Warm Christian greetings. It should be noted that we as Christians never strive to attack. We strive for the Truth rather than against people—and there lies the big difference. We have determined to actively resist and teach against any false doctrines that are deceiving those among the Lord’s people. Doing so presents us with a unique problem. When a person (specifically elders or study leaders) teaches a false concept or doctrine, it rarely has anything to do with himself. Generally, the heresy can be clearly singled out and countered without having to necessarily address the brother who teaches it. For instance, if someone denies the “ransom for ‘ALL'” or teaches that the Lord is not present, or rejects the restoration of Israel or even Pastor Russell as “that Servant”, it’s easy to counter such claims with the Truth, without attacking the particular men teaching these errors. But consider! What if the heresy is inseparable from who and what a brother says that he is? What if the matter is also at the core of who a Christian worships? Do we say, ‘I can’t dispel this kind of false teaching because if I do I would also attack its author’? The reasoning might continue, ‘I know that this brother is deceiving thousands, but I can’t address his error, or try to help those he is deceiving, because I would also be attacking him, not just his heresy.’ The problem could go further. If a brother claimed to be a special servant of God, must we give him a ‘free pass’ because, in dispelling such an outrageous idea, we would also appear to be attacking the brother making the claim? What if someone stated that God had revealed to him that he was a special messenger? Can we not question—prove—him? What if he asserted himself to be Christ? The question looms even larger. You see the point? Consider when Elijah mocked the prophets of Baal, did he attack them? No! God inspired Isaiah to ‘Cry aloud and spare not!…Show My people their sins!’ (58:1). We are doing just that—and it will soon be evident that one of the greatest sins the brethren are committing lies at the heart of watering down the Harvest Message. We are under no illusion. This website will evoke attacks against us personally. However, as consecrated Christians, we strive to lay down our lives for the Lord and the Truth. Our my job and YOUR JOB, is to help the brethren and other Truth-seekers. If we can help even one, even at some personal expense, it is well worth it!
When you die—will you go to ‘hell’? Should you fear it? It’s a concept not much brooded on in our secular society. Certainly, if you go to the average Christian funeral service you’re not likely to hear the officiating minister tell us that the loved one is ‘roasting in hell’. But it does form a worrying thought for many—Christian, non-Christian, secular. And it is burned into the theology of most religions. Let’s examine ‘hell’ from the Christian Bible’s view-point.
In the Scriptures we are presented with four words for hell: sheol (Hebrew), hades (Greek), ge’henna and tartaros (Greek). It is important for understanding that we note the differences.
In brief, sheol (Heb) refers simply to the grave, as does hades (Gk), while ge’henna is what most think of as a ‘burning fiery place where the wicked go’. Tartaros, used only once in Scripture, refers to fallen angelic beings. First we will examine what happens to man when we die.
When We Die
We die, then we are buried or cremated –but then what? The vast majority of mankind assumes that life persists beyond death, that abiding in us is an ‘immortal soul’ which passes on to some state of ever-living existence. So we may return in another form (Hindu belief) or, as in Christianity or Islam, go on to ‘heaven’— or, if wicked, to ‘hell’. It is an almost universal belief, but it is a distortion of the Biblical teaching on the nature of man and his destiny beyond the grave.
Mankind, says God’s revelation through the apostle Paul, is ‘…of the earth, earthy’, (I Corinthians 15:47-49)—echoing the revelation given to Adam: ;…God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul’ (Genesis 2:7). And (obvious to all!), our ‘earthy’ part dies and decays.
Made from earth’s elements, however, we are also animated by the ‘breath of life’ from God (the ‘spirit in man’)—and made in God’s image (ch 1:26-27).
The tradition of burial is widespread, the most common means of disposal of human remains throughout time. In the Hebrew texts the word for grave is sheol (hades in Greek)— often translated (KJV) as hell. It is where people go to ‘sleep with the fathers’, a place of silence, of inactivity: ‘… there is no work, or planning, or knowledge, or wisdom, in Sheol, there where you go’ (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
It’s a place where ‘…the dead [in sheol] do not praise Jehovah, nor do any who go down into silence’ – Psalm 115:17. And ‘…[man’s] breath [Heb. ruach—spirit] will go out, he returns to the earth; his thoughts perish in that day’ (146:4).
Matthew records that ‘…Jesus cried again with a loud voice, and yielded up his spirit’ (Matthew 27:50). Remarkably, we find that he, too, was then, for three days and three nights, in ‘hell’—hades: ‘…[David] spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul [psuche] was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption’ (Acts 2:31, Psalm 16:10).
In other words, our human spirit is inert, inactive when in isolation from the physical body. In Bible-speak it is asleep. The body without the human spirit is dead and will decay to ‘dust’, but when united with it becomes ‘…a living soul [Heb. nephesh]’ (Genesis 2:7).
But they will be re-united, body and spirit, raised from among the dead: ‘…O God, who is like You, who has shown me great and evil distresses. You will turn me; You will make me live; and You will bring me up from the depths of the earth’ (Psalm 71:20). And, ‘…You will not leave My soul in Sheol’ -16:10).
[‘Soul’ (Gk. psuche, Heb nephesh) is our life as functioning human beings, animated by the human spirit. The soul dies (Ezekiel 18:4,20; Matthew 10:28)]
In sum, the human spirit departs the body at death and ‘…shall return to God who gave it’ (Ecclesiastes 12:7). The assumption, then, is that there’s a secure spiritual ‘vault’ (called sheol— translated ‘hell’ in many Bibles) where all human spirits are retained in God’s care until their resurrection when Jesus Christ ‘calls’ them to either a spirit or a physical body (John 5:28). Remember, they have no consciousness, so are not praising God in Heaven (Psalm 115:17).
All, then, who die are parted from their God-given human spirit and are at rest until resurrected—R.I.P. Both the ‘good’ and the ‘wicked’ share the same fate. They all ‘rest in peace’. So what of the concept of a ‘fiery hell’ where the wicked are tormented forever?
A Fiery Hell
Such a condition will exist! But be ready for a surprise. It has never, to date, existed. Yet Jesus speaks quite clearly of ‘…the fire of hell’ (Matthew 5:22 etc), and gives some dire warnings for transgressors. But it is widely misunderstood.
As we have seen, the ‘soul’ decays to its elements, and following death the human spirit is ‘asleep’, inert. No matter how wicked your life may have been—when you die you will not be facing the ‘devil’s pitchfork’, or being roasted and tormented for ever.
The ‘hell’ referred to (Gk ge’henna) draws its symbolism from the Valley of Hinnom—a literal valley just south-east of Jerusalem—a very real place, and Jesus may have been looking into it as he spoke!
This valley was the municipal rubbish dump for the city. Waste was incinerated there, along with the dead bodies of animals and executed criminals. The prophet Isaiah refers to it: ‘…they shall go out and see the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against Me; for their worm shall not die, nor shall their fire be put out; and they shall be an object of disgust to all flesh’ (ch 66:24).
Those worms, by the way, are the maggots which devoured unburned rotting flesh and vegetation. They didn’t ‘die’ but continually reproduced. The fires were ‘unquenched’ because they burned only as long as there was fuel.
So—a very real place, and symbolic of the future disposal of those who will in the end spurn God’s offer of salvation through Jesus the Christ: ‘… you shall tread under the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day which I am preparing, says Jehovah of Hosts’ (Malachi 4:3).
And doubtless some may end up there!
It is almost universally believed that God delights in casting into hell, into this ‘Lake of Fire’, those who oppose Him, where they will throughout an eternity be tormented and in agony. That is a gross misunderstanding of the purpose for which He has created mankind.
Whatever His awesome plans for eternity, God’s focus on this planet at this time is to ‘prepare a people for Himself’. He is not concerned to provide a sweet resting place, an eternity of bliss, for those who do what He says. His focus is to select a family of like-minded (His mind!) men and women who have been prepared by Him throughout this physical life—to reign with Him for ever.
By the end of this present earthly phase of God’s plan everyone who has ever lived will have been presented with the opportunity to become part of the Plan. It is a free and open choice, freely entered into. Surely few will reject!
But what if they do?
Fate of the Wicked At the end of history every human being who has lived will have been confronted with the Gospel, with the opportunity to become a member of the divine Family—to participate in the divine plan for eternity. All who have become children of the Father will have acquired a Spirit body by virtue of God’s indwelling holy Spirit.
Our planet is then about to be consumed in flames: ’…But the heavens and the earth now, having been stored up by the same Word, are being kept for fire to a day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men’ (II Peter 3:7).
‘…the sea gave up the dead in it. And death and hell gave up the dead in them. And they were each judged according to their works. And death and hell [Gk hades] were thrown into the Lake of Fire. This is the second death. And if anyone was not found having been written in the Book of Life, he was thrown into the Lake of Fire’ (Revelation 20:13-15).
For these it means death—not eternal life in hell! Said Jesus: ‘…God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that everyone believing into Him should not perish [be destroyed], but have everlasting life’ (John 3:16). Not death, but life.
Our Saviour adds: ‘…fear Him being able to destroy both soul and body in Hell [Gk.ge’henna)’.
Because the unrepentant are in the end ‘…cast into the Lake of Fire’ doesn’t mean they were at that moment still alive! Speaking of those whose growth in Christ is stunted Jesus, comparing them to branches of a vine, says they are cut off and dried up—ie, by analogy, killed. No longer fit for purpose they are then burned (John 15:6, Malachi 4:3).
A further example is the fate of Ananias and his wife, who ‘…lied to God’. They fell down dead and then their bodies were disposed of. (Acts 5:1-11).
The Spirit Kingdom
Hell (Gk ge’henna) is the final cleansing of Earth of all that ‘…comes short of the glory of God’. Every human being will have by that time been given sufficient opportunity to become part of the Kingdom of God. A period of physical life during which they will be presented with the same Gospel now open to mankind. ‘I call Heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Therefore, choose life, that you may live’ (Deuteronomy 30:19
“Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial [Deut. 13:13]? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God….Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”–2 Cor. 6:14-18.
THIS command, not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers, is very generally quoted with reference to the subject of marriage. And it is properly so applied, being a general principle applicable in a variety of cases. But the Apostle is not here referring to the marriage bond, but to the bonds of friendship and communion, which should be sacred among the saints, and which should not exist between believers and unbelievers. Through this and the preceeding chapter he has been discoursing about the doctrine of Christ. He has been preaching the gospel of redemption and resurrection, and of the privilege of being new creatures in Christ, and showing that, having by faith received the blessed gospel, we are ambassadors for Christ and co-workers together with him in making it known to others; and that as such we should be faithful to our commission, and under no circumstances allow the truth to be mixed with error. The idea is not that the saints should be unkind or unneighborly to the unbelieving: on the contrary, they are to be kind to all men, to the thankful and to the unthankful, to the believing and to the unbelieving (Luke 6:35; Gal. 6:10); but it is that they should not be friends in the sense of having communion and fellowship.
To be “yoked” together with another signifies more than a mere passing friendliness or neighborly kindness. It signifies an intimacy, a companionship, a fellowship of spirit. If two are bound together with the same yoke, they must of necessity walk together; and if they cannot agree to walk together, they must sever the yoke, whether it be a literal wooden yoke, or a yoke of friendship. Friendship is more than a passing kindness, and never exists without some bonds of fellowship. With a loyal and faithful Christian the bonds of fellowship or friendship can be none other than those of a common faith and hope. He has renounced the world with its ambitions and aims, has lost its spirit, and has received instead the spirit of Christ with all its new and heavenly aspirations and hopes; consequently, if he be true to his profession, those earthly things can no longer constitute bonds of fellowship with him: he cannot submit to be yoked with those who are of the world. He has also renounced all the vain philosophies of human invention and has taken for his guide, and has found his delight in, the infallible Word of divine truth; consequently, if he remain true to his profession, the theories and speculations of men can constitute no bond of fellowship with him; for he has no sympathy with them. And, further, his commission as an ambassador for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20) not only precludes the possibility of fellowship on those terms, but it also arrays him, as a defender of the faith once delivered to the saints by the Lord and the Apostles, in opposition to every other form of doctrine.
The Apostle’s questions are therefore significant: “What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?” None whatever: the man who is righteous cannot approve or agree with the unrighteous; they cannot walk together, either under the one yoke or the other, and they naturally drift apart, because there is nothing to hold them together. “And what communion hath light with darkness?” Can the natural light and darkness abide together? No more can the light of truth in one heart and the darkness of error in another draw them together in fellowship and sympathy. They are repellant and not attractive forces. They cannot assimilate. The light may come where darkness reigns and chase it away, and then there can be communion in light; but when the darkness opposes the light, and instead of giving place to it, seeks to overwhelm it, there can be no communion except the light suffer an eclipse and go out in darkness.
And “what concord [what harmony] hath Christ [the body of Christ, the true Church] with Belial [with those who say, “Let us go and serve other gods”–See Deut. 13:13]?” Those who agree with and fellowship such, have not the spirit of Christ, and are none of his, no matter how loudly they profess to be. “Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel,” an unbeliever? Is there any bond of fellowship there? “And what agreement hath the temple of God [the Church, the body of Christ] with idols?” Can the spirit of God and the spirit of idolatry dwell in the same heart? God will not share his temple with another. We must be wholly devoted to him, or we are not acceptable to him. Therefore, every other idol must be banished from our hearts, Christ alone enthroned, and only his true and loyal subjects fellowshipped.
“Wherefore, come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean, and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”
How explicit and positive is the command, and how blessed the promise to the obedient. Every word of the command is full of significance:–
The first word–“Wherefore”–calls up the forceful argument preceding; i.e., in view of the fact that it is impossible to serve two masters or to have the spirit of Christ, and still have fellowship with the opponents of Christ; in view of the fact that we must either be true and loyal to him, or else be none of his–“Wherefore, come out from among them [from among the enemies of Christ, whether the avowed or the deceitfully cloaked, who, although professing to be light-bringers and truth-seekers, love darkness better than light, because their hearts are not right; whose conduct shows that they do not love the Lord and the truth, and who only seek to entice the faithful away from the narrow path which God has marked out]; and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean.”
To be separate does not mean to be friends and companions, or to be in fellowship on any grounds. It means that we are to make a clean-cut division between ourselves and all the unclean, the impure in heart, as manifested by their disloyalty to the truth, and thereby to God, its great Author; and that this separation is to be so marked that the disfellowshipped one will be sure to know it, and that none can mistake our obedience and loyalty to the Lord and his truth. There is to be no trifling or half-way obedience in this matter; for we are not only to be separate in spirit from the enemies of the Lord, but we are not to touch the unclean. As the Apostle elsewhere says, we are to “avoid them”–to have no part or lot with them.
It is only on these conditions that we have the Lord’s promise–“And I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you; and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” We are thus brought face to face with the alternative of making a definite choice between the Lord and his truth on the one hand, and the enemies of the Lord, whether open or covert, on the other. The command is, “Choose ye this day whom ye will serve.” There is no neutral ground; and no half-way compliance can realize the blessed promise– “And I will receive you,” etc.
It is the spirit of the world, and not the spirit of Christ, which considers such a separation from the ungodly and the apostate a hard service. The loyal heart cannot admit to its communion and fellowship those who have not the same loyal disposition. What would be the natural conclusion of a husband, if he saw his wife, who professed loyalty and devotion to him, making a special friend or companion of his enemy, either secret or open? or of the wife whose husband found pleasure in fellowship and communion with one who is an enemy to her, or who in any way treats her with discourtesy or disrespect? And should we not be equally loyal to our heavenly Bridegroom and our heavenly Father? and equally sensitive and quick to discern the opposing spirit which seeks to undermine and destroy the faith and loyalty of God’s elect? Would not true loyalty and devotion count the injury or the blessing done to a friend as done unto us? So the Lord views the matter when he says, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matt. 25:40.) And so also the Psalmist teaches, saying, “Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.”–Psa. 139:21,22.
To thus come out from among the unclean, and to be separate from all the deceitful, as well as from the open, workers of iniquity, may often leave us quite alone in the world; but the truly loyal heart will prefer to be alone with God, rather than to have the friendship of those who are untrue to him. Even if the Scriptures had nothing to say on the subject, such would be natural to a devoted heart.
It is therefore all in vain that some testify of their love to God while they keep company with his opponents. Their actions speak louder than their words. It is in vain also that they urge the plea of charity when the Lord says, “Be ye separate, and touch not the unclean.”
Many, and very plain and positive, are the warnings of the Word of God against the “evil communications” that “corrupt good manners.” (1 Cor. 15:33.) The Apostle Paul’s counsel (Acts 20:28-30) to all the elders of the Church was, “Take heed, therefore, unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the holy Spirit hath made you overseers, to feed the Church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood: for I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” And Jude said, “Beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, how that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own desires. These be they who separate themselves [from the truth and its spirit], sensual [minding earthly things, and gratifying the ambitions and tastes of the old nature], having not the spirit. But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying with a holy spirit [a spirit of loyalty and devotion to God], keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”–Jude 17-21.
Thus we are put on guard against the enemies of the truth, and it is made obligatory upon all the faithful to be on the alert against them, and to be prompt in discerning and in dealing with them, so that the flock of Christ may be spared. The Apostle Paul grows very earnest in urging this matter, saying, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them: for they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own desires; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple [of those not on the alert for the encroachment of error].” (Rom. 16:17,18.) Again, says the same Apostle (2 Tim. 2:16), “Shun profane and vain babblings; for they will increase unto more ungodliness.”
No, says the ungodly policy of this evil day of compromises and of disloyalty to “the faith once delivered to the saints,” we cannot walk by this strict rule: we dare not recognize and admit the real character of a wolf in the sheep-fold, if the wolf be attired in sheep’s clothing; we must accept his professions, notwithstanding his words and his actions to the contrary. We cannot believe that of our own selves–right in the midst of the company of the consecrated–any will arise to “pervert the truth” and to “draw disciples after them;” and we dare not “mark” any as such, and “avoid them,” or “shun their profane and vain babblings,” as the Apostle suggests, for it would be uncharitable, unloving.
Of late we hear a great deal in favor of a broad-minded charity which gives loose rein to the enemies of the doctrines of Christ–a charity which can affiliate with every form of belief or unbelief; that makes no claims of superiority for one religion over another, be it heathen or Christian or antichristian; and that freely fellowships all and bids all God speed, utterly heedless of the Word of the Lord which says, “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God,” and “If there come any unto you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed; for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.”–2 John 9-11.
The warning here is not against those who never knew the truth, but against those who have known it and have been blessed by it, and who have afterward turned away from it; of whom the Apostle Peter speaks, saying, “If, after they escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning [they are worse than those who have always been of the world]. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according the true proverb, “The dog is turned to his own vomit again, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.” Why do they do so? Because the dog and the sow nature and disposition are there still, and only wait for opportunities and circumstances to prove it. So also says John: they that go out from us–who desert the truth and its interests –do so because they were not of us (2 Pet. 2:20-22; 1 John 2:19), because the old fleshly mind and disposition are still there.
The love or charity which goes out toward the enemies of the cross of Christ–those who have been once enlightened by the truth and have turned away from it–is not the right kind of love. We are commanded to “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world,” and told that “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15); and, again, “This is love, that we walk after his commandments.” –2 John 6.
“And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.”–Gal. 6:16.
One of Satan’s most potent weapons is compromise. The word “compromise” means “to reach an agreement by concession” (Webster). Satan has always wanted God’s people to compromise the truth with error. When Satan can get us to compromise, he knows he can destroy the church and cause us to lose our calling.
In the first century, Satan tried to compromise the truth of the gospel with Judaism. The Judaizing teachers taught “except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1). The apostles and elders at Jerusalem said that they “gave no such commandment” as was being taught by the Judaizers (Acts 15;24). The Apostle Paul said that he did not compromise with these false teachers “an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you” ( Gal. 2:5). There were those in the church at Pergamos who held to “the doctrine of Balaam”, which was the doctrine of compromising with sin, and it certainly did not please the Lord (Rev. 2:14).
The devil is busy in the church today promoting the doctrine of compromise. Elders and members are falling for his lethal weapon, and we are seeing a drifting away from the truth which we have fought so hard to restore and maintain.
There are those who want to place some matters of doctrine within the scope of Romans chapter 14 so that fellowship can exist with those who teach and practice doctrinal error. Romans 14 is dealing with personal liberty in matters of indifference, NOT doctrinal matters.
Brethren, there is no middle message between truth and false doctrine. There is but ONE body of doctrine which is truth (John 7:17; 8:32). This body of doctrine is called “the faith” (Acts 6:7; Jude 3); “the doctrine of Christ”, (II John 9); “the truth” (John 8:32); “the gospel” (Rom. 1:16); “sound doctrine” (II Tim. 4:3; Tit. 2:1); and “one faith” (Eph. 4:5). This body of doctrine can be understood and obeyed alike (Eph. 5:17; 3: 3- 4; Matt. 7:21; John 7:17).
No one can teach “another gospel” without being accursed of God (Gal. 1: 6 – 9) — He will not tolerate either adding to or taking from this body of doctrine (Rev. 22: 18 – 19). God intended that His people be united upon His Word (John 17: 20 – 21), that they “all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among them” (I Cor. 1:10).
Satan has brought compromising “false unity” among God’s people, and many have fallen for the compromise — it is called “unity-in-diversity”.
This expressing, “unity-in-diversity”, is a contradiction of terms. “Unity” means “the state of being one; concord; agreement; harmony” — it is the very absence of diversity; “diversity” is “the state of being diverse (different)”, and is opposed to unity. To “dwell in unity” is to dwell together without differences (I Cor. 1:10); diversity is to dwell together with differences. Unity is brought about by individuals accepting the word of God (John 17: 20 – 21); diversity is had by agreement to get along in compromise with false doctrine. Unity forbids division (Eph. 1:10; 4: 1 -6); diversity acknowledges and encourages division. Unity can only be had by the removal of the teaching and practice of error (Rom. 16: 17; Tit. 3:10; II John 9 -11); diversity opens the floodgates for all kinds of error and teaching. Unity fulfills the word of God (John 17: 20 -21); diversity makes sincerity and the conscience the authority instead of the gospel. Unity is had by doing the will of God (Phil. 1:27; John 17: 20 -21); diversity is had by the compromise of convictions and disregarding differences. Unity excludes error (Eph. 5: 11; II john 9 – 11); diversity is an effort to smooth over false doctrine (error) without removing the error. The word of God is the foundation of unity (John 17: 20 – 21); diversity has at its foundation liberty of opinion in doctrinal matters.
There is to be no compromise or fellowship with those in error (Eph. 5:11; Rom. 16: 17 – 18; II John 9 – 11; I Cor. 5: 1 – 8). There can be no compromise with denominationalism (II John 9 – 11), with instrumental music (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16); with the use of human institutions to do the work of the church (the church is sufficient to do its own work, Acts 14:23); with those who teach that one can divorce his/her mate and remarry without the cause of fornication (Matt. 19:9; Luke 16:18); with social drinking (I Pet. 4:3); or with worldliness in general (I John 2: 15 – 17; Gal. 5: 19 – 21).
Brethren, there can be no compromise or fellowship with those in error if we want to be pleasing to God (Eph. 5:11; Rom . 16: 17 – 18; II John 9 – 11; I Cor. 5: 1 – 8). Let us all be alert to the difference between Bible unity and religious diversity of opinions as a means of “false unity”. “Unity-in-diversity” is the devil’s compromise — don’t fall for it!
“Giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1) “spirits in high positions” (Eph. 6:12) “The heathen sacrifice to devils and not to God ” (1 Cor. 10:20)
The Bible’s teaching that the earth’s atmosphere is infested with evil spirits is now very generally disbelieved. As a result of the disbelief thousands of well-meaning people are being the more easily entrapped by these evil spirits. The blight is both physical and moral. The usual method of procedure is to arouse curiosity. While the quest for knowledge proceeds, an influence much like that of hypnotism affects the investigator, impelling him forward to further investigation. Sometimes the curiosity is attracted through the outer senses, at spiritualistic seances, with Ouija boards, etc. At other times it is by spirit rappings. Again, it may be by whisperings in the ear, inaudible to others. At other times the messages come through trance mediums.
In every instance these communications purport to come from dead human beings. This of itself gives to the communication a special charm to many. They feel honored in being sought out by the dead and in being able to communicate with them. They are curious for information respecting the hereafter. They forget that they have been taught from infancy that the holy dead are far off in heaven, and that the unholy dead are far off in torment.
THEY TEACH FALSE DOCTRINES
How fully this is forgotten is shown by a letter which we received on the first day of this month from a Catholic lady. In it she tells how she first obtained clairvoyant powers the gift of hearing what others could not hear. This, in turn, permitted her to communicate with the evil spirits, the fallen angels. These, representing themselves to her as inmates of purgatory, came to her for help. They solicited her prayers and were progressing to get her more and more under their control.
Just in time she was rescued through reading our writings on the subject. Since then she has exercised her will and her prayers against having any fellowship whatever with these fallen angels. Gradually she is becoming more and more enlightened in the Truth of God’s Word.
Not infrequently do these spirits personate the Heavenly Father and Christ, urge more prayer, accuse of sin, recommend the reading of the Scriptures, etc. This appears to be with a view to gaining the confidence, the relaxing of the will. Later on dishonorable suggestions are made. The Bible is scorned, prayer is laughed at. If, then, the subject takes fright and seeks to break the hypnotic chain, the evil spirits laugh at him, swear at him, and sometimes tell him that they will shortly have him fully in their power to roast him forever. If he attempts to pray, they intrude and interrupt and tell him that God would not hear him now, that he has gone too far, etc.
With some the matter goes so far that the human will is broken down completely and the spirits obsess them and use their bodies foolishly sometimes viciously, sometimes insanely, until, finally, they are pronounced dangerous and committed to asylums. We do not claim that all the insane are obsessed of evil spirits, but so far as we can judge, nearly one-half of the inmates in asylums are obsessed by demons, who live in them while they are mastering their wills.
PREPARED FOR THESE DELUSIONS
God, through His Word, has forewarned His people against these delusions. In permitting many, nevertheless, to fall into these traps, He is merely teaching a great lesson; the terrible results of disobedience, of neglect of God’s Word, are not eternal. The Divine arrangement is that ultimately the entire human family shall be released from the bonds of sin and death, ignorance and superstition, and all have full opportunity for coming into full harmony with God. The present lesson will illustrate the necessity for searching the Scriptures and obeying God’s voice therein.
SEDUCING SPIRITS DOCTRINES OF DEVILS
St. Paul, in describing our day, declares one of its prominent signs to be that many will now give heed to these seducing spirits, whose teachings and practices lead away from God. St. Paul intimates also that by these misleading spirits many will come to hold doctrines of demons, or devilish doctrines. It is a sad commentary upon our wonderful day of enlightenment that the most enlightened people should hold the most awful doctrine respecting the hereafter.
A doctrine of demons it most surely is which tells, to the dishonor of God’s name, that nine hundred and ninety-nine out of every thousand of humanity are to be eternally tortured, either because of Divine incompetence to make better arrangements for them, or because God willed and foreordained it so before creation. This doctrine of demons has enslaved many honorable people who would themselves scorn to make such a plan of the ages as they attribute to God.
Thank God, the time is not far distant when these seducing spirits will be completely bound, restrained, and deceive humanity thus no more. But the deception has so long prevailed that poor humanity is thoroughly under its control. The falsehood leading up to all this error is Satan’s first lie to our parents in Eden. There, contradicting the words of God, he said, “Ye shall not surely die.” Ever since, for six thousand years, he has worked along this line, and all the fallen angels with him. His message is, “Ye shall not surely die” you do not surely die; when men seem to die, they become more alive than before they died.”
On account of these errors, that dead men are alive, Satan and the fallen angels, contrary to the teachings of the Bible, have instilled into the whole world, nonsensical, heathen superstitions respecting heaven, purgatory and hell. The Catholics pray for those who go to Purgatory, to help them out. Protestants do not so pray, believing that the saintly few go direct to heaven and all of the unsaintly go as directly to eternal torture.
If this great lie wherewith Satan first seduced Mother Eve and murdered our race could be fully eliminated from our minds and our creeds, it would mean a religious revolution to both Catholics and Protestants back to the Bible and away from the domination and seduction of the lying spirits, the fallen angels, who personate humanity.
THE FALLEN ANGELS LUSTFUL
So far as we can learn from those who have once been spirit mediums, the trend of Spiritism is toward unchastity, impurity. And this agrees well with the Scriptural declaration relative to the sin through which these fallen angels first became reprobate. St. Jude (6) and St. Peter (2 Pet. 2:4), tell us briefly of the fall of the angels that “they left their own habitation and kept not their first estate.” Both Apostles mention the circumstance in connection with human lasciviousness. The story of the fall of the angels is given us briefly in Gen. 6:1-4. After man’s fall into sin God permitted the holy angels to have communication with humanity. And because human eyes cannot see spirit beings, God permitted the angels to materialize. For instance, we note the case of the angels who visited Abraham on the plains of Mamre and for whom he prepared a veal dinner. We read that, materialized, these angels were like men, and taken by Abraham to be men, while they ate and talked with him. It was subsequently that Abraham learned that they were really heavenly visitants.
So it was with all the angels before the flood. They were permitted to materialize and to appear in every sense of the word as men. The record shows that the angels became lustful. We read, “The sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair and took unto themselves wives of such as they chose.” The angels, with superior powers and superior knowledge to man’s, acted as the masters of men, who were practically obliged to do their bidding. The result is stated in few words. The children of this mis-alliance, we are told, were giants as compared with the ordinary members of our race. And not only were they giants physically, but also intellectually—” They were men of renown.”
Poor humanity could not compete with this race. The result was that strife and contention and lustful, sinful practices abounded in all the earth until God declared that every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil continually.
God had foreknown all this, and a canopy of waters, which then surrounded the earth, similar to Saturn’s rings now, was held in readiness to cause a flood, that sinful men and the human offspring of the angels might be destroyed. Only Noah and his family were found worthy of preservation to be the new start of humanity this side of the flood. The declaration of the Scriptures respecting Noah’s family is, “Now Noah was perfect in his generation.” He was properly generated or born so were his children. There was no strain or admixture of the angelic stock in that family. The plain information is that the remainder of humanity were so degraded by the seductions of those fallen angels that they were not fit to live. The entire race had become corrupt.
ANGELS RESTRAINED–CHAINS OF DARKNESS
Of course, the fallen angels were not destroyed in the flood, for they not only had the power to materialize, but also the power to dematerialize. It was at that time, however, that all of the fallen angels were put under restraints not permitted again to materialize, the limitation lasting “until the Judgment of the great Day.”
Their chains are not physical, to confine them to a certain place in Tartarus the earth’s atmosphere. They may roam at will, but are chained, or restrained from materializing. The intimation of the Scriptures seems to be that, with the ending of this Gospel Age, just prior to the inauguration of the New dispensation, these evil spirits may be allowed to break their chains and manifest themselves as men, in connection with the great trouble time incidental to the change of Dispensation.
Separated from God and the holy angels, and unable to assume human bodies, the sinful angels have probably had terrible experiences during the past forty-four hundred years. True happiness is not to be expected amongst those alienated from God. Anger, malice, hatred, strife, “works of the devil,” the Apostle says, are not compatible with the love, joy and peace which belong alone to a condition of holiness. Under such circumstances we cannot wonder that these fallen angels would seek association with humanity. Being under the control of Satan as a chief or prince of devils, they have followed his course and propagated his original falsehood—” Ye shall not surely die.”
They have conjured to men’s minds the hell of the heathen, the hell and Purgatory of the Catholics, and, worst of all, our Protestant misconception of awful and unending torture for all except the saintly few.
These doctrines of demons have increased the gulf between God and humanity and have made the Bible, the Message of God’s love, a book of terrors not to be loved, merely to be endured or kept as a fetish to secure possibly a cooler place in purgatory.
We may safely say that all the false doctrines of Christendom, represented in all of the creeds of the “Dark Ages,” are doctrines of demons. Our minds became defiled our hymn-books, our creeds, everything.
Thank God that the light of the New Dispensation is now bringing to us the beginning of blessing release from some of our darkness. The seeing of the true wage of sin that it is death and not eternal torment is one of the most important features connected with our enlightenment. When we learn that the dead are really dead and, as the bible declares, will not know anything until the resurrection, then we begin to see the beauty of God’s Plan the need of Christ’s death, the need of His second coming; the need of His Kingdom; the need of a resurrection; the need of an opportunity for all mankind to come to a clear knowledge of the great Truth of redemption through the precious blood and the opportunity then, by God’s grace, of attaining eternal life either during this Gospel Age, as New Creatures, spirit beings like unto the angels, or in the New Dispensation, during the more general salvation of the world to human perfection in an earthly Paradise.
JESUS CAST OUT DEVILS
Our great Redeemer manifested His power by casting out demons from those who had become obsessed. And we read further that He commissioned His Apostles to heal all manner of diseases and to cast out unclean spirits. We are told that they did this and numerous instances, in illustration, are given us. One man was obsessed by a legion of these spirits. No wonder the poor fellow was crazy. But after they were cast out he was clothed and in his right mind and became a disciple (Luke 8:26-36).
St. Paul and Silas had an experience with an obsessed young woman who practiced soothsaying, fortune-telling, by the power of the evil spirit which obsessed her. As the evil spirits recognized Jesus and cried, “We know Thee, who Thou art, Jesus,” so this spirit knew the Apostles and, through the young woman’s lips, cried after them, “These be the servants of the Most High God, which show to us the way to obtain eternal life” (Acts 16:16-18).
Neither Jesus nor the Apostles were willing to accept demon testimony and commanded the evil spirits to come out of their victims.
SCIENTISTS BEING ENTRAPPED
The Scriptures indicate that there will be a wonderful activity amongst the fallen angels in the close of this Gospel Age. The Master declared that the deceptions would be such that, if it were possible, the “very elect” would be deceived. But that will not be possible, because Divine providence stands engaged to protect the elect. The Ninety-First Psalm, which gives a picture of the closing of this Age and its sundry trials and tests, declares that God will give His messengers a charge concerning the feet members of the body of Christ in all their ways lest a foot should be dashed against a stone of stumbling (Psa. 91:12).
If our understanding of the Scriptures be correct, we need not be surprised if the fallen angels may again seemingly gain a victory over the Divine restraints and materialize in broad daylight–personating not only the dead, but also at times personating the living. Spiritists and mediums are claiming such things as already beginning and likely to be accomplished on a grand scale shortly. Should it come it will inaugurate a terrible time of trouble such as had not been since the flood. God’s people, while resting confidently and at ease under Divine supervision, should be on the alert to resist everything akin to Spiritism, Occultism, Hypnotism, and to warn their friends respecting these things.
Numerous scientific men are being entrapped by these lying spirits whose doings and powers they are investigating under the name of Psychic Phenomena.
Thank God we are nearing the time when Satan shall be bound and when every evil influence shall be restrained. Not only will there be a full cleansing from a physical obsession, but a still greater cleansing and freeing from the doctrines of demons.
“In the last days perilous times shall come; men shall be traitors, heady,…lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.”– 2 Timothy 3:4.
THE expression, “the last days,” or the latter days, the closing days, refers, not to the end of the world in the sense that many expect this event, but is a Scriptural designation of the present time, the end of this Age, when the Reign of Righteousness is about to begin. We are glad to be living now in this Harvest time! “The Harvest is the end of the Age.” (Matthew 13:39. –Diaglott.) The warning given by the Apostle is that, instead of the world’s being Christianized and converted to God at this time, the reverse condition will prevail. It will be a time of great peril– peril to the Lord’s people–peril for those who have started out to follow Christ. However, it will not be so much a perilous time for the world.
The only ones who are on trial for life or death are those who have been released from the Adamic condemnation. To these the time described by St. Paul will be one of severe testing. The whole course of the world will be turned aside from the high standard that might have been expected. Men will be traitors. As long as it will be of advantage to them to perform a contract they will do so; when not advantageous they will not fulfil the contract. It will be a time when every man’s hand will be lifted against his neighbor. Selfishness will be rampant. Each will do what will be to his own interest, regardless of obligation. There will be manifest headiness and selfishness and self-conceit. Men will be “lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.” This condition is to be a sign of the end of the Age.
Every thoughtful person must perceive that this condition of things is prevailing now. Whenever a contract is found to be unsatisfactory–whether it be a marriage contract or a business contract–the dissatisfied contractor is liable to break the agreement. This party to the contract then assumes the attitude of one who declares, Force me to keep it if you can. The Lord’s people will keep their word and be firm for principle and true to their contracts, even when these prove disadvantageous to them. This attitude is pleasing to the Lord.
PREVALENCE OF THESE CONDITIONS UNIVERSAL
We find headiness of spirit in the world everywhere –a loss of respect for authority. No doubt there has been too much respect for authority in the past. Now the pendulum is swinging to the other side, and there is no respect for authority. This condition has been brought about by a lack of reverence for God–the inevitable result of loss of faith in the Bible as the Word of God. As people lose faith in the Bible, they lose faith in God, and become more selfish and more self-willed. This condition of affairs has been brought about by false doctrine, error. People think that God is their Adversary, purposing to do them harm.
The Higher Critics have been seeking to put away what they have considered the absurdities of religious thought, and to this end have done away with the Bible. Bible students see that the absurdities have been brought about by the creeds and not by the Bible. But the world, losing confidence in God, are becoming more heady than ever before. Even the reverential fear which once held them is departing, and there is a disposition to doubt everything. People are in the condition of mind where they say, “Let us eat, drink and be merry”; nobody knows about the future; the preachers are all confused. Everything has come about by evolutionary processes. Let us enjoy the present. Let pleasure be our aim in life. This would seem to be the attitude of the world. They are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.
WORLDLY SPIRIT IN SOME OF THE CONSECRATED
These conditions of our day make it a perilous time for the Church. Do you ask, Would not the Church, on the contrary, be more than ever led to love God? And would this not guard them and keep them from danger? We answer that some of God’s people are becoming more and more immersed in the world. The spirit of the world surges all around them. With great difficulty could these come to realize that the whole world is astray in their ideas and ways. The tendency of all such is to have the mind of the world, even though they be spirit-begotten.
This worldly spirit, the Apostle suggests, would affect the Church to some extent. Consequently some of the Lord’s people would thus come into special peril at this time, because of neglecting their Covenant with the Lord. Others would remember that Covenant, and watch and pray, and so make good progress. Those who are living close to the Lord are, for this reason, developing in mind and heart. But these are few.
The Great Company class, while still loving the Lord, are becoming immersed in the spirit of the world. Even those who are living nearest to the Divine standard will be more or less imperiled through this spirit, unless they continue diligent in prayer and the study of God’s Word. What we see going on about us seems natural to our minds. The way in which other people spend time and money is a temptation to the Lord’s people which must be steadfastly resisted.
A SUBTLE TEST
The Lord’s people spend and are being spent in His service–by volunteer work, by attending meetings, by holding meetings and in various ways, according to opportunity. They are living separate from the world– distinct lives, lives of consecration. The world now has an eight-hour day. The Lord’s faithful people would, on the contrary, make theirs a sixteen-hour day. But all these present-day conditions constitute perils. For us to do what others do, and to devote to the Lord’s service only what the world considers a reasonable day’s work, would not be fulfilling our Covenant of Sacrifice at all. Those who seek merely to do right, and to put in eight hours or so a day faithfully, after the manner of the world, will be judged from this standpoint; and they will merely obtain a place in the Great Company. They are not fulfilling the conditions of the Covenant of sacrifice.
But the Little Flock will serve the Lord with such delight that they will scarcely know how to cease their efforts. They recognize that their bodies are fully consecrated to the Lord, and they are daily putting them to death in a reasonable, rational manner. In view of these perilous times, let us each ask himself the question, To which class do I belong?
“The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister“– Matthew 20:28.
THE Master was impressing upon His hearers the difference between Himself and other great kings. He had come to be King of Israel, in fulfilment of Scripture prophecy. Unlike earthly rulers He was not seeking to learn how much He could get out of the people, but how much He could do for the people. He was not selfish. He was not trying to see how little He could serve and how much others could serve Him; but on the contrary, how little others might do for Him and how much He could do for others. And this is His expectation in respect to His followers. He and His disciples, called with a Heavenly Calling, called to a Heavenly Kingdom, are not called to be selfish or to appropriate honors to themselves for their own gratification; but they are called to service–especially to the service of the people of God. This is the true meaning of the word minister; namely, one who serves.
It is especially appropriate that all who are followers of the Lord Jesus should remember that we have each been called to service; and that those who are ministering in spiritual things, those who are especially known by the name of “minister,” should bear in mind that theirs is an office which calls for service, not to themselves, but to others; and that they have consecrated their lives thus to serve. Our Lord entered upon His ministry at His consecration. Of His life previous to His baptism at Jordan, the Scriptures say very little, so that the more attention may be attracted to His three and a half years of ministry in the Truth, when He was laying down His life for others–for His friends and also for His foes.
The same is true of all His followers. Our ministry begins at the time of our consecration. We are not authorized to minister, or serve, in holy things until we have entered upon the way which the Lord has pointed out to us. We are not today, however, obliged to wait until we have reached the age of thirty before we begin our ministry; but at as early an age as we can comprehend what we are engaging to perform, we may give our lives to the Lord and to the service of the Truth and of the brethren. This is because we are not under the Law covenant.– Romans 3:19.
ONLY A SON OF MAN COULD SERVE AS RANSOMER OF MAN
Our Lord speaks of Himself as the Son of Man, who came to “minister, and to give His life a Ransom for many.” He was indeed the Son of God, even while He was the Son of Man. The perfect man Adam, before his fall into sin, was a son of God. Our Lord in calling Himself the Son of Man was emphasizing the fact that He was no longer on the spirit plane, but on the human plane. He came to earth for a specific purpose–as He explained, to minister, to serve. He could not have done the necessary service for man as a spirit being. The requirement was that He should become a man in order to ransom mankind. He could ransom man only by becoming man. He could purchase life for the perfect Adam and the race who lost life in him only by becoming a perfect man.
“An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a man’s life for a man’s life,” was the demand of the Divine Law. Adam had sinned, and must be redeemed before he could be restored, either physically, mentally, or morally, or could be returned to God’s favor. Jesus had come to make possible this full restoration. His life was devoted to the service of others, and He completed this great service in His death on the cross. Throughout His earthly sojourn He gave us a noble example of the proper life of those who would be followers in His footsteps.
OUR SERVICE PARTICULARLY FOR THE NEW CREATION
Many misunderstand the Bible and think that now is the time to save the world. Hence they are spending all their time and energies to comfort and uplift humanity. They are indeed engaged in laudable efforts; for every good work or effort is to be commended. But to those who are rightly informed respecting the Divine Plan there is another, a far higher work, to be done now. The work of God in the present Age has not been the reformation of the world, but the development of the New Creation. This work is not yet fully completed. If we would work the work of God, our works must relate to the New Creation preeminently. We may do good unto all men as we have opportunity, as the Apostle says, but especially are we to serve the Household of Faith.
Jesus was in line for this work of ministry. Although there were no New Creatures as yet, while He was here in the flesh, His work was to prepare for these New Creatures. His work was the gathering out of some who would be faithful footstep followers of Himself, and the laying down of His life on their behalf and on behalf of the whole world.
In the context we note the fact that two of Jesus’ disciples were especially desirous at this time of sitting upon the Throne with the Master in His Kingdom, one upon His right and the other upon His left. Jesus did not condemn them for this desire, but pointed out to them how difficult were the conditions, and asked them whether they were able to comply with these conditions. They replied, “We are able.” They were willing, at least. That their answer was pleasing to Jesus was manifested by His words, “Ye shall indeed drink of My cup, and be baptized with My baptism.” They asked for places in the Kingdom very near to Him. Jesus informed them that He was not Himself able to give them such places–that the places would not be given according to favor, but according to justice; and that the Father would dispense these.
ARE WE MEETING THE NECESSARY CONDITIONS?
The place that we occupy in the Kingdom will depend much upon the extent to which we become ministers, or servants. And if we simply try to get as much as possible out of others and to give as little as possible, we shall not be such characters as the Lord is seeking for rulership in the Kingdom; in fact, we would not gain the Kingdom at all. He is seeking a very choice class. This class will all be servants, willing and glad to serve, esteeming it a great privilege to lay down their lives in the service of the brethren, to the extent of their ability and opportunity; for the service of the brethren is the service of God, to whom they have rendered themselves in consecration, to whom they have professed to devote their lives.
“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”–Matt. 4:4.
WE READ that these words were a part of our Lord’s answer to Satan when the Adversary exhorted Him to command the stones to be turned into bread, in order to satisfy His hunger, after fasting forty days in the wilderness. The Lord knew, however, that it would be unlawful for Him thus to use the superhuman power which came to Him as a result of His consecration to the Father’s service. That power was not to be used for His flesh. Hence our Lord refused to use His superhuman powers for the gratification of the flesh, even though He hungered. Then Satan suggested, How do you expect to live if you do not exercise your power to live? Our Lord’s answer, as we see, was that man shall not live by bread, merely, but by every word, every promise that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
Our hope of eternal life, therefore, rests upon that obedience to God which would entitle us to eternal life, according to His arrangement. If our Lord had gratified the flesh He might have satisfied His hunger, but He would have violated His covenant of obedience to God. Whoever would have eternal life must seek to be obedient to God, to all that God has commanded, all to which He has directed the individual. Of course, He might have one command for the angels, another for man, and a third for the Church. But since we find that we are not able to obey perfectly every command of God, we cannot hope for eternal life by perfect obedience to the letter of the Word of God. Even though God has accepted us as His children, we can hope for life only by having the spirit of obedience to His Word.
One of the lessons to be learned in the School of Christ is that a “man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth”–food and raiment, etc.– but that his life, in the fullest, highest, grandest sense, is dependent upon his complete submission to the Divine will. Careful attention to every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God, to every admonition, every encouragement, every promise, is necessary to the development of those whom God is now calling to eternal life as joint-heirs with His Son in the Kingdom. Let us, then, more and more, as the disciples of the Lord Jesus, keep in memory the words of the text, and act upon them.
LIVE BY EVERY WORD FROM THE MOUTH OF GOD
But how is it possible for us to live by the words that proceed out of the mouth of God? What did Jesus mean? How can God’s words give life?
He meant that all hope of attaining eternal life depends upon God–upon the Divine Plan and its promises. Looking into these promises we can see distinctly that the Divine Plan, dating from before the foundation of the world, is that all of God’s creatures, created in His likeness and abiding in faith, love and obedience in harmony with Him, shall have life everlasting. This is God’s Word upon the subject, namely, that obedience is the condition of life everlasting. This is, undoubtedly, what our Lord had in mind in the words of our text. He may also have had the thought that He had come into the world upon a special mission, to do the Father’s will, and that His understanding from the beginning was that His perfect obedience to the Divine will would insure Him glory, honor and immortality with the Father, eventually; but that any disobedience would mean the forfeiture of Divine favor and would involve the sentence of disobedience —death.
Our Lord’s prompt decision, therefore, was that to disobey the Father’s will and thus to secure bread for the sustenance of His body, would be a great mistake; that food thus secured could sustain life for but a little while; that His better plan would be to trust in the Word of God, the Divine promise, that those who love and serve and obey Him shall ultimately come off conquerors and more, and have eternal life with God. And this, our Master’s conclusion, is full of instruction for us who are His disciples, seeking to walk in His footsteps.
DISCIPLINE AN EVIDENCE OF SONSHIP
One “word of God” which is very comforting to His children is His assurance of Parental care and discipline. “If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the Father chasteneth not?” (Heb. 12:7.) In this statement the word “chastening” should not be understood as meaning disapproval on the part of our Father, and sin on the part of the individual, but rather instruction. We are guided in the matter by remembering that although our Lord was a Son in whom there was no sin, yet He received, in the Father’s providence, as a part of the “cup” poured for Him, various trials, disciplines. All of these experiences were very profitable, showing that the Father loved Him; that the Father had something which He was desirous that our Lord should do that He would not have been qualified to perform without some of these educational instructions and experiences.
Some disciplines, some chastisements, come as a result of our own mistakes and the natural consequences flowing from those mistakes and the apologies and heartaches which may necessarily follow them. God could save us from these experiences and so seclude and shelter our lives that we would not have anything to tempt us. But such is not His proposition. He wishes us to have these experiences that we may be guided in the right way and learn of our own weaknesses.
If we did not come into contact with various testing experiences we should not know where we are weak. Thus we learn where we can strengthen our characters and how we can be thoroughly developed as New Creatures. The Scriptures speak of our Lord Jesus as “enduring such contradiction of sinners against Himself.” (Heb. 12:3.) Our trials, or disciplines, in meeting every opposition that can come to us, should bring more or less of correction in righteousness. Even if this would not mean outward stripes, we, in any event, would have our mental regrets as New Creatures, and thus we would get a form of correction, or discipline. Additionally, the Lord causes His children to come into peculiar trials as an example either to the brethren or to the world. In many of these, whatever the cause, we may understand them to be also corrections or instructions in righteousness.
TRIAL–DISCIPLINE–NECESSARY TO THE PERFECTING
OF OUR CHARACTERS
Character cannot be developed wholly without trial. It is like a plant. At first it is very tender; it needs an abundance of the sunshine of God’s love, frequent watering with the showers of His grace, much cultivating with the applied knowledge of His character as a good foundation for faith and inspiration to obedience. Then, when thus far developed under these favorable conditions, it is ready for the pruning hand of discipline, and is also able to endure some hardness. Little by little, as strength of character is developed, the tests applied to it serve only to develop more strength, beauty and grace, until it is finally developed, perfected, fixed, established, through suffering.
This great work of developing and training character is necessarily a slow and tedious one, and not infrequently it is a painful process. But the Apostle plainly tells us that such things are necessary for the development of steadfast and enduring character. Consider how your own experience has verified this, you who have been for some time under the Lord’s special care and leading. How much richer you are for all the lessons of experience, and for the patience and other spirit-fruits that experiences have developed in you!
Although, like the Apostle, you can say that “No chastening for the present seemeth joyous, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward, it yieldeth the peaceable fruits of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” (Heb. 12:11.) The lessons of experience and discipline have made you stronger. They have increased your faith and drawn you into closer communion and fellowship with the Lord. They have made you feel better acquainted with Him and enabled you to realize more and more His personal interest in you and His love and care for you. And this in turn has awakened a deeper sense of gratitude and an increasing zeal to manifest that gratitude to Him. This also deepens the sense of fellowship with God, and gives confidence to the hope of final and full acceptance with Him as a son and heir, made worthy through Christ.
OBEDIENCE THE TEST
Another helpful “word of God” is found in I John 2:5: “Whoso keepeth His Word, in him verily is the love of God perfected.” Here we have a test by which to determine our development as a New Creature. Only those who have received the Word of God can keep it, can retain it and comply with its requirements. The text suggests that it is a difficult matter to keep the Word of God. On all sides we hear various reasons why we should retain, hold fast the world, the flesh, rather than that which the Lord’s Word holds out to us. There are many allurements to entice us from the “narrow way.” Hence these who hold fast to the Word of God are “overcomers.”
The Scriptures intimate that to live righteously and godly in this present time will cost us our very lives. “Whosoever will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (2 Tim. 3:12.) Under present conditions faithfulness means faithfulness even unto death. The intimation is that unless we have the love of God we will not undertake to be obedient to His Word; that otherwise we can neither retain the Word of God nor be in accord with it, serving it even unto death.
Our Lord Jesus illustrated the perfection of obedience to the Word of God when He said, “I come to do Thy will, O God!” Everything written in the Book; everything that was God’s will, He was glad to do at any cost. Our Lord Jesus could not have reached this degree of submission to the Divine will unless He had had love for the Father. And so with us. Unless we have love for God and the principles of righteousness we cannot continue in this way.
Consequently, only those who so love God that they would surrender life to do His will, are properly keeping His Word. We may say that this condition is reached when we first make consecration, for the heart has given up its will and surrendered itself fully to the Lord–“Not my will, but Thine, be done.” All those who are complying with the conditions of self-sacrifice have reached the mark of perfect love. Of course, there is another sense of perfecting which we shall attain in the resurrection. But only those who will keep God’s Word by faithfulness even unto death will secure the prize and become partakers of the divine nature.
The test is OBEDIENCE. In proportion as we keep the Lord’s Word, in like proportion the love of God is perfected in us; for if we have received the mind of Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the effect will be to cause us both to will and to do His good pleasure to the extent of our ability. And this ability should be continually on the increase year by year. Although we may not hope to be perfected until we shall be “changed” and be granted our new resurrection bodies, nevertheless, we may keep so closely in touch with the Lord in the spirit of our minds that we may have continual fellowship with Him; and by confessing our faults daily and seeking his forgiveness we may continue to the end of our journey clean from sin, even though we must still acknowledge the infirmities of the flesh, that in our flesh dwelleth no perfection.
THE WORK OF RESURRECTION
A further word from the mouth of God assures us that He knoweth our frame, He remembereth that we are dust–weak, imperfect, dying; and that it is not His purpose that we shall continue always to be in conflict with ourselves–perfect will against imperfect body; but that He has provided that, in the resurrection, we shall have new, perfect bodies, in full accord with our new minds.
He assures us that He is able and willing to do all this and that He purposes to give to His elect, bodies of a much higher order than the human–that He will give us spirit bodies–and that of the highest rank. We shall have part in the First Resurrection, and will thenceforth be able to do the Father’s will perfectly in every respect, as we now show ourselves desirous of doing His will so far as we are able. O gracious provisions! O wonderful words of compassion, inspiring us to wondrous hopes of eternal life and glory! It will be to such as thus overcome in spirit, in faith (I John 5:4), that the Lord will give the final Word of His mouth–“Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joys of thy Lord!”
“Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him.”– James 1:12.
THE above words of the Apostle James are a part of an earnest exhortation to all the Church of God scattered abroad. “Blessed is the man who endureth [with fortitude] temptation.” Those who do not love the Lord with all their hearts, in whom self or some other idol has first place, will be seduced by the world, the flesh or the Devil into some form of rebellion against the Divine Word or Divine providences. They will have schemes, theories or desires which they will prefer to the Lord’s Plan and way; and their own theories, plans and ways will be found, when analyzed, to be based upon selfishness and ambition or an evil spirit of envy, hatred, jealousy, pride, etc. It is only such as endure such temptations and besetments with fortitude, by the grace of God conquering and subduing the fleshly mind, that will receive the promised crown.
The Apostle here speaks of the final reward as being “the crown of life.” It might be possible to view this matter of the crown of life from different standpoints; for instance, to think of life as being a crowning blessing, on whatever plane of being. Those who will be brought into the Lord’s favor during the Millennial Age will, after the close of that Age, if proven worthy, gain everlasting life. In other words, they will be crowned with a life which will be endless. The Ancient Worthies will have this life everlasting. They will be crowned with life. Life, perfect, unending, is the greatest blessing God could bestow. Then the Little Flock will be especially crowned with life; for they will have life on the superior plane, the life of the Divine nature–the nature of Jehovah; life in the very highest form will be their crown. So we think of all these things as being crowns of life when all have been tested and proven to the end of their course.
THE CROWN ABOVE ALL OTHERS
But we have reason to suppose that James is here referring to the Church, the Bride of Christ, the most blessed of all humanity. The Church is now especially on trial. This trial of our love, endurance, faith, patience, is for the purpose of demonstrating which of us will be found worthy of the chiefest of all blessings–the Divine nature, which God has promised to those who love Him–love Him more than they love houses or lands or bonds, more than they love wife or husband or parents or children or self, or any other thing. God will have a reward for others, also; but it will not be this highest crown, which He offers to the Bride of His Son alone.
What constitutes the temptation spoken of in our text? The answer of the Scriptures is that the Lord has said there will come trials and temptations–disciplinings–to those who are His, to develop their character, to prove their steadfastness and loyalty. Without trials and temptations our allegiance to God would never be shown. Self-love might be reigning in our hearts, and we would not recognize it unless it were demonstrated. It is very easy to think how much we love the Lord and how much we would like to do for Him. Then comes the temptation to sloth, and to do something for ourselves instead of for the Lord. It is easy for us to think we love His will, and to sing:
“I love Thy will, O God.”
Then we are severely tried on that line, and we sometimes find out that our love for His will needs yet farther development and greater fixity.
Our covenant with the Lord is to love Him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. We are to live up to this standard in the spirit of our minds so far as we are able by Divine assistance, trusting to the merit of the precious blood to cover our unavoidable deficiencies. Yea, we are to “lay down our lives for the brethren.” The temptation comes to love other things more, to love self more than we love God and the brethren. The Lord permits these trials and temptations and difficulties to come to us. The way we meet these, we think, will have much to do in deciding whether we shall be worthy of the highest crown of life.
THE CROWN OF LIFE AFTER THE TRIAL
“When he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life.” The expression, “when he is tried,” does not mean one trial merely; but our entire experience is spoken of as a trial, a test of loyalty. Our whole life is a matter of trial or testing to see how sincere we are, how fully we love the Lord, what we are willing to sacrifice, in harmony with our covenant. “When he is tried,” then, means, when his trial is over. Then he will receive the “crown of life.” He will not get it before. That would not necessarily mean, however, that he would get the crown the minute the trial was over–as soon as his sacrifice was completed in death. Jesus slept until the third day before He received His crown. The Apostles and others slept for many centuries before they received theirs.
It does not mean, either, that the very minute or the very day on which the Christian had fully demonstrated his faithfulness to the Lord he would immediately fall asleep or would be instantly ushered into honor and immortality by the glorious change of the First Resurrection. The Lord might have further purposes of usefulness, etc., in regard to His children before their sacrifice would be completed.
So with every phase of our trial and testing there should be a demonstration of our loyalty. Let the trials come, then, and let them continue to come. No matter what our natural infirmities may be, we shall be granted grace sufficient; and we are expected to be loyal under all conditions, at all times, until the end.
DEVELOPMENT AS NEW CREATURES IN CHRIST
“Strong meat belongeth to them who are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”–Hebrews 5:14.
THE Apostle here seems to have in mind some who are babes in Christ, some who have immature conceptions of God and His Plan, who lack spiritual development, contrasting them with others who are more developed, who have become men in Christ Jesus–who are “of full age,” as Paul expresses it, mature in Christian attainment. “Strong meat” belongs to these. The Apostle has given a reproof to some who, considering the length of time they have been in Christ, should have been strong in the faith, in doctrine, in spiritual life, and should be qualified to teach others. Yet still they were children, needing others to teach them again the first principles of the doctrine of Christ, needing still to be fed on milk, even yet not able to assimilate “strong meat.”
Beginners who have not long known Christ, who are new in respect to the truths of God’s Plan, are not to be choked with strong meat. These may be fed upon the simpler truths, which they can assimilate. They need “the sincere milk of the Word, that they may grow thereby.” Some of the Lord’s people, who have been longer in the way, in talking with the newly consecrated unwisely begin to tell them the truths regarding immortality, trinity, etc., before they are able to digest them. These are giving strong meat to babes, and are liable to drive them away from the table of the Lord, giving them spiritual dyspepsia, so that they are unable longer to eat even of the simpler food furnished by the Lord.
For those who are only beginners in the good way, there is plenty of food in God’s Word of the more easily digestible sort; food which should be helpful to New Creatures in Christ who are just beginning to walk in the narrow path. We are not to understand, however, that they are to continue for quite a period of time to live exclusively on milk. As they begin to grow and develop on a milk diet, they may be given somewhat stronger food, until after a time they will be able to digest the strongest features of the Truth, and to draw nourishment from them. Some develop and are able to digest the strong meat much more rapidly than others. Those who have not been falsely taught regarding Scriptural doctrines, who have not been steeped for many years in the errors brought into the Church during the Dark Ages, are often much more ready and able to grasp the truth on these subjects than are those who have been long under the blinding influence of error along these lines.
SYSTEMATIC STUDY NECESSARY
Those who are of humble, teachable mind, seeking a “thus saith the Lord” for all they accept, not trying to uphold any theories of their own, but to follow only the Lord, can generally, by taking the STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURES and their Bible, and taking up the Plan step by step, in a systematic, orderly manner, as it is presented, proving every statement by the sure Word of God, see the truth regarding these fundamental doctrines with little difficulty. In this way they gain a comprehensive view of the whole Plan of God, and can see how its various features fit and dovetail into one another; this would be impossible if they heard first only a portion of the Plan, disassociated from the rest.
For this reason it is well to urge the newly interested one to read and prove for himself, and not endeavor to explain too much through conversation. Much harm is often done thus by well-meaning friends, in their zeal to have the beginner grasp it all at once, which is impossible; and often their efforts result in confusing the mind of the one seeking the Truth.
SPIRITUAL EYESIGHT A MATTER OF GROWTH
As we look at a little babe, we see that it can crow, can kick a little, can cry somewhat, and to a certain extent can see objects. It has a certain amount of appreciation of things beautiful, of things terrorizing, of things happifying. But it does not see things very clearly nor comprehend them. If we pass our hand before its eyes, it apparently has not a focus. As with young kittens, which cannot tell what is near and what is far off, so with beginners, babes, in spiritual matters. The younger ones in their attempt to study God’s Word, are apt to go tripping along through it, and think they see this or that. They cannot be entrusted with important truths at first; for they would be pretty certain to be stumbled.
But as these grow older, they can “rightly divide” the Truth, they can distinguish Truth from error, they can tell what would be hurtful and what would be helpful. Even a child that burns itself at the fire learns to look out for that which will burn, and learns to approach the fire very carefully, very judiciously. As all this is true as relates to temporal matters, and as the sense of appreciation and comprehension develops in the babe, so in babes in Christ, there is a development of the sense of appreciation and ability to comprehend the heights and depths and lengths and breadths of God’s Wisdom and Love, and the fulness and grandeur of His great Plan with all its varied features.
NECESSARY FOOD ALWAYS IN “DUE SEASON”
To gain this appreciation, it is necessary, not only to read the Truth, but to think upon it, to make it our own, to strive earnestly to conform our lives to it. It is better, of course, for one to merely read so many pages or chapters of the Bible than to read some worthless thing; but to simply read a certain amount in the Bible without understanding accomplishes little. The Bible needs to be studied; and the Lord has never left His people without teachers of His own choosing, who were able to lead the dear sheep of the great Shepherd’s Fold into the green pastures where they could obtain whatever food was needed at that time. As the gradual unfolding of Truth in its times and seasons has added to the quantity and variety of food required by the flock of God for their proper nourishment, it has been supplied by Him through instrumentalities which he has raised up for the purpose in due season.
The real saints of God have never been left without all needed supplies in every age. In our own day more Truth has unfolded than at any previous period of the Church’s history. More and richer food is now necessary, to strengthen the Church for the peculiar conditions and testings of this day; and more has been supplied. But as we have stated, and as the Apostle in our text shows, there are various degrees of development in the Church of Christ; and some have been accepted from the world in these latter days to take the places of some who have through unfaithfulness lost their crowns. Hence the wisdom that cometh from above is required to feed and nourish these weaker ones properly.
FIRST LESSONS IN SCHOOL
In a school there are lessons arranged according to the ability and comprehension of the pupils. When the primary lessons in spelling are given, the teacher begins with small, simple words, instead of long words. Such words as c-o-w, cow; c-a-t, cat, are given first. A teacher who is wise and understands her business would not think of starting little children out with such a word as “prognostication,” or “hippopotamus.” The pupil would first be given more simple and easily comprehensible words. Object lessons, by pictures, etc., are also used at first to attract the eye, and thus to assist the child mind.
And so with religious matters. Those who would give proper instructions to others must be qualified to teach. The Lord has placed the various members in the Body of Christ “as it hath pleased Him.” To some He has given Apostles and workers of miracles; to others evangelists and teachers and pastors. In the early history of the Church, in its infantile condition, miracles– object lessons and proofs to the eye, to the ear, the outward physical senses–were necessary, and hence were supplied. As the Church became established, these outward evidences in connection with the Truth passed away.
The Apostle Paul says, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I thought as a child, I understood as a child; but when I became a man I put away childish things.” (1 Corinthians 13:11). And so with every true follower of Christ. As he grows and develops, step by step, as his senses become exercised to discern good and evil– what is true, what is right, what is profitable, what is comprehended in the glorious High Calling of the Church, what is included in full consecration to Christ–he more and more puts away his childish views, his immature conceptions, and becomes educated and advanced in the things of God–the deep things. A beginner, who had not learned to study the Word of God, could take it and get out of it things that would be really harmful to him. One must learn to take Bible truths in their setting–to see what they mean, how they apply, to whom they apply, etc.–or all will be confusion and contradiction. One can bring sweet music from an instrument only when he learns how to manipulate the keys, how to combine the various chords; otherwise only discord is the result.
RESPONSIBILITY OF THOSE LONG IN THE WAY
There are certain principles laid down in the Bible. We need to get a grasp on these principles and apply them in our daily lives. There is the principle of Justice –a foundation principle. This principle must be recognized and practiced before we are in a proper condition to build upon this foundation the principles of Love, Mercy, Gentleness, etc., all of which must be incorporated into our lives, our characters, as children of God. We need to learn what justice means, what true love means. The standards of the world along these lines have become much perverted, and we need to be properly taught from the only authoritative source–the Word of God. We must learn how to apply these principles.
Those who have been for some time drinking from the Fountain of Truth, and feeding at the table of the Lord, where the food is pure, unadulterated, nourishing, should be fully established in the first principles of the doctrine of Christ. Much of the superstructure of “gold, silver and precious stones” should be already erected, and the good work of character-building should be progressing steadily day by day. We should be firmly rooted and grounded in Christ, so that nothing can move us. We should be able to discern clearly between truth and error on every important point. We should be so loyal to the Lord and His Word that we shall rejoice in the glorious privilege of proclaiming it at every suitable opportunity. We should know what we believe and why we believe it, and be courageous and uncompromising in declaring the Truth which has so blessed our own hearts and lives.
“Covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet I show unto you a more excellent way.”–1 Cor. 12:31.
LOVE–VARYING IN KIND
The question naturally and properly arises, What is Love? The Bible answers, “God is Love.” As it is impossible to fully describe God in all His greatness, so it seems impossible to fully describe all that would be comprehended in the word Love. Love is the most powerful thing in the world; therefore Love most nearly represents God, because He is the Supreme, Almighty One. We might say that God is not this, not that, not the other. And so with Love–we might describe it by saying what it is not. Nothing can be right that is out of harmony with Love, as nothing can be right that is out of harmony with God. The Apostle says, in describing Love, that it does not think evil, does not vaunt itself, has not the disposition to be puffed up, is not easily provoked, does not take pleasure in iniquity, etc.
We may, of course, remember that our word love is made to cover a variety of sentiments; for instance, the love of a hen for her chickens, her care over them; the love of a father and mother for their children, and their care over them. Love, then, includes this interest in all that are under one’s care. God has this quality of sympathy which leads Him to look out for the whole universe –all sentient creatures, all that have life. He is bound by Love to look out for all these.
In human love–natural love–we find sympathy a very strong quality. Then we have a higher than mere sympathetic love–we have esteem, appreciation of some admirable quality. We say that we love certain traits in the character of some one. Again we have something more than mere sympathy and esteem; we have affectionate love. That is a very real and deep interest in every affair of the one we love–a deep, sympathetic love which would stop at nothing–even though it is an earthly love. The only thing that could be superior to it would be our love for the Almighty, which should dominate us as superior to this affectionate love.
Later comes in the spiritual love for the Lord’s people which seeks to avoid all fleshly preferences, seeking merely to live as a New Creature, and to look after the welfare of the New Creature. Thus doing, we become closely united to the things of God and to all who are associated with us in the work of this Gospel Age. This is the highest type of love on any plane of being–this into which we have entered. God is Love. The more we grow up into this proper, spiritual Love, the more we are growing up into the character-likeness of our Father, of which we read, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”–Matt. 5:48.all else in life is useless. To be devoid of love is to be devoid of God-likeness. And so the Apostle goes on to enumerate the characteristics of this love–meekness, gentleness, long-suffering, brotherly kindness, godliness [God-likeness]–Love. All of these are merely parts or streams of Love flowing from the inexhaustible Fountain. These characteristics all proceed from Love, and are strong in proportion as our love is strong.
JUSTICE THE BASIS OF LOVE
Next we inquire as to the way in which Love fulfills the Divine Law. Divine Law is not necessary as respects restraint from good deeds. There is no need of a law to say, “You shall not do too much for your brother, or give him too much money.” No law is necessary along these lines. But Divine Law steps in and says, “You shall not come short of a certain standard.” So the Law calls merely for justice. The Apostle Paul points out that since the Law calls for justice, we shall not murder our neighbor either by our act or by our tongue. We must be perfectly just in everything pertaining to our neighbor. Every thought of our mind must be just, absolutely just. This is the standard of the Divine Law. We are violators of the Law if we give less than justice to anybody. Therefore the Law as set forth to the Jews, told them what they should not do. “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” “Thou shalt not steal,” etc.–telling them merely the things that they should not do. Whoever loves his brother would not wish to steal from him either his property or his good name. Hence love fulfills everything that the Law could demand.
Love has no limit in its capacity; as, for instance, God’s sympathetic love was exercised toward mankind after He had pronounced the sentence of death. That death sentence must stand, yet
“‘Twas Love contrived the way
To save rebellious man;
And all the steps that Love display,
Which drew the wondrous plan.”
Love has done this by providing for the satisfying of the Law in respect to Adam, so that Adam can be freed from the Law sentence. Justice could not lay this obligation upon the Logos; therefore God could not command. The only thing He could do was to set before Jesus certain incentives. God set before Him the joy of being the savior of men, and the additional joy of high exaltation in God’s Love and favor and to the glorious Kingdom privileges. So Love might use various inducements.
Love with us must also be just. We can never take what belongs to one and give it to another. The sympathy may be there, but Love cannot act in violation of Justice. Hence the advantage that Christians have who are students of God’s Word. The Bible gives us the true conception of what justice is. It gives us the balance of a sound mind. The Heavenly Father has sympathy and love, but He exercises these qualities according to the principles of justice. We are not limited to justice. It was not our law that condemned our brother, but God’s Law of Justice. So we are at liberty to exercise our love beyond mere justice. Jesus gave the example of one who owed his master a large sum of money; and when he could not pay, his master forgave him. Then this man went out to one who owed him a few pence, and, because he could not pay the debt at once, began to inflict punishment. We ourselves cannot render perfect justice, and we cannot rightfully require it of others. God, who is perfect and just, has a right to demand justice.
EVIL SURMISING NOT OF LOVE
Love, as we have seen, is that great and grand quality which more fully than any other quality represents our Heavenly Father. Love includes a great many things– not merely generosity and affection. It seems to include every good quality–things that can be appreciated outside of justice.
The Apostle’s statement, “Love thinketh no evil,” is not to be understood to signify that Love is blind to evil, or that those who have the spirit of love are blind to evil. On the contrary, Love is wounded every day by contact with evil influences, and Love cannot help knowing that it is an evil thing that is doing the wounding. Love is not, therefore, to be blind, and say that there is no evil thing–no such thing as sin, selfishness and meanness; all these various things exist. Love is in contention with all these unlovely things.
Love thinketh that there is evil, and our quotation from the Apostle does not contradict this. The imperfection in the translation may perhaps be charged with the apparent difficulty. “Love does not surmise evil,” would seem to be the proper thought. What is it to surmise evil? We answer that we have various means for arriving at conclusions. We see some things. We gain knowledge in various ways, direct or indirect. And for Love to have knowledge of evil is not wrong. But to surmise evil–to imagine evil when we do not have the knowledge –is wrong. Love does not surmise evil.
If we saw some one do an evil deed or knew in some way that the evil deed were committed, and it came under our jurisdiction, Love would not hinder us from punishing the guilty person. Suppose the matter is mere hearsay and the report not well founded; then Love would be prompt to say, “I do not know that this is so. I will need to have proof.” Love would wish to think well of every circumstance, every condition. If we saw that murder was committed, we would not be justified in surmising who did it. We might think who were the most probable ones, in order to make an investigation. We would think of the persons who had less love, but we should not hastily decide who is the murderer, simply because he or she has an unsavory character, an unloving character. We are to give him the full benefit of the doubt. We are to make investigation.
It would seem that some of the most serious wrongs have been committed by surmising evil. Evil has been surmised against people without a shadow of proof. It is not for us to say that any are totally depraved. Very few are totally depraved. But whoever surmises evil, even a little, shows that he is lacking in the quality of Love. Whoever surmises evil much shows that he has a very small degree of Love. Evil surmising makes countless thousands mourn. Surmising evil of others has caused more suffering in the world than all the battles that were ever fought!
The Lord’s people are being taught of God, and hence are learning more and more to control their thoughts and words and acts. Our thoughts are to be kind! Our thoughts are to be generous! Our thoughts are to be just! We are not to allow an evil suspicion to lodge in our minds against anybody. The common law of man decides that no judgment shall be passed against any one until the thing be proven against him. Those who have done the most evil and caused the most difficulty are those who have surmised evil against others. But it is better if we learn this as a precept from the Lord’s Word, and happy are we if we see the degrading power of evil-speaking and evil-thinking and entirely refrain therefrom.
“LOVE YOUR ENEMIES”
The basis of this instruction–that we love our enemies –is evidently that our characters may be developed. Retaliation is a natural element of the mind, and particularly of the fallen mind–the fleshly mind. The more selfish we are, the more inclined we are to render evil for evil, slander for slander, blow for blow.
Our Lord taught the very reverse spirit. We are to love even our enemies, doing them good in return for their hatred, and ever sympathizing with their condition and desiring blessings upon them from the Lord, while they are feeling the very opposite toward us, as indicated by the persecutions they practice upon us. The Lord says that we are to do this in order that we may be the children of our Father who is in Heaven. We have been begotten of the Holy Spirit, and by practicing along these lines we become more and more like Him in character.
Jesus said, “Blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear.” Then to these who could see and hear Jesus gave certain special lessons applicable to them–and not only to them, but to a certain like company, or class, all the way down through the Age. He told them that because they manifested a responsiveness of heart they were pleasing to Him. He told them that in proportion as they would make progress in imitating Him, in that same proportion they would come into fellowship with the Father and become participants in His Love.
And when some took this step of consecration, Jesus told them, “The Father Himself loveth you”–He loves you because you have taken a stand for righteousness; because when you saw these principles of righteousness you were willing to do in accordance therewith. And the Father loves you because you are seeking to walk in the narrow way–the way which is difficult. The other way is a broad way, leading now to death and destruction. But this narrow way that I am pointing out to you, My dear disciples, is the way to life. It will cost you a great deal to be My disciples. But the Father will love you, and I will love you, and We will manifest Ourselves to you. And although you will have trials and difficulties you will have the peace of God ruling in your hearts. Then the disciples said they would leave all to follow Him.
WHAT CONSTITUTES GOD’S LOVE
The expression Word of God is sometimes used when speaking of the Bible, and sometimes when meaning a message of God. Our allegiance is due to the One from whom we have received every good and every perfect gift. There is an eminent fitness in the thought that the One who has given us life should have our attention to His Word, our obedience to it. Some are disposed to be self-willed; some disposed to regard the words of man, the creeds of man. Such do not pay sufficient attention to the Word of God.
God’s Word is the great Standard by which all of His people should regulate their lives. We might have some thought respecting the Divine Plan, or others might make suggestions to us respecting God’s will. But any suggestions, whether from ourselves or others, are all to be subject to investigation in the light of God’s Word. Of course, we are first to ascertain that the claim of the Bible to be the Word of God is supported by really good evidence; then we are also to notice whether various portions are interpolations, or additions, that we may have the Word of God as pure as possible. But having found the Word of God, we should keep it, in the sense of reverencing it and obeying it. We should strive to regulate our lives and all of our doings by that Word. Whoso keepeth God’s Word will as a result find that God’s Love is perfected in Him.–I John 2:5.
The question then arises, What is God’s Love? and in what sense can it be perfected in us? The Apostle John evidently refers to that love which is most perfectly represented in God–that love which is pure, free from all selfishness, from all stain–God’s Love, because it is the right principle, the very underlying principle of His character. And all those who are keeping God’s Word must have the same kind of love that He has.
At first we had a duty love. We knew that God had done great things for us, for which we should be very thankful. There was a debt of obligation on us in that respect. Then, too, we loved God because He has indicated that He will give His favor to those who love Him. Therefore a measure of selfishness would be in our love for a time. But we believe it is possible for us to have this perfect love of God. If it were perfect works of the flesh that were required, we might doubt our ability to have perfection. But since it is a matter of the heart, it is possible for us to attain it; for we can be pure in heart. So as our hearts become more and more free from selfishness and sin, more and more will this proper, high standard of Love be appreciated by us and perfected in us. Our minds will be influenced by this Love; and all of our conduct, our thoughts, will come under the same regulation.
To have, then, this Love of God perfected in us, would seem to indicate that we would have the very highest ideal –that we love as God loves. We love our neighbor–we realize that he has certain rights which we are glad to respect. We would rather help our neighbors forward than to do anything which might hinder their progress in any way. God is not an envious, jealous, hateful God, but the God of Love. God is the true God, and not the one who is set up in our creeds.
As we appreciate the Word of God, it gives us the necessary instruction and guidance. All sin is selfishness, and all selfishness is sin. As the child of God comes to see the character of God more clearly, as he is desirous of being taught of God, he will come under the influence of God’s Spirit. And he will study the Word and get clearer insight into it. Thus we grow in the knowledge of God. It is a progressive matter. God wishes all of His intelligent creatures to be animated by the spirit of His Word–Love.
LOVE BASED ON FAITH
We see that the love above described would not be a love based on ignorance. On the contrary, it is a love based on a clear knowledge of God, on an undissembled faith, a faith fully appreciating what He has said. For instance, one might have a certain love for God, and by and by a clearer understanding of God’s character might shake that kind of love. God’s intention is that mankind shall understand His arrangements thoroughly; and if they then appreciate His character, they will have the undissembled faith, and a love that appreciates all the features of His Plan.
We all see that in our experiences God gives us instruction respecting Himself. As we come to know Him, and to love Him because we know Him, we are proportionately getting this faith in Him of the undissembled kind. It is a faith based on a knowledge of God’s character and Plan. An angel may be said to have faith– a well rounded out faith. “The Father seeketh such to worship Him as worship Him in spirit and in truth.” And God wishes that all of His intelligent creatures shall worship Him from this standpoint of undissembled faith– a faith that is genuine, a faith that is well rounded out, knitted together, a consistent faith. Therefore God wishes to have all men come to the knowledge of the Truth.– I Tim. 2:4.
God’s arrangement is that we first make use of what truth we have, and thus have more appreciation; then more knowledge, and then more appreciation. A well rounded out knowledge is not yet possessed by any except the Church, and we do not have full knowledge. But it is God’s will that we shall all come to an appreciation of the Truth. It is not to be merely a knowledge, but a full entering into it that we may the more appreciate it. “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee,” that we should become personally and intimately acquainted with the Lord. In order to this, it is necessary that we apply our hearts to this Wisdom, that we grow in grace, grow in knowledge, that we may know His Love.
This will also be the procedure in the next Age. The object of Christ’s Kingdom will be to bring mankind to a full, clear appreciation of God’s character. Such as attain this and sympathetically enjoy God’s character will appreciate the principles of Justice, Love and Mercy represented in Him. Only as one appreciates these qualities in his own heart can he appreciate them in God. Only those who appreciate them will have everlasting life. Even though such should enjoy the full thousand years, they still might not be of the class to whom God would give everlasting life.
THE END OF THE LAW IS LOVE
It is not merely faith that is necessary–not even the well rounded out faith–there must be a pure heart also. We could not get the well rounded faith unless we had a pure heart. A pure heart would be a fully consecrated heart–the whole mind given up to the Lord’s will. Such a condition is necessary before we can enter into and make progress in the Lord’s way. God would not accept us at all unless we had love and purity of heart. And even more than this is necessary. We must maintain it with a good conscience. Our consciences must be able to say, “I have not only a good wish respecting the right, but I have good endeavors.” We should not only be able to say, “I did right,” but our consciences should be able to say, “I did the very best I was able to do.” Anything short of this would not be pleasing to God.
So, then, the end, or intention, of the Divine Law is to develop in us this love–a love fully consecrated to the Lord, a love like His, a love that will be in accord with a good conscience and an undissembled faith–a faith that is well founded on the teachings of God’s Word, a faith that is anxious to know God’s will, and that searches the Scriptures and delights in God’s Law, and that can say as the Psalmist has expressed it prophetically, “I delight to do Thy will, O my God!” A man may discern the principle of justice and say, “There is the standard one must go by.” Another sees love, and says, “There is the best standard! Is not that grand? I wish to conform to that fully!”
A third recognizes that perfection is the standard of the Divine Law, and having consecrated himself unreservedly to do the will of God, says, “Thy Law, O God, is my delight.” This one delights in God’s Justice, he delights in God’s Love. He sees more than merely, Thou shalt, and Thou shalt not. He sees things from God’s standpoint. He sees the principles of God’s character which govern the universe. So all who will ever come to an appreciation of everlasting life must learn to view matters from the standpoint of Love.
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.” — 2 Tim. 3:1.
REALIZING that we are now living in the very times referred to by the Apostle, some may inquire, How can this be? Are not these times, in comparison with times past, especially favorable to the prosperity of the Church? Time was when fire and sword and guillotine and rack were systematically employed to exterminate the true saints of God, when the Word of God was a book prohibited, and when the prison and the dungeon rewarded the faithful searching of the Scriptures. And is there not also more Truth due and understood now than formerly, as well as full liberty (if a man is pleased to exercise it) to believe and teach, either in private or in public, whatever he believes to be Truth?
Yes, such are the favorable conditions of our day. Never, in all the history of the Church, has there been a day of such privilege and blessing–such increase of knowledge and general intelligence, such facilities for the general diffusion of knowledge and such breadth of individual liberty–of conscience, of speech and of action –as today. The spirit of liberty is abroad in the earth, and though the wily enemies that once fettered and handcuffed and imprisoned it still live, and would fain imprison it as before, they regretfully realize that the soaring eagle is on the wing and may never be pinioned again. But hand in hand with all these advantages, strange to say, comes the Church’s greatest peril. True, there is little peril to physical life, or earthly property; but these, to the true saints, are of minor importance, for they count not their earthly life dear unto them if by any means they may attain the divine nature and glory to which they are called.
The peril of these times is to the spiritual nature of the saints and to their valuable inheritance in the exceeding great and precious promises of God, which are all yea and amen in Christ Jesus. Subtle influences are now at work seeking to dwarf and extinguish the spiritual life and to rob the saints of their glorious hope, to sap stealthily the very foundations of Christianity, and thus effectually to overthrow the whole superstructure of the Christian faith in the minds of many, causing them thus to stumble and lose their glorious inheritance as joint-heirs with Christ.
The present besetments, being of this subtle character, are the more calculated to delude and ensnare, so that if one allows himself to be for a moment off his guard, the agencies of the Adversary will gain an advantage and use it to entrap the unwary one. And God will permit such snares because only those who are loyal and faithful, and therefore ever watchful, are counted worthy to escape their strong delusion. “Watch ye, therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.” –Matt. 21:36.
MANNER OF APPROACH OF THESE TIMES
The Apostle forewarns the Church, not only of the certainty of such perils, and of their character, but also of their manner of approach. On one occasion he said, “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. (Such were the great and destructive papal powers.) Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them.” (Acts 20:29,30.) Some of these Paul and the early Church encountered in their day.
Paul was often in peril among false brethren who, concerning the faith, had made shipwreck, and who greatly withstood his words–his efforts to build up the Church in the most holy faith. (2 Cor. 11:26; I Tim. 1:19; 2 Tim. 4:14-17.) And he shows that from such false brethren, brethren who have erred from the Truth and become teachers of false doctrine, will come the Church’s greatest peril in these last times. (2 Tim. 2:16-18; 3:5.) And in order that we might recognize and beware of them, he very minutely described them, though the clear significance of the warning is somewhat beclouded by a faulty translation, which reads as follows:–
“For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,* truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good; traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof; ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the Truth.”
The description as here translated, the reader will observe, is incongruous; for men of such villainous character could have no form of godliness. Read the description again and consider, How could a proud, covetous, boastful blasphemer, a truce-breaker, a false accuser, incontinent and fierce, a despiser of those that are good, a heady, high-minded, pleasure-loving traitor, have any form of godliness whatever, or deceive anyone in this respect? Such a fierce character and bold blasphemer could not possibly palm himself off as a child of God; nor would he attempt it. The fact is that our translators did not fully comprehend the Apostle’s language, and in rendering it into English they put the heaviest possible construction upon the Greek words, and thus the picture of these persons is overdrawn. Thus, for instance, the Greek word here rendered “blasphemers” (V. 3) is blasphemos, which signifies one speaking injuriously, or an evil-speaker.
Now, judging merely by the word, regardless of the context, we would not know whether in this instance the evil-speaking is carried to the extent of revilings or not; but as it stands related to the context–in view of the after statement that these have a form of godliness (V. 5), though lacking its real power–we must conclude that those milder or more subtle forms of evil-speaking, which would be consistent with hypocritical forms of godliness, are referred to, and therefore that our English word blaspheme, though it means evil-speaking, is too strong a term by which here to translate the Greek word blasphemos; for the full and generally understood significance of the English word blaspheme is–“To speak of the Supreme Being in terms of impious irreverence, to revile or speak reproachfully of God, Christ, or the holy Spirit–to speak wickedly of, to utter abuse or calumny against, to speak reproachfully of.”–Webster.
So also the word apeithes rendered “disobedient,” signifies not persuaded; and the expression “disobedient to parents” would consequently signify not of the same persuasion, or not of the same mind as were the parents. The word anosios, rendered “unholy,” which signifies unkind, or unholy, would likewise, in view of the context, be better rendered by the milder English term, unkind. The word aspondos rendered “truce-breakers” (V. 3), signifies irreconcilable or implacable–i.e., stubborn or constant in enmity. The word akrates, rendered “incontinent,” signifies more properly, without strength, or without self-control. Though this thought is also in the English word “incontinent,” a coarser meaning generally attaches to the word. The word anemeros, rendered “fierce,” signifies not mild, savage. That is, it may be a great or a small lack of mildness, amounting in some cases to savage bitterness. But, again, the fierce or savage idea is not compatible with any pretentions to godliness, as intimated in verse 5. The word aphilagathos, rendered “despisers of those that are good,” would thus be better rendered not friendly to the good.
Thus revised, the Apostle’s language reads as follows: “For men shall be lovers of their own selves (selfish), covetous, boasters, proud, evil-speakers, not of the same mind as were their forefathers (i.e., devisers of new doctrines), unthankful, unkind, irreconcilable, false accusers, without self-control, not mild, not friendly to those that are good–traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God (i.e., preferring their own will or pleasure to the will or pleasure of God); having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof; ever learning, and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
“MEN OF YOUR OWN SELVES SHALL ARISE SPEAKING PERVERSE THINGS”
It should be observed also that the word men, in verse 2, is emphatic in the Greek text, as shown in the Emphatic Diaglott, thus indicating that a particular class of men is here referred to, which, according to the description, can be none other than those mentioned in Acts 20:29,30, viz., men “of your own selves (men of your own company, men whom you have hitherto regarded as members of the Body of Christ, and who still claim to be such), who shall arise speaking perverse things (perverting the Truth.
But why, you ask, should any one who had once received the Truth desire to pervert it? The Apostle answers that their object is) to draw away disciples after them.” And for this purpose, of leading away disciples after them, they keep up the form of godliness, although they deny its power–the only power by means of which any of the fallen race can be reckoned godly or righteous in God’s sight, viz., the power of the precious blood of Christ, which cleanseth us from all sin, as long as we appreciate and accept this salvation through faith in his blood.
Well may we inquire, as we realize that we are living in the last days here referred to, Is there such a class of enemies to the Truth and to the Church actually in existence today? Truly, the voice of prophecy has never set up a false alarm, or foretold an uncertain event. The perilous times have come and the foretold perils are all about us. Side by side in the same communities with the humble, faithful, consecrated saints–in the same little assemblings together of those who have escaped from the bondage of Babylon, in the same households, and often at the same table of the Lord, there has also been developing a class who are “lovers of their own selves (selfish), covetous (of honors and distinction and the praise of men–ambitious), boasters (as though the credit of the Truth now due and received were in some way due to them, and as though they had a right therefore to alter and amend it at their pleasure), proud” (of that knowledge which should be received with only humility and thankfulness, and which can be retained only under these conditions).
Because the light of the newly unfolding Truth has dawned upon their pathway, they, in common with the faithful saints, no longer are of the same mind as were their parents; but the goodness of God thus manifested to them, instead of cultivating in them a spirit of thankfulness and co-operation, which is its design, seems to arouse a spirit of pride and ambition, which does not long hesitate to make merchandise of the Truth for ambitious ends, however trivial and foolish those ends may be. And in pursuance of the ambitious policy, by degrees they become “evil-speakers (against the doctrine of Christ and those who believe and teach it), unkind, unfriendly to those that are good (who hold fast the Truth in righteousness), and false accusers” (of such). As they proceed in this way they seem to lose all former strength of Christian character. They become irreconcilable to the Truth, so that neither Scripture, nor reason, nor the example of the faithful, has power to restore them. Loving their own wills more than the will of God, they grow more and more proud and boastful of their attainments– high-minded and heady. Not submitting themselves to the Head of the Body, Christ Jesus, they are ambitious to head new factions themselves, and thus they turn traitors to the Truth.
They claim, too, to be very earnest students of the Word of God; and so they are, but they never come to a knowledge of the Truth. They are after something new, some new and peculiar “find” in the mine of God that will attract the wondering gaze of many curious disciples. But, alas for their purposes! There are no such real curiosities in the blessed Word of God; but the zeal of these ambitious ones is equal to the emergency, and one after another the actual truths are beclouded, distorted and perverted to this ignoble end and presented as newly-found truths. And the unwary receive them as such, not recognizing at first that they are subversive of the entire system of Divine Truth. Thus their faith in the truths already learned is unwittingly undermined; they are caught in the snare of the Enemy; and as they continue to give ear to these seductive influences they become more and more entangled, until, having lost their anchorage, they find themselves adrift on a vast sea of unbelief, floating they know not whither. Like their leaders, they may retain the form of godliness, but have lost its power.
THEIR POLICIES SHALL BE VERY SEDUCTIVE
But there is another feature of the description of these false teachers, whose ambitions place so many perils in the pathway of the saints, which should not be overlooked. Verses 6 and 8 describe, or rather illustrate, the manner in which the influence of such teachers will be brought to bear upon the Church. Their opposition is not expressed in bold, defiant terms, and emphasized and enforced with vehemency. As here intimated, their policy is crafty, deceitful, sly, under pretentions of godliness, love of truth and zeal for the truth. Their influence will be exerted somewhat after the manner of a vile class mentioned in verse 6, who “creep into houses and lead captive silly women, laden with sin, and led away by various inordinate desires.” Not that such will be the actual immoral character of these teachers, but that their policy will be similarly seductive.
Their actual course is more particularly described in verse 8 thus: “Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the Truth–men of corrupt minds (corrupted or turned aside from the Truth), reprobate concerning the faith.” Thus we are shown that the opposition to the Truth will be manifested in a subtle, deceptive course similar to that of those opposers of Moses. They opposed Moses by doing something similar to what he did, thus confusing the people. God had given Moses power to do certain miracles in order to prove to Israel that Moses was his Divinely empowered agent. And Satan forthwith empowered his agents to duplicate those miracles, which they did to some extent, not perfectly, thus endeavoring to confuse the minds of the people and to unsettle their confidence in Moses and his leading and teaching.
Just so it is today. The studied effort of false teachers –false brethren developing in the very midst of the Church–is to offset the Truth by plausible forms of error, to unsettle confidence both in the Truth and in all teachers of the Truth, thus to lead away disciples after them and their theories. And in consequence of the allurements of these false teachers, and of the unfaithfulness of many to the love and service of the Truth which they have received, a class in the midst of the Church will give much encouragement to the ambitions of these false brethren; “for,” says the Apostle (2 Tim. 4:3,4), “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own desires (desires for something new) shall they gather to themselves teachers, having itching ears (for new and strange things); and they shall turn away their ears from the Truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”
Nor will this class be only a small minority; for, in order that the faithful may not be discouraged when brought face to face with these things, they are forewarned (Psa. 91:7) that, before this conflict ends, a thousand shall fall at their side and ten thousand at their right hand. Thus, realizing that God foreknew it all and that the accomplishment of his glorious purposes is not in the least endangered thereby, they may still have confidence and joy in view of the glorious consummation of his Plan, and of their promised position in it.
“FROM SUCH TURN AWAY”
But how shall the faithful believers act towards these false brethren in their midst? Shall they take them by the hand, as formerly, and bid them God-speed? Shall they recognize them as brethren in Christ? Are they owned of God as sons? Shall we indeed walk with them and be guiltless? What does the Apostle say we shall do? He says, “From such turn away.” (V. 5.) “Be not ye partakers with them; for ye were formerly darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord; walk as children of light…and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” (Eph. 5:6-11.) And the Apostle John (2 John 11) emphasizes Paul’s counsel, saying, “If there come any unto you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God-speed; for he that biddeth him God-speed is partaker of his evil deeds.”
Such “evil men,” says Paul (V. 13), “shall wax worse and worse (more and more bold and aggressive, as they receive encouragement from that rapidly increasing class who will no longer endure sound doctrine), deceiving (others) and being deceived” (themselves–becoming more firmly intrenched in the snares of their own weaving, so as to make it impossible to extricate them). But, nevertheless, the time is coming when they shall proceed no further; for their folly shall be manifested unto all men, as was the folly of Jannes and Jambres, who could not forever withstand the teachings of Moses, the servant of God.– V. 9.
Then Paul proceeds to call attention to the ground of Timothy’s confidence in himself as a faithful teacher of Divine Truth, saying, “But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long-suffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured; but out of them all the Lord delivered me.”– Vs. 10,11.
Such are always the marks of a true teacher. His doctrine will be that which the most thorough investigation of the Scriptures most clearly proves and establishes beyond all peradventure. His manner of life will be consistent both with his faith and with his consecration to the Lord. His purpose will be the building up of the Church in the most holy faith. His faith will be positive and clear–not mere guesswork, but knowledge based upon the sure Word of God, with whom is no variableness nor shadow of turning. And his great love for the Church will be manifest, as was Paul’s, and as was Moses’ love for Israel, by long-suffering, patience and meek endurance of persecution, both from an opposing world and from false brethren arising in the midst of God’s people. And in such persecutions no true teacher will be lacking; for “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (V. 12.) Such has been the experience of every true teacher that God has ever raised up to deliver and guide his people. Witness Noah, Moses, Paul and Luther.
But, Beloved, our advice to you in these perilous times, when error is taking on its most baneful and deceitful forms, and when it is finding its most active agents amongst false brethren and sisters in your very midst, and when fidelity to Truth, therefore, occasions the severing of some of the tenderest social ties you have ever known, even among those with whom you once held sweet converse as you walked together to the house of God–yes, in these times let us again urge the counsel of Paul– “Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them”; for it is written (John 6:45), “They shall be all taught of God.” Whoever the human agent may be that God has made use of to bring you to a knowledge of the truth, he was simply an index finger to help you trace it for yourself on the sacred page; and in humility and faithfulness he made no greater claim than this, assuring you that the holy Scriptures to which he ever and continually pointed are indeed “able to make you wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus”; and that “all Scripture, given by inspiration of God, is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
THE PRECIOUS TRUTH IS GOD’S MESSAGE
Therefore, dearly beloved, what you have learned concerning God’s glorious Plan of the Ages, and concerning your privileged place in that Plan, as heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ, his Son, and concerning the conditions upon which you hold this precious promise and may finally realize it, and concerning that great foundation doctrine of our redemption from sin and death through the precious blood of “the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all,” upon which fact rests the whole superstructure of the wondrous and glorious Plan, hold fast these things, knowing of whom you have learned them. This precious Truth is God’s message to you, not man’s. No such high and glorious hope could ever have entered the mind of mortal man had not God revealed it by his Spirit, as he has done through faith in his Word, in his own due time. It is all in that Word. Search and see for yourselves; and be not faithless but believing. It comes not to you on the miserable authority of vain imagination, or dreams, or doubtful visions, but on the authority of God’s most holy and authentic Word. True, it is almost too good to believe, but is it not just like our God? Does it not gloriously illustrate the breadth of his mighty mind, the scope of his marvelous wisdom and power, and the depth of his love and grace?
Continue, therefore, in the things which thou hast learned, and hast been assured of (having proved them yourselves from the Scriptures), and be not of them who turn away their ears from the Truth and are turned unto fables. And observing those who have a form of godliness, but who, nevertheless, by their false teachings deny the power thereof, “from such turn away,” and “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.”
We cannot serve two masters; we cannot espouse the cause of Truth and the cause of error as well; nor can we retain the friendship of God and of the advocates of error also. Who is on the Lord’s side? Let them rally around the Lord’s standard. All told, they will be only a “little flock.” Like Gideon’s band, the company now gathered by the proclamation of the harvest-message of Truth must be tested and sifted until only the loyal, faithful, true-hearted, brave and valiant soldiers of the cross remain; and to these, though their numbers be small, will the laurels of victory belong when Truth and righteousness finally prevail. Let no man boast of numbers now when the highest interests of the elect of God are all bound up with the faithful few, to whom it will be the Father’s good pleasure to give the Kingdom.
*The Sinaitic, the oldest and most reliable MS., omits the words, “without natural affection,” they being no part of the original text.