MAJOR BIBLE THEMES
SALVATION FROM THE GUILT AND PENALTY OF SIN
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, and
(3) it alone discloses the full measure of God's love.
I. THE MEANING OF SALVATION
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 (Isa. 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 (Jer. 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.
II. THE THREE TENSES OF SALVATION
1. The Past Tense of Salvation.
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 Cor. 1:18; 2 Cor. 2:15; Eph. 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; Rom. 8:1, R.V.).
2. The Present Tense of Salvation.
This aspect of salvation, which is the theme of the next chapter, has to do with present salvation from the reigning power of sin (Rom. 6:14; Phil. 1:19; 2:12, 13; 2 Thess. 2:13; Rom. 8:2; Gal. 2:19, 20; 2 Cor. 3:18).
3. The Future Tense of Salvation.
The believer will yet be saved into full conformity to Christ (Rom. 8:29; 13:11; 1 Pet. 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 (Phil. 1:6).
III. TWO ASPECTS OF THE WORK OF GOD
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.
1. The Finished Work of 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; Heb. 2:9), and, in a provisionary sense, provided redemption (1 Tim. 2:6), reconciliation (2 Cor. 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.
2. The Saving Work of God.
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 (Col. 1:12), made accepted (Eph. 1:6), made the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21), made nigh (Eph. 2:13), made sons of God (John 1:12), made citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20, R.V.), made a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), made members of the family and household of God (Eph. 2:19; 3:15), and made complete in Christ (Col. 2:10). The child of God has been delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son (Col. 1:13), and he now possesses every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3).
IV. THE GUILT AND PENALTY OF SIN REMOVED
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.
V. SALVATION CONDITIONED UPON ONE THING ALONE
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; Rom. 1:16; 3:22; 4:5, 24; 5:1; 10:4; Gal. 3:22). Salvation is only through Christ, and men are therefore saved when they receive Him as their Saviour.
Review Questions for Chapter 28
1. Name three reasons why the truth concerning salvation should be understood by every Christian.
2. What is salvation according to the Scriptures?
3. What nation and what peoples will experience the saving power of God?
4. What is peculiar regarding present salvation by grace?
5. Name and describe the three tenses of salvation.
6. What are the two aspects of the work of God?
7. What three-fold work has been accomplished in the "finished work" of Christ?
8. Define each of these accomplishments.
9. Indicate what God does at the moment a soul is saved.
10. How does the cross of Christ make possible the removal of human guilt and the lifting of the divine penalty?
11. Upon what one thing is salvation made to depend?
12. Name two reasons why we believe that prayer, confession of sin, confession of Christ, baptism, repentance, and restitution are not essential to personal salvation.
13. State in simple terms what the sinner must believe in order to be saved.
14. What would be the natural sense of relief experienced by the one who really believes?
SALVATION FROM THE POWER OF SIN
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 practise of sin they should learn God's gracious provisions whereby there is deliverance.
I. AN EXACT REVELATION FROM GOD
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 malpractise with its blasting effects reaching on into eternity.
II. FROM WHAT SOURCE IN A CHRISTIAN DOES SIN PROCEED?
Having received the divine nature (2 Pet. 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" (Rom. 7:18). On the other hand, when considering the imparted divine nature, the Apostle John writes: "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit [practise] 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 practise 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 (1:8), or that he has not sinned (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 (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.
III. THE CHRISTIAN'S WAY OF VICTORY
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 (Rom. 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; Gal. 5:16). In like manner, He provides victory over the old nature by the Spirit (Rom. 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 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 (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 (7:23); (2) such an estate is wretched (7:24); (3) though saved, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made him free, and not his own works (8:2); (4) the whole will of God is fulfilled in the believer, but never fulfilled by the believer (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 (6:4, 11). Thus it is that deliverance is by the Spirit through Christ.
IV. VICTORY BY THE SPIRIT
"If by means of the Spirit ye are walking, ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh" (Gal. 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.
V. THREE REASONS FOR A LIFE OF DEPENDENCE ON THE INDWELLING SPIRIT
1. Under the teachings of grace, a believer faces an impossible heavenly standard of life; being a citizen of Heaven (Phil. 3:20), a member of the Body of Christ (Eph. 5:30), and of the household and family of God (Eph. 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; Eph. 4:30; 2 Cor. 10:5; Eph. 5:20; 1 Pet. 2:9; 1 Thess. 5:16, 17; Eph. 4:1-3), he must depend on the indwelling Spirit (Rom. 8:4).
2. The Christian faces Satan - the world-ruling foe. Because of this, he must be "strong in the Lord" (Eph. 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.
Review Questions for Chapter 29
1. Why is salvation from the power of sin limited in its application to those who are already saved from the penalty of sin?
2. a. Is the doctrine concerning God's provided cure for the Christian's sin a separate and distinct teaching of the Scriptures?
b. How important is accuracy in all the doctrines of salvation?
3. a. Does the child of God possess two natures?
b. From what source in the believer does sin proceed?
4. If there is a conflict between the flesh and the Spirit, is it limited to carnal Christians?
5. Name three unscriptural theories of getting victory over sin which are proposed by men.
6. Why does the law method fail?
7. Name four reasons why the eradication method fails.
8. Why cannot the saved person by his own new life and apart from the Spirit live to the glory of God?
9. What was the Apostle Paul's experience at this point?
10. Name four important conclusions stated in Romans 7:15 to 8:4.
11. Since deliverance from the power of sin is by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:2), what is meant by the statement that this deliverance is through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 7:25)?
12. a. Distinguish between an act of faith and an attitude of faith.
b. Will the need to depend wholly on the Spirit be growing less as the believer grows in grace and the knowledge of Christ?
13. What is the position of the believer through grace and how does this impose a high and holy manner of life which is humanly impossible?
14. Name the three super-human demands which are laid on every Christian.
FOUR ASPECTS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
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 (Rom. 3:22).
The Scriptures distinguish four aspects of righteousness:
I. GOD IS RIGHTEOUS (Rom. 3:25, 26)
This attribute of God is unchanging and unchangeable. He is infinitely righteous in His own Being and infinitely righteous in all His ways.
1. He is Righteous in His Being.
It is impossible for Him to deviate from His righteousness by so much as the "shadow of turning" (Jas. 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.
2. He is Righteous in His Ways.
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; Rom. 8:1; 1 Cor. 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.
II. THE SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS OF MAN (Rom. 10:3)
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" (Isa. 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 Cor. 10:12); for not merely those who are condemned by society are lost, but those who are condemned by the unalterable righteousness of God (Rom. 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.
III. THE IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD (Rom. 3:22)
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.
1. The Fact of Imputation.
As Adam's sin is imputed to the human race to the end that all are constituted sinners by nature (Rom. 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 Cor. 5:14, 21; Heb. 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 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 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 (Rom. 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.
2. The Results of Imputation.
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 Cor. 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 (Eph. 1:6; 1 Pet. 2:5), and He accounts him to be what His own Son is - the righteousness of God (Rom. 3:22; 1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:21). Christ is the righteousness of God, therefore those who are saved are made the righteousness of God by being in Him (2 Cor. 5:21). They are complete in Him (Col. 2:10), and perfected forever (Heb. 10:10, 14).
3. Biblical Illustrations of Imputation.
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 (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:9-22; Jas. 2:23), and as the priests of old were clothed with righteousness (Psa. 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 (Rev. 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; Isa. 11:5; 59:17; 61:10).
4. Imputation Affects the Standing and not the State.
There is, then, a righteousness from God, apart from all human works which is unto and upon all who believe (Rom. 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 Pet. 3:18).
5. Imputed Righteousness the Ground of Justification.
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 (Rom. 5:1), through grace (Titus 3:4-7), and made possible through the death and resurrection of Christ (Rom. 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 (Jas. 2:14-26), has in view the believer's standing before men; Paul writing of justification by faith (Rom. 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 (Jas. 2:21); likewise he was justified by faith before God on the ground of imputed righteousness (Jas. 2:23).
IV. RIGHTEOUSNESS IMPARTED BY THE SPIRIT (Rom. 8:4)
When filled with the Spirit, the child of God will produce the "fruit of the Spirit" (Gal. 5:22, 23), and will manifest the gifts for service which are by the Spirit (1 Cor. 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.
Review Questions for Chapter 30
1. What testimony do the Scriptures give relative to the righteousness of God, of man, and of the believer?
2. Name the four aspects of righteousness as found in the Scriptures.
3. How can God be righteous and at the same time forgive and justify sinners?
4. What estimation does the Bible make of man's righteousness?
5. Name three forms of imputation.
6. By whom is imputed righteousness said to be "made"?
7. On what reasonable basis can the righteousness of God be imputed?
8. Restate the Biblical illustrations of imputation.
9. Distinguish the believer's standing from his state.
10. On what basis does God justify a sinner?
11. How may justification be eternal?
12. What are the contrasts between forgiveness and justification?
13. Distinguish between justification by works and justification by faith.
14. a. How may righteousness be imparted?
b. Who among believers experience imparted righteousness?
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."
I. THE MEANING OF THE WORDS
1. Sanctify, With Its Various Forms.
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.
2. Holy, With Its Various Forms.
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 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.
II. THE MEANS TO SANCTIFICATION
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 (Lev. 21:8; John 17:19; Holy Spirit).
Second, God - Father, Son and Spirit - are said to sanctify persons.
1. The Father sanctifies (1 Thess. 5:23).
2. The Son sanctifies (Eph. 5:26; Heb. 2:11; 9:12, 14; 13:12).
3. The Spirit sanctifies (Rom. 15:16; 2 Thess. 2:13).
4. God the Father sanctified the Son (John 10:36).
5. God sanctified the priests and the people of Israel (Exod. 29:44; 31:13).
6. Our sanctification is the will of God (1 Thess. 4:3).
7. Our sanctification from God is: By our union with Christ (1 Cor. 1:2; 1:30); by the Word of God (John 17:17; cf. 1 Tim. 4:5); by the blood of Christ (Heb. 13:12; 9:13); by the Body of Christ (Heb. 10:10); by the Spirit (1 Pet. 1:2); by our own choice (Heb. 12:14; 2 Tim. 2:21, 22); by faith (Acts 26:18).
Third, God sanctified days, places and things (Gen. 2:3; Exod. 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 Pet. 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 Tim. 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 (Rom. 12:1). They are to "Come out from among them," and be separate (2 Cor. 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 Cor. 7:1). "This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh" (Gal. 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 Cor. 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?" (Mt 23:17).
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 Cor. 7:14).
Review Questions for Chapter 31
1. What laws of interpretation must necessarily be followed in order to arrive at the right understanding of the doctrine of sanctification?
2. Wherein does human experience fail as a guide?
3. What three words are vitally a part of this doctrine?
4. What is the meaning of the word sanctify?
5. Are the words sanctify and holy used only of sinless conditions?
6. Is sanctification ever repeated?
7. Who are the saints so called in the Epistles?
8. a. When do they become saints?
b. On what ground are they called saints?
9. What persons are said to sanctify?
10. Name the means used in sanctifying the believers.
11. By what means may a person sanctify himself?
12. In what particulars is it possible for one person to sanctify another?
13. Is sanctification limited to those objects which are capable of partaking of holiness?
14. Does the sanctifying of a person always imply a change in character?
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 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:
I. POSITIONAL SANCTIFICATION
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 Rom. 12:1; Eph. 4:1; Col. 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 Cor. 1:2; 6:11; Heb. 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 Cor. 5:1, 2; 6:1-8), but they are twice said to have been sanctified (1 Cor. 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" (Heb. 10:10), and are "new men" who are "created in righteousness and true holiness" (Eph. 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,
II. EXPERIMENTAL SANCTIFICATION
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.
1. Experimental Sanctification the Result of Yieldedness to God.
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" (Rom. 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, Rom. 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.
2. Experimental Sanctification the Result of Freedom from Sin.
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 (Psa. 119:11), the present interceding, shepherding ministry of Christ in Heaven (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25. Note, Luke 22:31; John 17:1-26), and the enabling power of the indwelling Spirit (Gal. 5:16; Rom. 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 (Rom. 7:21; 2 Cor. 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 (Gal. 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 (Gal. 5:24; Col. 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 (Rom. 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.
3. Experimental Sanctification in Relation to Christian Growth.
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 labouring 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."
III. ULTIMATE SANCTIFICATION
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."
Review Questions for Chapter 32
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?
8. 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?
9. In what sense is a victory over sin a sanctification?
10. What is the relation between Christian growth and sanctification?
11. May an immature and inexperienced Christian be experimentally set apart unto God?
12. What difference is possible between being blameless and being faultless?
13. May experimental sanctification increase as we receive more light?
14. 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 (Matt. 24:13; Ezk. 33:7, 8; Matt. 18:23-35; 25:30). Other passages refer only to false and unregenerate teachers of the "last days" (1 Tim. 4:1, 2; 2 Pet. 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 Pet. 1:10; Jas. 2:14-26; 1 Cor. 15:1, 2; Heb. 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 (Heb. 10:26), in like manner, unsaved Jews as well as Gentiles are warned against "falling away" from the illuminating, converting work of the Spirit (Heb. 6:4-9). So, also, unspiritual Jews are warned that they will not be received into the coming kingdom (Matt. 25:1-13), and Gentiles are given a corporate warning which has no reference to the individual believer (Rom. 11:21). Again, the one who is saved and safe may lose his reward (1 Cor. 3:15; Col. 1:21-23), and be disapproved concerning his service for Christ (1 Cor. 9:27). Likewise, he may lose his fellowship because of sin (1 John 1:6), and he may be chastened of God (1 Cor. 11:29-32; John 15:2; 1 John 5:16). And, finally, it is possible for the believer to "fall from grace" (Gal. 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.
I. THE COVENANT OF GOD
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.
II. THE POWER OF GOD
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; Rom. 4:21; 8:31, 38, 39; 14:4; Eph. 3:20; Phil. 3:21; 2 Tim. 1:12; Heb. 7:25; Jude 1:24).
III. THE LOVE OF GOD
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.
IV. THE PRAYER OF THE SON OF GOD
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 (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 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.
V. THE EFFICACIOUS SUBSTITUTIONARY DEATH OF THE SON OF GOD
The death of Christ is the sufficient answer to the condemning power of sin (Rom. 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 (Rom. 5:8; Eph. 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 (Jn.3:18; 5:24; Rom. 8:1. R.V.; 1 Cor. 11:31, 32).
VI. THE RESURRECTION OF THE SON OF GOD
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; Rom. 6:23), which life is the resurrection life of Christ (Col. 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.
VII. THE INTERCESSION AND SHEPHERDHOOD OF THE SON OF GOD
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; Rom. 8:34), but on the grounds of His own sufficiency in His unchanging priesthood, He guarantees that they will be kept saved for ever (Heb. 7:25; Rom. 5:10; John 14:19).
VIII. THE ADVOCACY OF THE SON OF GOD
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; Rom. 8:34; Heb. 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.
IX. THE REGENERATING WORK OF THE SPIRIT
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 Pet. 1:23; 2 Pet. 1:4; 1 John 3:9), an heir of God and a joint-heir with Christ (Rom. 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.
X. THE SPIRIT'S INDWELLING
The fact that the Spirit now indwells every believer (John 7:37-39; Rom. 5:5; 8:9; 1 Cor. 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 (Eph. 4:30), or He may be quenched in the sense that He is resisted (1 Thess. 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.
XI. THE BAPTISM WITH THE SPIRIT
By the Spirit's ministry in baptizing, the believer is joined to that body of which Christ is the Head (1 Cor. 12:13; 6:17; Gal. 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 Cor. 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.
XII. THE SPIRIT'S SEALING
Finally, it is declared that all true Christians are sealed with the Spirit unto the day of redemption (Eph. 4:30; 2 Cor. 1:22; and Eph. 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 (Phil. 2:13), and every testing is tempered by the infinite grace and wisdom of God (1 Cor. 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 for ever.
Review Questions for Chapter 33
1. What is the fundamental question involved in the doctrine of Security?
2. Could both the doctrine of Security and the doctrine of Insecurity be true?
3. In what ways are the so-called "insecurity passages" misinterpreted and misapplied?
4. What form of covenant do the promises of saving grace constitute?
5. In what ways do the power of God and the love of God guarantee the believer's safe-keeping?
6. What peculiar certainty is there in the prayer of Christ?
7. How does the death of Christ provide for the Christian's eternal security?
8. Name two assurances of security which are provided in the resurrection of Christ.
9. Distinguish between Christ's intercession and advocacy.
10. Might the divine nature within the believer be disannulled?
11. a. Does the Spirit indwell every true Christian?
b. Does He ever leave the one in whom He dwells?
12. In what way does the baptism with the Spirit guarantee the security of the child of God?
13. What time limit is placed on the Spirit's sealing?
14. Why is it that the believer's sin, his own will, or his own liability to be tempted are unable to break his eternal security in Christ?
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.
I. NORMAL MANIFESTATIONS OF THE INDWELLING CHRIST
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; Rom. 6:23); it is from Christ (John 14:6); it is Christ indwelling the believer (Col. 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 Cor. 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 practice, 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 Cor. 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 Cor. 3:1). His obligation toward God is not one of the exercises 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:
1. The Knowledge of God as Father.
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.
2. A New Reality in Prayer.
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 (Eph. 5:18, 19), and by the Spirit he is enabled to pray according to the will of God (Rom. 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.
3. A New Ability to Understand the Scriptures.
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 favoured 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.
4. A New Sense of the Sinfulness of Sin.
As water removes that which is foreign and unclean (Ezk. 36:25; John 3:5; Titus 3:5, 6; 1 Pet. 3:21; 1 John 5:6-8), so the Word of God displaces all human conceptions and implants those ideals which are of God (Psa. 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.
5. A New Love for the Unsaved.
The fact that Christ has died for all men (2 Cor. 5:12) is the grounds upon which the Apostle Paul could say "Henceforth know we no man after the flesh" (2 Cor. 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 (Rom. 10:1), to strive (Rom. 15:20) and for them he was willing to be "accursed from Christ" (Rom. 9:1-3). As a result of the divine presence in the heart the divine compassion should be experienced by every Spirit-filled believer (Rom. 5:5; Gal. 5:22).
6. A New Love for the Saved.
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), - this love is the normal experience of all who are born of God.
7. A Manifestation of the Character of Christ.
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" (Gal. 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 (Phil. 2:5-7), and it is the life which is Christ (Phil. 1:21). Since these graces are wrought by the Spirit who indwells every believer, this experience is provided for all. 8. A Consciousness of Salvation through Faith in Christ.
Saving faith in Christ is also a definite experience. The Apostle related of himself, "I know whom I have believed" (2 Tim. 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 (Rom. 8:16). Similarly, having trusted in Christ, the believer will have no more the consciousness of condemnation because of sin (Heb. 10:2; Rom. 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 (Eph. 1:6; Col. 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).
II. THE VERACITY OF THE WORD OF GOD
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 (Matt. 24:35; Psa. 119:89, 160; Matt. 5:18; 1 Pet. 1:23, 25).
The written promises of God are as a title deed (John 6:37; 5:24; 3:16, 36; Rom. 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:
1. Doubting One's Own Committal.
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 Tim. 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.
2. Doubting the Faithfulness of God.
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.
Review Questions for Chapter 34
1. State the difference between the doctrine of Security and that of Assurance.
2. State the lines of Biblical assurance.
3. What one aspect of salvation is made the test of the believer's experience?
4. Wherein may this experience fail or be misleading?
5. Prove that a carnal Christian is saved and safe in Christ.
6. State the meaning of Matthew 11:27.
7. How might the indwelling Christ inspire the believer to pray?
8. State the normal effect of the indwelling Christ on the believer's knowledge of the Scriptures, upon his sense of sin, and his love for the unsaved.
9. a. On what basis is 1 John 3:14 a reasonable test of a real Christian experience?
b. Why is it reasonable to expect Christ-likeness in the believer?
10. What passages indicate that a spiritual Christian will be conscious of his acceptance with God?
11. Is a normal Christian experience essential to salvation?
12. On what certainty does assurance rest apart from experience?
13. What should one do who doubts his own trust in Christ?
14. What should one do who doubts Christ's promise to receive even after having trusted Him?
THE CHURCH: HER MEMBERSHIP
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.
I. THE MEANING OF THE WORD
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 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:2; Phil. 1:2. Note, Acts 7:38).
(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.
II. A NEW TESTAMENT REVELATION
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 (Eph. 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 (Matt. 18:17), and once in a prophecy by Christ of the true Church which was yet to be formed (Matt. 16:18). The true Church could not have existed until Christ died; for she must be redeemed by His blood (Eph. 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 Cor. 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 (Eph. 3:3-6), as before stated, and is set forth by him particularly in the Ephesian and Colossian letters.
III. THE JEW, THE GENTILE, AND THE CHURCH
The Bible recognizes three major divisions of the human family in the present dispensation - the Jew, the Gentile, and the Church of God (1 Cor. 10:32).
1. The Jew.
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 (Isa. 62:1-12). The eternal promises of Jehovah to this people cannot be altered. These promises include a national entity (Jer. 31:36), a land (Gen. 13:15), a throne (2 Sam. 7:13), a King (Jer. 33:20, 21), and a kingdom (2 Sam. 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.
2. The Gentile.
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.
3. The Church of God.
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 (Rom. 8:29).
(2) They are no longer in Adam partaking of the ruin of the old creation (2 Cor. 5:17), but they are in Christ partaking in the New Creation of all that Christ is in His resurrection life and glory (Eph. 1:3; Col. 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 (Col. 3:11).
(4) They are now citizens of Heaven (Phil. 3:20; Col. 3:3), and all their promises, their possessions, and their positions are heavenly (2 Cor. 5:17, 18). By so much this heavenly people are distinguished from all other people of the earth.
IV. FORMED FROM BOTH JEWS AND GENTILES
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 (Rom. 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 programme from the recognition of a favoured 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-programme to the present time, and it is predicted of him that he will remain blinded in part until the Church is called out (Rom. 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 (Rom. 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 (Rom. 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 (Gal. 1:11, 12), and the other, of the Church which is the body of Christ - probably while in prison (Eph. 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 (Eph. 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.
V. CHURCH MEMBERSHIP
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 Cor. 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" (Col. 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.
Review Questions for Chapter 35
1. a. What is the general meaning of the word church as used in the New Testament?
b. What are its two applications?
2. Upon which use of the word church does the Bible emphasis fall?
3. a. What evidence can be given that the church is a New Testament revelation?
b. Why could it have not existed before Pentecost?
c. In what part of the New Testament is this doctrine set forth?
4. Name the present major three-fold division of the human family.
5. What is Israel's history in four words?
6. Who are the Gentiles and when according to prophecy are they to receive blessing from God?
7. Name four characteristics of all those who form the Church.
8. From what sources is the Church being taken out?
9. What is the new-age condition stated in Romans 3:9?
10. Describe the two revelations given to the Apostle Paul.
11. What answer would you give to the question, Can a person be saved and not belong to the church?
12. What ministry of the Spirit relates the believer to the true Church which is Christ's Body?
13. What can be said as to the place the true Church now holds on earth?
14. What can be said as to her future place in Heaven?
THE CHURCH: HER MISSION
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 (Eph. 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 programme for the church succeeds until it becomes a service programme 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 (Dan. 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 (Matt. 25:31-34). In like manner, it is after He is seen descending from Heaven that Christ reigns a thousand years on the earth (Rev. 18:11 to 20:9. Note, also, Acts 15:13-19; 1 Cor. 15:20-25).
I. THE PRESENT DIVINE PURPOSE IN THE WORLD
When anticipating the peculiar features of this age (Matt. 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 (Matt. 13:44);
(2) evil should continue to the end of the age (Matt. 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 (Matt. 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 Eph. 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 Thess. 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 (Rom. 11:27), and evil will be banished from the earth (Rev. 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 programme; 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.
II. THE FORMATION OF THE CHURCH
Christ prophesied that He would build His Church (Matt. 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" (Eph. 2:21, 22, R.V.). Likewise, the believer's ministry of soul-winning and edification of the body of Christ continues, not for ever, 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" (Eph. 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 Eph. 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."
III. THE BELIEVER'S PURPOSE
Christ gave a prediction that the seed sowing which is to characterize the present age would result in but a fourth portion becoming "wheat" (Matt. 13:1-23). Nevertheless, though the preaching of the Gospel is a savour of death unto death as well as of life unto life (2 Cor. 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 (Rom. 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 Cor. 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 labourers 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).
Review Questions for Chapter 36
1. a. What has God commissioned the Church to do?
b. Who alone is responsible for all true service and why?
2. What is the present divine purpose?
3. Show from the prophecies that Christ must return before a kingdom of righteousness will be set up in the earth.
4. Name three characteristics of this age as stated in Matthew, Chapter 13.
5. Of these three which is proven to be the present purpose of God in the world?
6. What order of events is given in Acts 15:13-19?
7. By what agency and service will the Church be gathered by the Spirit of God?
8. Do the terms and figures used as to the development of the Church imply that this development will go on without end?
9. Define the responsibility of those who are called to preach.
10. a. Are all believers called to this ministry?
b. What results are they to anticipate?
11. Indicate as to how the Gospel may be preached through sacrificial giving.
12. Indicate as to how the Gospel may be preached through prayer.
13. Name three essentials of fitting for the one who would preach the gospel by word of mouth.
14. Are all Christians called alike to the three-fold service of giving, praying, and preaching?
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 (Exod. 23:10, 11; Lev. 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:
1. The Period From Adam to Moses.
It is recorded that God rested at the close of His six creative days (Exod. 2:2, 3; 20:10, 11; Heb. 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 (Exod. 16:29; Neh. 9:10-12; Ezk. 20:12). Likewise, it is evident from the records of the first imposition of the sabbath (Exod. 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.
2. The Period From Moses to Christ.
In this period the sabbath was rightfully in force. It was embedded in the law (Exod. 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 (Exod. 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.
3. The Period of the Church.
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 favour 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 (Col. 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.
4. The Sabbath in the Coming Age.
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 (Matt. 24:20); but prophecy especially anticipates the sabbath as a vital feature of the coming kingdom age (Isa. 66:23; Ezk. 46:1).
Review Questions for Chapter 37
1. What portion of time has God sanctified?
2. Name the apportionments of time prescribed for Israel.
3. In what particular is the apportionment of the present age similar to the age that is past?
4. a. What is the meaning of the word sabbath?
b. How was the sabbath observed?
5. What evidence have we that the sabbath was not observed in the time of Adam and Moses?
6. a. When rightfully in force in the period between Moses and Christ, to whom did the sabbath law apply?
b. Did God treat the failure to keep the sabbath laws as a serious sin?
7. At what time in the history of the world would Hosea's prophecy (2:11) naturally be fulfilled?
8. a. What was Christ's attitude toward the law and the sabbath?
b. Is His sabbath precept and example binding on the Christian?
9. What evidence have we that the sabbath is not to be kept after the resurrection of Christ?
10. What Scriptures bear on sabbath keeping in this age?
11. What is their teaching?
12. What day has now superseded the sabbath?
13. What Scriptures disclose the fact that the sabbath will be observed in the Tribulation?
14. What Scriptures disclose the fact that the sabbath will be observed in the Kingdom?
THE LORD'S DAY AND THE NEW CREATION
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.
I. 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 marvellous glories and perfections which are to be accomplished for this company as a whole (Eph. 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 Cor. 12:12), so the individual believer is vitally joined to the Lord (1 Cor. 6:17; Rom. 6:5; 1 Cor. 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 Cor. 5:21; Eph. 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 Cor. 5:17, 18; Eph. 2:10; 4:25; Gal. 6:15). Peter, writing of this company of believers, states: "But ye are a chosen generation" (1 Pet. 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 spirit" (1 Cor. 15:45).
Having partaken of the resurrection life of Christ, and being in Christ, the believer is said to be already raised (Rom. 6:4; Col. 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 (Phil. 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 (Exod. 20:10, 11; 31:12-17; Heb. 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.
II. THE LORD'S DAY.
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.
1. A New Day is Prophesied and Appointed under Grace.
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!" (Matt. 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."
2. Observance of the First Day is Indicated by Various Events.
a. On that day Christ arose from the dead (Matt. 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 Cor. 15:20, 23; Lev. 23:10-12).
e. On that day He breathed on them (John 20:22).
f. On that day the Spirit descended from Heaven (Acts 2:1-4).
g. On that day the Apostle Paul preached in Troas (Acts 20:6, 7).
h. On that day 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 Cor. 16:2).
j. On that day Christ appeared to John on Patmos (Rev. 1:10).
3. The Eighth Day was the Day of Circumcision.
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 (Col. 2:11), and the eighth day, being the first day after a completed week, is symbolical of a new beginning.
4. The New Day is of Grace.
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.
5. The New Day has been Blessed of God.
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.
6. The New Day is Committed only to the Individual Believer.
a. It is not committed to the unsaved.
It is 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.
7. No Command is given to keep the First Day.
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 (Gal. 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 beseeching of God with the expectation that all shall be done willingly (Eph. 4:1-3; Rom. 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.
8. The Manner of the Observance of the Lord's Day may be Extended to All Days.
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 (Rom. 14:5).
Review Questions for Chapter 38
1. On what evidence is it claimed that the first day of the week has been celebrated since the resurrection of Christ?
2. a. What is the present divine purpose?
b. What may be said of the relation the believer sustains to Christ?
3. What has been accomplished for the Christian?
4. What passages refer to the New Creation?
5. To what extent was Adam a type of Christ?
6. Define the believer's relation to Christ in His resurrection.
7. When did the New Creation begin?
8. What prophecy anticipates the celebration of the Lord's Day?
9. Name the important events which are said to have transpired on the first day of the week.
10. In what particular does the Lord's Day symbolize grace as in contrast to law?
11. Why should not the Lord's Day observance be imposed on the unsaved?
12. How is the Lord's Day to be observed?
13. a. Explain why there are no commands for the keeping of the Lord's Day.
b. What is God's contention with a carnal Christian?
14. Does the Lord's Day call for more piety and devotion to God than the other days of the week?
he 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.
I. THE DIRECT 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; Eph. 3:19).
Five characteristics of divine love may be mentioned:
1. Its Eternal Duration.
"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" (Jer. 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.
2. Its Ceaseless Activity.
Though the love of God was once and for all manifested in the sacrifice of His well-beloved Son (Rom. 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 (Rev. 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.
3. Its Transparent Purity.
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 Pet. 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.
4. Its Limitless Intensity.
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 (Rom. 5:8-10) - yea, nothing "shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:39).
5. Its Inexhaustible Benevolence.
There is no hope for this world apart from the marvellous 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 (Rom. 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" (Eph. 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" (Rev. 3:19), and "Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth" (Heb. 12:6).
Because of his living union with Christ (1 Cor. 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.
II. THE INDIRECT MANIFESTATION OF THE LOVE OF GOD
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" (Gal. 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, Chapter 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; Eph. 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 (Rom. 5:8; Eph. 5:25; 1 John 4:12; John 13:34, 35; 15:12-14; 1 John 3:16).
4. God loves the nation Israel (Jer. 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 Cor. 8:9; Eph. 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 (Rom. 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 (Gal. 5:13; Eph. 4:2, 15; 5:2; Col. 2:2; 1 Thess. 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 (Gal. 5:22).
Review Questions for Chapter 39
1. Why may it be said that the attributes of God are infinite?
2. Into what two classifications does the truth concerning the love of God divide?
3. To what extent can we expect to comprehend the One who is infinite?
4. Intimate the abiding character of the love of God.
5. To what extent is the cross an expression of the abiding love of God?
6. Point out the unselfish character of God's love.
7. What do we know of the intensity of God's love?
8. State the manner in which God's love has cooperated in the demands of His holiness to the end that sinners otherwise doomed might be saved.
9. What may be said of the divine hatred for sin?
10. Where in the love of God does union with Christ place the believer?
11. What passages teach the fact that the outflow of divine love is a possible experience of the Christian?
12. State exactly the love which is to be reproduced in the believer by the Spirit.
13. Name nine facts concerning this imparted love of God.
14. Who among the children of God are given the normal experience of the imparted love of God?
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:
I. PRAYER BEFORE THE FIRST ADVENT OF CHRIST
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; Neh. 9:32; Dan. 9:4), and His holy character (Gen. 18:25; Exod. 32:11-14), and followed the shedding of sacrificial blood (Heb. 9:7).
II. PRAYER IN EXPECTATION OF THE KINGDOM
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 (Matt. 6:13. Note, also, added teaching relative to prayer in the kingdom, Matt. 7:7-11; Luke 11:2-13).
III. THE PRAYER OF CHRIST
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, Chapter 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 (Matt. 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).
IV. PRAYER UNDER THE RELATIONSHIPS OF GRACE
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 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:
1. As to Its Office.
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 (Heb. 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 (Eph. 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 endeavour 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."
2. As to Its Appeal.
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" (Jas. 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 Cor. 5:17, 18; Col. 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.
3. As to Its Scope.
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 (Phil. 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" (Rom. 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. 4. As to Its Practise.
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.
Review Questions for Chapter 40
1. Name the four-fold classification of prayer.
2. Before the first advent of Christ by whom was prayer offered?
3. "What was the ground of prayer in the Old Testament?
4. State the essential character of prayer for and in the kingdom.
5. a. Indicate the peculiar character of the prayer of Christ.
b. Could any prayer of Christ be unanswered?
6. Was His prayer as recorded in Luke 22:42 answered?
7. To what level is prayer under grace lifted?
8. Describe the office of prayer and the extent of its possibilities.
9. What is the new appeal or ground of prayer under grace?
10. Indicate the vital fact of union which underlies the Christian's privilege of prayer in the name of Christ.
11. Why cannot the unsaved pray as the believer prays under grace?
12. Point out the scope of prayer and the extent of its liberty under grace.
13. a. What is implied when prayer is made to the Second Person of the Trinity?
b. What is implied when prayer is made to the Third Person of the Trinity?
14. What is the true order of prayer under grace?
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 Pet. 2:5-9; Rev. 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.
I. SERVICE TOWARD GOD
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.
1. The Service of Sacrifice.
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 (Exod. 29:4). In fulfilling the antitype, the believer priest is wholly and once for all cleansed at the moment he is saved (Col. 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" (Rom. 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 (Eph. 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" (Rom. 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" (Rom. 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 (Heb. 13:5).
(c) The sacrifice of substance (Phil. 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 (Exod. 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.
2. The Service of Worship.
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 (Rom. 12:1), the ascribing of praise and thanksgiving to God from the heart (Heb. 13:15), or the sacrificial gifts that ar« 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 (Exod. 30:9) - which speaks typically of mere formality in service toward God; and no "strange" fire was allowed (Lev. 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 Cor. 1:11-13; Col. 2:8, 16-19).
3. The Service of Intercession.
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 (Heb. 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 (Heb. 4:14-16; 9:24; 10:19-22) and is now interceding for His own who are in the world (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 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 (Heb. 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 (Rom. 8:26, 27; Heb. 10:19-22; 1 Tim. 2:1; Col. 4:12).
II. SERVICE TOWARD MAN
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 Cor. 12:7), just as Christian character is a "fruit of the Spirit" (Gal. 5:22, 23).
Though every believer possesses some divinely bestowed gift (1 Cor. 12:7; Eph. 4:7), there is a diversity of gifts (Rom. 12:6; 1 Cor. 12:4-11; Eph. 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 (Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:8-11; Eph. 4:11) and though some of these have evidently ceased (1 Cor. 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 Cor. 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" (Eph. 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."
Review Questions for Chapter 41
1. a. What is service?
b. Name two general classes of service.
2. To what extent was the Old Testament service restricted?
3. Who are the priests of the New Testament?
4. Name three forms of service toward God which are committed to the New Testament priest.
5. Name three ways in which the Old Testament priest was sanctified, or set apart, which had typical meaning concerning the New Testament priest.
6. Indicate how these three types are fulfilled in the believer and give Scripture for each.
7. What distinction should be recognized between self-dedication and consecration?
8. Name three aspects of priestly service in sacrifice toward God.
9. State the typical meaning of the whole bathing and partial bathing of the Old Testament priest in the experience of the believer.
10. a. In what ways may the service of worship be offered to God?
b. State the typical meaning of the two things prohibited in Old Testament worship.
11. On what ground is there access to God in intercession?
12. Define the word gift as used in the New Testament.
13. Distinguish between the exercise of gifts, and priestly service.
14. a. To what purpose are gifts bestowed?
b. How may the manifestation of a gift be realized?
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 Cor. 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 (Lev. 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 (Lev. 7:12, 13, 15; Psa. 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 (Lev. 7:12-15), and praise and thanksgiving were especially emphasized in the revival under Nehemiah (Neh. 12:24-40). Likewise, the prophetic message of the Old Testament anticipates thanksgiving as a special feature of worship in the coming Kingdom (Isa. 51:3; Jer. 30:19). So, also, there is ceaseless thanksgiving in Heaven (Rev. 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 (Psa. 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" (Psa. 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 (Matt. 15:36; 26:27; Mark 8:6; 14:23; Luke 22:17, 19; John 6:23; 1 Cor. 11:24) should prove an effectual example to all believers. The Apostle Paul was also faithful in this particular (Acts 27:35. Note also Rom. 14:6; 1 Tim. 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 Cor. 9:15), concerning the victory over the grave which is secured by the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:57), and because of the present triumph which is ours through Christ (2 Cor. 2:14). His thanksgiving to God for believers (1 Thess. 1:2; 3:9), for Titus in particular (2 Cor. 8:16), and his exhortation that thanks be given for all men (1 Tim. 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 Cor. 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" (Heb. 13:15. Note also Eph. 1:16; 5:20; Col. 1:3; 4:2). This feature of thanksgiving is also emphasized in the Old Testament (Psa. 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" (Eph. 5:20); "In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you" (1 Thess. 5:18. Note also Phil. 4:6; Col. 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-honouring praise can be offered only by those who are saved and who are Spirit-filled (Eph. 5:18-20). Daniel gave thanks to God in the face of the sentence of death (Dan. 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 Tim. 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.
Review Questions for Chapter 42
1. What is thanksgiving and why is it personal?
2. a. Should thanksgiving be considered a payment of obligation?
b. How may a thank-offering be related to true thanksgiving?
3. Indicate the scope of thanksgiving in the Old Testament.
4. In what particular does the Old Testament emphasize the Person of God in thanksgiving?
5. Should a Christian be thankful to God for God Himself apart from all His benefits?
6. According to the New Testament what are the reasons for thanksgiving?
7. What example in thanksgiving did Christ set?
8. Indicate various things for which the Apostle Paul was thankful.
9. What lessons may be drawn from his thanksgiving?
10. Name two important features of thanksgiving according to the New Testament.
11. What abiding blessings call for unceasing thanksgiving?
12. What Scripture calls for unceasing thanksgiving?
13. a. Is it humanly possible to give thanks always for all things?
b. By what sufficiency may such thanksgiving be offered?
14. a. What incident in the ministry of Christ illustrates the sin of ingratitude?
b. Wherein do the unsaved fail in true gratitude to 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 Cor. 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:
I. THE ACQUIRING OF MONEY
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 Cor. 10:31). This injunction, it may be seen, is far-reaching in its scope.
It is divinely arranged that all shall engage in toil (Gen. 3:19; 2 Thess. 3:10), and the Christian is not excepted. However, to the spiritual, instructed believer, labour 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 labour 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 (Phil. 4:19; Heb. 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 Sam. 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 Thess. 5:16) in the midst of the burdens of life.
II. THE POSSESSING OF MONEY
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 Tim. 6:8, 9, 17, 18; Jas. 1:11; Heb. 13:5; Phil. 4:11), the desire to provide against a day of need (Matt. 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.
III. THE DISPENSING OF MONEY
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 Cor. 8:5), and a true dedication of self to God includes all that one is and has (1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23; 1 Pet. 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; Rom. 6:14; 7:1-6; 2 Cor. 3:1-18; Eph. 2:15; Col. 2:14; Gal. 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 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 9:15. In this passage we discover:
1. Christ was their pattern.
The Lord's giving of Himself (2 Cor. 8:9) is the pattern of all giving under grace. He did not give a tenth; He gave all.
2. Their giving was even out of great poverty.
A striking combination of phrases is employed to describe what the Corinthians experienced in their giving (2 Cor. 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."
3. Their giving was not by commandment, nor of necessity.
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 (Phil. 2:14), He finds pleasure only in that gift which is given cheerfully, or more literally, hilariously (2 Cor. 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 Cor. 9:8).
4. They gave themselves.
Acceptable giving is preceded by a complete giving of one's own self (2 Cor. 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.
5. They gave systematically.
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 Cor. 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.
6. God Sustains the Giver.
God will sustain grace-giving with limitless temporal resources (2 Cor. 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 (Gal. 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.
7. True Riches are from God.
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 (Rev. 3:18). Through the absolute poverty of Christ in His death, all may be made rich (2 Cor. 8:9). It is possible to be rich in faith (Jas. 2:5), and rich in good works (1 Tim. 6:18); but in Christ Jesus the believer receives "the riches of grace" (Eph. 1:7), and "the riches of glory" (Eph. 3-16).
Review Questions for Chapter 43
1. Name three general phases of stewardship.
2. What, according to the Scriptures, should be the Christian's supreme motive in acquiring money?
3. What attitude should a yielded Christian assume toward his daily toil?
4. What attitude should he assume toward the money he receives?
5. How may all work be done to the glory of God and with increasing joy?
6. On what ground should a spiritual Christian hold property?
7. What fact underlies all giving under grace?
8. Is tithing imposed on the children of God in this dispensation?
9. a. What proportion of a Christian's property is now under the authority of God?
b. What portion did Christ give?
10. Is poverty a legitimate excuse for not giving?
11. a. What is meant by the phrases "giving grudgingly" and "giving of necessity"?
b. What in giving is more important than the money?
12. a. Of whom did God expect a tenth?
b. Of whom does He expect gifts under grace?
13. a. What principle of giving is violated by pledges?
b. Explain the fact that divine blessings follow the giving of a tenth.
14. Indicate some of the true riches and state the way they may be received.
PROPHECY IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
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 Tim. 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 (Dan. 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 programme of events and to this programme all Scripture is in perfect accord. While men may earnestly contend for the Post, the Non, or the Premillenarian 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 Tim. 4:6) only as he in all faithfulness put his hearers in remembrance of things which were future (1 Tim. 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 Sam. 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 Pet. 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:
I. CONCERNING THE GENTILES
Old Testament prophecy relative to the Gentiles begins with the allotment of the portion of the sons of Noah (Gen. 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 (Isa. 13:1-22; 14:18-27; Jer. 50:1 to 51:64), Moab (Isa. 15:1-9; 16:1-14; Jer. 48:1-4), Damascus (Isa. 17:1-14; Jer. 49:23-27), Egypt (Isa. 19:1-25; Jer. 46:2-28), Philistia and Tyre (Isa. 23:1-48; Jer. 47:1-7), Edom (Jer. 49:7-22) Ammon (Jer. 49:1-6), Elam (Jer. 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 (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; Zeph. 3:8). However, Old Testament prophecy gives assurance that the Gentiles will come into great blessing in the kingdom age (Isa. 11:10; 42:1, 6; 49:6, 22; 60:3; 62:2).
II. CONCERNING ISRAEL'S EARLY HISTORY
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 (Gen. 15:13, 14); (b) The character and destiny of Jacob's sons (Gen. 49:1-28); (c) Israel in the land following the Egyptian bondage (Deut. 4:26-30; 31:14-23); (d) Israel's three dispossessions of the land (Gen. 15:13, 14, 16; Jer. 25:11, 12; Deut. 28:62-67. See, also, Psa. 106:1-48; Deut. 30:1-3; Lev. 26:3-46; Neh. 1:8; Jer. 9:16; 18:15-17; Ezk. 12:14, 15; 20:23; 22:15; James 1:1).
III. CONCERNING THE NATION ISRAEL
Beginning with the Abrahamic covenant (Gen. 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 (Jer. 31:36), a land (Gen. 13:15), a throne (2 Sam. 7:16; Psa. 89:36), a King (Jer. 33:21), and a kingdom (Dan. 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.
IV. CONCERNING THE LAST DISPERSION AND REGATHERING OF ISRAEL
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 (Lev. 26:32-39; Deut. 28:63-68; Psa. 44:11; Neh. 1:8; Jer. 9:16; 18:15-17; Ezk. 12:14, 15; 20:23; 22:15; Jas. 1:1).
In no case would Israel's national entity be lost even through centuries of dispersion (Jer. 31:36; Matt. 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 (Matt. 23:37-39), and, as at Kadesh-barnea where their wilderness experience was extended (Num. 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 (Deut. 30:1-10; Isa. 11:11, 12; Jer. 23:3-8; Ezk. 37:21-25; Matt. 24:31).
V. CONCERNING THE ADVENT OF MESSIAH
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 (Isa. 53:1-12), and as the conquering and glorious Lion of the tribe of Judah (Isa. 11:1-12; Jer. 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 Pet. 1:10, 11). Prophecy stipulated that the Messiah must be of the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10), of the house of David (Isa. 11:1; Jer. 33:21), born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14), in Bethlehem of Judea (Micah 5:2), that He must die a sacrificial death (Isa. 53:1-12), by crucifixion (Psa. 22:1-21), rise again from the dead (Psa. 16:8-11), and come to earth the second time (Deut. 30:3) on the (clouds of Heaven (Dan. 7:13). Jesus of Nazareth has fulfilled, and will fulfill, every requirement of prophecy concerning the Messiah as no other claimant can ever do.
VI. CONCERNING THE TRIBULATION
Closely related to the present age-long chastisement of Israel, Old Testament prophecy anticipates a time of unprecedented tribulation in the earth (Deut. 4:29, 30; Psa. 2:5; Isa. 24:16-20; Jer. 30:4-7; Dan. 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" (Jer. 30:4-7), and comes to that nation as the consummation of their sufferings at the hand of Jehovah for their sins.
VII. CONCERNING THE MESSIANIC KINGDOM AND THE DAY OF THE LORD
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 marvellous blessings in a redeemed and glorified earth (Isa. 11:1-16; 12:1-6; 24:22 to 27:13; 35:1-10; 52:12; 54:1 to 55:13; 59:20 to 66:24; Jer. 23:3-8; 31:1-40; 32:37-41; 33:1-26; Ezk. 34:11-31; 36:32-38; 37:1-28; 40:1 to 48:35; Dan. 2:44, 45; 7:14; Hos. 3:4, 5; 13:9 to 14:9; Joel 2:28 to 3:21; Amos 9:11-15; Zeph. 3:14-20; Zech. 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 (Isa. 2:10-22; Zech. 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 (Matt. 5:17), the "consolation" of Israel is to be realized (Luke 2:25).
Review Questions for Chapter 44
1. What relation does prophecy sustain to history?
2. What portion of the Bible is prophetic?
3. What may be said regarding the interpretation of prophecy?
4. What may be said concerning the men who were prophets?
5. Name four features of Old Testament prediction concerning the Gentiles.
6. Name four features of Old Testament prediction concerning Israel's early history.
7. Name five covenant blessings which according to Old Testament prophecy are to come to Israel.
8. Name some of the predictions which speak of Israel's present dispersion and her future regathering.
9. Under what limitation did the Old Testament prophets write concerning the advent of Messiah?
10. Name the specifications which the true Messiah must fulfill.
11. Could any individual other than Christ meet these conditions today?
12. What essential features of the Great Tribulation are mentioned in Old Testament prophecy?
13. What time and what events are included in the Day of the Lord?
14. In what sense is the Old Testament incomplete?
PROPHECY IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
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 (Matt. 2:1, 2; 4:17). They rejected the King (Matt. 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 (Matt. 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 (Matt. 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:
I. THE NEW AGE
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" (Matt. 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 Rom. 11:25; 2 Thess. 2:7; Col. 1:27; Eph. 3:1-6; 5:25-32; 1 Cor. 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" (Matt. 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 Chapter 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 (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 (Gal. 1:4), and its course is characterized by the parallel development of both the evil and the good (Matt. 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 Thess. 2:1-12; 1 Tim. 4:1-3; 2 Tim. 3:1-5; Jas. 5:1-10; 2 Pet. 2:1 to 3:8; Jude 1:1-24; Rev. 3:14-22). In no sense does the Bible predict a converted earth in this dispensation (Matt. 13:1-50; 24:38, 39; 2 Tim. 3:16); but it does anticipate the perfect realization of the purpose of God.
II. THE NEW DIVINE PURPOSE
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 Cor. 10:32). By the word Church (note its first use - Matt. 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 (Eph. 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 (Eph. 2:18-22), a kingdom of priests (1 Pet. 2:5; Heb. 8:1), the New Creation (2 Cor. 5:17), the body (Eph. 1:22, 23; 3:6), and they will be related to Him as His bride in Heaven (Rev. 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 Thess. 4:13-17). Those who may have died will be raised (1 Cor. 15:23; 1 Thess. 4:13-17), and those then living will be translated (1 Cor. 15:51; 1 Thess. 4:13-17), and all, whether by resurrection or translation, shall receive a new body like unto His glorious body (Phil. 3:20). New Testament prophecy carries the Church through all the pilgrim experiences on the earth (Rev. 2:1 to 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 (Rev. 19:14; 20:6).
III. THE NATION ISRAEL
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 (Rom. 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 (Matt. 24:8-22), their sifting judgments preparatory to their entrance into their kingdom glory (Matt. 24:44 to 25:30; note also, Ezk. 20:38), and His own occupancy of the throne of David (Matt. 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 (Rom. 11:26, 27) and the Apostle John prophesied of their place in the Tribulation (Rev. 7:4-17; 12:13-17) and of their coming kingdom in the earth (Rev. 20:4, 6). At its beginning it was predicted that, throughout this dispensation the nation Israel would be hid (Matt. 13:44), blind (Rom. 11:25), broken off (Rom. 11:17), without their national center (Luke 21:24), and scattered (Matt. 10:6; Jas. 1:1); that in the Tribulation they are to be hated (Matt. 24:9); and in the kingdom they are to be regathered (Matt. 24:31) and saved (Rom. 11:27).
IV. THE GENTILES
"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 (Dan. 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" (Dan. 2:36-45), He comes in "the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God" (Rev. 19:15), conquering the God-defying nations of the earth in the battle of Armageddon (Rev. 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 (Matt. 25:34), and those who shall be dismissed into everlasting fire (Matt. 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; Rom. 3:9, 29; 11:11; 15:9-27; Eph. 3:6).
V. THE TRIBULATION
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 (Matt. 24:8-31), the Apostle Paul writes of it in its relation to the forces of evil (2 Thess. 2:1-12), while the Apostle John records at length the tremendous divine program which will be enacted in those days (Rev. 3:10; 6:1 to 19:6). In this brief period which is probably at most but seven years (Dan. 9:24-27, and shortened a little, Matt. 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.
VI. SATAN AND FORCES OF EVIL
Prophecy concerning Satan begins in the Old Testament (Ezk. 28:11-19; Isa. 14:12-17) and concludes with his expulsion from Heaven into the earth (Rev. 12:7-12), his binding and confinement to the abyss (Rev. 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 (Rev. 20:7-9), his final doom in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10). Closely related to prophecy concerning Satan is that of the Man of Sin which prophecy also begins in the Old Testament (Ezk. 28:1-10; Dan. 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 (Matt. 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 Thess. 2:1-12); while the Apostle John sees him in both his governmental power and his final doom (Rev. 13:3-10; 19:20; 20:10).
VII. THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST
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 (Rev. 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 (Matt. 23:37 to 25:46; Mark 13:1-37; Luke 21:5-38). Again, it is emphasized by the Apostle Paul (Rom. 11:26; 1 Thess, 3:13; 5:1-4; 2 Thess. 1:7 to 2:12), by James (5:1-8), by Peter (2 Pet. 2:1 to 3:17), by Jude (1:14, 15), and by John throughout the Revelation.
VIII. THE MESSIANIC KINGDOM
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 (Rev. 20:4, 6).
IX. THE ETERNAL STATE
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 (Matt. 25:46; John 14:1-3; Rev. 20:14, 15; 21:1 to 22:15).
Review Questions for Chapter 45
1. Indicate the manner in which prophecy relates the Old and New Testaments.
2. What relation to all Bible prophecy does the one prophetic book of the New Testament sustain?
3. Is the continuity of the Bible indicated by prophecy and its fulfillment?
4. a. Distinguish the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God.
b. What is meant by the "mysteries" of the kingdom of heaven?
5. a. What are the essential details of Christ's prophecies in Matthew 13?
b. What is the divine purpose in this dispensation? v
6. a. What are the essential features of the Church?
b. How is the Church to be removed from this world?
7. What additional facts does New Testament prophecy add to the message of Old Testament prophecy concerning Israel?
8. What additional facts does New Testament prophecy add to the message of Old Testament prophecy concerning the Gentiles?
9. What additional facts does New Testament prophecy add to the message of Old Testament prophecy concerning the Tribulation?
10. What does prophecy reveal concerning the origin and destiny of Satan and the Man of Sin?
11. What additional facts does New Testament prophecy add to the message of Old Testament prophecy concerning the Second Coming of Christ?
12. What additional facts does New Testament prophecy add to the message of Old Testament prophecy concerning the Messianic Kingdom?
13. What Scriptures predict the eternal state of man?
14. What are the subjects of prophecy which are peculiar to the New Testament?
JUDGMENT OF THE BELIEVER'S WORKS
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; Rom. 5:1; 8:1, R.V.; 1 Cor. 11:32); for, as to his standing before God, and on the ground that the penalty for all sin - past, present, and future (Col. 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 Cor. 1:30; Eph. 1:6; Col. 2:10; Heb. 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 (Rom. 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10; Eph. 6:8), which judgment will occur at the coming of Christ to receive His own (1 Cor. 4:5; 2 Tim. 4:8; Rev. 22:12. Note also Matt. 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" (Rev. 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 (Matt. 25:31. Note Matt. 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. v
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" (Gal. 5:22, 23) and is realized not by fleshly effort, but when walking by means of the Spirit (Gal. 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 (Rev. 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 (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 temperence 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" (Rom. 14:18; 16:10; 1 Cor. 11:19; 2 Cor. 10:18; 2 Tim. 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 Cor. 9:24), and sometimes as a "crown" (1 Cor. 9:25; Phil. 4:1; 1 Thess. 2:19; 2 Tim. 4:8; Jas. 1:12; 1 Pet. 5:4; Rev. 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 (Col. 2:18; 2 John 1:8; Rev. 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.
Review Questions for Chapter 46
1. On what ground is it stated in the Bible that the believer shall not come into judgment?
2. Concerning what must the believer give an account before the Judgment Seat of Christ?
3. What comparison may be drawn between the judgment of the unsaved at the Great White Throne and that of the believer at the Judgment Seat of Christ?
4. Why is the question of the Christian's life and service a separate issue from his salvation?
5. To whom is the Apostle writing in 1 Corinthians 3:9-15?
6. Why is this passage not related to so-called "character building"?
7. What is the believer building on the Rock?
8. What is the loss which the believer may suffer?
9. What subject is in view in 1 Corinthians 9:16-27?
10. Was the Apostle Paul faithful?
11. In what sense is the Christian running in a race?
12. a. What is temperance and why should the Christian be temperate?
b. What is his judgment if he is not temperate?
C. What did the Apostle Paul fear for himself?
13. Give Scriptures on the promise of crowns and a prize.
14. What is the relation between the doctrine of rewards and the doctrine of grace?
JUDGMENT OF THE NATIONS
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; Rom. 5:9; 8:1; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13; Heb. 9:26-28; 10:10, 14-17; 1 Pet. 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 Cor. 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 (Ezk. 20:37, 38; Matt. 25:21).
4. The judgment of the believer's works at the coming of Christ to receive His own (Rom. 14:10; 1 Cor. 4:5; 2 Cor. 5:10; Eph. 6:8; 2 Tim. 4:8; Rev. 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 (Rev. 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 - (24:31) from among the nations (note Deut. 30:3-6; Isa. 11:11, 12; 14:1-3; 60:1-22; Jer. 23:6-8; 32:27, 38; 33:7-9; Ezk. 36:16-38; 37:21-25; Micah 4:6-8), and while it is true that all Israel shall be saved (Rom. 11:26), it is equally true that He will purge out the "rebels" (Ezk. 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 (Matt. 24:40-51). Five virgins will enter the marriage feast, and five will be excluded (Matt. 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 (Matt. 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 (Matt. 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 (Rev. 3:21). His own throne (Rev. 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, Chapters 24 and 25, and continuing to 25:31, Christ is seen executing judgment over regathered Israel. Beginning with 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 (Matt. 25:34. Note Psa. 72:11, 17; 86:9; Isa. 55:5; Dan. 7:13, 14; Micah 4:2; Zech. 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 (Rev. 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" (Jer. 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; and
(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 (Isa. 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" (Zech. 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" (Deut. 32:9, 10). To this people Jehovah has said: "I have loved thee with an everlasting love" (Jer. 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 (Rev. 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.
Review Questions for Chapter 47
1. Name the seven judgments mentioned in the Scriptures.
2. Describe the judgment of the cross.
3. a. Describe the judgment of the believer which is due to persistent sin.
b. When does this judgment take place?
4. Which judgment will be first in order of those occurring at the Second Coming of Christ?
5. Indicate the passages and parables which describe Israel's judgment.
6. a. Where is Christ now seated?
b. Upon what throne will He reign on the earth?
7. Indicate the passages which describe the judgment of the nations.
8. What evidence can you give that the Church will not be judged among the nations?
9. What will Israel's condition be in the world just before the coming of Christ in power and great glory?
10. a. Give two reasons why it is not usually understood that "my brethren" of Matthew 25:40 refers to Israel.
b. Indicate the Scriptures which declare Jehovah's love and care for Israel.
11. To whom will the earthly kingdom belong?
12. What classes of people in the Scriptures are called "sheep"?
13. In what particulars is the judgment of the nations to be distinguished from the judgment of the Great White Throne?
14. State the major issues in the judgment of the nations.
JUDGMENT OF THE WICKED
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 Cor. 15:23; 1 Thess. 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 (Rev. 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" (Rev. 20:6). That all of the dead are not raised at the first resurrection is clearly stated in the Bible (1 Cor. 15:24; Phil. 3:11, margin; 1 Thess. 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" (Rev. 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 (Rev. 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 (Rev. 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 (Heb. 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 (Psa. 88:3); (2) The end of life so far as mere human knowledge can go (Eccles. 9:5, 10); (3) A place of conscious sorrow (2 Sam. 22:6; Psa. 9:17; 18:5; 116:3).
2. In the New Testament the Greek words _gehenna, _hades, and _tartaros are translated "hell." _Gehenna 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 Pet. 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); "second death," which is the same as the "lake of fire" (Rev. 20:14); "everlasting fire" (Matt. 18:8); and "everlasting punishment" (Matt. 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 (Matt. 18:8; 25:41, 46; Mark 3:29; 2 Thess. 1:9; Heb. 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 (Matt. 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.
Review Questions for Chapter 48
1. Are all, both saved and unsaved, to be raised from the dead?
2. When does the real difference between these two classes especially appear?
3. Is there grounds for believing in but one general resurrection?
4. a. What is meant by "the first resurrection"?
b. When does it occur?
c. Who are included in this resurrection?
d. Who are excluded?
5. a. When are the wicked dead to be raised?
b. Into what judgment will they go?
6. a. What is the result of this judgment?
b. Define the meaning of "second death."
7. a. What is the basis of man's relation to God in this age?
b. Describe the wickedness of rejecting Christ.
8. What two features were to characterize this age?
9. What is the state of the heathen world?
10. What are the three shades of meaning of the words _sheol and _hades?
11. Name and define the words used in the New Testament to describe the condition of the lost.
12. Why do we believe that the word _aionios means eternal as to duration?
13. What complications arise when the word is made to indicate a limited time?
14. a. Who alone speaks with authority as to the destiny of men?
b. What is the attitude of God toward men?
THE ETERNAL ESTATE OF THE REDEEMED
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 (Matt. 22:30; Mark 1:32-34), and concerning the destinies of men (Matt. 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 Cor. 12:1-4), and long after that experience he testified that to depart and be with Christ is far better (Phil. 1:23), and that he was willing to be absent from the body that he might be present with the Lord (2 Cor. 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" (Phil. 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 Cor. 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 (Rom. 8:29; 1 John 3:1-3; Phil. 3:20, 21). He will then know even as he is now known (1 Cor. 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 Thess. 4:15-17).
Heaven is a place (John 14:1-3) of surpassing beauty and celestial glory (Rev. 21:1 to 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" (Heb. 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 (Eph. 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 Tim. 4:8), of rest (Rev. 14:13), of knowledge (1 Cor. 13:8-10), of holiness (Rev. 21:27), of service (Rev. 22:3), of worship (Rev. 19:1), of fellowship with God (Rev. 21:3), of fellowship with other believers (1 Thess. 4:18), and of glory (2 Cor. 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" (Rev. 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.
Review Questions for Chapter 49
1. What is peculiar in the Bible teaching about Heaven not found in other religions?
2. Though Heaven is unseen, what reasonable proof have we that the Bible records concerning Heaven are true?
3. Who are the three experienced witnesses who have written of Heaven?
4. What did Christ say concerning Heaven?
5. a. Under what circumstances did Paul see Heaven?
b. What was his own attitude toward death after having seen Heaven?
6. a. Under what circumstances did John see Heaven?
b. What record did he leave?
7. a. Of what body does the Apostle write in 2 Corinthians 5:1-4?
b. When does the believer receive his resurrection body?
8. What may be believed as to the extent of the Christian's knowledge of Heaven?
9. Is Heaven a place or a state?
10. Who are the inhabitants of Heaven?
11. Name things which are to characterize Heaven.
12. Distinguish between Heaven and the heavenly, also the kingdom of heaven.
13. On what one condition is Heaven promised to men?
14. Is that one condition unreasonable?
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