Presenting 49 Vital Doctrines of the Scriptures, Abbreviated and Simplified for Popular Use, Including Suggestive Questions on Each Topical and Textual Indices.
Lewis Sperry Chafer
©1926 Lewis Sperry Chafer
This book is lovingly dedicated to George C. Stebbins whose intimate companionship has for thirty years been to me an abiding inspiration and whose incomparable Gospel music like celestial wings has carried to multitudes of souls in every land the great truths of God's Word.
Much of the material in this book was published in the Sunday School Times (April to December, 1925) as the author's notes on the Whole Bible Lessons. Since the original series was incomplete as a representation of the more important doctrines of the Scriptures, several Chapters have been added.
Those Chapters which were originally written as Bible class lessons are outlined and named according to the direction given by the lesson committee and are based on the Scripture selections suggested by them.
This book is in no sense intended to be a treatise on systematic theology. In its preparation, a limited number of the most vital and practical themes have been chosen, and an attempt has been made to adapt these brief discussions to the needs of the untrained Christian.
To each Chapter a list of questions has been added which, it is hoped, may make the studies more useful both to individuals and to groups. The student who would be versed on these subjects should look up every passage cited and continue the study of each theme until all the questions can be answered from memory.
Although the writer presumably has made a careful study of the various subjects treated, it is not his prerogative to dictate what another shall believe; but rather to point out what the Bible teaches. Faith should always rest on a personal understanding of the Scriptures, rather than on the teaching of men.
Bible doctrines are the bones of revelation and the attentive Bible student must be impressed with the New Testament emphasis on "sound doctrine" (Matthew 7:28; John 7:16-17; Acts 2:42; Romans 6:17; Ephesians 4:14; 1 Timothy 1:3; 4:6, 16; 6:1; 2 Timothy 3:10, 16; 4:2-3; 2 John 1:9-10). Not knowing the doctrines of the Bible, the child of God will be, even when sincere, "tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive"; the many well-meaning believers who are drawn into modern cults and heresies being sufficient proof. On the other hand, the divine purpose is that the servant of Christ shall be fully equipped to "preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine."
These Chapters are released with the prayer that they may honor Him whose glory and grace are supreme, and that some among the children of God may be helped more accurately "to speak the things which become sound doctrine."
—Lewis Sperry Chafer
It is a marvelous thing that we have an infallible Book from the hand of God. Every student and teacher should be fully convinced of this fact. There are two lines of evidence to be traced: (1) That which is internal, or the Bible's own claim concerning itself, and (2) that which is external, or outward, obvious facts concerning the Scriptures.
By hundreds of passages the Bible both directly declares and assumes itself to be the Word of God (note Psalm 12:6; 93:5; 119:18, 98-100, 105, 130; Isaiah 55:10-11; Jeremiah 23:29; Romans 10:17; 2 Timothy 2:15). Psalm 19:7-11 declares that the Old Testament is the Word of Jehovah. Six perfections of that Word are named with six corresponding transformations which that Word accomplishes. Likewise, Hebrews 1:1-2 states that God is speaking in the Old Testament through the prophets and in the New Testament through His Son.
Considering the external evidence that the Bible is the Word of God, the Book is a phenomenon and as such presents a challenge to the most skeptical among men. Certain facts should be noted:
The Bible appears in one volume in which there is a perfect continuity of historical sequence from the creation to the new heavens and the new earth; a perfect unfolding of doctrine from the blade to the full corn in the ear; from type to antitype; from prophecy to its fulfillment; and the anticipation, presentation, realization, and exaltation of the most perfect Person on earth or in Heaven. Yet this one volume which exhibits the most perfect continuity of thought that the world has ever seen is, nevertheless, a collection of sixty-six books written by about forty authors—kings, peasants, philosophers, fishermen, physicians, statesmen, scholars, poets, and plowmen—who could have known but little of each other, since their lives were lived in various countries and their writings were distributed over sixty generations of human history, representing a period of about sixteen hundred years.
In its unfolding of truth, the Bible is inexhaustible. Like a telescope it sweeps the universe from the heights of Heaven to the depths of hell, and traces the works of God from their beginning to their end. Like a microscope it reveals the minutest details of the plan and purpose of God and the perfection of His creation. Like a stereoscope it places all beings and objects whether on earth or in Heaven in right relation the one to the other. Though written in the earlier days of human knowledge when the present world discoveries could not reasonably have been disclosed, it is in harmony with every discovery made by man.
3. Its Output.
In fullest satisfaction the Bible is claimed by all races as their own, and is, as no other book, translatable into every tongue. It has already been translated into over seven hundred and seventy different languages and dialects. Thirty societies are now specializing in its publication, and over thirty million copies are printed annually. Of this number the British Bible Society publishes every hour more than two thousand copies. The French infidel Voltaire who died in 1778 predicted that the Bible would become obsolete within a hundred years. Contrary to the statement of this skeptic, the Bible abides. For nineteen hundred years it has endured the systematic, destructive attacks from Satan and men; but never has its predicted endurance been more tested than now when those who pose as its friends and exponents are subtly denying its most vital truths and its supernatural character. Its influence is transforming. To the unsaved it is the "sword of the Spirit" (Ephesians 6:17), and to the saved it is a cleansing, sanctifying, and reflecting power (Ephesians 5:25, 26; John 17:17; 2 Corinthians 3:18); it is the basis of all true civilization, law, and morality.
The supernatural character of this Book is seen in the fact that it deals as freely with the unknown and otherwise unknowable as it does with that which is known, and those who follow its teachings are unfailingly led in the paths of God's eternal Truth. Likewise, as no other book, the Bible accounts for those who do not receive its teachings. Of them it records that they are unregenerate men who receive not the things of the Spirit of God, neither can they know them because only by the Spirit are these things discerned (1 Corinthians 2:13). Its qualities are real, for those who know it best love it most.
Merely as literature, the Bible is supreme. It satisfies the simple-minded and entrances the sage; yet here, again, consideration should be given to the limitations of its human authors. To God alone be the glory!
This Book is not prejudiced in favor of men. It unhesitatingly records the sin, the weakness of the best of men and the doom of all who rely alone on those virtues and merits which are their own. Men do not so speak of themselves. It assumes to be a message from God to man rather than a message from man to man. It speaks with authority of things in Heaven and things on earth; of the seen and of the unseen; of God, of angels, and of men; of time and of eternity; of life and of death; of sin and of salvation; of Heaven and of hell. Apart from its message, there is no knowledge of these eternal issues in all the world: with its message, there is certainty, assurance, and peace.
Above all else in this supernatural Book is its revelation of the Person and glory of God as manifested in His Son. Let no one suppose that this Character is a mere fiction—the invention of a mortal mind; for His perfections have never been comprehended by the wisest and holiest of this earth. If He were a mere fiction, let the mind which conceived Him be extolled and adored!
Because of the combination of supernatural qualities which enter into the Bible, a similarity may be observed between the Bible as the Written Word and the Lord Jesus Christ as the Living Word. They are both supernatural as to their origin, presenting an inscrutable and impeccable blending of that which is divine and that which is human. They both exercise a transforming power over those who believe, and are alike allowed of God to be set at naught and rejected by those who do not believe. The untainted, undiminished divine perfections are embodied in each. The revelations which they disclose are at once as simple as the demands of a child, as complex as the infinite treasures of divine wisdom and knowledge, and as enduring as the God whom they reveal.
The Bible rightfully assumes to be God's message to man. The books of the world assume to be no more than man's message to his fellow-man. The Bible therefore deals with things eternal, infinite, and otherwise unknowable as freely as other books deal with things temporal, finite, and known. In forming the Scriptures, it is true that God employed human writers, but these men, though they may have understood but little of the whole to which they were contributing, did nevertheless, under the mighty hand of God, produce a single Book in which there is infinite continuity and which manifests every evidence of being the work of one Writer who alone is its Author.
The true doctrine of inspiration contends that God so directed the human authors that, without destroying their own individuality, literary style, or personal interest, His complete and connected thought toward man was recorded. Various opinions have been advanced as to the extent of the divine control over the human authors. These have been called "theories of inspiration," and all students of the Bible should be clear in their own minds with regard to these vital issues.
1. Naturalistic.—This, as the name implies, is the theory that the Bible is only a human product and therefore void of any supernatural elements. This view, which discredits and degrades the Word of God, is held only by infidels and unregenerate men.
2. Partial.—By this term a theory of inspiration is indicated which suggests that only certain parts of the Scriptures, are inspired. When this theory is accepted, of necessity each person is left to determine for himself what portions of the Bible are inspired and what are not. All authority is broken down since people are not naturally inclined to receive and apply to themselves those words of reproof and correction which are contrary to their own wishes. Those who hold this theory usually make much of the words of Christ as being more authoritative than other portions of the Scriptures; disregarding the fact that Christ wrote nothing and that His words are, at best, the report of the very men whose writings they, in other connections, discredit.
However, it should be remembered that Christ declared His own acceptance of every word of the Old Testament to be the Word of God, and that He provided for the full authority of every word of the New Testament.
3. Gracious.—This theory of inspiration suggests that the writers of the Bible were inspired in the same way, though to a fuller degree, as Spirit-filled men are empowered today. The writings of the Apostle Paul are said to be comparable with the writings of John Calvin or Martin Luther, and equally liable to be marred by human error. This and the "Partial" theory of inspiration are the theories which are held by Modernists today.
4. Verbal.—This theory, as its designation implies, maintains that the Bible is, even to its very words, an inspired book. This claim is made for the original writings only and not for copies, translations, or quotations, even though they may date back to the early days of the Christian era. However, though no original manuscripts are now in existence, it is important to observe that the most careful study of those copies, translations and quotations which are available yields clear evidence that our present text of the Bible is a very close reproduction of the original.
It is sometimes claimed that it was not the very words but the thought, or concept, which was inspired. The sufficient answer to this suggestion is that, apart from the, exact words, there could be no precision in a mere conception, particularly such precision as is demanded in the Scriptures. So, also, the declaration of the writers who knew the facts is that they were responsible for words rather than the mere concept (note Moses, Exodus 34:27; David, 2 Samuel 23:2; Psalm 45:1; Solomon, Prov. 30:6; Isaiah, Isaiah 6:5-8; Jeremiah, Jeremiah 1:7; 36:1-2; Zechariah, Zechariah 7:7, Christ, Matthew 8:17; John 14:10; 8:47; 12:48; 17:8; Paul, 1 Corinthians 2:4; Jude, Jude 1:17-18: R.V.) Nor does the Bible's own claim to be inspired, even in its very words, limit the choice of words or the flow of style on the part of the human writers, for God is abundantly able to secure the exact expression He demands even within the literary limitations of a fisherman.
Beyond its own claims, the Old Testament was declared by Christ to be the inspired Word of God. When He spoke, none of the New Testament had been written, therefore He could have referred only to the Old Testament (John 17:17). Likewise, the New Testament was written according to His provision and promise. He had said that He would leave a revelation and that it would be completed after His departure (John 16:12-13). This revelation was committed to Certain men (John 15:27; Acts 1:8; Matthew 28:19; Luke 10:22), and He gave their words the same authority as His own (Matthew 10:14-15; Luke 10:16; John 13:20; 17:14, 18; Hebrews 2:3-4).
1. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God" (2 Timothy 3:16). The word which is here translated inspiration is used but once in the New Testament. It means "God-breathed," and, according to this verse, this divine element extends to all the Scriptures.
2. "Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." (2 Peter 1:21). The phrase, "moved by the Holy Ghost," is the vital element in this revelation and its literal meaning is that the writers were "borne along" by the Spirit of God. Such is the Bible's own claim to inspiration.
1. Inspiration provides that the exact divine message be given. If it is God's Truth which is reported, it is recorded exactly. If it is Satan's lie, it is presented as a lie, for inspiration does not change a lie into truth. If it is history, it is true to the facts. If it is prophecy, it indicates precisely what will come to pass.
2. Inspiration aims at inspired writings and not at inspired men. The very infallible Scriptures themselves record the sins and failures of the human authors.
3. Since we depend upon the Bible alone for the knowledge of the most vital facts of our existence, there is every reason to contend for the divine accuracy of God's Word and to be grateful that it is "God-breathed" and therefore not merely as fallible as its human writers, but is as infallible as its divine Author.
Revelation from God is reasonable. In the presence of the fact of the material universe, a belief in a sufficient Creator is demanded of all rational beings. And, having recognized the Creator and man as the consummation of creation, it is reasonable to expect that the Creator will communicate with the creature, revealing His purpose and will. God the Creator has done this having revealed Himself in various ways:
1. Through Nature.—The eternal power and Godhead, we are told are revealed by the things which are created (Romans 1:20), but, while the revelation is limited in that it discloses nothing of those divine attributes which have to do with redemption and the destiny of men, it is sufficient to the extent that the heathen world is without excuse if they do not recognize that there is a God.
2. In Christ.—In the fullness of time (Galatians 4:4), God became manifest in the flesh. The Son of God came into the world to declare God to men in terms of human understanding. By His incarnation, otherwise inscrutable facts concerning the eternal God have been translated into the limited range of human comprehension. This revelation contemplates not only the Person and power of God which was already set forth to a limited degree in the things created, but more particularly the love of God as set forth in the sacrificial death of Christ. Christ is an exact portrait of God (Hebrews 1:3), and we should always consider Christ as God manifest in the flesh (1 Timothy 3:16).
3. The Written Word.—This Chapter has to do with the written Word as a manifestation. The Bible not only presents God as its supreme subject, but also unfolds His purposes. The written revelation is all-inclusive. It not only restates all the facts concerning God which are revealed through nature, and gives the only record concerning God's manifestation in Christ, but it enlarges the divine revelation into infinite detail regarding God the Father, the Son, the Spirit, angels, demons, man, sin, salvation, grace, and glory. In recognizing the unique character of the Bible, two things especially noted in the title of this Chapter may be emphasized:
We understand from the written Word of God that there is one supreme purpose which actuates God in all He has done or will do from the beginning of creation to the farthest reaches of eternity whether it is in Heaven or on earth. For this one purpose angels were created; so, also, the material universe and man, and, though hidden behind an inscrutable mystery, we know that even sin was permitted and redemption was provided with a view to the realization of this supreme purpose. This supreme purpose is the Glory of God.
That God should bring all things to pass that He might be glorified would seem self-seeking to an infinite degree, from a mere human view-point; but this theme cannot be limited to the range of human conceptions. In the light of Scripture revelation, we conclude that because God is infinite in His being, His perfections, and His blessedness He is worthy of infinite glory, and it would be an injustice of infinite proportions should His creation withhold from Him that honor and glory which are rightfully His.
God is not self-seeking; He who is the fountain source of all truth must be true to Himself as Creator and Lord of all. It is man who is self-centered and who can conceive of nothing more desirable than that man should be exalted and glorified. It is man who does not understand the normal relation which should exist between the Creator and the creature, and does not ascribe to the Creator that glory which is rightfully due Him because of His person, His position, and His character (Exodus 24:10, 17; 1 Chronicles 16:17-29; Psalm 57:11; Isaiah 6:1).
Since the Bible is God's message to man, its supreme purpose is His supreme purpose; which is, that He may be glorified. The Bible records:
1. That "all things... that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him" (for his glory, Colossians 1:16). Angels and men, the material universe and every creature, are all created for His glory. "The heavens declare the glory of God" (Psalm 19:1).
2. The nation Israel is for the glory of God (Jeremiah 13:11; Isaiah 43:7, 21, 25; 60:1, 3, 21; 62:3).
3. Salvation is unto the glory of God (Romans 9:23), even as it will be a manifestation of the grace of God (Ephesians 2:7), and is now a manifestation of the wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:10).
4. All service should be unto the glory of God (Matthew 5:16; John 15:8; 1 Corinthians 10:31; 1 Peter 2:12; 4:11, 14). The Bible itself is God's instrument by which He prepares the man of God unto every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
5. The Christian's new passion is that God may be glorified (Romans 5:2).
6. Even the believer's death is said to be to this one end (John 21:19; Philippians 1:20).
7. The saved one is appointed to share in the glory of Christ (John 17:22; Colossians 3:4).
The Lord Jesus Christ is the supreme subject of the Bible. Like a glass this book reflects "the glory of the Lord" (2 Corinthians 3:18); but the Lord Himself has been manifested that He, in turn, might reflect the glory of God. "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6).
Man recognizes the existence of God by intuition or innate knowledge. This means that the fact of God's existence is self-evident to a degree that attempted proofs are unnatural to the mind, and therefore uncalled for. Those facts which are received by intuition are more evident than others. Men do not ask for proofs of their own existence nor of the existence of material things which they recognize by their senses. Though God is unseen as to His person, His existence and immanence are so evident that men generally require no proofs of the fact of His being. However, man's innate conceptions of God are greatly strengthened by the contemplation of His works in creation, preservation, and providence. So, also, man's thoughts of God are enlarged by tradition, or those accumulated impressions which are passed from father to son; but the knowledge of God is perfected when due consideration is given to that complete revelation which He has given of Himself in the Scriptures of Truth.
The ancient philosophers were deprived of any knowledge of the Bible revelation, and there are those, also, who through prejudice or unbelief will not receive the testimony of God. Both of these classes of men are of necessity left to mere speculation regarding the person of God and His creation. The theorizings of men throughout the ages have resulted in certain systems of philosophy: (1) Polytheism, with its many gods; (2) Hylozoism, which suggests that God Himself is that life principle which is found in all creation; (3) Materialism, which contends that matter is self-functioning, and toward this theory all modern evolution tends; and (4) Pantheism with its claim that matter is God and God is matter, that God is impersonal and therefore coeternal with matter.
The arguments of men by which they have attempted to prove the existence of God apart from the Scriptures are also in four classes: (1) Ontological, which contends that God must exist because men universally believe that He exists; (2) Cosmological, which contends that every effect must have its sufficient cause and therefore the universe must have a Creator; (3) Teleological, which contends that every design must have its designer, and therefore the whole creation must have a designer; and (4) Anthropological, which contends that the very existence of man as a living person is assurance that there is a living God.
The child of God turns from these human arguments to the divine revelation with a sense of relief; for in the Word of God he discovers complete and satisfying revelations concerning God and His creation. In the Scriptures there are, however, certain distinctions to be noted:
The Old Testament emphasizes the unity of God in particular (Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 44:6; Exodus 20:3), with intimations as to the Trinity (Genesis 1:26; 3:22; 11:7; Isaiah 7:14; 9:6-7; Psalm 2:7; Genesis 1:2; Isaiah 48:12-16; 63:9-10). The New Testament emphasizes the Trinity—the Father, Son, and Spirit—in particular (note Matthew 28:19; John 14:16), with intimations as to the unity of God (John 14:9; 10:30; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Colossians 1:15; 2:9). The Old Testament references to Deity by various names are not references to the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Spirit unless so specified, but to these Three in One.
The fact that there are three Persons in One is a revelation which belongs to the sphere of Heaven's perfect, understanding (1 Corinthians 13:12), and while we can now believe and receive all that God has said to us, these truths cannot be compressed into the limited sphere of human understanding. There is one God who subsists in a threefold personality. The Father says "I," the Son says "I," and the Spirit, also, is in every sense a person; yet these Three are not three Persons, but they are One. They are equal, and to them should be ascribed the same attributes, titles, adoration, worship, and confidence; yet they are not three Gods, but they are one God. In this divine relationship, three Persons are seen to be One; yet without blending or confounding the separateness of their infinite Beings. And in like manner, One Person is seen to be Three without a dividing of substance. The Trinity consists in three essential distinctions in the substance of the one God; yet these distinctions are presented as separate persons to the extent that the Father sends the Son into the world (John 17:18), and the Son sends the Spirit into the world (John 16:7). This procession or exercise of authority, it should be observed, is never reversed. If all this seems incomprehensible, it is only because the finite mind is unable to grasp infinite truth.
In the Old Testament, when referring to Deity, three primary names are used. This fact alone suggests the Trinity. These names as translated in the Authorized Version of the Bible are: "God," "Lord," and "Lord." The name Lord when printed in capital letters means Jehovah, and the name Lord when printed in small letters means Master. These primary names are often combined as Lord God, and Lord God. (The meaning of these names and all other divine titles will be found in the notes of the Scofield Reference Bible, or in any good Bible dictionary).
From the Scriptures it is revealed that there are certain qualities belonging to God. In no sense has He acquired these attributes; they are what He is, and ever has been, and ever will be, and He is the beginning or fountain source of each and all of them. God is a spirit (John 4:24), God is life (Jeremiah 10:10), God is self-existent (Exodus 3:14), God is infinite (Psalm 145:3), God is immutable (Psalm 102:27; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17), God is truth (Deuteronomy 32:4; John 17:3), God is love (1 John 4:8), God is eternal, (Psalm 90:2), God is holy (1 Peter 1:16; 1 John 1:5), God is omnipresent (Psalm 139:8; Jeremiah 23:23-24), God is omniscient (Psalm 147:4-5), and God is omnipotent (Matthew 19:26).
The greatness of God cannot be fully comprehended by man, but it can at least be said that God is greater than the universe to the extent that the Creator is greater than the thing which He creates; yet His very greatness includes His ability and desire to care for the smallest detail of His creation. Not a sparrow falleth without His knowledge and by Him every hair of the head is numbered. His greatest undertaking is seen in the provisions He has made for the eternal salvation of sinners whom His infinite holiness must otherwise condemn for ever.
God is supreme over all. He yields to no power, authority, or glory. He represents perfection to an infinite degree in every aspect of His being. He could never be surprised, defeated, or uncertain. However, without sacrificing His authority or jeopardizing the final realization of His will, it has pleased Him to release some measure of freedom of choice to men in the limited sphere of their own experience, and for its exercise He holds them responsible. The Bible states that men do not turn to God apart from the moving of His Spirit in their hearts (John 6:44; 16:7-11); yet it is declared that, on the human side, they must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ in order to be saved. Likewise, it is written that it is God who works in the believer both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13); yet He appeals to them to yield themselves to Him (Romans 12:1-2). Since God is supreme and since He controls the hearts and wills of men, it is necessary to believe that, when the history of the universe is completed, God's purpose and plan will have been wrought out according to His will even to the last degree. "He doeth all things well."
There are certain divine decrees, or undertakings, in which no other being can share; being wrought by God alone in His sovereign wisdom and power. The major decrees are: His creation, His preservation, His providence, His unconditional covenants, the dispensations, and His grace.
Three Persons are indicated in the blessed Trinity—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—and these three are one God. The Father is not the Trinity, the Son is not the Trinity, nor is the Spirit the Trinity. Since the Old Testament reference to Deity is almost universally to the Triune God, there is comparatively little mention in that portion of the Scriptures of the three Persons in the Trinity. But when the processes of redemption are in progress, as recorded in the New Testament, the clearest distinctions are drawn as to the Person and work of each. The Father is presented as electing, loving, and bestowing; the Son is presented as suffering, redeeming, and upholding; while the Spirit is presented as regenerating, energizing, and sanctifying. This Chapter is concerned with the person of the Father—the first of the blessed Trinity—who is set forth in the New Testament in two aspects:
The relationship which exists between the first and second Persons of the Trinity is, in the Scriptures, likened to that relationship which exists between a father and a son. The relationship, though nowhere clearly explained, is fundamental in the divine being and has always existed. He who was "the firstborn of every creature" was "the only begotten Son" from all eternity (John 17:5; Colossians 1:15-17; Hebrews 1:5-10), and He who in the fullness of time that He might be incarnate was begotten by the overshadowing power of the Highest and born of a virgin (Luke 1:35), was with the Father and was coequal with Him from the beginning (John 1:1-2). While the relationship between the first and the second Persons of the Trinity is actually that of a father to a son and a son to a father (2 Corinthians 1:3; Galatians 4:4; Hebrews 1:2), the fact of this relationship is an illustration of vital truth which accommodates itself to the mode of thought of a finite mind. The truth that the Father is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, though slightly mentioned in the Old Testament (Psalm 2:7; Isaiah 7:14; 9:6-7), is one of the most general teachings of the New Testament.
1. The Son of God is said to have been begotten of the Father (Psalm 2:7; John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9).
2. The Father acknowledged the Lord Jesus Christ to be His Son (Matthew 3:17; 17:5; Luke 9:35).
3. The Father is acknowledged by the Son (Matthew 11:27; 26:63-64; Luke 22:29; John 8:16-29, 33-44; 17:1).
4. The fact that God the Father is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ is acknowledged by men (Matthew 16:16; Mark 15:39; John 1:34, 49; Acts 3:14).
5. The Son acknowledges the Father by being subject to Him (John 8:29, 49).
6. Even the demons recognize this relationship between the Father and the Son (Matthew 8:29).
The student should be warned against the modernistic teaching which is now so general and which claims that God the Father is the Father of all mankind, and that there is therefore a universal brotherhood among men founded upon a supposed universal fatherhood of God. It is true that the human race at its beginning was "the offspring of God" (Acts 17:28-29). But, when tracing the genealogy of Christ, Luke declared each and every generation until Adam to be the offspring of the preceding generation; Adam alone is called "the son of God" (Luke 3:38). On the other hand, the Scriptures teach that all who believe on Christ unto salvation are sons of God; not on the ground of their first or natural birth into the Adamic family, but on the ground of their second or spiritual birth into the family of God (John 1:12; Galatians 3:26; Ephesians 2:19; 3:15; 5:1). By the regenerating work of the Spirit the believer is made a legitimate child of God. God being actually his Father he is impelled by the Spirit to say "Abba, Father." Being born of God, he is a partaker of the divine nature, and on the ground of that birth, he is heir of God and a joint-heir with Christ (John 1:12-13; 3:3-6; Titus 3:4-6; 1 Peter 1:4; Romans 8:16-17). The impartation of the divine nature is an operation so deep that the nature thus imparted is never said to be removed for any cause whatsoever.
When the teachings of the Scriptures relative to the present power and authority of Satan are considered, added proof is given that all men are not children of God by their natural birth. In this connection the most direct and faithful sayings of Christ are in evidence. Speaking of those who disbelieved He said: "Ye are of your father the devil" (John 8:44). Likewise, when describing the unregenerate He said, "The tares are the children of the wicked one" (Matthew 13:38). The Apostle Paul wrote of the unsaved as being "The children of disobedience," and "The children of wrath" (Ephesians 2:2-3).
Emphasis should be placed on the fact that it is not in the power of any one to make himself a child of God. God alone can undertake such a transformation, and He undertakes it only on the one condition which He Himself has imposed, that Christ shall be believed upon and received as Saviour (John 1:12).
The following passages give clear instruction regarding the Fatherhood of God: John 20:17; 1 Corinthians 15:24; Ephesians 1:3; 2:18; 4:6; Colossians 1:12-13, 19; 1 Peter 1:3; 1 John 1:3; 2:1, 22; 3:1.
Being at the same time perfectly human and perfectly divine, the Lord Jesus Christ was both like and unlike to the sons of men. The Scripture is clear regarding His likeness to men (John 1:14; 1 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 2:14-17), presenting Him as a man among men, who was both, who lived, who suffered, and who died. The Scriptures are equally clear as to His unlikeness to men; not only in the sinless character of His human life, His sacrificial death, His glorious resurrection and ascension, but in the fact of His eternal pre-existence.
On the human side he had a beginning; He was conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of a virgin. On the divine side He had no beginning; He was from all eternity. In Isaiah 9:6, we read: "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given." The distinction is obvious between the child which was born and the Son which was given. In like manner, it is stated in Galatians 4:4, "But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law." He who was the eternal Son was, in the fullness of time, "made [the offspring] of a woman."
The fact of the pre-existence of the Son of God is established by two distinct lines of revelation—(1) as directly stated, and (2) as implied:
The pre-existence of Christ is asserted in an extensive body of Scripture which is of great importance since it enters vitally into the revelation of the fact of His Deity. By these Scriptures the Son of God is seen to be in His infinite Person and eternal existence coequal with the other Persons of the Godhead, and this fact is unaffected by His incarnation. The Scriptures state: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God" (John 1:1, 2); "But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting" (Micah 5:2; note also, Isaiah 7:13-14; 9:6-7); "Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58; note also, Exodus 3:14; Isaiah 43:13); "And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was" (John 17:5). The following passages are of equal import: John 13:3; Philippians 2:6; Colossians 1:15-19; 1 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 1:3; 13:8.
The Word of God constantly and consistently implies the pre-existence of the Lord Jesus Christ. Among the obvious proofs of this fact several may be noted:
1. The works of creation are ascribed to Christ (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:10). He therefore antedates all creation.
2. The Angel of Jehovah whose appearance is often recorded in the Old Testament is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Though He appears at times as an angel or even as a man, He bears the unmistakable marks of Deity, He appeared to Hagar (Genesis 16:7), to Abraham (Genesis 18:1; 22:11-12; note John 8:58), to Jacob (Genesis 48:15-16; note also, Genesis 31:11-13; 32:24-32), to Moses (Exodus 3:2, 14), to Joshua (Joshua 5:13-14), and to Manoah (Judges 13:19-22). He it is who fights for, and defends, His own (2 Kings 19:35; Zechariah 14:1-4; 1 Chronicles 21:15-16; Psalm 34:7).
3. The titles of the Lord Jesus Christ indicate His eternal Being. He is precisely what His names imply. He is "The Son of God," "The Only Begotten Son," "The First and the Last," "The Alpha and Omega," "The Lord," "Lord of All," "Lord of Glory," "The Christ," "Wonderful," "Counsellor," "The Mighty God," "The Father of Eternity," "God," "God with us," "Our Great God," and "God Blessed Forever."
These titles relate Him to the Old Testament revelation of Jehovah-God (compare Matthew 1:23 with Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 4:7 with Deuteronomy 6:16; Mark 5:19 with Psalm 66:16; and Psalm 110:1 with Matthew 22:42-45).
Again, the New Testament names of the Son of God are associated with titles of the Father and the Spirit as being equal with them (Matthew 28:19; Acts 2:38; 1 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 13:14; John 14:1; 17:3; Ephesians 5:5; Revelation 20:6; 22:3), and He is explicitly called God (Romans 9:5; John 1:1; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8).
4. The pre-existence of the Son of God is implied in the fact that He has the attributes of God—Life (John 1:4), Self-existence (John 5:26), Immutability (Hebrews 13:8), Truth (John 14:6), Love (1 John 3:16), Holiness (Hebrews 7:26), Eternity (Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:11), Omnipresence (Matthew 28:20), Omniscience (1 Corinthians 4:5; Colossians 2:3), and Omnipotence (Matthew 28:18; Revelation 1:8).
5. In like manner the pre-existence of Christ is implied in the fact that He is worshiped as God (John 20:28; Acts 7:59; Hebrews 1:6).
Therefore it follows that since the Lord Jesus Christ is God, He is from everlasting to everlasting.
This Chapter, which of necessity has emphasized the Deity of Christ, should be closely connected with the following Chapter, which emphasizes the humanity of Christ through the incarnation.
John states (John 1:1) that Christ who was one with God and was God from all eternity, became flesh and tabernacled among us (John 1:14). Paul likewise states that Christ, who was in the form of God, took upon Him the likeness of men (Philippians 2:6-7); and "God was manifest in the flesh" (1 Timothy 3:16); and He who was the effulgence of God's glory and the express image of His person (Hebrews 1:3), took upon Himself the seed of Abraham and was in all things made like unto His brethren (Hebrews 2:16-17). Luke, in greater detail, presents the historical fact of His incarnation, both as to the conception and birth (Luke 1:26-38).
When considering the result of the incarnation, two important truths should be recognized: (1) Christ became at the same time and in the absolute sense very God and very man, and (2) in becoming flesh, He, though laying aside His glory, in no sense laid aside His Deity.
The Bible presents many contrasts, but none more striking than that one Person should be at the same time very God and very man. Illustrations from the Scriptures of these contrasts are many: He was weary, yet He called the weary to Himself for rest. He was hungry, yet He was "the bread of life." He was thirsty, yet He was "the water of life." He was in an agony, yet He healed all manner of disease and soothed every pain. He "grew, and waxed strong in spirit," yet He was from all eternity. He was tempted, yet He, as God, could not be tempted. He became self-limited in knowledge, yet He was the wisdom of God. He said (with reference to His humiliation, being made for a little time lower than the angels), "My Father is greater than I," yet He also said, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father," and, "I and my Father are one." He prayed, yet He answered prayer. He wept at the tomb, yet He called the dead to arise. He asked, "Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?" yet He "needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man." He said, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" yet it was the very God to whom He cried who was at that moment "in Christ reconciling the world unto himself." He died, yet He is eternal life. He was God's ideal man, and man's ideal God.
From this it may be seen that the Lord Jesus Christ sometimes functioned His earth-life within the sphere of that which was perfectly human and sometimes within the sphere of that which was perfectly divine. His divine Being was never limited in any degree by the fact of His humanity, nor did He minister to His human need from His divine resources. He could turn stones into bread to feed His human hunger, but this He never did.
The student should observe (1) the fact of Christ's humanity, and (2) the Biblical reasons for His incarnation.
1. The humanity of Christ was purposed from before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). The significance of the Lamb-type is in the sacrificial, blood-shedding, physical body.
2. Every type and prophecy of the Old Testament concerning Christ was an anticipation of the incarnate Son of God.
3. The fact of the humanity of Christ is seen in His annunciation and birth (Luke 1:31-35).
4. His life here on earth revealed His humanity, (1) by His human names: "The Son of man," "The man Christ Jesus," "Jesus," "The Son of David," and the like. (2) By His human parentage: He is mentioned as "the fruit of the loins," "her firstborn," "of this man's seed," "seed of David," "seed of Abraham," "made of a woman," "sprang from Judah." (3) By the fact that He possessed a human body, soul, and spirit (1 John 4:2, 9; Matthew 26:38; John 13:21). And (4) by His self-imposed human limitations.
5. The humanity of Christ is seen in His death and resurrection. It was a human body that suffered death on the cross and it was the same body which came forth from the tomb in resurrection glory.
6. The fact of the humanity of Christ is seen in that He ascended to Heaven and is now, in His human glorified body, ministering for His own.
7. When He comes again it will be the "same Jesus" coming as He went in the same body, though glorified, in which He became incarnate.
1. He came to reveal God to men (John 1:18; 14:9; Matthew 11:27; Romans 5:8; 1 John 3:16). By the incarnation, the incomprehensible God is translated into terms of human understanding.
2. He came to reveal man. He is God's ideal man and as such is an example to believers (1 Peter 2:21); but He is never an example to the unsaved since God is not now seeking to reform the unsaved, but rather to save them.
3. He came to provide a sacrifice for sin. For this reason He is seen thanking God for His human body and this in relation to true sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 10:1-10).
4. He came in the flesh that He might destroy the works of the Devil (Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8; Colossians 2:13-15; John 12:31; 16:11).
5. He came into the world that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God (Hebrews 2:16-17; 8:1; 9:11-12; 9:24).
6. He came in the flesh that He might fulfill the Davidic covenant (2 Samuel 7:16; Luke 1:31-33; Romans 15:8; Acts 2:30-31, 36). In His glorified human body He will appear and reign as "King of Kings, and Lord of Lords," and will sit on the throne of His father David.
7. As incarnate, He becomes Head over all things to the Church, which is the New Creation, the new humanity.
In the incarnation, the Son of God took upon Himself not only a human body, but also a human soul and spirit. Thus becoming both the material and immaterial sides of human existence, He became entire man, and so closely and permanently related to the human family that He is rightly called "The Last Adam," and "the body of his glory" (Philippians 3:21) is now an abiding fact.
He who is the eternal Son, Jehovah-God, was also the Son of Mary, the Boy of Nazareth, the Teacher and Healer of Judea, the Guest at Bethany, the Lamb of Calvary. He will yet be the King of Glory, as He is now the Saviour of men, the High Priest, the Coming Bridegroom and Lord.
Whether in Bible doctrine or in common speech, the word substitution means the replacement of one person or thing for another. Though not a Bible word, its specific meaning when related to the Scriptures is concerning the work of Christ on the cross, and by it is indicated the fact that those unmeasured, righteous judgments of God against the sinner because of his sin were borne by Christ substituting in the sinner's room and stead. The result of this substitution is itself as simple and definite as the transaction—the Saviour has already borne the divine judgments against the sinner to the full satisfaction of God. There is therefore nothing left for the sinner to do or for him to persuade God to do; but he is asked to believe this good news, relating it to his own sin, and thereby claim his personal Saviour.
The word substitution fails to represent all that is accomplished in the death of Christ. In fact there is no all-inclusive term. By popular usage, the word atonement has been pressed into this service; but the word atonement:, which does not once appear in the original text of the New Testament, means, as used in the Old Testament, only to cover sin. However, the word atonement does clearly indicate the divine method of dealing with sin before the cross. In the Old Testament, while requiring no more than a symbolic animal sacrifice for the remission of sins (Lit. toleration, Romans 3:25), and winking at sin (Lit. to overlook and not punish, Acts 17:30), God was acting in perfect righteousness since He was awaiting the coming of His own Lamb who would in no way pass over or cover sin, but who would take it away forever (John 1:29).
In attempting to consider the full value of the death of Christ we should distinguish:
1. That the death of Christ assures us of the love of God toward the sinner (John 3:16; Romans 5:8; 1 John 3:16; 4:9); added to this, there is, naturally, a reflex influence or moral appeal through this truth upon the life of the one who really receives it (2 Corinthians 5:15; 1 Peter 2:21-24); but this appeal concerning the manner of daily life is never addressed to the unsaved.
2. The death of Christ is said to be a redemption or ransom paid to the holy demands of God for the sinner and to free the sinner from just condemnation. It is significant that the one discriminating word for, meaning "instead of," or "as a price paid for," is used in every passage wherein this aspect of truth appears (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45; 1 Timothy 2:6).
In like manner, the death of Christ was a necessary penalty which He bore for the sinner (Romans 4:25; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 1:4; 3:13; Hebrews 9:28).
So, also, the death of Christ was an offering for sin, not as the animal offerings of the Old Testament which could only cover sin in the sense of delaying the time of righteous judgment; but as taking it to Himself, bearing it, and bearing it away forever (John 1:29; Isaiah 53:7-12; 1 Corinthians 5:7; Ephesians 5:2; Hebrews 9:12, 22, 26; 1 Peter 1:18-19).
3. The death of Christ is represented on His part as an act of obedience to the law which sinners have broken; which act is acceptable to God in their stead (Galatians 4:4; Philippians 2:8; Romans 5:19; 10:4).
4. The death of Christ was a priestly mediation by which the world was reconciled unto God. Reconciliation results when enmity is removed, and, while it is never implied that the world's enmity toward God is removed, it is declared that the judicial state of the world is so altered before God by the death of Christ that He is said to have reconciled the world unto Himself. So complete and far-reaching is this provision that it is added in the Scriptures that He is not now imputing their trespasses unto them (2 Corinthians 5:18-19; Ephesians 2:16; Colossians 2:20).
5. The death of Christ removed all moral hindrances in the mind of God to the saving of sinners. By that death God is propitiated and thus declared to be righteous when He, (1) anticipating the value of the sacrifice of His Son, passes over the sins of His people who lived before the cross (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 9:15, R.V.), and (2) to be just at the present time when He justifies those who do no more than believe in Jesus (Romans 3:26). This aspect of the death of Christ is to be distinguished from all others because of its effect upon God. Since, in that death, His infinite love and power are released from restraint by the accomplishment of every judgment which His righteousness could demand against the sinner, God is more advantaged by the death of Christ than all the world combined.
6. Christ, in His death, became the Substitute bearing the penalty belonging to the sinner (Leviticus 16:21; Luke 22:37; Isaiah 53:6; John 10:11; Romans 5:6-8; 1 Peter 3:18; Matthew 20:28). This fact is the ground of assurance for all who would come unto God for salvation. It presents something for every individual to believe concerning his own relation to God on the question of his own sin. A general belief that Christ died for the whole world is not sufficient; a personal conviction that one's own sin has been perfectly borne by Christ the Substitute is required—a belief which results in a sense of relief, joy, and appreciation (Romans 15:13; Hebrews 9:14; 10:2). Salvation is a mighty work of God which is wrought instantly for the one who believes on Christ.
7. The death of Christ is often misinterpreted. Every Christian will do well to understand thoroughly the fallacy of those misstatements which are so general today:
a. It is claimed that the doctrine of substitution is immoral on the ground that God could not in righteousness lay the sins of the guilty on an innocent victim. This statement might be considered if it could be proved that Christ was an unwilling victim; but the Scriptures present Him as being in fullest sympathy with His Father's will and actuated by the same infinite love (Hebrews 10:7; John 13:1). Likewise, in the inscrutable mystery of the Godhead, it was God Himself who was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself (2 Corinthians 5:19). So far from the death of Christ being an immoral imposition, it was God Himself, the righteous Judge in infinite love and sacrifice, bearing the full penalty that His own holiness required of the sinner.
b. It is claimed that Christ died as a martyr and that the value of His death is seen in the example He presented of courage and loyalty to His convictions even unto death. The sufficient answer to this error is that, since He was God's provided Lamb, no man took His life from Him (John 10:18; Psalm 22:15; Acts 2:23).
c. It is claimed that Christ died to create a moral effect which is that, since the cross displays the divine estimate of sin, men who consider the cross will be constrained to turn from lives of sin. This theory, which has no foundation in the Scriptures, assumes that God is now seeking the reformation of men; while, in reality, the cross is the ground of regeneration.
"For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:22). However, in John 5:25-29, wherein the universal resurrection is also mentioned, a sharp contrast is drawn between the resurrection which is unto life, and that which is unto condemnation (note Acts 24:15; Daniel 12:2). The order between these two aspects of resurrection and the resurrection of Christ is set forth as a procession (1 Corinthians 15:20-24): (1) Christ in His resurrection is said to precede all others and to be the "firstfruits." None other has been raised as He was raised (1 Timothy 6:16; 2 Timothy 1:10). (2) "They that are Christ's at his coming." This group, it should be observed, is strictly limited to, and all-inclusive of, those who are Christ's, and in point of time their resurrection follows that of Christ by at least the present period which has already continued two thousand years. (3) "Then cometh the end," meaning the last resurrection in the order of procession, and is the resurrection unto condemnation which includes all the remainder of the human race.
The time of the resurrection is declared to be "when he [Christ] shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he [Christ] shall have put down all rule and all authority and power." This kingdom reign of Christ, it is stated, will be for a period of one thousand years (Revelation 20:4, 6), and, in accordance with the above passages, will be followed by the resurrection of the dead, both small and great, who shall then be judged at the Great White Throne and there condemned for ever (Revelation 20:11-15). As added evidence that there will be a partial resurrection at the coming of Christ, it is stated that "the dead in Christ shall rise first" (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17), and Paul testified that he desired to attain to that particular resurrection which is out from among the dead (Philippians 3:11).
From the Scriptures which are cited above, it is seen that, in spite of the almost universal impression to the contrary, there is no so-called "general resurrection" including all the dead to be raised at one time.
The resurrection of Christ is unique. Others who were actually dead have been restored to life (2 Kings 4:32-35; 13:21; Matthew 9:25; Luke 7:12-15; John 11:43-44; Acts 9:36-41); but all such were only returned to their former existence and were thus subject again to the first death. The resurrection of Christ was into a new sphere as the "last Adam," the Head of a new race or a new species. Christ came forth with the new, deathless, glorified body which is the pattern of that body which shall be given to every believer when Christ comes again (Philippians 3:20-21). Though the soul and spirit are endless in their existence, it is only the resurrection body which is said to be immortal. Therefore, since Christ alone has received the resurrection body, it is written of Him that He only hath immortality, dwelling in light (1 Timothy 6:16).
The saints before the cross believed in the resurrection (Genesis 22:5; Psalm 16:9-10; 17:15; Isaiah 25:8; 26:19; Hosea 13:14), though the word does not appear in the Old Testament. We have also the testimony of Job (Job 14:14-15; 19:25-27), and of Martha who voiced the conviction of the people of her day (John 11:24). So, also, the resurrection is mentioned as one of the major features of Judaism (Hebrews 6:1-2). The Old Testament revelation was incomplete, for it was Christ who "brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2 Timothy 1:10).
Since the import of the resurrection transcends all dispensational bounds and is eternal in its issues, it is to be classed as one of the seven greatest divine undertakings—(1) the creation of the angelic hosts (Colossians 1:16); (2) the creation of the material universe including the first Adam; (3) the incarnation; (4) the death of Christ; (5) the resurrection; (6) the second coming of Christ; and (7) the final bringing in of the new heavens and the new earth (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1; Isaiah 66:22). Of these great undertakings, two are closely related to the resurrection of Christ:
First.—His resurrection is related to His death as being the consummation of all that was undertaken and accomplished by the cross both in Heaven and on earth. He "was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification" (Romans 4:25).
Second.—His resurrection is related to the first creation, which was ruined by sin, only to the extent that He is the Head of a New Creation which came into being when He arose from the dead and which partakes of His infinite perfection. The New Creation is composed of all those who have believed and being regenerated are united to Christ by the baptism with the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 Corinthians 6:17; Galatians 3:26), and are, therefore, accepted before God as He is accepted (Ephesians 1:6), and destined to share His infinite glory (Colossians 3:4; John 17:24). As the Sabbath was instituted to commemorate the accomplishment of the first creation (Genesis 2:1-3; Exodus 16:29-30; Nehemiah 9:13-14), so the observance of the first day of the week commemorates the accomplishment of the New Creation. There is no commandment to observe, or any record of observance, of the seventh day after Christ rose from the dead (note Hosea 2:11; Colossians 2:16).
There is but one general reason revealed for the death of Christ and that reason is because of sin; but there are at least seven reasons given for His resurrection: (1) He arose because of what He is—being the Eternal Son, it is not possible for Him to be holden of death (Acts 2:24); (2) He arose because of who He is—being the Son of David, He must yet sit upon David's throne (2 Samuel 7:16; Luke 1:31-33; Acts 2:25-31; Romans 1:3-4); (3) He arose to be Head over all things to the Church which is His body (Ephesians 1:22, 23); (4) He arose to be the giver of resurrection life (John 12:24); (5) He arose to impart His resurrection power (Matthew 28:18; Romans 6:4; Ephesians 1:19-20); (6) He arose that sinners might be justified (Romans 4:25); and (7) He arose that He might appear in Heaven as the pattern, or first-fruits, of all who, being saved and conformed to Him, will yet appear with Him in glory (1 Corinthians 15:20-23; Philippians 3:20-21).
The Scriptures indicate two ascensions of Christ into Heaven:
First.—On the day of His resurrection, Christ ascended into Heaven as the "Wave Sheaf." In fulfilling this Old Testament type and the eternal purpose of God, it was necessary that He should appear in Heaven as the earnest of a mighty harvest of souls whom He had redeemed and who, in the divine purpose, came out of that tomb with Him to share His eternal glory. So, also, He, having accomplished the sacrifice for sin, must present His own blood in Heaven (Leviticus 16:1-34; Hebrews 9:16-28). Not having yet ascended, He said to Mary, "Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God" (John 20:17). That He ascended on that same day is evident; for He said unto them at evening, "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see" (Luke 24:39). He returned to earth from Heaven to accomplish His post-resurrection ministry.
Second.—After forty days He ascended to Heaven and was seated on His Father's throne, and there took up His present heavenly ministry as Head over all things to the Church: (1) As the bestower of gifts (Ephesians 4:8-11), (2) as Intercessor (Hebrews 7:25), and (3) as Advocate (1 John 2:1-2).
As High Priest over the true tabernacle on high, the Lord Jesus Christ has entered into Heaven itself there to minister as Priest in behalf of those who are His own in the world (Hebrews 8:1-2). The fact that He, when ascending, was received of His Father in Heaven is evidence that His earth-ministry was accepted. The fact that He sat down indicated that His work for the world was completed. The fact that He sat down on His Father's throne and not on His own throne reveals the truth, so constantly and consistently taught in the Scriptures, that He did not set up a kingdom on the earth at His first advent into the world; but that He is now "expecting" until the time when that kingdom shall come in the earth and the divine will shall be done on earth as it is done in Heaven. "The kingdoms of this world" are yet to become "the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever" (Revelation 11:15), and the kingly Son will yet ask of His Father and He will give Him the heathen for His inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession (Psalm 2:8). However, Scripture clearly indicates that He is not now establishing that kingdom rule in the earth (Matthew 25:31-46), but that He is rather calling out from both Jews and Gentiles a heavenly people who are related to Him as His Body and Bride. After the present purpose is accomplished He will return and "set up the tabernacle of David which is fallen down" (Acts 15:13-18). Though He is a King-Priest according to the Melchisedec type (Hebrews 5:10; 7:1), He is now serving as Priest and not as King. He who is coming again and will then be King of kings, is now ascended to be "head over all things to the church which is his body" (Ephesians 1:22-23). His present priestly ministry is threefold.
According to the New Testament, a gift is a divine enablement wrought in and through the believer by the Spirit who indwells him. It is the Spirit working to accomplish certain divine purposes and using the one whom He indwells to that end. It is in no sense a human undertaking aided by the Spirit.
Though Certain general gifts are mentioned in the Scriptures (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11), the possible variety is innumerable since no two lives are lived under exactly the same conditions. However, to each believer some gift is given; but the blessing and power of the gift will be experienced only when the life is wholly yielded to God. (In Romans 12, the truth of verses 1 and 2 [Rom. 12:1-2] precedes that of verses 6 to 8 [Rom. 12:6-8].) There will be little need of exhortation for God-honoring service to the one who is filled with the Spirit; for the Spirit will be working in that one both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).
In like manner, certain men who are called his "gifts unto men" are provided and locally placed in their service by the ascended Christ (Ephesians 4:7-11). The Lord did not leave this work to the uncertain and insufficient judgment of men (1 Corinthians 12:11, 18).
This ministry began before He left the earth (John 17:1-26), is for the saved rather than for the unsaved (John 17:9), and will be continued in Heaven so long as His own are in the world. As Intercessor, His work has to do with the weakness, the helplessness, and the immaturity of the saints who are on the earth—things concerning which they are in no way guilty. He who knows the limitations of His own, and the power and strategy of the foe with whom they have to contend, is unto them as the Shepherd and Bishop of their souls. His care of Peter is an illustration of this truth (Luke 22:31-32).
The priestly intercession of Christ is not only effectual, but is unending. The priests of old failed because of death; but Christ, because He ever liveth, hath an unchanging priesthood. "Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost [without end] that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:25). David recognized the same divine shepherding care and its guaranty of eternal safety (Psalm 23:1).
The child of God is often guilty of actual sin which would separate him from God were it not for his Advocate and what He wrought in His death. The effect of the Christian's sin upon himself is that he loses his fellowship with God, his joy, his peace, and his power. On the other hand, these experiences are restored in infinite grace on the sole ground that he confess his sin (1 John 1:9); but it is more important to consider the Christian's sin in relation to the holy character of God.
Through the present priestly advocacy of Christ in Heaven there is absolute safety and security for the Father's child even while he is sinning. An advocate is one who espouses and pleads the cause of another in the open courts. As Advocate, Christ is now appearing in Heaven for His own (Hebrews 9:24) when they sin (1 John 2:1). His pleading is said to be with the Father, and Satan is there also ceasing not to accuse the brethren night and day before God (Revelation 12:10). To the Christian, the sin may seem insignificant; but a holy God can never treat it lightly. It may be a secret sin on earth; but it is open scandal in Heaven. In marvelous grace and without solicitation from men, the Advocate pleads the cause of the guilty child of God. What the Advocate does in thus securing the safety of the believer is so in accordance with infinite justice that He is mentioned in this connection as "Jesus Christ the righteous." He pleads His own efficacious blood and the Father is free to preserve His child against every accusation from Satan or men and from the very judgments which sin would otherwise impose, since Christ through His death became the propitiation for our (Christians') sins (1 John 2:2).
The truth concerning the priestly ministry of Christ in Heaven does not make it easy for the Christian to sin. On the contrary, these very things are written that we be not sinning (1 John 2:1); for no one can sin carelessly who considers the necessary pleading which his sin imposes upon the Advocate.
The priestly ministries of Christ as Intercessor and as Advocate are unto the eternal security of those who are saved (Romans 8:34).
The doctrine chosen for this Chapter is one of the most important themes of unfulfilled prophecy. The student should be reminded that prophecy is God's pre-written history and is therefore as credible as other parts of the Scriptures. Almost one-fourth of the Bible was in the form of prediction when it was written. Much has been fulfilled, and in every case its fulfillment has been the most literal realization of all that was prophesied. As pre-announced many centuries before the birth of Christ, He, when He came, was of the tribe of Judah, a son of Abraham, a son of David, born of a virgin in Bethlehem. In like manner, the explicit details of His death foretold in Psalm 22, a thousand years before, were precisely fulfilled.
The Word of God also presents much prophecy which at the present time is unfulfilled and it is reasonable as well as honoring to God to believe that it will be fulfilled in the same faithfulness which has characterized all His works to the present hour.
The fact that Christ is to return to this earth as He went—"this same Jesus," in His resurrection body, and on the clouds of heaven (Acts 1:11)—is so clearly and extensively taught in the prophetic Scriptures that this truth has been included in all the great creeds of Christendom. However, the doctrine of the return of Christ demands most careful and discriminating consideration.
In common with Bible students generally, distinction is made between two yet future events. We therefore assign the study of one—Christ coming for His saints—to this Chapter, and the study of the other—Christ coming with His saints—to the following Chapter. Though but one aspect of truth is indicated by each of these titles, the Scriptures reveal that much more will be accomplished in each of these events than the titles suggest. Conforming to the incomplete statement of truth proposed by these titles, we observe that in the body of Scripture assigned to this Chapter, Christ is seen descending into the air and there receiving to Himself the saints who are caught up from the earth to meet Him—some of these to be raised from the dead and some to be translated from the living state (1 Corinthians 15:22-23, 51-52). However, in that body of Scripture assigned to the next Chapter, He is seen descending to the earth (Zechariah 14:4-7) with His glorified saints as His bride attending (Revelation 19:7-8, 14; Jude 1:14), to sit upon the throne of David (Luke 1:32), which is also "the throne of His glory" (Matthew 25:31). Though these two events differ in every particular, they are often confused, and for this reason this Chapter should be closely compared with the one which is to follow.
In contemplating the prophetic doctrine of Christ's coming for His saints, it should be noted:
First.—The order of these two events is obvious: Christ cannot come to the earth with His saints until He shall have come for them. They must be gathered together "unto him" (2 Thessalonians 2:1) before they can "appear with him" in glory (Colossians 3:4). Though these events are probably separated by only a brief period of time, according to prophecy, there is much to be fulfilled between these events which is world transforming (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; Revelation 4:1 to Revelation 19:10).
Second.—The long predicted second coming of Christ to this earth will be completely fulfilled when He comes with His saints, and, therefore, the coming of Christ for His own sustains no relation to it whatsoever. The two events are not two phases or aspects of one divine undertaking. The Scriptures present the coming of Christ for His own as a mystery or sacred secret (1 Corinthians 15:51)—meaning something hitherto unrevealed, but to be understood after it is divinely disclosed (Deuteronomy 29:29; Matthew 13:35). The New Testament revelation concerning Christ's coming for His own could not have been seen in the Old Testament since it is only one aspect of truth (God's way of taking His people out of the world) related to the Church; which Church is a sacred secret, having been nowhere directly anticipated in the Old Testament. Likewise, the Church could not have been revealed in the Old Testament since it is only one of the divine purposes in the present age; which age is itself a sacred secret, not having been revealed in the Old Testament (Matthew 13:11). In contrast to all this, the second coming of Christ is in no sense a mystery or sacred secret, since it is one of the most important themes of the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 30:3; Psalm 2:1-9; 24:1-10; 50:1-5; 96:10-13; Isaiah 11:10-11; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Ezekiel 37:21-22; Daniel 7:13-14; Zechariah 2:10-12).
Third.—As revealed in the Scriptures, His coming for His saints is the next event in the order of the fulfillment of prophecy, and is, therefore, that for which the child of God should be waiting (1 Thessalonians 1:9, 10), and looking (Philippians 3:20; Titus 2:11-14; Hebrews 9:28), and which he should be loving (2 Timothy 4:8).
The Scriptures bearing on the coming of Christ for His own are explicit: In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 it is revealed that when Christ comes the "dead in Christ" will rise first and the living saints, together with them, will be caught up in the air to meet the Lord and to be forever with the Lord. In 1 Corinthians 15:51-53, the same fact of the resurrection of the "dead in Christ" and the transformation of the living is set forth; but with the added revelation that the translation and transformation of the living saints will be as suddenly as "the twinkling of an eye," and at the sounding of the "last trump." In John 14:1-3, it is disclosed that Christ will receive His own unto Himself: not into the mansions, but into the place which He has gone to prepare. Again, in Philippians 3:20-21, it is stated that at His coming "he shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself." In like manner, the time of Christ's coming for His own will be the time when they shall appear before His judgment seat to receive their rewards for service (1 Corinthians 3:11-15; Matthew 16:27; Luke 14:14; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Timothy 4:8; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
As certainly as the coming of Christ for His saints is not revealed in the Old Testament, so certainly it has no relation to the unsaved. To the Christian, however, it is, in the purpose of God:
1. A Comforting Hope.—Comfort is derived from the fact that Christ may come at any time and that there is not a whole lifetime, necessarily, or until death, before the believer may see his Lord, and also from the fact that when He shall come the child of God will be instantly in the presence and fellowship of those loved ones who were saved and who have gone on before (1 Thessalonians 4:18).
2. A Purifying Hope.—No one can contemplate the fact that Christ may come at any moment and not have his conduct affected by that belief (1 John 3:1-3).
3. A Blessed Hope.—There is nothing comparable to the expectation that, through riches of grace, the saved one will see his Lord face to face, be with Him, and be like Him (John 14:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:17; 1 John 3:3).
Since the theme of this Chapter is so commonly confused with that of the preceding one, it is important that the two be studied together in order that the contrasts which appear at almost every point may be discerned. The title of this, as of the previous Chapter, is based on one aspect of truth within the whole doctrine which this Chapter is supposed to cover. The doctrine to be considered contemplates all that enters into the world-transforming event of the Second Coming of Christ, while the fact that the saints will return to this earth with Him when He comes is, comparatively, a limited portion of the whole revelation.
1. The Bible teaches that the Lord Jesus Christ, will return to this earth (Zechariah 14:4), personally (Revelation 19:11-16; Matthew 25:31), and on the clouds of heaven (Matthew 24:30; Acts 1:11; Revelation 1:7). It should not be difficult to believe the testimony of these Scriptures, since God has promised it and since He who went on the clouds of heaven has already spent forty days on the earth in His glorified, resurrection body.
2. The general theme concerning the return of Christ has the unique distinction of being the first prophecy uttered by man (Jude 1:14-15) and the last message from the ascended Christ as well as being the last word of the Bible (Revelation 22:20-21).
3. Likewise, the theme of the Second Coming of Christ is unique because of the fact that it occupies a larger part of the text of the Scriptures than any other doctrine, and it is the outstanding theme of prophecy in both the Old and New Testaments. In fact all other prophecy largely contributes to the one great end of the complete setting forth of this crowning event—the Second Coming of Christ.
1. The nation Israel, God's chosen earthly people, to whom at least five-sixths of the Bible is addressed and with whom the great covenants are made (Romans 9:4-5)—which covenants secure to that nation a land, a nation, a throne, a King, and a kingdom—are now scattered throughout all the nations of the earth (Deuteronomy 4:26-28; 28:63-68; Jeremiah 16:13), and are to remain scattered until they are gathered into their own land (Deuteronomy 30:3-6; Isaiah 11:11-12; 14:1-3; 60:1-22; Jeremiah 23:6-8; 32:37-44; 33:7-9; Ezekiel 37:21-25; Micah 4:6-8) under the reign of Messiah at His return. Though every covenant with His earthly people was in full force when Christ came the first time, and had been for hundreds of years, not a semblance of their fulfillment was experienced at that time; but the Scriptures declare that all these covenants will be fulfilled when He comes the second time. These covenants are of endless duration and are as secure as the faithfulness of God who has sworn with an oath concerning them. The nation will possess their land at the coming of their King, and He will sit on David's throne (Luke 1:31-33). The Deliverer coming out of Sion shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob (Romans 11:26-27. See, also, Ezekiel 37:1-14). The return of Christ to the earth and its blessing to the nation Israel is the great burden of Old Testament prophecy.
2. The redeemed ones of this age—the Church which is His body—are seen coming with Christ when He comes again (Revelation 19:7-16; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; Jude 1:14). The Church is the Bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:25-33; Revelation 19:7; 21:9) and as such will have right and title with Him as consort in His reign (2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 20:6; 22:5). Until the Church is taken to meet the Lord, she is His espoused awaiting her wedding day; her marriage will be in Heaven, and she will return with Him after the wedding (Luke 12:36).
3. The nations of the earth will be brought into judgment when Christ comes and when He sits on the "throne of his glory" (Matthew 25:31-46. Note, also, the "Smiting Stone" of Daniel 2:31-45). Three classes are in view at the judgment of the nations—the sheep, the goats, and "my brethren." Though the sheep and the brethren are both under divine favor, it must be observed that they are not the same. The sheep are to enter the kingdom on the ground of their treatment of the brethren. So also, the goats are to be rejected on the same basis. The Church is not in view. This judgment occurs after the Church has been received into Heaven, and after the "Great Tribulation" (Matthew 24:21) when Israel—"my brethren"—will have experienced her supreme suffering at the hands of the nations (Deuteronomy 4:29, 30; Psalm 2:5; Jeremiah 30:4-7; Daniel 12:1; Matthew 24:9-28; 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12; Revelation 3:10; 7:13, 14; 11:1 to Revelation 19:6). This judgment will determine the nations which are to enter the kingdom of Messiah on the earth. Again, this judgment should be distinguished from that of "The Great White Throne" which follows a thousand years later, and after the kingdom rule of Christ in the earth.
4. All creation will be restored to its Edenic glory when Christ returns (Romans 8:19-23).
5. Satan will be bound and confined to the abyss for a thousand years when Christ returns (Revelation 20:1-3).
The two events—Christ's coming for His saints and his coming with His saints may be distinguished thus (for brevity, the first event will be indicated by a, and the second event by b):
(a) "Our gathering together unto him"; (b) "The coming of the Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thessalonians 2:1).
(a) He comes as the "Morning Star" (Revelation 2:28; 22:16; 2 Peter 1:19); (b) as "The Sun of Righteousness" (Malachi 4:2).
(a) The "Day of Christ" (1 Corinthians 1:8; 2 Corinthians 1:14; Philippians 1:6, 10; 2:16); (b) "The Day of the Lord" (2 Peter 3:10).
(a) A signless event: (b) its approach to be observed (1 Thessalonians 5:4; Hebrews 10:25).
(a) A timeless event—at any moment; (b) fulfillment of prophecy to precede it (2 Thessalonians 2:2-3; note, "Day of Christ" should be "Day of the Lord" in verse 2).
(a) No reference to evil; (b) evil ended, Satan judged, the Man of Sin destroyed.
(a) Israel unchanged; (b) all her covenants fulfilled.
(a) The Church removed from the earth; (b) returning with Christ.
(a) The Gentile nations unchanged; (b) judged.
(a) Creation unchanged; (b) delivered from the bondage of corruption.
(a) A "mystery" not before revealed; (b) seen throughout the Old and New Testaments.
(a) Hope centered in Christ—"the Lord is at hand" (Philippians 4:5); (b) "the kingdom is at hand" (Matthew 24:14).
(a) Christ appears as Bridegroom, Lord, and Head to the Church; (b) He appears as King, Messiah, and Immanuel to Israel.
(a) His coming unseen by the world; (b) coming in power and great glory.
(a) Christians are judged as to rewards; (b) nations judged as to the kingdom.
Important Scripture: (a) John 14:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Philippians 3:20-21; 2 Corinthians 5:10. (b) Deuteronomy 30:1-10; Psalm 72. Note all the prophets; Matthew 25:1-44; Acts 1:11; 15:13-18; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; 2 Peter 2:1 to 2 Peter 3:18; Revelation 19:11 to Revelation 20:6.
The Godhead subsists in three Persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Having in previous Chapters considered the Bible teaching concerning both the Father and the Son, it yet remains for us to consider the Bible teaching concerning the Holy Spirit. This and the four following Chapters are assigned to this subject. In teaching the fundamental truths relative to the Holy Spirit, special emphasis is always required on the fact of His personality. This is due, no doubt, to the effect produced through the divine arrangement by which the Spirit does not now speak from Himself or of Himself; He rather speaks whatsoever He hears (John 16:13. Compare Acts 13:2 with Ephesians 4:7), and He is said to have come into the world to glorify Christ (John 16:14). In contrast to this, the Scriptures represent both, the Father and the Son as speaking from themselves and of themselves, not only with final authority and by the use of the personal I, but they are presented as being in immediate communion, cooperation, and conversation—the One with the Other. All this tends to make less real the personality of the One who does not speak either from or of Himself. This reserve on the part of the Spirit may account in a measure for the fact that some creeds have slighted the Person and work of the Spirit; treating Him as though He were a mere influence or emanation from God. The corrective for this error and the preventive against it is the due consideration of all that the Bible teaches and implies relative to the Person and work of the Spirit.
1. Since the Spirit is said to do that which is possible only for a person to do:
(1) He reproves the world, "And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment" (John 16:8).
(2) He teaches, "He shall teach you all things" (John 14:26; Nehemiah 9:20; Note, also, John 16:13-15; 1 John 2:27).
(3) The Spirit speaks, "And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts crying, Abba, Father" (Galatians 4:6).
(4) The Spirit maketh intercession, "But the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered" (Romans 8:26).
(5) The Spirit leads, "led of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:18. Compare Acts 8:29; 10:19; 13:2; 16:6-7; 20:23; Romans 8:14).
(6) The Spirit appoints the service of men, "The Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them" (Acts 13:2. Compare Acts 20:28).
(7) The Spirit is Himself subject to appointment (John 15:26).
(8) The Spirit ministers: He regenerates (John 3:6), He seals (Ephesians 4:30), He baptizes (1 Corinthians 12:13), He fills (Ephesians 5:18).
2. He is affected as a person by other beings:
(1) The Father sends Him into the world (John 14:16, 26), and the Son sends Him into the world (John 16:7).
(2) Men may vex the Spirit (Isaiah 63:10), they may grieve Him (Ephesians 4:30), they may quench (resist) Him (1 Thessalonians 5:19), they may blaspheme against Him (Matthew 12:31), they may lie to Him (Acts 5:3), they may do despite unto Him (Hebrews 10:29), they may speak against Him (Matthew 12:32).
3. All Bible terms related to the Spirit imply His personality:
(1) He is called "Another Comforter" (Advocate), which indicates that He is as much a person as Christ (John 14:16-17, 26; 16:7; 1 John 2:1-2).
(2) He is called a Spirit and in the same personal sense as God is called a Spirit (John 4:24).
(3) The pronouns used of the Spirit imply His personality. In the Greek language, the word spirit is a neuter noun which would naturally call for a neuter pronoun and in a few instances the neuter pronoun is used (Romans 8:16, 26); but more often the masculine form of the pronoun is used thus emphasizing the fact of the personality of the Spirit (John 14:16, 17; 16:7-15).
1. He is called God. This fact will be seen by comparing Isaiah 6:8-9 with Acts 28:25-26; Jeremiah 31:31-34 with Hebrews 10:15-17 (Note, also, 2 Corinthians 3:18, R.V., and Acts 5:3-4—"Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost?... thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God"). Though the judgments of God have fallen so drastically on some who have lied against the Spirit (Acts 5:3) and though men are evidently not permitted to swear in the name of the Holy Spirit and though He is called The Holy Spirit, it is certain that He is not more holy than the Father or the Son; absolute holiness being the primary attribute of the Triune God.
2. He has the attributes of God (Genesis 1:2; Job 26:13; 1 Corinthians 2:9-11; Hebrews 9:14).
3. The Holy Spirit performs the works of God (Job 33:4; Psalm 104:30; Luke 12:11-12; Acts 1:5; 20:28; 1 Corinthians 6:11; 12:8-11; 2 Peter 1:21).
Through meditation on the Word of God and through the experience gained by trusting the Spirit for His power, His guidance, and His instruction, the believer may come to realize the personality and sufficiency of the Holy Spirit, the importance and value of which is beyond all estimation.
The Spirit's advent into the world, like His predicted departure from the world, can be understood only as it is seen in relation to the various dispensations and revealed purposes of God. In ages past, the Holy Spirit was in the world as the Omnipresent One; yet He is said to have come into the world on the Day of Pentecost. Beginning with the Day of Pentecost, He is to remain in the world for a divinely determined and unrevealed time. When He shall have departed out of the world, He, as the Omnipresent One, will still be in the world. In arriving at the understanding of the order and harmony of these facts consideration should be given to four aspects of the Spirit's relation to the world:
Throughout the extended period before the first advent of Christ, the Spirit was present in the world in the same sense in which He is present everywhere, and He wrought in and through the people of God according to the divine will (Genesis 41:38; Ex. 31:3; 35:31; Numbers 27:18; Job 33:4; Psalm 139:7; Hag. 2:4-5; Zechariah 4:6).
It is reasonable to suppose that the incarnate, active presence of the Second Person of the Trinity in the world would affect the ministries of the Spirit, and this we find to be true.
1. In relation to Christ, the Spirit first wrought as the generating power by which the God-man was formed in the virgin's womb. The Spirit is also seen descending in the form of a dove upon Christ at the time of His baptism. And again, it is revealed that it was only through the Eternal Spirit that Christ offered Himself to God (Hebrews 9:14).
2. The relation of the Spirit to men during the earth ministry of Christ was progressive. We first read of the assurance which Christ gave to His disciples that they might receive the Spirit by asking (Luke 11:13). Though the Spirit had previously come upon men according to the sovereign will of God, His presence in the human heart had never before been conditioned upon asking, and this privilege, being so new, was, so far as is revealed, never claimed at that time by any one. At the close of His ministry and just before His death, Christ said: "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth" (John 14:16-17). Likewise, after His resurrection the Lord breathed on them and said, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost" (John 20:22); but in spite of this reception of the Spirit they were to tarry in Jerusalem until they should be endued with power from on high (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4).
As promised by the Father (John 14:16-17, 26) and by the Son (John 16:7), the Spirit, who as the Omnipresent One, had always been in the world, came into the world on the Day of Pentecost. The force of this seeming repetition of ideas is seen when it is understood that His coming on the Day of Pentecost was that He might make His abode in the world. "We are led to believe that God the Father, though omnipresent (Ephesians 4:6), is, as to His abode, "Our Father which art in heaven" (Matthew 6:9). Likewise, we know that God the Son, though omnipresent (Matthew 18:20; Colossians 1:27), as to His abode now, is seated at the right hand of God (Hebrews 1:3; 10:12). In like manner, the Spirit, though omnipresent, is now, as to His abode, tabernacling here on the earth. The taking up of His abode on the earth was the sense in which the Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost. His dwelling place was changed from Heaven to earth. It was for this coming of the Spirit into the world that the disciples were told to wait. The new ministry of this grace-age could not begin apart from the coming of the Spirit.
Two revelations are given concerning the Spirit's abode in the world:
1. He is said to indwell each and every child of God (1 Corinthians 6:19). This fact, which is age-characterizing, is to be the theme of a succeeding Chapter.
2. He is said to be tabernacling in a structure of living stones—the habitation of God through the Spirit (Ephesians 2:18-22). This temple of living stones is now "growing" and is none other than the whole company of the saved ones of this age. By the salvation of souls through the power of the Spirit this tabernacle is growing to its completion.
The redeemed who form the Church are mentioned in the Scriptures under various figures—the sheep, the branches, the stones of the building, the new generation, a kingdom of priests, the body, and the bride. Of these figures, the body and the building lend themselves to the thought of growth or gradual increase unto completion, and are so used in the Word of God (Ephesians 2:18-22; 4:13-16).
When the elect number of this heavenly company of redeemed ones shall have been saved, the Spirit will have accomplished the purpose of His advent into the world and will then depart from the world as definitely as He came. He will, however, continue His ministry and presence as the Omnipresent One with His abode changed from earth to Heaven. Though His name is not revealed, His departure is indicated in 2 Thessalonians 2:7. He is most evidently the Restrainer who continues to restrain the evil of the world so long as He remains in the world. It should be observed that though the Spirit may remove His abode from the earth, as He will, He cannot depart without taking the saved ones with Him; for they cannot be separated from Him (John 14:16-17).
As the Omnipresent One, the Spirit will have a peculiar ministry in the world during the Kingdom age, which period will immediately follow the present age of the out-calling of the Church (Isaiah 11:1-3; Joel 2:28-32).
In His relation to the believer, the Holy Spirit is three times spoken of in the Scriptures as the Anointing (2 Corinthians 1:21; 1 John 2:20, 27 R.V.); however, as the Presence indwelling each child of God, which is the equivalent of the Anointing, He is many times mentioned. Since every Christian has received the Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), every Christian has received the Anointing. This is clearly indicated in the three passages in which the word appears:
1. "Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; who hath also sealed us, and given us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts" (2 Corinthians 1:21-22). Four immediate results of the Spirit's indwelling are here suggested:
(1) The baptism with the Spirit places the believer "in Christ"; thus each child of God is said to be established... "in Christ" (1 Corinthians 12:13; 6:17; Galatians 3:27).
(2) Likewise, by giving us the Spirit, God hath anointed us.
(3) Again, God through the Spirit hath sealed us (Ephesians 4:30), and the Spirit Himself is the seal.
(4) So, also, God is here said to have given us the Spirit as an "earnest," and since an earnest is a part of the purchase money, or property, given in advance as security for the remainder, the Spirit is seen to be the earnest of the whole heavenly inheritance which belongs to every believer through infinite grace (2 Corinthians 5:5; Ephesians 1:14; 1 Peter 1:4).
2. "And ye have an anointing from the Holy One, and ye know all things" (1 John 2:20 R.V.). Here, again, it is implied that every Christian, being anointed, is indwelt by the Spirit and therefore is in the way of knowing those "deep things" of God which are alone imparted by the indwelling Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10, 12, 15; John 16:12-15).
3. "But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him" (1 John 2:27). In this passage, the important truth disclosed is that the Anointing abides. He may be grieved (Ephesians 4:30), but He is never grieved away. He may be quenched, or resisted (1 Thessalonians 5:19), but He never departs (John 14:16).
In view of the prevalence of the unscriptural teachings which assert that the Holy Spirit does not indwell every believer and that He is secured in the heart as a second work of grace, or second blessing, which is to be sought by the Christian after he is saved, it is important that the Bible teaching on this subject should be considered carefully. There is a "filling with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18) which is conditioned upon the adjustment of the life of the believer to the Spirit of God, and this filling has to do with the believer's experience of power and blessing (Acts 1:8; 2:4; Ephesians 5:18-20). The filling with the Spirit, which is often repeated, should not be confused with the once-for-all indwelling, or anointing, of the Spirit. It is only those who are indwelt by the Spirit who can be filled with the Spirit. The fact that the Spirit is present in every believer is stated in the following Scriptures:
John 7:37-39.—"But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive" (compare Acts 11:17; Galatians 3:2).
Romans 5:5.—"The Holy Spirit which is given unto us." This passage, like many more (note, Romans 8:23; 1 Corinthians 2:12; 12:3; 2 Corinthians 5:5; Galatians 4:6; 1 John 3:24; 4:13; 2:20, 27), is inclusive of all believers, and not of some class of especially sanctified individuals.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20.—"What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?" This, again, is not a reference to some class of holy Christians; the text shows that those addressed are guilty of the most serious sin (1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:1-2, 7-8). They are not told that they will receive the Spirit if they are holy; rather, they are told that having the Spirit which is a gift of divine grace to all believers alike, they should live holy lives.
Careful study will disclose the fact that Luke 11:13; Acts 5:32; 8:12-17; 19:1-7 and Ephesians 1:13, when rightly translated, and when given their dispensational application, or when rightly understood, do not contradict the positive doctrine of the indwelling Spirit.
The fact that the Spirit is given to every believer when he is saved and as a vital part of his salvation, is not only Scriptural, but it is reasonable. The superhuman manner of life which the Christian must live if he honors his Lord is impossible apart from the enabling Spirit, and, since God has addressed this superhuman requirement to all believers, it is evident that He has provided the sufficiency for all.
The fact of the Spirit's indwelling or anointing is a characterizing feature of this age (Romans 7:6; 2:29; 2 Corinthians 3:6).
By the indwelling of the Spirit, the individual is sanctified or set apart for God. In the Old Testament the anointing oil typifies the present anointing by the Spirit; oil being one of the seven symbols of the Spirit.
1. Anything touched with the anointing oil was thereby sanctified (Exodus 40:9-15). In like manner, the Spirit now sanctifies (1 Corinthians 6:11; Romans 15:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2).
2. The prophet was sanctified with oil (1 Kings 19:16), likewise Christ was a prophet by the Spirit (Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18), and the believer is a witness by the Spirit (Acts 1:8).
3. The priest was sanctified with oil (Exodus 40:15), likewise Christ in His sacrifice by the Spirit (Hebrews 9:14), and the believer by the Spirit (Romans 12:1; 8:26; Ephesians 5:18-20).
4. The king was sanctified with oil (1 Samuel 16:12-13), likewise Christ by the Spirit (Psalm 45:7), and by the Spirit the believer is to reign.
5. The anointing oil was for healing (Luke 10:34), suggesting the healing of the soul in salvation by the Spirit.
6. The oil made the face to shine, which was as the oil of gladness (Psalm 45:7), and fresh oil was required (Psalm 92:10). The fruit of the Spirit is joy (Galatians 5:22).
7. In the fittings for the tabernacle, oil for the lights is specified (Exodus 25:6). The oil suggests the Spirit, the wick the believer as a channel, and the light the outshining of Christ. The wick must rest in the oil; so the believer must walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). The wick must be free from obstruction; so the believer must not resist the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19). The wick must be snuffed; so the believer must be cleansed by the confession of sin (1 John 1:9).
The holy anointing oil (Exodus 30:22-23) was composed of four spices added to oil as a base. These spices represent peculiar virtues found in Christ. This compound thus symbolizes the Spirit taking up the very life and character of Christ and applying it to the believer. This oil could in no case be applied to human flesh (John 3:6; Galatians 5:17). It could not be imitated, which indicates that God cannot accept anything but the manifestation of the life which is Christ (Philippians 1:21). Every article of furnishing in the tabernacle must be anointed and thus set apart unto God, which suggests that the believer's dedication is to be complete (Romans 12:1-2).
The law dispensation continued to the very hour of the death of Christ (John 1:17; Galatians 3:14), and since the present peculiar and varied ministries of the Spirit could not have begun until the Pentecostal advent, there is imperative need that the relationships belonging to the past age shall in no wise be made the basis of doctrine which is applicable to this age. The experience of the disciples and the relationships which obtained before the death of Christ contribute little to the precise form of "present truth" (2 Peter 1:12). It is therefore obvious that no other believers of this dispensation are called to the same progressive experience as that of the disciples; but, on the contrary, the experience of all other believers will, of necessity, be wholly within the limits of that which characterizes the present age. The present ministries of the Spirit, taken together, form a perfect system, or whole, which is wonderfully adjusted to the peculiar facts of salvation by grace and the believer's life under grace. The day of Pentecost with all its provisions for this age has "fully come" (Acts 2:1), and that day marks the new grace-ministries of the Spirit. These are seven:
The fact and force of this ministry rests upon but one passage of Scripture, in which the Spirit is said to be restraining the lawlessness of the world until He (the Restrainer) be taken out of the way (2 Thessalonians 2:7). It is believed that the Spirit is the Restrainer since the restraining work is evidently undertaken by one of the Persons of the Godhead and the Spirit is the active power of God in the world during this age. The context indicates that Satan's supreme manifestations which are to be permitted in the Great Tribulation are now restrained by the Spirit until the Spirit shall have finished His work in the world and is taken out of the way.
Again the scope of an important ministry of the Spirit is limited to the statement of one passage (John 16:7-11). This ministry likewise is to the whole world. The reproving of the world is more than a mere deepening of personal sorrow for sin; it is an indivisible threefold enlightenment of the Satan-blinded mind (2 Corinthians 4:3-4) in respect to sin, righteousness, and judgment. The sin is that of unbelief in the Saviour, the righteousness is that righteousness which is from God and is upon all who believe (Romans 1:16-17; 3:22; 4:5), the judgment is that finished work of Christ which is past, whereby He suffered in our place. By His reproving ministry, the Spirit causes the unsaved individual who is blinded by Satan to comprehend these three vital facts in the Gospel relative to the divine provisions for the lost.
By the regenerating power of the Spirit, the one who exercises saving faith in Christ passes immediately from spiritual death to spiritual life, is made a partaker of the divine nature, Christ is begotten in him the hope of glory, God legitimately becomes his Father, and he becomes the legitimate child of God, an heir of God, and a joint-heir with Christ.
This ministry of the Spirit, which was the theme of the last Chapter, is one of the most vital facts concerning the Christian (John 7:37-39; Romans 5:5; 8:9; 1 Corinthians 2:12; 6:17; Galatians 4:6).
Not only is the divine life in the believer through the indwelling Spirit, but the believer is so vitally joined to the Lord by the baptism with the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13; 6:17; Galatians 3:27) that he is said to be "in Christ." To be in Christ is to have been taken out of the old creation in Adam and placed eternally in the new Creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). Christ becomes the new Federal Head and all that Christ is or has done is imputed to the believer. As a branch is grafted into the vine, or a member might be joined to a body, so the believer is vitally joined to Christ by the baptism with the Spirit. According to Scripture usage, that which has power to receive into itself, to impart its own qualities, or to exercise a controlling influence, has power to baptize, and such baptism is never a "dipping into," but rather secures an abiding position and union. The believer is brought eternally under the limitless influence of Christ by the baptism with the Spirit, and the baptism with the Spirit being a part of salvation is common to all believers. The baptism with the Spirit is the theme of the following chapter.
Every child of God has been sealed by the Spirit unto the day of redemption (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30). The Spirit Himself is the Seal and His presence speaks of divine ownership and of eternal security.
It may be concluded that the Spirit's ministries in regenerating, indwelling, baptizing, and sealing are wrought for the Christian when he believes, and form the very structure of his salvation, and since these blessings are never abrogated they are never wrought a second time.
The filling with the Spirit is unto Christian experience, power, and service. In contrast to the once-for-all regenerating, indwelling, baptizing, and sealing, there are many fillings (Acts 2:4; 4:8, 31; 6:3, 5; 7:55; 11:24; 13:9). According to the one great command (Ephesians 5:18), the believer is to be "getting filled" continuously. To be filled with the Spirit is to have the Spirit fulfilling in the heart and life all that He came into that life to do. It is not to acquire more of the Spirit, but, rather, that the Spirit acquires more of the believer. To be filled with the Spirit is to be a normal, if not a usual, Christian. The Spirit came to do all that He does in filling, hence He needs not to be implored; He is imploring the unadjusted believer to the end that every hindrance may be removed.
The Spirit's filling results in certain manifestations:
(1) Christ-like character—the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)
(2) Christian service—the exercise of a gift (1 Corinthians 12:4-31; Romans 12:3-8; Ephesians 4:7-11; 2 Timothy 1:6)
(3) The Spirit's teaching (John 16:13; 1 Corinthians 2:9-10; 1 John 2:27)
(4) True praise and thanksgiving (Ephesians 5:18-20
(5) The Spirit's leading (Romans 8:14; Acts 13:2; Galatians 5:18)
(6) The Spirit actualizing the unseen (John 16:13-15; Romans 8:16)
(7) The Spirit interceding (Romans 8:26-27).
Spirituality does not consist in negatives only. We are not spiritual because we do not do worldly things. Spirituality is a vital output or accomplishment in and through the believer from the indwelling Spirit.
In order to be filled with the Spirit, it is required that all sin shall be confessed (1 John 1:9; Ephesians 4:30); the whole life shall be surrendered to him (Romans 6:13; 12:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:19); and that there shall be moment-by-moment reliance upon the Spirit (Galatians 5:16).
Since all the positions and possessions of the believer are his on the sole ground of his place in Christ through the baptism with the Spirit, misunderstanding of this doctrine is fraught with serious results. The safeguard here, as always, is in adhering strictly to the Word of God. In all the Scriptures, there are not more than eleven direct references to the baptism with the Spirit. In taking them up in order we discover:
1. A plain prediction by John the Baptist, mentioned once in each of the four Gospels, that there would be a baptism with the Spirit (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33). This four-fold prediction is important; but there is no light from these Scriptures as to what constitutes that baptism with the Spirit.
2. In Acts 1:4-5 we read: "And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence." Revelation here advances only to the point of assurance that this ministry of the Spirit would be "not many days hence." This we believe anticipates the Day of Pentecost; but no light is yet shed on the exact meaning of this work of the Spirit.
3. In Acts 11:15-18, we have Peter's defense concerning his unjewish action in going to the house of Cornelius the Gentile. Peter states: "And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?" Particular attention should be given to this passage, for here, more than anywhere else in the Scriptures, false interpretations as to the meaning of the baptism with the Spirit are founded.
It should be noted that in this passage Peter makes three references to the Spirit: He states that (1) the Spirit fell on them; (2) Peter was reminded of the promise of the baptism with the Spirit (Acts 1:4-5.); And (3) the Spirit was given to the Gentiles as He had been given at Pentecost to the Jews. The error concerning this passage arises from supposing that the Spirit "falling on them" is identical with the baptism with the Spirit.
Turning back to Acts 10:44-48, where the first account is given of Peter's experience in Cornelius' house, we find that no reference is made to the baptism with the Spirit; but the Spirit, it is written, "fell on them," and as a direct result they "spake with tongues." "While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God."
It is equally important to read the account of the advent of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost as stated in Acts 2:1-4. "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." It should be observed that they spake with tongues on the Day of Pentecost as a direct result of the Spirit's filling, and that, according to Acts 10:44-48, they spake with tongues as a direct result of the Spirit falling on them. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that the Spirit falling upon them and the Spirit filling them are one and the same thing. In each case the result was identical; but if this be true, it is evidently unscriptural to relate any outward manifestations of the Spirit, such as speaking with tongues, to the baptism with the Spirit. Not discerning this error, multitudes today are "seeking the baptism of the Spirit," and are assured that if "it" can be gained, they, too, will speak with tongues.
4. Of five remaining passages which by any interpretation give direct teaching concerning the baptism with the Spirit (Romans 6:1-4; Galatians 3:27; Ephesians 4:5; Colossians 2:12; 1 Corinthians 12:13), 1 Corinthians 12:13 alone gives any revelation as to the meaning and purpose of this ministry. The passage is as follows: "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit."
Every great theme of Scripture will be found to be taken up exhaustively in one central passage, and 1 Corinthians 12:13 is evidently the one clear revelation as to the meaning of the phrase, "the baptism with the Spirit." This passage clearly indicates that the baptism with the Spirit is the divine operation by which believers are made members in the Body of Christ, and are vitally united to Christ by partaking of one Spirit.
The unsaved sustain no living relation to Christ; but the saved are all said to be "in Christ." There was a time when they were not in Christ, but now they are "in Him." If we inquire as to how and when they became thus related to Christ, the answer from God's Word would be that they were placed "in Christ" by the baptism with the Spirit, and that it occurred at the moment they believed and were saved. "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body... and have been all made to drink into the Spirit."
In considering this great passage, certain crucial revelations which are contained in it should be noted in particular:
1. The pronoun "we," as used here, and throughout the Epistles, is an accurate classification of all saved people, in contrast with the unsaved. The word "we" excludes every unregenerate person and, as certainly, includes every regenerate person. No greater violence could be done to this Scripture than to interpret this word "we" as though it represented some inner group or favored class of Christians. And to give the strongest possible emphasis to the fact that every saved person is included, the word "all" is also employed.
2. When members are added to the body of Christ it is accomplished by the ministry of the Spirit, and this ministry is none other than the baptism with the Spirit. By that operation those who believe on Christ are vitally placed "in Him." As a living union is formed by the process of grafting, and the branch thus united is organically in the vine, and the vine by all its vitality and life is in the branch, so the believer thus united to Christ by the baptism with the Spirit is "in Christ" and Christ is "in him." Again, as a member might be vitally joined to a human body and thus be in that body as to position and relationship, and the life of the head flowing into that new member be imparting its life-giving energy and vital force, so, we being "in Christ," by the baptism with the Spirit, are vitally joined to Christ, and are in Christ as to position and relationship, and He is in us as the supply of our eternal life and every vital force.
Whatever the former position or relationship was of either the branch before it was grafted in, or the human member before it was newly joined to the human body, such relationship forever ceases, and the branch when grafted in, becomes a living part of the vine, and the member if joined to the human body, becomes a vital part of the very personality of the one to whom it might be joined.
It is important to note the unvarying fact that all that the believer is and all that he has depends on his place "in Christ" through the baptism with the Spirit (2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 1:6; 2:18).
Thus we may conclude that the baptism with the Spirit is in no way related to the outward manifestations of power in the life of the believer, which manifestations follow the Spirit's filling; it is rather the placing of the believer in that vital union with Christ wherein it may be said of him that he is "in Christ" and Christ is "in him" (John 14:20).
There are upwards of one hundred passages which emphasize the fact that the believer is "in Christ." Being in Christ is the essential fact of the believer's position in the New Creation. Therefore, the baptism with the Spirit is the divinely ordained method whereby he enters that marvelous sphere of relationship wherein Christ is the new Federal Head—the Last Adam.
As to time, the Bible may be apportioned into well-defined periods. These periods are clearly separated and the recognition of their divisions with their divine purposes constitutes one of the important factors in true interpretation of the Scriptures. These divisions of time are termed dispensations, which word is somewhat different than the word age in that the word age is more general, being used of any brief division of time or generation of men, though the word age is rightly used as synonymous with the word dispensation.
It is probable that the recognition of the dispensations sheds more light on the whole message of the Scriptures than any other aspect of Bible study. Often the first clear understanding of the dispensations and God's revealed purposes in them results in the beginning of useful Bible knowledge and in the fostering of a personal interest in the Bible itself. Man's relation to God is not the same in every age. It has been necessary to bring fallen man into divine testing. This, in part, is God's purpose in the ages, and the result of the testings is in every case an unquestionable demonstration of the utter failure and sinfulness of man. In the end, every mouth will have been stopped because every assumption of the human heart will have proven its unwisdom and wickedness by centuries of experience.
Each dispensation, therefore, begins with man divinely placed in a new position of privilege and responsibility, and closes with the failure of man resulting in righteous judgments from God. While there are certain abiding facts such as the holy character of God which are of necessity the same in every age, there are varying instructions and responsibilities which are, as to their application, limited to a given period.
In this connection, the Bible student must recognize the difference between a primary and a secondary application of the Word of God. Only those portions of the Scriptures which are directly addressed to the child of God under grace are to be given a personal or primary application. All such instructions he is expected to perform in detail. In the matter of a secondary application it should be observed that, while there are spiritual lessons to be drawn from every portion of the Bible, it does not follow that the Christian is appointed by God to conform to those governing principles which were the will of God for people of other dispensations. The child of God under grace is not situated as was Adam, or Abraham, or the Israelites when under the Law; nor is he called upon to follow that peculiar manner of life which according to the Scriptures will be required of men when the King shall have returned and set up His kingdom on the earth.
Since the child of God depends wholly on the instructions contained in the Bible for his direction in daily life, and since the principles obtaining in the various dispensations are so diverse, and at times even contradictory, it is important that he shall recognize those portions of the Scriptures which directly apply to him if he is to realize the will of God and the glory of God. In considering the whole testimony of the Bible it is almost as important for the believer who would do the will of God to recognize that which does not concern him as it is for him to recognize that which does concern him. It is obvious that, apart from the knowledge of dispensational truth, the believer will not be intelligently adjusted to the present purpose and will of God in the world. Such knowledge alone will save him from assuming the hopeless legality of the dispensation that is past or from undertaking the impossible world-transforming program belonging to the dispensation which is to come.
Because of imperfect translations, some important truth is hidden to the one who reads only the English text of the Bible. This is illustrated by the fact that the Greek word aion, which means an age, or dispensation, is forty times translated by the English word world. Thus when it is stated in Matthew 13:49, "So shall it be in the end of the world," there is reference not to the end of the material earth, which in due time must come (2 Peter 3:7; Revelation 20:11; Isaiah 66:22), but rather to the end of this age. The end of the world is not drawing near, but the end of the age is. According to the Scriptures there are in all seven major dispensations and it is evident that we are now living in the extreme end of the sixth. The kingdom age of a thousand years (Revelation 20:4, 6) is yet to come.
A dispensation is more or less marked off by the new divine appointment and responsibilities with which it begins and by the divine judgments with which it ends. The seven dispensations are:
1. The Dispensation of Innocence.
The duration of this period is unrevealed. It began with the creation of man, was characterized by those conditions which obtained in the time of man's innocence, it includes the sin of man and ends with a divine judgment by which man received a sentence from God and was expelled from Eden (Genesis 1:28 to Genesis 3:22).
2. The Dispensation of Conscience.
Possessed with the knowledge of both good and evil, man, for about eighteen hundred years, was required to act according to his own conscience—choosing the good and rejecting the evil. His failure is recorded in the history of that period. In this time man became so wicked that the age was closed with the judgment of the flood (Genesis 3:22 to Genesis 7:23).
3. The Dispensation of Human Government.
Continuing more than four hundred years, the history of this dispensation records that man was given the new responsibility of government in the earth with the power of taking human life (Genesis 9:1-8), which power has never been withdrawn. Man's failure to govern for God and his success in governing for himself is seen in the ungodly assumptions with which the age ended. The divine judgment on this age was the confusion of tongues (Genesis 8:20 to Genesis 11:9).
4. The Dispensation of Promise.
In this period of more than four hundred years, extending from the call of Abraham to the giving of the law at Sinai, the new nation which began with Abraham is alone in view. By the terms of this dispensation they are under the gracious promise and covenants of Jehovah with varied instructions as to their relation to God, to the land of promise, and as to their walk before God. The period ends with that people in bondage in Egypt from which they are delivered by the mighty hand of God (Genesis 12:1 to Exodus 19:8).
5. The Dispensation of the Law.
This lengthened period began with Israel's assumption of the law at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:8), was characterized by fifteen hundred years of unfaithfulness and broken law, and terminates with the Great Tribulation in the earth. Its course was interrupted by the death of Christ and the thrusting in of the hitherto unannounced age of the church. Thus the church age, while complete in itself, is parenthetical within the age of the law. At the removal of the Church when the Lord comes again to receive His own, the law age will be resumed and continue for that period known as Daniel's seventieth week (Daniel 9:24-27)—which week is generally conceded to be Seven years. Israel's judgments began with her dispersions, were continued in the destruction of Jerusalem and her final scattering among the Gentiles, and will end with that hour of her greatest afflictions in the coming tribulation. The greatest of her sins is the rejection of her Messiah at the first advent of Christ.
6. The Dispensation of the Church.
Beginning with the death of Christ and the day of Pentecost, a new responsibility is imposed on all men—both Jews and Gentiles. This responsibility is personal and calls for the acceptance by each individual of the grace of God toward sinners as it has been provided in Christ, with good works as the fruit of salvation. While the primary purpose of God in this dispensation will be perfectly accomplished in the gathering out of the Church, the course and end of this age is characterized by an apostate church and a Christ rejecting world. The judgment will be personal as has been the responsibility. The dispensation of the Church continues from the cross of Christ and the advent of the Spirit to Christ's coming again to receive His own.
7. The Dispensation of the Kingdom.
As predicted in all the Scriptures, Christ will return to this earth and reign sitting on the throne of David. In that time Israel's covenants will be fulfilled and her earthly blessings will overflow. However, the age ends with a revolt against God and the judgment of fire from heaven (Revelation 20:7-9). The duration of this dispensation is clearly declared to be a thousand years (Revelation 20:4, 6), or from the second coming of Christ to the new heaven and the new earth.
As there was a dateless period before the creation of man in which there was both heaven and earth, so there will be a new heaven and a new earth after all dispensations have ceased.
The Bible discloses the fact that it has pleased God to enter into covenants with men. Eight of these covenants are recorded and they incorporate the most vital facts in man's relation to God throughout the history of the race. Each covenant represents a divine purpose and the majority of them constitute an absolute prediction as well as an unalterable promise as to the accomplishment of whatever God has designed. Reckoning from the time a covenant is made, it always anticipates the future and is intended to be a message of assurance to those to whom it is addressed.
The covenants of God are grouped into two classifications:
1. Those that are Conditional.
A conditional covenant is one in which God's action is made to be contingent upon some action on the part of those to whom the covenant is addressed. A conditional covenant guarantees that God "will do His part with absolute certainty when the human requirements are met; it also declares with equal certainty that He will not do according to the expectation of the covenant should the human responsibility fail.
2. Those that are Unconditional.
An unconditional covenant is simply a declaration on the part of God as to what He is going to do and is made without reference to human action, purpose, or merit. This form of covenant is illustrated in Genesis 15:1-18. Believing fully in the promise of Jehovah concerning a seed (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:16-22), Abraham sought to have that promise ratified by an outward seal in action. Thus Jehovah directed in the preparation of the bodies of the animals to be used in this ratification, and though it was no doubt the custom that both parties thus entering into covenant should walk together between the pieces of the carcasses, God caused Abraham to become utterly inactive by a deep sleep while He passed through alone. Since this was an unconditional covenant in which Abraham had no responsibility, it was fitting that he should in no way appear in the ratification of the covenant. Jehovah had not said, So shall thy seed be, if; but He had said, "So shall thy seed be."
Since all human life is lived under some qualifying conditions belonging to the covenants of Jehovah, and since every passage of Scripture draws its color to some degree from the covenant under which it belongs, the importance to the Bible student of a clear understanding of these age-characterizing, world-transforming declarations of Jehovah cannot be estimated.
The eight major covenants are:
1. The Covenant with Man in Eden (Genesis 1:26-31; 2:16-17).
According to this record, God entered into a conditional covenant with Adam in which life and blessing or death and cursing were made to depend on the faithfulness of Adam. Human failure followed and the terms of the covenant were executed in righteousness.
2. The Covenant with Man after the Fall (Genesis 3:16-19).
This is an unconditional covenant in which God declares to man what his lot in life will be because of his sin. There is no appeal allowed, nor is any human responsibility involved.
3. The Covenant with Noah and His Sons (Genesis 9:1-18).
In declaring the far-reaching details concerning the course and destiny of the human family as represented in the sons of Noah, in faithfully promising that there would be no recurrence of the flood, and in establishing the authority of human government on the earth, God again entered into an unconditional covenant. However, this covenant anticipated the most minute control of all human life and destiny and could in no case be realized apart from the cooperative action of uncounted numbers of human wills; yet by the terms of this covenant God is committed to accomplish everything He has promised even to the molding and moving of the will of each individual who makes up the countless myriads of humanity who were to appear on the earth.
There is an insoluble mystery presented in every effort to reconcile the facts of divine sovereignty and human choice; but in an unconditional covenant, God is seen to be in absolute authority over all the forces of the world as well as over every thought and intent of the human heart. Yet in the outworking of the covenant no human being is conscious of divine coercion or of restraint upon his own freedom of choice. "Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance" (Isaiah 40:15).
4. The Covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12:1-4; 13:14-17; 15:1-7; 17:1-8).
In like manner, this covenant reaches on through all time and into eternity and involves the blessedness of all the families of the earth. It is unconditional in the most absolute sense, being set forth in seven I wills of Jehovah, and is confirmed to Isaac (Genesis 26:24) and to Jacob (Genesis 35:12). This covenant anticipates the sovereign will of God in Abraham's personal blessing, in the everlasting mercy to Israel, and the coming of the Seed which is Christ.
Again, it should be observed that in the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant God is committed to marvelous accomplishments which extend over the whole history of the race and into eternity. To guarantee this, which is infinitely more than merely foreseeing what man would do, man must be moved by a sovereign hand even to the controlling of every thought and purpose which has any part in the fulfillment of this covenant. Yet in its outworking, not one of the whole human family will be conscious of doing other than his own free choice may prompt him to do. The sufficiency of God to perform even as He has determined is not now a question of abstract speculation. Thousands of years of human history have witnessed a perfect fulfillment to the present hour; yet in the midst of this stupendous divine achievement man has not ceased to disbelieve in the sovereignty of God nor to belittle God in all his thoughts. The sphere of man's thought is limited to the circle in which his own will seems to him to be supreme.
5. The Covenant with Moses (Exodus 20:1 to Exodus 31:18).
In transmitting the three-fold law (the commandments, Exodus 20:1-17; the judgments, Exodus 21:1 to Exodus 24:11; and the ordinances, Exodus 24:12 to Exodus 31:18) to Israel through Moses, Jehovah entered into a conditional covenant with that nation. The terms of the law may be stated in the phrase—If ye will I will, and if ye will not I will not. In Deuteronomy 28:1-62, as in various portions of the Old Testament, these stipulations which condition the covenant of the law are expanded in greater detail as to their application. Though the covenant was made to depend on the faithfulness of Israel, Jehovah foretold their failure and the suffering that would follow (Deuteronomy 28:63-68). History has only confirmed the divine prediction as to their failure. It should be noted that no child of God under grace is subject to this hopeless conditional covenant of law works (Romans 6:14).
6. The Covenant with Israel concerning their Land (Deuteronomy 30:1-10).
This unconditional covenant looks on to Israel's final possession of the land. Nothing will hinder this blessing. Even Israel herself will be willing in the day of His power, regardless of what the modern Jew or the foe of Zionism may be saying today. Coming up out of Egypt, that nation came to Kadesh-barnea where Jehovah made it a matter of their own choice as to whether they would at that time enter the promised land. By so much He then put them upon a basis similar to that of a conditional covenant. They rebelled and were turned back into the wilderness for thirty-eight more years of wilderness wandering. Later, and without the slightest reference to any choice on the part of Israel, Jehovah took them into their land with a high hand. He did not take them in against their wills, but He so controlled their wills that they went in with songs of rejoicing. The time is coming when that nation, though scattered over all the earth, will be regathered into their own land to possess it forever. At that time Israel will not limit Jehovah by her own choice in the matter. God will regather them with sovereign power. Nor are their wills to be coerced; for it is written that they shall enter with songs of praise, and "everlasting joy" shall be on their heads (Isaiah 35:10; 51:11; 55:12; 61:3, 7). The heart-attitude of Israel toward Jehovah in the kingdom is also anticipated in this covenant, which attitude is fully stated under the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-33). The final yet future placing of Israel in her own land is thus assured by an unconditional covenant of Jehovah which can never be changed or broken (Jeremiah 23:8; Ezekiel 37:21-28).
7. The Covenant with David (2 Samuel 7:4-16).
This covenant, likewise, is unconditional. By its terms David is promised an unending royal lineage, a throne, and a kingdom, all of which are to endure forever. In the declaration of this covenant, Jehovah reserves the right to interrupt the actual reign of David's sons if chastisement is required (2 Samuel 7:14-15; Psalm 89:20-37); but the perpetuity of the covenant cannot be broken. As the Abrahamic covenant guaranteed to Israel an everlasting entity as a nation (Jeremiah 31:36) and an everlasting possession of the land (Genesis 13:15; 1 Chronicles 16:15-18; Psalm 105:9-11), so the Davidic covenant guarantees to them an everlasting throne (2 Samuel 7:16; Psalm 89:36), an everlasting King (Jeremiah 33:21), and an everlasting kingdom (Daniel 7:14). From the day that the covenant was made and confirmed by Jehovah's oath (Acts 2:30) to the birth of Christ, David did not lack for a son to sit on his throne (Jeremiah 33:21), and Christ the Eternal Son of God and Son of David, being the rightful heir to that throne and the One who will yet sit on that throne (Luke 1:31-33), completes the fulfillment of this promise to David that a son would sit on his throne forever.
8. The New Covenant Made in His Blood (Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; Jeremiah 31:31-33; Ezekiel 37:26; Hebrews 8:6, 10-13; 10:16).
This, again, is an unconditional covenant and it is most important for every child of God to recognize this fact since this covenant forms the very basis of his own relation to God. What may be proposed for Israel or the nations may be of interest to the believer, but it does not directly apply to him; but the covenant of divine grace is of infinite import to all who are saved.
The New Covenant guarantees all that God proposes to do for men on the ground of the blood of His Son. This may be seen in two aspects:
(a) That He will save, preserve, and present in Heaven conformed to His Son, all who have believed on Christ. The fact that it is necessary to believe on Christ in order to be saved does not form a condition in this covenant. Believing is not a part of the covenant, but rather is the ground of admission into its eternal blessings. The covenant is not related to the unsaved, but it is made with those who believe, and it promises the faithfulness of God in their behalf. "He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6), and every other promise concerning the saving and keeping power of God is a part of this covenant in grace. There is no salvation contemplated for man in this age that does not guarantee perfect preservation here, and a final presentation of the saved one in glory. There may be an issue between the Father and His child as to the daily life, and, as in the case of David's sons, the Christian's sin may call for the chastening hand of God; but those Questions which enter into the daily life of the believer are never made to condition the promise of God concerning the eternal salvation of those whom He has received in grace.
There are those who emphasize the importance and power of the human will and who contend that both salvation and safe-keeping must be made conditional on the cooperation of the human will. This may seem reasonable to the human mind; but it is not according to the revelation given in the Scriptures. In every case God has declared unconditionally what He will do for all those who put their trust in Him (John 5:24; 6:37; 10:28). This is a very great undertaking which must of necessity involve the absolute control of the very thoughts and intents of the heart; but it is no more unreasonable than that God should declare to Noah that his seed would follow the absolute channels which He had decreed, or that He should declare to Abraham that He would make of him a great nation and that of his seed Christ should be born. In every case it is the manifestation of sovereign authority and power. It is evident that God has given latitude for the exercise of the human will. He appeals to the wills of men, and men who are saved are conscious that both their salvation and their service are according to their own deepest choice.
We are told that God controls the will of man (John 6:44; Philippians 2:13) and at the same time appeals to and conditions His blessing on the will of man (John 5:40; 7:17; Romans 12:1; 1 John 1:9).
The Scriptures give unquestionable emphasis to the sovereignty of God. God has perfectly determined what will be, and His determined purpose will be realized; for it is impossible that God should ever be either surprised or disappointed. So, also, there is equal emphasis in the Scriptures upon the fact that lying between these two undiminished aspects of His sovereignty—His eternal purpose and its perfect realization—He has permitted sufficient latitude for some exercise of the human will. In so doing, His determined ends are in no way jeopardized. One aspect of this truth without the other will lead, in the one case, to fatalism, wherein there is no place for petition in prayer, no motive for the wooing of God's love, no ground for condemnation, no occasion for evangelistic appeal, and no meaning to very much Scripture; in the other case it will lead to the dethroning of God. It is reasonable to believe that the human will may be under the control of God; but most unreasonable to believe that the sovereignty of God is under the control of the human will.
Those who believe are saved and safe forever because it is according to the unconditional covenant of God.
(b) The future salvation of Israel is promised under the unconditional New Covenant (Isaiah 27:9; Ezekiel 37:23; Romans 11:26-27). This salvation will be accomplished only on the ground of the shed blood of Christ. Through the sacrifice of Christ, God is as free to save a nation as He is free to save an individual. Israel is represented by Christ as a treasure hid in the field. The field is the world. It was Christ, we believe, who sold all that He had that He might purchase the field, and in order that He might possess the treasure (Matthew 13:44).
In contemplating the eight covenants, too much emphasis cannot be placed on the fact of the sovereignty of God as it is related to those covenants which are unconditional, and the absolute failure of man as it is revealed in the outworking of those covenants which are conditional. Whatever God undertakes unconditionally will be completed in all the perfection of His own infinite Being.
The Bible reflects God's knowledge of the universe rather than man's; therefore, in the Scriptures, the angels, concerning whom man of himself could know nothing, are introduced with perfect freedom, being mentioned about one hundred and eight times in the Old Testament and one hundred and sixty-five times in the New Testament.
The word angel means messenger, and in its Biblical use is sometimes employed of God, when as the Angel of Jehovah, He Himself serves as a messenger to men (Genesis 16:1-13; 21:17-19; 22:11-16); it is used of men (Luke 7:24; James 2:25; Revelation 1:20; 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14); and of departed spirits of men (Matthew 18:10; Acts 12:15). Of the latter use of the word it should be noted that, though the departed spirits of men may be called angels, the angels are not departed spirits of men, nor do men at death become angels.
The angels are a distinct order of creation and have been given a heavenly position, or sphere, above the sphere of man (Psalm 8:5; Hebrews 2:7; Revelation 5:11; 7:11). Three heavens are mentioned in the New Testament (2 Corinthians 12:2), and in the Old Testament the word heaven is plural. When entering the human sphere, Christ was thereby, for a little time made lower than the angels (Hebrews 2:9); when returning to Heaven, Christ again passed through the angelic sphere (Hebrews 4:14; 9:24) and was seated far above principalities and powers (Ephesians 1:20-21).
Since we know that there are many forms of created beings of a lower sphere than man, it is reasonable to believe that, though invisible, there are beings of a higher order than man. Like all beings, other than the Godhead, the angels are created. In Colossians 1:16 mention is made of their creation, and in Ezekiel 28:13, 15, the creation of Satan—one of the angelic order—is mentioned in particular.
The angels are always referred to in the masculine gender, and as to their number we read of "an innumerable company" (Hebrews 12:22, which word should be translated "myriads." Note Matthew 26:53; Daniel 7:10; Revelation 5:11). It is also implied that there is no increase of their number by generation (Matthew 22:30) and we know of no cessation of their existence by death.
If the angels have bodies, their bodies are of a spiritual order (1 Corinthians 15:44). When seen of men they have, for the time being, a material appearance (Matthew 28:3; Revelation 15:6; 18:1). On the other hand, those of the angelic company known as demons are seen to be seeking entrance into the bodies of the creatures of earth (Luke 11:24-26).
Two classes of angelic beings are to be distinguished:
1. Their nature. The unfallen angels are the "ministering spirits" (Hebrews 1:14) who kept their first estate and are therefore designated as the "holy angels" (Matthew 25:31). In the Scriptures, these are in view in almost every reference to the angels.
Of the holy angels, several are mentioned in particular as well as certain classes:
(1) Michael the Archangel, whose name means "who is like unto God" (Daniel 10:21; 12:1; Jude 1:9; Revelation 12:7-10).
(2) Gabriel, whose name means "the mighty one," and to whom has been entrusted various heavenly messages (Daniel 8:16; 9:21; Luke 1:19, 26-38).
(3) The Elect Angels (1 Timothy 5:21).
(4) Principalities and Powers, which term is sometimes used of all angels, and sometimes of only the fallen angels (Romans 8:38; Ephesians 1:21; 3:10; Colossians 1:16; 2:10, 15; 1 Peter 3:22; Luke 21:26).
(5) Cherubim, or living creatures, who defend God's holiness from the pollution of sinful beings (Genesis 3:24; Exodus 25:17-20; Ezekiel 1:1-18. Note also the original purpose for which Satan was created, Ezekiel 28:14).
(6) Seraphim (Isaiah 6:2-7).
(7) The Angel of Jehovah, which title belongs only to God and is used in connection with the divine manifestations in the earth and therefore is in no way to be included in the angelic hosts (Genesis 18:1-19:29; 22:11-12; 31:11-13; 48:15-16; 32:24-32; Joshua 5:13-15; Judges 13:19-22; 2 Kings 19:35; 1 Chronicles 21:12-30; Psalm 34:7). The strongest contrasts between Christ, who is the Angel of Jehovah, and the angelic beings is presented in Hebrews 1:4-14.
2. Their ministry. Of the ministry of the unfallen angels revelation declares:
(1) They were present at creation (Job. 38:7), at the giving of the law (Galatians 3:19; Acts 7:53; Hebrews 2:2; Revelation 22:16), at the birth of Christ (Luke 2:13), at the temptation (Matthew 4:11), in the garden (Luke 22:43), at the resurrection (Matthew 28:2), at the ascension (Acts 1:10), and they will yet appear at the second coming of Christ (Matthew 24:31; 25:31; 2 Thessalonians 1:7).
(2) The angels are ministering spirits sent forth to minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation (Hebrews 1:14; Psalm 34:7; 91:11). Though we have been given no communication or fellowship with the angels, yet we should recognize the fact of their ministry which is constant and effective.
(3) The angels are spectators and witnesses of the things of earth (Psalm 103:20; Luke 12:8, 9; 15:10; 1 Corinthians 11:10; 1 Timothy 3:16; 1 Peter 1:12; Revelation 14:10).
(4) Lazarus was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom (Luke 16:22).
The fallen angels have been divided into two classes: (1) those that are free and (2) those that are bound. Of the fallen angels, Satan alone is given particular mention in the Scriptures.
It is probable that when Satan fell (John 8:44) he drew after him a multitude of lesser beings. Of these, some are reserved in chains unto judgment (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6; 1 Corinthians 6:3); the remainder are free and are the demons, or devils, to whom reference is constantly made throughout the New Testament (Mark 5:9, 15; Luke 8:30; 1 Timothy 4:1). They are Satan's aids in all his undertakings and share his doom (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20:10).
This Chapter introduces the highest being among all the creatures of God. However, an immeasurable gulf exists between the uncreated, self-existent, eternal Persons of the Godhead, and this the chief of God's creatures.
Since he does not appear in corporeal form, Satan's personality, like that of the Godhead and like all the angelic hosts, must be accepted upon the evidence set forth in the Scriptures. Considering this evidence we may note:
The fact of the creation of all things that are in heaven and in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers, and that these were created by Christ and for Christ, is stated in Colossians 1:16. The time of the creation of the angelic host is not stated beyond the fact that their creation probably preceded that of all material things, and was itself preceded by that eternity of existence on the part of the Godhead, which existence is declared in John 1:1, 2.
Among all the heavenly hosts, Satan's creation alone is mentioned in particular. This fact suggests the supreme place which Satan holds in relation to all the invisible creatures of God.
In Ezekiel 28:11-19 there is recorded a lamentation addressed to "The king of Tyrus," and while this may have had some partial and immediate application to a king in Tyrus, it is evident that the supreme one among all the creatures of God is in view; for the one here addressed was said to be the "sum" of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. He had been in "Eden, the garden of God" (probably the primal Eden of God's original creation, rather than the Eden of Genesis 3), and by divine design was created and anointed as a covering cherub over the holy mountain of God, which, in Biblical imagery, represents the throne or center of God's governing power. No king of Tyrus could answer this description. In fact, this description could apply to none other than Satan as he existed before his sin and fall.
Of many Scriptures which set forth the personality of Satan, the following may be noted:
Isaiah 14:12-17. Contemplating Satan as having completed his course and having been judged finally at the end of time, the prophet addressed him in this passage under the heavenly title of "Lucifer, son of the morning," and sees him as fallen from his primal estate and glory. He who "didst weaken the nations" is also guilty of opposing his own will against the will of God in five particulars, and in this passage, as in Ezekiel 28:15, his sin is said to be a secret purpose hid within his own heart which God discovered and disclosed (note 1 Timothy 3:6).
Genesis 3:1-15. By the events recorded in this passage, Satan gains the title of "Serpent," for through the serpent he appeared to Adam and Eve. Every word here spoken and design revealed is an evidence of Satan's personality (note 2 Corinthians 11:3, 13-15; Revelation 12:9; 20:2).
Job 1:6-12; 2:1-13. A revelation peculiar to these texts is that Satan has access to God (note Luke 22:31; Revelation 12:10) as well as to men (1 Peter 5:8; Ephesians 6:10-12), and that he exhibits every feature of a true personality.
Luke 4:1-13. Again the personality of Satan is revealed when in the wilderness he comes into conflict with the Son of God—the Last Adam. He who purposed to become like the Most High (Isaiah 14:14), and who recommended this purpose to the first man and woman (Genesis 3:5), is now seen offering all his earthly possessions to Christ if only He will worship him. This proffered authority and power which Christ refused will yet be received and administered by the Man of Sin (1 John 4:3; 2 Thessalonians 2:8-10).
Ephesians 6:10-12. The strategies and warfare of Satan against the children of God as declared in this passage are proof positive of the personality of Satan. There is no mention in the Scriptures of a warfare by Satan against the unregenerate: they are his own, and therefore under his authority (John 8:44; Ephesians 2:2; 1 John 5:19, R.V.).
Though morally fallen and now judged in the cross (John 12:31; 16:11; Colossians 2:15), Satan has not lost his position, and he has lost but little of his power. His power both as to personal strength and authority is disclosed in two forms:
His personal strength cannot be estimated. According to his own declaration, which Christ did not deny, he has power over the kingdoms of this world, which kingdoms he said were delivered unto him, and which power he bestows on whom he will (Luke 4:6). It is said of him that he hath the power of death (Hebrews 2:14), but that power has been surrendered to Christ (Revelation 1:18). Satan had the power over sickness in the case of Job (Job 2:7), and was able to sift Peter as wheat in a sieve (Luke 22:31; 1 Corinthians 5:5). Likewise, Satan is said to have weakened the nations, to have made the earth to tremble, to have shaken kingdoms, to have made the earth a wilderness, destroying the cities thereof, and not to have opened the house of his prisoners (Isaiah 14:12-17). Against the power of Satan even Michael the archangel durst not contend (Jude 1:9); but there is victory for the child of God through the power of the Spirit and the blood of Christ (Ephesians 6:10-12; 1 John 4:4; Revelation 12:11). Satan's power and authority are exercised always and only within the permissive will of God.
Satan's power is increased by the innumerable host of demons who do his will and serve him. Though he is not omnipresent, omnipotent, nor omniscient, through the wicked spirits he is in touch with the whole earth.
Two errors regarding Satan are current and since he alone is advantaged by them it is reasonable to conclude that he is the author of them.
1. Many believe that Satan does not really exist and that the supposed person of Satan is no more than an evil principle, or influence, which is in man and in the world. This conception is proved to be wrong by the fact that there is the same abundant evidence that Satan is a person as there is that Christ is a person. The Scriptures, which alone are authoritative on these matters, treat one to be a person as much as the other, and if the personality of Christ is accepted on the testimony of the Bible, the personality of Satan must also be accepted on the same testimony.
2. Likewise, others believe that Satan is the direct cause of sin in every person. This impression is not true (1) because Satan is not aiming to promote sin in the world. He did not purpose to be a fiend, but rather to be "like the most High" (Isaiah 14:14); he is not aiming to destroy, so much as he is to construct, and to realize his own ambition for authority over this world system, which system proposes culture, morality, and religion (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). The impression that Satan is the direct cause of sin is not true (2) because human sin is said to come directly from the fallen human heart (Mark 7:18-23; James 1:13-16; Genesis 6:5).
The following are only a few of the many passages bearing on the work of Satan:
Isaiah 14:12-17. This passage reveals Satan's original and supreme purpose. He would ascend into Heaven, exalt his throne above the stars of God, and be like the most High. To this end he will use his unmeasured wisdom and power; he will weaken the nations, make the earth to tremble, make the world as a wilderness, destroy the cities thereof, and refuse to release his prisoners. Though every phrase of this passage is a startling disclosure, two in particular may be noted:
1. "I will he like the most High." As recorded in the Scriptures, the activities of Satan following his moral fall can be traced only in the line of this supreme motive. It was this purpose which in all seriousness he recommended to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:5), and they, by adopting Satan's ideal, became self-centered, self-sufficient, and independent of God. This attitude on the part of Adam and Eve became their very nature and has been transmitted to all their posterity to the extent that their posterity are called the "children of wrath" (Ephesians 2:3; 5:6; Romans 1:18), they must be born again (John 3:3), and, when saved, have a struggle to be yielded wholly to the will of God. Again, Satan's desire to be "like the most High" is seen in his passion to be worshiped by Christ (Luke 4:5-7). When the Man of Sin enters the holy place and is worshiped as God (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; Daniel 9:27; Matthew 24:15; Revelation 13:4-8), for a brief moment, Satan's supreme desire will be realized under the permissive will of God.
2. He "opened not the house of his prisoners." The entire prophecy from which this phrase is taken is concerning the work of Satan as it will have been completed in the days of his final judgment. Doubtless there is a larger fulfillment yet future; however, we know that Satan is now doing all in his power to keep the unsaved from being delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son (Colossians 1:13). Satan is the one who energizes the children of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2), blinds the minds of the unsaved lest the light of the Gospel shall reach them ( 2 Corinthians 4:3-4), and holds the unconscious world in his arms ( 1 John 5:19, R.V.).
It is also revealed that Satan in his warfare will counterfeit the things of God, which undertaking will likewise be in accord with his purpose to be "like the most High." He will promote extensive religious systems (1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15). In this connection, it should be observed that Satan can promote forms of religion which are based on selected Bible texts, which elevate Christ as the leader, and which incorporate every phase of the Christian faith excepting one—the doctrine of salvation by grace alone on the ground of the shed blood of Christ. Such satanic delusions are now in the world and multitudes are being deceived by them. Such false systems are always to be tested by the attitude they take toward the saving grace of God through the efficacious blood of Christ (Revelation 12:11).
Satan's enmity is evidently against God alone. He is in no way at enmity with the unsaved, and when he aims his "fiery darts" at the children of God, he attacks them only because of the fact that they are indwelt by the divine nature, and through them he is enabled to secure a thrust at God.
Likewise, the attack against the children of God is not in the sphere of "flesh and blood," but in the sphere of their heavenly association with Christ. That is, the believer may not be drawn away into immorality, but he may utterly fail in prayer, in testimony and in spiritual victory. Such failure, it should be seen, is as much defeat and dishonor in the sight of God as those sins which are freely condemned by the world.
As the Word of God is explicit regarding the origin of Satan, so it is explicit regarding his career and destiny. Five progressive judgments of Satan are to be distinguished:
Though the time in the dateless past is not disclosed, Satan's moral fall, with its necessary separation from God, is clearly indicated (Ezekiel 28:15; 1 Timothy 3:6). It is evident, however, that he did not lose his heavenly position, the larger portion of his power, or his access to God.
Through the cross a perfect judgment has been secured (John 12:31; 16:11; Colossians 2:14-15), but the execution of that sentence is yet future. This sentence with its execution was predicted in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15).
In the midst of the coming Tribulation and as a result of a war in Heaven, Satan will be cast out of Heaven and be limited to the earth. He will then act in great wrath knowing that he has but a short time to continue (Revelation 12:7-12. Note, also, Isaiah 14:12; Luke 10:18).
For the thousand-year reign of Christ upon the earth, Satan will be sealed in the abyss, after which he must be loosed for a "little season" (Revelation 20:1-3, 7).
Having promoted an open rebellion against God during the "little season," Satan is then cast into the lake of fire to be tormented day and night for ever and ever (Revelation 20:10).
Discovering himself in the midst of a wonderful universe and being the highest order of its visible creatures, it is natural that man should seek to understand his own origin as well as the origin of all existing things; yet man, unaided, can discover nothing as to his origin. It is therefore reasonable to expect that God would reveal these facts to man. This He has done in the Bible. However, since God is revealed and becomes real only to those who are saved through Christ (Matthew 11:27-29), men who are not saved and to whom God is not real have turned from the Scripture records of the origin of all things, and have sought to account for existing things on the basis of supposed laws of evolution. According to these human theories, there was originally a primordial cell from which has evolved every existing form of life whether it be whale or hummingbird, elephant or mosquito, man or tadpole. Over against these theories are the clear teachings of the Scriptures, wherein it is not only directly stated (Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 2:25; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 11:3), but it is everywhere implied, that every living thing was created by the immediate power and will of God.
As to their theories concerning the origin of things, men are thus divided into two general classes. It is not a division between learned and unlearned men, or between good and bad men; but it is a division between men to whom God is sufficiently real and those to whom He is not sufficiently real to be accepted as the Creator of all things. There is an unalterable law which accounts for the capacity or incapacity of man to grasp the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:12, 14; John 3:3). "By faith we understand" (Hebrews 11:3); but the man without faith does not understand, nor can he ever understand until he is saved in Christ. And since the unregenerate cannot understand, God has commissioned the Gospel to be preached to them rather than a ministry of useless controversy.
According to the testimony of the Scriptures (which testimony every Christian will receive, since he is indwelt by the same Spirit who wrote the Scriptures—1 Corinthians 2:12), man, in his present human form, was created by God as the conclusion and consummation of all creation. Of man it is said that he was made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26), and that God breathed into him the breath of life (Genesis 2:7). These distinctions classify man above all other forms of life which are upon the earth.
Speaking generally, man's creation included that which was material—"the dust" (symbolizing the use of elements appropriate to the forming of a material body), and immaterial—"the breath of life." This general two-fold distinction is elsewhere indicated as the "outward man" and the "inward man" (2 Corinthians 4:16); "the earthen vessel" and "this treasure" (2 Corinthians 4:7). Likewise, contemplating the soul or spirit as representing that which is immaterial in man, we read that the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit unto God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7); and there are those who are able to kill the body who are not able to kill the soul (Matthew 10:28). It was when God breathed the breath of life into the material body that man became a "living soul" (Genesis 2:7; note, also, 2 Corinthians 5:8; 3 John 1:2).
1. When considering the immaterial part of man, it should be observed that the Scriptures, while sometimes using the terms interchangeably (Compare Genesis 41:8 with Psalm 42:6; John 12:27 with John 13:21; Matthew 20:28 with Matthew 27:50; Hebrews 12:23 with Revelation 6:9), even applying these terms to God on the one hand (Isaiah 42:1; Jeremiah 9:9; Hebrews 10:38), and to the brute creation on the other hand (Ecclesiastes 3:21; Revelation 16:3), do distinguish between the spirit and the soul of man (1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 4:12). Though the highest functions of the immaterial part of man are sometimes attributed to the spirit and sometimes to the soul (Mark 8:36-37; 12:30; Luke 1:46; Hebrews 6:18-19; James 1:21), the spirit is usually mentioned in the Scriptures as that part of man which is capable of contemplating God, and the soul as that part of man which is related to self and the various functions of the intellect, sensibilities and will.
There are three main theories as to the origin of the soul and spirit:
(1) The Pre-existence theory, which contends that the soul and spirit of man have existed eternally, and is only incarnated in the body at the beginning of the human existence. This doctrine is not held by evangelical bodies.
(2) The Creation theory, which contends that the soul and spirit of man are directly and individually created by God at the beginning of human existence. This theory, though held by some evangelical Christians, fails, since by it the body alone is supposed to be propagated, and therefore is solely responsible for the continuance of the effect of the Fall.
(3) The Traducian theory, which contends that the soul and spirit, like the body, were potentially created in Adam, and are alike propagated by the natural laws of generation. This theory is Biblical. God is said to have breathed only once into man the breath of life, and after this He ceased creation (Genesis 2:2). Thus, and only thus, the fall of man, which so evidently affects the soul and spirit, is transmitted from generation to generation.
2. When considering the Scripture teaching regarding the material part of man, we note certain facts:
(1) The terms "the body" and "the flesh" are not synonymous. The body is only the house of the soul, while the flesh (when that term is used in its ethical sense) includes spirit, soul, and body—or all that composes the unregenerate man.
(2) The body of the saved one is especially considered (2 Corinthians 5:6, 8; 12:2-3; James 2:26). It is a "temple" (1 Corinthians 6:19; John 2:21; Philippians 1:20), an "earthen vessel" (2 Corinthians 4:7), a body of limitations (Philippians 2:21), to be mortified (Romans 8:13; Colossians 3:5), it was buffeted by Paul (1 Corinthians 9:27), and it is to be changed at the return of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:51-53). The body, as well as the soul or spirit, is to be sanctified, saved, redeemed, and finally glorified forever (Luke 24:39; Romans 8:13; 1 Corinthians 6:13-20; Philippians 3:20-21), This mortal shall put on immortality, and this corruptible shall put on incorruption.
(3) Mention is also made of Christ's physical body, which was "broken" for us, and His spiritual body, which is the Church.
The student of the Scriptures should consider the estate of Adam (1) before the fall, and (2) after the fall, and (3) the effect upon the race of Adam's fall.
In words of peculiar simplicity, the Bible introduces the first man and the woman whom God provided to be his helpmeet. These two were joined as one and in the divine consideration the unit is that which is formed by this union. Both the man and the woman sinned and fell, but this combined fall is referred to in the Bible as the fall of man. No calculations are possible as to the length of time in which the first man and first woman remained unfallen; but they remained unfallen long enough, it is evident, to become accustomed to the situation in which they were placed, to regard carefully and name the living creatures, and to have experienced fellowship with God. It is said that man as created, like all the works of God, was "very good"; that is, they were well pleasing to the Creator. This implies no more than that they were innocent, which is a negative term and suggests that they had not committed sin. Holiness, which is the primary attribute of God, is a positive term and indicates that He is incapable of sinning.
While man was made in the image of God in respect to personality and spiritual capacity, he was and is a creature. And though the Creator, being holy, cannot sin, the creature, whether it be angel or man, is by the divine plan in creation made with the ability to sin. Among the angels, Satan sinned (Ezekiel 28:15; Isaiah 14:12-14), and many other angels sinned, of whom it is written that they "kept not their first estate" (Jude 1:6). We should also observe that, in reality, man did not originate sin; it was recommended by Satan and adopted by man (Genesis 3:4-7). By this action, the moral nature of man—intellect, sensibilities, and will—is manifested, and, hearing the voice of God, his conscience prompted him to hide from the divine presence. It is therefore clear that at the beginning man was in possession of these faculties as he is today.
By sinning, the first man lost his blessed estate as he was created and became subject to certain far-reaching changes:
1. He became subject to both spiritual and physical death. God had said, "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Genesis 2:17); and this divine declaration was fulfilled. Adam and Eve passed immediately into spiritual death, which means separation from God. In due time they also suffered the penalty of physical death, which means the separation of the soul from the body.
2. The very creation itself was changed by the sin of man. Briars and thorns were introduced, labor and sorrow were added, and the enjoyment of Eden was withdrawn.
In contemplating the effect upon the race of Adam's sin, we are confronted with the doctrine of "Imputation," which is one of the most profound doctrines in the Scriptures. It is an advantage to consider this doctrine in general before any particular form of the imputation of sin is studied.
Three imputations are set forth in the Scriptures:
(1) The sin of Adam is imputed to his posterity (Romans 5:12-14)
(2) the sin of man is imputed to Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21)
(3) the righteousness of God is imputed to those who believe (Genesis 15:6; Psalm 32:2; Romans 3:22; 4:3, 8, 21-25; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Philemon 1:17-18).
It is obvious that there was a judicial transfer of the sin of man to Christ the Sin-Bearer. Jehovah hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:5; John 1:29; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18). So, in like manner, there is a judicial transfer of the righteousness of God to the believer (2 Corinthians 5:21); for there could be no other grounds of justification or acceptance with God. This imputation belongs to the new relationship within the New Creation. Being joined to the Lord by the baptism with the Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17; 12:13; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 3:27), and vitally related to Christ as a member in His body (Ephesians 5:30), it follows that every virtue of Christ is extended to those who have become an organic part of Him. The believer is "in Christ" and thus partakes of all that Christ is.
In like manner, the facts of the old creation are actually transferred to those who by natural generation are "in Adam." They become possessed of the Adamic nature and themselves are said to have sinned in him. This is as real in constituting a sufficient ground for divine judgment as the imputation of the righteousness of God in Christ is a sufficient ground for justification, and the result is the divine judgment upon the race whether they have sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression or not. Though men contend, as they do, that they are not responsible for Adam's sin, the divine revelation stands that because of the far-reaching effect of representation through the federal headship, Adam's one initial sin is immediately and directly imputed to each member of the race with the unvarying sentence of death resting upon all (Romans 5:12-14). Likewise by the fall of Adam the effect of the one initial sin is transmuted in the form of a sin nature mediately, or by inheritance, from father to son throughout all generations. The effect of the fall is universal; so, also, the offer of divine grace.
Men do not now fall by their first sin; they are born fallen sons of Adam. They do not become sinful by sinning, but they sin because by nature they are sinful. No child needs to be taught to sin, but every child must be encouraged to be good.
It should be observed that, though the fall of Adam rests upon the race, there is evident divine provision for innocent infants and all who are irresponsible.
The holy judgments of God must rest upon all men out of Christ
(1) because of imputed sin
(2) because of an inherited sin nature
(3) because they are under sin
(4) because of their own personal sins.
Though these holy judgments of God cannot be diminished, the sinner may be saved from them through Christ. This is the good news of the gospel.
The penalty resting on the old creation is
(1) physical death, which is separation of the soul from the body
(2) spiritual death, which (like Adam's) is the present estate of the lost and is the separation of the soul from God (Ephesians 2:1; 4:18, 19)
(3) the second death, which is the eternal separation of the soul from God and banishment from His presence forever (Revelation 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8).
Being one of the greatest and most determinative facts in the world, sin, like the other important facts in its class, is not only a major theme of the Word of God, but it is the subject of almost endless human speculation. Sin is a fact to be accounted for. The failure of human speculation as compared to the finality of divine revelation on this theme should be familiar to all. Since the fact and effect of sin reach back into the unknown past and on into eternity as qualifying factors of all human experience, we should not be surprised to discover that, even with the aid of divine revelation, we confront some mysteries which are insoluble to the finite mind.
1. It was the belief of the Ancients and continues with many until now that sin is merely sensuousness. The body was thought to be the occasion of all temptation and the executor of all evil desire. This was a feature of Plato's philosophy, and the suggested cure of sin was to weaken its instrument; hence it was taught that the body should be despised and neglected. But the worst of human sins—avarice, envy, pride, malice, cruelty, self-righteousness, unbelief and hatred of God—are wholly sins of the soul and are not related to the body.
2. It is claimed by so-called modernists that sin is merely finiteness, or that which is incident to imperfect development. As men creep before they walk, so they sin before they learn righteousness. The fall, therefore, was upward. If this theory were true, the cultured and civilized would be more righteous than the ignorant; a world war could not be begun by the most educated nation on earth; and Satan, who is "full of wisdom" (Ezekiel 28:12), must be as holy as he is wise. By this theory, the blame for sin is subtly transferred from man to God.
3. That sin is merely selfishness is the claim of others. It is true that selfishness is sin; but it is far from sufficient to say that sin is merely selfishness. Those who seek to establish this theory—and it is often presented by earnest advocates of God's truth—say that since the chief commandment is to love God, so the chief sin, and root sin, must be to love self. But, again, there may be no selfishness in unbelief, malice, or hatred of God.
While various sins are defined in the Word of God, we conclude from the teaching of the Scriptures that sin is any want of conformity to the character of God, whether it be in act, disposition, or state.
Sin is sinful because it is different from what God is; and God is holy because holiness is infinitely desirable. Holiness is an eternal fact. Should God desire to be sinful He would not thereby make sin to become holiness nor holiness to become sin. However, though holiness is an unchanging virtue, we are not dealing with an abstract virtue, but rather with the living God who has caused these things to be. Sin is always against God (Psalm 51:4; Luke 15:18). To sin is to be unlike God, therefore it is to displease God.
Sin cannot rightfully be limited to those things merely which are contrary to the revealed law of God; at best we can know but little of all that God is. Sin, therefore, goes beyond all laws and includes all that is not in conformity with the character of God.
There are four distinct classifications of sin, which, in turn, form the basis of the divine condemnation of mankind.
Imputation means to reckon over to, or to attribute something to, a person. The original Greek word occurs eleven times in the fourth Chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. There are three major imputations set forth in the Scriptures:
(a) the imputation of Adam's sin to the race, on which fact the doctrine of original sin is based
(b) the imputation of the sin of man to Christ, on which fact the doctrine of salvation is based
(c) the imputation of the righteousness of God to those who believe on Christ, on which fact the doctrine of justification is based.
Again, imputation may be either (a) actual, or (b) judicial.
Actual imputation is the reckoning to one of that which is antecedently his own. Though He might righteously do so, yet because of the reconciling work of Christ, God is not now imputing to man the sin which is antecedently his own (2 Corinthians 5:19).
Judicial imputation is the reckoning to one of that which is not antecedently his own (Philemon 1:18).
Though there has been disagreement as to whether the imputation of Adam's sin to each member of the race is actual or judicial, Romans 5:12 clearly states that the imputation is actual, since in the federal-head representation, Adam's posterity sinned when he sinned. The next two verses are written to prove that this is not a reference to personal sins. (See Hebrews 7:9-10.) However, Romans 5: 17-18 imply that this imputation is also judicial where it is stated that by one man's sin judgment came upon all men. Only the one, initial sin of Adam is in question. Its effect is death—both to Adam and directly from Adam to each member of the race. The divinely provided cure for imputed sin is the gift of God which is eternal life through Jesus Christ.
Adam's one initial sin caused him to fall and in the fall he became an entirely different being, depraved and degenerate, and only capable of begetting posterity like his fallen self. Therefore, every child of Adam is born with the Adamic nature, is ever and always prone to sin, and, though this nature was judged by Christ on the cross (Romans 6:10), it remains a vitally active force in every Christian's life. It is never said to be removed or eradicated in this life, but for the Christian there is overcoming power provided through the indwelling Spirit (Romans 8:4; Galatians 5:16-17).
Though both imputed sin and the sin nature are the direct result of Adam's one, initial sin, it is important to distinguish between imputed sin which is the immediate cause of death in the case of each individual person, and an imparted sin nature which is received by inheritance and remains a vital force for evil throughout this life.
By a divine reckoning the whole world, including Jew and Gentile, are now "under sin" (Romans 3:9; Galatians 3:22; Romans 11:32). To be under sin is to be divinely reckoned to be without merit which might contribute toward salvation. Since salvation is by grace alone and grace excludes all human merit, God has decreed, as regards their salvation, all to be "under sin," or without merit. This judicial reckoning is evidently limited to this age of grace, since of no other age could it be said that there is no difference in the divine estimation of Jew and Gentile (cf. Ephesians 2:12-13, with Romans 9:4-5). This estate under sin is remedied only when the individual, through riches of grace, is reckoned to stand in the merit of Christ.
This form of sin includes everything in the daily life which is against, or fails to conform to, the character of God. It is that form of sin concerning which men are conscious and, being also universal, there is but one cure—divine forgiveness and justification through Christ.
While in the Biblical doctrine of sin there are certain distinctions, two universal facts should first be noted:
1. Sin is always equally sinful whether it be committed by the heathen or the civilized, the unregenerate or the regenerate. The question of many stripes or few is one of the judgments to be imposed upon the sinner; but any sin in itself is unvaryingly sinful because it outrages the holiness of God.
2. Sin can be cured only on the ground of the shed blood of the Son of God. This was as true of those who anticipated the death of Christ by animal sacrifices as it is now of those who look back to that death by faith. Divine forgiveness has never been a mere act of leniency in remitting the penalty of sin. If the penalty is remitted, it is because Another as a substitute has met the holy demands against the sinner. In the old order it was only after the priest had offered the atoning blood-sacrifice, which anticipated the death of Christ, that the sinner was forgiven (Leviticus 6:7; 4:20, 26, 31, 35; 5:10, 13, 16, 18; 19:22; Numbers 15:25-26, 28). Likewise, after Christ has died the same truth obtains. We read: "In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins" (Colossians 1:14; Ephesians 1:7).
The substitutionary work of Christ upon the cross is infinitely perfect in its sufficiency, therefore the sinner who trusts in Christ not only is forgiven, but he is even justified forever (Romans 3:24). God has never treated sin lightly. Forgiveness may impose no burden on the sinner, but he is forgiven and justified only because the undiminished divine penalty has been borne by Christ (1 Peter 2:24; 3:18).
1. The divine method of dealing with sin before the cross is said to have been by atonement, which word, in its Biblical use, means simply to cover. The blood of bulls and goats could not, and did not, take away sin (Hebrews 10:4). The offering of sacrificial blood indicated on the part of the sinner the acknowledgment of the just penalty of death (Leviticus 1:4), and, on the part of God, the sacrifice anticipated the efficacious blood of Christ. By symbolizing the shed blood of Christ, the atoning blood of the sacrifices served to cover sin, as it were, in covenant promise until that day when Christ would deal in finality with the sin of the world.
Two New Testament passages throw light upon the meaning of the Old Testament word atonement or covering:
(1) In Romans 3:25 the word "remission" has the meaning of "passing over" and in this connection it is stated that when Christ died He proved God to have been righteous in having passed over the sins which were committed before the cross and for which the atoning blood of the sacrifices had been shed. God had promised a sufficient Lamb, and had forgiven sin on the strength of that promise. Therefore, by the death of Christ, God was proven to have been righteous in all that He had promised.
(2) In Acts 17:30 it is stated that, before the cross, God "winked at" sin. This word should be translated "overlooked."
2. The divine method of dealing with sin since the cross is stated in Romans 3:26. Christ has died. No longer is the value of His sacrifice a matter of expectation to be taken in covenant and symbolized by the blood of animals; the blood of Christ has been shed, and now all that can be asked of any person, regardless of his degree of guilt, is that he believe in the thing which, in infinite grace, has been accomplished for him. This passage declares that Christ upon the cross so answered the divine judgment against every sinner that God can remain just, or uncompromised in His holiness, when at the same time and apart from all penalties, He justifies the sinner who does no more than believe in Jesus.
As before stated, the word atonement, which occurs only in the Old Testament, indicated the "passing over," "overlooking," and "covering" of sin; but Christ in dealing with sin on the cross did not pass it over or cover it. Of His sufficient sacrifice it is said: "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29; Colossians 2:14; Hebrews 10:4; 1 John 3:5). "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree" (1 Peter 2:24). There was no temporizing or partial dealing with sin at the cross. This great issue between God and man was there dealt with in a manner which is satisfying even to the infinite holiness of God, and the only question that remains is whether man is satisfied with the thing which satisfies God. To accept the work of Christ for us is to believe upon the Saviour to the saving of the soul.
1. The forgiveness of sin is accomplished for the sinner when he believes upon Christ and is a part of his salvation. Many things which constitute salvation are wrought of God at the moment one believes; but forgiveness is never received by the unsaved apart from the whole work of saving grace, and on the ground of believing on Christ as Saviour.
2. In the divine dealing with the sins of the Christian, it is the sin question alone that is in view, and the Christian's sin is forgiven, not on the ground of believing unto salvation, but on the ground of confessing the sin (1 John 1:9).
The effect of the Christian's sin, among other things, is the loss of fellowship with the Father and the Son, and the grieving of the indwelling Spirit. The child of God who has sinned will be restored to fellowship, joy, blessing, and power, when he confesses his sin.
While the effect of sin upon the believer is the loss of blessing, which blessing may be renewed by confession, the effect of the believer's sin upon God is a far more serious matter. But for the value of the shed-blood of Christ and the present advocacy of Christ in Heaven (1 John 3:1-2; Romans 8:34; Hebrews 9:24), sin would separate Christians from God forever. However, we are assured that the blood is efficacious (1 John 2:2) and the Advocate's cause is righteous (1 John 2:1). The sinning saint is not lost because of his sin, since, even while sinning, he has an Advocate with the Father. This truth which alone forms the basis on which any Christian has ever been kept saved for a moment, so far from encouraging Christians to sin, is presented in the Scriptures to the end that the Christian "sin not," or "be not sinning" (1 John 2:1). Beholding the Saviour advocating for us in Heaven must cause us to hesitate before every solicitation to sin.
The words law and grace represent widely differing methods of divine dealing with men. It is therefore well first to consider them separately:
When used to indicate a rule of life, the word "law" has various meanings:
(1) The Ten Commandments, which were written by the finger of God on tables of stone (Exodus 31:18).
(2) The whole system of government for Israel when in the land which included the Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17), the Judgments (Exodus 21:1 to Exodus 24:11), and the Ordinances (Exodus 24:12 to Exodus 31:18).
(3) The governing principles of the yet future kingdom of the Messiah in the earth, which are in no way gracious in character, but rather are said to be the fulfilling of the law and the prophets (Matthew 5:1 to Matthew 7:29. Note Matthew 5:17-18; 7:12).
(4) Any aspect of the revealed will of God for men (Romans 7:22, 25; 8:4).
(5) Any rule of conduct prescribed by men for their own government (2 Timothy 2:5; Matthew 20:15; Luke 20:22). The word "law" is also used a few times of a force in operation (Romans 7:21; 8:2).
Under this conception of the law, its scope is extended beyond the actual writings of the Mosaic system and the Kingdom law, and includes any human action which is attempted (whether in conformity to a precept of the Scriptures or not), with a view to securing favor with God. The law formula is "If you will do good, I will bless you." Thus the highest ideal of heavenly conduct, if undertaken with a view to securing favor with God instead of being undertaken because one has already secured favor through Christ, becomes purely legal in its character.
The law provided no enablement for its observance. No more was expected or secured in return from its commands than the natural man in his environment could provide. Therefore, whatever is undertaken in the energy of the flesh is legal in its nature, whether it be the whole revealed will of God, the actual written commandments contained in the law, the exhortations of grace, or any spiritual activity whatsoever.
For the child of God under grace, every aspect of the law is now done away (John 1:16-17; Romans 6:14; 7:1-6; 2 Corinthians 3:1-18; Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 2:14; Galatians 3:19-25).
(1) The legal commands of the Mosaic system and the commands which are to govern in the kingdom are not now the guiding principles of the Christian. They have been superseded by a new and gracious rule of conduct which includes in itself all that is vital in the law, but restates it under the peculiar order and character of grace.
(2) The child of God under grace has been delivered from the burden of a covenant of works. He is not now striving to be accepted, but rather is free to live as one who is accepted in Christ (Ephesians 1:6).
(3) The child of God is not now called upon to live by the energy of his own flesh. He has been delivered from this feature of the law, and may live in the power of the indwelling Spirit. Since the written law was addressed to Israel, she alone could be delivered from the written commandments of Moses by the death of Christ. However, both Jew and Gentile were delivered by that death from the hopeless principle of human merit, and from the useless struggle of the flesh.
This word, which in salvation truth has but the one meaning of unmerited favor, represents a divine method of dealing with men which has obtained from Adam until the present time, except for the intrusion of the law system which was in force in the time between Moses and Christ. Under grace, God does not treat men as they deserve, but He treats them in infinite grace, without reference to their deserts. This He is free to do on the ground of the fact that the righteous punishment for sin which His holiness would otherwise impose upon sinners as their just desert was to be borne, or has been borne, for the sinner by the Son of God.
In Exodus 19:3-25 a record is given of Israel's choice by which they passed from a grace relationship to God into a law relationship. In each instance they were sinners, but through sovereign grace and in spite of their sin God had been able to bear them on eagles' wings and bring them to Himself (Exodus 19:4). God proposed the law to them, but did not impose the law on them (Exodus 19:5-7), which law the people accepted (Exodus 19:8). Thus they deliberately forsook their priceless position under grace, which was according to the covenant made with Abraham, and assumed the impossible responsibility of law by which they must stand or fall before God on the basis of their own merit. Immediately upon this choice God became unapproachable (Exodus 19:9-24), though before, He had brought them to himself on eagles' wings. The nation thus fell from grace by choosing a covenant of works in place of the gracious mercy of God. The experience of that nation is the experience of every individual who trusts in his own good works or merit, and does not depend on the boundless grace of God, which in Christ Jesus is provided for and offered to all.
Divine grace is three-fold in its operation:
God saves sinners by grace, and there is no other way of salvation offered to men (Acts 4:12). Saving grace is the limitless, unrestrained love of God for the lost acting in compliance with the exact and unchangeable demands of His own righteousness through the sacrificial death of Christ. Grace is more than love; it is love set free and made to be a triumphant victor over the righteous judgments of God against the sinner. When saving a sinner by grace, it is necessary that God shall have dealt with every sin, which would otherwise demand judgment and thereby hinder His grace. This He has wrought in the death of His Son. It is also necessary that every obligation shall be cancelled, and to this end salvation has been made an absolute gift from God (Ephesians 2:8; John 10:28; Romans 6:23). Likewise, it is necessary that every human merit shall be set aside, lest the thing which God accomplishes shall be in any measure based on the merit of men, and not on His sovereign grace alone (Romans 3:9; 11:32; Galatians 3:22). Since every human element is excluded, the Gospel of grace is the proclamation of the mighty, redeeming, transforming grace of God, which offers eternal life and eternal glory to all who will believe.
It is through grace alone that God keeps those who are saved. Having provided a way whereby He can act in freedom from His own righteous demands against sin, having disposed of every human obligation for payment, and having set aside eternally every human merit, God has only to continue the exercise of grace toward the saved one to secure his safe-keeping forever. This He does, and the child of God is said to stand in grace (Romans 5:2; 1 Peter 5:12).
God teaches those who are saved and kept how they should live in grace, and how they may live to His eternal glory.
As the law provided a complete rule of conduct for Israel, so God has provided a complete rule of conduct for the Christian. Since each and all rules of life which are presented in the Bible are complete in themselves, it is not necessary that they shall be combined. Therefore the child of God is not under law as a rule of life, but he is under the counsels of grace. What he does under grace is not done to secure the favor of God, but it is done because he is already accepted in the Beloved. It is not undertaken in the energy of the flesh, but it is the outliving and manifestation of the power of the indwelling Spirit. It is a life which is lived on the principle of faith. "The just shall live by faith." These principles are stated in portions of the Gospels and the Epistles.
The divine revelation concerning salvation should be mastered by every child of God
(1) since personal salvation depends on it
(2) it is the one message which God has committed to the believer to proclaim to the world
(3) it alone discloses the full measure of God's love.
According to its largest meaning as used in the Scriptures, the word salvation represents the whole work of God by which He rescues man from the eternal ruin and doom of sin and bestows on him the riches of His grace, even eternal life now and eternal glory in Heaven. "Salvation is of the Lord" (Jonah 2:9). Therefore, it is in every aspect a work of God in behalf of man, and is in no sense a work of man in behalf of God. Certain details of this divine undertaking have varied from age to age. We are assured that, beginning with Adam and continuing to Christ, those individuals who put their trust in God were spiritually renewed and made heirs of Heaven's glory. Likewise, the nation Israel will yet be spiritually born in a time as brief as the beat of a foot (Isaiah 66:8 Lit.). It is also said of the multitudes who are to live on the earth during the coming kingdom that all shall know the Lord from the least unto the greatest (Jeremiah 31:34). However, the salvation which is offered to men in the present age is not only more fully revealed in the Bible as to its details, but it far exceeds every other saving work of God in the marvels which it accomplishes; for, as offered in the present age, salvation includes every phase of the gracious work of God.
There are certain Scriptures which, when speaking of salvation, refer to it as being wholly past, or completed for the one who has believed (Luke 7:50; 1 Corinthians 1:18; 2 Corinthians 2:15; Ephesians 2:5, 8), and so perfect is this divine work that the saved one is said to be safe forever (John 5:24; 10:28-29; Romans 8:1, R.V.).
This aspect of salvation, which is the theme of the next Chapter, has to do with present salvation from the reigning power of sin (Romans 6:14; Philippians 1:19; 2:12-13; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Romans 8:2; Galatians 2:19, 20; 2 Corinthians 3:18).
The believer will yet be saved into full conformity to Christ (Romans 8:29; 13:11; 1 Peter 1:5; 1 John 3:2). The fact that some aspects of salvation are yet to be accomplished for the one who believes does not imply that there is ground for doubt as to its ultimate completion; for it is nowhere taught that any feature of salvation depends upon the faithfulness of man. God is faithful, and, having begun a good work, He will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).
When contemplating the work of God for lost men, it is important to distinguish between the finished work of Christ for all, which is completed to infinite perfection, and the saving work of God which is wrought for, and in, the individual at the moment he believes on Christ.
"It is finished" is the last recorded word of Christ before His death (John 19:30). It is evident that He was not referring to His own life, His service, or His suffering; but rather to a special work which His Father had given Him to do, which did not even begin until He was on the cross and which was completed when He died. This was distinctly a work for the whole world (John 3:16; Hebrews 2:9), and, in a provisionary sense, provided redemption (1 Timothy 2:6), reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:19), and propitiation (1 John 2:2) for every man. The fact that Christ died does not save men, but it provides a sufficient ground upon which God in full harmony with His holiness is free to save even the chief of sinners. This is the good news which the Christian is appointed to proclaim to all the world. The blood of God's only and well-beloved Son was the most precious thing before His eyes, yet it was paid to ransom the sinner. The offense of sin had separated the sinner from God, yet God provided His own Lamb to bear away the sin forever. The holy judgments of God were against the sinner because of his sin, yet Christ became the propitiation for the sin of the whole world. The fact that all of this is already finished constitutes a message which the sinner is asked to believe on the testimony of God. One can scarcely be said to have believed who, having heard this message, has not experienced a sense of relief that the sin question has thus been adjusted, and a sense of gratitude to God for this priceless blessing.
The saving work of God which is accomplished the moment one believes includes various phases of God's gracious work: redemption, reconciliation, propitiation, forgiveness, regeneration, imputation, justification, sanctification, perfection, glorification. By it we are made meet (Colossians 1:12), made accepted (Ephesians 1:6), made the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21), made nigh (Ephesians 2:13), made sons of God (John 1:12), made citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20, R.V.), made a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), made members of the family and household of God (Ephesians 2:19; 3:15), and made complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10). The child of God has been delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son (Colossians 1:13), and he now possesses every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3).
Among the stupendous works of God just mentioned, the guilt and penalty of sin is seen to have been removed; for it is said of the saved one that he is both forgiven all trespasses and is justified forever. God could not forgive and justify apart from the cross of Christ; but since Christ has died, God is able to save to the uttermost all who come to Him by Christ Jesus.
In the New Testament in about one hundred and fifteen passages, the salvation of a sinner is declared to depend only upon believing, and in about thirty-five passages to depend on faith, which is a synonym of believing. The Scriptures everywhere harmonize with this overwhelming body of truth. God alone can save a soul and God can save only through the sacrifice of His Son. Man can sustain no other relation to salvation than to believe God's message to the extent of turning from self-works to depend only on the work of God through Christ. Believing is the opposite of doing anything; it is trusting another instead. Therefore, the Scriptures are violated and the whole doctrine of grace confused when salvation is made to depend on anything other than believing. The divine message is not "believe and pray," "believe and confess sin," "believe and confess Christ," "believe and be baptized," "believe and repent," or "believe and make restitution." These six added subjects are mentioned in the Scriptures and there they have their full intended meaning; but if they were as essential to salvation as believing they would never be omitted from any passage wherein the way to be saved is stated (note John 1:12; 3:16, 36; 5:24; 6:29; 20:31; Acts 16:31; Romans 1:16; 3:22; 4:5, 24; 5:1; 10:4; Galatians 3:22). Salvation is only through Christ, and men are therefore saved when they receive Him as their Saviour.
Since salvation from the power of sin is God's gracious provision for those whom He has already saved from the guilt and penalty of sin, this doctrine, in its application, is limited to Christians. Though saved and safe in Christ, Christians still have the disposition to sin, and do sin. To these facts both the Scriptures and human experience give abundant proof. Based upon the fact that Christians sin, the New Testament proceeds to explain the divinely provided way of deliverance.
Having supposed that a Christian would neither sin nor be disposed to sin, many young believers are confused and alarmed—even doubting their own salvation—when they discover the reigning power of sin in their lives. Well may they be alarmed at sin, for it outrages the holiness of God; but in place of doubt as to salvation or yielding to the practice of sin they should learn God's gracious provisions whereby there is deliverance.
As it is in the preaching of the Gospel, so it is in the presentation of the doctrine of divine deliverance, the need of accuracy of statement is as imperative as the value of a soul. The state demands extended preparation and examination before men are permitted to prescribe for the ills of the body. How much more serious it is to prescribe for the ills of the soul; yet how carelessly and inaccurately these eternal issues are often presented! Next to the way of salvation there is no more important theme to be mastered by the human mind than the divine plan whereby a Christian may live to the glory of God. Ignorance and error may result in a spiritual malpractice with its blasting effects reaching on into eternity.
Having received the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) while still retaining the old nature, every child of God possesses two natures; one is incapable of sinning, and the other is incapable of holiness. The old nature, sometimes called "sin" (meaning the source of sin), and "old man," is a part of the flesh; for, in Scriptural usage, the term flesh, when used in a moral sense, refers to the spirit and soul, as well as the body—especially of the unregenerate man. Therefore, the Apostle Paul states: "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing" (Romans 7:18). On the other hand, when considering the imparted divine nature, the Apostle John writes: "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit [practice] sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God" (1 John 3:9). This Scripture teaches that every Christian, being born of God, does not practice sin. Reference is made in the text to the divine Seed which is in him, which Seed cannot sin. However, it should be observed that it is this same Epistle which warns every child of God against professing that he has no sin nature (1 John 1:8), or that he has not sinned (1 John 1:10).
These two sources of action in the believer are again considered in Galatians 5:17, where both the Holy Spirit and the flesh are seen constantly to be active and in unceasing conflict: "For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other." The Apostle is not writing here of the carnal Christian, but of the most spiritual, even of the one who is not fulfilling the lust of the flesh (Galatians 5:16). In such a one this conflict exists, and though he is delivered from the lust of the flesh, it is because he is walking in dependence upon the Spirit.
Various teachings are abroad which purport to secure deliverance for the Christian from the power of sin:
1. It is claimed that the Christian will be compelled to live to the glory of God if he observes sufficient rules. This law-principle is doomed to fail because it depends upon the very flesh from which deliverance is sought (Romans 6:14).
2. It is widely claimed that the Christian may seek and secure the eradication of the old nature, being thus permanently free from the power of sin. There are objections to this theory:
(a.) There is no Scripture upon which the theory of eradication may be based.
(b.) The old nature is a part of the flesh and will naturally be dealt with as God deals with the flesh. The flesh is one of the Christian's mighty foes—the world, the flesh, and the devil. God does not eradicate the world, or the flesh, or the devil; but He provides victory over these by His Spirit (1 John 5:4; 4:4; Galatians 5:16). In like manner, He provides victory over the old nature by the Spirit (Romans 6:14; 8:2).
(c.) No actual human experience confirms the theory of eradication, and were that theory true, parents of this class would give birth to unfallen children.
(d.) Likewise, when this theory is accepted, there remains no place for, and no meaning to, the ministry of the indwelling Spirit. On the contrary, the most spiritual Christians are warned concerning the necessity of walking by the Spirit, reckoning, yielding, not letting sin reign, putting off, mortifying, and abiding.
3. Again, sometimes the Christian supposes that, apart from the Spirit and simply because he is saved, he can live to the glory of God. In Romans 7:15 to Romans 8:4 the Apostle records his own experience with this theory. He states that he knew what was good, but he did not know how to perform what he knew (Romans 7:18). He therefore concluded
(1) that at his best he was always defeated because of an ever-present law of sin in his members warring against his mind (Romans 7:23)
(2) such an estate is wretched (Romans 7:24)
(3) though saved, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made him free, and not his own works (Romans 8:2)
(4) the whole will of God is fulfilled in the believer, but never fulfilled by the believer (Romans 8:4).
In Romans 7:25 it is stated that deliverance from the power of sin is through—not by—Jesus Christ our Lord. Since a problem related to the holiness of God is involved, deliverance can only be through Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit could not take control of an unjudged fallen nature; but it is stated in Romans 6:1-10 that the believer's fallen nature has been judged by co-crucifixion, co-death, and co-burial with Christ, making it morally possible for the indwelling Holy Spirit to give victory. Under these provisions, the believer may walk in the power of a new life principle which is by dependence upon the Spirit alone, and should reckon himself to be dead indeed unto sin (Romans 6:4, 11). Thus it is that deliverance is by the Spirit through Christ.
"If by means of the Spirit ye are walking, ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16, lit.). Salvation from the power of sin, like salvation from the penalty of sin, is of God, and depends, on the human side, upon on attitude of faith; as salvation from the penalty of sin depends on an act of faith. The justified one shall live by faith—faith which depends on the power of another—and the justified one will never know a time in this life when he will need to depend less on the Spirit.
1. Under the teachings of grace, a believer faces an impossible heavenly standard of life; being a citizen of Heaven (Philippians 3:20), a member of the Body of Christ (Ephesians 5:30), and of the household and family of God (Ephesians 2:19; 3:15), the child of God is called upon to act in accordance with his heavenly position. Since this is a superhuman manner of life (John 13:34; Ephesians 4:30; 2 Corinthians 10:5; Ephesians 5:20; 1 Peter 2:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17; Ephesians 4:1-3), he must depend on the indwelling Spirit (Romans 8:4).
2. The Christian faces Satan—the world-ruling foe. Because of this, he must be "strong in the Lord" (Ephesians 6:10-12; 1 John 4:4; Jude 1:9).
3. And, as has been seen, the Christian possesses the old nature which he is powerless to control.
A vital difference between God and man which the Scriptures emphasize is that God is righteous (1 John 1:5) while the fundamental charge against man as recorded in Romans 3:10 is that "there is none righteous, no, not one." So, also, one of the glories of divine grace is the fact that a perfect righteousness, likened to a spotless wedding garment, has been provided and is freely bestowed upon all who believe (Romans 3:22).
The Scriptures distinguish four aspects of righteousness:
This attribute of God is unchanging and unchangeable. He is infinitely righteous in His own Being and infinitely righteous in all His ways.
It is impossible for Him to deviate from His righteousness by so much as the "shadow of turning" (James 1:17). He cannot look on sin with the least degree of allowance. Therefore, since all men are sinners both by nature and by practise, the divine judgment has come upon all men unto condemnation. The acceptance of this truth is vital to any right understanding of the Gospel of divine grace.
It must also be recognized that God is incapable of slighting sin, or merely forgiving sin in leniency. The triumph of the Gospel is not in the belittling of sin on the part of God; it is rather in the fact that all those judgments which infinite righteousness must of necessity impose upon the sinner have been borne in substitution by God's provided Lamb, and that this is a plan of God's own devising which according to His own standards of righteousness is sufficient for all who believe. By this plan God can satisfy His love in saving the sinner without infringing upon His own unchangeable righteousness; and the sinner, utterly hopeless in himself, can pass out from all condemnation (John 3:18; 5:24; Romans 8:1; 1 Corinthians 11:32).
It is not unusual for men to conceive of God as a righteous Being; but they often fail to recognize the fact that, when He undertakes to save the sinful, the righteousness of God is not and cannot be diminished.
In complete accord with the revelation that God is supremely righteous, there is the corresponding revelation that, in the sight of God, the righteousness of man is as "filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6). Though the sinful estate of man is constantly declared throughout the Scriptures, there is no description more complete and final than is found in Romans 3:9-18, and it should be noted that this, as all other estimates of sin which are recorded in the Bible, is a description of sin as God sees it. Men have erected legitimate standards for the family, for society, and for the state; but these are no part of the basis upon which man must stand and by which he must be judged before God. In their relation to God, men are not wise when thus comparing themselves with themselves (2 Corinthians 10:12); for not merely those who are condemned by society are lost, but those who are condemned by the unalterable righteousness of God (Romans 3:23). There is therefore no hope for any individual outside the provisions of God's grace; for none can enter Heaven's glory who are not as acceptable to God as Christ. For this need God has made abundant provision.
The Bible doctrine of Imputation transcends all other themes concerning the Christian, and because it has no comparisons in things of this world, it is not easily comprehended.
As Adam's sin is imputed to the human race to the end that all are constituted sinners by nature (Romans 5:12-21), and as the sin of man was imputed to Christ to the end that He became a sin-offering for the whole world (2 Corinthians 5:14, 21; Hebrews 2:9; 1 John 2:2), so, also, the righteousness of God is imputed to all who believe to the end that they may stand before God in all the perfection of Christ. By this divine provision those who are saved are said to have been "made" the righteousness of God (1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Since it is the righteousness of God and not of man and since it is said to be apart from all self works or deeds of law observance (Romans 3:21), obviously this imputed righteousness is not something wrought out by man. Being the righteousness of God, it is not increased by the goodness of the one to whom it is imputed, nor is it decreased by his badness.
In like manner, this righteousness, though it is termed "the righteousness of God" is in no way to be confused with the fact that God is Himself righteous. It is rather a quality which is imputed to the believer from God on the basis of the fact that the believer is, through the baptism with the Spirit, in Christ. Through that vital union to Christ by the Spirit, the believer becomes related to Christ as a member in His body (1 Corinthians 12:13), and as a branch in the True Vine (John 15:1, 5). Because of the reality of this union, God sees the believer as a living part of His own Son. He therefore loves him as He loves His Son (John 17:23), He accepts him as He accepts His own Son (Ephesians 1:6; 1 Peter 2:5), and He accounts him to be what His own Son is—the righteousness of God (Romans 3:22; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Christ is the righteousness of God, therefore those who are saved are made the righteousness of God by being in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). They are complete in Him (Colossians 2:10), and perfected forever (Hebrews 10:10, 14).
Garments of skin which necessitated the shedding of blood were divinely provided for Adam and Eve. A righteous standing was imputed to Abraham because he believed God (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:9-22; James 2:23), and as the priests of old were clothed with righteousness (Psalm 132:9), so the believer is robed in the wedding garment of the righteousness of God and in that garment he will appear in glory (Revelation 19:8). The attitude of the Apostle Paul toward Philemon is an illustration both of imputed merit and imputed demerit. Speaking of the slave Onesimus, the Apostle said: "If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself" (the imputation of merit), "If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account" (the imputation of demerit—Philemon 1:17-18. Note, also, Job 29:14; Isaiah 11:5; 59:17; 61:10).
There is, then, a righteousness from God, apart from all human works which is unto and upon all who believe (Romans 3:22). It is the eternal standing of all who are saved. In their daily life, or state, they are far from perfect, and in this aspect of their relation to God they are to "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18).
According to the New Testament usage, the words righteousness and justify are from the same root. God declares the one justified forever whom He sees in Christ. It is an equitable decree since the justified one is clothed in the righteousness of God. Justification is not a fiction, or a state of feeling; it is rather an immutable reckoning in the mind of God. Like imputed righteousness, justification is by faith (Romans 5:1), through grace (Titus 3:4-7), and made possible through the death and resurrection of Christ (Romans 3:24; 4:25). It is abiding and unchangeable since it rests only on the merit of the eternal Son of God.
Justification is more than forgiveness, since forgiveness is the cancellation of sin; while justification is the imputing of righteousness. Forgiveness is negative—the removal of condemnation; while justification is positive—the bestowing of the merit and standing of Christ. James, writing of a justification by works (James 2:14-26), has in view the believer's standing before men; Paul writing of justification by faith (Romans 5:1), has in view the believer's standing before God. Abraham was justified before men in that he proved his faith by his works (James 2:21); likewise he was justified by faith before God on the ground of imputed righteousness (James 2:23).
When filled with the Spirit, the child of God will produce the "fruit of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22-23), and will manifest the gifts for service which are by the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:7). These results are distinctly said to be due to the immediate working of the Spirit in and through the believer. Reference is made, therefore, to a manner of life which is in no way produced by the believer; it is rather a manner of life which is produced through him by the Spirit. To those who "walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit," the righteousness of the law, which in this case means no less than the realization of the whole will of God for the believer, is fulfilled in them. It could never be fulfilled by them. When thus inwrought by the Spirit, it is none other than a life which is the imparted righteousness of God.
Though clearly stated in the Bible, no doctrine has suffered from misunderstanding and misstatement more than the doctrine of Sanctification. Because of this, the theme calls for special consideration.
Three laws of interpretation obtain which if carefully followed will preclude the errors usually connected with this doctrine.
First, The Doctrine of Sanctification must be Rightly Related to every other Bible Doctrine.
Disproportionate emphasis on any one doctrine, or the habit of seeing all truth in the light of one line of Bible teaching, leads to serious error. The doctrine of Sanctification, like all other doctrines of the Scriptures, represents and defines an exact field within the purpose of God, and since it aims at definite ends, it suffers as much from overstatement as from understatement.
Second, The Doctrine of Sanctification cannot be Interpreted by Experience.
Only one aspect of sanctification out of three deals with the problems of human experience in daily life. Therefore an analysis of some personal experience must not be substituted for the teaching of the Word of God. Even if sanctification were limited to the field of human experience, there would never be an experience that could be proven to be its perfect example, nor would any human statement of that experience exactly describe the full measure of the divine reality. It is the function of the Bible to interpret experience, rather than the function of experience to interpret the Bible. Every experience which is wrought of God will be found to be according to the Scriptures.
Third, The Right Understanding of the Doctrine of Sanctification Depends upon the Consideration of all the Scriptures Bearing on this Theme.
The body of Scripture presenting this doctrine is much more extensive than appears to the one who reads only the English text; for the same root Hebrew and Greek words which are translated "sanctify," with their various forms, are also translated by two other English words, "holy" and "saint" with their various forms. Therefore if we would discover the full scope of this doctrine from the Scriptures, we must go beyond the passages in which the one English word "sanctify" is used, and include, as well, the passages wherein the words "holy" and "saint" are used. Leviticus 21:8 illustrates the similarity of meaning between the words "sanctify" and "holy" as used in the Bible. Speaking of the priest, God said: "Thou shalt sanctify him therefore; for he offereth the bread of thy God: he shall be holy unto thee: for I the Lord, which sanctify you, am holy." Here the root word used four times is twice translated "sanctify" and twice translated "holy."
This word, which is used one hundred and six times in the Old Testament and thirty-one times in the New Testament, means to "set apart," or the state of being set apart. It indicates classification in matters of position and relationship. The basis of the classification is usually that the sanctified person or thing has been set apart, or separated from others in position and relationship before God from that which is unholy. This is the general meaning of the word.
This word, which is used about four hundred times in the Old Testament and about twelve times, of believers, in the New Testament, refers to the state of being set apart, or being separate, from that which is unholy. Christ was "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners." Thus was He sanctified. So, also, there are certain things which the words holy and sanctify, in their Biblical use, do not imply:
(a) Sinless perfection is not necessarily implied, for we read of a "holy nation," "holy priests," "holy prophets," "holy apostles," "holy men," "holy women," "holy brethren," "holy mountain," and "holy temple." None of these were sinless before God. They were holy according to some particular standard or issue that constituted the basis of their separation from others. Even the Corinthian Christians who were "utterly at fault" were said to be sanctified. Many inanimate things were sanctified, and these could not even be related to the question of sin.
(b) The word does not necessarily imply finality. All these people just named were repeatedly called to higher degrees of holiness. They were set apart again and again. People, or things, became holy as they were set apart for some holy purpose. Thus they were sanctified.
This term, used of Israel about fifty times and of believers about sixty-two times, is applied only to human persons and relates only to their position in the reckoning of God. It is never associated with their own quality of daily life. They are saints because they are particularly classified and set apart in the plan and purpose of God. Being sanctified they are saints. In three Epistles, according to the Authorized Version, believers are addressed as those who are "called to be saints." This is most misleading. The italicized words "to be" should be omitted. Christians are saints by their present calling from God. The passages do not anticipate a time when they will be saints. They are already sanctified, set apart, classified, "holy brethren," who therefore are saints. Sainthood is not subject to progression. Every born-again person is as much a saint the moment he is saved as he ever will be in time or eternity. The whole church which is His body is a called-out, separate people. They are the saints of this dispensation. According to certain usages of these words, they are all sanctified. They are all holy. Because they do not know their position in Christ, many Christians do not believe they are saints. The Spirit has chosen to give us the title of "saints" more than any other but one. We are called "brethren" one hundred and eighty-four times, "saints" sixty-two times, and "Christians" but three times.
First, Because of infinite holiness, God Himself—Father, Son and Spirit—is eternally sanctified. He is classified, set apart, and separate from sin. He is holy. He is sanctified (Leviticus 21:8; John 17:19; Holy Spirit).
Second, God—Father, Son and Spirit—are said to sanctify persons.
1. The Father sanctifies (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
2. The Son sanctifies (Ephesians 5:26; Hebrews 2:11; 9:12, 14; 13:12).
3. The Spirit sanctifies (Romans 15:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:13).
4. God the Father sanctified the Son (John 10:36).
5. God sanctified the priests and the people of Israel (Exodus 29:44; 31:13).
6. Our sanctification is the will of God (1 Thessalonians 4:3).
7. Our sanctification from God is: By our union with Christ (1 Corinthians 1:2; 1:30); by the Word of God (John 17:17; cf. 1 Timothy 4:5); by the blood of Christ (Hebrews 13:12; 9:13); by the Body of Christ (Hebrews 10:10); by the Spirit (1 Peter 1:2); by our own choice (Hebrews 12:14; 2 Timothy 2:21-22); by faith (Acts 26:18).
Third, God sanctified days, places and things (Genesis 2:3; Exodus 29:43).
Fourth, Man may sanctify God. This he may do by setting God apart in his own thought as holy. "Hallowed be thy name." "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts" (1 Peter 3:15).
Fifth, Man may sanctify himself. Many times did God call upon Israel to sanctify themselves. He says to us, "Be ye holy, for I am holy." Also, "If a man therefore purge himself from these [vessels of dishonour and by departing from iniquity] he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the Master's use" (2 Timothy 2:21). Self-sanctification can only be realized by the divinely provided means. Christians are asked to present their bodies a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable unto God (Romans 12:1). They are to "Come out from among them," and be separate (2 Corinthians 6:17). Having these promises, they are to cleanse themselves "from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness [sanctification] in the fear of God" (2 Corinthians 7:1). "This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16).
Sixth, Man may sanctify persons and things. "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband, else were your children unclean; but now are they holy" (sanctified, 1 Corinthians 7:14). "And the priests shall sanctify the people." "So they sanctified the house of the Lord."
Seventh, One thing may sanctify another thing. "For whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?" "For whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?" (Matthew 23:17, 19).
From this very limited consideration of the Scriptures on the subject of Sanctification and Holiness, it is evident that the root meaning of the word is to set apart unto a holy purpose. The thing set apart is sometimes cleansed and sometimes it is not. Sometimes it can itself partake of the character of holiness and sometimes, as in the case of an inanimate thing, it cannot. Yet a thing which of itself can be neither holy nor unholy, is just as much sanctified when set apart unto God as is the person whose moral character is subject to transformation. It is also evident that where these moral qualities exist, cleansing and purification are sometimes required in sanctification; but not always (1 Corinthians 7:14).
Beyond the brief study in the preceding Chapter of words and means related to the doctrine of Sanctification, consideration should be given to the deeper aspects of the truth as stated in the New Testament.
Though the exact meaning of the words sanctify, holy, and saint is unchanged, there is a far deeper reality indicated by their use in the New Testament than is indicated by their use in the Old Testament. The Old Testament is a "shadow of good things to come." This Chapter is primarily concerned with the New Testament revelation, which may be considered in three divisions:
This is a sanctification, holiness, and sainthood which is accomplished by the operation of God through the body and shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. We, who are saved, have been redeemed and cleansed in His precious blood, forgiven all trespasses, made righteous through our new headship in Him, justified, and purified. We are the sons of God. All of this indicates a distinct classification and separation, deep and eternal, through the saving grace of Christ. It is based on facts of position which are true of every Christian. Hence every believer is now said to be positionally sanctified, holy, and is therefore a saint before God. This position bears no relationship to the believer's daily life more than that it should inspire him to holy living. The Christian's position in Christ is, however, according to the Scriptures, the greatest incentive to holiness of life.
The great doctrinal Epistles observe this order. They first state the marvels of saving grace, and then conclude with an appeal for a life corresponding to the divinely wrought position. (Note Romans 12:1; Ephesians 4:1; Colossians 3:1.) We are not now accepted in ourselves: we are accepted in the Beloved. We are not now righteous in ourselves: He has been made unto us righteousness. We are not now redeemed in ourselves: He has been made unto us redemption. We are not now positionally sanctified by our daily walk: He has been made unto us sanctification. Positional sanctification is as perfect as He is perfect. As much as He is set apart, we, who are in Him, are set apart. Positional sanctification is as complete for the weakest saint as it is for the strongest. It depends only on his union and position in Christ. All believers are classified as "the saints." So, also, they are classified as "the sanctified" (note Acts 20:32; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 6:11; Hebrews 10:10, 14; Jude 1:1). The proof that imperfect believers are nevertheless positionally sanctified and are therefore saints, is found in the First Epistle to the Corinthians. Corinthian Christians were unholy in life ( 1 Corinthians 5:1-2; 6:1-8), but they are twice said to have been sanctified (1 Corinthians 1:2; 6:11).
By their position, then, Christians are rightly called "holy brethren" and "saints." They have been "sanctified by the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Hebrews 10:10), and are "new men" who are "created in righteousness and true holiness" (Ephesians 4:24). Positional sanctification and positional holiness are "true" sanctification and holiness. In his position in Christ, the Christian stands righteous and accepted before God forever. Compared to this, no other aspect of this truth can have an equal recognition. But let no person conclude that he is holy, or sanctified, in life because he is now said to be holy, or sanctified, in position. While all believers are sanctified positionally, there is never a reference in any of these Scriptures to their daily lives. The daily-life aspect of sanctification and holiness will be found in another and entirely different body of truth which may be termed,
As positional sanctification is absolutely disassociated from the daily life, so experimental sanctification is absolutely disassociated from the position in Christ. Experimental sanctification may depend (1) on some degree of yieldedness to God, (2) on some degree of separation from sin, or (3) on some degree of Christian growth to which the believer has already attained.
Whole self-dedication to God is our reasonable service: "That ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" (Romans 12:1). By so doing the Christian is classified and set apart unto God by his own choice. This is self-determined separation unto God and is an important aspect of experimental sanctification. "And being servants unto God, ye have fruit unto holiness" (sanctification, Romans 6:22).
Sanctification cannot be experienced as a matter of feeling or emotion any more than justification or forgiveness. A person may be at peace and be full of joy because he believes he is set apart unto God. So also, by yielding unto God, a new infilling of the Spirit may be made possible which will result in a blessedness in life hitherto unknown. This might be either sudden or gradual. In any case it is not the sanctification that is experienced: it is the blessing of the Spirit made possible through sanctification or a more complete separation unto God.
The Bible takes full account of the sins of Christians. It does not teach that only sinless people are saved, or kept saved; on the contrary, there is faithful consideration of, and full provision made for, the sins of saints. These provisions are both preventive and curative.
(a) There are three divine provisions for the prevention of sin in the Christian: The Word of God with its clear instructions (Psalm 119:11), the present interceding, shepherding ministry of Christ in Heaven (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25. Note, Luke 22:31; John 17:1-26), and the enabling power of the indwelling Spirit (Galatians 5:16; Romans 8:4). However, should the Christian sin, there is
(b) the divinely provided cure, which is the present advocacy of Christ in Heaven by which He pleads His own sufficient sacrificial death. Thus, and only thus, imperfect believers are kept saved.
The divine prevention of sin is imperative in the case of every child of God, since so long as he is in this body he retains a fallen nature which is ever prone to sin (Romans 7:21; 2 Corinthians 4:7; 1 John 1:8). The Scriptures promise no eradication of this nature, but there is a moment-by-moment victory promised through the power of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-23). This victory will be realized just so long as it is claimed by faith and the conditions for a Spirit-filled life are met.
The sin-nature itself is never said to have died. It was crucified, dead, and buried with Christ; but since this was accomplished two thousand years ago, the reference is to a divine judgment against the nature which was gained by Christ when He "died unto sin." There is no Bible teaching to the effect that some Christians have died to sin and some have not. The passages include all saved persons (Galatians 5:24; Colossians 3:3). All believers have died unto sin in Christ's death; but not all believers have claimed the riches which were provided for them by that death. We are not asked to die experimentally, or to enact His death; we are asked to "reckon" ourselves to be dead indeed unto sin. This is the human responsibility (Romans 6:1-14).
Every victory over sin is itself a separation unto God and is therefore a sanctification. Such victory should ever be increasing as the believer comes to know his own helplessness and the marvels of divine power.
Christians are immature in wisdom, knowledge, experience and grace. In all these things they are appointed to grow, and their growth should be manifest. They are to "grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." Beholding the glory of the Lord as in a glass, they are "changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." This transformation will have the effect of setting them more and more apart. They will, to that extent, be more sanctified.
A Christian may be "blameless," though it could not be truthfully said of him that he is "faultless." The child laboring to form his first letters in a copybook may be blameless in the work he does; but the work is not faultless. We may be walking in the full measure of our understanding today, yet we know that we are not now living in the added light and experience that will be ours tomorrow. There is perfection within imperfection. We who are so incomplete, so immature, so given to sin, may "abide in him."
This aspect of sanctification which is related to our final perfection, will be ours in the glory. By His grace and transforming power He will have so changed us—spirit, soul and body—that we will be "like him," and "conformed to his image." He will then present us "faultless" before the presence of His glory. His bride will be free from every "spot and wrinkle." It therefore becomes us to "abstain from every appearance of evil. And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
1. Is the exact meaning of the words sanctify, holy, and saint ever changed as used in the Scriptures?
2. In what sense are all believers said to be sanctified?
3. State on what ground they are thus sanctified and to what degree of perfection.
4. Is positional sanctification real and abiding?
5. What relation does it sustain to the believer's daily life?
6. What are the aspects of experimental sanctification?
7. How may one promote his own experimental sanctification?
a. What is promised as to the prevention of sin in a Christian?
b. What is promised as to the cure of sin in a Christian?
8. In what sense is a victory over sin a sanctification?
9. What is the relation between Christian growth and sanctification?
10. May an immature and inexperienced Christian be experimentally set apart unto God?
11. What difference is possible between being blameless and being faultless?
12. May experimental sanctification increase as we receive more light?
13. Describe ultimate sanctification.
This Chapter is concerned with the Biblical answer to the question, "Could a person once saved ever be lost again?" Since fear of eternal perdition must destroy the believer's peace, and since to suppose that one once saved might be lost again, of necessity, limits the saving grace of God as it is in Christ, the subject of this Chapter is of utmost importance.
The claim that one who is once saved might be lost again is usually based on a form of rationalism which, emphasizing certain passages of Scripture, does not consider sufficiently the testimony of all the Word of God. Concerning this question, church creeds have taken opposing sides; but it will be observed that belief or disbelief in the security of all who are saved is more personal than creedal. While the great body of New Testament Scriptures which bear directly or indirectly on this question declare the believer to be secure, there are upwards of twenty-five passages which have been cited in evidence by those who maintain that the believer is insecure. It is certain that an individual could not be at the same time both secure and insecure. Therefore, of these two bodies of Scripture, one body of Scripture must of necessity conform to the other.
From careful study it will be seen that the so-called "insecurity passages" are not such in reality, that they do not oppose the positive doctrine of security, and that they seem to teach insecurity only when they are misunderstood or misapplied. Certain, of these do not apply to the Christian since they belong to another dispensation (Matthew 24:13; Ezekiel 33:7-8; Matthew 18:23-35; 25:30). Other passages refer only to false and unregenerate teachers of the "last days" (1 Timothy 4:1-2; 2 Peter 2:1-22; Jude 1:17-19). One passage describes that which is merely a moral reformation (Luke 11:24-26). Several of these Scriptures bear on the important fact that Christian profession is justified by its fruits. Salvation which is of God will, under normal conditions, prove itself to be such by its own fruits (1 John 3:10; John 8:31; 15:6; 2 Peter 1:10; James 2:14-26; 1 Corinthians 15:1, 2; Hebrews 3:6, 14). In addition to this, there are certain passages that contain warnings which, when rightly interpreted, do not imply the insecurity of the believer under grace. Jews are warned that since their sacrifices have ceased they must turn to Christ or be lost (Hebrews 10:26), in like manner, unsaved Jews as well as Gentiles are warned against "falling away" from the illuminating, converting work of the Spirit (Hebrews 6:4-9). So, also, unspiritual Jews are warned that they will not be received into the coming kingdom (Matthew 25:1-13), and Gentiles are given a corporate warning which has no reference to the individual believer (Romans 11:21). Again, the one who is saved and safe may lose his reward (1 Corinthians 3:15; Colossians 1:21-23), and be disapproved concerning his service for Christ (1 Corinthians 9:27). Likewise, he may lose his fellowship because of sin (1 John 1:6), and he may be chastened of God (1 Corinthians 11:29-32; John 15:2; 1 John 5:16). And, finally, it is possible for the believer to "fall from grace" (Galatians 5:1-4), which, however, is never accomplished by sinning; for the Christian falls from grace only when he turns from his true liberty under grace to the bondage of the law.
The positive doctrine of security rests upon an extended body of truth in which no less than twelve unchangeable facts of divine grace and its accomplishments are declared; any one of which alone would suffice to form an adequate basis for perfect rest and peace.
The direct, unqualified promises of security (John 5:24; 6:37; 10:28) form an unconditional covenant in which God simply declares what He is going to do, which is also an expression of His unchangeable will. In Romans 8:29-30 this eternal purpose is revealed and its realization is assured through sovereign grace and apart from every human work and merit.
As being absolutely free from every limitation the Scriptures assert that God is able to keep all who are saved through Christ (John 10:29; Romans 4:21; 8:31, 38-39; 14:4; Ephesians 3:20; Philippians 3:21; 2 Timothy 1:12; Hebrews 7:25; Jude 1:24).
Not only is God revealed as one who is able to do according to His eternal purpose, but His love for His own is a motive which can never fail. In Romans 5:8-11 that love is declared to exceed even His love for sinners because of which He gave His Son to die (John 3:16). The argument is simple: If He loved men enough to give His Son to die for them when they were "sinners" and "enemies," He will love them "much more" when, through redeeming grace, they are justified in His sight and reconciled to Him. Such knowledge-surpassing love for those whom He has redeemed at such limitless cost is sufficient assurance that they could never be plucked out of His hand until every resource of His infinite power has been exhausted.
While here on earth Christ prayed that those whom the Father had given Him should be kept (John 17:9-12, 15, 20) and this prayer which had its beginning on earth, we may believe, is continued in Heaven (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25. Note, also, Luke 22:31-32). Considering this, there is abundant assurance of security in the fact that no prayer of the Son of God could ever be unanswered.
The death of Christ is the sufficient answer to the condemning power of sin (Romans 8:34). When it is claimed that the saved one might be lost again, that claim is usually based on the fact of possible sin. Such an assumption of necessity proceeds on the supposition that Christ has not borne all the sins the believer will ever commit, and that God, having saved a soul, might be disappointed and surprised by unexpected, subsequent sin. On the contrary, the omniscience of God is perfect. He foreknows every sin or secret thought that will ever darken the life of His child, and for those sins the sufficient, sacrificial blood of Christ has been shed and by that blood God has been propitiated (1 John 2:2). Because of that blood which avails for the sins of both saved and unsaved God is as free to continue His saving grace toward the meritless as He is to save them at all. He keeps them forever; not for their sakes alone, but to satisfy His own love and manifest His own grace (Romans 5:8; Ephesians 2:7-10). It is because of the fact that salvation and safe-keeping depend only on the sacrifice and merit of the Son of God that all condemnation is forever removed (John 3:18; 5:24; Romans 8:1. R.V.; 1 Corinthians 11:31-32).
The eternal security of the believer is made certain through two vital facts connected with the resurrection of Christ:
1. The gift of God is eternal life (John 3:16; 10:28; Romans 6:23), which life is the resurrection life of Christ (Colossians 2:12; 3:1), eternal as He is eternal, and as incapable of dissolution or death as Christ is incapable of dissolution or death.
2. Likewise, by union with the resurrected Christ by the baptism with the Spirit and the impartation of His eternal life, the child of God is made a part of the New Creation in which he stands in the federal headship of the Last Adam. Since the Last Adam cannot fall, there is no fall possible for the weakest one who is in Him.
The present ministry of Christ in glory has only to do with the eternal security of those on earth who are saved. Christ both intercedes and advocates. As Intercessor, He has in view the weakness, ignorance, and immaturity of the believer—things concerning which there is no guilt. In this ministry, Christ not only prays for His own who are in the world and at every point of their need (Luke 22:31-32; John 17:9, 15, 20; Romans 8:34), but on the grounds of His own sufficiency in His unchanging priesthood, He guarantees that they will be kept saved for ever (Hebrews 7:25; Romans 5:10; John 14:19).
The present ministry of Christ as Advocate has to do with the Christian's sin—that concerning which there is guilt. Since sin is always sinful in the sight of God and can be cured only on the ground of the blood of Christ, the death of Christ is efficacious as much for the sins of the saved as for the unsaved (1 John 2:2). God is infinitely holy; therefore the Christian's sin in every case merits eternal condemnation, and that judgment would of necessity be executed were it not for the fact that, a Advocate, Christ pleads the saving value of His own blood before the throne of God (1 John 2:1; Romans 8:34; Hebrews 9:24). This He does, not after the Christian sins, which would imply that there might be even a moment of insecurity in the believer's position before God; but when he is sinning he has an Advocate with the Father.
By the regenerating work of the Spirit the believer is made a child of God (John 1:13; 3:3-6; Titus 3:4-6; 1 Peter 1:23; 2 Peter 1:4; 1 John 3:9), an heir of God and a joint-heir with Christ (Romans 8:16-17). Having thus been born of God, he has partaken of the divine nature and that nature is never said to be removed or disannulled.
The fact that the Spirit now indwells every believer (John 7:37-39; Romans 5:5; 8:9; 1 Corinthians 2:12; 6:19; 1 John 3:24) and never leaves him (John 14:16) should be recognized by every Christian. The Spirit may be grieved by unconfessed sin (Ephesians 4:30), or He may be quenched in the sense that He is resisted (1 Thessalonians 5:19); But He, as the divine Presence in the heart, is never removed. For this reason, the child of God continues as such forever.
By the Spirit's ministry in baptizing, the believer is joined to that body of which Christ is the Head (1 Corinthians 12:13; 6:17; Galatians 3:27) and he is therefore said to be in Christ. To be in Christ, constitutes a union which is both vital and abiding. In that union, old things—as to position and relationship which might be the ground of condemnation—are passed away, and all positions and relationships have become new and are of God (2 Corinthians 5:17-18). Being accepted for ever "in the beloved," the child of God is as secure as the One in whom he is and in whom he stands.
Finally, it is declared that all true Christians are sealed with the Spirit unto the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30; 2 Corinthians 1:22; and Ephesians 1:13 which should read "having believed ye were sealed"). Since this sealing is of God for His own purpose and glory, and since it is unto the day of redemption, this ministry of the Spirit also guarantees the eternal security of all who are saved.
It may be concluded, then, from this extensive body of truth that the eternal purpose of God which is for the preservation of His own can never be defeated. To this end He has met every possible hindrance. Sin which might otherwise separate has been borne by a Substitute who, in order that the believer may be kept, pleads the efficacy of His death before the Throne of God. The believer's will is held under divine control (Philippians 2:13), and every testing is tempered by the infinite grace and wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 10:13).
It cannot be too strongly emphasized that, while, in this Chapter, salvation and safe-keeping have been treated as separate divine undertakings as an adaptation to the usual ways of speaking, the Bible recognizes no such distinction; for, according to the Scriptures, there is no salvation purposed, offered, or undertaken under grace which is not infinitely perfect and that does not abide forever.
The theme of this Chapter should be distinguished clearly from that of the preceding Chapter. Security relates to the absolute, eternal safety of those who are in Christ, while assurance relates to a personal confidence in a present salvation.
According to the Scriptures, that assurance of salvation which is justifiable rests upon two lines of evidence:
(a) normal manifestations of the indwelling Christ, and
(b) the veracity of the Word of God.
Among the various divine accomplishments which together constitute the salvation of a soul, the impartation of a new life from God is, in the Bible, given the supreme emphasis. Upwards of eighty-five New Testament passages attest this feature of saving grace. Consideration of these Scriptures disclose the fact that this imparted life is the gift of God to all those who believe on Christ (John 10:28; Romans 6:23); it is from Christ (John 14:6); it is Christ indwelling the believer (Colossians 1:27; 1 John 5:11-12), and therefore is as eternal as He is eternal.
On the basis of the fact that Christ indwells him, the believer is appointed to judge himself as to whether he is in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5); for it is reasonable to expect that the heart wherein Christ dwells will, under normal conditions, be aware of that wonderful Presence. However, the Christian is not left to his own misguided feelings and imagination as to the precise manner in which the indwelling Christ will be manifested, it being clearly defined in the Scriptures. For the Christian who is subject to the Word of God, this particular revelation serves a two-fold purpose: it protects against the assumption that fleshly emotionalism is of God—a belief far too prevalent at the present time—and sets a standard of spiritual reality toward which all who are saved should ceaselessly strive.
It is obvious that an unsaved person, be he ever so faithful in outward conformity to religious practise, will never manifest the life which is Christ. In like manner, the carnal Christian is abnormal to the extent that he can in no way with accuracy prove his salvation by his experience; for all normal Christian experience (but never the imparted divine life) is limited, if not dissipated, by that which is carnal (1 Corinthians 3:1-4). It should be recognized that a carnal Christian is as perfectly saved as the spiritual Christian; for no experience, or merit, or service can form any part of the grounds of salvation. Though but "a babe" he is, nevertheless, in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:1). His obligation toward God is not one of the exercise of saving faith, but rather one of adjustment to the mind and will of God. It is of fundamental importance to understand that a normal Christian experience is vouchsafed only to those who are Spirit-filled.
The manifestations of the indwelling Christ which are mentioned in the Scriptures are:
In Matthew 11:27 it is declared that no one knoweth the Father save the Son and he to whom the Son will reveal Him. It is one thing to know about God, which, experience is possible to the unregenerate; but quite another thing to know God, which can be realized only as the Son reveals Him, "And this is life eternal that they might know thee the only true God" (John 17:3). Fellowship with the Father and with the Son is known only by those who "walk in the light" (1 John 1:6). A normal Christian experience includes, therefore, a personal appreciation of the Fatherhood of God.
Prayer assumes a very large place in the experience of the spiritual Christian. It becomes increasingly his most vital resource. By the indwelling Spirit the believer offers praise and thanksgiving (Ephesians 5:18-19), and by the Spirit he is enabled to pray according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27; Jude 1:20). It is reasonable to believe, also, that since Christ's ministry both on earth and in Heaven was and is so much one of prayer, the one in whom He dwells will if normal be moved to prayer.
According to the promise of Christ, the child of God will understand through the Spirit the things of Christ, the things of the Father, and things to come (John 16:12-15). On the Emmaus road Christ opened the Scriptures to His hearers (Luke 24:32) and their hearts to the Scriptures (Luke 24:45). Such an experience, though so wonderful, is not designed alone for favored Christians; it is the normal experience of all who are right with God (1 John 2:27), since it is a natural manifestation of the indwelling Christ.
As water removes that which is foreign and unclean (Ezekiel 36:25; John 3:5; Titus 3:5-6; 1 Peter 3:21; 1 John 5:6-8), so the Word of God displaces all human conceptions and implants those ideals which are of God (Psalm 119:11), and by the action of the Word of God as applied by the Spirit the divine estimate of sin displaces the human estimate. It is impossible that the sinless Christ who, on becoming a sin offering, sweat drops of blood, should not, when free to manifest His presence, create a new sense of the sinfulness of sin in the one in whom He dwells.
The fact that Christ has died for all men (2 Corinthians 5:12) is the grounds upon which the Apostle Paul could say "Henceforth know we no man after the flesh" (2 Corinthians 5:16). Apart from all earthly distinctions, men were seen by his spiritual eyes only as souls for whom Christ had died. Likewise, for the lost he ceased not to pray (Romans 10:1), to strive (Romans 15:20) and for them he was willing to be "accursed from Christ" (Romans 9:1-3). As a result of the divine presence in the heart the divine compassion should be experienced by every Spirit-filled believer (Romans 5:5; Galatians 5:22).
In 1 John 3:14, love for the brethren is made an absolute test of personal salvation. This is reasonable, since by the regenerating work of the Spirit the believer is brought into a new kinship in the household and family of God, wherein alone the true Fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man exist. The fact that the same divine Presence indwells two individuals relates them vitally and anticipates a corresponding bond of devotion. The Christian's love one for the other is therefore made the insignia of true discipleship (John 13:34-35), and this affection is the normal experience of all who are born of God.
The believer's subjective experiences which are due to the unhindered divine Presence in the heart are indicated in nine words: "Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance" (Galatians 5:22-23), and each word represents a flood tide of reality on the plane of the limitless character of God.
This is the life which Christ lived (John 13:34; 15:11; 14:27); it is the life which is Christ-like (Philippians 2:5-7), and it is the life which is Christ (Philippians 1:21). Since these graces are wrought by the Spirit who indwells every believer, this experience is provided for all.
Saving faith in Christ is also a definite experience. The Apostle related of himself, "I know whom I have believed" (2 Timothy 1:12). A personal reliance upon a Saviour is so definite an act of the will and attitude of the mind that one could hardly be deceived regarding it. But it is the purpose of God that the normal Christian shall be assured in his own heart that he is accepted of God. To the spiritual Christian the Spirit beareth witness that he is a son of God (Romans 8:16). Similarly, having trusted in Christ, the believer will have no more the consciousness of condemnation because of sin (Hebrews 10:2; Romans 8:1; John 3:18; 5:24). This does not imply that the Christian will not be conscious of the sin which he commits; it rather has to do with a consciousness of an eternal acceptance with God through Christ (Ephesians 1:6; Colossians 2:13), which is the portion of all who believe.
In concluding the enumeration of the essential elements of a true Christian experience, it should again be stated that mere fleshly emotionalism is excluded, and that the experience of the believer will be normal only as he is "walking in the light" (1 John 1:6).
Above and beyond all that the believer may experience—which experience is too often indefinite and overshadowed because of carnality—there is given the abiding evidence of the dependable Word of God. In addressing believers the Apostle John states, "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life" (1 John 5:13). By this passage assurance is given to every believer, carnal or spiritual alike, that they may know that they have eternal life. This assurance is made to rest, not on a changeable experience, but upon the things which are written in the unchangeable Word of God (Matthew 24:35; Psalm 119:89, 160; Matthew 5:18; 1 Peter 1:23, 25).
The written promises of God are as a title deed (John 6:37; 5:24; 3:16, 36; Romans 1:16; 3:22, 26; 10:13; Acts 16:31) which challenge confidence. These promises of salvation form the unconditional covenant of God under grace and call for no human merit, nor are they proven to be true through any human experience. These mighty realities are to be reckoned as accomplished on no other ground than the veracity of God. God hath spoken. It becomes man to believe, and all lack of assurance concerning personal salvation will be found to be due to one or the other of two forms of unbelief:
Multitudes are in no way certain that they ever have had a personal transaction with Christ regarding their own salvation. And while it is non-essential that one should know the day and the hour of his decision, it is imperative that he should know that he is now trusting Christ without reference to the time it began. The Apostle states that he is persuaded that God is able to keep (Lit., guard his deposit) that which he had committed unto Him (2 Timothy 1:12). Obviously the cure for any uncertainty as to one's acceptance of Christ is to receive Christ now, reckoning that no self-merit or religious works are of value—Christ alone can save.
Others who lack assurance of their own salvation do so because they, though having come to Christ, are not sure that He has kept His word and received them. This state of mind is usually caused by looking for a change in their feelings rather than looking to the faithfulness of Christ. Feelings and experiences have their place; but, as before stated, the final evidence of personal salvation, which is unchanged by these, is the truthfulness of God. What He has said, He will do, and it is not pious or commendable to distrust one’s salvation after having definitely cast one's self upon Christ.
Next to salvation truth, it is vitally important for the believer to know the Bible doctrine of the Church.
Following the eclipse of nearly all truth in the Dark Ages, it was given to Martin Luther in the sixteenth century to reinstate the doctrine of salvation through faith alone, and, in the last century, it was given to J.N. Darby of England to reinstate the doctrine of the Church. Protestant theology has concerned itself largely with salvation truth to the neglect of the doctrine of the Church.
As used in the New Testament, the word church means a called-out or assembled company of people. It has two distinct applications: (1) In its less important usage it refers to a local gathering of people, not necessarily Christians, who have been called out and assembled in one place (1 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:2; Philippians 1:2. Note, Acts 7:38; 19:32). (2) In its more important usage it refers to a company of people called out from the old creation into the new, being gathered by the Spirit into one organism or body of which Christ is the Head. This company includes all those, and only those, who have been saved in the period between the day of Pentecost and the return of Christ to receive His own. So, also, there are organized churches in the world with their memberships, but these should not be confused with the one Church of which Christ is the Head and all believers members in particular. There is little said in the Bible regarding the organization of churches, though there is nothing written to oppose it; and, since an organization is not in view, there is nothing written in the Bible as to membership in organized churches. The Bible emphasis is upon the true Church and that membership which is formed by the baptism with the Spirit.
The word church is not found in the Old Testament because of the fact that the Church did not then exist, and being a mystery or sacred secret of the New Testament (Ephesians 3:3-6), it is not even a subject of Old Testament prophecy. Likewise, the word church is used but twice in the four Gospels: once of a local assembly of people (Matthew 18:17), and once in a prophecy by Christ of the true Church which was yet to be formed (Matthew 16:18). The true Church could not have existed until Christ died; for she must be redeemed by His blood (Ephesians 5:25-27). The true Church could not have existed until His resurrection; for she partakes of His resurrection life, and she is the harvest of which He, in resurrection, is the "Firstfruits" in the New Creation. The true Church could not have existed until His ascension; for He must first become "head over all things to the church." Likewise, the true Church could not exist until the advent of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost; for she can be formed only by the present ministry of the Spirit in baptizing all members into one body and causing them to drink into one Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:14). Therefore we turn to the Epistles for the unfolding of the doctrine of the Church. This revelation was given to the Apostle Paul (Ephesians 3:3-6), as before stated, and is set forth by him particularly in the Ephesian and Colossian letters.
The Bible recognizes three major divisions of the human family in the present dispensation—the Jew, the Gentile, and the Church of God (1 Corinthians 10:32).
The Jews, or the Children of Israel, are that nation which sprang from Abraham in the line of Isaac and Jacob, and who according to divine purpose and promise are the chosen earthly people of God. This nation has been miraculously preserved to the present time, and, according to prophecy, will yet be the dominant, glorified people of the earth in the coming kingdom age (Isaiah 62:1-12). The eternal promises of Jehovah to this people cannot be altered. These promises include a national entity (Jeremiah 31:36), a land (Genesis 13:15), a throne (2 Samuel 7:13), a King (Jeremiah 33:20-21), and a kingdom (2 Samuel 7:16). In the faithfulness of God, their promises, which are all earthly in character, have been fulfilled to the present hour, and will be fulfilled to all eternity; for each of these covenants is said to be everlasting as to its duration). Four words describe the out-working of the divine purpose in this people—chosen, scattered, gathered, blessed. It is obvious that they were chosen, and are now scattered among all the nations of the earth. As certainly they will yet be gathered and blessed. The peculiar ministry of this people is stated in Romans 9:4-5.
The Gentiles are that vast unnumbered company, excluding the Israelites, who have lived on the earth from Adam until now. Apart from certain individuals, there is no record that during the period from Adam to Christ God sustained any special relation or extended any immediate promises to them. However, the prophecies of the Old Testament predict great earthly blessings to come upon the Gentiles in the yet future kingdom on the earth, and in the present age they partake alike with the Jews in the privileges of the Gospel.
It should be noted that by the phrase "the Church" reference is made, not to the membership of the organized churches, but to the whole company of the redeemed who will have been saved in the present age. They are a distinct people:
(1) Because each individual in that company being born again enters the kingdom of God (John 3:5), and is destined to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).
(2) They are no longer in Adam partaking of the ruin of the old creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), but they are in Christ partaking in the New Creation of all that Christ is in His resurrection life and glory (Ephesians 1:3; Colossians 2:10).
(3) In the sight of God, their nationality is changed; for they have come upon new ground where there is neither Jew nor Gentile, but Christ is all in all (Colossians 3:11).
(4) They are now citizens of Heaven (Philippians 3:20; Colossians 3:3), and all their promises, their possessions, and their positions are heavenly (2 Corinthians 5:17-18). By so much this heavenly people are distinguished from all other people of the earth.
The respective earthly positions of the Jews and the Gentiles have already been pointed out. To this it should be added that God, during the present age and for the purposes of grace, has placed both Jews and Gentiles upon a common ground (Romans 3:9). They are now said to be "under sin," which means that they are now shut up to salvation by grace alone. At the death of Christ the change in the divine program from the recognition of a favored nation to an appeal to individuals, both Jews and Gentiles alike, was most difficult to be understood by the Jew. He did not understand that his covenants were set aside for a time, but not abrogated. The nation's struggles with this problem are recorded in the Book of Acts. The Jew is unadjusted to this age-program to the present time, and it is predicted of him that he will remain blinded in part until the Church is called out (Romans 11:25), after which the Deliverer will come out of Zion and will turn away ungodliness from Jacob. This, it is stated, is God's covenant with them when He will take away their sins (Romans 11:26-27). Nevertheless, through the preaching of the Gospel, both Jews and Gentiles are now being saved and the Church is being completed. The Apostle directed that the Gospel should first be preached to the Jew (Romans 1:16) and his own ministry was ordered according to this program (Acts 17:1-3).
As has been suggested, two revelations were given to the Apostle Paul: one, of the Gospel of the grace of God—probably while in Arabia at the beginning of his ministry (Galatians 1:11-12), and the other, of the Church which is the body of Christ—probably while in prison (Ephesians 3:3-6). The vital feature of the second revelation was that out of the two sources—Jews and Gentiles—God is now forming one new body (Ephesians 2:15). This was a mystery, or hitherto unrevealed divine secret. That God had purposes for Israel, or for the Gentiles, was no secret since it is the theme of Old Testament prophecy; but the secret "hid in God" was the making of a new heavenly order of beings from both Jews and Gentiles.
The answer to the question, "Could a person be saved and not be a church member?" depends upon the meaning which is given the word church. It is obviously true that a person may be a Christian and not be a member of a local organized church. In fact, all should be saved before they join a church; and, if saved, it is normal for the individual to choose the fellowship of the people of God in one form or another. On the other hand, it is impossible to be saved and not be a member of the Church which is Christ's own body; for a part of the divine work in salvation is the uniting of the saved one to Christ by baptism with the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13). As used in connection with the work of the Spirit, baptize is a word of discriminating meaning which reaches far beyond the limits of the outward ordinance of water baptism and represents that ministry of the Spirit for the believer which is more far-reaching in its effects than any other divine undertaking in salvation. It is not surprising that Satan has undertaken to distort the plain meaning of the baptism with the Spirit and the divine ministry it represents; for only on the ground of this ministry can we understand the riches of divine grace or enter into the celestial joy, with its impulse to a holy life, which these riches impart. On the earth, the Church is seen to be a pilgrim band of witnesses. They are not of this world even as Christ is not of this world (John 17:16), and as the Father has sent the Son into the world, so has the Son sent these witnesses into the world. As to what they really are through riches of grace, "it doth not yet appear" (Colossians 3:4; 1 John 3:2). Being the heavenly people, as in contrast to Israel the earthly people, the glory of the Church, as also the realization of her divine purpose, is seen in Heaven where she appears as the Bride of the Lamb, co-reigning with the King, and partaker forever in the glory of the eternal Son of God.
1. What is the general meaning of the word church as used in the New Testament?
2. What are its two applications?
3. Upon which use of the word church does the Bible emphasis fall?
4. What evidence can be given that the church is a New Testament revelation?
5. Why could it have not existed before Pentecost?
6. In what part of the New Testament is this doctrine set forth?
7. Name the present major three-fold division of the human family.
8. What is Israel's history in four words?
9. Who are the Gentiles and when according to prophecy are they to receive blessing from God?
10. Name four characteristics of all those who form the Church.
11. From what sources is the Church being taken out?
12. What is the new-age condition stated in Romans 3:9?
13. Describe the two revelations given to the Apostle Paul.
14. What answer would you give to the question, Can a person be saved and not belong to the church?
15. What ministry of the Spirit relates the believer to the true Church which is Christ's Body?
16. What can be said as to the place the true Church now holds on earth?
17. What can be said as to her future place in Heaven?
Strictly speaking, the Church has no mission; for God has never commissioned her as a corporate body to undertake any task whatsoever. It is true that by means of the Church, God is now making known His wisdom, and will yet make known His grace to the angelic hosts (Ephesians 3:10; 2:7); but this calls for no effort or sacrifice on her part. All divine commissions are to the individual believer; and this is reasonable, since Christian service is the exercise of a personal gift in the power of the indwelling Spirit. It is noticeable that no service program for the church succeeds until it becomes a service program for the individual.
Another error to be avoided in connection with this subject is the supposition that the divine purpose in this age is the conversion of the world. It is true that the world will be converted and there is yet to be a kingdom of righteousness in the earth; but, according to the Bible, that day of a transformed earth, so far from being the result of Christian service, is said to follow rather than precede the return of Christ, and is said to be made possible only by His personal presence and immediate power. It is after the smiting of the Stone—a symbol of the return of Christ—that the God of Heaven sets up an everlasting kingdom in the earth (Daniel 2:44-45). It is after the Lord returns and sits on the throne of His glory that He directs the sheep on His right hand to enter the earthly kingdom prepared for them (Matthew 25:31-34). In like manner, it is after He is seen descending from Heaven that Christ reigns a thousand years on the earth (Revelation 18:11 to Revelation 20:9. Note, also, Acts 15:13-19; 1 Corinthians 15:20-25).
When anticipating the peculiar features of this age (Matthew 13:1-50), the Lord made mention of three major characteristics: (1) Israel's place in the world should be as a treasure hid in the field (Matthew 13:44); (2) evil should continue to the end of the age (Matthew 13:4, 25, 33, 48); and (3) the children of the kingdom who are likened to wheat, to a pearl of great cost, and to good fish, shall be gathered out (Matthew 13:30, 45-46, 48). Of these three characteristics of the age, it is disclosed that the last, or the gathering out of the children of the kingdom, constitutes the supreme purpose of God in this age. In accordance with this, it is stated in Romans 11:25, that Israel's present blindness is only "until" the completion of the Church (note Ephesians 1:22-23). Likewise, the "mystery of iniquity," or evil in the present age, is declared to continue, though restrained, until the Restrainer—the Spirit of God—is taken out of the way (2 Thessalonians 2:7), and, as the Spirit will depart only when He has completed the calling out of the Church, the immediate purpose of God is not the correction of the evil in the world, but the out-calling of all who will believe. Israel's covenants will yet be fulfilled (Romans 11:27), and evil will be banished from the earth (Revelation 21:1); but the present purpose of God, for which all else most evidently awaits, is the completion of the Church.
In Acts 15:13-19 we read the substance of James' address at the conclusion of the first council of the Church in Jerusalem. The occasion of this council was to determine this same question as to the present purpose of God. The early church was largely composed of Jews, and these were confused with regard to their own national position in the light of the fact that the new Gospel was flowing out to Gentiles. James states that, according to Peter's experience in the house of Cornelius the Gentile, God is first visiting Gentiles (a like visitation of the Jews is assumed) to take out of them a people for His name. "After this," James continues, the Lord will return and then will fulfill all His purposes for Israel and the Gentiles.
The practical bearing of all this upon the subject of this study is that, in the present age, never is the individual believer (much less the Church) appointed of God to a world-improvement program; but the believer is called to be a witness in all the world to Christ and His saving grace, and through this ministry of Gospel preaching the Spirit of God will accomplish the supreme divine purpose in the age.
Christ prophesied that He would build His Church (Matthew 16:18), and the Apostle Paul likens the Church to a structure of living stones which "groweth" and is "being builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:21-22, R.V.). Likewise, the believer's ministry of soul-winning and edification of the body of Christ continues, not forever, but "till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13). The "stature of the fulness of Christ" does not refer to the development of Christ-like men; but rather to the development of the body of Christ to its completion (note Ephesians 1:22-23). The same aspect of truth is restated in Ephesians 4:16, where the members of the body, like living cells in the human body, are represented as being unceasingly active in soul-winning, and are thereby making "increase of the body."
Christ gave a prediction that the seed sowing which is to characterize the present age would result in but a fourth portion becoming "wheat" (Matthew 13:1-23). Nevertheless, though the preaching of the Gospel is a savor of death unto death as well as of life unto life (2 Corinthians 2:16), the child of God is commissioned to be instant in season and out of season in his efforts to win the lost. He is appointed to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15), knowing that faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). It is also stated in 2 Corinthians 5:19 that God who was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5:20).
This ministry rests upon every believer alike and may be exercised in three different ways:
1. The Gospel may be presented to the unsaved through sacrificial gifts. Evidently there are many earnest believers who would rejoice to win a soul for Christ who have not awakened to the effectiveness of giving their substance to this end. The messenger cannot go except he be sent, but the one who sends him is a partner in the service and has taken stock which will pay eternal dividends.
2. Again, the Gospel may be presented to the unsaved in answer to prayer. He who has said, "If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it" (John 14:14) will certainly thrust laborers into the harvest in answer to prayer. It is easily proven that there is no more fruitful ministry possible to the child of God than prayer; yet how very few seem to realize that souls are saved through that service.
3. So, also, the Gospel may be presented to the unsaved by word of mouth. Since all are commissioned to this task, there are certain imperative conditions to be observed: (1) The messenger must be willing to be placed where the Spirit wills. (2) The messenger should be instructed as to the precise truths which constitute the Gospel of grace which he is appointed to declare. And (3) the messenger must be Spirit-filled, else he will lack that impelling passion for the lost which alone prompts one to fearless and tireless soul-winning service. "After that the Holy Ghost is come upon you," Christ said, "ye shall be witnesses unto me" (Acts 1:8). Apart from this filling there will be no disposition to witness. But, being filled, there is no staying the outflow of divine compassion (Acts 4:20).
Beginning with His own work in creation, God has chosen to sanctify, or set apart, one-seventh of all time. To Israel He commanded the seventh day as a day of rest; the seventh, or sabbatic year in which the land was to rest (Exodus 23:10-11; Leviticus 25:2-7); and the fiftieth year as a year of jubilee in recognition of seven times seven years. In various details both the sabbatic year and the year of jubilee were typically prophetic of the kingdom age which is the seventh and last of the dispensations, and which is characterized by the enjoyment of a sabbatic rest for all creation. Though in the present age the day to be celebrated is divinely changed from the seventh to the first day of the week because of the New Creation's beginning, the same proportion in the division of time—one day in seven—is perpetuated.
The word sabbath means cessation, or perfect rest, from activity. Apart from the continual burnt offerings and feasts, the day was in no sense one of worship or service.
In view of the wide-spread confusion which exists regarding the sabbath and especially in view of the effort which is made to recognize it as in force in this present age, it is imperative that the precise teachings of the Scriptures concerning the sabbath shall be carefully weighed.
A degree of clarity is gained when the sabbath is considered in its relation to various periods of time:
It is recorded that God rested at the close of His six creative days (Exodus 2:2-3; 20:10-11; Hebrews 4:4); but there is no intimation in the Word of God that man was appointed to observe, or ever did observe, a sabbath until Israel came out of Egypt. The book of Job discloses the religious life and experience of the patriarchs, and though their various responsibilities to God are therein discussed, there is never a reference to a sabbath-day obligation. On the other hand, it is distinctly stated that the giving of the sabbath to Israel by the hand of Moses was the beginning of sabbath observance among men (Exodus 16:29; Nehemiah 9:10-12; Ezekiel 20:12). Likewise, it is evident from the records of the first imposition of the sabbath (Exodus 16:1-35), that on the particular day which was one week, or seven days, previous to the first recorded sabbath, the children of Israel took a sabbath-breaking journey of many miles from Elim to the wilderness of Sin. There they murmured against Jehovah, and on that day the supply of food from Heaven began which was to be gathered for six days, but was not to be gathered on the seventh day. It is evident, therefore, that the day of their journey which would have been a sabbath had a sabbath obligation, been in force, was not observed as a sabbath.
In this period the sabbath was rightfully in force. It was embedded in the law (Exodus 20:10-11) and the divine cure for its non-observance was likewise provided in the law of the offerings. In this connection, it is important to observe that the sabbath was never imposed on the Gentiles, but was peculiarly a sign between Jehovah and Israel (Exodus 31:12-17). Among Israel's sins, her failure to keep the sabbath and to give the land its rest, are especially emphasized.
In the midst of this period of the law, Hosea predicted that, as a part of the judgments which were to come upon Israel, her sabbaths would cease (Hosea 2:11). This prophecy must at some time be fulfilled, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
As the preceding age continued to the death of Christ, His earth-life and ministry was under the law. For this reason, He is seen as keeping the law, expounding the law, and applying the law. Finding the sabbath law obscured by the traditions and teachings of men, He pointed out that the sabbath was given as a benefit to man and man was not to be made a sacrifice for the sabbath (Mark 2:27). Christ was faithful to the whole Mosaic system, which included the sabbath, because that system was in force during His earth-life; but that obvious fact is no basis for the claim that a Christian who is under grace and living in another dispensation is appointed to follow Christ in His sabbath observance either in example or precept.
Following the resurrection of Christ, there is no record in the New Testament that the sabbath was observed by any believer, even in error. Doubtless the multitude of Judaized Christians did observe the sabbath; but no record of such observance was permitted to appear in the Word of God. In like manner, following the resurrection of Christ, there is no injunction given to Jew, Gentile, or Christian to observe the sabbath, nor is sabbath breaking once mentioned among the numerous lists of possible sins. On the contrary, there are warnings against sabbath observance on the part of those who are the children of God under grace.
Galatians 4:9-10 condemns the observance of "days and months and times and years." These were usually observed with a view to meriting the favor of God and by those who would be thoughtful of God at one time and careless at another.
Hebrews 4:1-13 contemplates the sabbath as a type of the rest (from his own works) into which the believer enters when he is saved.
Colossians 2:16-17 plainly instructs the child of God not to be judged with respect to a sabbath day, and infers that such an attitude toward the sabbath is reasonable in view of all that Christ has become to one who is now of the New Creation (Colossians 2:9-17). In this passage, most evidently reference is made to the weekly sabbaths, rather than to those special or extra sabbaths which were a part of the ceremonial law.
Romans 14:5 declares that when the believer is "persuaded in his own mind" he may esteem all days alike. This does not imply a neglect of faithful worship, but rather suggests that, to such an one, all days are full of devotion to God.
Because of the fact that in the New Testament the sabbath is never included as any part of the Christian's life and service, the term Christian sabbath is a misnomer. In this connection it may be noted that in place of the sabbath of the law there is now provided the Lord's Day of the New Creation which far exceeds the sabbath in its glory, its privileges, and its blessings.
In full harmony with the New Testament doctrine that the new Lord's Day is related only to the Church, it is prophesied that the sabbath will be reinstated—thus superseding the Lord's Day—immediately upon the completion of the out-calling of the Church and her removal from the world. Even in the brief period of the Tribulation which must intervene between the end of this age and the age of the kingdom, the sabbath is again in view (Matthew 24:20); but prophecy especially anticipates the sabbath as a vital feature of the coming kingdom age (Isaiah 66:23; Ezekiel 46:1).
The first day of the week has been celebrated by the church from the resurrection of Christ to the present time. This fact is proven by the New Testament records, the writings of the early fathers, and the history of the church. There have been those in nearly every century who, not comprehending the present purpose of God in the New Creation, have earnestly contended for the observance of the seventh-day sabbath. At the present time, those who specialize in urging the observance of the seventh day combine these appeals with other unscriptural doctrines. Since the believer is appointed of God to observe the first day of the week under the new relationships of grace, confusion arises when that day is invested with the character of, and is governed by, the seventh-day sabbath laws. All such teachings ignore the New Testament doctrine of the New Creation.
The New Testament reveals that the purpose of God in the present unforeseen dispensation is the out-calling of the Church (Acts 15:13-18), and this redeemed company is the New Creation, a heavenly people. While it is indicated that there are marvelous glories and perfections which are to be accomplished for this company as a whole (Ephesians 5:25-27), it is also revealed that they individually are the objects of the greatest divine undertakings and transformations. Likewise, as the corporate body is organically related to Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12), so the individual believer is vitally joined to the Lord (1 Corinthians 6:17; Romans 6:5; 1 Corinthians 12:13).
Concerning the individual believer, the Bible teaches that, (a) as to sin, each one in this company has been cleansed, forgiven, and justified; (b) as to their possessions, each one has been given the indwelling Spirit, the gift of God which is eternal life, has become a legal heir of God, and a joint-heir with Christ; (c) as to their positions, each one has been made the righteousness of God by which he is accepted in the Beloved forever (2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 1:6), a member of Christ's mystical body, a part of His glorious bride, and a living partaker in the New Creation of which Christ is the Federal Head. "We read: "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature [creation]: old things [as to positions, not experience] are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all [these positional] things are of God" (2 Corinthians 5:17-18; Ephesians 2:10; 4:25; Galatians 6:15). Peter, writing of this company of believers, states: "But ye are a chosen generation" (1 Peter 2:9), which means a distinct heaven-born race, or nationality—a stock, or kind—which has been directly created by the power of God. As the first Adam begat a race which partook of his own human life and imperfections, so Christ, the Last Adam, is now begetting by the Spirit a new race which partakes of His eternal life and perfection. "The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening [life-giving] spirit" (1 Corinthians 15:45).
Having partaken of the resurrection life of Christ, and being in Christ, the believer is said to be already raised (Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12-13; 3:1-4). However, as to his body, the believer is yet to receive a glorious body like unto the resurrection body of Christ (Philippians 3:20). In confirmation of this we also read that when Christ appeared in Heaven immediately following His resurrection, it was as the "firstfruits," implying that the whole company that are to follow will be like Him (1 John 3:3) even to their glorified bodies.
In the Word of God, the New Creation—which began with the resurrection of Christ and consists of a born-again, heavenly company who are in Christ—is everywhere held in contrast to the old creation, and it is from that old and ruined creation that the believer is said to have been saved and delivered.
As the sabbath was instituted to celebrate the old creation (Exodus 20:10-11; 31:12-17; Hebrews 4:4), so the Lord's day celebrates the New Creation. Likewise, as the sabbath was limited in its application to Israel as the earthly people of God, so, also, the Lord's day is limited in its application to the Church as the heavenly people of God.
In addition to the fact that the sabbath is nowhere imposed on the children of God under grace, there are abundant reasons for their observance of the first day of the week.
According to Psalms 118:22-24 and Acts 4:10-11, Christ in His crucifixion was the Stone rejected by Israel the "builders"; but, through His resurrection, He has been made the Head-Stone of the corner. This marvelous thing is of God, and the day of its accomplishment is divinely appointed as a day of rejoicing and of gladness. In accord with this, Christ's greeting on the resurrection morn was, "All hail!" (Matthew 28:9, which is more literally, "O joy!"), and being "the day which the Lord hath made," it is rightfully termed "The Lord's Day."
a. On that day Christ arose
from the dead (Matthew 28:1).
b. On that day He first met His
disciples in the new fellowship (John 20:19).
c. On that day He gave them
instruction (Luke 24:3-45).
d. On that day He ascended into
heaven as the "firstfruits," or wave sheaf
(John 20:17; 1 Corinthians 15:20, 23; Leviticus 23:10-12).
e. On that day He breathed on
them (John 20:22).
that day the Spirit descen
g. On that day the Apostle Paul
preached in Troas (Acts 20:6-7).
h. On that day the believers
came together to break bread (Acts 20:6-7).
i. On that day they were to
"lay by in store" as God had prospered them
(1 Corinthians 16:2).
j. On that day Christ appeared to John on Patmos (Revelation 1:10).
The rite of circumcision, which was performed on the eighth day, typified the believer's separation from the flesh and the old order by the death of Christ (Colossians 2:11), and the eighth day, being the first day after a completed week, is symbolical of a new beginning.
At the end of a week of toil, a day of rest was granted to the people who were related to God by law-works; while to the people under grace, whose works are finished in Christ, a day of worship is appointed, which being the first day of the week, precedes all days of work. In the blessing of the first day the believer lives and serves the following six days. A day of rest belongs to a people who are related to God by works which were to be accomplished; a day of ceaseless worship and service belongs to a people who are related to God by the finished work of Christ. The seventh day was characterized by unyielding law; the first day is characterized by the latitude and liberty belonging to grace. The seventh day was observed with the hope that by it one might be acceptable to God. The first day is observed with the assurance that one is already accepted of God. The keeping of the seventh day was wrought by the flesh; the keeping of the first day is wrought by the indwelling Spirit.
Throughout this age the most Spirit-filled, devout believers to whom the will of God has been clearly revealed, have kept the Lord's day apart from any sense of responsibility to keep the seventh day. It is reasonable to suppose that had they been guilty of sabbath breaking, they would have been convicted of that sin.
a. It is not committed to the unsaved.
certainly most misleading to the unsaved to give them grounds for supposing
that they will be more accepted of God if they observe a day; for apart from
the salvation which is in Christ, all men are utterly and equally lost. For
social or physical reasons a day of rest may be secured to the benefit of all;
but the unregenerate should understand that the observance of such a day adds
nothing to their merit before God.
b. It is not committed to the Church as a body.
The responsibility relative to the observance of the first day is of necessity committed to the individual believer only, and not to the Church as a whole, and the manner of its celebration by the individual is suggested in the two sayings of Christ on the morning of His resurrection: "O Joy!" and "Go Tell." This calls for ceaseless activity in all forms of worship and service; and such activity is in contrast to the seventh-day rest.
Since it is all of grace, a written requirement for the keeping of the Lord's day is not imposed, nor is the manner of its observance prescribed. By this wise provision, none are encouraged to keep the day as a mere duty; it is to be kept from the heart. Israel stood before God as immature children under tutors and governors and needing the commandments which are given to a child (Galatians 4:1-11); while the Church stands before God as adult sons. Their life under grace is clearly defined, but it is presented only as the beseechings of God with the expectation that all shall be done willingly (Ephesians 4:1-3; Romans 12:1-2). There is little question as to how a well-instructed, Spirit-filled believer (and the Scripture presupposes a normal Christian to be such) will be occupied on the day which commemorates Christ's resurrection and the New Creation. If perchance the child of God is not yielded to God, no unwilling observance of a day will correct his carnal heart nor would such observance be pleasing to God. The issue between God and the carnal Christian is not one of outward actions, but of a yielded life.
Christ was not more devoted to His Father on one day than on another. Sabbath rest could not be extended to all days alike; but, while the believer may have more time and freedom on the first day of the week, his worship, joy and service, which characterizes the keeping of the Lord's day, should, so far as possible, be his experience all the days (Romans 14:5).
The attributes of God partake of His very Being. His holiness, wisdom, power, and love are as infinite as Himself. The truth that no one hath fully seen God (John 1:18) applies as much to comprehending His character as it does to seeing His form. Like all His attributes, it is as impossible to measure the love of God as it is to measure the Person of God, and all true love is from Him. The Bible alone discloses the source and nature of love. Turning to its pages, we discover (1) the direct, and (2) the indirect manifestations of the love of God.
While the finite mind can at best comprehend but little of the infinite God, it can, nevertheless, comprehend to the full within the sphere of its own limitations. "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3; Ephesians 3:19).
Five characteristics of divine love may be mentioned:
"God is love." He has not attained to love by self-effort or culture, nor does He hold love as a detached possession which might be abandoned at will. Love is a vital part of His Being. It began when He began. If His love were to cease, a very essential part of the Person of God would cease. He is what He is, to a large degree, because of His love. The love of God can know no change. To Israel He said, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love" (Jeremiah 31:3); and of Christ it is written, "Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end" (Lit., without end; John 13:1; 15:9). In God's love toward an individual, there is neither fluctuation nor cessation.
Though the love of God was once and for all manifested in the sacrifice of His well-beloved Son (Romans 5:8; 1 John 3:16), that which was manifested in a moment of time is, nevertheless, the revelation of the eternal attitude of God toward men. Could we have gazed into the heart of God before the creation of the material universe, we would have seen every provision then made for His Lamb to be slain for the sin of the world (Revelation 5:6). Could we now gaze into the heart of God we would see the same undiminished compassion for the lost that was expressed in the death of His Son. The momentary death of Christ was not a spasm in the divine affection; it is the announcement to a lost world of the fact of God's eternal, unchangeable love.
Concerning this aspect of the love of God no human words avail. There is no selfishness in divine love. God has never sought benefits for Himself. He receives nothing; He bestows everything. Peter exhorts believers to love God with a pure heart fervently (1 Peter 1:22); but how very few love God for what He is in Himself apart from all His benefits! How different it is -with God's love! Judging by ourselves, we are sure He needs our money, our service, or our influence. He needs nothing from us; but He needs us, and only because His infinite love cannot be satisfied apart from us. The title "Beloved" when addressed to believers is most expressive; for, in their relation to God, their highest function is to be loved.
The most costly thing in the universe was the blood of God's only Son; yet God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. The sacrifice of His Son for men when they were "sinners" and "enemies" seems to reach to the outmost bounds of infinity, however, we are told of a "much more" love even than this. It is God's love for those who have been reconciled and justified through Christ's death (Romans 5:8-10)—yea, nothing "shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:39).
There is no hope for this world apart from the marvelous fact that God loves even sinners. But divine love is not passive. Moved to an infinite degree by His love, God undertook in behalf of those whom He otherwise would have had to banish from His presence forever. God could not ignore the just condemnation of the sinner which His own holiness imposed; but He could take upon Himself the curse which belonged to the sinner—"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13)—and this He did in order that, without violating His own holiness, He might be free to save the guilty (Romans 3:26). Being free through the substitutionary death of Christ, God knows no limitations and does not cease working until, to His own satisfaction, He places the justly doomed sinner in Heaven's highest glory, even conformed to the image of Christ.
Saving grace is more than love; it is God's love set absolutely free and made to triumph over His righteous judgments against the sinner. "By grace are ye saved through faith" (Ephesians 2:8; 2:4; Titus 3:4-5).
There is also in God a perfect hatred for sin which, like a counterpart of His love, prompts Him to save the sinner from his doom. In like manner, this same hatred for sin, combined with His love, makes of God a Father who chastens His child. "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten" (Revelation 3:19), and "Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth" (Hebrews 12:6).
Because of his living union with Christ (1 Corinthians 6:17), the believer is loved of the Father even as Christ is loved (John 17:23), and this infinite love is never decreased even in the hour of correction or trial.
There is little reference in the New Testament to human love. Its emphasis falls rather upon the imparted divine love which is experienced only by the Spirit-filled believer. The message of Romans 5:5 is that the love of God gushes forth out from the Spirit which is given unto us. Since this divine love is "the fruit of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22), He is its source. Thus passing through the believer's heart the divine love is indirectly manifested. The First Epistle by John emphasizes the truth that, if born of God, we will love as God loves, and 1 Corinthians 13, is a description of the superhuman character of that love. There is no ecstasy in this life comparable to that of experiencing the unhindered outflow of the love of God.
It should be observed that love for God is not under consideration; rather it is the love which is God's own. Concerning this love, certain things should be noted:
1. It is experienced in answer to the prayer of Christ (John 17:26).
2. God loves the lost world (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:4), and as certainly He abhors the world-system which is evil (1 John 2:15-17).
3. God loves those whom He has redeemed (Romans 5:8; Ephesians 5:25; 1 John 4:12; John 13:34-35; 15:12-14; 1 John 3:16).
4. God loves the nation Israel (Jeremiah 31:3).
5. God loves those who have wandered from Him (Luke 15:4, 20).
6. God's love is eternal (John 13:1).
7. God's love is sacrificial, even giving His own Son (1 John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Ephesians 5:2). In the mystery of this imparted divine compassion, the Apostle Paul was willing to be accursed from Christ for his brethren—his kinsmen after the flesh (Romans 9:1-3).
8. The exercise of divine love is the first commandment of Christ under grace (John 13:34-35; 15:12-14), and should be the outstanding characteristic of every Christian (Galatians 5:13; Ephesians 4:2, 15; 5:2; Colossians 2:2; 1 Thessalonians 3:12; 4:9).
9. The imparted love of God cannot be cultivated, nor can it be produced by the flesh. It is the normal experience of those who, having met the simple conditions, are filled with the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).
Prayer, whether it be petition or praise, is the direct communion of man with God, and, according to the Scriptures, is subject to a four-fold classification:
Though individual and private prayer was offered by godly men in all the ages, it is evident that prayer, in the main, was offered by the patriarch in behalf of his household (Job 1:5), and during the period between Moses and Christ, by the priests and rulers in behalf of the people. Throughout these centuries, the ground of prayer consisted in pleading the covenants of Jehovah (1 Kings 8:22-26; Nehemiah 9:32; Daniel 9:4), and His holy character (Genesis 18:25; Exodus 32:11-14), and followed the shedding of sacrificial blood (Hebrews 9:7).
The Messianic claim of Christ and the acceptance of the kingdom at His hand were rejected by the nation Israel; but during the early days of His preaching and when the kingdom alone was in view He taught His disciples to pray for the kingdom to be set up in the earth. The "manner" of this prayer is stated in Matthew 6:9-13, and the prayer is adapted in every particular to the kingdom expectation. Its appeal is for the glory of God by the manifestation of His power in the realization of the kingdom on the earth (Matthew 6:13. Note, also, added teaching relative to prayer in the kingdom, Matthew 7:7-11; Luke 11:2-13).
In this aspect of prayer we recognize the utmost freedom in communion between the Father and the Son, and, as in the High Priestly prayer recorded in John 17, the theme of His prayer is of those eternal issues between the Father and the Son relative to the saved ones on the earth. Record is given that Christ spent long seasons in prayer (Matthew 14:23), even all night (Luke 6:12), and it is probable that the form of His prayer was the same familiar communion with His Father. There is no ground of appeal in the prayer of Christ. He pleads no mediation or covenant. The privilege of "listening in" when Christ is in prayer concerning us is most blessed (John 17:13).
As already pointed out, prayer is not the same throughout all the ages; but, like all other human responsibilities, it is adapted to the various dispensations, and prayer in the present age is no exception.
Among the seven outstanding features of the believer's life under grace which Christ mentioned in the upper room (John 13:1 to John 17:26), prayer is included as one of them; and the teaching of Christ on this most vital theme is given in three passages (John 14:12-14; 15:7; 16:23-24). According to this word of Christ, the present possibility of prayer under grace is lifted out of earthly limitations into the sphere of the infinite relationships which obtain in the New Creation. This form of prayer may be considered under four aspects:
Rationalism teaches that prayer is unreasonable since God must know what is required better than the man who prays. Perhaps God did not need to arrange it thus; but it is revealed (John 14:13-14) that prayer has now been divinely constituted an office, or trust. When Christ can say of prayer, "Whatsoever ye shall ask... that will I do," He has elevated its importance to a point where, to a large degree, God has conditioned His own action on the faithful prayer of the believer. It is no longer a question of reasonableness; it is a question of adjustment. This responsibility in partnership has been established. It is probable that we cannot know all that is involved, but we do know that, in the ministry of prayer, the child of God is brought into vital partnership in the work of God in a manner in which he could not otherwise partake. Since the Christian may share in the glory that follows, he is given this opportunity of sharing in the achievement. This responsibility in partnership is not extended to the believer as a special concession; it is the normal function of one for whom the sacrificial blood has been shed (Hebrews 10:19-20), and who has been vitally joined to Christ in the New Creation. It is not unreasonable that one who is a living part of Christ (Ephesians 5:30) should share both in His service and in His glory.
It should be noted that it is in connection with this announcement of the new office of prayer as a co-partnership in achievement that Christ stated, "Greater works than these shall he [the believer] do" (John 14:12), which word is immediately followed by the assurance that He alone undertakes to do in response to this ministry of prayer. So vital is this blending of endeavor between prayer and that which is divinely wrought in its answer that the believer is said by Christ to be the doer of the "greater works."
The privilege of praying in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, which under grace is extended to every child of God, lends to prayer a characteristic which lifts it to an infinite degree above every other form of prayer that ever was or ever will be. Likewise, the present form of prayer supersedes all preceding privileges; for when Christ said, "Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name" (John 16:24), He dismissed every other ground of prayer that had ever been. We may be sure that the name of the Lord Jesus Christ commands the attention of the Father, and that the Father will not only listen when that name is used, but will be inclined to do whatsoever is asked to be done for the sake of His beloved Son. The name of Christ is equivalent to the Person of Christ, and the name is not given to believers merely as something with which to conjure. Praying in the name of Christ means recognition of one's self as a living part of Christ in the New Creation and therefore limits the subjects of prayer to those projects which are in direct line with the purposes and glory of Christ. It is praying a prayer which Christ might pray. Since prayer in the name of Christ is like signing His name to our petition, it is reasonable that prayer in His name should be thus limited.
Having pointed out that sometimes spiritual poverty is due to the fact that we "ask not," James goes on to state that, "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts" (James 4:2-3). Prayer thus may become either an appeal for the things of self, or for the things of Christ. The believer having been saved from self and vitally united to Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17-18; Colossians 3:3), is no longer concerned with self. This is not to say that the believer's best interests are abandoned; but it is to say that these interests are now looked upon as belonging to the new sphere wherein "Christ is all in all." Being in Christ, it is normal to pray in His name, and abnormal to pray for the mere desires of self which are apart from the glory of Christ.
Since prayer is possible only on the ground of the shed blood and by virtue of the believer's vital union with Christ, the prayer of the unsaved cannot be accepted of God.
The scope of prayer under grace is stated in the one word "whatsoever"; but not without its reasonable limitations. It is whatsoever ye ask in the name, according to the purposes and glory, of Christ. Before true prayer can be offered, the heart must be conformed to the mind of Christ. Thus it is said, "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will" (John 15:7), and this is true; for under such heart adjustment, the child of God will ask only for those things which are in the sphere of God's will. Under grace, there is perfect liberty of action given to the one in whom God is working both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). Likewise, there is unlimited freedom of petition to the one who prays in the will of God. To the Spirit-filled believer it is said: "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God" (Romans 8:26-27). The scope of prayer under grace is not narrow: it is as infinite as the eternal interests of the One in whose name we are privileged to pray.
It is well for believers to listen to their own manner of prayer that they may correct irreverent phrases, useless repetitions, and be conformed to the divine order. There is a divine order prescribed for prayer under grace. This is stated in the words, "In that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you" (John 16:23), and prayer is to be "in the Holy Spirit" (Jude 1:20).
This order is not arbitrarily imposed. However, to pray to Christ is to abandon His mediation by praying to Him, rather than through Him; thereby sacrificing the most vital feature of prayer under grace—prayer in His name. To pray to the Spirit of God is to pray to Him, rather than by Him; and implies that we are, to that degree, depending on our own sufficiency.
It may be concluded then, that prayer under grace is to be offered to the Father, in the name of the Son, and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Service is any work performed for the benefit of another. When tracing this theme through the Bible a series of similarities and contrasts between the Old and New Testament orders will be observed. Almost every doctrine of the New Testament is anticipated in the Old Testament and almost every doctrine of the Old Testament is incomplete until perfected in the New Testament. The theme of service is no exception; for its study will prove to be largely a recognition of the Old Testament type with the New Testament antitype.
Service which God appoints, whether of the Old or New Testament order, is committed only to a divinely fitted priesthood. In the Old Testament order the priesthood was a hierarchy over the nation and in their service they were under the authority of the High Priest. In the New Testament order every believer is a priest unto God (1 Peter 2:5-9; Revelation 1:6) and the whole ministering company of New Testament priests is under the authority of Christ who is the true High Priest, of whom all other High Priests were but types. Therefore, according to the New Testament order, service is committed to all believers alike and on the ground of their priestly relation to God.
In their priestly ministry, the priests of the New Testament, like the priests of the Old Testament, were appointed to serve both God and man.
As there was no evangel to be preached to the nations of the earth, service, in the period covered by the Old Testament, consisted only in the performance by the priests of the divinely appointed ritual in the tabernacle or temple. In contrast to this, the New Testament priestly ministry is much broader in its scope, including not only a service to God and fellow-believers, but to all men everywhere.
At this point there is a striking similarity to be observed. The Old Testament priest was sanctified or set apart both by the fact that he was born into the priestly family of Levi and by the fact that he, with due ceremony, was inducted into the priestly office, which appointment continued so long as he lived. Likewise, at the beginning of his ministry he was ceremonially cleansed by a once for all bathing (Exodus 29:4).
In fulfilling the antitype, the believer priest is wholly and once for all cleansed at the moment he is saved (Colossians 2:13; Titus 3:5), and, by virtue of his salvation is set apart unto God. So, also, he is set apart by the new birth into the family of God. In addition to all this, it is peculiarly required of the New Testament priest that he shall willingly dedicate himself to God. Concerning his self-dedication we read: "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" (Romans 12:1). The phrase, "the mercies of God," refers to the great facts of salvation which have been set forth in the preceding Chapters of the book of Romans, into which mercies every believer enters the moment he is saved; while the presentation of the body as a living sacrifice is the self-dedication to the will of God of all that the believer is and has. That which is thus yielded, God accepts and places where He wills in the field of service (Ephesians 2:10). According to the Scriptures, this divine act of accepting and placing is consecration. Therefore, the believer priest may dedicate himself, but never consecrates himself, to God. In connection with the divine act of consecration, it should be observed that, the present work of Christ as High Priest—receiving, directing, and administering the service of believers—fulfills that which was typified by the ministry of the Old Testament priest in the consecration of the sons of Levi.
Having yielded to God and being no longer conformed to this world, the believer priest will experience a transfigured life by the power of the indwelling Spirit, and by that power he will make full proof of "what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (Romans 12:2).
According to the New Testament order, priestly service in sacrifice toward God is three-fold: (a) The dedication of self which is declared to be a "reasonable service" (Romans 12:1), or more literally, "a spiritual worship." As Christ was Himself both a Sacrificer and a Sacrifice, so the believer may glorify God by the offering of his whole body as a living sacrifice to God. (b) The sacrifice of the lips which is the voice of praise and is to be offered continually (Hebrews 13:5). (c) The sacrifice of substance (Philippians 4:18).
Referring to the cleansing of the priests, it should be noted again that the Old Testament priest upon entering his holy office was once for all cleansed by a whole bathing, which bathing was administered to him by another (Exodus 29:4); however, afterwards, though thus wholly bathed, he was required to be cleansed repeatedly by a partial bathing at the brazen laver, and this before undertaking any and every priestly service. In fulfilling the typical significance of this, the New Testament priest, though wholly cleansed and forgiven when saved, is at all times required to confess every known sin in order that he may be cleansed and qualified for fellowship with God (1 John 1:9).
As the appointment of the Old Testament priest was for life, so the New Testament priest is a priest unto God forever.
As worship was a part of the service of every priest of the old order, so every believer is now appointed to worship. In like manner, as the furnishings of the holy place symbolized the worship of the priest in the Old Testament order and every feature and furnishing of that place spoke of Christ, so the believer's worship is by and through Christ alone.
Again, in service unto God, the believer's worship may be the offering of one's self to God (Romans 12:1), the ascribing of praise and thanksgiving to God from the heart (Hebrews 13:15), or the sacrificial gifts that are offered to Him.
In connection with the worship of the Old Testament priests, there were two prohibitions recorded and these, also, are of typical meaning. No "strange" incense was to be burned (Exodus 30:9)—which speaks typically of mere formality in service toward God; and no "strange" fire was allowed (Leviticus 10:1)—which symbolizes the substitution of fleshly emotions in our service for true devotion to Christ by the Spirit, or the love of lesser things to the exclusion of the love for Christ (1 Corinthians 1:11-13; Colossians 2:8, 16-19).
As the prophet is God's representative to the people, so the priest is the people's representative to God, and priesthood, being a divine appointment, the necessary access to God is always provided; however, no priest of the old dispensation was permitted to enter the holy of holies other than the High Priest, and he but once a year on the ground of sacrificial blood (Hebrews 9:7). In this dispensation, in addition to the fact that Christ as High Priest has with His own blood now entered into the heavenly sanctuary (Hebrews 4:14-16; 9:24; 10:19-22) and is now interceding for His own who are in the world (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25), when Christ died, the veil of the temple was rent—which signifies that the way into the holiest is now open, not to the world, but to all who come unto God on the ground of the shed blood of Christ (Hebrews 10:19-22).
Having unhindered access to God on the ground of the blood of Christ, the New Testament priest is thus privileged to minister in intercession (Romans 8:26-27; Hebrews 10:19-22; 1 Timothy 2:1; Colossians 4:12).
There is a divine arrangement in the order of the truth as found in Romans 12:1-8. Here, as in all the Scriptures, Christian service is not mentioned until the great issues of dedication and consecration are presented. Immediately following the message concerning these fundamental issues, the subject of divinely bestowed gifts for service is introduced, and in this connection it is important to observe the wide difference between the Biblical use of the word gift and that meaning which is given to it in common speech. A gift is generally understood to refer to some native ability received by birth enabling one to do special things. According to the Scriptural use of the word, a gift is a ministry of the indwelling Spirit. It is the Spirit performing a service and using the believer as an instrument. In no sense is it something which is wrought by the believer, or by the believer when assisted by the Spirit. Christian service is said to be a "manifestation of the Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:7), just as Christian character is a "fruit of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22-23).
Though every believer possesses some divinely bestowed gift ( 1 Corinthians 12:7; Ephesians 4:7), there is a diversity of gifts (Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; Ephesians 4:11). Christians are not all appointed to do the same thing. In this there is a contrast with the priestly office wherein all believers sacrifice, worship, and intercede. Though certain representative gifts which are general are named in the Scriptures (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:8-11; Ephesians 4:11) and though some of these have evidently ceased ( 1 Corinthians 13:8), it is probable that the ministry of the Spirit through the believers is as varied as the circumstances in which they are called to serve.
Gifts are bestowed that the servant of God may be "profitable" (1 Corinthians 12:7), and it is therefore implied that service which is wrought in the energy of the flesh is not profitable. The Spirit's manifestation in the exercise of a gift is as "rivers of living water" (John 7:37-39), and is the realization of those "good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10).
Without being urged, Spirit-filled believers are constantly active in the exercise of their gifts; while carnal believers, though, possessing a gift, are not active in its exercise, nor do they respond to human exhortations. However, when they become adjusted to God by confession of sin, yieldedness of life, and a walk in dependence on the indwelling Spirit, immediately they are Spirit-filled and as a result they desire to do the will of God, and, by His sufficient power working in them, become profitable in that service to which they have been before ordained of God. Christians are not Spirit-filled because they are active in service; they are active in service because they are Spirit-filled. Likewise, it is sometimes the will of God that all activity shall cease and that the weary servant shall rest. It was Christ who said, "Come ye apart... and rest."
True thanksgiving is the voluntary expression of heartfelt gratitude for benefit received. Its effectiveness depends upon its sincerity, as its intensity depends upon the value which is placed upon the benefit received (2 Corinthians 9:11). Thanksgiving is peculiarly personal. There are obligations belonging to us which may be assumed by another; but no one can offer for us our word of thanksgiving (Leviticus 22:29).
Thanksgiving is in no way a payment for the benefit received; it is rather a gracious acknowledgment of the fact that the one who had received the benefit is indebted to the giver. Since no payment can be made to God for His unmeasured and uncounted benefits, the obligation to be thankful to Him is stated throughout the Scriptures and all thanksgiving is closely related to worship and praise. Under the old order, the spiritual relationships to God were expressed in material ways. Among these, provision was made for the offering, or sacrifice, of thanksgiving (Leviticus 7:12-13, 15; Psalm 107:22; 116:17). Similarly, in this age, it is the privilege of the believer to make sacrificial offerings of thanksgiving to God. However, if while offering the sacrificial gift of thanksgiving the motive should include the thought of compensation, the essential value of thanksgiving is destroyed.
The subject of thanksgiving is mentioned about forty times in the Old Testament, and thirty of these references are found in the Psalms. In the Old Testament Scriptures explicit direction is given for the thanksgiving offerings (Leviticus 7:12-15), and praise and thanksgiving were especially emphasized in the revival under Nehemiah (Nehemiah 12:24-40). Likewise, the prophetic message of the Old Testament anticipates thanksgiving as a special feature of worship in the coming Kingdom (Isaiah 51:3; Jeremiah 30:19). So, also, there is ceaseless thanksgiving in Heaven (Revelation 4:9; 7:12; 11:17).
An important feature of Old Testament thanksgiving is the appreciation of the Person of God apart from all His benefits (Psalm 30:4; 95:2; 97:12; 100:1-5; 119:62). Though so constantly neglected, this theme of thanksgiving is most important and such praise is reasonable and fitting. "It is a good thing to give thanks unto Jehovah" (Psalm 92:1).
Turning to the New Testament, we find that the theme of thanksgiving is mentioned about forty-five times and that this form of praise is offered for both temporal and spiritual blessings. Christ's unfailing practice of giving thanks for temporal bread (Matthew 15:36; 26:27; Mark 8:6; 14:23; Luke 22:17, 19; John 6:23; 1 Corinthians 11:24) should prove an effectual example to all believers. The Apostle Paul was also faithful in this particular (Acts 27:35. Note also Romans 14:6; 1 Timothy 4:3-4).
Thanksgiving on the part of the Apostle Paul is worthy of close attention. He uses the phrase "thanks be unto God" in connection with Christ as the "unspeakable gift" (2 Corinthians 9:15), concerning the victory over the grave which is secured by the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:57), and because of the present triumph which is ours through Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14). His thanksgiving to God for believers (1 Thessalonians 1:2; 3:9), for Titus in particular (2 Corinthians 8:16), and his exhortation that thanks be given for all men (1 Timothy 2:1) is likewise an object lesson to all the children of God.
Two important features of thanksgiving according to the New Testament should be noted:
1. Thanksgiving Without Ceasing.
Since the adorable Person of God is unchanged and His benefits never cease and since the abundant grace of God will redound to the glory of God through the thanksgiving of many (2 Corinthians 4:15), it is reasonable that thanksgiving shall be given to Him without ceasing. Of this form of praise we read: "By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name" (Hebrews 13:15. Note also Ephesians 1:16; 5:20; Colossians 1:3; 4:2). This feature of thanksgiving is also emphasized in the Old Testament (Psalm 30:12; 79:13; 107:22; 116:17).
2. Thanksgiving for All Things.
Again we read: "Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 5:20); "In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you" (1 Thessalonians 5:18. Note also Philippians 4:6; Colossians 2:7; 3:17).
Giving thanks always for all things is far removed from giving thanks sometimes for some things. However, having accepted the truth that all things work together for good to them that love God, it is fitting that thanks shall be rendered to God for all things. Such God honoring praise can be offered only by those who are saved and who are Spirit-filled (Ephesians 5:18-20). Daniel gave thanks to God in the face of the sentence of death (Daniel 6:10), and Jonah gave thanks to God from the belly of the great fish and from the depths of the sea (Jonah 2:9).
The common sin of ingratitude toward God is illustrated by one of the events which is recorded in the ministry of Christ. Ten lepers were cleansed, but only one returned to give thanks, and he was a Samaritan (Luke 17:11-19). It should be noted here that ingratitude is a sin, being included as one of the sins of the "last days" (2 Timothy 3:2).
It is probable that there is true sincerity on the part of many unsaved who try to be thankful to God for temporal benefits; but their utter failure to appreciate the gift of His Son leaves them most unthankful in His sight.
It should be remembered that Thanksgiving Day was established in this country by believers and for believers and with the recognition of the fact that the Christ-rejecting sinner cannot give acceptable praise unto God.
Money which is earned by toil is human life in concrete form and since money, however gained, is so vital a factor in both spiritual and material progress, the child of God because of his right or wrong use of it will be tried by fire, as he will concerning all his service (1 Corinthians 3:12-15). The element of self is especially evident in matters of Christian finance; for too often money is acquired, held, or dispensed by the child of God without due recognition of that fundamental relationship which he sustains to God. The Christian's responsibility in stewardship may be considered under three phases:
Though the motives which actuate people in their efforts to get money are many, there is but one which is worthy of the Christian's relation to God, which motive is expressed in the words, "Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31). This injunction, it may be seen, is far-reaching in its scope.
It is divinely arranged that all shall engage in toil (Genesis 3:19; 2 Thessalonians 3:10), and the Christian is not excepted. However, to the spiritual, instructed believer, labor is more than merely earning a living: it is doing the will of God; for every employment, be it ever so menial, should be accepted by the child of God as a specific appointment from God, and to be done for Him, else not done at all. The incidental fact that God is pleased to give His child food and raiment through daily labor should not obscure the greater truth that God in infinite love is committed to the care of His children, and this without reference to their earning power (Philippians 4:19; Hebrews 13:5). The saying, "God provides for those only who cannot provide for themselves," is untrue. He cares for His own at all times, since all that they have is from Him (1 Samuel 2:7). In the relationships among men there are agreements and salaries to be recognized, for "the labourer is worthy of his hire"; but in relation to his Father, the Christian's highest ideal concerning his toil is that whatever he does, he does at the appointment of his Father, for His sake, and as an expression of devotion to Him. Likewise, whatever is received is not earned, but is rather the expression of the Father's loving care. Such an attitude is not sentimental or impractical; it is the only basis upon which the believer can sanctify all his toil by doing it for the glory of God, or be able to "rejoice evermore" (1 Thessalonians 5:16) in the midst of the burdens of life.
In view of the appalling need on every hand and the unmeasured good that money may accomplish, every spiritual Christian is facing the practical question relative to retaining property in his own possession. It is doubtless often the will of God that property shall be kept in store; but the yielded Christian will not assume this. His property will be held only as God directs and it will be subject to His control. The motives which actuate men both rich and poor—the desire to be rich (1 Timothy 6:8-9, 17-18; James 1:11; Hebrews 13:5; Philippians 4:11), the desire to provide against a day of need (Matthew 6:25-34), and the desire to provide for others—are commendable only as they fulfill the specifically revealed will of God in each individual's life.
Self and money are alike the roots of much evil, and in the dispensing of money, as in its acquisition and possession, the Christian is expected to stand upon a grace relationship to God. This relationship pre-supposes that he has first given himself to God in unqualified dedication (2 Corinthians 8:5), and a true dedication of self to God includes all that one is and has (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23; 1 Peter 1:18-19)—his life, his time, his strength, his ability, his ideals, and his property.
In matters pertaining to the giving of money, the grace principle involves the believer's recognition of God's sovereign authority over all that the Christian is and has, and is in contrast to the Old Testament legal system of tithing which system was in force as a part of the law until the law was done away (John 1:16-17; Romans 6:14; 7:1-6; 2 Corinthians 3:1-18; Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 2:14; Galatians 3:19-25; 5:18). Though certain principles of the law were carried forward and restated under grace, tithing, like sabbath observance, is never imposed on the believer in this dispensation. Since the Lord's day superseded the legal sabbath and is adapted to the principles of grace as the sabbath could not be, so tithing has been superseded by a new system of giving which is adapted to the teachings of grace as tithing could not be.
Christian giving under grace as illustrated in the experience of the saints at Corinth, is summarized in 2 Corinthians 8:1 to 2 Corinthians 9:15. In this passage we discover:
The Lord's giving of Himself (2 Corinthians 8:9) is the pattern of all giving under grace. He did not give a tenth; He gave all.
A striking combination of phrases is employed to describe what the Corinthians experienced in their giving (2 Corinthians 8:2): "In a great trial of affliction," "the abundance of their joy," "their deep poverty abounded," "the riches of their liberality." Likewise, concerning liberality in spite of great poverty, it should be remembered that "the widow's mite" (Luke 21:1-4), which drew out the commendation of the Lord Jesus, was not a part, but "all that she had."
Under the law, a tenth was commanded and its payment was a necessity; under grace, God is not seeking the gift, but an expression of devotion from the giver. Under grace no law is imposed, and no proportion to be given is stipulated; and, while it is true that God works in the yielded heart both to will and to do His good pleasure (Philippians 2:14), He finds pleasure only in that gift which is given cheerfully, or more literally, hilariously (2 Corinthians 9:7). If a law existed stipulating the amount to be given, there are those, doubtless, who would seek to fulfill it, even against their own wishes and thus their gift would be made "grudgingly," and "of necessity." If it be said that to support the work of the Gospel we must have money whether given hilariously or not, it may also be said that it is not the amount which is given, but rather the divine blessing upon the gift that accomplishes the desired end. Christ fed five thousand from five loaves and two fishes, and there is abundant evidence to prove that wherever the children of God have fulfilled their privilege in giving under grace, their liberality has resulted in "all sufficiency in all things" which has made them "abound unto every good work," for God is able to make even the grace of giving to "abound" to every believer (2 Corinthians 9:8).
Acceptable giving is preceded by a complete giving of one's own self (2 Corinthians 8:5). This suggests the important truth that giving under grace, like giving under the law, is limited to a certain class of people. Tithing was never imposed by God on any other than the nation Israel. So, Christian giving is limited to believers, and is most acceptable when given by believers who have yielded their lives to God.
Like tithing, there is suggested systematic regularity in giving under grace. "Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him" (1 Corinthians 16:2). This injunction is addressed to "every man" (every Christian man), and thus excuses none; and giving is to be from that which is already "in store," rather than a promise or pledge concerning funds which they have not yet received. It may be observed that very much giving at the present time is a direct violation of this principle. Believers are everywhere urged to make their "pledge" based on what they hope to receive.
God will sustain grace-giving with limitless temporal resources (2 Corinthians 9:8-10; Luke 6:38). In this connection it may be seen that those who give as much as a tenth are usually prospered in temporal things; but, since the believer can have no relation to the law (Galatians 5:1), it is evident that this prosperity is the fulfillment of the promise under grace, rather than the fulfillment of promises under the law. No blessings are thus dependent on the exact tithing. The blessings are bestowed because a heart has expressed itself through a gift. It is manifest that no gift will be made to God from the heart which He will not graciously acknowledge. There is no opportunity here for designing people to become rich. The giving must be from the heart, and God's response will be according to His perfect will for His child. He may respond by bestowing spiritual riches, or in temporal blessings as He shall choose.
The Corinthian Christians were made rich with heavenly riches. There is such a thing as being rich in this world's goods and yet not rich toward God (Luke 12:21). All such are invited to buy of Him that gold which is tried in the fire (Revelation 3:18). Through the absolute poverty of Christ in His death, all may be made rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). It is possible to be rich in faith (James 2:5), and rich in good works (1 Timothy 6:18); but in Christ Jesus the believer receives "the riches of grace" (Ephesians 1:7), and "the riches of glory" (Ephesians 3:16).
In all ages it has pleased God to pre-announce certain things He proposed to do. Those announcements are termed prophecies. All prophecy is history pre-written and it is as credible as any word God hath spoken (2 Timothy 3:16). While prophecy is found in almost every book of the Bible, sixteen books of the Old Testament and one book of the New Testament are wholly prophetic in character. In all, nearly one-fourth of the Bible was predictive when it was written. A portion of the Bible prediction has now been fulfilled, and, it should be noted, in every case its fulfillment has been literal or precisely as predicted. It is reasonably concluded, therefore, that all remaining prophecy will be as literally fulfilled.
It is probable that, to some degree, prophecy has been divinely sealed (Daniel 12:9) until the end of the age and it is therefore significant that to this portion of the Scriptures so much study is now being given with gratifying results. However, throughout its history the Protestant church has retained in a large measure the Roman Catholic assumption that the church is the kingdom and is therefore appointed to conquer and govern the earth. A right understanding of prophecy is demanded if the student is rightly to divide the Word of Truth and to discern his own place and divine appointments in the world.
While it is not difficult to believe the record of events given in the Bible which have already taken place, it is a test upon faith to believe the record of events which are yet future and known only through the prophecies of the Bible.
A consistent interpretation of prophecy requires that all words such as Israel, Zion, Kingdom, and Church shall be given their natural and obvious meaning, and that no place shall be allowed for the supposition that there are various and equally acceptable ways of interpreting the Scriptures. The Bible lends itself to but one program of events and to this program all Scripture is in perfect accord. While men may earnestly contend for the "Post" or the "Non," or the "Pre"-millenarian interpretation, but one of these could be according to truth.
It is evident that all Bible interpretation will be incomplete without the knowledge of prophecy, and it is equally true that the right understanding of the New Testament is wholly dependent upon the right understanding of Old Testament prediction. The Apostle Paul stated regarding himself that he could gain the enviable title of "a good minister of Jesus Christ" (1 Timothy 4:6) only as he in all faithfulness put his hearers in remembrance of things which were yet future (1 Timothy 4:1-5).
The prophet was God's representative to man, as the priest was man's representative to God. There is a beautiful order in the fact that he was first called "the man of God," then "the seer," and finally "the prophet" (1 Samuel 9:8-9). There were many "false prophets" who uttered only their own messages; the true prophets of God were moved (Lit., borne along) by the Spirit of God (1 Peter 1:21), though not all of them were called upon to write their predictions. All true prophets were patriots and reformers, and it is noticeable that their ministry was exercised at such times as the nation Israel, to whom they spoke, was drifting away from God.
While the study of prophecy is as inexhaustible as the Scriptures themselves, there are certain major themes of prophecy in both the Old and the New Testaments. The major themes of prophecy in the Old Testament are:
Old Testament prophecy relative to the Gentiles begins with the allotment of the portion of the sons of Noah (Genesis 9:25-27), which prediction has been fulfilled to the present hour. Another extensive Gentile prophecy of the Old Testament concerns the judgments of God upon the nations surrounding Israel—Babylon and Chaldea (Isaiah 13:1-22; 14:18-27; Jeremiah 50:1-51:64), Moab (Isaiah 15:1-9; 16:1-14; Jeremiah 48:1-4), Damascus (Isaiah 17:1-14; Jeremiah 49:23-27), Egypt (Isaiah 19:1-25; Jeremiah 46:2-28), Philistia and Tyre (Isaiah 23:1-18; Jeremiah 47:1-7), Edom (Jeremiah 49:7-22) Ammon (Jeremiah 49:1-6), Elam (Jeremiah 49:34-39)—which likewise have largely been fulfilled (see, also, Amos 1:1-15). Additional Gentile prophecy is recorded in the Old Testament as to world-ruling monarchies and their authority during the "times of the Gentiles" (Luke 21:24). This succession of governments was revealed to Daniel (Daniel 2:37-45; 7:1-14) and subsequent history has proven these kingdoms to have been Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece and Rome. Old Testament prophecy also anticipates the final judgment of the Gentile nations (Joel 3:2-16; Zephaniah 3:8). However, Old Testament prophecy gives assurance that the Gentiles will come into great blessing in the kingdom age (Isaiah 11:10; 42:1, 6; 49:6, 22; 60:3; 62:2).
This group of predicted events which began with Abraham covers Israel's life both in the land and in bondage, and the detailed predictions are found in the Pentateuch and the Books of history. All of these prophecies have been fulfilled and in the most literal manner.
Some of these predictions are: (a) Israel's Egyptian bondage and release (Genesis 15:13-14); (b) The character and destiny of Jacob's sons (Genesis 49:1-28); (c) Israel in the land following the Egyptian bondage (Deuteronomy 4:26-30; 31:14-23); (d) Israel's three dispossessions of the land (Genesis 15:13-14, 16; Jeremiah 25:11-12; Deuteronomy 28:62-67. See, also, Psalm 106:1-48; Deuteronomy 30:1-3; Leviticus 26:3-46; Nehemiah 1:8; Jeremiah 9:16; 18:15-17; Ezekiel 12:14-15; 20:23; 22:15; James 1:1).
Beginning with the Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 12:1-4; 13:14-17; 15:1-7; 17:1-8), and continuing throughout the Old Testament there is prediction concerning the chosen earthly people of God. To them has been promised: a national entity (Jeremiah 31:36), a land (Genesis 13:15), a throne (2 Samuel 7:16; Psalm 89:36), a King (Jeremiah 33:21), and a kingdom (Daniel 7:14). All of these divine blessings are endless in their duration; yet reservation is made whereby these blessings may be interrupted as a chastisement upon the nation, but never can they be abrogated. The importance of the chosen people in the reckoning of God and the extent of the Scriptures bearing upon their past, present, and future, is disclosed when it is seen that all Scripture from Genesis 12:1 to the end of Malachi relates to them directly or indirectly. As to their future, this people will, according to prophecy, take the leading place among all the peoples of the earth, planted forever upon their own land under the gracious reign of David's Greater Son sitting on David's throne.
By the Assyrian captivity of the Northern Kingdom and the Babylonian captivity of the Southern Kingdom and as a national punishment for sin, the whole house of Israel was taken from off the land and in due time was scattered among the nations of the earth.
This was in fulfillment of multiplied prophecies (Leviticus 26:32-39; Deuteronomy 28:63-68; Psalm 44:11; Nehemiah 1:8; Jeremiah 9:16; 18:15-17; Ezekiel 12:14-15; 20:23; 22:15; James 1:1).
In no case would Israel's national entity be lost even through centuries of dispersion (Jeremiah 31:36; Matthew 24:34). They refused the divine offer and provision for their regathering and kingdom glory which was made by their Messiah at His first advent (Matthew 23:37-39), and, as at Kadesh-barnea where their wilderness experience was extended (Numbers 14:1-45), their chastisement was continued, and will be continued until He comes again. At that time He will regather His people into their own land and cause them to enter into the glory and blessedness of every covenant promise of Jehovah concerning them (Deuteronomy 30:1-10; Isaiah 11:11-12; Jeremiah 23:3-8; Ezekiel 37:21-25; Matthew 24:31).
From 1 Peter 1:10-11 it is clear that the prophets of the Old Testament were unable to distinguish two advents of the Messiah. So perfectly was the present age a secret in the counsels of God that, to the prophets, these events which were fulfilled at His first coming and those which are yet to be fulfilled, at His second coming were in no way separated as to the time of their fulfillment. Isaiah 61:1-2 is an illustration of this. When reading this passage in the synagogue of Capernaum, Christ ceased abruptly when He had concluded the record of those features which were predicted for His first advent (Luke 4:18-21), making no mention of the remaining features which are to be fulfilled when He comes again. In like manner, the Angel Gabriel, when anticipating the ministry of Christ, combined as in one the undertakings which belong to both the first and the second advents (Luke 1:31-33). According to Old Testament prophecy, Christ was to come both as a sacrificial, unresisting Lamb (Isaiah 53:1-12), and as the conquering and glorious Lion of the tribe of Judah (Isaiah 11:1-12; Jeremiah 23:5-6). Considering these two extensive lines of prediction, there is little wonder that there was perplexity in the minds of the Old Testament prophets as to the "manner of time" when all this would be fulfilled (1 Peter 1:10-11).
Prophecy stipulated that the Messiah must be of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10), of the house of David (Isaiah 11:1; Jeremiah 33:21), born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), in Bethlehem of Judea (Micah 5:2), that He must die a sacrificial death (Isaiah 53:1-12), by crucifixion (Psalm 22:1-21), rise again from the dead (Psalm 16:8-11), and come to earth the second time (Deuteronomy 30:3) on the clouds of Heaven (Daniel 7:13). Jesus of Nazareth has fulfilled, and will fulfill, every requirement of prophecy concerning the Messiah as no other claimant can ever do.
Closely related to the present age-long chastisement of Israel, Old Testament prophecy anticipates a time of unprecedented tribulation in the earth (Deuteronomy 4:29-30; Psalm 2:5; Isaiah 24:16-20; Jeremiah 30:4-7; Daniel 12:1). Though this line of prediction is greatly enlarged in the New Testament, the Old Testament prophecy indicates the one essential feature of this period. It is said to be "the time of Jacob's trouble" (Jeremiah 30:4-7), and comes to that nation as the consummation of their sufferings at the hand of Jehovah for their sins.
In respect to the amount of the Scriptures involved, there is no theme of Old Testament prophecy comparable with that of the Messianic kingdom. Lying beyond all the predicted chastisements that are to fall on Israel is the glory which will be theirs when regathered into their own land, with unmeasured spiritual blessings under the glorious reign of their Messiah-King. This vision was given to all the prophets and as certainly and literally as Israel, in fulfillment of prophecy, was removed from the land and caused to suffer during these many centuries, so certainly and literally will she be restored to marvelous blessings in a redeemed and glorified earth (Isaiah 11:1-16; 12:1-6; Isaiah 24:22 to Isaiah 27:13; 35:1-10; 52:12; Isaiah 54:1 to Isaiah 55:13; Isaiah 59:20 to Isaiah 66:24; Jeremiah 23:3-8; 31:1-40; 32:37-41; 33:1-26; Ezekiel 34:11-31; 36:32-38; 37:1-28; Ezekiel 40:1 to Ezekiel 48:35; Daniel 2:44-45; 7:14; Hosea 3:4-5; Hosea 13:9 to Hosea 14:9; Joel 2:28 to Joel 3:21; Amos 9:11-15; Zephaniah 3:14-20; Zechariah 8:1-23; 14:9-21).
Old Testament predictions concerning the kingdom are often a part of the predictions concerning the return of the King and when these two themes are combined into one, it is termed The Day of the Lord, which phrase refers to that lengthened period extending from the second coming of Christ and the accompanying judgments in the earth, to the end of His millennial reign (Isaiah 2:10-22; Zechariah 14:1-21).
Because of the fact that none of the great prophecies were fulfilled in the days covered by the Old Testament, that portion of the Bible is in itself incomplete and therefore to that extent disappointing. By the second coming of Christ who is the fulfiller of her prophecies (Matthew 5:17), the "consolation" of Israel is to be realized (Luke 2:25).
As the Old Testament closes with the expectation unrealized concerning the coming of Israel's King and His kingdom, so the New Testament opens with the advent of the King and the offer to that nation of His kingdom (Matthew 2:1-2; 4:17). They rejected the King (Matthew 23:37-38), and answered His claims by crucifixion. Before His death, He spoke in prophecy concerning that death, His resurrection, His departure from this world (John 16:5) and of His coming again (Matthew 24:27-31; 25:31). Likewise, He spoke in prophecy of a new hitherto unannounced age which was to intervene between His rejection and His return, and which was to introduce new and far-reaching divine purposes in the earth (Matthew 13:1-50). Thus at the very beginning of the New Testament, the message of prophecy contained in the Old Testament is advanced and broadened with great rapidity.
Though prophecy is included in nearly every book of the New Testament, the consummation of prophecy for the New Testament and for all the Scriptures is set forth in the last book of the Bible. That Book, though containing but twenty-two brief Chapters is the termini of all highways of prophecy which like great trunk lines have threaded their way through all the Word of God. Because of its relation to all that has gone before, the Book of Revelation cannot be understood apart from all preceding prophecy, nor can the preceding prophecy be understood until it is traced for its consummation to this closing portion of the Scriptures. Some of these highways of prophecy are: The Person of Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King; The destiny of Israel, of the Church, of the Gentiles, of human institutions and governments, of Satan and his hosts both of earth and of Heaven. The extent of this Book is disclosed in the fact that in it this age and the future ages are also unfolded. It records the history of the Church on the earth in the present dispensation and unfolds the coming days of the Tribulation. It reaches on to the glorious millennial reign of Christ on the earth and unfolds the blessedness of the redeemed and the woes of the lost in the eternity to come.
The continuity of the whole Bible is shown in many ways, but in none is it seen more clearly than in the fact of prophecy and its fulfillment. The New Testament takes up unfulfilled Old Testament prophecy and carries it on to its consummation; it also introduces new themes of prediction and advances them to their fulfillment. The major themes of the New Testament are:
The present dispensation which has extended already nearly two thousand years and which lies between the two advents of Christ, was never anticipated in any Old Testament prophecy. Also, in being mentioned as a "mystery" (Matthew 13:11), it is declared to be one of the sacred secrets hidden in the counsels of God until the appointed time of its revelation; for a "mystery" in the New Testament use of the word is something hitherto unrevealed (note Romans 11:25; 2 Thessalonians 2:7; Colossians 1:27; Ephesians 3:1-6; 5:25-32; 1 Corinthians 15:51). The phrase "The kingdom of heaven" refers to any rule God may exercise at any time in the earth. Being limited to the earth, it is to be distinguished from the kingdom of God, which embraces not only the sphere of the kingdom of heaven, but all that is in Heaven, and the whole universe. While the long predicted millennial reign of Christ in the earth is the final form of the kingdom of heaven and that which was foreseen by all the prophets and announced by Christ in His early ministry, the present dispensation, being that form of divine rule in the earth in which God is ruling to the extent that He is realizing the accomplishment of those things which are termed "mysteries," is rightly called "the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 13:11).
The first twelve Chapters of the Gospel by Matthew present Christ as Israel's Messiah and record the first indication of His rejection by that nation. Following these indications of His rejection, He, as recorded in Matthew 13, announces by seven parables the features of the new age and indicates its character at its beginning, its course, and its end. At the opening of Chapter 13, the sphere of the divine purpose is changed from the nation Israel to the whole world, and Israel is seen only as a "treasure" hid in a field (Matt 13:44). The seed of the Gospel is sown in the whole world and the harvest is an out-calling of those who believe. These will be received and preserved as the children of God, while those who do not believe are to be rejected and judged.
This new age at its beginning was said to be evil (Galatians 1:4), and its course is characterized by the parallel development of both the evil and the good (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43). Its "last days" and their evil character are set forth in one of the most extensive bodies of the New Testament Scriptures (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; James 5:1-10; 2 Peter 2:1 to 2 Peter 3:8; Jude 1:1-24; Revelation 3:14-22).
In no sense does the Bible predict a converted earth in this dispensation (Matthew 13:1-50; 24:38-39; 2 Timothy 3:16); but it does anticipate the perfect realization of the purpose of God.
The New Testament introduces the Church as a new classification of humanity in addition to the Jews and the Gentiles who have been seen throughout the Old Testament (1 Corinthians 10:32). By the word Church (note its first use—Matthew 16:18) reference is made to those from all kindreds and tribes who in this age are born again, and thus, by receiving the new resurrection life of Christ and by being baptized with the Spirit, are in Christ forming the New Creation. Into this company both Jews and Gentiles are gathered (Ephesians 3:1-6) through the preaching of the Gospel of divine grace. This redeemed company are now related to Christ as, His sheep (John 10:6-16), the branches in the Vine (John 15:1-5), the stones in a building (Ephesians 2:18-22), a kingdom of priests (1 Peter 2:5; Hebrews 8:1), the New Creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), the body (Ephesians 1:22-23; 3:6), and they will be related to Him as His bride in Heaven (Revelation 19:7-8; 21:9).
When the divine purpose in the out-calling of the Church has been completed, Christ will come to receive His own (John 14:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). Those who may have died will be raised (1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17), and those then living will be translated (1 Corinthians 15:51; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17), and all, whether by resurrection or translation, shall receive a new body like unto His glorious body (Philippians 3:20).
New Testament prophecy carries the Church through all the pilgrim experiences on the earth (Revelation 2:1 to Revelation 3:22), sees her received into Heaven at the Coming of the Lord, and sees her returning with Him to reign with Him on the earth (Revelation 19:14; 20:6).
New Testament prophecy takes up the nation Israel where Old Testament prophecy leaves them—a disorganized and partly scattered people a portion of whom are living in the land but without right or title. Dispensationally, they are nationally set aside, but individually they are on the same plane with the Gentiles (Romans 3:9) and alike shut up to the offer of salvation by grace alone. Christ predicted that the wrath of God would fall upon them and that their beloved city would be destroyed (Luke 21:20-24) which prophecy was fulfilled by the siege under Titus in the year 70 A.D. Likewise, He predicted the sorrows of the Tribulation (Matthew 24:8-22), their sifting judgments preparatory to their entrance into their kingdom glory (Matthew 24:44 to Matthew 25:30; note also, Ezekiel 20:38), and His own occupancy of the throne of David (Matthew 25:31; note, also, Luke 1:31-33; Acts 15:16-17) when their blessings under the Davidic covenant will be realized. The Apostle Paul prophesied of Israel's national conversion (Romans 11:26-27) and the Apostle John prophesied of their place in the Tribulation (Revelation 7:4-17; 12:13-17) and of their coming kingdom in the earth (Revelation 20:4, 6).
At its beginning it was predicted that, throughout this dispensation the nation Israel would be hid (Matthew 13:44), blind (Romans 11:25), broken off (Romans 11:17), without their national center (Luke 21:24), and scattered (Matthew 10:6; James 1:1); that in the Tribulation they are to be hated (Matthew 24:9); and in the kingdom they are to be regathered (Matthew 24:31) and saved (Romans 11:27).
"The times of the Gentiles" (Luke 21:24), which began in the last dispersion six hundred years before Christ, are characterized by a succession of world empires (Daniel 2:37-45; 7:1-14), continue their course throughout the present dispensation and are ended by the coming of Christ. Fulfilling Daniel's prophecy of the "smiting stone" (Daniel 2:36-45), He comes in "the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God" (Revelation 19:15), conquering the God-defying nations of the earth in the battle of Armageddon (Revelation 19:17-21; 17:8-18). Then, also, the nations are to be judged and from among them appointments made of those who shall be counted worthy to enter the coming kingdom (Matthew 25:34), and those who shall be dismissed into everlasting fire (Matthew 25:41-46).
The divine purpose in the present dispensation is that the Gospel shall be preached to Gentiles as well as to Jews (Acts 9:15; 13:47; 15:14; Romans 3:9, 29; 11:11; 15:9-27; Ephesians 3:6).
Continuing with greater detail the Old Testament predictions concerning the Tribulation, the New Testament is both explicit and extensive. Christ spoke of that time in relation to Israel (Matthew 24:8-31), the Apostle Paul writes of it in its relation to the forces of evil (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12), while the Apostle John records at length the tremendous divine program which will be enacted in those days (Revelation 3:10; 6:1 to Revelation 19:6). In this brief period which is probably at most but seven years (Daniel 9:24-27, and shortened a little, Matthew 24:22), judgments are accomplished in the earth, the forces of evil are first released and then terminated, while both ecclesiastical and political Babylon are destroyed.
Prophecy concerning Satan begins in the Old Testament (Ezekiel 28:11-19; Isaiah 14:12-17) and concludes with his expulsion from Heaven into the earth (Revelation 12:7-12), his binding and confinement to the abyss (Revelation 20:1-3), and, after he has been released from the abyss for a little season and has led the last revolt against the authority of God (Revelation 20:7-9), his final doom in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10).
Closely related to prophecy concerning Satan is that of the Man of Sin which prophecy also begins in the Old Testament (Ezekiel 28:1-10; Daniel 7:8; 9:24-27; 11:36-45) and includes the prophecy by Christ in which the coming of that wicked one is pointed out as a sign to Israel of the end of the age (Matthew 24:15). Likewise, the Apostle Paul foresees him desecrating the restored temple, declaring himself to be God, and then to be destroyed by the glorious appearing of Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12); while the Apostle John sees him in both his governmental power and his final doom (Revelation 13:3-10; 19:20; 20:10).
This the greatest theme of all prophecy was the subject of the first prediction by man (Jude 1:14-15), and is the last message of the Bible (Revelation 22:20). It is the dominant feature of all Old Testament prophecy concerning the Day of the Lord and, likewise, is the major theme of New Testament prophecy. Beginning with the first evidence of Israel's rejection of His Messianic claims, this great event was continually upon the lips of Christ (Matthew 23:37 to Matthew 25:46; Mark 13:1-37; Luke 21:5-38). Again, it is emphasized by the Apostle Paul (Romans 11:26; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 5:1-4; 2 Thessalonians 1:7 to 2 Thessalonians 2:12), by James (James 5:1-8), by Peter (2 Peter 2:1 to 2 Peter 3:17), by Jude (Jude 1:14-15), and by John throughout the Revelation.
Continuing this major theme of the Old Testament prophecy, the New Testament adds many details. The kingdom teachings of Christ, addressed to Israel as recorded! in the Synoptic Gospels, portray the character and glory of that coming age, while the Apostle John reveals it duration to be a period of one thousand years (Revelation 20:4, 6).
While little is written in the Old Testament, the final estates of both the saved and the lost are in view throughout the New Testament. Of those who testify regarding these future conditions, Christ and the Apostle John have spoken with greatest emphasis (Matthew 25:46; John 14:1-3; Revelation 20:14-15; Revelation 21:1 to Revelation 22:15).
With reference to sin, the Scriptures teach that the child of God under grace shall not come into judgment (John 3:18; 5:24; 6:37; Romans 5:1; 8:1, R.V.; 1 Corinthians 11:32); for, as to his standing before God, and on the ground that the penalty for all sin—past, present, and future (Colossians 2:13)—has been borne by Christ as the perfect Substitute, the believer is not only placed beyond condemnation, but, being in Christ, is accepted in the perfection of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30; Ephesians 1:6; Colossians 2:10; Hebrews 10:14), and loved of God as Christ is loved (John 17:23). But with reference to his daily life and service for God, the Christian must give an account before the judgment seat of Christ (Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Ephesians 6:8), which judgment will occur at the coming of Christ to receive His own (1 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Timothy 4:8; Revelation 22:12. Note also Matthew 16:27; Luke 14:14).
When standing before the Great White Throne for their final judgment, the unsaved are to be judged "according to their works" (Revelation 20:11-15). It is not the purpose of this judgment to determine whether those standing there are saved or lost; it rather determines the degree of penalty which, because of their evil works, shall rest upon those who are lost. Likewise, the saved, when standing before the judgment seat of Christ at His coming, are judged according to their works, and this judgment does not determine whether they are saved or lost; it rather determines the reward or loss of reward for service which will be due each individual believer. Those who shall stand before the judgment seat of Christ will not only be saved and safe, but will already have been taken into Heaven; not on the ground of their merit or works, but on the ground of divine grace made possible through the saviourhood of Christ. Since, under grace, the character of the believer's life and service does not, and cannot, in any way condition his eternal salvation, by so much, the life and service of the believer becomes a separate and unrelated issue to be judged by Christ—whose we are and whom we serve.
When gathered before "the throne of his glory," there is also to be a reckoning of reward on the basis of merit both for Israel and the nations, but apart from the issues of personal salvation (Matthew 25:31. Note Matthew 6:2-6; 24:45-46; 25:1-46).
There are two central passages on the subject of the believer's rewards which are conclusive:
First. 1 Corinthians 3:9-15.
In determining the force of this passage, it should be observed (1) that only those who are saved are in view. The personal pronouns we and ye include all who are saved and exclude all who are not saved, and likewise, the word man refers only to the one who is building on the Rock Christ Jesus. (2) Having presented to the Corinthians the Gospel by which they were saved—which salvation provides the Rock on which the saved one stands—the Apostle Paul likens himself to a wise master-builder who has laid the foundation; but in strong contrast to this, he indicates that each believer for himself is building the superstructure upon the one foundation which is provided through the grace of God. The appeal, therefore, is to each one to take heed how he builds thereon. This is not a reference to so-called "character building," which theme finds no basis in those Scriptures which are addressed to the saints of this dispensation; their character is said to be "the fruit of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22-23) and is realized not by fleshly effort, but when walking by means of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). The believer is represented as building a superstructure of service, or works, which is to be tested by fire—possibly by the eyes of fire of the Lord before whom he will stand (Revelation 1:14). (3) The "work" which the Christian is building upon Christ Jesus may be of wood, hay, or stubble which fire destroys; or it may be of gold, silver, and precious stone which fire does not destroy, and which, as in the case of gold and silver, is purified by it. (4) To the one whose "work" shall abide which he hath built on Christ, a reward shall be given; but the one whose "work" shall be burned shall suffer loss: not his salvation which is secured through the finished work of Christ, but his reward. Even when passing through the fire which is to test every Christian's work and though suffering the loss of his reward, he himself shall be saved.
Second. 1 Corinthians 9:16-27.
Having reference to his own service in preaching the Gospel, the Apostle inquires, "What is my reward then?" The true answer to this question most naturally depends upon the nature and quality of the service he has rendered to God. The Apostle therefore proceeds to recount his own faithfulness in works (1 Corinthians 18-23). No one will deny the truthfulness of his report. He then likens Christian service to a race in which all believers are running, and, as in a foot race, but one receiveth the prize—and that through a superior effort. Similarly, in Christian service the believer should exert all his strength that he may obtain his full reward—run, as it were, to surpass all others. Again, as the athlete is temperate in all things that he may obtain a corruptible crown, so the Christian should be temperate in all things that he may obtain an incorruptible crown. The Apostle's temperateness is seen in the fact that he kept his own body under and brought it into subjection lest that in some unworthy and half-hearted service for others he himself should be disapproved. The word here translated "castaway" is adokimos, which is the negative form of dokimos, and as dokimos is translated "approved" (Romans 14:18; 16:10; 1 Corinthians 11:19; 2 Corinthians 10:18; 2 Timothy 2:15), so adokimos should be translated "disapproved." Since the Apostle's salvation is in no way in question, he was not fearing lest he would be dismissed from God forever; but he did fear being disapproved in the sphere of his service.
The Christian's reward is sometimes mentioned as a "prize" (1 Corinthians 9:24), and sometimes as a "crown" (1 Corinthians 9:25; Philippians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 2 Timothy 4:8; James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:4; Revelation 2:10; 3:11). These crowns may be classified under five divisions representing five distinct forms of Christian service and suffering, and the child of God is also warned lest he lose his reward (Colossians 2:18; 2 John 1:8; Revelation 3:11).
The doctrine of rewards is the necessary counterpart of the doctrine of salvation by grace. Since God does not, and cannot, reckon the believer's merit or works to the account of his salvation, it is required that the believer's good works shall be divinely acknowledged. The saved one owes nothing to God in payment for salvation which is bestowed as a gift; but he does owe God a life of undivided devotion, and for this life of devotion there is promised a reward in Heaven.
While but three judgments are considered particularly in this series, the Bible distinguishes seven in all, which fact is in marked disagreement with the almost universal conception that there is but one final and all-inclusive judgment. The seven judgments described in the Scriptures are:
1. The judgment of the cross wherein Christ as Substitute bore that righteous judgment from God which was due the sinner because of his sins (John 5:24; Romans 5:9; 8:1; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13; Hebrews 9:26-28; 10:10, 14-17; 1 Peter 2:24). At that judgment the Substitute was executed and perfect deliverance was secured for all who will believe.
2. Chastisement from the Father upon the believer because of persistent and willful sin (1 Corinthians 11:31-32), which judgment may be avoided if in true penitence and confession the believer will judge himself before God.
3. The judgment of the nation Israel at the close of the Great Tribulation and in connection with the Second Coming of Christ. The object of this judgment is to determine those among that nation who will be accounted worthy to enter the covenanted, earthly kingdom (Ezekiel 20:37-38; Matthew 25:21).
4. The judgment of the believer's works at the coming of Christ to receive His own (Romans 14:10; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Ephesians 6:8; 2 Timothy 4:8; Revelation 22:12)—the theme of the last Chapter.
5. The judgment of the nations which is the subject of this study.
6. The judgment of the fallen angels (Jude 1:6).
7. The judgment of the Great White Throne (Revelation 20:11-15) which is the theme of the next Chapter.
Among the world-transforming events which are to occur at the Second Coming of Christ, Israel will be judged first. This is the order which obtains in Matthew, Chapters 24 and 25. It is there stated that at His coming He will gather His elect people—Israel—(Matthew 24:31) from among the nations (note Deuteronomy 30:3-6; Isaiah 11:11-12; 14:1-3; 60:1-22; Jeremiah 23:6-8; 32:27, 38; 33:7-9; Ezekiel 36:16-38; 37:21-25; Micah 4:6-8), and while it is true that all Israel shall be saved (Romans 11:26), it is equally true that He will purge out the "rebels" (Ezekiel 20:37-38), and that only the spiritual among Israel will enter the covenanted, earthly kingdom. Of two grinding at the mill, or two in the field, one shall be taken away in judgment and one shall be left to enter the kingdom glory (Matthew 24:40-51). Five virgins will enter the marriage feast, and five will be excluded (Matthew 25:1-13). So, likewise, Israel will be judged as to the use of God-given talents, and from one shall be taken even that which he hath, and he shall be cast into outer darkness (Matthew 25:14-30).
Following the judgment of Israel, the nations are to be judged by Christ who, accompanied by the holy angels, will have returned to the earth with power and great glory, and who will have been seated on the throne of His glory (Matthew 25:31-46). At the present time, Christ is seated on His Father's throne awaiting the appointed time of His return to the earth (Revelation 3:21). His own throne (Revelation 3:21) is the throne of David (Luke 1:31-33), which is the throne of His glory on the earth.
In the context of Matthew 24 and Matthew 25, continuing to Matthew 25:31, Christ is seen executing judgment over regathered Israel. Beginning with Matthew 25:31, He is seen judging the nations, which judgment is to determine who among the nations shall enter the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world (Matthew 25:34. Note Psalm 72:11, 17; 86:9; Isaiah 55:5; Daniel 7:13-14; Micah 4:2; Zechariah 8:22). The test in this judgment will be the treatment the nations will have accorded to Israel, who are here called by the Lord "my brethren." This is not a reference to the Church; that company will have been with the Lord in Heaven and will have returned with Him to reign (Revelation 19:7-14) before He sits upon the throne of His glory. The "brethren" are Israel—His brethren according to the flesh.
While there has been for many centuries a degree of persecution of Israel by the nations, the present world condition in this respect lends little basis for the understanding of the issues that will exist at the end of the Great Tribulation. Among other features, that period is to be characterized by the witness to the nations on the part of a godly remnant among Israel concerning the returning King and His kingdom. The Tribulation period will be characterized also by the persecution of Israel on the part of some of the nations. Because of this fact, that period is termed "the time of Jacob's trouble" (Jeremiah 30:7). At that time, the persecution of Israel will no longer be a passing event in the affairs of the world; the Gentile peoples will have been divided over the national interests of Israel and unprecedented violence will be Israel's portion.
There are two general reasons why the force and meaning of the judgment of the nations is so often misunderstood:
(1) Failure in recognizing the world conditions, especially concerning Israel in her relation to the nations, which, according to prophecy, are to be consummated at the end of the Tribulation.
(2) Failure in recognizing the unique place which the chosen people occupy in the love and purpose of God. They are dear to Him as the apple of His eye, and are graven on His hand (Isaiah 49:16).
We read in connection with the judgment which Jehovah will bring on the nations who persecute Israel: "He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye" (Zechariah 2:8), and, "The Lord's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye" (Deuteronomy 32:9-10). To this people Jehovah has said: "I have loved thee with an everlasting love" (Jeremiah 31:3). He has never asked the nations to persecute Israel, and the Scriptures predict a sore judgment to fall on those nations who do persecute her. The kingdom belongs to Israel, and only the nations who have proven themselves to be kindly disposed to that people are to be permitted to share their earthly glory.
In the Scriptures, the term "sheep" is used of any people who are in covenant with, or in provisional relation of blessing to, Jehovah. The Gentile "sheep" who enter the kingdom on the ground of their merit in relation to Israel are not to be confused with the Christians of this age who enter Heaven on the ground of the finished work of Christ. Nor are those who are termed "goats" and who are dismissed into everlasting fire because of their own sinfulness and their hatred of that people who are graven on the hand of Jehovah to be confused with those of this age who are condemned because of a personal rejection of Christ as Saviour (John 3:18). The judgment of the nations, which prepares for the kingdom, is too often confused with the final Great White Throne judgment with which the kingdom ends. The judgment of the nations is distinctly said to be at the Second Coming of Christ. There is no resurrection, the throne of judgment is on the earth, three classes of people are in view, and no books are opened. All of this is in contrast to those conditions which are predicted for the judgment of the Great White Throne (Revelation 20:11-15). The issues of the judgment of the nations are stupendous: the righteous character of God is declared, a transformed social order is set up in the earth, and the prayer, "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven," will then be answered.
Whatever of uncertainty the present human limitations in understanding may cast over the difference which now exists between the saved and the unsaved, from the Scriptures it is obvious that in their destinies these two classes are widely separated. While, as to their bodies, all who have died are now in their graves, the hour is coming when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live. These are the words of Christ, and He goes on to say:
"Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation [condemnation]" (John 5:25, 28-29).
From this Scripture it is clear that all—both good and evil—are to be raised from the dead at the command of the Son of God, and while, at the present time, there is some difference to be observed between the saved and the lost, it is not until the resurrection that men find themselves separated into an unalterable two-fold classification with eternal destinies assigned which are removed from each other as Heaven is removed from hell.
The fact that Christ, when speaking of the universality of the resurrection and the two classes to be raised, omitted any reference to the relative time of resurrection for each group, affords no basis for the prevalent theory that there is to be but one general and simultaneous resurrection. Confusion here is needless since other Scriptures supply the time element and without the slightest contradiction. The saved of this and past ages will be raised at the coming of Christ to receive His own ( 1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). This resurrection, which evidently is extended in point of time to include those who are saved and who die during the Tribulation (Revelation 20:4, 5), is termed "the first resurrection," and in distinction to this it is said that the rest of the dead lived not until the thousand years were finished. Thus it is revealed that the first resurrection precedes, and the final resurrection follows, the millennial kingdom on the earth. "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years" (Revelation 20:6). That all of the dead are not raised at the first resurrection is clearly stated in the Bible (1 Corinthians 15:24; Philippians 3:11, margin; 1 Thessalonians 4:17).
Having declared the fact of the first resurrection, the Scriptures go on to state that "the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished" (Revelation 20:5), and it is this company of the dead, both small and great, who, having been raised from the dead, shall stand before the Great White Throne to be judged according to their works (Revelation 20:11-15). Included in this company are all the people of every dispensation who were not raised in the first resurrection. The Scriptures are silent as to the divine method of receiving the saints of the kingdom into their eternal reward. It is obvious that none of these are found standing before the Great White Throne; and all who stand there are said to pass into their unutterable doom.
At this judgment the books are opened in which are recorded the evil works of the lost. In like manner another book is opened which is the book of life: not that any standing there will be found written therein; but rather to give full proof that none are written therein. Having been judged, this unnumbered throng are dismissed into the lake of fire, which is the second death, and the word death here, as in all the Scriptures, does not mean a cessation of existence. Physical death is a separation of soul and spirit from the body, while spiritual death is a separation of soul and spirit from God. The second death means continued and conscious existence separated from God in what is termed a "lake of fire." It is implied that the Beast and the False Prophet who are living men are alive and conscious in this "lake of fire," though they were cast therein a thousand years before (Revelation 19:20; 20:10).
In this judgment, the wicked are subject to various degrees of retribution since they are judged according to their works. In other ages human works have more directly related men to God; but in the present age both that which is good and that which is evil in the sight of God has been crystallized into one issue. Following the great event of Christ's death for the sin of the world, there could be but one question remaining—Do men believe the thing which God has wrought for them? Christ stated: "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent" (John 6:29), and again, "He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18).
The rejection of Christ is the all-inclusive sin. It not only does "despite" to the Spirit of grace, rejecting the infinite love of God (Hebrews 10:29); but, if it were possible, the Christ rejecter would take his sin off from the Lamb of God and lay it back upon himself to his eternal condemnation.
As to the destiny of the heathen to whom no knowledge of the Gospel has come, Scripture again is silent, except that it teaches that all men are lost who do not believe on Christ. Two features characterize this age:
(1) The Gospel is to be preached to every creature, and
(2) those to whom it is preached are to be judged according to their reception of it. The woeful failure of the children of God to take the Gospel to every creature has created a condition for which Scripture does not and could not provide a revelation. However, it is to be concluded that the heathen are eternally lost apart from the knowledge of divine grace, since the importance of preaching the Gospel to them is stressed by Christ beyond any other issue in this age.
If the doctrine of the judgment of the wicked is to be understood, the terms employed in the Scriptures to describe the final state of the lost should be carefully considered.
1. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word sheol (sometimes translated "grave," "pit," and "hell"), like the New Testament Greek word hades (translated "hell," and "grave"), refers to the place of departed spirits, and three shades of meaning are giving to it: (1) The grave where activity ceases (Psalm 88:3); (2) The end of life so far as mere human knowledge can go (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10); (3) A place of conscious sorrow ( 2 Samuel 22:6; Psalm 9:17; 18:5; 116:3).
2. In the New Testament the Greek words geenna, hades, and tartaros are translated "hell." Geenna is a name which speaks of human sacrifice and suffering; hades indicates the place of departed spirits; and tartaros refers to the lowest abyss, and to it the wicked spirits are consigned (2 Peter 2:4).
Additional English words found in the New Testament are:
(1) "perdition," meaning utter loss and ruin
(2) "damnation," which is usually more accurately translated judgment, or condemnation
(3) "torment," which speaks of physical pain (Luke 16:28)
(4) "second death," which is the same as the "lake of fire" (Revelation 20:14)
(5) "everlasting fire" (Matthew 18:8); and "everlasting punishment" (Matthew 25:46)
The Greek word for "everlasting"—more often translated "eternal"—is aionios, and may be used to indicate the ages of time, implying a time of termination; but this word is almost universally used in the New Testament to express that which is eternal. The new life which the believer has received is forty-seven times said to be "eternal" or "everlasting." We read of the "eternal Spirit," the "everlasting God," "eternal salvation," "eternal redemption," "eternal glory," "everlasting kingdom," and the "everlasting gospel." Seven times this word is used in connection with the destiny of the wicked (Matthew 18:8; 25:41, 46; Mark 3:29; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Hebrews 6:2; Jude 1:7). Some are asserting that aionios is limited as to duration when referring to the suffering of the lost; but, if this were true, every promise for the believer and the very existence of God would be limited as well.
Men are pleased to receive the Bible revelation concerning Heaven, but do not heed its warning regarding hell. Human sentiment, opinion, and reason are valueless concerning these eternal issues. It is wisdom to heed the voice of the Son of God, and He more than any other has stressed the woes of the lost (Matthew 5:22, 29-30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5). If eternal punishment cannot be comprehended, it should be remembered that infinite holiness and the sin by which infinite holiness is outraged are equally unmeasurable by the human mind. God is not revealed as one who causes good people to suffer in hell; but He is revealed as one who at infinite cost has wrought to the end that sinners, believing in Christ, may not perish, but have everlasting life.
Probably no Bible theme is more agreeable to the mind of man than that of Heaven. This is especially true of those who through advancing years of physical limitations are drawing near to the end of the realities of earth.
In their writings, various religions, other than the Christian, present their conceptions of an eternal estate; but in every instance they offer that which is evidently the invention of the human imagination. In contrast to this, the Bible presents the facts of eternity past, the issues of the present, and the realities of eternity to come with never a descent to the plane of human conception, but always evidencing the high and holy distinguishing qualities of a divine revelation.
Human proof relative to divine revelation cannot proceed beyond the range of human life and experience; therefore that portion of the Bible revelation which transcends the limitations of this sphere is not subject to human verification; but, within the limited human sphere, every teaching of the Scriptures is found to be perfectly true. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that all divine revelation is equally true, and that both the eternal estate of the redeemed and the eternal estate of the lost are as accurately stated in the Scriptures as are the present things of time.
Though it is not the divine purpose that those who go out of this life shall return; yet the unseen worlds have not been left without a witness. On the statement of the Son of God whose veracity is unquestionable and who is Himself the Truth, we know that a certain rich man when he died went to a place of torment, and that a certain beggar when he died went to a place of bliss (Luke 16:19-31). We observe, also, that Christ was as familiar with the unseen as He was with the seen. This was true in His teachings concerning God (John 4:24; 5:36-37, 45; 10:15, 18), concerning the fallen and unfallen angels (Matthew 22:30; Mark 1:32-34), and concerning the destinies of men (Matthew 5:22; 25:34, 46). Again, the Apostle Paul was caught up into the highest Heaven and heard unspeakable words which, he declared, were not lawful for a man to utter (2 Corinthians 12:1-4), and long after that experience he testified that to depart and be with Christ is far better (Philippians 1:23), and that he was willing to be absent from the body that he might be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). Added to all this, we have the divinely appointed witness of the Apostle John who, in his Patmos vision, went into Heaven's glory and returned with the commission to write for the comfort and encouragement of the servants of God the things which he had seen. Thus, since the divine revelation concerning the future state is presented to us by the message of the Son of God and by the testimony of both the Apostle Paul and the Apostle John as eye-witnesses, we are assured of the certainty of every word that has been spoken.
We are told that, at death, the believer immediately departs to be with the Lord and that this estate is "far better" (Philippians 1:23); and though it is indicated that there is an intermediate body which is from Heaven and which is provided in order that the child of God shall not be unclothed, or bodiless (2 Corinthians 5:1-4), the glorified body, which is by resurrection, is not given until it is given to all the saved at the coming of Christ. It is the teaching of the Word of God that the future estate of the believer, regarding his own person, is to be one in which he will be conformed to the image of the resurrected Christ in glory (Romans 8:29; 1 John 3:1-3; Philippians 3:20-21). He will then know even as he is now known (1 Corinthians 13:12); that is, his every capacity for knowledge will be expanded to the measure of Christ's present knowledge of us. By this we are assured that we are to be deprived of no present knowledge, but rather, all this is to be increased to an infinite degree. Loved ones will be nearer and dearer than ever before, and while Christ is the center of all attraction in Heaven, at the coming of Christ, believers who have fallen asleep in Jesus will be joined to those who are alive and remain, and together they will all go on to meet the Lord in the air, and thus be together with the Lord forever (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).
Heaven is a place (John 14:1-3) of surpassing beauty and celestial glory (Revelation 21:1-22:7). It is to be inhabited by "God the Judge of all," by "Jesus the mediator of the new covenant," by "an innumerable company of angels," by "the spirits of just men made perfect," and by "the general assembly and church of the firstborn" (Hebrews 12:22-24). The phrase, "the spirits of just men made perfect," doubtless refers to the saints of other dispensations since the "church of the firstborn" is so obviously limited to the saints of the present age of grace (Ephesians 3:3-6). In like manner, Christ stated that there are many mansions in the Father's house -which, we believe, will be occupied; but He has gone to prepare a place for the Church which is His bride whom He will receive unto Himself when He comes again (John 14:1-3).
In attempting to portray to the mind of man the glories of the celestial sphere, language has been strained to its limits; yet we may believe that no considerable portion of that wondrous glory has ever been revealed. Who can comprehend the blessedness that will be experienced by the redeemed in Heaven, or that has already come to human hearts in anticipation of that wonderful place! It is characterized as a place of abundant life (1 Timothy 4:8), of rest (Revelation 14:13), of knowledge (1 Corinthians 13:8-10), of holiness (Revelation 21:27), of service (Revelation 22:3), of worship (Revelation 19:1), of fellowship with God (Revelation 21:3), of fellowship with other believers (1 Thessalonians 4:18), and of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17).
"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things have passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new" (Revelation 21:4, 5).
The student of the Scriptures should distinguish between "the kingdom of heaven"—a phrase peculiar to Matthew's Gospel which refers to the divine reign on the earth,—"the heavenly"—a phrase peculiar to the Ephesian Epistle which refers to the present sphere of the believer's association with Christ,—and "heaven" which refers to the unseen realms of celestial glory.
The Bible, which alone discloses the wonders of Heaven, is equally explicit in its declarations concerning the conditions upon which sinners of this fallen race may enter there. Notwithstanding this, multitudes are assuring themselves that they will be privileged to enter Heaven who, at the same time, are giving no heed to those counsels of God in which He states the only way given among men whereby they must be saved. Not every person will be found in Heaven; that glory and bliss is for the redeemed. Redemption, which involves no impossible human condition is, nevertheless, absolutely dependent on a personal acceptance of the Redeemer. Such acceptance is a transaction most simple, and yet so vital and conclusive that the trusting soul will be assured above all else that he is depending only on Christ for salvation.