Sailing With Paul: Simple Papers for Young Christians
Get the best of OneWay straight in your inbox!
Chapter 1. Conversion to GOD
He who sails with Paul has been truly and definitely converted to GOD. Paul’s conversion occupies a larger place in the New Testament than any particular doctrine that Paul preached. About this, GOD would have no uncertainty. He lets us know clearly how Paul began the voyage to an eternity of bliss.
Three full chapters in the Acts are devoted to this important subject. In chapter 9 we have Luke’s historical account of this model conversion. In chapter 22 Paul himself gives what has been called the “Hebrew narrative” of this blessed event. He relates his conversion to Jewish auditors in a manner especially calculated to appeal to them. In chapter 26 we have his “Gentile narrative,” where, being “made all things to all men,” he again tells of his conversion, but in such style as to be clear to Agrippa the Edomite and Festus the Roman.
Then in the first chapter of the letter to the Galatians he once more dwells on this wonderful theme, particularly emphasizing the sovereignty of GOD in it all:
“But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by His grace, To reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood” (Galatians 1:15, 16).
The third chapter of Philippians is a fifth account, where his special object is to disclaim all human merit; and he once more refers to it in I Timothy, where he declares that in him as chief of sinners, CHRIST JESUS had shown all long-suffering, “for a pattern (or model) to them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting” (I Timothy 1:12-17).
With such an array of Scriptures before us, which I hope each reader will carefully peruse, it is surely manifest that no one sails with Paul who did not begin with conversion.
I know it is unpopular to press this in some quarters to-day. “Don’t trouble people about the how, where or when of conversion. The only thing of importance is to determine how they stand now.” Such is the unscriptural and misleading instruction often given. And because of this, souls are harmed by an easy-going ministry that does not arouse the conscience, which lets people complacently drift on to a lost eternity who are not sailing with Paul, though they fancy all is well. The words of the LORD JESUS may surely rebuke all such folly: “except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 18:3).
Conversion then is a very real experience, and not something that may take place unconsciously. I do not mean by this that all know the day, the hour, the moment, when they were converted. Paul did, undoubtedly; but often young persons go through a prolonged period of exercise, in which, little by little, they learn the folly of self-confidence and the simplicity of faith in CHRIST alone for salvation. When He is trusted in, conversion has taken place; but, for lack of sound teaching, many do not realize this, and so have more or less perplexity in answering the question, “When, or where, were you converted?”
But there should certainly be no difficulty in regard to the how. All people are converted in exactly the same way, however experiences may vary. Conversion is a turning from self to CHRIST; it is ceasing to rely on one’s own fancied merits and trusting in the LORD JESUS alone. Has this great change occurred in your life, my reader? If so, you have been converted, and are sailing with Paul.
Let no doubts or fears distress your soul if you do not seem to see things just as others do. Do not allow Satan to torment you with thoughts of your unworthiness, or questions as to whether your faith is the right kind. It has never been GOD’s way to put all souls through some stereotyped experience. No two Bible conversions are alike as to the means of awakening or the way in which the soul was led to trust in CHRIST. And, on the other hand, it is important to remember that if you were worthy, you would not need a SAVIOUR. It is because of your unworthiness you came to Him, the worthy One. Let your soul then be occupied with Him, and not with your own frames and feelings.
And as to “the right kind of faith” – a difficulty felt by vast numbers of young believers – remember it is not the right faith that saved, but faith in the right Person. You might have the strongest possible faith in yourself, in the priest, in the church, in the sacraments, in visions or dreams, and be lost forever. But, on the other hand, the feeblest faith in CHRIST JESUS, GOD’s LAMB, saves for all eternity, and puts you forever in Paul’s company – sailing with Paul.
In each account given of his conversion we see how GOD showed him the futility of selfrighteousness and human religiousness as a means of salvation, and the absolute certainty of eternal salvation when the LORD JESUS is trusted in and confessed. When He becomes the soul’s object, conversion is an accomplished fact.
So when we ask, “How, when, or where, were you converted?” we really mean, “How were you led to trust in CHRIST?” When did you find out that He alone must be your SAVIOUR? Where did you get that sweet rest in Him. And your answer to that question is what we call your “testimony.”
And if, perchance, your exercises covered a number of weeks or months, out of which you emerged at last resting on His mighty arm and trusting His finished work, do not be distressed that you cannot particularize, but boldly confess Him as SAVIOUR and own Him as LORD; for all who have turned from self to CHRIST are in the fullest, clearest, Scriptural sense – converted.
You may be troubled and perplexed about many things; your knowledge of many subjects may be very vague; your conflicts with yourself may be most trying, and at times thoroughly discouraging; but let nothing make you doubt that you are converted, and therefore eternally saved, if CHRIST is the One to whom you have turned for deliverance. Count on GOD to make all else clear as you go on, and fear not as to the final issue; for all who sail with Paul shall come out right in the end.
The devil knows this, and therefore seeks to rob you of the good of it; but it is written, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
Chapter 2. Forgiveness of Sins
No unforgiven soul sails with Paul: which is to say that Scripture recognizes no such person as a believer in CHRIST JESUS who has not already received forgiveness of all his sins. “In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).
And the beloved apostle John joins with his brother-messenger Paul, and says, when addressing the entire family of GOD: “I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His names sake” (I John 2:12). Now faith lays hold of this, and cries, “I believe God!”
Some time ago a young man called upon me. I asked him if he were a Christian. “Yes,” was the reply. “At some special meetings held lately by Dr. C-, I trusted CHRIST, and am now seeking to serve Him.”
“Indeed,” I said, “this is very good news. Then you know what it is to have all your sins forgiven!”
“Oh no, sir!” he cried, “I would not dare say that. I have been converted but a few weeks, and do not feel that I have forgiveness yet. But I am hoping to reach it soon.”
“And how do you expect to know when you have attained it?”
“Well, sir, I am not quite clear as to that, but the Bible says something about the SPIRIT’s witness to let us know, and I have not got the witness yet, though I am seeking it every day.”
“If you have really trusted CHRIST as your SAVIOUR, as the One who died for you, you already have the witness,” I answered.
He looked at me in perplexity, and then said, “I do not understand you. I do not want to doubt GOD, but I cannot feel the witness at all.”
I pointed out that the word feel is only once found in the New Testament, and that is in Acts 17:27, where Paul says of the Gentiles that “they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us.” The word feeling is also found but once – in Ephesians 4:19, where the ungodly Gentiles are said to be “past feeling.” The word does not belong to the Christian, you see, but to the heathen who have no written revelation. Our word is “faith” or “believe.” We do not know because we feel; but we believe GOD’s word, and thus we know.
The young man became deeply interested, and it was my privilege then to put before him a line of truth I would now endeavor simply to unfold to my reader. Through it he was soon rejoicing in the knowledge of forgiveness, and I would the same result might follow if these lines are read by any doubting one.
We read in Scripture of the witness of the SPIRIT to us, and the witness in us. Until we receive the witness to us, we cannot have the witness in us. This is of supreme importance, and, I hope, will be carefully noted.
Open your Bible at the 10th of Hebrews. In the first fourteen verses there is a vivid contrast presented between the temporary and oft-repeated sacrifices and the offering of our Lord JESUS CHRIST, which needs never to be repeated, because full atonement for the sins of every believer has been perfectly accomplished. On the basis of this, “the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins” (verse 2). CHRIST has now sat down on the right hand of GOD, because His work is finished. Nothing remains to be done. “By one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified” (verse 14); that is, He saves forever and completely all who are set apart to GOD through His blood, by personal faith in Him who shed it.
Now see what glorious results flow from this: “Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us” (verse 15) – the work of CHRIST being all complete, the HOLY SPIRIT witnesses to what? and where is the witness found?
First, He witnesses to the new birth: “I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them” (verse 16). There is thus a new nature, with new desires and yearnings, implanted in every believer. Nor is this all. He further witnesses: “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (verse 17). Thus there is the SPIRIT’s testimony to full forgiveness.
Secondly: This witness-record, or testimony, is found in the Holy Scriptures, written by the SPIRIT’s dictation. The witness of the SPIRIT is the testimony of the HOLY GHOST in the Word of GOD.
Have you believed it? If so, you know, because GOD says it, that your sins are forgiven, if you have trusted CHRIST.
But what about the witness in us. We have the witness in us when we believe the witness to us. We have then received the Word into our hearts – and, remember, the Word is the witness.
Now read I John 5:1-13.
Weigh every word, but note especially verse 10: “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself.” Compare with this verse 11: “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” This is the unvarying testimony of Scripture. The SPIRIT’s witness is not a happy feeling in my heart. It is the record of the Word of GOD as to the work of CHRIST and its results.
When I believe this, the witness I received into my very being, and henceforth “the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God” (Romans 8:16). In other words, GOD’s testimony, ministered to my soul in the SPIRIT’s power, and my personal faith in that Word, are in agreement. I know I am GOD’s child, and all GOD’s children are forgiven. So I know that my sins are forgiven also.
In a later paper I hope to say something on another aspect of forgiveness – that which the child of GOD needs when he fails; but the forgiveness we have had before us is the eternal portion of all who have rested their souls on CHRIST.
Chapter 3. Justification From All Things
Of the treasure committed to Paul, the blessedness of which GOD would have all who sail with him enjoy while upon their voyage, no truth is of more importance to the peace of the believer than that of justification. This is pre-eminently what Paul calls, “my gospel,” and “my doctrine.”It will be observed by the thoughtful reader of the word of GOD that while the question “How can man be just with God?” was twice asked in the book of Job, and to Habakkuk it was revealed that “The just shall live by his faith”; it remained for the apostle of the Gentiles to fully develop and widely proclaim the great doctrine of justification by faith. It is the corner-stone of “the mystery of the gospel.” No other apostle or apostolic writer so much as mentions it, save that Luke as the inspired historian tells us how Paul preached it. But Peter and John never get beyond forgiveness of sins – nor, in one sense, shall any of us; for our song in Heaven shall be of divine forgiveness. Still there is an aspect of forgiveness far higher than that of mere pardon, and it is of this that Paul delighted to treat.
To unfold his special instruction on this soul-stirring theme would be to expound the first eight chapters of the Epistle to the Romans, which has most appropriately been called “The Epistle of the Forum, or the Law-court.” But others have done this most ably and the young believer can here only be referred to their excellent writings (The best book on Romans for young Christians that I have seen is John Fort’s “God’s Salvation” After reading that I would urge the perusal of C. Crain’s “Readings on Romans.”) I simply desire, as briefly and clearly as possible, to outline the subject of Justification as treated in Romans and defended in Galatians.
When I think of forgiveness, as the word is ordinarily used among men, I think of a man proven to be guilty but pardoned through the clemency of another. But when I think of justification I think of a man charged with guilt, but, upon being brought into court, cleared on every count. And this is exactly what scriptural justification means. It is “the sentence of the judge in favor of the prisoner.” And yet it is the ungodly who are justified by a holy GOD on the principle of absolute righteousness. How can such an event be brought about?
In the first recorded sermon by the apostle Paul he tells us in what name it is done; he strikes the key-note of the theme so fully developed in the Roman Epistle: “be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this Man (CHRIST JESUS) is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by him all that believe are justified from all things by which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:38, 39). Moses’ law indeed could but condemn. Through the name of JESUS GOD can proclaim justification for every believer. And why? For the simplest of all possible reasons. The Lord JESUS Himself had taken the place of the guilty, borne the judgment due to sin, and having fully glorified GOD in this respect had been raised from the dead and seated in highest glory as Man, in token of GOD’s full satisfaction in His finished work: “Who was delivered for our offences and raised again for our justification. Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 4:25; 5:1).
It is the very simplicity of it over which men stumble.
That He, the Holy One, should have been made a sin-offering that we might become the righteousness of GOD in Him, is something mere human reason would never have conceived. Yet this is the pith and marrow of the Gospel.
If sin be high treason against the Majesty in the heavens – and it is – CHRIST has died in the traitor’s stead.
If sin be a capital crime against the moral government of GOD – and it is – CHRIST has borne the full punishment deserved by the offender.
If sin be a debt which man could never meet – and it – CHRIST has paid the uttermost farthing, and the debtor may now go free.
Look at it in what aspect you may, and you will find the Word of GOD reveals that all that He had against the sinner was more than met in the Cross of CHRIST; and thus GOD can now be “just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:26).
Sin is not merely pardoned. It is atoned for.
Guilt is not simply overlooked. It is gone forever from the eye of GOD in the Cross of His Son.
Iniquity is not only forgiven, it is purged by the blood of the Son of the Highest, and the transgressor is justified from all things.
It is after fully establishing all this, that the apostle triumphantly asks: “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Romans 8:33, 34).
All the value of the finished work of CHRIST – ever before GOD – stands over against all that I was as a one-time sinful, guilty man. This is justification, and this is my standing in the presence of the infinitely Holy and Righteous One.
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). And the reason is this; He Himself took the condemnation, endured the wrath of GOD, and has made full satisfaction for all the believer’s sin. Faith rests on this and fears no more.
Chapter 4. Regeneration
GOD not only clears the believer from every charge, forgiving his sins and justifying him from all things, but He makes him a new creature, giving him a new nature and introducing him into a new creation of which the risen CHRIST is the Head. All this and more is involved in the truth of regeneration, a truth of great practical importance, though the word occurs but once in Paul’s epistles, and only twice in all the Bible.
The two passages are Matthew 19:28 and Titus 3:5. It is with the latter that we are now especially concerned, as being part of “Paul’s doctrine,” which we are seeking to apprehend. But a glance at the former verse will aid us greatly in understanding this other. The Greek word translated regeneration does not exactly mean to be generated anew, or re-born, as we might suppose; so it is not really synonymous with new birth. It rather means the bringing in of a new
order. In Matthew the Lord uses it as referring to “the world to come,” i.e., the millennium. Those who had followed Him in His humiliation would share His glory in the coming kingdom – the regeneration, or bringing in of the new order long predicted by the prophets, and for which Israel is still waiting and sighing.
But already a new order has been established, which we generally call Christianity. To share in this we need the washing of the Word, the bath of regeneration. In other words, when a man believes the Gospel and thus receives GOD’s present testimony into his soul it washes and cleanses him; he is born anew and thus made morally fit for the new order into which he is brought by the matchless grace of GOD.
Paul never speaks of being born again, though he uses other terms that mean practically the same thing. He looks at man as dead and needing life, so he says to believers, God, “when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:5). We have become sharers of CHRIST’s life; hence we are born from above. And now we belong to the new creation of which CHRIST is the Head.
Our link with the old creation is severed through CHRIST’s death; for He died as representing us, and faith links us up with Him as risen. We belong to the regeneration, the new race, and no longer are part of the old generation of which fallen Adam is head.
It is a great step forward in the experience of one’s own soul when this stupendous truth is apprehended “for the obedience of faith.”
Henceforth the Christian will test everything by its relation to CHRIST and the new position which all who are in Him now occupy. The practical effect of this will be very far-reaching. The old legal ground of “Is there any harm in this or that?” and “Is it my duty to do thus and so?” will be left behind. In its stead, the believer will be able to view everything from the standpoint of privilege and loyalty to the Head. In place of speaking of “any harm” or “no harm,” the question
will be, “Is this consistent with new creation?” Tests will come daily, and can all be met on this ground: “Is it of Adam or CHRIST? Will this enable me better to reflect CHRIST? Will that be suited to the new order to which I have come?” In other words, “Is it of the old generation, or of the regeneration?”
Sometimes there may be perplexity still, but if no doubtful step is taken and GOD’s mind is sought through His Word, the HOLY SPIRIT, who is the power of the new order, can be counted on to make all clear. What is needed is a single eye; for, “if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light” (Matthew 6:22).
The washing, or bath, of regeneration is that one bathing referred to by our Lord when He said, “He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit” (John 13:10). This bath is the application of the Word of GOD: “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you” (John 15:3) and “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (I Peter 1:23) to heart and conscience when one is born anew. A double cleansing is thus effected. The Word tells of the blood of JESUS CHRIST, GOD’s Son, which cleanseth from all, or every, sin. This is judicial. It purges my conscience, and renders me forever clean before GOD. But the same Word judges all my old ways, and judges me personally as morally unfit for GOD.
When I bow to this testimony in repentance, I am morally washed all over. And thus I am, by this double cleansing, introduced into the new order. Hence it is called “the washing of regeneration.” It needs never to be repeated. Once in the new creation, I am in CHRIST, and can never again be separated from Him.
But now I need the daily application of the Word to keep me clean, to keep my ways in accord with the order to which I belong. “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his ways? By taking heed thereto according to Thy Word” (Psalm 119:9). This is that daily washing of the feet which the Lord illustrates so beautifully in the chapter above referred to. And this blessed service He is continually carrying on, that we may enjoy, have part with Him in the things so dear to His heart.
See to it, young Christian, that you do not hinder this loving service by neglect of your Bible, by a prayerless spirit, and by unrighteousness in your life. You belong to the regeneration. Make it ever your object to act accordingly, cleaving to the Lord with purpose of heart.
Chapter 5. Eternal Life
Of those who in this spiritual sense sailed with Paul, no one was dearer to him than the young preacher Timothy; and to him he writes, “Lay hold on eternal life” (I Timothy 6:12). The inspired exhortation is for us likewise; but if we would lay hold on life eternal, it is important that we understand the teaching of Scripture regarding it.
John is, properly speaking, the apostle of eternal life. He it is who fully unfolds it; but it is Paul who ever presses it as a practical thing.
The Gospel of John presents the Lord JESUS as the Eternal Life which was with the FATHER, and was manifested here for a time on earth. The first Epistle presents that same life now manifested in the children of GOD. In both Gospel and Epistle, again and again it is insisted on that this everlasting life is the present portion of all who believe in the Lord JESUS CHRIST. He gives eternal life to all His sheep, and assures us that they shall never perish. Indeed, they could not, or the life would not be eternal, but simply probational.
Let there be any doubt or difficulty as to this in the Christian’s mind, and true, unselfish service for the Lord JESUS CHRIST there can scarcely be. If I have any lingering fear of being possibly lost at last; or if I suppose that I maintain my salvation by my faithfulness, genuine faithfulness there cannot be, for I shall ever have before me – not purely the glory of CHRIST – but the selfish thought of making my own soul secure.
But all this is rebuked wherever life eternal is taught in Scripture. In the very nature of things a life that is eternal can not come to an end. And every believer has this life – a life that has no beginning and shall have no ending; for it is the very life of the Son of GOD. By human generation he obtained natural life – a life that was already forfeited. By new birth – divine generation – he becomes the possessor of eternal, inalienable, non-forfeitable life.
It is thus we are enabled to apprehend divine things and have fellowship with divine persons. “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3).
But in addition to the doctrine of present possession of eternal life, the Word of GOD presents that life as a goal and as an experience subjectively apprehended and enjoyed. This is Paul’s special line. He who reads only Paul on this subject might lose sight of the truth we have just been considering; but there is no need so to do. John’s truth comes first. Then that committed to Paul follows. Eternal life is ours now, but it is also our hope. “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began” (Titus 1:2).
This is the Christian’s goal. He now has eternal life in Him. He looks on with eager, glad expectancy to the time when, in the fullest possible sense, he will enter into life, and will be in the scene to which eternal life belongs. Now he has eternal life in a decaying body and in a crumbling scene. Then he will possess a body radiant with eternal life, and fully fitted for its display in a “city that hath foundations,” and amid scenes that “that cannot be shaken.”
Take a simple illustration: A child possesses life – natural life – from the moment of birth. But for that child there is a long period of discipline and education ere he really enters into life, fulfilling his chosen vocation. So with the believer. From the moment of new birth he has eternal life; and yet he daily lives in hope of eternal life; and when at last earth’s discipline is over and the soul’s education complete, he goes away “into life eternal” (Matthew 25:46).
But Paul’s exhortation to Timothy suggests a third application.
He is to “lay hold on eternal life.” In the same chapter, verses 18, 19, the “rich in this world” are charged “that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life”; or, “life in reality.” The word used here is quite distinct from the ordinary term for eternal life.
But the one passage throws a clear light upon the other. We lay hold on eternal life as we realize in our souls that we do not belong to this sphere; when we discover what JESUS spoke of in John 10, “life… more abundantly”; that everything for us is connected with the scene to which we are going. Hence we learn to look very differently upon the things of this life from what we once did. We realize that the true life is life in fellowship with GOD, and so we are enabled, in the SPIRIT’s power, to use this world without abusing it, walking as CHRIST walked, who alone fully manifested eternal life in this scene of death. This is, for us, to lay hold on eternal life, or to use it for GOD’s glory.
It is most sorrowful to hear people glibly talking of having eternal life and being forever saved, when they are really trying to “make the best of this life” like men of the world who make no profession. If I have eternal life, I am to make it known by living it out, and acting now in the light of the coming day of the unveiling of JESUS CHRIST.
This was what Paul desired for Timothy, and what he would see in all who sail with the beloved apostle, whose whole life-purpose was expressed in these words: “What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (Philippians 3:7, 8).
This is to display eternal life in a body of clay, an earthen vessel, while pressing on to the scene to which that life belongs.
Chapter 6. Sanctification
None who sail with Paul need be confused as to the teaching of Scripture on Sanctification, if they will but carefully weigh the many luminous passages in his epistles on the subject.
I can only briefly outline them in this paper, referring any who desire a more exhaustive consideration of it to what I have elsewhere written (See “Holiness: the False and the True.” Same writer and publisher).
It should be plain to any thoughtful person that the great apostle of the Church never divides believers into two classes, some of whom are “only justified” and the others possessing a “second blessing,” or sanctified. On the contrary he addresses all Christians as “sanctified in Christ Jesus.” Nor does this mean that they are morally perfect, or sinless. Surely no one could so speak of the Corinthian assembly. All kinds of evils had to be corrected among them. They
are called carnal in chapter 3, yet he addresses them as “sanctified” in the 2nd verse of chapter 1, and in verse 30 he writes, “Of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us . . . sanctification.” They were in CHRIST, so they were sanctified though their ways were far from being all that GOD would have them.
There need be no difficulty here if it be known and held in mind that sanctification means separation to GOD. All believers have been set apart to GOD in CHRIST, and are no longer of the world even as He is not of the world.
In harmony with other New Testament writers Paul presents sanctification as three-fold:
We are sanctified by the HOLY SPIRIT.
“That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost” (Romans 15:16).
“And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (I Corinthians 6:11).
“But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (II Thessalonians 2:13).
We are sanctified by the blood of CHRIST, and His one all-sufficient offering upon the Cross:
“For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren . . . But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? . . . By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all . . . For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified . . . Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? . . . Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate” (Hebrews 2:10, 11; 9:11-14; 10:10, 14, 29; 13:12). – I take it for granted that Paul wrote Hebrews. I see no valid reason for questioning it.
We are sanctified by the Word of GOD:
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word” (Ephesians 5:25, 26). Compare this with the words of our Lord JESUS CHRIST in John 17:17-19, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.”
The sanctification of the HOLY SPIRIT is the beginning of the work of GOD in one’s soul, separating him from the world and follies he once loved, turning his heart to GOD, exercising him about his sinfulness, and leading him to personal faith in CHRIST. To this agree the words of the apostle Peter in I Peter 1:2, “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.” Sanctification of the SPIRIT is there shown to be the divine means used to lead the guilty soul to the blood of sprinkling. The work of CHRIST trusted in, henceforth the SPIRIT dwells personally in the believer and it is His blessed work to lead the soul on in the ways that be in CHRIST.
Sanctification by the blood, or the one offering of the Son of GOD, is positional. That is, it has to do with the new position into which the saved one is brought. His sins are purged; his conscience is free; he stands before GOD in all the value of the work of His Son. Thus he is forever perfected as to his conscience, and set apart from a world that lies in the wicked one, under the judgment of GOD. The believer can never again become part of that world. The work of CHRIST has come in between his soul and the judgment his sins deserved. Thus in the fullest possible sense he is sanctified by the blood of the everlasting covenant. If the profession be unreal (as contemplated in Hebrews 10:29 above), there is, of course, no abiding sanctification; but where faith is genuine he is sanctified eternally. Note verse 14, also above, of the same chapter.
Sanctification by the Word of GOD is the practical outcome of the work of CHRIST and the SPIRIT’s work within. Daily the Word is applied to heart and conscience by the Lord Himself, as we saw in a former paper when we discussed John 13. He keeps the feet of His saints, cleansing them from defilement contracted while passing through this polluted scene, with the washing of water by the Word. In this sense no saint is “wholly sanctified” till he no longer needs the Word of GOD for cleansing and instruction. That will only be at the coming of our Lord JESUS CHRIST, as we get it in I Thessalonians 5:23, “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Then shall every Christian be presented blameless, his sanctification completed, and nothing for all eternity shall be permitted to come up that will again defile his feet or call for the application of the Word in cleansing.
There is a passage that is often greatly misunderstood, in Hebrews 12:14: “Follow peace with all men and holiness (or sanctification) without which no man shall see the Lord.” Observe that in this solemn and important verse “holiness,” like “peace with all men,” is put as the object before the soul. But no one should presume to say he has attained what he is distinctly directed to follow.
Paul’s own experience, as described in Philippians 3:12-14, might well rebuke such a thought. He says, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
Such may well be the settled purpose of each young Christian reading these lines. You have been called unto holiness, and holiness is simply Christ-likeness. If He be ever before you, and you daily seek to walk as He walked in the SPIRIT’s power, guided by the unerring Word of GOD, you shall know the blessedness of being sanctified by the truth. And if the great adversary of our soul taunts you with failure and weakness, look not in or around you, but up into the face of CHRIST JESUS, exalted in glory, and cry in faith, “He is my sanctification. I am in Him, and that forever!”
Chapter 7. Acceptance
It is a precious truth that GOD accepts every believer in the Lord JESUS CHRIST, not according to any real or fancied goodness in himself but according to the Father’s estimate of His beloved Son.
I remember well a striking illustration of the power of this in practical life, which I saw several years ago. A dear colored woman, who had herself known the Lord from her girlhood but had erred in marrying an unsaved man, asked the prayers of a little company of Christians one night for her husband who had become a depraved drunkard and gambler. In wondrous mercy, while we prayed, GOD heard and answered; for into our meeting came Alex Beck himself, and cried: “Friends, I want to find my wife’s GOD! I was gambling and drinking in a saloon on S- Street (It was in Los Angeles, California), and twenty minutes ago it seemed to me a voice cried in my soul: ‘Alex Beck, you must be saved to-night or be damned forever!’ I threw down the cards in fear, and rose from the chair and fled from the place. Tell me how I may be saved!” It was a solemn moment for us all, thus to see GOD’s power so manifest. We pointed the anxious, trembling man to the Cross, and, perhaps an hour later, he was rejoicing in GOD’s salvation, and husband and wife were one in CHRIST.
A few evenings afterward I heard him give his first public testimony. These were substantially his words: “My friends, I want you all to look at me. I know I ain’t a pretty sight to look on. I’m just a great big black ugly man, but in GOD’s sight I’m altogether lovely, for I’m all dressed up in JESUS!”
He had been truly taught of the SPIRIT. For this is none other than Paul’s doctrine of acceptance, “He hath made us accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:6). Once, all our guilt and sin were imputed to JESUS when He hung upon the Cross as our SUBSTITUTE. Now we appear before GOD’s face in all His perfections. “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (II Corinthians 5:21). Carefully observe:- It is not, as theologians sometimes put it, that the righteousness of CHRIST is imputed to us. Scripture never so speaks. It is this, that GOD reckons us, looks upon us, as righteous, because of the work His Son has accomplished and of the new place in which we now stand before Him: that is, in CHRIST, perfect and complete in GOD’s sight.
And as so accepted we are as dear to GOD as is our blessed Lord Himself, who, when He prayed to the FATHER said, “I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me” (John 17:23). Could language be clearer, or words stronger, to declare the unbounded love of the FATHER for all who are accepted in His Son? Well may the happy Christian sing with chastened joy:
“So dear, so very dear to GOD,
I could not dearer be;
The love wherewith He loves His Son,
Such is His love to me.”
And being thus brought so near to GOD in the person of our Lord JESUS CHRIST our security naturally follows. We are in Him, and, consequently, as safe from judgment as He is. He died in our stead, and faith reckons His death as our death. Now He lives forever beyond the reach of death and judgment. And in Him we are accepted! If He falls (far be the thought!) then do we also fall; but He has said, “Because I live ye shall live also.” We have died out of the old relationship, in which we had part by nature, but we have now been raised with CHRIST and our life is hid with CHRIST in GOD. Ponder carefully: “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4).
Already GOD sees us as a heavenly company, for CHRIST is in glory as our representative. So we are told: “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7). Thus our destiny is forever settled. Our past, present, and future we know, on the authority of GOD’s Word. Once dead in sins, we are now seated in heavenly places in CHRIST JESUS, and for all eternity to be to the praise of His glory as an exhibit of the power of His grace!
And it is well to remember that a true Christen life springs from a recognition of our acceptance. So the apostle adds, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). He who has been thus taken into favor in the Beloved is called to show by a holy, blameless life his appreciation of the grace bestowed upon him, and to manifest CHRIST in his walk and conversation and manner of life.
The same truth is put before us in the chapter already noticed in Colossians. He whose life is hid with CHRIST in GOD is called upon to put off all that belonged to him as a man in the flesh, and to put on the new ways of the man in CHRIST.
But let it never be forgotten:- no merit attaches to the believer because of his godliness and devotedness. He needs none. He is already accepted in the Beloved, and nothing can be added to this. No loving obedience he can render can make him one shit dearer to the heart of GOD.
But it should now be the object of his life to be well-pleasing to Him in whom he is accepted. This is what Paul means when he writes: “We labor, that whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him” (II Corinthians 5:9).
All believers are accepted in Him, and this for eternity. Henceforth it should be the object of our souls to so live that we may daily be accepted of Him, or well-pleasing to Him. This is to walk worthy of our high and holy calling.
Chapter 8. Standing and State
No believer is likely to be clear on other lines, whose mind is in confusion as to the scriptural distinction between standing and state. If those who sail with Paul would but carefully consult his inspired letters on this, as on all other subjects, they would see that the two terms are very different in their application.
Standing refers to our ability to appear before GOD uncondemned; state has to do with our actual condition of soul. Standing speaks of privilege, and contemplates what GOD, in His rich grace, has done for each believer. State is the measure in which one answers to this in his own experience. State is variable and depends on how one goes on with GOD.
Paul is not the first or only Biblical writer to use the term standing. Several examples from other Scriptures may help to make clear its application. “The ungodly shall not stand in the judgment” (Psalm 1:4). “The foolish shall not stand in Thy sight” (Psalm 5:5). “They told Haman, to see whether Mordecai’s matters would stand” (Esther 3:4). “For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” (Revelation 6:17). To these one might add many more, but enough are before us to show how the word is used. To stand is practically synonymous with the ability to face the throne of judgment, proving that there is no condemnation.
Now compare with these verses Romans 5:1,2: “Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Note also I Corinthians 15:1, “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel, which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand.”
The wicked cannot stand, but every believer has a standing that is unassailable. What is the ground of his standing? Is it his good experience, his enjoyment of divine things, his energy in service, his happy state? Not at all! He stands in grace – the grace revealed in the Gospel.
Our standing then is a most comprehensive term, embracing all that GOD has done for us in the work of His Son. In previous papers we have considered our forgiveness, our justification, our positional sanctification, our acceptance in CHRIST: all these blessings are connected with our standing. We cannot add to, nor take away from, what GOD has made us in CHRIST. Consequently we have for eternity a perfect and unassailable standing before GOD. Worlds may be wrecked and the heavens pass away, but the believer in the Lord JESUS CHRIST stands in absolute security, free of all condemnation.
Is this then to say that each believer’s state of soul is all that could be desired? Far from it. If it were, where would be the need for all the exhortations to godly living found in the epistles and other parts of the Word of GOD? Observe, for instance, the anxiety of the apostle that the state of his beloved Philippians might in measure answer to their standing.
He had no question whatever as to their standing. That, he knew, could never be altered. So he tells them he is confident that He who hath begun a good work in them will perform it unto the day of JESUS CHRIST. But he hoped to send Timothy unto them that he (Paul) might be of good comfort when he knew their state. Not all professed laborers in word and doctrine would naturally care for their state, but he knew this pastoral concern was characteristic of Timothy: “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour” (II Timothy 2:19, 20).
Were Paul and Timothy concerned as to whether these saints were “keeping saved,” – to use an ignorant expression common with some to-day? No, indeed. They knew GOD had settled forever the question of their salvation. But they desired to see fruit for GOD manifested in the lives of the saints. They wished to have them going on happily together as a company of redeemed ones should. And this is what state has reference to. It is experience; but experience and standing are two very different things. When GOD addresses believers as “saints,” that is, separated or holy ones, He is speaking of their standing. When He exhorts them to be holy, even as He is holy, He refers to the state of their souls, as manifested in their outward ways.
We might think no one should be called a saint till he becomes perfectly holy in experience. But that is not GOD’s way. He calls us saints from the first moment of our faith in CHRIST, and then bids us live as saints should live. He calls us His children, and then exhorts us to be obedient children. He sanctifies us by the blood of His Son, and then washes us with the Word that we may be practically sanctified.
He forgives us all our sins and justifies us from all things when we first trust in His Son. We are then eternally forgiven. This is our standing. Yet as our actual state is often poor, there is a forgiveness we may have need of every day. That is the Father’s forgiveness, as dealing with the state of His family.
The moment you trusted CHRIST, your responsibility as a sinner having to do with the GOD of judgment was ended for ever. From that moment your standing has been perfect. But at that same instant your responsibility as a child, having to do with your FATHER, began.
If you fail in this, if your state is low and your FATHER is dishonored thereby, do not fall back upon the truth of your standing and say, “I have no sins to confess,” but go at once to your loving FATHER and own all the failure, judge the low state and seek His grace to rise to a higher and better condition of soul in which He will be glorified by your life. Let it always be your aim to have your state come up to your standing, that grace may be magnified in all your ways.
Chapter 9. Communion
GOD has given us His truth that our thoughts may be fashioned like unto His own. Our previous study, on standing and state, naturally prepares the way for the consideration of this blessed theme of realized fellowship with GOD, “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (II Timothy 1:9). He, who has thus so richly blessed us, desires to have us in living, happy communion with Himself, and this is the instinctive desire of every renewed soul. By nature and practice alienated and an enemy to GOD by wicked works, when grace has wrought in the soul, when new birth has taken place, at once there springs up a yearning for fellowship with the blessed One whom now we address by the SPIRIT as “Abba, Father.”
Now this communion is not a human thing. Man in the flesh can have no fellowship with GOD. It is only known and enjoyed in the power of the SPIRIT. The direct means for its maintenance are the Word of GOD and prayer. In the Bible GOD speaks to me. In prayer I speak to Him. I use the word prayer here in its widest application; not merely as offering petitions, but as lifting up the heart to GOD in praise likewise.
We have some blessed examples of this in the experience of Paul. Take, for instance, the first eleven chapters of the Epistle to the Romans. In chapters 1 to 8 inclusive, GOD, by His SPIRIT, unfolds what we might call the glorious divine philosophy of the plan of salvation; while in chapters 9 to 11 He unfolds His dispensational ways. What is the result of the soul’s apprehension of all this? It leads to an outburst of praise that fairly bubbles up in exultant joy from the apostle’s soul in verses 33 of chapter 11: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” This is communion; and a most hallowed and blissful thing it is thus to be taken up with the marvelous counsels and ways of GOD.
In Ephesians 1 we have another lovely sample of the same thing. In the early part of the chapter there is a wonderful opening-up of GOD’s eternal purpose. Then from verse 15 the apostle is in prayer that others may enter into and enjoy these precious things, so infinitely beyond mere human comprehension. Again in chapter 3 the truth of the great mystery, which I hope to take up in the next paper of this series, is opened up, and in verse 14 he says: “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” – and what is the burden of this prayer? That the believers to whom he writes, “May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God” (Ephesians 3:18, 19).
And once more a volume of praise goes up from his own heart: “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20, 21). The truth gets such a grip on Paul’s soul that he longs for all saints to share it, and his heart goes out to GOD, the AUTHOR of it in unbounded adoration. Again, I repeat, this is – communion.
It is not a happy feeling or a state of religious excitement. It is the soul’s enjoyment of what GOD in His Word, has made known for our edification. He calls us His friends, and He would have His friends share His thoughts.
Thus it is now; there can be no true fellowship with GOD apart from feeding on the Word of GOD. Reading good books will not take the place of this thoughtful meditation on the Holy Scriptures. Undoubtedly, the Spirit-taught soul will soon begin to discern GOD’s mind, and see His glory manifested even in inanimate nature; but he needs a mind well stored with Scripture to lead him up to this.
And now another important point: there can be no true communion with GOD while unjudged evil is tolerated in the life. You cannot enjoy GOD and indulge in sin at the same time; even as you cannot enjoy meditation on the Scriptures while practicing that which is unholy. In Bunyan’s Bible is was written, “This book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book.” Don’t overlook this, dear young believer. Be clean. Be practically holy; then you can enjoy GOD’s Word, and the HOLY SPIRIT will use it as the means of leading out your heart to GOD and filling your soul with praise. And this is being in communion with the Highest.
Men talk of being “In touch with the Infinite,” who both ignore the Scriptures as the written Word, and CHRIST JESUS as the living Word. And by that they mean to reach a state of philosophic calmness of mind which, in the case of men proudly turning from the Cross of CHRIST, is but as though a blind man on the edge of a precipice refused the hand stretched forth to save him, and plunged headlong over, seeking calmly to assure himself that he would alight on a bed of down in place of jagged rocks. His calmness would be but foolhardiness; and so it all this empty talk of being in tune with the SPIRIT of the Universe while refusing GOD’s testimony.
Do not be deceived by the sham, my reader; but with the Word of GOD speaking in power to your soul, walk in the SPIRIT, fulfilling not the lusts of the flesh, and you shall know the real and the true. Thus shall you enjoy, on earth, a sweet foretaste of what is to be the everlasting portion of all the redeemed – participation in the joy of your Lord.
Chapter 10. The Assembly As the Body of CHRIST
At the time of his conversion on the Damascus turnpike, the germ of a great truth was revealed to Paul, which later became the chiefest in the galaxy of doctrines which it was his mission, as an apostle, to make known “for the obedience of faith.” It was involved in the challenge of the Lord of glory, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” For the first time it was then declared that CHRIST and His saints of this age of grace are one. To touch the feeblest of them is to touch Him; for they are all members of one body of which He is the glorified HEAD in Heaven.
But this doctrine of the one body is never referred to by any other apostle than Paul. He calls it “the dispensation of the mystery” which he had especially been entrusted with. Indeed it was the characteristic truth of his large and varied ministry.
It is this that he is speaking of in Romans 16:25-27: “Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets (or, by prophetic writings, i.e., his own), according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen.” The nature of this mystery is unfolded in Ephesians 3:1-12. There he writes of the dispensations of the grace of GOD given him toward the Gentiles, and he adds: “How 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 fellowheirs, 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” (verses 3-10).
It is a passage of wondrous scope and blessedness, and I cannot attempt to expound it here, but what I would have the young believer note is that the truth of Jew and Gentile being formed by the SPIRIT into one body, upon being born of GOD, and by that same SPIRIT linked up to CHRIST as HEAD in Heaven, was a truth never before made known. The Old Testament will be searched in vain for it. It is not there, because it was “hid in God.”
It was the secret purpose of His heart, only to be revealed after the rejection of His Son. It actually became a fact when the HOLY SPIRIT was given on Pentecost. To this Paul refers when he writes: “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit”
To this one body every believer in the Lord JESUS CHRIST belongs. The gift of the HOLY SPIRIT, who indwells all saved people, makes us one with every other Christian on the face of the earth. This is the only true “Catholic and Apostolic Church.” At the beginning there was none other. “The Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47). There was no thought of any other membership, though until the special revelation given to Paul, it was not seen that this involved membership in the body of CHRIST.
The fact existed prior to the knowledge of it. Now, every saint should have clear light as to it, because it is everywhere declared, or taken for granted, in Paul’s epistles.
Ephesians is largely occupied with it; setting forth the purpose of GOD to head up all things in CHRIST, and, preparatory to this, the formation of the one body. Then Colossians gives us the other side, magnifying CHRIST as HEAD, and pressing upon Christians their responsibility to own no other head, but to be in all things subject to Him. I Corinthians takes all this up in a practical way, showing what the outcome should be in our daily walk as members one of another and members of CHRIST.
Now, in what sense is this great truth “made known for the obedience of faith?” Manifestly it can only mean that it is a truth each believer is expected to hold in a practical way. And this surely involves the recognition of but one body and one HEAD, which necessarily leaves one outside of all human systems, and apart from all recognition of human heads. “The Church must have a head!” was the Romanist’s challenge to Luther, as he began to set forth the claims of the Papacy. “Yes,” replied the mighty champion of the reformation, “and that HEAD is CHRIST!”
This is what I would commend to you. When GOD saved you He put you in the body of CHRIST. You are a member of the Church of GOD, the Church of the First-born, whose names are written in Heaven. “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:41, 42).
Nothing else is needed for faith to-day. GOD’s word remains, and it is for each believer to act upon it, regardless of the ever-increasing apostasy. If only two or three do so, there is fellowship, and CHRIST will be enjoyed as He cannot be when His place as HEAD is forgotten and the truth is ignored that “there is one body.”
Chapter 11. The Assembly In Its Local Aspect
Side by side with the truth of the Assembly as the body of CHRIST, is the truth of the local assembly, the company of believers in any given locality, acting on the ground of the one body.
Both the Acts and the Epistles give us many illustrative incidents and historical notices which enable us clearly to see the divine method of ordering these companies of believers gathered in the peerless name of the Lord JESUS CHRIST. For His own words: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst” (Matthew 18:20), clearly apply to all scriptural assemblings of His people. He will ever be the Centre and recognized HEAD, who will lead the praises and worship of His saints, as it is also written, “in the midst of the church (called-out assembly) will I sing praise unto thee” (Hebrews 2:12).
In the beginning the local assembly at Jerusalem and the Assembly of the body of CHRIST were one. Every member of that body was, for a brief season, at least, a part of the local assembly in that city. Then as these believers were scattered abroad, as Pentecostal visitors returned to their homes, or others were driven from Jerusalem by persecution – as the Gospel also was carried to Samaria, and then to the Gentiles – wherever a company of members of CHRIST’s body was found there was another local assembly. This was the only way in which separate gatherings were formed. “Two or three” in any given locality were drawn together by the SPIRIT in the name of the Lord JESUS, and thus a local assembly sprang into existence. To this little company others were added, as grace revealed CHRIST to their souls, and they in turn became partakers of the blessings of the SPIRIT’s baptism, owning the rejected JESUS as Lord.
Thus all was simple. There was no human organization, no cumbrous ecclesiastical machinery, no sectional membership. He who was recognized as a member of CHRIST’s body in Jerusalem, traveling or going elsewhere, upon making himself known there as one subject to CHRIST the HEAD, was at once accounted as one of them. He had found his own company. From an early period letters of commendation were given to such brethren, that they might be, at once, accredited in places where they were personally unknown: “I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also” (Romans 16:1, 2) and “Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?” (II Corinthians 3:1) and “And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace” (Acts 18:27). But this was all. There was no dismissing a “member” from the church in Ephesus that might “join” the church in Philippi. If a known member of CHRIST’s body in Ephesus, he was gladly acknowledged as such in Philippi when his claim was properly attested.
As one goes over all this, how the conviction is forced upon the soul that Christendom has got far indeed from the simplicity of early days! And that very fact leads us to inquire: Is it possible now to act just as they did then? – when love was warm, and ere evil and pernicious doctrines had honeycombed what should have ever been in an outward way “the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (I Timothy 3:15). The answer is that all this declension and failure was foreseen by the HOLY SPIRIT, and directions clearly given how to proceed when such unhappy ruin should have come in. In Acts 20, where Paul delivered his farewell address to the elder brethren of the Ephesian assembly, he warned them of the very things we have been considering; but at the close he simply says, “I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace.” GOD’s Word therefore is all-sufficient, whatever the cold-heartedness and backsliding that may be prevalent.
What course, then, are we directed to take when such evil days have come? Go back to “that which was from the beginning.” Find out how things were at the first, and act on what the Word of GOD makes known.
But shall we not then be literally swamped by unholy errorists of every description? This does not necessarily follow; for the same Word clearly tells us who are to be accepted to communion, and who refused Christian fellowship. We are called to receive all whose doctrine and way give evidence that they are members of CHRIST, and subject to Him as Lord and HEAD. If a man is not sound in his teaching, he may be a member of CHRIST but he is not subject to Him, and is not to be received till the evil is judged. And the same applies to moral questions. One who has fallen into unholy ways, may, after all, be a believer whose failure is but temporary; still, we dare not receive him in that state. We must wait till we see the evidences of his subjection to CHRIST in the judgment of his sin.
This is largely ignored in Christendom generally, which has become like a great house in which valuable and common vessels are all mixed up together. If a man would be a “vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the Master’s use,” he is called to purge himself out from this mixture, by separating himself from it. He is then to find fellowship among similar separated ones, and to “follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (II Timothy 2:19-22); and so walking together the ground of the one body is maintained. If companies in different places are similarly gathered, they occupy the same position, and thus, in principle, go back to “that which was from the beginning.”
To do so involves no pretension. It is not “rebuilding the church.” It is owning the ruin of the Church, and, in simplicity, “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). Difficulties may and will arise. Troubles will come up. Sorrows will have to be faced. But if there be a cleaving to CHRIST and His truth, the Word of GOD will be found allsufficient to meet every case that appears.
Owing to the broken and defiled conditions in Christendom, more care will need to be exercised as to whom fellowship is to be extended. But the heart should ever be open to all whose ways and doctrine give good evidence that they are of the one body and subject to the one Lord. Special discernment will be needed, lest by association with the unholy, such become partakers of other men’s sins; for to go on with one who is in an evil course, even to the extent of greeting
him in a brotherly way, is to make oneself “partaker of his evil deeds”: “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds” (II John 9-11).
But if the Scriptures are allowed to be judge, every difficulty will vanish. In the beginning what applied to one assembly applied to all, as all were one; and if the same principle is recognized by believers gathering in the simple way indicated above, it will solve many perplexities and keep from isolation and independency, which are the twin enemies of practical fellowship between local companies of believers.
Chapter 12. Baptism and Connected truths
Baptism is the initiatory ordinance of Christianity. To fritter away what GOD has said concerning this beautifully expressive ordinance, as some do to-day, on the plea that it did not belong to the special revelation given to Paul, and consequently has no place in the dispensation of the mystery, is to ignore or pervert what our apostle has himself left on record regarding it. It is true that he was not sent “to baptize, but to preach the gospel.” If people made more of the servant than they should, he was thankful he had baptized none, save a very few, lest any should say he baptized in his own name. Nevertheless he did baptize; and when, for good and sufficient reasons, he did not administer the ordinance himself, he saw that some one else, some one of his fellow-laborers, did so; for even at Corinth it was as the result of his preaching “many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized” (Acts 18:8).
Baptism has a wider scope than Christianity, but no amount of sophistical reasoning can eliminate it from Christianity or from the epistles of Paul, which fully set forth the new order. The young Christian therefore should search the Scriptures on this as on all other doctrines and practices, and act before GOD according to what he there finds written.
I do not propose here to enter into a discussion as to the subjects or mode of baptism. I have done that elsewhere (in my booklet “Baptism: What saith the Scriptures?”). But it is my present purpose to press upon the reader the distinctive instruction of Paul as to the lines of truth exemplified by, or connected with, baptism unto the name of the FATHER, and of the Son, and of the HOLY SPIRIT. For in the revelation of the Trinity we have Christianity in its essence. The FATHER so loved the world that He gave the Son, who became man, and in the power of the Eternal SPIRIT offered Himself without spot to GOD for our salvation. This is the grand fundamental truth each baptized one is called upon to defend, if need be, at the cost of his life.
In baptism CHRIST’s death is set forth in symbol. He, in amazing grace, because of our sins, bore on the Cross the awful baptism of divine wrath, that we might enjoy forever the living favor of the GOD of all grace. This is pictured as the baptized one is immersed beneath the water. Every baptism is thus a fresh reminder of what we owe to the Lord JESUS, like the communion supper, it sets forth His death: “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” (Romans 6:3).
Then, secondly, it pictures our death with Him. If He died beneath the judgment of GOD for sin, it was as taking our place; so we, in this ordinance, are “buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). For the baptized one to be living a careless, worldly life, while yet enjoying what is called “a good conscience about, or through baptism,” is shameful thing. If baptized to death, it is that you should daily own in a practical way that you are through with the world; severed from its follies and all its ways through identification with CHRIST in death, and now living on the resurrection side of the tomb, called to walk in accordance with the new life in CHRIST risen.
Thirdly, baptism answers to a soldier’s donning the regimental uniform: “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27). This is not to say that all the baptized are truly CHRIST’s. That would be a grave error indeed. But he who has been baptized unto CHRIST, has thereby taken upon him the badge of subjection to CHRIST. A man being recruited for the army, the moment he signs the articles is a soldier. But the uniform marks him out as such. Even so baptism is the putting on of CHRIST and owning Him as Lord.
Closely connected with this is the fourth proposition: Baptism is for the dead. “Else what shall they do who are baptized for (or, over) the dead (ones), if the dead rise not at all,? why are they then baptized for the dead (ones)?” (I Corinthians 15:29). Here it is not baptized for a dead CHRIST, as some would have it; because the word rendered “dead” is plural in each instance. Neither is it a vicarious baptism by living persons on behalf of others who had died unbaptized. This is a foolish and hurtful heterodox notion maintained by Mormons and a few other evil sects. But it is simply that each baptized one, since the first generation of Christians, has been, by baptism, filling up the ranks, taking the place of those who have died in the service of CHRIST. We are all baptized for the dead. We have taken their vacated places, and we are now called upon to fight the Lord’s battles in their stead. If there were no resurrection this would be folly. We might better enjoy the world while it lasts, knowing that we must soon depart and then eternal unconsciousness follow! But, in view of resurrection, we take the place of CHRIST’s soldiers, even though we stand “in jeopardy every hour” (verse 30; and note the following four verses)
“I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die. Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame” (verses 31-34).
And now let me ask you who read these words: Is this indeed what baptism means to you? With many, I know, it is merely a form. With others, it is a matter of duty, a command to be obeyed in a legal spirit. But to the instructed Christian it is a sweet and precious privilege, setting forth what CHRIST has suffered for our redemption, our identification with that blessed SAVIOUR in His death, and the acknowledgement of His Lordship in the daily life.
If it does not, or has not meant all this to you, your place is on your knees in self-judgment and humiliation of soul, seeking grace to turn in singleness of heart from all that is of the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life – and to yield yourself unreservedly unto CHRIST, as one alive from the dead, who can never forget that the Red Sea of judgment rolls forever between you and the world that crucified Him. He is worthy of your highest, best service. He gave Himself for you, and thereby purchased you, body, soul and spirit, for His glory. Take heed that you do not defraud Him out of the fruit of His bitter Cross.
Chapter 13. The Lord’s Supper
Apart from the historical accounts of its institution in the first three Gospels, Paul is the only New Testament writer who communicates anything to us on the precious theme of the Christian’s “forget-me-not” feast – the Lord’s Supper. Yet, of such importance is it, that he received a special revelation from Heaven concerning it. This he passes on for our learning in the great Church Epistle, I Corinthians. This letter has well been called “the Charter of the Church,” because of the fulness of its instruction in all matters pertaining to assembly life. After Romans it is, I believe, the most important portion of the New Testament for young believers to become wellgrounded in. It should be read and re-read until thoroughly familiar with every part of it, and controls the reins and the heart.
To chapters 10 and 11 we turn for truth in connection with the memorial feast. In chapter 10 we have “the Lord’s table,” and in chapter 11, “the Lord’s Supper.” We need to apprehend the true character of the Table, ere we can properly enter into the blessing of the Supper.
Three tables are brought before us, each standing for a distinct fellowship or communion. In verse 18 we are told that “Israel after the flesh” are “partakers of the altar,” which Malachi calls “the table of the Lord” (Malachi 1:12). The heathen are partakers of “the table of devils” (or demons), while Christians are partakers of the Lord’s table (verse 21).
We are responsible to see that we are identified with those who are gathered in a Scriptural way and who observe the supper of the Lord “as it is written.”
The symbolism of the table is explained in verse 16: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?.” This is divinely simple, and in full accord with the words of the Lord JESUS when He instituted this feast of remembrance. At His table we remember Him in death. The cup and the loaf, apart, tell of death accomplished, as when the blood is separated from the body.
A whole loaf upon the table would seem to be indicated by the next verse: “For we being many are one bread (loaf) and one body, for we are all partakers of that one bread.” The bread then symbolized not only the actual body of the Lord given for us upon the Cross, but it also pictures His mystical body, to which all believers belong. We express, in partaking of the loaf, our fellowship one with another, as well as individual communion with the Lord. But this must be in separation from evil, as verse 21 plainly teaches: “Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils.”
In the next chapter the mind of the SPIRIT is occupied with the supper itself rather than with its symbolism as in chapter 10. In verses 23 to 26 we learn that Paul had received a special revelation regarding the Supper, yet fully agreeing with the accounts given by the three Evangelists, Matthew, Mark and Luke; only that the thought of the Lord’s return is added to the remembrance of Him in His death: “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” Thus are the Cross and the glory linked together for faith, and ever kept before the soul in this observance of the Lord’s Supper.
The word rendered “shew” is often translated “preach” in the New Testament. Every celebration of the eucharist (as the early Christians loved to call this feast – a word meaning thanksgiving) is in itself a sermon. It is a proclaiming of the Lord’s death: and were there more holiness, and consequently more power with it, we might often expect to see I Corinthians 14:24, 25 fulfilled when we are thus gathered together: “But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.”
Some of us will never forget such an instance a number of years ago in Sacramento, California, when an unconverted Japanese was present. We had barely replaced the bread and cup upon the table, before this heathen man rose to his feet in great emotion, and burst out in prayer, about as follows: “O GOD, I all broke up to pieces. I, a poor sinner. For long time, for one whole year, I fight you hard – but here I see your people eat the bread, drink the wine, that show how JESUS He die for sinners. O GOD, I can fight no more – I all break down. I take JESUS; He be my SAVIOUR now!”
And that very day, at his earnest request, he was baptized as owning his personal faith in CHRIST. For years he has been in fellowship as simply gathered to the name of the Lord. Alas, that such scenes are not more common!
One more point and I am done. Never become so occupied with the form that you neglect the spirit of the Lord’s Supper. It is a place for the heart’s affections to flow out. do not make it a ritualistic observance; but let it ever be an occasion where CHRIST Himself is before the soul; who has said, “This do in remembrance of me.”
Chapter 14. Books, Companionships and Recreation
Paul was not an ascetic. He was a sane, healthy, all-round man, intensely devoted to the One who had saved him. He loved books, he enjoyed congenial company, he recognized the profit to be derived from temperate recreation. He has, by the SPIRIT’s inspiration, left on record enough on all these lines to serve as a guide to young believers who may be somewhat perplexed at times as to where the line should be drawn, between what would glorify GOD and be a means of blessing to their own souls, and that would dishonor Him and hinder spiritual growth.
The writings and addresses of Paul show that he was a widely-read and well-informed man. He loved books; when he was in prison the second time, in a Roman dungeon, he longed for books. He wrote to Timothy, “bring . . . the books, but especially the parchments” (II Timothy 4:13). What these books were we have now no means of knowing; but let him make it a rule that he gives his time only to what will edify.
“Be a man of one book!” wrote Wesley. But he was himself a voluminous reader. What he meant was that the Bible should have the central place, and all other books should be read as subservient to it. If the Scriptures are not neglected, but thoughtfully read and meditated upon, one’s spiritual judgment will soon become sufficiently clarified to enable him to discern what other books can be read with edification. Trashy novels, light, frivolous literature, anything
unclean and unholy, the godly soul will instinctively shrink from. But Paul shows himself familiar with the history, science and poetry of his day. He refers on occasion to historical events; he illustrates by the use of scientific facts; he quotes, when in keeping with his theme, what “certain also of your own poets” have said, and in this we need not fear to follow him, if there be in us but the heart for CHRIST there was in him.
It is to be feared that many young Christians have been hindered by a hard legal spirit on this very line. All reading has been tabooed that was not exactly spiritual. This is a grave mistake, and leads to extreme narrowness of mind, and even positively hinders mental development, thus restricting one’s ability to enjoy what GOD Himself has given us in His word. “Reading makes a full man,” is an old saying that is worthy of remembrance; only be careful to “take forth the precious from the vile.”
And now, a word as to companionships. Paul enjoyed association with others. He loved fellowship. He appreciated friends; but his friends were among the people of GOD. To an Aquila or a Priscilla he could pour out his heart, and could enjoy to the full their tender affection. but, you may be sure, he never was fond lounging about with an Elymas or even a Gallio! And right here is where many a young saint is not faithful. There is no clean cut with the world. Old companionships are still sought and enjoyed. No wonder there is little or no growth; no wonder there are so many stunted Christians. “Come out from among them, and be ye separate,” is the Word of the Lord to all who are dilly-dallying with the world after confessing CHRIST; for “the friendship of the world is enmity with God.” Find your friends among the friends of CHRIST! Let your companions be those who love His name; and then be careful not to let good fellowship degenerate into careless levity. For here, too, many young believers break down.
This is very commonly the case where young persons of opposite sexes mingle much together. There is no reason why Christian youths and maidens should not meet and enjoy one another’s company in a pure and holy way. But often it is far otherwise. If you feel there is a snare in such commingling, then be honest with your own souls, and faithfully avoid what might dishonor CHRIST and hinder spiritual growth. Timothy was exhorted to treat elder brethren with the reverence due to fathers, young men as brethren, elder women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with all purity (I Timothy 5:1, 2). The last three words are important, and if overlooked, will lead to many a snare: “with all purity.”
Young people need recreation; old ones, too, for that matter. It is a mistake to suppose the body and mind must always be keyed up to serious pursuits. “Bodily exercise profiteth little” – not a great deal, but a “little.” Therefore beware of giving it an undue place; but do not neglect it. And in all your recreation see that there is nothing that hinders godliness, for godliness is of profit both in this life and the next.
Any one in reading the epistles can observe that in Paul’s many references to athletics, there is no suggestion that he in any way disapproves of the exercise in itself. The dangers are two: first, associations; second, excess. Be “temperate in all things,” and be as careful of your companions in your recreation as in the other affairs of life.
Unduly rigid persons often forget young men and women have bodies to be cared for and developed in a healthful way. On the other hand, pleasure-lovers forget they have immortal souls, of infinitely more importance than the body in which they dwell. Seek therefore to be a well-balanced Christian, putting first things first; and as to minor matters, ever keeping CHRIST’s glory in view. And if you are enabled to have a healthy soul in a healthy body, see that you use your strength for Him who for our sakes “endured the cross, despising the shame.” “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom,” and thus you will be enabled to “do all to the glory of God.”
Chapter 15. The Testimony of the Lord
To Paul, the testimony committed by the ascended Lord was dearer than life. Faithfulness to it involved a martyr’s death, and that he met with a Christlike resignation and calmness of soul that is blessed to contemplate.
It was his desire that those associated with him in his special ministry should be men of like spirit. Hence his words to Timothy: “Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God” (II Timothy 1:8). And again he says, “that good thing (or, deposit) which was committed unto thee, keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us” (verse 14).
The testimony of the Lord embraces the corollary of truths connected with CHRIST risen and glorified. Some of these precious themes we have been briefly examining in the foregoing papers, and we are yet to speak of others, if GOD will. But what I would now press upon the conscience of each saint who may read these lines, is individual responsibility to make known this testimony and to hold it oneself, as a sacred deposit, in the power of the HOLY GHOST.
There is all the difference in the world between holding particular “views” of justification, sanctification, acceptance, the one body, the Lord’s second coming, and kindred lines of truth, and maintaining the testimony of the Lord.
One may hold the correct view of sanctification and yet not walk in subjection to the Word that cleanses.
One may subscribe to scriptural prophetic teaching and not “love his appearing.”
One may hold the doctrine of the one body and yet remain in human systems that by their very constitution deny it.
One may have the right view of eternal life and yet live as thought this world were all.
But no one can maintain the testimony of the Lord who is not personally a self-judged, humble saint, walking in the truth, holding the HEAD, and laying hold on that which is really life. Yet to thus keep the good deposit every believer is called; and there will be eternal loss for all who fail to do so. This cannot be done in the strength of nature. Only as one walks in the SPIRIT will the needed grace be given.
What Paul calls “the testimony” in II Timothy, he designates as “the faith” in his first letter to the same devoted young servant. Note his solemn words, and remember they are as truly applicable to you, if a child of GOD (excepting, of course, the strictly personal element), as they were to Timothy when first written: “This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare; Holding faith, (literally, the faith; i.e., the truth believer, or the system of doctrinal truth) and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck” (I Timothy 1:18, 19). Now, carefully observe, you can only hold the faith of GOD’s elect in a godly way, as you maintain a good conscience. If you ever put away a good conscience – if you allow yourself to go on with any thing of which your conscience does not approve when instructed by the Word of GOD – you will lose the faith and make shipwreck of the testimony.
Many people seem to think of doctrinal error as a comparatively small and unimportant thing; but where people give up a line of truth once enjoyed in the SPIRIT’s power, or once controlling heart and life, close investigation will generally prove that moral evil of some character was behind it.
When men get out of touch with holiness, they lose their grip of the truth; or, rather, the truth loses power over them. In the third chapter of I Timothy the deacons are described as “holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience” (verse 9). This emphasizes what we have just been noticing; there must be activity of conscience if the testimony of the Lord is to be maintained and the good deposit kept.
Further exhortation, addressed to Timothy, each young believer may profitably take to himself; in chapter 4:6, and in verses 12 to 16: “If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister (or servant) “of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained . . . Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine . . . Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself and unto the doctrine; continue in them; for in doing this, thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee.” All this is most salutary instruction and must not be overlooked.
I sincerely hope that many young men who read these lines may some day be called of GOD to preach the Word and declare the testimony of the Lord publicly. If so, I trust the principle laid down in the passages we have been noticing will never be forgotten. “Thyself” first; then “the doctrine.” GOD wants holy men to serve in holy things.
It is to be feared that many a young man has been unwisely encouraged to preach, because of a glib tongue and pleasing address, who did not have the necessary godliness behind it that would insure success as a winner of souls and a helper of saints. Gift, divorced from piety, may do untold mischief; but as James Caughey used to say, “A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hands of God.” Where this personal fitness is lacking, there may be brilliant service for a time; easy-going Christians may applaud and admire; but the end of it all is likely to be a crash that may bring many others down with the poor fallen preacher, who was all the time “trafficking in unfelt truth” (to use an expression coined, I believe, by C.H.M.), and whose true condition has at last been exposed.
The testimony of the Lord is like the ark of the covenant which was borne through the wilderness on the priest’s shoulders. So should the truth of GOD be proclaimed by priestly men, who live in fellowship with Him whose testimony it is.
Chapter 16. The Coming of the Lord
Some time ago I listened to a well-known clergyman giving a lecture upon a recently completed world tour. He frankly told his audience that he did not believe in the personal pre-millennial coming of the Lord. Yet in candor he felt compelled to make the following admission; Wherever he had found special devotedness among missionaries laboring in distant lands, and inquired what it was that enabled them not to count their own lives dear, but to toil so earnestly for the salvation of the heathen, the answer had invariably come: “Because the Lord’s return is near; I look for Him to come again, and I want to accomplish what I can while waiting for His advent.”
This is indeed as it should be. The truth of the second coming of the Lord was the guiding star of Paul’s whole life and service as a Christian, and GOD would have the same true of us.
A century ago, almost total ignorance prevailed among Christians as to the manner and object of the Lord’s second coming. To-day this precious truth has been carried into practically every nook and corner of the earth. No thoughtful person, it would seem, could fail to recognize in this the sounding forth of the midnight cry: “Behold, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him!” – though the setting of dates, and confusing the Church’s hope with Israel’s expectations has been used by the enemy also; for when the Word is not “rightly divided” on these two subjects, confusion and uncertainty are sure to result.
The proper hope of the Church is the Lord’s return in person, in the clouds, to raise the dead in CHRIST and to change the bodies of the living believers, who shall “in a moment” be “caught up together… to meet the Lord in the air.” There are no dates or time-periods connected with this event. The early Christians were taught to wait expectantly for it: “For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for his Son from Heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come” (I Thessalonians 1:9, 10).; and it is still our present hope. It is this phase of the coming that I Thessalonians 4:13 to the end also I Corinthians 15:51-56, and many other Scriptures.
Israel’s hopes are of a different character, and with them the “times and seasons” are linked. They were taught to look for the descent of MESSIAH in great power and glory to the earth, to scatter His foes, regather His chosen people, judge among the nations, and establish His earthly, visible kingdom upon the ruins of all human dominions. Such is the teaching of the Prophets; and Paul shows clearly that all this is not superseded by the Christian revelation: but when the appearing of the Lord to the earth takes place, all the saints of the present age, or Church period, previously changed and glorified will appear with Him in glory as a special bridal company in the day of His triumph. Of this II Thessalonians largely treats.
These two stages of the Lord’s return are not two comings, but one. Only He pauses in the air, on His way to earth, to receive the heavenly saints, to reward each one and apportion to each his place in the coming kingdom, according to the measure of their devotedness in the period of their testimony here. Of this I wish to write more particularly in the next paper, so shall not dwell on it now.
It is often said by objectors to what is called the “pre-millennial coming,” that the Lord will not return till He comes as JUDGE at the expiration of the thousand years’ reign of righteousness. To meet this, I want to put several propositions in logical form, which I believe to be incontrovertible.
1. There can be no millennium till CHRIST comes, because the resurrection of believers takes place prior to the millennium, and at CHRIST’s return: consequently there can be no millennium till He returns:
“But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years” (Revelation 20:5, 6).
“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (I Thessalonians 4:13-18).
2. There can be no millennium till CHRIST comes, because Antichrist is to be destroyed at the second advent; consequently CHRIST’s return must precede the millennium:
1. Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
2. That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
3. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
4. Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.
5. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?
6. And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.
7. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.
8. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:
9. Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,
10. And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
11. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:
12. That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
13. But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:
14. Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
15. Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our Epistle.
16. Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace,
17. Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work. (II Thessalonians 2).
3. There can be no millennium till CHRIST returns, because Satan is to be bound immediately preceding the second advent. There can therefore be no millennium till CHRIST appears:
“And I saw an angel come down from Heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season” (Revelation 20:1-3).
4. There can be no millennium till CHRIST returns, because the millennial kingdom is to be the scene of the risen saints’ rewards. These get their reward at CHRIST’s second coming; so there can be no millennium till He returns:
“And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4).
“And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be” (Revelation 22:12).
5. There can be no millennium till CHRIST returns, because Israel must be regathered to their land and purged of their sins before the millennium. But Israel are to be regathered at CHRIST’s second coming; therefore there can be no millennium till CHRIST comes:
1. The burden of the word of the Lord for Israel, saith the Lord, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him.
2. Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem.
3. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.
4. In that day, saith the Lord, I will smite every horse with astonishment, and his rider with madness: and I will open mine eyes upon the house of Judah, and will smite every horse of the people with blindness.
5. And the governors of Judah shall say in their heart, The inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be my strength in the Lord of hosts their God.
6. In that day will I make the governors of Judah like an hearth of fire among the wood, and like a torch of fire in a sheaf; and they shall devour all the people round about, on the right hand and on the left: and Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place, even in Jerusalem.
7. The Lord also shall save the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem do not magnify themselves against Judah.
8. In that day shall the Lord defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the Lord before them.
9. And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.
10. And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.
11. In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon.
12. And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart;
13. The family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart;
14. All the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart. (Zechariah 12)
1. In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.
2. And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered: and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land.
3. And it shall come to pass, that when any shall yet prophesy, then his father and his mother that begat him shall say unto him, Thou shalt not live; for thou speakest lies in the name of the Lord: and his father and his mother that begat him shall thrust him through when he prophesieth.
4. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the prophets shall be ashamed every one of his vision, when he hath prophesied; neither shall they wear a rough garment to deceive:
5. But he shall say, I am no prophet, I am an husbandman; for man taught me to keep cattle from my youth.
6. And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.
7. Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.
8. And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the Lord, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein.
9. And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God. (Zechariah 13).
6. There can be no millennium till CHRIST returns, because Gentile dominion is abolished at CHRIST’s second coming; consequently there can be no millennium till CHRIST returns.
“and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Luke 21:24).
7. There can be no millennium till CHRIST comes, for the Church age only ends, and the fulness of the Gentiles will have come in, at CHRIST’s second coming. There can therefore be no millennium till CHRIST comes:
1. I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.
2. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying,
3. Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life.
4. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.
5. Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
6. And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.
7. What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.
8. (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day.
9. And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them:
10. Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway.
11. I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.
12. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the
riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?
13. For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify
14. If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.
15. For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?
16. For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.
17. And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;
18. Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.
19. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in.
20. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:
21. For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.
22. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but
toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.
23. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to
graff them in again.
24. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed
contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural
branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?
25. For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be
wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of
the Gentiles be come in.
26. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the
Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
27. For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
28. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election,
they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes.
29. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
30. For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:
31. Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.
32. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.
33. O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable
are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
34. For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counseller?
35. Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?
36. For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen” (Romans 11).
To these propositions many more might be added, but these are sufficient, I feel certain, to prove the case for any Berean who will search “the Scriptures daily whether those things were so.”
But a word of warning ere closing. It is a poor thing to simply hold correct views of the coming the Lord, if the heart be not engaged with the blessed Person who is so soon to return. We are called to “wait for His Son from Heaven.” If He be not the object of our souls, correct views will avail little to keep us from the power of the world and in the path of devotion to Himself. But if He indeed be ever precious to us, we shall know the truth of what is written: “Every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself even as He is pure.”
At the sound of His voice we shall fly to Him as the steel to the magnet. Till then, be it ours ever to be held by the power of His attraction.
Chapter 17. The Voyage Ended: The Judgment-Seat of CHRIST
Soon those who sail with Paul will have weathered the last gale, endured the final storm; and, the voyage over the sea of Time completed, will have reached their desired haven. Even though the vessel of testimony may seem to fall to pieces, still, either swimming to shore, or “some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship,”all shall escape safely to land – and not to find themselves among strangers either, needing what Charity’s kindness might bestow, but welcomed there by all their brethren of all ages, and above all by Him whose loving care had watched o’er all their way, and whose grace will have safely brought them home.
Depend upon it, no self-denial for His name’s sake will then seem to have been too great;
no trials because of His truth will appear to have been too many;
no suffering or toil for the spreading of His Gospel too much, in that day.
Nay, on the contrary, how many will there be who would then gladly give the wealth of a world, were it theirs to offer, if they had only been more devoted to Him in the day of His rejection, more unworldly, more Christ-like, and more concerned about the dire need of the perishing thousands about them. But the day for faithfulness to an absent Lord will then be over, and the hour of manifestation will have arrived.
Paul himself looking on to this solemn time could write: “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but also unto all those that love His appearing” (II Timothy 4:6-8). It was not the final “day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men” that he had in view. Paul had no thought of every being judged for his sins. He knew all that had been settled in CHRIST’s Cross. Hence for him, as for all believers, there could be no judgment in the future, so far as the question of sin was concerned. But elsewhere he tells us that “we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be god or bad” (II Corinthians 5:10). And he shows us that, for the Christian, this will mean a complete manifestation of all his works and motives, that the Lord may express His own mind regarding them, and reward all that was of His SPIRIT in the life of His people after His grace had saved them.
The third chapter of I Corinthians is most instructive in this connection. In its primary application, the subject under consideration is the building up of the assembly of GOD in its local aspect. But the principle involved applies to all Christian work and service. Every believer is building on the rock-foundation which is CHRIST Himself. “Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious (or costly) stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is” (I Corinthians 3:12, 13). I have little doubt that an historical incident was in Paul’s mind as the SPIRIT led him to pen these words.
Among the “seven wonders” of the ancient world was the magnificent temple of Diana, outside the city of Ephesus. It was built on marshy ground, and before the building could be erected, a great rock foundation had to be laid – the work of years. On this foundation the superstructure was reared under the direction of the most famous “master-builder” of his day. The building was entirely composed of gold, silver and costly stones. But the roof and the rooms adjoining the main sanctuary, used by the priests and priestesses of Diana, were made of wood, hay and stubble. On the night that beacon lights on every hill-top of Greece and Asia Minor flashed the news of the birth of an heir to Philip of Macedon (who became celebrated as Alexander the Great), Erostratus the Ephesian set fire to this temple of Diana. In the morning it was found that the gold, silver and costly stones remained unharmed, while the wood, hay and stubble had been devoured by the flames.
Now every Christian is building upon the foundation laid through the Gospel. All that is in accordance with the Word of GOD is likened to gold, silver and costly stones. That which is of the flesh is pictured by the wood, hay and stubble. At the judgment seat of CHRIST all will be tested by the fire of infinite holiness. Then everything that was not the fruit of the Spirit will be destroyed. Notice, that “the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.” It does not say, “how much it is.” It is not quantity, but quality that is in question. A vast amount of so-called Christian work will be destroyed in that day; but all that has really been for CHRIST will stand the test. “If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (verses 14, 15). This last clause supposes an extreme case where, if even not one thing is found that can be rewarded, still, so absolutely is salvation of grace that “he himself shall be saved” though all his works be burned up. But verse 5 of chapter 4 shows us that there will be none in that day who will fail utterly of reward. “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.” (The context, however, seems to show that it is a question of the source from which the praises comes, rather than an affirmation that all will have praise. The apostle tells the Corinthians that it is a very small thing with him to be judged of them or of man’s day, in contrast to the Lord’s day when praise will come from none other source, but from GOD).
The rewards are pictured in other Scriptures as “crowns.” These crowns should never be confounded with salvation, which is entirely of GOD’s sovereign grace; while the crowns were given for individual faithfulness. There are five different designations used, as follows:
The “incorruptible crown,” promised to all who in godliness and self-control run the Christian race:
“And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (I Corinthians 9:25-27).
The “crown of rejoicing” for the winner of souls:
“For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy” (I Thessalonians 2:19-20).
“Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved” (Philippians 4:1).
The “crown of righteousness,” for all who love CHRIST’s appearing, and labor now in view of that day:
“Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (II Timothy 4:8).
The “crown of life,” for those who witness amid trial with unyielding perseverance:
“Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him” (James 1:12).
“Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
The “crown of glory,” for faithfully shepherding the sheep and lambs of CHRIST’s flock:
“The 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. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away” (I Peter 5:1-4).
In Revelation 3:11 the Lord JESUS says: “Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” This is an exhortation we may all take heed to, remembering that the Lord’s work will be accomplished according to His purpose, whether we have a share in it or not. But it is our happy privilege to be “labourers together with God,” working in subjection to His Word, to be rewarded when our SAVIOUR comes again. The opportunity to serve will soon be over. May grace be mine and yours, dear reader, to labor on in hope, remembering that “if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.”
With this paper, our present series comes to an end. Let me, in closing, urge each young Christian to live alone in view of the end of the voyage, so fast approaching, heeding the farewell message of the ascended Lord: “Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give each man according as his work shall be” (Revelation 22:12).