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!
“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.
“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” – Luke 11:9.
APPARENTLY Jesus usually prayed alone. We read that on some occasions He spent the entire night in prayer to God. How inconsistent that would have been if He Himself were the Father, who for a time was with men and outwardly appeared as the “Man Christ Jesus”! But how consistent is the thought of Jesus’ prayer to the Father when taken in connection with His own declaration: “My Father is greater than I” (John 14:28); “I came not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me” (John 6:38); “Of Mine own self I can do nothing; as I hear [of My Father], I judge.”–John 5:30.
Instead of being the Father masquerading as a man, Jesus was the Logos, the Word, or Message of God, whom the Father had sanctified and sent into the world to be the world’s Redeemer, and who by and by is to be its King, to deliver it from the power of Satan and sin, and to restore the willing and obedient to the Divine likeness, the Father’s favor and everlasting life.–Isaiah 25:6-8; Romans 8:21.
Realizing the importance of His mission, Jesus kept properly in touch with the great Author of the Plan of Salvation, His Heavenly Father. His prayers were not mockeries; they were sincere. He worshiped the Father in spirit and in truth, as He declared all must do who would be acceptable to the Father.
No doubt the disciples noted the Master’s frequency in prayer, and the blessing which He seemed to receive therefrom. Instead of urging them to pray, Jesus by His example taught them to desire the privilege and blessing of prayer. In due time they requested instruction, saying, “Lord, teach us to pray!” It is well that we inquire who may pray, and for what things we may petition the great Creator, else we might be praying without authority, or praying amiss, as St. James declares some do.
There is a difference between worship–adoration, homage–and prayer. Any one may offer homage to the Lord, bow the knee or express thanks and appreciation. But as for making requests of God, prayers, this privilege is distinctly limited. The Jews were privileged to offer prayer, because they as a nation were in typical relationship with God under the Law Covenant, as a “House of Servants.” But the Gentiles had no privilege of approaching God in prayer until after the Jewish favor had ended–three and a half years after the crucifixion of Jesus.
The first Gentile whose prayers were received, according to the Bible, was Cornelius. And even his prayers were not acceptable until he had been instructed respecting Christ and His redemption work and had become a follower of Jesus. Then his prayers and his consecration were acceptable to the Father, and he was received into the family of God as a son. Then as a son he had the right or privilege of prayer.–Acts 10:25-48.
So today while any one may offer worship and reverence to God, none is privileged to pray unless he has become a consecrated disciple of Jesus, except it be the immature children of such consecrated persons. All over the world today’s lesson will be misinterpreted. Jesus’ words, “Our Father,” will be misinterpreted to signify the “Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man.” The context will be ignored. The fact that these were consecrated disciples, and not mankind in general, who were instructed to pray “our Father,” will be ignored.
There is a general tendency to ignore personal faith in the redeeming blood–to ignore the fact that no man cometh unto the Father but by the Son. (John 14:6.) Adam indeed was created a son of God; but his disobedience and death sentence cancelled the relationship, which cannot be restored except in God’s appointed way–through Christ. Prayer is a wonderful privilege. It is not for sinners, but for those who have been justified by the great Advocate whom the Father has appointed–Jesus.
“AFTER THIS MANNER PRAY”
The model prayer which Jesus gave His followers is grandly simple. It is devoid of selfishness. Instead of “I” and “me,” the prayer is comprehensive of all who are truly the Lord’s people, in any class–we, us, our. It is unselfish, too, in that it is not a prayer for earthly blessings. Only one petition, “Give us this day our daily bread,” can be construed to apply to even the simplest of earthly blessings. And this may also be understood to signify more particularly spiritual nourishment.
The prayer opens with a reverent acknowledgment of the greatness and sacredness of the Heavenly Father’s name, or character. Next comes an acknowledgment of the present condition of sin in the world and an acknowledgment of faith in the promise that God has given, that eventually His Kingdom shall be established in the earth, and shall overthrow the reign of Sin and Death which has prevailed for six thousand years, and will bind Satan, “the Prince of this world.” (Rev. 20:1-3.) The petition, “Thy Kingdom come,” not only manifests faith in God and in His promise to abolish sin and establish righteousness in the earth, but it means more; namely, that the suppliant is in his heart in sympathy with God and His righteousness and out of sympathy with the reign of Sin and Death.
The next petition is, “Thy will be done on earth, as it is done in Heaven.” This signifies full confidence in the promise of God that His Kingdom when it shall be established will not be a failure–that Satan will be bound; that the reign of Sin and Death will end; that the light of the knowledge of the glory of God will fill the whole earth and triumph, destroying all wilful opposers, until finally every knee shall be bowing and every tongue confessing, to the glory of God.
It is an expression of confidence that the Kingdom will effect the full restoration of the earth to its Edenic condition and of man to his primeval perfection in the image of his Creator; for not until such conditions prevail will it be possible for God’s will to be as perfectly done on earth as it is now done in Heaven. An included thought is that when sin and death shall thus have been effaced, the world of mankind will be as happy in God’s favor as are the angels now. This Jesus clearly expressed later, assuring us that eventually there will be no more sighing, crying or dying, because all the former things of sin and death will have passed away.– Rev. 21:5.
The request for daily bread implies our realization that our sustenance, both temporal and spiritual, must come from God. And the failure to specify any particular kind of food implies not only a hunger and desire on our part, but a full resignation to the provision of Divine Wisdom.
When the justified pray, “Forgive us our trespasses,” they do not refer to Original Sin; for they were freed from that condemnation in their justification. By trespasses are signified those unintentional imperfections which appertain to all, and which all the followers of Jesus are striving to overcome. The request that we shall have forgiveness of our blemishes as we are generous and forgiving toward those who trespass against us is a reminder of the general terms of our relationship to God. We cannot grow in grace and abide in the sunshine of God’s favor except as we cultivate the spirit of love, which is the spirit of God–a forgiving spirit, a generous spirit, in our dealings with others. God thus purposes to favor more especially those who particularly strive to exemplify His gracious mercy.
“Abandon us not in temptation” indicates that we are aware that we are surrounded by the powers of evil, and that as New Creatures we would be unable to withstand these successfully except as we should have Divine aid. “Deliver us from the Evil One” is a recognition that Satan is our great Adversary; and that we are on the alert to resist him, and yet realize our own insufficiency, our need of Divine aid. “We are not ignorant of his [Satan’s] devices.” (2 Corinthians 2:11.) “We wrestle not against flesh and blood [merely], but against wicked spirits in high positions.”– Ephesians 6:12.
“SEEK, KNOCK, ASK–AND RECEIVE”
In the concluding verses of the Study, Jesus admonished that the prayer should be with fervency or earnestness, and not merely lifeless, formal words. He gave the illustration of the man who at first refused to be disturbed, even by his friend, but was finally moved by the earnestness of his friend’s petition. So when we pray for God’s Kingdom to come and His will to be done, as it delays long, we are not to think that our prayers are unheeded. We are praying in harmony with the Divine promise, and although we are not hastening the Kingdom by our prayers we are entering into a blessing of rest through faith, by continually bringing before our minds these promises of God, and thus waiting upon the Lord for the fulfilment of His promise.
What God really wishes to give to His people is His Holy Spirit. Because of the imperfections of the flesh none of us can be filled with the Spirit at first, as was our perfect Master. But as we come to God desiring to be filled with His spirit, desiring to be in harmony with Him, desiring to be in His character-likeness, by the seeking we find, and to our knocking the door is opened.
Nor should we be afraid that our Heavenly Father would give any bad answer to our requests. Would an earthly parent give to a hungry child a stone when it asked for bread; a serpent when it asked for fish; a scorpion when it asked for an egg? Surely not! We are to know that our Heavenly Father is much better than we, much kinder, much more just and loving, and that He delights to give His good gifts, His Holy Spirit, to those consecrated disciples of Jesus who earnestly seek it.
As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.—Psalm 42:1
The beatitudes define the steps that lead individuals into the body of Christ. Each beatitude can be seen to specifically identify a definite character trait in those who have the grace of God.
The first beatitude speaks of spiritual poverty: “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3). The second speaks of repentance: “Blessed are they that mourn” (Matthew 5:4). Repentance is an essential element of the character of one who possesses this grace. The third beatitude speaks of meekness: “Blessed are the meek” (Matthew 5:5). The fourth beatitude speaks of spiritual hunger and thirst: “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness” (Matthew 5:6).
Hunger and Thirst
We have all felt a gnawing feeling in our bellies when we skip a meal. To some degree we know the sensation of thirst and the longing for water especially after expending a lot of energy. In the heat of summer when our bodies perspire, they cry out for more fluids, for cold, liquid refreshment. But few of us know famine, the kind that bloats our bellies and leaves us helpless. Few have ever been in the desert without water to the point of serious, life-threatening dehydration; few know the real pain of thirst or a craving for water like Hagar and Ishmael in the wilderness of Beersheba (Genesis 21:14).
Such cravings are the result of our human makeup; it is the way we were created. For our body to function properly, it must be nourished. Food and drink strengthen us. God created the earth specifically for human habitation. Hungering and thirsting is a powerful metaphor. It expresses the inward cry of every creature for its very life. The Master takes an experience from everyday life—the painful experience of hungering and thirsting—and uses it as an illustration to elucidate the longings of the soul for meaningful contact with God and discerning his will in one’s life.
Those who lack physical food and drink are more likely to be aware of the prevailing injustice in this world. Their hunger or craving to see righteousness triumph can be all the more compelling. The righteousness of which Jesus spoke refers to the quality of propriety that fully conforms to God’s will and commandments. Expressing a thought similar to that of our Lord, the psalmist spoke of himself as being “crushed with longing” for God’s righteous judicial decisions (Psalm 119:20, NASV; compare Isaiah 26:9,10).
Whom Was Jesus Addressing?
Luke’s account of Jesus’ words read: “Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be filled” (Luke 6:21). When reading from Luke, one would suppose Jesus spoke of those who longed for physical food. However, Matthew’s account makes it clear that the Lord spoke of those with a strong craving for righteousness. Jesus was speaking to his disciples. They were not lacking food or drink, but they were hungering and thirsting for righteousness. Not all who hunger and thirst for material things get filled. Such hunger often leads to frustration and starvation. It is those who hunger and thirst for righteousness who receive what Jesus promised; they are filled.
Few today hunger and thirst for righteousness. However, the context shows these words have their primary application to those who are heirs of “the kingdom of heaven,” those who hope literally to “see God” (Matthew 5:3,8.) These who hunger and thirst for righteousness follow three basic steps which result in a condition of well being where their hunger and thirst are satisfied.
Justification: The First Step to Righteousness
The necessary first step is to approach the Lord’s table and its provisions of spiritual “fat things” (Isaiah 25:6; Matthew 22:4). It requires a high regard for righteousness and truth. We must recognize our own unworthiness, our sinfulness, and our need for Jesus as our personal savior. Acceptance of his redeeming work, his life, death, and resurrection are essential to approach God’s throne of grace.
The repudiation of sin and the acceptance of Christ as our sin-bearer and advocate before the heavenly Father brings us to the condition which the Scriptures describe as being “justified by faith” (Romans 5:1; Galatians 2:16). These are the ones who find comfort in knowing that despite their imperfections, they have peace with God. The heavenly Father is willing to accept such and their endeavors as though they were perfect. Such perfection is “reckoned,” not “actual.” Although we have been invited to partake at the Lord’s table as “holy and acceptable” (Romans 12:1), we nevertheless realize that all invited still have weaknesses of the flesh and fight battles within (Romans 7:25).
The Scriptures figuratively describe those who have taken this step toward the heavenly Father’s table as wearing a white robe of righteousness; they are covered with the merit of Christ which is imputed to all who believe in his ransom sacrifice and who seek to walk in his footsteps. All who approach the Father through the son, all who accept the terms of the upward call made during this Gospel age, are said to be on common ground; all sinners are covered and justified by the merit of Christ.
Consecration: The Second Step to Righteousness
Although the first step of justification is an important one, there is more to follow. The second step is one of full consecration to the Lord, a full denial of one’s own will. We recognize our imperfections, our sin-laden ways, that we are imperfect creatures with inherited weaknesses and surrounded by temptations. When we make a full consecration to the Lord and fully accept his will instead of our own, we are inducted into the family of God. We have the privilege of being called “sons of God,” “heirs of God, joint-heirs with Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 8:14,17; Galatians 3:26; 4:6).
The position we hold within the family of God as sons and daughters has been made possible through the Lord as a result of our righteous hunger. We are given the privilege to feed at the Lord’s table to full satisfaction. We therefore can say with the apostle John: “But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:7,9).
Cultivating an Appetite: The Third Step to Righteousness
The apostle Peter says that believers should be like newborn babies in their desires, craving the pure spiritual milk of the word so that by it they may grow up into their salvation, now that they have tasted that the Lord is good. Consecrated believers must not stop growing toward spiritual maturity. They need the sincere milk “of the word,” the unadulterated word of God, which produces continuous growth until the spiritual inheritance is gained. None should be content with only a small taste; they should crave it constantly and keep growing (1 Peter 2:1-3).
How does one cultivate an appetite for spiritual things? It is done just as a physical appetite is cultivated: guidance. Those who hunger for spiritual things know they are lacking and should seek to eat in the same way one satisfies physical hunger. Nothing is more contributory to alleviating spiritual hunger than approaching the throne of heavenly grace. Such hunger should stimulate us to search the Scriptures, and select from among this storehouse the exceedingly great and precious promises by which we may be filled.
When we become faint and discouraged from opposition and the daily trials of life, we do well to partake of such promises, remembering the words of the Lord, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). When discouragement sets in due to our failures and shortcomings, we do well to remember these words of comfort, “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust”; and that he “was in all points tempted as we are”: that he is our high priest and advocate (Psalm 103:14; Hebrews 4:15; 1 Corinthians 10:13).
If we feel discouraged and overwhelmed by the opposition of the world and the great adversary, we need to remember that “all things work together for good to those who love God,” and that “if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:28,31).
If thoughts of depression or unworthiness set in, if we ever feel that God is no longer interested in us or our endeavors to walk in the narrow way, we should remember that our heavenly Father so loved the world while we were yet sinners as to give his son for our release from sin and death. He loves us even more now since we have hungered and thirsted after righteousness and approached his table through his instrument of salvation, Christ Jesus (John 3:16).
In following the course outlined in the Scriptures, the Lord’s consecrated ones receive their fill in this present time. As we study his word there is more filling, and with each filling comes the growth of our hearts, our capacities, and our appreciation. Our course as children of the most high God is a progressive one from start to finish. But the finish will not be in this life, it will be when we are changed in the “first resurrection.” Then we shall be like our Lord and Redeemer, and “see him as he is” and share his glory (Revelation 20:6; 1 John 3:2).
“Give Them Something to Eat”
Righteousness is a study in contrasts—justice and injustice, truth and error, holiness and sin. To be careless in discerning these is to be lacking in all. Whoever hungers and thirsts after righteousness in one of these areas will surely hunger and thirst for all. Whoever loves justice and righteousness will surely love the truth; whoever loves the truth will surely love righteousness and justice. For as the Lord states: “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Luke 16:13).
Our Lord’s miracle in feeding the multitude illustrates the lesson of hungering for righteousness. The supply of food was so inadequate for the thousands of hungry and tired individuals: just two loaves of bread and five small fishes. The disciples were about to send the people away hungry, but our Lord said to them, “Give them something to eat.” As the account tells us, the portions increased and were more than sufficient to feed them all.
In like manner, the world of mankind hungers for righteousness, yet only the Lord’s consecrated, his brethren, know of the food which really fills to satisfaction. His message to us is, “give them something to eat” that they too may be satisfied. Those of us who attempt to do so now are richly blessed.
We thank God for his precious promises that our now reigning Lord will put an end to the adversary and his evil influence, that he will open the blind eyes of all mankind to an appreciation of the truth and show them clearly that the only table at which spiritual hunger can be satisfied is the table of the Lord. “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” There is no doubt that the many who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled and that comparatively few will then starve to death (Habakkuk 2:14).
Unrighteousness cannot fill any man. There is, however, a filling power in righteousness. Let us not deceive ourselves and go along idly day after day, year after year, looking for satisfaction, comfort, rest, peace of heart, and joy in earthly things. Let us realize that all these are found only by those who find the Lord. It is to these, because of the new joy which comes into their hearts, who receive new experiences. To these the beauty of every flower, bird, and every noble song is enhanced in value; to these the only things lost are the things not worth having, the things belonging to sin and selfishness.
Let us have a passion when it comes to longing for “food” from God, to hear his voice, and desire that he create in us a righteous heart. Let us, dear brethren, hunger and thirst for righteousness, cultivating our appetites in every sense of the word that we may receive God’s ample supply knowing the Master’s assurance that our satisfaction shall be complete. Already it satisfies our longings as nothing else can do, and eventually we know we shall be fully satisfied when we awake in his likeness (Matthew 6:33).
“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”–Phil. 4:7.
PEACE is defined to be a state of quiet, or tranquility, freedom from disturbance or agitation–calmness, repose. Such a state of mind our text affirms of God. His is a mind tranquil, calm, undisturbed, never agitated, nor even wearied nor perplexed by any of the cares of His vast dominion. Yet this perfect peace of God, the Scriptures show, is due neither to the fact that there are no disorders in His vast domain, nor yet to any stoical indifference to pain or pleasure, but rather to that perfect poise of His glorious attributes which makes Him Master of His situation as Sovereign of the whole universe.
Have we admired the coolness and calm self-possession of a great general, such as Grant or Napoleon, in the midst of the confusion and smoke of battle? or of a great statesman, such as Gladstone or Bismarck, in the midst of national perplexities and perils? or of skilled physicians or others in critical times and places? These are only faint illustrations of the peace of self-possession and self-confidence which rules in the mind of God. He is never confused, bewildered, perplexed, anxious or care-worn, nor in the least fearful that His plans will miscarry or His purposes fail, because all power and wisdom inhere in Him.
The scope of His mighty intellect reaches to the utmost bounds of possibility, comprehends all causes and discerns with precision all effects; consequently, He knows the end from the beginning, and that, not only from philosophical principles, but also by intuition. As the Creator of all things and the originator of all law, He is thoroughly acquainted with all the intricate subtleties of physical, moral and intellectual law, so that no problem could arise the results of which are not manifest to His mind. “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.”–I John 1:5.
God, the Creator of all things, is also the competent Sustainer of all things. In silent grandeur, from Age to Age, the whole physical universe fulfils His will, without a suspicion of disorder or mishap; and the same Power is pledged for its sustenance throughout the eternal future.
Thus from His own vast, inherent resources of Power and Wisdom, springs the peace of God. But not from this source alone is the Divine peace; for peace is the certain concomitant of inherent goodness. God is the impersonation of every virtue and every grace; and consequently He has the blessed satisfaction and peace of conscious moral perfection as well as inherent Wisdom and Power.
GOD’S EMOTIONAL NATURE
Yet we find this peace of God coexisting with much of disorder and trouble. As a Father He shows us that He bears a father’s love to all His intelligent creatures –“the whole family [of God] in Heaven and in earth”– and that for His “pleasure they are and were created.” (Eph. 3:15; Rev. 4:11.) He created them in His own likeness–with the same mental and moral attributes, so that He might have communion and fellowship with them as sons, and they with Him as a Father, that thus, in mutual fellowship and communion, the Creator and the creature might find pleasure, happiness and delight.
This likeness of God includes in all not only the same mental faculties, but also the free exercise of the same in the formation of character. A creature incapable of thus forming character would not be in God’s likeness. And for the purpose of developing character, the alternative of good and evil must be placed before him. The right and the wrong principles of action must be discerned and the individual left free to his own choice in the matter, that the pleasure of God may be realized in the virtuous character resultant from the free choice of righteousness.
Since the love of God for His newly created and innocent creatures is akin to, but much stronger than, the love of an earthly parent for an innocent infant; and since that loving interest and solicitude does not grow cold as the creature advances in years, but earnestly watches for the development of the principles and fruits of righteousness, it is manifest that, like an earthly parent, God experiences the sense of either pleasure or pain, according as His free, intelligent creatures choose the right course or the wrong. Of this we are fully assured, not only by thus reasoning from the fact of His Fatherhood, but also by all of those Scriptures which speak of some things as abominable, displeasing, hateful and despicable to Him and as giving Him no pleasure; which say that His anger burns against them, and that His indignation and wrath wax hot, even to their destruction. Other Scriptures speak of His pleasure, love, joy and delight in pleasing things–in the principles of righteousness and those who obey them–the appreciation of pleasurable emotions of an opposite character, for pain and pleasure may properly be considered the ebb and flow of the same emotion.
These exhibitions of the mind of God indicate clearly an emotional nature in the Divine Being, of which fact we might also judge from the realization of our own emotional nature, since man was created in God’s image. No, dear friends, God is not a God of stoical indifference, insensible to the emotions of pleasure and of pain; but the perfect poise of His attributes preserves the equilibrium of peace under all circumstances, whether of pain or pleasure.
GOD’S PEACE UNBROKEN BY EXTERNAL DISCORD
With this thought, then, let us consider the circumstances under which the marvelous Peace of God has been perpetually maintained. The deep-laid Plan of God in all His creative works required long aions [ages] for its accomplishment. Across the vista of ages He saw in His purpose the glory of an intelligent creation in His own likeness, established in righteousness and worthy of His gift of eternal life. He therein saw the mutual pleasure of the Creator and the creature, and with a peaceful patience He resolved to wait for the glorious consummation.
As the Plan developed and time rolled on, the free moral agency of His creatures, misused by some, was enabling them to develop evil characters. By this means discord was introduced into His family–“the family [of God] in Heaven and in earth”–all His creatures, angels and men; and the family was divided, some holding to righteousness and some choosing to do evil. But such a contingency was one of the foreseen necessities of the far reaching Plan, the glorious outcome of which, was, in the Divine judgment, worth the cost of all the trouble and loss which He foresaw.
What a dreadful thing is family discord! How a prodigal son or a wayward daughter often brings the gray hairs of the human parent down with sorrow to the grave! Ah, the Heavenly Father knows something of such sorrow; for He saw Satan, one of His sons (Isa. 14:12), an angel of light, fall as lightning from Heaven. (Luke 10:18.) For six thousand years, at least, that son has been in open, defiant rebellion against God, and most actively and viciously engaged in inciting further rebellion and wickedness. He saw many of the angels leave their first estate (Jude 6) and become the allies of Satan, and then He saw also the whole human race fall into sin. Did ever any human parent find such a conspiracy–so virulent and hateful–spring up in his family? Surely not!
Then God found it necessary to perform the unpleasant duties of discipline. In His Justice He must disown the disloyal sons and deal with them as enemies. Though all the while His Fatherly Love was preparing to bless the deceived and fallen ones when the purposes of redemption should restore the repentant to His favor, Love must be veiled, while only stern, relentless Justice could be manifested. This has been no happifying duty, nor has the attitude of the sinner been pleasing to Him.
Consider the Love against which these recreants sinned. Though from God cometh every good and perfect gift, His favors have been despised, His love spurned, His righteous authority conspired against and defied, His character maligned, misrepresented, made to appear odious, hateful, unrighteous and even despicable. Yet, through it all the peace of God continues, and for six thousand years He has endured this contradiction of sinners against Himself. And still, O wondrous grace! His Love abounds; and it is written that He so loved the world, even while they were yet sinners, that He gave His Only-Begotten Son to die for them; and that through Him judgment (trial) is also to be extended to those angels that fell, with the exception of Satan, the leader and instigator of the whole conspiracy–the father of lies.–John 3:16; I Cor. 6:3; Jude 6; Heb. 2:14; Rev. 20:10,14.
GOD’S PEACE COMPATIBLE WITH SORROW
This gift of Divine Love was another indication of the cost to our Heavenly Father of His great and marvelous Plan. Not only did He behold the fall into sin of a large proportion of His family, but their recovery cost the sacrifice of the dearest treasure of His heart, and the subjection of this beloved One to the most abject humiliation, ignominy, suffering and death. Again the illustration of a parent’s love assists us in comprehending the cost of this manifestation of Jehovah’s Love. With what tender and yearning emotions of Love must He have made this sacrifice of His beloved Son, in whom He was well pleased! In addition to all the graces of character manifested since the very dawn of the being of the Logos, was now added the further grace of full submission to the Divine will, even when the pathway pointed out was one of humiliation and pain.
Ah, did the Father let Him go on that errand of mercy without the slightest sensation of sorrowful emotion? Had He no appreciation of the pangs of a father’s love when the arrows of death pierced the heart of His beloved Son? When our dear Lord said, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death,” and again, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt,” did it touch no sympathetic chord in the heart of the Eternal? Yea, verily; the unfeigned love of the Father sympathetically shared the Lord’s sorrow.–Matt. 26:38,39.
The principle taught in the Divine Word, that true love weeps with those that weep and rejoices with those who rejoice, is one which is also exemplified in the Divine character. The immortal Jehovah could not Himself die for us, His Divine nature being proof against death. And even if He could have died, there would have been no higher power to raise Him out of death. Thus all creation would have been left forever without a Governor, and only disaster and ruin could have ensued. But God could and did sacrifice at great cost to His loving, fatherly nature, the dearest treasure of His heart; and thus He manifested (I John 4:9) the great Love wherewith He loved His deceived and fallen creatures. If this sacrifice cost Him nothing, if it were impossible for His mind to realize any painful emotion even under such a circumstance, then the gift of His Son would be no manifestation of His Love; for that which costs nothing, manifests nothing.
Our Lord Jesus also manifested His great sympathy for the Father in the misrepresentation of His character which He has so patiently endured for ages. It was the one effort of His life to glorify the Father and to rectify among men the false impressions of His glorious character –to show to men His goodness, benevolence, love and grace, and to lead them to love the merciful God who so loved them, even while they were yet sinners, as to seek them out and to plan for their eternal salvation.
GOD’S PEACE SELF-CENTERED
Yes, there has been great commotion in the disrupted family of God–commotion in which the Lord declares He has had no pleasure (Psa. 5:4); but, nevertheless, the Peace of God has never been disturbed. In the full consciousness of His own moral perfection, His unerring Wisdom, His mighty Power, and with the fullest appreciation of Justice and the keenest and most ardent love of the beauty of holiness, patiently and peacefully, and even joyfully in the midst of tribulation, He has endured the contradiction of sinners against Himself for six thousand years.
But during the seventh millennium, according to the Divine purpose, it will be the joyful privilege of our Lord Jesus fully to manifest to all creatures in Heaven and in earth the Father’s glorious character. Then will the Father rejoice in the grandeur of His finished work and in the everlasting peace and happiness of His family in Heaven and on earth, “reunited under one Head.”–Eph. 1:10. –Diaglott.
This blessed consummation will not be realized, however, until the incorrigible fallen sons of God, disowned and disinherited because they loved unrighteousness and would not be reclaimed, shall have been cut off. This will be the last unpleasant duty of the Creator and Father of all, who positively declares that it is a sad duty, yet nevertheless one which He will have the fortitude to perform in the interests of universal righteousness and peace. Hear Him: “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die?”–Ezek. 33:11.
Thus we see that the Peace of God is compatible with great commotion and with sorrow and pain of any kind; for it is not dependent upon outward circumstances, but upon the proper balancing of the mind and the conditions of a perfect heart. Such peace–the Peace of God–was enjoyed also by our Lord Jesus in the midst of all the turmoil and confusion of His eventful earthly life. And this brings us to the consideration of our Lord’s legacy to His disciples, when He was about to leave the world, as expressed in His own words:
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth [in stinted measure or in perishable quality], give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”–John 14:27.
OUR LORD’S LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT
Thus with abounding compassion and tenderness, did our Lord, on the last night of His earthly life, bestow upon His beloved disciples His parting blessing, His legacy of Peace. It was the richest legacy He had to bequeath, and was one of priceless value. It was the promise of that tranquility of soul, that rest and ease of mind, which He Himself possessed–the Peace of God. It was the same peace which the Father has Himself always enjoyed, even in the midst of all the commotion which the permission of evil has brought about; but it was not derived from the same source. In Jehovah this peace was self-centered; He realized in Himself the omnipotence of Power and Wisdom; while the peace of Christ was centered, not in Himself, but in God, by faith in His Wisdom, Power and Grace. So also if we would have the Peace of God, the peace of Christ–“My peace” –it must, like His, be centered in God by faith.
Yes, the peace of Christ was a priceless legacy. Yet how quickly the stormcloud of trouble, which was even then growing very dark, burst in its fury upon the heads of those very disciples to whom the words were directly addressed. It followed almost immediately the gracious bequest, and struck consternation, bewilderment, confusion, to their hearts and shook their faith from center to circumference. Then, where was the peace? While the Lord was speaking the words, the foul betrayer, Judas, was out on his murderous errand. Then followed the agony in Gethsemane, and the terror and consternation among the disciples as they began to realize the fate of their beloved Lord. Soon their almost breathless suspense deepened into more fearful forebodings as He stood alone before His merciless accusers and persecutors in the Hall of Pilate and the Court of Herod, while they were powerless to shield Him. Then came the tragic end–the horrors of the crucifixion.
WHAT HAD BECOME OF THE PEACE?
Where was the promised peace under such circumstances –when, overcome with fear and dread, they all forsook Him and fled; and when St. Peter, although anxious to defend Him, was so filled with fear that three times he denied his Lord and with cursing declared that he never knew Him? The explanation is, that the peace had not yet come; for as the Apostle Paul tells us, “Where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament [a bequest] is of force after men are dead; otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.” (Heb. 9:16,17.) But as soon as the tragic scene was over and the cry, “It is finished,” fell upon their eager ears, strange as it may seem, there is evidence that peace began to steal into their grieving hearts. The darkened heavens, the quaking earth, the rending rocks, the torn veil of the Temple–all spoke to them a message of comfort which the world could not receive.
To the world (Jews and Gentiles, both participating in the crime) the language of these events was that of Divine wrath and indignation against them. And as fear fell upon the people, and the clamor and excitement of that awful day died away, they smote upon their breasts and returned to their homes. The Roman centurion and they that were with him, fearing greatly, said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
But to the disciples of the Lord these events spoke a very different language. The cause of their blessed Master was their cause and it was God’s cause. To them these supernatural demonstrations were evidences that God was not regarding this matter with indifference; and though through the veil of darkness they could not read His bright designs, in these events there was to them a whisper of hope.
Three days later hope was revived by the news of our Lord’s resurrection, confirmed to them by His appearance in their midst. Again forty days later hope was strengthened by His ascension after His parting counsel and blessing and promised return, and the instructions to tarry in Jerusalem until they received the promise of the Father, the Comforter, the Holy Spirit of adoption, not many days thence–at Pentecost. Then the peace of Christ, the Lord’s rich legacy, began to be realized, and the tarrying days of prayer and expectancy were days of abiding peace–peace which flowed as a river. But when on the day of Pentecost the promised Comforter came, the river of their peace found a deeper bed; and their joy knew no bounds!
“Like a river glorious is God’s perfect peace,
Over all victorious in its glad increase.
Perfect; yet it floweth fuller every day;
Perfect; yet it groweth deeper all the way.”
OUR RICH LEGACY OF PEACE
But not alone to the early Church was this legacy of peace bequeathed. It is the blessed inheritance of the entire Church, even to the end of the Age. The Lord showed His thought for us all on that very day, when in His prayer He said, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for all those who shall believe on Me through their word.”–John 17:20.
The peace promised, observe, is not the short-lived peace of the world, which is sometimes enjoyed for a little season–while fortune smiles and friends abound and health endures, but which quickly vanishes when poverty comes in and friends go out, when health fails and death steals away the treasures of the heart. “My peace,” the peace of God which Christ Himself by faith enjoyed, who, though He was rich, for our sakes became poor, who lost friend after friend, and in His last hour was forsaken by all of the few that remained–His peace endured through loss, persecution, scorn and contempt, and even amidst the agonies of the cross. This peace is something which none of the vicissitudes of the present life can destroy, and which no enemy can wrest from us.
What richer legacy could the Lord have left His beloved people? Suppose He had bent His energies during His earthly life to the accumulation of money; and that in so doing He had amassed an immense fortune to leave in the hands of His disciples wherewith to push forward the great work of the Age when He should be taken from them; money to pay the traveling expenses of the Apostles and to defray the numerous expenses incidental to the starting of the work in various places, such as the renting of lecture rooms, the payment of salaries to traveling brethren, etc., etc. How soon would it all have vanished, and how poor would be our inheritance today! “The Man of Sin” would surely have gotten hold of it in some way, and not a vestige of the legacy would have reached this end of the Age. But, blessed be God, His rich legacy of peace still abounds to His people!
The peace promised is not such as the world can always recognize and appreciate; for the possessor of it, like the Lord Himself, and like the Heavenly Father as well, may have a stormy pathway. Indeed, that it must be so to all the faithful until the purposes of God in the permission of evil are accomplished, we are distinctly forewarned, but with the assurance that through all the storms this peace shall abide–“In the world ye shall have tribulation, but in Me ye shall have peace.”
FAITH THE BASIS OF PEACE
If we would know the foundation and security of this abiding peace which is able to survive the heaviest storms of life, we have only to look to the teaching and example of the Lord and the Apostles. What was it that held them so firmly and gave them such rest of mind while they suffered? It was their faith–their faith in the Love, Power and Wisdom of God. They believed that what God had promised, He was able also to perform, and that His righteous and benevolent Plan could know no failure. By the mouth of His Prophets He had declared, “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure….Yea, I have spoken it and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.” “The Lord of Hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it?” (Isa. 46:9-11; 14:27.) On the assurances of God they rested. In Him their faith was anchored; and it mattered not how fiercely the storms raged or how they were tossed by the tempests of life while their anchor still held fast to the Throne of God.
The language of our Lord’s faith was, “O righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee; but I have known Thee.” He had been with the Father from the beginning, had realized His Love and His goodness, and had seen His Power, and had marked His righteousness and His loving kindness and Fatherly providence over all His works. And so it is written, “By His knowledge shall My righteous Servant justify many; for He shall bear their iniquities.” (Isa. 53:11.) The knowledge which He had of the Father gave to Him a firm footing for faith in all God’s purposes concerning the future. Hence He could and did walk by faith. And that faith enabled Him to overcome all obstacles and to secure the victory even over death.
So also it is written for our instruction–“This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith”–that faith in God built, in our case, upon our Lord’s testimony of the Father; and again it is written that, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” It is only through steady, unwavering faith that the peace of God–the peace of Christ–will abide with His people. While the Lord was with His disciples, and they saw in Him the manifestation of the Father, their faith was strong and they had peace in Him, as He said, “While I was in the world I kept them.” But not until after He had left them was their faith anchored in God. After Pentecost they experienced the same peace that Christ had enjoyed–the blessed peace that came from a knowledge of the fact that God acknowledged them as sons and heirs, and joint-heirs with Christ, if they would continue faithfully to follow in the steps of the Redeemer.
CULTIVATION OF UNWAVERING FAITH
Herein is also the basis of our peace. No matter how fiercely the storms of life may assail us, we must never let go our anchor and allow ourselves to drift, but always remember that “the foundation of God standeth sure”; that “His Truth is our shield and buckler”; that “what He has promised He is able also to perform,” notwithstanding our human imperfections and frailties; that covering these we have the imputed righteousness of Christ, our Surety and Advocate; and that “the Father Himself loveth” us, “He considereth our frame and remembereth that we are dust,” and so has compassion for the sons of His Love and is very pitiful and of tender mercy. Indeed, “What more can He say than to us He hath said,” to assure our faith and to steady and strengthen our hearts to patient endurance in the midst of the trials and conflicts of the narrow way of sacrifice.
There is nothing which puts the Christian at greater disadvantage in the presence of his foes than for him to let go, even temporarily, his grip upon the anchor of faith. Let him do so for a moment, and of necessity darkness begins to gather round him. He cannot see the brightness of his Father’s face; for “without faith it is impossible to please God”; and while he grapples again for the anchor, the powers of darkness fiercely assail him with doubts and fears. These attacks are generally based upon his human imperfections, which he should ever bear in mind are covered by the Robe of Christ’s righteousness.
If we would have the peace of God reign in our hearts, we must never let go our anchor, “nor suffer Satan’s deadliest strife to beat our courage down.” The language of our hearts should always be, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” With this faith the peace of God, the peace which the Master bequeathed to us, ever abides. Thus “the peace of God which passeth all understanding will keep our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”; for it is written again, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee.”
In the midst of the Christian warfare let our hearts be cheered and our minds be stayed, not only with such assurances that all the Divine purposes shall be accomplished, but also with such promises of personal favor as these:
“Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him; for He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust.” “Can a woman forget her sucking child?…Yea, they may forget; yet will I not forget thee. Behold I have engraven thee upon the palms of My hands.” “The Father Himself loveth you,” and “It is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.” “Such as are upright in their way are His delight.” “Delight thyself also in the Lord, and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart”–the peace of God, even in the midst of storm and tempest.
Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. —Matthew 4:17
There is no doubt about the continuing theme of the book of Matthew. It is captured in the words “kingdom of heaven,” a phrase that’s used thirty-two times (King James Version). No other book of the Bible uses this expression. The other gospel writers use “kingdom of God.”
Most Bible expositors believe the phrases “kingdom of heaven” and “kingdom of God” are synonymous. In parallel gospel accounts the terms are used interchangeably by the writers themselves (see Matthew 4:17 and Mark 1:15; Matthew 8:11 and Luke 13:28,29). Matthew himself uses the phrase “kingdom of God” five times (Matthew 6:33; 12:28; 19:24; 21:31; 21:43).
John the Baptist began his preaching work admonishing those around him, “Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). Our Lord began his ministry with those same words (Matthew 4:17) and he taught his apostles to do the same when he sent them out to preach (Matthew 10:7). Not only was this kingdom the main topic of our Lord’s ministry, for most practical purposes it was his only topic!
In our Lord’s mountaintop sermon in front of the multitudes, “He opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven … For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:2,3,20).
The subject of the “kingdom of heaven” permeates our Lord’s earthly ministry as well as the ministry of the twelve apostles, who were both instructed and commissioned by our Lord.
What is the Kingdom of Heaven?
Some scholars believe “kingdom of heaven” is a reference to heaven itself, and that the message preached by the Lord and his apostles was heaven and how to get into it.
Others say the “kingdom of heaven” is a reference to a spiritual condition in the hearts of men which results in the transforming of lives and eventually even the society in which we live. They say the Lord and his apostles were preaching about the need for repentance and letting God reign in the hearts of men. If all did so, God’s will would be done in earth (Matthew 6:10).
These are but two of the commonly accepted ideas as to the meaning of the phrase “kingdom of heaven.” However, such thoughts are at odds with what the Scriptures declare. A careful search reveals that the “kingdom of heaven” is not a reference to heaven itself, or to some spiritual reigning of God in the hearts of men, but rather to the Messianic kingdom of peace foretold by the prophets and promised by God himself to the nation of Israel (Daniel 2:44,45; Isaiah 2:2-5; Micah 4:1-5).
In Genesis we read of a covenant relationship between Jehovah God and Abraham. Accordingly, the nation of Israel was to be a “great nation” in which “all families of the earth [shall] be blessed” (Genesis 12:1,3). The arrangement was to give land to Abraham where he and his descendants after him would forever dwell as this “great nation” and provide for the blessing of the world and administer God’s dominion over it (Exodus 19:5,6).
In prophesying about this event, Isaiah proclaimed: “It shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people” (Isaiah 2:2-4).
This nation under God would provide the way for the world of mankind to walk in the paths of God. The will of heaven will reign and rule on the earth by way of the kingdom of Israel.
God raised up prominent ones to lead his people. History shows that despite God’s plans, Israel rebelled. In view of her rebellious ways and failures, God raised up king David and made a covenant with him and his descendants: “When thy days be fulfilled and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever” (2 Samuel 7:12,13; 1 Chronicles 17:11-14).
Isaiah rejoiced in this future day and proclaimed to Israel: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this” (Isaiah 9:6,7).
Daniel in a vision saw the end of Gentile dominion over Israel and the fulfillment of God’s promises to the nation: “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever” (Daniel 2:44).
Israel’s covenanted kingdom was to be established through her Messiah, the promised seed of David, in accordance with the Davidic covenant. He would redeem his people and set up his kingdom dominion in Zion. This is what God’s covenant with Israel called for and this is what the expression “kingdom of heaven” refers to.
When is the Kingdom of Heaven?
Jesus was born for a purpose. The angel announced to Mary that Jesus’ God-given mission was to fulfill the Davidic promise: “Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:31,33).
Jesus, the only-begotten son of God, left his heavenly home, was born of a woman, and became the promised seed of David, to sit on the throne of David and establish his kingdom on earth. The “kingdom of heaven” was “at hand”!
Not only was the promised Messiah on the scene, he was right on schedule as the prophets had long foretold (see Daniel 9:24-27). The establishing of the kingdom of heaven was nearing completion which prompted our Lord to tell the people as he preached, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17).
This was the Divine Plan of the Ages. The long-awaited Messiah, the promised seed of David, the King of Israel, had arrived to announce that the covenanted kingdom of heaven was at hand. The work to be done was to prepare the way. Jesus taught the people the beatitudes in view of this kingdom (Matthew 5:1-12). He taught how to gain an entrance into it (Matthew 5:20; 7:21; 18:3; 19:23; 24). He expounded on who would be the “least” and the “greatest” in it (Matthew 5:19; 11:11; 13:32). He even told his closest disciples of their special positions in it (Matthew 19:28). And finally, he warned about the destructive judgments he would execute upon the nations prior to fully establishing the kingdom (Matthew chapters 24 and 25).
The apostles eagerly looked for the restoration of the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6). They proclaimed to Israel the arrival of her “last days” (Acts 2:1,36) as spoken of in the prophets, and exhorted the people to respond positively to the offer of the kingdom (Acts 3:12, 26).
It is evident that the “kingdom of heaven” has not yet been established on the earth. None of the prophetic pronouncements concerning its establishment have been completely fulfilled. Yet when our Lord was on earth, the “time” was “fulfilled” and so it was preached as being “at hand.” What happened? Why hasn’t “the God of heaven” fully set up that promised kingdom?
Though many have tried to explain, God’s own explanation concerning what he has done and what he will yet do is what needs to be understood and appreciated.
The apostle Paul tells us why there is a delay in establishing Israel’s kingdom. God has temporarily set aside his plans for Israel and has ushered in a new age. In Romans Paul writes that when Israel “stumbled” at the testimony of Christ, God “blinded” the nation and turned to the Gentiles: “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part has happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in” (Romans 11:25; compare John 12:37-40; 2 Corinthians 3:14).
God “blinded” Israel and put his plans and his special dealings with that nation on hold. God turned his attention to the Gentiles and has provided an age of grace. Paul writes: “For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, if ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; … which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel” (Ephesians 3:1-6).
This time of grace is what God is now supervising. God has “not cast away his people,” has not discarded them. Her “fullness” is yet to come. Since her “blindness” is “in part until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in,” Paul goes on to say: “So all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins” (Romans 11:1,26,27).
Israel’s “fullness” is yet to come, and when it does, “the LORD shall be King over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one” (Zechariah 14:9).
As Isaiah declares to the redeemed and the delivered of Israel in that day, “Ye shall be named the Priests of the LORD: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: … For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations” (Isaiah 61:6,11).
One Kingdom, Two Phases
The literal kingdom will not find Jesus sitting on a literal throne on earth. The kingdom of heaven is a spiritual kingdom, unseen by the human eye, but its influence will be worldwide. When asked about his kingdom, Jesus replied: “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation, neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you [NASV: in your midst]” (Luke 17:20,21).
Israel will be the earthly representative of that heavenly kingdom and its ancient patriarchs of old will be its rulers. Jesus and his church will constitute the heavenly phase of that kingdom.
Israel’s promised kingdom is yet to be established. God’s word is sure, for he cannot change or alter his promises (Psalm 89:34). However, God’s plan for Israel is still in abeyance. God is working out “the mystery of Christ” in this “dispensation of grace” and is preparing a “new creation,” the church, the body of Christ, made up of both Jew and Gentile, for his purposes. When that work is complete, “all Israel shall be saved” and their promised kingdom will be fully set up. Through them “all the nations of the earth will be blessed.”
The apostle John repeatedly taught the importance of both Biblical truth and godly love. To understand the identity of the true Church, it is vital to recognize which of these is the foundation for the other.
The larger, well-known churches of this world are comprised of millions of “believers”—people who believed in and talked about Jesus. No doubt, many of them are sincere. They also talked much about “Christian love.” Many are the sermons given about “Jesus” and “love”. This describes the diet served every week from pulpits in tens of thousands of churches, around the world.
Of course, these are both critically important topics! The Bible has hundreds of scriptures that refer to our Lord and the importance of demonstrating godly love. But I see that many people have a hollow love, and that few really believed what Christ taught. No real love is evident in their lives.
They have the Lord’s name on their lips but the truths that He taught is not evident in their lives. Lots of talk about love, but little, if any, being practiced in their lives.
John has been called the “Apostle of Love,” because he spoke about this subject much more than all the other New Testament writers combined. A quick glance in any concordance, will confirm this. What is not realized is that he also wrote more about the importance of “truth” than all the other New Testament writers combined. John could have easily been known as the “Apostle of Truth”! A superficial look at his writings could leave you wondering if he wrote about anything other than these two subjects. Strangely, despite John’s dozens of references to the importance of truth, this emphasis is ignored by almost everyone!
In God’s infinite wisdom, He knew that He could not have one apostle stress truth and a another stress love. This would have left the impression that people could “choose their favorite apostle,” depending upon whether they felt truth or love deserved greater emphasis. (It was this very kind of division that plagued the Corinthian brethren – 1 Cor. 1:10-14.)
“Now I beseech you, brethren, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been signified unto me concerning you, my brethren, by them that are of the household of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I mean, that each one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos: and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized into the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you, save Crispus and Gaius.”
The result is that each group would feel superior to the other because it has the “more proper” emphasis. Many today feel that they merely need to stress “love”—and without explaining the Bible definition—with little emphasis on correct doctrine. Those that think this way have a well-honed set of passages they use in an attempt to establish their position.
The Role of Love
Two of the most frequently quoted scriptures come from John. Both speak about love. John 3:16 states:
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
People who know little—or nothing—about the Bible usually know of these verses.
John 13:34-35 states:
“A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one to another.”
It is easy to see, from just these two passages, why so many believe they are Christians if they just “have love”—all the while feeling no need to be concerned about truth. Notice the phrase, “By this [love] shall all men know that you are My disciples.” It is true that an outward demonstration of love does make an important impression on people. In a selfish, unhappy, confused world, people practicing genuine love—do stand out from all those around them!
A basic question arises. How does Christ know if you are His disciple? We are not asking how men know, but how Christ knows. John also answers:
“Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on Him, If you continue in My word, then are you My disciples indeed; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).
Did you notice the phrase “IF you continue in My word, THEN are you My disciples…”? This is a key point! “Continuing in [Christ’s] word”—remaining free of error—signifies to Christ that we are His disciples.
This is what Christ looks for!
The Role of Truth
Holding to the truth would never be a sign to men. People are usually turned off by what true Christians believe:
“because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom. 8:7).
1 Cor. 2:14 tells us that the truth is not attractive to anyone not called by God . However, seeing people show genuine concern for one another turns no one off and is attractive to all. Anyone who doubts this, may attempt to “cast” a few “pearls” at someone (Matt. 7:6). Watch the reaction. Then try showing love to them when they don’t expect it. The lesson will be learned.
Consider that True Christians are led by the Holy Spirit—the “Spirit of truth” (John 14:16-17; 15:26; 16:13). This same Spirit of truth “will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit will lead all those who are truly consecrated into the knowledge of real godly love. Galatians 5:22 reveals that love is a “fruit of the Spirit.” Romans 5:5 explains that such fruit is possible in a Christian’s mind only because God’s Spirit has put it there.
Romans 13:10 states, “Love is the fulfilling of the law.” 1 John 5:3 adds this, removing all doubt:
“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous.”
It will be clear to others that you have love, because they will see you fulfilling God’s laws toward your fellow man. Understanding real Christian love—what it is—how it is expressed—its relationship to law—its part in being the light of the world—is in itself also a great truth!
Let’s now carefully examine an important verse:
“He that says, I know Him, and keeps not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4).
Pause and consider this before continuing. Verse 5 speaks about people who claim to be Christians—to “know Him”—but who neither keep the commandments nor have “truth” in them. The world is filled with professing Christians who claim to “know Jesus in their heart” but who have no interest whatsoever in understanding the Divine Plan as outline in the Bible. Now, focus carefully on Christ’s words (vs 5)
“But whoso keeps HIS [Christ’s] word; in him [that person] verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in Him.” (vs 5)
Real love cannot be perfected in those who are not keeping Christ’s word—His recorded instruction—the truth. The true love of God is only perfected in people who ARE doing this!
Remember John 8:31.
“If you continue in My Word, you are My disciples indeed.”
We must always “continue in” or “keep” God’s word. No wonder our Lord taught,
“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4; Luke 4:4).
The Greek word for “keep,” tereo, means “to watch or to guard (from loss or injury) by keeping the eye upon…to detain in custody.”
Will you determine to keep the truths of God’s Word in your “custody”?
Will you “guard” it from “loss or injury”?
Are you convicted about keeping your “eyes” continually upon it?
Remember, when we consecrated and became disciples of Christ, we were “sanctified” by that Word of truth (John 17:17). Only in this way can you first become and then remain Christ’s disciple!
Remember! Truth is the umbrella that stands over love. Love springs from truth—not the other way around! It is no coincidence that Matthew 22:37-39 says,
“love your neighbor as yourself,” afterwards says, “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”
We didn’t wake up one day and decide “I’m gonna love God”, no, we learned the Truth, when about His Plan of Salvation, and fell in love with the heavenly Father.
Certainly, no one who rejects God or His truth love Him. Therefore, genuine love for “neighbor” will also be absent.
Many Churches Claim to Have “Love”
What about all those who emphasize the importance of love and having a “relationship with Christ”—while in ignorance of God’s Truths or while neglecting or abandoning the ones they may have? Can love be “perfected” in them? The Bible says that this is impossible! (Recall 1 John 3:4.) The only thing such people and organizations “perfect” is the ability to talk about love. So says God! While many have honed “love speak” into a fine art, this is nothing more than empty talk!
These are the ones who talk of “love” and “Jesus,” while demonstrating no real love of God and no real knowledge of the true teachings of Christ. How you love someone you don’t really know? At best it’s a superficial love. When there is doctrinal disagreement within their ranks,
Augustine has been credited with coining the phrase: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” In actuality, Rupertus Meldenius, a German Lutheran theologian of the early seventeenth century, coined the phrase in a tract published in 1627.
In any event, today this thought still echoes, even among the brethren. They say: “we must agree to disagree. Love is primary. Doctrines and opinions about Bible truth is secondary. Let us all just have love. Let us submerge our differences under ever more love.”
It’s a nice gesture, the problem with this thought is that, in the end, this breeds more division and doctrinal confusion and a complete disregard and neglect of doctrinal truth. This wrong premise puts the “love” cart in front of the horse. The true Christian continues in truth and then is able to walk in love. Remember, real love, springs from first having the truth! John stated that he “rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you [them], even as you walk in the truth.” Seeing this within fellow Christians was John’s greatest joy (3 John 3-4).
How Love, Truth and Blessings Work Together
There is a final, important, related point. What role do blessings and growth play within the formula of truth and real Christian love? Do their presence—or absence—tell the true Christian anything?
1 John 3:18 states, “Let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” John explains that this gives Christians confidence toward God in their prayers, while eliminating the conscience problems that hinder them. Now verse 21: “Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.” Answers and blessings flow from obedience, pleasing God and application of His truth: “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (vs. 22).
This principle is made plain through paraphrasing three verses. Let’s notice. Isaiah 58:13-14 explains that Israel was promised wonderful blessings if they kept the Sabbath properly. Malachi 3:8-10 shows that they were also promised great blessings—but only if they tithed faithfully. Exodus 15:26-27 directly connects the promises of good health and healing to full obedience to God’s commands. These and many other verses containing promises show that the Christian can know when he is in harmony with God. Conscience problems vanish when people follow all of God’s commands and instructions.
God’s people must recognize and never forget that a real Christian’s path is not easy or pain-free. However, if our ways please Him, God will continually give blessings and growth. This becomes a sign to us of His happiness and pleasure with us. When blessings, fruit and growth are continually lacking, God is not pleased! We know—either way.
First, belief and continuance in the truth tells Christ who His disciples are (and real love will always be evident anyway). Next, love tells people who Christ’s disciples are. Finally, blessings, fruit and growth tell the individual Christian whether he or she is pleasing God and continuing in His Word.
If I were the adversary I would speak endlessly of love and “Jesus,” while de-emphasizing right doctrine—Christ’s teachings—truth!—and their connection to growth and blessings. If this is what you are hearing, beware!
“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” What does it mean? Is there any substance to the idea that truth which is initially proven can be reproven? What if “reproven truth” differs from original truth?
No Bible teaching is more certain than the fact that to understand God’s Truth one must be called of God! Our Lord said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him. . .” (John 6:44). While it is true those who sincerely seek God may find Him, this, too, is contingent upon God’s mercy and upon His purpose for each individual (Matthew 7:7, Romans 11:7). Whether one is ever called and chosen —depends on God (Acts 2:38–39).
Paul said, “. . .we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Therefore, the knowledge of God’s Truth comes by divine revelation. Truth does not come by “scholarship,” superior human intelligence, or “research.” These may aid in Bible understanding—but without the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit leading the individual to perceive spiritual concepts, they are of little value. Many brilliant theologians and philosophers today are as much in ignorance of the real meaning of God’s Word as are those who have never been exposed to it. Bible truth is revealed! It comes only by divine revelation!
Jesus said, “. . . many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14). Those who are chosen are chosen “through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (II Thess. 2:13). God’s Spirit, working on their minds and setting them apart, leads them to perceive and believe what they hear or read. They are called to a knowledge of the truth which they believe and practice (II Thess. 2:14).
Those called understand and apply the rules of Bible study. They know all Scripture is inspired (II Tim. 3:16). They know the Bible does not contradict (John 10:35). They know all Scripture on a given subject must be put together in order to fully understand doctrine (Isa. 28:9–10). They realize no scripture of the Bible is of any private interpretation (II Pet. 1:20). Their minds are fully capable of proving what the Bible says. But they know this is only a part of proving God’s Truth.
Truth Is Absolute
Divine truth is absolute. It does not change. The same truth applies to all generations. The standard never alters. The truth revealed yesterday is the same truth today. There is no progressive revelation in the sense that “new insight” invalidates original truth. “New insight” adds to and complements that which precedes it (II Pet. 3:18—”grow” is auxano, meaning “increase or add thereto”).
Pastor Russell wrote:
“A new view of truth never can contradict a former truth. “New light” never extinguishes older “light,” but adds to it. If you were lighting up a building containing seven gas jets you would not extinguish one every time you lighted another, but would add one light to another and they would be in harmony and thus give increase of light: So is it with the light of truth; the true increase is by adding to, not by substituting one for another.”
“New insight” never contradicts or disagrees with original truth. To say truth is subject to change is to say there is no such thing as absolute truth. If this is true, God’s Word is meaningless. Those who advocate doctrinal changes on the basis of “new insight” and “scholarship” have repudiated truth persay. If truth can be altered, it was never truth in the first place! Original, revealed truth cannot be altered.
Those who call themselves Christians — while advocating doctrinal changes — are in effect admitting they were never Christian, because the basis of true Christian doctrine is divine revelation (I Cor. 2:10)! Jesus said that revelation could never change (Mark 13:31)!
Truth Absolute to Every Individual
Furthermore, divine revelation is absolute to every individual. The idea that what is truth is truth for that individual only, is not sustained in Scripture. The Bible says there is one faith and one faith only (Eph. 4:5)! There is no allowance for each individual to decide for himself what truth is. Man is going to be judged on the basis of God’s Word, not on the basis of what he thinks God’s Word is (John 12:48). Truth, therefore, is not individualistic truth. It is absolute truth which applies the same way to each individual.
Since divine truth is spiritual, it can come only from a spiritual source. That spiritual source is God’s Spirit. Jesus said, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Spiritual truth, as well as full spiritual understanding, is divinely revealed (I Cor. 2:10). It cannot be ascertained through physical means! It is only by the Spirit of God that the hidden things of God are made known (I Cor. 2:11). The natural man cannot receive them (I Cor. 2:14). Therefore, proving God’s Truth begins with the understanding that through God’s Spirit one can understand truth. But this comprehension is only the initial step.
Proving Means Practicing
After the individual Christian is called, recognizes the call, accepts the knowledge revealed to him and is baptized, he must put to practice that truth. He must walk worthy of his calling (I Thess. 2:12). While the truth generally comes as a result of hearing others preach God’s Word, it is plain to the true Christian that what he heard was indeed the Word of God (I Thess. 2:13, II Thess. 2:13–14, John 10:4). While the same message applies to everyone, the true Christian knows what is said has been revealed to him specifically. When Peter said, “. . . Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ. . .” (Acts 2:38), he was saying that spiritual truth must be applied individually! He did not say spiritual truth applies to each individual as he interprets it. Rather, truth applies to each individual as God specifically reveals it. Thus, each individual —called of God—must live up to what is revealed to him!
Levels of Truth
Revealed truth, therefore, does not differ from one individual to another in the sense of variety, but only in the sense of quantity. To each individual, then, truth is not a matter of diversity but rather of measure (Rom. 12:3). The more knowledge and understanding one has, the greater the responsibility placed upon him (Luke 12:47–48). At any given moment of time, each individual must live up to the truth revealed to him. Thus, when referring to spiritual truth in its application to individuals, we are referring to levels of truth. We are never talking about variations of truth. Truth does not vary from individual to individual, but the level of understanding each person has at a given moment of time does! Spiritual babes obviously cannot comprehend and apply what older, mature Christians can (I Cor. 3:1). But they must grow in knowledge and understanding until they, as mature Christians, reach a level acceptable to God (II Pet. 3:18, Eph. 4:12–15).
Thus, spiritual growth is the acceptance and practice of new revelation! Paul said, in Philippians 3:15, that God continually reveals what needs to be known to help His true children grow spiritually. But this new revelation never contradicts previous revelation! If new revelation contradicts previous revelation, then one or the other is incorrect. Either it is the old, or it is the new. If it is the old, then truth was not revealed initially. If it is the “new” that is incorrect, then what is called “new revelation” is obviously error. In order to be true revelation, “new light” cannot contradict that which was previously revealed. New revelation will augment or add to previous truth, but will never oppose it. One cannot change a belief and claim “new insight” as justification—unless it can be proven there was no divine revelation initially. Either the old is wrong, or the new is wrong. Both cannot be divinely revealed, nor can both be correct, there is no such thing as “old light”, for God does not reveal error. God reveals only truth! Those who believe doctrinal changes can be justified on the basis of “new revelation” should ask themselves if what they previously believed was revelation also.
Character Proves Truth
Paul wrote in I Thessalonians 5:21, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” How is it possible to prove anything without first trying it out? Common sense tells us the definition of “prove” demands a test! The Greek dokimazo used in I Thessalonians 5:21, means “to put to the test, to prove by testing.” Suppose you purchase an item which carries a guarantee. The product is warranted to perform a certain service. How does one tell if the item will perform according to promise? Obviously, by trying it out!
It is one thing to read the manufacturer’s promise of what the product is supposed to do, as opposed to testing the product to see what it will do. One can never know what a product will do until he tests it.
Why should the Truth of God be any different?
The Greek dokimazo and its cognates, often translated “prove” or “proof” in the King James Version, demonstrate clearly the meaning of “prove”—”to put to the test.” It is even translated as “experiment” in II Corinthians 9:13. It means to prove a matter by putting it to the test! Dokimee is translated “experience” in Romans 5:4.
Proving God’s Truth means putting it to practice in one’s life. “Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord” (Eph. 5:10) can be accomplished only by obeying God’s Word and observing the results in one’s life. This requires a change of mind and attitude which, in turn, leads to a willingness to perform spiritual service—rather than conforming to the desires of this fleshly life (Rom. 12:1–2).
It is only then that one is able to “prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Make no mistake about it—one is not righteous unless he practices righteousness (I John 3:7). Likewise, one has not proven God’s Truth until he practices it. When he practices God’s Truth until it becomes habit, he has built character. Character cannot be built without two considerations. First, one must be able to distinguish right from wrong; and second, one must always choose the right in opposition to the wrong.
When God reveals spiritual truth to the individual, the first step is underway in the process of character building. But without the second necessary step, there can be no character. One can agree with what is right, but that does not build character. And it does not prove the truth. One must put the revealed Truth of God to practice in one’s life before any character can be built, and before truth is absolutely proven. The day is coming when every man’s work will be made manifest (I Cor. 3:12–15). It is then that all will know whether those who professed Consecration really believed it. Those who believed and proved it put it to practice in their lives!
Trials Enforce Truth
God allows trials or tests to befall His children. The reasons should be quite clear. So valuable are trials that James wrote, “. . . count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience” (Jas. 1:2–3). He then added, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he is tried, he shall receive a crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him” (v. 12). Peter wrote, “. . . greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 1:6–7). These apostles knew the purpose of trials. They knew trials enforce and build character in the life of the overcomer. They knew tribulation and trials were not intended to destroy character, but to help in the character-building process. But they also knew this could be accomplished only as each individual was able to act as a free moral agent. This is why, in the early Church, there was not the kind of enforced regulation that began to be practiced in more recent years.
For example: after the death of the Pastor in 1916, those who readily accepted the doctrinal changes—which were different from what they first believed—had never exercised true free moral agency in the character-building process. They did not prove what the Bible said. They did not prove where the Lord’s people were. But they did not prove God’s Truth by living according to their own personal convictions. They allowed the Organization to regulate their lives, actions, and convictions to the point where they were willing to accept anything they were told! Proving God’s Truth—by the kind of personal participation required to build character—did not take place in the lives of most of the brethren.
Many of those who left the organization, left because they were disillusioned with the leadership. Many among them were not convicted of God’s Truth, so they readily accepted the doctrinal changes advocated by the various leaders of the schisms. Those who remained in the organization after the doctrinal changes merely accepted what was taught—because they had been led to believe the Organization was now “God’s chosen vessel”, “Jehovah’s visible organization” on earth. And those who left AFTER the doctrinal changes, did so with much of that baggage in hand. In neither case was the necessary conviction present to hold fast to the Truth.
Many were led to believe the Organization as a “divine channel” had the right to “change doctrine” and that these changes were “new light.” But what these brethren were not told was that these doctrinal changes were brought about to sustain the lifestyle of some in the leadership, who wanted to continue unscriptural practices. It never occurred to many at the time that the acceptance of these changes was the rejection of what had been Truth for some forty years!
Thus, the doctrinal confusion we witness today among the Lord’s people—a trial necessary to test His people—became the stumbling block for thousands who had never developed the necessary character to endure trials (Deut. 13:3). Had God’s people exercised free moral agency on their own—without the kind of pressure forced on them by the Organization—they would have been able to withstand the assault of Satan. But they didn’t. This trial—the enforcement of character and conviction—became the means for thousands to stumble and to reject divine revelation!
Must Prove Self in Relation to Standard
“Proving the truth” means not only coming to understand doctrine as revealed by the Holy Spirit, but also putting this truth to practice in one’s life. Thus, the basis for conviction is the unchanging standard of God’s revealed Word! “Proving the truth” means proving self in relation to that standard. “Proving the truth” never means changing, or attempting to change, that standard! It is not our responsibility to challenge the truthfulness of God’s Truth. It is not possible to legitimately change revealed doctrine. Original truth cannot be “reproven” when doctrine is being changed. If one has the conviction and faith to believe that God did reveal truth, then further study substantiates it. If one does not believe truth is divinely revealed or never had the conviction to develop living faith in relationship to it, then “reproven truth” will indeed differ from original truth. But it will not be legitimate! It may be called “truth,” and arguments may be advanced to make it seem plausible—but it will not be truth!
Doctrinal changes cannot be the result of divine revelation if truth is revealed initially. For example, If the doctrinal changes made by Paul S.L. Johnson, the DAWN and other brethren are legitimate, then God never revealed truth in the first place! But God did reveal truth. It is impossible for Him to lie (Titus 1:2). Therefore, He revealed truth! If we assume God left the church in error during the forty years of Pastor Russell’s ministry, then Jesus was derelict and professing Christians of the world were right all along! But Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would guide His followers into all truth (John 16:13). If Jesus did not keep His promise, then we have no Savior! The blessings and growth the Lord’s people enjoyed during the Pastor’s ministry did not diminish until doctrinal changes were made. God does not make mistakes! It is human beings who make mistakes—and the biggest mistake of our time period is the attempt to change revealed doctrine under the guise of “new insight.”
“Proving the truth” means living it! As a result, two things are accomplished: (1) The self is proved in relationship to the unchanging standard of God, and the results are clearly seen in the individual’s life; (2) one proves whether he is called or not. Paul said those who are reprobates are those who have failed to exercise the Spirit of God in their lives (II Cor. 13:5). They did not live up to their calling.
As long as there was doctrinal agreement among the brethren, the majority did not forsake the doctrine. But the moment a choice which seemed legitimate was made available, thousands could find no reason for remaining loyal to original truth.
The question: Were they ever convicted in the first place? Obviously not!
Had they proven themselves in relation to the unchanging standard of God, and had they really seen the results of God’s Way in their lives, they would not have been so eager to change. Those who jumped on the “bandwagon of doctrinal changes” have lost for the most part, the purpose and meaning of life. Ecclesia meetings and conventions have become largely a social involvement, to which personal conviction and faith no longer have significance. Most brethren would now readily accept any new doctrinal change, no matter how bizarre for the sake of unity. Those who think they wouldn’t change have no idea how badly damaged their character and convictions really are!
How Can You Know?
Can the Consecrated really know if they are following God’s Truth and living according to it? Let Jesus give the answer! “. . . My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:16–17). This text states those who are willing to obey God will have no trouble understanding the true doctrine! Here again, we see the necessity to put God’s Truth to practice in one’s life in order to confirm its meaning. Jesus said one can know the truth by living it!
But knowing is not merely thinking one knows. Those who agree with true doctrine but do not put it to practice do not really know the truth. They think they do, but during a time of trial they would soon yield to temptation. One who thinks he believes a doctrine—but does not practice it—does not really believe it. For those who really believe a doctrine practice it.
In the acquisition of knowledge there are those who drink in knowledge and there are those who gargle it. Those who agree with doctrine intellectually—but do not put it to practice—are the garglers. They do not really take the truth into their lives. They play with it for a time, then eventually discard it. They do not really believe it and they are not really convinced. They do not know the truth! It is by experience only that one can truly know. It is one thing to know by instruction—and another to know by experience. When God said of Adam and Eve, “. . . Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil. . .” (Gen. 3:22), He was referring to man’s experience in sin. Adam and Eve had now learned by experience, what sin was—and the results were disastrous. Knowing is knowing by experience. Those who experience God’s Truth—by living it—are the ones who really know it. There is no other way!
Faith in God’s Truth
A manifestation of God’s spirit is faith (Gal. 5:22). Paul said that without faith it is impossible to please God. Whoever comes to God must believe in His existence, as well as in His Word (Heb. 11:6). God’s Word is the Bible. When one is called and his mind is opened to Bible truth, he must not only believe the Bible to be God’s Word—he must also believe the truth revealed to him from the Bible. And Christ is that Word personified. We are Christians when that same Word lives in us. The Christian must have faith in the revelation of doctrine. The Christian who does not manifest faith in the revealed doctrine of God is like a wave tossed on the sea. He does not know what to believe! Spiritual stability means believing and adhering to the true doctrine (Eph. 4:14). In order to have any basis for his faith, one must have faith to believe God reveals true doctrine.
The Christian must have faith in the faith!
There is only one faith (Eph. 4:5). Unless the Christian comes to know that faith—believes and practices it because he knows it is the revealed truth—he has no real spiritual foundation! The exercise of faith in the Christian life, means believing and putting to practice that doctrine originally proven to be God’s Truth. The Christian must have confidence in the truth. He must not allow anyone to subvert the faith and conviction he has in that truth. He must maintain confidence and belief in the divine revelation! If he believes the Bible to mean what it says (and it says God reveals truth by divine revelation), the true Christian will not be swayed by those who would have him believe otherwise. Faith in the faith is a manifestation of God’s Spirit and is a proof of true Christianity!
Truth Revealed Once Only!
In conjunction with divine revelation is the realization that truth is revealed only once! The Truth of God, which encompasses the entire message of salvation, applies once only to each called and chosen son of God. After that, it is the responsibility of each “called out” Christian to hold fast to it. Jesus Christ was not sacrificed repeatedly to allow those who fall away to return again and again. Jesus Christ was sacrificed one time—and one time only (Rom. 6:10, Heb. 7:27; 9:26–27; 10:10; I Pet. 3:18). Therefore, His shed blood applies to each Christian one time only! One cannot accept that shed blood, repent, live God’s Way, and then later repudiate it with the idea he can return to God any time he likes.
The truth is: Once one turns from God’s Way and the truth revealed through divine revelation, it is impossible to return! This is what Paul said in Hebrews 6:4–6. Paul said it was impossible for those who fall away to come to repentance again. This is because the shed blood of Christ applies only once to each individual, and the divine revelation of this truth comes once only! The unpardonable sin is unpardonable because the individual who rejects divine revelation—revelation which leads to a knowledge of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ—is never given revelation again!
When Jude admonished the brethren to contend for the faith once delivered, he knew it was the faith delivered one time only. It would not be revealed again (Jude 3)! God’s Truth cannot be treated lightly! Those who have accepted doctrinal changes are tampering with the very Truth of God! They are on dangerous ground! Of course, many do not know what they are doing. They assumed they have the prerogative to change doctrine. This is true only if that doctrine was not revealed! But if, indeed, that doctrine was revealed—then what has transpired with regard to doctrinal changes, has been the rejection of that revelation! Paul said this is a dangerous step—on the way to the unpardonable sin (Heb. 6:4)!
Requirements in Proving
In relation to “proving the truth,” there are certain requirements. We prove the truth by living according to the divine standard of God, given by revelation. This is not accomplished by agreeing only. This is accomplished by putting it to practice. It is only by living the Christian experience that one can know the results of God’s Way of life. This is the only way each called and chosen servant of God can truly know! This is the only way the Christian can prove the truth!
Understanding the Bible is one thing, but putting it to practice is another matter entirely. Character cannot be built on the basis of knowledge alone. Character can be built only by being forced to make a choice. The man who refuses to act on divine truth has already made a choice. Indifference is a negative response! Indifference accomplishes nothing. But understanding God’s Truth, and putting it to practice in one’s life, does. It is one of the requirements of proving the truth!
The truly consecrated will be living up to that truth to the best of their abilities. They will not be perfect, but they will not attempt to change doctrine in order to sustain questionable lifestyles. They know revealed doctrine does not change and they know they must live up to it.
“Proving the truth” never means to question, to challenge, or to change revealed doctrine. Those who feel they had a right to do so are saying “That Servant” never had the truth initially. We prove it by living it! We prove its value in our lives by the benefits derived. Without putting it to practice there is no way to evaluate the results. But obedience to the truth must be done by a willing desire on the part of each Christian. Obedience is of little value if done through fear, peer pressure, the desire to belong, or by being “carried away” by the charisma of an individual. For the most part those who accepted doctrinal changes proved—by their willingness to change—they did not have the proof of God’s Truth in their lives!
“Proving the truth” never means that you, as an individual, can decide its validity. God has already decided that! The only prerogative you have is to decide whether or not you will obey. If God gave you the right to decide its validity you would be superior to God! We know better than that. Yet, when doctrinal changes were foisted upon the brethren under the guise of “new light,” a committee did indeed, set itself above God. God’s Spirit—as a source of inspiration to lead us to truth, as well as a source of power by which to overcome—was rejected. The doctrinal changes brought about by the Organization were an abandonment of the high standard of righteousness which Christ said Christians must eventually attain.
Truth is a revelation—given only to those called of God. Initial receipt of that truth is a miracle in itself.
What about the necessity of proving that way? Most people have falsely assumed Acts 17:11 requires them to determine—prove—the veracity of God’s Word. Such a concept is totally unscriptural. Acts 17:11 states, “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” Were the Bereans “checking out” the veracity of God? Obviously not! Let us carefully note. They “received the word with all readiness of mind. . . .” How does one receive the truth? By revelation!
Compare Acts 8:14, I Thessalonians 1:6, I Thessalonians 2:13, and II Thessalonians 2:10. In Acts 8:14, the apostles in Jerusalem learned that Samaria had received the Word of God. How did they receive it? Carefully read the story of that miracle, in verses 1–12.
Through the inspired preaching of Philip, those of that geographic area were made recipients of God’s great blessing to man. They received it because God gave it. In I Thessalonians 1:6, the Thessalonians became followers of the apostles and of Christ because they received the Word! How? Through the Holy Spirit. Notice the last part of the verse. In I Thessalonians 2:13, Paul makes this point clear. We read,”For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.” Note very carefully, they did not receive it as the word of men—but as the very Word of God. Now, let us be honest! If one receives the Word of God, will he feel compelled to check the veracity of it? Not at all. That is how we would treat the word of men. But in the case of the Thessalonians, they received it not as the word of men.
Continuing our comparison, let us consider the last text listed above. II Thessalonians 2:10 states, “. . . with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth. . .” What is the problem encountered by those who have lost their way? They did not receive the love of the truth! What truth? The one and only truth which those called of God receive by revelation. That truth accepted by faith—the faith once delivered.
Note again Acts 17:11. The Bereans received the Word. Did they not search the Scriptures to see if those things heard were so? Indeed! But what does it mean? The word “searched” is the Greek word anakrino. This same word is used three times in I Corinthians 2:14–15. Paul was inspired to write: “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.” The order of spiritual understanding is obvious. The natural man cannot receive God’s Truth. He cannot understand spiritual things. Therefore, God must first call. Then, after the call the truth is given. Once it is given the spiritually-oriented man understands.
From the above principles it is very easy to understand Acts 17:11. The called of God residing in Berea received the Word of God. It was accepted. They were now capable of understanding the recorded Word—the Bible. This process cannot be reversed. That is, natural man with a carnal mind cannot choose to read God’s Word, understand it and then—from this basis of understanding—evaluate (prove) God. To accept such an idea simply implies that physical man can understand God’s Word and is capable of evaluating God.
Therefore the conclusion of the matter is this: Let us shore up our faith in that way initially revealed. To fail this responsibility is to reject the Spirit—the very means by which the truth was sent to us and we received it.
The Christian Continues to Prove
The process of “proving” God’s Truth must continue throughout life. The converted servant of God must live God’s Way continually. He must constantly evaluate himself in the light of the true doctrine—checking himself daily (II Cor. 13:5, I Thess. 5:21). This is an individual matter between each Christian and his Creator (Gal. 6:4). The Christian must constantly, through study, drink in of God’s Word (II Tim. 2:15). And he must pray regularly (I Thess. 5:17).
This process must continue until the servant of God dies, or until the return of Jesus Christ—whichever occurs first. Those who die in Christ look forward to the resurrection. What a glory awaits them! This is because they accepted the Truth of God when it was revealed to them and they held fast for the remainder of their lives. It is this process—and this process only—which builds character. Any other way is an attempt to “enter in through the back door,” which Jesus said was impossible (John 10:1). It is those who recognize the Truth of God revealed to them—and who continue to practice it the remainder of their lives—who really prove the truth!
“Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures; and said unto them, Thus it is written.”–Luke 24:45,46
THE expression, “Thus saith the Lord,” is used over 400 times in the Bible plus many similar expressions such as “It is written,” or “The word of the Lord came unto me,” or “I, the Lord, have spoken it.” They call attention to specific statements, messages and lessons from God. It is as though the prophet, or other spokesman, is telling us:
“Now hear this! What I am going to say now, is not merely my opinion, or of my own wisdom, but thus saith the Lord; it is God speaking; these are his words.”
This is a wonderful expression and full of meaning for Bible Students. We have a reverence for God’s word and a “Thus saith the Lord” is the end of all controversy with us.
It seems so very simple, doesn’t it? All we have to do is to prove everything by the word of God. All we have to do is to accept what is in harmony with that word and reject that which is not. But it is not as simple as that. If it were, everyone would understand the truth and there would beno false doctrines. But there are false doctrines, hundreds of them. Each one is claimed to rest upon the word of God.
For every false doctrine many of which are hideous in the extreme, there is a purported “Thus saith the Lord.”
Let us consider some of these and the scriptural passages which it is claimed support them. Afterward we will prove that these doctrines are indeed scripturally false.
False Doctrines in Christendom
First we have the incredibly cruel and God-dishonoring doctrine of eternal torment. Here are some of the scriptures upon which this repulsive doctrine is based:
“And he shall be tormented with fire, and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb; and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever; and they have no rest day nor night.”–Revelation 14:10,11
“Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” –Matthew 25:41
“And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone … and shall be tormented day and night, forever and ever.”–Revelation 20:10
“Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee; it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than, having two hands or two feet, to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee; for it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.”–Matthew 18:8,9
These are perfectly good scriptures–“Thus saith the Lord!”—and they seem to clearly teach eternal torment. But do they? Is that what the Lord is really saying?
Another prominent false doctrine of Christendom is that of the Trinity. God is claimed to be triune, the union of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as three persons in one God. One expression of the creed is this:
“That we worship one God as Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substances; for there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost is all one; the glory Equal; the majesty Co-eternal.” All of this double-talk, or triple-talk in this case, is based upon this text:
“For there are three that bear record in heaven; the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one.”–1 John 5:7
“Thus saith the Lord!” say the Trinitarians. As a further proof that Jesus as a member of the Trinity is equal with God, they cite Paul’s words:
“Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.”–Philippians 2:6
“What more proof do you need?” they say. “Thus saith the Lord!” It is also taught in the nominal churches, in all good conscience, that there is no future probation, that salvation is in this life only, that the world will have no future chance for life. This narrow conception of the plan of God, is based on 2 Corinthians 6:2: “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” “Thus saith the Lord!” they say. “It is even repeated for emphasis: `NOW is the accepted time, NOW is the day of salvation.’ Can there be any doubt of what it says? Those who are not saved now are eternally lost.”
These are only three of the hundreds of false doctrines taught today. Each one is conscientiously claimed to be firmly based upon a “Thus saith the Lord!” To one unfamiliar with the divine plan, the claim appears true. But it is not as simple as that. To determine what the Lord is really saying we must often dig beneath the surface. We must analyze, divide, compare, and assemble: “Here a little, and there a little.” We must interpret and coordinate. We must apply certain inflexible rules and guides. When in doubt, we must consider the preponderance, or weight of evidence. We must also arrange scriptures chronologically and not confuse one age with another.
Above all, we must remember that the scriptures declare God’s plan. We must learn to think from God’s standpoint according to his plan. His plan is not subject to change at our whim:
“The Lord of Hosts hath sworn, saying, surely as I have thought, soshall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand.”– Isaiah 14:24
We must learn to think like he does. “Come now, and let us reason together,” he says. We must be filled with his spirit of truth and approach the scriptures in that spirit –humbly, prayerfully, and reverentially, fearing greatly to misinterpret, and perhaps mislead and stumble others. The penalty for stumbling others is extremely
severe. This is the great Creator’s word we are dealing with, his sacred word which is not to be handled carelessly and flippantly. This is not for fun; it is serious. As we read in Isaiah:
“Thus saith the Lord: the heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool … For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord. But to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.”– Isaiah 66:1,2
In order to understand what God is saying, we must study God’s word topically, in orderly steps. As we read:
“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. Order my steps in thy word.”–Psalms 119:105,133
God has not given us an understanding of his word to satisfy idle curiosity. It is given to us for a purpose, for the development and completion of the church, the body of Christ. As Paul said to Timothy:
“All scripture given by inspiration of God is profitable … that the man of God may be perfect [or complete], thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”–2 Timothy 3:16,17
This being the case, we are expected to pursue our studies in a methodical and workmanlike manner to be approved by God as we are told:
“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”– 2 Timothy 2:15
The Diaglott says, “Rightly treating the word of truth.” The interlinear is, “Cutting straight the word of truth.” This is what we must do to ascertain what the Lord is really saying, what he is really telling us, that “Thus saith the Lord!”
A Checklist for Interpreting Scripture
I have formulated a list of tests that may be applied to interpretations of scripture to help determine its real meaning. You may think of other tests also. Does it square with the ransom? Is it in accordance with the divine plan? Is the scripture correctly translated? Is it spurious in whole or in part? Does the proposed interpretation comport with God’s character? To what age or time does the scripture apply? To what class of persons does it apply? Is it merely historical, having already had a total fulfillment? If already fulfilled, does it have a secondary application or fulfillment to come? Is it literal or symbolic? Does it have a typical significance? Does its context vary its apparent meaning? Is it intended to be ironic or sarcastic rather than literal? Does it employ an archaic idiom not in use today? Is its correct application suggested by partially fulfilled prophecies? Does it teach something by inference? Is the subject really what it appears to be? Are the events given in correct chronological order or has the order been purposely altered or reversed to prevent understanding before the due time? Does incorrect punctuation alter the true meaning? Does the scripture conflict with other scriptures on the same subject? Is there another scripture, or another witness, to confirm the proposed interpretation? Let us go back and review the scriptures that were cited to support certain false doctrines. Let us apply some of these tests to determine what the Lord really says. Let us thus prove that these doctrines are not, in fact, supported by a “Thus saith the Lord!,” although they may appear to be.
Consider the scriptures that are used to teach eternal torment. Do not think that a study of such scriptures is too elementary. Although convinced the doctrine of eternal torment is false, many mature Bible Students cannot readily explain the scriptures used to support the doctrine. Consider the first:
“And he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb; and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever, and ever; and they have no rest day nor night.”–Revelation 14:10,11
First we ask, “Does the proposed interpretation comport with God’s character?” No it does not. There are numerous scriptures which teach that love is one of the principal characteristics of God. Here is just one:
“God is love. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath torment.”–1 John 4:8,18
Because God is love, he is incapable of torment. To torment anyone is entirely foreign to God’s character. It is contrary to his thoughts. He simply wouldn’t think of it; itis an abomination to him. This is confirmed by Jeremiah where God denounces those who sacrificed their children by fire to pagan gods:
“They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind.”–Jeremiah 19:5
“And they built the high places of Baal … to cause their sons, and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech, which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination.”–Jeremiah 32:35
Eternal torment does not comport with God’s character of love. Another characteristic of God is justice: “Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne” (Psalms 89:14), or as Moffatt renders it: “Thy throne rests upon equality and justice.” Does eternal torment comport with God’s character of justice? Is it just to impose an eternity of torment for the sins of only a few brief years of this present life? Is it equitable? Of course it is not! It is a grossly disproportionate punishment.
The penalty for sin was announced at the beginning in Genesis 2:17 as simply death: “Thou shalt surely die” is what God said. This is what Adam was to expect if he sinned: nothing more than death. Would it be just for God to announce the penalty as death, then after the sin had been committed to rudely surprise the sinner by amplifying the penalty to an eternity of torment? Such a thing would be most unjust. Thus it does not comport with God’s character in this respect either.
Does the proposed interpretation square with the ransom? It does not. Jesus came as a man to assume the penalty for sin. If the sentence upon Adam was eternal torment and Jesus took Adam’s place, Jesus must be tormented forever which we know is false. The sentence for disobedience was simply death; Jesus died to pay the penalty as the ransom.
Is eternal torment in accordance with the divine plan? Emphatically no. The plan provides for the restoration of mankind to perfection and harmony with God. A restitution of all things was spoken by the mouth of all God’s holy prophets since the world began. (Acts 3:21) Eternally tormenting a large segment of humanity is incompatible with this. Since we are told that “all the wicked will he destroy” (Psalms 145:20), God will certainly not keep any of the wicked alive in torment. On the contrary 2 Thessalonians 1:9 says plainly that they “shall be punished with everlasting destruction.”
Now we apply another test which indicates that direction we must take to determine what the scriptures really do teach. “Is it literal or symbolic?” The scripture is obviously highly symbolic. Revelation is a book of symbols. As we read in the first verse of the first chapter, the “things which were shortly to come to pass” were signified, or SIGN-ified, unto John. They were given in signs and symbols. The entire 14th chapter is replete with symbols. There is a “lamb,” a symbol of Christ, standing on “mount Zion,” his heavenly kingdom. There is “thunder,” a symbol of controversy, and the “harps” of Bible testimonies sing a “new song,” harmoniously declaring the glad tidings of restitution. There is a “throne,” a symbol of authority and rulership. There are “beasts” and “elders” and “virgins” and “angels,” all having symbolic significance. Then in verse 8 we are told that “Babylon,” a great city, is fallen. This too is a symbol.
“Babylon” means “confusion” and is a symbol of the nominal church as a whole. So the prophecy refers to the time of the Lord’s casting off of the nominal systems, removing His favor from them. Then in verse 9 a “beast” and his “image” are mentioned. Bible Students concur that this symbolizes the papal system and a so-called Protestant Federation, Protestants who no longer protest. In regard to this “beast” and its “image” we find a remarkable interpretation of the prophecy written in 1897 by Pastor Russell. It reads as though it were a comment on yesterday’s news reports concerning the ecumenical movement. We quote:
“We find in Revelation a prophecy of a special combination of influence by which Protestant denominations will be unified, and, though separate, yet be brought into cooperation with Papacy, in a manner that will give both of them increased powers, and deceive many into supposing that the new combination will be God’s instrumentality for doing the work predicted of Messiah; and that it is thus his representative.”- Studies in the Scriptures, volume 4, page 581.
With this background we are able to deal with the true meaning of this scripture:
“If any man worship the beast, and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire, and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb; and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever, and ever; and they have no rest day nor night.”–Revelation 14:9-11
Here more symbols are brought into the picture: the “mark” or identification of those in harmony or sympathy with the beast or his image which is applied on the “forehead” indicating a mere intellectual assent, or in the “hand” implying a more active cooperation. These shall drink the “wine of the wrath of God” out of the “cup of his indignation” which indicates that such feel the manifestation of God’s displeasure, being compelled to drink a bitter dose. Do you see how full of symbols the book of Revelation is? To take these symbols literally would be extremely foolish. Jesus is not aliteral lamb, a literal beast is not worshipped, it does not have a literal image. Literal marks are not made on literal foreheads and hands. These are all symbols which, when correctly interpreted, beautifully represent profound truths and tell of tremendous events to come.
Verses 10 and 11 say that those who worship the symbolic beast and his symbolic image shall drink of the symbolic wine of wrath from the symbolic cup. From this point forward the teachers of eternal torment insist that symbolisms cease and that the remainder of the text must be taken literally, that the words “he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone” and “the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever” is exactly and literally what it says. But is this reasonable? No, it is entirely unreasonable. There is no justification for such a view. On the contrary, a fair and reasonable person must conclude that because of all the other symbols and the highly symbolic nature of the entire book, these expressions must be symbolic and not literal.
Those who insist on a literal interpretation of this portion of the text are in a further difficulty. The text says that the torments takes place “in the presence of the Lamb.” If the torment with fire and brimstone is literal, so must the lamb be also: an animal, the young offspring of a sheep. By what reasoning can you say that the one is literal and the other is not? Both occur in the same sentence. If one is literal, so is the other.
So we have established beyond the shadow of a doubt that the torment by fire and brimstone of the worshippers of the beast and his image is symbolic. What then does it really mean? We turn to Revelation 18:4 which also refers to the fall of Babylon, the nominal church systems of confusion: “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.”
So the scripture under consideration simply means that all who remain in Babylon, either in spirit or in name, are in opposition to the word of God. Those who do not “come out of her” will be subject to torment and vexation so long as they are worshipping creeds, doctrines, and organizations of men. The remembrance of this distress is shown in the smoke of torment and it will never be forgotten. Those who are finally brought out of these systems will forever remember how they were tormented. They will have learned an everlasting lesson.
The next text cited as a proof of eternal torment is Matthew 25:41:
“Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” This is from the parable of the Sheep and Goats and describes the fate of the disapproved ones at the end of the Millennial age. Is there anything in this scripture to indicate that those in the fire are preserved alive? Have you ever heard of a preserving fire? Of course you haven’t. Fire always destroys and consumes. Fire is a symbol of destruction; everlasting fire is a symbol of everlasting destruction, the second death, from which there is no resurrection. Notice that in this case it is fire that is prepared for the devil and his angels. We know exactly what is going to happen to the devil: “That through death, he [Jesus] might destroy him that had the power of death; that is, the devil.” (Hebrews 2:14) This confirms that fire means destruction.
This explanation also applies to Revelation 20:10: “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone … and shall be tormented day and night, for ever, and ever.” Brimstone, or sulfur is one of the most destructive elements known. When paired with fire it symbolizes utter destruction. The torment “for ever and ever” means this punishment is everlasting.
Now we consider the next text:
“Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee. It is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than, having two hands or two feet, to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee.
It is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.”–Matthew 18:8,9
These are the words of Jesus. Did Jesus advocate self-mutilation? Obviously not. He healed men, he restored their hands and feet and eyes. We must conclude that symbolic terms are being used here.
The scripture simply and powerfully teaches that itis better for a Christian to cut off and eliminate from his life things as dear to him as a hand, foot, or an eye if such things would prevent him from making his calling and election sure. Such eradication would be better than to fail of his calling and lose his eternal existence in the second death.
As we have previously seen, everlasting fire means everlasting destruction. “Thus saith the Lord!” Thus we have determined what the Lord really says. The correct interpretations fully satisfy us. They square with the ransom, they are in full accordance with the divine plan, and they comport with God’s character of justice, wisdom, love and power. They cause us to love and praise God.
Consider the scriptures cited to prove the false and confusing doctrine of the Trinity: that God is three persons yet one God.
“For there are three that bear record in heaven; the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; . . . and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness on earth.”–1 John 5:7,8
This scripture certainly appears to be an unanswerable argument to support the doctrine of the Trinity, but since it is so contrary to reason–and we know God to be eminently reasonable–we suspect something is wrong with the translation. Let us examine the scripture in the original language. The Diaglott is an excellent authority for this purpose. There we find the text omitted and a footnote as follows:
“This text concerning the heavenly witness is not contained in any Greek manuscript which was written earlier than the fifth century. It is not cited by any of the Greek ecclesiastical writers; nor by any of the early Latin fathers, even when the subjects upon which they treated would naturally have led them to appeal to its authority. It is therefore evidently spurious; and was first cited … in the latter end of the fifth century; but by whom is of no great moment, as its design must be obvious to all.”
It seems that we must be on the alert for forgeries too! This is not a “Thus saith the Lord.”
Then we have Philippians 2:6 which says of Jesus, “Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” This appears to say that Jesus was equal with God and did not consider it wrong to be so, that he did not consider such equality as robbing God of anything. Again we sense something is wrong and ask, “Is this scripture correctly translated?” Going back to the original Greek, we find that the King James Version has added one small word and omitted one small word, completely reversing the meaning of the text. Thus the expression “thought it not robbery to be equal with God,” should read, “thought not by robbery, to be equal with God.”
Accordingly, the Diaglott correctly renders the text: “Who, though being in God’s form, yet did not meditate a usurpation to be like God.” Here Jesus, the humble and obedient son of God, is contrasted with the arrogant and disobedient Satan, who is quoted as saying:
“I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation in the sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High.”–Isaiah 14:13,14
Thus instead of proving the Trinity, the correct translation of Philippians 2:6 disproves it.
Let us get the correct perspective on this subject. Although Jesus did say, “I, and my Father are one” (John 10:30), he prayed on behalf of his disciples, “That they may be one, even as we are one” (John 17:22). How was he one with the Father? He was one with the Father as he wants us to be one with him: one in mind, purpose, sympathy, love, and good works–THE SAME CHARACTER. That’s why he could say, “He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father.” (John 14:9)
In other words, “I am patterned after the Father; I am a model of Him. I have the same characteristics.”
Thus understanding the subject of the Trinity we are spared such absurdities as God himself being out of conscious existence at the conception of Jesus, that the child Jesus was God, that the man Jesus prayed to himself, that his agony of prayer in Gethsemane was farcical, that his desperate cry on the cross “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me,” was mere play-acting, that God died on the cross, and that he resurrected himself.
Finally the doctrine of the Trinity does not square with the ransom which requires the sacrifice of a perfect human life in the place of Adam. Nor is it in accordance with the divine plan which places Jesus in the future role of mediator between God and man, an impossibility if he is God.
“For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”–1 Timothy 2:5
No Future Probation
Let us consider the scripture upon which is based the false doctrine that there is no future probation, that salvation is in this life only, that the world will have no future chance for life:
“Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”–2 Corinthians 6:2
Here again the interpretation does not square with the ransom. Since Christ died for all, all must have an opportunity for life, all must be saved from death. This is God’s provision:
“Who will have all men to be saved, and come unto the knowledge of the truth.”–1 Timothy 2:4
In this life only a few have had an opportunity for salvation. Countless millions have lived and died without even having heard the name of Christ. So they must first be saved from death in a resurrection on the earth, then be brought to a knowledge of the truth of God’s wonderful provision for them.
Is it in accordance with the divine plan? No, it is not. A future probation is plainly taught by Acts 3:21 which tells of the “times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” So the interpretation given this scripture is obviously incorrect since it denies the testimony of all God’s holy prophets since the world began.
What does it really mean? Again we look closely at the original language and find an error in translation which makes all the difference. Instead of “the” accepted time, and “the” day of salvation, it should read “an” accepted time, and “a” day of salvation. There is a day of salvation now, and a day of salvation to come. These two salvations are contrasted by two scriptures:
“Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life; and few there be that find it.” –Matthew 7:14
This describes the present narrow way of sacrifice taken by the church of Christ. Only a few, a “little flock,” are separated from the world. This class, “by patient continuance in well doing, seek for glory, and honor, and immortality, eternal life.” (Romans 2:7) This is a difficult and restricted salvation with the correspondingly high reward of the divine nature. Isaiah tells of the other salvation to be offered to all the remainder of mankind during the Millennial kingdom:
“And a highway shall be there, and a way; and it shall be called, The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those; the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.”–Isaiah 35:8
This is the way to human perfection and eternal life on earth to all the willing and obedient. It is a different and easier way. What a wonderful plan! Not the gloomy prospect of the vast majority of mankind unsaved and eternally damned, but the delightful prospect of everyone saved from death and then given an opportunity, under ideal conditions to attain restitution, a glorious resurrection. This truly comports with God’s character and is in accordance with his plan.
How to Know What’s True
We find that it is not always easy to determine whether a certain interpretation of scripture is a “Thus saith the Lord” or not. While most scriptures are plain, many require careful analysis and the application of certain tests before the true word of the Lord on the subject may be ascertained.
There is one quick and easy test that includes and overrides all the others. This test is available only to the initiated, those to whom Jesus referred when he said:
“It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.”–Matthew 13:11
This comprehensive test is suggested by one of the last acts of Jesus just before his ascension:
“Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures; and said unto them, Thus it is written.”–Luke 24:45,46
How did he “open their understanding”? Did he perform a miracle whereby his disciples automatically understood without the exercise of their reasoning faculties? I don’t think so. I think he opened their understanding by opening the divine plan to them. He gave them an outline of God’s plan of salvation. He told them of the fall, his death as a ransom, his resurrection, the call of the church, their work of preaching the gospel of the kingdom to come among all nations. This is confirmed by the context. Then and only then could they understand “Thus it is written” or “Thus saith the Lord.” Once they knew the master plan, all the prophetic utterances of the past fell into place. They now fitted, dove-tailed, harmonized, and made sense to the disciples. As Jesus said in verse 44:
“These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you; that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning me.”
What is the supreme and all-embracing test to be applied to scriptural interpretation? It is the question, “Is it in accordance with the divine plan?”
Someone may say, “We seem to be going around in circles. You imply that we must understand the divine plan before we can interpret the scriptures. But how can we understand the plan unless we first interpret the scriptures?” Good question. We answer by asking another question. How did the disciples of Jesus back there know of the divine plan? Jesus told them. “Then opened he their understanding,” the text says. We know of the plan because he has done the same for us. He has also given us, the harvest church at this end of the age, an understanding of the divine plan of the ages.
Through his wonderful providences and the rich endowment of the Holy Spirit, the Lord has enlightened and stimulated the minds of certain servants, particularly one special servant. He has caused books to be written which present the plan clearly and accurately.
Today there is no excuse for the consecrated to be ignorant of the plan. We have the incomparable, topically arranged, six volumes of Studies in the Scriptures; we have the Reprints a veritable treasure-trove of Bible truth, we have Tabernacle Shadows a dramatic pantomime of the plan, we have the Berean Manual containing Bible comments and teacher’s helps which are the very essence of spiritual wisdom. There are other instructive books as well. All these are the Lord’s provision. Let us avail ourselves of them fully. To do otherwise would be ungrateful and unthankful.
So let us thus keep the plan always fresh and vital in our minds. What will be the result? If we do this, we will know the divine plan of the ages so thoroughly that any wrong interpretation of scripture will instantly alert us. It will ring a bell. We will recognize it to be false because it is not in accordance with the divine plan of the ages which we have been taught and know so well.
“Thus Saith the Lord!”
“For we are not ignorant of his devices.”–2 Cor. 2:11. AS WE PROGRESS toward the consummation of the Harvest, it should not surprise us that in every way the Adversary becomes more persistent in his attacks. Opposition to the Divine Plan of the Ages is on the increase everywhere. Slanderous misrepresentations are so unblushingly made as to carry a measure of conviction with them, to the injury of the Cause we serve. What Satan cannot do against the Truth along the lines of logic, the Bible and common sense, he seeks to do through slanderous misrepresentations of all who take their stand on the side of Truth; and his opposition is incurred usually in proportion to the activity of the servants of the Truth. This opposition is to them a trial of faith and of patient endurance. It tests their loyalty to God, to the Truth and to the brethren. It becomes, likewise, a test of brotherly love to the household of faith. It does a sifting or separating work. “The Lord your God proveth you.”– Deut. 13:3. The same line of attack furnishes special trials for the church nominal–both wheat and tares. It gives opportunity for exhibitions of envy, anger, malice, hatred, strife, evil-surmising and evil-speaking. Thus many are being tested and their love of unrighteousness is being shown. “By their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matt. 7:20.) The thorn and brier classes, however closely affiliated with religious things, are not Vine branches. They do not bear the fruit of the Vine, but contrariwise are injurious to the Lord’s people. “The poison of asps is under their lips.” Some of them are courageous enough to make lies; others, less courageous, love the lies and are mean enough to circulate them. The advance of the Day of the Lord will ultimately reveal the true situation. Some will have shame and contempt, while others will shine as the stars forever and ever. All who have the Spirit of the Lord, the spirit of meekness, gentleness, patience, long-suffering, brotherly-kindness and love–will be tested, too, along these same lines. The Lord’s will for such is that they should deepen and broaden their characters along all these lines in proportion as contrary temptations assail them. Thus more and more will they become copies of God’s dear Son, and the trials will assist in making them meet, fit for the Kingdom. ACCUSER OF THE BRETHREN Another of Satan’s devices is to discourage the Lord’s faithful disciples who are seeking to know and to do His will. The more conscientious they are, the more subject they will be to Satan’s suggestions of unworthiness, rejection, condemnation, Second Death. God permits this as a test or trial to faith. “Without faith it is impossible to please Him.” To be developed, faith must be tried with opposition. The more our faith is developed, the more pleasing in the Father’s sight we shall be. He would have our faith in Himself implicit, unwavering. The Adversary, on the contrary, would destroy our faith. Sometimes he attempts this by misrepresenting God’s character as unloving, unjust, unkind, and sometimes by exaggerating our weaknesses and failures, to cause us to cease striving for the goal of Divine approval. He would have us give up in despair. Persons who have been obsessed by evil spirits tell plainly that first of all the spirits personated God and His angels, advised prayer, etc. Afterwards they gave evil suggestions. By and by they gave both good and evil suggestions. The evil suggestions entertained, they would next condemn the individual for having entertained them. Finally all pretense would be dropped, and the individual would be told that he had sinned away all Divine favor and was wholly at the mercy of the evil spirits. Then would come suggestions of evil deeds or of suicide, the endeavor being made to drive the individual to a full surrender of his mind, his will, in order to full possession and mental unbalance. The only remedy for persons in such a deplorable condition is that they exert their will power to oppose all such false suggestions. Nothing is so helpful under such circumstances as correct knowledge of the Divine teaching respecting God’s Love and the abundance of His merciful provision in Christ. Persons in this condition should be encouraged to cast themselves fully and unreservedly at the foot of the cross in the spirit of their minds–in fullness of consecration. Then in proportion to their faith they may lay hold upon the Lord in prayer for complete deliverance from the Adversary’s power. We know of no other way to get rid of the evil spirits. There are also cases where the obsession has taken place and where the Adversary seems to be able to exercise an evil influence upon the mind, causing doubt, fear, alienation from the Lord. Generally “sin lieth at the door”–some violation of the soul’s covenants with the Lord. Such are in danger of great gloom, loss of faith, trust–everything. The cure for their case is a knowledge of God’s real character–His great Love and sympathy exercised through the Lord Jesus Christ and made available through Him to all who give their lives in full consecration. Faith should triumph, or the light of joy and blessing will die. “According to your faith be it unto you,” is the Divine rule. Those who will not exercise the faith will never be acceptable to the Father for membership in the Kingdom class. Such must wait for the next Age and have different experiences. The Little Flock, the Elect ones whom the Lord is now choosing, must all be faith-full. “THE WICKED ONE TOUCHETH HIM NOT” The Apostle John declares that a certain course of conduct is possible in which the Adversary would be unable to touch us. (I John 5:18.) The picture brought before our mental eyes is that of a charmed circle, within which God’s people may come. This circle is not a fence, but merely a line of light, which can easily be overstepped. On the inside of that circle is the Lord’s favor. The very center of it is the Lord Himself, the Head of the Church. The exhortation of the Scriptures, the leadings of the Holy Spirit, and the providences of the Lord, all encourage His followers to press close to Him–“Nearer, my God, to Thee.” Outside the charmed circle are the powers of evil. These are sometimes allowed to touch the earthly interests and temporal affairs of the children of the Light; but the demon influence is not permitted to really touch the New Creatures in Christ inside this circle. Over that line they cannot exercise their influence. But alas! lured by the world, the flesh and the Devil, some of the saints at times go too close to the line, perhaps pursuing some fleshly bait or golden bauble or earthly honor. Such the Adversary is ever ready to lay hold of, to drag them out into the darkness of sin, doubt, despair–further and further away from the Lord. The lesson of this picture to all Spirit-begotten children of God is, “Abide in Him,” “Abstain from all appearance of evil,” “Draw near unto God,” “Press onward and upward,” “Take heed to yourselves,” “Forget the things that are behind,” “Mortify your flesh,” and earthly desires and ambitions, Keep close to the Master, that “the Wicked One touch you not.” But we again remind any who may be touched by the Adversary and temporarily ensnared that God is full of loving-kindness, that His mercy endureth forever, for all those who desire to live in harmony with Him. While it is true that the nearer we get to the separating line, the nearer do we come within the range of the Adversary’s influence and power, and the weaker becomes the power of the Truth, the Spirit of the Lord, in our control, nevertheless, there is joy in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth, and the Lord will welcome the strayed sheep, even though He temporarily allow trying experiences. Ultimately to the returning one these experiences will prove valuable lessons, safeguarding against any further tendency to stray or to dally with earthly things. <5144>
“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” – – Psalms 30:5
Why does God permit the reign of sin and death, injustice, sorrow, trouble, pain, headaches and heartaches? Why doesn’t he deal with humanity kindly, as he deals with the angels? Is it just or loving on the part of the Creator to bring forth millions of his creatures under these unfavorable conditions? Is it just that we should be in an unequal fight, subject to weaknesses and dying and imperfect conditions on account of the sin of our first parents?
The inheritance of weaknesses, sorrows, pain and trouble, according to the Scriptures, are all part of death, which is the penalty for sin given to Adam right from the beginning by his Creator.
God anticipated that, having given him freedom of choice, man would, through lack of full appreciation of its results, choose sin. Still, God planned to permit evil, because, having the remedy provided for man’s redemption he saw that the result would be to teach him, through experience, “the exceeding sinfulness of sin” in contrast to the matchless brilliancy of virtue. The final result will be to teach him to love and honor his creator, who is the source of all goodness, and to forever abhor that which brought so much misery.
This redemption feature of God’s plan- – condemning all in one representative, Adam, opened the way for the ransom and restitution of all by one Redeemer. Evil will be extinguished forever when God’s purpose in permitting it shall have been accomplished, and when the benefits of the ransom sacrifice are made available for the whole world.
A specially privileged class.
Meantime, the merit of that sacrifice has been applied to the Church- – “the household of faith” – – since Pentecost. It has brought to this class very special privileges, though very different ones from those it will bring to the rest of the world during the Millennium. The willing and obedient of the world will then get restitution gradually (Acts 3:20), back to human perfection and a world- wide Edenic home. The blessing for the Church is different. The promise now made to those who can and will walk by faith and not by sight is a heavenly one. They are to have a heavenly reward. The conditions of the present time are severe, proportionate to the greatness and grandeur of their heavenly calling.
The terms of acceptance to the Divine nature include not only faith and love, but a self- sacrificing will. These sacrifice their earthly restitution rights and privileges for the privilege of suffering with Christ, that they may also reign with him in his Millennial Kingdom.
Learning by suffering.
It seemed wise to our Heavenly Father that the Lord Jesus should learn obedience through sufferings and be tested as to his willingness to endure suffering for righteousness’ sake. How appropriate it is that the same Father should make similar arrangements for all of the Church, whom he will receive from among the race of Adam to be members of the Royal Priesthood under Jesus, the High Priest. We see a need for this, not only for our own testing and a thorough proof of our own heartloyalty to the Lord, but also in preparation of a priesthood of the future.
The priest in the Bible was not merely one who offered sacrifices, although every priest was a sacrificer. The special mission of the priests was that of instructing, helping, healing, teaching. And so God is preparing a “Royal Priesthood” for the Millennial Age to bless, to heal, to teach and to uplift all the willing and obedient. As priests who will have to do with judging and chastening, healing and helping humanity, how much sympathy do we think these Royal Priests should have? Aren’t they to be “members of the body” of Messiah? And the Apostle wrote that he must be a faithful and merciful High Priest, able to sympathize with the people. (Please read He 4:15- 5:4) And isn’t it in harmony with this that all those accepted as “members of his body” should have such experiences in this sacrificing time that would demonstrate their loyalty to the Lord and guarantee their deep sympathetic interest in the world, then to be committed to their care? To such will be committed the work of human restitution, uplift out of sin and death conditions- – mental, moral and physical.
The morning of joy.
How glad we are that our Heavenly Father’s sympathy for us will provide “a morning of joy” to be ushered in, in his “due time.”
Additionally, he sympathizes with us to the extent that he has given us in advance a message and explanation to comfort us, to sustain us in the way. How we can rejoice as we see the length and breadth and height and depth of God’s program for the future, and the blessings which it will bring to this “groaning creation.” How we long for the time to come when the Church will be made ready through the sufferings of this present time for the glories of the future- – of the Kingdom!
The morning of joy, the Millennial morning, of course, cannot be ushered in until the rising of the Sun of Righteousness. Its beams of grace and truth will flood the earth with the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, and it will drive out all ignorance, superstition and sin, which have worked such havoc in our race.
But what is this Sun of Righteousness? The Bible answers the question by telling us that it symbolically represents the Lord himself and the elect Church of this Gospel Age. The mystery hidden for a time from many is the fact that the Church is to share with him Lord in every feature of his glorious work, not only in suffering, but also in reigning. (Romans 8:17)
In view of the great plan of redemption, and the consequent “restitution of all things” through Christ and his Church, we can see that blessings will result from the permission of evil which probably could not otherwise have been so fully realized.
“Evil is anything causing injury or harm”
American College Dictionary.
This subject not only covers human ailments, sorrows, pains, weaknesses, and death, but goes back of all these to consider their primary cause- – sin- – and its remedy. Since sin is the cause of evil, its removal is the only method of permanently curing the disease.
No difficulty, perhaps, more frequently presents itself to the inquiring mind than the questions, Why did God permit the present reign of evil? Why did he permit Satan to present the temptation to our first parents, after having created them perfect and upright?
Why did he allow the forbidden tree to have a place among the good? Couldn’t God have prevented all possibility of man’s fall?
Space does not allow us to cover these answers in detail, so we would like you to read The Divine Plan of the Ages, chapter 7, entitled “The Permission of Evil and its Relation to God’s Plan.” If you don’t have the book, send for it. It’s FREE. It’s scriptural. It’s logical.