LECTURE 7

 

The Unknown God

Paul at Athens.    John to the Seven Churches

Apostasy Foretold.   Reformation and Revival of the Truth

The Glorious Sequel.

 

 

“HIGH above the modern city, the blue sea seen far off between the columns, and sunlight touching the creamy marble.” So has one writer described his impression of The Parthenon.

“Descending from the Acropolis by a narrow path, an ancient staircase leads to the top, where the rock bears trace of having been artificially leveled. This is The Areopagus.”-Morton.

“In the Agora- market place in the Bible- were statues representing some of the gods of Greece. North of Agora- the Areopagus, or Mars’ Hill, a council place. The Acropolis, a rock 150 feet high, is described as a ‘museum of art, of history, and of religion.’ Overshadowing all was the Parthenon, a magnificent building, the temple of Athena, the patron goddess of the city.”-Boulton.

“Whoever (in ancient Athens) was suspected of having blood upon his hands had to abstain from approaching the common altars of the land. Accordingly, for the purpose of judgments concerning the guilt of blood, choice had been made of the barren, rocky height, which lies opposite the ascent to the citadel. The Areopagus, or, as it was interpreted by an ancient legend, Mars’ Hill, was an eminence on the western side of the Acropolis, which from time immemorable had been the seat of a highly revered court of criminal justice. Solon constituted it the guardian of the public morals and religion, to keep watch over the education and conduct of the citizens, and protect the State from the disgrace or pollution of wantonness and profaneness. These functions of the Areopagus were withdrawn from it in the time of Pericles, but were restored about B.C. 400.” “Pericles had occasion to erect on the highest point of the Acropolis, in place of the ancient Hecatompedon, a new festive edifice and treasure-house, which, by blending intimately together the ful­fillment of political and religious ends, was to serve to represent the piety and artistic culture, the wealth and the festive splendor- in fine, all the glories which Athens had achieved by her valor and her wisdom. The traditions of the earlier building were followed, and its dimensions were nor exceeded by more than 50 feet. In a breadth of 100 feet the edifice extended in the form of a temple, 226 feet from east to west; and the height, from the lowest stair to the apex of the pediment, amounted only to 65 feet. The Parthenon (for it went by this name also as the house of Athene Parthenos)” -History, by Larned.

 

 

PAUL AT ATHENS

 

TOWARDS     this place the Apostle Paul wended his way, after having preached the gospel of God, in the name of Jesus Christ, at Thessalonica and Berea. The Jews of Thessalonica, not being favorable to the work of Paul, followed the Apostle to Berea, “and stirred up the people.” The brethren sent Paul away, and they who conducted him brought Paul to Athens. The Apostle sent word “unto Silas and Timotheus for to come to him with all speed.” Now while Paul “waited for them,” he was not idle, though alone. He saw “the city wholly given to idolatry.” Paul saw the idols and the altars- manifestations of ignorance concerning “the only true God,” and the gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation, to every one who believes and obeys it.

Paul came in contact with some of the people daily in the market place. There he found Jews and Greeks, and knew well the characteristics of the Athenians. “For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.” Not by any means the better type of hearers to whom “the unsearchable riches of Christ” might be presented. They loved to hear; they loved to tell! ‘Twas sport to them; by it they whiled away the hours of day- as many still do. But to know the reason why- “to reason together” that they might understand, believe and obey, was beyond their thoughts and incli­nations.

Jews were there- men who should have been instructed in, and believed in, the knowledge of the Holy One of Israel. They should have known that there is none other God than their God! How did they feel about this apostasy? What ef­fect had all these altars and idols upon them- did they feel as Paul felt, when “his spirit was stirred in him”? Perhaps those Jews were so accustomed to seeing the sights of Athens that they simply ignored the “gods many” of their contemporaries, and closed their eyes and ears to such things. Their God was “Lord of heaven and earth;” one who “dwelleth not in temples made with hands.” What then meaneth all these temples, the work of men’s hands, to gods whom their fathers knew not? Well might the soul of Paul be stirred to action! “Therefore he disputed in the synagogue with the Jews.” That there was need, or occasion, for disputation is evi­dence that the Jews were lacking in that knowledge which Paul could impart. They had “the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law” (Rom. 2: 20), but to be ac­ceptable to God they must go beyond “the form;” for whilst professing to believe in Moses they, as a people, overlooked the essential fact that the law was added to the Abrahamic promises, “until the seed should come,” and that only by a recogni­tion of the principle embodied in the covenant with Abraham could compliance with the Mosaic Law have any bearing upon eternal life.

We have already shown that eternal life could not be obtained by the Mosaic Law alone. This is demonstrated by Paul, and conclusively stated by him, in the words, “For if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily right­eousness should have been by the law.” (Gal. 3: 21). Faithful compliance by the Jews, with the many and varied requirements of the Mosaic Law, could only give to the Jews the temporal blessing that The Law was designed to bestow; and to free them from “the curses” which were to come upon them if they failed to obey the commands of God, as set forth in The Law.

Paul therefore reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews, and also in the market daily with certain “devout persons” whom he met there. Then “certain philosophers encountered him.” They had doubtless heard of the “new thing,” which was being talked over in the market place. Some con­temptuously remarked, “what will this babbler say?” The word translated “babbler” in the A.V. is said to be a “slang term,” which means “seed-picker;” it was applied to those who went about the market-place, “picking up odds and ends.” Hence, it was not a very complimentary expression when applied to the Apostle. Of course, those who used it did not know the true value of the stranger within their gates. To them he was probably nothing more than many others who had wandered in to hear or to tell something new- a base fellow. The basis of their contempt was their own surmisings of something they did not understand. “Jesus” and “Anastasis” were un­known to those philosophers- they were aware of so-called “gods many,” and were willing to offer their respects even to unknown gods, rather than let them go with­out recognition. What more natural, then, but to conclude that “Jesus and Anasta­sis” were but more gods!

The record of these events is as follows, using Dr. Young’s translation; “Therefore, indeed, he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the wor­shipping persons, and in the market-place every day with those who met him. And certain of the Epicurean and of the Stoic philosophers, were meeting together to see him, and some were saying ‘What would this seed picker wish to say?’ and others, ‘Of strange demons he doth seem to be an announcer;’ because Jesus and the rising again he did proclaim to them as good news. Having also taken him, unto the Areo­pagus they brought him, saying, Are we able to know what is this new teaching that is spoken by thee, for certain strange things thou dost bring to our ears? We wish, then, to know what these things would wish to be; and all Athenians, and the strangers sojourning, for nothing else were at leisure but to say something, and to hear some newer thing.” (Acts 17: 17, 21).

There we see Paul, in the midst of Mars’ Hill- the highest court in Athens. We hear him challenged in this court to defend that which he had spoken of, “with spirit,” in both the synagogue and the Agora. How did this “base fellow” meet the demand? Did he quail before that assembly? By no means! He had looked upon the splendor of Athens; “the Acropolis, crowded with marble temples, and dominated by the colossal Athens;” all being adored by his questioners, whilst on his part they aroused the spirit of resentment, pity and compassion. Paul resented the idolatry, yet pitied those who were deceived thereby. He would appeal to his hearers; call atten­tion to their professions, and seek to make known “a more excellent way.” His re­sponse did not produce an excuse for their seed-picking idea. With dignity and confidence, as of one who knew in whom he had believed, Paul addressed those who surrounded him; “Men, Athenians, in all things I perceive you as over-religious; for passing through and contemplating your objects of worship, I found also an erection on which had been inscribed: To God-unknown; who, therefore- not knowing- ye do worship, this One I announce to you”

Too religious! That is something to think about! Religion without a foundation; a profession, based upon custom- but not intelligence; ignorance blinding their eyes, yet their minds soothed by tradition. Such was the apostle’s estimate of the men before him. Could he take away the veil, and help them to penetrate the density of the darkness in which he knew them to be? Whether this could be accomplished or not the Apostle nevertheless had a mes­sage to deliver, a Truth to declare and to defend. Whatever the outcome, Paul must unfold the manifold wisdom of God- the only true God; “He who formed the eyes, shall he not see.” (Psa. 94: 9).

The God in whom Paul believed and whom he served was altogether unlike the gods of the Athenians. Such gods, “like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device,” might be acceptable to the men of Athens; but the One they knew not was not of that class, as saith the Psalmist, “Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things. Paul met the case by politely referring to the position of the Athenians, “in language plain; and plain in manner; decent, solemn, chaste, and natural in gesture; much impressed himself, as conscious of his awful charge;” and then, having complimented (as they might understand it) his hearers, he quietly swept aside their “gods many” as of little account, by directing their attention to their own admission of “One Unknown.” Whom there­fore ye ignorantly worship! This they could not resent, for had they not engraven it upon the altar? It was something they could not speak of- they knew it not. But Paul knew, and of it he could speak with authority. Not by “seed-picking,” but by revelation from the Most High God; Hence his confidence. This he displayed in his affirmative defense, which he submitted in answer to the request, “May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is?” Having, as it were, noted and then dismissed from view their “devotions,” or, gods that ye worship, Paul- with the same calm certainty we saw given “In the beginning”- affirms “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being.”

Would the Athenian intelligence object to this claim, presented to them with­out hesitation or apology? Paul did not wait to hear from them, but emphasized his announcement by calling upon their own writers to second his claim “As certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.” The seed-pickings of this “babbler” did not give offal for meat; but gems from their own recognized poets; at least two of whom are known to have used that expression in their works- Aretas and Cleanthes. Basing his logical conclusion upon the word of their poets, Paul continued; “Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.” Such was the difference between “the gods that ye, Athenians worship,” and “the only true God” worshipped and served by Paul.

The “men of Athens,” though ignorant of the knowledge of the God of Israel, had by their altar to The Unknown God, in effect admitted their ignorance. Paul had reasoned with the Jews at Athens, as he previously had done at Antioch. There he had spoken of the hope of the promise made of God unto the fathers, and had shown how God, of David’s seed, “hath according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus.” Paul had demonstrated the association of Jesus with the Covenants of pro­mise; had made known the death of Christ, and also His resurrection “according to the sure mercies of David.” In his development of this theme, from the lesser to the greater- from the shadow to the substance, the Apostle affirmed concerning Jesus “that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.” (Acts 13: 38, 39). This was an extension of the Gospel beyond the confines of Israel, not acceptable to the Jews, who, seeing “the whole city to­gether to hear the word of God,” spake against Paul. This brought from Paul and Barnabas a very important statement; “It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.

Hitherto the word of God was “to the Jews, first.” The Gentiles were in “times of ignorance;” the offer of salvation not being extended to them. They were in this sense “overlooked;” but now, they were being invited, under the mercy and favor of God, to “come out of the world” of ungodliness “and be separate unto God.” Such, indeed, is the power and purpose of the Gospel. The word “commandeth” in the A.V. has been misunderstood, and consequently misapplied. Acts 17: 30 is not primarily of individual application, it is a statement of contrast; for whereas in time past the development of God’s Plan had centered in Israel- the people of whom God said, “You only have I known”- it was no longer so confined. It was now to “All men everywhere.”

Now it was to “Jew and Greek, bond and free, male and female;” all of these being “one in Christ Jesus” if, and when, they responded to the call of the Gospel to repent. For whilst the extension is “to all men everywhere,” only they who re­spond by repentance (under the terms of the Gospel) are brought nigh to God. The true sense of the verse under consideration is given in the margin of the R.V. “de­clareth to men.”  “The times of this ignorance God therefore overlooked; but now He declareth to men that they should all everywhere repent; because He hath ap­pointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He appointed; whereof He gave assurance to all men, by raising him from the dead.” -The Corrected English New Testament.

The diplomacy of Paul is here manifest. He did not agree with Athenian con­ceptions of religion; of all their “objects of worship” he was interested in one only, and that THE ONE they did not understand. And yet he did not openly condemn their folly; for like his Master, he “came not to condemn, but to save.” (John 3: 17; 12: 47). Nevertheless, if his audience had “eyes to see” they could not fail to perceive the meaning of Paul’s dissertation. They admitted, by their altar to The Unknown, their ignorance. Paul stated that they had lived in times of ignorance, and therefore met their incapacity. And now he called upon them to respond to something really “new.” They were “to repent,” i.e. change their minds. What incentive could Paul give to them that they should so repent? Anyone who really understands the Gospel of the Kingdom can give the answer to that question. The gospel of salvation holds out a hope of recompense to all who truly respond to it, and are guided by its principles. “Believe and obey, is the gospel’s command, To all who would live and inherit the land.” The incentive is found in “the day of the Lord,” and spoken of by Paul to those who were still ignorant of the “kingdom to come.” “Because he hath ap­pointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.”

It was then, and still is, a future Day in which One who had been raised from the dead was destined to rule the world in righteousness- a quality then, as now, conspicuous by its absence. And what would be the part in this coming Day, of those who should “repent,” believe and obey? As the Gospel is fully understood the answer comes, clarion clear; “Thou has made us unto our God kings and priests; and we shall reign on the earth.” (Rev. 5: 10). Even so, as a prophet has spoken, “Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment.” (Isa. 32: 1). “He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with judgment.” (Psa. 72: 2). In presenting this thought (verse 31) the Apostle was saying none other than what had previously been heard, in the synagogue and the market; there he had “preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection.” It was beyond their ken, for “when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked:” whilst others said, “We will hear thee again of this matter.” So Paul departed from among them.

 

 

THE UNKNOWN GOD REVEALED

 

THE DIFFERENCE- between those “gods, which are yet no gods” (Jer. 16: 20) and “the only true God” (John 17: 3)- is picturesquely described by the Psalm­ist, “Wherefore should the heathen say (of Israel), Where is now their God? Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: They have ears, but they hear not: names have they, but they smell not: They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat. They that make them are like unto them; so is everyone that trusteth in them. But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.” (Psa. 115: 28). The prophet also; “They that make a graven image are all of them vanity: Who hath formed a god, or molten a graven image that is profitable for nothing? The smith with the tongs. The carpenter stretcheth out his rule. He heweth him down cedars, and taketh cypress and the oak; he planteth an ash, and the rain doth nourish it. Then shall it be for a man to burn: for he will take thereof, and warm himself, yea, he kindleth it, and baketh bread; yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto.” BUT ISRAEL’S GOD SAITH, “I am the Lord that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spread­eth abroad the earth by myself; That frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad; and maketh their knowledge foolish; That confirmeth the word of his servant, and performeth the counsel of his messengers.” (Isa. 44).

Man cannot “by searching find out God,” even though he delve into some of the manifestations of infinite power. Just as “Eye hath not seen . . . the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (and would know nothing of them apart from divine revelation) so it is regarding God Himself; we may only know that which it pleases God to reveal, even as the Apostle continues; “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit.” ( l Cor. 2: 9,10). We join with Paul in his testimony; “We know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth (as there be gods many, and lords many), But to us there is but one God, the Father of whom are all things, and we in him.” (l Cor. 8: 5, 6). Of this “one God” we read,

 

“God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent; hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (Num. 23: 19).

“There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun, who rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellency on the sky.  The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms; and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say Destroy,” (Deut. 33: 26).

“The fool hath said in his heart. There is no God.  God is in the genera­tion of the righteous.” (Psa. 14: 1, 5).

“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They have not called upon God.” (Psa. 53: 1, 4).

“O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, that dwelleth between the cherubims, thou art the God, thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth: thou hast made heaven and earth.” (Isa. 37: 16).

“Thus saith the Lord the King of Israel, and his redeemer the Lord of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God. And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for me, since I appointed the ancient people?” (Isa. 44: 6, 7). “Is there a God beside? Yea, there is no God; I know not any,” (verse 8).

“Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, ye that are escaped of the nations: they have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save.  Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time?  Who hath told it from that time? have not I the Lord? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; none beside me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.” (Isa. 45: 20, 22).

“To whom will ye liken me, and make me equal and compare me, that we may be like?” Who indeed? Now note the contrast, “They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver in the balance, and hire a goldsmith; and he maketh it a god: they fall down, yea, they worship. They bear him upon the shoulder, they carry him, and set him in his place, and he standeth; from his place shall he not remove; yea, one shall cry unto him, yet can he not answer, nor save him out of his trouble.” A challenge to all; “Remember this.” With whom can we compare the only true God? “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure? I have spoken, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.” (Isa. 46: 5, 11).

“For I am God, and not man.” (Hosea 11:9).

“Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he.” (Mark 12: 29, 32).

“For God is not of confusion, but of peace.” (1 Cor. 14: 33).

 

It is written, “No man hath seen God at any time.” (John 1: 18). We may therefore know Him only by revelation, and by the characteristics and attributes made known in such revelation. Jesus was the manifestation of God, hence the verse just quoted continues, “the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” Jesus, who was “God with us,” exclaimed, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14: 9).  Yet no one by simply looking at The Man known as Jesus (whether as a babe, man, or in the tomb) would necessarily “see the Father.”  This is implied in the words of Jesus to the disciple who had questioned Him; “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip?  The true sense of “seeing” and “knowing” is revealed by Simeon’s acclamation when he took up “the child Jesus,” whom he recognized as “the Lord’s Christ,” and said, “For mine eyes have seen thy salvation.” Therefore Jesus said to Philip, “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself; but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.  Believe me for the very works’ sake.”

If, then, we would know something of THE UNKNOWN GOD we must see Him in His manifestation, and know Him by His attributes.  These are many and varied, yet they all reveal something of His character, in relation to His Plan and Purpose in the earth. A brief consideration of some of these is now submitted.

 

 

THE ONLY TRUE GOD IS THE CREATOR

 

“REMEMBER now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them.” (Eccles. 12: 1).

Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.” (Isa. 40: 28).

“Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.” (I Pet. 4: 19)

 

GOD IS ALSO FATHER.

“At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.  Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.” (Matt. 11: 25).

“Wait for the promise of the Father, which ye have heard of me.” (Acts 1: 4).

“Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father.” (Rom. 6: 4).

“To them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called.” (Jude 1).

“After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name.” (Matt. 6: 9).

 

GOD IS ETERNAL.

“And Abraham planted a grove in Beersheba, and called there on the name of the Lord, the everlasting God.” (Gen. 21: 33).

“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth, and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” (Psa. 90: 2).

“But the Lord is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king.” (Jer. 10: 10).

“Art thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God, mine Holy One?” (Hab. 1: 12).

“Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever.” (1 Tim. 1: 17).

 

GOD IS ALMIGHTY.

“The Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.” (Gen. 17: 1).

“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psa. 91: 1).

“Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come.” (Joel 1: 15).

“And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”  (2 Cor. 6: 18).

“Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of Saints.” (Rev. 15: 3).

 

GOD IS FAITHFUL.

“Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; for he is faithful that promised.” (Heb. 10: 23).

“Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations.” (Deut. 7: 9).

“Blessed be the Lord; there hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant.” (1 Kings 8: 56).

“Nevertheless my loving kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.” (Psa. 89: 33).

“Thy faithfulness is unto all generations.” (Psa. 119: 90).

“God is faithful.” (1 Cor. 1: 9).

“Faithful is he that calleth you.” (1 Thess. 5: 24).

 

GOD IS HOLY.

“For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.” (Luke 1: 49).

“For I am the Lord your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy.” (Lev. 11: 44).

“But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation.” (1. Pet. 1: 15).

“The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.” (Psa. 145: 17).

 

GOD IS IMMUTABLE.

“And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent.” (1 Sam. 15: 29).

“The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.” (Psa. 33: 11).

“For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven.” (Psa. 119: 89).

“For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” (Mal. 3: 6).

“Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath.” (Heb. 6: 17).

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (Jas. 1: 17).

 

GOD IS INVISIBLE.

“Oh that I knew where I might find him! Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him:  On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see: but he knoweth the way that I take.” (Job 23: 3, 10).

“No man hath seen God at any time.” (John 1:18).

"Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.” (John 5:37).

“Who is the image of the invisible God?” (Col. 1: 15).

“Whom no man hath seen nor can see.” (I Tim. 6: 16).

“By faith, as seeing him who is invisible.” (Heb. 11: 27).

 

GOD IS OMNIPRESENT.

“Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.” (Psa. 139: 7, 10).

“Am I a God at hand, and not a God afar off?” (Jer. 23: 23).

 

GOD IS OMNISCIENT.

“For the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, and he pondereth all his goings.” (Prov. 5: 21).

“O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me, Thou knowest my down­sitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether.” (Psa. 139: 1-6).

“Thus saith the Lord; Thus have ye said, O house of Israel: for I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them.” (Ezek. 11: 5).

 

GOD IS UNSEARCHABLE.

“Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is un­searchable.” (Psa. 145: 3).

“Canst thou by searching find out God?”  (Job. 11: 7).

“Then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because though a man labour to seek it out, yet shall he not find it; yea farther; though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it.” (Eccles. 8: 17).

“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” (Rom. 11: 33).

 

GOD IS JEALOUS.

“Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them (other gods), nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God.” (Exod. 20: 5).

“For they provoked him to anger with their high places, and moved him to jealousy with their graven images.” (Psa. 78: 58).

“Then will the Lord be jealous for his land, and pity his people.” (Joel 2: 18).

 

GOD IS MERCIFUL AND GRACIOUS.

“The Lord God, merciful and gracious, long suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.” (Exod. 34: 6).

“Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful.” (Psa 116: 5).

“For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee. Full of         compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.” (Psa. 86: 5,15).

“If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”(l Pet. 2: 3).

“Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” (Luke 6: 36).

“For his mercy endureth for ever.” (Psa. 136).

“The Lord is gracious; slow to anger, and of great mercy.” (Psa. 145: 8).

 

GOD HEARS HIS PEOPLE

“I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry.” (Exod. 3: 7).

“Jesus said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always.” (John 11: 41).

Jesus “was heard in that he feared.” (Heb. 5: 7).

“Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name.” (Mal. 3: 16).

 

BUT BAAL COULD NOT HEAR!

“O Baal, hear us.” “Cry aloud,” said Elijah, “for he is a god; peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.” And they cried aloud, until evening, but “there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.” (1 Kings 18).

 

 

GOD, BOTH NEAR AND FAR

 

“AM I a God, at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off? Can any hide him­self in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord. How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? Which think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams which they tell every man to his neighbour, as their fathers have forgotten my name for Baal. He that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord.” (Jer. 23: 23, 28).

 

 

A SUBLIME PRAYER

 

THIS phase of our theme is brought to a close with the sublime utterance of a King, in the prayer of Solomon at the dedication of the temple; who said, “Lord God of Israel, there is no God like thee, in heaven above, or on earth beneath, who keepest covenant and mercy with thy servants that walk before thee with all their heart? And now, O God of Israel, let thy word, I pray thee, be verified, which thou spakest unto thy servant David my father. But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded? Yet have thou respect unto the prayer of thy servant, and to his supplication, O Lord my God; And hearken thou to the supplication of thy servants, and of thy people Israel, when they shall pray toward this place: and hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place: and when thou hearest, forgive. Blessed be the Lord, that hath given rest unto his people Israel, according to all that he promised: there hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant. Maintain the cause of thy servant, and of thy people Israel. That all the people of the earth may know that the Lord is God, and none else.” (I Kings 8).

 

 

JOHN TO THE SEVEN CHURCHES (ECCLESIAS*)

[*  We have included the word “ecclesia” as the proper word to use in place of “church”.  The word ecclesia (from the original Greek “ekklesiai”) represents an assembly of “called out ones”, while “church” signifies “pertaining to a lord” and is no the intended meaning of the scriptures.]

 

ONE OF THE BEAUTIES OF THE BIBLE is that of type and antitype, of the greater being contained in the lesser. Especially is this found in the Law of Moses. We find it expressed in the following quotation; “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” (John 1: 17). “Grace and truth” are much greater than the letter of The Law, yet in The Law is to be found “the form of knowledge and of truth.” To find these two valuables one must see the “form” and discern the hidden meaning and application. It is to this relative value of heaven­ly things that Paul wrote; “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples (or, types); and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” (1 Cor. 10: 11). And further, “For there was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary (or, holy)” (Heb. 9: 2). Of the priests, under The Law, we read; “Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, see, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.” (Heb. 8: 5).

From the pattern, then, we may find something, in that “long ago,” relative to the ecclesias. From the many instructions given to Moses we take the following; “Let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.” “And thou shalt make a candlestick of pure gold: of beaten work shall the candlestick be made: his shaft, and his branches, his bowls, his knops, and his flowers, shall be of the same, And six branches shall come out of the sides of it; three branches of the candlestick out of the one side, and three branches of the candlestick out of the other side: Three bowls made like unto almonds, with a knop and a flower in one branch; and three bowls made like almonds in the other branch, with a knop and a flower: so in the six branches that come out of the candlestick.” (Exod. 25: 31, 33). In chapter 37, we are told, “And he made the candlestick of pure gold:” the bowls, the knops, and flowers. “Their knops and their branches were of the same: all of it was one beaten work of pure gold. Seven lamps, his snuffer, and snuffdishes, of pure gold. Of a talent of pure gold made he it, and all the vessels thereof.”

The weight thereof was approximately 108 lbs. Tables of values vary from £5,475 to £6,150, or $27,375 to $29,940. Seven lamps were to rest on the branches and candlestick; and “pure oil olive beaten for the light to cause the lamp to burn always” was to be provided. “Command the children of Israel, that they bring unto thee pure oi1 olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamps to burn con­tinually. Without the vail of the testimony, in the tabernacle of the congregation, shall Aaron order it from the evening unto the morning before the Lord, continually: a statute for ever in your generations. He shall order the lamps upon the pure candlestick before the Lord continually.” (Lev. 24: 2, 4). Thus the candlestick of pure gold, and the burning of pure oil, were to be a lightstand                                    before the Lord; daily replenishment was required, and this was to be “ordered,” or supplied, by the appointed priests. Without the constant replenishment, of the beaten oil, the candlestick would fail to be a lightstand.

The world has moved apace since the day of types, and many changes have taken place. About fifteen hundred years after the giving of the law, regarding the candle­stick, we hear the apostle Peter declare to, and of, Jesus, the Savior of men; “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This “confession” was, indeed, a rock of Eternal Truth, and of it Jesus said: “flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” It was acknowledged to be a God given Truth, and therefore, “I say also,” declared Jesus, “upon this rock I will build my church" (or ecclesia).

Now the “church” is not a building made with hands- such a place may “house” the church (ecclesia), as the tabernacle contained the candlestick. The Church (Ecclesia) of Christ is com­posed of men and women, who become the antitypical candlestick. However, the men-and-women-constituents of the Ecclesia must be infused with the beaten oil, “pure olive,” before they become the Lightstand. And as the oil burns and is gone- therefore in need of daily replenishment- so the Word of the Living God, which is the Light of Life, must continually be supplied to the members of the Ecclesia; other­wise they will fail to “let their light so shine.” They are therefore instructed how to behave in the house of God, “which is the church (ecclesia) of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” (1 Tim. 3: 15). Paul wrote, “to the church (ecclesia) in thy house.” (Philemon 2). “Unto the churches (ecclesias) of Galatia.” And to “the church (ecclesia) of the Thessalon­ians” Whilst to the believers at Ephesus, he wrote, “And gave him to be the head over all things to the Church (the Ecclesia), which is his body.

The unity, which should exist between Christ and His Ecclesia, is very pointedly expressed in an analogy based upon the true relationship of husband and wife. “Christ is the head of the church (ecclesia).” “As the church (ecclesia) is subject unto Christ.” “Even as Christ also loved the church (ecclesia), and gave himself for it.” “That he might present it to himself a glorious church (ecclesia).” (Eph. 5).

We can now see Christ in the candlestick, and the members of His body, the ecclesia, in the branches. Together they constitute the Lightstand in a dark and cloudy day. Yet the branches cannot- in and of themselves- bear fruit, and the light of divine Truth springs not from themselves. It can only come from God, in Christ. Hence, the beautiful simile; “I am the true Vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot beat fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” (John 15: 1, 5).

 

“LO, I AM WITH YOU ALWAY”

 

WE have seen that the Plan of God has been a development by stages. Often these have been accompanied by outstanding manifestations from God. “The flam­ing sword which turned every way.” Angelic visitations to the “fathers.” “A flame of fire out of the midst of a bush,” which attracted the attention of Moses, who won­dered why the bush was not consumed. Plagues upon the Egyptians, and the Passover for the Hebrews. Moses and the mount of God, when “a cloud covered the mount. And the glory of the Lord abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days: And the sight of the glory of the Lord was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel.” There are many other incidents. With the open­ing of New Testament times we have “the Star in the East.” Shepherds abiding in the field, when “the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them,” making them “sore afraid.” In the midst of their fear a voice bringing “good tidings of great joy;” followed by angelic strains from “a multitude of the heavenly host,” which, in praise to God, sang the Song of songs, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

Thirty-three years later, “there was a darkness over all the land, from the sixth hour until the ninth hour; and the sun was darkened.” “And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.” Equally outstanding was His ascension, when Jesus “was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.” Now before Jesus left them, He had said to His apostles, “Behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” (Luke 24: 49).

A new development was about to be manifest. The “old” was ready to vanish away, and a new order to be seen. Would the “new” come without open manifestation? Or would there be a heavenly witness to substantiate the claim? The time was draw­ing near for the extension of the gospel to those hitherto considered “afar off.” Even the disciples had lost heart when their Lord was crucified; and although they had later seen the Risen Lord- by which they had been “begotten again unto a lively hope”- it would not be easy to convert either Jew or Gentile simply by expressing their own experience, which had given them this living hope. These things were not unknown to their Master, who had given them a commission to fulfill. So, in addition to com­manding them “to tarry,” that the “promise of the Father” might be fulfilled, and that thereby they would be the recipients of “power from on high,” Jesus said, “Go ye therefore, and teach all, nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world (age).”

The Jewish world, and Apostolic age, would both come to an end; but while they continued, the work of the gospel must be enforced. Even though Jesus, in person, was to be taken from them, He gave assurance to His chosen witnesses that they would not be forsaken; He would be with them “to the consummation of the age.” How, or, by what means? That they would learn by experience, if they “tarried” in Jerusalem.

This “waiting for” is emphasized in the record of The Ascension as given in Acts 1. “And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which ye have heard of me.” Their minds being fixed upon the restoration of “the Kingdom to Israel,” the disciples asked their Lord concerning “the time” therefore; only to be informed “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons.” Before the kingdom could be restored, they had a work to perform; to which work they must give full attention. Though not receiving the information they requested, they were encour­aged by these words; “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

Having seen “the cloud receive Him out of their sight,” and heard the testimony of the “two men in white apparel” concerning “His coming again,” the disciples re­turned to Jerusalem from Mt. Olivet. There they were to remain “until” the event which had been foretold came to pass; for, “when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.”

As the “burning bush” and the “pillar of fire” in the past were God-manifesta­tions, so now in the “divided tongues, as it were of fire,” God was made known to the disciples, even as Jesus had said. The result was as foretold; “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” The effect was soon known, for the multitude- having heard of it- came together, and were amazed, saying, “How hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?” God, who could confound the language of man, could also empower His servants that they could speak with diversity of tongues, so that they could carry the Gospel of Christ, even to “the uttermost part of the earth.”

This pentecostal manifestation is depicted on the third section of the chart, showing its relation to Acts 1, Mark 16: 19; and Matt. 28: 19. Under the power of the Holy Spirit these men went forth and preached the Gospel.  The record of their work, given in The Acts of the Apostles, shows how, and where, by this means the Ecclesia of God in Christ was established. When, today, we note the many sects and denominations which claim to labor under the banner of Christen­dom, are we not justified in asking:  Did the Church of Christ, as established through the ministry of the   Apostles, continue down through the ages secure upon the foundations upon which it was built?

 

 

JESUS, TO THE ECCLESIA

 

THE LAST MESSAGE from One “like unto the Son of man,” in the midst of  "Seven lightstands," known as The Revelation of Jesus Christ, was sent through John to the “Seven Churches in Asia.” Though to “seven,” with the distinct mes­sage to each, we may look upon these as representative of the whole- the one Eccle­sia in Christ. What does the message reveal concerning the faithfulness and solidity of the Ecclesias in regard to the doctrine “according to godliness,” upon which they had been founded?  Does the Book of “The Revelation” speak in any wise contrary to the testimony of the Apostles, in the various Epistles, contained in the New Testament?

We will consider some of the Statements in the Epistles later; but first, the message “to the seven ecclesias.”

 

 

TO THE ECCLESIA OF EPHESUS WRITE:

“These things saith he who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks.” The Message was delivered about 63 years after the Pentecostal demonstration of Spirit manifestation.  “I know thy works,” said the Master, “and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars.”

 

Had not Jesus told them that, “false prophets would arise, by whom many would be deceived” (Matt. 24:11)?  Of these they were to “beware,” for they would come “in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” (Matt. 7: 15). These false teachers had reached Ephesus; they had been tested, and stripped of their “sheep’s clothing,” and their wolf-like characteristics exposed.  This was a good work, for the injunction to “try the saints whether they are of God” was given by John. But that was not all; the church at Ephesus had left its first love, and con­sequently was not “in tune” with God as it should have been.  Having so “fallen,” it was called upon to “repent, and do the first works”; if this “change” was not quickly shown, “I will come unto thee, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place.” To their credit, it was added, “This thou hast, that thou hatest the, deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.”  These destroyers of the people undermined the faith of some by their false doctrines.

 

IN THE MESSAGE TO THE ECCLESIA IN SMYRNA reference is made to the tribulation, which they in that place had suffered, caused by “the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but the synagogue of Satan.”

 

TO THE ELDER OF THE ECCLESIA IN PERGAMOS write: The ecclesia here was commended for having held “fast my name, and not denied my faith.” Even though they were “where Satan’s seat is. Yet there was something against them;

“Thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to Cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacri­ficed unto idols, and to commit fornication.  So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate.”

 

WAS THE ECCLESIA IN THYATIRA ANY BETTER?

“I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.”

 

OF THE ECCLESIA IN SARDIS IT WAS WRITTEN: “Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. I have not found thy works perfect before God.”

 

TO THE ELDER OF THE ECCLESIA IN PHILADELPHIA WRITE:

“I know thy works: thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name- Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet and to know that I have loved thee” And now the seventh!

UNTO THE ELDER OF THE ECCLESIA OF THE LAODICEANS WRITE:

“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.  Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.”

 

Well might the mandate go forth “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” The outstanding exhortation given to the ecclesias is,  “Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” Did they do so?

 

 

A FALLING AWAY HAD BEEN FORETOLD

 

IT CAME TO PASS AS FORETOLD!  Read the testimony!  First a ques­tion:  “When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” What faith?  Certainly not any kind of faith- for the world is full of such. But here is a pertinent question, appertaining to a definite faith.

 

The faith that made Thy saints of old

In patience to endure;

The Hope which in the cov’nant fold,

Beholds the promise sure.

 

“Shall we find the faith?” (Luke 18: 8).  The “one faith” (Eph. 4: 5).  “The faith once for all delivered unto the saints.” (Jude 3). That ONE FAITH, of which Paul wrote, “continue in the faith grounded and settled, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature under heaven.” (Col. 1: 23). This “faith” is one which can save; “For by grace are ye saved through faith.” (Eph. 2: 8). But, to bring salvation, the faith of the gospel must not be neglected. “By which ye are being saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye believed in vain.” (l Cor. 15: 2). Can such a faith “which justifies” (Rom. 3: 28) be found?

 

“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day (of Christ) shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.” (2 Thess. 2: 3, 4). “Therefore, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or by our epistle.” (Verse 15).

“From Miletus he (Paul) sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church;” to whom he said, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased nor to warn every one night and day with tears. (Acts 20: 17, 28, 31).

“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” (2 Cor. 11: 13, 15).

“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.” (l Tim. 4: 1, 3).

“I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffer­ing and doctrine.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (2 Tim. 4: 1, 4).

“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 Spirit.” (2 Pet. 2: 1, 3). “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you! whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.” (2 Pet. 2: 1, 3).

 

The false teachers arose; men who had professed to believe the gospel of Christ denied the Lord, whose Name they had “taken in vain.” They drew away disciples after them. Instead of avoiding profane and vain babblings, they were caught by the “opposition of science falsely so called.” (1 Tim. 6: 20). Consequently, “some professing have erred concerning the faith.” This declension from the True Faith was at work even whilst the Apostles were preaching the Truth. Paul wrote: “All they which are in Asia be turned away from me.” (2 Tim. 7: 15).

John wrote: “And as ye have heard that anti-christ shall come, even now are there many anti-christs; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us but they were not of us. Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is anti-christ, that denieth the Father and the Son.” (I John 2: 18, 22).   “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false Prophets are gone out into the world. This is that of anti­christ, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. We are of God: Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.” (I John 4: 1, 6). “For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an anti-christ. Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God.” (2 John 7, 9). “I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.” (3 John 9, 10).

 

 

LIGHT SHINING THROUGH THE DARKNESS

 

THUS THE ECCLESIA, established upon the rock of Truth- and the Lightstand, so dramatically brought into being at Pentecost, fed and fostered by the arduous labors of the apostles- became extinguished by the perversions of men who had professed allegiance thereto. The Ecclesia became defiled in the first century of its existence, and Truth was crushed to earth. WOULD IT EVER RISE AGAIN? Time would tell. Meanwhile the light of the glorious gospel, which had shone “in a dark place,” was dimmed by the apostasy; and what is written concerning Israel could be applied to what is spoken of as “the Christian dispensation”; “Behold, darkness covered the earth, and gross darkness the people.

(This is represented, pictorially, in the lightstand- upside down- with the branches broken.)

Fortunately, for many who have in these last days of Gentile times, the Sun of Righteousness, and the ecclesiastical “moon,” were destined to rise again before the return of the Lord of the vineyard. In the prophecy of Daniel we are informed that certain words were to be “shut up,” and the command was given to “seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased If this latter phase had not been accomplished we would not now be able to preach the ancient gospel. Darkness reigned supreme for many centuries; then came The Reformation, and with it the Bible became a Book for the people. Once freed from the darkness, and control of “the man of sin,” the Bible became a household word and possession. Liberty of religion was claimed, fought for, and obtained. Men and women could read the Book of Books for themselves, and accept the teaching thereof according to their own understanding and conviction.

As The Christadelphians testified, on an outstretched banner, during the Jubilee celebrations, “The Glory of Queen Victoria’s reign is an Open Bible.” And yet, although the Bible is circulated by the millions, it is not a guarantee that all who read the Word of God will correctly interpret its message. When Protestantism freed itself, from the thraldom of Romanism, it did not cast off all the errors, which had accumulated during the dark ages. Much of the false still remains, even out of Rome, in the many sects, which abound in all the earth. Yet a knowledge of the Truth as in Jesus was to be revived, that a people might be in the earth when the Lord returns from heaven. “For,” says Paul, “we who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not precede those who are asleep.” (1 Thess. 4: 5). Hence, Daniel was informed, “the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.

THE HISTORY OF THE CHRISTADELPHIANS, during the past century, is an illustration of how, in these last days- “the time of the end” -there has been a revival of the true teaching of the Scriptures, concerning the Kingdom of God, and the Name of Jesus Christ. Dogmas, long held by many, have been shown to have no foundation in the definite doctrines of both Old and New Testament teaching. These they have therefore rejected. On the other hand, by a careful investiga­tion, and a comparison of what is revealed in “the Law, the Psalms, and the prophets,” they have unfolded a clear and consistent exposition of the first principles of the oracles of God.” These “things” they believe and teach as the true message of Salvation- the ancient and Apostolic Gospel. By this understanding of “the hope of the promises made of God unto the fathers,” and the realization that all the promises of God are centered in Jesus Christ, as the seed of Abraham and the Son of David, as well as the Son of God, they have come to “know God”; according to His revelation of Himself. Theories and misconceptions concerning “the Godhead,” handed down from days of darkness, they have discarded; they base their belief entirely upon the principle of “What is written,” or, “What saith the Scriptures?” As John says, “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (17: 3).

It is therefore possible to know “the unknown God.” That which “the wisdom of this world” could not find, is to be found by those who, though “the poor of this world,” are, nevertheless, “rich in faith.” God is made known, in a great measure by and through Jesus Christ. “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” When Thomas said, “Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?” He received, from Jesus, this answer: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Hence to know the Father we must understand the truth concerning the Son. “If ye had known me,” con­tinued Jesus, “Ye should have known my Father also”- but there were some things even the disciples were slow to perceive. In what sense could they, when seeing the Son, also see the Father? Any theory, which affirms that the Father and the Son are “one person,” misses the mark. That is an incomprehensible impossibility. Jesus taught, “Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works sake.”

Upon what principle could they believe in Jesus “for the works sake,” if, when rejecting His claims, they also rejected God? For this they would do if the Father and Son were One Person indivisible! Jesus maintained the separateness of Persons, although teaching the unity of the two in the work performed. “The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. For my Father is greater than I Such is the teaching of John, in Chapter 14 of his gospel record. It is further set forth in these words: “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” The Jews misunderstood Jesus, which fact called forth the following explanation: “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” (John 5: 17, 19).

We see the work of God accomplished through the Son, by reason of the Holy Spirit; this Spirit was given to Jesus from the Father “without measure.” The Spirit of God is not God, but of God. The Spirit of God, as we have seen, operated in the beginning. As in “creation,” so also in “re-creation”; it is the spirit of God, mani­fested in His Son, that operates to turn men from darkness to light, and the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” (Acts 26: 18). Before we may be “turned,” we must have the scales removed; for the first thing Paul was com­missioned to do, was, “to open their eyes.” Before the eyes are opened by the gospel all are in “darkness,” under “the power of the adversary,” needing the forgiveness of sins; all are without a title to that “inheritance” which is promised to those- and they only- who are sanctified by the one faith; without which it is impossible to please God. All in this position (which comes to all by natural birth) are there­fore according to Paul “without Christ”- without a Savior; “having no hope, and without God in the world.” (Eph. 2: 12).

 

 

“COME OUT” – “BE SEPARATE”

 

A GLORIOUS SEQUEL to the knowledge of the only true God, and “the faith of the operation of God,” is declared- by Paul- to be: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” (2 Cor. 5: 17, 19).

This involves all that is embraced in the Plan of Salvation. It is a call to action. “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” (2 Cor. 6: 17, 18).  If, and when, we respond to this call, and are therefore known of God, a gracious transformation takes place. With the Apostle John we can say: “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is."

 

 

ONCE NOT - BUT NOW THE SONS OF GOD

 

IF the true believers in Jesus can say, “NOW are we the Sons of God,” it is obvious that at one time they were not sons of God. If all by natural birth are “sons” from what must they “come out, and be separate”- that God might receive them, and be a Father unto them? If today, as in the time of the Apostle, it is true that “the whole world lieth in wickedness” (I John 5: 19), it is evident that to obtain the favor and mercy of God we must “come out” of the world- we must discard the doctrines of men, which are not “according to godliness,” and must believe that only which is truth, “as in Jesus.” This is set forth by the Apostle, who wrote, “He that hath the Son hath life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. Hence some have “life” in another, and higher, sense than others. These latter are all who have not truly “believed.”

The Apostle continues, “These things have I written unto you that believe on the Son of God.” That belief is essential in this matter is clearly seen from many testimonies. The same Apostle gives one: "Whosever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” Without such belief men and women are not “born of God,” and without a "birth" they are not the children of God. The way is made known by and in, the Gospel. The Apostle says, “We know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.” (1 John 5: 1, 12, 13, 20).

 

A RICH REWARD

 

HE WHO WOULD BE SAVED will therefore seek to “understand,” that he may “believe,” and be “born of God,” through His Son Jesus Christ. Paul also teaches the same doctrine as that which is given by John. “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” “If children, then heirs.” Even so, this relationship will cause them “to suffer with him.” Consequently, the sufferings- “which are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us”- are an incentive to make the “joint-heirs with Christ” look forward to the day of promise, when the blessings will be received. “For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.” Meanwhile, as they patiently “wait for him,” they are encouraged by the exhortation given, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” If “For thy sake we are killed all the day long,” are we to permit tribulation and distress of any kind to separate us from the eternal riches, which are the inheritance of the children of God? Paul says, No! “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” Paul himself suffered; yet he could say, “None of these things move me.” So full of confidence was he in God, that he knew whatever God had promised would be fulfilled; and therefore was truly “persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, not height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 



* We have included the word “ecclesia” as the proper word to use in place of “church”.  The word ecclesia (from the original Greek “ekklesiai”) represents an assembly of “called out ones”, while “church” signifies “pertaining to a lord” and is not the intended meaning of the scriptures. In Eureka, Vol. 1, Logos Ed., p. 120, John Thomas states “we exclude church from our apocalyptic vocabulary, and hold on to the word used by the apostles”.  In select places where “church” appears, we have replaced with “ecclesia”.