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SKETCH ABOVE: THE EMPEROR NERO WITNESSING THE BURNING OF THE CHRISTIAN MARTYRS AT ROME [ROMANS 8: 26]

 

 

“The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew, hanging him on a tree.  Him did God exalt with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and remission of sins.  And we are witnesses of these things; and so is THE HOLY GHOST, WHOM GOD HATH GIVEN TO THEM THAT OBEY HIM:” (Acts 5: 30-32, R.V.).

 

 

“But this I confess unto thee, that after the Way which they call a sect, so serve I the God of our fathers, believing all things which are according to the law, and which are written in the prophets: having hope toward God, which these also themselves look for, that THERE SHALL BE A RESURRECTION BOTH OF THE JUST AND UNJUST.  Herein do I also exercise myself to have a conscience void of offence toward God and men always… “Touching THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD I am called in question before you this day:”(Acts 24: 14-16, 21b, R.V. )

 

 

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SCRIPTURE READING AND INTRODUCTION

 

 

“The former treatise I made, Theophilus, concerning all that Jesus began both to do and to TEACH, until the day in which he was received up, after that he had given commandment through the Holy Ghost unto his apostles whom he had chosen: to whom he showed himself ALIVE after his passion by many proofs, appearing unto them by the space of forty days, and speaking the things concerning the KINGDOM OF GOD: and, being assembled together with them, he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to WAIT for the promise of the Father, which, said he, ye heard from me: for John indeed baptized with water; but YE SHALL BE BAPTIZED WITH THE HOLY GHOST not many days thence.

 

 

“They therefore, when they were come together, asked him, saying, Lord, dost thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?  And he said unto them, It is not for you to know times or seasons, which the Father hath set within his own authority.  But ye shall receive POWER, when the HOLY GHOST IS COME UPON YOU: and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.  And when he had said these things, as they were looking, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.  And while they were looking steadfastly into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye looking into heaven? this Jesus, which was received up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye beheld him going into heavenActs 1: 1-11, R.V.

 

 

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MINISTRIES OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

 

 

 

“The teaching ministry of the Spirit was one of Christ’s last promises before His crucifixion.  He said, ‘I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot hear them now.  But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.  He shall glorify Me; for He shall take if mine, and shall disclose it to you.  All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said, that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you’ (John 16: 12-15).

 

 

This particular ministry of the Spirit was yet future when our Lord spoke these words.  It began on the Day of Pentecost and continues throughout this age.  Peter’s clear comprehension as revealed in his Pentecostal sermon is evidence of the beginning of this ministry.

 

 

In general the content of the Spirit’s ministry encompasses ‘all the truth’ (the definite article appears in the text).  This, of course, means revelation concerning Christ Himself, but on the basis of the written Word (for we have no other information about Him except through the Bible).  Therefore, He teaches the believer the content of the Scripture which leads him to an understanding of prophecy (‘things to come’).  This particularizing of the general promise concerning teaching ought to encourage every believer to study prophecy.  Notice too that the Spirit does not originate His message – it comes from the Lord.

 

 

The result of the teaching ministry of the Spirit is that Christ is glorified.  If He is not glorified, then the Spirit has not been ministering.  Note also that it is not the Spirit who is glorified or who is supposed to be glorified in a religious service, but Christ.  Further, if Christ is known only through the written Word, then He will be glorified when the Word of God is expounded in the power of the Spirit.

 

 

How does the [Holy] Spirit teach the believer?  John declares: ‘The anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him” (1 John 2: 27).  This could not mean that human teachers are unnecessary in explaining the Word of God.  If it could, then what would be the use of the gift of teaching? (Rom. 12: 7.)  John wrote concerning the presence of antichrists in the group.  Having stated his own conviction concerning their heresies, he simply declared that no man really had to tell them to teach, for the Holy Spirit would confirm it to them.  Human teachers are a necessary link in the procedure of instructing believers, though the ultimate authentication of the teaching comes from the [Holy] Spirit.

 

 

‘For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God’ (Rom. 8: 14).  Leading is a confirmation of sonship, for sons are led.  This work of guidance is particularly the work of the [Holy] Spirit.  Romans 8: 14 states it and the Book of Acts amply illustrates it (8: 29; 10: 19-20; 13: 2, 4; 16: 6-7; 20: 22-23).  This ministry of the Spirit is one of the most assuring ones for the Christian.  The child of God never needs to walk in the dark; he is always free to ask and receive directions from the Spirit Himself.

 

 

The Spirit is also One who assures the Christian that he is a child of God.  ‘The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit, that we are children of God’ (Rom: 16).  The word for children is here tekna (in contrast to huioi, sons) and emphasizes the fact that the believer shares in the life of the Father.  Because of this, he also shares as an heir* [of eternal life] in the possessions of the Father.  Assurance of all this is the work of the Spirit to the heart of each Christian  Dr. Charles C. Ryrie.

 

[* Note.  A distinction needs to be made from what we presently have inherited from God as a “free gift” (Rom. 6: 23, R.V) to His redeemed children, based upon Another’s work; from what we hope to inherit in the “age” yet to come, when our Lord Jesus returns to establish His Kingdom rule; and to “Reward” His redeemed people for the quality and nature of their work.  “Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to render to each man according as his work is,” (Rev.  22:  12, R.V.).  “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord,” (1 Cor. 15: 58, R.V.).  “Whatsoever ye do, work heartily as unto the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that from the Lord ye shall receive the recompense of the inheritance; ye serve the Lord Christ.  For he that doeth wrong shall receive again for the wrong that he hath done: and there is no respect of persons,” (Col. 3: 23-25, R.V.). See 1 Cor. 6: 9, 10; Gal. 5: 21; Eph. 5: 5.]

 

 

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1. Messiah was dead, but after “three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12: 40), He was Resurrected “out from the dead” (Acts 4: 2b, Lit. Gk.), leaving the rest of the dead waiting in “Hades” until the time of their Resurrection!  John 3: 13; 1 Thess. 4: 16

 

 

So says our Lord: “Is it not for this cause that ye err, that ye know not the scriptures nor the power of God?  For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels in heaven.  But as touching the dead, that they are raised; have ye not read in the book of Moses, in the place concerning the Bush, how God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?  He is not the God of the dead, but of the living: ye do greatly err:” (Mark 12: 24-27, R.V.).  Again: “And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and that he was carried away by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: and the rich man died, and was buried.  And in HADES (not in Heaven) he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom  (Luke 16: 22, 23, R.V.). 

 

 

So says Stephen: “The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, and said unto him, Get thee out of thy land, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee.  Then came he out of the land of the Chaldaeans, and dwelt in Haran: and from thence, when his father was dead, God removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell: and HE GAVE HIM NONE INHERITANCE IN IT, no, not so much as to set his foot on: and HE PROMISED THAT HE WOULD GIVE IT TO HIM IN POSSESSION, and to his SEED after him, when as yet he had no child:” (Acts 7: 2-5, R.V.). 

 

 

So says the Writer of Hebrews: “These all died in faith, NOT HAVING RECEIVED THE PROMISES, but having seen them from afar…” (Heb. 11: 13, R.V.). 

 

 

So says Peter: (Acts 2: 29-34). “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his great mercy begat us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” … “unto a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time…“receiving the end of your faith, even THE SALVATION OF YOUR SOULS.  Concerning which salvation the prophets sought and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what time or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did point unto, when it [He] testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and THE GLORIES THAT SHOULD FOLLOW THEM:” (1 Pet. 1: 3, 5, 9-11, R.V.). 

 

 

So says John: “NO MAN HATH ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN, but he that descended out of heaven, even the Son of man” (John 3: 13).  Again: “I saw underneath the altar the SOULS of them that had been slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: and they cried with a great voice, saying, How long, O Master, the holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?  And there was given them to each one a white robe; and it was said unto them, that they should rest for a little time, until their fellow-servants also and their brethren, which should be killed even as they were, should have fulfilled their course” (Rev. 6: 9-11, R.V. Margin). 

 

 

So says Paul: “But shun profane babblings: for they will proceed further in ungodliness, and their word will eat as doth a gangrene: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; men who concerning the TRUTH have erred, saying that the RESURRECTION is past already, and overthrow the faith of some:” (2 Tim. 2: 16-18, R.V.).

 

 

 “When the filling of the Spirit is mentioned in the Book of Acts, conversions are recorded.  Spirit-filling on the Day of Pentecost (2: 4) resulted in the conversion of 3,000 people (v. 41).  The filling of the disciples in 4: 31 resulted in multitudes of men and women turning to the Lord (5: 14).  One of the qualifications for the choosing of the first helpers was that they be Spirit-filled (6: 3).  This was followed by the conversion of a number of priests (v. 7).  Paul was filled with the Spirit after his conversion, and the fruit of his life is well known.  When Barnabas, who was filled with the Spirit, went to Antioch many were converted (11: 24).  Certainly those who prayed (4: 24) and those who gave (v. 34) were as involved as those who gave the direct witness that resulted in these conversions (Ryrie)

 

 

“(1) In Old Testament times the 50th day (c. 7 weeks) after the harvest-consecrating, sheaf-waving ceremony of the 16th of the month Nisan.  Pentecost is also known as “The Feast of Weeks” (Ex. 34: 22; Deut. 16: 10), “The Feast of Harvest” (Ex. 23: 16), and “The Day of the First Fruits” (Num. 28: 26).  This one-day festival usually fell on the 6th day of the month Sivan (end of May or beginning of June) and was the 2d and least important of the three annual festivals which, by ritual indicated in sources J and E (Ex. 34: 18-26, cf. 23: 10-17), were to be celebrated at the sanctuary by every male.  It opened the fruit harvest, as the Feast of Unleavened Bread opened grain harvest. …

 

 

“Because Pentecost was observed about seven weeks after Passover, it was tied in with the Sabbatical system of feasts; usual labours were halted and people met in a holy convocation (Deut. 28: 2-6). …

 

 

“(2) In the N.T. the first Christian Pentecost fell on the same day as the old Hebrew festival.  The events narrated in Acts 2 mark the beginning of the Christian Church.  Multitudes of devout Jews from what seemed “every nation under heaven” (v. 5) had been attracted to Jerusalem.  About nine in the morning (cf. v. 15), the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles and some 120 disciples gathered together.  The cloven “tongues of fire” (Acts 2: 3) were analogous to “the burning bush” at Sinai (Ex. 3: 3).  Not only the disciples but the throng gathered to celebrate the old Pentecost were included in the marvellous happenings (Acts 2: 6).  As the old Pentecost was a harvest feast, it was appropriate that the new Pentecost brought a harvest of “about three thousand souls” (v. 41).  Many Christians saw the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples, 50 days after the redemption of the world by Christ, an analogy to the gift by God of the Sinai Law, 50 days (traditionally) after the deliverance of Israel from [bondage in] Egypt.*

 

[* “At the intercession of the descended Christ, as Peter testifies, the Holy Spirit, as the angel (or sent One) of the Lord, descends [at Pentecost] in fire on the disciples of the rejected Christ.  Might they not then be the bush that was burning, yet unconsumed?  Moses wondered at the sight.  And did not men of Israel out of all nations wonder, when the [Holy] Spirit coming down in wind and fire, gave to the 120 to speak with new tongues, while tongues of fire that consumed not, stood on their heads?  Out of the fire of the bush came forth the voice of Jehovah, testifying that He was the God of the fathers.  Might not then the testimonies of the inspired apostles be true; that this new manifestation came from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?  Acts 3: 13, 25; 5: 30; 22: 14]

 

“Paul in 1 Cor. 16: 8 spoke of delaying his return to Corinth from Ephesus until after Pentecost; he wished to take evangelistic advantage of the opportunity offered by the crowds assembled for the feast.

 

 

“(3) In some branches of the Christian Church Pentecost or Whitsuntide is observed as a solemn feast 50 days after Easter (reckoning inclusively), to commemorate the coming of the Holy Spirit. … In Christian symbolism cloven tongues of fire signify the Day of Pentecost, as well as the Holy Spirit.”

 

- (Black’s Bible Dictionary, pp536, 537.)

 

 

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EXPOSITIONS

 

 

[PART ONE]

 

 

1

 

PETER’S FIRST SERMON ON

 

“THE DAY OF PENTECOST”

 

 

By

 

 

ROBERT GOVETT

 

Let us now pass to the consideration of a passage of great moment, to be produced from the New Testament.  It is found in the first sermon of St. Peter, and runs thus -

“Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles, and wonders, and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain, whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.  For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face; for he is at my right hand that I should not be moved. Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover, also, my flesh shall rest in hope; Because thou will not leave me in hell,* neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.  Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance.  Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.  Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He, seeing this before, spake of the resurrection of the Christ, that his soul was not left in hell,* neither his flesh did see corruption.  This Jesus hath God raised up whereof we all are witnesses.  Therefore, being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear.  For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool.  Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made that same Jesus whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ

* NOTE. “Hades is spoken of with expressions of comparison utterly inconsistent with the idea of the literal grave.  Thus we read of – ‘The lowest Hades’ (Deut. 32: 22; Psa. 86: 13) ‘the depths of Hades’ (Prov. 9: 18); ‘the midst of Hades’ (Ezek. 32: 21).  It is in two instances clearly distinguished from the grave.  In Gen. 37: 35, where it first appears in the Bible, Jacob declares- ‘I will go down into Hades unto my son’; but from verse 33 we learn that the Patriarch was under the impression that Joseph had not, and could not have, a grave; he is there represented as exclaiming, ‘An evil beast hath devoured him  And in Isaiah 14: 15 it is declared that Lucifer shall be ‘brought down to Hades,’ who, verse 19, is represented as being ‘cast out of his grave  It is used in antithesis with Heaven under circumstances which show that the literal grave cannot be intended.  “It is as high as Heaven, what canst thou do? deeper than Hades, what canst thou know?’ (Job 11: 8).  ‘If I ascend up into Heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in Hades [Heb. “Sheol”], behold, thou art there’ (Psa. 139: 8). ‘Though they dig into Hades, thence shall mine hand take them: though they climb up to Heaven, thence will I bring them down’ (Amos 9: 2.).

The New Testament idea of Hades as distinct from the grave may be most clearly perceived in the declaration concerning Dives in Luke 16: 23; and in the didactic teaching [i.e. a teaching meant to give instruction and understanding] of the Apostle Peter (Acts 2: 27-31) concerning the soul of Jesus between His death and His resurrection.  The Apostle, manifestly, spoke of both the body and the soul of our Lord (comp. verses 27 and 31, asserting that the former did not see corruption (although it was placed in a sepulchre) and that the latter was not left in Hades - implying, of course, that it went to Hades.”  Philip Schaff, D.D.

Unless we adopt the conclusion that the soul remains in Hades for as long as the body remains in decomposition - in the face of the manifest implications of the Apostle and the whole tenor of the Word of God - Hades must be understood to be distinct from both tomb and grave.]

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But the force of the argument is lost from the words having become familiar to our ear.  Let it then be presented in other words.  The descent of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost had caused all the disciples then present to speak with new tongues.  The sound of so many voices speaking together in tongues unknown to the listeners, naturally drew a great concourse of persons, who questioned amongst themselves what could be the cause of so unusual occurrence.  One cause was suggested by some scoffers, - that it was only the effect of intoxication.  Thereupon Peter stood up to reply, and made answer, that it was by no means probable that so many could all be intoxicated together at so early an hour as nine in the morning.  But he assured them that the cause of the event, which so excited their astonishment, was “that thing which was spoken by the prophet Joel” - the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, - “I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy  St. Peter’s answer, therefore, is in substance this, - The event you have witnessed is due, not to the intoxication of wine, but to the effusion of the Holy Spirit.  Hence, those have misunderstood the scope of the passage, who suppose that St. Peter quotes the whole of this prophecy as then fulfilled.  But it is not so.  He does not say, “Now is fulfilled but, This is an event due to the same cause, and is of precisely the same nature, as that which, in the last day, shall receive its literal accomplishment.

 

After this rebutment of the objection, the Apostle then proceeds to the more immediate object of his proof.  He lays first as his basis - the undeniable miracles of the man generally known by them under the name of Jesus the Nazarite*  Now miracles such as his, they all acknowledged, were a testimony on the part of God to a commission received from himself.  But this Jesus was dead.  Did not that destroy the evidence arising from his miracles?  No - it was by ‘the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God’.  They might have anticipated that the Christ or Messiah must die, if they had only attended to their own prophetic writings.  In proof of which he cites a passage from the Psalms which evidently implied upon its very face, the death and resurrection of a certain “Holy One” specified therein.  It implied his death - for his body should not see corruption, nor his soul be left in Hades.

* It is a pity that our translators have not rendered “the Nazarite,” wherever it occurs.  If they had done so, its prophetic force would have been seen.

But in order to evade the force of this, the Jews might reply – “Aye, we know that many of our nation understand this of the Messiah, but now we see that we were wrong - it must be meant of David himself.”  The Apostle then advances to drive them from this stronghold.  It cannot be David, he argues - for the Psalm speaks of one whose flesh was not to see corruption.  Now though David, as they all knew, died, and so far fulfilled the prophecy; yet his being buried (which probably did not take place till corruption was begun), and certainly his close and fastened sepulchre remaining among them up to their time, was a clear proof that David’s flesh, like all his fathers’ had yielded to natural laws, and seen corruption: If any doubted, they might open the tomb and judge for themselves.  It could not, therefore, be David that was intended in this Psalm.  But it was a natural and easy deduction from the acknowledged principle that David was a prophet, that this Psalm should apply to the Messiah of whom all prophecy was full, and in order to prepare the minds of men for his reception, it was given at the first.*

* See also Paul’s words at Antioch of Pisidia: “…We bring you good tidings of the promise made unto the fathers, how that God hath fulfilled the same unto our children, in that he raised up Jesus; as also it is written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.  And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he hath spoken in this wise, I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.  Because he saith also in another psalm, Thou wilt not give thy Holy one to see corruption.  For David, after he had in his own generation served the counsel of God, fell on sleep, and [his body] was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption: but he [Christ/Messiah] whom God raised up saw no corruption” Acts 13: 32-37, R.V.

But not only did it apply to the Messiah, but it proved also that Jesus was the Messiah, because it was fulfilled in his death and resurrection.  They needed none to testify of the death of Jesus - all their nation knew or had witnessed that; and thus far the prophecy of the Psalm was fulfilled.  But the Apostles could substantiate to them the broad difference which marked the death of the Lord Jesus from that of David; and this Peter proceeds to do.  For Christ had risen again, had risen the third day, and, therefore, so short was the space of time intervening between death and resurrection; that no corruption passed upon his body.  Therefore they must also infer that “his soul was not left in Hades for it could not be that his body should be alive without the reuniting of the soul to it.  And the resurrection of his body was therefore the proof that his soul was delivered from the “bands of death, because he could not be holden of it  But there was another proof, arising from the miraculous fact they had witnessed.  Not only had the Saviour arisen again, but he had ascended to God’s right hand; as the Psalm first quoted implied - “God is at my right hand that I shall not be movedand again, - “Thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance.  At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore  Which evidently implied that the speaker* was enjoying the immediate vision of God in heaven.  And the proof that he was there, was the extraordinary miracle then presented.  He - the ascended Messiah, hath been the cause of this - “he hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear He promised us his disciples that he would do it when he ascended on high.  The accomplishment, therefore, of the sign on earth is the token of the fulfilment of the thing signified in heaven.  Lastly, the apostle quotes also the 110th Psalm, which all referred to the Messiah, and that spake of David’s “Lord(not of David’s self) as ascended to the heavens.  The conclusion, therefore, evidently was, that these passages could not be fulfilled in David, and therefore that he was not the Christ; but that they were fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, and therefore that he was the Messiah.  The gist of the argument, therefore, is evidently this.  The speaker is to be like all other men in death, but distinguished from all other men by the non-corruption of his body - and that took place in Jesus.  But the second point also follows on this, - the deliverance of his soul from Hades.  Hence it is evident, that in this miraculous exception to the ordinary case of men is found implied the general rule of the disposal of the sons of men at their death.  The speaker was to be an exception, and a miraculous exception, in his body.  It was not to see corruption.  It is implied, therefore, that the rule, as it regards men in general, is, that their bodies should turn to corruption; and this all are willing to allow.  But the speaker in the Psalm was to be an exception, also in his soul.  It was not to be “LEFT in Hades therefore the general rule is, that the souls of men ARE LEFT in Hades.  Thus, both in body and soul, therefore, the speaker was distinguished from David.  And to meet the point still more clearly, St. Peter distinctly affirms, that “David is not ascended into the heavens  How strange that any, after this clear passage, should fancy that the saints are in heaven now [before the time of their Resurrection]!  If David has not ascended into heaven, what other saint is likely to be there?  But we can meet it by a universal denial in the words of Christ himself - “No man hath ascended into the heaven,” John iii. 13 [3: 13].  And since the souls of the departed must be either in heaven or in the intermediate place, (called in Scripture Hades) - and as they are not [yet resurrected and] in heaven, they must be in Hades - [the underworld of the dead (Luke 16: 19-31).].

[* Note.  The “speaker” in this context, does not refer to King David, but rather to the indwelling Holy Spirit, who recorded the prophecy through David.  A prophecy which, after many years, would be literally fulfilled at the Resurrection of “Jesus of Nazareth,” God’s true “Messiah,” His anointed “King of Israel” and Ruler over all creation.]

The two things are set side by side - non-corruption of the body, and the restoration of the soul [of our Lord Jesus] from Hades - which were fulfilled in Christ, and could not be fulfilled in David; therefore it follows, by implication of a strong kind, that, on the other side, corruption of the body answers to the sojourn of the soul in Hades.

But this may be also cleared yet further, from the consideration that Christ is “the forerunner and that “it behoved him to be in all things made like to his brethren  As, therefore, he was like them in his death and the disposal of his body, so also in the disposal of his soul.  He was to be a man in every point of his history which was compatible with his being sinless; and as his descending to the place of the dead did not destroy that purity of his nature, so it follows that to this also he submitted.

 

 

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2

 

JESUS’ REPLY

TO THE SADDUCEES

 

 

This true view of the dead will materially affect our comprehension of the Saviour’s reply to the Sadducees.  Jesus argues from the expression used by Jehovah, “I am the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and Jacob that the dead were to be raised.  In what condition, then, did Jesus assume these patriarchs to be?  Dead? or alive?  Christians ordinarily suppose that He assumes them to be alive.  So says Wesley, “Therefore Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, are not dead, but living.  Therefore the soul does not die with the body  So says Barnes“God spake, then, as being their God “They must, therefore, be still somewhere living  “He is the God only of those who have an existence

But then there is in that passage no proof of a resurrection; but only of the separate existence of the soul, after spirit returns to God and the body is laid aside.  Now resurrection never means ‘the immortality of the soul never means ‘a future state  Then, too, Jesus’ reply does not refute the Sadducees.  Their alleged difficulty did not relate to the intermediate state, but to the coming forth of the dead from their tombs, and the restoration of their bodies.  To whom the woman was as wife to belong, was a question applying only to the day when the body was reunited to the soulNeither Pharisee nor Sadducee believed in marriage among spirits.

This answer, then, makes Jesus evade the question, and prove the separate existence of the soul, instead of the resurrection of the body.  It is, in fact, a wrong way of stating the matter.  The patriarchs were not alive, but dead.  The dead, as we have shown, are those human beings whose body, soul and spirit are severed.  Then Jesus admits to the Sadducees, that Abraham is dead, as much as the woman and her seven husbands.  Abraham is dead, for his body is still in the cave of Machpelah.  And Jesus cites the expression in Exodus as proof of the future resurrection of the dead: Matt. 22: 30.  “Now in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage  “Now concerning the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken to you by God, saying - I am the God of Abraham

It is, indeed, quite true that this passage proves the separate existence of the souls of the patriarchs.  But that was not the point.  Jesus does not cite it to prove that, but Abraham’s return to his body.  The separate existence of Abraham’s body soul and spirit is a proof of his being then and now among the dead.  He will not be alive till his body, soul and spirit are reunited.  In the same state in which Abraham was when God spoke to Moses at the bush, Abraham is still.  Barnes and others call him “dead” then.  He is, then, dead now.  Jesus therefore is referring, not to time present, but to a future day of resurrection, of which the Sadducees were speaking.

Abraham is dead.  Jehovah is his God.  But Jehovah is not the God of the dead.  Therefore God is not now showing Himself the God of Abraham, for the first resurrection - i.e., a resurrection to immortality - is not yet come.  That the resurrection was to be at a future day, the Pharisees held; and on that, allowed as a basis, the Sadducees plead.  God, then, by these words, engages to restore by His Almighty power Abraham to become Abraham again in resurrection.  Abraham when the Lord promised him possession of Canaan, was the man, consisting of body, soul and spirit.  The curse of sin, separating the parts of Abraham, has hitherto prevented him from enjoying the good promised.  God must therefore raise the body of Abraham from the cave, and re-knit it to the soul and spirit of Abraham, ere He can fulfil His engagement.  Till the body, soul, and spirit come together, Abraham is not alive, and God is not showing Himself the God of Abraham There is no visible difference between Abraham and Saul now.  But the Almighty means to show His power put forth in goodness in rescuing Abraham wholly from the grasp of death.  He has as yet done nothing answering the greatness of His promises for the patriarchs.  But He is a God of truth. Therefore what He has not done in the past, He must, He will do in the future.  And God is in covenant relation with Abraham, even as regards his body.  That was marked for God.  How can God reject it, or cast it away as naught?  Mark, too, the terms, “My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant Gen. 17: 13.  Then the flesh must be as everlasting as the covenant.  And so it is in the only One to Whom it has been fulfilled.  It is true of the One Heir, the Singular Seed of Abraham risen out from the dead, who said, “A spirit - [i.e., an angelic creature: not the in-breathed animating spirit of man, (Luke 8: 55; Jas. 2: 26; Job 34: 14, 15, etc,)] - hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.”  For this resurrection the patriarchs wait.

A new and better “age”* is coming, in which the resurrected neither die nor marry, nor are given in marriage.  As long, then, as marriage and death last among believers, so long have we clear proof that the better age and the resurrection out from the dead are not come. Luke 20: 35, 36.

But if ‘death be resurrection,’ and the bodyless state be the eternal one, Abraham had already risen ages before, and was either then enjoying the land of promise, or God’s pledged word was broken.  Then, too, the Sadducees should not have said, “Whose wife in the the resurrection shall she be  For already in the bodyless state she was the wife of one or more of them.  If they were wrong in their supposition about this, Jesus would have corrected their error.  But while He affirms the reality of resurrection, which they falsely denied, He confirms them in regard of the futurity of the resurrection. “But when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriageMark 12: 25.  “They which shall be accounted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection [out] from among the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage (Lit. Greek) Luke 20: 35.

-------

[* The following is from writings by Nathaniel West.

 

The [Hebrew] word “Olam,” “Ever,” does not, of itself, and by fixed necessity, always denote the annihilation of time, but as frequently, in Hebrew usage, denotes simply unbroken continuance up to a special epoch in history, or to a certain natural termination.  It has a relative as well as an absolute sense, a finite as well as an infinite length.  It means “Here” as well as “Beyond,” and applies to a kingdom that comes to “an End,” as well as to one that has “no End  For this reason, a great World-Period, or Age, are called “Olam,” and in World-Periods, or Ages, are called “Olammim,” and in order to express infinite time, the reduplication is used, “Ages of Ages,” “Olammim Olammim  It is therefore a false conclusion to say that because the term “Le Olam,” “Forever,” is applied to the Messianic kingdom, therefore the Hebrews contradicted themselves, when they assigned to it limits at the same time.  Messiah’s kingdom is Temporal and also Eternal, and in both senses, Olamic.  The bondsman’s free covenant to serve his master lasted “forever,” but that only meant “till Jubilee  The Levitical economy was established to be “forever,” but that only meant till “the time of reformation  The Christian Church is “forever,” in its present form, but that only means “till He comes  True to this view, the Jewish Teachers ever held to a Temporal Kingdom of glory on earth, in the “World to Come,” this side the Eternal State in the final New Heaven and Earth.  Therefore we read in Fourth Ezra (Second Esdras in the English Apocrypha) that Messiah’s kingdom is restrained “to 400 years,” * while in the Apocalypse of Baruch – both these productions written in the time of the Apostle John, - it is said to “stand forever,” yet only “until the corruptible world is ended.” **  All this instructs us in the flexible, as well as fixed, character of the tern “forever

 

*4th Ezra, VII. 48  **Baruch, XLVIII.

 

MILLENNIAL, NOT ETERNAL

 

 

That the Millennial Age is not the Final Age is made clear in both Testaments.  The kingdom of 1,000 years stands in relation to an Age beyond its own limits, the Endless Age.  It is a false construction if the word “Until” in the expression “Until the 1,000 years are finishedRev. 20: 3, 5, 7 to say that the end of these years is the end of the kingdom of Christ, or of the blessedness of Israel, or of the Risen Saints’ reign with Christ, or of the distinction between Israel and the Nations, or between the Holy City and the outside dwellers.  Even after the Judgment of the “Great White Throne,” and the surrender of the Messianic Kingdom to the father, the priestly co-regency of Christ and His saints still exist.  There is still a dominion of Christ and His Bride, “the Holy City,” over the outside “Nations” and the “Kings” in the New earth, who are distinguished from her, and “bring their glory and their honour into her  And there is a condition of things transcending that which we see in the Millennial times.  In the New Jerusalem there is “no temple,” and “no night  “They need no light of lamp, neither light of sun, for the Lord God gives them light, and the Lamp is the Lamb.”  Rev. 22: 23.  It is plainly said, “They shall reign for ever and eververse 5.  This is the last word on the whole subject.  No more is spoken.  “FOREVER  And it confirms Paul’s word, “FOREVER,” in 1 Thess. 4: 17.  Their kingdom is an “everlasting kingdomDan. 7: 25.  Christ’s dominion has “no endIsa. 9: 5.  “To the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is FOREVERPs. 45: 6; Heb. 1: 8.  The Golden Age will disappear, Satan, let loose for a season, will cause to fade away the beauty of the vision from the eyes of all the nations girding Israel’s home and subdued so long to Israel’s sway.  Unmindful of the centuries when Israel was trodden down by Gentile pride, they will become restless and averse to all divine dominion.  Then, after a brief final test, come the closing Judgment and the farthest “End:” - the door that brings the Endless Age.  The last high point of the Apocalypse is gained, the Absolute End of the ways of God to men; - a vision of Eternal Glory toward those unveiling all previous revelation and all History have been the path, and on which the eyes of all prophets have been strained since the world began.

 

 

2. MODE OF LIFE AMONG THE RISEN

 

 

As to the mode of intercourse between the glorified and un-glorified, there are many vain speculations.  We only “know in part,” and time will bring the answer to our various askings.  The whole discussion binds itself to our conceptions of the Resurrection-Body, - what it needs, and what its functions, are.  From the very first, the Jewish teachers were embarrassed here, and much divided in their views.  The later Jews are not more clear.  Saadias and Maimonides maintained that “they who rise in the resurrection, eat, drink and marry, and their bodily members serve them, for these are not in vain and they die again*  It was an ancient view, and founded on the cases of the resurrection of the son of the Shunamite, and the son of the widow of Zarepta, “both whom,” says Saddis, “ate and drank and doubtless took wives  On the other hand, Bechai and Abarnanel maintained that “they who rise in the resurrection neither eat, nor drink, nor marry, for there is no further need of these, after the resurrection, nor do the risen righteous ones return to dust again.  They have their bodies, in which the fleshly functions have ceased, as in the case of Moses, when in the Mount with God** Our Lord corrects both these views when, confuting to the Sadducees, He replies that “they who shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world (Olam Habba) and the resurrection out from the dead, - [Therefore, they cannot return again to the death state and remain in Hades until the millennium has ended.] - neither marry nor are given in marriage, NEITHER CAN THEY DIE ANY MORE; for they are equal to the angels, - [That is, able to ascend to heaven or descend upon earth; and therefore able to rule in both spheres during the Millennium.] - and are sons of God, being sons of the RESURRECTION  Luke 20: 35, 36.  Saadis and Ben Maimon said that the Risen “eat, drink, marry, die  Bechai, Abarbanel, Talmud and Cabbala, aver they “neither marry nor are given in marriage, neither can they die any more,” but says nothing as the “eating” or “drinking.”  What he teaches is that the children of the resurrection are as the sexless angels.  Beyond the fact that Lazarus ate after his resurrection, John 12: 1, 2, remains the fact that our Lord Himself, after His resurrection, had a tangible and visible material body, already free from the limitations of His former humiliation, and possessed of resurrection-life, and yet “ate” food in Jerusalem and at the shore of Galilee, Luke 24: 30, 41, 42; John 21: 12, and not only promised to the Twelve to “drink of the fruit of the vine, new in the Kingdom of GodMatt. 26: 29, but “appointed” them “a Kingdom,” in which, said He, “ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on 12 thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel  Luke 22: 29, 30.  We can grossly carnalize this, on the one hand, and as ethereally spiritualize it on the other.  The fact remains that the Resurrection kingdom is “ON THE EARTH,” and that the “children of the resurrection” have material bodies, adapted to spiritual uses, and free from certain physical functions.  While we must shun an Ebonite Chiliasm on the one hand, we must equally avoid a Gnostic Chiliasm on the other, and not rob corporeity of its rights in the resurrection, or dissolve, under the idea of “Glory,” the resurrection body into a gauzy texture ballooning in the sky.  Such a conception is foreign to the whole word of God.  The risen ones shall have a human body, like their Lord’s, know each other, and be known, and live in relation to the saints UPON the earth, and to the Nations.  Their mode of immorality and intercourse are not revealed.  It is enough for us to know that not more difficult is the faith of Christ’s companionship with His disciples during the 40 days next following His resurrection.  It is enough to know that Death is robbed of his empire, and that, as Professor Milligan himself admits in his able work on the resurrection, our Lord’s body was a true spiritual, glorified body, immediately upon His rising, and not first after His ascension, and that our bodies are to take the form and equality of His.  Equal to the “angels” we shall be, in one respect.  Like “Him,” we shall be, in another.  As both, in all.  “Flesh and blood” cannot inherit God’s Kingdom, because “corruption” cannot “inherit incorruption1 Cor. 15: 50.  And yet “flesh and bones,” pervaded by the [Holy] Spirit, and made incorruptible, is what our Lord’s body was in His resurrection, Luke 24: 26, a “glorious body,” and “like” which - not “equal” to which - ours shall be at His coming.  Phil. 3: 21.  In such bodies, the Risen Saints shall have fellowship with the unrisen in the Millennial Age.  For the rest, our curiosity must be restrained, and will be, if we listen to the Angel’s voice to Daniel, “Go thy way, Daniel, till the End shall be  Inquire no more.  Be content with what is already spoken.  Leave the unrevealed future to God.  Sure we are of one thing.  “We shall behold God’s face in righteousness,” and “be satisfied when we awake with His likeness  Ps. 17: 15.  Even so, Lord Jesus!

 

* Eisenmenger. Eut. Jud. II. 943.

 

** Ibid 495.

 

CONCLUDING REMARKS

 

... “The Lord’s Advent is not to annihilate the existence of the Nations, as such, but to overthrow their politics and rule, and scatter both like chaff, and then transfer the sovereignty to Israel.  Dan. 2: 44; 7: 27; Rev. 11: 15, 18; 12: 10.  The three Great Parties of the 1000 years, are therefore:-

 

(1) The Risen saints – [That is, the resurrected ‘faithful’ dead or the “accounted worthy” from both Testaments, for,

“apart from us they (the afore mentioned Old Testament saints) - should not be made perfectHeb. 11: 40. – Ed.].

 

(2) New-Born Israel in the flesh,

 

(3) The Favoured Nations in the flesh.

 

... Such is the clear representation of the whole word of God.  Earth is beginning to realize the “pattern shown in the Mount,” and prepare for the full accomplishment in the final “new Heaven and Earthat the close of the 1000 years.  The Nations are the Fore-Court of the Temple; Israel and their Holy Land, are the Holy Place; the Holy City and the Risen BRIDE are the Holiest of All; no veil existing.  To the perfect realization of this, all things are tending.  The invisible is the source of all Realities, and what has been in history is the Beginning and Type of what will be, only in greater perfection.  David’s kingdom shall be restored, and among the “sure mercies” to David is the gathering of Israel, and the resurrection of the faithful [dead] to enjoy that kingdom together; and therein all Christians -[whom our Lord will ‘account worthy’]- shall share, at Messiah’s Second coming.

 

... As to the alleged “incongruity of the glorified among the un-glorified,” and “how they will live,” and “what they will do,” and “what their condition,” and “daily occupation,” – questions revived by Kliefoth, and repeated by others, though raised and answered ages ago; and, further, “will there be flies, and bees, and mosquitoes, in the Millennial Age,” as still others have sportingly asked; and, yet others again, as to “the habit of nature” – they all belong to that same unbelieving spirit, and cast of mind, that made a Socinus, some Schoolmen, and later profane wits, inquire “whether our Lord rose from the grave with His digestive organs  “Whether,” as Cleopatra wanted to know, “the Saints will rise with raiment”?  and “whence came the raiment our Lord wore when He roseand so, conclude, from all, to a denial of the literal resurrection of the body.  Such inquisition, it becomes us to repel, with force, and rebuke into silence, holding, in spite of a thousand questions all men can ask and none can answer, in reference to every doctrine of Scripture, that it is far more Christian to believe what God has spoken, and give him the glory, as “Doer of wonderous things,” than it is to idealize the prophecy, to suit our vain thoughts, and land ourselves at last into open rejection of the Word of God.

 

The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise that they are vain.  Painful to the last degree is the ever-recurring style of objection we meet with in certain writers, as “It is unreasonable  “How remote from reasonable probability  It is “Inconceivable,” “incredible,” and “far from probable,” and everything the mere natural man can object to the supernatural.  We dismiss it all with the divine words, “O man, who art thou that repliest against God  “Should it be a marvellous thing in my eyes, saith the Lord  “The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform this  “The mouth of the Lord hath spoken it  “It is the utterance of Jehovah, Doer of these things  It must be so, as God has said.  As to the Risen Saints, we know what their perfection is, and how near they are to Christ.  It is the righteous man raised [out] from the dead, who is the perfect man, ordained to dominion, in the “Age to come

 

 

*       *       *

3

STEPHEN’S ACCUSATION, DEFENCE, AND MARTYRDOM

By  

ROBERT GOVETT

Few readers, or even students of Scripture perceive much force in Stephen’s defence, given at such length in the seventh chapter of the Acts.  It appears to them only a rambling citation of portions of the patriarchal and Israelite history, having little, or no bearing on the accusations brought against him.  They think too, that probably it was broken off, before it reached its intended completion, by violence apprehended or already begun.  Hence they are unable to perceive, why his enemies were so exasperated with the speech.

With the Lord the Spirit’s help, I think to be able to set the reader at such a point of view, that he shall perceive the martyr’s defence to be full of force, strongly bearing against the views of his accusers, and a real and triumphant refutation of their charges.

Stephen was one of the seven Greek-speaking Jews appointed by the church at Jerusalem and by the apostles, to overtake the new emergency of labour, which arose out of the need of supplying the wants of the Hellenist widows of that day: Acts 6.  Stephen was one of the new deacons; but beside that, he wrought many wonders and miracles.  He was led into discussion with Jews of the party opposed to Christ.  Probably the discussion was held in the synagogue of the Libertines;* and it would seem, that the challenge originated with them.

* Meaning Jews, who were once Roman slaves, but had been made free by their masters. 

In the conflict he proved victorious, by the wisdom and grace of the Holy Spirit given him.  This vexed the beaten party, and they sought to slay him.  It is easier far to kill a man of God, than to refute the arguments he draws from Scripture.

They accuse him, then, of blasphemy against Moses and against God.  They set him before the religious council of the nation, and bring against him false witnesses who affirm:-

“This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place [the Temple] and the law.  For we have heard him say – that this Jesus the Nazarite shall destroy this place, and change the customs which Moses delivered us

Stephen’s reply indirectly presents to us the arguments generally used by Jewish opponents of Messiah.  We see in them the men of the flesh and of law, full of self-righteousness, confident that they were better than their fathers, and entitled to expect the fulfilment of the blessings promised to Israel by Moses and the prophets: Luke 18: 9; Matt. 23: 30.  We see them here expecting a reigning Messiah, and refusing a suffering one.  Among the accusers of Stephen too, were Sadducees, men who believed that the only rewards and punishments were received in this life; the immortality of man being to them only a Pharisaic dogma.  Such men would measure the criminality of each by his history.  If trouble befell him, it would be a proof of guilt, and of his being refused by the Most High: Luke 13: 1-5.

The arguments, then, of the Jewish opponents of Stephen would take some such form as this:-

1.  ‘How could he be the Messiah, who never received from God the throne and septre promised to the Son of David? Psa. 72, 89.  Jesus often spoke about the kingdom of God, but it never came: Luke 17: 20.  If he were the prophet like Moses, as his friends asserted, he would have had the confidence of Israel, and have proved the deliverer of Israel, as Moses did: Luke 24.  Now on the contrary when He was seized and condemned, He never delivered even Himself from the cursed and cruel death of crucifixion.  Did not God always deliver His beloved servants, when in trouble and danger of death?  Was it not promised that Messiah should be covered by God’s hand, rescued, and exalted? Psa. 91: 14, 15; 41

2.  ‘Did not Scripture promise, that Messiah’s foes should be cut off? Psa. 89: 23; 72: 9; 97: 3.  How came it to pass, then, if Jesus were Messiah, that the disciples of Moses who resisted His claims, and slew His people, were not destroyed by miraculous judgments, as the prophets foretold?’

That this argument was considered very powerful and satisfactory, we see, from the appeals made to Jesus upon the cross.  Passengers, scribes, elders, chief priests, the spectators, the soldiers, the robbers, all, Jew and Gentile alike, joined to challenge Him to come down from the cross and deliver Himself, if He were indeed the Christ, the King of Israel, the Son of God: Matt. 27: 39-44; Luke 23: 35-46.  It was supposed therefore, that His death was the destruction of His pretensions.

3.  Another argument against the claims of our Lord, was founded on the judicial decision of His own nation against Him.  ‘The wise, the learned, the powerful, had rejected His claims, and given sentence of death against Him.  The scribes and chief priests in their council had condemned Him as a blasphemer.  Now the law said, that the decision of the priests and judges at Jerusalem should be held to be infallible: Deut. 17: 8-11.  He was rightly put to death, then, as a deceiver: Matt. 27: 63; John 7: 48.’

This argument also was considered of great weight, as we see by the discourse of the two disciples going to Emmaus.  ‘Jesus,’ they said, ‘was a prophet mighty in word and deed before God and all the people Yet the chief priests and rulers gave Him up to the Romans to be put to death and crucified Him.  If His own nation refused Him as an impostor, how could He be the Messiah?  The Messiah’s people were to be His willing subjects, as the Psalmist declared: Psa. 110; Luke 24: 19-21.’

4. ‘How again could He be the Messiah, if He threatened to destroy the temple, and change the customs of Moses?  Were not all the godly kings of David’s line, zealous for the maintenance of the whole law, restoring it when it had fallen into disuse?’

 

5. ‘Lastly, how could Christians be ‘the children of the kingdom’ of Messiah, as they supposed, when they were despised, imprisoned, and robbed?  Instead of being exalted, they were losing even the privileges which they had gained by the law of Moses.  If Jesus were indeed their Head, how was it, that He did not defend them?  Why did He not avenge them on those who ill-treated them?  What had become of Him?  If He were risen, why did He not show Himself, that they might see and confess Him as risen indeed

Now the speech of Stephen conveys, principally in the way of narrative, a reply to these and like arguments.  Viewed from this point of view his defence is a well-directed battery, every shot of which told, and irresistibly laid low his opponents.

The martyr takes the histories of ABRAHAM, JOSEPH, and MOSES, and by these two or three witnesses establishes every word.

 

1. Take first the case of ABRAHAM.

 

What did Israel think of him?  That he was ‘the friend of God, the great and righteous head of their nation, their father, source of the promises to himself and their nation

If now we are to judge by circumstances, how would they prove their views by the life of Abraham?

The Most High began by stripping him of his country, his relations and friends.  He was to leave them all for a foreign land, of which he knew nothing.  He promised him that the (1) LAND* should be his, and that a (2) POSTERITY numerous as the sands of earth, and as the stars of the sky, should be given him.

[*NOTE.  A-millennialists would have us believe the contrary: “It has nothing to do with land  “The Kingdom is within or among you  “There is no other place to find the Kingdom of God]

Had the Most High then fulfilled to him these promises?

(1.) Did He give him the land of Palestine as his possession?  “HE GAVE HIM NONE INHERITANCE IN IT, NO, NOT SO MUCH AS TO SET HIS FOOT ON

He promised the land to his SEED.  Did Israel get it?  Or Jacob?  Or the twelve patriarchs?

(2.) Did he see the fulfilment of an innumerable SEED?  For long years “HE HAD NO CHILD

What did God say about his seed?  That they should be strangers in a foreign land, enslaved and ill-treated, for four hundred years!

How then must they judge concerning Abraham, if they dealt out the same measure to him, that they did to Jesus Christ?  They ought to say, ‘That it was clear, that Abraham was deluded, or an impostor; for he never yet had enjoyed the promises, which as he imagined the Almighty had made to him!’

But if the treatment of Abraham’s seed for four hundred years was to be so severe as foretold, then it was no proof that believers in Jesus as the Christ were deluded, because they were troubled and persecuted in their own land, and for as long a time.

Then too, it was no proof against Jesus being the Individual Heir, and the chief promised Seed of Abraham, that He was refused and rejected even unto death.

How would they reply? - ‘We admit all that; but another time is coming, in which Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, shall be raised from the dead, and their seed shall then enjoy the land, and become innumerable; while other promises will be fulfilled to them that are included in the reign of Messiah, the great Heir of Abraham.  Moreover God promised, at the very time that He ratified the covenant to Abraham, that He would judge the nation that persecuted them, and bring them out of their bondage to serve him in wealth and freedom

To this plea the [martyrs’] reply was evident at a glance.

‘We agree with you.  But if the future time of retribution, and of the fulfilment of promises avails in the case of Abraham, it avails for us too.  We also say, ‘Judgment is coming on those who persecute Abraham’s spiritual seed, the children of his faith.  And Abraham’s true sons shall have a greater deliverance, and better riches, than those which rescued Israel drew from Egypt.’  Then Jesus after all may be the heir of Abraham, the seed to whom the promise was made: Gen. 15: 18.’

‘Of the time of trouble which was to precede the deliverance, Jehovah gave an emblem, which ought to confirm our faith.  When the covenant was ratified, a furnace of smoke preceded the torch of fire: v, 17.  That is, the brick-kilns and rigour of Egypt were to take precedence of the glorious deliverance: Deut. 4: 20; Isa. 62: 1Far then from present persecution furnishing the proof, that we [Christians] and our Lord are not Abraham’s seed, they are really proofs in our favour!’

Stephen’s observation too, that the God of glory showed Himself to Abraham in Mesopotamia, long before he dwelt in Canaan, is a commencing refutation of their idea, that the service of Jehovah could only take place in the holy land and holy city.

The martyr then speaks of the covenant of circumcision, (Gen. 17,) which followed on the first covenant, (Gen. 15,) and then traces the line of the circumcised posterity of Abraham up to Joseph.

 

2. JOSEPH

 

‘What think you, ye Hebrews, of Joseph?’

‘He was great and wise, the favoured of his father and of his God, ruler of the world, and deliverer of Israel in time of sore need.  He was beloved of God too, as witness the dreams which told of his great exaltation, and which as sent from heaven, were at last accomplished

But what of his earthly history, both amidst his own family, and the Gentiles?

“The patriarchs moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt  They hated him, and could not even speak peaceably to him.  When in Egypt he is falsely accused, numbered with transgressors, and thrust into the dungeon by his Gentile master. What say you of him now?  Do not troubles so repeated and so long continued, prove him to be rejected of God!  When his brethren said, “Behold, this dreamer cometh!  Come now therefore let us slay him: and we shall see what shall become of his dreams which was the accepted party?  Who was condemned by God, the eleven chiefs of the nation, or Joseph?  “God WAS WITH HIM

Man’s rejected one was God’s accepted one.  The same conduct then on the part of Israel against Christ, prompted by the same spirit of envy, is no proof that Jesus is not the Christ, the beloved Son of God: Matt. 27: 18; Mark 15: 19.  Joseph was sold for twenty pieces of silver: Jesus for thirty.  Joseph was delivered up to Midianites; Jesus to Romans.

Did affliction and humiliation prove Joseph to be forsaken of the Most High?  If it did not, neither does the same affliction avail as an argument against Jesus.  God was not only with him, but “delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave Him favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and all his house

Perhaps, then, it might be true that Jesus despised, sold, falsely accused by his brethren, might be not only delivered out of all his trials by resurrection, but promoted on high before the King of kings, to be ruler of the world, and Lord of [all] God’s household, whether angels or men!  Joseph, rejected by his own family, and forgotten, found a home and glory in Egypt.  Jesus despised as ‘a dreamer’ by Israel, might yet be reckoned supremely wise by the Ruler of earth and heaven!

The first half of Joseph’s life is heavily laden with affliction.  “Till the time came that his cause was known, the word of the Lord tried him The second half of it was glorious beyond all former example, and without a break.  Might it not be thus one day with the rejected Nazarite also!

Do you say, ‘How should He be the Messiah and Deliverer of Israel, who could not deliver Himself from the degrading death of crucifixion?’  Try the same reasoning on Joseph!  Could he be the exalted of God, and the deliverer of his nation and of the world, who could not save himself from being put down into a pit, sold for less than a slave’s price, and thrust as a malefactor into a dungeon under false accusation?

Soon there came judgment on his persecutors.  Famine assailed them.  Egypt was the only country where food was to be had.  This threw them into Joseph’s hands, unwittingly on their part.  He was master of their lives and fortunes, and aware of it.  Perhaps, then, that is typical of a day to come, the Day of Great Tribulation, when Israel will be thrown on their hopes of Messiah, and will ask for His aid and His coming; ignorant that Jesus is the Messiah.

The second time of the patriarchs seeking Joseph, he is discovered to them, and he makes known his kindred to Pharaoh.

So Jesus, the rejected at His first coming, may at His second coming make Himself known to His brethren of Israel, and forgive them; while He sets them on high above the nations of the world; and reassembles them to their own land.

Jacob and the other patriarchs died in Egypt, never receiving possession of the land of promise.  They had a tomb in Canaan.* They were only pilgrims and strangers.  Was it wonderful then, if Christians occupied the same place of faith?  For Israel and Jerusalem had now become Egypt: Rev. 11: 8.  Then God began to fulfil His prophecy to Abraham concerning their trouble and bondage in Egypt.  Their increase beyond measure proved that God had not forgotten them.  And yet this very increase was the occasion of their affliction.  It made Egypt and its king very jealous of them.  Perhaps, then, the rapid increase of Christians in those days was the proof that God was with them, and the afflictions which they endured were no proof against them; but rather an evidence that they were the true seed of Abraham, blessed of God according to the promise, and about to be delivered.

* “Our fathers died, and were carried over into Sychem, and laid in the sepulchre, that Abraham bought for the sum of money of the sons of Emmor (the father) of Sychem.”  ‘Has not Stephen’s memory here tripped?  Was not the sepulchre that Abraham bought purchased of Ephron the Hittite? Gen. 23.  And was not the cave of Machpelah situated not in Sychem, but in Hebron?’  Yes, if (1) the reading of the Greek is correct; and (2) if the martyr refers to the same transaction as is recorded in Gen. 23.  (2) But that we may well doubt.  Not all that Abraham or Jacob did is written: Gen. 48: 22.  (1) The present reading is not to be accepted.  Tregelles, on good manuscript authority gives – “which Abraham bought for a sum of money from the sons of Emmor in Sychem.”

 

3. MOSES

 

We come now to the critical history of Moses.

What would Israel say of Moses? - That ‘he was the chief and most trusty of God’s servants, the greatest of men.  God loved him and spoke face to face with him, and set his glory upon his countenance

‘Apply now to Moses the same principle whereby you condemn Christ.  What would you have thought of him, if judged by the circumstances of his life?’

‘That he was rejected of God!  Though he led on his nation with the hope of the land flowing with milk and honey, he was himself shut out of it by the judical decision of God.  Does not that overthrow your estimate of MosesNeither let a like lot undo your view of Christ!’

But let us with Stephen enter more particularly into this history.

1.  Moses was born as the time of promised deliverance drew near, yet he was in peril from his birth.  That Jesus then was born in like circumstances was no proof against him, but rather an evidence that He was the predicted prophet like unto Moses, whom he began to resemble, even from the time of His birth.

Moses was “fair to God  So the margin gives it, and so it ought to have been rendered.  Much more, was not Jesus beautiful God-ward, as proved by the songs of angels glorifying the Most High at His birth?  And what was Jehovah’s testimony at His baptism?  “This is my beloved Son; in whom I am well pleased

Moses was taught in all Egypt’s wisdom, mighty in words and deeds.  Jesus was great in wisdom, so as to astonish all who knew Him, while yet He obtained it without human teaching: Matt. 13: 54.  Jesus is described by the two going to Emmaus, as “a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people

Moses, had he pleased, could have dwelt in a king’s house, far above the afflictions which befell his people; and was a fair way to be next the throne of Egypt, if not on the throne itself.  But his heart of compassion yearned over his oppressed brethren.  He left therefore, voluntarily, his glory, to take part with the afflicted people of God, when he was forty years of age, and fully competent to weigh the consequences of such a choice.  Might not Jesus then be the Prophet like Moses, if He stooped from a loftier throne, moved by compassion for Israel and the world?  Did they admire Moses for his disinterested condescension?  Why not then admire Jesus also for the same reason?

Was not this His becoming ‘a prophet like Moses while yet he was superior to him?

Moses bent on his people’s welfare, on one occasion stepped forward, by overt act, to testify how fully he had taken the side of Israel.  “Seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian  Was not the conduct of Jesus like to this, when He stepped forward to deliver His people from spiritual darkness, to rescue them from disease, and to show His power over Satan and death itself?  “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and power, who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with himActs 10: 38.  Jesus smote none to death,* but He delivered those oppressed by demons, and overcame their Prince.

[* NOTE. That statement was true during the time of His earthly ministry while on earth; but it does not apply now, after His resurrection, or in the future: “I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reigns and hearts: and I will give unto each one of you according to your works” (Rev. 2: 23, R.V.).]

Moses was disappointed in his attempt to engage his people’s afflictions.  “But he supposed, that his brethren would understand, that God by his hand is giving them salvation; BUT THEY UNDERSTOOD NOT (Greek.)  Perhaps then the cause of Jesus was like this!  God was giving a higher salvation to Israel and the world, and Jesus would let them know it; but they perceived it not!  Perhaps, then, this was the foretold time of Israel’s blindness, when they should see Messiah and His works, and not perceive; should hear His words of wisdom, and comprehend them not: Isa. 6.

We have next the crisis of Moses’ effort depicted.  His own people were divided among themselves; the unrighteous part prevailing. Their discords he would gladly have removed, as a first step towards their rescue.  But the doer of wrong to his neighbour, refused him both by word and deed.  He thrust him away, and denied his mission of deliverance, reproaching with his very act of favour towards his countryman.  Might it not be then, that the kindness and grace of Jesus toward Israel, had been in like manner misunderstood by the nation, and His purpose of redeeming them refused by the proud and oppressing sect of the Pharisees?  Not that, in one point, the reproach launched against Moses could be dealt against the Jews.  When besought to divide an inheritance between two brothers at variance He refused, in words like this opposer of Moses.  “Man, who made me a judge or divider over youLuke 12: 14.  Moses in justice smote the Egyptian to death.  Christ in grace delivered some from death, and healed the stricken ear of one of His persecutors.  Was Moses reproached for his act of grace to Israel, an act which put his own life in peril?  And was not Christ’s death urged on, because of His raising Lazarus from the dead; while moreover He was taunted on the cross by His foes with - “He saved others: Himself He cannot save

Which of the two parties then would they say was right in word and deed on the occasion of old?  Moses?  Or Israel?  ‘Moses!’ they would reply.  Perhaps then the nation’s rejection of Jesus was as evil in their day, as the refusal of Moses had been in the days of yore!

Could God love Moses, and be with him in spite of Israel’s national refusal?  So might it not be true of Jesus?  It is the Rejected Stone, rejected by the blind builders of Israel [and many today within His Church as the coming World Ruler (Lk. 22: 28-30; Matt. 25: 31], that is one day to be the Head of the corner.

Moses thus refused is in peril of life, and flees.  For forty years he tarries in another land; and finds a wife, and has a family there.  Jesus rejected might have fled, but would for others’ sake give up His life.  As Israel is not ready, he moves away to another region, where he is gladly welcomed.  If Jesus should tarry away from His people for a longer time than Moses, he would still be only resembling His predecessor; and His absence from His blinded and oppressed people would be no proof against His mission of God, but rather in favour of it.

We come next to Moses’ second and successful visitation of Israel.  “After forty years were expired, there appeared unto him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush  The first appearance of God to Abraham originated the patriarchal dispensation.  This appearing of Jehovah to Moses originated the Mosaic.

Of Moses it might be said, that his first attempt to deliver Israel was premature.  He moved at the promptings of his natural feelings; un-endorsed by any supernatural commission of God.  It was only on the second occasion, that miracle was given him, and then he proved successful.

But of the mission of Jesus this could not be said.  God appeared to Jesus at His baptism.  The new name of God, as Father, Son, and Spirit, was there displayed in act.  Moses is obliged to ask the name of God which he is to bear to Israel: Jesus is aware of it; He is the Son.  Moses is afraid, and is warned not to draw nigh without preparation.  Jesus is not afraid; and over Him the heaven is opened, and the [Holy] Spirit descends, and rests on Him.  Is there not here a greater than Moses?

But if it be said, ‘The appearance to Moses took place after his rejection and flightwe still find new resemblances unfolding themselves, and new superiorities.  At the intercession of the descended Christ, as Peter testifies, the Holy Spirit, as the angel (or sent One) of the Lord, descends [on the day of Pentecost] in fire on the disciples of the rejected Christ.  Might they not then be the bush that was burning, yet unconsumed?  Moses wondered at the sight.  And did not men of Israel out of all nations wonder, when the [Holy] Spirit coming down in wind and fire, gave to the 120 to speak with new tongues, while tongues of fire that consumed not, stood on their heads?  Out of the fire of the bush came forth the voice of Jehovah, testifying that He was the God of the fathers.  Might not then the testimonies of the inspired apostles be true; that this new manifestation came from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?  Acts 3: 13, 25; 5: 30; 22: 14.

Where was it that this manifestation of God in Moses’ day took place?  In the holy land, and its temple?  Nay, but before either tabernacle or temple were built, in the desert of Arabia!  Why then should they imagine, that God’s discovery of Himself was confined to the temple, or that He was bound to dwell there alone?  Did not this appearance of God in the desert to Moses, set aside any former places of God’s abode, if there were such?  Might it not be true, then, that the Church of God, His house of living [Spirit-filled, obedient and serving] stones, was the place of His then abode, to the setting aside of the temple of Herod?

While Moses was refused, Israel continued under Gentile oppression.  Might it not be true, then, if Jesus were the prophet like Moses, but superior to him, that Israel [as a nation] might continue blind toward God, and oppressed by men, so long as they refused Jesus, however long that might be?

“Now come, I will send thee into Egypt

“THIS MOSES whom they denied, saying, ‘Who made thee a ruler and a judge?’  THE SAME did God send to be a ruler and deliverer with the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush.”* 

* Moses said: “Take my life”: “Jesus gave His life.”

The nation denied Moses, and drove him away.  Denied him in those very aspects, in which, as he saw, the God of Israel meant to use him.  Was the nation right in its denial?  They would say, No!  Might not the nation then be wrong in another denial before Pilate?  The Holy Spirit had charged it upon them. “The God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers glorified His servant* Jesus whom ye delivered up, and DENIED** in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go.  But ye DENIED the Holy One and the Righteous, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; but ye killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from among the deadActs 3: 13-15.  May not Jesus, then, though the rejected of Israel, be yet God’s chosen One?  Though ye, O men of Israel, before Pilate refused Jesus as your king, may He not still be God’s King elect?  Have not God’s good pleasure and His counsel for the future, been more fully declared in Jesus’ resurrection [out] from among the dead, than in the prolongation of Moses’ life?  Yes!  He is thus declared to be the Judge of all: Acts 10: 42; 17: 31.  Perhaps, then, Jesus is the long-expected deliverer of Israel!  His refusal by Israel’s great men staggered the two on their way to Emmaus.  But the Saviour speedily set them right. “Ought not the Christ to suffer [first] and [then] to enter into His glory  Must not the Stone that was to be the Head of the corner be first rejected by the wise builders of Israel?  The rejection of Moses by Israel - whom did it condemn?  Moses?  Or Israel?  Perhaps, then, their condemnation of Jesus was but Israel’s fighting against God’s chosen One, and a condemnation of themselves!

* Reference to the “righteous servant” of Isaiah.  Paul is the first to witness to Christ as “the SonActs 9.  ** Same word as in Acts 7. 

Moses in the work of deliverance, was not alone.  A Divine Person attended with His divine command to arrange all, and to put down all human power with divine force.  And had not the same been in part shown, when the Divine Spirit, at Jesus’ baptism, descended on Him?  Then He began publicly to act in the wisdom of God, and the power of God.  Was that not something higher than Moses’ commission in the desert?  And what had come to pass since then?  Had not all Jerusalem heard of the Holy Spirit’s descent at Pentecost, in wind and fire?  And of the divine wisdom and power of miracle which then gave its attestation to Jesus as the ascended deliverer?

“The same (Moses) brought them out and showed wonders and signs in Egypt, and at the Red Sea, and in the wilderness forty years

Again and again does the speaker thrust upon his unwilling audience the identity of the chosen One of God, with the denied One of their fathers!  They spoke of Moses in that olden day with contempt.  “This Moses  So were men of Stephen’s day with like contempt treating the Lord of glory.  “This Jesus the Nazarite  In Stephen’s day the whole nation stood up to avenge on the martyr a supposed slight against Moses, even though but an uttered word!  Perhaps, then, one day the tables might so turn with regard to Jesus, and the nation might worship and rejoice in Him as their deliverer whom their fathers persecuted and slew!

Did Moses, who at the first appearing to Israel wrought no miracle, on the second occasion come armed with the power of working signs and wonders?  How then should it be incredible, that Jesus, who at His first appeal to Israel showed signs and wonders greater and more numerous far than Moses, work still greater prodigies in the yet future deliverance of Israel?

For a period of forty years miracles in Egypt, the Red Sea, and the desert, occurred.  May there not be then a period when according to the covenant of marvels made with Moses, (Ex. 34,) the hand of God to smite and to rescue by the might of Jesus, shall be seen?

“This is the Moses which said unto the children of Israel, ‘A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren like unto me, unto him shall ye hearken.’”

Moses, the once rejected of Israel, foretold by [of a] prophet who was to be like himself.  He might be like Moses in power, in character, and in history.  Perhaps, then, Moses hinted, that the Prophet who was to follow and resemble him was to be like him, in being rejected by Israel at His first appearing!  If so, this rejection of Jesus by His nation was no proof against His mission by God, but rather a witness in His favour!  Moses could testify of his people that they had been rebellious against the Lord ever since he knew them: Deut. 9: 7.  Perhaps the prophet who was foretold would have the same testimony to give; a testimony availing not to his own condemnation, but to Israel’s!

“To him shall ye hearken.”

O then, this new Prophet is also to be a law-giver, an issuer of divine commands!  Perhaps those commands may be a repeal of some, or of all of those of Moses!  Then it would be no blasphemy against Moses to testify, that the prophet he foretold had come; and that the new prophet was to be listened to, in preference to the old.  Did not Moses change the fathers’ customs?  To be like Moses, then, Jesus should change theirs!

Was Moses meek?  Jesus was meeker still.  Moses once, under strong provocation prayed against his opponents.  Jesus allowed them to proceed to scourging, spitting, gibes, and crucifixion!

Here, then, the martyr turns on his accusers with immense force.  ‘You accuse me of blasphemy against Moses.  Do you yourselves obey him?  Are you not in conspicuous opposition to him?  He foretold a successor to himself, who was to be guide to Israel and legislator.  Him you refused; nay more, you denied and slew.  You speak of Him with contempt.  Now in all this, are you not witnesses against yourselves?  Did not your fathers hurl at Moses the very taunts you launch against Jesus?  Jesus, then, is the prophet like Moses; like him in history, and in commission by God; like him in character, like him also in his refusal by Israel.’

“This is he who was with the congregation [or ‘Church’ (A.V.) - the called out redeemed ones from Egypt] in the wilderness, with the angel that spake to him in Mount Sinai, and (with) our fathers, who received living oracles to give unto us

Moses’ glory was seen not only in the deliverance out of Egypt, but in his presence with God’s assembly during the forty years in the desert.  Had not Jesus also an assembly, whom He was leading, as truly as Moses?  If they taunted Jesus’ followers with their rejection, and their loss of their heritage and sufferings, could they not reply - ‘Yes, this Jesus who had led us out from the world, has appointed to us a burial beneath the waters [of baptism], and a resurrection therefrom, which answers to Israel’s passage through the Red Sea.  Our deliverance is far greater than that of old, and if we find trouble now, it does but answer to the trials of God’s former assembly [or ‘church’’ in the desert.  Christ is with us still, as Moses was with Israel, in spite of their desert trials

But Moses was not alone in his work in the wilderness.  With him went the angel of the Lord, the angel of the covenant, the One who spoke to him in Mount Sinai.  So can we [obedient Christians (Acts 5: 32)] say of Jesus, “Lo, I am with you all the days unto the end of the age:” (Greek) Matt. 28.  And could not Stephen boast of the Holy Spirit still abiding with the [obedient of] Church of Christ?  Was not He too a speaking angel?  Were there not prophets everywhere whose word was, “Thus saith the Holy Ghost”?  Moses would have been glad to have had all the Lord’s people signalized by the Spirit put upon them.  Stephen could assert, that Moses’ wish was fulfilled in all [obedient] believers of that day.  The Lord had visibly given to all that obeyed Jesus, the Spirit in power.  They had gifts either of word, or of deed.  To this as a mighty testimony on their behalf, Peter had already appealed to Israel: Acts 5: 32.

Did God of old speak in the wilderness?  He was at that moment speaking to Israel in their land.  Did the Lord distribute of the [Holy] Spirit that was on Moses to seventy elders?  Was not He a greater than Moses, who bestowed prophecy, or tongues, or healing, on every one who accepted Him?

Were Moses’ oracles “living”?  The oracles of Christ by the Holy Ghost were life-giving.  They witness to One who is Resurrection and Life.

“To whom our fathers were unwilling to become obedient, but thrust him away, and turned back in the hearts unto Egypt, saying to Aaron, ‘Make us gods to go before us! For as for THIS Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we know not what has become of him.’”

The parallel and its force still continues, and deepens.  Even after Israel had seen the wonders wrought by God through Moses, and had confessed him their deliverer, they loved not to obey.  They were not pleased at the restraints under which he had led them; and refused him with contempt, even when speaking of him to Aaron his brother.  They wished to be not God’s separate people, but like the nations.  Already too, in Stephen’s day, the Herodians, men who glorified the Romans, and adopted their practices, were giving tokens of the awful unbelief of Israel in the last days.

Moses, because of his absence, invisible on high, but appearing in the presence of the Lord for their sakes, was despised and thrust aside by the tribes, and with him his God.  But what said the men of Stephen’s day tauntingly of Jesus?  ‘What is become of your Christ?’  The same taunt did their father’s launch at Moses.  The same reply was to be given concerning Moses, as Jesus’ disciples gave concerning Christ.  ‘He is on high in the presence of God for us  But Aaron’s mouth was stopped from bearing that witness; for he with the other elders had, in unbelief left the height which Moses had assigned him: Ex. 24: 14.

The contempt which the Jews of that day were expressing for Jesus - ‘This Jesus the Nazarite will destroy this place’ - their fathers had uttered in the same manner against Moses, “As for this Moses who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we know not what is become of him  This was particularly stinging.  Some six or seven times does the martyr make use of their word of contempt to glorify Moses, and to discover to them the opposition between God’s thoughts of Moses and the nation’s.  “This Moses whom they refused, the same did God send35.  “This (Moses) brought them out36.  “This is that Moses that said 37.  “This is he that was in the church in the wilderness38.

41. “And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice to the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their hands

The result of Israel’s unbelief of Moses’ return from the Mount, was idolatry.  Moses and his God are set aside together.  It is coming to pass thus even now in our day.  With the ceasing of the expectation of Christ’s return, there is increasingly a leaning towards images.  And Israel, though in Stephen’s day they were opposed to idols, will yet, in the latter days fall into idolatry.  This is hinted in the Saviour’s parable of the return of the evil spirit to the house which it had voluntarily left foe awhile.  It will return with the seven spirits worse than itself: Matt. 12.

This is shown us in Rev. 9: 20, 21.  In Moses’ day they worshipped a calf.  In the last days it will be the worship of Satan and his Wild-Beast-King: Rev. 13.  With the refusal of the Lamb and his Father, Satan and his blaspheming king and false prophet, step in.

“Then God turned and gave them up to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets, ‘Did ye offer me slain beasts and sacrifices for forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel?  But ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your God Remphan, the figures which ye made to worship them, and I will carry you captive beyond Babylon.’”

With that act of idolatry in Moses’ day God was displeased, that He judicially gave them over to worship the starry host.  And answerably thereto arose a system of false worship, mocking the promises and hopes given by Jehovah.  They carried in the wilderness a rival tabernacle, dedicated to Moloch (king), the king of heaven.  They carried also the star of Remphan.  Remphan means ‘Healer  Then in place of “Jehovah the Healer,” (Ex. 15: 26, Jehovah Ropha,) and the star to come out of Jacob, with the sceptre to rise out of Israel, they had framed a false scheme of their own devising: Num. 24: 17.  Jesus, at whose birth appeared the true star, Jesus the real King of heaven, and King of the Jews, in His former life had displayed Himself as the “Healer of every sickness, and every disease among the people  On His being refused, God’s judgment upon Israel could be but more severe, and His abandonment more complete in the day to come, than in the former case.  Amos had predicted a captivity yet to come.  And when that should take effect, could it be otherwise than that the temple rebuilt of Herod should be again destroyed, as it had been of old?

This passage of the speech, then, is directed against certain fallacious pleas and ideas of Israel - to this effect.  ‘God cannot move us again from our land.  For we are no idolaters, as our fathers were.  We are obedient to Moses, zealous for his laws, haters of idols.  To us then, and to our day belong the promises of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah, that Jerusalem, and its temple, and its nation, shall not be plucked up, or thrown down forever

Not so.  God has never forgiven Israel the sin of the calf: Ex. 32: 35.  Idolatry broke out again in the land, and under the kings: 1 Kings 12.  Its third and last aspect has yet to come.  That will be Israel’s day of captivity, the day of great tribulation.

The part of Stephen’s speech which ensues, refers to the charge of his blaspheming the temple.

44. “The tabernacle of witness was (intended) for our fathers in the desert, as He commanded who spake to Moses, that he should make it after the pattern which he had seen

They boasted of the temple and of Moses.  But Moses and their fathers had only a moving temple.  That alone was suited to their frequent change of place.  It was also “the tabernacle of witness or of testimony, not “the temple of fulfilment  This edifice bore testimony in several directions.

(1) Against their idolatry.  Was not Jehovah’s tabernacle a testimony against that of Moloch’s?  As Jehovah’s tabernacle that bore His ark of the covenant, was a witness of the better things to come according to His promises; so the tabernacle of Moloch could but be a token of the dark days of God’s judgment yet to be.  As the one proclaimed, that the land should be entered, and the enemies of the tribes scattered; so the other betokened the triumph of Israel’s foes, and the tribes being swept off from Jehovah’s land of promise.

(2) But the tabernacle of witness made by Moses, was also a testimony to a system of things yet to come, far superior to itself.  For Moses as mediator of Israel went up to God, stood amidst the heavenly tabernacle, and saw the originals above; which when he came down he was to imitate.  The earthly tabernacle then, and the temple which followed it, were witnesses to the heavenly tabernacle to which Stephen bore witness, as the one where into Jesus had entered. [Stephen might have said:] ‘You boast of the earthly tabernacle.  But its vessels and furniture are only copies of those amidst which our ascended Mediator and Priest, the Lord Jesus, is ministering: Heb. 9.  There God is now, and Jesus is, like Moses, Mediator of a covenant, only of a better covenant; even as the heavenly things are superior to those of earth

“Which (tabernacle) also our fathers with Jesus (Joshua) having received, brought in (to the land) at the time of taking possession of the nations, whom God drove out from before our fathers, up to the days of David; who found favour before God, and asked to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob.  But Solomon built him a house

The place of worship under Moses, and even for four hundred years was only a tent, removed from place to place.  David desired to build a house for the Lord, yet though he found great favour with Jehovah, he was not permitted.  It was very significant, that Moses could not lead his people into the land of promise.  He must give way to Jesus. (Joshua, in Hebrew).  Might it not be then, that the Jesus whom they despised might be the conqueror, who should give them possession of their land in a day to come, and overthrow the Gentile enemies of Israel, as the prophets foretold?

48. “But the Most High is not dwelling in houses made with hands, as the prophet saith, ‘The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool, what kind of a house will ye build me?  Or what is the place of my rest?  Hath not my hand made all these things?’”

While, then, the Lord has promised one day to dwell in Jerusalem, and in her temple, (Psa. 68: 16; 132: 14; Ezek. 43: 7,) yet it was not then to be fulfilled.  He had left the earth for the heaven, as Ezekiel showed: Ez. 8: 4; 9: 3; 10: 3, 4, 18, 19; 11: 22, 23.  Thither Jesus had gone up, as apostles had testified to the nation of Israel: Acts 2; 3.  In Israel’s devotion, then, to the earthly temple, as the place of God’s residence at that time, they were really fighting against God.

Thus the martyr has shown, that Jehovah was not tied to any one place of manifestation.* He had discovered Himself to Abraham in Mesopotamia, to Moses in the desert bush, and on the mountain top.  Then He moved from place to place, with the wanderings of His people.  Even when the land were entered, there was still the tent only, for long years.  While God promised to dwell in Solomon’s temple, it was only on conditions; on the breaking of which the Lord deserted the abode** man had made.  It was no blasphemy then against God to say, as Jesus had said, that the temple rebuilt by Herod should be destroyed.

[* See Psa. 139.  ** This truth - (relative to the Holy Spirit’s indwelling a regenerate believer) - runs throughout both Old Testament and New Testament scriptures. ]

“Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye always resist the Holy Ghost; as your fathers did, so do ye.  Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute?  And they slew those who beforehand spoke of the coming of the Righteous One, of whom ye have now become betrayers and murderers: Ye who received the law at the command of angels, and observed it not

Their circumcision was the boast of Israelites.  This boast the martyr takes away from them.  They had circumcision in the flesh, but not in the spirit; the sign, not the thing signified.  Their own Moses had reproached them, as the stiff-necked, rebellious against God, and blind.  They refused to be turned from evil by any testimony: Lev. 26: 41; Deut. 10: 16.  Their hearts refused God’s commands.  Nay, they refused even to hear the Lord’s words, uttered by Stephen the inspired, as they presently afterwards show.

Were the men before him better than their fathers?  By no means!  They refused the Son of God.  After the [Holy] Spirit’s descent to bear witness to the Son, they refused the [Holy] Spirit too. They had rejected the prophets, and persecuted them.  Even those into whose mouth God had put messages of hope, concerning the Deliverer to come, were maltreated and slain.  How then could they imagine, that their national and official condemnation of Christ, really disproved His claims?  It only condemned themselves.  It only showed, that the spirit of Israel all through, was of the same kind.  If they slew the forerunners of Messiah, men inspired by the Holy Spirit, what wonder if they slew Messiah Himself?  Jesus here is signalized by a particular title, “The Just One or “Righteous One  The Psalms frequently speak of the afflictions of “the Righteous One  They testify to [their] plottings against Him, proud speeches against Him, and to His being sold.  But the Psalms and Prophets both bear witness to His future [Millennial and Eternal] glory.  “He shall see of the travail of His soul, and be satisfied: by His knowledge shall My Righteous Servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquitiesIsa. 53: 11.  “I will raise unto David a righteous branch, and a king shall reign and prosper, and [He] shall execute judgment and justice in the earth Jer. 23: 5; Zech. 9: 9.

There was one distinguished above the world of sinners as “Jesus Christ the righteous  How had they served Him?  They had betrayed Him to the Romans, and put Him to death.

But were they not strict observers of law?  No!  Though angels spoke it, they and their fathers had all along disobeyed it, specially in their refusal of the prophet foretold by Moses, and the crucifixion of the Righteous One.

Such was the Holy Spirit’s testimony against these self-righteous ones.  Such the breaking up of all their arguments!  A quiet statement of undeniable facts given of God, scattered all their objections of confidence. The effect of the speech is strikingly given: more so in the original, than in the translation.

54. “Now while they were hearing these things they were being sawn through in their hearts, and gnashed their teeth at him

They refused to accept the testimony.  Hence they were troubled by the truth.  It could not be denied.  It was stronger than their hearts.  They might resist like wood; but the truth was strong as iron, sharp with many teeth like the saw.  Each statement was a new point to pierce them.  It was delivered with power of the Holy Ghost.  They would not yield.  But they displayed their hatred of the truth, by rage.  They were like the damned themselves.  “Gnashing of teeth” is one of the characteristics of the lost.*  Here the transgressors gnash their teeth at the inspired of the Holy Ghost, the man who was righteous through faith.  For so it was written. “The wicked plotteth against the righteous, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth.  The Lord shall laugh at him, for he seeth that his day is comingPsa. 37: 12, 13; 112: 10; 35: 16.

[* NOTE.  Not always necessarily only those who are eternally lost: some regenerate believers within the Church are also describe as “wicked” (1 Cor. 5: 11, 12, R.V. ; “Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest ye be consumed in all their sinsNum. 16: 26, R.V.).  These men were those the Lord redeemed from Egypt, whom Paul says: “Did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of the spiritual rock that followed them: and that rock was Christ.  Howbeit with most of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.  Now these things were our examples, (or ‘types’ of us’) to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted” (1 Cor. 10: 4-6, R.V.)]

The Lord’s messenger was hated with a malice that could not restrain even its visible expression.  This shows how completely the whole speech told against their feelings and their arguments.

They lacked but one more point.

“But he being full of the Holy Spirit gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  And he said, ‘Behold, I contemplate the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’”

He had proved the argument, that God was not bound to any place on earth.  He had adduced the testimony of Moses, that there was a better sanctuary of God, than the one of man’s building on earth.  He had cited from the prophet a proof, that in this dispensation, God is not dwelling in temples made by hands upon earth.  But now he is further to be made an eye-witness of the true temple, and of the glory of God in heaven.  There he beholds the Jesus whom they rejected, stationed in the place of the highest honour with God, neither Moses nor Elijah being seen there.

The speech had showed, that despite their condemnation of Jesus, He might have gone up into the heaven.  But now Stephen, his eyes opened by the Spirit of God, can testify - ‘He is in heaven, I see Him

He calls Jesus “the Son of Man.”  This is His title in Dan. 7: 13, 14.  It was of Him, then, that Daniel spoke, as the Ruler of all the earth.  That is the title of the Governor of all things in heaven and earth, (Psa. 8,) in the promised day of glory.

This was not to be endured.  Like the deaf adder, they stop their ears; refusing to listen to the truth: Psa. 58: 4.  They rush on him with feet swift to shed blood.  They cast stones, and in this way many could take part in his death.

They cast him out of the city, as they did our Lord: for the disciple that is perfect shall be as his Master.

He prays to Jesus, as the Saviour when departing prayed to His Father – “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit  The Redeemer, then, is ‘the Lord’ of Psalm 110.  The Father hath made the rejected Jesus both Lord and Christ.  Stephen, therefore, owns him as Adonai, or ‘Lord,’ ‘Lord Jesus  ‘Lord lay not this sin to their charge  The old High Priest is against him, but the new High Priest in heaven is on his side; a Divine Help.  With the blood of the new covenant is come a new spirit also, far beyond that of the old.  When the Spirit of God inspired the son of Jehoiada to testify against the idolatry of Israel – “They conspired against him, and stoned him with stones at the commandment of the king, in the court of the house of the Lord  And when he died, he said, “THE LORD LOOK UPON IT, AND REQUITE IT!” 2 Chron. 24: 18-22.  Accordingly, the same year, enemies entered into the land, spoiled it, and slew the princes of the people; while the murderous king was conspired against, and slain by his own servants.

In the present martyr’s case, earth closed against the man of faith, the inspired by the Spirit of Christ.  But heaven opened to him, and in the vision of the glories there, he can overlook the storm of earth.  Death to him is robbed of its sting.  He only “falls asleep  At the first and blessed resurrection he shall reign with his Master.

From the whole argument, then, we see, that a new dispensation must arise in order to fulfil the promises made to the patriarchs, to Israel, and to the [New Testament] Church of Christ.  For the time of the fulfilment of the hopes of the patriarchs has never yet arrived.  They are waiting.  The banquet cannot begin, till all the guests are assembled, and the King has set each in his true place: Matt. 22: 1-14.  To us, if accepted by Christ, the higher place in the age that is coming, is to be assigned: Heb. 11: 39, 40.

Now is the time of God’s patience, calling on an evil world to repent; calling to the men of faith to come out from the world, and to work and suffer for, and with, a rejected Christ.  The [millennial] kingdom of glory to come is set before us, as our comfort under trial for Christ, and as the reward and prize of our calling: Phil. 3.  Soon “the days of vengeance” for the martyrs’ blood will fall on the earth; and the watchful disciples will be caught out of the hour of temptation which is coming upon all the inhabitable earth, to test its dwellers, and to exhibit their sinfulness: Matt. 23; 24; Rev. 16.  In that day the glory of Jesus will fill heaven and earth, and Israel shall mourn their blindness, and transgressions against Him.  Then they that wrought for Christ and suffered with Him, shall with Him be exalted, and reign ‘a thousand years’: Rev. 20: 4-6.

Courage, then, Christians who suffer for Christ!  The inferior seed of Abraham was left in bondage and trials four hundred years.  What wonder, if the superior seed of Abraham’s faith are called to suffer too, and for a longer period?  It is not our calling to set the world right, and to find our portion here below, in this fleeting life.  But we are to wait till the Redeemer comes, till the dead in Christ awake, and the Saviour dispenses His rewards to His faithful servants.  May we meet in joy “IN THAT DAY”!

 

*       *       *

4

THE RIGHTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

IN THE HOUSE OF GOD

 

AN APPEAL FOR SCRIPTURAL LIBERTY IN THE

MINISTRY OF THE WORD OF GOD

 

By  G. H. LANG

-------

 

Letter One.  November 1937.

 

Beloved Brethren,

Mr. N-------- has informed me of your wishes regarding what I said at your annual meeting upon the unfaithful servant of our Lord’s parables in Luke 19 and Matthew 25, that you desire such subjects to be omitted from ministry I may give in future.

In various of my writings I have emphasized the duty of local elders to restrain in their midst what they regard as unscriptural or unprofitable ministry, and that this, not the resort to a controlled platform, is the scriptural way of dealing with such ministry.  It follows that I shall, of course, be ready to have respect to your desires, should the Lord again send me to gatherings for the ordering of which you are responsible to Him, even though personally I may think that in this particular case you, with every desire to do what is right, are acting partially and not to the true welfare of the people of God or in real interests of the truth.

It is the easier to accept your suggestion because of the gracious and brotherly way in which it has been expressed.  I cannot but contrast this with the very different manner in which I was treated many years ago by responsible brethren then in your city, and I rejoice and thank God that a happier and more godly spirit now prevails, for this will command His approval.

It is not necessary to say more, save to thank you heartily for the kind things said as to other elements of my ministry among you.  I am writing to Mr. N------ personally upon some aspects of these matters, and you will be welcome to read what I am saying, if you wish.

Commending you to the grace of the Lord Jesus for your holy and responsible service in His house,

Yours affectionately in Him, G. H. LANG.

 

Letter two

 

My dear Brother,

Enclosed with this is a letter in answer to yours on behalf of the brethren in oversight, for which I thank them, as well as yourself for the brotherly covering note.  In the latter I have expressed my sincere appreciation of the gracious tone in which the brethren have written, and the same is true of your own kind note.

I have remarked upon the welcome difference in this to the action taken in 1918 or 1919.  The dear brethren then leading the assemblies in your parts specially and urgently (by telegram) asked me to expound to a gathering from the whole country certain features of my prophetic views.  At the close of the evening meeting one of the oldest brethren in your city, now with Christ, assured me that, while some had consented to the invitation with all sincerity of heart, others had done so because they hoped that in the issue my ministry would be thereby prevented, or at least prejudiced.  Subsequent events justified his statement, as you may remember.

I mention this now because it emphasizes the solemn responsibility incurred by rulers in the house of God when they deal with matters concerning the ministry of the Word in their midst.  For those brethren virtually deprived the sheep of the Lord under their care of any further help in the following thirteen years which it might conceivably have pleased Him to send through me.  For this the Great Shepherd may hold them responsible.

Let me now tell you how I came five years ago to resume on my own account attendance at your conferences. Happening to be in the neighbourhood just before the meetings an esteemed brother and I were rejoicing that they still followed the New Testament plan of liberty of ministry.  He added, As you feel so strongly to this effect ought you not to support the brethren in their course by attending the meetings?  After some hesitation (in view of the circumstances above mentioned), I decided to do so, and was gratified when I found that a friend had felt moved graciously to prepare the way at your end without knowing what I had in mind.  The present kind words by yourself and your brethren as to my ministry in general justify the hope that this step was of the Lord.

In my letter I have expressed my readiness to do as the brethren wish as regards not dealing with such subjects as the unfaithful servant introduced by our Lord in Luke 19, but I have added, “should the Lord again send me among you.”  Let me say plainly that this is not a veiled intimation that I shall be unwilling to come again on account of their present action.  My heart will not be affected by it.  I shall study to be as wholly at the ordering of the Lord as to your city as much as any other place.  But this I must say, that on different occasions when action has been taken to restrict ministry, I have seen the Lord Himself very definitely cease to direct my path thither and open doors elsewhere.

It has to be remembered that, in the event of a restriction not to His mind being imposed, His rights are invaded, and He knows how to act in His own interests and for the justification of His servants.  It has very often been the case that opposition to a servant of God in one land or district has been followed by His Master depriving that place of his service and sending him to be a blessing in another: “they will not receive of thee testimony concerning Me ... Depart: for I will send thee forth far thence” (Acts 22: 18-21).

When the action taken in your district years ago, and similar concurrent treatment by a certain magazine, made difficulties for me in some parts of this country, suddenly, without any thought of it on my part, doors were opened to many other lands, with needy and wonderful spheres.  On the other hand, a few years ago, when some leading brethren in a distant country laid down a condition without the warrant of the Word, for four weeks I sat silent among them before the Lord would give me any opening of the mouth, though the assembly as a whole was hungering for food.

Such things teach how solemn a matter it is to deal with ministry, lest it be forfeited, and that those whose duty it is need to have the clearest warrant from the Word of the Lord, and not to act merely out of regard to their own judgment, or preference, or the feelings of others for or against this or that teacher or line of teaching.  It is woefully easy to tolerate what the many approve, or to restrain what influential men dislike, and thereby to hinder the [Holy] Spirit from giving what souls need.  Medicine is not always palatable.  If I mistake not, this is going on widely to-day, is a factor in the decrease of spiritually effective ministry, and is attended with real injury to the moral condition of God’s people.  Except (perhaps) in the very first generation of Christians has there ever been a period when the views of the majority have been the truth?  I heard Dr. A. T. Pierson say: “We have a saying, ‘Great is the truth, and will prevailThat is never so in this age.  Truth is always with the minority; and so convinced am I of this that if I find myself agreeing with the majority on any matter, I make haste and get over to the other side, for I know I am wrong

Are not all right thinking brethren troubled by the undeniable increase of serious and open moral declension among Christians?  Ought we not to be enquiring deeply, and before God, as to the cause of this?  Doubtless they are many, but does it go beyond the greater probability, almost certainty, that the great majority at least of those over whom we sorrow hold the popular prophetic views?  Do they not agree in rejecting the application of the unfaithful servant to [regenerate] believers, in opposing the thought of penalties following the judgment seat of Christ, and in asserting the certainty of a place in the millennial kingdom for every Christian?  And ought not brethren to ask seriously whether anything but moral weakness can result when the searching words of the Lord, certainly addressed ostensibly to His own [blood-bought] servants, are emasculated of all force and application to such as being relegated to the unregenerate, and His judgment seat is robbed of its terrors for evil-doers among His [redeemed] people?

There are various points of interpretation in which I do not agree with the Newtonian school of prophecy.  They are too pronouncedly Calvinistic.  They also do not give due weight to the solemn warnings of the Word to [regenerate] believers.  I think them mistaken in regarding the parousia as one continuous movement, and that Darby was right in holding it to be a period, though he erred in placing its beginning before Antichrist, instead of at the close of the Tribulation, as Newton placed it.  But I have come to see clearly that Newton and others, a century ago, were justified in forewarning that the scheme of prophetic and dispensational exposition then lately introduced by Darby was, as a scheme, and allowing for its element of truth, calculated to effect serious moral deterioration in those who should adopt it, since as a scheme it demanded that the more part of Christ’s discourses do not apply to Christians, and thus it would rob them of those conscience-searching truths and warnings.

This was too quickly and largely evidenced.  For Darby himself soon showed that his views on these matters had no moral power to make him afraid of the consequences of bitterness, calumny, slander, and world-wide strife among saints, such as ruined the testimony to the unity of believers committed to Brethren at the first.  His chief lieutenants fully imbibed and displayed the opinions and spirit of their leader; and in general, allowing indeed for happy exceptions, those since who have most strenuously fought for his views on these matters have shown the like intolerance.  Years ago there was a meeting of leading Open Brethren of different opinions to consider these disputed questions.  When I asked one of that period why nothing of value came of that gathering he answered, Because so and so (naming a strenuous maintainer of popular views) was such a little fighting cock!  This is the more observable since Darby and so many others were otherwise such good and useful men.

Perhaps many do not recognize to what lengths this spirit has gone and still goes.  The leading brother of an Open Meeting told me unequivocally that he would not break bread with anyone who held the view that the church will go through the Tribulation.  I asked if he really meant that should Muller have sought fellowship he would have refused it.  But he stuck to his assertion.

Doubtless most among us would not go to so plainly unscriptural a length as to make fellowship dependent upon agreement as to prophecy, but it is commonly made a test for accepting ministry.  I read a letter from a former convener of the largest annual gatherings in the north which stated that they had not felt difficulty in receiving James Wright of Bristol to their platform because they privately judged he would not obtrude his view upon the point just mentioned, upon which he agreed with his father-in-law, George Muller.  So that the acceptance of ministry from that man of faith and most acceptable teacher was tacitly contingent upon his suppressing part of his convictions as to the truth of God, and the liberty in ministry of a spiritually great man was restricted by the opinions of the smaller men around him.  Let it be plainly asked was it the mind and requirement of the Head of the church that James Wright’s grace and forbearance should be presumed upon by men of less grace and more opinionativeness than he?  If this be affirmed, we shall require Scripture to justify the attitude.

But bigotry [amongst saints] can go much further than this.  At your last conference, concerning which you have now written, a leading and esteemed brother enquired whether it is the case that I hold that souls are unconscious between death and resurrection, for this had been asserted to him most positively, as quite beyond doubt.  I thanked him for raising the question, and equally positively denied the assertion.

Again, in a widely read magazine I have been charged with teaching that [regenerate] believers may be chastised in the lake of fire.  Not one word of mine, spoken or written, can be added to support this; it is completely false.  Yet it was so stated in print, so as to be read by tens and tens of thousands, and is still believed by many without question.  In part, it was because I saw a rare opportunity publicly to correct this wrong notion that I explained among you recently that I regard the “outer darkness” as NOT “the lake of fire for the charge in question depends upon erroneously identifying these two figures of speech.

Now no possible end can be served by thus spreading baseless charges except to discredit the teacher and thus to prejudice his teaching. To such unworthy measures will holders of the popular views resort. A private remonstrance to the writer in the magazine, with definite assurance that he was mistaken, was met with a blank refusal to believe that I was telling the truth by my denial; and, with my denial before it, the magazine proceeded further in its attempt to fasten the charge upon me.

Is it not most distressing to see Christians spreading falsehood to support what they think truth?  It reminds one of the saying of the world, that a diplomat is a man who tells lies for the good of his country.  And is it any wonder if those who know of such actions ask whether the easy-going views that leave the conscience so undisturbed can be truth, or whether there must not be some other line of teaching in the Word calculated to prevent such conduct, or at least to condemn it and denounce penalties against it?

Not so long ago at an afternoon meeting I gave ministry to which no exception was or could be taken.  The leading local brother said he thought it had been very good.  Yet at the evening meeting an evangelist and a professional man dragged in the controversial topics I had not touched, as the basis of violent and bitter personal attacks, and one of them went so far as to extend his attack to an esteemed ministering brother not present.

Concerning the teaching of a partial rapture, and so the view held by Newton, Muller, Tregelles and other godly men, that the church will be on earth during the Tribulation, the editor of a magazine which champions fiercely the popular teaching, wrote in October, 1937, the words: “Let the Devil use all these evasions” (my italics).  Similarly, a well-known evangelist, as I was told, said that the Devil knew well what he was doing when he got Mr. Lang to adopt the opinions he holds!  The latter has already gone, and the editor is on his way to that tribunal where, as the presiding Judge has solemnly announced, it is by their words that men are justified or are condemned.

Thus have bitterness and intolerance too often characterized the popular views throughout the whole country of their existence, a long enough test to show their moral importance.  What but carelessness of soul can possibly be the effect of such a statement as the said professional man made with emphasis: “No matter how you live as a Christian, you are certain to be part of the bride of Christ and to reign with Him”? or of a similar mischievous assertion I heard in 1935 from one who has taught these views for sixty years, “Every believer will be raised when Christ comes, no matter how worldly you may be”? Many teachers of the general views would shrink from putting the matter so baldly, but it is what they mean, it is inherent in their doctrine.

On the other hand, the leading victims of Darby’s attacks differed from him upon these very prophetic questions.  Tregelles said in print at the time that every one knew that if only Newton had agreed with Darby on prophecy the latter’s voice would not have been lifted against his old friend when his serious, though temporary, doctrinal error was discovered.  And when this later came to light the evil consequences of not regarding the Gospels as for Christians was at once seen; for the one to whose notice the error was first brought was an old colleague of Newton, but he did not follow the principles for dealing with an offending brother as laid down by the Lord in Matthew 18; he did not draw the private attention of Newton to the error or make any attempt to gain his brother and win him back to the truth upon the matter in question; but instead, and without any notice, he wrote and allowed to be issued a public attack upon him as a heretic.  The recantation that Newton shortly issued was utterly rejected, and his opponents used to the full the opportunity his error had given to hound off the field the most redoubtable and learned of the opposers of their prophetic scheme.  The wild yells of the hunt as they chase their miserable quarry found counterpart in the fierceness with which Newton was treated at that time, and in the sacred name of truth.

In addition to Newton there were Muller, Craik, and others, holding with him that the church will pass through the Tribulation; there were saints such as Groves and Chapman believing, as I do, that the first resurrection is not guaranteed to all believers but is one of “first fruits,” of reward.  Now none of these great subjects of Darby’s bitterness displayed an answering bitterness under his attacks.  This godly example I myself have sought to follow through twenty years of misrepresentation.  The contrast shown in the spirit of those men to that shown by Darby and his helpers in that battle was surely indicative of a deeper fear of God begotten in part of accepting solemn passages of Scripture as applying to themselves.  These all repudiated the theory, necessarily involved in Darby’s scheme, that the first three Gospels are mainly “Jewish  Against this idea I have argued at length in my “The Gospel of the Kingdom

The influence of beliefs on practice is powerful.  Several years ago the editor of a magazine then running sent to me the draft of an article he proposed to insert attacking me and my view of a pre-tribulation removal of watchful believers.  It was saturated with vinegar and vitriol.  I declined to discuss the matter, saying that if there was to be such mud-flinging I was ready to endure it but not to join in it.  I pointed out that the views he held (Darby’s) evidently had no moral force to prevent him from bitter, ungracious treatment of a brother, just as they had not restrained Darby; but, on the contrary, believing that, were I to be alive at the time, bitterness and strife might cause me to go through the Tribulation for my perfecting, instead of escaping it, I dare not treat him as he was proposing to treat me.  As far as I know the article was not published.  I am happy now to be on friendly terms with its writer.  Perhaps he has profited by experience he himself has since had of being attacked and disapproved for another view which he holds.

The moral bearing of any teaching is a chief test of its nature.  While writing this letter a veteran missionary of more than forty years service, writes to me as follows: “I am getting well into the typed study of Selective Resurrection, and I think thus far the exhortations and warnings are very important, and do stimulate a more careful and consistent walk with Christ Similarly a keen north countryman, to whom a friend explained this view, felt its healthy moral quality and said: “Look ye, mon, if its wrong its right, and if t’others right its wrong

Many years ago a lady was working with others in the gospel in another land. Earnest and able she made herself a nuisance by striving to put everyone else right in their work.  I sent her a copy of D. M. Panton’s “Judgment Seat of Christ  Now this contains sundry things I do not subscribe, but it presses the searching warnings Scripture gives in connection with that solemn event.  The lady wrote that when she learned from its pages that the Lord will deal with all wrong things she felt no further necessity for her to be judging and correcting everyone.  For twenty-five years she has been a valued helper in that sphere.

Twenty-eight years since I met on a journey a gifted woman living to spread the gospel. I explained the passages which show that sharing with Christ in the millennial kingdom may be forfeited if a child of God walks after the world or the flesh.  Meeting her in that land eighteen months later it was to find her just sailing to her own country to face things out with a worldly-minded minister to whom she was engaged.  She was resolved to break with him if he was not ready to become wholehearted as a disciple. He was not willing, and she made the sacrifice determined.  By her own avowal the awakening and resolution was the direct result of what she had learned through our conversation.  She was not willing to risk the best that God is offering of fellowship with Christ but was determined to obtain a full reward. For twenty years, until her death, she pressed on.

In 1923 my path took me to a remote place in Europe where such bitter dissension in the assembly prevailed that for six months they had wisely desisted from observing the holy Supper.  I was there but one night, and stressed the solemn side of the judgment seat of Christ, saying the very things that dear brethren in this land so often resent.  The leading brother, a tough, resolute man, said in his heart (as I learned on a return visit): If this is how matters stand we will have to get this trouble put right.  I had the joy to see this accomplished, the Table was spread once more, with softened, reconciled guests, and the Lord in the midst in truth.

Such results, deep and lasting, I have seen; and I am yet waiting to meet one believer to testify that he walked godly until these views were imbibed, and then as a consequence, he was turned back from piety and purity.  And these instances are given to press the question, which responsible brethren really ought to face, as to the grounds they can produce from Scripture for suppressing the public exposition in the assemblies of teaching which it cannot be denied is morally healthy.  With “schools” of thought and interpretation I have no concern: I would not write or speak a sentence to support any of them.  The truth of the return of the Lord is so stated in the Word as to command and enforce practical holiness: “every one that hath this hope set on Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure”: “seeing ye look for these things, give diligence that ye may be found in peace, without spot and blameless in His sight” (1 John 3: 3; 2 Pet. 3: 14).  Any view which neither demands nor produces holiness is not accordant with this; any teaching the evident tendency of which is to promote it ought at least to be heard.

Let what is now being urged be observed with exactness.  It is not here asserted that the popular prophetic views were or are the cause of those who advocate them being so frequently bitter in controversy.  The causes lie in the state of the heart.  But it is urged that these views never have hindered this lamentable spirit nor provoked love and patience, and that in their very nature they are not calculated to do so, because they empty the New Testament if its teaching of the severity of God towards His own family, and thus make His goodness a temptation to laxity.  This one-sided, antinomian treatment of the truth hides the warning that those who call on God as Father are ever to remember that He is also a Judge, and a judge Who deals with everyone, believer as much as unbeliever, according to his works; and therefore we are to pass the time of our sojourning on earth in fear, striving to be holy because He is a holy Father and Judge with whom we have to reckon.  It is to be noted that this line of teaching follows directly upon the call to set our hope upon the revelation of Jesus Christ, and concludes with a call to be unfeigned and fervent love of the brethren (1 Pet. 1: 13-22).  If Darby had professed such a love for his brother Newton who could have believed him?

Let one detail be taken as a sample and test.  The popular assertion is that the Lord may come at any moment. Many blessed and godly men hold this tenaciously; but if they can and will examine the matter critically they can perceive that this opinion is quite unnecessary to holiness.  Peter did not hold it, for he knew from Christ that he had to live till he should be old and then die (John 21: 18), and it was in this expectation that he lived (2 Pet. 1: 13, 14).  Paul did not hold it, certainly not between the time when the Lord told him definitely that he must bear witness at Rome and his having done this (Acts 23: 11).

The essential matter that the Lord will come, and that each should be ready to face His judgment, is powerful in moral effect: the supposition that He may come to-day adds nothing to this effect, as is clearly shown by the renowned saintliness of men who flatly reject the idea.  When William Hake told Robert Chapman that someone he had met held that the Lord might come at any moment, that choice saint answered, “Well, brother Hake, I am ready, but it’s not in the Bible

This moral aspect of the matter being really beyond challenge, the question must be pressed, Why shall a violent disturber of the peace of God’s house like a Darby be encouraged to assert boldly from every desk and on every platform that the Lord may come to-night, but a Chapman must not declare his belief to the contrary under the penalty of being blamed for grieving his brethren and as a provoker of strife?  Why shall the one be in order in asserting dogmatically that the church will not, simply cannot, go through the Tribulation, while a George Muller, James Wright, David Baron, or A. T. Pierson may not equally freely explain his judgment to the contrary?  Where in this discrimination is the impartiality, the fairness, the humility, the love of truth for its own sake, that ought to make all children of God and more especially the rulers of His house?

For the complaint mentioned has become the long-established habit of mind, as the very message you now send from your dear brethren instances. They say that the putting forth of diverse views creates an “awkward situation,” because other brethren teach differently and it is a pity to cause discussions.  But there would be no awkward situation were it not for the intolerance of the beloved brethren of the popular views against any other view.  They virtually claim the right that their opinions alone shall be heard in the assemblies. This claim can in no wise be conceded.  It is not warranted by Scripture, nor by the earlier and palmier days of the assemblies we love.

And first as to Scripture.  We are all firmly agreed that teachings depreciatory of the Person, Offices, and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ are not Christian at all, and therefore must on no account be given any place in a gathering of Christians (2 John 10).  But as to lesser questions, however important in their measure, how were those dealt with in apostolic days?  A striking and critical instance is in Acts 15: 1.  We read that “Certain men came down from Judea (to Antioch) and taught the brethren, saying, Except ye be circumcised after the custom of Moses ye cannot be saved

Now this was fundamental to the matter of [eternal] salvation, and therefore was of vastly greater importance than any questions of prophetic interpretation.  Yet there was not a hint that the elder brethren at Antioch told these men that they must not set forth their views, because it was not generally accepted and was causing an “awkward situation” by provoking discussion.  On the contrary, it is shown plainly that “no small discussion and questioning” went on, until at last the matter was referred to Jerusalem.  A little reflection will show that, so far from such discussion being awkward and injurious, it was the rather eminently calculated to elucidate the subject, to illuminate minds, and thus to advance knowledge and establish truth.  Years ago in Bristol a teacher had set forth the popular views.  No objection was made to this, though most of the then leading men in that city had always differed from them, and might have pleaded this had they been of the spirit of their opponents.  But afterward James Wright and G. F. Bergin gave addresses to show how far they thought the teachings of Scripture were otherwise.  Done in grace this caused no evil, but tended rather to healthy exercise of mind.

It would be exactly thus were the diverse views as to baptism opened up.  I can imagine nothing more calculated to convince the many that household baptism is not Scriptural than for one of its best advocates to say all that can be said in its favour.  Possibly a few might be persuaded, as a few are now by private instruction; but the majority would be dissuaded by seeing how very little “all” is that can be urged.

By a process native to the human mind the suppression of a teaching creates a suspicion that there must be something in it, or its opponents would not so dread it.  This provokes a certain sympathy with its advocates and their suppressed view and predisposes to it being considered favourably. Liberty of utterance avoids this danger, and the gracious setting forth of the opposing truth has the greater effect and blessing by the hearer knowing intelligently what is being controverted.

Returning to Acts 15.  When the matter was debated at Jerusalem the same liberty of utterance was found. “There rose certain of the sect of the Pharisees who believed” and urged their legalistic opinion (ver. 5). Yet the apostles did not closure this airing of false views, but full discussion duly led to oneness of judgment (ver. 25).  Thus was the mind of God reached, and also the formerly misguided were delivered from error.

If it is urged that this particular question had not hitherto been settled and that discussion was necessary for reaching a just conclusion, the answer is that this is exactly the position of prophetic enquiry; as yet “we know in part and prophecy in part  The editor of The Letters and Papers of Viscountess Powerscourt, in whose house the united prophetic studies of early Brethren commenced, explaining in 1838 why he included her views on prophecy, wrote:

“I should certainly not do what some persons, whom I esteem, have done - publish the sentiments of another, though at the same time considering them erroneous on the fundamental principles of the Gospel; but I would publish the sentiments of another on the future prospects of the Church, though in those sentiments I thought the writer was mistaken; because I consider the first subject to be vital, and that error on it is essentially dangerous; while I do not think so of the other subject.  I consider the whole Church of Christ to be much in the dark with regard to prophecy, and more or less in error concerning it; and that the best way to correct the error, and to attain more light, is to encourage free discussion upon it.  In order to reach the end, it is essential not to mistake as to the way.  It is not equally essential to form correct anticipations as to what shall be found at the end.  Those who are on the way shall reach the end, and then all their mistakes concerning it shall be corrected

In these first days this liberty of discussion and exposition was continued among Brethren, and valuable progress in knowledge was made.  They became great pioneers and leaders in Bible study.  But then came, alas, that period mentioned when ceasing to be investigators they dwindled into dogmatics, each contending for his own scheme of interpretation: then process ceased.  It is as sorrowful as true that for some seventy years or more Brethren have added nothing material to the understanding of prophetic scripture.  One who has considered carefully B. W. Newton’s Thoughts on the Apocalypse (ed. 1, 1843; ed. 2, 1853) on the line of the church passing through the Tribulation, and William Kelly’s Lectures on the Revelation (Bible Treasury 1853, 1859; ed. 1, 1861) on the opposite side, will gain but little from anything that has since appeared on either side, as far as I know.

The futuristic school of prophecy has hitherto been practically divided between these two schemes, and the discussion has long since reached stalemate.  After a hundred years of controversy no approach has been made toward discovering what mistakes in exposition caused divergence.  Harmonizing of views would encourage hope that Scripture was becoming understood, but this is as far off as at first.  This is regrettable, but it will continue until intolerance on both sides yields to a new humble search for more light, with the readiness to surrender cherished opinions when needful, and to receive new ideas when proved by Scripture.  These are deeply searching words by a singularly able teacher, Dr. F. J. A. Hort:

To have become disabled for unlearning is to have become disabled for learning; and when we cease to learn, we let go from us whatever of vivid and vivifying knowledge we have hitherto possessed ... beliefs worth calling beliefs must be purchased with the sweat of the brow.  The easy conclusions which are accepted on borrowed grounds in evasion of the labour and responsibility of thought may or may not be coincident with truth: in either case they have little or no share in its power. (The Way, the Truth, the Life, Intro.)

Does not this last sentence indicate what hitherto has been too largely the case in relation to prophecy, that ready made and long asserted notions have been accepted easily without patient individual examination of the nature, and, what is really vital, of their results, or their warrant in the Word of God?  Now the most likely way to break this easy and hurtful habit of mind would be to have free interchanges of thought by those who do seriously study these subjects; for the presentation of fresh ideas, even when these after due examination are not accepted, always stimulates general enquiry and conduces to activity of mind in place of stagnation.

And this is peculiarly important just now, for the spread of education, with easy travel, has introduced in the world a general exchange of ideas and a spirit of enquiry into things formerly accepted passively or remaining quite unconsidered.  In the world of thought, as in other realms, authority counts for less than formerly: almost everybody questions almost everything.  Christian teachers may not shut their eyes to this factor.  Let them not assume that the younger generation are accepting mere assertions however frequently or strongly made.  It is not so.  One who is sympathetic, instead of dogmatic, meets everywhere a spirit of enquiry as to prophetic and other subjects.  It is felt that though a statement may have been made a hundred thousand times through a hundred years it is neither more nor less true than it was the first time it was made, and it is demanded that its truth be demonstrated from Scripture.  Teachers must produce this proof, or be discredited (if silently) in the minds of the thoughtful.

The world upheaval following the war has greatly accelerated this spirit of enquiry as to the future, and with its doubts as to the popular scheme.  For believers have found themselves plunged into a wild whirl of world affairs, universal in extent, and therefore neither requiring real proof nor admitting of doubt, that the church of God is so peculiarly the object of grace that it would be utterly inconsistent and impossible for it to be subjected to the great Tribulation; it simply must, and as to every member of it, be removed to heaven before that era.  Yet under our very eyes hundreds of thousands of believers in Russia alone have been bitterly persecuted, even unto death, and in other lands, nearer to us than Russia, the spirit of persecution is steadily rising.  Now that this is not “the Tribulation, the great one” is clear; but that such fearful things have come again upon the saints, and on such a vast scale, forces upon serious minds earnest doubts as to the soundness of the principle mentioned.  For of His Church to suffer of late, why should it be inconsistent therewith for others of them to suffer under Antichrist?

This is how minds are working, and beloved brethren really must take to heart that mere asserting and re-asserting of their opinions is not convincing; and still more should they ponder that tacitly to stifle enquiry by a show of authority or by denunciation will but stimulate enquiry, foster dis-satisfaction, and may easily lead to the loss to the assemblies of younger and able men, the very class who, by reason of serious thoughtfulness and independence of mind, will be indispensable to the assemblies when we who are older have laid down our armour.

I conceive this to be a most serious consideration.  From reading my own heart I know how easily the tie with our assembly life may be snapped.  Under the treatment I have myself received it would have been very natural to have turned away, had not the divine principles for the house of God long before gripped my heart and so loyalty to the Head of the house kept me where those principles are better maintained than elsewhere.  But many younger men do not yet perceive the duty of thus adhearing to church principles, or that these are really more important to the cause of Christ than enjoying what may seem easier and wider spheres of ministry.  It is unwise, yea, wrong, to put upon their adherence a severer strain than the Word of God demands, by stifling enquiry and suppressing utterance upon matters not vital to the faith.  Far more often than many conceive younger Christians, brethren and also sisters, fear to reveal their doubts and questionings on matters prophetic and otherwise from a not unfounded dread of being held suspect as possible heretics.  When such reach conclusions different to common opinion either they conceal their views to avoid trouble or readily go where more tolerance obtains, and in either case the assemblies suffer loss and themselves also. Cases have been known over such questions as women praying publicly and whether supernatural “gifts” are now possible.  There being no liberty among us, other spheres have profited to our loss.

And on the reverse side, it is easy to believe that this lack of liberty deters some from coming among us who would be a real asset in the ministry of the Word and in church life.

I am very well aware, and very thankful, that by no means all who uphold vigorously the common prophetic views are bitter against other opinions and those who hold them.  From many of these I receive much love, and it is deeply appreciated, but this display of Christian affection is in spite of their prophetic beliefs, not a result of them.  It would continue were these to change, being independent of them.

And those beloved brethren who are not bitter may well examine their hearts as to whether they are not intolerant, in that they will not suffer other views to be taught, if they can hinder it.  Their reasons may seem to them excellent and imperative.  They honestly fear that the ark of truth must totter if it would not be supported by their zeal.  In this discussion I am aiming to undermine both their reasons and fears, to show that the former are baseless, the latter needless, and that Scripture, reason, and a real edification demand that very freedom of exposition by serious and spiritual teachers which they have refused to tolerate.

Brethren persuaded of the post-tribulation rapture listen in quietness to the popular opinions.  For long years others of us likewise have listened in silence to crude and dogmatic assertions that we think regrettable and believe we could easily show to be contrary to the Word; which thing we would attempt to do for general profit but that we fear to provoke fleshly hostility and the hitherto experienced strife that would not be to general profit.  What is lacking in the judgment and spirit of so many of our beloved brethren of the common views that they cannot find equal grace and shew like forbearance?  It must be plainly affirmed that their school of interpretation has maintained its dominant position for nearly a century, not by weight of argument and sound exposition, but mainly by a subtle species of terrorism, by taking advantage of the fears of the weak, and also of the grace of the strong who have differed from them but who have been unwilling to provoke the unholy dissension that could be expected.  This is fact, even if done unconsciously.

Another harmful result to this situation is now being recognized, namely, that the so important topic of the blessed hope is dropping out of the ministry in the assemblies.  This is incalculable loss, but it is inevitable unless the whole position be changed.  Dogmatists are more or less conscious that they cannot now reply upon the almost obsequious acceptance once rendered to mere assertion.  Moreover, some teachers are not so blissfully sure of certain points as once they thought they were, and being undecided in mind they wisely say little.  Those who have definite beliefs we judge worthy of statement refrain, either by request or from the fear mentioned of precipitating strife.  There seems no way open for restoring the great theme to its just place save granting liberty to every spiritually accredited teacher to express what he believes he has found in the Word, the rest judging of what he says.

A similar but yet wider result is that large portions of the Word are neglected.  The more part of the instructions by the Lord Himself; the warnings of Paul as to being disinherited, given to three churches (1 Cor. 6; Gal. 5; Eph. 5); the five lengthy and weighty warnings in Hebrews; the solemn words to the seven churches (Rev. 2. & 3.), are examples of these neglected passages.  Under the popular scheme such scriptures have no direct message to the child of God, and their value is lost. Those who would so apply them ARE WARNED NOT TO DO SO: it will compel uncomfortable revision of cherished opinions: it will prick conscience; it will provoke strife!  With such as myself it is a solemn question how much longer we shall be justified before God, in the interests of a deceptive truce, to keep back a large part of His counsel.  It seems to border on dealing deceitfully with His Word to ignore wide tracts of it, for the teaching prominent in the portions just mentioned permeates the whole.  By what right do teachers of any one view put this strain upon the faithfulness of teachers of some other view?

Under the same obstruction great themes on which God has been pleased to give much, if scattered, information cannot be opened up to the saints, for these also would compel some revision of accepted notions.  The vast and illuminating subject of the temporal judgment of God, including the present judical administration of heaven and earth by angel rulers, is the key to many perplexing passages; the general service of angels; THE STATE AND PLACE OF SOULS BETWEEN DEATH AND RESURRECTION; the time and conditions of the judgment seat of Christ and its issues - are some themes of fascinating interest and of deep practical importance waiting fuller investigation.  The prophecies of Daniel and Revelation need more exact harmonizing and will yield yet more instruction.  Indeed, because the Word of God is inexhaustible, we ought not to treat it as if we had exhausted it, but ought eagerly to push enquiries forward regardless of what revision of opinions may be involved.  But for most persons such research, or at least the exposition of its results, is debarred in the assemblies by influences before mentioned.  Only the kingdom of the Devil is advantaged by large parts and themes of the Word being let alone by Christians.

If elder brethren would exercise their authority by repressing bores, talkers of platitudes, and other time wasters, would they not be serving the truth and the saints more effectually than by restraining sober, searching ministry merely because it is not liked by some whose views it challenges or whose consciences it troubles? And ought they not as rulers to have equal regard to the judgment of those also who would earnestly welcome more light upon the neglected portions of Scripture mostly in question, or who are already satisfied that the views opposed are profitable?  The number of these increases: is it equitable or loving that their needs, desires, and judgment be ignored and all the preference be granted to one school of thought?  The convictions of the latter are no doubt strong and sincere, but so are ours.  It is really a question of sufficient graciousness to let their yieldingness be known.  To invite them to give up ought of the essential faith of the gospel were unpardonable; to suggest that they surrender freely a position or privilege they never ought to have occupied is but reasonable.  The suppression of minorities is neither kind, fair, nor wise.  In the world it ever produces ultimate disaster; it is still more out of place in the church.

What is needed is for responsible brethren in each assembly to weigh the whole matter before the Lord, and then to declare that in their local sphere there shall be genuine liberty for all sober exposition of Holy Scripture, within the compass of vital truth, and with equal liberty for other men of grace to express their dissent based on the Word; and that restraint be exercised impartially upon any man of any school of thought who ministers injuriously whether by matter or spirit.

The right of elders to restrain ministry is severely limited.  According to 1 Tim. 1: 3-5 they are to be dealt with who do not dispense to the saints that which increases faith, but who rather give heed to myths and endless genealogies, such topics as merely rise insoluble and unprofitable questions.  But, on the contrary, no right is conferred to refuse what promotes love, a good conscience, and faith, for this is the precise end of ministry.  According to Titus 1: 10-16 the mouths are to be stopped of such as will not bow to rule and encourage it, but are unruly; who overthrew whole houses; and who do this for the sake of financial gain. These are to be reproved sharply, yet not simply to silence them, but in the hope that, accepting reproof, they may become sound in faith, in which case they will be useful to the church.

It will be impossible to bring under such scriptures sober, helpful, God-qualified teachers simply because their views upon prophecy, rewards, chastisements, not to say lesser themes, do not coincide with this or that school of interpretation which happens to be popular. Therefore any such restraint is beyond the powers conferred by the Lord upon the rulers of His house.

This brings up the serious issue that such unauthorized restraint is directed finally AGAINST THE SPIRIT OF GOD HIMSELF, acting for the Lord.  If this be considered narrowly it will be seen that, over a lengthy period, that every liberty of the [Holy] Spirit in the supply and control of ministry which has been a chief theme and feature of our teaching, in practice has been largely curtailed and denied by unwarranted restrictions being imposed upon His servants.

Of late this curtailment has been vastly extended by the general closing of platforms to all but invited speakers.  In meetings left open elders have failed in what is their duty, even to restrain vain talkers, while ready to restrain godly men with whom the Lord has not given them power to deal.  In consequence the latter are often silent, and the former are bold to exhibit their emptiness, both things tending to the poverty of ministry and the impoverishment of saints.

This has led many to the unscriptural plan of the world, the arranging of ministry, involving the thwarting of the very testimony that Christian gatherings were designed to give to the world, that “God is among you of a truth” actually ordering and empowering in His own house.  From this restraining of the Spirit of God it follows inevitably that churches become spiritually poorer, even though oft-times congratulating themselves that they are rich, merely because they are pleased to be pleased with the ministry they get, since it is of their own choice.  It is true that God withdraws from His temple reluctantly, slowly, by stages (Ezek. 9: 3; 11: 22, 23), and that so long as He lingers a measure of His glory is seen, a measure of blessing is experienced; but if the glory is waning we may be sure that there will presently be night; if the [Holy] Spirit is persistently grieved He will at last be quenched; and finally (Rev. 3: 20) the Lord will be found OUTSIDE a door closed against Him by those who nevertheless will cry, The people of the Lord are we.

We rejoice rightly in much still found in the assemblies that is of Himself and reveals His presence and grace; yet as a whole we are distinctly not what once we were in holiness and spiritual energy.  Factors in this declension, germane to the topic discussed, are here suggested.  Will they be considered calmly and impartially? Will any be convinced?  And will these then be found faithful enough to Christ and His church TO ACT UPON THEIR CONVICTIONS?  The good Lord grant it, for His name and glory’s sake, for the matter is urgent.

And what is the urgency?  Were it a young man writing this appeal for the New Testament liberty there would not fail some to suggest he was merely anxious to air his pet opinions or had an eye to his opportunities to preach and to his income.  But for myself every year now diminishes the importance of this liberty of ministry. With forty-five years of public service behind, the years ahead must be far fewer.  Already I cannot attempt what I did, and far more doors are open than I can enter.  The urgency arises from the general condition and prospects of the people of God, on grounds here indicated.

Though the end days, as they are described in Scripture, are not yet come, they are nearer than they were.  At any rate, the present time is perilous enough to spiritual and moral life to require a far more powerful stimulus to devotion and warning against defection than has been provided by the view of the future so long dominant.  In the tranquil period some can remember it was easy enough to talk smoothly about “perilous times” and “end days” and “great tribulation,” and for teachers to assure their souls and their hearers that there was not the least ground for personal concern, because the church entire was certain to be removed to heaven before those dread days could set in.  But this complacent outlook does not stir the soul into flame, nor brace the nerves to faithfulness and suffering in a period of world upheaval.  With nations full of foreboding, and of consequent suspicion against each other, with military service sternly compulsory in most lands, with governments more and more first regulating and then suppressing pure Christianity, some more powerful and deep-acting tonic is required.

What the Church of God now needs imperatively is men able to show fearlessly what the Word of God teaches as to the future that will guide life through difficulties and dangers, perplexities and perils; also how to gain strength to be faithful and holy, and what will be the heavenly recompense; and able to show also what will be the sorrowful penalties the Christian must face if unfaithful to Christ and the word of His patience. But this demands close scrutiny of the Word of truth free from the bias and fetters of preconceived schemes of interpretation.  It calls for zeal and courage, and the making known of the results demands liberty of utterance, if saints are to profit by it, It is for this God-granted liberty that appeal is here made.

Readers of church history know that all too many God-wrought movements have sooner or later been paralyzed by one and the same means.  The fresh light and truth gained from Scripture at the first, the walking in which brought liberty and quickening, is presently systematized into a creed or a scheme of teaching; zealous adherents of this scheme will allow no deviation from it: it becomes the test of orthodoxy in that sphere; liberty is crushed, progress ceases, movement stops, paralysis and death ensue.  Is this to find another exemplincation in the assemblies of Open Brethren?  It will, unless the change comes that is here urged, for the process has long set in.  The maintaining of popular orthodoxy may prove the death of spirituality.  Free movement is essential to health. Only death is motionless.  That we may be preserved from this state is my heart’s earnest desire, and therefore am I bold to put the foregoing considerations before you and your brethren, assured of their sincere and sympathetic attention.  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Yours in His love,

G. H. LANG.

*       *       *

5

SPIRIT STUDY:2 (July/Aug 1990)*

[* The following writing, by the late Jack Hull (Belfast), is here included for the benefit of those who maintain the words: “Lead thy captivity captive,” (Judges 5: 12, R.V.) is proof that Hades is now emptied of all the disembodied souls of the regenerate.]

 

Hebrews 4:12: “For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, PIERCING EVEN TO THE DIVIDING ASUNDER OF SOUL AND SPIRIT, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart

In truth, it must be acknowledged that generally speaking, we do not know our own selves, and great is the controversy that rages among those who give thought to express themselves upon the subject.  This is true both in the spiritual and the physical aspect of man.

Those who in their wisdom place our beginnings in a slimy pond, some millions, or trillions of years ago (they can’t really decide which) are so far away from the truth of ‘knowing’ themselves, and are in fact, blinded by their own ‘wisdom’ (cf. 1 Cor. 1:19-21).  Those however, who in simple faith accept the TRUTH of Genesis chapters 1-3, will find in the following pages of Holy Scripture, a clear and concise description of man - not only of his physical, but also in his innermost (spiritual) concept.

Now, while the truth of this must be acknowledged, yet the vast majority of those who accept the Scriptures as the infallible Word of God, and read it as such, do not fully understand what that Good Book has to say on the subject.  This results in misunderstanding which so easily loads to misapplication and false doctrine.  The reason for this being that in many instances the English rendering of the Hebrew and the Greek are accepted at face value (and without query or investigation of the original word), and this rendering is then propagated as truth to others, which often finds widespread acceptance.  Thus, in this simple way, we find the church today a mass of differing doctrine and confusion. viz. Millenialism, Non-millenialism, A- (Anti) Millenialism, Raptureists, Non-raptureists, Tribulationists, Mid-tribulationists, Non-tribulationists, Arminianists, Calvinists, etc. etc.  And even within the ranks of those who hold to one or the other of the above, there are differences of opinions - and we speak only of those who know regeneration by the Spirit of God in their SPIRITS.

We emphasise that last word because we are concerned about the teaching which is the accepted ‘thing’ today, namely, the ‘salvation of the soul’ and the tremendous confusion surrounding it.  It is spoken of as if the regeneration has already taken place IN THE SOUL.  THIS IS NOT SO, and the Bible makes this quite clear and plain in its teaching.  The ‘anchor’ verse on this matter is John 3: 6: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit  When speaking of the soul, the Bible is clear that the salvation of the soul is AT THE LATTER END OF OUR FAITH.  Consider the following Scriptures:-

HEBREWS 10: 39:

“But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition: but of them that HATH FAITH TO THE SAVING OF THE SOUL

JAMES 1: 21:

“Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, WHICH IS ABLE TO SAVE YOUR SOULS

1 PETER 1: 5

“Kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation READY TO BE REVEALED IN THE LAST TIME.  And in verse 9: “Receiving the END OF YOUR FAITH, even the SALVATION OF YOUR SOULS.”

A careful reading of the context of these verses reveals that they speak to the regenerated man.  If, as many proclaim, that the regeneration we now possess in Christ is that which has taken place in the soul, why do the above Scriptures speak DIRECTLY of the soul being saved AT THE END OF OUR FAITH?

Let it be clear that when regeneration takes place in the spirit of man. he is “... SEALED with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the ‘earnest’ of our inheritance UNTIL the redemption of the PURCHASED POSSESSION, unto the praise of His glory (Eph. 1: 13, 14).  The sealing, takes place in the spirit of man, and this is an ‘earnest’ (Greek - ARRABON, is a word borrowed from the Phoenicians meaning to ‘pledge something as part of the whole’ and paid beforehand in regeneration, our spirit is ‘born again’ - that which was dead to God is given ‘new life’ through which we are made alive unto God, and brought into communion with Him.  Galatians 5: 25 makes it quite clear in which realm of our trichotomy we are made alive.  “If we live in the spirit, let us also walk in the spirit  The A. V. rendering gives the impression that it is the (Holy) Spirit that is spoken of here, but not so, we have here the same thought as that of Romans 8: 1, 13, and various other places.  Look also at Romans 8: 10. “And if Christ be in you, the body is DEAD because of sin, but the spirit is alive because of righteousness”, (or, it has been made) righteous (through faith).

The above verse is quite emphatic that the body in which the believer dwells is DEAD, BECAUSE OF SIN.  In other words, it remains in its ‘natural’ state even though the spirit has been regenerated.  And it will remain in its ‘corruptness’ until at resurrection it puts on ‘incorruption’; or, at the return of the Lord it will be ‘changed’, in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, and death will be swallowed up in victory (1 Cor. 15: 50-58).  If then, the Scriptures confirm that one part of our trichotomy, the spirit, is alive unto God; and that a second part is yet to be made alive at some future date, either while we are in the death state, or alive in the natural state.  The Scriptures thus confirming the state of the spirit and the body, what then of the third part of our trichotomy, the soul?

We noted in our last study (Spirit Study:1), that at death the spirit returns to God (Eccl. 3: 1; 12: 7; Lk. 23: 46; Acts 7: 59).  And, on the spirit vacating the body it [the body] dies and goes into the grave (James 2: 26; Lk. 23: 52, 53; Acts 8: 2).  Also in Luke 16: 22, 23, we were enlightened further about the death state.  There it was revealed what happened to the third part of our trichotomy, the soul.  Now it does not mention the word PSUCHE (soul) specifically in the context.  But having knowledge from [what] the other Scriptures mention above, concerning the, body and the spirit, Luke 16: 22, 23 must then reveal the state of the soul at death.  It says of Lazarus the beggar that he died, “... and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom  And of the rich man, that he died, and was buried; “... and in hell [Hades] he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom”. (see also 12: 20).  The soul then, DOES NOT RETURN TO GOD [in Heaven] AS THE SPIRIT DOES AT DEATH.  It goes to a place, prepared for it (Job 30: 23) - the unregenerate to one part, and the regenerate to another (see Note 2).  There the soul will remain until either the first resurrection when it will be united once again with its now glorified (spiritual) body indwelt by the already regenerated spirit which had returned to God at the death: or, in the case of the unregenerate - [and also many of the regenerate not “worthy to attain to the resurrection [out] from the dead” (Luke 20: 35; Phil. 3: 11)] -  in the second resurrection (which is a thousand years later) and to stand before the great white throne in judgment (Rev 29: 4, 5, 11, 12).  The re-uniting of body, soul, and spirit of the regenerate person completes the ‘redemption of the PURCHASED POSSESSION’

Note 1

In the Old Testament we have NEPHESH - soul, and RUACH and NESHAMAH - spirit, and on the surface there appears to be no difficulty with this.  It is in the English rendering of these words that complications set in for these words are given a variety of meanings i.e.; Nephesh rauch neshamah

soul 428 spirit 240 breath 11

life 119 wind 90 blast 3

person 30 breath 28 spirit 2

self 19 side 6 soul 1

mind 15 mind 6 breatheth 1

creature 9

Plus 14 other Plus 5 other Plus 5 other renderings.

In the New Testament we have only two words to contend with, but the possibly even more complicated situation.  They are the Greek word PUSCHE = soul and PNEUMA = spirit.

pauche pneuma

soul 58 Spirit (Holy) 141

life 40 Ghost (Holy) 89

mind 3 spirit 151

heart 1 life 1

ghost 2

wind 1

It can at once be seen that accepting at face-value the English rendering of any of these Hebrew or Greek words: without a thorough scrutiny of the context, could well lead one into a misapplication of the meaning of the original.

NOTE 2

Some are of the opinion that that ‘house’ spoken of In Job 30: 23, and which we undoubtedly see in Luke 16: 22-31, has now been emptied of the souls of the justified.  It is believed that when the Lord ‘descended into hell [Hades]’ (Acts 2: 32; 1 Pet 3: 19) which, place is located in the centre of the earth (Eph. 4: 9, 10).  On His return He brought with Him the souls of the justified saints, and led them into an abode called ‘paradise’ - this theory is based on Eph 4: 8-10.  The phrase ‘leading captivity captive’ is assumed to refer to the Lord leading those justified souls out of the captivity, of Hades.  This however could not be so if we are to follow the ‘law of first mention’.  ‘Leading captivity captive’ is a phrase we meet with in the Old Testament, and in the first instance in Judges 5: 12.  After Barak’s victory over Sisera and his army, Deborah sang a triumphal song unto Barak (5: 1) for his victory.  In verse 12 we come across the first mention of this phrase “... arise, Barak, and lead thy captivity captive...”  Now as the type is, so must also be the antitype, but this would not be so if we regarded Ephesians 4: 8 to be the antitype of Judges 5: 12 - unless of course we change the meaning of one to suit the other.  In the Judges passage Barak is the conqueror OVER VANQUISHED ENEMIES, but in the Ephesian theory THIS IS NOT SO.  The theory built upon Ephesians 4: 8 makes the captives FRIENDS of the conqueror instead of ENEMIES - a meaning which is entirely foreign to the first mention.  To be true to the type the Lord would have had to lead the unregenerate souls out of Hades, for truly they were (and are) the real ‘captives’ there - and we know that the Lord did no such thing.  It is our considered opinion that the true antitype of Judges 5: 12 (and also Psalm 68: 18 where it is mentioned in connection with “The chariots of God ...” verse 17), is to be found in the words of Colossians 2: 15 where, after the victory of the Lord on the cross, it is said. “And having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in Himself.” (margin).  This then, was Christ’s triumphant victory parade, and the antitype of that seen in Judges 5: 12.

*       *       *

 

6

FAITH TO THE SAVING OF THE SOUL*

By  PHILIP MAURO

 

[The following chapter (from ‘God’s Pilgrims’) is included for the benefit of Christians, desiring to know more of what Peter has in mind by his use of the following words:-

“Who by the power of God are guarded through faith unto a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. … that the proof of your faith … might be found unto praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ: whom not having seen ye love; on whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice greatly with joy unspeakable and full of glory: receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of souls:” (1 Pet. 1: 5-9, R.V.).]

 

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We come now to the important words which bring the tenth chapter of Hebrews to a close, and introduce the great theme of chapter 11: “Now the just shall live by faith, but if he draw back MY SOUL shall have no pleasure in him.  But we are not of them that draw back unto destruction, but (of them that are) of FAITH TO SAVING THE SOUL” (10: 38, 39).

 

The foregoing is a literal rendering of the original text; and we would at the outset call attention to several corrections that need to be made in the A.V.

 

1. The words “any man” are introduced by the translators as the subject of the verb “draw back”; but they are wholly without warrant in the original.  The antecedent subject is the “just man,” who is to live by faith.  The expression is the same that Paul used of himself in Gal. 2: 20, “the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith of the Son of God.”  Jesus Christ is not only the Author, but also the Finisher of faith.  As already seen it is only the believer, the man who has been justified by faith, that can “draw back.”  The unbeliever has not come to anything from which he could “draw back.”  There is no question at all as to the correctness of the reading, “if he draw back.” The drawing back to destruction is put indirect contrast with the living by faith, and going on to the saving of the soul.  It is true that the believer cannot draw back from his standing in Christ.  He cannot draw back from eternal life.  But he can draw back from the pilgrim’s place, and return to the world.

 

2. We have already seen that the word “perdition” should be “destruction.”  The difference is important.  The people of God will surely suffer destruction if they draw back into the world.  Because it is polluted, it will destroy them with a sore destruction (Mic. 2: 10); that is, will involve them in great and irreparable damage or loss.  But they will never come into “perdition

 

3. The words “of them that believe,” should read “of faith.”  The original has not a verb “that believe,” but a noun “of faith”; and that word “faith” is a most important one because it leads into the theme of chap. 11., which is given to the people of God for the very purpose of instructing them as to the character or nature of that “faith” that is effectual to, saving the soul.  The next words are “Now faith,” (that is, the faith by which the soul is saved), “is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence (or conviction) of things not seen  Then follow examples of those who lived, to the end of their days, according to that faith which is the substance (that which stands under and thus supports) things hoped for, and the conviction as to the reality of things heard of, but not seen.

 

So far as the present writer is aware, the subject of the salvation of the soul has not been satisfactorily treated in any of the books of teaching now in the hands of the people of God.  The manner in which this expression is commonly used, indicates that “saving the soul” is regarded as meaning the saving of the individual man from condemnation, that is to say as equivalent to the justification of the sinner, and the impartation of eternal life upon believing the Gospel of God.  In other words, being “born again,” and “saving the soul,” are, generally taken to be identical.  But according to the Scripture, the two are very differentIn every case where the salvation of the soul is mentioned it is distinctly referred to as something future, and as something conditional upon the behaviour of the individual himselfEternal life is the gift of God, freely bestowed on every believer in Christ.  But the saving of the soul is distinctly set forth in many Scriptures, particularly in, the words of the Lord Himself, not as a gift, but as a reward to be earned by diligence, stedfastness, and obedience to His commands.

 

The chief reason for the misconception that exists on this point is the failure to distinguish between soul and spirit, a distinction which is carefully made in the Scriptures, as we shall take pains to show.  The matter is of such surpassing importance, and so great consequences hinge upon it, that we strongly urge our readers to pay the closest attention to the sayings of the Lord Jesus, and to the other Scriptures cited, in this chapter.

 

As an instance of the mention by our Lord of the saving and losing of the soul, we quote Matt. 16: 25-27, calling attention to the fact that the word rendered “life” in verse 25, is the same word rendered “soul” in verse 26: “If any man will (is willing, that is, has finally resolved, to) come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.  For whosoever will (is willing to) save his life (soul) shall lose it; and whosoever will (is willing to) lose his life (soul) for My sake shall find it.  For what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his soul?  Or, what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?  For the Son of Man shall come in the glory of His Father, with His angels; and then He shall reward every man according to his works

 

We see clearly from this Scripture that the saving or losing of the soul is a matter of the will or choice of the man himself; and this is the teaching also of every Scripture that deals with this subject.  We see furthermore also that the time when those who choose to lose their souls now for Christ’s sake will gain their reward, that is, will find their souls again, is to be when the Son of Man shall come in the GLORY OF HIS FATHER, with His ANGELS.* From this Scripture alone it is clear that by the salvation of the soul is not meant salvation from eternal condemnation.  The salvation of the sinner from the wages of sin, is not dependent upon denial of self, taking up his cross and following the Lord Jesus; but is the gift of God’s grace, instantly and eternally granted the moment the sinner believes in the Crucified and Risen Saviour.  It is only a [regenerate] believer who can make the choice to deny himself, take up his cross, and steadfastly follow his Lord in the way He went.  To them who thus follow unto the end, a “reward” is promised.  That reward is the finding, in the age to come, of the “soul” they purposely “lost” in this [evil] age.  It concerns us, therefore, to ascertain, as may be done by diligent and prayerful inquiry, what the Lord meant by a man’s losing and saving his own soul.  That is the [future] salvation of which the Lord “began” to speak, and which has been “confirmed to us by those who heard Him,” that is, by His apostles.  Whatever may be embraced in the meaning of the words “saving the soulit is at least clear that they do not refer to the justification of the sinner by God’s grace through faith in Christ, but to something in the nature of a reward set before those who have been already justified.  The “salvation of the soul” is not something received at the beginning of the Christian life on earth; but something to be gained at the end thereof.

 

[* The time factor here, proves that this future salvation of ‘souls’ will happen at the time of the ‘First Resurrection,’ when the “gates of Hades” (Matt. 16: 18), will not prevail against the (now waiting in the Underworld of the Dead) disembodied souls “accounted worthy” to rule and reign with Christ in the “age” to come, (Rev. 20: 4-6; Rev. 6: 9-11; Luke 20: 35.)]

 

That the “saving of the soul” is not the salvation of the sinner from eternal doom in the Lake of Fire, and that the losing of the soul is not the damnation of the sinner, is clear from the simple fact that the Lord promises a great reward to the man who loses his soul in this world.  Therefore, losing the soul and eternal damnation are totally different things.

 

In the sayings of the Lord Jesus, to which we will refer, the man is distinguished from his soul insomuch that the soul is spoken of as a possession of the man, which he can keep or lose.  Nevertheless, this distinction is practically obliterated, or at least ignored, in the theology of to-day.  Indeed, there are those who expressly force the word “soul” to mean the man himself, wherever that word occurs in the Bible.

 

Another cause of the misconception referred to, is (as it appears to us) the relatively little heed that is given in many quarters to the words spoken by the Lord Jesus Himself.  There is no room for dispute or doubt as to the value of the words of the Lord according to His own estimate thereof.  They are “spirit and life” (John 6: 63). They are the very words His Father commanded Him to speak, and are what will judge those who receive them not (John 12: 47-50).  His Sayings are HIMSELF (John 8: 25).  The giving of His Father’s words was the fulfilment of the purpose for which His Father sent Him into the world (John 17: 8, 14).  His disciples recognised Him as the One Who had “the words of eternal life” (John 6: 68).  Keeping His words is the test of love for Himself, and has the promise of a great reward.  “If a man love Me, he will KEEP MY WORDS.” “Because thou hast KEPT MY WORD.”  “Because thou hast KEPT THE WORD OF MY PATIENCE” (John 14: 23; Rev. 3: 8, 10).  Whereas, being ashamed of His words will be visited with disastrous consequences (Mark 8: 38).

 

Notwithstanding these weighty and unmistakably plain utterances from the lips of the Lord Jesus Himself, it must be admitted that, in some of the teaching of to-day, the words of the Lord, recorded for us in the Gospels, are assigned to a place of distinct inferiorityIn order to maintain certain dispensational views, it is necessary to relegate the ministry of Christ in the days of His Flesh to the “Jewish remnant” and to treat His utterances as having but a remote or indirect reference and application to the members of His own Body, the Church.  One consequence of this teaching has been to foster a neglect of His words, and to render the hearts and consciences of many saints insensitive to the wholesome exhortations and warnings uttered by Him, which they are taught to regard as applicable only to an insignificant remnant of Israel.  A further consequence has been to blind the minds of the saints to the transcendently important matter of the salvation of their soulsOn the other hand, the study of the doctrinal Epistles has been exalted to the position of first importance, the very highest value being placed upon the ability to comprehend doctrinal points, and to state them with verbal precision according to accepted theological standards.  Failure on these points has been, and is, severely visited; while failure in the weightier matters of the law of Christ - particularly in the matter of love for all the saints - has been viewed with indifference.  Surely we should say “these things ought we to have done, and not have left the other undone

 

What, then, is the “soul” of a man, concerning the salvation of which the Lord Himself made a BEGINNING of speaking?  It is clear from the Scriptures that the “soul” is quite distinct from the “spirit”; and by attention to the teaching of the Word we may learn that the “soul” signifies the natural life of the man.  This embraces all his own exclusive personal experiences, sensations, and emotions; and these in turn arise from his relations and associations with the created things about him, especially from his relations with his fellow human beings.  It is distinctly the self-life, that is to say, the sum of every experience which pertains to the man himself, to his own separate personality, as distinguished from every other man.  It embraces all his own distinct and personal desires, ambitions, gratifications, honours, and pleasures.  It takes in all the plans and arrangements he devises to secure his own satisfaction, entertainment, enjoyment, and so forth.  The instinctive longings of the soul are what impel men to pursue riches so ardently.  For it is by means of money that the desires of the soul may be gratified, so far as it is possible to procure gratification for them in this world.  Wealth commands distinction, attention, worldly pleasures, and high social position, and by means of it may be procured nearly everything that, this world can supply for the satisfaction of the soul of man.  Hence, the Lord says, “Beware of covetousness and His Apostle says, “covetousness is idolatry.”

 

Important instruction on this point is given by the Lord in Luke 12., in the parable of the rich man.  He spoke this parable for the express purpose of enforcing the warning:- “Take heed, and beware of covetousness, for a man’s SOUL consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (verse 15).  Then He tells of the rich man, whose ground brought forth plentifully, insomuch that he had not room enough to store his fruits. Therefore, the man laid his plans for his own advantage, that is for his SOUL.  He said, “I will pull down my barns and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and all my goods.  And I will say to MY, SOUL, SOUL, thou hast much goods, laid up for many years; take THINE EASE, EAT, DRINK, and BE MERRY.  But GOD said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy SOUL shall be required of thee*: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided

 

[* NOTE. That is, in the underworld of the dead, including those of all the righteous dead from Old Testament times, are presently waiting “the hope of the promise made of God” unto their fathers, (Acts 26: 68. cf. Phil. 3: 10-14; Acts 2: 34.)  See also Luke 16: 19-31; Rev. 6: 9-11; John 3: 13.  “Which promise our twelve tribes,” says Paul, “earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain.  And concerning this hope I am accused by the Jews, O king!  Why is it judgedincredible with you, if God doth raise the dead” (Acts 26: 6-8).  It was Paul’s belief in a select resurrection of reward (Lk. 14: 14, for disembodied ‘souls’ out of Hades) unto an “inheritance” in the “age to come,” which brought persecution and threats of being killed by some Jews, (Acts 23: 6, 12; 24: 21; 26: 6; 28: 20).]

 

This parable gives a clear idea of what the soul of man is; and it teaches plainly that the loss of the soul is the separation thereof from the things capable of affording satisfaction to it.

 

 

 

In examining this important subject of the SALVATION OF THE SOUL, we would begin with the first reference to the soul in Hebrews, which is in chap. 4: 12.  We find there the important statement that the Word of God sharply divides between the soul and the spirit; a distinction, however, which teachers and commentators generally fail to observe.  There are some who professedly make a specialty of “rightly dividing the Word of Truth”; which, however, may be merely the arranging of dispensational divisions according to their own ideas.  It is questionable whether 2 Tim. 2: 15 means that we are to divide up the Word of Truth.  A better reading would seem to be, holding a straight course in the Word of Truth.  But on the other hand, it is certain, as has been aptly said, that the Word of God divides us up, even to the dividing asunder of soul and spiritThe Word of God speaks of the salvation of the spirit, of the salvation of the soul and of the salvation of the body; and there is a great difference between them.  In 1 Cor. 5: 5, Paul speaks of delivering one of the members of the assembly of Corinth unto Satan (who has the power of death), “for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the Day of the Lord Jesus.”  Again, in many passages which we propose to notice, the Word speaks of saving the soulPhil. 3: 21 speaks of the Coming of the Lord as Saviour to change our bodies.

 

The distinction between the spirit of man and the soul of man is recognized throughout Scripture.  Thus in 1 Thess. 5: 23, the Apostle prays for the sanctification of the whole man, .and that “your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless unto (at) the Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ

 

Of the Lord Jesus it is written that just before His death He commended His SPIRIT to His Father. “And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, He said, Father, into Thy Hands I commend My Spirit.  And having said thus He gave up the spirit” (Luke 23: 46).  Of His SOUL and BODY it is written in Psa. 16., quoted in Acts 2: 31, “that His SOUL was not left in Hades, neither did His FLESH see corruption  It thus appears that His body went into the tomb, but saw no corruption there, while His soul went to Hades, or Paradise, the place of the departed.  With this also agrees the word He spoke to the believing malefactor, “Verily I say unto thee, to-day thou shall be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23: 43).

 

The word “soul” signifies, as we have said, the natural, or personal life of the individual man, in the broadest sense, including all the experiences, sensations, and emotions pertaining thereto.  In fact, the Greek word psuche is sometimes in our versions translated “life,” sometimes “soul.”  When the word “life” in our versions stands for psuche it never means eternal life, possessed by Christ, and imparted as the gift of God to those who believe on Him.  For that life the Greek word is zoeIt is sometimes of much importance to know what the original word is.  Thus, in John 10, one of these words occurs in verse 10, the other in verse 11.  When Christ said “I am come that they might have LIFE He used the word zoe, eternal life.  When, however, He added “the good shepherd giveth his LIFE for the sheep He used the word psuche, soul, or natural life; and the same word occurs in verses 15 and 17.  In verse 17 we read, “Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life (soul) that I might take it again  The Lord Jesus has a true human soul, an individual, personal life, like each one of us, only without sin.  He laid it down; but He has taken it again.  Thus the Lord speaks of laying down His own sinless Soul, and in this we have further and conclusive proof that losing one’s soul does not mean damnation.  It means, as we have said, the cutting off of the soul [at the time of death] from the things created for its satisfaction and enjoyment.  In verse 28, however, “and I give unto them. eternal life the word is zoeThat life can never be lost; for they who receive it “shall never perish  Thus the life (soul) which Christ gave for us is not the same as the life He gives to us.  The difference is great.

 

Again, in John 12., both words occur in verse 25: “He that loveth his life (psuche) shall lose it; and he that hateth his life (psuche) in this world, shall keep IT (his soul, psuche) unto life (zoe) eternal

 

This is one of the instructive passages in which the Lord began to speak of the salvation of the soul.  The statement is brief, but comprehensive.  The man who loves his soul (psuche), shall lose it; and he that hates his soul IN THIS WORLD shall keep it unto life eternal.  The Lord here declares clearly that the salvation of the soul is a thing future, and that it is dependent upon the faith, obedience, and stedfast endurance of the man himself.  In verse 27 He speaks of His own soul (psuche) saying, “Now is My SOUL troubled  In the Garden of Gethsemane He said to His disciples, “My SOUL is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death” (Matt. 36: 38).  In the passage quoted from Heb. 10., He says, “My SOUL shall have no pleasure in him  It is therefore in the soul that sorrow and pleasure are experienced.

 

From the above passage (John 12: 25) and from other Scriptures, it clearly appears, as we have already said, that the soul of man is that part of his being which is capable of experiencing sensations arising from relations with created things - “the world  The actual functions of seeing, hearing, tasting, etc. are performed by the organs of the body; but the experiences and emotions resulting therefrom are of the soul.  The seeing of pictures, statues, buildings, processions, carnivals, ornate religious ceremonials, etc., etc.; the pleasures of music, literature, especially fiction, banquetting, dancing, sports, and the like; all amusements, entertainments, social functions, etc., form part of the life (or soul) of a man “in this world.”  It is by hating his soul, or self-life in this world, that a man may KEEP IT for the age that is coming.

 

The passage last above quoted does not teach that the pleasures of the natural or personal life are necessarily evil quite the contrary.  Neither does the passage teach that it is wrong for the people of God to experience gratification when some pleasing sight - as a beautiful landscape or gorgeous sunset - meets their eyes, though they should exercise care as to the liberty they allow themselves in this direction.  It is because these things are lawful and good in themselves, and are appointed for man’s enjoyment, that the Lord would have His disciples keep their souls unto eternal [age-lasting]* life, for then the pleasures of the created universe may be enjoyed to the full, without any taint of sin, and without any alloy of sorrow or pain.  To that end the disciple must hate his self-life (soul) in this world.  To love one’s life in this world is much the same as to love the world and the things that are in the world.  BUT CHRIST IS NOT IN THE WORLD.  He laid down His Personal Life (psuche) in the world, and has now no part or pleasure in it.  Nor could He have pleasure in the world as it is now.  His portion here was always sorrow.  Therefore, it behoves the disciple of Christ to set his affections on things above where Christ is at the Right Hand of God (Col. 3: 1, 2).  And the consequence of not doing so is that he may indeed enjoy his soul here, but will lose it hereafter.  That judgment is just, and is so plainly declared in the Scripture that there is no excuse for ignorance in regard to it.  Thus it is that the Word of God divides between the soul and the spirit of man.

 

The above cited passage in Colossians states that “YE DIED and your life (zoe) is hid with Christ in God.  But when Christ Who is our life (zoe) shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him IN GLORY  Those who are to appear with Him “in glory” are those who died with Him.  It is needful on the believer’s part to reckon this to be true, and to act accordingly, taking the place of one crucified to the world, and therefore having no portion in it.  All that the believer has in the world is a path through it; the same path that the Master trod.

 

 

The view we have presented as to the soul of man is confirmed by the passage in Matthew 10: 37-39: “He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.  And he that taketh not his cross and followeth after Me is not worthy of Me

 

It is quite common for a person to refer to some trial or burden he is compelled to bear, as his “cross”; but that is not at all what the Lord means by this saying.  A disciple’s “cross” is never something he must bear.  In order to fulfil this saying of the Lord’s the bearing must be voluntary.  The disciple must, as the act of his own will, take up the cross, and follow Christ; that is, follow Him unto crucifixion to the world; for the sole use made of the cross is to crucify thereupon the one who bears it.  The saying, therefore, is the strongest possible

expression for the act of deliberately choosing to be with Christ in the place of death to the world, and to all the world has to offer those who seek their self-life there.

 

And the next words of the Lord are: “He that findeth his soul shall lose it, and he that loses his soul for My sake, shall find it  The literal rendering, which is preferable to the A.V. is: “He that hath found his soul shall lose it; and he that hath lost his soul, for My sake, shall find it

 

This saying needs no explanation.  It contains a clear promise that the man who has lost his soul for Christ’s sake shall find it; and as clear a warning that he who has found his soul shall lose it.  The words “has found “has lost point to the making of a settled and abiding choice.  One man has found his soul in this world as it now is, and has settled down to the spending of it.  He will learn in the end that he has indeed spent it. Another, for Christ’s sake, has parted with his soul, in this world.  He shall surely find it.  Instead of losing it, he is really keeping it for the coming age.  These sayings of the Lord show that the losing of the soul in this world is the parting with all that ministers gratification to the Soul.  It consists in taking such a position that the man is cut off from all the things the soul desires.  If such be indeed the meaning of losing the soul in this world, it will assist us to understand what is meant by the loss of the soul in the world to come.

 

Turning to Mark’s Gospel we find in chap. 8: 31-38, a passage in which the Lord “began to teach His disciples” certain things; and there we observe an important amplification of this doctrine of the Lord.  We read: “Whosoever WILL (that is, purposes or chooses to) come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (verse 34).  In this saying the action of the man’s own “will” is made conspicuous.  Also the words are added, “let him deny himself signifying the putting of self, and all personal inclinations aside, in order that he may be free to act according to the will of Another.  This denying of self is the giving up of all that constitutes the self-life or soul in this world.

 

In the next verse we find another addition.  In it the words “and the gospel’s” are added to the words “for My sake  The literal reading is, “on account of Me and of the good news  We take it that “the good news” in this connection is the good news of the so great salvation that awaits the sons whom God shall bring “unto glory  The opening words of this gospel of Mark are “A beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, SON OF GOD  The Epistle to the Hebrews calls special attention to the things spoken BY THE SON; and defines the “so great salvation” as that of which “A BEGINNING” was “received to be spoken by the Lord  The correspondence is suggestive, at least, and may have more significance than appears at first glance.

 

Continuing to read in Mark, we come to the question: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul  In this passage the word “psuche” is correctly rendered “soul” instead of “life,” as in the preceding verses.  It is the same word in the original.  Verses 35-37 read as follows, giving the word psuche the same rendering throughout: “For whosoever will save his soul shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his soul for My sake and the gospel’s, the same shall SAVE IT.  For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul

 

The Lord then adds this significant utterance: “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of Me and OF MY WORDS in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when He cometh in THE GLORY OF HIS FATHER with the holy angels  This points very clearly to the Coming of the Son of Man with the angels of His power, as the time when the saving or losing of the soul, as to the next age, will take place.  It also admonishes us not to be ashamed of His words.  We should take heed therefore lest we slight the words of the Lord Jesus, which He spake concerning the age to come wherein He will reign over the earth.  We greatly fear the consequences of the tendency observable in certain quarters to treat the millennial kingdom of the Son as a thing of little interest to the saints of God.

 

A passage almost identical with the one last quoted is found in Matt. 16: 24-28, quoted in an earlier part of this volume.  We call attention again to the fact that this teaching was introduced by the Lord in connection with Peter’s confession of Him as the Christ, the SON OF THE LIVING GOD, and in connection with His own disclosure to His disciples of His approaching sufferings and death.  And the Lord stated that “then namely, at this moment when those who have lost their souls for His sake shall find them, would be the time when He would “reward every man according to his works

 

 

 

Luke 9: 20-26 also contains a passage so closely resembling the above that no further comment thereon is required.  This fact, however, should be noted, namely, that the teaching we are now considering is given in each of the four Gospels, which shows the great importance attached to it by the Spirit of God.  Yet this surpassingly important doctrine has practically no place at all in the teaching received by many of the Lord’s people at the present time.

 

 

 

We turn now to the great passage in Matt. 11.  The saying of the Lord recorded there was spoken when He had been rejected by that generation to whom He had given the words the Father commanded Him to speak, and before whose eyes He had done the works of God.  For their heart was waxen gross, and their ears were dull of hearing, and their eyes they had closed.  So He cries, “He that hath ears to hear, let Him hear” (verse 15).  This is the Voice of Wisdom calling to all Her children to hearken to excellent things.  And the Lord in this connection declares that “Wisdom is justified of her children” (verse 19).  They are not like the children sitting in the market place (verse 16-18).  Then He announces that ALL THINGS have been given Him of His Father; and speaks of KNOWING THE SON, saying, “And no man knoweth the Son but the Father” (verse 27).  This knowledge of the Son is, as we have seen, the knowledge that is appropriate for those fully grown.  Then He says: “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest  In the original, the words “give rest” are a verb, which may be rendered “will refresh” you.  This refreshing He gives to all who come to Him.  It is the washing of regeneration, the renewing of the Holy Ghost, the making of a new creature in Christ.  Then come the important words: “Take My Yoke upon you, and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart, and ye Shall FIND REST unto your SOULS.  For My Yoke is easy, and My burden is light

 

There is, then, a [future] “rest” that is to be earned through submission to the yoke of Christ, and through learning from Him meekness and lowliness of heart; and this doubtless is the “rest” referred to in Heb. 3. and 4., that remaineth for the people of God.  None need fear to submit to His yoke, for it is “easy nor to His burden, for it is “light.”  “His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5: 3).  But the point of chief importance for our present purposes is the doctrine that the [coming millennial] “rest” by which the disciple of Christ is to be rewarded for his obedience, is rest to his SOUL.  “Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest” (Heb. 4: 11).

 

 

 

In another passage of great interest and importance the Lord speaks to His disciples of saving their souls.  The passage is found in Luke 21.  The Lord is there foretelling the time of false christs, wars and commotions, earthquakes, famines and pestilences, and of persecutions, betrayal and death for His followers (verses 8-16). For their comfort He says: “And ye shall be hated of all men for My Name’s sake; but there shall not an hair of your head perish” (17, 18).  Then He adds the exhortation, as rendered in the A.V., “In patience possess ye your SOULS  This rendering, however, does not at all give the sense of the original.  The word translated “possess” means to “gain as the reader can readily ascertain for himself by consulting any critical version or Greek concordance.  In “Bagster’s Englishman’s Greek New Testament” the verse is thus literally rendered; “By your patient endurance gain ye your souls  The only question among the competent authorities seems to be whether the form of the verb be imperative - “gain ye” - or future - “ye shall gain.”  For the purpose of our study it is immaterial what maybe the tense of the verb.  In either view it signifies that the disciple of Christ may gain his own soul as a reward for the endurance of trials and persecutions.  This is the word of Christ’s patience (2 Thess. 3: 5, R.V.; Rev. 3: 10.).

 

It should be observed that, although Christ declares that some of His disciples should be put to death, He nevertheless immediately adds that not a hair of their heads should perish.  This promise clearly proves the full restoration of the entire man.

 

It is at the close of this passage that the Lord warns His disciples against allowing their hearts to be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and cares of this life (bios), lest “that Day” come upon them suddenly; and admonishes them to watch and pray always, that they may be accounted worthy to escape all these things, and to stand before the Son of Man.  It thus appears that watchfulness and prayer are needed in order to gain the promised reward (compare 1 Thess. 5: 6, 17).

 

The foregoing are the recorded instances in which the Lord made a beginning of speaking of the salvation of the soul.  Among “those that heard Him and that have confirmed the teaching to us, and amplified it, was the Apostle James.  This Apostle addresses believers as “my beloved brethren and admonishes them to be “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath and he exhorts them to “receive with meekness the engrafted Word which is able to SAVE YOUR SOULS.” (1: 19-22).

 

In this important passage the Apostle clearly distinguishes between the “gift” of the new birth and the reward of saving the soul.  He first speaks of the gift, saying, “Every good and perfect GIFT is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with Whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (verse 17).  The next verse indicates a special gift from above, namely, the new birth, which is of the Will of God, and therefore not subject to be withdrawn, for in Him is no variableness.  Note the words, “Of His own Will begat He us with the Word of Truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of His creatures” (comp. John 1: 12, 13).  Let it then be carefully noted that those who have been already begotten again with the Word of Truth (having believed on Christ, Who is the Truth), are exhorted to receive with submission the implanted Word, which is able to save their souls.  This clearly distinguishes the new birth from the saving of the soul.  It shows that a man may have been begotten again, and yet not save his soul.  The reason is that the new birth is a work done in a man’s spirit.  “That which is BORN of the Spirit is SPIRIT” (John 3: 6). If we assume that the exhortation of James 1: 21 is addressed to those who have been already born again, as we must do since they are addressed as “brethren it necessarily follows that the saving of the soul is something distinct from the new birth.

 

The new birth, then, is a past event for every [regenerate] believer in Christ, and can never be undone.  But the saving of the soul is a thing yet to be accomplished.  Receiving the implanted Word is an exhortation having practically the same force as “giving earnest heed to things we have heard or letting “the Word of Christ abide” in us.

 

This much neglected Epistle of James, which by many is practically set aside as “Jewish,” contains much valuable instruction and comfort for God’s pilgrims.  The very first words are strikingly appropriate:- “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations (or trials).”  Why?  Because “the trial of your faith worketh PATIENCE”; and this is the very thing declared by the Lord in Luke 21: 19, and by the Apostle in Heb. 10: 36 to be needed for attaining the promise, namely, the salvation of the soul.  The next words are very important: “But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be PERFECT and entire wanting (i.e. lacking) nothing.”  The words of the Lord recorded in Luke 21: 19 show that the perfect work of patience or endurance is gaining the soul.

 

This Epistle belongs to a portion of the New Testament (including also Hebrews, and the Epistles of Peter, John, and Jude) which closely corresponds to the Book of Numbers, the Book of the pilgrimage of God’s people in the wilderness.  This correspondence has been often pointed out, and much helpful instruction has been based thereon.  But the correspondence teaches more than is generally supposed.

 

It is highly appropriate that just here we find God’s gracious provision for sickness among His people (James 5: 14-16)That provision is slighted by many; but it is highly valued by such of God’s pilgrims as have accepted His care for their mortal bodies, not looking for help from the world’s systems of healing.

 

 

 

The Epistles of Peter are also full of valuable instruction for those children of God who would be true “Hebrews.”  Here again the Word of God cuts sharply and cleanly between the new birth and the salvation of the soul.  The message of Peter is addressed to those who have been already “begotten again unto a living hope by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1: 3).  These are now being “kept by the power of God THROUGH FAITH unto salvation ready to be revealed at the last time” (comp. 1 John 2: 18).  This future salvation is the salvation of the soul, spoken of in Heb. 10.; and the “faith” mentioned is the “faith to the saving of the soul  This is perfectly clear from verses 6-9.  Those born-again ones who are in “manifold temptations” are called upon (as in James) to rejoice, and for the reason that the outcome of the trial of faith, is to be rewarded by “praise, and honour, and glory, at the Appearing of Jesus Christ  Through believing on Him Whom they have “not seen they may rejoice with joy unspeakable and “glorified receiving (as they shall if they hold fast to the end the hope to which they have been begotten) THE END of their faith, namely, THE SALVATION OF THEIR SOULS  We would call special attention to the fact here stated that this salvation of the soul is the “end” of our faith, not the beginning.  Then we are informed that this salvation is that concerning which the prophets inquired and searched diligently, desiring to know what or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ Who was in them did signify, in testifying beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow.  Unto those prophets it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us, they did minister the things which are now reported unto you (these being “the things which we have heard”) by those who preached the gospel unto you, with the Holy Ghost sent down from heavenAll this is manifestly in close correspondence with Heb. 2., where the “so great salvation” is mentioned.  And, to make the correspondence still closer, it is stated that this is a matter in which the angels are directly interested; for the Apostle Peter adds: “which things the angels desire to look into” (verses 10-12).

 

The next verse shows that the message is for pilgrims: “Wherefore that is to say, in order to gain the end proposed (the salvation of the soul), “gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end, for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ  Grace provides this great salvation, and faith attains it, through hoping to the end.  “As OBEDIENT CHILDREN, not fashioning yourselves according to the former desires in your ignorance; but as He which hath CALLED YOU is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of behaviour And if ye call on Him as Father, Who, without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear”,(13-17).

 

Here we have express mention of obedience, of the children who call upon God as Father, of the heavenly calling, of the judgment of believers’ works, the sojourning, and of fear as to the consequences of disobedience.  These are the very topics to which prominence is given in Hebrews.

 

In chapter 2. we find the “holy priesthood who are to offer spiritual sacrifices (worshipping God in spirit) acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (verse 5), and the “royal priesthood” who are to show forth the excellencies of Him Who called them out of darkness into His marvellous light.  This, exercise of the functions of the “royal priesthood” belongs, we take it, to the age to come, when the sons of the priestly house will show forth (which they certainly cannot do now) the excellencies of the Son, Who has called them into His. marvellous light, which will then be displayed.

 

Again, at verse 11 is a strong exhortation addressed expressly to God’s pilgrims: “Dearly beloved, I BESEECH you, AS STRANGERS and PILGRIMS, abstain from fleshly lusts, (desires) which war AGAINST THE SOUL  Surely, the meaning of this is unmistakable.  The cravings of the flesh, whether coarse or refined, war against THE SOUL, and if indulged will, as the Lord declared, cause the loss of the soul in the age to come.  It is the “pilgrims” that are warned against enemies, which make war against the “soul

 

All the exhortations and encouragements of this Epistle are advantageous for God’s pilgrims; but we must leave our readers to study them in detail for themselves, asking them to observe that the practical object of all is that “when His (CHRIST’S) GLORY shall be revealed, ye may be glad also, with exceeding joy” (4: 13).  We call special attention also to the reference to Christ as the Shepherd and Overseer of YOUR SOULS (2: 25); and to the exhortation to those who suffer according to the Will of God, that is, according to God’s appointment instead of for wrong-doings as in 4: 15, to commit the KEEPING OF THEIR SOULS unto Him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.

 

Peter’s second Epistle is also full of pertinent instruction but we would only call attention to the things which they who “have obtained like precious faith” are to add to their faith (1: 1, 5-8), in order that they be not barren or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (chap. 1: 5-8).  Also to the words that follow: “Wherefore the rather, brethren give diligence to make your calling and election sure, for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall” (comp. Heb. 4: 11); “for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the EVERLASTING KINGDOM OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST” (10, 11).

 

This connects the passage directly with the [millennial] Kingdom of the Son, which is the theme of Hebrews.  Therefore, the instructions given are of the utmost importance to those who would gain an entrance into that Kingdom, and especially to those who seek, as every saint should seek, an abundant entrance thereinto.

 

 

 

Returning now to Hebrews, we would note that the hope there set before us, and which enters into that within the veil, is as “an anchor OF THE SOUL” (6: 19).  The occurrence of the word “soul” in this passage is very significant, but the significance thereof is rarely, if ever, noticed in the commentaries on Hebrews.  It is not said or implied, here or elsewhere, that a man may, by holding fast to a promise of God, save himself from perdition; but it is clearly implied in this Scripture that the heir of promise, by holding fast to the hope set before him, may save his soul for the age when joy will be complete and unalloyed.  The only security for the soul is that afforded by the Anchor within the vail.

 

 

 

We fervently pray and trust that the foregoing comments may be blessed of God, to the end that His saints may through study of the Scriptures cited, and by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, receive an understanding of that salvation so great, the salvation of souls, whereof a beginning was spoken by the Lord, and which has been confirmed to us by them that heard Him.

 

In the light of the Scriptures we have examined, the meaning of the words “faith to saving the soul” (Heb. 10: 30), is plain; and thereby also, the lesson of chap. 11. may be clearly perceived.  We refrain from commenting upon the details of that chapter.  It must suffice for our purpose to point out that the saints of former ages who are mentioned there had not only repentance and faith towards God for redemption from sin and death, but also had faith to the end of their days, waiting for something whereof they had heard from God and therefore “hoped for,” but had “not seen  They all became “strangers and pilgrims on earth” (verse 13), and declared plainly that they sought a country.  They were free to return “to that country from whence they came out”; but they set their hearts on a better country, that is, an heavenly, and for that reason, “God is not ashamed to be called their God” (14-16).  And such as these also are they of whom it is written that Christ “is not ashamed to call them brethren” (2: 11).

 

These “Hebrews” were tested in various ways.  No two were tried in exactly the same way.  On this point see especially verses 31-38 But, whatever may have been the test appointed by God, it served to show that the man or woman was at heart a true Hebrew - that the HEART was right towards Him; and that is the essential thing.

 

*       *       *

 

[PART TWO]

 

 

FOREWORD

 

 

“‘But whosoever will lose his life (soul) for my sake shall find it  Our Lord does not insert the word ‘wish’ in this alternative.  Many have been martyrs for the truth, who trembled at the thoughts of their own weakness, and would gladly have been spared.  They had no wish to lose their life.  But when the voice of God, expressed in the circumstances in which they were placed, demanded it, they made the surrender.  Paul, indeed, desired the fellowship of Jesus’ sufferings, even to the being conformed unto his death, as the pathway to the first resurrection.  But this is not the high standing of many.

 

 

Jesus’ death and resurrection show how life lost is found in resurrection.  His victory Hades is to be theirs who so follow him.  The finding of the soul is seen in Rev. 20: 4.  ‘I saw the souls of those beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, … and they lived and reigned with the Christ a thousand years  But this resurrection is peculiar.  ‘The rest of the dead lived not till the thousand years are finished…

 

 

Here we have the secret of the joyful suffering of the martyrs of the earliest age of the church.  They saw that a peculiar joy was connected with such endurance.  Some rushed into death uncalled, that they might attain it.  It is not in human nature to desire suffering for its own sake.  But this motive overpowered dread.  ‘If all are to be alike in the day of Christ, I should prefer to go through life quietly, without reproach, and without being called to give up any of the comforts or enjoyments of life.  But if such is not the way to the kingdom, but the way to lose it, faith will enable me to overcome nature

 

 

So important is the sentiment of the verse before us, that it is often repeated in the New Testament.  ‘He that loveth his life (soul) shall lose it, and he that hateth his life (soul) in this world shall keep it unto life eternalJohn 12: 25.  The context, in this case also, points us to Jesus’ surrender of life

 

- (R. Govett, Entrance Into the Kingdom, pp. 246.)

 

 img02

THOSE WHO ALLEGE CAN PROVE

 

 

NOTICE

 

 

It has been shown above, that on “the day of Pentecost” (Acts 2: 1), the Holy Spirit came upon “the apostles whom he had chosen” (Acts 1: 4, R.V.): Matthias, being “numbered with the eleven apostles” as the one chosen by Him, to replace Judas, (v. 26). 

 

 

What did those present “in the house where they were sitting” (2: 2) see?  They saw (1) “tongues parting asunder, like as of fire; and it sat upon each one of them” (Acts 2: 3): that is, upon each one of the “Apostles” which the Holy Spirit “had chosen”!   It was the “apostles,” could “see” tongues of fire as “it sat upon each one of them  (2) What was it that they heard?  They heard “a sound as of a rushing of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting*:” (2: 2).

 

 

* It would be hardly likely that the “devout men dwelling in Jerusalem” and “the multitude” which “came together,” could have all been sitting in the house with the Apostles at that time!  What “the multitude” saw and heard must have took place some short time later!

 

 

“Every man heard them (the Apostles), speaking in his own language” (verse 6). 

 

 

Those then present were: “Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, in Judea and Cappadocia, in Pontus and Asia, in Phrygia and Pamphylia, in Egypt and in parts of Libya about Cyrene, and sojourners from Rome, both Jews and Proselytes, Cretans and Arabians” (as they all heard the Apostles “speaking in our tongues the mighty works of God:” (vv. 9-11). 

 

 

That Pentecost brought with it a literal fulfilment of what John the Baptiser had prophesied: “He shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost and with fire:” (Matt. 3: 11; Luke 3: 16).

 

 

What a difference the divine anointing made in the lives of the apostles, after the Holy Spirit had given them His knowledge, powers and miraculous gifts! 

 

 

Did believes who had these miraculous “gifts” imparted to them, by the laying on of the Apostle’s hands, continue to keep hold of them?  No!  Why not?  Because of their disobedience and apostasy, God withdrew them: and it is believed by many, that after the death of the apostles, they were withdrawn! 

 

 

The Church at Corinth consisted of those who “came behind in no gift” (1 Cor. 1: 7), and yet, their moral condition before God was worse than that of unbelievers on the outside! 

 

 

The Apostle Paul had no interest in “Judging them that are without”: his threatenings were all directed toward “them that were within!  Any “brother” who was “a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner,” was targeted by him (5: 11)!  Why?  Because a little leaven (evil practise) would have had an affected all “within” the Church; and therefore, the guilty one was to be excommunicated. 

 

 

The threat of losing their inheritance “in the kingdom of God,” (6: 9).” was directed toward the immoral and “wicked” brother on the inside: those unregenerate on the outside, are in no position to lose any “inheritance,” in the coming “Kingdom” - being outside of God’s redeemed family!  The danger which threatened the regenerate was imminent; and immediate repentance toward God was demanded from them, for God’s forgiveness and restoration.

 

 

The miraculous gifts which Peter received at Pentecost, enabled him to see into the heart of Ananias and Sapphira.  He knew how much they had kept back from the sale of the land, and how they tempted and lied to the “Spirit of the Lord” (Acts 5: 3).  Jesus had given Peter the “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 16: 19, R.V.): and after exposing their sin, the divine judgment descended upon them immediately after his spoken word!  They both died prematurely; and “great fear came upon the whole church” (Acts 5: 11)!  Did they lose eternal life?  No!  What then did they lose?  Their inheritance in the coming “kingdom” of Messiah Jesus, (1 Cor. 6: 10).  

 

 

God expects all who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit to live responsibly before Him!   Failure to do so will forfeit life in that coming Messanic “Kingdom”! (See Eph. 5: 5; Gal. 5: 21. cf. James 1: 12; 1 Tim. 4: 16; 2 Thess. 1: 3-7; 1 Tim. 4: 1, R.V.).

 

 

The days in which we are now living, are days of disobedience and apostasy!  2 Tim. 3: 1-8; 2 Pet. 3: 3-9; Jude 4, 8, 10-13, 16, 18, 19.  However, that should not prevent any of the Lord’s obedient servants from asking Him for miraculous gifts: He has commanded us to ask Him for them!  But it does not automatically follow that ever believer will receive “knowledge”, “wisdom”, “faith”, “gifts of healings”, “workings of miracles, “prophecy” “discernings of spirits”, “kinds of tongues”, “the interpretation of tongues,” (1 Cor. 12: 8-10, R.V.)! 

 

 

The closing days of this evil age will be days of miracle: but it must be remembered that not all miracles are performed by powers from God!  Satan has power to deceive: and his servants too, have received powers from him to perform miraculous works.  The Antichrist, who is yet to be revealed, will display his satanic powers; and John reminds us, that even now there are many antichrists in the world! 1 John 2: 18.

 

 

God’s anointed servants will, at that time, also have miraculous powers - “gifts” from the Holy Spirit.  Powers which He will distribute upon those chosen and anointed to do His work. 

 

 

“I will give unto my two witnesses,” … “And if any man desireth to hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man shall desire to hurt them, in like manner must he be killed.  These have the power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to smite the earth with every plague, as often as they shall desire.” (Rev. 11: 3, 5, 6, R.V.).

 

*       *       *

 

EXPOSITIONS

 

7

 

NOTHING LESS THAN THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST CAN EXPLAIN PENTECOST. 

 

 

Thus we now reach the highest level from which the fact of the Resurrection can be viewed.  Difficulty is solely proportional to the power of the person meeting it: a difficulty insuperable to an infant, is, to a man, no difficulty at all: so to Sadduccan doubt of resurrection Jesus says, “Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures [foretelling resurrection], nor the POWER OF GOD” (Matt. 22: 29).  The apostle chosen at Pentecost to expound the empty tomb, devotes one verse to our Lord’s life, one to his death, but twelve to His resurrection; for while the efficacy is in the Cross, the demonstration is in the Tomb; and throughout he supremely reveals God’s mind in raising His Son from the dead.  “A man approved of God, by mighty works which God did” (Acts 2: 22) - the only Man whom God never blamed and never rebuked: “delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” - for from the world’s foundation the sacrifice of the Lamb had dwelt in the heart of the Father (Rev. 13: 8): “whom God raised up” - for the resurrection, as also the life and the death, was full of God.  Now “the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law” (1 Cor. 15: 56); that is, it is broken law which inflicts death, and maintains corruption; but the body of Jesus never corrupted - the only body which never did - nor was His spirit [i.e., His disembodied ‘soul’ (Acts 2: 27. cf. v. 31)] left in Hades; for the law is powerless against absolute holiness; and the body was without corruption, for it was without moral taint.  “Having loosed the pangs of death: because it was not possible that He should be holden of it”  So Peter proves that the Resurrection had been on God’s lips a thousand years earlier.  “Thou wilt not leave my soul in Hades, neither wilt thou suffer THY HOLY ONE to see corruption  For, had sin been in Christ, He could not have risen; and, had it not been on Christ, He would not have died: but as sinless, He was free to bear the death-penalty for others; and as pronounced sinless still by the resurrection, the sin He bore had been expiated and consumed. “Declared to be the Son of God with power, according to a spirit of holiness” - the force of Deity whereby He paralyzed death, and forsook Hades - “by the resurrection [out] of the dead” (Rom. 1: 4).  The God of inflexible justice and awful holiness has loosed the pangs that were ours, and accepted our Sacrifice by exalting it: if my sins were not consumed, He would not be where He is.  “Being therefore by the right hand of God exalted, God hath made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified  Was it any wonder that the disciples disbelieved for joy?  For the Resurrection is not a prodigy: it is a necessity; and less evidence would be ample to establish that which thus meets our infinite moral need.

 

But the Lord Jesus also participated in the Resurrection.  The Angels said, “He is risen not, He is raised: others were raised,* He rose: it was a conjoint work of the Godhead, in which His was an equal share.  “I lay down my life, that I may take it againI have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10: 17).  Twelve times He is recorded as foretelling His death in words free from all type or figure, and once only (Matt. 26: 2) without naming His rising from the dead in the same breath; and the figure He especially used - the Temple rebuilt in three days - formed not only the ground-work of capital charges (Matt. 26: 61), but was correctly understood by His enemies as a specific prophecy of resurrection (Matt. 27: 63).  “What sign showest Thou unto us  “Destroy this temple our Lord answered - for the Resurrection [of God’s anointed Messiah] is the only sign to be granted to this generation (Matt. 12: 39) – “and in three days I will raise it up.  But He spake of the temple of His body” (John 2: 19, 21).  Both temples, alike shrines of Godhead (Col. 2: 9), both born in one spot (Psa. 132: 6), and both rent with death-pangs together (Matt. 27: 50), perished for reconstruction, our Lord in three human days, the Temple in three Divine (2 Pet. 3: 8).**  Every other resurrection was a response to a call from the outside: none had ever come forth clothed in eternal flesh: therefore the moment the truth burst upon Thomas, the cry was inevitable – “My Lord and my God

 

[* NOTE. That is, others were raised temporarily from death and from amongst the dead, who are now present in Sheol/Hades.  God allowed Samuel to come up to converse with king Saul; and then return again to the underworld of the dead in Sheol: “… Tomorrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me.” (1 Sam. 28: 19, R.V.).]

 

 

** Moreover, our Lord, alone of all the prophets, foretold the exact measure of the ‘little while’ (John 16: 16) between the moment of expiring and the unsealed tomb; a measure of time which makes it impossible that the resurrection was the mere release of the spirit from the body.  That was instantaneous.  On these three days and three nights, see Note appended to this pamphlet.]

 

 

So also the Spirit is God’s great Agent in resurrection, to which also He is the supreme Witness; though I am not aware that He is anywhere stated to have raised the Lord.  “If the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwelleth in you, He that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead shall quicken also your mortal bodies through His Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Rom. 8: 11).  Nothing less than the Resurrection [of Messiah Jesus] can explain Pentecost.  So it is the Holy Ghost who uncovers the fatal consequences (1 Cor. 15: 12-19) of a denial of the Resurrection.  For if Christ now lies in Palestine, (1) He is a dead man still; a false prophet, therefore, of what never was, and never can be, fulfilled; and, in His assertion - “I am resurrection” (John 11: 25) - a blasphemer: (2) the Gospel is a delusion - “our preaching is vain” - for its central dogma is a myth: (3) the Apostles are liars - “we are found false [not, mistaken] witnesses of God” - utterers of falsehood deliberately put into His mouth*: (4) atonement is as dead as the Lamb - “your faith is vain” - for, as death is the physical proof of sin, so sin’s obliteration can be physically proved only by resurrection: (5) no soul has ever been regenerated - “ye are yet in your sins” - so that all that is good and lovely and god-like in character has been a mirage: (6) the godly are lost – “they also which are fallen asleep in Christ have perished” - for if a lifeboat, seeking a foundered ship, never returns, it can only be because both have been engulfed in a common destruction: and (7) we disciples are fools- “of all men most pitiable” - for while we have renounced earth, we have also lost [the possibility of ever ascending into] heaven, and have led countless myriads into the same folly.  It is Deity alone which emptied the tomb of Christ [the firstfruits of “a better Resurrection” (Heb. 11: 35b).]: Christianity answers for the Resurrection with its life.  But more perishes than the Christian faith, if Christ lies beneath the Syrian blue.  History is shattered - for no other event was ever so closely or so amply evidenced; testimony is shattered  - for no testimony can survive the ruin of the testimony of holy apostles and prophets; character is shattered - for if our Lord was thus exposed as a false prophet and blasphemer, no character can be trusted again; Heaven is shattered - for if the sinless Christ sank under death, all escape for the sinful is impossible; and faith is shattered for if God has so dealt with His Son, trust in Him can never be restored.  All this is a much less credible creed than the Christian Faith.  THE RESURRECTION [OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST] IS A FACT.  Millions of believing souls had fallen asleep with their faces set forward to a sinless Sacrifice; earth’s only holy millions to-day have their faces turned upward to a living Christ: and “the Church is too holy for a foundation of rottenness, and too real for a foundation of mist

 

[* Moreover, our Lord, alone of all the prophets, foretold the exact measure of the ‘little while’ (John 16: 16) between the moment of expiring and the unsealed tomb; a measure of time which makes it impossible that the resurrection was the mere release of the spirit from the bodyThat was instantaneous.  On these three days and three nights, see Note appended to this pamphlet.

 

It has been well expressed thus: “If false, you must suppose that twelve men of mean birth, and of no education, formed the noblest scheme that ever entered into the mind of men, adopted the most daring means of executing that scheme, and conducted it with such address as to conceal the imposture under the semblance of simplicity and virtue.  You must suppose that men guilty of blasphemy and falsehood united in an attempt, which has in fact proved the most successful, for making the world virtuous; that they formed this singular enterprise with the certain expectation of scorn and persecution; that although conscious of one another’s villany, none of them ever thought of providing for his own security by disclosing the fraud, but, amidst sufferings the most grievous, persevered in their conspiracy to cheat the world into piety, honesty and benevolence

 

 

MAN AND HIS DESTINY

 

 

Thus the Resurrection, as we should expect from a miracle so foretold, so evidenced, so unique, and so stupendous, has changed the entire destiny of mankind.  For what exactly is ‘man’Scripture regards both the body and the soul as ‘man  “The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his [still lifeless] nostrils the breath of life” (Gen. 2: 7): “they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths;- there then they laid Jesus” (John 19: 40): Dorcas “fell sick and died; and they laid her in an upper chamber” (Acts 9: 37): in each case the body is the manSo also, only more emphatically, is the soul or [animating] spirit.  “I [as a disembodied soul] will go down to Hades to my son mourning” (Gen. 37: 35): “this day [i.e., immediately after the time of death (Luke 16: 22)] shalt thou be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23: 43): “the garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them” (Acts 9: 39):- in each case the spirit [not the animating ‘spirit’ (Luke 8: 55), but a dead soul] is the manThus both body and soul (in this context I am using ‘soul’ and ‘spirit’ as one) are essential elements in man: humanity is “body, soul, and spirit” (1 Thess. 5: 23).  Death, therefore, we had almost dehumanises: it is a decomposition, a disintegration, dissolution, of ‘man’: it is a violent rending asunder of constituent elements, consequent on sin: and, to speak exactly, though body and spirit are each ‘manneither is man alone.  The body rots; [when] the [animating] spirit departs to [God (See Job. 34: 14; Eccl. 3: 21; Isa. 38: 16; Luke 23: 46. Cf. James 2: 26, etc.); and the soul - the person - descends into] Hades: the man is dead.

 

Thus, when God deals finally with man He deals, not with a corpse, nor with a disembodied spirit, but with a man: man, for all eternity, can never cease to be ‘man’: his eternal destiny, whatever it be, must be the destiny of a man.  Now our Lord, as the typical Man, is the One who, alone hitherto, has passed through all the processes of man.  First, He was truly man:- “they took the body of Jesus” (John 19: 40); “my soul is exceeding sorrowful” (Matt. 26: 38); “into Thy hands I commend My spirit” (Luke 13: 46).  Violent dissolution took place on the Cross: “Being put to death in the flesh, but quickened in the spirit; in which He went and preached unto the spirits* in prison” (1 Pet. 3: 19).  After three days and three nights, the angels said:- “Why seek ye the living among the dead?  He is not here” - His corpse is not in the graveyard, His soul is not left in Hades (Acts 2: 31) – “but is risen” (Luke 24: 5); that is, the recumbent body stands again upon its feet, and the ‘spirit’ is ‘returned’ into it (Luke 8: 55).  Christ, born of a woman, was born full man: He died as a man dies: and He rose with body, soul, and spirit re-knit in everlasting resurrection. “I am the Living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore” (Rev. 1: 18).

 

 

[* NOTE. The ‘spirits in prison,’ may refer to ‘the Nephilim’ – that is, the off spring from a sexual relationship between “the sons of God” (angels) and “the daughters of men” (Gen. 6: 2, 4).]

 

 

A passage now arises before us than which perhaps, the whole Bible itself contains none more solemn.  “For since by [a] man came death” - dissolution, decomposition, disintegration – “by [a] man came also the resurrection of the dead (1 Cor. 15: 21)* - the re-knitting, in individual re-composition, of the whole man; and this, for the entire race“I AM RESURRECTION AND LIFE” (John 11: 25): since Christ was made man, and is resurrection, resurrection has become an essential part of human nature.  “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive” - not regenerated, but made alive physically: for as physical death poured itself through Adam into all the race, so physical resurrection becomes integral to humanity from the second federal Head of mankind.  Because Christ was a Man, and rose, all [sooner or later will] rise; for all partake of the same flesh with Christ: but believers are “one spirit with the Lord” (1 Cor. 6: 17): so, while unbelief severs from all benefits of the Passion, no man can escape the consequent resurrection.  The Incarnation empties every grave: for Christ is “the first-born from the dead,” “the first-born of all creation” (Col. 1: 15, 18).

 

* By man, not by God: so that, while resurrection was from the first a creative design of God (2 Cor. 5: 5), it is actually a product of the Incarnation.  The spirit [and soul] of man was always immortal.

 

The eternal destiny of our race now stands revealed.  “The last enemy that shall be destroyed” - for all mankind – “is death”: man, after entering on resurrection, never suffers dissolution again: “it is appointed unto men once to die” (Heb. 9: 27): full manhood follows for ever.  Thus the redeemed are wholly redeemed: redeemed in spirit, [soul] and also in body (Rom. 8: 23), the man, as man, is redeemed utterly and eternally.  What then of the lost?  “Be not afraid of them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in Hell [‘Gehenna’]” (Matt. 10: 28).  The wicked equally abide as men for ever: “they twain were cast alive” - that is, spirit, soul, and body - “into the lake of fire, which is second death” (Rev. 19: 20; 21: 8).  The Second Death is not decomposition, the splitting up of the person - as was the First: much less is it annihilation it is the final and eternal abode of the undivided man.  “This is the second death, even the lake of fire.  And if any was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20: 14).  For “this corruptible must put on incorruption”: and when God says it must, it is certain that it will.

 

 

Unbeliever, what a destiny! and what a Christ!  “I am a substance nobler than the stars”: they must perish, but, for better or worse, we endure: none can escape the momentous consequences of the Incarnation.  It twists its roots under and about all that is human, and lifts the entire race into resurrection from death; and the new relation which humanity bears towards Christ is glorious, or fearful, according to what we do with Him.  And what a Christ!  Christ is so truly man that He actually died as man dies: He is so truly God that He not only raised Himself, but the whole of humanity, in His rising.  The raising of one is the peculiar prerogative of the Godhead: who but the Son of God, by the mere fact of association in the flesh, could raise all?

 

 

For who is it that lay on the slab of rock?  The Lord has Himself answered in one of the most wonderful utterances that ever fell even from the lips of the Son of God.  “I AM RESURRECTION AND LIFE” (John 11: 25).  What is resurrection?  It is life in battle with death, and conqueror: it is the tremendous creative energy of the Deity put forth over a corpse.  Jesus does not say, I produce resurrection, or, I confer resurrection, or, I intercede to obtain resurrection: He says,- “I am resurrection  Resurrection, that is, is not some unknown law about to operate suddenly: it is the personal intervention of Christ: where He moves, graves empty.  Therefore our Lord’s resurrection is itself the touchstone of all salvation.  For to acknowledge its absolute truth, and therefore to cry with Thomas - “My Lord and my God is to confess the sinner’s need, to embrace the sinless Sacrifice, and to submit to the provided [imputed] righteousness.  “Say not in thy heart, Who shall ascend into heaven - for the Incarnation has occurred; “or, Who shall descend into the abyss - for the Resurrection [of Christ Jesus] has occurred: and between these two points Christ’s righteousness, the imputed obedience of the Son of God, has been wrought out, and is ready for faith to grasp.  “Not having a righteousness of mine own, even that which is of the law, but that [righteousness] which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God UPON [resting as a garment upon the shoulders of] faith” (Phil. 3: 9; Isa. 61: 10).  THEREFORE “if thou shalt confess with thy mouth JESUS AS LORD, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised Him from the dead, THOU SHALT BE SAVED” (Rom. 10: 9).

 

 

*       *       *

8

THE POWER OF THE KEYS

The ever-nearing approach of the Church of Rome wakes back into life the dormant controversies of centuries; and it is of critical importance that where Roman teaching seems lodged on Scripture, but is not, she should be openly and publicly dislodged from what appears to be a Bible foundation.  For if and where she is lodged on Scripture, we agree; we fight what is pagan in Rome, not what is Christian.  Moreover, every error is the tombstone where a forgotten truth lies buried, awaiting resurrection; and such a tombstone is the Roman doctrine of Absolution.

The Old Testament Priests had no power of absolution: they sacrificed, but they never absolved.  In the primitive Church the condemnation passed on an erring disciple, or a pardon granted him on confession, was a work of the whole assembled church, expressed by the officer presiding.  “Our judgment,” says Tertullian, “cometh with great weight, as of men well assured that they are under the eye of God; and it is a very grave forestalling of the judgment to come, if any shall have so offended as to be put out of the solemn assembly  But by the fourth century bishops began to assume this power of excommunication and absolution; and by the sixteenth century the Council of Trent had lodged the whole, sole power in the Priest.*  The earlier form, Donminus absolvat te - the Lord grants thee absolution - gave way to the priest acting judicially as possessor of the Keys, Ego absolvo te - I grant it.

* “To the Apostles, and to their successors in the priesthood, the power was delivered of remitting and retaining sinsDecrees of Trent, Session xxiii.

The first of our Lord’s three great utterances is addressed solely to Peter, and, couched in the future tense, is (as the Church has ever regarded it) the fundamental passage on church discipline.  Peter has the moment before been the mouthpiece of the unborn Church, in the first great saving confession of Christ: immediately, the Lord conjures up the Church to be; then that Church as issuing from the grave; and between the two He erects the Church’s present collective authority to include, or exclude, from the Coming Kingdom of God.  “Upon this rock I will build [from Pentecost onward] my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it - the whole Church shall come up out of the Underworld: and “I will give [fulfilled in 18: 18] unto thee” - not as apostle, much less as priest or pope, but as the first and representative confessor of Christ, in whom, for the moment, the whole Church is embodied - “the keys [one to lock, the other to unlock] of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth [in church discipline] shall be bound in heaven [at the judgment Seat]; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 16: 18).  That the power was not lodged in Apostles alone, and much less confined to Peter, is certain, because in the typical case of excommunication, given as an example for all time, Paul commands the Church to exclude, while absolutely identifying himself with the act (1 Cor. 5: 4).  Peter’s hands, receiving the keys, are the hands of the Church: for self-discipline is a function that must be conterminous with the Church’s entire life on earth.*

* “Belonging to the Church depends on forgiveness of sins, forgiveness being the sign of entrance into the Church.  And since an accepted member may again become unworthy of membership, the power of the keys has importance to those already received, including remission of sin or absolution on the one side, or retention of sin as well as Church discipline on the other” (Dorner).

The second passage, in which our Lord makes the actual grant of what he had promised, extends it, explicitly, to the entire Church: word for word, precisely that which was granted to Peter - the keys - are placed in the hands of the whole body of disciples.  For the Lord had just told them when to exclude a sinning brother: so now He grants the Divine warrant for doing it, and His own promised endorsement of the exclusion.  “Verily I say unto you” - for this is one of the truths depending solely on the word of Christ - “what things soever YE” - the Church, just named, and which, for obstinacy in sin, has just put a brother back among the Gentiles and the publicans - “shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven” the binding coming first, as excommunication precedes restoration; “and what things soever” - what rather than whom: for it is not so much a person that is bound or loosed, but a sin that is bound or loosed upon a person: therefore it is not the admission or the exclusion of the unsaved, whose persons are involved, - “ye shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 18: 18).  Here all precedence or exclusiveness of Peter, or even of all the Apostles combined, disappears; and the power of excluding from the Church on earth, with its ratification by exclusion from the future Kingdom,* is vested in each, and all, of the Community of Believers.  So the dominant Protestant interpretation - namely, that it is merely the Gospel declaration of pardon and threatening of hell - is obviously untenable: and our Lord puts ‘binding’ first, for it is only those already in the Church over whom we have (1 Cor. 5: 12) any jurisdiction; we bind in discipline that we may yet loose in love.  “An irrevocable, irredeemable ban is far from being spoken of here: in its highest exercise of power the Church looses again precisely that which it has bound; it bound only that it may be able again to loose when this may be possible” (Olshausen).  “These keys,” as Augustine says, “not one man, but the entire Church, receives

* It is most remarkable that it is from ‘the Kingdom of the Heavens’ - our Lord’s coming Reign over the earth - that the Church, if acting on Scripture commands, locks out; they are the keys of the Kingdom: so Paul, having given the catalogue of sins excluding from the Church (1 Cor. 5: 11), repeats the same list (but with additions) as a catalogue of the sins which exclude from the [Millennial] Kingdom (1 Cor. 6: 9, 10.).

The third passage, equally comprehensive, gives the deep underlying safeguard that hedges power so awful; and our Lord again lodges the power, not in a Peter who dies, or in Apostles who lapse, but in that Divine Society which never dies, and which will never lapse.  In the upper room, filled with the gathered disciples, including the women (Luke 24: 9-11, 33), Jesus “breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose soever sins ye retain” - ye hold fast, so that they may not pass away from him to whom they attach - “they are retained” (John 20: 23).  The use of the perfect in these two words, forgiven and retained, expresses the absolute efficacy of the power; ‘no interval separates the act from the issue’ (Westcott).  He who has a church sentence against him, and knows in his heart that it is a sentence both Scriptural and according to fact, can already be assured exactly of what his sentence will be at the Lord’s judgment bar.  So also in the loosing: as Paul said to the Corinthian Church - “Whom ye forgive anything, I forgive also: I have forgiven it in the Person of Christ” (2 Cor. 2: 10).*  But this final passage most guardedly confines the power to the closest connexion with the Holy Ghost: either we must have the miraculous ‘discernment of spirits’ whereby Peter instantly excommunicated Ananias and Sapphira; or else, if devoid of Apostolic and miraculous powers, we must confine both our binding and our loosing to explicit authorizations of the Spirit recorded in the Scriptures.  “The Church is not to be a petty tribunal of judgment for everything” (W. Kelly);** but “the Church (that is, the really regenerate) exercise the powers granted by the Lord, not in any way which they themselves may think proper, but according to the intimations of the Spirit” (Olshausen), intimations that can be found alone in the Book of God.  Beyond six named immoralities (1 Cor. 5: 11), and also personal injuries (Matt. 18: 15), and perhaps sloth (2 Thess. 3: 10), no offences - and none in any case doctrinal or ritual - are named in Scripture as authorizations of excommunication; and all, on repentance, can be ‘loosed,’ by the use of the reverse key.  This cuts up sectarianism by the roots.  We cannot bind on earth what Christ looses in heaven; nor loose on earth what He binds in heaven: unscriptural excommunications, or remissions, can only recoil, in the hereafter, on those who made them.***

* “He absolved him (1 Cor. 2: 10) because the congregation absolved him; not as a plenipotentiary supernaturally gifted to convey a mysterious benefit, but as himself an organ and representative of the Church.  The power of absolution, therefore, belonged to the church, and to the Apostle through the Church.  It was a power belonging to all Christians; to the Apostle, because he was a Christian, not because he was an Apostle” (F. W. Robertson)

** It is tragic that the Christian group which, of all groups, stresses most strongly that the Church is in ‘ruins  Is the group which most aptly exercises the full powers, and far beyond, of a Church totally unimpaired.

*** “While it is not said, - ‘None are forgiven but those whom you forgive’ - so , on the other hand, it is not merely the general statement of forgiveness as applicable to certain descriptions of persons; but it has a particular application to particular individuals.  And so great is the authority and efficacy that is made over to disciples hereby that it is not called ‘power to forgive,’ but forgiveness” (Govett).

The power of the Keys placed in our hands is a power from which we cannot free ourselves, and