Month: July 2014

GOD'S PROVISION FOR TROUBLED TIMES

GOD'S PROVISION FOR TROUBLED TIMES

images2“GOD GIVES US, not a spirit of timidity, but of power, and of love, and of sanity. You may not be ashamed, then, of the testimony of our Lord, nor yet of me, His prisoner, but suffer evil with the evangel in accord with the power of God, Who saves us and calls us with a holy calling, not in accord with our acts, but in accord with His own purpose and the grace which is given to us in Christ Jesus before times eonian…” (2 Tim.1:7-9).

Here we have the spirit which should characterize our ministry in the last days. Second Timothy is particularly important for the Lord’s slaves in this era, for it is especially adapted to these times. This passage, and others in this precious epistle were burned into my heart during my earliest ministry, and they have influenced my course powerfully ever since.

God has given us a spirit of sanity. Perhaps no quality is so absent in the teaching of Christendom today, or in the popular interpretations of the Scriptures. Even advanced saints feel that a divine revelation must be veiled in mysticism, and faith consists in a credulous acceptance of hazy superstitions which violate the instincts of a sane mind. Fanaticism has taken the place of faith. Sanity demands a careful comparison of “faith” with the written records God has given, for all faith is false which is not based upon them. Let us reject every spirit which conflicts with the utmost sanity. This is not reasoning. It is simply mental health, the rejection of the fanciful, the fictitious, and the false.

God has not given us a spirit of timidity. This is a difficult lesson for some of us to learn. Being constitutionally timid, we hesitate and fear to take a bold stand in our testimony for God. We ask ourselves, Is it not presumption, and contrary to the spirit of love? Will it not be mistaken for self-assertion, and perfectionism, and absolutism, and arrogance? Undoubtedly it will. Even our fellow-slaves will tell us that it is not the spirit of Christ. But we must distinguish between our walk in general and our testimony to the truth. If we testify concerning ourselves we may well be backward. But if we hold aloft the banner of God’s Word, we have every reason to be confident and courageous. With joyous assurance let us do like Peter, who has recently denied his Lord three times, when he charges his fellow countrymen, “Ye denied the holy One….” If we look to ourselves we will be timid, but if we look to Him, timidity will be transformed into fearless faithfulness.

God has given us a spirit of power. Weakness has its place, but it is in the flesh, not the spirit. Many of us have our thorn, our infirmity, and it is the gift of God, but it is not in our spirits. The joy of the Lord is our strength. We exult in a God Who is able. And we become partakers of His power. God is working and accomplishing His purpose, and He has given us a part in it. We need not fear for His truth. It will prevail! Perhaps we may have to wait. Indeed, for the present, we expect it to be opposed, and rejected and despised. Such is its due in this evil day. But let us not lose heart. Every power on earth and in heaven will yet yield to the power of God’s Word. We have nothing to fear. The victory is ours! Let us never be timid in the proclamation of the truth. Timidity is the child of error. It does not come from God.

God gives us a spirit of love. To many of us power and sanity are incompatible with love. Its quality has sunk down to a simpering sentimentalism. Instead of a deep desire for another’s weal, and his actual good, we prefer to be pleasant and spare our fellows passing pain. Faithful are the wounds of a friend. God’s love is of a better quality. We know that He loves us, yet He does not shield our souls from every experience of evil. But He gives us no unnecessary anguish. So love will give no needless pain to anyone, and will avoid offense when possible. But it will not shun to proclaim the crucifixion of mankind because men do not like it. It will not cease exposing the apostasies of the saints because they resent it. On the contrary, it will not be timid in the least in maintaining a sane and powerful testimony which tears off all the hypocritical subterfuges of Christendom, which have clouded the revelation of God’s wisdom and power and love.
~ A. E. Knoch

UNSEARCHABLE RICHES MAGAZINE
JANUARY, 1975 BEING THE FIRST NUMBER OF VOLUME SIXTY-SIX

More Than You Can Handle

More Than You Can Handle

Have you ever heard the phrase, “God will never give you more than you can handle?” I am sure most of you have. This is supposed to be an encouraging phrase, in order to motivate you to follow through with something, or to help you during a rough time in life. However, I believe this phrase to be inaccurate and quite amusing. In fact I find it to be completely false. People who use this phrase are missing the point of trials. God WILL give you more than you can handle. If you could handle everything thrown your way, why would you ever want to know God? What motivation would you have to be close to God? God gives people more than they can handle in order for them to rely on God. Without impossible circumstances we wouldn’t need God. Do you think Moses could handle delivering the Hebrews out of Egypt if it weren’t for God’s help? Imagine if Moses tried to do it alone, with no help from God. Nothing would have happened. Pharaoh would have laughed and went back to drining his tea. With God all things are possible, without God, nothing is.

 

~  Chris Schlack from his Blog (justahandfulofclay.blogspot.com)

The Secret of Christ

The Secret of Christ

since surely you are persisting in the faith, grounded and settled and are not being removed from the expectation of the evangel which you hear which is being heralded in the entire creation which is under heaven of which I, Paul, became the dispenser.  Colossians 1:23

 

The scope of reconciliation is not confined to mankind: it is as broad as creation. Its proclamation was made to every creature under heaven. It is God’s loving purpose to bind all His creatures to Him with the cords of affection. To accomplish this purpose demands suffering-not only the essential suffering of Christ on the cross, but those of His afflictions which He endures in His members in the course of its dispensation.

 

A. E. Knoch, Concordant Commentary

Evil Is Part of His Plan

Evil Is Part of His Plan

 
Good_VS_Evil_by_kwekuBefore they sinned, Adam and Eve had no knowledge of good. Good lay all about them, unmixed with evil. Health, strength, honor, and companionship with one another and with God was their constant possession and privilege. Yet they knew nothing of the blessedness of these boons. This we learn from the name given to the tree which bore the forbidden fruit. To many minds it suggests only the knowledge of evil, rather than good. Yet, first and foremost, it was the tree of the knowledge of good (Gen.2:9; 3:4-14).

Thus at the very forefront of Revelation we have the principal suggested which is the key to unlock the great problems that most perplex us. It is this: our knowledge is relative;  it is based on contrast. The knowledge of good is dependent upon the knowledge of evil. Hence the tree in the garden was not, as we usually think of it, merely the means of knowing evil, it was the means, primarily, of the knowledge of good. Adam and Eve had good but did not realize it because they had had no experience of evil.

The perfection of Eden’s garden was greatly lacking in the one element most dear to God’s heart. Adam did not and could not apprehend God’s goodness. There is not the slightest hint of Adam’s appreciation or thanks, or worship or adoration. He received all as a matter of course and was quite incapable of discerning or responding even to that measure of divine love which lies on the surface of His goodness. If we should certainly be transformed into glorious sinless beings and transported to such scenes of sylvan perfection, we would exult and praise the author of our bliss. Notso Adam. He knew no joy, for he knew know misery. He knew no good for he knew no evil.

This point is most important, and we press it because it seems to be universally ignored and misrepresented. The Garden of Eden has become a symbol of perfect bliss. We are always being reminded of its delights, and the happiness of the first pair has passed into a proverb. Yet there is not the slightest reason to suppose that Adam was delighted or enjoyed the bliss ascribed to him.

The mere possession of good does not give a knowledge or realization of it. Even today, when there is so much evil to contrast with the good, many do not appreciate their blessings until they lose them. Adam had perfect health, but what was that to one who never had even heard of disease? He had abundant food, but that was nothing to him, who had never felt a famine. Even pleasure had no appeal to one who had known no pain.

The fatal lack in all the perfection of Eden  was the utter absence of any note of praise or thankfulness. Knowing no good, and utterly unacquainted with mercy or grace, Adam’s heart was absolutely incapable of love or adoration or worship. God’s goodness did not receive the least response, because it was unknown. All that He had bestowed on Adam failed to kindle the affection for which He longed, and which is the goal of all His gifts.

How could this grave defect be remedied? There was but one way, and that way was, in the wisdom of God, provided by the tree which he placed in the midst of the garden. Had Adam and Eve known good they would have treasured gods goodness and never have forfeited it by disobeying his sommand. Yet, when they did eat of the tree, they set in motion the very forces which would remedy the defect which caused them to do it. What divine wisdom do we see here displayed! God’s blessings in so doing paved the way for an appreciation which satisfies both. Love is a marvelous schemer!

~ A. E. Knoch
The Problem of Evil and the Judgments of God

EMANCIPATION AND FREEDOM

EMANCIPATION AND FREEDOM

freedomThe organization is not the ekklésia. The denomination is not the ecclesia. If we see the ecclesia we will not be able to stay in the “church” long – it simply becomes an untenable position. An untenable position is one that you can not live with.

Someone who has seen the ekklésia and is paying the price to remain on that ground has found in his own personal life an emancipation and a freedom that he did not dream existed. The limitation, the smallness of Christianity and its conception God’s purpose simply break forth into something limitless and expansive.

Floyd Police
The Great Mystery, pp. 3, 4
Adapted

Our Supreme Privilege

Our Supreme Privilege

book1imagesIt is the supreme privilege and imperative duty of all who love God to become closely acquainted with His revelation, to support and promote every effort which seeks to make it manifest, and especially any undertaking which brings God’s Word direct to the common people …

The most precious treasure we can bring to anyone is that which puts their hearts in close touch with the heart of God … It is impossible to conceive of any better boon than to open the divine storehouse to everyone who has the heart to explore it.

A.E. Knoch (1874-1965)
Unsearchable Riches, 1919

THE AGES

THE AGES

NEW TESTAMENT TERMS

FOR EVER AND EVER

AionKOur inquiry, thus far, dealt with texts where the Hebrew and Greek terms translated “for ever and ever” have reference to rule. We found that rule, called forth by the existence of opposition, is coeval with it; its introduction coincides with sin’s entrance,* its abolition, with the destruction of the last enemy. We also found that the Ages exhaust the display and exercise of rule, and that the title King of the Ages (Jer.10:10; 1 Tim.1:17) emphasizes and agrees with its transitory character. We proceed to examine the passages where the term appears in connection with glory. Glory is defined “as an attribute, quality, adjunct, characteristic, or circumstance by which a person or thing is glorified or made illustrious; occasion of praise; honorable boast.”** From this definition is clear that God’s glory is manifold; just as God’s attributes and adjuncts, and the circumstances through which they receive expression, are manifold. Certain aspects of the Divine glory shone before the Ages (Jude 25); others receive expression through the Ages (2 Cor.4:17; 2 Tim.2:10; 1 Peter 5:10); yet others come to view only after the Ages have run their course. The context of the passages under consideration associates glory with redemption in its various phases and operations—with Christ giving Himself for our sins, to deliver us out of the present evil age (Gal.1:4; 1 Tim.1:16-17; Rev.1:16; 5:13; 7:12); the power now working in the saints (Eph.3:21); provision of need (Phil.4:20); exercise of gifts for edification (1 Peter 4:11); working in believers that which is well-pleasing in His sight (Heb.13:21).

 

Clearly, the glory in the above Scriptures contemplates redemption as wrought in the Ages; for the obvious reason that deliverance from evil and provision of need are unnecessary where neither evil nor need exists; redeemed men, perfected in the image of their Creator, have outgrown such gifts as are requisite at present in the same way as manhood outgrows the toys of infancy; indefectible creatures beyond the possibility of lapse and fall require no expedients to keep them in the path of obedience. The light afflictions, ordered and controlled by our Heavenly Father, work a more exceeding weight of aionian glory only so long as affliction exists; once affliction ceases, its workings cease also, though the fruits it yielded through the Ages will continue to be enjoyed.

 

Redemption antedates sin’s entrance (1 Peter 1:20), and not till after sin’s exit does it enter on its meridian path. Before the Ages redemption is potential: its beams fall upon a flawless universe untainted by sin. Beyond the Ages the increased volume of its light falls on a flawless universe emancipated from sin’s thraldom. The Ages reveal its scope and furnish a stage for its activities. The cross is the crisis or converging point of the Ages (Heb.9:27). All things focus in it. Symbol, promise, prophecy, point to it are exhausted and done away by it. Here past and future intermingle their beams and blend their glory. It vindicates God’s justice, opens a channel for the outflow of His love, provides a basis for the fruition of His original purpose of grace, and removes the guilt and stain of sin from the universe.

 

In view of this we may speak of redemption glory as pre-aionian, aionian, post-aionian. Its inherent glory shone before the Ages (1 Cor.2:7). During the Ages it acquires new excellencies by contact with, and triumph over, evil. Beyond the Ages it will blaze in the combined effulgence of glories inherent and acquired.

 

We now pass on to the title, “He Who liveth forever and ever.” Its use is peculiar to Daniel and Revelation, and links the two books in a very special manner. It is found in Daniel 4:34 and 12:7; and in Revelation 4:9-10; 10:6; 15:7.

 

The first occurrence explains its significance and force. The fourth chapter of Daniel relates the extraordinary experience of King Nebuchadnezzar. Let it be noted, the special object of God’s strange dealings was to teach him that “the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will.” Upon the expiration of the decreed seven times of chastening, Nebuchadnezzar, recovering his understanding, said: “I praised and honored him that liveth forever aulam; whose dominion is an everlasting aulam dominion; and his kingdom is from generation to generation; and all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; and he doth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth” (Dan.4:34).

 

The trend of the narrative as a whole proves that Nebuchadnezzar does not refer to the life God, but to the manifestation of Jehovah as a “living” God, as distinct from the dumb gods he had previously worshipped. God wished to teach Nebuchadnezzar that He rules in the kingdom of men. The mania was a means to bring this about. It fully accomplished the purpose for which it had been intended. Emerging from the ordeal, Nebuchadnezzar confesses that God’s dominion is for the ages aulam, and that throughout their course He is the Ruler and Disposer of the destinies of men and nations, and the title He uses on the occasion reflects the truth he learned.

 

It is striking that the title “He who liveth forever” is not met with elsewhere until it reappears in the Revelation in circumstances precisely analogous with Daniel—the judgments of the day of the Lord and the Advent in power to assert His right in the kingdom of men.

 

During the Ages God keeps Himself in the background. His interferences in the affairs of men have been few and far between, and, with rare exceptions, confined to one nation. Since the days of the Apostles all visible signs have been withdrawn. The Heavens have been silent. Man has been allowed to work His pleasure without molestation. The earth, it seems, has been left to shift for itself. In the presence of crime He has remained strictly neutral and indifferent. Such attitude encourages sin. “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is emboldened to do evil” (Ecc.8:11). The wicked curse Him to His face and prosper. His very existence is doubted or denied.
The Apocalyptic visions transport us to the days verging on His manifestation. God is no longer silent then. His voice is heard; His judgments are seen; heaven and earth tremble at the signs of His approach. Then those who had worshipped the Beast will acknowledge, as did Nebuchadnezzar, “Verily there is a God that judgeth in the earth” (Psa.58:11). Then it will be seen that the Most High Who so long kept Himself in hiding had been working through the Ages. Then it will be seen and acknowledged by all that God is not a principle, force, or law, but the Living One, the Ruler of the Ages.

“Great and marvelous are thy works, O Lord God, the Almighty; righteous and true are thy ways, thou King of the Ages. Who shall not fear, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy; for all the nations shall come and worship before thee, for thy righteous acts have been made manifest” ( Rev.15:3,4).

We may note in passing that the related title “the Living God” has always a direct or latent reference to idols and judgment on idolaters, and is invariably connected with Jehovah’s making Himself known. The first occurrence (Deut.5:26) is connected with the giving of the Decalogue, when Israel “heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire.”
In 1 Sam.17 it appears twice (vss.26 and 36) when David went out to slay Goliath “that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.” In Isa.37:4,17 it is used against the reproach of Sennacherib, when God made himself known in Judah in such a marvellous way that the king of Babylon sent messengers to Hezekiah to inquire of the “wonder” that was done in the land (2 Chron.32:31).
In Psa.48:46-48 we read, “The Lord liveth….It is God that avengeth me from mine enemies;” etc.
Exigencies of space forbid expansion. Enough has been said to show that “He who liveth forever and ever,” and the related title Living God, refer to the acknowledgement of God as Ruler of the Ages.
The Ages, like the days of Genesis, speak of a prior fall, and are devoted to remedial work. Salvation, rule, priesthood, aionian life, are restorative agencies operating during their course.
Our Saviour said: “And this is aionian life, that they should know thee the only true God, and him whom thou didst send, even Jesus Christ” (John 17:3). Aionian life is part of the remedial plan of the Ages, and is designed to repair the ignorance and alienation caused by sin. To know the true God, who has sent His Son to be the Saviour of the world, and to know the Son as the Redeemer, mark and constitute the life which is peculiar to the Ages. Aionian life therefore is not, as is generally supposed, a life having neither beginning nor end; but rather a life, the distinctive feature of which is, that it has to do with a Saviour. The declaration “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and for the ages,” implies that through these Ages a Saviour is needed, and will be found. To receive that Saviour, and the Father whom He has declared, is the only means of fellowship with God during the Ages, when the vast mass of humanity is alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them.
In drawing this paper to a conclusion it may be well to notice one or two perplexing texts.
“For the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor.4:18). Here, it is argued, “aionian” must mean endlessness because it stands in antithesis to “temporal,” i.e., pertaining to time. We wish to show that the facts of the case will not bear out this claim. The word rendered “temporal” is proskairos. It occurs again in Matt.13:21; Mark 4:17; Heb.11:25, where it is translated “for a while,” “for a time,” “for a season.” That such is its true meaning is abundantly evident. The rocky ground hearer does not endure during the course of time, but “for a while;” a person does not enjoy the pleasures of sin during the course of time, but “for a season.” The contrast in this passage is between things enduring for a while and those which last through the Ages.
“When he had offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made the footstool of his feet” (Heb.10:12-13). By rendering dieenekes “continually,” as in Heb.7:3 and 10:1, the difficulty is removed, and the real force of the statement becomes apparent. The priests in the tabernacle were standing, offering “continually” sacrifices which could never make perfect them that drew nigh (10:1). But Christ, having offered one sacrifice which takes away sins, sat down “for a continuance” on the right hand of God, till His enemies are subdued under him. The contrast is between the continual standing of the priests whose work was never done and the session of Christ “for a continuance” having made expiation for sin.
In Rom.16:25,26 we read of a mystery kept in silence through the age-times (AV “since the world began”; RV “times eternal”), and then of the God of Ages (“eternal God”) by whose commandment that secret is now divulged among the nations. The word aionios, twice used in the same sentence, must in each case have the same sense. As applied to “times,” passing or past, aionial cannot mean never-ending. The title “aionial God” shows Him in relation to the Ages working in grace to correct and remove the effects of the fall.
The Old Testament title El Aulam, the equivalent of the New Testament “God of Ages”, is found in Gen.21:33; Isa.26:4; 40:28, where the context connects it with Jehovah’s covenant-faithfulness and deliverance. He is the Rock of Ages. And so long as the conflict rages, so long as any refuge or support is needed it will be found in Him.
The whole series of the “forever and ever” texts has been reviewed. It remains to emphasize the salient points that have emerged in the course of inquiry.

  1. The Greek and Hebrew terms rendered “forever and ever,” “eternal,” “everlasting,” never refer to endlessness; but to a series of terminable periods known as Age-times.
  2. These Ages are periods in which God carries on remedial work, but they have a conclusion and pass away, when the purpose to be accomplished in them has been realized.
  3. The Ages are never synonymous with endlessness but always distinct therefrom.

To substantiate the tenet of unending agony its advocates can do no more than follow one another in the weary iteration of the worn out argument that since “forever and ever” is applied to the life of God, and employed of the believer’s weal as well as the unbeliever’s woe it must perforce mean infinity.
The first claim, if it were true, would certainly be conclusive. But the fact is “forever and ever” is never applied to the life of God but, as has been shown, refers only and always to His making Himself known as the Living One.
The second claim, that “forever and ever” is associated with the hereafter of both believer and unbeliever, is true; but in the case of both it is limited to the span of the Ages, and has not the remotest reference to the final state of either. Therefore the dogmas of endless Agony and Endless Sin rest on purely imaginary premises and are without the slightest shred of biblical support.
Words are inadequate to describe the harm which has resulted from confounding the Ages with Eternity.
We have endeavored to draw attention to the necessity of keeping the two conceptions distinct. The subject has by no means been exhausted. We have only touched the fringe. Perhaps no line of Bible study promises a more rich harvest of results than a thorough study of the Ages.
Our way is now clear for the marvellous unfoldings of the Pauline Epistles.

 

Vladimir Gelesnoff

 

You Keep Abusing That Word!

You Keep Abusing That Word!

AionOrangeA glance at any Greek concordance proves that the noun Aion, or “age,” is not the synonym of eternity. A study of each case would make a volume; so, leaving this task to the reader, we must content ourselves with adducing a few specimens to substantiate our assertion.

 

In the New Testament we frequently meet with the phrase “this age” (Matt.13:22; Rom.12:2; Gal.1:4; Eph.2:2). In two instances Paul refers to a mystery once hid from “ages and generations” but now revealed to the saints (Eph.3:9; Col.1:26). Now, since this secret is divulged in the course of “this age,” but was concealed from “ages,” it follows that the present age was preceded by other ages. Again, we read of “the age to come” (Matt.10:30; Eph.1:21; Heb.6:5). “This age” and “that age” are mentioned side by side and contrasted by our Savior in Luke 20:34,35; and elsewhere we read of “ages to come” (Eph.2:7). Bordering upon “this present evil age,” on either side of it, there lie other “ages.” Here is conclusive proof that an aion is a limited period; and that the totality of “all the aions” is itself terminable is proven by the repeated mention of a “before” and a “beyond” the ages.

 

The adjective aionios, a derivative of aion, carries within itself its own solution; for aionios is simply what belongs or relates to the aions—”of the ages” or “age-long,” hence it cannot carry a force or express a duration greater than that of the “ages” or aions which it speaks of. If therefore these “ages” are limited periods, some of which are already past, while others are yet to come, the word aionios cannot mean infinity. This fact does not in the least affect the true eternity of bliss of God’s people; for that depends not upon the meaning of the word aionios, but upon such explicit, unmistakable assertions as those declaring that such as attain to the resurrection from the dead “cannot die any more” (Luke 20:36), or “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creation, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom.8:38,39).

 

A scholastic maxim says that truth emerges sooner from error than from confusion. One is often reminded of this truth in thinking of certain theological tenets and the source they spring from. As an example of the confusion which has been introduced into men’s minds by misapprehension and mistranslation of those terms we may instance such phrases as “world without end” (Eph.3:21) and “end of the world” (Matt.13:39), which convey conceptions that are conflicting and mutually exclusive. The contradiction is obtrusive. One text explicitly affirms what the other categorically denies. One is made to declare that the world has no “end,” while the other insists on its having an “end,” so that one Scripture is arrayed against another.

 

Needless to say, flagrant and self-evident contradictions like the above which have found an entrance in our versions do not exist in the originals. Translators did not seem to appreciate or grasp the fact that fidelity and consistency could only be attained by employing a separate English word for every Hebrew, Chaldee or Greek word. The oversight of this foundation principle of translation is responsible for many prevailing erroneous ideas. For example, the English “world” has been made to do the service of two distinct Greek words—aion and kosmos—which convey divergent, though related, ideas. Had these terms been represented by two English equivalents many a theological dogma would have never seen the light, many a heart-rending controversy would never have raged, and many so-called “mistakes and discrepancies” would never have given occasion to the caviller and scorner to point the finger of ridicule against the Bible.

 

Vladimir Gelesnoff

IMPOSSIBILITY OF ETERNAL LOSS

IMPOSSIBILITY OF ETERNAL LOSS

divide-truthIt is surely ironic that portions of Matthew 5-7 should be understood and taught in defense of the doctrine of everlasting hell for the wicked. Entirely apart from the fact that the Greek word aiõnios (read into this context from Matthew 25:46) does not mean endlessness,1 and the fact that Gehenna does not refer to a place of fiery, conscious torment,2 imposing such a perverse idea on our Lord’s sermon makes a complete mockery and confusion of His message.

 
It can only be claimed hypocritically that Jesus is speaking of an everlasting destiny of misery, from which there is no possibility of escape, for certain individuals (not, of course, including ourselves). The demands placed on our Lord’s listeners are demands that no one could keep apart from God’s gift of a Saviour from sins. God must make His people perfect as He is perfect, or else none of them will enter into the kingdom. Solely on the basis of the standards of righteousness laid down in these chapters, and apart from the Saviour’s salvation from sins, no one, whether they are God’s people Israel or not, can hope to receive the promises. If the promise of maturity and perfection is to be fulfilled, God must open the eyes of the blind and give spiritual strength, which in fact He has promised to do in the giving of His Son as the Saviour of His people.

 
This is not to say that Gehenna and destruction as spoken of here are not serious realities. But we who believe that Christ died for our sins, and that this is the sole basis of our salvation and expectation of life, must surely be prepared in heart to treat our Lord’s words concerning future judgments with the greatest care and caution, lest we bring dishonor to His Name. It is well to ask how much anger lies behind the traditional interpretation of these passages. Where is the sense of humility and the turning of the other cheek, demanded by our Lord here, in the scenes of hell so often still presented in sermons of many Bible teachers? Why should we put limits to God’s grace and restrict the effectiveness of the cross of Christ by stubborn adherence to such concepts as double predestination3 or the idea that God has given up a measure of His sovereign will in favor of the free will of man? Why should we confine God’s justice to His work of judgment, and His love to His work of salvation, in order to defend the idea of everlasting loss?

 
It is not the sin of hypocrisy alone that is involved here. There is the sin of disbelief in the attempts to explain a passage like Romans 5:18 in terms of not all mankind being justified, or 1 Corinthians 15:22 in terms of not all being vivified in Christ, or Colossians 1:20 in terms of a reconciliation through the blood of Christ’s cross that does not reach every enemy in the universe. There is the failure (to our great present loss) of not relying on God as the living God Who is the Saviour of all mankind (1 Tim.4:10), and not glorifying Him for His goal of becoming All in all (1 Cor.15:28).

 

As for our Lord’s ministry as recorded in the book of Matthew, we should eagerly view all His words of warning and dire predictions of judgment in the light of such promises as Matthew 1:21 (“He shall be saving His people from their sins”), and Matthew 2:6 (“For out of [Judah] shall come forth the Ruler Who shall shepherd My people Israel”) and Matthew 5:48 (“You, then, shall be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect”). We should take to heart as literal truth the words of Ezekiel 36:25,26 and connect them unreservedly to the promise of Matthew 5:8 concerning the clean of heart: “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idol clods I shall cleanse you. I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit will I bestow within you, and I will take away the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

 
In every way we should avoid a conclusion that sees God as dooming to an eternal hell those whom He does not yet give a clean heart and does not yet make perfect and mature as He is perfect. Here in Matthew God is setting forth astonishing demands, demands which are impossible for anyone to fulfill in their own strength, but He is also preparing Israel for the Saviour from sin and the granting of His spirit for power of righteousness that exceeds that ever shown by their most diligent law-keeper. And what is said about Gehenna and fire and the great fall of the sinner’s (the “stupid” man’s) house must be taken in relation to the overall goals announced. God can and does use warnings as motivations for repentance, and He can and does use the carrying out of His judgments for enlightening the eyes of the blinded sinners involved, as well as for purposes of discipline, but these are steps along the way and are not ends in themselves. In the consummation it will be seen and appreciated that Jesus is the Saviour from sins so that God may be known and relied on by all as the Saviour of all mankind.

 

Dean Hough, Concordant Publishing Concern

 

1. cf A. E. Knoch: ALL IN ALL, pp.192-206; James Coram: “The Living God and the Eons,” Unsearchable Riches, vol.79, p.171.
2. cf James Coram: “The Gehenna of Fire,” Unsearchable Riches, vol. 83, p.279.
3. Double predestination is the idea that God predetermined that some people would be saved, and the rest damned to everlasting hell.

BE CONCILIATED TO GOD!

BE CONCILIATED TO GOD!

“For Christ, then
are we ambassadors,
as of God entreating through us,
We are beseeching for Christ’s sake,
‘Be conciliated to God!’ ”
(2 Corinthians 5:20)

conciliation“Is God entreating ME to be at PEACE with Him? I thought He was angry with me because of my sins.”
Not so! God, in His fathomless grace, condescends to do all the entreating now! Don’t drown out His entreaties with your pleadings for forgiveness, for He gives you His word that your sins have been already taken care of, once and for all, by the Saviour, Christ Jesus, Who died for you on the cross. “But how can I be sure …. Your salvation is guaranteed by the fact that God raised Him from the dead. God’s Word assures us that Christ “was given up because of our offenses, and was roused because of our justifying” (Rom.4:25, Concordant Literal New Testament).

 

Your faith in these facts is all that really matters. There is nothing left for you to do except believe God. “Yet to him who is not working, yet is believing on Him Who is justifying the irreverent, his faith is reckoned for righteousness” (Rom.4:5). “For in grace, through faith, are you saved, and this is not out of you;” it is an outright gift, not based on anything which you may do, but based on His love for you (Eph.2:8,9). “God is commending this love of His to us, seeing that, while we are still sinners, Christ died for our sakes” (Rom.5:8).

 

God has done it all. Salvation is “of the Lord.” It is by God in man, not God and man! He gave His Son to die for you; He made Him to be a sin offering for your sake; He gives you His own righteousness through Christ. He has provided everything because He knows that you can not provide it yourself. Rather, you should recognize that God has already done it by Himself for Himself, so He needs no conciliation. But you do! All the estrangement is on your side. The quickest way to rid yourself of it is to listen to His entreaties, and heed them.

 

Sit down and think this over. The moment your thoughts stray back to yourself, you are off the track. Let me tell you a secret. The greatest thing, after all, is not your salvation, but God’s glory. That is really His main reason for saving you. He loves you and never would have allowed sin to come between you and Himself in the first place, if it would not eventually be to His glory and for your greatest good.

 

Ponder this: God is actually entreating you to be conciliated, or at peace, with Him, He has done everything necessary to justify you, so that you may walk boldly into His presence (Rom.5:1,2). Right now you may not be able to realize all of this fully, but respond to His entreaty … Be conciliated to God! And thank Him for His unspeakable gift!

“For Christ, while we are still infirm, still in accord with the era, for the sake of the irreverent, died. God is commending this love of His to us, seeing that, while we are still sinners, Christ died for our sakes. Much rather, then, being now justified in His blood, We shall be saved from indignation, through Him. For if, being enemies, we were conciliated to God through the death of His Son, much rather, being conciliated, we shall be saved in His life. Yet not only so, but we are glorying also in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom we now obtained the conciliation” (Rom.5:6,8-11).

 

~A. E. Knoch
Concordant Publishing Concern