and thus robbing Him of His power to save and qualifications to be the Saviour. All these and many other errors the Church had to combat, and she continued to hold high her standard of the truth in her confessions or creeds.
After the Reformation the standard became far broader creeds than those twelve articles to let all men know what the truth of God’s Word is. For the Reformed Churches it became those monumental works, The Heidelberg Catechism, The Netherlands Confession and the Canons of Dordrecht. By these the churches showed their distinctive faithfulness to the Word of God. By these they held up a standard that loudly and clearly in unequivocal language set forth the truth and the “faith once delivered to the saints.”
But it not only behooves the New Testament Church, and surely the Church in the world today, to have a standard, but also to have a standardbearer, one to hold up, to bear that standard. By God’s grace for fifty years The Standard Bearer has served this purpose. By God’s grace it has not fainted and today still stands up boldly in the midst of increasing pressures and subtle heresies.
That The Standard Bearer has not fainted reveals that in the grace of our covenant God the churches whose doctrine it holds high and sends to the corners of the earth have not succumbed and been defeated by the numerous enemies (How greatly these churches are outnumbered by those with other standards and theories!) that grow not only in number every year but also in strength.
You see, in Isaiah 10:18, when mention is made of the standardbearer fainting, the idea is that the man who holds the standard, the ensign, the sign that marks the place of a particular army in battle faints when he sees how the side which he represents is being slaughtered and destroyed. He faints when he sees utter defeat coming to his army. All hope of victory for his army is gone, and he loses even the strength to watch the battle any further. The word “faint” can be translated as “melt away,” and this can suggest that he flees, dropping his banner.
Then, too, we are told by historians that the capturing of the standardbearer signaled the defeat of the whole army. If he is captured and the standard of that army is taken away, that army loses its identity, yea, now comes under the standard of the opposing army. And each army in those days would fight tenaciously to keep its standardbearer, in order to keep its identity, and to signify that it still was an organized force, a unit able to do battle. The capture of the standard signaled defeat; and the flight, capture or fainting of the one who bore that standard meant that the battle was over and that the army of that standardbearer went down in shame and ruin.
The meaning is plain for us, is it not? As long as The Standard Bearer is steadfast and continues to display and uncompromisingly hold forth the Word of Truth, our churches not only have a right to separate existence, but are very much alive spiritually, and are found to be faithful in the battle of faith. The minute that The Standard Bearer begins to faint at the sight of the enemy, melts away into a magazine that caters to the flesh of men, and to drop those standards of the Heidelberg Catechism, The Netherlands Confession, and the Canons of Dordrecht, our churches are already defeated. The moment our magazine begins to emit another sound than the one that it has been giving forth for fifty years, we have a sign that our churches have given in to the pressures of the enemies that persistently have assaulted us through the years of our existence.
It also means, this steadfast stand of The Standard Bearer, that God has been very gracious to us to cause that standardbearer, which already in the year nineteen hundred twenty-four was raised up for the defense of the truth, to stand there in all the thick of the battle. Men have come and men have gone. Editors have contributed and been silenced by death. A new generation took over, and still a newer generation is beginning to write, and by writing holds over us the standard of the truth of God’s Word, making known in no uncertain terms that we hold fast to the Word of God. Other standards and banners may have fallen, or are ready to fall. The writers have not in every instance fainted, and some courageous voices are still raised. But that the forces of evil are taking over and that a rout by the enemy is a very present threat also threatens to make these standardbearers faint as they see their churches being swallowed up by the enemies of the truth. And we may say nothing less than, “There, but for the grace of God, go we.”
That we have a steadfast Standard Bearer is the work of God alone. Our prayer is that we may be the bearers of the standard of God’s truth also in the future. While our churches remain faithful to the truth, The Standard Bearer will be a steady standardbearer. It will reflect the spiritual health and strength of our churches, and show whether we are about to be overcome by the forces of the he or still are fighting victoriously the good fight of faith.
Behind, and underneath, and in us must be God Himself. Otherwise we will not stand, and The Standard Bearer will do worse than faint. It will bear the lie rather than the standard of God’s Word. May God keep our churches strong in the faith so that we may have a steadfast, abiding, vibrant standardbearer in The Standard Bearer. May The Standard Bearerremain God’s standardbearer.