EARTHEN JAR……An excerpt from “ASCENT TO THE TRIBES” by Isobel Kuhn

 

“But, we have this treasure [glory of the Lord Jesus Christ] in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7

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Any missionary reading this book will have a question in the back of his mind. He will want to ask, “But living in such unhandy primitive quarters, don’t your earthen vessels ever jar each other? What do you do about personality conflicts?”

There is no easy cure-all answer. We would say with Paul, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended [laid hold of’], but I follow after.” My answer, then,would not be as to what we have apprehended, but as to what we are following; in others words, the drumbeat we march to in this very vital matter. Sometimes a soldier gets out of step with his drumbeat – that is possible in the spiritual realm also. But the drumbeat, or in plain language, the ideal is important.

Our first drumbeat, then. is 2Cor. 4:7. We have a precious jewel to share with others. But we carry it in only an earthen jar. Our friends at home, who send us off to foreign shores with adulation and tears over our sacrifice, throw us out of step with this drumbeat. They are apt to give us the idea our particular jar is really a vase, less of earth and more of porcelain, you understand. Then the Lord has the unpleasant task of getting us back into step with His drumbeat.

Before I went to China I had a girl friend who was a counselor with me at a Bible conference. She came from a family of millionaires, but she gave up all that easy life to be God’s missionary to the Chinese. I sailed before she did and it was sixteen years before we met again. In talking over our missionary experiences I have never forgotten a quiet word she dropped. “The first few years of my service,” she said, “the Lord had to spend in bringing me to an end of myself.” I gasped, dumbfounded. I had not told her, but that is what I would have said about my first years in China too! But, I had not given up what she had to come.

Before we can show off our jewel, we must thoroughly learn that we ourselves are but earthen jars. And our fellow missionaries must be patient with us while we are learning. Anyone who comes to the field with even a subconscious idea that he or she is someone special is due for a crucifixion experience. That one will not be useful to the Lord until he receives it. The senior worker may see the need of some such humbling but he has no right to give it; our Lord alone is fit to assign to each his own particular clarifying of vision, his crucifixion of self-life. But everybody gets involved, unfortunately, when such a lesson is needed. This brings us to our second drumbeat.

“Bear the burden of one another’s failings” (Gal.6:2,Knox). Or, as someone calls it, the ministry of bearing is our second drumbeat. Our mission is interdenominational and international; within those two words alone lie many possibilities of difference and resultant anger. A willingness to yield in non-essentials is necessary to maintain unity. A refusal to be taken up with insignificant annoyances is another. One of our dear old CIM (China Inland Mission) saints had a little word that has often helped me. When someone had done something imitating or disappointing, she would say, “Oh, let’s press on! Press on!” Refuse to be taken up with the petty and small. We have great issues at stake, let them have our undivided attention and strength. That will mean bearing the burden of another’s failings. Forgiving and forgetting in order to press on to the important.

When a missionary is going through a crucifixion experience, it will be a burden to have to live with him; he may be forgetful, morose, and irritable – and always critical. He may even write to the friends in the homeland criticizing the work on the field! This is the hardest to take of all.

I have never forgotten the lesson my husband taught me in a matter like this, many years ago. We had just such a case, and the letter to the homeland folk was pungent because the writer had a natural gift for writing! I was all for sitting down and putting our side on paper too, especially to certain friends whom we deeply valued. But John refused to let me write. Then he said a potent word, which has also become a drumbeat down the years. It was this: “Don’t vindicate yourself or the Christians. Trust the friends at home to have wisdom enough to discern this matter. They are not fools.” I did not believe he could be right, but he was.

Some months passed before we heard from the homeland about that thing… .then one day came a letter from these precious friends. It read something like this: “We are much in prayer for you and John. Although you have said nothing, X—writes in such heat of spirit that we feel he cannot be wholly right; therefore you are going through difficulties and we wish you to know we are standing with you in prayer.'”

Years have passed. X—is no longer young, but his zeal and devotion to the Lord all these years have been unremitting. How often, as we praised the Lord for X—, I have also thanked Him that I was not allowed to write against a precious brother who was just passing through a needed crucifixion-of-self period, that was all. But it took a little bearing at the time. ‘”We are disciples of clay. And there is still the skill of the Potter,” said Peter Marshall. Do we count on that skill? Or do we shrug our shoulders and give up our fellow Christian with a hopeless, “Oh, he is always that way!” Such an attitude is surely sinning against the Potter; we should count on His skill and the fact that He cares about the blemishes of the earthen jar which bear His jewel.

A third major drumbeat is “Love covereth” (Prov,10:12), Bearing is not quite enough. I was taught this by a worker much my junior. A jarring of the earthen jars affair was on, and I was talking with a young worker who was said to have criticized me. “Oh, I didn’t mean that by what I said,” she broke out quickly. “I’ll go right now and tell them.” “No, please do not tell them a thing. I meant to apologize to you, that was all. If you go and say you did not say that, it will stir up everything again. Remember Proverbs 26:20: “Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out.” Don’t add any more wood.”

“You are right,” she replied sadly. “Kill it with love; that is the only way.” I felt stunned. I had meant to bear up nobly, but I saw instantly that she was right. Bearing did not go far enough; I should put myself out to do something loving toward the one who I felt had begun the fire. C.S. Lewis has helped me much in this matter of loving one’s enemy. He says this. “Christian love is an affair of the will… does not mean an emotion… Loving your enemy in the Bible is wishing him good, not feeling fond of him nor saying he is nice when he isn’t!” It is wonderful how-the exercise of one’s will, in a matter like this, will eventuate in the correct emotions. Determining to wish that person’s good; deliberately trying to do something loving for them; and praying for them—all this will some day bring about the emotion of love itself. But love, as the Bible interprets it, is an affair of the will, not necessarily of the emotions.

A forth major drumbeat is found in Psalm 51: 17 – “a broken and contrite heart.” Brokenness. Hudson Taylor once said, “Hard missionaries are not of much use: they are not like the Master. He is never hard. It is better to be trusting and gentle and sympathetic, even if often taken in, rather than sharp and hard.” It is a broken earthen jar which most reveals the jewel [Lord Jesus Christ] within. The Holy Spirit does the breaking through crucifixion experiences, but the outcome of it is confession of sins. A modern saint has said: “‘In the deep mental and physical pain of humiliation before a brother—which means, before God—we experience the Cross of Jesus as our rescue and salvation.” Then that same one adds a wise word of caution: “For the salvation of his soul let him guard against ever making a pious work of his confession—an idle, lustful babbling… Confession as a routine duty is spiritual death.” But a holy desire to live without blame and offense toward one’s fellows is scriptural.

We were most fortunate in having J.O. Fraser, hero of “Behind the Ranges” , as our superintendent when we began missionary life. One of his drumbeats was Matt. 18:15-35. He practiced it himself and taught the Lisu church to practice it. No telling of the brother’s fault behind his back; go to him when he is alone and tell him right to his face. If he will not listen, take another for a witness and the two of you go and speak to him about it, again when he is alone. If he does not listen, then tell it to the church and the church must take action. Anyone who practices this will live in a state of brokenness. [Romans 6:13] As has been said: “The basis upon which Christians can speak to one another is that each knows the other is a sinner… We speak to one another on the basis of the help we both need.” There is no room for pride or hardness there.

The last major drumbeat which I would record is found in Philippians 1:12, “the furtherance of the gospel.” Dr. C.R. Erdman has this comment: “Passionate devotion to the things which are vital delivered Paul from bitterness of soul, from anger and ill will. Taking advantage of the fact that Paul was in prison, some Christian leaders. jealous of Paul’s influence, were preaching of envy and strife, possibly saying that God’s blessing was not on Paul or he would not be in prison. But Paul was delivered from bitterness of soul at their puny jabs, by the fact that they were getting out and preaching!” Passionate devotion to the things which are vital. That will deliver from discord in any group; it is a wonderfully unifying power.

It was Amy Carmichael who first gave me this figure of speech. She had stricter standards than some, but she worded it this way: “We march to a different drumbeat.” From then on the Holy Spirit has seized upon a word of Scripture, or a word from the lips of a fellow Christian, and so impressed it upon me, as His will for me, that I have labeled them my drumbeats. Sometimes I may get out of step, but I know that these are the drumbeats of His army, or of that corps in which He has called me to march.

The excerpt “The Earthen Jar” is used by permission from OMF International. All rights reserved, including translation. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system without written permission from OMF International, 2 Cluny Road, Singapore 259570, Republic of Singapore. Printed in the United States of America.

“The Earthen Jar” is in Chapter 11 on page 290 of “Ascent to the Tribes,” paperback addition.

ISBN 1-9291222010-2

 

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“I HAVE HEARD OF THEE BY THE HEARING OF THE EAR: BUT NOW MINE EYE SEETH THEE.” JOB 42:5 Miles J. Stanford

 

lf ye, then, be.risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God” {Col. 3 1).

THE BOOK OF JOB gives us the saga of a saint in patriarchal days the account of his trials through which he was to learn the common lesson according to the common calling that we are a.dead and risen people.

Although Job came before Abraham, he did not come before this lesson, for it had been taught from the beginning; Adam and Abel, and the line of Seth through Enoch and Noah, had already learned it. And Job, after them, is set down to the same lesson, only engraved in deeper and darker lines!

The Book of Job exhibits a soul set to learn through trials and sorrows the common lesson, the power of our calling that our hopes are neither in this world nor from the flesh, but in living position with the Lord Jesus Christ—beyond all that is here.

The events themselves are deeply touching, but they are all ordinary, or such as are “common to man.” Thieves carry off his oxen and asses. Lightening destroys his flocks. A high wind blows down his house and kills his children. And, at last, a sore disease breaks out on his body from head to foot.

Each of these might have happened to his.ungodly neighbor as well as to him. In the mere matter of these afflictions, there was nothing that distinguished him as a child of God. They were not the sufferings of a martyr. But still they were all under the exactest inspection and meassured control of his heavenly Father, all in the way of appointment and of discipline flowing from heavenly interests and divine relationships.

Resurrection has from the beginning been an article of the faith of God’s people; and being such, it was also the lesson they had to learn and to experience—the principle of their life out of death. The Genesis fathers had learnt the lesson, Moses learnt it, David was in the power of it, the whole nation of Israel were taught it, again and again.

The Lord Jesus, “the Author and Finisher of our faith,” in His day, realized this lesson to all perfection. And each of His growing ones is set down to it every day, that we may “know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings being made conformable unto his death” (Phil. 3:10).

The leading purpose of the Book of Job sets forth a child of resurrection, in early patriarchal days, learning the lesson of resurrection—life out of death. His confession tells us that the resurrection was understood by him as a doctrine, while the whole account tells us that he had still to know the reality of it in his life. It was an article of his faith, but not yet the principle of his life.

And a sore trial it was to him, hard indeed to learn and digest. He did not like (and which of us does?) to take the sentence of death into himself, that he might not trust in himself, nor in his circumstances in life, nor his condition by nature—but in God who raises the dead. “I shall die in my nest” (Job 29:18) was his thought and hope. But he was to see his nest rifled of all with which nature had filled it, and with which circumstances had adorned it*

This honored and cherished saint had to learn the power of the calling of all the elect, practically and personally—the life of faith, or the lesson of resurrection. And it may be a consolation for those of us who know ourselves to be little among them, to read in the records which we have of them that all have not been equally apt and bright scholars in that school; and that all, in different measures, have failed in it as well as made progress in it*

How unworthily of it, for instance, did Abraham behave; how little like a dead and risen man, a man of faith, when he denied his wife to the Egyptian. Yet how beautifully did he carry himself, as such, when he surrendered the choice of the land to his younger kinsman, Lot.

We are encouraged and consoled to know that our present lesson, as those who have died and whose life is hid with Christ in God, has been the lesson of the elect from the beginning—that on many a bright and hallowed occasion they matriculated in that lesson to the glory of their Lord; that at times they found it hard, and at times failed in it. This tale of the soul is well known to us. Only we, living in New Testament truth, are learning the same lesson in the still ampler page and after the clearer method in which it is now taught us in our death and resurrection with the Lord Jesus Christ.

There is some difference (and distance) between a righteous and a devoted believer. The measure of devotedness may be said to be according to the energy one is exercising as being dead and risen with the Lord Jesus. At the beginning of his history, Job was a righteous man. He was well spoken of again and again, in the very face of his accuser. But he was not yet a devoted man. Accepted he was as a sinner who knew his living and triumphant Redeemer; godly and upright beyond his fellows, but as to the life that wrought in his soul, he was not a dead and risen man.

Such also was the writer of Proverbs 20:1-9. He was godly and of a lowly, self-judging spirit. He makes a good confession of human blindness and depravity, of the unsearchable glories of God, the purity and preciousness of His Word, and of the security of all who trust in Him.

He was a man of God and walked in a good spirit, but he was not a devoted man. He did not know how to abound and how to suffer need. He dreaded poverty lest he should steal, and riches lest he should deny God. He was not prepared for changes. Neither was Job. But Paul was. He surrendered himself to the Lord Jesus , as they had not. He was ready to be “emptied from vessel to vessel.” He was instructed both to be full and to be hungry. He could do all things through Christ strengthening him.

See that devoted man, that dead and risen man in the closing chapters of Acts (20 to 28). He is in the midst of a weeping company of brethren at Miletus, and in the bosom of a loving Christian household at Tyre. But were those able to detain him? No. Even there he carried a heart thoughly surrendered to the Lord Jesus Christ.

He could not be held, and on from thence he goes, along the coast of Syria up to Jerusalem and then for two long years, apart from the brethren, in perils by sea and land, under insults and wrongs, a single heart and devoted affection bearing him through all. Mere righteousness will not take such a journey. There must be that singleness of eye to the Lord Jesus, that principle of devotedness which reckons upon our death and resurrection in Him.

Job was righteous but he was not prepared for such shifting scenery as this. . He .loved the green spot and the feathered nest. Changes come, and changes are too much for him- But God, in the love wherewith He loved him as his heavenly Father, puts him in school to learn the lesson of a child of resurrection—to be a partaker of His holiness, the holiness not merely of a right or pure-minded man, but the holiness that suits the call of God, the holiness of a dead and risen man; one of the pilgrim family, one of God’s strangers in the world (Heb. 12 :9,10}.

Job was chastened to be partaker of such a holiness as this. Not that trials and troubles, like this, are essential to the learning of this lesson. A very common method it is with our heavenly Father in His love and wisdom. But Paul set himself daily to learn and live that lesson, without the instructions of griefs and losses in either body or estate (Phil. 3).

A dead and risen believer will have neither his springs nor his objects here. His principles of action will be found in the Lord Jesus. He is taken out of all the advantages and adornings of the flesh into the righteousness and life of God in Christ—and then, livingly and practically, progresses up the hill, having in spirit left the low level of the world. He has taken leave of the course of the world which goes its rounds on the plain beneath, and has ascended in spirit above—hid with Christ in God.

He lets the world know that it could never provide him with his object. In the midst of its kingdoms and delights he is a stranger still. He can, like his Master, hide the glory to which God has appointed him and be nothing in.the present scene here below.. Abraham did not tell every Canaanite whom he chanced to meet that he was the heir of the country.

J.G. Bellett (Selections from The Patriarchs)

THE ABOVE IS AN EXCERPT FROM TRI-S 9

“They which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.” 2 Cor. 5:15

“The only thing which a believer has to do in this world– whether he breaks stones on the roadside or preaches to thousands– is to live unto the Lord

Jesus Christ.  Then the trials and difficulties of the Cross, which so many complain of, are intended for the very purpose of helping and not hindering devotedness to the Lord Jesus.”  C.A. Coates

 

 

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“NINE LECTURES ON THE FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN” – LECTURE 2……J.N. Darby

The beginning of this chapter refers to the preceding chapter; there he is speaking of the manifestation of the light and life, for the life is the light of men. “If we say we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.” Then in the second chapter he is speaking of the resources of a Christian when he fails, as, alas! we know we all do fail. In the former chapter, as we are seeing, he speaks of three things: first, in the light, as God is in the light; second, fellowship with God; and third, the blood of Christ cleansing from all sin. There, in the second chapter, the Christian having sinned, has an Advocate with the Father – this is bringing out quite another principle altogether. It is not merely having a divine nature, because he has that when he fails; but he is not walking in the power of it, and consequently fails, and therefore needs an Advocate with the Father. This is quite another aspect; it is not joying in God, but the interference of God in grace in the person of a Mediator, one between God and us. This is not a question of justification; there is no possibility of anything being imputed to me. Christ was made sin for us, and His work has put us in God’s presence without any question, and that we never lose. It is not that here, but another thing of importance to me the daily exercise of affection. It is not said that we will fail before Him, but down here we do. In many things we offend all; we fail constantly, inwardly and outwardly; but there is the exercise of affections, according to what we are down here, an increasing in the knowledge of God, what His love is, and what our real state is. God demands righteousness; but it is not, as many think, that the work has to be done over again; for the moment I believe, I am God’s righteousness in Christ. There is no decay of it; it is always of the same value; it is a question of who He is; it is founded on the fact that in virtue of this sacrifice I can now exercise my conscience in a way I could not. He is Jesus Christ the righteous. The righteousness is always in the presence of God. He has not to look for that now in His dealing with us; He is always there. God has been perfectly displayed in the Lord Jesus Christ, and now I can go into His presence and not be afraid, because of this righteousness. How is my intercourse with God to be carried on by such a poor, failing thing as I am? It goes on in virtue of what I am in Christ. Christ’s righteousness does not need to be maintained, but I need to be sustained. Suppose I have failed – well here the advocacy comes in; Christ’s intercession comes in to meet me. It does not acquire the righteousness, but lifts me up if I fail. The intercession of Christ as the Advocate with the Father leads me to judge myself according to the light I have been brought into by this righteousness. My discernment of good and evil increases as I grow up into God. Here are two things needed: grace to keep us in the way, and mercy to restore us to communion. There is all the grace we need by the road, and he is assuring us constantly of the certainty of our position before God. Peter did not lose his trust and confidence in God, though he denied his Master. Satan might come and say to the soul, “It is all over with you; you are too bad; His sentence is gone out against you, and there is no hope.” So confidence in God may be lost; but before Peter failed, Christ had prayed for him. Thus he learned what he was in himself, and knew the grace that sustained him – then he uses it to profit. “Strengthen thy brethren.” He was competent to help those who were weak and failing like himself. It is exactly the same grace that met us at the first that sustains us all the journey through. Here is the government of God, as a father with his family. It is not like “Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone”; no, God having an interest in us will never leave us alone or give us up; but He will deal with us according to our ways. As I have before remarked, His governmental operations depend on our acts and doings, as in John 14: 23; 15: 10; but God’s love to us is not made to depend on our love to Him, or on our conduct; for after all it is grace that enables us to go on well. God, and Christ as a Son over His own house, deals with the children. If we speak rashly to our brother, or walk abroad carelessly through the streets, and see some vanity; we shall find the effect of it in our own souls at the end of the day with God. If any angry word escapes me, I feel the effect at the end of the day with God; but grace will restore us; He will follow us and bring us back. If we have a child that is unruly we will not give it up, but wait upon it in love, and correct it in hope of reclaiming it. I may see a child go wrong and leave it; but because it is my own child I must go after it and bring it back. This is the patience of His grace. At the same time God can never give up His holiness; no, He could not pass by or suffer unholiness in His child, therefore it was needful Christ should die. Thus God was debtor to Christ, on account of His work for the glory of His character. “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.” “I have glorified thee on the earth.” The same thing is true in regard to His advocacy in virtue of the propitiation. Christ exercises His advocacy for us. If there is failure God sees it; but Jesus comes in and intercedes for us. Some say that we have to use the advocacy of Christ, but it is not so. Christ uses it for us. Why do I turn to God when I have failed? It is because He uses advocacy, and fresh grace is applied – fresh grace is wrought in my mind. There is nothing in us that brings us back to God but fresh grace working in our conscience. Therefore it is said, “If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father.” It is not “if any man repent.” It is just as much pure grace as at the first looked upon us when we were in our sins. In the case of Peter, the Lord foretold him what would take place. “Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.” We all need sifting; “but I have prayed for thee.” Before Peter got into the danger the Lord had prayed for him, and His grace is in exercise, and at the moment when it is needed. “He looked at Peter,” and his weeping was an avowal of Christ’s intercession. The grace and intercession of Jesus is towards us in all the grace and wisdom of God. It is grace which makes our very failure the occasion of God’s coming in with more grace. The righteousness is not called in question; it is not touched. It is through the intercession of Christ that I can get to God about my evil thoughts. All the consciousness of failure, all the exercises of heart, are the occasion of my going to the Father, and so many links to link my soul to God. We learn it in our every-day wants and failures; we are all astray if we do not see that God has a holy foundation for all this. It does not follow that we must fail any more than that we must sin. We ought not to fail, though we all do. Our wretched self-confidence makes us fail, and then comes in the advocacy. In a similar manner it was Aaron’s rod that swallowed up every other rod, showing divine power in Priesthood; that is the way grace takes away the murmuring of the heart. Two years Israel were in the desert, and thirty-eight years more because they did not go up and take the land as they had been told; and if we, like Israel, will not go up it detects our state – we are making the long way. Israel had not the faith to go up to the Anakims. If we would break with the world, and take up the cross properly, it would give us the enjoyment of the full power of communion with God at once; if not, we must learn by its daily mortification in the desert what flesh is. If we think to escape dangers by leaving the path of faith, we shall surely get into sin. Israel found the same people were there, the giants still there, when they got into the land at last that had frightened them at the first, and hindered their taking possession. What is the reason Christians have often more joy on a death-bed than all their life through before? Why, the reason is, they have never till then surrendered up all for Christ, and never learned Christ to be everything, and everything else to be dung and dross. Israel’s raiment had not waxed old for forty years in the wilderness, neither did their feet swell. They learned in all this way the wonderful detail of all God’s goodness. The manna never ceased, and the patient grace never failed to the end; but our foolish hearts will not trust God, and so the Lord shows us the patience of His grace. He goes with us wherever we go, even in our failures. If our hearts have experienced the exercises of the desert, we have learned the vanity of earthly things, and after all have found it better to give it all up, and trust God, that He may be everything to us. If we had done that at first we should have had it at once. Now as to the constant exercise of Christ’s intercession; it is carried on in heaven in connection with our heavenly standing, and is also made to bear on our actual daily state down here. Christ was a man down here; we are joined to Christ by one Spirit. “He that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit” – mark the effect. What was Christ? Not only the obedient Man, the perfect Man under the law, but He was the perfect manifestation of the divine nature in man; there was in a Man all the effect that Godhead could produce of goodness in a man. I am not speaking of miracles, patience, endurance, love, etc. It is not that we can be as Christ was, because sin is in us but there was none in Him. We are called to walk as He walked; we are called not to walk in the flesh; but we do not walk as He walked; there is not a willingness to walk, there is a will in us. He must break our will so long as our walk does not flow from the word of God. There is flesh working and must be weakness. Well, but one may say, “I am so young a Christian, I am so weak.” It is not a question of age in grace; Christ would not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able, but would, with the temptation, make a way for you to escape We may be weak, but that is no hindrance to our walking as He walked, for His strength is made perfect in weakness; but He cannot be the strength of our will. One born only yesterday may follow Christ as much as an old Christian, and Christ is as much for him. There may not be so much wisdom, but in the child there is often more singleness of eye, and more of undividedness of heart. The great thing is, that the will does not work. There again we see where Christ was so perfect. The will of God was the spring of all Christ’s conduct. He came to do His will – “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God.” “Mine ears hast thou opened” – put Himself in the place of obedience. “A body hast thou prepared me,” He became a man, took the place of a servant. He was to walk by what He heard. He was willing to do this: “Lo, I come.” “Not my will, but thine, be done.” The will of God was the spring of all His conduct. He was not only the obedient One, conformed to it – “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” “As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father, so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.” We are not only so to walk, as He walked, but the way He walked. The spring of Christ’s conduct was never His own will; not that His will had to be corrected, but He came to do His Father’s will. Satan tried to hinder, man tried to hinder, but He goes through it all. He takes the place first, He must go first in the difficulties; when He putteth forth His own sheep He goeth before them. He was led by the Spirit to be tempted; everything that could put His obedience to the test must be tried on Him. We see the difference in the glory of Christ’s person from another. Moses had to fast forty days to be with God on the mount. Christ as a living man on earth was always with God. He fasts forty days to be with Satan tempted in the wilderness, and you could not see Him in those circumstances without seeing who was there. If all the glory of the world was offered to Christ there, it is offered to you every day, and we see in a day like this people are hurrying after it with all their hearts. Well, Christ meets him. “Make these stones bread,” satisfy your hunger by your own will. He had no word from God for it. His will was never shown; it was perfect obedience – the humble, holy, patient life that does not stir without God. If you will not do anything without a word from God, then you are sure to have the strength of God in what you do. “Cast thyself down.” No; He would not put God to the test. He was not going to tempt God by trying whether He would protect Him. He had confidence in God; so we read, “The people tempted God, saying, Is God among us?” They would prove whether He was among them or not, and this is called “tempting God.” He was sure in the way of obedience to find Him. When Mary and Martha sent to the Lord, saying, “Lazarus is sick,” He did not stir. He had no word from God, and Lazarus died. Mary might think it cruel that He should abide two days in the same place, and not come immediately to heal him. If He had been there He might have wrought a common miracle; but His raising him from the dead is for the glory of God. Satan then tries Him in another way: “If thou wilt fall down and worship me, all shall be thine.” “Get thee behind me, Satan,” He again takes the word, “It is written.” Satan has power against pretension, against knowledge, but no power against obedience if we are acting by the Word – no will of our own. He ordered His conduct from the Word. It was the source of His conduct. If we say we abide in Him, we ought to walk even as Christ also walked. Satan was baffled, the strong man was bound, and that is how He bound him, by simple obedience. The exercise of power, as healing the sick, is a distinct subject. He would have set men right if they had been capable of happiness and prepared to enjoy God. Christ passed through everything that could be put before Him to hinder Him in the path of godliness, everything that could test the divine life. Christ knew in that sense what it was to be tempted; it was all the exercises He went through which prepared Him to be our High Priest. We need sympathy in the exercises of the divine life in our souls, not sympathy in our lusts; those we must mortify. Everything that could try a living man, He passed through, perfect in all. He learned the application of it all in the peace which He experienced, and now He can say, “My peace and my joy.” If the world has hated me it will hate you; but “be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” He knew, and understood experimentally and practically, as a man in passing through this world, how the grace from above, in the comforts and applyings of divine grace to His soul, was sufficient for every soul’s need to live in holiness, not applied to a testing from sin, but a life of holiness. “He suffered being tempted.” The Lord knew what trouble was; His soul was bowed down with trouble; but the first word is, “Father.” The first moment we are in sorrow, instead of looking around for comfort, for sympathy, or to the actings of the flesh, as to what I have done, or what I have not done, and pouring forth our sorrow in nothing but fleshly murmuring, let us turn immediately to God; then the heart would be cast down in perfect submission to the will of God, and thus the sting of the sorrow would be removed. The instant there is perfect submission there is perfect peace. “Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour”; “not my will, but thine, be done.” Another thing: He could have raised Abraham and Isaac as He did Lazarus, and have brought in all the promised blessing at once; but men did not like Him to be there. Man showed himself to be alienated from God, and was proved utterly incapable of enjoying happiness. “Now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.” Christ could not have anything to do with the world in its mortal state. He now had to meet the effect of sin in the power of Satan – holding man captive under death to the judgment and wrath of God against sin – to redeem man, and now He takes His place in resurrection to apply redemption. The righteousness was worked out that we should take our place in heaven. We must be broken off from the world. He gives us everything needed in the way, but never presents that as our end. This world is neither Canaan nor Egypt, but a wilderness. By clinging to it we are not in the wilderness but in Egypt, and that is why we need chastening; for if we make a Canaan of this world, then it becomes Egypt to us. The moment we make it our home, and settle down in it, it is our Egypt. The Lord must break our will. He says, “A little while and the world seeth me no more.” It is all done with. He puts a distinction between Himself and the world; therefore if we take Him we cannot have the world, and if we take the world we cannot have Him – we cannot have both. “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world.” Men are everywhere playing into the infidel’s hands in thinking to make the world better with their brotherly love, their arts and sciences, their social intercourse, making themselves happy without God; for while they make a show of their cleverness, and talk a great deal about acknowledging God’s gift in the skill and ability He has bestowed upon man, they continue still to reject both God and His gifts, and will not have a “God in Christ.” Men think the world can be set right by cultivation and science, by encouraging the arts, and such like. Why, Christ could not set it right. Infidels are saying, Christianity is all a figment, for it has not set the world right. Men are taking the words of Christ in their mouths, saying, “Men should love one another as brethren,” and bringing all nations together to cultivate amity and goodwill; and the very words that they take in their mouths while they are thus seeking to make the world happy are the words that the infidels use. The world – its day is over. Christ was rejected by the world, and its day is closed. God’s grace is gathering out sinners; but as to the world, the Lord said, it “seeth me no more.” Either it is to get better without Christ, or not to get better at all. “It has hated both me and my Father,” and its day is over. “I have got one Son; it may be they will reverence my Son.” They took Him and slew Him, and said, “The inheritance will be ours,” and they are making the world comfortable. The Lord preserve us from all deception which by the side of Christ we so soon detect. He has taken a heavenly place. “Such a high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, made higher than the heavens.” He exercises His ministry where we belong. We do not belong to the earth; we have a heavenly calling, and need a heavenly Priest, who has gone up on high to take our hearts up with Him. Our bodies have not gone up yet, but we have our place with Him up there. Christ Himself, who was a man on earth, manifested a heavenly character down here. Christ, having given us our place down here, and taken away all our sins, sends down the Comforter, that we, being the living epistle of Christ, known and read of all men, may manifest Him in our walk down here. God loved us when we hated Him; we are to love those who do not love us, and thus show the character of God down here. Christ was the living expression of it as a man. “He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself so to walk, even as He walked.” By His intercession Christ obtains for us all we need, and lifts us up if we do fall. He sustains us to walk as He walked, having the word of God as the source of our actions, as God was the source of all His thoughts; but if we fail there is grace to restore us. “These things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Flesh ought never to work; your life ought never to be an expression of the flesh, but the obedience of a child. The youngest child in Christ cannot walk as a father in Christ, but he can walk in the obedience of a child with Christ. I have the flesh; but if I am in the light practically with God I know all about the flesh; then all that I am is judged. A child of two years old can be as obedient as a child of twelve years. It is not a question of age, of strength, but obedience. We have the pattern of Christ at twelve years old. He was obedient to His father and mother, and went home with them, being subject unto them. “He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself so to walk, even as He walked.” Is this the delight of your soul, to walk as He walked, as self-denying, as separated from the world, with as much love? or would you spare something – a little bit of the world, a little bit of comfort? Christ never did, or you could not have been saved. Peter said this, “Be it far from thee, Lord; spare thyself.” His reply was, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” How often does our wretched heart say, “Spare thyself”? That is not walking as Christ walked, not doing His bidding as our Master. Have your hearts been attracted by the beauty of Christ? It is real liberty. The world is merely a snare to entrap us – not that I would scorn the world. Christ did not scorn it; but the world is just this, Satan using all manner of things to seduce the flesh. Satan attracts us by his snares, and has the soul in bondage; but the liberty in which the Son has set us free from the flesh, the world, and sin, and Satan; not only to walk as He walked, but to walk with Him in perfect freedom, and in the comfort and consciousness of walking with Him. May we find our joy in Him, not pursuing a life of our own hearts, but a life of His grace and goodness, and may He keep our hearts fixed on Him and on a crown with Him.

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ARMINIUS, TO CALVIN, TO PAUL……Miles J. Stanford

 

ARMINIUS, TO CALVIN, TO PAUL

There are three men whose theology has a greater influence on the lives of Christians today than that of any who have ever lived.  According to the preponderance of their doctrinal effect these men were, first, Jacobus Arminius, John Calvin, and finally, the Apostle Paul.

 

JACOBUS ARMINIUS (1560-1609) — Who was this man whose teachings influence more Christians today than those of any other?

 

Jacob Arminius was born in Amsterdam, Holland, four years before the death of John Calvin.  In time, he became a champion of Calvinistic Dutch Reformed theology.

 

Ultimately chosen to write a defence against attacks on Calvinism, Arminius came to the conclusion that many of Calvin’s doctrines were indefensible.  In rejecting Calvinism, and in the attempt to construct his own scheme of beliefs, Arminius made the fatal mistake of mixing Pelagian dogma with the Scriptures.

 

PELAGIUS — Early in the fifth century, the English monk Pelagius sought to reform the Roman Catholic Church.  He thus became a life-long theological antagonist of Augustine.  Pelagius insisted that man did not inherit Adam’s sinfulness, but was only affected by his example.  He believed that man’s will was free to choose for, or against, God.  Hence, via Arminius, we have our present-day “Christian humanism,” i.e., man is the master of his fate, with God’s help–if he chooses it.

 

ARMINIANISM TODAY — Coming from humanistic Pelagianism instead of from the Scriptures, Arminianism bases salvation upon the will of fallen man. It is an anti-sovereignty, anti-security, anti-dispensational, anti-grace, pro–works religion. The teaching is that God, through redemption, bestows a “common grace” upon all men, thereby making it possible for the individual to exercise his free will either for, or against, God.

 

FREE WILL? — According to Arminianism, man is not totally depraved–his will remains free to decide his own destiny. Its maxim is, “It is mine to be willing to believe, and it is the part of God’s grace to assist.”  To Arminianism, “foreknowledge” means that God foreknows those who will receive the Saviour, and upon that basis He elects them.  Those who choose to reject the Saviour, He condemns.

 

Since the final decision is made by man, and God then acts upon that decision, man is sovereign.  In that case, God determines nothing.  He gives nothing except so-called common grace which removes the inability to choose Him, and He secures nothing.

 

Thus the sinner’s choice of God, and not God’s choice of the sinner, is the ultimate factor in salvation. Those elected by God are chosen only in the sense that He foresaw their faith and good works–-which arise from themselves and are not wrought of God. The human will is exalted to the place of sovereignty and, according to this system, man is his own saviour.

 

As Dr. A.H. Strong wrote, “It is important to understand that, in Arminian usage, grace is simply the restoration of man’s natural ability to act for himself; it never actually saves him, but only enables him to save himself…if he will.”

 

SOVEREIGN MAN? — “In that the Arminian begins on the premise of his own will, his end is on the same assumption. He feels that since he can come in, he can therefore go out, by his free will. What little measure of salvation he has is founded upon his own momentary merit, plus whatever emotional experiences he can muster along the way. “After I accepted Jesus I wasn’t sure if I was really saved; but when I had my ‘baptism in the Holy Spirit,’ and spoke in tongues, then I was sure.” Consequently the Arminian’s existence is experience-based, only to be beset by fears, uncertainties, backslidings, and failure.

 

Unconditional eternal security grounded upon faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ is utterly rejected by the Arminian.  He sedulously avoids all Scripture that establishes eternal security, or at best seeks to discredit and deny it.  He gravitates to out-of-context verses that seem to him to militate against eternal security.

 

Arminianism’s misleading error in the field of salvation is that it persists in attempting to build the Christian’s standing upon his feeble and faltering daily life, rather than on the sufficient and immutable merit of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Arminian salvation becomes little more than a system of human conduct; for, though the idea of regeneration is incorporated, it is, in the Arminian idea of it, no abiding value, being supported only by a supposed human merit. –-L.S. Chafer (Systematic Theology, Vol. III, p. 356)

 

SEMI-PELAGIANISM — Through a process of modification, Pelagianism spawned Semi – Pelagianism. It has been described in these words:

 

Though it retained much of the philosophical basis of its parent’s humanism and rationalism, as opposed to divine revelation, Semi-Pelagianism compromised with truth sufficiently to gain favorable audience with some Christians. It became, thus, a far more dangerous form of infidelity than its parent. As such, it eventually overcame the Roman Catholic Church and returned it to the very Pelagianism condemned by Augustine. Semi-Pelagianism changed its disguise and further altered its voice at a later date to become known as Arminianism, following some refinements and adjustments to Christianity.

 

Dr. Lorraine Boettner has stated: “Arminianism existed for centuries only as a heresy on the outskirts of true Christianity, and in fact it was not championed by an organized Christian Church until the year 1784, at which time it was incorporated into the system of doctrine of the Methodist Church in England by John Wesley.”

 

Today, Christendom has been permeated by Arminianism. It has gripped the English–speaking realm mainly by means of the Wesleyan movement (Methodism), the English Baptists, Finneyism, the Pentecostal and Holiness movements, and especially the out–of-control Charismatic movement. Then too, there is the influence of the many Arminian denominations, such as the Assembly of God, Nazarene, Lutheran, Mennonite, Roman Catholic, and others.

 

Almost all truly born-again Christians begin as Arminians, with their “free will” and their self-centered life and service for “Jesus.” The tragedy is that far too many never get beyond that baby stage, but go on into the fleshly emotionalism of full-fledged Arminianism.

A clearer view of Arminianism might be gained from the following statements:

1 – Human depravity has not rendered man incapable of savingly exercising his will to trust in Jesus for salvation.

2. – God’s grace is resistible in the final sense so that man can ultimately thwart His purpose to save him.

3 – God’s election is conditioned upon His divine foresight of faith in certain men whom God, then, designates as His elect.

4 – Jesus’ atonement was exactly the same for everyone with no discrimination whatever, rendering all men savable, but actually guaranteeing the salvation of none.

5 – Final Salvation is possible for believers, but ultimate victory rests with their continuance in faith, so that ultimate apostasy may be possible for the saved.

STATEMENT — Dominated by the free will of fallen man, Arminianism is characterized by fleshly lawlessness. The Arminian’s object is himself. Reject!

“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them who cause divisions, and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Rom.16:17).

* * * * * * *

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564) — Calvin was the theologian of the Reformers, second only to Arminius in the extent of his doctrinal influence upon believers today.

Calvin’s tenets were Bible-based, and could be classed as “far right.” However, he had a tendency to extremism, and hence went too far in some areas of his theology. “Too far,” whether right or left, usually results in heresy.

Conversely, Arminius, the one-time Calvinist, in his recoil from Calvin’s extremes, went all the way to the left, and kept right on going over the edge into Semi-Pelagianism. In these two men we have the far right and the far left of theology among believers today.

The core of original Calvinism is seen in the following five doctrinal points:

1 – Total depravity

2 – Unconditional Election

3 – Limited Atonement

4 – Irresistible grace

5 – Perseverance of the saints

Those who presently hold to these five points are generally known as Hyper-Calvinists. This is mainly due to their extreme teaching in points one and three. There is another aspect of Calvinism known as Covenant Calvinism, which is also built on these five points.

The third realm of present-day Calvinism, and the most extensive, is known as Moderate Calvinism. Its adherents do not accept some of the original extremes, such as point three. Hence there are three-point, four-point, and four-and-a-half-point Calvinists.

HYPER-CALVINISM — We will deal briefly with Hyper-Calvinism’s error concerning their first point of doctrine, Total Depravity. Calvin did not possess all-important doctrinal balance. By pushing the truth of God’s sovereignty to an extreme in the realm of the new birth, he all but eliminated man’s responsibility.

In the matter of total depravity, these strict Calvinists are perfectly scriptural. Man is totally depraved. Paul wrote that “there is none righteous, no not one: there is non that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God” (Rom.3:10,11). Of himself he wrote, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing” (Rom.7:18). The Lord Jesus said, “No man can come to me, except the Father, who hath sent me, draw him” (John 6:44).

But the Hyper-Calvinists define total depravity as “total inability.” Their proof text is Ephesians 2:1, “And you hath he made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” Their illustration for total inability is a man physically dead, who cannot see, hear, speak, or move. Hence he is totally unable to respond to God in any way — he cannot believe.

The solution to this self-created problem is regeneration. They teach that the Holy Spirit first regenerates those whom God has elected; He thereby gives them life so that they can exercise faith and live. In all of their writings it can be seen that they place regeneration before faith.

In their book, Five Points of Calvinism Defended, D. Steele and C. Thomas write:

The Holy Spirit, in order to bring God’s elect to salvation, extends to them a specialinward call in addition to the outward call contained in the gospel message. Through this special call the Holy Spirit performs a work of grace within the sinner which inevitably brings him to faith in Christ. The inward change wrought in the elect sinner enables him to understand and believe spiritual truth; in the spiritual realm he is given the seeing eye and the hearing ear.

The Spirit creates within him a new heart or a new nature. This is accomplished through regeneration or the new birth by which the sinner is made a child of God and is given spiritual life. His will is renewed through this process so that the sinner spontaneously comes to Christ of his own free choice. Because he is given a new nature so that he loves righteousness, and because his mind is enlightened so that he understands and believes the Biblical gospel, the renewed sinner freely and willingly turns to Christ by the inward supernatural call of the Spirit, who through regeneration makes him alive and creates within him faith and repentance.

How simple is the explanation for this scholarly error! The corpse is not the man. Death in Scripture is separation, not obliteration. Paul wrote to Timothy, “But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth” (1Tim.5:6). James stated, “Of his own will begot he us with the word of trut” (James 1:18). The Lord Jesus said, “The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live” (John 5:25).

“Being born again (regenerated), not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible seed, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever” (1Pet.1:23). The new birth is “by the word of God.” That is a sovereign act of God, by His Spirit, none can question. But this verse forbids us to separate, as has sometimes been done, new birth from faith in the Gospel.

It has been taught that new birth precedes faith; but here we are told that the Word of God is the instrument in new birth. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God”; “the Word which by the Gospel is preached.” John 3:3 and 3:16 must ever go together. There is no such anomaly possible as a man born again, but who has not yet believed the Gospel. –Samuel Ridout

COVENANT CALVINISM — During the first one hundred years after the death of Calvin, Covenant Theology evolved, mainly through Zwingli, and became inextricably intertwined with Calvinism.

Without benefit of Scripture, this theology is based upon a single “covenant of grace,” whereby all of Israel’s covenants are “spiritualized,” making the Church to be spiritual Israel: “the continuing covenanted community.” As Martin Lloyd-Jones put it, “Paul is asserting that the Church is now the Kingdom, that what the Jewish nation was in the Old Testament the Church is now.” (The Unsearchable Riches of Christ, p. 48)

The teaching concerning salvation is that Christ gained eternal life for the elect by keeping the law on their behalf (“active obedience”), and, in dying (“passive obedience”), He paid the penalty of the broken law. The king pin of all Calvinism is Law! Remove their doctrine from that center and there is total collapse.

In lumping all covenants into its own covenant of grace, Covenant Calvinism is anti-dispensational, and amillennial. This present age is claimed to be the actual realization of the millennium. It is the idea that there will be no more millennium than there is at present, and that the eternal state will immediately follow Christ’s return to earth.

BEWARE! — Listed here are some of the better-known, pro-law Calvinist authors whose theology permeates the thinking of vast numbers of fundamental believers today:

Adams, J. Edwards, J. Mauro, P. Smeaton, G.

Allis, O. Fletcher, J. Morris, L. Steele, D.

Bass, C. Fuller, D. Murray, G. Stonehouse, N.

Baxter, R. Gerstner, J. Murray, J. Stott, J.

Berkof, L. Gill, J. Nicole, R. Thomas, C.

Berkouwer, G. Goodwin, T. Owen, J. Van Til, C.

Boettner, L. Haldane, R. Packer, J. Van Til, H.

Boice, J. Hamilton, F. Payne, H. Vos, G.

Bonar, A. Hodge, A. Pink, A. Warfield, B.

Boston, T. Hodge, C. Romaine, Wm. Watson, R.

Brown, D. Kromminga, D. Ryle, J. Watson, T.

Bunyan, J. Kuiper, H. Schaeffer, F. Wyngaarden, M.

Conn, H. Kuyper, A. Shedd, Wm.

Cox, Wm. Lloyd-Jones, M.

MODERATE CALVINISM — Most doctrinally sound believers today class themselves as moderate Calvinists. They hold the biblical doctrines of total depravity, unconditional election, and eternal security. But in general, they believe in unlimited atonement; they are premillennial and pretribulational–dispensational.

The overpowering characteristic of all Calvinism, of whatever stripe, is law. All Calvinistic believers are kept under law as their “rule of life.” And it must be said that the one teaching that Calvinism does not have is a clear-cut, scriptural separation from the law. Believers are not protected from the demands of the law, and they are not established in grace. When it comes to spiritual growth, Calvinism flounders on the truth of “Crossed-out law.”

It finds its favorite “haunt” in the Old Testament, as well as the law-oriented precepts of the Messiah and His earthly Kingdom. As a result, it is “haunted” by the teachings of the ascended Lord Jesus Christ through Paul, whose full grace is a veritable thorn in the flesh of Calvinism.

How sad it is to see some moderate Calvinists break down in their dispensationalism and take believers back to the Sermon on the Mount–seeking to apply that coming-kingdom law in an effort to regulate their Christian life. A leader who understands the true source of spiritual growth–“the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Rom.8:2)–would never resort to that.

WILDERNESS WANDERING — Calvinism will go as far as the Cross for salvation, but then it turns back to the Sermon on the Mount and to much of the Old Testament, in order to have a rule for the Christian life. Like the Israelites whom it seeks to spiritually emulate, it fears the freedom of Canaan, only to turn back into the wilderness struggle. It is Romans Seven all the way for the Calvinist. Although it simply hesitates at the Cross, Arminianism at least goes as far as Pentecost; but then it, too, turns back to its “Jesus.”

The disqualification of Calvinism is in its failure to “rightly divide” between Israel and the Church–it considers the Body of Christ to be “spiritual Israel.” As John Stott puts it, “Although Jesus was greater than Moses and although His message was more gospel than law, yet he did choose twelve apostles as the nucleus of a new Israel to correspond to the twelve patriarchs and tribes of old.” (Christian Counter-Culture — The Message of the Sermon on the Mount — Inter Varsity Press)

In his Systematic Theology, Vol. VII. p. 211, Dr. Chafer struck down this error:

It should be made emphatic that to observe distinction between Judaism and Christianity is the beginning of wisdom in understanding the Bible. Theologians of past generations have made no greater mistake than to suppose, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that Judaism and Christianity are one and the same, or as some have said, ‘One is the bud and other is the blossom.’ Judaism has not merged into Christianity. This is a colossal error of Covenant Theology perpetuated to the present day.

ECCENTRIC EXEGESIS — Calvinism insists that Jesus taught the spiritual aspects of the Mosaic law in the Sermon on the Mount, and that He instructed His disciples in that law. True. Since the disciples were saved, their reasoning goes, the Church is therefore subject to the law-teachings of the Sermon. Untrue!

At that time, the disciples were not Christians. There was no such thing as a born-again Christian until the day of Pentecost. These believing disciples were Messianic Jews, “saved” unto the earthly kingdom. Their Messiah-King was instructing them concerning the laws of that coming millennial, theocratic kingdom.

No Christian ever was, ever is, nor ever will be under law, whether Mosaic, Messianic, or Millennial! Arminianism and Calvinism may put the Christian under law, the believer may put himself under law as his rule of life, but the Lord Jesus never did, and the Holy Spirit never will.

Rather than put the believer under law, the Spirit places (baptizes) him into death and thereby positions him above the law and into the freedom of the life of Christ risen. “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also were made dead to the law through the body of Christ; that ye should be joined to another, even to him who was raised from the dead, that we might bring forth fruit unto God.” “Now we have been discharged from the law, having died to that wherein we were held; so that we serve in newness of the spirit, and not in oldness of the letter (law)” (Rom. 7:4, 6 (ASV).

LORD, NOT LAW! — Within the believer the Holy Spirit applies “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus”; not the law of condemnation and death (Rom.8:2; 2Cor.3:6-9). The Spirit of Christ does not write any law upon the heart of any Christian–He ministers life, “that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh” (2Cor.4:11).

The kingdom law will be written on the heart of the redeemed Jew in the millennium, but now it is “Christ in you” (Col.1:27). “The Christian is not under law, nor is he under promise; he has the effect of the accomplished promise–“for to me to live is Christ” (Phil.1:21).

The believer, dead to the law and alive to God in Christ risen, looks upon his Lord, not Israel’s law. Christians, “with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord,” not “even as by the law of the Lord” (2Cor.3:18).

Just as the Ten Commandments were the declaration of the mind of God under the dispensation of the law; so now the Church is the engraving of Christ, “written, not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart,” to show forth the virtues of Him “who hath called us out of darkness into His marvellous light.”

Law demands everything, but gives and changes nothing–it is meant to condemn. We may even turn the Lord Jesus into that letter of condemnation; we may take His life, for instance, and make it our law. We may say, “He has loved me, and done all this for me, and I ought to love Him, and do so much for Him, in return for His love, etc.” Thus if we turn His love into our rule of life, it becomes the ministration of death; for the only thing a rule can do is condemn. Christianity is a nature, not a regulation.

LAW-BOUND — The entire area of the believer’s identification with the Lord Jesus in His death and ascension is not only misunderstood, but usually avoided by Calvinism. Although Paul explicitly wrote that “sin shall not have dominion over you for ye are not under law but under grace” (Rom.6:14), Calvinism insists that the Spirit will enable the believer to live by the principle of the law.

Paul pleads especially with these Calvinists: “Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law), how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?” (Rom.7:1). They fail to understand the believer’s death to the law. Beyond justification they lose their doctrinal footing and slip back to the ground of death (law), failing to move forward onto the ground of growth (Christ, our life).

Typical of all Covenant Theologians, Dr. John Stott wrote in his Christian Counter-Culture:

It is a new heart-righteousness which the prophets foresaw as one of the blessings of the Messianic age. “I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts,” God promised through Jeremiah (31:33). How would He do it? He told Ezekiel: “I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes: (36:27).

Thus God’s promises to put his law within us and to put his Spirit within us coincide. We must not imagine (as some do today) that when we have the Spirit we can dispense with the law, for what the Spirit does in our hearts is, precisely, to write God’s law there. (p.75)

It was not only to Timothy that Paul wrote, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2Tim.2:15). Neither Jeremiah nor Ezekiel nor anyone else from Adam on down ever dreamed of such a thing as the Church, to say nothing of a Christian! That wondrous truth was God’s hidden mystery, until Paul. We share Merrill Unger’s thought:

The Church is said to be a “mystery” (Eph.3:3), “the mystery of Christ” (Eph.3:4). It was foretold, but not explained, by the Saviour (Matt.16:18). It was a truth unknown and unrevealed to anyone in Old Testament times (Eph.3:5), indeed a revelation and purpose “hid in God” throughout the ages (Eph.3:9), first realized historically at Pentecost, and first revealed doctrinally to the Apostle Paul (Eph. 3:3-7). (The Baptizing Work of the Holy Spirit, p. 29)

Actually, God said through Jeremiah, “This shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel: I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer.31:33). And through Ezekiel He said to His nation, Israel, “Ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I shall be your God” (Ezek. 36:28).

Not only was the Church a hidden mystery throughout the Old Testament, but also in much of the New Testament. The Lord Jesus said very little about it while ministering here on earth. He waited to give that heavenly, Christian revelation through Paul, “for he is a chosen vessel unto me” (Acts 9:15). Dr. Chafer’s delineation is clear-cut:

There is a dangerous and entirely baseless sentiment abroad which assumes that every teaching of Jesus must be binding during this age simply because He said it. The fact is forgotten that the Lord Jesus, while living under, keeping, and applying the Law of Moses, also taught the principles of His future kingdom, and, at the end of His ministry and in relation to His Cross, He also anticipated the teachings of grace. If this threefold division of the teachings of Christ is not recognized, there can be nothing but confusion of mind and consequent contradiction of truth.

The teachings of the kingdom (as centered in the Sermon on the Mount) have not yet been applied to any man. Since they anticipate the binding of Satan, a purified earth, the restoration of Israel, and the personal reign of the King, they cannot be applied until God’s appointed time when these accompanying conditions on the earth have been brought to pass.

The kingdom laws will be addressed to Israel and, beyond them, to all nations which will enter the kingdom. It will be the first and only universal reign of righteousness and peace in the history of the world. One nation was in view when the Law of Moses was in force on the earth; the individual is in view during this age of grace. The whole social order of mankind will be in view when the kingdom is set up on earth.

The teachings of grace are perfect and sufficient in themselves. They provide for the instruction of the child of God in every situation which may arise. There is no need that they be supplemented, or augmented, by the addition of precepts from either the Law of Moses or the teachings of the kingdom. Law cannot give life, nor have, therefore, any control over it. (Systematic Theology, Vol. IV, p. 207)

Since it might be said that the maxim of Calvinism is, “The just shall live by law,” it is somewhat understandable that it seeks to rule the Church by law. But it is inexcusable for the Dallas Seminary theologian, Dr. Dwight Pentecost, to present similar teaching in his Multnomah Press book, The Sermon on the Mount — Contemporary Insights for a Christian Lifestyle.

Even more doctrinally loose is the book by the Talbot Seminary grad, John MacArthur, Jr. He also fastens kingdom law upon the believer via his Kingdom Living Here and Now–published and highly touted by Moody Press! MacArthur is billed as “one of the most biblically sound writers of our day.” While admirably resisting the tongues error, MacArthur advocates “one-naturism”: “the old man is gone…removed.”

Granted that Pentecost and MacArthur are in impressive company, since all of the nearly fifty Covenant theologians listed above present the law to the believer in the same manner. The best of Calvinists notwithstanding, if the Christian is to grow in grace, he must wait upon Paul and his doctrine of the ascended “Christ, who is our life” (Col.3:3). God’s mystery of the Church, the Body of Christ, will never become clear and fruitful to the members of that Body via the exegesis of such Calvinists!

We are not seeking to take away, nor negate any of the blessed Word of God. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2Tim.3:16). It is simply that the law as a rule of life for the believer hinders the realization of identification with, and liberty in, the risen Lord Jesus Christ.

John Darby was clear on the all-important differentiation: “I learn in the law that God abhorred stealing, but it is not because under the law that I do not steal. All the Word of God is mine, and written for my instruction; yet for all that I am not under law, but a Christian who has died with Christ on the Cross, and am not in the flesh, to which the law applied. I have died to the law by the body of Christ (Rom.7:4).”

THE MYSTERY MAN — Christian, God never breathed a word in all of the Old Testament concerning you and your relationship as a member of the Body of the ascended Lord Jesus Christ! That wonder of God’s highest calling in the risen Lord Jesus was barely mentioned, and totally unexplained in the three synoptic Gospels. Although touched upon, it was not even explained in the Gospel of John.

There was not a single born-again Christian in all the world until the day of Pentecost. Even then, none of the believers themselves understood what a Christian really was. That revelation had to wait until the ascended Lord Jesus Christ personally commissioned the Apostle Paul for his ministry.

In Colossians 1:26 Paul wrote, “Of which I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill (complete) the word of God, even the ministry which hath been hidden for ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints, to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

And yet, throughout Paul’s ministry of this mystery of the Christian’s life hid with Christ in God, believers were bent upon considering themselves half Jew and half Christian–born again by grace, but seeking to live by law. Galatians was written by Paul to correct that error, and his Letter is needed more now than it was even in his day.

Peter was a Calvinist when at Antioch he attempted to have the best of two diametrically opposed worlds–law and grace. Hence Paul’s scriptural confrontation: “For I through the law died unto the law, that I might live unto God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me” (Gal.2:19,20 ASV).

Arminianism has yet to shed its baby flesh; Calvinism has yet to relinquish the childish legalism–if they are ever to grow up into Christ. Paul patiently continues to wait. Luther, Calvin, Zwingli (of blessed memory), the Body is not subject to reformation by law–the Scripture via Paul calls for conformation by grace (2Corinthians 3:18)!

Think of the Calvinist scholar, Dr. J.I. Packer, making such a statement as this: “Keep the law, and in thus serving God you find freedom and delight because human nature is programmed for fulfillment through obedience.”

STATEMENT — Calvinism emerged from the dark ages, but is still in the twilight–half in the shadow of the law, half in the light of the Saviour. It has a fleshly affinity for fetters, hence it is the life of the hang-dog heart, the wretchedness of Romans Seven.

* * * * * * *

THE APOSTLE PAUL — Finally, we come to the one who is least influential in the realm of doctrine among Christians today. There are three prominent reasons for this sad fact–the first two are negative, the third is positive.

First — Due to its humanistic base, Arminianism is suited to the carnal, Adam-dominated Christian. As Kenneth Good states, “Man is by nature Arminian. The basically human philosophical foundation of Arminianism is quite compatible with man’s inherent rationalism. Arminianism succeeds (and exceeds) because it appeals to the natural mind of man. It seems so reasonable! Unregenerate man approves it. It is eminently naturalistic, comfortably human. In this day of unprecedented emphasis upon the sufficiency of man, the doctrine must inevitably be successful among those who will not be regulated by divine revelation.”

Arminianism is a subjective religion, swayed by human emotions rather than living by the Word of God. From start to finish it is man-centered, instead of God-centered. Man is really the object of it, not God.

Second — Because of its objective, legalistic base, Calvinism is also compatible with the carnal, Adam-dominated Christian. As a rule, Calvinism emphasizes the external law, which hampers internal growth. Typical of the Calvinistic emphasis, the late Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones insisted, “The Christian must never say farewell to the law. Thank God, we are no longer under it as a way of salvation; but we are to keep it, we are to honor it, we are to practice it in our daily life.” (Romans, Chapter 7, p.27)

In The Saturday Evening Post (May-June 1981), a popular Presbyterian Calvinist, Dr. D. James Kennedy, stated, “There is an old saying, ‘You can’t legislate morality.’ I ask: ‘What else can you legislate?’ The nation that endeavors to live according to His law is the nation that will be most free, the nation where people will enjoy the most happiness.”

Third — Because of Paul’s near-exclusive teaching of the death-dealing Cross in the life of the believer, and the risen Lord Jesus Christ as his life, the Apostle’s ministry is in complete opposition to all that is of the first Adam. This includes the law and the world, to say nothing of the principle of sin as expressed by the old nature.

PAUL IS ALL, FOR GROWTH — Both the foundation and superstructure for the Christian’s growth are given through Paul. It is from those truths that we can consider what the other inspired writers and the rest of the Bible may have for us, but the revelation given to Paul must be central and foundational.

Remove Paul’s Epistles from the Word of God and there is little or nothing left for the believer. He would shrivel and dry on the vine and never know why. It is through Paul alone that we learn of the Church, the Body of Christ, the Bride, and that we are members of that Body—in union with the risen Christ Himself–“hid with Christ in God” (Col.3:3).

Furthermore, apart from Paul we can know nothing of the exact meaning of most of the vital doctrines, such as Propitiation, Reconciliation, Justification, Identification, Sanctification, the Church, and the Rapture. Remove Paul, or fail to build upon Pauline truth for growth, and there is comparatively little left but the laws of Moses and of the Millennial Kingdom! There is nothing in the entire New Testament concerning the believer’s growth that Paul did not set forth.

 

LIFE. NOT LAW! — While the Lord Jesus was on earth He ministered mainly to the nation of Israel, and to His Jewish disciples. His message had primarily to do with Himself as Messiah and King, and with the coming Kingdom.

 

Since Pentecost He ministers exclusively to the members of His Body, not now by law, but by “the law of the Spirit of life–via the Epistles of Paul, for the most part. And the life of the risen Lord Jesus in the Christian is manifested as the fruit of the Spirit, which is “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control; against such there is no law.”“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision (law) availeth anything, nor uncircumcision (lawlessness), but a new creature (life).” “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation…” (Gal.5:22,23; 6:15; 2Cor.5:17).

 

LIFE FROM DEATH — Paul’s focal points are the believer’s crucifixion with the Lord Jesus Christ, and His risen life in the believer. “For we who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh” (2Cor.4:11). The death of the Cross and the life of Christ are ministered to the believer by the indwelling Holy Spirit. He does not administer the law of Moses, or the law of the King, but rather the life of the Lord, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom.8:2).

 

TO THE ROMANS, Paul ministered death to sin and the law: “Knowing this, that our old man is (was) crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin,” “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God” (Rom.6:6; 7:4).

 

TO THE GALATIANS, Paul ministered death to the law: “For I through the law died unto the law, that I might live unto God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me” (Gal.2:19,20 ASV).

 

TO THE EPHESIANS, Paul ministered the believer’s position in Christ ascended: “And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph.2:6).

 

TO THE COLOSSIANS, Paul focused upon Christ ascended: “If (since) ye, then, be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col.3:1-3).

 

TO THE PHILIPPIANS, Paul ministered the principles of the Christian life: “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death” (Phil.3:10). The Object of the growing believer is Christ, his life.

 

* * * * * * *

 

“But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him” (1Cor.8:6).

 

ARMINIANISM is horizontal. It cannot rise above man and his “free will,” which binds the Arminian to himself. “I feel…” “God told me…” “Jesus, help me, and heal me….”

 

CALVINISM also is horizontal. It struggles under the unbearable burden of the law, heading either back to Edenic Adam, or on to Israel’s earthly kingdom.

 

CHRISTIANITY is vertical, resting above. It descends from There to the responsibilities and needs of a sin-bound world. The Christian life begins in and comes from heaven, to be manifested here as the light of life. “Jerusalem which is above is free” (Gal.4:26).

 

ARMINIANISM seeks to feel life. Coming mainly from man, it has little or no defense against Adamic humanism–the world, the flesh, and the devil.

 

CALVINISM seeks to legislate life. Coming mainly from man, it has little or no defense against the power of sin and self-righteousness, both of which are by the law.

 

CHRISTIANITY, coming from the Lord Jesus Christ above, mainly via Paul, is by the Cross freed from both humanistic Adam and death-dealing law. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom.8:2). There is no rest nor peace in Adamic sin, Mosaic law, nor Satan’s world. The risen Lord Jesus Christ is alone our rest and peace, our All.

 

Whatever our privileges in union with our risen Lord, it is all-important for the believer to live in the fear and faith of God, according to “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” It is not man’s responsibility without law or under law; it all over with us on either ground.

 

It is the responsibility of the new life of faith, which is that of a pilgrim and a stranger here—a life come down from heaven–a life which man lives as passing through this world, yet wholly out of it in spirit–a life of faith which finds in God’s presence fulness of joy. –J.B. Stoney

 

FINAL STATEMENT — The Church never has escaped from the law, the problem of Galatianism, to this day. During the early centuries, Romanism saw to that. The Reformation rescued the Church from the law as a way of justification, but not from the law a means of sanctification (growth).

 

The crippling problem in the Body of Christ today is not the aberration of Arminianism, but the “righteousness” of Calvinism–the self-righteousness of the law. That has ever been the issue, the answer to which was given to us through the Apostle Paul.

 

“Where the Spirit of The Lord is, there is LIBERTY” (2Cor.3:17).

 

* * * * * * *

 

HERESY is error which often results from an aspect of truth being taken out of its context, or its dispensation setting, and either restricted, or pressed too far.

 

“For there must be also heresies among you, that they who are approved may be made manifest among you” (1Cor.11:19).

 

Heresy is a work of the flesh: “Idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousy, wrath, factions, seditions, heresies (Gal.5:20).

 

PETER had to warn the Church from the very beginning. “But there are false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who secretly shall bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them” (2 Pet.2:1).

 

PAUL had to do the same. “For I know this, that after my departing (death) shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts20:29,30).

 

JOHN also explained concerning error. “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us; but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us” (1 John2:19).

 

Heresies cause us to be like the Bereans, who “were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts17:11).

 

Heretics cause us to learn how to handle error correctly, and how to share the truth. Christian character is formed, and God is glorified. “The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose them” (2 Tim.2:24,25).

 

“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth” (2 Tim.2:15).

 

Dr. H.A. Ironside made this comment regarding error:

 

It is a definite mercy that in His wisdom God allowed every possible form of error to arise in the apostolic era of the church’s history, in order that all might be exposed, and the truth declared through inspired men, that thus the faith in its simplicity might be preserved for the generations to come. As a result of this, Satan has nothing new to offer. Old heresies are re-dressed and brought forward as new conceptions of truth from age to age, but in this respect, “there is nothing new under the sun.” Old errors are being presented in new terms.

 

That old warrior, Martin Luther, wrote, “We little know how good and necessary it is for us to have adversaries, and for heretics to hold up their heads against us.”

 

“And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up…” (Acts20:32)

 

* * * * * * *

 

 

DOES MAN HAVE FREE WILL?

 

The very first exercise of free will by a created being brought sin into the universe. Lucifer, the chief of the angels, set his will against that of his Creator by saying, I will be like the Most High” (Isa.14:14).

 

The very first exercise of free will by an unfallen man brought sin into the human race, and into the world. Adam freely responded to fallen Satan’s suggestion to “be as God” (Gen.3:5)).

 

The sovereignty of God expressed in His divine will was to be the circumference of both Lucifer’s and Adam’s lives. Complete liberty in thinking, loving, and willing was given to them–but they must think, love, and will within the perimeter of their Creator’s will. When they prostituted their God-given liberty by willing against “that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God,” they sinned and fell.

 

“Sin is everything in the disposition and purpose and conduct of God’s moral creatures that is contrary to His express will.” “To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). Sin is rebellion against God; it is lawlessness.

 

Hence, Satan and the angels who rebelled with him, and Adam and the human race that rebelled in him (the federal head), forever lost the privilege and possibility of free will. They became the slaves of sin. “Know ye not that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are whom ye obey, whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Rom.6:16).

 

Enslaved by sin, both Satan and Adam are by nature at enmity with their Creator. “The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed, can be” (Rom.8:7).

 

Dr. L.S. Chafer said, “The human will never acts alone. For the Christian, ‘it is God who worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure’ (Phil. 2:13). For the unsaved it is, “Ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2).

 

For Satan, who first exercised free will, there is no hope. “The Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou are cursed” (Gen. 3:14). For Adam, victimized in his innocence by Satan, the Redeemer (the Seed) was promised (Gen. 3:15).

 

But Adam’s race, enslaved to sin by self-will, neither would nor could freely exercise its will to choose the Redeemer. “The god of this age hath blinded the minds of them who believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2 Cor. 4:4).

 

Nevertheless, God justly holds fallen man responsible for his own blindness and rebellion; therefore he should not try to place the blame upon Satan or Adam. For example, if you owe a sum of money and cannot repay it, it is no use blaming Satan or anyone else–you are responsible for your own self-incurred debts.

 

F.W. Grant wrote, “It is not simply that Satan obscures the light to the lost, but that it is their own unbelief which brings them under the power of Satan, and so hinders the radiance of the Gospel shining forth to them. God never permits Satan to have this power apart from man’s consent. If man turns away from God, he turns to Satan. The very light of God only darkens the shadow he himself casts upon his path.”

 

Fallen man has neither the freedom of will, nor the inclination of mind, to turn to God. Why, that would mean turning from himself, which is unthinkable! Hence, “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God” (Rom. 3:11) The Lord Jesus carried out all that was required for fallen man to return to God, and He ever pleads in love, “Come; for all things are now ready” (Luke 14:17).

 

But, “Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (John 5:40). And, “No man can come to me, except the Father, who hath sent me, draw him” (John 6:44).

 

When a lost sinner does turn to the Lord Jesus and receives him as Saviour, as far as he is concerned he does so by means of his own free will, without coercion or restraint of any kind. And that is as it should be.

 

But that is not the way it actually is! Apart from the individual’s own awareness, God the Holy Spirit has prepared and enabled him to believe and exercise his will toward God. In reality, he was willing God’s will! “So, then, it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.” “That he might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had before prepared unto glory” (Rom. 9:16,23).

 

By the mercy and grace of God, and according to the will of God, the sinner was responding to his election. “According as He (God) hath chosen us in Him (Christ) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him, in love having predestinated us unto the adoption of sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will (Eph. 1:4,5).

 

The elect one was “predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will” (Eph. 1:11). God’s free will, not man’s!

 

All whom the sovereign God elects respond to His will, and are saved. “Whom He did predestinate, them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified” (Rom. 8:30).

 

As C.A. Coates wrote, “People may quarrel with the sovereignty of God, but I love it; because I know enough about my natural bent and will to be sure that if left to myself I should have gone straight to perdition. Some believers talk about man’s free will when they are on their feet, but all are firm believers in God’s sovereignty when they get on their knees.”

 

Once he is born again, it isn’t long before the Christian acknowledges that it was by the grace of God that he was enabled to will to believe. “As many as received Him, to them gave he power to become the children of God, even to them that believe on His name; who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12,13).

 

Later on he begins to understand something of the awful truth of Romans Seven–that even as a believer he does not have free will. When he actually does will to do good, evil is present with him. “The good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do. . . . I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members” (Rom. 7:19,23).

 

Through his captivity to the law of the indwelling sin nature, the growing believer learns the truths of his identification with the Lord Jesus in His death unto sin and His ascension into Glory. As he reckons himself to have died unto sin, and to be alive unto God in Christ Jesus (Rom. 6:11), he begins to experience something of deliverance from the power of sin.

 

He comes to realize that over and above the indwelling law of death, there is the law of life within him: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2). He begins to learn to “stand fast, therefore, in the liberty with which Christ hath made us free” (Gal. 5:1).

 

In the Lord Jesus Christ the believer lives in the freedom of his Father’s will, not his own. Consider the Source of his new life, the Lord Jesus, who came to live in the freedom of His Father’s blessed will. “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God” (Heb. 10:9). “I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things” (John 8:28). “I have not spoken of myself; but the Father, who sent me, He gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak” (John 12:49).

 

What unutterable tragedy it would be for God to allow fallen man free will! “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). One might think that man had the freedom of will to crucify the Lord of Glory; but no–he thought he was free, but he was not.

 

Luke wrote, “The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child, Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the nations, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, to do whatever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done” (Acts 4:26-28).

 

Paul declared, “We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the ages unto our glory; which none of the princes of this age knew; for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor. 2:7,8).

 

What a comfort it is for the growing Christian, as he learns more of that old nature within him, to know and count upon the fact that he is a new creation in the Lord Jesus, and that he now has His nature! “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” “Not my will, but thine be done” (Phil. 2:5; Luke 22:42).

 

How strengthening it is for the believer to know and count upon the fact that “it is God who worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13)! My freedom is in the realization of the fact that my Father is working His blessed will through my will–it is “the perfect law of liberty” (James 1:25). Could I be in better hands as He carries out His good pleasure on my behalf, in His love, and for His glory?

 

DOES SATAN HAVE FREE WILL?

 

Although Lucifer was created with free will, he used that freedom to oppose God’s will, and thereby lost it. From Satan’s fall in heaven, until his final casting into the lake of fire, he is enslaved and controlled by God.

 

Terrible antagonist that he is, the Enemy is nonetheless a defeated foe. His doom was pronounced in Eden (Gen. 3:15); his doom was sealed at Calvary (Col. 2:15; Heb. 2:14); and his doom will be finalized in the lake of fire (Rev.20:10).

 

Through the years it has been sad to see so many otherwise gifted leaders attempt to lock horns with Satan in a so-called “deliverance ministry.” Inevitably, they go down into ignominious and crippling defeat, whether it be physical, mental, moral, or spiritual. Well-meaning as some of them are, they are nevertheless attempting to function in the wrong age, in a past era–or even previous to a future era.

 

Today, in this age of grace, the believer is to rest in his position in the ascended and victorious Lord Jesus Christ. Our scriptural instructions are to “be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary, the devil, like a roaring lion walketh about, seeking whom he may devour; whom resist steadfast in the faith.” “Neither give place to the devil.” “Submit yourselves, therefore, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (1 Peter 5:8,9; Eph. 4:27; James 4:7).

 

The Lord Jesus is our impregnable armor against the darts and wiles of Satan. “For in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” “Let us, therefore, cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light” (Col. 2:9,10; Rom. 13:12).

 

We are told to “resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). We are not told to overcome him (that we could never do), but when he meets the Lord Jesus Christ in us, he cannot stand that; he must flee.

 

Satan can create nothing, nor can he perpetuate any evil, physical or moral, without God’s sanction. His purpose on the divine program is outlined, the span of his perpetuation is set, and his inevitable doom is sealed.

 

Not a hair of the child of God can fall without God’s permission. Satan is but the unintentional instrument to accomplish God’s will; he can do no more than he is allowed to do. If trials come as a host against us, we know that the Almighty is between us and them. They will work out for us His own purposes of love. -S. Ridout

 

Another Plymouth Brethren commentator, F.W. Grant, has written:

 

The sovereignty of God is what alone gives rest to the Christian heart in view of a world full of evil, which is gone astray from Him. To know that after all, in spite of the rebellion of the creature, things are as absolutely in His hand as ever they were–this brings, and alone brings, full relief. Still He rules over all, and where evil cannot be turned to good, limits and forbids it: He maketh the wrath of man (and Satan) to praise Him, and the remainder of wrath (what would go beyond this) He restrains (Ps. 76:10).

 

“God often hatches His eggs under the Devil’s wings!”

 

OUR SOVEREIGN FATHER — Dr. Charles Spurgeon wrote, “‘Salvation belongeth unto the Lord: thy blessing is upon thy people.’ This is a point concerning which we are daily fighting. Our opponents say, ‘Salvation belongeth unto the free will of man; if not to man’s merit, yet at least to man’s will’; but we hold and teach that salvation from first to last, in every iota of it, belongs to the Most High God. It is God that chooses His people. He calls them by His grace; He quickens them by His Spirit, and He keeps them by His power. It is not of man, neither by man; ‘Not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.'”

 

Dr. A.W. Tozer shares a fine statement concerning the sovereignty of our Father.

 

God’s sovereignty is the attribute by which He rules His creation, and to be sovereign, He must be all-knowing, all-powerful, and absolutely free. The reasons are: were there even one datum of knowledge, however small, unknown to God, His rule would break down at that point. To be Lord over all creation, He must possess all knowledge. And were God lacking one infinitesimal molecule of power, that lack would end His reign and undo His kingdom; that one stray atom of power would belong to someone else and God would be a limited ruler and not absolute sovereign.

 

Furthermore, His sovereignty requires that He be absolutely free, which means simply that He must be free to do what He wills to do anywhere at any time to carry out His eternal purpose in every single detail without interference. Were He less than free He must be less than sovereign.

 

To grasp the idea of unqualified freedom requires a vigorous effort of the mind. We are not psychologically conditioned to understand freedom except in its imperfect forms. Our concepts of it have been shaped in a world where no absolute freedom exists. Here each natural object is dependent upon many other objects, and that dependence limits its freedom.

 

Wordsworth at the beginning of his Prelude rejoiced that he had escaped the city where he had long been pent up and was “now free, free as a bird to settle where I will.” But to be free as a bird is not to be free at all.

 

The naturalist knows that the supposed free bird actually lives its entire life in a cage of fears, hungers, and instincts; it is limited by weather conditions, varying air pressures, the local food supply, predatory beasts, and that strongest of all bonds, the irresistible compulsion to stay within the small plot of land and air assigned it by birdland comity. The freest bird is, along with every other created thing, held in constant check by a net of necessity. Only God is free!

 

Our sovereign Father moves with infinite wisdom and perfect precision of action. No one can dissuade Him from His purposes; nothing can turn Him aside from His plans. Since He is omniscient, there can be no countermanded orders, no breakdown of authority; and as He is omnipotent, there can be no want of power to achieve His chosen ends. Our God is sufficient unto Himself for everything.

 

Dr. Alva McClain wrote, “To be Spirit-controlled does not mean the loss of free agency. A free agent acts as he pleases, and the Spirit-controlled individual pleases to act in accordance with the mind of the Spirit.”

 

Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer wrote in his Systematic Theology, Vol. 1, pp. 241,242:

 

When exercising his will, man is conscious only of his freedom of action. He determines his course by circumstances, but God is the author of circumstances. Man is impelled by emotions, but God is able to originate and control every human emotion. Man prides himself that he is governed by experienced judgment, but God is able to foster each and every thought or determination of the human mind.

 

God’s election is sure; for whom He predestinates, them–not more nor less–He calls; and whom He calls, them–not more nor less–He justifies; and whom He justifies, them–not more nor less–He glorifies. When predestinating, He assumes the responsibility of creating, calling, saving, and completing according to His purpose.

 

In calling He moves those to believe to the saving of their souls, whom He has chosen. In justifying He provides a substitutionary, efficacious Savior by whose death and resurrection He is legally able to place the chief of sinners in as perfect a relation to Himself as that of His Son.

 

And in glorifying He perfects all that infinite love has designed. The precise number that will be glorified will be the precise number and the same individuals–not more nor less–than He predestinated. Each one will have believed, have been saved, have been perfected and presented like the Lord Jesus in glory.

 

Men enter consciously into this great undertaking only at the point of believing, or responding to the efficacious call. Naturally, it seems to them that they, acting in freedom within the restricted sphere of their consciousness, determine everything. The point where misunderstanding arises is with reference to the fact that, so far as their cognizance serves them, they are certain that they act freely; yet every truly regenerated person will testify that he would not have turned to God apart from that all-important divine drawing of his heart.

 

Divine election is absolute. If this seems to be taking things out of the hands of men and committing them into the hands of God, it will at least be conceded that, when thus committed to God, things are in better hands and this, after all, is God’s own universe in which He has sovereign right to do after the dictates of His own will.

 

It will also be conceded that the sphere of human action, so far as it can mean anything in the sphere of human consciousness, is felt in perfect freedom of action. It should be deemed no crime on the part of God that He discloses to His own elect that His sovereign power and purpose are working through and over all human forces and secondary causes. No will, human or otherwise, was ever created to defeat the will of God, but rather the human will is one of the instruments by which God realizes His purposes for humanity.

 

The one who meditates on the Person of God, the eternity of God, the omnipotence of God, the sovereignty of God as Creator of, and Ruler over, all things, and the elective purpose of God, will be fortified against that form of rationalism–subtle in character and natural to the human heart–which imagines that, in His creation, God has unwittingly so tied His own hands that He cannot with that absoluteness which belongs to infinity realize His eternal purpose.

 

* * * * * * *

 

THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT

 

And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was seated, his disciples came unto him. And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, BLESSED ARE THE POOR (humble) IN SPIRIT; FOR THEIRS IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN (Matt. 5:1-3).

 

The King is here speaking to His Jewish disciples, of His coming kingdom. Those of the kingdom are to be characterized by humbleness of spirit. They will mainly be humbled because of the realization of what they did to their King. Humility and contriteness will be requirements for possession of the millennial kingdom.

 

In Isaiah’s vision of the coming manifestation of the King to His kingdom, he wrote, “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Isa. 57:15).

 

To the CHRISTIAN, Paul writes, “Put on, therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, tender mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering” (Col. 3:12). He is not to put on the virtue of humility in order to gain either the kingdom, or heaven. These virtues are already ours in Christ, as they are elements of the character belonging to the new creation.

 

BLESSED ARE THEY THAT MOURN; FOR THEY SHALL BE COMFORTED (Matt. 5:4).

 

Israel will mourn until, and especially when, she sees her King coming in His kingdom. “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications; and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him” (Zech. 12:10).

 

Morning is not a characteristic of the BRIDE OF CHRIST. “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord.” “Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, rejoice” (Phil. 3:1; 4:4).

 

BLESSED ARE THE MEEK; FOR THEY SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH(Matt. 5:5).

 

“With righteousness shall he judge the poor (humble), and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth” (Isa.11:4). Meekness is to be rewarded by inheritance of the earthly kingdom. The King’s righteousness will prevail upon the earth for the poor and the meek, in the kingdom.

 

The meek are certainly not inheriting the earth now, nor is there any such promise to the CHURCH, to whom no earthly promise is made. The BELIEVER finds all reversed–his citizenship and home are in heaven, while here on earth he is but a stranger and a pilgrim.

 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to his abundant mercy, hath begotten us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Pet 1:3,4).

 

BLESSED ARE THEY WHICH DO HUNGER AND THIRST AFTER RIGHTEOUSNESS; FOR THEY SHALL BE FILLED (satisfied) (Matt. 5:6).

 

Kingdom righteousness must be attained (law). “For I say unto you that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20).

 

The BELIEVER may hunger and thirst for a more righteous walk with the Lord Jesus, but he has already obtained (grace) and has been made “the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).

 

BLESSED ARE THE MERCIFUL; FOR THEY SHALL OBTAIN MERCY (Matt. 5:7).

 

This is Kingdom Law. “Therefore hath the Lord recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight. With the merciful thou will show thyself merciful” (Ps. 18:24,25).

 

The CHRISTIAN received mercy by grace, not by being merciful. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us” (Titus 3:5). “But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:4,5).

 

“That He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had before prepared unto glory, even us, whom He hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles” (Rom.9:23,24).

 

BLESSED ARE THE PURE IN HEART; FOR THEY SHALL SEE GOD (Matt. 5:8).

 

Here is a kingdom promise. “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in His holy place? He who hath clean hands, and a pure heart” (Ps. 24:3,4). “He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly….Thine eyes shall see the king in His beauty” (Isa.33:15,17).

 

Moses (Law): “Show me thy glory” (Ex.33:18). “But we see Jesus” (Heb.2:9). “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shone in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).

 

BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS; FOR THEY SHALL BE CALLED THE CHILDREN OF GOD (Matt. 5:9).

 

The King, who is “the Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6), shall reign in righteousness and peace upon the earth during the millennial kingdom. Those who promote peace in the kingdom “shall be called the children of God.”

 

The BELIEVER is not constituted a child of God by any works, peace-making or otherwise. Actually, they are sons of God, far beyond the status of children. “For ye are all the sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26).

 

BLESSED ARE THEY WHICH ARE PERSECUTED FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS’ SAKE; FOR THEIRS IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN (Matt. 5:10).

 

The issue is legal–“for righteousness’ sake.” The CHRISTIAN suffers with the Lord Jesus and for His sake, and his reward is in heaven. “We which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake.” “But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake” (2 Cor. 4:11; John 15:21).

 

BLESSED ARE YE, WHEN MEN SHALL REVILE YOU, AND PERSECUTE YOU, AND SHALL SAY ALL MANNER OF EVIL AGAINST YOU FALSELY, FOR MY SAKE. REJOICE, AND BE EXCEEDINGLY GLAD; FOR GREAT IS YOUR REWARD IN HEAVEN; FOR SO PERSECUTED THEY THE PROPHETS WHO WERE BEFORE YOU (Matt. 5:11).

 

Here the Lord Jesus speaks directly to the disciples, soon to become Christians–“blessed are ye.” The CHRISTIAN is called to suffer for the Lord Jesus’ sake. “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him but also to suffer for His sake” (Phil. 1:29).

 

* * * * * * *

 

These nine Beatitudes of the Kingdom are promises with legal conditions. They are future blessings for those who will merit them by their own works.

 

For the CHRISTIAN, the nine-fold fruit of the Spirit of Christ is provided by grace as a present possession of His nature and life. Each is to be developed in the walk, growing from His life within–“Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22,23).

 

The undiscerning may feel it their duty to uphold and place such requirements (the Sermon on the Mount) upon those who are forever perfected in Christ, but this would be due to the failure to understand what it means to be in Christ and perfected forever. Even those who apply these requirements to themselves and to others utterly fall short of fulfillment of them.

 

The present superabounding grace of God does not merely forgive the one who breaks the law; it saves one from any obligation to a merit system. Paul said, “Stand fast, therefore, in the liberty with which Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Gal. 5:1).

 

Who but the most prejudiced Arminian can incorporate into his schemes of doctrine the threefold warning against hell fire which is found in this (Sermon) portion of Matthew (5:22,29,30)? Christians “shall not come into judgment”; “they shall never perish;” “there is, therefore, now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus” (John 5:24; 10:28; Rom. 8:1).

 

Grace alone now reigns through Christ to the glory of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. –L.S. Chafer (Systematic Theology, Vol.5, p. 106)

 

* * * * * * *

 

THE TRUE VINE

 

The context of John 15 concerning the True Vine deals with relationship, fellowship, and fruitbearing–it is an illustration, not a doctrine. Its primary purpose centers in the imminent transition of the disciples from the nation of Israel to the Body of Christ.

 

As in all Scripture, the imagery contains truths that are helpful and instructive to Christians, but there is no directly applied doctrine there for the risen believer. When it comes to fruit-bearing in the life of the Christian, the underlying doctrines are to be found in the realms of truth which relate directly to him, such as 2 Corinthians 3:18 (abiding); 2 Corinthians 4:11 (pruning); and Galatians 5:22, 23 (fruit-bearing).

 

Until the day of Pentecost, the disciples were Israelites. They were Jews, they were in the flesh, they were still in the first Adam. It is true that they had faith in the Lord Jesus as their Messiah. They were of the believing remnant of Israel, they were His disciples. Nevertheless, they were still branches in the vine, Israel. And Israel was a fruitless vine!

 

After God brought Israel out of Egypt, He planted her in Canaan as His vine. “Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt; thou hast cast out the nations, and planted it. Thou preparedst room before it, and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land” (Ps. 80:8,9).

 

God planted His vine in the fruitful land of Canaan and yet, under His holy Law, under His priests, under His kings and prophets, under His chastisement via the reign of the Gentiles, right down to New Testament days, Israel brought forth no fruit unto God. “And he dug it, and gathered out the stones, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress in it; and he looked for it to bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes” (Isa. 5:2).

 

He said to Israel through Jeremiah, “For of old I have broken thy yoke, and burst thy bands; and thou saidst, I will not transgress, when upon every high hill and under every green tree thou wanderest, playing the harlot. Yet I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed. How, then, art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me?” (Jer. 2:20, 21).

 

A fruitless vine is worthless. “What is the vine tree more than any tree, or than a branch which is among the trees of the forest? Shall wood be taken of it to do any work? Or will men take a pin of it to hang any vessel on it?… Therefore, thus saith the Lord God: As the vine tree among the trees of the forest, which I have given to the fire for fuel, so will I give the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (Ezek. 15:2,3,6).

 

Throughout its history, Israel was true to its Adamic nature. “Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself” (Hosea 10:1). The fruit Israel brought upon itself was loss of the kingdom, and bondage to Imperial Rome–500 years in the hands of the Gentiles.

 

In His mercy–and in His own time–God returned to His desolated nation in the person of His Son, its true King, who offered Israel its kingdom. According to its Adamic nature, Israel not only refused its kingdom, but utterly rejected its King–and was soon to murder Him and cast Him out of His world.

 

On the very eve of the crucifixion crime, the rejected King shared the illustration of the vine with His disciples. It was to be a part of their preparation for the “great transition”–from being branches in the fruitless vine to being fruitful branches in the True Vine; from being in the kingdom to being in the King–members of His Body, with Him as its Head.

 

At this point the disciples were still in the first Adam. If any one of them had died prior to Pentecost, he would be among those resurrected at the second advent as a member of the earthly millennial kingdom. Their faith was in the Messiah-King; they were His disciples–followers, learners, in subjection to Him and to the external law of Moses. They were not yet born again; they were not in the Lord Jesus, and He was not in them.

 

As for the Son of Man, He stood before the disciples as Israel’s rejected King, patiently and lovingly offering the kingdom that would be spurned by Israel. He was still in the position of Israel’s Messiah. He had not yet taken His place as the Last Adam. He had not died, nor risen, nor ascended, nor had He yet been glorified. Hence the Holy Spirit had not yet descended (Pentecost) to begin forming His Body.

 

He had just explained to these disciples that “Except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone” (John 12:24). And He is alone as He faces His disciples and shares His word-picture of the vine. He is the True Vine, sans branches.

 

“I AM THE TRUE VINE” (JOHN 15:1) — What a shock that declaration must have been to the disciples! Branches in God’s national vine of many years standing, and now to be told that they were in the rejected one! And that the accepted vine, the true vine, is not a nation, but a person–even their Messiah!

 

By the mighty hand of God Himself, their vine had been brought up out of Egypt! And was not Israel God’s son, as well as His vine? “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt” (Hosea 11:1).

 

True, but had not Peter just been shown by that same God that this very man was His Son? “We believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:69).

 

This Son, also, had been brought up out of Egypt. “When he (Joseph) arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet (Hosea), saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son” (Matt. 2:14,15).

 

Having rejected both its King and its kingdom, God set aside that rebellious and fruitless vine, and presented to the believing Israelites His Son, the True Vine. Grace!

 

“MY FATHER IS THE VINEDRESSER” (John 15:1) — Coupled with the shock concerning the True Vine is another: His Father is the dresser of the branches of that Vine!

 

One reason for Israel’s fruitlessness was the corruption of her husbandmen and vinedressers. “The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means, and my people love to have it so.” “For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely” (Jer. 5:31; 6:13).

 

Finally, the vinedressers cut down the True Vine! “Likewise also the chief priests, mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him” (Matt. 27:41,42).

 

Yet in the very act of cutting down the True Vine, these wicked husbandmen felled their very own vine! “And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down” (Matt. 3:10). And down went Israel at the Cross! “Which none of the princes of this age knew; for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1Cor. 2:8).

 

As if that were not enough, these same vinedressers sought to decimate every branch of the True Vine that they could lay their hands upon–all the way from Stephen to Paul!

 

Even so, the branches of the True Vine are lovingly tended by their Father, the True Vinedresser. The pruning of Stephen produced glory: “When they (the wicked vinedressers) heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.” “But he (Stephen, the branch), being full of the Holy Spirit, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus (the True Vine) standing on the right hand of God” (Acts 7:54:55).

 

Later, the True Vine said to the branch, Paul, “My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” The abiding branch replied concerning his pruning, “Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2Cor. 12:9,10).

 

“EVERY BRANCH IN ME THAT BEARETH NOT FRUIT HE TAKETH AWAY” (John 15:2).

 

The often-missed key to this statement of our Lord is the word “in.” A branch in the True Vine is there by union of eternal life, and cannot be removed. The Vine would first have to die, and that is impossible. “Knowing that Christ, being raised from the dead, dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him….Likewise, reckon ye also yourselves to be …alive unto God through (in) Jesus Christ” (Rom. 6:9,11).

 

If for one reason or another–the Vinedresser alone can judge–a branch does not bear fruit, the Father may remove it from earth unto Himself; but certainly not out of the True Vine to be cast into the fire for burning. The Word says “taketh away,” not “cast forth,” as in verse 6–something altogether different. The branch may be through with its bearing; it may be shelved for not bearing; it may be necessary to take it away as in 1 Corinthians 11:30–but never cast forth out of the Vine.

 

Pruning, as a vinedresser’s art, does not consist in cutting off branches, but of trimming away excess and misdirected growth. That may involve a branch being cut back, but it is not removed from the vine.

 

“EVERY BRANCH THAT BEARETH FRUIT, HE PURGETH IT, THAT IT MAY BRING FORTH MORE FRUIT” (JOHN 15:2).

 

The purpose of the branch is to manifest the life and character of the vine. The fruit of the True Vine which is to grow in His branches is the “fruit of the Spirit.” And “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22, 23).

 

The actual fruit of the Vine in the branch is a product of the Holy Spirit by means of spiritual growth. It is not service, nor the exercise of one’s gifts. Good works there may be in abundance; but they are not based upon, nor are they a result of, the fruit of the Vine. “Though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love (fruit), I am nothing” (1Cor. 13:2).

 

As we abide in the True Vine our service will be carried out in a Christ-like manner, and it will be acceptable to God and beneficial to man. We are to “walk (and serve) worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:10).

 

Even though a branch is fruitful, there is ever the tendency to produce the “works of the flesh.” Thus the Father prunes the branches, that they may bring forth more fruit of the Spirit, and less works of the flesh. His pruning, His purging, His chastening is by His hand of love–the application of the Cross in order that the fruit pleasing to Him, the life of His Beloved Son, may be manifested more abundantly in our lives.

 

All of the Father’s vinedressing work is carried out in love, not anger. It is all purgative, not punitive. The pruning knife is in the nail-pierced hand; and, while “no chastening (pruning) for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them who are exercised by it” (Heb. 12:11). “The Vinedresser is never so near as when He is pruning.”

 

“NOW YE ARE CLEAN THROUGH THE WORD WHICH I HAVE SPOKEN UNTO YOU” (John 15:3).

 

The disciples had put their trust in the Messiah. He was their Redeemer–they were redeemed from their sins and were members of His kingdom. The Lord Jesus had said to them the day before, “He that is washed needeth not except to wash his feet, but is entirely clean; and ye are clean, but not all of you. For He knew who should betray Him; therefore said He, Ye are not all clean….I speak not of you all (I know whom I have chosen), but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me” (John 13:10,11,18).

 

“ABIDE IN ME, AND I IN YOU” (John 15:4) — It is to be remembered that this illustration of the True Vine is part of His preparation of the disciples for the soon-coming events of the Cross, and of the day of Pentecost. They were not in Him, nor was He in them. “And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe” (John 14:29).

 

“Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me. Because I live, ye shall live also. At that day (Pentecost) ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you” (John 14:19,20). In a few hours they were to hear Him pray to His Father, their Vinedresser, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also (you and me) who shall believe on me through their word…that they also may be one in us” (John 17:20,21).

 

At Pentecost, when the Spirit would baptize them into a living oneness with the ascended Lord Jesus (1 Cor. 12:13), He would also be in them. It is only on that basis that they could abide in the True Vine–they would first have to be in union with Him.

 

To “abide” means “to stand fast, to remain, to go on being, to reside.” “I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever.” “Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved” (John 14:16; Acts 27:31).

 

Upon becoming a branch via the new birth, the believer tends to work to bring forth fruit unto God. But that fruitless struggle of Romans Seven is designed to teach that branch the absolute necessity of abiding, resting, in his position in the True Vine.

 

He is to learn by means of sterile effort that the living fruit of the Spirit can never be produced by the branch. He learns to depend upon, to fellowship with, to abide in nearness of heart in the One who is his very life–that His fruit might grow. “That the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh” (2 Cor. 4:11).

 

“AS THE BRANCH CANNOT BEAR FRUIT OF ITSELF, EXCEPT IT ABIDE IN THE VINE, NO MORE CAN YE, EXCEPT YE ABIDE IN ME. I AM THE VINE, YE ARE THE BRANCHES. HE THAT ABIDETH IN ME, AND I IN HIM, THE SAME BRINGETH FORTH MUCH FRUIT; FOR WITHOUT ME YE CAN DO NOTHING” (John 15:4,5)

 

As we abide in and fellowship with the Vine, and thereby come to know Him more fully, the fruit of His life is manifested in us. “Fruit is not produced by making fruit an object, or by thinking of fruit; it is the outcome of having the Lord Jesus as our Object. He precedes, as well as produces, fruit.”

 

Our abiding-place is in the light and the Holiest of all, not by reason of our subjective condition of soul, but because the Lord Jesus has made the position ours by the putting away of our sins, and by bringing us to God. “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the Holiest by the Blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say, his flesh. . . .Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (Heb. 10:19,20,22).

 

Here it is that the child of God is to walk–“If we walk in the light as He is in the light.” How we walk is a question to be settled after it is determined where we walk. And walking in the light, fellowship follows, not as an attainment (law), but as a consequence (grace). –H.F. Witherby (The Child of God, p. 283)

IF A MAN ABIDE NOT IN ME, HE IS CAST FORTH AS A BRANCE, AND IS WITHERED; AND MEN GATHER THEM, AND CAST THEM INTO THE FIRE, AND THEY ARE BURNED” (John 15:6).

Heretofore the Lord was addressing the disciples personally concerning their coming relationship to the True Vine. He said, “Ye are clean”; “I in you”; “ye are the branches,” etc. But in verse 6 He said, “If a man . . . .” If a man is not organically in Him, he cannot abide in Him. And if he therefore does not abide in the Vine who is Life, he is ultimately cast forth to his doom. “Cast forth” is a far cry from being taken away!

“IF YE ABIDE IN ME, AND MY WORDS ABIDE IN YOU, YE SHALL ASK WHAT YE WILL, AND IT SHALL BE DONE UNTO YOU” (John 15:7).

In verse 7 the Lord again addressed the disciples: “If ye abide in me.” As we abide in and fellowship with the Lord Jesus, His Word will become the arbiter and motivation of our will and affections. Hence we are able to ask according to His will. “And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us; and if we know that He hear us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him” (1John 5:14,15).

The Lord Jesus is the express image of God (Heb. 1:3), and thereby the Father was glorified in Him (John 17:4). As the fruit of the Spirit (the express image and character of the Lord Jesus), is manifested in our mortal bodies (2 Cor. 4:11), our Father is glorified in us. It is the “much fruit” that He produces through the Vine and in the branches. That fruit of life alone brings forth fruitful service. As Paul wrote to the Galatians, “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you” (Gal. 4:19).

A healthy branch has no source, no object but the Vine. J.B. Stoney has made the following helpful comments:

I draw near to Him in proportion as I know His mind and feelings toward me; and no message from His presence could effect so deep an assurance and joy in the heart as the light of the Gospel of the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the image of God; for from henceforth the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ is my portion and privilege (2 Cor. 4:6). And this imparts such a tone and character touching everything, that not only do our light afflictions, which are but for a moment, work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, but we are transformed by association with Him in the glory so that all present things are superseded and supplanted in the heart.

Everything is judged in relation to that glory which displaces and consumes all that is not of it, and allows only that which has been formed by it, and is consequently for it. If souls have not the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, they cannot adorn the Gospel; but if they have, all that is of the old man is proportionately eclipsed, and the Lord Jesus is testified of and manifested, while our portion in God is the unfailing joy of the heart. The reason there is so little growth is that there is so little association and occupation with the Lord Jesus where He is. The glory invites now, instead of the law repelling; and the practical effect is, “changed into the same image” (2 Cor. 3:18).

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GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY AND MAN’S RESPONSIBILITY

The natural mind is not able to give due place to both sovereignty and responsibility and hence all theological systems fail on one side or the other. But it is clear that Scripture maintains both, and the spiritual mind is always in accord with Scripture.

God carries out His purposes in the sovereignty of His mercy and love; if He did not do so, they would most certainly fail completely, man being what he is. But the work of God is a moral one, and God addresses Himself to the conscience and heart of His poor fallen creature, and deals with him in a thousand ways which recognize his responsibility and awaken a sense of it in his soul.

The fear of God might almost be defined as the recognition of responsibility on man’s part; yet it is undoubtedly brought about by a sovereign act of God in new birth. God works sovereignly along lines which always recognize and maintain responsibility. The principle runs all through the history of the saints also. God is working out in them His purpose, which will culminate in their being conformed to the image of His Son in glory.

But in view of purpose He works along moral lines, and on this line the obedience of faith comes in, self-judgment, watchfulness and prayer, purpose of heart to cleave to the Lord, faith in Christ Jesus and love to the saints, Christ as Object and as Teacher, meekness and lowliness as learned of Him. Sowing to the Spirit and walking in the Spirit come in here also, and all this and everything connected with the moral exercises of the saints cannot be dissociated from the thought of responsibility.

Thus the moral or responsible line and purpose line are very intimately blended in Christianity and both will ultimately coalesce, when saints are seen not only as the fruit of God’s purpose, but also as the subjects of His work and ways. We only reach the land, the sphere of His purpose, through the wilderness and through the innumerable exercises to which our responsible history gives occasion. At the end of the wilderness it can be said of the saints: ‘What hath God wrought!’ They are brought into moral suitability for introduction into the Land.

We cannot mentally reconcile sovereignty and responsibility, but we can spiritually, as seeing that the maintenance of both is essential. The Spirit alone can maintain the right balance of the two in our thoughts and I am sure, as we go on, we learn to attach the true value to each, neither letting ourselves off easily by enfeebling the thought of responsibility, nor stopping short of that depth of holy self-judgment that casts us altogether upon the sovereign mercy and love of our Father. –C.A. Coates (Letters, p. 75)

* * * * * * *

 

Miles J. Stanford

 

 

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THE LIFE THAT WINS……Charles G. Trumbull

 

There is only one life that wins; and that is the life of Jesus Christ.  Every man may have that life; every man may live that life.

I do not mean that every man may be Christlike; I mean something very much better than that. I do not mean that a man may always have CHRIST’s help; I mean something better than that. I do not mean that a man may have power from CHRIST; I mean something very much better than power. And I do not mean that a man shall be merely saved from his sins and kept from sinning;I mean something better than even that victory.

To explain what I do mean, I must simply tell you a very personal and recent experience of my own. I think I am correct when I say that I have known more than most men know about failure,about betrayals and dishonorings of CHRIST, about disobedience to heavenly visions, about conscious fallings short of that which I saw other men attaining, and which I knew CHRIST was expecting of me. Not a great while ago I should have had to stop just there, and only say I hoped that some day I would be led out of all that into something better. If you had asked me how, I would have had to say I did not know. But, thanks be to His long-suffering patience and infinite love and mercy, I do not have to stop there, but I can go on to speak of something more than a miserable story of personal failure and disappointment.

The conscious needs of my life, before there came the new experience of CHRIST of which I would tell you, were definite enough. Three stand out.

  1. There were great fluctuations in my spiritual life, in my conscious closeness of fellowship with GOD. Sometimes I would be on the heights spiritually; sometimes I would be in the depths.A strong, arousing convention, a stirring, searching address from some consecrated, victorious Christian leader of men; a searching, Spirit-filled book, or the obligation to do a difficult piece of Christian service myself, with the preparation in prayer that it involved, would lift me up; and I would stay up – for a while – and GOD would seem very close and my spiritual life deep. But it wouldn’t last. Sometimes by some single failure before temptation, sometimes by a gradual downhill process, my best experiences would be lost, and I would find myself back on the lower levels. And a lower level is a perilous place for a Christian to be, as the Devil showed me over and over again. It seemed to me that it ought to be possible for me to live habitually on a high plane of close fellowship with GOD, as I saw certain other men doing, and as I was not doing. Those men were exceptional, to be sure; they were in the minority among the Christians whom I knew. But I wanted to be in that minority. Why shouldn’t we all be, and turn it into a majority?

    2. Another conscious lack of my life was in the matter of failure before besetting sins. I was not fighting a winning fight in certain lines. Yet if CHRIST was not equal to a winning fight, what were my Christian beliefs and professions good for?I did not look for perfection. But I did believe that I could be enabled to win in certain directions habitually, yes, always, instead of uncertainly and interruptedly, the victories interspersed with crushing and humiliating defeats.Yet I had prayed, oh, so earnestly, for deliverance; and the habitual deliverance had not come.

    3. A third conscious lack was in the matter of dynamic, convincing spiritual power that would work miracle changes in other men’s lives. I was doing a lot of Christian work – had been at it ever since I was a boy of fifteen. I was going through the motions – oh, yes. So can anybody. I was even doing personal work – the hardest kind of all; talking with people, one by one, about giving themselves to my SAVIOUR! But I wasn’t seeing results. Once in a great while I would see a little in the way of result, of course; but not much. I didn’t see lives made over by CHRIST,revolutionized, turned into firebrands for CHRIST themselves, because of my work; and it seemed to me I ought to. Other men did, why not I?I comforted myself with the old assurance(so much used by the Devil) that it wasn’t for me to see results; that I could safely leave that to he LORD if I did my part. But this didn’t satisfy me, and I was sometimes heartsick over the spiritual barrenness of my Christian service.

About a year before, I had begun, in various ways, to get intimations that certain men to whom looked up as conspicuously blessed in their Christian service seemed to have a conception or consciousness of CHRIST that I did not have – that was beyond, bigger, deeper than any thought of CHRIST I had ever had. I rebelled at the suggestion when it first came to me. How could anyone have a better idea of CHRIST than I?(I am just laying bare to you the blind, self- satisfied workings of my sin-stunted mind and heart.)

1. Did I not believe in CHRIST and worship Him as the Son of GOD and one with GOD?

2. Had I not accepted Him as my personal Saviour more than twenty years before?

3. Did I not believe that in Him alone was eternal life,

4. Was I not trying to live in His service, giving my whole life to Him.

5. Did I not ask His help and guidance constantly, and believe that in Him was my only hope?

Was I not championing the very cause of the highest possible conception of CHRIST, by conducting in the columns of THE SUNDAY SCHOOL TIMES a symposium on the deity of CHRIST, in which the leading Bible scholars of the world were testifying to their personal belief in CHRIST as GOD? All this I was doing. How could a higher or better conception of CHRIST than mine be possible?I knew that I needed to serve Him far better than I had ever done; but that I needed a new conception of Him I would not admit.

And yet it kept coming at me, from directions that I could not ignore. I heard from a preacher of power a sermon on Ephesians 4:12, 13; “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith,and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ“; and as I followed it I was amazed, bewildered. I couldn’t follow him. He was beyond my depth. He was talking about CHRIST, unfolding CHRIST, in away that I admitted was utterly unknown to me. Whether he was right or wrong I wasn’t quite ready to say that night; but if he was right, then I was wrong.

 Later I read another sermon by this same man on “Paul’s Conception of the LORD JESUS CHRIST.” As I read it, I was conscious of the same uneasy realization that he and Paul were talking about a CHRIST whom I simply did not know. Could they be right?If they were right,how could I get their knowledge? One day I came to know another minister whose work among men had been greatly blessed. I learned from him that what he counted his greatest spiritual asset was his habitual consciousness of the actual presence of JESUS. Nothing so bore him up, he said, as the realization that JESUS was always with him in actual presence; and that this was so, independent of his own feelings, independent of his deserts, and independent of his own notions as to how JESUS would manifest His presence.

 Moreover, he said that CHRIST was the home of his thoughts. Whenever his mind was free from other matters, it would turn to CHRIST; and he would talk aloud to CHRIST when he was alone on the street, anywhere – as easily and naturally as to a human friend. So real to him was JESUS’ presence. Some months later I was in Edinburgh, attending the World Missionary Conference, and I saw that one whose writings had helped me greatly was to speak to men Sunday afternoon on “The Resources of the Christian Life.” I went eagerly to hear him. I expected him to give us a series of definite things that we could do to strengthen our Christian life; and I knew I needed them. But his opening words showed me my mistake, while they made my heart leap with a new joy. What he said was something like this:

“The resources of the Christian life, my friends, are just – JESUS CHRIST.”That was all. But that was enough. I hadn’t grasped it yet; but it was what all these men had been trying to tell me. Later, as I talked with the speaker about my personal needs and difficulties, he said, earnestly and simply, “Oh,Mr. Trumbull, if we would only step out upon CHRIST in a more daring faith, He could do so much more for us.”

THE TWO CONDITIONS FOR ENTERING THAT LIFE

BEFORE leaving Great Britain I was confronted once more with the thought that was beyond me, a CHRIST whom I did not yet know, in a sermon that a friend of mine preached in his London church on a Sunday evening in June. His text was Philippians. 1:21, “To me to live is Christ.” It was the same theme – the unfolding of “the life that is CHRIST,” CHRIST as the whole life and the only life. I did not understand all that he said, and I knew vaguely that I did not have as my own what he was telling us about. But I wanted to read the sermon again, and I brought the manuscript away with me when I left him.

It was about the middle of August that a crisis came with me. I was attending a young people’s missionary conference, and was faced by a week of daily work there for which I knew I was miserably, hopelessly unfit and incompetent. For the few weeks previous had been one of my periods of spiritual letdown, not uplift, with all the loss and failure and defeat that such a time is sure to record. The first evening that I was there a missionary spoke to us on the Water of Life. He told us that it was CHRIST’s’wish and purpose that every follower of His should be a wellspring of living,gushing water of life all the time to others, not intermittently, not interruptedly, but with continuous and irresistible flow. We have CHRIST’s own word for it, he said, as he quoted, “He that believeth on me… out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” He told how some have a little of the water of life, bringing it up in small bucketfuls and at intervals, like the irrigating water wheel of India, with a good deal of creaking and grinding; while from the lives of others it flows all the time in a life-bringing, abundant stream that nothing can stop. And he described a little old native woman in the East whose marvelous ministry in witnessing for CHRIST put to shame those of us who listened. Yet she had known CHRIST for only a year.

The next morning, Sunday, alone in my room, I prayed it out with GOD, as I asked Him to show me the way out. If there was a conception of CHRIST that I did not have, and that I needed because it was the secret of some of these other lives I had seen or heard of, a conception better than any I had yet had, and beyond me, I asked GOD to give it to me. I had with me the sermon I had heard, “To me to live is Christ,” and I rose from my knees and studied it. Then I prayed again. And GOD, in His long-suffering patience, forgiveness, and love, gave me what I asked for. He gave me a new CHRIST – wholly new in the conception and consciousness of CHRIST that now became mine. Wherein was the change?It is hard to put it into words, and yet it is, oh,so new, and real, and wonderful, and miracle-working in both my own life and the lives of others.

To begin with, I realized for the first time that the many references throughout the New Testament to CHRIST in you, and you in CHRIST, CHRIST our life, and abiding in CHRIST,are literal, actual, blessed fact, and not figures of speech. How the 15th chapter of John thrilled with new life as I read it now! And the 3rd of Ephesians, 14 to 21. And Galatians 2:20. And Philippians 1:21. What I mean is this: I had always known that CHRIST was my SAVIOUR; but I had looked upon Him as an external SAVIOUR, one who did a saving work for me from outside, as it were;one who was ready to come close alongside, and stay by me, helping me in all that I needed,giving me power and strength and salvation. But now I knew something better than that. At last I realized that JESUS CHRIST was actually and literally within me; and even more than that: that He had constituted Himself my very life, taking me into union with Himself – my body, mind,and spirit – while I still had my own identity and free will and full moral responsibility. Was not this better than having Him as a helper, or even than having Him as an external SAVIOUR: to have Him, JESUS CHRIST, GOD the Son, as my own very life?It meant that Ineed never again ask Himto help me as though He were one and I another; but rather simply todo His work, His will, in me, and with me, and through me.

My body was His, my mind His, my will His, my spirit His; and not merely His, but literally apart of Him; what He asked me to recognize was, “I am crucified with Christ“, and it, is no longer I that live, “but Christ liveth in me.” JESUS CHRIST had constituted Himself my life –not as a figure of speech, remember, but as a literal, actual fact, as literal as the fact that a certain tree has been made into this desk on which my hand rests. For “your bodies are the members of Christ“; and “ye are the body of Christ.” Do you wonder that Paul could say with tingling joy and exultation, “To me to live is Christ“?  He did not say, as I had mistakenly been supposing I must say, “To me to live is to be Christlike,” nor, “To me to live is to have CHRIST’s help,” nor, “To me to live is to serve CHRIST.” No; he plunged through and beyond all that in the bold, glorious, mysterious claim, “To me to live is Christ.” I had never understood that verse before. Now, thanks to His gift of Himself, I am beginning to enter into a glimpse of its wonderful meaning.

And that is how I know for myself that there is a life that wins; that it is the life of JESUS CHRIST; and that it may be our life for the asking, if we let Him– in absolute, unconditional   surrender of ourselves to Him, our wills to His will, making Him the Master of our lives as well  as our SAVIOUR – enter in, occupy us, overwhelm us with Himself, yea, fill us with Himselfwith all the fulness of God.” What has the result been? Did this experience give me only a new, intellectual conception of CHRIST, more interesting and satisfying than before? If it were only that, I should have little to tell you today. No; it meant a revolutionized, fundamentally changed life, within and without. If any man be in CHRIST, you know, there is a new creation.

Do not think that I am suggesting any mistaken, unbalanced theory that, when a man receives CHRIST as the fullness of his life, he cannot sin again. The “life that is CHRIST” still leaves us our free will; with that free will we can resist CHRIST; and my life, since the new experience of which I speak, has recorded sins of such resistance. But I have learned that the restoration after failure can be supernaturally blessed, instantaneous, and complete. I have learned that, as I trust CHRIST in surrender, there need be no fighting against sin, but complete freedom from the power and even the desire of sin.

I have learned that this freedom, this more than conquering, is sustained in unbroken continuance as I simply recognize that CHRIST is my cleansing, reigning life. The three great lacks or needs of which I spoke at the opening have been miraculously met.

1. There has been a fellowship with GOD utterly differing from and infinitely better than anything I had ever known in all my life before.

2. There has been an utterly new kind of victory, victory-by-freedom, over certain besetting sins, the old ones that used to throttle and wreck me – when I have trusted CHRIST for this freedom.

3. And, lastly, the spiritual results in service have given me such a sharing of the joy of Heaven as I never knew was possible on earth.

Six of my most intimate friends, most of them mature Christians, soon had their lives completely revolutionized by CHRIST, laying hold of  this new way and receiving Him unto all the fullness of GOD. Two of these were a mother and a son, the son a young businessman twenty five years old. Another was the general manager of one of the large business houses in Philadelphia. Though consecrated and active as a Christian for years, he began letting CHRIST work out through him in a new way into the lives of his many associates, and of his salesmen all over the country. A white-haired man of over seventy found a peace in life, and a joy in prayer that he had long ago given up as impossible for him.

Life fairly teems with the miracle-evidences of what CHRIST is willing and able to do for other lives through anyone who just turns over the keys to His complete indwelling. JESUS CHRIST does not want to be our helper; He wants to be our life. He does not want us to work for Him. He wants us to let Him do His work through us, using us as we use a pencil to write with – better still, using us as one of the fingers on His hand. When our life is not only CHRIST’s, but CHRIST, our life will be a winning life; for He cannot fail. And a winning life is a fruit-bearing life, a serving life. It is after, all only a small part of life, and a wholly negative part, to overcome; we must also bear fruit in character and in service if CHRIST is our life.

And we shall – because CHRIST is our life. “He cannot deny himself“; He “came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.” An utterly new kind of service will be ours now, as we let CHRIST serve others through us, using us. And this fruit bearing and service, habitual and constant, must all be by faith in Him; our works are the result of His Life in us; not the condition,or the secret, or the cause of that Life. The conditions of thus receiving CHRIST as the fullness of the life are simply two – after, of course, our personal acceptance of CHRIST as our Saviour – through His shed blood and death as our Substitute and Sin-Bearer – from the guilt and consequences of our sin.

1)Surrender absolutely and unconditionally to CHRIST as Master of all that we are and all that we have, telling GOD that we are now ready to have His whole will done in our entire life, at every point, no matter what it costs.

2)Believe that GOD has set us wholly free from the law of sin (Romans 8:2) – not will do this, but has done it. Upon this second step, the quiet act of faith, all now depends.

Faith must believe GOD in entire absence of any feeling or evidence. For GOD’s Word is safer,better, and surer than any evidence of His Word. We are to say, in blind, cold faith if need be, “I know that my LORD JESUS is meeting all my needs now (even my need of faith), because His grace is sufficient for me.” And remember that CHRIST Himself is better than any of His blessings; better than the power, or the victory, or the service, that He grants. CHRIST creates spiritual power; but CHRIST is better than that power. He is GOD’s best; He is GOD; and we may have this best: we may have CHRIST, yielding to Him in such completeness and abandonment of self that it is no longer we that live, but CHRIST liveth in us. Will you thus take Him?

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A Letter from J. Hudson Taylor to his sister, Amelia.

CHlNKlANG, October 17th, 1869

 

MY own dear Sister – So many thanks for your long dear letter…I do not think you have written me such a letter since we have been in China. I know it is with you as with me – you cannot, not you will not. Mind and body will not bear more than a certain amount of strain, or do more than a certain amount of work. As to work, mine was never so plentiful, so responsible, or so difficult: but the weight and strain are all gone. The last month or more has been, perhaps, the happiest of my life: and I long to tell you a little of what the Lord has done for my soul. I do not know how far I may be able to make myself intelligible about it,for there is nothing new or strange or wonderful – and yet, all is new! In a word: “Whereas I was blind. now I see”.

Perhaps I shall make myself more clear if I go back a little. Well, dearie, my mind has been greatly exercised for six or eight months past, feeling the need personally, and for our Mission, of more holiness, life, and power in our souls. But personal need stood first and was the greatest. I felt the ingratitude, the danger, the sin of not living nearer to God, prayed, agonized, fasted, strove, made resolutions, read the Word more diligently, sought more time for retirement and meditation – but all was without avail. Every day, almost every hour, the consciousness of sin oppressed me. I knew that if I could only abide in Christ all would be well, but I could not. I began the day with prayer, determined not to take my eye from Him for a moment; but pressure of duties, sometimes very trying, constant interruptions apt to be so wearing, often caused me to forget Him. Then one’s nerves get so fretted in this climate that temptations to irritability, hard thoughts and sometimes unkind words are all the more difficult to control. Each day brought its register of sin, failure and lack of power. To will was indeed present with me, but how to perform I found not.

Then came the question, “Is there no rescue? Must it be thus to the end -constant conflict and, instead of victory, too often defeat?” How, too, could I preach with sincerity that to those who receive Jesus,”to them gave He power to become the sons of God” (i.e., God-like) when it was not so in my experience? Instead of growing stronger, I seemed to be getting weaker and to have less power against sin, and no wonder, for faith and even hope were getting very low. I hated myself; I hated my sin; and yet I gained no strength against it. I felt I was a child of God: His Spirit in my heart would cry, in spite of all, “Abba. Father”; but to rise to my privileges as a child, I was utterly powerless. I thought that holiness, practical holiness was to be gradually attained by a diligent use of the means of grace. I felt that there was nothing I so much desired in this world, nothing I so much needed. But so far from in any measure attaining it, the more I pursued and strove after it, the more it eluded my grasp; till hope itself almost died out, and I began to think that, perhaps to make heaven the sweeter, God would not give it down here. I do not think I was striving to attain it in my own strength. I knew I was powerless. I told the Lord so, and asked Him to give me help and strength; and sometimes I almost believed He would keep and uphold me. But on looking back in the evening, alas! there was but sin and failure to confess and mourn before God.

I would not give you the impression that this was the daily experience of all those long, weary months. It was a too frequent state of soul; that toward which I was tending, and which almost ended in despair. And yet never did Christ seem more precious – a Savior who could and would save such a sinner!….And sometimes there were seasons not only of peace but of joy in the Lord. But they were transitory, and at best there was a sad lack of power. Oh, how good the Lord has been in bringing this conflict to an end!

All the time I felt assured that there was in Christ all I needed, but the practical question was how to get it out. He was rich, truly, but I was poor; He was strong, but I was weak. I knew full well that there was in the root, the stem, abundant fatness; but how to get it into my puny little branch was the question. As gradually the light was dawning on me. I saw that faith was the only prerequisite, to laying hold of His fullness and make it my own. BUT I HAD NOT THIS FAITH. I strove for it, but it would not come; tried to exercise it, but in vain. Seeing more and more the wondrous supply of grace laid up in Jesus, the fullness of our precious Savior – my helplessness and guilt seemed to increase. Sins committed appeared but as trifles compared with the sin of unbelief which was their cause, which could not or would not take God at His word, but rather made Him a liar! Unbelief was, I felt, the damning sin of the world – yet I indulged in it. I prayed for faith but it came not. What was I to do?

When my agony of soul was at its height, a sentence in a letter from dear McCarthy was used to remove the scales from my eyes, and the Spirit of God revealed the truth of our oneness with Jesus as I had never known it before. McCarthy, who had been much exercised by the same sense of failure, but saw the light before I did, wrote (I quote from memory):

“But how to get faith strengthened? Not by striving after faith. but by resting on the Faithful One.”

As I read I saw it all! “If we believe not, He abideth faithful.” I looked to Jesus and saw (and when I saw, oh, how joy flowed) that He had said, “I will never leave you.” “Ah. THERE is rest!” I thought. “I have striven in vain to rest in Him. I’ll strive no more. For has He not promised to abide with me – never to leave me, never to fail me?” And, dearie, He never will!

But this was not all He showed me, nor one half. As I thought of the vine and the branches. what light the blessed Spirit poured direct into my soul! How great seemed my mistake in having wished to get the sap, the fullness OUT of Him. I saw not only that Jesus would never leave me, but that I was a member of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. The vine now I see is not the root merely, but all – root, stem, branches, twigs, leaves, flowers, fruit; and Jesus is not only that; He is soil and sunshine, air and showers, and ten thousand times more than we have ever dreamed, wished for, or needed. Oh, the joy of seeing this truth! I do pray that the eyes of your understanding may be enlightened, that you may know and enjoy the riches freely given us in Christ.

Oh, my dear sister, it is a wonderful thing to be really one with a risen and exalted Saviour; to be a member of Christ! Think what it involves. Can Christ be rich and I poor? Can your right hand be rich and the left poor? Or your head be well fed while your body starves? Again, think of its bearing on prayer. Could a bank clerk say to a customer, “It was only your hand wrote that cheque, not you,” or “I cannot pay this sum to your hand, but only to yourself?” No more can your prayers, or mine, be discredited IF OFFERED IN THE NAME OF JESUS (i.e., not in our own name, or for the sake of Jesus merely, but on the ground that we are His; His members) so long as we keep within the extent of Christ’s credit – a tolerably wide limit! If we ask anything unscriptural or not in accordance with the will of God, Christ Himself could not do that: but “If we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us: and…we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him.”

The sweetest part, if one may speak of one part being sweeter than another, is the REST which full identification with Christ brings. I am no longer anxious about anything, as I realize this; for He, I know, is able to carry out HIS WILL, and His will is mine. It makes no matter where He places me, or how. That is rather for Him to consider than for me; for in the easiest position He must give me His grace, and in the most difficult His grace is sufficient. It little matters to my servant whether I send him to buy a few cash worth of things or the most expensive articles. In either case he looks to me for the money, and brings me his purchases. So, if God places me in great perplexity, must He not give me much guidance; in positions of great difficulty, much grace; in circumstances of great pressure and trial, much strength? No fear that His resources will be unequal to the emergency! And His resources are mine, for HE is mine, and is with me and dwells in me. All this springs from the believer’s oneness with Christ. And since Christ has thus dwelt in my heart by faith, how happy I have been! I wish I could tell you instead of writing about it.

I am no better than before (may I not say, in a sense, I do not wish to be, nor am I striving to be); but I am dead and buried with Christ – aye, and risen too and ascended; and now Christ lives in me, and “the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” I now BELIEVE I am dead to sin. God reckons me so, and tells me to reckon myself so. He knows best. All my past experiences may have shown that it was not so; but I dare not say it is not now, when He says it is. I feel and know that old things have passed away. I am as capable of sinning as ever, but Christ is realized as present as never before. He cannot sin; and He can keep me from sinning. I cannot say (I am sorry to have to confess it) that since I have seen this light I have not sinned; but I do feel there was no need to have done so. And further – walking more in the light, my conscience has been more tender; sin has been instantly seen, confessed, pardoned; and peace and joy (with humility) instantly restored; with one exception, when for several hours peace and joy did not return – from lack, as I had to learn, of full confession, and from some attempt to justify self.

Faith, I now see, is “the SUBSTANCE of things hoped for,” and not mere shadow. It is not less than sight but MORE. Sight only shows the outward forms of things; faith gives the substance. You can rest on substance, FEED on substance. Christ dwelling in the heart by faith (i.e.. His word of promise credited) is power indeed, is LIFE indeed. And Christ and sin will not dwell together; nor can we have His presence with love of the world or carefulness about “many things”.

And now I must close. I have not said half I would nor as I would had I more time. May God give you to lay hold on these blessed truths. Do not let us continue to say, in EFFECT, “Who shall ascend into heaven? that is, to bring Christ down from above.” In other words. do not let us consider Him as afar off, when God has made us one with Him, members of His very body. Nor should we look upon this experience, these truths, as for the few.

They are the birthright of every child of God, and no one can dispense with them without dishonour to our Lord. The only power for deliverance from sin or for true service is Christ.

Your own affectionate brother,

J. HUDSON TAYLOR

 

Reprinted from the biography of James Hudson Taylor by Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor. 

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MANNA AND THE OLD CORN……H.H. Snell

Joshua 5:10-12:  “And the children of Israel encamped in Gilgal….and they did eat of the old corn…and the manna ceased on the morrow after they had eaten of the old corn…”

“The manna is a type of Christ in humiliation, known “after the flesh,” giving his flesh that the believer might have life (John 6:49-51); while the “old corn of the land” is Christ apprehended as risen, glorified, and seated in the heavenlies. Occupation with Christ on earth, “crucified through weakness,” tends to a wilderness experience.  An experience befitting the believer’s place in the heavenlies demands an apprehension of the power of His resurrection (2 Cor. 5:16; 13:4; Phil. 3:10; Eph. 1:15-23).  It is the contrast between “milk” and “meat” in Paul’s writings (1Cor. 3:1,2; Heb. 5:12-14; 6:1-3

(Scofield Bible notes on Joshua 5:11).

THE PREEMINENCE OF POSITION

“The old corn of Canaan typifies what the risen and ascended Christ ministers directly to us now by the Holy Spirit.  Those who see and rest in their position in Christ fed no longer merely of the manna, which represents Christ as supporting our life while we yet ‘know Him not’ as regards any intimate fellowship.

“We now feast upon the risen Christ Himself.  The foundation of such a life of fellowship, or the first step into it, is to reckon as true the fact of our

standing in Christ, as described in the first three chapters of Ephesians.  The last three chapters, which describe our fitting walk, are founded on the first three, which reveal our calling – the facts about us.


“If positional truth, rather than the duties of attainment, were taught first to the saints, much more satisfactory results would follow the ministry of many Christian workers.

“We should note most carefully that Israel were brought into Canaan, all
uncircumcised and unworthy as they were, before they were asked to
take the circumcised, separated position as the people of God.

So we, as Christians, have been already brought by Jesus Christ our Head, in His death and resurrection, into the ‘heavenly places,’and to us have been given ‘all things that pertain unto life and godliness’

(2Peter 1:3).  And it is always on the ground of where we already are, and what we already are, and what we already have, that the Holy Spirit deals with us for our wholehearted recognition and acceptance of the
blessed privileges and responsibilities of ‘the calling wherewith we are called’.” –William R. Newell (Old Testament Studies, pg. 243, 244)

READ THE COMPLETE ARTICLE HERE:

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PAUL’S GOSPEL……William R. Newell

 THERE are two great revelators, or unfolders of Divine Truth in the Bible—Moses in the Old Testament and Paul in the New.

Someone may say, “Is not Christ the Great Teacher?” In a sense this is true; but in a real sense Christ is the Person taught about, rather than teaching in the Gospels. The Law and the Prophets pointed forward to Christ; the Epistles point back to Him; and the Book of Revelation points to His Second Coming, and those things connected with it. The Four Gospels tell the story how He was revealed to men and rejected by them.* Christ, Himself, therefore is the theme of the Bible. Moses in the Law reveals God’s holiness, and thus by means of the Law reveals human sin and the utter hopelessness and helplessness of man. Paul in his great Epistles reveals Christ as our Righteousness, Sanctification, Redemption, and All-in-All.

                The twelve Apostles (Matthias by Divine appointment taking the place of Judas) were to be the “witnesses” (Acts 1:22) of Christ’s resurrection—that is, of the fact of it. They were not to unfold fully the doctrine of it as Paul was. The twelve were with Jesus personally and knew Him as a man, and when He died they saw it. When He was buried, they knew it personally as eye-witnesses. And when He was raised, they found it out experimentally, visiting His actual tomb and seeing that it was empty. They were also to see and handle the physical, risen body of our Lord. And it was with them that our Lord abode on earth forty days after His resurrection, “shewing Himself alive [physically, in a body] by many infallible proofs” (Acts 1:3).

                This great fact—that is, that the Person whom the Jews themselves well knew they had crucified and buried, was risen from the dead and ascended to Heaven—this tremendous fact the twelve Apostles witnessed to Israel at Jerusalem and everywhere else. Thus we find the opening chapters of the Book of Acts filled with the single testimony that Jesus of Nazareth had risen from the dead and that remission of sins was through Him. But unto none of these twelve Apostles did God reveal the great body of doctrine for this Age. Just as God chose Moses to be the revelator to Israel for the Ten Commandments and all connected with the Law dispensation, so God chose Saul of Tarsus to be the revelator and unfolder of those mighty truths connected with our Lord’s death, burial, and resurrection and His ascended Person. And all the “mysteries” or “secrets” revealed to God’s people in this Dispensation by the Holy Spirit are revealed by Paul. Finally, Paul is the unfolder of the great company of God’s elect, called the Church, the Body of Christ, the individuals of which Body are called members of the Body of Christ—members of Christ Himself. No other Apostle speaks of these things. Peter himself had to learn them from Paul (2 Pet. 3:15-16). When Paul finishes his thirteen great Epistles (Romans to Philemon) those which belong to the Church, God indeed permits him to give a message then to the Hebrews. This is not part of the Church’s doctrine, but is simply explaining to Hebrew Christians the character, the real application, the typical meaning, of their Levitical system—that is, how it pointed forward to Christ.

                James addresses his Epistle to “the twelve tribes”—that is, his Epistle has special reference to the Jewish Christians in the early days and to such throughout the Dispensation, for that matter. Peter writes to “the strangers who are sojourners of the Dispersion,” that is, to the dispersed Jews who acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah. In the second chapter of Galatians we are distinctly told by Paul that James, Cephas, and John were to go to the circumcision, while Paul tells us that his message was to the Gentiles. Since then the testimony by the Jewish Apostles to the Jews was duly given, there is now no distinction between Jews and Gentiles; and Paul’s message holds good for the world, both Jews and Gentiles. So that we find Paul finally sets the Jewish nation aside in the last chapter of the Book of Acts and opens his great Epistle to the Gentile’s center of the world with the statement that “there is no difference” between men; for “all have sinned,” and there is again “no difference,” for “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,” since the same Lord is “Lord of all” (Rom. 3:22-23; 10:12).  God does as He pleases, and it pleased Him to choose —first to save people in this Dispensation through “the foolishness of preaching” [the “preached thing”]—that is, through the message about the Cross and what was done there (See 1 Cor. 1:21). And second, it pleased Him to choose Paul to be the great proclaimer and revealer of just what the Gospel is for this Dispensation.

                You can judge any man’s preaching or teaching by this rule—Is he Pauline? Does his doctrine start and finish according to those statements of Christian doctrine uttered by the Apostle Paul? No matter how wonderful a man may seem in his gifts and apparent consecration—if his Gospel is not Pauline, it is not theGospel; and we might as well get our minds settled at once as to that. Paul calls down the anathema—that is the curse of God Himself—upon anyone who preaches any other Gospel than that which he declared (Gal. 1:8-9).  

                Not for one moment are we to believe that James, Peter, and John were at variance with Paul—not in the least. They were given certain things by the Spirit to say to certain classes of people. They do not conflict with Paul. And their words are included in the statement that “All Scripture is profitable” (2 Tim. 3:16).

                But nevertheless, Paul is the declarer and revealer of the Gospel to us. Take Romans to Philemon out of the Bible and you are bereft of Christian doctrine. For instance, if you were to take Paul’s Epistles out of the Bible, you cannot find anything about the Church, the Body of Christ, for no other Apostle mentions the Body of Christ. You cannot find one of the great mysteries, such as the Rapture of the Church (1 Thess. 4; 1 Cor. 15) or the mystery of the present hardening of Israel (Rom. 11). No other Apostle speaks of any of those mysteries. Paul alone reveals them—the great doctrines such as Justification, Redemption, Sanctification. And what is perhaps the most tremendous fact of every real Christian life, that of his personal union to the Lord in glory. Paul is the great Divinely-chosen opener to us of truth for this Age.

 

The great doctrines that Paul reveals may be outlined as follows—

  1. The unrighteousness before God of all men.

  1. The impossibility of justification by works before God— that is, of any man’s attaining a standing of righteousness before God by anything done by him. Do what a man may, he is a condemned sinner still.

  1. The fact and the Scripturalness of righteousness on the free gift principle—that is, of Divine righteousness, separate from all man’s doings, conferred upon man as a free gift from God.

4. Propitiation—that satisfaction of God’s Holy Nature and law for man’s sins rendered by Christ’s blood.

5. Reconciliation—the removal by Christ’s death for man of that obstacle to righteousness which man’s sin had set up between God and man.

  1. The plan of the actual conferring of the gift of righteousness upon all who believe, without any distinction. This change of a sinner’s standing before God, from one of condemnation to one of righteousness, is called JustificationNegatively, it is deliverance from guilt on account of Christ’s shed blood and deliverance out of the old creation by identification in death with Christ on the Cross. Positively, it is a new standing in the risen Christ before God.

7. Redemption—the buying back of the soul through the blood of Christ from sin; from the curse of the law—even death, involving exclusion from God under penalty; from the “power of death,” which involves the hand of the enemy; and from all iniquity.

8. Forgiveness—the going forth of Divine tenderness in remitting the penalty for sin in view of the blood of Christ trusted in, and in complacency and fellowship to creatures who before were necessarily under Divine judgment.

9. Remission of sins—that is, the actual removing of transgressions or trespasses from the sinner, so that for all time and eternity his sins shall not again be upon him.

10. Identification—(see above, Justification). The great fact that those who are in Christ were united with Him at the Cross by God’s sovereign inscrutable act and were crucified with Christ and buried with Him, so that their history is now ended before God. And when Christ was raised up as the Firstborn of the new creation, they also were raised up with Him and their history began as new creatures in God’s sight in Christ, the Last Adam.

Of course, in the experience of the Christian there comes a time when he is actually made partaker of this new life—that point of time when he is, as we say, saved, or converted, or born again, etc. Nevertheless, the life that is in every Christian came up out of the Tomb, and it is in Christ Jesus that a man is created anew.

11. Incorporation—This tremendous doctrine Paul alone mentions, and he makes it practically the foundation of all his exhortations to the saints with regard to their conduct and life. By “incorporation” we mean the fact that all those who are really saved and are new creatures in Christ Jesus become members of one organism (called “the Body of Christ”), which is more real than the very earth we tread upon—Christ Himself in Heaven being the Head of this Body and every real Christian a member of it. So that believers are thus members of Christ in Heaven and also members one of another here on earth. No wonder Paul is able to exhort the saints to love one another when they are members one of another! (Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4).

12. Inhabitation—The wonderful fact that the Body of Christ and each member of it individually is inhabited, indwelt, by the Holy Spirit Himself, and not only so, but that the Church is being “built together” as a great temple of God so that in the future God’s actual eternal dwelling place will be this wonderful, mysterious company built into a building called “a holy habitation of God in the Spirit.”

This mystery is a great and marvelous one—the fact that we are saved, are partakers now of the life of the Lord in glory, that the Holy Spirit indwells us.

13. Divine Exhibition—That is, that through the Church in the ages to come is to be made known that which God counts His “riches,” even His Grace (Eph. 2:7; 3:10).

                The failure or refusal to discern the Pauline Gospel as a separate and new revelation and not a “development from Judaism,” accounts for two-thirds of the confusion in many people’s minds today as regards just what the Gospel is. Paul’s Gospel will allow no admixture with works on the one hand or religious pretensions and performances on the other. It is as simple and clear as the sunlight from heaven. The end of man is where God begins in Romans 3, at what might be called the opening of the Pauline revelation. Most unsaved people today believe in their hearts that the reason they are not saved is because of something they have not yet done, some step that remains for them to take before God will accept them. But this is absolutely untrue. When Christ said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), He meant that He had, then and there, paid the debt for the whole human race. “He gave Himself a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:6).

                Now Paul in his wonderful revelation declares that God hath reconciled the world to Himself; that God was in Christ (at the Cross) reconciling the worldunto Himself (2 Cor. 5:19). Men do not know this, but they conceive that something stands between them and God before God will accept or forgive them. If you tell a man that God is demanding no good works of him whatsoever, no religious observances or church ordinances, that God is not asking him to undertake any duties at all, but that God invites him to believe a glad message that his sins have already been dealt with at the Cross, and that God expects him to believe this good news and be exceedingly happy about it. If you tell an unsaved man such a story at this, he is astonished and overwhelmed—yet this is the Gospel.

“Paul’s Gospel”
William R. Newell

This is a great Bible study, a clear treatise on the truth of God for this
age; the author was one of America’s greatest Bible expositors. It glorifies
the Saviour, as the author desired it to do. It should be distributed by the
millions.

Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer

Dallas Theological Seminary

William Reed Newell was born May 22, 1868 and attended Wooster (Ohio) College, graduating in 1891. After studies at Princeton and Oberlin Seminaries, he pastored the Bethesda Congregational Church in Chicago until 1895, when Moody invited him to become the assistant superintendent of Moody Bible Institute under R.A. Torrey. In this position Newell demonstrated his extraordinary gift of Bible exposition. Great audiences in Chicago, St. Louis and Toronto flocked to hear his city-wide Bible classes, leading to the publication of his widely-known commentaries, especially Romans Verse-by-Verse, Hebrews Verse-by-Verse, and The Book of Revelation.

During this period, Newell wrote the beloved Gospel hymn At Calvary. He was called into the presence of the One he gladly owned as his King on April 1, 1956. Few men have had a clearer grasp of the magnitude of God’s grace in Christ or have been able to convey it with such lasting results.

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THE SECRET OF OUR STRENGTH……J.B. Stoney

“He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”   Matthew 10: 37-39

 “And He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the first born from the dead; that in all things He might have preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell.”   Colossians 1:18-19

“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embrace them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.  And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.  But now they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one; wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God:” Hebrews 11:13-15

“Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.”  Heb. 10:38

The Secret of our Strength


“SKIN for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life”. According as anything approaches in value to one’s life, so is it tenaciously grasped and persistently retained. The sure evidence that the truth we have learned is of real value to us is the tenacity and inviolability with which we hold to it. If I believe it is the mind of God revealed to me, it must be dearer to me than my natural life, which is in itself terminable, while the other is not. The very fact of the warning, “Hold that fast which thou hast”, shows that there would be an attempt to deprive the saints of the truth they had received.

      In our warfare the devil always aims at the secret of our strength. In one day it was the ark of the covenant that he aimed at; in this day it is the truth to which the church has been awakened. To deprive us of this truth is his one aim. He concentrates all his force and craft upon this one point, and if this be surrendered, we shall easily be his prey. Seeing then that we know that the force of the enemy is directed to this end, namely, to deprive us of this truth, let us first ascertain what it is, and secondly, what is the only true way of holding it fast.

      The truth which has been given consists of two parts. One relates to the Lord as He is intrinsically in His nature and being “he that is holy, he that is true”; the other refers to His power — “He that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth”. Let us meditate on them in detail. The first, that He is holy and true, strikes a believer at once as a very simple fact that could in no wise be gainsaid or qualified. In a word, any attempt to contravene such a fundamental truth must meet with instant and indignant denial. And yet, strange as it may sound, all the confusion in Christendom, and all the variance between the Lord’s people, arises from an inaccurate and insensible way of holding this truth.

Things and associations are suffered and sanctioned which could never have been tolerated if there had been any true sense of His holiness and truth. The lack of godly discipline in the congregation, even where there is a pious, painstaking minister, has driven many a godly soul out of a congregation. There was a sense that in this association they had not respect to His holiness; and if I do not respect His holiness, I cannot acknowledge His truth. This sense of His holiness is only acquired by nearness to Him. He is now walking in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, and no one who is mixed up in the corruption of Christendom can draw near Him without being alarmed at His aspect there. Nearness to the Lord, when I am associated with evil, distresses me instead of cheering me, though the distress be the means of awakening me to the unsuitability of my position. 

      We are never really aware of the holiness of the Lord until we are near Him. Jacob could allow many things at Shalom which he found to be wholly inexcusable and unfit for Bethel. Nearness to the Lord declares at once what is fit for Him and what is not. “Whatsoever doth make manifest is light”. “He that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God”. When I am awake to His holiness, I see clearly that nothing else is fit for Him in His own house but what He is in Himself. The queen’s daughter, in prophetic language, is suited to Him. She is “all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold”. All that is evil or false is utterly at variance with Him. It is a great day for the soul when it hears this from His own lips, and accepts it in its greatness and reality. It exacts full and unqualified separation from everything and everyone unsuited to Christ. There is an exaction, a line of demarcation, a reiteration of the words, “come out from among them, and be yo separate, . . . and touch not the unclean thing”. It is a separation to the highest standard; as my heart turns and cleaves to Him, I am sensible of the only terms on which I can enjoy Him, even that He is holy, and that He is true.

Much of His grace can be known, and there may be true faith in Him, without there being nearness enough to feel the exaction which His presence entails. “Put off thy shoes from off thy foot, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground”. Then, however graciously Ho comes to us – as in a bush, and it is not consumed – we must feel and know, as Moses did, that it is holy ground. One is simply at a distance from the Lord when he does not enter into this, the first and the greatest point because the moral one, that He is the holy and the true. It is said of a blind man that he can form no conception of what light is until he sees it. Can any one comprehend holiness but near the Lord? And how can he be near Him if mixed up with the corruption of Christendom? If he draws near to Him, he must encounter His eyes like a flame of fire, for He is indignant at the state of the church. On the other hand great influence controls us – “With the pure thou wilt show thyself pure.

              But as this is the great moral stay for us at the present time, we must be prepared for its being assailed in many various and violent ways. The effort of the adversary is to got the faithful to slacken this principle, or even to modify it, and thus to forfeit nearness to the Lord, and consequently all that He is. To “hold that fast which thou hast” is the only road to success. The more corrupt and leavened everything is around us, the more separate it becomes us to be, holding fast without any compromise this fact, that He is holy and that He is true. Every saint would own that it is unquestionably true of Him, but it is necessary in a day like this to press it on every one true to Him, who seeks to follow Him in these last days. He presents Himself to such in these two essential principles, for it is only in this connection, that is in holiness and truth, that He can declare the boundlessness of His power to the few besieged and almost overborne by the power of evil here.

      Now as when grace was announced to Moses the holiness of God was insisted on, so when to Joshua it is power, very nearly the same words are used – “Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy.” It is from this, and in this connection only, that the power of God can be used in our behalf. As with the Nazarite, power was forfeited when separation or holiness was compromised, so is it every day and every hour. If any one be surrounded with evil and mixed up with it, the first thing he will do, if exercised after a godly manner and by the Spirit of God, is to draw near the Lord; and there he learns of His holiness and truth, he has a little power, has kept His word, and not denied His name, and he survives in spite of the terrible flood around. He is, as it were, worth helping, and therefore to such the Lord presents Himself as He is in nature and greatness.

Wherever we turn in Scripture, the one unalterable rule is that when you walk with God in true separation, you are invincible. When you deviate from this, you are shorn of your strength, however great it may have been. Joseph, a man of holiness, was the man of power. Aaron and the people failed when they forgot God, but Moses came from God and was in the power of God equal to the occasion. Lose holiness and you are like Samson when shorn, “as another man”. “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you”. Thus Isaiah found that, as soon as he was placed by grace at ease in the holiness of God’s presence, he was equal for any service on which he might be sent; he could say, “Here am I; send me.” If one is not without fear in the highest holiness, he will not be without fear in the face of man’s wickedness. Hence glory is now the measure of our acceptance and of our power – in a word, the measure of all God’s ways with us. “Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways ! I should soon have subdued their enemies . . . He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat”, etc. (Psalm 81).

      Joshua is admonished when he cries to the Lord because of Israel’s defeat. The Lord said unto Joshua, “Wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? Israel hath sinned”, etc. The remedy is “Up, sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow”. When we fail and are overcome in any degree here, it should at once occur to us that the failure is not with the Lord, but because we are not separate from evil; we are connected with something unclean, otherwise He would espouse us and act for us. When the Lord is the only One before us, He is on our right hand, we shall not be moved. We learn in everything, “who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?”

It is a truth of the greatest value that if I walk in obedience to His word, He will uphold me with all His power. “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him”, John 14: 23. In a word, just as I keep close to Him, He will keep close to me and make my cause His own; so that I am not to be occupied with opposition, but in truth and holiness to cleave unto the Lord. Then it shall be, “no man hath been able to stand before you unto this day. One man of you shall chase a thousand: for the Lord your God, he it is that fighteth for you, as he hath promised you”, josh. 23 : 9, 10.

      The lack of power or support can always be traced to some departure or turning aside on our part. In everything we shall find that true separation or nazariteship ensures the present and parental care and protection of our God -“come out from among them, and be ye separate”, etc. (2 Corinthian 6 : 17.)

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SUBMISSION

Matthew 11: 25- 30: “At that time Jesus answered and said,

I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou

hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast

revealed them unto babes. Even so Father: for so it seemed

good in thy sight. All things are delivered unto me of my

Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father;

neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son,

and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.

Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy

laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon

you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart:

and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is

easy, and my burden is light.”

No one knows the Father but the Son, and he to whom

the Son will reveal Him. Wretched ignorance that in

its pride rejects Him! He came for this purpose. He

did it according to His own wisdom. He submitted

to painful humiliation of being rejected by His own

people, as the final test of their, of man’s state.

He reveals the Father to whomsoever He will. He alone

can reveal Him –He to whom the Father, the Lord of

heaven and earth, has delivered the only source

of blessing and revealer of the Father, He calls

all those who are weary and heavy laden.

The love of the Father, which in grace, in the person

of the Son, sought out the wretched would bestow

rest (not merely alleviation or sympathy, but rest)

on every one that came to Jesus. Peace with God.

They had but to come to Christ: He understood

all and gave rest. There is more than peace through

the knowledge of the Father in Jesus. [I]t is a question

of submission or of self-will. Christ had just manifested

the most entire submission to His Father and had found

perfect rest to His soul.

To this He calls all that heard Him, all that felt the need

of rest to their own souls. “Take my yoke upon you

and learn of me,” that is to say, the yoke of entire

submission to His Father’s will, learning of Him how

to meet the troubles of life; for He was “meek and lowly

in heart,” content to be in the lowest place at the will

of His God. In fact, nothing can overthrow one who is

there. It is the place of perfect rest to the heart.

(J.N. Darby, Matthew, Synopsis of the Books of the Bible).

“Even so Father.” As the dependent Man on earth, he was

wholly resigned to that which the Father had foreseen.

“A yoke is designed to curb the will and bring one under

control. He who exchanges sin’s heavy burden for

the glorious yoke of subjection to the Lord finds it

blessed indeed to serve so good a Master.

“My yoke is easy, my burden is light.” Many shrink from

submitting to His yoke, fearing it may involve greater

sacrifices than they are ready to make. But all who

acknowledge His authority and blend their will with

His find they enter a rest such as the weary of this

world never know. Adverse circumstances may rise

up to alarm and fill the heart with fear and anxiety

but he who takes Christ’s yoke and learns of Him

is able to be calm in the midst of the storm.

Rest of the soul is the same as that peace of God

which passeth all understanding (Phil.4:6-7) and

is enjoyed by all who learn to commit everything

to the Lord. (H.A. Ironside, Matthew commentary)

“From the wise and prudent, the self-sufficient

religionists, the Pharisees and speculating Sadducees

these things were hid, but revealed unto babes.

They had refused Him, the wisdom of God; being wise

in their own conceits and blindness was the dreadful

result.

Babes instead received the revelation of Himself. Only

he who owns his nothingness, who takes his place in

weakness at His feet, and is like a babe, can receive

these things. Never does the Lord entrust His secrets

and His councils to the wise and prudent. Would we

know more of Him, of His word, His purposes and His

thoughts? There is only one way – be a babe, own

yourself as such and as a babe walk and live before

the Lord of heaven and earth.

The yoke is not the law, but His own yoke, His loving

restraint; and two belong into the yoke; we are

yoked together with Him. And having Him, the

One meek and lowly in heart, ever before the soul,

rest for the soul is the blessed fruit. It is the whole

Epistle to the Philippians in a nutshell.

“Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus.”

Coming to Him we have rest – living in Him we find

rest for our souls.

(The Gospel of Matthew, Arno C. Gaebelein)

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