LXXII. January/February, 1989 No. 1
thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding." - Proverbs
new year dawns upon the world. Some, bored with the repetition of this
ritual might say "so what." But, regardless of the origins of
this celebration of the solar progression there are apt spiritual lessons
to be learned in remembering the cycles of creation and the effect that
they have upon us.
are few truly "solitary" incidents in this universe. From subatomic
particles. which revolve at maddening speed around the nucleus of the
atom, to the cycles of human society, to explosions of stars, there are
grand, repetitive cycles to be found in the animate and inanimate
creations. And having returned to any beginning, whether physically,
emotionally, or metaphysically, is to learn something of the vanity
addressed by Solomon and to attempt to place one's life in eternal
perspective. In light of the scope of these events it can scarcely be
surprising that men make "resolutions," and start afresh at the
new year. Paul said that the creative power and the deity of God were
self-evident, that those who were without the oracles of God ought to be
enabled by the witnesses of creation to admit to the sovereignty of God
that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it
unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world
are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his
eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse" (Rom.
ultimate control over all of God's creation is perhaps the most sublime
and inescapable of all lessons in connection with the new year.
matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the
holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High
ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and
setteth up over it the basest of men (Dan. 4:17).
is and can never be anything beyond the reach of Almighty power. The
extent of that control reaches both outwards, like astronomy, and
within, like microscopy:
hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is
faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able;
but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be
able to bear it (1 Cor. 10:13).
can happen to the child of such an all-powerful father which he has not
control of God over his creation is not the same as his foresight. The
fact that God is able to return the earth to its same relative position to
the sun is marvelous: but that he placed the earth in an orbit so that it
returns to that place naturally, repeatedly, by plan, is beyond human
comprehension, even though men imitate such planning in their lives. The
life touched by cancer, or other similarly prematurely fatal disease, may
seem fruitless to some. So also the child who has been congenitally
touched by blindness or crippled limbs may question the wisdom and
foresight of Jehovah, as though the Almighty had nothing better to do than
to pause in his eternal supervision of the universe to stoop down into
their life and cause trouble for this most pitiful of his children.
may ask, in contrast, whether conditions of physical helplessness are
worse than those of mental or emotional helplessness, which instead of
preventing action may weaken one's ability to control the actions that
they are empowered to take. It may well be that just as many hearts are
burdened by their shame over their own actions as are burdened by their
inability to act, to see, or to hear. But that all such human burdens are
allowed for purposes which extend far beyond the years of this human
life is a thought that presses against the limits of a man's perception.
What pause it should give us to wonder just how -- and to what greater
glory -- Jehovah has allowed these things.
the troubles that a man feels could be so intense just imagine how grand
must be their end result in the Divine plan of the ages. Such thoughts
may, to many, seem to be a waste of time. But how else can we hope to
share anything in common with our Creator if we can spare no time to
consider the lengths, the breadths, the heights, and the depths of his
character and intervention in the affairs of man?
child may be five years of age when he is sent off for his first day at
kindergarten. To that young tot the four hours spent away from his parent
may be to him an eternity. Having lived such a short time those four
hours are a much larger percentage of his life than four hours in the
life of its twenty or thirty-year old parent. All men and women react to
life within the context of their own experience. What joy it can bring to
the child of God, therefore, to recognize that all experiences have
their limited duration.
Israel, while wandering in the wilderness, understood that lesson, might
their sojourning have been shorter? If they could have been one hundred
percent faithful, would they not have entered the promised land, trying
just a little harder to lay hold upon the promised land in spite of the
contrary report of the "spies." Might not the tired evangelist
try just one more time to counter the unbeliever's hesitance? Might not
the faithful elder listen with greater kindness to the burdened sufferer?
Might not the harried scholar, his mind filled with Scripture and
argument, simplify yet a little further the lesson for the novice?
things take time. All things last but for a time-at least until we pass
beyond this human, sin-laden tabernacle. If we were convinced that death
would usher us into the reality of our hopes, could not even the news of
our own mortality be grasped with the faith of Job: "Though
he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways
before him" (Job 13:15). Who can read those words without being
amazed, not only at Job's faith, but more so at his determination to
maintain his own ways before God -- to continue in his faithfulness, his
zeal, his devotion and worship to Jehovah. What a testament to the power
of God to inspire obedience in man. Such determination does not come from
fear of punishment and it lives in spite of the sorest tests imaginable.
has benefits in and of itself. Solomon's suggestion that there was
nothing new under heaven re-proves itself in all human experience. No
matter what happens to us, if we look to history we find that there has
been a precedent long before we were born. The circumstances may have
been different: after all, the soldier of David's day did not go out to
battle in tanks, nor did he fear the power of tactical nuclear weapons.
But his need of courage and the ability to steel himself against fear were
no different then than that needed in this day. And it is the recognition
of such universal principles and of our commonality with those who went
before (and who follow after) that makes pains bearable and instructions
easier to be received. Not until a man stops feeling sorry for
himself-realizes that others have suffered like he-can he incline his car
unto wisdom and apply his heart to understanding.
have considered a sampling of lessons from the cycles of life. Other
applications may be as varied as the faces upon this globe, reflecting
the vantage point of each individual observer, but they give reason to
marvel at the deity of God and by doing so to place ourselves in a better
and more worshipful position to be his child. We end our New Year
meditation where we began, with the reflections of Solomon and the prayer
that we individually use this repetitious renewal to ponder and apply
the grace and powers of God. May we apply their lessons as a healing balm,
the balm of Gilead, to the battlescars that we have earned during the
previous year's Christian conflict. As they have their healing power
within us, may we face the conflicts of the new year with energy,
optimism, and confidence in the God of our salvation.
- P.J. Pazucha
law of God, by the hammer of affliction, or by the smiting of judgment,
may break the heart; but our hearts may be bruised and shattered by
calamity and yet remain as frigid as an iceberg.
is the work of grace that is just as powerful to break the heart as to
answered them, Have I not chosen you twelve?" - John
Lord Jesus is the head of the church by the appointment of God. It is so
dear to him that it is variously referred to as his "body,"
"bride," etc. Let us examine the concern that he displayed for
it and the forethought displayed by his care for that church throughout
the Gospel Age -- the probationary period of the church.
after his forty day meditation our Lord engaged in preaching the gospel of
the coming kingdom. Many heard him, but from among those who heard with
faith he selected twelve men as the apostles of a new dispensation. They
were chosen from the humbler walks of life: four were fishermen; one was a
publican, among the despised of the people; the vocations of the others
are not mentioned.
Selecting Twelve Apostles
men were called individually. Their callings all involved sacrifice
because they had to leave their former lives and occupations. But there
was a special occasion on which he dedicated them as a group to their
office as apostles (cf. Matt. 4:17-22; Mark 1:16-20; 3:13-19; Luke
5:9-11). Luke records this event, saying that the Lord had withdrawn to
a mountain to pray. In this state of devotion he continued all night. "And
when it was day, he called unto him his disciples [Greek, mathetas,
learners or pupils]: and of them
he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles [apostolos - ones sent
forth]" (Luke 6:13). The Twelve were marked as distinct among the
other disciples were also loved of the Lord. We expect that they fully
agreed with the Lord's appointment of these twelve to a special office,
recognizing that some degree of order was in the best interests of the
work. We must also expect that the Lord considered their willingness to be
used and their skills and circumstances: choosing those best fitted for
the pioneer work that lay ahead. Thus, he called two sons of Zebedee, but
he did not call their father. And he did not call these men to a mental
following of some special teaching, but rather to leave their businesses,
their homes, friends, plans, and prospects in order to follow him and
under his direction to engage in the "work" of the Lord.
is unlikely that the Lord revealed much to these twelve men about the
exact nature of the work which lay ahead. It would have been impossible
for them to understand what they would soon be about. But these dear
brethren appreciated the privilege accorded them, even though sacrifice
and persecution would certainly result and they could be assured of no
certain future reward.
Lord started these men on a course of instruction which would fit them for
a future work. They did not even fully engage in this work until after the
Day of Pentecost. After their selection they were under his care and spent
much time in his company. As students they were carefully observing his
character, his gospel, and his methods.
comparing the New and Old Testament accounts we find that the commission
to the apostles was similar to that of the Lord and the entire church (cf.
Isa. 61:1,2; Luke 4:17-21; Matt 10:5-8; Mark 3:14,15; Luke 10:1-17). They
devoted themselves to the Lord during his presence with them. But we
are not told that their progress was any faster or that it was markedly
different from others of the disciples, for example the seventy whom the
Lord also appointed (Luke 10:17).
the Lord showed these men that they were being prepared for a special
service. They were to be witnesses. They were to testify of him, of his
words and works following his death. They were to be more than mere
witnesses. The people who would follow him must be able to rely upon these
twelve; in part because they had been with him from the first and had been
thoroughly acquainted with his teaching and purpose (cf. John 15:27;
Luke 24:48). One more detail lay ahead. These twelve had been selected under
the supervision of God himself to become the founders and special teachers
of the Gospel Age church. In due time they were to be specially empowered
from God in testimony to this unique commission.
men were placed in a special position in the church. Through them all
that had hearing ears, all who hungered and thirsted after righteousness
were to be convinced of the truth of God in Christ Jesus. From among those
a "people for his name" (a
bride for Christ -- a church) would be selected and trained for exaltation
as "joint heirs with Christ" in his future kingdom. Note how our
Lord implies these thoughts in his high priestly prayer:
have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gayest me out of the
world: chine they were, and thou gayest them me; and they have kept thy
word. Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me
are of thee. For I have given unto them the words which thou gayest me;
and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from
thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. I pray for them: I
pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they
are thine (John 17:6-9). Neither pray I for these [apostles] alone, but
for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all
may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may
be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me (John
Special Call: Solemn Ordination
were as many apostles as Jacob had sons. In the sons of Jacob were
pictured the twelve tribes of Israel. In one sense they were typical of
the Gospel Age church; in another they stood for the entire world of men.
The Revelation pictures these apostles as the twelve foundations of the
New Jerusalem, the glorious church (Rev. 21:14; Eph. 2:20,21). Indeed, the
same foundation that sustains the church will ultimately sustain the
world. But a foundation must be placed upon something solid, not sand
(Matt. 7:25-27) but upon rock. Just such a rock were the apostles founded
upon: Christ Jesus (Matt. 16:16-18; 1 Pet. 2:4-8).
Twelve were chosen early in the Lord's ministry, but from among their
number one (Judas) dropped out, proving himself a traitor to the Lord's
trust. He was replaced by Paul, who had been made a witness of his glory
after the Lord's resurrection and ascension (Acts 26:13; 1 Cor. 15:8).
This interesting quirk in the divine testimony provides eleven eye and ear
witnesses of the Lord's ministry and a twelfth witness to the glorious
exaltation that was his after his resurrection. This provides a sure
testimony for all of the church to the end of that age.
from our place in history we can look with kindness upon the selection of
Matthias by the eleven as a human error -- a little over-officiousness
on their part -- attending to the Lord's business without his direction.
In defense of this gentle attitude towards them we note that their action
was taken before the Day of Pentecost and before their begettal by the
spirit of God.
that the Twelve had chosen two and asked that the Lord choose between
them-by means of lots. Obviously, by this action the lot would have fallen
upon one of the two. This was no indication of the Lord's will. The Lord
ignored their well meaning choice, just as he has ignored other choices of
men, and instead he indicated his own choice of Paul in his own due time.
That this selection was in place of that made by the other apostles is
clarified through the subsequent revelation. There he describes twelve
foundation stones in the New Jerusalem, not thirteen. Matthias was
probably a sound brother in the faith, but he was not an apostle.
What Special Office?
note that following the crucifixion and resurrection it was the Twelve
who were the strength and consolation of the infant church. The saints of
those days found in them the support of their delicate faith. They had
been the companions of the Lord. They witnessed his miraculous power.
They demonstrated their loyalty by bearing his reproach. The infant
church relied upon the apostles' teaching, took courage from their
example, and heeded their counsel. Were they ever intended to be
authoritative teachers whose words, more than the words of others, would
express the Divine mind? Let us look at seven indicators that the Lord intended
for this special office:
Ordination: Our previous mention of the Lord's special recognition of the Twelve
stands first in our minds. They were given a separate and significant
name-apostles-to distinguish them from the others.
Trainees: Even though there is no indication that their work was more
bountifully blessed than that, for example, of the seventy, yet they were
his special companions, continually under his training. They were
witnesses of his life and teachings as none others. They watched the
details of his personal character and his manner of life. They were the
only ones "invited" to the last Passover Supper. They received
the special instructions of that hour concerning the typical
significance of that celebration and of the changed features which he
instituted that evening. They were made privy to the special significance
that would attend to commemorating the real Lamb of God who took away the
sins of the world. They witnessed the agony of Gethsemane, his betrayal
and arrest. They witnessed his calm submission to his prophetically
detailed fate. They witnessed the crucifixion, death, burial, and the fact
of his resurrection.
Special Resurrection Witnesses:
Promptly after his resurrection our Lord continued the training of these
men. He did, in fact, appear to others than the apostles to upwards of
five hundred at one time (1 Cor. 15:5-8). The apostles, however, were his
special charge, and he took pains to clearly establish his resurrection
to them. Carefully, he looks up each of the "eleven" -sending
the women who first arrived at the tomb to tell the others of his resurrection
and especially mentioning Peter. It was Peter, we are reminded, that had
experienced unfaithfulness (Mark 16:7). So also the Lord opened the
understanding of the two (Luke 24:27) on the road to Emmaus; he satisfied
the doubting mind of Thomas with tangible evidence; reaffirmed Peter's
commission; convincing them all and sending them to the work refreshed
in their minds (cf. John 20:16-28; 21:15-17; Acts 1:1,2; Luke 24:52).
Witnesses Of the Ascension: The "eleven" were the special
witnesses of his ascension. There is no evidence that any others were
present on that occasion. The expression "ye men of Galilee,"
signified the eleven, all of whom were Galileans (cf. Acts 1:1-13, Luke
24:48-51; Matt 28:16-19).
were special witnesses even though he was seen by others. The Lord assured
that they would be complete witnesses so that our faith might be
established upon their consistent testimony (cf. Acts 13:31; 1 Cor.
we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews,
and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: Him God raised up
the third day, and shewed him openly; Not to all the people, but unto
witnesses chosen before God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him
after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach unto the
people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the judge
of the quick and dead. To him give all the prophets' witness, that through
his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins
Commission Extended: "And that
repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all
nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these
things" (Luke 24:47,48). It was to the apostles first that this
message of extended blessing was given. Prior to that time it had been to
the Jew only. "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come
upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all
Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts
1:8). But in their day the "uttermost parts of the earth" could
not be reached or ministered to during their lifetime: the Western
Hemisphere for example. It is evident that a major part of this witness
would be done, then, through their writings and after their death. In this
way they testify to you and me.
And considering their careful training by our Lord they were the best
possible endorsement of the gospel's accuracy.
Anointing: The apostles waited obediently for the promised power from on
high. They and other disciples (about 120) were waiting in an upper room
in Jerusalem in daily, prayerful expectation (Acts 1:14). Finally, the Day
of Pentecost brought the baptism of the holy Spirit, promised by the Lord.
All of the faithful there present shared in this blessing. "And
they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other
tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2:4). We note,
however, that verse seven adds special mention of the apostles: "And
they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, are not
all these which speak Galileans?" It would appear that the eleven
were the public speakers. The power of God doubtless brought to their
minds clearer visions of Divine truth, filling their hearts with joy and
praise so that they spoke from the abundance of their hearts the
wonderful words of life as the spirit of God gave them words in the
languages of the people there represented. What happened was so stunning,
so powerful, that three thousand were converted that day. All of the
faithful ones who awaited the coming of the Spirit that day were blessed.
The same spirit was poured out on the gentiles later (Acts 10:44-47) and
has continued with the consecrated unto this day. We are assured that none
of the eleven failed to receive their gift of the Spirit without which
their apostleship would stand in question (cf. Acts 1:13,14; 2:1).
A Chosen Vessel: At first glance it seems strange that Judas should
have a part among the apostles while Saul of Tarsus was out persecuting
the church. From our stand point in history the events of those days now
appear as masterstrokes of planning. The baptism of the holy Spirit was
long past before the Lord's appearance to Saul of Tarsus. And Paul was
made the witness of the Lord's glory
-- "And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due
time", (1 Cor. 15:8)
-- yes, as one born from the dead before the time, before the time for the
church's exaltation and glory. Then, being made like their Lord they will
see him as he is (1 John 3:2). The visions and revelations of the Lord to
Paul more than compensated for the day by day experiences with the Lord
of which he had not been part. By them he was made a competent and
reliable witness to us (2 Cor. 12:1-4,
7; Gal. 1:11, 12; 2:2).
further the direct statement of the Lord on this account: "Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name
before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel" (Acts
9:15). That was all the endorsement that Paul needed to put him on a par
with the other eleven as the apostles of the Lord. We have the testimony
of the Lord, and the testimony of Paul's zeal in bearing witness to the
truth, and of the manifestation of the Spirit in him, and Paul's own
testimony. He says,
I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not
after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but
by the revelation of Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:11,12).
again he says,' "he that
wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the
same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles" (Gal. 2:8).
preeminent commission was to the gentiles, the others ministered more
particularly to the Jews. Hence Paul has far more to say to us through his
numerous epistles. But in their day the eleven were more preeminent in the
church than he: Peter, James, and John, Paul says, were regarded as
pillars, among them (Gal. 2:9).
was the pushing pioneer. The men of his day did not regard his work among
the gentiles as either light nor honorable. He was exposed to danger,
persecution, and humiliation. Even in the church he was not fully
understood or appreciated as evidenced by the frequency with which he
produced the evidences of his apostleship.
answered them, Have I not chosen you twelve?" - John
previous treatment of this subject considered the commission of the
apostles. We now turn attention to the office of apostle in the church. Do
we depend merely upon their historic testimony as to the Lord and his
teachings? Or were they witnesses to more than this?
keeping with other scriptural precepts we suggest that the apostles were
charged with bearing witness to all that they knew or had been enlightened
about under the guidance of the spirit of God. Such completeness would
be necessary if they were to be faithful stewards, as Paul comments: "Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and
stewards of the mysteries of God" (1 Cor. 4:1). How similar is the expression of our Lord (Matt. 4:19) when
he made them "fishers of men" or commanded them to feed his
sheep and lambs (John 21:15-17). Again, Paul says that the mystery [or
the "deep truths" of the gospel concerning the high calling of
the church-the Christ] was hidden in other ages but now has been revealed
to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. An object in this
revelation was to show the fellowship of that mystery, that is, upon
what terms they might enjoy the fellowship of that mystery (joint heirship)
with Christ, which God had prearranged before the world.
that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in
few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in
the mystery of Christ) 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: whereof I
was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto
me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the
least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the
Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what
is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world
hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the
intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places
might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to
the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord..."
once more, after detailing how the church is built upon the foundation of
the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the "chief
comer stone" (Eph. 2:20-22), he says "For
this cause [the building up of the church, or the "temple of
God"] I Paul, [am] the
prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles" (Eph.
Apostles Not Lords
can see in the above how the apostles were prepared for a ministry of
teaching those things that they had learned through the holy Spirit. They
had freely received grace and knowledge from the Lord and freely they
administered that same grace and knowledge to the faithful (Matt 10:18).
Their instructions and witness were so careful that they have been
preserved even to us at the uttermost ends of the earth.
with how much regard should we hold these men? Are they in any sense lords
among the church? Did they replace Jesus as the Head of the church? Or did
they together constitute some composite head, empowered to replace him? Or
were they successors to Jesus, as the popes of Rome claim-vicars or
substitutes for Christ to the church?
such teachings we have the plain words of Paul: "There is one body ... one Lord" (Eph. 4:4,5). No matter
how important any of the members of the body may be, we arc to recognize
only one Lord. Paul's teaching clearly agrees with our Master when he said
that the Scribes and Pharisees loved to be called "Rabbi,
but be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all
ye are brethren" (Matt 23:8, cf. Matt. 23:1, 2, 6, 7-12). And
again, addressing the apostles, Jesus said:
Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are
accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and
their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be
among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:
And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For
even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and
to give his life a ransom for many (Mark 10:42-45).
evidence supports any special regard for the apostles as lords by the
early church. Nor can we find evidence that they assumed such authority.
They lived far differently than the papal idea of lordship. Peter never
styled himself "the prince of the apostles," as papists describe
him. They never titled one another, or received homage from the church.
They addressed each other simply as Peter, John, and Paul, or else by the
sole and simple appellation "brother," as did all the other
brothers and sisters in Christ (cf. Acts 9:17; 21:20; Rom. 16:23; 1 Cor.
7:15; 8:11; 2 Cor. 8:18; 2 Thess. 3:6,15; Philemon 7,16). Most humbling
of all we read that our Lord was not ashamed to call them brethren (Heb.
2:11). That is just how far he was from any domineering attitude in the
exercise of his lordship!
Examples to the Flock
were bishops to whom had been given a general supervision of the work at
home and abroad. There were also elders, older and advanced in the
knowledge of the truth, who took a more general supervision of local
congregations (Acts. 14:23). Finally there were deacons, who were charged
with the physical arrangements of the various congregations (Acts
6:1-3), and evangelists who traveled preaching the word of God wherever
they went. None of the above ever, as recorded in the New Testament, used
these descriptive terms as honorary titles. The conditions of fitness
for these services in the church were clearly described by Paul in his
epistles (cf. 1 Tim. 3:1-13; 2 Tim. 4:1-5).
did any of the prominent servants in the early church adopt priestly
garments or symbolic crosses or prayer beads in order to court the
reverence and homage of men. The Lord had taught them that the chiefest
among them should be the servant of all. Thus, for instance, when
persecution scattered the church and drove them from Jerusalem, the eleven
stood their ground. They were willing to do this, at whatever cost,
because they knew that in this trying time the church abroad would look to
them at Jerusalem for encouragement and help. Had they fled, the whole
church would have been panic stricken. As a result we have the stories
of James perishing by the sword of Herod; Peter with a similar fate in
view was thrust into prison and chained to two soldiers (Acts 12:1-6);
Paul and Silas were whipped, thrown into prison, and their feet locked in
the stocks; and Paul endured a great fight of afflictions (Acts
16:23-24; 2 Cor. 11:23-33). Did they look or act like lords? We think
Stewards of Godly Mysteries
took special care in explaining this matter of stewardship when he
counseled the elders. "Feed the flock of God," he said (1 Peter
5:13). Note that he did not describe them as the property of the elders:
Your flock, your people, your church "...not as
lords of the heritage, but being patterns to the flock"-patterns
of humility, faithfulness, zeal, and godliness. Paul carries this
thought forward in his first letter to Corinth:
I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed
to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and
to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are
weak, but ye are strong; ye are honorable, but we are despised. Even unto
this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are
buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place; And labor, working with our
own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: being
defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the
offscouring of all things unto this day (1 Cor. 4:9-13).
descriptions do not sound very much like lords, do they? Carrying his
thoughts to an even more explicit point, Paul writes, opposing those who
aspired to some position of leadership over God's people in harsh tones, "Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without
us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with
you" (1 Cor. 4:8). Later, however, he counsels them along the
correct course, saying:
write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.
For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not
many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.
Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me (1 Cor. 4:14-16). Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ,
and stewards of the mysteries of God" (1 Cor. 4:1).
apostles claimed no monopoly on the teaching or pastoral work in the
church. Nor did the Lord ever intimate that they should. Paul says:
he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and
some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work
of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all
come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God,
unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of
Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and
carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and
cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the
truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even
Christ..." (Eph. 4:11-15).
God Set Them
the Gospel Age, God has raised up numerous human helps for the church. But
the prominence of the apostles as being especially empowered by the Lord
is clearly indicated. The Lord's personal supervision of various grades
of teachers and helpers is indicated by the words of Paul when he said
that God set some in the church, first apostles; then he lists prophets,
teachers, miracle workers, healers, directors, and diverse tongues. He
continues by inquiring "Are all
apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles"
(1 Cor. 12:28; cf. vs. 1 Cor. 12:27)? The answer is self-evident: no.
And if we would follow our Lord we will recognize these differences: his
appointments, those whom he has "set" in the church for the
offices of instruction and upbuilding. Of these the apostles are always
preeminent (cf. Heb. 5:12).
must be a sense of balance among us. Recognizing the priority of the
apostles does not mean disregarding the office of anyone else. The
testimonies of the "evangelists" Mark, Luke, and Stephen are
just as trustworthy as those of the apostles. They all had the same mind
and spoke the same things (1 Cor. 1:10). The faithful apostles, before
their death, also committed the church to the witness of those whom God
would raise up during the Gospel Age (2 Tim. 4:1-6).
Against Ambition Nearing the end of his earthly life, Paul especially
prepared the elders of the church for the task ahead (Acts 20:17). His
directions apply from that day forward, including today.
declaring his faithfulness as a servant of the Lord and the church he
warns them, saying,
heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the
Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he
hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my
departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw
away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the
space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with
tears. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his
grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among
all them which are sanctified. I have coveted no man's silver, or gold,
or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto
my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have shewed you all
things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember
the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than
to receive" (Acts 20:28-35).
similar manner Peter exhorts the elders
elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness
of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall
be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the
oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre,
but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being
ensamples to the flock" (1 Pet. 5:1-3).
we consider these warnings, it is important in judging those who seem to
be teachers in the church today to examine whether their teachings are the
same as those of the Lord and the apostles (cf. Matt. 16:12; Eph. 3:5).
The divinely inspired truth can not be changed. Even the apostles, had
they fallen away, could not change what God had established (cf. Rev.
21:14; Gal. 1:8-12).
is easy to be inspired by the spirit of the Lord as demonstrated in the
regard of the early church for these apostles. They did reverence the
superior knowledge and wisdom of the apostles. They did sit at their feet
as students but not with blank unquestioning minds. No, with a
determination to try the spirits and to prove the testimony, they listened
and compared (cf. 1 John 4:1; 1 Thess. 5:21; Isa. 8:20). The apostles
encouraged this attitude, requiring a reason for their hope, and they were
prepared to meet it-not with smooth words of reason (philosophy or theory)
but in demonstration of the spirit and of power (1 Cor. 2:4,5). They did
not cultivate the attitude of blind, superstitious reverence for
Directed By the Spirit of God
are told that the Bereans "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" (Acts 17:11). The history of the apostles
shows that they were continually working to show that the gospel which
they proclaimed was the same as that expressed by the ancient prophets:
whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did
minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have
preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven;
which things the angels desire to look into" (1 Peter 1:12).
and their gospel must also be the same as that brought to light by our
Lord himself, merely with greater clarification.
clarification was not to be surprising. Our Lord had prophesied that
such would come:
have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit
when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth:
for he shall not speak of himself [independently
of me]; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak [as
Jesus' messages to the church]: and he will shew you things to come.
He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto
you. All things that the Father hath are mine [there
is no conflict between Jesus and God, their plans, purposes, and goals are
one]: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it
unto you" (John 16:12-15).
Bereans were behaving correctly, then, in examining what the apostles
taught. They had learned well from the instructions of the Lord, "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life:
and they are they which testify of me" (John 5:39). The entire
testimony of God must be in harmony: whether communicated by the Law,
the Prophets, the Lord, or the Apostles. Their harmony is proof of Divine
inspiration. And thank God we can trace that harmony clearly in both New
and Old Testaments.
Upon This Rock
testimony does not mean an end to revelation. We should expect that the
apostles would not only harmonize their teachings with the Law and Prophets,
but also that they would testify things both new and old. The prophets
themselves taught such expectations (Matt. 13:35; Psa. 78:2; Deut.
18:15, 18; Dan. 12:9). We find that our expectations are warranted and
closing this section of our topic we look to the claim of that church of
Rome, that Peter is the rock upon which the gospel church is built, and
that to him and his successors, the popes, were given the keys of the
kingdom of heaven with the power to open and shut, to admit and exclude
whomsoever they will, and to bind or loose whatsoever they please.
teaching is founded on Matthew's record of the answer to our Lord's
question "Whom say ye that I
am?" Peter answered, "Thou
art the Christ, the Son of the living God." The Lord replied "That thou art Peter [petros - a stone], and upon this rock [petra - a rock, large stone] I
will build my church" (Matt. 16:15-19). These words are
harmonious with several Old Testament references such as verse fourteen
of the eighth chapter of Isaiah where the Messiah is described as a great
rock upon which the church is to be built. Peter is one of the living
stones in the glorious temple of God built upon that rock, which he had
just confessed as the Rock of our Salvation-the Christ. Peter freely
admits the relationship of living stones, himself included, to the great
foundation stone -- the Rock Christ Jesus -- saying
whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but
chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively [living] stones, are
built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual
sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:4,5).
binding and loosing power was not granted only to Peter, but to all the
apostles. We believe that this description indicates that God would guide
the words and actions of the apostles in their presentation of the gospel
to the church so that all would confidently accept their teachings.
Whatever they bound upon the church as duties we may know is accepted in
heaven. And whatever they loosed as respecting the Mosaic law, etc., we
may know they were supervised in doing so. These same are also loosed or
set aside in heaven.
turn our attention in this last section of our topic to the matter of inspiration.
Are we to consider the teachings of the apostles, verbally or otherwise,
as divinely inspired?
take a look at this question. For a framework we intend to look at four
cardinal promises to the Apostles:
the promise of the comforter,
the refreshment of the memory,
guidance into all truth,
reveal things to come.
The promise of the comforter, the holy Spirit, was given, particularly,
to the apostles. Yes, it was to extend to all of the church, but the
promise was given to the apostles (John 16:7, 13-15; 14:26). When Paul was
appointed to fill the twelfth position the promise applied equally to him
and thus was fulfilled.
note in these three citations that the inspiration of the apostles was to
be found in three very specific areas. It was peculiarly these which our
Lord had to tell them, but which they were not prepared to receive while
he was yet with them in the flesh (John 16:12).
The first of these three specific avenues of inspiration was the
refreshing of their memories concerning the things said and done during
the Lord's ministry. Several things we would point out as worthy of note.
The Lord did not promise to dictate the exact order and phraseology in
which they would express their memory of events. Their writings, in
fact, evidence no such dictation, and the promise of their accuracy is
found in the guarantee' of the work of God's spirit in the apostles.
of the Gospels offer historic information about the earthly life and work
of the man Jesus. The individuality of each writer is apparent
throughout his work: their style, choice of words, even the choice of
events they record or ignore demonstrate that the Lord allowed them to
write those things which seemed to them most important. Under God's
supervision the four taken together provide us as complete a record of
this period as is necessary for the establishment of faith in the church
in three specific points:
the identity of Jesus of Nazareth with the Messiah of the Prophets,
the fulfillment of prophecies concerning him,
the facts of his life and the inspiration of his teachings.
the apostolic inspiration had been verbal, that is word by word, there
would have been no need of four separate accounts of the same events. It
is noteworthy that using the means he did, between the four individually
phrased records, nothing of importance was omitted. This is evidence of
their personal integrity and the promised refreshing of their memory.
The apostles were to be guided "into all truth." Although these
were plain and uneducated men their scriptural explanations are
remarkable. They confounded the wisest theologians of their day and ever
since. No matter how eloquent the opposer, no error can stand before the
logic of their deductions from the Law, the Prophets, and the teachings of
our Lord. The Jewish rulers marked this, and "took
knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus"-they had
learned his doctrine and caught his spirit (Acts 4:5,6,13).
is easy to note how large a portion of the apostolic epistles (particularly
Paul's) consist of logical arguments based upon the writings of the Old
Testament and our Lord's teachings. Those who are lead by the same spirit
as guided the apostles are lead to the same conclusions also. Our faith
does' not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God (1 Cor.
2:1,3,4). We see no evidence of word for word dictation, as though the
apostles were mere stenographers. Instead, they display the knowledge of
the truth that these men possessed and the spirit in which they used it with
a holy enthusiasm to declare the good tidings glowing upon every page and
which kindles in the hearts of God's people that same sacred flame.
The final aspect of the promise suggested a continuing revelation of
God's plans. The apostles were to be prophets, seers. Some coming events
were, evidently, shown to the apostles by this superior illumination of
their mind or the quickening of their mental powers -- the guidance of
judgment in interpreting the Law, prophecy, and Jesus' teachings.
than this was necessary, however. Special visions and revelations by the
holy Spirit were granted them, and among them we list five specifically:
The vision of the coming glory of the kingdom as seen on the Mount of
Transfiguration (Matt. 17:2-9),
Paul's vision of the third heavens (Eph. 3:3-6; 2 Cor. 12:1-4) which
greatly influences his life and writings even though he could not explain
them in detail at that time,
Paul's vision of the Macedonian and the call for his services (Acts
Peter's vision of clean and unclean beasts and the opening of the door
of opportunity to the Gentiles (Acts 10),
The revelation to John on the isle of Patmos.
last consisted of a series of visions portrayed in symbolic language.
Together they comprise an outline of the future history of the Gospel Age
and of the course of Christianity. It is more in the nature of the ancient
prophecies, because even though John saw and recorded these visions he
himself could not have fully understood them. The "seals"
were not opened in his day and the truths symbolized were not yet
appropriate meat for the Lord's household. However, as these visions
become meat in due season the honor of the apostles and the importance
of their service to the church becomes clearer.
note with amazement how this promise in inspiration was administered to
the apostles. When supernatural means were needed such were used. But when
natural means were sufficient they were directed in the use of those. The
Lord always stood at hand to guide them into correct presentations of the
truths which he had designed to feed his church. Indeed, however given and
at whatever time, we can be assured that these instructions will
constitute the textbook from which the world will be instructed during the
circumstances in the New Testament are usually considered in argument
against apostolic infallibility. They are:
Peter's denial of the Lord,
The uncertainty about the time of the Lord's second advent,
Paul instructed Timothy to be circumcised in contradiction to his own
Paul's actions in Acts 21.
consider each point in particular.
It cannot be disputed that the denial by Peter of our Lord at the time of
crucifixion was a serious wrong, and it was a wrong for which Peter was
seriously penitent. It should be noted that it was committed before the
Pentecostal blessing. Further, the infallibility claimed for the apostles
applies to their public teachings-their writings-and not to every act of
their lives-which were affected by the "blemishes" of their
"earthen vessels." They too were marred by Adam's fall. And
their blemishes, as ours, are forgiven through the merit of Christ's
righteousness. The apostolic office was apart from the weaknesses of the
flesh. It did not come upon perfect but imperfect men. It did not make
their thoughts and actions perfect, but overruled those thoughts and
actions so that the teachings of the Twelve are infallible.
Interestingly, this is the kind of infallibility which the Pope claims for
himself; that when he speaks "ex-cathedra," or officially, he is
overruled by God and not permitted to err. This is claimed by papacy
on the basis that they possess the apostolic office and authority. But
this is contradicted by various Scriptures. The Twelve alone were chosen,
and not in succession, but at once (Luke 6:13-16). When one failed and
another took his office (Acts. 1:26) there were still but twelve. And
finally, on the last pages of the revealed word, the Revelation, we are
shown only twelve foundations for the faith of the church. It is they who
will be recognized as such in the New Jerusalem.
Peter's hypocrisy at one point in dealing with men of like passion is also
pointed out as reason to disavow the infallibility of the apostles.
Again, we concede the charge, as did the apostles (Acts 14:15). We repeat
that these human weaknesses were not permitted to mar their work as
apostles (cf. 1 Peter 1:12; Gal. 1:11,12; 1 Cor. 2:5-16). We find that
Peter's error was immediately corrected by God-through the apostle Paul
who kindly but firmly "withstood
him to the face, because he was to be blamed" (Gal. 2:11). Note
that subsequently, in his epistles, there is no evidence of wavering on
the subject of the equality of the Jews and gentiles in Christ, nor any
fearfulness in acknowledging the Lord.
The Lord left the apostles in uncertainty concerning the time of his
Second Advent, telling them to watch, so that when he returned they might
know it. It is evident that these men expected the advent to occur rather
more quickly, in the first or second centuries. But this in no way mars
their writings. They wisely made no statements as to the exactness of the
time, but rather taught that that day could not come before there had been
a great apostasy, the revealing of the man of sin and the son of
perdition-Antichrist (2 Thess. 2:3).
Paul, who taught that circumcision profited little (Gal. 5:2), instructed
Timothy to be circumcised (Acts 16:3). Is this not evidence of teaching
falsely? Did he not contradict his own teachings? We answer, no: Timothy
was a Jew, because his mother was a Jewess (Acts 16:1). Circumcision was
a national custom among the Jews, beginning long before the Mosaic law
and continuing after Christ had "made
an end of the Law, nailing it to his cross." Abraham and his
seed received direction to be circumcised four hundred and thirty years
before the Law was given to Israel as a nation at Mount Sinai. Peter was
designated the apostle to the circumcision (that is, to the Jews) and Paul
the apostle to the uncircumcision (Gal. 2:7,8).
argument against circumcision was not addressed to Jews (Gal. 5:2) He
addressed gentiles, whose only reason for considering circumcision was
that false teachers were confusing them by insisting that they keep the
Law covenant and that they accept Christ thus leading them to ignore their
justification by faith. Paul is merely explaining that for them to be
circumcised for any such reason is to repudiate their justification
through Christ, and hence, the entire work of Christ.
Paul found no objection to Jews continuing their national custom is
evident (1 Cor. 7:18,19), and so his instruction to Timothy is neither
surprising nor inconsistent. It was not necessary for Timothy to be
circumcised. But neither was it improper that he do so, going among the
Jews as he did. The ritual observance would raise the confidence of the
Jews in Timothy's message, thus it was to Timothy's advantage to do
so. Note that in agreement with this, when some sought to circumcise Titus
(a full blooded Greek), Paul stands steadfast in resisting (Gal. 2:3).
Evidence of Divine Approval
The events of the latter part of the twenty-first chapter of Acts are the
final incident to which we will point in our discussion about the infallibility
of the apostles. Some claim that it was because of errors in this incident
that Paul was allowed to suffer so much as a prisoner and was finally sent
to Rome. Such a view does not seem supported by Scripture, however.
we note the continuing sympathy of the other apostles towards Paul
through all of his trials. Even more crucial, we think, are the evidences
of the Lord's continuing favor. His course was at the instruction of the
other apostles. It was testified to him by prophecy that he would suffer
bonds and imprisonment. This happened before he went down to Jerusalem
(Acts 21:10-14). He endured such adverse experiences because he was
obedient to his conviction of the duty he bore in Christ Jesus.
the midst of all these troubles we read two specific instances of
encouragement delivered directly to Paul. "And
the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer,
Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear
witness also at Rome" (Acts 23:11). "For
there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I
serve, Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and,
lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee" (Acts
view of this evidence let us seek an understanding of Paul's correspondence
in agreement with his uniformly bold and noble course.
Harmonizing Gospel With the Law
had been pointing out the greater realities which Moses' law typified. He
had not been repudiating the Mosaic Law, nor had he taught Jewish
converts not to circumcise their children. The Law was holy and just. As
a matter of fact, it was by the knowledge of the Law that the heinousness
of sin had been understood. He had demonstrated that the Law was
incapable of fulfillment by imperfect men. But Christ, keeping the Law because
of his perfection, had won its rewards and now under a covenant of
sacrifice offered those rewards to those unable to keep the Law. How? By
faith in his perfect obedience and sacrifice-the propitiatory covering of
their imperfections acceptable to God.
Jewish rituals illustrated spiritual truths of the Gospel Age. Among them
were fasts, celebrations of the new moon, and Sabbath days and feasts
(Col. 2:16-21). The apostle shows that the Gospel of Christ neither
compels nor forbids any of these. Two additional observances were added:
the Lord's Supper and Baptism, but they were additions to the others
(Luke 22:19; Matt. 28:19).
of the rites which Paul observed, and the four Jews with him, was termed
"purifying." As Jews they not only had the right to consecrate
themselves to God in Christ, they could also, if they chose, perform the
symbol of this purification. This is what they did. The men who were with
Paul went one step further. They took a vow of humiliation, of having
their heads shaven, which was to be witnessed before God and the people.
As was the custom of the Jews, these symbolic ceremonies cost something;
the charges presumably made up the "offering" of money-so much
for each, to defray the expenses of the Temple.
never taught the Jews that they were free from the Law, on the contrary,
the Law had dominion over each of them so long as he lived. He showed,
however, that if a Jew accepted Christ and became "dead
with him," it settled the claims of the Law Covenant upon such,
and made them God's freemen in Christ (Rom. 7:1-4).
did teach gentile converts that they had never been under the Jewish Law
Covenant. If they tried to fulfill the requirements of that Law, it would
imply that they were trusting in those symbols for their salvation instead
of relying upon the merit of Christ's sacrifice. To this all of the
apostles agreed (cf. Acts. 21:24; 15:20, 23-29).
made wonderful use of the twelve apostles. They were able ministers of his
truth. Being guided by his spirit, supernaturally at times, naturally at
times, they completed the record of history with regard to Christ Jesus so
that no man of God has lacked sufficient evidence to establish his faith
in the Master. The very words they chose display the care and wisdom of
the Almighty -- far beyond that of any man, and beyond even what the
apostles themselves comprehended.
God for such a sure foundation as this!
is the purpose of being "baptized for the dead?" Who is referred
to in 1 Corinthians 15:29?
is here speaking to the Corinthians, (1 Cor. 1:2) and to brethren (1 Cor.
15:1). The purpose? Refer to Wilson's Emphatic Diaglott where reference is
made to Clarke. After saying that 1 Cor. 15:28 is the most difficult
passage in the N. T., and quoting Matt. 20:22,23; Mark 10:38; and Luke
12:50, where suffering and martyrdom are represented by immersion, he
sums up the Apostle's meaning as follows:
there be no resurrection of the dead, those who, in becoming Christians,
expose themselves to all manner of privations, crosses, severe sufferings,
and violent death can have no reward nor any motive sufficient to induce
them to expose themselves to such miseries. But as they receive baptism as
a symbol or emblem of death, in voluntarily going under water, so they
receive it as an emblem of the resurrection into eternal life, in coming
up out of the water, thus they are baptized for the dead, in perfect
faith of the resurrection."
you read the following verses (1 Cor. 15:30-32), they seem to confirm
this sense. In speaking to the sons of Zebedee and their mother, Christ
seemed to confirm this in saying, "you
shall indeed drink of my cup" (Matt. 20:22-23).
- Loyal Petran
world today is subject to sin and death. The consecrated and faithful will
join with Christ to bring back the dead and retrain them in pure
righteousness during the thousand-year Kingdom of Christ. I will keep
thee, "and give thee for a covenant
of the people is applied to Christ and then to his church (Simeon in
Luke 2:32 applies Isa. 42:6 to Christ, while Paul in 2 Cor. 5:21-6:3
applies Isa. 49:8 to the Christian faithful). God once calls the church
"saviors" (Obad. 21; cf. Rev. 14:1). Our baptism will ultimately
benefit the dying world of humankind after we prove faithful and are then
resurrected to join our Lord Jesus Christ, thence to bless "all
the nations of the earth" (Gal. 3:8, 16, 9).
- J. B. Parkinson
were more arguments to be made than those in 1 Cor. 15:12-19 against the
idea put forth that there is no resurrection of the dead. Paul wrote to
encourage and sustain the brethren in their anticipation of future life
baptism Paul had in mind was not a momentary dip into water but the living
participation by disciples in drinking the cup of experiential
suffering in active obedience to God's will (Matt. 20:22, 23). The Apostle
would have had no thought here (1 Cor. 15:29) that a believer may be
baptized as a proxy for one who had died to effect the salvation of the
only the deceased but also the unjustified under the condemnation of
death are referred to as "dead"
-- "let the dead bury their dead" (Matt. 8:22; see also Luke
15:32; Rev. 20:12). Paul was baptized in behalf of those in the latter
group of "dead." He devoted the energies of his life as a
minister of the gospel to the gentiles (Acts 9:15:13:46,47; Rom. 11:13),
as well as to the Jews (Acts 9:19-22; 13:14-45), that he "might
save some of them" (Rom. 11:14). Every individual who has
become of the church was "dead" and at enmity with God before
being reconciled (Rom. 5:10; 2 Cor. 5:18-21; Col. 1:24).
divinely foreseen present blessings of some of the "dead"
through the "death-baptism" activities of faithful believers is
the point of I Peter 4:6, a view confirmed by its preceding five verses:
this indeed good news was preached to dead men in order that on one hand
they might be judged according to men in the flesh, on the other might
live according to God in the spirit" (Marshall Interlinear).
reading is supported by Young, Rotherham, Weymouth, RSV, and others.
Manuscripts contain no Greek word for "are" dead (KJV) or for
"now" dead (NIV).
Corinthians 15:29-32 requires careful sorting of the pronouns to
accurately perceive the three entities: (a) "the dead" on
whose behalf efforts to save are made by (b) the baptized believers, and
(c) Paul himself. The Apostle's main point is "If there is to be no
life tomorrow, why die today," why be involved in being
"baptized for the dead"?
what will they do, who are being immersed in behalf of the dead? If not at
all are the dead to be raised, why are they even being immersed in their
behalf? Why also are we running into peril every hour? Day by day am I
dying! Yea! by your own boasting, brethren, which I have in Christ Jesus
our Lord. If after the manner of men I have fought with wild beasts at
Ephesus what to me the profit? If the dead are not raised, let us eat and
drink, for tomorrow we die" (Rotherham).
- Gilbert Rice
custom seems to indicate that there existed a belief that the dead were
not really dead. Paul's point seems to be that if there were to be no
resurrection why were they concerned for the dead.
- J. B. Webster
are many interpretations of this text. Since the words "which are
baptized" are in the present tense, indicating that the people at
Corinth were currently being baptized for the dead. This text, being in
the context of "Now if there is no resurrection," would seem to
indicate that this was the practice of some who desired the
resurrection. See NIV translation of this verse. For the standard Bible
student view (the church is dying on behalf of the world), see 'ZWT pg.
- Andrew Jarmola
true church, as a class in full consecration as a sacrifice unto death
with their Head, have as their purpose that when the dead are raised all
shall have an opportunity to receive full life. This will be as they
complete the final test, under the new covenant with God.
righteous shall be recompensed with good." - Proverbs
the law of spiritual harvesting they who sow sparingly shall reap
sparingly. A divine rule which governs this operation is found in the
Book of Proverbs:
is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth
more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty. The liberal soul shall be
made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself (Prov.
prone to give their love and sympathy generously in the service of others
will be figuratively lending to the Lord and learning that he repays most
generously. Has he not promised that a cup of cold water given in the
name of even a humble disciple shall not go unrewarded? When heaven's
final rewards are received, there will surely be some happy surprises
for generous souls whose kindly acts were marked for remembrance.
must have been thinking of this generosity when he said, "it is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts
20:35). Why so? Because the spirit in man is the same benevolent spirit as
that in which God acts when he gives out his blessings, even down to the
sending of rain and sunshine over all men, both just and unjust. Bread
cast upon the water returns sooner or later if we are willing to sow upon
all waters. Likewise are the results to those who scatter acts of kindness
and pour, out words of cheer and comfort. The rule of divine compensations
cannot fail. A sure recompense comes when
ministry offers some beautiful illustrations of how the law of
recompense operates. Jesus borrows two small loaves and five little fish
from a lad and spreads a feast for thousands, so that a weary and hungry
multitude might not suffer on their return from the retreat into which
they had followed him. Need we ask how much of the twelve baskets left
over were given back to this boy who so willingly placed his scanty fare
in the hands of Jesus? We may well believe that he was recompensed
according to the rule always present in the Savior's measure,
"pressed down and running over" (Luke 6:38). Peter's boat is
borrowed for a pulpit on the seashore and returned to him laden with
fish. Simon, the Cyrenian, is compelled by Roman soldiers to assist
Jesus in carrying his cross, a task which must have seemed at the time
very undesirable to Simon, but a sure reward was to come in due time. The
Lord can never be a debtor to any one. In days to come the household of
Simon has a place of honor in the apostle Paul's list of intimate friends.
By comparing the records of Mark (Mark 15:21) and the Epistle to the
Romans (Rom. 16:13), we have a substantial basis for the thought that the
cross Simon shared with Jesus that day shortly thereafter became the
emblem of the great salvation for himself and his house. What sweet
memories must have been his in recalling that moment of extraordinary
privilege. Mary breaks her alabaster box of fragrant ointment, thinking
only of a service to be grasped in a passing moment. Jesus multiplied that
moment into nineteen hundred years of compensating honor by inscribing
her act of love on the pages of his imperishable Gospel story. All the
recorded and unrecorded acts of loving service to Jesus in days when he
had no place to lay his head we may be sure have been, or will yet be
rewarded, a hundred fold. Such things are treasures laid up in heaven
where they never decay and where they will be a joy forevermore.
same thought may be traced through the experiences of Paul. Who can
measure the recompense in store for Paul through God's rule of
compensation. How his years in prison have been glorified for him. Where
can we find in all his ministry a greater verification of these words
than from the letter to the Romans: "And we know that all things work
together for good to them that love
God, to them who are the called according to his purpose" (Rom.
8:28). When Paul penned those words he could not know how wonderfully
true they would be in his own ministry. He yearned to carry the message of
Christ crucified to the ends of the earth; but his heart's desire was
repeatedly hindered by his frequent imprisonments. He could accept that he
was in God's hand and that all that transpired must be for the greater
good. He accomplished more for Christ and the church while in chains than
he could have done without them. To apprehend Christ exceeded all that
Paul asked, or thought (Eph. 3:20). His epistles and personal letters were
written in prison, but they have been circulated into every quarter of the
globe and through these he has spoken to tribes and nations in their own
tongue. Today through New Testament translations he has "a thousand
tongues to sing his great Redeemer's praise." From Greenland's
mountains to far-flung isles of the seven seas he is proclaiming the
Gospel of Christ as "The power of God unto Salvation
to every one that believeth." Instead of a ministry limited to
his day, God overruled so that Paul's ministry continues to this day. What
a recompense for bearing those cruel chains for a few short years!
dealings are such with all his people. Debtors to his marvelous grace
they are, and ever shall be. And it matters not that our sphere of
suffering or service be very much shorter than those of the Apostle Paul.
The same overruling and the same law of compensation operates in the
smallest fields of spiritual life as well as in the greatest. All are
God's workmanship in Christ Jesus. In every individual experience the
present life has its relationship to the same two worlds -- the present
world with all of its sorrows and joys, its lessons and meanings in
preparation for the one to come. We live for, and in, eternity from the
moment we begin our walk in newness of life through Christ Jesus.
Therefore, the compensating joys meant to be a part of present experience
are just so many links connecting us with the complete joy awaiting us
at the end of our pathway.
makes it important that we recognize as a personal joy that "godliness
is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and
of that which is to come" (1 Tim. 4:8). If there is any
disposition to weigh our trials as they occur and to measure sacrifices as
burdensome and something undesirable, then little will be known of the
sweet profitableness God wants us to experience now. In such an attitude
of mind it will not be long before the complaint will be ready for
expression, "it is vain to serve God; and what profit is it that we
have kept his ordinance?" Our spiritual growth in grace and understanding
is therefore determined by the measure of joy we show in letting God
have his way with us. Those Hebrew brethren had the proper attitude toward
God's permissive will, and consequently they were happy in considering
the recompense sure to be theirs in due time. To them the word was,
ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of
your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an
enduring substance" (Heb. 10:34).
spirit is always necessary if we are to know the "hundredfold"
blessing which Jesus promised for the present life.
then, of the little acts of kindness we may perform, of the trials we must
have for our testing, of the providences shrouded in a measure of mystery,
what recompense is to be found by thinking on the fact that all things
are under God's control and that each one of them are meant to enrich our
experience beyond our thought, as in the case of Paul. This frame of
mind and this harmony with God's will is essential before we can give
thanks in everything (Eph. 5:20) with sincerity. We must not only
properly regard the joys set before us in the future, but we must also
treasure our present joys of salvation and realize that God has made us a
witness to the power of resting in his will. And this is significant! The
rule of compensating blessings will sometimes mean that God's denials
are the deepest manifestations of his love. His seeming delays are often
the clearest expressions of his priceless favor. We often do not know what
is best for us. If not now, some day we will confess that God's way is
best -- as many others have done in the past. How many have eventually
discovered that the "afterward" of blessing was much greater
than if God had allowed them to have matters more in their own way -- according
to their imperfect understanding. Which of us has not needed the lesson
set forth in these lines:
as God keeps our two worlds united in his providences, let us work to keep
them united in our thoughts. We will be eternally thankful for all of
God's overruling when we know as we are known. In the assurance that it
will be thus, how easy it should be to "let the little while between,
in all its golden light be seen." The word written cannot fail,
"The righteous shall be recompensed with good" -- compensated
now according to the measure of faith, and recompensed hereafter "according
to the riches of his glory" (Phil. 4:9).
straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the
way; but rather let it be healed." - Hebrews 12:13
importance do the Apostle's words, quoted above, have in our lives? He is
not referring to our literal feet or to any literal shoveling of a
smooth pathway. Rather we find that each of the Lord's "sheep"
or followers have some forms of weaknesses. As a result of these
weaknesses, or figurative "lamenesses," it is impossible for
them to make steady progress in the footsteps of our Lord.
that we all have some weaknesses we are encouraged to determine just
which are our own weaknesses -- be they physical, mental, emotional-so
that we may address them specifically and shape our course of life
accordingly,-for the pleasure of our Lord. We make straight paths by
choosing courses of action that will not unnecessarily aggravate or excite
our weaknesses -- figuratively making us more "lame" than when
we began. We should try to overcome our "lameness." That means
not only that we are to pray "...abandon
us not in temptation," but that we take action to avoid
does one do this? By the exercise of our wills [our determination --
mental resolutions]. In short, this amounts to our solemn promise to the
Lord that we will take his course (of righteousness) in all life's
decisions. We find, therefore, that anyone who is following the
Apostle's injunction in our theme text has made such resolutions to the
Lord which he should faithfully perform. This is the only course by which
we can become victors in our spiritual warfare and hear the ultimate
divine approval pronounced upon our life.
Lord does not lay these vows upon us. There are no commandments about
what we arc to do and what not to do. That was the way of the Law Covenant
but it would place the children of the spirit under law and would hinder
them from offering sacrifices as antitypical priests. We find, therefore,
that the Lord speaks to his people of this age in general terms,
indicating the right path and allowing them to make decisions based upon
their necessities. Thus they grow in grace and character individually as
they recognize their responsibility, accept it, and pay their vows to
who discover where they are the weakest, as a result of the attacks of the
great adversary, and who by the Lord's help repairs those weaknesses in
their spiritual walls of defense does so by the power of their resolve to
please God. He who goes through life without discovering any weaknesses
in character is blind and "cannot
see afar off. " He who attempts no corrections of the flaws in
their character by setting their mind-before the Lord -- to do so has not
yet begun the character development without which no person can be
judged an "overcomer."
to yourselves friends by means of the mammon of unrighteousness; that when
it shall fail, they may receive you into the eternal tabernacles." -
Luke 16:9, American Standard Version
words of the Master conclude the parable of the Unjust Steward. The story
is of a rich man who upon learning that his goods were being wasted,
called his steward to him. The steward was told that his stewardship was
at an end and he was instructed to give account of the master's property.
The steward, thinking about his own future, made a plan. He called the
master's debtors to him. To one he gave a fifty percent discount and to
another twenty percent. He settled all his master's accounts and in so
doing also made friends of the debtors.
parable used as an illustration a common Middle Eastern arrangement. A
large property owner or merchant would have a general manager to whom was
given full authority to buy, sell, exchange, or barter. As long as the
manager made a profit, worked faithfully, and pleased his master, he was
free to do anything. The discounts given to debtors were not excessive nor
beyond his power. His closing out of his accounts with discounts was not
termed "unjust." He was probably liquidating doubtful accounts,
just as is done in business today. He had wasted his master's goods before
his master had talked with him and it was that former wastefulness which
parable was addressed to the disciples. But it was spoken in the presence
of Pharisees and applies to both (cf. Luke 16:1,14).
Pharisees were a prominent sect, strict in their adherence to the rituals
of the law. They were the majority party of the Sanhedrin, the chief
council of Israel, which traced its beginning to the elders whom Moses
appointed to the government of the nation. The Pharisees dictated the
ways in which the people were to live up to the law and they were stewards
over Israel (Matt. 23:2,3). The Pharisees increased the debts of Jews. The
people were already in God's debt for failing to keep the law (Gal. 2:16),
and the sacrifices of the tabernacle were to typically atone for what they
could not perform (Heb. 5:1-4).
Pharisees believed themselves just and considered the people to be
sinners (Luke 18:10-12). However, the Jewish stewards were not pleasing
God (represented by the rich man of the parable). Nor were they the
friends of the people (represented in the debtors of the parable). Their
stubborn and quarrelsome attitude made it impossible for the rulers to
be received into the Christian church when their stewardship ended.
it not have been better for the rulers to have told the Jewish people,
"You cannot keep the Law, and neither can we, however hard we may
try. God has arranged atonement sacrifices to cover our imperfections.
Do the best you can to keep the Law. Maybe it is only fifty percent. God
will forgive the balance of your debt through the atonement
sacrifices." This would have encouraged the people to keep the Law
and would have aided them in recognizing Jesus as the antitypical
parable has greater application to the stewards of the churches today:
be they pastors, ministers, bishops, or archbishops. Among these there is
seen to be a conspiracy of silence. They know the creeds of the Dark Ages
to be false, but they allow them to remain as fundamental beliefs in
their churches. Modem day Pharisees oppose the truths being revealed by
our Lord with the same blind opposition shown by the Jewish stewards.
Jesus spoke this parable because of the unwillingness of people to
accept the changes in religious thinking which he taught (Ps. 2:2, 3; Isa.
today's stewards were as wise as those in the parable, they would admit
that the hell of the Dark Ages is not taught in the Scriptures. Instead
they choose to leave the hell of torment in their creeds and cause the
people, the debtors of the parable, to lose faith in the churches. If
these stewards were clever they would admit that the churches have failed
to convert the world and that one does not have to belong to their particular
church in order to be saved.
priests of Rome also have somewhat to learn. If they were wise they would
discount their claim to apostolic succession. They would admit that in
performing the ceremony of the mass they cannot recreate the body and
blood of Jesus nor can they sacrifice him anew on thousands of altars
daily. But these, doubtless because of their positions of honor and
livelihood, refuse to discount these demands upon the credulous members of
their churches who look for leaders to tell them what they owe to God and
how their payments must be made (Isa. 56:10,11).
who are stewards in name only are not discounting their demands upon
their members and they resist the tide of present truth even as the Jewish
stewards resisted the truths that Jesus taught. In A.D. 70 the Jewish
stewards lost their positions. Today, Jewish rabbis strive to fill such
an office, but cannot, for the temple, its altars, vessels, and
consecrated priesthood are gone. The Jewish religion is a pitiful mockery
of the glory that was. A still greater degree of destruction awaits the
false Christian stewards (Zech. 13:3-6).
Russian Revolution well illustrated the type of thing that is likely to
occur in the Western world. The Greek Catholic Church Patriarchs were
more powerful in Russia than the Bishops of Rome. So openly did they cheat
the illiterate peasants that the revolutionaries convinced the people that
the church and priesthood were frauds. The new leaders opened sacred cases
in the cathedrals which were supposed to hold the bones and relics of the
supposed saints to show the people that what lay within was mere papier-mâché.
The people were so enraged that priests were murdered and churches were
Each Christian A Steward
application of this parable to Jesus' followers is specific. Its opening
words (Luke 16:1) read: "He
said unto his disciples..." Luke (Luke 16:9) makes direct application
of the lesson. Jesus says for his followers to make
many people pass through life without the joys good friends can give. No
doubt many have met such persons. They are forlorn. They seem to crave
friendship and are envious of those who have friends. But observation
would suggest that the friendless are such because they themselves are
insufficiently friendly. One makes friends by being a friend. Love
begets love. Christians should set themselves to make
friends and avoid making enemies (Prov. 18:24).
a close and precious relationship is expressed in our theme text. The
Greek word is philos, meaning
"dear," "fond," "friendly." David and
Jonathan illustrate true friendship . "The
soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him
as his own soul" (1 Sam. 18:1).
is not all pleasure, neither does it happen by chance. After one has
made a friend his work is only beginning. A Chinese proverb says, "It
takes a year to make a friend, but you can lose one in an hour." To
keep friends one must be constant and true. One cannot keep friends and
let imaginary wrongs or bad temper toward them cause harsh or discourteous
words. A loyal friend does not gossip about confidences given them.
friendly eye overlooks the broken gate, but sees the rose in his friend's
garden." This is a pictorial way of saying that a friend must not be
critical or demanding. He should NOT be like the man who had been forgiven
nine million dollars by his master but who put his fellow servant in
prison because that man had not paid him back the paltry sum of sixteen
dollars (Matt. 18:24-35). Friendship is nourished by generosity,
tenderness, and the repayment by the recipient of more than he ever
of the greatest tests of friendship occurs when friends take opposite
paths. Then, if ever, one needs the advice of Chaucer, who said,
"Keep well thy tongue, and keep thy friends." It is a test even
if one is frank, kindly, and fully explains why he disagrees with another.
But if in disagreeing one speaks sarcastically and stubbornly or if he
is unsympathetic toward his friend's views, soon friendship turns to suspicion,
then to coldness, and finally to hatred as intense as the friendship
formerly had been tender. If one could but realize how lonely he would be
after losing his friends, he would guard against the small beginnings of
separation from those who love him.
possessions wear out in time, but friendship grows stronger with the
years. Old friends are the best friends because each knows the other. Like
old trees whose roots have become intermingled, so human hearts grow
inseparable from their friends. Even the jealous, who might desire to
drive a wedge between them, cannot separate such (Prov. 15:1,2;
in the plan of the ages and the manifold friendliness of God in arranging
for the salvation of all through the gift of his own dear son should be
the most friendly people on earth. This is particularly true when they are
among themselves. They have much in common. They all seek the same
characteristic likeness to God: adding to faith, virtue, knowledge,
temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and love (2 Pet.
1:5-8). If these qualities were liberally exercised between brethren in
Christ, they would be the finest of examples of friendship to be found in
all the world. The Prophet Malachi says that these speak often one to
another and that the Lord will remember, writing a book of remembrance of
what they said. Think of it! A book of remembrance of the things they say!
Written by the Almighty Jehovah (cf. Matt. 10:29,30; 12:36,39; Mark 9:1;
are striving to make their calling and election sure. As friends let each be sympathetic towards the other. Let each try to
share a little of his brother's burden. His own in turn will become that
- Zion's Glad Songs
that the spirit of David's great grandmother were spread generously
throughout each Bible study group:
me not to leave thee, to return from following after thee: for whither
thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people
shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and
there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but
death part thee and me" (Ruth 1:16,17).
is impossible for Christians to be friendly with everyone without
sacrificing their principles. "Know
ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God" (James
4:4)? However, a Christian should not fail to be friends because of his
own unfriendliness: "Then said
these men, we shall not find any occasion against this Daniel except we
find it against him concerning the law of his God" (Dan. 6:5).
The greatest friendliness the disciple can show to the worldly is to help
them see some of the blessed truth.
to the parable the Christian must make friends with those who can
receive him into everlasting habitations when his present house fails.
God and Jesus are the only ones who can receive Christians into their "...home not made with hands, eternal in the heavens" (cf.
2 Cor. 5:1-4; John 14:2). The Christian in turn is to make the friendship
of God and Jesus by being kind to and making friends with his rich
master's debtors. "For he that
loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath
not seen" (1 John
perceive we the love of God because he laid down his life for us: and we
ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (1 John 3:16).
child of God is entrusted with some stewardship. Presently all worldly
possessions are part of the Present Evil World-the mammon of
unrighteousness. The word "mammon" (Greek, mammonas)
means "wealth personified," "avarice." All that
we now possess is tainted with this world's avarice. It is only because of
Jesus' ransom and our adoption into God's family that our little money,
food, raiment, time, and strength are acceptable to God. Actually it is
part of this world -the mammon of unrighteousness.
Christian's stewardship will fail: it may fail sooner than he knows.
Certainly it will not be long delayed, for this span of life is the period
of his stewardship. Jesus tells Christians to use the mammon of
unrighteousness as a means of making friends for themselves.
mankind owes a debt to God. We owe our love, devotion, everything we
are, have, and shall be. Firstly, God created us and by this act we owe
him all. Secondly, God gave Jesus to die for us, and we thus owe him our
all. Thirdly, we consecrated our all to him, freely and of our own will.
of us, however, pays our debt in full. It is because we fail to carry out
our obligations, our debts to God, that our love for one another is
tested. The steward of the parable helped the rich man's debtors pay their
debts. We must help each other pay the debt owed to God. "Bear
ye one anther's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal.
6:2; cf. Heb. 10:24; 1 John 3:18). We can do nothing directly for God. He
is divine, spiritual. He does not need and cannot use our strength, our
money, or our earthly goods. But he counts as done for him anything we do
for his little ones (Matt. 25:40). Therefore, if we would make God our
friend, we can do so only by being kind, loving, and friendly to God's
children -- his debtors -- and thus help each the other pay his debt of
consecration -- his all to God.
filial, conjugal, and brotherly loves are limited in their scope, even
when mixed with the mortar of friendship. The making of friends is without
restraint, however. We may have as many as we like, of number, of age,
of sex, of relationship. Let us especially include as our friends the
followers of Christ who acknowledge their debts to God and who are paying
what they can to him in glory, honor, and service.
we must make and keep friends, we cannot demand that others be equally
solicitous toward us. "Those who bring sunshine to the lives of
others cannot keep it from themselves."
own friend and thy father's friend forsake not" (Prov. 27:10).
was a man of power, and because he was prayerful he was powerful. His
radiant witness made its impression on all around. The threats of men
terrified him not, for God was his all in all. His humble heart soared
above these things and he could speak with calm and fearlessness to the
kings of Babylon, because of the exceeding glory
is human to stand with the crowd. It is divine to stand alone. It is
man-like to follow the people, to drift with the tide; it is God-like to
follow a principle, to stem the tide.
man stood with me, , but all men
forsook me..." (2 Tim. 4:16) wrote the battle scarred Apostle in
describing his first appearance before Nero to answer for his life, for
believing and teaching contrary to the Roman world.
the lonely way his disciples would live he said: "...strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto
life, and few there be that find it" (Matt. 7:14).
their treatment by the many who walk in the broad way he said: "If
ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not
of the world, but 1 have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world
hateth you" (John 15:19).
church in the wilderness praised Abraham and persecuted Moses. The church
of the kings praised Moses and persecuted the prophets.
church of Caiaphas praised the prophets and persecuted Jesus. The church
of the Popes praised the Savior and persecuted the saints. And multitudes
now, both in the church and in the world, applaud the courage and
fortitude of the patriarchs and prophets, the apostles and martyrs, but
condemn as stubbornness or foolishness similar faithfulness to truth
and women, young and old, who will obey their convictions of truth and
duty at the cost of fortunes and friends and life itself.
a man's foes shall be they of his own household" (Matt.
that loveth Father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that
loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me" (Matt.
he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of
me" (Matt. 10:38).
that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my
sake shall find it" (Matt. 10:39).
- Herald Press, Pennsylvania
greatest mystery known to man is God! Is he there, or is he not? Does he
exist, or does he not? Is there really a transcendent superhuman
personal being up there in the sky controlling all things, or is what we
call God just an impersonal force pervading all creation? Is the observable
universe itself God, slowly becoming conscious of itself? Is the idea of
God nothing more than a projection of the human mind, so that in a sense
man creates God in his own image and likeness? Each of these hypotheses
has its advocates and satisfies some inquirers, but none of them
satisfies all; probably most thinking people feel that none of them
adequately defines the truth.
the universe is a fact; its existence cannot be denied. We live, are
conscious of our surroundings, and are affected by them. That cannot be
denied either. We are biological creatures inhabiting an environment from
which we draw the energy needed to maintain our lives and power our
actions. So accurately is the environment fitted to man that only a small
variation of any of its factors would render earthly human life earth
planet is ninety-three million miles from the sun; if it were less than
seventy-five million or more than a hundred, men could not live on its
surface. Neither could they if its diameter of eight thousand miles was
reduced to six thousand or increased to ten thousand, nor yet if its
twenty-four hour day was increased to eighty hours, or the average
heat of summer was twenty degrees higher than it is, or cold of winter
twenty degrees lower. So with many others of the characteristic features
of our habitat.
our saner moments we are driven to ask ourselves how this came to be. How
was the earth made like this, so admirably fitted to our needs? How did
the universe come into existence? How did we receive the life we have. From that, if we
are serious in our thinking, we go on to ask how long all this is
going to last and what is the
purpose of it all. And so we come inevitably to the question of God.
fact that the universe does exist implies that it had a beginning, a
source. Whether it came into existence by the working of some blind
impersonal force or the will of a supreme intelligent mind, the fact
remains that the material of which the universe is made must have been
created and therefore must have had a creative source. All matter, whether
solid, liquid or gaseous, is made up of atoms, nearly a hundred varieties
of them. An iron bar is made of iron atoms; a gold coin of gold atoms. The
air we breath is composed of a mixture of oxygen and nitrogen atoms, and
water, a chemical combination of oxygen and hydrogen atoms. All these varieties
of atoms are derived from the simplest and most common of all -- hydrogen.
More than ninety-nine percent of the material in the universe is
hydrogen, and nuclear processes going on in the stars are continuously
manufacturing atoms of all other known materials from hydrogen and
distributing them through space, so making possible the formation of
worlds such as the one we inhabit. We have therefore to look down the
vista of the ages to a fantastically remote time when an unimaginably vast
quantity of hydrogen came into existence, and the creation of the
main theories attempt to explain the origin of the universe and hold the
field; one was first debated and made famous by the work of the noted
cosmologist, Prof. Fred Hoyle of Cambridge University, and his associates.
This theory claims that hydrogen atoms are being continuously created
out of nothing, appearing from nowhere at a uniform rate and adding to
the total content of the universe as time goes on.
to Hoyle's calculations only one atom of hydrogen appears in the space
the size of an ordinary living room in every three million years. This
still makes enough new material to form many thousands of new stars the
size of our sun in every second of time, which only goes to show how vast
our universe really is.
Hoyle's view is ultimately shown to be erroneous (many scientists
favoring the "Big Bang" theory assert this to be the case) and
all the atoms in the universe did appear at one moment in the
inconceivably distant past, the questions still remain-how did they come
into existence, where did they come from, and who made them? It must
also be asked, Who devised the intricate chemical process by which hydrogen
turns into helium, and helium into beryllium, and so on up the scale until
all the basic elements to uranium are produced?
what means did these elements learn to combine with each other to
produce such widely dissimilar substances as coarse granite cliffs and
the delicate water-lily? The one is easily answered, says the geologist.
Granite is a mixture of compounds formed chiefly from oxygen, carbon,
hydrogen, silicon, iron, aluminum, and potassium, compacted together by
the action of heat and pressure. The other is easily answered, says the
biologist. The water-lily is a mixture of compounds formed chiefly from
oxygen, carbon, silicon, iron, aluminum, and potassium, given form by
the action of sunlight. By what means or wonderful alchemy, then, arc the
same materials brought together to emerge on the one hand as a block of
granite and on the other as a water-lily? And how was it decided, and by
whom, how much granite the world should contain and how many water-lilies?
Those water-lilies, too, possess a characteristic which the granite
does not have; they grow from small beginnings, adding to themselves, and
they reproduce their kind. They have life! Flow do they grow? Away in
the sun, where hydrogen is being converted into helium, part of the hydrogen
is transformed into energy -- solar radiation is the technical term
--which wings its way to the earth and is manifest as sunlight. Falling
upon the leaves of the water lily that energy performs a series of
chemical changes in which the water and air surrounding the plant are
associated and reappear as solid plant substance. The plant has grown a
little more, and pan of its new material was substance in the sun only
eight minutes previously, transferred into energy for its swift passage to
earth and then back into substance again. Where does that energy originate
and how did it start? No man has yet found the answer to that question in
scientific research. It is known that matter and energy are
interchangeable; the one can be converted into the other and vice versa,
and today it is a commonplace to picture matter as "frozen
energy." But where the energy comes from and how it is sustained,
and where life comes from and how that is sustained, no man can say; these
are the twin enigmas of the universe. Their existence cannot be denied but
their origin cannot be fathomed.
once again, we inevitably come back to the question of God.
search for God involves these two incontrovertible factors -- the
presence of life and the phenomenon of energy. Life we do not understand,
although we possess it and we perceive its effects in our fellows and in
our environment. Energy we understand dimly; we know it as a power (or
force) that does things and changes things and can be
"locked-up," as it were, in the shape of atoms to form solid
matter. Matter we know; we see it in the world around us and in our own
bodies, and we touch it and feel it and call it "solid," but the
physicist tells us that the atoms of which all things consist are
basically centers of interacting electrical forces and that in actual
fact there is nothing "solid" there at all -- and by the time
we understand that we arc more or less out of our depth and uninterested
in pursuing this subject further.
more appealing to the average person's range of thinking could be the
simple yet illuminating words of Scripture
the beginning God created the heavens and the earth ... and the Spirit of
God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light,
and there was light" (Gen. 1:1-3).
Spirit of God in active operation, the emergence of light; these are
simple expressions used to convey the idea that energy, divine energy,
was at work in creation. So with the coming of life. "The
Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground" -- the atoms
-- "and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life" -- life which
is of God" -- and man became a living soul" (Gen. 2:7). Man, then,
is a combination of life and energy, the two basic factors of existence
as we know it, originating from the Great First Cause which we call God.
of science have realized this although their language is not always easy
to follow. Thus Sir James Jeans, a former Royal Astronomer, had this to
universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine.
Mind no longer appears as an accidental intruder into the realm of
matter, we arc beginning to suspect that we ought rather to hail it as the
creator and governor of the realm of matter-not, of course, our individual
minds, but the mind in which the atoms out of which our individual minds
have grown exist as thoughts" (The Mysterious Universe-1930).
-- thoughts in the mind of God; the idea may sound more like the muse of a
poet than the statement of a scientist but it may yet be found to
enshrine a fundamental truth. A later writer, Kenneth Gatland, in
"The Inhabited Universe" (1957) speaks for many scientists of
the eighties when he says:
has looked beyond the molecular structure of "solid" matter to
its atomic existence, and has found nothing more "material" than
empty space and fields of energy. The universe is much more a creation of
thought than of structure, like thought waves rippling towards an idea.
The question we must strive to answer is whether the universe is
purposive. That is to say, has man emerged from the shapeless dust clouds
of interstellar space merely as the result of blind throws of chance, or
is there some special kind of direction behind it all? The inevitable
question must be faced; is the purposefulness revealed in the universe an
attribute of God? What is God? At best, we can only think of an Infinite
Consciousness which is beyond our powers of understanding. And though we
might apply great ingenuity to our guess, any theories we may have will
be unavoidably conditioned by our dimensional limitations."
as the greatest scientist and mathematician of our times, Dr. Albert
Einstein, whose discoveries and reasoning have revolutionized human
knowledge regarding the physical universe, has given his personal
testimony in these words:
religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior
Spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive
with our frail and feeble minds. That deeply emotional conviction of the
presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the
incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God" (Lincoln Barnett
The Universe and Dr. Einstein, 1959).
the confines of this universe, outside the restrictions of space and
time as we understand those terms, independent of all things and
pre-existing all things, then, there exists that from which all life and
continuing energy derive. There exists also that which has made it
possible for sentient beings such as men to exist and to know they exist,
to think and reason intelligently, to make use of their environment
and take from it what they need to continue their conscious existence.
That force or power, call it what we will, is God. Because that power is
the primal source of all energy and life and intelligence wherever found,
its energy must infinitely exceed the sum total of all energy residing
in creation, its life infinitely more vital than all the life of which we
know, its intelligence infinitely superior to the highest level of
intelligence to which man will ever attain. Because that Power is
supremely intelligent we cannot apply the impersonal pronoun
"it," we must use the personal pronoun "he." And
because the only intelligent personal beings we can picture in our
minds eye are men like ourselves, when we use the pronoun "he"
we immediately start thinking of God in man-like terms.
God cannot really exist in the form conjured up in ancient times, a
majestic king-like human figure seated upon a jeweled throne up in the
sky. Neither, on the other hand, can he be imagined as a kind of abstract
super-intelligence inherent in the material universe and inseparable
from it. Because God, who created, must have existed before the creation
of the universe, because the universe itself is altogether the fruit of
divine power exerted in space and time, it must follow that God is independent
of the universe as regards his person, although he pervades the universe
as regards his power and presence. Since it is impossible -- despite the
best endeavors of Dr. Einstein and his co-workers-for the human brain to
visualize any boundary to space outside of which space does not exist, or
any beginning of time prior to which time was not, it is inevitable that
we picture God as inside our universe in some such fashion as a
super-potentate in the starry heavens watching over and ruling this world
of men which owes its creation to him.
Jesus was asked by Philip to "show
us the Father..." he could only tell them "he who has seen me has seen the Father"; Jesus himself in
the glory of his sinless humanity conveyed the only possible concrete idea
of God to their minds and one that was adequate to their needs. Despite
the seeming scorn with which Dr. John Robinson, Bishop of Woolwich,
treated those who picture God as being "up there" or
"above the bright blue sky," it appears from the storm his
remarks aroused that his own definition of God as "the ground of our
being" was understood in the main only by professional theologians
and not by all of them. It is, of course, quite true that God is the
"ground of our being" in the sense that we exist only in him;
St. Paul said that long before the Bishop thought of it: "In
him we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:28). At any
level of culture or intellect normal among men, it is probably the most
rational thing to picture God in the traditional manner, heavenly throne
with attendant angels and all, within the bounds of the universe but far
away from man's interfering space probes and rocket ships. We know perfectly
well that this is but a symbol of a spiritual reality which itself is
utterly beyond our intellectual power.
all, if there existed at the bottom of the sea a colony of intelligent
oysters which had never moved from their native rocks and to whom the
gospel of God was preached, their conception of God could hardly have been
other than that of a super oyster of infinite power inhabiting a region
above the surface of the sea. And since the Bible does offer casual
evidences of the existence of higher levels of sentient intelligent
life above that of the terrestrial human, we men might well stand in
relation to those levels of life as oysters do to us. Much more important
than our visual conception of the person of God is our realization and
conviction that he does exist, that in him resides the highest expression
of every moral attribute, so that beside infinite power we also credit him
with infinite goodness. It is the latter factor which makes possible a
personal relationship between man and God, a possibility which the
existence of the Bible as God's revelation of himself to men exalts into
if the Bible is in fact such a divine revelation it is logical to expect
some direct declaration within its covers conveying to men as accurate a
conception of the divine nature and handiwork as men could be expected
to understand; this is even so. There are many such statements.
saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity whose name is Holy;
I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite
and humble spirit..." (Isa. 57:15).
a couple of short sentences the omnipresence of God is declared; he dwells
in eternity, outside of space and time, yet is also present with the man,
a creature of space and time, whose heart reaches out to communion and
union with him.
King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God ... dwelling in the
light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen nor can
see..." (1 Tim. 1:17; 6:16).
light is energy, that declaration is scientifically as well as theologically
true. What is perhaps the most tremendous of all such statements is that
which, as rendered from the Hebrew by Fenton, says "I only am God; I existed before time itself" (Isa. 43:12-13). The
idea of an existence outside time or before time began has only been
discussed by men in this modem age. They have been anticipated by the holy
Spirit of God, speaking through his prophet, two and a half millenniums
ago. In like manner what has been discovered in recent times respecting
the creation of the universe from an unknown source of pure energy and the
associated formation of stars, suns, and planets is well supported by
words written in days when the world was young and men generally were in
closer touch with God than they are, in the main, today.
the word of the Lord were the heavens made, and the host of them by the
breath of his mouth .... For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and
it stood fast" (Ps. 33:6,9).
hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth"-this is God
speaking- "and my right hand
hath spanned the heavens. When I call unto them, they stand up
together" (Isa. 48:13).
comes this challenging word which, taken literally, must arouse the wonder
and excite the envy of any modem astronomer, "He
telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names" (Ps.
147:4). Astronomers have long since run out of names for stars and
designate newly discovered ones by code numbers. Words like these express
in terms simple enough for all to understand how what Gatland calls the
"Infinite Consciousness" brought all things into existence by an
exercise of will, of thought, by Divine Word.
one were to inquire how such a consciousness itself came into existence,
or if it is conceivable that in fact such always existed and never had a
beginning, the only answer to matters that lie so completely outside the
range of human understanding and reasoning is that given by the Arabian
philosopher Elihu four thousand years ago: "God
is great, and we know him not; neither can the number of his years be
searched out" (Job 36:26). We can never hope to perceive more
than an infinitesimal fraction of the nature and activity of God. Elihu's
contemporary Job grasped that fact very clearly when, after recounting
examples of the mightiest phenomena of the natural world and accrediting
them all to God, he said "Lo,
these are by the outskirts of his ways; and how small a whisper do we hear
of him" (Job 26:14, RSV)!
then, life and energy are characteristics of God and have their origin
in him. All creation stems from that. These twin factors imply intelligence
associated with action, activity. That too is characteristic of God.
Omnipotent, all-powerful, as the heavenly chorus in Revelation the
nineteenth chapter, verse six has it: "Hallelujah,
for the Lord our God the Almighty reigns." Omnipresent, his
presence is a reality in every part of his wide-flung creation. No one
need feel far away from him or that events are slipping out of his
control. "The eyes of the Lord
are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good" (Prov.
15:3). Omniscient, knowing all things and fully cognizant of all things,
from the most profound mysteries of creation to the faintest half-formed
thoughts in the hearts of men.
and consider the wondrous works of God ... the wondrous works of him who
is perfect in knowledge" (Job 37:14,16, RSV).
before a word is on my tongue, lo, 0 Lord, thou knowest it
139:4, RSV). It is impossible to ignore the fact that these men of ancient
times possessed a positive knowledge of the existence of God which the
discoveries and principles of modem science are increasingly tending
to confirm and cannot overturn.