Baptism—With Holy Spirit And Fire.
Question (1956)—What did John the Baptist mean (Matt. 3:11, 12) when he said of Jesus: “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire”?
Answer.—To understand John’s words we must bear in mind that he was addressing mixed classes of the Jews. There came out to him people of Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, including Pharisees and Sadducees (vs. 5, 7). John came as the introducer of Jesus and the gospel, and, looking forward, he prophetically foretold the results. “Now also the axe [of Divine judgment] is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit [the fruitage of righteousness] is hewn down, and cast into the fire” (v. 10). Then, speaking of Jesus he says: “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit with fire.” Some of his hearers included in the “you” would receive Jesus, and these (as Israelites indeed) would be baptized with the Holy Spirit (at Pentecost), but others whom he was then addressing would not receive Jesus; hence when their house (nominal Fleshly Israel) would be left desolate (Matt. 23:37-39), they would be baptized with fire—the judgments which came upon them as a people after their rejection of Jesus—not literal fire—but the fire of God’s wrath, the fire of trouble that culminated in the destruction of the Jewish polity in 69-73 A.D.
That the above is the correct understanding is proven further by v. 12, which is but a repetition of the same thoughts in other words: “Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor [this shows the main work of Jesus during his 3 1/2 years’ ministry; as a winnower He separated the wheat of the Jewish people from the chaff], and gather his wheat [the true Israelites indeed] into the garner [the Christian Church]; but he will burn up the chaff [the rest of the nation, the refuse] with unquenchable fire [sure destruction that nothing could prevent—the great fire of religious and political contention which destroyed the Jewish nation].” Thus John told his mixed audience that, whereas he baptized with water, Jesus would baptize them with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Some received the one and others the other kind of baptism. We believe it is a serious mistake for any of God’s people to pray for a baptism of fire, for, unwittingly, they are actually praying for a curse instead of a blessing. It is to their advantage it God does not answer such a petition. ’56-87; ’57-87; *’84-39
Question (1977)—What is meant by “fire” in Matt. 3:11?
Answer.—John the Baptist addressed a mixed group of Jews—some “Israelites indeed,” the “wheat” of that Jewish-Age Harvest, who received the holy Spirit at Pentecost, and others only nominally and outwardly righteous (v. 7), the “chaff” of the nation; upon them came “the baptism of fire,” of destruction, in the end of the Jewish Age (1 Thes. 2:16). Christians should never pray for the baptism of fire. ’77-63
Baptisms—Repeated Spirit Baptisms And Pentecost.
Question (1958)—Are we to expect and pray for repeated Spirit baptisms, like the one at Pentecost?
Answer.—The Scriptures do not warrant us in doing so. There was to be but one baptism of the Spirit for the Church as a whole, on the day of Pentecost. The supplementary manifestation 3 1/2 years later, when the first Gentiles—Cornelius and his household—came into the Body of Christ, was necessary to show unmistakably that God then had received and thenceforth would receive Gentiles as well as Jews into the Body (see The At-One-Ment Between God and Man, Chap. IX). But according to the Scriptures, there was no further necessity for, nor were there to be any further Pentecosts for the Church, though “afterward”—after the Gospel Age—there is to be a Pentecostal blessing for the world—“all flesh” (Joel 2:28; for further discussion of this, please see our June 1957 issue—copy free, on request).
The baptism of the holy Spirit, which came upon, the Church at Pentecost has remained with it all down through the Age, and as each one has come into the true Church, he has come under and shared in that original baptism of the Spirit. However, before anyone has been prepared to get this blessing of the Lord’s Spirit, first of all he has had to have the justification by faith in Jesus Christ and a heart free from the love of sin, and has had to make his solemn resolution to use his life in serving the Lord, the Truth and the brethren—his vow of consecration (Rom. 12:1)—before he could be in the right attitude to receive the blessing of the begettal, the enlightenment, the comfort and the fellowship of God’s Holy Spirit. All of God’s people have had to come into an attitude similar to that of the brethren who were blessed on Pentecost day, in order to enter into the special favors and privileges of the Gospel Age.
Even though inflamed with the desire to serve the Lord, the Truth and the brethren, the wise course for anyone to follow is the course of the early Church—to tarry and study and pray—that he may be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18), before attempting to act as God’s ambassador to others. Indeed, no one is authorized, from the Scriptural standpoint, to preach the Gospel, much or little, except first he have received the authorization of God’s Holy Spirit from above (compare Isa. 61:1).
While opposing the unscriptural view—that new Pentecosts, new Spirit baptisms and miraculous “gifts” of the Spirit are to be prayed for—let us not lose sight of the important fact that until each member of the Body received his or her share of the blessing of the first Pentecost, they could not have the perfect peace of God (Isa. 26:3; Phil. 4:7), nor be properly, actively and successfully His servants and ambassadors. Would that all of the Lord’s people would seek earnestly for a larger measure of the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13)—watching and praying thereunto (Eph. 6:18), watching their words, their thoughts and their deeds, the leadings of God’s providence, and opportunities for His service! Let us ask Him to grant us more and more the emptying of worldly ambitions and desires and more and more the filling with the mind or spirit of Christ—His disposition. ’58-38; ’69-39
Baptized—For The Dead 1 Cor. 15:29, Please Explain.
Question (1957)—What is meant by 1 Cor. 15:29 (A.R.V.): “Else what shall they do that are baptized for the dead”? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them?
Answer.—This has been considered by many as a very obscure passage. Those who deny water baptism cannot interpret this passage without implying that the great inspired Apostle Paul was foolish; those who regard sprinkling or pouring as proper forms of baptism find it difficult to see any logical meaning in this text; and even many of those who recognize immersion as the proper symbol of baptism do not comprehend this verse. Its beauty and force can be discerned only if we recognize the real baptism, death to self-will and the world’s will, and aliveness to God’s will, immersion in water being its proper, appropriate and provided symbol, and only if we understand God’s great plan of salvation for the Church and the world.
A misapprehension of the meaning of this text led, during the Dark Ages, to substitutionary baptism: Christian people, whose friends had died without baptism, were baptized for them representatively. The correct view of what constitutes the real baptism quickly shows us the inconsistency of such a procedure. One person could no more consecrate himself for another person than he could transfer either his natural or spiritual life to another person.
The Apostle’s topic in vs. 12-28 is the resurrection of the dead, and in v. 29 he is sustaining and elaborating that doctrine. Evidently assaults had been made upon the faith of the Church at Corinth as to the resurrection of the dead. As a part of his argument in refutation, in v. 29 he calls the attention of the Church to the fact that they had all been baptized, and that their baptism signified or symbolized death, as we have already explained. He then, by way of showing up the inconsistency of the erroneous new position, inquires wherein would be the wisdom or value of such a consecration to death, as their baptism suggested, if the new theory that the dead rise not at all were true. They had consecrated themselves to be dead with Christ, to be baptized into His death as members of His Body (1 Cor. 12:12, 13), to join Him in His sacrificial cup (Mark 10:39), on behalf of the dead world, Adam and the non-elect of his race, and therefore they hoped to share in the promised glorious resurrection.
The Apostle’s argument is that the whole Christian position stands or falls together. If their is no resurrection of the dead, then those who are fallen asleep in Christ are perished, as well as the remainder of the world; if such be the case, and there is no future hope either for the Church, or for the world through the Church, then why should the Church consecrate their lives unto death? They were baptized into death with Christ—baptized for, on behalf of, the dead and dying world of mankind—so that in due time, in the First Resurrection, they could also live and reign with Him (Rom. 8:17; 2 Tim. 2:11, 12; Rev. 5:10; 20:4, 6), and as His Bride and Joint-heir, the Second Eve (2 Cor. 11:2, 3; Eph. 5:31, 32), share with Him as the Second Adam, the Life-giver of the world (1 Cor. 15:45; Isa. 9:6), in regenerating the race in righteousness and life (Matt. 19:28; Isa. 60:4; Gal. 3:8, 16, 29; Rev. 22:17). ’57-86
Baptizest—“Why Baptizest Thou” (John 1:25).
Question (1968)—Why did the Jews ask John the Baptist the question recorded in John 1:25, evidently surmising that Christ would do a baptizing work?
Answer.—They recognized that John was doing a great work in reformation outside the nominal church system of their day, and they assumed him to be a messenger of God; and as all were in expectation of Messiah and of an Elias to precede Him (Mal. 4:5, 6; Luke 3:15), they inquired of John as to the matter; and when he very humbly disowned any great authority or position, they raised the question of John 1:25, which implies: If you are a person of no special authority neither the Messiah Himself, nor His forerunner, nor a special prophet, why do you start in to do a special reformatory work, and introduce as a symbol of cleansing this baptism, which is known as John’s baptism, and wholly without precedent among the Jews? ’68-94
Bible—Is It The Infallible Word Of God.
Question (1924)—I am sending you a clipping from the New York Times of Dec. 21, which contains an account of the debate between Dr. Straton, the Fundamentalist, affirming and Dr. Potter, the Modernist, denying that the Bible is the infallible Word of God. Since you believe the Bible to be the infallible Word of God, will you kindly in your Question Box answer the arguments that Dr. Potter presented against the proposition that the Bible is the infallible Word of God, as these are given in the enclosed clipping?
Answer.—We take pleasure in answering the points that Dr. Potter offered to disprove that the Bible is the infallible Word of God. A few definitions of the terms used in the proposition, The Bible is the infallible Word of God, as we understand it, should first be given. By the word, Bible, as used in this proposition we would not understand a translation of the Scriptures to be meant, nor a Hebrew or Greek text of the Scriptures—containing various mistakes of copyists or printers, but the unaltered originals as they came from the Divinely inspired writers of the Scriptures. By the term, infallible, as used in the proposition we understand incapability of erring to be meant; and by the term, “Word of God,” we understand God’s revelation of His plan to be meant. Therefore to us the proposition means that the Scriptures in the exact form in which they were originally written were God’s revelation and as such were not only free from, but also incapable of, error. We would not affirm such a thought of any translation or of any Hebrew or Chaldee manuscript of the Old Testament or of any Greek manuscript of the New Testament now in existence, because, as is well known, copyists and printers have not done infallible work in copying and printing theses. The most that can be said of the various standard translations, of manuscripts and of the best critical editions of the Bible in its original languages is that despite the interpolations, corruptions and omissions in them, they give us the Divine revelation with sufficient exactness to keep the faithful from marked error, and to guide them quite accurately into the true understanding of God’s plan as due to be understood in its various parts. We make these explanations in order to settle some of the dust that Dr. Potter has raised beclouding the points at issue.
We ought to remark that we are neither a Fundamentalist nor a Modernist, though we sympathize mainly with the Fundamentalists, and entirely so with them on the proposition on which we have been asked to express our thought. We believe that if the Fundamentalists had taught correctly on the relations of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to one another, on the nature of the human soul, on the condition of the dead, on the punishment of sin, on the permission of evil, on the person and work of Jesus, on the object and manner of our Lord’s return, on future probation and the final reward of the righteous and punishment of the wicked, they would have presented decidedly fewer vulnerable places in their armor to Modernists’ weapons.
To prove that the Bible is the infallible Word of God requires the proof of two things: (1) That God is infallible, i.e., cannot err, and (2) that the Bible as given by Him is in its words and thoughts inspired. All professed Christians accept the first proposition; hence it is unnecessary to prove it for the purposes of our present discussion further than to say that it flows from the absolute perfection of God. All professed Christians, however, are not a unit on the second proposition; for on this point there are, roughly speaking, three classes among them: (1) those who deny that the Bible is God’s revelation, and who assert that amid much human error there are at most some inspired thoughts (in the sense of a Shakespearean or Miltonic inspiration) scattered here and there in the Bible; (2) those who hold that the thoughts of the Bible are Divinely inspired, but deny the inspiration of its words; and (3) those who hold that the thoughts and words of the bible are Divinely inspired. Dr. Potter belongs to the first, and the writer to the third, class.
Because of God’s character and man’s needs and his relations to God and his fellows, it is reasonable to expect a Divine revelation of God’s purposes for man; it is also reasonable to expect that such a revelation be properly accredited for man’s acceptance as coming from God. Of all the books that claim to be such a revelation the only one that meets this requirement is the Bible. Hence the reasonableness of accepting the Bible as such a revelation, and not simply as containing some revelatory thoughts. The following reasons very briefly stated, are sufficient proofs of its Divine origin; hence of its infallibility: the intellectual inability of its writers or anyone else short of an omniscient being, i.e., God, to invent it; the good character and common sense of its writers as barring them from deceiving and being deceived in its writings; the impossibility of their knowing, apart from inspiration, some of the facts which they give and which science has since demonstrated to be facts; the times, conditions and circumstances of their writing; their ignorance of the meaning of much of what they wrote, since proven true; the Bible’s miraculous and prophetic evidence; the typical, hence prophetic, character of all its historical and genealogical details; the typology of its Mosaic and other institutions and laws; its harmonious contents written by men often living centuries apart; its adaptability to, and its practicability in, supplying man’s needs; its perfect solution of the problem of man’s past, present and future and his relations to God and his fellows; its marvelous efficacy in realizing its designs with respect to all classes and conditions of men; its superhuman contents and arrangement; its numeric construction throughout its entirety in all sorts of ramification according to the numbers seven, eight, nine, eleven, thirteen, sixteen, nineteen etc., and their multiples, by adding subtracting, multiplying and dividing the numeric value of the letters of all its words (the Greek, Hebrew and Chaldee letters are at the same time numerals) and the numeric uses and positions of its word in the paragraphs, sections and larger divisions of each of its books separately and all of them combinedly—a fact just lately discovered and unanswerably proving its verbal inspiration; its undesigned coincidences; its indestructibility, its scientific, historical and archeological corroborations; its pyramid corroborations; its effect upon the Church along lines of character, and upon the world along lines of civilization; its complete harmony with itself, God’s character, Christ’s Ransom, facts, godliness and sound reason; its agreement with the experiences of the Christian life; and its refutation of all attacks. All of these things, which, when elaborated in detail would furnish and have furnished volumes of cogent and irrefutable evidence of its inspiration from God, should satisfy, and have in many cases satisfied, sound reason that the Bible is God’s revelation to man and as such is infallible.
One of the above proofs of the Bible’s being the infallible Word of God is its refutation of all attacks upon it. We will now proceed to make use of this form of its evidence in showing briefly how completely it refutes the attacks that Dr. Potter made upon it in his debate with Dr. Straton Dec. 20, at New York City. He bases his attack on four alleged grounds—that the Bible contains: (1) scientific mistakes, (2) historical errors, (3) contradictions and (4) morally degrading ideas of God. We deny his positions both as to generalities and as to details. We will answer each of his items as given in the Times clipping sent to us, discussing his four points in reverse order from what he gives them, therefore taking his fourth point first.
His first item under his fourth point—that the Bible teaches morally degrading ideas of God—is: “Ex. 7:13 and 11:10—God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that [this expresses not the purpose, but the result of the hardening] he would not let the children of Israel leave Egypt, and then punished him severely for not letting them go.” We have answered this point in our Question Box for Nov. 15, 1922, page 54, to which we refer our readers for details not here repeated. Here we would only explain, as sufficient to refute Dr. Potter’s contention, that it was God’s goodness that hardened Pharaoh’s heart. As the sun hardens cement and melts wax, so Gods kindness melts well and hardens wicked hearts. Pharaoh’s heart was wicked. God’s very kindness in removing one plague after another at Pharaoh’s request became the occasion of hardening Pharaoh’s heart; for the latter imprudently and increasingly after each release, presumed upon God’s leniency with him, and brazenly and increasingly concluded that he could disregard God’s wishes on the ground that God was too easy going to take extreme measures against him for his retention and oppression of Israel in slavery. Thus God’s long suffering and kindness hardened Pharaoh’s wicked heart, which from other standpoints was hardened by his own wickedness and the tricks of his magicians. (Ex. 7:13, 22; 8:32.) A heart that is hardened by another’s goodness is a wicked and selfish heart; and if the goodness that hardens one proceeds from the Judge of all the earth while that Judge is entering into judgment with him, he is justly, not unjustly, treated when that Judge causes him to be punished for his wickedness. Therefore the Bible teaching that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart does not only not teach a morally degrading idea of God, but teaches a morally elevating idea of God. Moreover in this whole transaction Pharaoh oppressing Israel types Satan oppressing God’s people. God’s long suffering and kindness toward Satan in the antitype has also in a similar manner hardened Satan’s heart into further oppression of the Lord’s people; but when eventually God as Judge punishes Satan for his wicked heart manifested in this oppression, He will be acting justly and not unjustly, though God’s kindness and long-suffering became the occasion of increasing the hardness of Satan’s heart.
The next item that Dr. Potter gives under his alleged morally degrading ideas of God in the Bible is: “Ex. 22:18—God said, Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” This law was given to Israel alone, not to Gentiles, and was eminently proper for Israel, though not for Gentiles, as the following considerations prove: God was the King and Law-giver of Israel. The Gentile world worshipped Satan and his fallen angels and was ruled over by them. (Deut. 32:17; 1 Cor. 10:20; John 14:30; 2 Cor. 4:4.) Witches, etc., were the agents whereby Satan and the demons corrupted the Gentile world and furthered their rule over them. (Deut. 18:9-12.) Therefore they were the representatives of Satan’s Empire, which was at war with Israel as God’s kingdom. Hence for an Israelite to become a witch or wizard, constituted treason, which morally deserves death; and for a Gentile witch or wizard as agent of a hostile empire to operate in Israel constituted spying, fomenting sedition and other evils, which morally in war times deserve death. Hence the propriety of the death penalty against a witch is Israel, God’s kingdom. The woes brought upon Israel as God’s kingdom through witches, etc., is manifest from its experiences connected with Saul’s, Manasseh’s etc's., dealing with witches, etc. (1 Sam. 28:7, etc.; 2 Chron. 33:6, etc.) Certainly those who were instrumental in bringing such national calamities upon Israel deserved execution. Witches, etc., type false teachers as Satan’s mouthpieces and their execution types the cutting off in a symbolic death—disfellowshipment—of Satan’s mouthpieces by Spiritual Israel, the antitype of fleshly Israel. Thus both the type and the antitype teach ideas that are morally good and therefore elevating.
Dr. Potter’s third point to prove his claim that the Bible teaches morally degrading ideas of God reads as follows: “Deut. 21:18-21—Here is a command to stone to death disobedient children without trial on the accusation of their parents; if parents of New York obeyed this tomorrow, think of what it would mean. For one thing the parents would be arrested for murder and rightly.” First we would point out the misrepresentations of fact that Dr. Potter makes on this point. He says that disobedient children were on accusation of their parents put to death without trial and intimates that their death was murder. The text says that they were to be brought “unto the gate,” where in oriental cities the courts were and still are held, and “unto the elders,” (Ex. 18:21-25; Num. 11:16, 24-30) who were and still are the judges. Then the text tells us that both parents should act as witnesses in this court before these judges. As the gates of an oriental city were and still are the general congregating places of the people, the public would hear such a case, and presumably the parents’ witness could be contradicted, if facts required it. In other words there was a public trial arranged for in such cases according to the law; hence the guilty were not murdered, but legally and properly executed by judicial sentence. Moreover the text shows that the son was not simply disobedient but incorrigibly so. In God’s typical kingdom it was better to execute such a person than to let him live; because (1) the longer such a person lived under those conditions, the worse his character would become, and the less likely would he be reformed when brought back in the Millennium for reformation and opportunity of gaining eternal life; (2) his example would be corrupting to other children, if he was continued in life, while his death would exercise a wholesome restraint on others who might be inclined his way; (3) his incorrigibility was exercised toward God’s personal representatives—his parents, hence was exercised toward God Himself, and God has made death the penalty of sin, and in His kingdom rightly enacted the penalty in the national code; (4) the execution did not become the door to eternal torment, but to death, from which by virtue of the ransom the wicked son will be recovered for the purpose of reformation and fitting for everlasting life conditional on reformation; and (5) God used such characters as a warning type of the eternal destruction of the incorrigible of this and the next Age for disobedience to the antitypical Parents—in this Age God and His Covenant, and in the next Age Christ and the Church. For parents in New York without a trial to bring about the death of an incorrigible son at the hands of a lawless mob would be murder; because the laws of New York forbid such actions and designate them murder, and prescribe a different procedure with, and punishment of incorrigible children. But to identify a violation of such a legal procedure with the procedure prescribed in Deut. 21:18-21, is a gross perversion of facts characteristic of higher critics.
Our brief examination of the three points that Dr. Potter adduced that the Bible teaches morally degrading ideas of God not only disprove his contention, but all three cases prove the opposite of his intention—prove that these three cases like all other Bible points teach morally elevating ideas of God.
The Bible Harmonious With Itself
We now proceed to his third point—that the Bible contradicts itself. This charge we deny, both in general and in detail. He first cites as a proof of such alleged contradictions the four forms of the inscription on the cross. We quote as follows:
“Matthew has it (Matt. 27:37): ‘This is Jesus the King of the Jews.’
“Mark has it (Mark 15:26): ‘The King of the Jews.’
“Luke has it (Luke 23:38): ‘This is the King of the Jews.’
“John has it (John 19:19): ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.’”
First, we would answer that there is absolutely no contradiction in the varied language used. Second, we would say that since the inscriptions were given in three languages, three of the variations of form, those of Matthew, Luke and John, could have risen from each language having the inscription in a different form (John 19:20), and Mark, as he usually does, abbreviated the expression, while using the language of the inscription that Luke gives in fuller form. Third, we would remark that on account of preserving the numerics of the Bible, God often designedly caused the Evangelists (each of whom puts his accounts together in forms often differing from the others’) to alter the form without altering the substance of what they wrote. Apart from abbreviations such as Mark made in the inscription on the cross, the variations of form when occurring in the reports of conversations, speeches, etc., are due to the fact that the Evangelists quote various of the speaker’s repetitions of thoughts in varying forms or similar statements of different thoughts, e.g., the different expressions respecting the Lord’s supper that Matthew (26:26-28) and Mark (14:22-24) use from those that Luke (22:19, 20) and Paul (1 Cor. 11:23-25) use, are due to the fact that the former two give the language that Jesus used to express the Justification teachings of the Lord’s supper, and Luke and Paul give the language that Jesus used to express the Consecration teachings of the Lord’s supper, while Mark is abbreviating Matthew’s expression, and Paul’s abbreviating Luke’s expression, are due to the requirement of Biblical Numerics without making any contradiction whatever in the varied thoughts given. A theory that requires for its support emphasis placed upon such variations as those in the inscription on the cross certainly is in desperate straits for want of proof.
The second alleged contradiction is: “2 Sam. 6:23;—‘Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death’; and 2 Sam. 21:8—‘the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul.’”
Our answer: The connection of the first passage with the preceding verses by the word “therefore,” which Dr. Potter, according to the report before us, failed to give, proves that because Michal rebuked David for his zeal for the Lord and the Ark, David no more lived with her as with his wife and that from that time on she had no more children. As to the second passage, her children by Phalti or Phaltiel of Gallim are meant. (1 Sam. 25:44.) The facts are these: Saul took David’s wife, his daughter Michal, and gave her Phalti after David fled for his life from Saul. They were separated many—at least fourteen years, during which as Phaltiel’s wife she bore him five sons. (2 Sam. 21:8.) See margin. Afterward David took her back. (2 Sam. 3:14-16.) Sometime later Michal sorely upbraided David for his zeal for the Lord. (2 Sam. 6:12-23.) “Therefore” David would not live with her as her husband, and from then on she was childless. Therefore is no contradiction here; but the use made of this case is a fair sample of the perversions and blunders of Higher Critics.
The third alleged contradiction: “Gen. 22:1—‘And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham’; and James 1:13—‘Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man.’”
Our answer: There is no contradiction here. Rather the word tempt is used in two senses in the two passages. In the English of the Authorized Version the word tempt means to try, to test (Jas. 1:2, 3, 12) as well as to offer appealing suggestions. (Matt. 4:1-10.) In the first passage, as the rest of the chapter proves, God’s trial of Abraham’s loyalty to Him in connection with sacrificing Isaac as a burnt offering is meant; while in the second passage appealing suggestions to sin are meant, as shown in the context of the two verses that follow, as well as in the verse itself. God does the former, but not the latter kind of tempting—the latter kind of tempting Satan, the world and the flesh do.
The fourth alleged contradiction: “1 Kings 8:46—‘There is no man that sinneth not’; and 1 John 3:9—‘Whosoever is born [begotten] of God doth not commit sin; he cannot sin, because he is born [begotten] of God.’”
Our Answer: If we distinguish between the natural, fallen human being and the new creature in Christ, applying the first passage to the former and the second passage to the latter, everything is harmonious between these two passages. According to the first passage every fallen descendant of Adam sins because of inherited depravity, and this includes the fallen humanity of those who have become new creatures. (Rom. 7:14, 18.) But, according to the second passage, the new creature does not and cannot sin. Why not? Because it is the holy will that wills God’s will and the holy qualities that this holy will develops in the faithful. (2 Cor. 5:17, 18; Gal. 6:15; 5:6.) This will is the will to do God’s will; consequently it does not and cannot sin; for if it could or would sin, it could not be what it is—the will to do God’s will. Thus its very nature precludes the possibility of its sinning. Whenever one of the Faithful sins, he sins by his fallen flesh, not by the new creature, which was begotten in him by God, and which in the Scriptures is variously called: the anointing or unction (1 John 2:20, 27), Christ (1 Cor. 12:12, 13), Christ in you (Col. 1:27; Rom. 8:10), the inner man (Eph. 3:16), the new man (Col. 3:10), the hidden man of the heart (1 Pet. 3:4), and the Spirit—Gal. 5:16, 17; Matt. 26:41; Rom. 8:4, 5, 9-11.
Jesus And Moses Harmonious
The fifth alleged contradiction: “Matt. 5:33, 34; Matt. 5:38, 39; Matt. 5:43, 44; these passages flatly contradict the Mosaic Law.”
Our answer with respect to Matt. 5:33, 34 and Matt. 5:38, 39: There are two laws revealed in the Bible: (1) the law of Justice or duty love, called the Law of Moses (John 1:17; Matt. 22:36-40) because given through Moses, and that to Israel alone; and (2) the law of charity or disinterested love, called the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2; John 13:34, 35; 1 John 3:16) because given through Christ, and that to new creatures alone. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus among other things expounded in certain particulars some features of disinterested love—charity—which requires a higher standard of conduct than duty love—justice. Duty love—justice—is all God requires of mankind as such, and therefore of the Israelites under the Mosaic Law; but new creatures are being prepared to become Divine beings (2 Pet. 1:4), and therefore are to sacrifice their rights under the law of disinterested love to develop a character fitted for the Divine nature. Hence while the law of justice permits one to demand his dues (Matt. 5:38), the law of disinterested love permits one to sacrifice his dues (Matt. 5:39-42), and counsels it whenever it would glorify God. Similarly the law of duty love properly requires a natural man to insist on an oath, if it is in harmony with justice to himself and others. But new creatures in their mutual social relations, loving one another with disinterested, self-sacrificing love, are to trust the word of one another without an oath for confirmation. We might add that Jesus does not refer in the matter of oath taking to our course before human courts where justice is the law, but only to the ordinary intercourse of new creatures with one another. Thus there is no contradiction between Matt. 5:38, 39 and Matt. 33, 34 and the Mosaic Law.
In Matt. 5:43, 44, Jesus refers to the scribes’ teachings on one’s heart attitude toward one’s neighbor and one’s enemy. The scribes taught according to Moses when they inculcated love to neighbor as to self, but they certainly misrepresented Moses when they taught to hate an enemy. The words, “Thou shalt hate thine enemy,” cannot be found in the Mosaic or in any other Old Testament writings nor does Jesus say they were. Hence Jesus teaching us (verse 44) to love our enemies does not contradict the Mosaic Law or any other part of the Old Testament; rather He contradicts the bad ethical teachings of the scribes of His day. Therefore the fifth alleged contradiction is no Biblical contradiction.
The sixth alleged contradiction: “Rom. 2:11—“There is no respect of persons with God’ [meaning no partiality]; and Rom. 9:13—‘Jacob have I loved; but Esau have I hated.’”
Our answer: God is no respecter of persons; but He is decidedly and properly a respecter of character. Of this St. Peter gives us the assurance, saying, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that feareth [reverenced] Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him.” (Acts 10:34, 35.) The reason why God loved, i.e., appreciated and favored Jacob, and hated [abhorred and disfavored] Esau, is because the former loved truth, righteousness and God’s special favor more than self, while the latter, an unscrupulous and worldly minded person (Heb. 12:16, 17), loved self more than truth, righteousness and God’s special favor; and it was perfectly proper for God to appreciate and favor the former and abhor and disfavor the latter, and that because He is no respecter of persons and is a respecter of character. On the entire episode of Jacob and Esau please see our issue of Nov. 15, 1922, pp. 52, 53.
Seventh alleged contradiction: “Acts 9:7—‘And the men who journeyed with him [Paul] stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man’; and Acts 22:9—‘They that were with me saw indeed the light and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of Him that spake to me.’”
Our answer: The Greek word akouo translated in these verses by the words “hearing” and “heard” has not only the meaning of our English word “to hear,” but also the meaning of our English word “to understand.” Accordingly we harmonize the two accounts as follows: In the first verse, Paul’s companions are spoken of as catching with their natural ears the sound of our Lord’s words addressed to Paul, while in the second verse they are spoken of as not understanding the meaning of those words. The following are a few examples in which the Greek word akouo means to understand: Matt. 13:9, 13-16; Mark 4:33; Luke 8:21; 1 Cor. 2:9; 14:2; Heb. 3:7; Rev. 1:3; 3:20; 22:17, 18.
Thus under examination of Dr. Potter’s alleged contradictions are found to be contradictions.
We will now consider Dr. Potter’s alleged historical inaccuracies in the Bible. It is very significant that of the immense number of Biblical verses treating of matters of history—nearly a half of the Bible history—Dr. Potter, who desires to discredit the Bible, can adduce but one verse, which he thinks, proves his contention. We quote his words on this point:
“Luke 2:1, 2—‘Now it came to pass in those days, there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the [Palestinian] world [land] should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment made when Quirinius was Governor of Syria.’ [American Revised Version.]
“Joseph and Mary went up to Bethlehem for enrollment, and there Jesus was born (and Matthew says, in the days of Herod the king’).
“Three errors of history are to be noted in this passage: First, there is no record of a world census, not even a Roman world census, in the careful records of the Romans. Second, a small enrollment in Palestine was made by Quirinius, but it was ten years after the death of Herod. Third, at the time of the birth of Jesus the governor of Syria was not Quirinius, but Quintus Sentius Saturninus.”
Our answer: As indicated in our brackets the whole land of Palestine, not the whole world or the whole Roman world, is referred to in the passage. The Greek word oikoumenee, here-translated world, has a variety of meanings, one of which is the land inhabited by a particular people. For example, the Greeks spoke of the land that the Greeks inhabited as the oikoumenee; so did they also speak of the land inhabited by the Romans as the oikoumenee. See Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Hence speaking of affairs pertaining to the Jews, St. Luke properly could call all Palestine all of the oikoumenee. In connection with Augustus temporarily “reducing Herod from a friend to a subject,” among other things an enrollment of Herod’s subjects, as having become by Augustus’ act toward Herod subjects of Rome, was implied. Hence such an enrollment of all the Palestine world did take place, and that in the days of Herod. This disposes of the first alleged error of history in the passage.
As to the second alleged historical error in the passage, i.e., that it applies to the time of Herod an enrollment that occurred years after Herod’s death, we answer that Cyrenius [Greek form] or Quirinius [Latin form] was twice governor of Syria, first from 4 to 1 B.C. and second from 6 to 11 A.D. As the text implies, the enrollment there referred to was the first one made under Quirinius (an expression that implies a second enrollment) and occurred the first time he was governor, Jesus being born Oct. 2 B.C. See our issue of May 15, 1923, pp. 18, 19. The second enrollment occurred during Quirinius’ second governorship and is also referred to by Luke—Acts 5:37.
As to the third alleged historical error in this passage, i.e., that Jesus’ birth occurred not while Quirinius, but while Quintus Sentius Saturninus was governor of Syria, we should say that Saturninus was governor of Syria from 9 to 6 B.C. and was succeeded by Quintilius Varus (6-4 B.C.), who in turn was succeeded by Cyrenius or Quirinius in his first governorship (4-1 B.C.). Hence Christ being born 2 B.C. was not, as Dr. Potter claims, born under Saturninus’ but under Quirinius’ governorship as Luke 2:2 states. For the facts referred to on this point please see the article on Cyrenius in McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopaedia, Vol. 2, especially col. 2, p. 632, and that on Quirinius in Schaff-Herzog’s Encyclopedia.
Hence all three alleged historical errors in Luke 2:1, 2 are disproven. The passage, like every other Biblical passage, is historically correct
The Bible And Science Harmonious
Finally we take up Dr. Potter’s alleged scientific error in the Bible. He alleges four of such, which we will discuss in turn. We will quote the first:
“Lev, 11:6—‘And the hare, because she cheweth the cud.’ It is well known now, of course, that the hare and the rabbit are not cud-chewing animals, although they make motions with their lips and jaws which might easily be mistaken by an unscientific observer.”
Our answer: While the hare (and the coney of verse 5) do not chew the cud in the sense of drawing up their food from the first stomach after deglutition and chewing it again, yet they do chew their food a second time; for after chewing it a while, they deposit it in their cheeks, and then when at repose bring it forth again and chew it thoroughly before swallowing it. The poet Cowper who kept hares and observed them diligently says that one of his hares chewed the cud in this sense of the word all day long. The Hebrews designated the act of chewing the cud as we use the term, and the act of rechewing as the hare and coney do by the same word, because they were the same so far as the rechewing is concerned. Chewing the cud, therefore, in the Bible sense of the word means rechewing the food regardless of whether it had been previously deposited in the first stomach or in the cheek. Hence on this point there is no conflict between the Bible and science.
The second alleged scientific error: “Gen. 3:14—The same sort of a mistake is made when it is supposed that snakes eat dust.”
Our answer: The Lord is here addressing Satan, as the next verse and Rom. 16:20 prove. It is prophecy put in symbolic language foretelling Satan’s degradation and his appropriating to himself degraded and degrading things. And certainly this has been and will continue to be Satan’s portion until he is destroyed. Heb. 2:14.
The third alleged scientific error: “Lev. 11:20-22—In this passage grasshoppers crickets and locusts are spoken of as going upon all fours. These insects have six feet.”
Our answer: Yes, and some of the insects covered by the cited verses have many more than six feet! Yet all of them go on all fours! How so? The expression, going on all fours, is used to denote the manner of walking on the part of any creature, which does not walk upright on two legs like man. Thus we speak of a child, a monkey, etc., walking on their hands and feet as walking on all fours; but of course we do not mean that they have four feet! We mean that they are walking in a somewhat prone position on all members possible of use in locomotion. So, too, four-footed, six-footed and centipede creatures when using all their feet in walking may properly be spoken of as walking on all fours, because they walk, not in an upright, but in a prone position. Points like the one under consideration adduced to prove a position only prove the weakness of that position; for such reasoning stupidly literalizes a recognizedly figurative expression. In verse 23, where the word “other” is interpolated as indicated by the italics, the direct implication is given that locusts, etc., of verse 22 are not four-footed; for verse 23 shows that all four-footed creeping, flying creatures were prohibited as foods to Israel.
The fourth and last alleged scientific error: Joshua 10:12-14—Joshua making the sun stand still. Those who wrote that story had no idea of the astronomical havoc they were creating. If the sun had stood still ‘about a whole day,’ not only would the Amorites have perished, but Joshua and the Israelites as well.”
Our answer: It was the sunlight that Joshua desired not to shine on Gideon; for he knew that the sun itself never was or could be on the mountain, but that its light was and could be there. It was the moonlight that Joshua desired not to shine in the valley of Ajalon; for he knew that the moon itself never was or could be in that valley, but that its light was and could be there. The facts of the case make plain Joshua’s meaning: The hail falling upon, confounding and killing the Amorites was so dense as to darken during the day the entire mountain and at night the entire valley where the Amorites successively were; and Joshua desired that condition to be continued, because thereby the foe was being overthrown. And for that he prayed. In effect his prayer was this: O Lord, continue to cause the hail to fall in such dense masses upon Thy and our enemies as to darken the mountain by day and the valley by night, and thus overthrow Thy and our enemies. In other words, if the hail would fall so densely upon the Amorites as to shut off the sunlight by day and the moonlight by night during the day and night of that battle, the Amorites would surely be completely overthrown; and for that Joshua prayed and his prayer was granted. In the excitement of the battle, he tersely stated the accompanying phenomena and not the desired cause and effect—the great hail and the overthrow of the Amorites. Several unhappy translations have occasioned the widespread misunderstanding of this passage. The last part of verse thirteen should read: So the sunlight stayed in the midheavens and hastened not to come [upon Mt. Gideon], as [on] a perfect day. See Young’s and Rotherham’s translations. Additional to this and the correction above made on sunlight and moonlight, we would add the remark that the Hebrew word dum here translated “Stand still,” primarily means to be silent and secondarily to be inactive. Joshua wanted the sunlight (not the sun) and the moonlight (not the moon) to be inactive that day so far as lighting up Mt. Gideon and the valley of Ajalon was concerned, because that was the accompaniment of the dense masses of hail falling on the Amorites, which dense falling of hail he wished continued, until the enemy was overthrown. He did not desire the sun and the moon themselves to cease in their course that day, as so many like Dr. Potter, deceived thereto by the above mentioned mistranslations, have assumed. There is, therefore, no conflict between the Bible and Science on Joshua’s dark day.
“Let Us Hear The Conclusion Of The Whole Matter”
Our examination has proven that not one of Dr. Potter’s points is right. He has made a complete failure on every item adduced by him to prove his four propositions that the Bible contradicts (1) science, (2) history, (3) itself and (4) God’s character or as he puts it, teaches morally degrading ideas of God. Therefore the Bible as the infallible Word of God has emerged from his onslaught unscathed. It has always proven itself capable of disproving every attack made on it (Is. 54:17); and this peculiar quality of the Bible is one of the proofs of its being infallible Word of God. But he has emerged from his attacks on the Bible as the infallible Word of God demonstratedly an unreliable and discredited teacher on Biblical matters, a person so grossly lacking in correct Biblical knowledge, and so erratic in his reasoning on Biblical matters as our investigation has proven him to be, is out of place in a pulpit. He will do less harm and more good as a ditch digger, a hod carrier or day laborer in some other unskilled work than as a minister. He should resign his office; for he is an infidel!
The Bible as the infallible Word of God is a high towering and mighty rock at whose base the waves of Higher Criticism—a euphonious word for infidelity, Ingersollism—dash themselves into innocuous spray, while it remains immovable impregnable and imperishable, a refuge for the shipwrecked race of mankind struggling in the stormy sea of sin, error and the curse! ’24-4
Bible—Taking From Or Adding To God’s Word.
Question (1974)—Are the translators of the Bible who add to it their own or other men’s thoughts and conjectures as a part of the translation, or take away from it some of its words or thoughts without so indicating—are they committing sin?
Answer.—They certainly are transgressing against God by thus tampering with His Word. If it is done ignorantly it is forgivable, but if done knowingly and willfully, against light and knowledge (that is, against God’s holy Spirit), a corresponding just punishment is certain. For we read in Matt. 12:31, 32, (ASV): “Every sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world [footnote, age], nor in that which is to come.” Sin knowingly committed against God’s holy Spirit or disposition within us (2 Tim. 1:7) is willful and deserves and will sooner or later receive a just punishment.
In Deut. 4:2, God says: “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.” And He repeats the charge in Deut. 12:32; “What thing soever I command you, observe to do it; thou shalt not add thereto nor diminish from it.” Note also Prov. 30:5, 6: “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” And in Rev. 22:18, 19 we read: “If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” ’74-14
Bible—Faulty Translations Destructive Of Faith.
Question (1974)—Are not the publications that are permeated with conjectures, paraphrases and mistranslations but nevertheless palmed off as Bible translations, such as Good News For Modern Man (the New Testament in Today’s English Version) and The Living Bible, destructive of true faith? Can anyone find the way to salvation and learn the Truth message through such faulty presentations?
Answer.—We cannot come to God except by faith, and “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6). Faith must have a firm foundation, a reliable basis on which to build, or it becomes credulity. Faith is essential to salvation, as we are “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pet. 1:5). “The end of your faith” is “the salvation of your souls” (1 Pet. 1:9). “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8).
What is this saving faith? It may be defined as mental appreciation and heart’s reliance on God and Christ. This definition is derived from St. Paul’s statement in Heb. 11:1, which is given in reverse order, “Faith is assurance of things hoped for [heart’s reliance], a conviction of things not seen [mental appreciation]” (ASV; see also RSV, Rotherham, Diaglott, etc.). “The just shall live by faith (Hab. 2:4; Matt. 6:25-34; Heb. 10:38). The basis of this faith is mental appreciation, which embraces three elements: (a) knowledge, (b) understanding and (c) belief; and faith’s superstructure is heart’s reliance, which likewise embraces three elements: (a) confidence, trust, or assurance, (b) appropriation and (c) responsiveness, or activity. (For a complete description of faith and how it acts, please see BS ’66, pp. 62, 63.)
Saving faith is produced by hearing the Word of God. This can be by audible hearing, as by listening to sermons or teachings that are in harmony with God’s Word or to the Bible being quoted or read, or by reading and studying it oneself. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). The more clearly a translation reflects what is given in the original, the better it conveys the message of salvation and gives the Truth message. “Your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men [including biased, conjectural translations. With subtractions, additions and/or paraphrases, in which human ideas and conjectures abound], but in the power [and wisdom—James 1:5, 6; 3:17] of God” (1 Cor. 2:5). When man changes and adulterates the Bible, he is changing and adulterating the very Word that produces faith, shows the way to salvation and gives the Truth message, by which we are freed from error and sanctified (John 8:32; 17:17); and this tampering with God’s Word is dangerous both to the offender himself and to others. The Bible is not a set of writings of human wisdom, “for the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost [Spirit, ASV]” (2 Pet. 1:21). Modernism and Infidelism are destructive of the purity and the power of the Word of God: they substitute credulity for faith. ’74-14
Bible—Will His Word Be Preserved And Prosper.
Question (1974)—Will God’s Word be preserved and prospered, despite all of Satan’s oppositions?
Answer.—According to His many promises, we may be sure that God will preserve and prosper His Word despite all of Satan’s efforts to “corrupt” it (2 Cor. 2:17), to make it void by mistranslations and modern paraphrases, and otherwise to destroy it. However, God prophesied that there would come a great falling away (2 Thes. 2:3), and that in the latter times many would depart from the true faith and would “not endure sound doctrine” but would “turn away their ears from the truth, and be turned unto fables,” “having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof,” in some cases “even denying the Lord that bought them” (1 Tim 4:1-7; 2 Tim. 3:1-5, 16, 17; 4:1-4; 2 Pet. 2:1). True faith, based directly on the Word of God, is indeed scarce. Concerning the present time, Jesus asked: “When the Son of man cometh, shall he find [the, so the Greek; see Diaglott] faith on earth” (Luke 18:8).
However, God has promised to preserve and prosper His Word, despite all oppositions and perversions. “The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times” (Psa. 12:6). “Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name” (Psa. 138:2). “The scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). “For verily I [Jesus] say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass [as long as they continue, i.e., permanently; compare Jer. 33:20, 21], one jot [Greek, iota (the smallest letter in the Greek alphabet), corresponding to the Hebrew alphabet’s smallest letter, Yod; see our book The Bible, p. 620] or one tittle [the little bend or point which serves to distinguish certain Hebrew letters of similar appearance] shall is no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” Matt. 5:18; Luke 16:17).
“The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever” (Isa. 40:8; 1 Pet. 1:25). God says of His Word: “It shall not return unto me void [despite all mistranslations and paraphrases and other efforts of Satan to thwart God’s purposes], but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isa. 55:11).
An essential part of the Christian’s armor is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17). “The word of God is quick [living], and powerful [energetic], and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb. 4:12). Some may prefer to go into battle with a “sword” that has been damaged—dulled, nicked, twisted and broken—but we prefer the “sharp two-edged sword” (Rev. 1:16; 19:15), the Word of Truth—a sword that cannot fail. Let us grip it firmly and hold it fast, for it is indeed “a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist” (Luke 21:15; Isa. 54:17). ’74-14
Bible—Private Interpretation Of The Scriptures.
Question (1964)—What is meant by 2 Pet. 1:20: “No prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation?
Answer.—We believe that the following is a better translation of the original: “No prophecy of Scripture is of [one’s] own interpretation,” i.e., the Scriptures are not to be interpreted according to one’s own individual notions, guesses, speculations, caprices or whims. That this is the correct thought seems to be implied in the succeeding verse, which gives the reason for the statement that we are explaining: The reason why people should not interpret the Scriptures arbitrarily from their own notions, guesses, speculations, caprices or whims is because they did not originate the Scriptures, for “no prophecy [Scriptural teaching] ever came by the will of man”—was not originated by man; for the writers of the Bible, moved by the holy Spirit, spoke and wrote by inspiration of God, who thus spoke and wrote through them. Accordingly, v. 21 (comp. 2 Tim. 3:16) shows that the Scriptures came into existence through the holy Spirit working (in various ways) on the minds of its writers. (For a comprehensive treatise on the inspiration of the Scriptures, please see “The Bible,” Chap. VI. We supply this book at $2.30, postpaid.)
V. 20 therefore suggests by contrast the thought that a proper interpretation of the Scriptures can come, not from the human mind, but only from the same mind as originated and inspired the Scriptures, namely, God’s holy Mind. Therefore only by the illumination of God’s holy Spirit can one understand and interpret the Scriptures, seeing that they were given, not by man, but by God through the inspiration of His holy Spirit. V. 20 therefore condemns all human speculations, notions, guesses, caprices and whims as originating proper Scriptural interpretations.
How, then, are the Scriptures to be interpreted? We answer: As portions of the Bible have from time to time become due to be understood by God’s people, the Lord by special illumination has worked on the minds of the special messengers or ‘”angels” or servants of the Truth in the seven stages of the Church (Rev. 1:20; 2; 3)—usually since the days of the Apostles on the mind of one individual special servant of the Truth at a time—giving them the proper understanding of such portions of the Bible as have become due to be understood; and these servants have then transmitted these interpretations to God’s people.
But one may ask, Since various groups, including some that are very sectarian, claim for their teachers this very illumination, how can it be determined who is giving the proper interpretation? We answer: Only the true explanations, agree with the seven axioms of Biblical interpretation, i.e., that a Scriptural passage or doctrine must be interpreted harmoniously with (1) itself, (2) all other Bible passages, (3) all other Bible doctrines, (4) God’s Character, (5) the Ransom, (6) facts and (7) the objects of God’s Plan.
We must subject individually every interpretation offered to us, by those we have good reason to believe are teachers of Divine Truth, to these seven axioms as a touchstone, to reveal its truth or error. If an interpretation adheres to, is in harmony with, this sevenfold touchstone it is true; if not, it is erroneous. Thus we are not to receive anyone’s teachings with blank, unquestioning minds, but are to “try the spirits,” i.e., teachings, to “prove all things” by these seven axioms, and “hold fast that” only as “good” which stands the test of this sevenfold touchstone (1 John 4:1; 1 Thes. 5:21). ’64-92
Bible—The Hierarchy’s Misuse Of 2 Pet. 1:20.
Question (1964)—Do the Roman Catholic hierarchy use 2 Pet. 1:20, “No prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation,” to prevent the laity from attempting to interpret the Bible, and, if it is expedient, to prevent their reading it?
Answer.—Yes. The Roman Catholic hierarchy has used this passage to prevent the laity from attempting to interpret the Bible. And in very densely Roman Catholic countries, like Spain, Portugal, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Poland, and in most Latin American countries, they have used it to prevent the laity from reading the Bible, though in other countries they have advocated Bible reading. Roman Catholics, especially in predominantly Roman Catholic countries, are supposed to believe unquestioningly what is taught to them by their hierarchy. ’64-93
Bible Study—No Time For.
Question (1965)—I am troubled because I do not seem to find time for Bible study. Do not my family and household duties come first?
Answer.—If one is too busy to regularly read and study God’s Word, he or she is too busy. Many of our forefathers had to work long hours and had very few laborsaving devices; yet found time for Bible study and prayer every day. Usually people who come up with the excuse of not having time for Bible study do have time for and are up on other things, such as television, radio, the lives and doings of popular singers and moving picture actors, sports, the stock market, the newspaper (maybe even the Sunday edition), magazines, secular books, what is going on in the community, and the like. People usually find time to do what they really most want to do.
Let us fairly and squarely face the facts: Just how eager are you to read and study God’s Word and to know His Purpose and Plan as revealed in it (Psa. 119:16, 97, 103, 111, 127, 129, 140)? Are you eager enough to arise a half-hour earlier than usual each morning to spend a few minutes alone with the Lord, or to set aside regularly some other time, such as at the close of the day? Are you eager enough to lay aside some of those unnecessary cares and activities each day? Of course the needs and desires of the family should not be neglected (1 Tim. 5:8), but perhaps they can be reduced without really harming anyone. Perhaps a little joint Bible study is what is needed. We are to “redeem the time” (Eph. 5:16) from worldly cares and pleasures, ease, idle chitchat, etc., for the better, the higher the spiritual interests (Luke 10:40-42). We are to “seek first [chiefly] the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things [needed earthly things] shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:25-34).
Is it not possible that you may be losing some of that “first love” for the Lord and His Truth (Rev. 2:4) that you once had? Or is your lack of study of God’s Word due to your inability to understand much that is in it? Do you find it a chore and somewhat boring? If so, why not study it with the aid of The Divine Plan of the Ages (see p. 16), which makes it so easy to understand that even a child can understand and enjoy it? God’s Word will shine forth with increased light, will hold you spellbound and will fill your life with new joy as you come to understand its secrets. “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matt. 5:6). “Seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matt. 7:7). ’65-14
Blasphemy—Against The Holy Spirit.
Question (1962)—What is blasphemy against the holy Spirit?
Answer.—The word blaspheme means speak evil. To blaspheme God’s holy Spirit, power or disposition, would be the act of speaking evil of any teaching, work, attribute or plan of the Lord, contrary to the speaker’s convictions. Our Lord warned against this sin in Matt. 12:31, 32. From the context we note that Jesus had just been using this Divine power, or holy Spirit, conferred on Him by the Father, to cast out a devil. The Pharisees who saw the miracle, unable to deny it, sought to turn aside its forces by claiming that it was done by satanic power. In reply Jesus distinctly disclaimed the power He used as being His own; He asserted that it was Divine power or influence, saying, “I cast out devils by the Spirit of God.” He then upbraided them for maliciously attributing to an evil source what they could not deny was a good work, accompanied by no evidence whatever of sin, selfishness ambition, or anything contrary to God’s arrangements for His covenant people at that time.
Jesus pointed out to them that in ignorance and blindness they might have misinterpreted Him, His words, His efforts; and in like blindness they might have misinterpreted many of God’s dealings, and spoken evil thereof; but when once God’s power had been so clearly witnessed by them, in direct contrast with the power of the devil, the fact that they spoke evil of its showed to Him most unmistakably (He knew their thoughts—v. 35) that their hearts were in a most unholy conditions. Blaspheming against God (such as ignorantly claiming that He will eternally torment the vast majority of His human creatures) or against Jesus (such as ignorantly saying that He was born of fornication, or of a human father, as some claim, or that He falsified when speaking of His pre-human existence), may be forgiven men--will be forgiven them, upon proper repentance—because the ignorance came through the fall, and a Ransom has been provided for all sharing in the fall and its curse. But sins against clear manifestations of grace cannot be attributed to ignorance and or weakness of the flesh and heredity, but must be charged to willful stubbornness and viciousness of the heart, which is unforgivable.
If a sin is not fully willful, i.e., if it is a mixed sin, a sin in which there is only measurable willfulness, or willfulness against only a measure of light, then “stripes” will result, unavoidably; if it be willful to a greater extent or against a larger measure of light and a greater favor connected with the holy power of God, then a greater measure of “stripes” will be given; but if the transgression involves a full, clear conception of right and wrong, and full, knowing opposition to the holy power of God, it would mean everlasting destruction, Second Death, the full wages of sin (Psa. 37:38; 145:20; Isa. 1:28; 2 Thes. 1:8, 9; 2 Pet. 2:1, 12; Acts 3:23; Rev. 21:8).
The forgiveness of sins secured by the Ransom covers sins of ignorance and/or weakness, resulting from the fall, but not personal, willful, deliberate sins against light. But we are not to forget that many sins that contain a measure of willfulness blend with it a measure of weakness or of ignorance of right principles, or both. Proportionately to its ignorance and weakness any sin is forgivable through God’s grace in Christ—through faith in and acceptance of His atonement: and proportionately to any sin being willful intentional, it is unforgivable—must be expiated by “stripes,” so long as some forgivable quality inheres in the sin; death, destruction, is the penalty when no forgivable quality can be found in the sin. Thus seen, all willful sin is sin against light, sin against the holy Spirit of truth; and such sin has never forgiveness, “neither in this world [this present evil world—Gal. 1:4], neither in the world to come [the Millennial Age, the world’s judgment day].”
From the facts connected with the Pharisees’ blasphemy against the holy Spirit, we infer that the following things as its essential features must be present when it is committed: (1) that the Divine things spoken against are by the speaker known to be such; (2) that deliberation precedes his speech; (3) that malice prompts his speech; (4) that opposition to the Lord characterizes his course; (5) that some selfish motive prompts his speech; and finally (6) that it is willfully uttered. The form that this particular sin takes is speech. It is not committed by thought or act apart from speech. The expression, sin against the holy Spirit, is therefore broader than the expression blasphemy against the holy Spirit; for such sin can be committed by motive, thought, word or deed, whereas blasphemy against the holy Spirit is committed by word only. Thus blasphemy against the holy Spirit is but one of the four forms of the sin against the holy Spirit, which can be committed in the other three forms also, in which blasphemy against the holy Spirit cannot be committed. If in the six essentials mentioned above, any Divine thing, such as God’s person, character, truth, works, representatives, etc., is spoken against such speech would be blasphemy against the holy Spirit, which sin is limited in form of commission to speech. ’62-70; ’78-22; ’80-46
Blind—”Who Is Blind, But My Servant?”
Question (1964)—In Isa, 42:19-21 we read: “Who is blind, but my servant? Or deaf, as my messenger that I sent? Who is blind as he that is perfect, and blind as the Lord’s servant? Seeing many things but thou observest not; opening the ears, but he heareth not. The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable. ”To whom does this apply?
Answer.—As a prophecy, this Scriptures seems to apply primarily to our Lord Jesus and secondarily to His faithful consecrated followers. These are to be blind and deaf to some things—blind to earthly ambitions and prospects and worldly wisdom, blind to the world’s allurements and attractions that would hinder in the performance of faithful service to God (Matt. 4:10), and deaf to the demands of the flesh and its selfish desires that would detract from the fulfillment of their consecration vows (Psa. 40:8; Prov. 23:26; Matt 16:24; Rom. 12:1).
The blindness here referred to is not the blindness of ignorance, for v. 20 shows that they see many things, but do not observe (regard or take heed to) them. It is not that the Lord’s faithful people do not see earthly advantages, but they purposely reject, close their eyes to, all such earthly allurements. They are keen in their spiritual hearing (Matt. 13:16), but they will not hear (heed) the voice of a stranger that would lead them away from their Master (John 10:4, 5, 27). They are deaf to the “pleasant things” whispered into their ears by Satan and his servants through the avenues of sin, error, selfishness and worldliness.
“Who is blind as he that is perfect [at peace, A.R.V., Young’s Literal Translation; an intimate friend, Rotherham]. ”The Hebrew word used here implies a full surrender or devotion, a complete or perfect compliance to and agreement with the Divine will.
With this blindness and deafness Jehovah is well pleased. By His righteousness Jesus not only kept the Law, but He magnified it, showed it to have greater proportions than the Jews had ever supposed it to have—length, breadth, height and depth beyond the ability of fallen humanity to perform; and He made that Law honorable. Israel, having tried to keep the Divine Law for more than sixteen centuries, had reason to doubt if anyone could keep it in a way satisfactory to God. But the fact that Jesus did keep it perfectly, and that God was satisfied with His keeping of it, made the Law honorable—proved that it was no an unreasonable requirement—not beyond the ability of a perfect man.
Thus was demonstrated the fact that God had not given a law impossible to keep, but that the fault lay with mankind, who had lost the original perfection with which God had endowed them. We thank God for the merit of Christ’ imputed to us, that there is “now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit,” “that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1, 4). Praise God! ’64-54
Book—Of Life Defined.
Question (1983)—What is “the book of life”?
Answer.—The expression “the book of life” is found seven times in the KJV Bible (Phil. 4:3; Rev. 3:5; 13:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27; 22:19—the Greek word xulon, used here, should be translated tree of life—see margin, ASV). We are not to think of “the book of life” as a huge literal book.
In order to understand more clearly what is meant by “the book of life,” we should note, first of all, that there are, generally speaking, two books of life—one for the elect and another for the non-elect (Rev. 20:12). According to this passage, during the Gospel Age the books (the 66 books of the Bible) are gradually opened to the understanding of God’s people. This is the Lamb’s book of life (Rev. 13:8); but in the Millennium “another book . . . the book of life” (the New Covenant revelations) will be opened (made clear). Since the Bible is really an elaboration of God’s great Covenants, the two books of life may, generally speaking, correspond to the all-embracing Abrahamic Covenant, especially in its Oath-bound features (Gen. 12:3; 22:16-18), and to the New Covenant, the Millennial Covenant (Jer. 31:31-34). ’83-70
Book—Names Written In “The Book Of Life.”
Question (1983)—What is meant by names being written in “the book of life”?
Answer.—Sometimes it may refer to one’s office activities in God’s arranged Plan (Ex. 32:33, 34), but the usual meaning is that of one’s character being inscribed into a covenant by fulfilling its obligations. By this we mean developing a Godlike character in harmony with a covenant, thus enabling one to become a partaker of the covenant’s promise and their fulfillment.
During the Gospel Age, every consecrated one, at the time of entrance into the High Calling, began to inscribe his or her character into the Oath-bound Covenant in its Sarah features, the Christ-developing features, for the Christ, Head and Body members, antitypical Isaac (Gal. 4:26, 28, 31). Some failed to continue this good work, through allowing sin, error, selfishness and/or worldliness to interfere to such an extent that they fell into Great Multitude, the secondary spiritual elect class (Rev. 7:9-17). Thus they were blotted out of their places as Little Flock members (Rev. 3:5). If unfaithful as Great Company members, they are blotted out of their places as such, and out of existence entirely, i.e., in the Second Death; but if faithful as Great Company members, they have inscribed their characters into those lesser features of the spiritual elective Covenant typed by Rachel.
God’s truly consecrated and faithful pre-Gospel-Age people—the Ancient Worthies (see Heb. 11, etc.) inscribed their characters into the earthly elective features of the Oath-bound Covenant. And those who consecrate, who become Christ’s disciples in this time between the Gospel and Millennial Ages, begin also at their consecration to inscribe their characters into the earthly features of the Oath-bound Covenant.
The faithful elect ones, the Ancient and Youthful Worthies (Joel 2:28; E 17, pp. 37-42), will have their characters inscribed into the spiritual, heavenly features of the Covenant (Heb. 12:23) at the beginning of the Little Season, at the end of the Millennial Mediatorial Reign, and so will eventually become spirit beings in the heavenly phase of the Kingdom.
They are among the antitypical Millennial-Age firstborn (Levites) who have no inheritance in the land (Ex. 12:11-13, 21-23, 27; 13:1, 2, 11-15; Num. 3:40-51). Thus all the elect classes will ultimately have their characters inscribed into the all-embracing Abrahamic Covenant in one or another of its elective features. These indeed may rejoice, as Jesus said, “because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).
In the Millennium, in Christ’s Mediatorial Reign, the quasi-elect and the non-elect, the Restitution class, will have to develop their characters in Christlikeness in harmony with the new “book of life” the New Covenant revelations (which will then be given), if they will receive everlasting life on earth. As they progress up the Highway of Holiness (Isa. 35:8-10), they will be symbolically writing their names in this other “book of life”—inscribing their characters into the New Covenant by fulfilling its provisions. Of course, those, the Goat class (Matt. 25:41-46), who die the Second Death, will have their names blotted out of that Millennial “book of life.”
“The book of life” for all of God’s consecrated ones of this pre-Mediatorial-Reign time seems to be alluded to in Mal. 3:16 as “a book of remembrance” written before Jehovah “for them that  feared [reverenced supremely] the Lord,  that thought upon his name [His character, etc.]” that “ spake often one to another.” Let us all seek to follow Christ faithfully in fulfilling our covenant of consecration, including these three things, that we may indeed be owned as His by our Heavenly Father, as of His jewels, as His servant-sons whom He treats with special Fatherly care (v. 17), who will be accounted worthy of sharing in the great blessing, judging and restoring work of the soon-coming Millennial Mediatorial Reign (v. 18; Psa. 72:7; 37:9; Matt. 25:31-46)! ’83-70
Book—When Does Rev. 22:19 Apply.
Question (1983)—Does Rev. 22:19 apply to the Gospel Age or to the Millennial Age?
Answer.—This verse contains a warning which has applied all during the Gospel Age, and it will apply also in the Millennial. We pointed out above that the Greek word for book in the expression; “book of life” should be translated tree or wood. In Rev. 2:7 “the tree of life” refers to rich blessings in which the Christ class shares. The world of mankind has another tree, or grove, of life (Rev. 22:2; E 17, p. 427), in which it is to share. Therefore the warning in this text applies to any in either age. ’83-70
Born—Of The Spirit.
Question (1967)—What is meant by being born of the Spirit?
Answer.—In John 3:1-8 our Lord has given us a very instructive passage on this point. Our Lord Jesus was visited by Nicodemus, a Pharisee, who had heard of Jesus’ teachings and was favorably impressed by them. This Pharisee was timid and therefore, though a ruler of the Jews, came to Jesus by night. He addressed Jesus very respectfully, as a worthy teacher (Rabbi), saying, “We know that thou art a teacher come from God,” we have seen what you have done and we recognize that no man can do the miracles that you do, except he come from God; he recognized that Jesus was a teacher that God had evidently sent, and he gives as the reason, “for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except that God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born [begotten] again, he cannot see [understand] the kingdom of God.” The begettal of the Spirit is necessary in order to understand the kingdom of God. Whoever is not begotten of the Spirit cannot see the kingdom of God. “Nicodemus saith unto him, how can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?”
Nicodemus obviously misunderstood our Lord Jesus and Jesus corrects his misunderstanding, saying, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God [for it would be impossible for him to come into that kingdom otherwise]. That which is born of the flesh is flesh [those who are begotten and born from human beings must be human beings]; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit [that which has been begotten of the Spirit in them and born of the Spirit becomes a spirit being]. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again [do not be astonished that I have told you that it is necessary that you must be born again—begotten of the Spirit and born of the Spirit, to enter the kingdom of heaven. Then Jesus gave him an illustration]: The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” What an apt illustration! The wind is invisible; we know it is present, because we feel it and we can hear its sound, but we cannot tell where it came from, where it started or where it is going to go, “so is everyone that is born of the Spirit.” You cannot tell where he came from, nor where he will go, because he is invisible to human eyes; he will be incorruptible, as one of God’s spirit beings for ever and ever. Thus the Lord Jesus gave Nicodemus a lesson here that Nicodemus showed through his fleshly mind, that he could not understand, but that Jesus Himself could explain. ’67-87
Born—Of Water And Of The Spirit John 3:5.
Question (1957)—In view of Jesus statement “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5), is water baptism essential to salvation?
Answer.—This passage does not refer at all to water baptism, nor to the real baptism. It refers to the begettal and birth of the Spirit. In this verse the word water is used figuratively to symbolize the Truth, as is often the case in the Bible (Eph. 5:26; Heb. 10:22; 2 Pet. 2:17; 1 John 5:6, 8; Jude 12; Rev. 12:15; 21:6; 22:1, 17; John 7:38; Ezek. 36:25; 47:1-12; Isa. 12:3). It is by the Truth that we are begotten of the Spirit (1 Cor. 4:15; Jas. 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:3, 23, 25). In the Greek the one word, gennao, means both (1) to beget and (2) to bear (see The Divine Plan of the Ages, pp. 278, 364-368), and hence this word is not here repeated before the word Spirit, though both things are meant in this verse. To bring out the sense in English we might paraphrase this verse as follows: Except a man be begotten of the Truth and born of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. ’57-87; ’71-55
Question (1958)—“From him that would borrow of thee, turn not thou away” (Matt. 5:42). How shall we understand this?
Answer.—There is nothing in this Scripture that says that we should lend to everyone who wishes to ask for a loan, either of goods or money; but we should not turn away with a deaf ear from those in real need. The Scriptures say, “Do good, and lend, hoping for nothing [in recompense] again” (Luke 6:35; comp. Deut. 15:6-11). We should also have that beneficent disposition which desires to do good to all men, especially to those of the household of faith (Gal. 6:10). But we should use discretion and wisdom. Often the very best thing to do for a person is to lend him something even if sure that he would not return it; for thus the way to his coming any more would be barred to some extent at least. (For further details, please see The New Creation, pp. 567-569.) ’58-55; ’67-102
Borrowing—And Lending From Neighbors.
Question (1962)—I have a neighbor who bothers me repeatedly by asking to borrow from me. I wish to be neighborly, but do not like to be pestered by people with whom I have scarcely anything in common. If they were “brethren in the Lord,” I would feel differently and would be glad to oblige them, in harmony with proper principles. What should be my attitude toward worldly neighbors in this matter?
Answer.—Our advice is that you bear with them—for the Truth’s sake, for the Lord’s sake (not directly, but indirectly). In this way seek to make friends with earthly good things (Luke 16:9). You may find little enough that you and your worldly neighbors can exchange along spiritual lines, and in order that what you have to offer of spiritual things may possibly be made more acceptable to them, improve every opportunity to be kind and generous (within proper bounds) in respect to the lending of earthly goods—not, of course, carrying matters to an extreme, so as to injure your own or your neighbor’s interest. (Sometimes we can injure a neighbor by lending, if it causes him not to put forth effort, according to his ability and opportunity, to do for himself.) Thus God’s people may be lenders, but should not be borrowers (except in emergencies), even as the typical fleshly Israelites were likewise instructed (Luke 6:35; Lev. 25:35-37; Deut. 15:6-15). By pursuing a kind and generous course, you will to that extent in most cases favorably impress your worldly neighbors and thus you may possibly make the things of God’s Word more acceptable to them, and both at a trifling cost. If they misunderstand your religious views, they will usually at least concede that you are a kind and generous neighbor.
It would seem that many of God’s people fail to see that with our clearer light we should become more kind in thought, word and action, and much more generous in every way, than our neighbors--peace-able and peace-makers (Matt. 5:9; Rom. 12:18; 2 Pet. 1:7). The majority of people seem naturally to be selfish at the expense of others, and mischief-makers, and do not see that this is contrary to the spirit of the Lord—the spirit of justice and love. The possession of a quarrelsome, selfish spirit gives evidence that its possessor has not been taught of God, or has not properly learned of Him who is meek and lowly, kind and gentle of heart (Matt. 11:29; 2 Cor. 10:1). ’62-14; *’88-95
Brethren—Who Are They.
Question (1965)—What should be our attitude toward professing Christians of various denominations who give evidence of only slight knowledge of the truth of God’s Word, and only slight appreciation of the Ransom-sacrifice of Jesus (Matt. 20:28; 1 Tim. 2:4-6)? Should we consider them brethren in the Lord? and should we fellowship with them as such?
Answer.—All who profess love to God and Jesus Christ and faith in Jesus as their Savior—even though their knowledge of His redemptive work and of other Bible teachings is very limited and vague—should be treated as brethren in the Lord, regardless of denominational affiliation, if in their general conduct they indicate their desire to walk after the Spirit and not after the flesh (Rom. 8:1), and that they are not sinning grievously against light (comp. Heb. 6:4-6; 10:27-31).
But when we use the word “brother,” we are to remember that among believers there are two classes of brethren (1) those who have merely pledged themselves to God for a reformation of life, and who are to some extent trusting in Jesus as their Savior; and (2) those who have gone on into the condition of consecration, who have dedicated their lives to God, to do His will.
These two classes or gradations of brethren are indicated in Rom. 5:1, 2 as: (1) those who “being justified by faith, have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” and (2) those who have gone on to consecration, the second grace or favor, access to which is “by faith” in Jesus as Savior. Thus the Apostle Paul explains that being justified by faith through Christ, those who are in this first grace have through Him by consecration access into the second grace—the favor of sonship, which for the partakers of the heavenly calling (Heb. 3:1) means “rejoicing in hope of the glory of God” on the spiritual plane. Others may look forward to eventually seeing “the glory of the Lord” on the human plane (Isa. 40:5), in God’s Kingdom.
A similar line of teaching is given in Rom. 12:1, wherein “the mercies [past favors] of God”—especially the forgiveness of sins and imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the “brethren” i.e., faith justification—are set forth as the things that should arouse believers of class (1) to make, among other things, an acceptable sacrifice. This giving of themselves to God through Christ in consecration means their giving up self-will and accepting God’s will (Matt. 16:24)—their promise to God to be dead to self and the world and to be alive to God, in Christian discipleship. Thus they become brethren of class (2). (Incidentally, for those who have not yet consecrated, the beginning of the new year is a good time to begin a life of consecration to God.)
Both of these classes of brethren should be treated courteously, kindly, helpfully—both are our brethren in the Lord; but it would be impossible to fellowship with class (1) in the same close manner or degree that we fellowship with class (2). And even among those who have dedicated their lives to God there are some with whom we can have closer fellowship, more in common, than with others—even as Jesus seemed to find closer fellowship with Peter, James and John than with the rest of His Apostles, and with Lazarus, Mary and Martha than with some other disciples.
Accordingly, those who are well developed in Christlikeness, who have grown considerably in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 1:5-11; 3:18), who are able to imbibe and enjoy deeper things of God’s Word, the “strong meat,” will find fuller fellowship with other adult Christians than with the babes, to whom pertains the “milk,” the simpler things of God’s Word (Heb. 5:11—6:3). However, this idea does not mean that they are not to fellowship also with the “babes.”
Knowledge is to be highly esteemed among God’s people, and to be regarded as an evidence of progress, of growth; for none can grow “strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might” (Eph. 6:10)—in grace—unless he grows also in knowledge. We properly esteem most highly those whose love for God and His Truth is evidenced by their being guided more and more into the deep things of God. Nevertheless, as in the earthly family we love and care for the babes and immature ones, so also in the household of faith the little ones and the dwarfs are to be cared for and loved and helped so that they also may grow strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. ’65-6; ’99-54
Brethren—Regarding Denominational Affiliations.
Question (1965)—Do not denominational affiliations hinder full and free fellowship among Christian brethren?
Answer.—Yes. Denominationalism is a sign of immaturity in Christians (1 Cor. 1:10-16; 3:1-7). It would be greatly to the advantage of Christian brethren if all denominational barriers could be broken down. The different creed fences, some of which have existed for centuries and some for less than one century, are keeping Christians more or less apart. Some have high fences and others low ones, but their tendency is to separate the brethren. It would be greatly to the advantage of God’s people if they would break down these barriers and get together unsectarianly in true Bible study and brotherly fellowship.
The creeds are like many stakes, to which Christian people have been chained themselves. Why not get free from these and hold only to the Bible, harmonized from Genesis to Revelation (as it is, e.g., in the book, The Divine Plan of the Ages)—“that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:5)? Many sing, “Send out thy light and truth, O Lord; let them our leaders be,” but are unable to follow because they are chained to some creed stake. We do not desire to say anything unkind regarding any of our Christian brethren in these denominations. What we say is merely against the creeds, for they have done and are still doing a great deal of harm. If all man-made creeds were smashed, there would be a good opportunity for God’s people to come together unsectarianly to study His Word and to enjoy good Christian fellowship in the Lord and in the unity of the Spirit. ’65-6; ’99-54
Brethren—Where Should We Fellowship.
Question (1989)—Do you advise us to disconnect ourselves from our church?
Answer.—We advise you to be separate from the world. If the church with which you are connected lives in adulterous union with the world, you must, if you would keep your garments white, leave her, “hating even the garments spotted by the flesh” (Jude 23). With her condition you can have neither fellowship nor communion, and the words of Paul (2 Cor. 6:15, 18) would apply to you: “What concord hath Christ with Belial? What agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God”; “Wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you.
If on the contrary you associate with a company who live separate from, and endeavor to keep themselves unspotted from the world and are bearing true doctrines and the fruits of the spirit—meekness, gentleness, patience, godliness, brotherly-kindness, etc., be assured it is not part of Babylon. “Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together as the manner of some is, so much the more as ye see the day approaching,” but, “building up yourselves in the most holy faith . . . keep yourselves in the love of God.”
But we have a standing as individuals aside from our church standing. As individuals we have become Christ’s followers and recognize Him as our Head and Director. We have professed to have died to the world and to have become alive toward God through Jesus. Is our conduct in harmony with our covenant with Christ? Are we entirely His? Is it our meat and drink to do His will? The profession is vain unless it is true. “His servants you are, to whom you render service.”
Our day is one of peculiar temptation from the world. If our business to, workplaces or homes seem we require every moment and every energy, and we are in danger of being swallowed up by the cares of this life, which press upon us every moment, then remember Jesus’ words: “Ye cannot serve God and Mammon.” “Be not overcharged with the cares of this life.” Living in the world be not of it. ’89-14
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