LV. March/April 1972 No. 2
"And he took bread, and
gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you
THE Memorial* links us with our brethren in all lands and all times. But in how vastly different circumstances has the sacred feast been observed during the past nineteen hundred years. Consider the first Memorial, just a year after its inauguration by our Lord on that night in which he was betrayed. Can we picture the disciples gathering in response to love's request? It was no effort for them to remember him. Their memories were crowded with mental pictures of scenes in which he had been the central figure. The four Gospels put together record only the merest fraction of all that Jesus did and taught, with which they were familiar. As if it had been only yesterday they could recall his appearance, his dress, his bearing and gestures, and above all, the glory of God in his countenance. "Never man spake like this man," had been the testimony even of his enemies. What an indelible impression therefore must our Lord's teaching have made upon them. Think of being able to listen in memory to the Sermon on the Mount spoken in the voice of our Lord himself, and at the same time to be able to conjure up the whole scene! How wonderful to be able to visualize our Lord enacting some of those scenes with which the Gospels have made us so familiar, such as the cleansing of the lepers, the restoring of sight to the blind, causing the lame to walk, casting out devils, cleansing the Temple, rebuking the winds and the waves, walking on the sea, and even restoring the dead to life. How vivid and tragic must the closing scenes have been to them! -- the triumphal procession on Palm Sunday, followed by the terrible cry of "Crucify him"; the sad procession from the judgment hall to the place called "Calvary," and the crowning horror when the three crosses were ,erected with Jesus in their midst!
* As noted on the back page of this issue, the appropriate time, this year, to commemorate the death of the antitypical Lamb, will be after sundown, Tuesday, March 28.
MARY'S TREASURED MEMORIES
As they gathered together for the first Memorial, each would have specially treasured memories of personal contacts with the Lord. Mary, the Lord's mother, would be able to go furthest back. If every mother's mind is richly stored with precious recollections of her firstborn, how transcendently more must Mary's have been! Possessing the secret of his birth, with what wonder and awe must she have watched her child's personality unfolding as he grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man! She would recall the wrench when at the age of thirty he left the humble home to take up the work for which he had been born. The parting, however, had been softened by the thought that he had gone to lead the nation, as their Messiah, back to God, and to fulfill the angel's words given before his birth: "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." How sorely tried her faith had been by subsequent events! With growing alarm she received the report concerning the hatred which he had been arousing against himself and of the plots of the rulers to destroy him. Then vividly before her mind would pass the final scenes. In helpless agony she had stood before the cross with her sister and the two Marys until she could endure no more and John had led her away. But now she understood the reason for it all, and all the wealth of her affection had been transformed into a passion of Divine love as she saw him wounded for her transgressions, bruised for her iniquity and the chastisement of her peace upon him. It was surely with trembling hands and eyes and heart that overflowed that she partook of those sacred emblems of that broken body and shed blood that had meant all the world to her!
WHEN JOHN AND ANDREW FIRST MET THE LORD
Those among the disciples who could look farthest back were John and Andrew. At the first Memorial they would be recalling as they had doubtless done innumerable times before, the first meeting with the Lord on the banks of the Jordan. As the very first, and withal two of the finest of his disciples, the Lord had been no less interested in them than they had been in him. It had been a meeting never to be forgotten. What a wonderful evening they had spent together!
First impressions are lasting, and probably all would be specially recalling the circumstances in which they had first met the Lord. There was Nathaniel, he would be thinking again of how he had been making it a matter of prayer under the fig tree when the Lord gave him that heart-searching glance, spoke those thought-penetrating words, and gave him that splendid commendation which he would never forget as long as he lived. Nicodemus too would be there, but no longer timid. How he would recall again the events of that memorable night when the Lord had spoken to him those wonderful words of life. Little had he realized at the time the meaning of the saying addressed to him: "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness even so must the Son of Man be lifted up." As he thought of his Lord hanging there on the cross for his sins, he could now see something of its depths of meaning.
RECOLLECTIONS OF MARTHA AND MARY
Martha and Mary would also be there with their precious store of personal recollections. How much the Lord had loved them and how frequently had he made their house his home. Never would they forget or cease to be stirred with deepest gratitude for the most wonderful of all the Lord's miracles performed on their behalf. The sisters could still hear the tones of that voice that woke the dead and gave them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. And what about Peter and James and John, the three so often singled out by the Lord for occasions of special intercourse with him. How much they would recall of personal contacts! As they partook of the emblems, surely their minds would go back to that wondrous vision on the mount of transfiguration when Moses and Elijah had spoken of the decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem. Instances could be multiplied of how the early disciples would in the most natural and spontaneous way remember him. To them it would not be so much the Plan of God as the person of Christ that would be uppermost in their minds; not so much the doctrines of the Truth as the personal love of their Lord.
As we look forward to celebrating another Memorial we cannot but recognize a difference between ourselves and our brethren of whom we have been speaking. Unlike them, we can have no vivid personal recollection of the Lord as he was in the flesh. Our knowledge of the Man Christ Jesus is secondhand, like most of our information on the subject, books forming the principal source of all our knowledge. God caused the New Testament to be written specially for that larger body of his brethren whom our Lord referred to as "those also who shall believe on me through their word. By its aid we too can remember him in all those incidents portrayed so simply and beautifully in the Gospels, using our sanctified imagination to make the scenes live before us. As compensation for our lack of firsthand knowledge of the human life of our Lord, we have a much more complete knowledge than those first disciples of his resurrection life. The epistles written over quite a long period give evidence of how gradual was the growth into the fuller knowledge of the person and work of Christ. Even Peter refers to Paul's writings as containing some things hard to be understood. Following the epistles we have the added knowledge imparted in the Book of Revelation, giving us a history in advance of the whole of the Gospel Age and beyond. The disciples at the first Memorial could look back only over the three and a half years of our Lord's earthly ministry; we can look back over nineteen centuries and see the Lord in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, watching over his people with patient, tender care.
FELLOWSHIP WITH THE RISEN CHRIST
If our knowledge of our Lord in the flesh is of necessity secondhand, not so our knowledge of the risen Christ. There is no child of God but has abundant occasion for remembering the Lord in respect to his own personal contacts. While it is true that "the sands have been washed in the footprints of the stranger on Galilee's shore, and the voice that subdued the rough billows is heard in Judea no more" it is also true that "Warm, sweet, living, yet a present help is He, And faith has still her Olivet and love her Galilee." We must all have had personal contacts with the Lord else we have no right to a place at the Memorial feast. We have been cleansed from the leprosy of sin; blind and deaf to the things of God and the voice of God, our blind eyes have been opened and our deaf ears unstopped; dumb, he has opened our lips that our mouth should show forth his praise; crippled, he has given us power to stand erect and walk in his ways; dead in trespasses and sins, he has quickened us and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ. These and countless other blessings are common to all God's people, yet each has had experiences in connection with them peculiarly his own. The members of the New Creation are not mass produced. The Lord has an individual plan for every individual life. The Memorial is an occasion for remembering him with deepest gratitude for all the peculiarly personal expressions of his love. It is here that we are apt to fail most. Like the babe, which, though the object of maternal love's unremitting attention and tenderest care, is yet all unconscious of it, so we often take for granted, accept as coincidence, receive as a matter of course, the mother love of Jesus expressed towards and experienced by every one of his "little children."
Each Memorial as it comes and goes shortens the time that yet remains to the Church on earth. In the atomic bomb God seems to have given to the world his ultimatum, with a time limit that is very short. The choice is now before them, of chaos or Christ, and the decision cannot be long delayed. If the end of Satan's empire gives evidence of being so near, then nearer still is the end of the Church on earth. The next Memorial for all we know may be the last. It almost certainly will be the last for some. Let us go forward with this solemn thought in mind, not only looking back to the cup which our Lord drank to the bitter dregs at Calvary and in which we are privileged to share, but also forward to the ineffable joy, which awaits us, of being permitted to drink the wine new with him in the Kingdom of God.
- Bible Study Monthly, Eng.
"We Shall Be Like Him"
- S. M. Hodgdon
"As touching the hope
and resurrection of the dead I am called in question."
THE DETERMINATION of the basis of Christian orthodoxy, that is, the true faith or teaching, has been the earnest desire and effort of fifty or sixty generations of Bible students and theologians, over a period of eighteen hundred years. Today, each of the many sects of Christendom sincerely believes that its creed only is truly orthodox. But the uncreed fettered, free Bible student holds that the Bible teaching alone is the basis of orthodoxy.
'There are several Bible criteria, or tests, or measures of orthodoxy. The basic test is belief in a benignant God: "He that cometh unto God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." (Heb. 11:6.) The next is acceptance of Jesus Christ as the exclusive Agent of God for man's salvation. Jesus said: "All things have been delivered unto Me of My Father: and no one knoweth . . . the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal Him." - Matt. 11:27.
There are numerous other measures of the reality, sincerity, and propriety of Christian faith, including self-sacrifice; activity and zeal in service; purification of life ("even as He is pure"); and joyful anticipation of a future life with the Lord (a crown reserved for "all those who love His appearing"). Not disregarding these but building upon them, the further supreme and searching test of true faith is belief and reliance upon the teaching of Christ regarding the resurrection of the dead. This touchstone differentiates not only between accurate and inaccurate Christian faith, but also between Christianity and all false religions. It was the question the Apostle Paul raised, that provoked such an uproar in the Jewish Sanhedrin when they were examining him, that the Roman chiliarch who had him in charge thought they would tear him in pieces, as related in Acts 23:1-10. And it is the question that brings into sharp conflict the statements concerning man's nature, made by God , through His Son, His Prophets, and His Apostles, with the falsehood told by Satan to Mother Eve in the Garden of Eden. For this falsehood Satan was denounced by our Lord, declared to be "a murderer from the beginning," and to have "no truth in him." "He is a liar, and the father thereof." (John 8:44.) Strangely enough, it seems much easier for the human mind to grasp and believe the Satanic lie, than the truth as stated by man's Creator, who certainly should know how he is constituted.
It is not the purpose of this article to present an exhaustive discussion of the mortal nature of man, of death as the penalty of disobedience imposed upon the race in the person of Adam, its progenitor. and of the Way opened for man's possible recovery therefrom through the Gospel of Jesus Christ-including both the living and the dead, those that have "done good" and those that have "done, evil." Nor need we remind you' that there is a "second death" reserved for those who, thus called forth from the tomb to a life and an enlightenment not obscured by Satan's lies and unhindered by Satan's rule, refuse to accept God's amnesty and restoration to His family and Fatherhood. Such, we know, as will not then obey "That Prophet" shall be "destroyed from among the people. (Acts 21:22-24.) All this ground is fully covered by publications of this Institute, which are free for the asking, or at nominal cost in book form.
It is enough here to remind our readers that God placed Father Adam under a test of obedience, which involved his refraining from partaking of the fruit of a certain tree in his Garden home. Satan, in the beginning of his contact with the human family (as referred to by Jesus in John 8:44) assured Mother Eve that if she and her mate should eat of "the tree that is in the midst of the Garden," forbidden to them by their Creator, instead of dying as He had said, they should "become as gods, knowing both good and evil" and incidentally immortal. The outcome of the primitive experiment in disobeying God must thus inevitably prove either God or Satan a deceiver. The evidence as to which told the truth has been presented to mankind and the universe for nearly six thousand years. The inevitable termination of the life of every human being in death is a continuing and should be a convincing proof to every thinking being that God is true, and His Adversary a liar, as Jesus said. The Devil has tried, with considerable success, to vitiate this conclusion by inculcating through various agencies, the doctrine of the immortality of the human soul, so that to those who accept this theory, death becomes merely a change of scene. But the complete extinction of life and consciousness in death is everywhere taught in the Bible. "Put not your trust in princes," says the Psalmist, "nor in the son of Adam, in whom there is no help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish." Solomon, with divinely given wisdom, thus engrossed the truth: "The living know that they shall die, but the dead know not anything . for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in Sheol [Hebrew for the grave] whither thou goest." - Psa. 146:3, 4; Eccl. 9:5, 10.
Surely these statements (of many to the same end) are sufficiently explicit! Nor is the New Testament less positive. Jesus' promise of restoration from death was to "the dead all who are in the tombs." (John 5:25-29.) He knew they were not in heaven, or a hell of torment, or purgatory, or any other state of consciousness. And the basis of that nominal "Christian" theology, which in reality is Platonic, Egyptian, and Satanic, is shattered by the Apostolic statement that it is the supreme Potentate, "King of kings and Lord of lords; who only hath immortality, dwelling in light unapproachable; whom no man hath seen nor can see." God alone had inherent immortality, as explained by the Lord Jesus; but He has power to impart such life, and has done so to the Son; and the Son extends it to those becoming members of His Bride, His Church. The Prophet Isaiah foretold these things, embracing fundamental truths and transactions of tremendous import in both heaven and earth. In a passage hailing a special Servant of Jehovah who "shall be exalted and be lifted up, and shall be very high," and who was to become the Sin-Bearer for all mankind, making "His soul an offering for sin, the Prophet, speaking in-the name of Jehovah, says: "I will divide Him a portion [of immortality] with The Great [i.e. Myself], and He shall divide the spoil [of His victory over death and the grave -- immortality] with the strong" -- those strong enough in their determination to participate in His victory, to "follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. (Those of our readers desiring to verify these statements from the Scriptures, and to note' their- marvelous harmony and cohesion, are referred to: 1 Tim. 6:15, 16; Eph. 5:13; John 5:19-29; Isa. 52:13-15; 53:1-12; Rev. 3:21; 14:4.)
Confronted with these facts in millions of books and hundreds of millions of tracts distributed throughout Christendom during the past fifty years, it would seem that the prevalent erroneous conception of the human soul as immortal should have been generally if not unanimously replaced by an acceptance of the Scriptural doctrine of the resurrection, as the basis of the Christian's hope of a future life. Not so, however; the acceptance of Satan's falsehood that, because we have eaten of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and of evil, we have become as gods and cannot die, is so flattering to man's vanity, and it is so impressed on his thinking from infancy, and is so intrenched in the popular Church creeds, that it will require the fiat of the returning Christ, "Behold, I make all things new," to destroy the "covering" and rend the "veil" from mankind's eyes, so that they may accept His proffer of "the water [symbolizing Truth] of life freely" -- on His terms, not theirs. - Rev. 21;5-8; Isa. 25:7.
In these latter days God has made it easier to accept the doctrine of the resurrection than heretofore, by permitting mankind's searching mind to discover means of recording, preserving, and reproducing a considerable portion of a human being's, personality and accomplishments. The monuments, statuary, hieroglyphics, cuneiform inscriptions, and crude drawings, coming down to us from ancient peoples, give us but a limited knowledge of their appearance, their lives, and their ideas. Great modern libraries of books, of motion picture films and of phonograph recordings, permit the recreation at will of the ideas, the appearance, and the voices of recently deceased men. Science could manufacture an apparent replica of the body of a dead man; as, for example, of President Woodrow Wilson, duplicating his appearance as shown in existing motion pictures, place therein a phonograph 'record of his thoughts, for utterance in his own voice; all so cunningly constructed .as to deceive one who had known the man in life; yet it would be only a robot, not having a brain to think new thoughts, a bodily metabolism to continue its existence, and .a consciousness of personality that would, constitute a re-creation or resurrection of the .man, so that he would know himself. This last accomplishment God has "placed in His own power," and that of the Son, to whom He has imparted it. This ability is the peculiar "glory of God." To believe this doctrine constitutes Christian orthodoxy, regarding the hope of everlasting life.
Demonstrating the power of God to resurrect a dead man, Jesus stood before the tomb of Lazarus and assured Martha, "Thy brother shall live again." Martha, being only a Hebrew woman, instructed in that nation's ancient Scriptures but not infected with Greek or Egyptian philosophy, nor with modern "systematic theology," replied: "I know he shall live again in the resurrection at the last day." Jesus associated Himself with that Day and its promise by declaring: "I am the resurrection and the life; believe, and thou shalt see the glory of God." Then He commanded: "Lazarus, come forth!" -- and Lazarus came forth from the tomb. Jesus said "Loose him [from all grave clothes] and let him go." This was a sample and type of a universal Reviving, and Loosing "at that Day." - John 11:1-44.
The glory of God particularly associated with the resurrection of the dead, is again referred to by the Apostle in Romans 6:4: "Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father." And the great Day of which Martha spoke, in which is to be revealed this particular and peculiar glory of God, was foretold by the Prophet Isaiah among others, declaring the universality of its application: "The glory of Jehovah shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of Jehovah hath spoken it." -Isa. 40:3-8.
Space forbids a discussion here of the differences in the resurrection; of the best or "first resurrection" of the Church, and the, "better resurrection" of the holy men of the old dispensation, both to be prior to the general resurrection. Nor can we more than refer to the secret imparted by the Apostle, that in the end of the Age there would come a time when "we all shall not sleep, but we shall all be changed." For further details and particulars, we again refer the interested reader to the exhaustive publications supplied by the Institute. - Rev. 20:4-6; Heb. 11:35; 1 Cor. 15:51, 52.
Those who in simple faith have accepted the Scriptural doctrine of the resurrection, have not sorrowed as do those who have no such hope. When their loved ones died they have known that in effect they have only "fallen asleep," because they would surely awake, refreshed, in the Morning. Such separations are ever hard to bear, but how consoling to know that they are, only temporary! They have never been for so very long, for (at longest) the sorrowing ones soon have joined their loved ones in sleep, or now, as we believe, are "changed in a moment" to be with the Lord, and to join in preparations for the General Resurrection -- for "their works do follow with them." "Sorrows may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the Morning." - Rev. 14:13; Psa. 30:5.
It will, be the Resurrection Morning, heralding The Day. The glory of God, revealed, shall not only cause the dead to awake, but the earth also to "bud and blossom as the rose. "The tabernacle of God" -- the "Mighty God" of Isaiah 9:6, "the great God and our Savior" referred to in Paul's Epistle to Timothy (2 Tim. 2:13) -- shall then be with men, "and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more: the first things are passed away.
"He that testifieth these things saith, Yea; I come quickly. Amen: come, Lord Jesus." - Rev. 21 and 22.
- Horace E. Hollister.
"The earth shall be full
of the knowledge of the Lord,
ASSUREDLY our text has never yet had a fulfillment, but just as surely it shall be fulfilled, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it; yea, more, hath declared that ultimately "every knee shall bow and every tongue confess" Messiah, to the glory of God the Father.
The Lord permits his people to have sunshine, cloud, and showers for their refreshment, for their development. Nevertheless, the showers of refreshing never seem to, come with sufficient frequency, and we continually rejoice in the hope that "still there's more to follow." What a contrast, therefore, is suggested by the words of our text -- a downpour of truth and grace which will produce a flood of righteousness and knowledge of the Lord worldwide and ocean-deep!
When will this be, and how will it come to pass, are the incredulous inquiries. It seems too good to be true that, after a reign of sin and death lasting for six thousand years, so wonderful a change is to be brought about! It seems too great a miracle to be expected that, after the struggle of Truth with Error, of Righteousness with Sin for long centuries, the time should ever come when Righteousness and the knowledge of God should obtain so complete a victory, so thorough a mastery of the world! When we consider the united energies of Christendom during the last century to spread the knowledge of the Lord amongst the heathen and the results during the last century in spreading the knowledge of the Lord throughout heathendom, the Scriptural statement seems incredible. When we reflect that a century ago there were six hundred millions of heathen and that now there are twelve hundred millions, we ask ourselves by what miracle it could ever come to pass that the knowledge of the Lord should ever cover the whole earth as the waters cover the mighty deep.
"THY KINGDOM COME"
The Scriptures answer our query and explain the entire situation. They tell us that the world's conversion comes not by might nor by power of man, but "By my spirit, saith the Lord." The Bible tells us that during this Gospel Age God has poured out his holy spirit upon his servants and upon his handmaids and upon these alone; but they tell us also that with the end of this Age and the dawning of the new dispensation the Lord will pour out his spirit upon all flesh. "After those days, saith the Lord, I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh."
But what will be the cause of this change in the Divine program, which the Almighty has foreknown from of old and foretold through the prophets?
Evidently it is not a change of the Divine purpose or intent, but merely a change in the Divine operation, for "Known unto the Lord are all his works, from the foundation of the world." A lesson we all need to learn is that as, in human operations, time and order are observed, so likewise these are elements in the Divine arrangement. In the construction a foundation is the first requisite, and the roof or capstone and the finishing touches mark the completion of the edifice. So in the Divine arrangement various ages mark various degrees of development in the Divine purpose and not until the finishing touches shall have been given will the glories of the architect and builder of creation's wonderful temple be manifested. We are at present in the formative period. God has begun the great work of which he prophesied of old. Messiah has come, has died for the sins of men, has arisen from the dead and been highly exalted: the Church, spiritual Israel, gathered from natural Israel and from all the families of the earth, a "little flock," has been in process of selection for nearly nineteen centuries. Soon it will be completed -- the predestinated number possessing the foreordained quality of character, "copies of God's dear Son," will have been found and tested and developed and polished and fitted and prepared for the glorious position to which they have been called as Messiah's Bride and joint-heir in his Kingdom. Then the King and Queen of the Millennial Kingdom, being in readiness for their work, a great change in the Divine program of earth will take place.
SATAN SHALL BE BOUND
The Scriptures most distinctly teach that we are under the reign of the "Prince of this world," Satan, and that our Lord at his Second Coming in power and great glory will bind or restrain this strong one and overthrow his empire, which is not of Divine authorization, but built upon human weaknesses, ignorance, and superstition. We are distinctly told that Satan shall be bound for that thousand years (the Millennium) that he may deceive the people no more until the thousand years shall be finished.
The question naturally arises, Why did God with all power at his command so long permit Satan to deceive humanity and through their superstitions and ignorance rule them as their Prince? Why was he ever given liberty or power at all over humanity? In the light of the Scriptures we may see that as God at times has used the wrath of man to praise him, so during this period of Satan's liberty he has not been permitted to frustrate the Divine Plan or intention but, unconsciously, has cooperated with it and served it. Without his blinding influence the Jewish rulers would not have crucified our Lord, as St. Peter distinctly shows, "I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers" (Acts 3:17).
Likewise had it not been for the delusions of Satan the Church would not have been persecuted; the way to glory and honor and immortality and joint heirship with Christ would not have been made the "Narrow way;" the saints, the "jewels" whom the Lord is now selecting, would not have been polished and fitted and prepared for the glorious places to which the Lord has called them. Surely, then, the Lord has used the great Adversary to, assist in the accomplishing of the Divine purposes. Satan may have supposed that he was frustrating God's plans, but just as surely he was mistaken. The Divine Word is sure which declares, "My Word that goeth forth out of my mouth shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in that whereunto I sent it."
"THE SUN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS"
Attempting to give us glimpses of the glory that is to come the Scriptures use various figures of speech, telling us, for instance, that the present is a dark night as compared to the future, which will be a morning of joy. They declare, "Weeping may endure for the night, but joy cometh in the morning" -- the Millennial morning.
Following the same figure we read, "The Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in his beams." From this standpoint the entire six thousand years of the reign of sin from the time of Adam's disobedience in the Garden of Eden to the time of the establishment of the reign of Christ has been a night time in which darkness has covered the earth and gross darkness the people." (Isa. 9:2). The night will give place to the glorious day of his presence, the bright shining of the Sun of Righteousness.
The spirit of sleep and stupor came over the Church during the dark ages. The Lord permitted it to be so. We lost sight of the glorious things of the Restitution morning and the blessings then to come to the Church and to the world in general. These things were little preached and little believed, although most conspicuous in the Word of God. Instead we gave heed to the heathen theories and more or less mixed and combined them with the Scriptural teaching, much to our confusion. As a consequence now, the Truth of God's Word when we come to it and read with better understanding is new to us, strange -- verily, "Truth is stranger than fiction," because the fiction has been drilled into us from infancy and sung to us from nearly every hymnbook in the world. Thus we have had a hymnbook theology rather than a Bible theology, and this accounts for the fact that the Word of God and his character are so little understood, and that today leading minds are repudiating the Scriptures and taking to Higher Criticism. We need to turn back, to retrace our steps, to inquire for the old paths (Jer. 6:16), for the doctrines older than Wesley and Calvin, older than Roman Catholicism -- the doctrines of Jesus and the apostles and prophets. From this standpoint, thank God, we can see light in his light and glorify his name and appreciate his Word as containing the very essence of wisdom, justice, love, and power.
THE QUICK AND THE DEAD
The proposition of the Scriptures, of a Millennial Age of blessing, coming through the establishing of God's Kingdom, for which we pray, "Thy will be done in earth as it is done in heaven," strikes people in three different ways:
First -- Some, ungenerously, will be disposed to resent the thought under the supposition that it would imply a more favorable opportunity for the world in general in the next Age to come into harmony with God than the Church of the present age enjoys. To these we answer that their argument is at fault because they fail to recognize the fact that the reward to be given to the overcomers of this Gospel Age, the Church class, will be a much higher one than will go to the obedient of the world in the next Age. The reward of the Church will be a spirit nature and a share in the heavenly Kingdom with the Lord Jesus. The reward of the earthly class of faithful ones will be Restitution to the perfection of human nature lost by Adam and redeemed by our Lord Jesus. Surely those who appreciate the "high calling" to the Divine nature and joint-heirship with the Lord in his Kingdom will see that it is well worthy the additional sacrifices, self-denials, etc., which it will cost.
Second -- Another class, generous and appreciative, offer the criticism that it seems unfair on God's part to give such a glorious Millennial opportunity to those who will be living at the time of the Second Advent and to deny it to the remainder of the race who lived previously. This also is a mistake, we answer. God's proposition is that all of the world of mankind who do not enter into the trial of this present time -- the judgment or trial of the Church, the spirit-begotten ones -- will have an opportunity of entering into the judgment or trial of the world for the prize of Restitution and human perfection on the earthly plane. This blessing, this privilege, will begin with the living nations at the time of the beginning of the establishment of the Lord's Kingdom, but it will not end with them. The Scriptures declare, "All nations which thou hast made shall come and worship before thee." And again, "In thy Seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
Some of those nations and families have perished from the earth, but the Divine provision of redemption and Restitution is meant for all eventually. The Scriptures assure us of an awakening of all the sleeping millions of earth's population. "The hour is coming in the which all that are in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of Man and come forth." The Apostle tells us that they will come forth, "Every man in his own order," or class; thus intimating that from the Divine standpoint there are numerous classes of the dead. Thus the Scriptures assure us that the first class, the blessed and holy ones, the saintly, will alone share in the First Resurrection, and that these shall be priests unto God and reign with Christ a thousand years (Rev. 20:3, 4). The remainder of mankind will come from the tomb classified -- not all at once.
They will not come forth to be damned or condemned. They were "condemned already" as children of Adam because of his sin. It is on that account that they were "born in sin and shapen in iniquity." It was from that sin and its sentence or condemnation that Christ died to set them free. They will come forth free from that condemnation in a judicial sense, but, nevertheless, with the weaknesses of the fall still upon them, and they will be required to cooperate with the Lord in their own uplifting during that thousand years. Note that the great King of Glory, with all power in heaven and earth, could not, if he chose, lift them at once from their degradation and all that was lost, because the gradual uplifting and their own cooperation in the Divine program, so arranged, will be the most helpful way--because the learning of righteousness by the process of climbing up out of conditions of imperfection will impress upon them its principles the more thoroughly.
Third -- A third class, and they are not a few, discern at once that "true and righteous" are the Lord's ways and arrangements -- that those now on trial have more advantage every way in that to them was granted so high an honor and blessing and so great a stimulus to righteousness. They recognize also that the Lord's arrangements for the world, the living and the dead, will be glorious to all, to angels and to men, when all shall have been brought fully to an appreciation of the facts.
KNOWLEDGE OF THE LORD
To some it may appear strange that it is the knowledge of the Lord that is to fill the whole earth ocean deep -- not the knowledge of mankind, not the knowledge of sin, not human philosophy -none of these are to fill the earth and to bring blessings to the world of mankind, but "the knowledge of the Lord." Well did our dear Redeemer say, "This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only living and true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." Life eternal is not to be gained by a knowledge of astronomy or geology or mathematics or chemistry, etc., but by the knowledge of God. How is this? What is there so wonderful, so magnetic in the knowledge of God that it should be said that men might gain eternal life thereby? We answer that God himself is the very personification of those glorious elements of character which he demands we shall emulate, copy, pattern after. Thus our Lord Jesus said, "Be ye like unto your Father which is in heaven." Not that we can ever be exactly like him in these respects, while we have our present imperfect bodies, but his is the pattern after which we must copy as best we can now and of him be the exact copy by and by.
The thought is that as we copy our Heavenly Father's character each additional step of progress means a clearer knowledge of the Father, and only those who attain to the very perfection of love in their hearts will be able rightly, truly to know the Father or the Son. Hence to know him in the full, proper sense of the word would imply that we had attained his likeness in our hearts, and this would imply preparation for life eternal on the Divine terms. From this standpoint our text implies that all mankind will ultimately be in that condition of the knowledge of God which will imply the perfection of their hearts, imply their acceptance to eternal life, imply that all unwilling to come to this glorious condition under the Divine opportunities will have been destroyed from amongst the people in the Second Death (Acts 3:23). How wonderful is the Divine arrangement! Blessed are our eyes, for they see and our ears that they hear and our hearts that they now respond!
- C. T. Russell
"Judge not, that ye be
not judged. For with what judgment ye judge,
IF THE man in the street did but grasp the import of these words, they would revolutionize his life. He, of course, doesn't believe them. Most people who do something wrong, entertain the hope that they can avoid paying the penalty. If they have injured another, they hope the injured party will forgive them, or at least be powerless to take revenge. Better still, they hope their misdeed will never come to light.
This is true of "the man in the street." How is it with us? Do we really believe this statement of our Lord? Of course, we mentally assent to its truth. But to "believe" a thing, in the Scriptural sense, is to act as if it were true. Do we always act as though we were thoroughly convinced that with what measure we mete, it shall -- shall, not may -- be measured to us again? Yet what psychologists term the law of retribution, here enunciated by our Lord, is as sure and certain as the law of gravity.
No one ever supposes that the law of gravity has been repealed, or is likely to be. People know it to be a Cosmic Law, inevitable, inescapable, and they shape their lives accordingly. The law of retribution is also a Cosmic Law. There is no such thing as escaping it. Only the Divine Architect could repeal or suspend its operation, and nowhere in the Scriptures does he give us the slightest hint that he intends to do so. On the contrary, the Apostle declares: "God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Gal. 6:7). It has been truly said:
As a hymn-writer has suggested:
This does not mean that every man is to reap, in the present life, everything he sows. That was the doctrine once held by job, but which, through his experience of unmerited suffering, he learned could not be true. While even in this life, men do, as a rule, get what they deserve, this is not true, absolutely. And even to this general rule there are many exceptions. In the brief span of our earthly lives, the law of retribution lacks sufficient scope to operate to its proper and complete issue.
But, if we catch the Master's thought correctly, his words do mean that somewhere or other, sometime or other, in this life or the next, our actions will be measured back to us -- grain for grain. If I have practiced deceit, I myself will be deceived. Unkindness to another on my part will be repaid in kind. Every time I neglect a duty, evade my responsibility, misuse my authority over someone, I may be certain that somewhere, sometime, I shall receive the due reward of my deeds -- possibly in this life, but if not, then certainly in the next. This is the law of the universe, the law of God -- a law more sure than that of the Medes and Persians.
However, while those disposed to evil may come to recognize it as a Law, those who have the mind of the Master, know it to be also a Gospel -- the Gospel of Retribution. And what a wonderful Gospel it is, when seen in its proper light! All we have to do, if we desire lenient judgment for ourselves, is to judge others leniently; if we wish for ourselves "good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over," we have but to give this to others, and it shall be given us.
This theme, "The Law and the Gospel of Retribution," is one which we can only touch on now. Perhaps we may have an opportunity to return to it on another occasion. In the space remaining to us, we invite your attention to an interesting description of the strange scene which formed the background of these words of our Lord. The description is given by James Neil, who resided in Jerusalem for three years, May 1871 to May 1874. We quote:
"Another sight that arrested my attention in Jerusalem was the measuring of wheat or barley.... Each year in July or August all the dwellers in Eastern cities have to buy- sufficient wheat to last them for a twelvemonth. When it is brought to the purchaser's door, a professional measurer invariably attends to find out and certify the true contents of each sack, who acts as a kind of impartial umpire between the buyer and the seller. He uses a wooden measure, like our own bushel measure but not so deep, called a timneh. He seats himself cross-legged on the ground, and, upon the grain being turned out in a heap before him, begins to scoop it into the timneh with his hands. Next, he seizes the measure, when it is partly full, and gives it two or three swift half-turns as it stands on the ground, thus shaking it together and so making it occupy a smaller space. He again scoops in more wheat and repeats the shaking as before, and does so again and again until the measure is filled up to the brim. This done, he presses upon it all over with the outstretched palms of his hands, using the whole weight of his body so as to pack it still more closely. Then, out of the center of the pressed surface, he removes some of its contents, and makes a small hollow. He is about to erect a building on the top, and very naturally digs a foundation. With more handfuls of wheat he now raises a cone above the timneh. With much skilfulness he carries this cone up to a great height, until no more grain can possibly be piled on its steep sides and that which he adds begins to run down and flow over. Upon this, the interesting and elaborate process is complete, the measure is regarded as of full weight and is handed over to the buyer. Wheat is always meted out in this way, and is quoted in the market at so much per timneh. I have been at great pains to find out the exact contents, by weight, of the Palestine measure. The experiment I caused to be made was with wheat of the best quality. I found that a timneh of such filled up to the brim, unshaken and unpressed and without the cone, weighs just thirty-seven pounds, and with the cone just forty-four pounds. When, however, shaken together, pressed down, and, flowing over in the manner I have described, it holds forty-eight pounds. "Give," said our blessed Lord, in graphic and vivid allusion to this professional measuring, "and it shall be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, shall they give into your bosom [that is, into the capacious natural breast pocket formed by that part of the loose Eastern kamise, or shirt, which is above the girdle]; for with what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again" (Luke 6:38; see also Matt. 7:2; Mark 4:24). Observe, there is no less than eleven pounds difference in weight between a measure filled to the brim, as we fill it here, and one such as I have described, filled according to, the bountiful method of Bible lands, when it is "pressed down, shaken to gether, running over." In this way 30 percent is added to its value! This is, indeed, good interest for our money, but thus liberally shall those be rewarded who have learned to imitate the example of their God and his Son -- who, blessed be his name, gave his own life -- in the divine art of generous giving."
- P. L. Read
"Continue in prayer,
and watch in the same with thanksgiving."
IN A previous article on prayer we discussed some of the principles which must ever characterize our attitude of mind and heart when we would avail ourselves of the privilege of addressing the throne of heavenly grace. In brief, our prayers, to be acceptable to God, must express confident faith, loving esteem and reverence, full sympathy with the divine plan, and submission to the divine will, childlike dependence upon God, acknowledgement of sins and shortcomings and desire for forgiveness, with a forgiving disposition on our part toward others, and a humble craving for divine guidance and protection.
Lord knew how necessary this communion with himself would be to our spiritual
life. When we are tempest-tossed and tried, how much we need our Father's care
and the comfort and consolation which the realization of his presence and
sympathy imparts. And do we not have the promise of the abiding presence of
both the Father and the Son? (John 14:21-23). The same thought of the Father's
loving care and interest constantly upon us is conveyed by the Apostle Peter
At any time, in the midst of cares and perplexities, we may turn our prayerful thoughts to our Father for wisdom, strength, and fortitude, or for comfort and consolation for ourselves and others.
THE DESIRES OF OUR HEARTS
What are the deep desires of our hearts? What do we seek after in our daily lives? Whatever they are, they are our real prayers, and they may be quite at variance with the words -- the carefully phrased petitions, we address to God. "This people ... with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me" (Isa. 29:13). This was said of God's people of old. Let us beware lest it be true of us today. When we come to the throne of grace, with our conventionally proper petitions, it is awfully possible for us to have in our hearts unvoiced but controlling desires which are, nevertheless, not hidden from our Heavenly Father. These are the deep prayers of our lives, because our hearts are set upon them. Ordinarily prayer is regarded as the act of our best hours, but in this deeper sense, prayers may be offered in our worst hours. Let us be especially on guard respecting this danger. "Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life." The ounce of prevention that we can take against it (far better than any pound of cure after it has entered in) is to have our hearts permeated with the spirit of love, of which we are told: "Love worketh no ill to his neighbor" (Rom. 13:10); "Love envieth not; seeketh not her own" (1 Cor. 13:4, 5). However, we should "covet earnestly the best gifts" (1 Cor. 12:31), the gifts of divine grace.
Once we see the power of dominant desire in our prayers, we begin to see why we have unanswered prayers. It suggests that while our outward petition may have been denied, yet the inward controlling desire may be granted. This was true of the prodigal in Jesus' parable (Luke 15). When, in the far country, he came to himself, with friends gone, reputation gone, willpower almost gone, and found himself poor, hungry, feeding swine, he was suffering from the consequence of an answered prayer, a dominant desire fulfilled. In a similar sense Lot desired Sodom and got it, with tragic results. Ahab craved Naboth's vineyard and seized it. Judas desired thirty pieces of silver for betraying his Master and obtained them. Many are the answered prayers of the Bible that ruined the individuals. How true are the words in Psalm 106:15: "He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul."
HAVE FAITH IN GOD
lesson of faith to those who have become the Lord's consecrated people is not
merely faith in doctrines and theories, nor, indeed, chiefly present truth.
The chief feature of faith is confidence in God: that what he has promised he
is able and willing to fulfill. This faith grasps not only the things to come,
but also the things present: this faith rejoices not only in the glory that
shall be revealed, but also in the sufferings and trials and difficulties, and
in all the rich experiences which an all-wise Father sees best to permit. Let
us therefore rejoice evermore, "in everything give thanks"
The best illustration of this true faith, this continuous confidence in God, is found, as we should expect, in the narration of our dear Redeemer's experiences. Realizing that he was in the world for the purpose of serving the divine plan, he experienced continually the supervision of divine wisdom in respect to all his affairs; consequently, he not only went to the Father frequently in prayer and searched the Word for guidance, but recognized every experience through which he passed, and all the opposition with which he met, as being under divine supervision. His dominant desire was to do the Father's will, and, being fully consecrated to him, he knew that the Father's providential care was over all the affairs of his life.
Similarly with us, if we can feel sure that we have fully surrendered ourselves to God according to his call, we may also feel sure that all things are working for our good; we may realize in every emergency in life that the Father has prepared the cup, and will sustain and bless us while we drink it. This knowledge should not only enable us to take joyfully the spoiling of our goods (anything that we deem precious; trade, influence, good name, etc.), but should enable us also to entreat with kindness and gentleness and with a spirit of forgiveness those who prepare and administer the cup of our sufferings. But none can have this confidence of faith except those who have believed in the precious blood unto justification and who have, as members of the Body of Christ, consecrated themselves unreservedly to walk in their Redeemer's footsteps, to suffer with him, and to be finally glorified together.
PRESENT TRUTH SHOULD SANCTIFY US
These lessons are especially opportune at the present time. The Lord, by his grace, has removed many errors from our minds and given us clearer insight into his wonderful plan, and revealed to us his glorious character in connection with his plan, and there has perhaps been more or less danger that in such a study of theology the real object of all this knowledge might be lost sight of. It is not God's object merely to find an intellectual people, nor to instruct a people with reference to his plan, but to sanctify a people with the truth, and thus to make them "meet for the inheritance of the saints in light" (Col. 1:12). We are of the opinion that the tests imposed by the Lord are not merely doctrinal, but will be considerably along the lines of character and of the fruit of the spirit.
as soldiers of Christ we must put on not only the intellectual covering, the
helmet of salvation, but also the heart covering, love of righteousness and
truth and goodness and purity, with the shield of faith. The breastplate of
righteousness will be found to be one of the most important
Faith in the divine supervision of all our affairs not only gives peace and contentment but it saps the root of all selfish ambitions and vain gloryings and boastings, because of our faith in the Word: "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted, and he that exalteth himself shall be abased" (Matt. 23:12).
Another feature to be remembered is that our Lord laid emphasis upon sincerity in prayer, meaning that the petition should be the genuine overflow of inward desire. Doubtless the Pharisees who prayed on street corners asked for worthy things, springing out of Scriptural ideas and couched in Scriptural language. The fault was that those prayers did not represent their inward and determining wishes. Their outward lives demonstrated that their ambitions did not agree with their outward prayers.
Our Lord, in Matthew 6:5, advises us to pray to our Father in private and the Father, who seeth in secret, will answer openly, as shown in the development of the fruit and graces of the spirit in our characters. Prayer is no hasty visit to the Throne of Grace at the close of day, no formal deference to custom, but is the coming of the heart to be at peace in our Father's presence that we might unburden ourselves and receive comfort.
PRAYER IS A BATTLEFIELD
While prayer may be considered as the act of communion with God, yet we must recognize that prayer is a battlefield, and through prayer we are calling upon our Father for aid because we have a fight on our hands. In the language of St. Paul, "Without were fightings; within, fears" (2 Cor. 7:5). Again, "The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh" (Gal. 5:17), showing that in the development of character there is a hidden battlefield in each one's life. Thus in our dear Redeemer's experience, his ability to cope with the enmity of the Sanhedrin and the oppositions of Satan, stemmed from the many occasions in which he was closeted alone with his Father in prayer and fought out the controlling principles of his life. In similar fashion Gethsemane was the place where our Lord settled the issue of his consecration alone with God, and thereafter nothing could ruffle his calm or peace of mind (Heb. 5:7). His, indeed, was a heart singly set on pleasing his Father, no matter the cost.
We must do more than renounce sin in our minds; we are to give our hearts to the Lord. We are to fight the good fight of faith against the Adversary and the world's spirit of selfishness. The Lord requires some evidence from us of activity against the motions of sin in our flesh, and that we are alive to our responsibilities as soldiers of the Cross.
Cleansing our minds requires great strength of character, great power of the will, and all the overcomers will be found to be strong characters, principally because of conflicts with the flesh. Of course the flesh will not be made absolutely pure, but it can be cleansed of its filthiness, so that everything coarse, rude, slovenly, or unrefined would be reprehensible to us. The cleansing process begins at once, but continues until our latest breath. The power which begins this cleansing and which continues it acceptably in the Lord's sight is the new will, and this very fight against sin and uncleanness strengthens the will so that each victory makes it more ready and more capable for the next conflict.
God also works in us (Phil. 2:12, 13) by revealing to us more and more clearly the significance of the exceeding great and precious promises. Thus, through prayer and study of the Word we are to see to it that the dominating idea of our life is the cleansing both of the mind and of the flesh (2 Cor. 6:15-18). We are to be, said Jesus, "perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect" (Matt. 5:48). At the same time our Lord well knew that in the present life, and acting through our present mortal bodies, it would be an absolute impossibility for anyone of his followers to ever attain perfection in the sense that the Father is perfect. Yet he set the standard so that we might continually attempt to copy his perfection and to recognize no inferior standard. We must do our best to reach the standard of perfection in holiness to the Lord, a little nearer every day we live.
WATCHING UNTO PRAYER
It is in view of the urgent necessity of sober watchfulness and attention to the will of God regarding us that we are exhorted to put away the worldly spirit and awake to the importance of being filled with the spirit of God.
Let us heed the Master's words "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matt. 6:19-21).
Besides the treasures of friendship which will never die, there will be treasures of love that will never grow old, treasures of esteem for the sake of our work and personal sacrificing that will never be forgotten, treasures of experience that will serve us eternally, treasures of wisdom that will enrich us forever, treasures of divine approval that will wreath a halo of glory around us which shall never pale, and treasures of glory, honor, and immortality beyond our present powers to fully appreciate.
-A. L. Muir
"Seeing we have this ministry ... we faint not." - 2 Corinthians 4:1.
THE ministry to which the Apostle Paul refers was the ministry of the Gospel which he had been commissioned to preach. Not only so, but it was this glorious "ministry of the spirit," seen in contrast to another, an earlier, ministry, namely, the "ministration of death" (the Law). That ministry was glorious, he admits, (3:7); but the ministry of the Gospel which had been committed to his trust was much more glorious.
That this is his meaning will be seen more clearly, if we recall the circumstances attending his founding of the Corinthian church, as recorded in the 18th chapter of the Acts. His labors in Corinth were an extension of service begun by his prompt response to the Macedonian call. He arrived first in Macedonia at the seaport of Neapolis and from thence went to Philippi. There he had been cheered by finding believers at the riverside, "where prayer was wont to be made"; there his preaching bore fruit, and the believers were baptized, no doubt in that same river. Then suddenly opposition arose, when Paul exorcised the evil spirit in the damsel whose masters obtained financial gain by her services (Acts 16:16-40). Urged out of the city by its rulers, they moved to Thessalonica, where Paul preached to receptive ears of "devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few." Encountering trouble from the Jews they went on to Berea, where the same Jews, having followed them, stirred up further opposition. This prompted them to go to Athens, where, seeing the whole city given to idolatry, Paul was impelled to preach on Mars Hill, and a few believed, but more opposition came -- this time from the Greeks -- and so on they went to Corinth. Each time confronted with opposition, they followed their Master's instruction, "if they persecute you in one city flee ye into another" (Matt. 10:23); there, of course, to seek for those ready to hear the Gospel message.
DIVINE PROVIDENCE OVERRULES
Surely Divine providence had overruled the opposition so that they arrived at Corinth just when needed, for that same Providence had also overruled the edict of Claudius expelling Jews from Rome, which had caused Aquila and Priscilla to move to Corinth. Being of the same trade as Paul (Providence again!), they met and joined forces; and Paul pursued his ministry among his fellow Jews until hindered by them (Acts 18:6). Having discharged his duty to them, he turned to the Gentiles, but stayed as near as possible to the synagogue, so keeping in touch with his own people, with the result that Crispus, Justus, and others unnamed, believed and were baptized. A gathering being thus established, he could with reason have gone on to other cities, but a vision in the night called upon him to remain in Corinth because "the Lord had much people in that city" (Acts 18:7-11), and so he stayed eighteen months. What a benefit to Corinth! What a joy to Paul! His stay there cemented their friendship, and Paul would have them individually in mind when later he wrote his epistles to them.
At last Paul took his leave of them, and taking Aquila and Priscilla with him, left them at Ephesus while he himself went by ship to Caesarea on a short trip to Jerusalem, then on to Antioch, Galatia, and Phrygia. While he was thus absent from Greece, Apollos, a Jew of Alexandria, with a good knowledge of Old Testament Scriptures but knowing only the baptism of John, came to Ephesus. These same Aquila and Priscilla (Providence again) hear him speak in the synagogue and took him to their home to explain the Word of the Lord more perfectly. Then Apollos proposed to visit Greece and, with the Ephesian Ecclesia's blessing, went to Corinth, where he was of great help to the local gathering (Acts 18:24-28).
Paul eventually reaches Ephesus and while staying there two years, hears of dissension in Corinth through Chloe (1 Cor. 1:11) and promptly writes to them their first epistle, rebuking them for ranging themselves in factions (1 Cor. 1:12). It is to be noted that some of them claimed that same Apollos as their mentor, doubtless without his consent. Evidently this capable minister had risen to prominence in Corinth. Paul had surely heard of his ability in the faith, from Aquila, and thus when writing to them (1 Cor. 3:5, 6) he could explain their work as ministers by saying, "I planted, Apollos watered," and add the all-important rule of life, that God gives the increase. If Corinth would only keep that in mind its factional spirit would disappear. Another cause of dissension is revealed, when Paul expresses thankfulness that he personally had baptized so few believers (1 Cor. 1:14-17). How grateful he was that he had been called to preach rather than baptize! Still another trial to him and source of trouble is seen in his words in 1 Corinthians 9:2 --evidently some sewers of discord had belittled his standing as an Apostle.
Had the purpose of God been that Paul had stayed in Corinth, these particular difficulties may not have arisen, or at least he would have been able to deal with them quickly. Faithfully he preached the Word in many cities, and he alone of all the Apostles could speak of that which "cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches." And because his missionary work was more extensive, he could the better write several epistles. His second epistle to Corinth followed soon after the first, and it appears that the first letter had borne fruit and Corinth's condoning of wicked practices been reduced.
AS WE HAVE RECEIVED MERCY WE FAINT NOT
This brief review of the events leading up to the writing of the epistle brings us to the text cited at the head of our article, and its immediate context: "Seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not." To what mercy does the Apostle refer? He had written the first epistle to Corinth from Ephesus. While there a great trial to his faith and fortitude arose, culminating in uproar. This was fraught with so many dangers that at times they despaired even of life, and but for the intervention of God the ministry of Paul would have ended. His thanks for their experience and great deliverance are recorded in 2 Corinthians 1:8-10. Could it be that that was the mercy he remembers in the fourth chapter-hence "we faint not." This great deliverance was often in his mind when writing this epistle, and like trials had alternated with his ministry achievements. His successes and his trials he regarded as proofs of his standing as an Apostle (2 Cor. 4:8-10; 2 Cor. 6:4-10; 2 Cor. 11:23-28).
In the next verse Paul defends not only the Word of God but also his clear cut presentation of it. No dishonesty, no craftiness in handling the Word of God to deceive, but by the manifestation of the truth commending himself, as a minister, to every conscience. Some of his readers may, because they dispute his apostleship, by word and by deed oppose him, but in their hearts they would have to agree that his defense of the faith was faithfully made and without ulterior motive. His words are a reminder of his first letter to them (1 Cor. 1:17) "Not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect." Paul's was a downright message of "We preach Christ crucified," and his straightforward testimony in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 reveals his loyalty to his Master and his Gospel. Wisdom of words, pedantry, and the like are not to be found in his writing. If, for the moment, we wonder why Paul was so insistent as to the purity of the message, and the motive of its ministers, we have a plain answer in the next verse (2 Cor. 4:3): "If our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost," and to him that would have been tragic.
(In passing, it should be noted that the word lost does not here imply that the lost are irrecoverable; for the Son of Man -- of whom Paul was a faithful servant -- came to seek and to save that which was lost.)
From the recorded speeches of Paul in the Acts we must assume him to have been a clear expositor of the truth. He may not have been as eloquent as Apollos (Acts 18:25), but he had been called Mercurius because he was the chief speaker (Acts 14:12-18). However, he did not rely upon his natural ability for preaching the Gospel -- he needed, and knew that he needed, Divine help for his great duty. Years later when writing to the Ephesian brethren (Eph. 6:19, 20) he asked them to pray that he be given a door of utterance to open his mouth boldly and speak as he ought to speak. To him it was a glorious Gospel, and to him it would have been deplorable if its ministers failed to tell it clearly or handled the Word deceitfully! He had a message to proclaim which to his own people was a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness; and also the god of this world had blinded the minds of them which believe not (2 Cor. 4:4). There was, then, another factor in the age long conflict of light and darkness -- Satan himself was fighting "lest the glorious gospel of Christ who is the image of God should shine unto them." Paul was engaged in that warfare and would not aid the Adversary by failing to declare the Gospel faithfully.
WE PREACH NOT OURSELVES
Let us have verse five in full, for it is a perfect description of a minister of the Gospel: "For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake." The text is so beautifully worded, so plain that any attempt to explain it appears inappropriate. Some versions regard this verse as parenthetical-this seems reasonable, as verses four and six deal with the Gospel light and its source, and verse six takes us back to Creation. The same God who, at the Creation, commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shined in Paul's heart. This is true, too, of his associates in Christ. How appropriate that the first recorded words of God in the Bible are "Let there be light," and from that principle he has never deviated! In this Gospel Age the light of the glorious Gospel has its realization in the Son of God, who is the Light of the World and is the express image of the Father's person. No wonder Paul is thrilled with the Gospel and its ministry.
WE HAVE THIS TREASURE IN EARTHEN VESSELS
Verse seven begins with that word which seems to limit so much in life -- Christian life as well: the word -- but! "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us." Here the Apostle reminds himself and other ministers of the frailty of the human vessel ministering such a Gospel. The excellency of Divine power is behind him, the holy spirit empowers him, and he will fail as a minister should he forget this. Paul would not have triumphed had he relied on his very able human powers as a speaker. Throughout his life he knew that for this task he was weak; and knowing this, he became strong (2 Cor. 12:9, 10). How near disaster was to him as a servant of the Lord will be seen in verse 8: almost overthrown but not quite, hard pressed but never conquered. By the power of God he succeeded as a minister of the Gospel, and was able to endure as a good soldier and as an Apostle. If any disputed his right to speak the Gospel, he would say, "We believe, and therefore speak," or, as Weymouth expresses it: "We too believe; therefore we also speak" (2 Cor. 4:13).
- B. J. Drinkwater, Eng.
What is the meaning of the word "Selah" which appears many times in the Psalms?
The scholars do not agree as to the meaning of this word. The best discussion that has come to my attention appeared in the magazine Bibliotheca Sacra some years ago, as follows
"The translators of the Bible have left the Hebrew word 'Selah,' which occurs so often in the Psalms, as they found it, and of course the English reader often asks his minister, or learned friend, what it means. And the minister, or learned friend, has most often been obliged to confess ignorance, because it is a matter in regard to which the most learned have by no means been of one mind. The Targums, and most of the Jewish commentators, give to the word the meaning of eternally forever. Rabbi Kimchi regards it as a sign to elevate the voice. The authors of the Septuagint translation appear to have regarded it as a musical or rhythmical note. Hender regarded it as indicating a change of the note; Matheson as a musical note, equivalent perhaps, to the word repeat. According to Luther and others, it means silence! Gesenius explains it to mean, 'Let the instrument play and the singer stop.' Wocher regards it as the equivalent to sursum corda -- up, my soul! Sommer, after examining all the seventyfour passages in which the word occurs, recognizes in every case 'an actual appeal or summons to Jehovah.' They are calls for aid and prayers to be heard, expressed either with entire directness, or if not in the imperative, 'Hear, Jehovah!' or, 'Awake, Jehovah!' and the like still earnest address to God that he would remember and hear, etc. The word itself he regards as indicating a blast of the trumpets by the priest. 'Selah,' itself, he thinks an abridged expression, used for Higgaion Selah -- Higgaion indicating the sound of the stringed instruments, and Selah a vigorous blast of trumpets."
-P. L. Read